Secretary Pompeo Testifies Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has just begun its hearing with Secretary of State Pompeo. He is expected to address concerns regarding the President’s recent summit with Putin, his own recent remarks and the President’s tweet about Iran, as well as US relations with NATO and the EU. Here’s the live feed.

Open thread!



Wednesday Afternoon Open Thread

We get a ton of butterflies in the yard. The four types I see most often are monarchs, giant swallowtails, Gulf fritillaries and zebra longwings. The latter is pictured below:

We have a played-out parsley plant that is serving as a butterfly nursery. I’m not sure what sort of caterpillar this is:

Looks like a monarch caterpillar except for the orange dots. Can anyone identify it?

Open thread!



The President’s Speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention Live Stream

The President is scheduled to speak to the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the US National Convention in a few minutes. Here is the live feed. Traditionally the remarks to this convention would be non-partisan, or non-partisanish, as well as a veteran focused policy speech. The President does have a political rally scheduled for tonight, so the question is going to be how much he can stay on the prepared remarks in his address to the VFW. Given the President’s approach to such things, anything is possible.

Open thread!

 



Retired Senior National Security Leaders and Their Clearances: These are Their Stories…

In response to a significant number of now retired military and civilian senior national security leaders speaking out regarding the President’s actions, behaviors, apparent campaign connections to a variety of Russian oligarchs and/or intelligence operatives, Senator Paul decided it was time to take decisive action to protect the Republic.

From CNN:

Republican Sen. Rand Paul tweeted Monday that he will ask President Donald Trump to revoke the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, who criticized Trump’s performance last week at the Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In an unusual move, Paul wrote that he will meet with Trump on Monday to discuss allegations that Brennan is “monetizing his security clearance” and “making millions of dollars divulging secrets to mainstream media.” Paul added that he would ask Trump to revoke Brennan’s clearance.

Former intelligence officials typically maintain high-level security clearances after they leave their posts — in some cases, they provide counsel to current officials during times of turnover.

GENIUS!!!!

Earlier today, White House Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders had this to say:

Former Director of Central Intelligence and retired US Air Force General Hayden responded with:

Senator Paul’s idea, as well as the President’s/White House’s response, is absolutely stupid. Aside from the fact that this type of action would be tied up in court for years, it demonstrates how little either Senator Paul or the President actually understand about how and why clearances are granted or revoked. While I know that the President, as the highest originating classification authority (OCA) in the US government may classify or declassify anything he so chooses, my understanding is that the President does not have the ability to simply order the revocation of a properly adjudicated and granted clearance. Or, in this case, their eligibility. These retired senior leaders do not have access, that is largely cut off as soon as they step down. They’re read off of whatever compartments they had access to, though some are not fully read off for about a year or so. Rather they retain their eligibility – their clearances remain good/properly adjudicated – until they reach the end of the validity of their current background investigation. For a top secret clearance that is now seven years – they had to change it back at the end of 2016 because of the renewal backlog. For sensitive compartmented information (SCI) that is twenty-four months after one’s most recent read off. Specifically, the computer database system that contains SCI status drops you automatically after not being read onto any compartment for twenty-four months. After that one must be renominated for SCI access, which depending on the SCI, which department, agency, bureau, command, and/or office is asking for it, may include a polygraph.

My understanding is that access for retired senior leaders is maintained for a year or so and that their clearances, ie their eligibility, are routinely renewed, subject to successfully the renewal and adjudication process. And the reason that retired senior leaders, both military and civilian, need to keep their clearances is in case their successors need to consult with them on either past classified issues or current ones. This is so that the current senior leaders are able to actually speak to their predecessors in order to maintain continuity of government from one administration to the next on exceedingly important and highly sensitive issues. Moreover, retired senior military leaders – general officers/flag officers – are subject to recall should there be need as a condition of their retirement. Maintaining their clearances streamlines any potential recall to service. Finally, publicly stating political opposition is not grounds for revocation of a clearance.

For instance:

As one of the national security attorneys who specialize in clearance and classification related issues indicates:

Here’s the list of reasons for having a clearance revoked:

Grounds For revocation of security clearance

All federal agencies adhere to the Adjudication Guidelines, which establish 13 potential justifications for denying or revoking federal security clearance:

  • Allegiance to the United States – Affiliating with or sympathizing with terrorists or overthrow of the government
  • Foreign influence – Association with foreign citizens or businesses that could lead to coercion
  • Foreign preference – Conflict of interest due to dual citizenship, service in a foreign military, or receiving benefits from another country.
  • Outside activities – Involvement with any foreign individual or organization engaged in dissecting or disseminating material relating to U.S. defense, foreign affairs, intelligence or protected technology.
  • Criminal conduct – Conviction for a serious crime or multiple lesser offenses; allegations or admission of criminal activity
  • Security violations – Willful breaches, unauthorized or reckless disclosure of classified information
  • Misuse of information technology – Unauthorized access (hacking), malicious coding, hindering access to systems, removing hardware or software, disabling security measures
  • Personal conduct – A wide spectrum, such as associating with known criminals, hindering a clearance investigation, giving false information, or reports from past employers or neighbors of unsavory behavior
  • Sexual behavior – Criminal acts, sex addiction or sexual activities that compromise the employee or show lack of judgment
  • Financial considerations – Unexplained wealth, heavy debts, gambling addiction or a pattern of being irresponsible with money and financial obligations
  • Alcohol consumption – Alcohol-related incidents, medical diagnosis of alcohol abuse, relapse after treatment
  • Drug involvement – Drug-related incidents, diagnosis of drug addiction, using drugs after rehab
  • Psychological conditions – Failure to follow prescribed treatment for emotional, mental or personality disorders; a pattern of incidents or high-risk, aggressive or unstable behaviors.

One final important point: everyone on the proposed list, other than Ambassador Rice and, perhaps, DCI Brennan, are all either publicly acknowledged to be Republicans and/or were appointed to their positions by past Republican presidents.

We are off the looking glass and through the map!

Open thread.



Shelter from the Storm (Open Thread)

The demented Twitter troll in the West Wing is having another meltdown. It began last night with an all-caps threat to Iran and continued this morning with a high pitched, Fox News-fueled demand to end the “Mueller Witch Hunt” blah blah blah.

In normal times, there would be three or four posts up on this topic. In these times, it’s just another Monday. Good lord, having a crazy person in the White House is exhausting. Let’s speak of other things.

I am back home after a long weekend in Savannah, which is somehow even more humid than Florida. A person practically needs scuba gear to breathe.

We raced a line of storms home, leaving it in the Georgia dust. It caught up with us early this morning.

My dogs are used to heavy weather, but the continuous thunder and lightning prompted them to seek assurance from humans that the world wasn’t ending.

Rebecca Traister published an interesting piece on Elizabeth Warren in New York Mag: Leader of the Persistence. Sounds like Warren will run for president in 2020, though she doesn’t say so in the piece, of course — she’s got a senate seat to retain this fall.

Warren is focused on 2018, as is proper at this time. But if TV show booking agents want to bring someone in to speak for the Democratic Party, they could do worse than to contact Senator Warren. In fact, they do worse all the fucking time.

Anyhoo, open thread.



An Op-Ed About Some Other Workers In The Heartland

Sarah Smarsh gives us the other side that the news media have ignored.

Most struggling whites I know here live a life of quiet desperation, mad at their white bosses, not resentful toward their co-workers or neighbors of color.

It turns out that a great many working class whites are not the bigots and Trump-lovers that the MSM has portayed. There are large groups of people who think differently, but somehow they just didn’t show up when a New York Times or Washington Post reporter parachuted into Clover Corners, Ohio.

The trouble begins with language: Elite pundits regularly misuse “working class” as shorthand for right-wing white guys wearing tool belts. My father, a white man and lifelong construction worker who labors alongside immigrants and people of color on job sites across the Midwest and South working for a Kansas-based general contractor owned by a woman, would never make such an error.

And, whocoodanode –

Like many Midwestern workers I know, my dad has more in common ideologically with New York’s Democratic Socialist congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez than with the white Republicans who run our state. Having spent most of his life doing dangerous, underpaid work without health insurance, he supports the ideas of single-payer health care and a universal basic income.

She lists news stories that have gone undercovered in the race to find the Trumpiest heartland voters – like barriers to voting. Seems strange that reporters so devoted to getting both sides of a story never found this one.

Read the whole thing.  Good to keep in mind in place of today’s sexytime news dump.

And open thread!



Friday News Dump the First: Michael Cohen’s Tapes of Conversations with the President About Karen McDougal

From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, secretly recorded a conversation with Mr. Trump two months before the presidential election in which they discussed payments to a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump, according to lawyers and others familiar with the recording.

The F.B.I. seized the recording this year during a raid on Mr. Cohen’s office. The Justice Department is investigating Mr. Cohen’s involvement in paying women to tamp down embarrassing news stories about Mr. Trump ahead of the 2016 election. Prosecutors want to know whether that violated federal campaign finance laws, and any conversation with Mr. Trump about those payments would be of keen interest to them.

The recording’s existence further draws Mr. Trump into questions about tactics he and his associates used to keep aspects of his personal and business life a secret. And it highlights the potential legal and political danger that Mr. Cohen represents to Mr. Trump. Once the keeper of many of Mr. Trump’s secrets, Mr. Cohen is now seen as increasingly willing to consider cooperating with prosecutors.

The former model, Karen McDougal, says she began a nearly yearlong affair with Mr. Trump in 2006, shortly after Mr. Trump’s wife, Melania, gave birth to their son Barron. Ms. McDougal sold her story to The National Enquirer for $150,000 during the final months of the presidential campaign, but the tabloid sat on the story, which kept it from becoming public. The practice, known as “catch and kill,” effectively silenced Ms. McDougal for the remainder of the campaign.

David J. Pecker, the chairman of The Enquirer’s parent company, is a friend of Mr. Trump’s, and Ms. McDougal has accused Mr. Cohen of secretly taking part in the deal — an allegation that is now part of the F.B.I. investigation.

When The Wall Street Journal revealed the existence of the paymentdays before the election, Mr. Trump’s campaign spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, said, “We have no knowledge of any of this.” She said Ms. McDougal’s claim of an affair was “totally untrue.”

More at the link.

Some reactions:

I’m guessing that right now Paul Campos over at LGM is reattacking his investigation into Elliott Broidy and another Playboy model Shera Bechard.

But the bigger takeaway here is that Michael Cohen is going to be the gift that keeps on giving for a variety of investigation into the President, his campaign, his businesses, and his personal life.

Given how the week went, it’s going to be a long day, so stay hydrated!

Open thread.