Breaking News: Natalia Veselnitskaya Charged With Obstruction of Justice by the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York

NBC’s Tom Winter has the details:

The charges against Veselnitskaya are important for two separate reasons. The first is that the allegations fully put to bed the attempts by Veselnitskaya and supporters of the President that she is not working as an agent of the Russian government; specifically for senior lawyers in the office of Russia’s General Prosecutor. The second is that it raises the question of how the Southern District of New York’s prosecutors and investigators came by this information. Was it through their own investigative work or was this handed off to them by the Special Counsel from information developed through the joint counterintelligence task force that he inherited in 2016 and has been overseeing ever since. We don’t have answers to this question right now. And, we may never actually know. Regardless of how the Southern District of New York made the determination necessary to charge Veselnitskaya, the fact that US Federal prosecutors were able to do so should have a lot of people connected to Veselnitskaya very, very concerned. Especially as the original settlement in the case occurred shortly after former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara was fired by the President and because of the connections between people in the President’s orbit and the original Prevezon case.

Open thread.

Breaking News: We Now Have the Official Numbers of People on the Terrorism Watchlist Stopped by Customs & Border Patrol at the Border

Julia Ainsley at NBC has the scoop:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection encountered only six immigrants on the U.S-Mexico border in the first half of fiscal year 2018 whose names were on a federal government list of known or suspected terrorists, according to CBP data as of May 2018 obtained by NBC News.

The low number contradicts statements by Trump administration officials, including White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, who said Friday that CBP stopped nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists from crossing the southern border in fiscal year 2018.

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen told reporters on Monday the exact number, which NBC News is first to report, was classified but that she was working on making it public.

Overall, 41 people on the Terrorist Screening Database were encountered at the southern border from Oct. 1, 2017, to March 31, 2018, but 35 of them were U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. Six were classified as non-U.S. persons.

On the northern border, CBP stopped 91 people listed in the database, including 41 who were not American citizens or residents.

Border patrol agents, separate from CBP officers, stopped five immigrants on the database over the same time period, but it was unclear from the data which ones were stopped at the northern border versus the southern border.

The White House has used the 4,000 figure to make its case for building a wall on the southwest border and for closing the government until Congress funds it. They have also threatened to call a national emergency in order to get over $5 billion in funding for the wall.

It is important to remember that the Terrorist Screening Database may not be as reliable as the government claims.

What’s the Criteria for Getting on the Watch List?

According to a 2013 watch list guideline produced by the Terrorist Screening Center and obtained by The Intercept, engaging in terrorism or having a direct connection to a terrorist organization is not necessary for inclusion on the list. Parents, spouses, siblings, children and “associates” of a suspected terrorist can appear on the list without any suspicion of terrorist involvement. “Irrefutable evidence” of terrorist activity and connections is also not necessary, the document states. Reasonable suspicion is sufficient, though this isn’t clearly defined.

“These lists are horribly imprecise,” a former federal prosecutor, who asked to remain anonymous, told WIRED. “They are based on rumor and innuendo, and it’s incredibly easy to get on the list and incredibly difficult to get off the list. There’s no due process for getting off the list.”

The guidelines also reveal that the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism can temporarily authorize placing entire “categories” of people on to the No-Fly and Selectee lists based on “credible intelligence” that indicates a certain category of individuals may be used to conduct an act of terrorism.

“Instead of a watch list limited to actual, known terrorists, the government has built a vast system based on the unproven and flawed premise that it can predict if a person will commit a terrorist act in the future,” Hina Shamsi, head of the ACLU’s National Security Project, told The Intercept. “On that dangerous theory, the government is secretly blacklisting people as suspected terrorists and giving them the impossible task of proving themselves innocent of a threat they haven’t carried out.”

It doesn’t necessarily take a lot to get a positive match. It is basically the flying while David Nelson problem.

Also, beware the Maple Peril!!!!

On the northern border, CBP stopped 91 people listed in the database, including 41 who were not American citizens or residents.

So that’s 41 on the northern border with Canada versus 6 on the southern Border with Mexico. So if the President wants $5.7 billion for a wall across the southern border with Mexico to keep terrorists out, that’s $950 million per suspected terrorist. That’s certainly a fiscally conservative position that any Republican could support…

And that doesn’t count the violent, white supremacist extremists from Canada living among us. Especially those who have started their own terrorist groups. Everyone be on the lookout for:

I expect that burning smell in DC is the fact that the fire from the White House Spokeswoman’s britches has set her tuchas alight.

Open thread.

WikiLeaks: Assange isn’t a smelly kitty-abuser

WikiLeaks issued 14 pages of guidance yesterday to media outlets, enumerating 140 “false and defamatory” things journalists are to refrain from saying about its leader. A sample:

It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange bleaches his hair.

It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange stinks.

It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange has ever tortured a cat or dog.

It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange does not use cutlery or does not wash his hands.

It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange lives, or has ever lived, in a basement, cupboard or under the stairs.

The kicker? The “radical transparency” organization sent the email marked “Confidential legal communication. Not for publication.” Of course, it was published anyway. WikiLeaks responded by publishing and republishing its own “confidential legal document” that was “not for publication,” allegedly editing it several times to remove embarrassing bits that attracted widespread mockery on social media.

It’s a thoroughly ridiculous document, not just because of the 140 verboten statements but because of the supercilious, aggrieved and self-aggrandizing tone. It reads as if Donald Trump, Les Moonves and Glenn Greenwald farted in the same elevator and the foul vapors swirled together, achieved a rudimentary sentience and gained access to a keypad.

Anyhoo, it doesn’t matter in the slightest what that rapey, basement-dwelling, unhygienic, bleached out skid-mark decrees. But the missive stands as an example of how unmoored from reality and reason so many folks have become in this new Golden Age of Megalomania.

Open thread.

The Trump Narrative

I think that one reason people have taken up the Steele dossier as a key to Donald Trump’s election wrongdoing is that it is a relatively compact telling of events, from which a narrative may be extracted.

Most of the news coverage is of one small piece of the story at a time. The format of the articles tends to be a general statement of that small piece, perhaps with a bit of background, then a more detailed explanation of the small piece, and then more background. Space is limited, and the story is big. The cast appears to include thousands.

I find those articles largely unreadable and uninformative. Journalists seem to be having trouble too. Sally Buzbee, the executive editor of AP, said the Trump-Russia probes have “gone on so long that it’s difficult to be able to assess what in this investigation is truly very serious and what is not as serious. So that is one thing that journalists struggle with a little bit…” (video here; quote begins at 4:30) That certainly could be one reason that their articles are unreadable.

We need an overall story into which we can fit the breaking news. That will help us figure out what is truly very serious. Elliott Broidy, as far as we know now, is not as important to the story as Erik Prince, who is not as important as Donald Trump Jr. A master narrative can show where characters and subplots fit. Then the subplots can be written separately, noting the connections.

So I’m going to stick my neck out and provide a narrative. It is a bare-bones framework on which we can hang the many subplots and add in facts as they emerge. I’ve also added questions that need to be answered. I suspect that Robert Mueller has answers to some of those questions.

I invite you to suggest subplots. I’ll add them to my list and perhaps write another post in which I try to incorporate them into the narrative.

The narrative is below the fold. Read more

“Very significant break” in the Trump-Russia conspiracy investigation?

McClatchy is reporting that Michael Cohen’s cell phone was sending signals in Prague at the time the Steele dossier alleges Cohen was meeting with Russian operatives there to concoct cover stories for a conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign to swing the U.S. election:

WASHINGTON — A mobile phone traced to President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen briefly sent signals ricocheting off cell towers in the Prague area in late summer 2016, at the height of the presidential campaign, leaving an electronic record to support claims that Cohen met secretly there with Russian officials, four people with knowledge of the matter say.

During the same period of late August or early September, electronic eavesdropping by an Eastern European intelligence agency picked up a conversation among Russians, one of whom remarked that Cohen was in Prague, two people familiar with the incident said.

The phone and surveillance data, which have not previously been disclosed, lend new credence to a key part of a former British spy’s dossier of Kremlin intelligence describing purported coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia’s election meddling operation.

The dossier, which Trump has dismissed as “a pile of garbage,” said Cohen and one or more Kremlin officials huddled in or around the Czech capital to plot ways to limit discovery of the close “liaison” between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Lanny Davis, a Cohen adviser, says Cohen wasn’t in Prague then, but Davis isn’t currently Cohen’s lawyer and may be out of the loop on exactly what Cohen told the Mueller team. Moreover, Davis is a moron.

Former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks said that if disclosures of the foreign intelligence intercepts are true, “This is a very significant break, because it looks like a direct link between Donald Trump’s personal fixer and Russians most likely involved in the disruption of our election.”

“It would prove that lying was going on, not only about being in Prague, but much beyond the Prague episode,” she said.

Trump and his minions lie about everything, all the time, so it’s tough to draw any firm conclusions from a specific set of lies. But evidence keeps turning up to corroborate the so-called “dodgy dossier,” and the “WITCH HUNT!!!!” keeps right on exposing witch after witch. Hmmm.

Late update:

Curiouser and curiouser.

Footage of the President Meeting With (What’s Left of) His Cabinet

Thanks to an intrepid White House pool videographer, we have footage of the President meeting with his cabinet today.

Open thread!

There’s Dumb and Then There’s Katrina Pierson Dumb!

Who wants to tell her?

She might want to try using one of these:

Don’t be like Katrina Pierson!

Open thread.

Yes, I know the article she’s linked to is from 2017, but the tweet is from today.