Offense, Not Defense


If nothing changes, there’s a good chance Trump’s attempt to “both-sides” the Ukraine extortion scandal away will work. Trump tweet-screamed about FAKE NEWS, THE REAL STORY and SPIES all of yesterday and is at it again today, now with the full Fox News/GOP elected officials chorus.

Someone made a slick video ad for him that intersperses clips of mainstream media yapping heads (NYT’s Ken Vogel [see here], ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, NBC’s Brian Williams, etc.), all breathlessly speculating about the propriety of Hunter Biden raking in money abroad while his father was VP.

The ad also features a clip of Biden as VP bragging about giving the Ukrainian government an ultimatum to fire the (corrupt!) prosecutor within “six hours” or kiss billion-dollar loan guarantees bye-bye. If you’re not aware of the context (and remember, maybe 3% of Americans are aware of the context), it’s the most both-sidesiest thing ever. Read more

Open Thread: (Open) Hands Across the Waters

Schroedinger’s Cat posted about this rally on Wednesday. I can’t claim her expertise in Indian affairs, but it’s gonna be interesting to see how the American grifters navigate the tricky politics of this event…

Howdy Modi is a community summit hosted by Texas India Forum (TIF) for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday, September 22nd at the NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas at 10 am. Over 50,000 attendees have registered in three weeks for the sold-out event though online registration, waitlist registration for free passes is still open. The live audience will be the largest gathering for an invited foreign leader visiting the United States other than the Pope. The “Howdy Modi” summit has been organized with the support of more than 1,000 volunteers and 650 Texas-based Welcome Partner organizations…

There’s the GOP’s omnipresent xenophobia, for instance:

Or a certain ‘Democratic’ presidential candidate, who may not have been willing to risk such public connection with a controversial figure:

Read more

Ken Vogel Has a Bullshit Story To Tell That Will Help the President and He Would Appreciate It if the President and Rudy Giuliani Would Shut Up Because They Are Screwing Up His Work!

Ken Vogel has a bullshit story to tell about Vice President Biden and his son Hunter Biden that would help the President’s reelection chances. Vogel’s story is bullshit, but he’s very upset that the President and Rudy Giuliani just won’t shut up long enough so that Vogel can peddle his bullshit.

Former FBI Special Agent specializing in counterintelligence Asha Rangappa summarizes Vogel’s efforts very, very well.

How do we know the story that Vogel, as well as the President and Rudy Giuliani, are peddling is bullshit? Because two different publications, The Washington Post and The Intercept have debunked it.

And we know where this disinformation comes from, Russian government media outlets. And they started pushing it all the way back in 2014 most likely because most people reasonably assumed Vice President Biden, as the incumbent vice president would run to succeed President Obama positioning his campaign as a third Obama term (see the dates in the third tweet below). This also shows that Putin’s planning to interfere in US politics and the 2016 presidential election through information warfare goes farther back then has been previously recognized.

There’s another piece to the puzzle that debunks Vogel’s, the President’s, and Giuliani’s bullshit disinformation that they lifted whole cloth from Putin’s information warfare campaign against the United States – the legal and Federal professional ethics piece. And here too, even if everything Vogel, the President, and Giuliani are alleging were true, which it isn’t as both the facts and the timelines do not line up, there is no there there. Here’s a deep dive into these issues to answer a question asked by former Federal prosecutor Ken White, who tweets and blogs as Popehat.

And the response from courtesy of the Thread Reader Ap:

asked if anyone had done a law-based deep dive into the allegations that Biden somehow did something legally impermissible (i.e., conflict of interest) by being involved in the Ukraine prosecutor negotiations. I decided to look into it. BLUF: No /Tweetstorm
First off, the general financial conflict of interest laws that generally prohibit Federal employees from participating in matters in which they have financial interests (namely 18 USC.208) expressly do not apply to the Vice President (nor the President). 18 USC 202(c)
Moreover, w/r/t family members of executive branch employees, the primary financial conflict of interest statute only prohibits employees from participating in particular matters in which the employee, their spouse, or their MINOR children have a financial interest. 18 USC 208(a)
So, even assuming for the sake of argument that the conflict of interest statute applied to the VP & even if the departure of the prosecutor were to have had an impact on Hunter’s finances (which all reputable reports suggest was an impossibility given the timeline of events)…
the VP’s involvement in discussions re: the prosecutor still would not have constituted a criminal conflict of interest because Hunter was obviously not a MINOR child at the time.
That said, if the Federal conflict of interest laws did apply to the VP, the fact that a criminal conflict didn’t exist under the statute wouldn’t have ended the legal analysis…
Federal employees are also subject to Standards of Ethical Conduct, which are set out in broader regulations issued by the Office of Govt Ethics. 5 CFR 2635.
Under the Standards of Ethical Conduct, Federal employees generally should recuse themselves from participating in certain matters even if there is no prohibited financial conflict of interest under 18 USC 208.
Under 5 CFR 2635.502, an employee is generally required to recuse when there is a “particular matter involving specific parties, the employee has a “covered relationship” (such as a close family) and a reasonable person would question their impartiality.
Applying this here, even if it were true (its not!) that the prosecutor was investigating the company Biden’s son was involved with at the time that Biden was engaged in discussions re: the prosecutor’s removal, its not clear that this rule would be directly applicable here…
The rule, by its terms, only applies to “particular matters involving specific parties,” which is intentionally narrow and applies to specific proceedings affecting the legal rights of the parties or transactions between identified parties. 5 CFR 2640.102(1).
Examples of such matters are particular contracts, grants, product approval applications, litigation, investigations, etc. Here, it seems a stretch to say that discussions re whether the prosecutor should remain in his position was a “particular matter involving specific parties”
Moreover, even if you stretched & decided it met that definition, the particular rule would not apply directly here anyway, because Biden’s son (nor even the company) was most definitely NOT a party to the matter at issue (whether the prosecutor should remain in his position)…
A caveat: there’s a catch-all provision at 5 CFR 2635.502(a)(2), acknowledging that even in other circumstances not addressed in the reg, an employee should generally recuse anytime their participation in a matter would reasonably raise a question re: their impartiality.
If Biden’s son was involved with a company under active investigation by the Ukrainian prosecutor (again, apparently this is not true!)…
I think nearly any Federal ethics official would have cited this regulation and advised the VP NOT to get involved in discussions regarding the future of the Ukrainian prosecutor, even if only to avoid creating the appearance of a potential conflict
Even still, this is very much a judgment call and even under this incredibly-strained counter-factual hypothetical, the VP’s involvement still would NOT have been a criminal violation.
In short, even if the VP wasn’t exempt from these conflict of interest laws, and even if the facts were other than they actually appear to be, Biden’s behavior still would have been lawful. /End @waltshaub @NormEisen @RWPUSA

Vogel, the President, Giuliani, even the Vice President, are all peddling this bullshit or actively involved with trying to get Ukraine’s new president and his government to assist them in ratfucking the 2020 presidential election, really ratfuck the Democratic primaries, to the President’s benefit. So we already know the cui bono or who stands to benefit piece of this active measures information warfare campaign of disinformation aimed at the American people: the President. What we don’t know, but someone really should be looking into it, is what exactly does Ken Vogel get out of this? What does he stand to benefit? The real question here is why is Vogel clearly peddling debunked Russian disinformation that was created and first used back in 2014 to help obscure Putin’s moves to scarf up Crimea, invade the Donbass, and potentially dirty up a potential Biden 2016 candidacy? Is Vogel just a useful idiot or is he actively participating in an act of information warfare begun by Putin, weaponized by Giuliani and the President, which is intended to propagandize Americans in order to achieve Putin’s strategic interests? This is the real story, not the bullshit that Vogel is pushing. Enterprising reporters and investigators should be looking into it; trying to figure out exactly why Vogel is doing this and what he is getting out of it.

Open thread!

PS: Someone should really also be looking into exactly what it is that Giuliani has been doing in Europe, especially the post Soviet states, over the better part of the past ten to fifteen years supposedly as part of his consulting work as a security expert, which he is not. Journalists and investigators should also be looking into who has been paying for whatever it is he’s been doing. It isn’t all just beer, skittles, and cuckolding Marines. And it clearly has made Giuliani a very wealthy man.

Full Disclosure: I served as the Cultural Advisor (senior civilian advisor for culture) to the Commanding General of US Army Europe under temporary assigned control (TACON) from December 2013 to June 2014 and under operational control (OPCON) from June to August 2014. The views expressed here are solely my own and do not reflect those of US Army Europe and the US Army either in 2014 or now.

The Intelligence Whistleblower’s Life Is Over Because the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act Does NOT Actually Protect Intelligence Community and National Security Whistleblowers!

Right now only a very limited number of people know the name of the Intelligence official or officer who filed the whistleblower complaint with the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG). She or he is represented by a top national security lawyer, who is of counsel for a firm that specializes in national security law, classification, and clearance related issues. I have no doubt that by late Wednesday evening, Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was most likely called by the President and told to figure out which senior Intelligence officials and officers were assigned to the National Security Council’s National Security Staff over the summer and returned to their home agency in late July or early August in order to figure out who made the complaint. By last night the President’s surrogates started impugning the whistleblower as an Obama holdover or loyalist or a deep state actor acting out of political motivations. The President, of course, decided to pick up that argument this morning on Twitter and during his ongoing press gaggle in the Oval Office. And we now have this reporting:

At this point, if they haven’t done so already, the Intelligence official or officer who made the complaint and his or her attorneys should have plans in place to both mitigate potential retaliatory legal action the administration might take and to safeguard her or his life and that of his or her family. The reason these actions are necessary is because the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act DOES NOT ACTUALLY PROTECT WHISTLEBLOWERS! Ken McClanahan, an attorney specializing in national security law, classification, and clearance provides a handy explainer at Just Security.

What is the ICWPA?

The ICWPA holds the dubious distinction of being the only “Whistleblower Protection Act” that doesn’t actually include any whistleblower protections. To summarize the law’s extensive history, I’ll say: It originally was intended to provide protections for national security whistleblowers who wanted to go to Congress, but was watered down in the final iteration due to separation of powers objections from the executive branch. While keeping the original – and misleading – name, the final law only really established a mechanism for Intelligence Community whistleblowers to forward a complaint to the congressional intelligence committees by way of an inspector general. It is a breakdown in this process that Schiff is flagging.

What is the ICWPA process?

Simply speaking, if a whistleblower working for an Intelligence Community agency wants to bring something to the attention of the congressional intelligence committees, they must write up a complaint and give it to either their agency’s inspector general or the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG), specifically stating that it is an ICWPA complaint. The ICIG then has 14 days to decide if the complaint pertains to an “urgent concern” and if it is credible.

I highly recommend the rest of McClanahan’s explainer if you really want to understand what the process dispute between the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the Department of Justice, and the White House over the Acting Director’s refusal to submit the Intelligence Community Inspector General’s report finding the complaint to be both urgent and credible to Congress.

The ICWPA does not actually protect Intelligence Community and national security whistleblowers. It also, contrary to Rachel Maddow’s hyper-enthusiastic statements during and after her interview with Congressman Schiff last night, DOES NOT PROVIDE THE INTELLIGENCE OFFICIAL OR OFFICER WITH ANY OTHER LAWFUL WAY TO GET THIS INFORMATION TO CONGRESS!!!!!!! Whoever the whistleblower is, she or he is not now entitled under the ICPWA to go directly to Congress because the Acting DNI, on the advice of the Office of Legal Counsel at DOJ and the White House, presumably the White House Counsel’s Office, have determined not to forward the Intelligence Community Inspector General’s findings to Congress as required by the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act. If this Intelligence official or officer tries to take the information that is the basis of his or her complaint directly to the House Special Committee on Intelligence, she or he will be in jeopardy for prosecution under the Espionage Act. Because it is not up to this Intelligence official or officer to determine if Congressman Schiff and the members of his committee need to know this information.

This Intelligence official or officer is not, under the law, a whistleblower. They are basically, at most, a lawful complainant about a counterintelligence and insider threat concerning the President to the Intelligence Community Inspector General. He or she has no protection under the law. And based on how the President and his surrogates are talking about her or him, and the reporting that “administration officials”, most likely the Acting Director of National Intelligence and his senior counsel, have shared additional information with the White House so they can determine if executive privilege should be invoked and asserted, it is highly likely that if the White House has not figured out who this Intelligence official or officer is, they likely have a short list of possibilities and will work it out sooner rather than later. Once that happens, this Intelligence official or officers life as they know it, not just their career, will be over. All for following the law. A badly written law that provides no actual protections for the person bringing the complaint. And it will all be done under the cover of law.

Open thread!


PPS: For a fuller, very technical treatment of this issue, as well as last night’s post, please check out my weekly column at The Ark Valley Voice. I focused on these issues for this week’s column.

PPPS: I did a slight editorial clarification to the fifth sentence of the final paragraph and added a new final sentence to the final paragraph of this post.

High Crimes and Misdemeanors

Just before 10 PM last night, CNN national security reporter Josh Campbell asked a question:

Even though Trump didn’t use the words “deep state” in this morning’s tweet-screams, the answer to Mr. Campbell’s question is approximately 10.5 hours:

The Radical Left Democrats and their Fake News Media partners, headed up again by Little Adam Schiff, and batting Zero for 21 against me, are at it again! They think I may have had a “dicey” conversation with a certain foreign leader based on a “highly partisan” whistleblowers..

….statement. Strange that with so many other people hearing or knowing of the perfectly fine and respectful conversation, that they would not have also come forward. Do you know the reason why they did not? Because there was nothing said wrong, it was pitch perfect!

There’s nothing strange at all about “so many other people” not coming forward; the aberration in the context of Trump’s open lawlessness and gleeful subversion of institutional norms is that anyone still tries to follow the law, as the whistleblower and intelligence community inspector have done.

But the overarching message of the Trump era is that people who follow the rules are suckers, so now that person is being smeared by the POTUS, and the White House is allegedly limiting access to Trump’s “pitch perfect” calls to ensure that the only witnesses are accessories when the next crime is committed.

I’m not a fan of CNN anchor Chris Cuomo’s strategy of inviting shameless liars on TV to confront them to generate clicks, but kudos to him for producing a “Code Red” admission from Giuliani in the first 30 seconds of last night’s interview:

Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials are walking a tight-rope over pools of molten lava, trying to get the assistance they need to counter an evil authoritarian who threatens their existence as a nation without pissing off Putin’s scammy, demented fanboy in the White House. I don’t envy them that task:

“This is a very special stage in Ukraine’s development: We have completely changed this year, our mentality has changed, we realize that the entire world is watching us right now,” Roman Truba, head of the State Bureau of Investigations, said in an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast.

Truba’s agency neither investigated Biden’s son nor Burisma Holding. There were no signs of illegality in Biden’s work in Ukraine, he said. “The State Bureau of Investigations should be an independent institution. I wish we would become as highly qualified, equipped with all modern technologies, and professional as the FBI.”

Oh baby, no.