The Widening Gyre

Before we get to today’s unpleasantness, here’s a downy woodpecker drumming in our bamboo stand this morning:

As I mentioned on Twitter earlier, downy woodpeckers are the smallest woodpecker species in North America, and their eggs are about the size of jelly beans. Isn’t that cool?

Stop reading here if you’d like to hold onto pleasant Sunday morning thoughts. Read more

Treason Tribble Tweets

Trump might actually believe this since he’s a malignant narcissist whose sense of “right” and “wrong” is aligned precisely with “good for Trump” and “bad for Trump.”

So, Trump’s story is that Nunes & Co’s absurd clown show cleared the Russia matter up, and his next move will be to try to shut the Mueller investigation down. Yes, it would be outrageous, and it’s legally and politically dicey, but Trump definitely doesn’t give a shit about that. A couple of years ago, a president publicly and brazenly using the DOJ to punish enemies would have been unthinkable. Today, we call it “Friday.”

The question is, can he sell this steaming load of horse shit to enough people to get away with it? He doesn’t need to sell it to the deranged fart-huffers who watch Fox News all day — they already believe it. But he does need to convince a sufficient number of non-Republicans that it doesn’t much matter whether Trump is subject to the law or not.

As Kay observed this morning, the DOJ is gone now, as an institution that’s a check on Trump. With Republican majorities in both chambers, Congress never was a check on Trump, and that can’t be rectified for several months. So for now, it’s Mueller. After Mueller, it’s us. Keep this link handy. I’m afraid we’re gonna need it.

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.

Russia Has An Election This Weekend: Last Man Standing Wins!

Or woman…

All of this is a facade intended to make it look like Russia has a functioning democratic system. Vladimir Putin will, of course, easily win another term essentially making him the Russian president for (the rest of his) life.

Stay frosty!

Open thread.

“The saint he thinks he is…”

There’s some speculation that James Comey moved up the release date of his highly anticipated memoir from May 1 to mid-April to get ahead of a possibly damning report due from the FBI inspector general about his (Comey’s) handling of the Clinton email server investigation. Via Politico:

The book could land at a complicated moment for Comey, as well. “A Higher Loyalty” was originally scheduled for release on May 1, but the publisher last month announced it was moving up the publishing date because of the “intense scrutiny” surrounding the FBI.

Comey detractors, however, have speculated that the change had more to do with spinning another major piece of Comey’s legacy: his handling of the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email during the 2016 election, which he is also expected to detail in the memoir.

The FBI inspector general’s report reviewing allegations of misconduct by Comey in connection with the email probe is also expected to come out this spring. “It’s hard to believe it won’t be critical of how he handled things,” said [Matthew] Miller. “There is speculation that he moved up the publication date to get ahead of the report. In the book he will come off as the saint he thinks he is.”

Miller was DOJ spokesman during the Obama administration. His remark captures my ambivalence about / contempt for Comey. On the one hand, there’s credible evidence he threw the election to Trump with a grandstanding letter to Congress days before the race ended. On the other, no Comey, no Mueller investigation.

Will the book make a big splash? Miller speculates that it could drive public opinion and become a PR headache for the White House, but being up to their eyeballs in negative publicity is normal for Team Trump.

So, regardless of what Comey reveals in the book, his legacy will likely come down to this: Comey set the house on fire, but at least he notified the fire department on the way out the door. My father-in-law was an old-school fireman, and he used to joke that his department had “never lost a basement.” We’ll see if Mueller’s team is able to salvage more than that.

“We’ve always been at war with Eastasia…”

The GOP is selling it hard on Twitter today:

Adam Schiff ain’t buying it:

I have no idea how this shakes out. Anyhoo, open thread, I guess.

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!