Russiagate Open Thread: Maria Butina’s Handlers, Owning the GOP, One Dirty Old Man At A Time

It’d make a great movie farce, if not for the treason, not to mention all the ancillary dead people…


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Another Trump Admin Crook Resigns

This time, it’s Ryan Zinke, the Trump-crook who insisted that minions ascend to the top of the Interior Department when he graced that building with his presence and fly his personal standard, as if he were Queen Elizabeth II without the class, hereditary title and corgi herd. Via The Post:

Ryan Zinke to resign as interior secretary, Trump says; Zinke had faced allegations of misconduct involving a land development deal

The president said in a tweet Saturday that Zinke would leave the administration at the end of the year.

Zinke’s personal conduct and management decisions have spurred at least 15 investigations, several of which have been closed.

The most serious one, which the Interior Department’s acting inspector general referred to the Justice Department, focuses on whether the secretary used his office for personal gain in connection with a land deal he forged in Whitefish, Mont., with Halliburton Chairman David Lesar and other investors.

How many Trump-crooks have been bounced from this administration so far? I’m sure the exit of sleazy flunkies would be a bigger scandal if Trump himself weren’t an astoundingly corrupt and incompetent asset of a hostile foreign power.



Voter Suppression: Rights Restoration Edition

One of the few bright spots in Florida’s 2018 election results was the passage of Amendment 4, the ballot initiative to automatically restore voting rights to ex-felons (excluding those convicted of murder or sex crimes) who complete their sentences. Amendment 4 won in a landslide — nearly 65% voted for it. It brought Florida’s draconian eligibility restrictions in line with the sane states.

The current, Republican-authored system effectively disenfranchises a staggering number of African American citizens, something like one in five, IIRC. Many of those Floridians were convicted long ago on bullshit charges based on racist laws that let white kids off for possession of powered cocaine but threw the book at black kids busted with crack.

The current system requires ex-felons to grovel in front of (Republican) governors and (Republican) cabinet officials for a tiny chance of regaining their rights, and they can’t apply for clemency until five years after they complete all of their sentence, including parole, etc.

It’s a terrible system — even a large portion of the drooling yahoos who voted for Trump recognized that. But regardless of the clear will of the people of Florida, the incoming Republican governor and statehouse Republicans are in no hurry to implement the law:

In an interview with the Palm Beach Post’s George Bennett, Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis said that Amendment 4, which was approved by 64.6 percent (or 5.2 million) of Florida voters, shouldn’t go into effect as intended by the people who wrote the ballot measure.

Instead, DeSantis said the amendment, which would restore voting rights for most ex-felons who have served their sentences, should take effect after state lawmakers pass “implementing language” in a bill that is then sent to him for his signature.

That means at least a two-month delay in restoring voting rights. Conveeeeeeniently, that delay could help Republicans in special elections, like the Tampa mayoral race. And I have a feeling the Republicans will find ways to slow-walk it even more or fuck with the language to their advantage given the opportunity. Here’s a sample of the bad-faith “concerns” statehouse Republicans are raising to delay implementation:

“How do you evaluate eligibility?” [Dennis] Baxley [R-Ocala] told the Times/Herald last week. “I still have some questions … What were the terms of their sentence? Do they have to meet probation? Did they complete their debt to society or not?”

Gee, what a mystery…until you look at the language on the ballot, which Baxley presumably had an opportunity to view as he was voting for himself and fellow Republicans:

This amendment restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation. The amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or sexual offenses, who would continue to be permanently barred from voting unless the Governor and Cabinet vote to restore their voting rights on a case by case basis.

Any other questions, Baxley, you goddamned nitwit?

Ballot initiatives in Florida are amendments to the state constitution. Initiatives require sponsors to collect more than 750K signatures for the amendment to appear on the ballot, and it must achieve a 60% or higher super-majority to become law. Those are high hurdles, and Amendment 4 cleared them all.

I’m an introvert, and I spent hours accosting strangers on street corners and in parking lots to collect signatures to get Amendment 4 on the ballot, so it pisses me off in a personal way to see these vote-suppressing goobers shit all over the will of the people. This is bullshit.



Russiagate / NRA Open Thread: The Red Sparrow Gun Pin-Up Pleads

More posts to follow; “status conference set for Feb. 12”. Nice comprehensive article at Buzzfeed:

A federal grand jury indicted Butina in mid-July on two counts: acting as an agent of a foreign government without alerting the US government, and conspiring to do so. Prosecutors claimed Butina received guidance from a Russian official who tasked her with influencing US foreign policy toward the country; her lawyers from the start denied she was acting as an agent, saying she was just a graduate student. The first charge carried a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, while the conspiracy charge had a maximum sentence of five years.

Prosecutors agreed to drop the more serious count when she’s sentenced. The lawyers estimated that she faced a sentencing range of between zero to six months. As part of the deal, prosecutors could ask the judge for a low sentence, or even no prison time, if they’re satisfied with her cooperation. Assistant US Attorney Erik Kenerson did not offer any details about what sort of information they wanted from Butina. Butina acknowledged that as a Russian national, she could face deportation once she finishes serving any prison time she may face…


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Fables of the Great Negotiator

Nancy Pelosi was widely and justly acclaimed for leaving stiletto divots all over Trump’s lumpy hide last Tuesday. But as usual, the Beltway press isn’t going to let a Democrat — any Democrat — enjoy a day in the sun. In The Post, ambulatory cream cheese sculpture Hugh Hewitt is already spiking the football on the coming immigration fight, which Trump will win because nobody thought he’d win the 2016 election and he DID, so suck it, libturds!

Hewitt’s ideological fellow traveler at The Post, the infinitely more sinister Marc Thiessen, is condescendingly advising Democrats to just give Trump what he wants already:

Good news for the incoming House Democratic majority! They have something President Trump really, really wants: money to build a border wall. Trump is desperate for this money. Mexico won’t give it to him. Only congressional Democrats can. Without their consent, he can’t deliver on one of the key campaign promises he made during the 2016 election.

There’s a name for this in classic negotiating strategy. It’s called “leverage.” Good negotiators use leverage (something they have, which their adversary wants) to obtain what are called “concessions” (something their adversary has, which they want). The result is what experts call “compromise.” This is how the civilized world gets things done.

But in a fit of pique, Democrats are throwing away their leverage, insisting that they will never — under any circumstances — give Trump the wall he so desperately wants. The reason? Because he wants it and they despise him.

There is a name for this in negotiating strategy as well. It’s called “insanity…”

So why not give Trump his wall in exchange for something they want? They could give Trump the $5 billion he is asking for to begin construction of the wall in exchange for a path to citizenship for the nearly 2 million “dreamers” — mainly illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children through no fault of their own. Trump would negotiate on this basis in a heartbeat.

Who cares what those two despicable wingnut frauds think, you’re probably asking yourself, and normally, I would agree. But Thiessen’s narrative is seeping into The Post editorial board, which published an opinion earlier today that was infuriatingly entitled “Trump and Democrats can reach a deal on the wall — if they have the spine to take it.” Here’s the conclusion:

If there is a moral imperative in any trade-off involving immigration and security, it’s the urgent necessity of finding a way to ensure a future in this country for dreamers, who are Americans by upbringing, education, loyalty and inclination — by every metric but a strictly legal one. Striking a deal that achieves that outcome should be a no-brainer for both sides. If it means a few billion dollars to construct segments of Mr. Trump’s wall, Democrats should be able to swallow that with the knowledge that it also will have paid to safeguard so many young lives, careers and hopes. That’s not a tough sell even in a Democratic primary.

Any compromise worth the trouble involves painful concessions for each side, but in this case, if assessed with cool heads, the concessions are a far cry from excruciating. The question, for both sides, is familiar: Do they want an issue or a solution? If it’s the latter, it’s eminently achievable.

It’s like there’s an outbreak of collective amnesia at The Post. Does no one there remember that “Chuck and Nancy” were willing to give Trump $25 billion for his stupid-ass wall earlier this year in exchange for a path to citizenship for the Dreamers, an offer that Trump refused to consider unless the Democrats agreed to draconian cuts to LEGAL immigration? The Post covered the story, but it still went down the memory hole.

It may come to pass that Trump accepts one-fifth of the amount of the previous offer and basks in the glow of a great victory because Trump is a liar and a scam artist (and sycophants like Hewitt and Thiessen will be waving pom-poms and singing hosannas in praise of The Great Negotiator in The Post). It’s also easy to imagine Trump insisting on terms the Democrats can’t accept because they’re based on fiction, such as that the USA is being overrun with diseased brown hordes, so future immigration must be restricted to applicants who are underwear models from the Nordic countries.

Either of these scenarios is plausible. But what’s not plausible is the assumption that Trump is bargaining in good faith. Both-sidesing the immigration standoff at this stage is bullshit, and it doesn’t augur well for how the media will spin the upcoming confrontation.



Repubs in Disarray Open Thread: The Chief-of-Staff Searchlight

… casts a harsh and unflattering glow:

The new attention hasn’t been particularly flattering to refusnik Nick Ayers, either…

From Vanity Fair, “A Top Trump Insider Appears to Conclude That the White House Is Doomed”:

In his home state of Georgia, it is no secret that Ayers has been considered a potential candidate for governor. Certainly, he has the resources—in the range of $12 million to $55 million, according to public filings—and the self-regard to step out of the shadows. Back in 2011, at the Republican Governors Association, Ayers famously abandoned his boss, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, to join Tim Pawlenty’s presidential campaign. Ben Smith, who obtained a copy of Ayers’s long-winded e-mail announcing the move, noted that it read like “he’s the one who will be running for president” instead of Pawlenty. (A classic Ayers line: “Over the past six months, I have prayed deeply about my purpose in life and how best to utilize the talents God has given me . . . As He often does in walks of faith, He has called me to a higher purpose.”) Stepping into the chief of staff role also would have forced Ayers to disclose how, exactly, he made his fortune as a political consultant—sometime West Wing insiders say Ayers wanted to avoid.
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GOP Venality Open Thread: Choral Squawk of Shame

The rest of us, we’re just drab white-collar players. The Republican Party, an effectively criminal enterprise just waiting for the right enterprising criminal…

The LAWN ORDURE party. Doesn’t even rise to the level of bullshit, just tight little balls of sheep manure.


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