Late Night Horrorshow Open Thread: You Can Count on the CIA

… to behave just as it’s always behaved. Tea Party alumni and Saudi Arabian monarchy fan Mike Pompeo showed up at the neoconservative Foundation for the Defense of Democracies to thrill the #NeverIran activists with his display of America’s Big Stick(tm). But first, he needed to back up his current master’s Big Lie…

His comment suggested — falsely — that a report released by U.S. intelligence agencies in January had ruled out any impact that could be attributed to a covert Russian interference campaign that involved leaks of tens of thousands of stolen emails, the flooding of social media sites with false claims and the purchase of ads on Facebook.

A report compiled by the CIA and other agencies described that Russian operation as unprecedented in its scale and concluded that Moscow’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process and help elect Donald Trump.

But the report reached no conclusions about whether that interference had altered the outcome — an issue that U.S. intelligence officials made clear was considered beyond the scope of their inquiry…

Former U.S. intelligence officials voiced concern over Pompeo’s statement.

“This is another example of Pompeo politicizing intelligence,” a former senior U.S. intelligence official said. Pompeo “is the most political CIA director since Bill Casey” during the Reagan administration, the former official said. “This significantly undermines the intelligence community’s credibility.”…

Pompeo also threatened “leakers”:

… Pompeo also criticized former U.S. intelligence officials for their television appearances, implying that they violated their oaths and potentially contributed to the leaks of sensitive information.

“There are an awful lot of former CIA talking heads on TV,” Pompeo said, adding that their obligation to remain quiet about their work “far extends beyond the day you turn in your badge.”

His comment seemed to be aimed mainly at former senior intelligence officials in the Obama administration, including James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence, who said in a recent interview that Russia’s interference had “cast doubt” on Trump’s win.

“Our intelligence community assessment did, I think, serve to cast doubt on the legitimacy of his victory,” Clapper said in an interview on CNN last month. He added that he worried Trump’s perceived focus on the issue “transcends, unfortunately, the real concern here, which is Russian interference in our political process.”…

Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden (Ore.) and Martin Heinrich (N.M.), both members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, rebuked Pompeo for his Russia comments. Wyden said in a posting on Twitter that Pompeo’s views on Moscow had “shifted with those of the president.”
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Russiagate Open Thread: For Trump, There *IS* No Bottom…

THIS DOES NOT LOOK AT ALL SUSPICIOUS (assuming IOKIYAR is your first & only principle… )

President Donald Trump has personally interviewed at least two potential candidates for U.S. attorney positions in New York, according to two sources familiar with the matter — a move that critics say raises questions about whether they can be sufficiently independent from the president.

Trump has interviewed Geoffrey Berman, who is currently at the law firm Greenberg Traurig for the job of U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Ed McNally of the firm Kasowitz Benson Torres for the Eastern District post, according to the sources.

It was unclear when the discussions took place. Trump has not announced nominees for those positions. Neither Berman nor McNally responded to calls or emails requesting comment…

The Southern District of New York is an especially notable position since it has jurisdiction over Trump Tower. Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney there, has asserted he was conducting an investigation into the Trump administration when Trump fired him along with all other U.S. attorneys — as is standard when an administration switches — earlier this year.

It is rare for a president to interview candidates for the 93 U.S. attorney jobs. Former President Barack Obama never interviewed a U.S. attorney candidate during his two terms, according to Matthew Miller, who served as Justice Department spokesman under the Obama administration…

“To be very blunt, these three jurisdictions will have authority to bring indictments over the ongoing special counsel investigation into Trump campaign collusion with the Russians and potential obstruction of justice by the president of the United States,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said in an interview Thursday. “For him to be interviewing candidates for that prosecutor who may in turn consider whether to bring indictments involving him and his administration seems to smack of political interference.”

Blumenthal asserted during an oversight hearing with Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier this week that Trump had interviewed candidates in New York, although he did not go into details. During the hearing, the Connecticut senator noted that it would be “quite unusual” for the president to get involved…

U.S. attorneys are also subject to the “blue-slip process,” meaning home-state senators could try to unilaterally block a nominee moving forward. For the New York position, Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand would be the ones giving the green light for the nominee to advance.

Now we know why Mitch ‘Trump’s Bitch” McConnell was trying to kill the blue-slip process last week, I guess. Reducing Senate prerogatives had never previously seemed to be his jam. The entire GOP is letting Trump destroy the last shreds of their credibility, and they’re not even getting any of their legislative wishlist in return!

Once again:

Russiagate: Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III Does Not Approve of Our “Free Press”

Head of the only Department of Justice we have, by the “grace” of the GOP and its figurehead thug now squatting in the Oval Office. This things are handled so much more discretely in Putin’s Russia, he thinks. Buried in a Washington Post story, “Sessions tells lawmakers he will not discuss his conversations with Trump on Comey firing”:

At one point, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) asked Sessions if he could commit to not putting reporters in jail for doing their jobs, a reference to the president’s attacks against the media and the many leak investigations the Justice Department is conducting.

“I don’t know that I can make a blanket commitment to that effect, but I would say this: We have not taken any aggressive action against the media at this point,” Sessions said. He added: “We always try to find an alternative way, as you probably know, Senator Klobuchar, to directly confronting a media person, but that’s not a total blanket protection.”…

Of his personal confidence in Mueller, Sessions said: “I think he will produce the work in a way he thinks is correct, and history will judge.” He said he was not involved in the case even before his recusal and that he did not know if it would be “appropriate” for Trump to pardon people who were under investigation by Mueller. But he added that the “pardon power is quite broad.”…


Nice democracy ya got here — shame if anything were to happen to it…

I truly hope Mr. Mueller will not allow himself to be intimidated by Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III.

Late Night Primitive Vertebrates Open Thread: Young Jared Would Like to Move On Now, Thank You Very Much

Young Jared glides through his very nice life like an eel through water, boneless and frictionless, buoyed up by an ocean of money. Sometimes he darts out to snatch at something eye-catching — a building development, a newspaper, the well-appointed daughter of another powerful ocean-dweller. If his foray doesn’t work, he glides away, on to the next target, impossible to entrap. Or so it has been, until now. Suddenly the ocean seems smaller, the lights brighter, the predators larger and meaner…

President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser messaged the former chief White House strategist to say he thought the TV hit was a success, according to multiple people who were dining with Bannon at Del Frisco’s steakhouse across the street from Fox News’ Manhattan studios when the message popped up.

The attaboy from a campaign ally-turned-West Wing nemesis was surprising on multiple fronts. For one, Bannon associates and White House officials said Kushner hasn’t reached out to Bannon since he was ousted from his White House post in August.

But even stranger was that members of the Del Frisco’s dinner crew, which included conservative media personalities, thought Kushner was belatedly endorsing an anti-establishment strategy that has many Republicans concerned about losing control of the Senate altogether — one that undercuts the very members of Congress the White House needs as partners if Trump wants to pass any part of his domestic agenda, including tax reform…

Kushner has recently been hosting bipartisan dinners at his Kalorama mansion, Axios reported, breaking bread with people like conservative Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee and Democratic Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin to identify areas where the White House can score “bipartisan wins” on issues like criminal justice reform.

His thumbs-up to Bannon — which one person said elicited a warm thanks in response — seemed at odds with that patina of dinner party diplomacy. And it could be seen as a sign of the irreparable relationship between the White House and Corker. The outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was once one of the Republican senators closest to Kushner, advising him on Middle East issues and defending him publicly amid reports that he tried to set up a back channel with the Russian ambassador during the transition last year…

No hard feelings, Steve! Nothing personal, Bob! Aren’t we all inhabitants of the same ocean?

Via Dan Drezner’s twitter feed, Newsweek:

Jared Kushner “enriched himself” by not revealing his ownership of a real estate tech business that raised millions of dollars while he served in the government, said a member of the House Judiciary Committee, calling it part of a pattern of unethical behavior that he believes should cause the White House Senior Adviser to be stripped of his security clearance.

Congressman Ted Lieu told Newsweek that Kushner’s failure to list a company called Cadre on his initial financial disclosure forms—an oversight that could mean millions for the president’s son-in-law—is an ethical lapse that should have severe ramifications…

The timeline suggests more than just an inadvertent oversight, but an effort by Kushner to hold onto Cadre rather than be forced to divest his interests in the emerging company, according to ethics experts.

On March 9, Kushner submitted his original financial disclosure form to the Office of Government Ethics. It did not specifically list Cadre as one of Kushner’s assets, though he co-founded the company with his brother, Joshua Kushner and his Harvard classmate Ryan Williams, who remains Cadre CEO.

The company was already attracting attention in New York’s real estate and tech circles because of its promise to disrupt both industries by allowing investors to buy shares in real estate developments much like they would buy shares of companies on the stock market.
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Russiagate Open Thread: BUT **THEIR** EMAILS…

Look, I’m as dismissive of the DISTRACTION! theories as any other cynic, but it’s been a really bad week for Donald Trump, by Donald Trump’s standards. The optics — the only measure he understands — have ranged from ‘just terrible’ to ‘super-duper sucky, even by this loser’s degraded standards’; formerly dependable kissups like Chris ‘Mad Bitcher’ Cillizza and Erick ‘Voice of the GOP Gated Community’ Erickson have gone so far as to express doubts on Twitter.

And it’s been even worse for the only other humans Donald Trump seems to sometimes care about, his daughter-wife Ivanka and her partner Jared (who Trump undoubtably considers the son he would’ve had, if not for the base treachery & failure of the human broodmare who birthed DJTJr and Whats-His-Name). Since Robert Mueller III is not a man to be hustled into premature disclosures by breaking news reports, we aren’t liable to know for some time just how bad the latest multiple reports on Javanka’s slack email security will be judged, but a less connected couple would certainly have been asked to turn over their passports and warned about the consequences of destroying evidence…

The accounts would have been more secure if they relied on commercial email providers. It is unclear what they did. “If you’re using a commercial email service provider, you’re really reducing the risk,” according to Lewis, because the major tech companies that run platforms like Gmail and Outlook typically have robust security teams. “If you’re doing your own email, it gets to be a lot easier [to hack],” he added.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said last week that White House staff had been told to stick to its government email accounts. “All White House personnel have been instructed to use official email to conduct all government-related work,” Sanders said. “They are further instructed that if they receive work-related communication on personal accounts, they should be forwarded to official email accounts.”

[Now, if only the Kushners were ‘WH personnel’, which they keep telling us they’re not…]

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) sent a letter to White House counsel last week requesting more information about the use of private email addresses by White House staff….

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Russiagate Open Thread: Meanwhile…

To quote Mr. Cohen, staying on message, “Says who?”

Associates of President Trump and his company have turned over documents to federal investigators that reveal two previously unreported contacts from Russia during the 2016 campaign, according to people familiar with the matter.

In one case, Trump’s personal attorney and a business associate exchanged emails weeks before the Republican National Convention about the lawyer possibly traveling to an economic conference in Russia that would be attended by top Russian financial and government leaders, including President Vladi­mir Putin, according to people familiar with the correspondence.

In the other case, the same Trump attorney, Michael Cohen, received a proposal in late 2015 for a Moscow residential project from a company founded by a billionaire who once served in the upper house of the Russian parliament, these people said. The previously unreported inquiry marks the second proposal for a Trump-branded Moscow project that was delivered to the company during the presidential campaign and has since come to light.

Cohen declined the invitation to the economic conference, citing the difficulty of attending so close to the GOP convention, according to people familiar with the matter. And Cohen rejected the Moscow building plan.

Nonetheless, the information about the interactions has been provided to congressional committees as well as special counsel Robert S. Mueller III as they investigate whether Trump associates coordinated with Russian efforts to interfere in the U.S. election, according to people familiar with the inquiries who, like others cited in this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the inquiry…

…[T]he new disclosures add to an emerging picture in which Trump’s business and campaign were repeatedly contacted by Russians with interests in business and politics. Trump’s son, his son-in-law, his campaign chairman, low-level foreign policy advisers and, now, Cohen, one of his closest business confidants, all fielded such inquiries in the weeks before or after Trump accepted the nomination.

The documents also underscore the Trump company’s long-standing interest in doing business in Moscow.

In a statement Monday, Cohen stressed that he did not attend the economic forum. “I did not accept this invitation,” he said. “I have never been to Russia.”…

Information, according to the article, provided by Felix Sater. There’s an old training joke about a dog being “extremely loyal”, meaning “too dumb not to comply even with a bad command, also too dumb to get themselves out of the mess they get into by complying”

Paul Manafort, on the other hand: Probably not that kind of loyal, because he’s made a rich living working for Very Bad Dudes for quite a long time:

He wasn’t getting paid by the Trump campaign, but he’s not the sort of guy takes on a job “for free”.

Russiagate Open Thread: What Happens to People with A Rep for Not Paying Their Lawyers

Or maybe it’s just that his lawyers have no faith in Young Jared’s veracity? Via CNN [warning – autoplay]:

In his closed interview with the staff of the Senate intelligence committee, White House senior adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner did not share the existence of his personal email account, which he has used for official business, CNN has learned.

CNN has also learned that the chair and vice chair of the committee were so unhappy that they learned about the existence of his personal email account via news reports that they wrote him a letter via his attorney Thursday instructing him to double-check that he has turned over every relevant document to the committee including those from his “‘personal email account’ described to the news media, as well as all other email accounts, messaging apps, or similar communications channels you may have used, or that may contain information relevant to our inquiry.”…

The emphasis in the letter on “all other” personal accounts not known by the committee would seem to be a reflection of the frustration the committee leaders feel with that fact that Kushner was not up-front about the existence of his personal email account and their desire for him to cover the bases of all his possible communications avenues when responding to their letter. This issue could become more serious if there emerge any emails or communications related to the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election that Kushner has not turned over, and whether he did so with the express purpose of concealing information from the committee…

Kushner has been criticized in the past for initially not disclosing more than 100 contacts with foreign leaders including those from Russia, as well as ownership of a multimillion dollar tech company with links to Goldman Sachs and businessmen Peter Thiel and George Soros. Kushner was also one of three top campaign officials or surrogates who failed to disclose a June 2016 meeting with a woman billed as being with the Russian government and having incriminating information on Hillary Clinton.

What can he say, he’s just a very private fella…