Thursday Morning Open Thread: Graphic Political Criticism

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What’s on the agenda for the day?

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The Lajes Protocol Part III: The GOP Majority On The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s Gambit In Perspective

I just wanted to take a minute and follow up on Cheryl’s post in regard to the GOP majority on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s decision to just end their investigation into the Russian active measures and cyberwarfare campaign against the US without consulting the Democratic minority on the committee. As many of you have remarked in the comments to Cheryl’s post, this was clearly rushed out. The one page summary is as well written as the infamous Nunes memo and the Republican members of the committee can’t keep their talking points, let alone their stories, straight in their news media appearances trying to explain what they’ve done, why they did it, and what it means. There is a simple reason for this, which is that several pieces of information regarding what Special Counselor Mueller is doing have broken since the end of last week and over the weekend. And it clearly spooked them.

Bloomberg News reported this morning that Special Counsel Mueller is just about done with the part of his investigation that deals with whether the President obstructed justice in regard to the DOJ and FBI investigation into the Russian active measures and cyberwarfare campaign that resulted in Bob Mueller becoming the Special Counsel.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice is said to be close to completion, but he may set it aside while he finishes other key parts of his probe, such as possible collusion and the hacking of Democrats, according to current and former U.S. officials.

That’s because Mueller may calculate that if he tries to bring charges in the obstruction case — the part that may hit closest to Trump personally — witnesses may become less cooperative in other parts of the probe, or the president may move to shut it down altogether.

The revelation is a peek into Mueller’s calculations as he proceeds with his many-headed probe, while pressure builds from the president’s advisers and other Republicans to show progress or wrap it up.

The obstruction portion of the probe could likely be completed after several key outstanding interviews, including with the president and his son, Donald Trump Jr. The president’s lawyers have been negotiating with Mueller’s team over such an encounter since late last year. But even if Trump testifies in the coming weeks, Mueller may make a strategic calculation to keep his findings on obstruction secret, according to the current and former U.S. officials, who discussed the strategy on condition of anonymity.

Any clear outcome of the obstruction inquiry could be used against Mueller: Filing charges against Trump or his family could prompt the president to take action to fire him. Publicly clearing Trump of obstruction charges — as the president’s lawyers have requested — could be used by his allies to build pressure for the broader investigation to be shut down.

Other key matters under investigation by Mueller’s team, with its 17 career prosecutors, include whether Trump or any of his associates helped Russia meddle in the 2016 campaign. Mueller is also expected to indict some of those responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee before the election and publicly leaking stolen material in an effort to hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton.

NBC also reported this morning that Qatar has evidence/intelligence that shows the United Arab Emirates illegally influencing Jared Kushner, the President’s son in law and senior advisor. And that they’re afraid to share it with Special Counsel Mueller for fear of retribution by the President.

Qatari officials gathered evidence of what they claim is illicit influence by the United Arab Emirates on Jared Kushner and other Trump associates, including details of secret meetings, but decided not to give the information to special counsel Robert Mueller for fear of harming relations with the Trump administration, say three sources familiar with the Qatari discussions.

Lebanese-American businessman George Nader and Republican donor Elliott Broidy, who participated in the meetings, have both been the focus of news reports in recent days about their connections to the UAE and Trump associates.

It is unknown whether Qatari officials were the source of the recent news stories detailing activities by Nader and Broidy published by The New York Times and CNN.

NBC News previously reported that Qatari officials weighed speaking to Mueller during a visit to Washington earlier this year, and has now learned the information the officials wanted to share included details about Nader and Broidy working with the UAE to turn the Trump administration against Qatar, according to three people familiar with the discussions.

Qatari officials believe the meetings — as well as fallout from Qatari business dealings with Kushner — may have influenced President Donald Trump’s public endorsement of a blockade of Qatar by its neighbors that began last year.

A Qatari delegation came to Washington in late January and early February and met with Trump officials to discuss shared national security interests. Despite Trump’s endorsement of the blockade in June, the Qataris felt the meetings with top advisers had been productive and decided against reaching out to Mueller in order to preserve the relationship, according to people familiar with the internal Qatari deliberations.

The news about George Nader broke last week and included that he was both cooperating completely with the Special Counsel’s investigation and that part of that was providing previously unreported/unkown details about the meeting between Eric Prince and Kirill Dmitriev, who runs a Russian sovereign wealth fund and is close to Vladimir Putin. It is important to remember that Nader had been completely cooperating with the Special Counsel’s Office for almost six weeks before news of it leaked out and/or was made public. That amount of time is important! Moreover, the reporting indicates that Prince, who is currently being funded and bankrolled by the People’s Republic of China, perjured himself in his testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

And, of course, we had the All Nunberg, All the Time canine and equine extravaganza that began with him making the rounds claiming he wasn’t going to testify and is still on going as he’s doing the media rounds again tonight post grand jury appearance. Since he testified he’s consistently indicated he doesn’t think what the Special Counsel is doing is a hoax or a witch hunt and that he thinks the Special Counsel has something on the President.

Then a series of news reports about Elliott Broidy, Deputy Republican National Committee Finance Chair and Trump Campaign fundraiser. This includes pitching an idea to the President to raise a Muslim Army to fight for America. Broidy has also been implicated in a Ukrainian criminal probe, as well as being tied to whatever it was that George Nader was actually doing for the Emiratis. Broidy is personally hosting a $35,000 per person fundraiser for the President tomorrow in Beverly Hills as part of the President’s first official visit to California.

If you were wondering why the GOP majority on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence decided to end their investigation, without so much as the courtesy of notifying the Democratic minority before going public with the announcement, and did so in a rush, I would submit all of the above as the reasons. They are clearly scared and felt the need to change the narrative. This won’t stop Special Counsel Mueller and his investigation. It will, however, provide the Fox News talking heads, the talk radio folks, the Republicans and conservatives on contributor contracts for the broadcast and cable news networks, conservative media outlets ranging from the mainstream (whatever that means anymore) all the way out to the extreme, authoritarian right with a new narrative to pitch. That Congress found no collusion, so it is well past time for Bob Mueller to wrap it up.

We’ll leave the final word with Rod Rosenstein, the person that the President personally selected and the GOP majority in the Senate confirmed to be the Deputy Attorney General of the United States with every Republican senator voting in support of his nomination. And who, as the Deputy Attorney General, oversees Special Counsel Mueller, his office, and his work:

Stay frosty!

Open thread.

Open Thread: MAGAts Greatest Hits Tour, Pittsburgh Edition

Fun for that one guy, and of course his most fervent supporters!

Will any of them show up to vote for Saccone on Tuesday? How many of them are eligible to do so? How many of them even know who Saccone is?

Well, at least the stupid putz deserved exactly what he got…

The rally, which had been rescheduled after the deadly Parkland, Fla., shooting last month, capped a frenzied stretch of fund-raising and campaigning on behalf of Mr. Saccone, who is locked in a tight race with the Democratic nominee, Conor Lamb.

“He’s an extraordinary person,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Saccone, dismissing Mr. Lamb as “Lamb the Sham.” “The people of Pittsburgh cannot be conned by this guy Lamb, because he’s not going to vote for us.”…

While the rally was not specifically advertised as one for Mr. Saccone, a loss by him would mark the third time that Mr. Trump had thrown his political might behind a candidate without success. With his low poll numbers, Republican leaders and the White House are trying to determine how to handle his desire to campaign in the midterms…

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The US Interagency Process Has Completely Broken Down

The reporting on how the President decided he’d meet with Kim Jong Un, as well as how he decided to implement tariffs, shows that the US Interagency planning and decision making process has completely broken down.

Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair provides additional details:

With the departures of Hope Hicks and Gary Cohn, the Trump presidency is entering a new phase—one in which Trump is feeling liberated to act on his impulses. “Trump is in command. He’s been in the job more than a year now. He knows how the levers of power work. He doesn’t give a fuck,” the Republican said. Trump’s decision to circumvent the policy process and impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum reflects his emboldened desire to follow his impulses and defy his advisers. “It was like a fuck-you to Kelly,” a Trump friend said. “Trump is red-hot about Kelly trying to control him.”

Decision making by fit of pique… Wonderful!

The US Interagency process was established to provide all the relevant agencies, departments, bureaus, and offices to provide inputs for planning and decision making. To facilitate the flow of information. And to make it easier for the President to make decisions. From the US Air Force’s description of the Interagency Process:

The interagency is not a formal structure but rather the established process for coordinating executive branch decision making when issues involve multiple agencies of the government. Each major issue area has different sets of actors and different sets of formal and informal guidelines that govern interagency activities.

The most senior interagency organization is the National Security Council (NSC) and it includes four statutory members: the President, Vice President, Secretary of State, and Secretary of Defense. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Director of Central Intelligence serve as advisors to the Council. In practice, each administration has chosen to include additional cabinet-level officials to participate in NSC deliberations in response to the President’s expressed need for policy advice on national security affairs. Under The National Security Act of 1947, the National Security Council administers the interagency process for national security matters. It emphasizes the need for integration of agency policy to improve overall effectiveness of national security decision-making: The function of the Council shall be to advise the President with respect to the integration of domestic, foreign, and military policies relating to the national security so as to enable the military services and the other departments and agencies of the Government to cooperate more effectively in matters involving the national security. Reporting to the Council is a number of subordinate committees. Although each administration adjusts these structures as it sees fit, the structure described below has been fairly consistent through a number of administrations and will likely be similar to any structure put in place in the future.

The structure looks something like this, which is from RDML Roberti’s 2011 briefing on the Interagency process:


As the Air Force’s instructional manual explains, the benefits of the process are:

While integrated pol-mil planning does not guarantee success in a complex contingency operation, it does increase the likelihood of success by ensuring that:

  • various U.S. agencies plan operations using the same purpose, mission and objectives
  • all aspects of the operation are coordinated at the policy level
  • key issues and requirements are identified and addressed early on in the planning process
  • interagency planning process clearly assigns responsibility for distinct elements of an operation to specific senior administration officials
  • critical decisions about priorities and allocation of resources are made early on

One of the first things that LTG McMaster fixed when becoming National Security Advisor was the Interagency process that his predecessor had never really bothered with. Gen Kelly established a process to ensure the information flow to the President to weed out unnecessary and inaccurate information, as well as limiting access to the President to prevent “drive bys”. That the Interagency process has not just broken down, but that the President purposefully broke because he is frustrated with the very real, very necessary, and very important processes and restrictions that come with the office of the president and angry with the professionals that established them for him and his administration and are working to maintain them for his own good is a very, very bad development. No good can come from this. No good at all.

We are truly off the looking glass and through the map!

Open thread.

Late-Night Wingnut Wurlizter Open Thread: Tucker Carlson’s Vanity Project – Willing Putin Accomplices or Useful Idiots?

I know ‘can you imagine… ‘ is an overworked trope, but if — for instance — Think Progress had published an op-ed like this, the Daily Caller would be screaming for Trump to send Seal Team Six through their office window.

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