Russiagate Open Thread: The Manafort Jury Is Out

Who’s betting on a particularly busy / toxic Friday News Dump?…

John Brennan Responds

Perhaps Trump thought he would silence John Brennan, former head of the CIA, by revoking his clearance. Perhaps he just wanted to lash out and hurt him for this tweet.

Or maybe it was this one.

But whatever the provocation was, Brennan has struck back in a New York Times op-ed.

As a retired CIA employeed, Brennan would have had to submit the text for declassification. The CIA seems to have turned it around in record time.

A few notes from the op-ed. But read the whole thing. It’s short.

Before, during and after its now infamous meddling in our last presidential election, Russia practiced the art of shaping political events abroad through its well-honed active measures program, which employs an array of technical capabilities, information operations and old-fashioned human intelligence spycraft.

What Brennan couldn’t say is that the intelligence about these operations came from multiple countries’ spy agencies, including a number of European agencies that know the Russians very well.

Having worked closely with the F.B.I. over many years on counterintelligence investigations, I was well aware of Russia’s ability to work surreptitiously within the United States, cultivating relationships with individuals who wield actual or potential power. Like Mr. Bortnikov, these Russian operatives and agents are well trained in the art of deception. They troll political, business and cultural waters in search of gullible or unprincipled individuals who become pliant in the hands of their Russian puppet masters. Too often, those puppets are found.

I can’t help but think that this refers to Maria Butina’s infiltration of the NRA, under Alexander Torshin’s guidance. And there may be more. This tweet isn’t proof of anything beyond Torshin’s interest in a wide range of American institutions. Again, Brennan probably needed to leave out specifics.

Back to the op-ed:

Director Comey and I, along with the director of the National Security Agency, Adm. Michael Rogers, pledged that our agencies would share, as appropriate, whatever information was collected, especially considering the proven ability of Russian intelligence services to suborn United States citizens.

Having worked in a national security organization, I can’t emphasize enough how strongly the people in those organizations feel they are doing their best to protect the country. There has been a lot of criticism over the years of the less creditable motivations that some of them may carry. I recall the first time (during the Reagan administration) a DOE official told me that I was “just a contractor” and therefore less worthy of trust. That stung all the way down to the core of my being. I was working for the security of the United States. Whatever Comey’s and the others’ faults and limitations, I can absolutely see them coming together on this.

Brennan can read the papers as well as any of us can, and probably better, with the information he has and cannot divulge. That information doesn’t go away with the security clearance. He speculates here about the possible charges.

The only questions that remain are whether the collusion that took place constituted criminally liable conspiracy, whether obstruction of justice occurred to cover up any collusion or conspiracy, and how many members of “Trump Incorporated” attempted to defraud the government by laundering and concealing the movement of money into their pockets. A jury is about to deliberate bank and tax fraud charges against one of those people, Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman. And the campaign’s former deputy chairman, Rick Gates, has pleaded guilty to financial fraud and lying to investigators.

As they say, read the whole thing.

Late Night Open Thread: Well, That Explains Tuesday…

… but this was Monday:

Late-Night Horror-Farce Open Thread: Orange Is the New “Glow”

If there *is* a tanning bed — I’m agnostic on the topic — my bet would be it was a bargaining chip for Melania: I can’t possibly leave New York for exile in D.C. until… It’s the sort of just-this-side-of-reasonable demand common to any diplomatic negotiation between the corteges of a medieval baron and his third royal princess, a delaying tactic to test the sympathies of the new court. (And to make an aging monarch look slightly ridiculous, whether or not he complied.) Wasn’t there a media kerfuffle, right after the inauguration, about “Melania’s people” wanting to install an expensive professional-media-quality hair salon / makeup room in the West Wing?

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Friday Evening Open Thread: Nice ‘Work’, If You Can Get It

Every successful organization must consider the best use of their paid employees. Therefore, some are paid to show up; some are paid to stay home…

… or to go on tv and make fools of themselves…

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Crook vs Crook Open Thread: The Manafort Trial, Day Five (Monday)

Per the Washington Post:

Rick Gates — the star witness against President Trump’s former campaign chairman — admitted in federal court Monday that he committed a host of crimes with his former boss, and confessed to stealing from him and others.

In his first hour on the witness stand, Gates catalogued years of illegal activity, saying most of his wrongdoing was committed on behalf of his former boss, Paul Manafort, while other crimes were for his own benefit, including the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Gates also made clear that he was testifying against Manafort with the hope of receiving a lesser prison sentence, having pleaded guilty in February as part of a deal with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III…

Inside the courthouse Monday, Gates’s testimony against Manafort marked a shattering end to a relationship that made the two political consultants millions of dollars working for foreign politicians and led them both to prominent positions in the Trump campaign.

Wearing a blue suit and gold tie, Gates strode to the witness stand shortly after 4 p.m. Prosecutor Greg Andres wasted little time before cutting to the heart of the issue.

“Did you commit crimes with Mr. Manafort?” Andres asked Gates.

“Yes,” Gates responded.

For most of his testimony, Gates did not look at Manafort, while the defendant stared intently at his former business partner…

Prosecutors did not finish their questioning of Gates on Monday, and he is scheduled to return to the witness stand Tuesday…

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Idiots, Useful & Otherwise, Open Thread: Rand Paul Is the Son Donald Trump Always Wanted

Young Rand is a dude who knows how to hustle!

That #FailSon DJ kid, on the other hand…

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