Nobody Is Above The Law: Mueller Rapid Response Has Been Activated

I’ve received several requests to post this update. If you signed up for the Rapid Response you’ve probably received an email like this:

Earlier today, Donald Trump installed a crony to oversee special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, crossing a red line.1 MoveOn and our allies are activating the Nobody Is Above the Law network meaning there will be actions around the country tomorrow, Thursday, November 8 at 5 p.m. local time (please confirm at the link to your local event below) and we need to see you, your friends, family members, and neighbors there!

By replacing Rod Rosenstein with just-named Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker as Mueller’s boss overseeing the investigation, Trump has undercut the independence of the investigation. Whitaker has publicly outlined strategies to stifle the investigation, referred to Mueller’s team as a “lynch mob,” and cannot be allowed to remain in charge of it.This amounts to a direct assault on the independent Mueller probe which has already produced dozens of indictments, guilty pleas, and guilty verdicts.

You’ve RSVP’d to attend a rapid-response event if Trump crossed one of the red lines and interfered with the Mueller investigation—one of hundreds of events nationwide that will show an immediate, massive rejection of Trump’s interference. Now it’s time we come together to act! These events will take place across the country on Thursday, November 8! Most are at 5 pm

Here are the links to find an event in your area:

Please be aware, all these links are down at the moment. Looks like they are on overload.

The Truth Is Out There

According to a report in Bloomberg today, shortly after the midterm elections, Special Counsel Robert Mueller will release findings on whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to swing the 2016 election and whether Trump himself obstructed justice:

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is expected to issue findings on core aspects of his Russia probe soon after the November midterm elections as he faces intensifying pressure to produce more indictments or shut down his investigation, according to two U.S. officials.

Specifically, Mueller is close to rendering judgment on two of the most explosive aspects of his inquiry: whether there were clear incidents of collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, and whether the president took any actions that constitute obstruction of justice, according to one of the officials, who asked not to be identified speaking about the investigation.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Mueller’s findings would be made public if he doesn’t secure unsealed indictments. The regulations governing Mueller’s probe stipulate that he can present his findings only to his boss, who is currently Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The regulations give a special counsel’s supervisor some discretion in deciding what is relayed to Congress and what is publicly released.

The thing I want to believe referenced by the image above isn’t that the Trump campaign colluded and that Trump obstructed justice; I am 95% sure the Trump campaign conspired with Russia because we have hard evidence that they were slobberingly eager to do so — all that’s needed is proof that they followed through on that intent. I am 100% certain that Trump obstructed justice because he confessed it on camera to Lester Holt and has publicly tampered with witnesses and interfered with the investigation ever since.

No, the thing I want to believe is that justice is possible even though the Republicans have insisted that only Republicans can investigate Republicans and that Republicans control what the public can know about the findings. If such a scenario were unfolding in a foreign country, we’d label it a Banana Republic and expect a white wash. I want to believe we will eventually know the truth about a hostile foreign power’s attack on our election, and in America circa 2018, that feels a little like believing in alien abductions.

Ratfuckers R Us (Open Thread)

Yesterday’s NYT included an article on Manafort deputy Rick Gates’ receipt of a proposal from an Israeli firm to “create fake online identities, to use social media manipulation and to gather intelligence” to help Team Trump. The company, Psy-Group, originally came to Gates’ attention at a March 2016 meeting. They submitted a proposal to run influence campaigns to ensure RNC delegates didn’t bolt from Trump to Ted Cruz. Psy-Group wasn’t hired for that job.

But the owner of the company, Joel Zamel, met with Trump Jr. in August of 2016 to propose a general election influence operation. Here’s the NYT’s report on the second proposal:

A second proposal focused on gathering information about Mrs. Clinton and 10 of her associates through publicly available data as well as unspecified “complementary intelligence activities.” Psy-Group promised to prepare a comprehensive dossier on each of the targets, including “any actionable intelligence.”

A third document emphasized “tailored third-party messaging” aimed at minority, suburban female and undecided voters in battleground states. It promised to create and maintain fake online personas that would deliver messages highlighting Mr. Trump’s merits and Mrs. Clinton’s weaknesses or revealing “rifts and rivalries within the opposition.”

Though it appears that Trump campaign officials declined to accept any of the proposals, Mr. Zamel pitched the company’s services in at least general terms during a meeting on Aug. 3, 2016, at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr. That meeting, revealed in May by The Times, was also attended by George Nader, an emissary from the ruler of the United Arab Emirates, and by Erik Prince, a Republican donor and the founder of the private security company formerly known as Blackwater.

The report says Nader paid Zamel $2M after the election but that the two have given differing accounts of whether or not Psy-Group provided services to the Trump campaign. Also, remember the witness tampering attempt that led to Manafort being jailed prior to his court date? The witness in question was Eckart Sager, the political consultant who first hooked Psy-Group up with Gates.

The report says it doesn’t appear that the Trump campaign used Psy-Group, and it’s unclear if it would have been illegal if they did. The $2M strikes me as a paltry sum considering the scale of the influence campaign we all saw with our own eyes in 2016, but the measures taken — including the use of trolls to foment dissent between opposition groups — sure looks familiar.

My guess is the Trump campaign chose the free — or quid pro quo — influence campaign provided by the Kremlin instead. The NYT article makes it clear the Mueller team is all over this. Maybe someday we’ll get the truth. But in the meantime, perhaps add “make it illegal for campaigns to hire troll farms to create fake social media identities and spread disinformation” to the post-Trump to-do list.

Is Rod Rosenstein the Anonymous Op-Ed Writer?

Probably not, but this article in The Times suggests he was thinking along similar lines last year:

WASHINGTON — The deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, suggested last year that he secretly record President Trump in the White House to expose the chaos consuming the administration, and he discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office for being unfit.

Mr. Rosenstein made these suggestions in the spring of 2017 when Mr. Trump’s firing of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director plunged the White House into turmoil. Over the ensuing days, the president divulged classified intelligence to Russians in the Oval Office, and revelations emerged that Mr. Trump had asked Mr. Comey to pledge loyalty and end an investigation into a senior aide.

Mr. Rosenstein was just two weeks into his job. He had begun overseeing the Russia investigation and played a key role in the president’s dismissal of Mr. Comey by writing a memo critical of his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. But Mr. Rosenstein was caught off guard when Mr. Trump cited the memo in the firing, and he began telling people that he feared he had been used.

Concern about Trump’s chaotic style — check.
Musings about the 25th Amendment — check.

I find the “feared he had been used” thing hard to believe. How could he expect anything else from Trump? Also, this:

The president’s reliance on his memo caught Mr. Rosenstein by surprise, and he became angry at Mr. Trump, according to people who spoke to Mr. Rosenstein at the time. He grew concerned that his reputation had suffered harm and wondered whether Mr. Trump had motives beyond Mr. Comey’s treatment of Mrs. Clinton for ousting him, the people said.

Rosenstein can’t possibly be that naive. Recall that his memo excoriated Comey for sandbagging Clinton, even though that aspect is often overlooked in accounts of Comey’s firing. Rosenstein cannot possibly believe that the “lock her up” guy gave a flying shit about Clinton being treated unfairly.

Rosenstein issued a statement calling the story “inaccurate” and “factually incorrect.” Anyhoo, interesting, and it’ll probably drive Spanky even battier.

ETA: Someone on Twitter:

Maybe she’s right.

ETA 2: The fix is definitely in:

Dim Son dutifully chiming in after the story drops definitely confirms it’s a load of horse shit.

The Big Bamboozle

In a bizarre interview with The Hill last night, Trump bragged that he is doing the country “a great service” by declassifying documents pertinent to an ongoing investigation into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia. What he is actually doing, of course, is trying to further undermine the Mueller investigation and influence the news cycle.

I hope and believe that Adam’s prediction about that effort will come to pass — that it will make Trump and his toadies in the House look like idiots. In The Hill interview, Trump said the declassification could become one of his “crowning achievements” because it will reveal that the FBI was out to get Trump all along when they surveilled Carter Page. The Atlantic covered this odd strategy here:

But it’s looking more and more like House Republicans have chosen to die on a hill that’s shifting below their feet. “Be careful what you wish for,” Democratic Senator Mark Warner, the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters on Tuesday. He was indicating, according to an aide, that “it’s simply impossible to review the documents” on Page and conclude anything other than that the FBI “had ample reason” to investigate him. It’s not only Democratic Senators who believe that: Republican Senator Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CNN in July that he believes the FISA judges had “sound reasons” for issuing the Page surveillance warrant to the FBI. “I don’t think I ever expressed that I thought the FISA application came up short,” Burr said at the time.

But Reps Nunes, Gaetz, Meadows, et al, are doubling down on the Page-as-martyr strategy. It may make sense to people (like Trump) who marinate in Fox News 24/7, but it’ll likely fall flat with everyone else because believing all the Deep State conspiracy crap is a prerequisite of buying the Page-as-victim angle. It would be as if you or I showed up at a city council meeting and started babbling about lost mustard and naked mopping. Any jackals in the audience might find it amusing, but the rest of the crowd would look at us as if we’d lost our goddamned minds.

Anyhoo, there was also this piece of supreme weirdness from Trump in last night’s interview with The Hill:

Trump also said he regretted not firing former FBI Director James Comey immediately instead of waiting until May 2017, confirming an account his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, gave Hill.TV earlier in the day that Trump was dismayed in 2016 by the way Comey handled the Hillary Clinton email case and began discussing firing him well before he became president.

“If I did one mistake with Comey, I should have fired him before I got here. I should have fired him the day I won the primaries,” Trump said. “I should have fired him right after the convention, say I don’t want that guy. Or at least fired him the first day on the job. … I would have been better off firing him or putting out a statement that I don’t want him there when I get there.”

Trump has offered different reasons in the past for his firing of the FBI chief, blaming Comey’s handling of the Clinton case but also linking it to Comey’s actions in the Russian investigation.

Emphasis mine. Of course, Comey served at the pleasure of President Obama when Trump won the primaries and was nominated at the convention. But I suspect Trump was just indulging in mindless superlatives as usual during that interview but was otherwise faithful to talking points created as part of an evolving legal/PR strategy — to claim that he was onto this Deep State conspiracy even before day one and, therefore, Trump fired Comey for the Clinton email investigation rather than to shutdown the Mueller probe.

But believing that dog’s breakfast of a post-hoc justification requires going down rabbit holes within rabbit holes. For instance, recall that the memo Trump ordered Deputy AG Rosenstein to produce to justify firing Comey rightly claimed that Comey’s actions at the conclusion of the email investigation were unfair to Clinton. But now we’re supposed to believe that Clinton was colluding with the Russians to take out Trump, either with the active participation of Comey or via his negligence? Come on, man.

It’s nonsense. But so is everything else Trump says, like the claims this morning that the economic recovery began the day he was elected. You can plot unemployment rates, GDP growth, etc., on a chart that represents a gradual upward trajectory from the Great Recession to the present day and wave it in Trump supporters’ faces, but they won’t believe their lying eyes or lived experience. Nope, the USA was a Dickensian hellscape until 11/9/2016 and the ascension of the Golden Calf.

Will the con work again? I don’t think so. One thing successful con artists know is that you have to move on because the bamboozle only works until it stops working. Ironically, being POTUS is the first real job Trump has ever had. And it looks like the first performance review is going to be all kinds of ugly.

“Fear” and Loathsome in the West Wing

So, excerpts of Bob Woodward’s book about the Trump White House, “Fear,” were published at The Post a while ago. Woodward claims there’s been an “an administrative coup d’etat,” describing aides swiping papers off Trump’s desk and ignoring outbursts so he doesn’t precipitate World War III or crash the global economy in a fit of pique and stupidity. You know, the usual stuff. Here are some excerpts:

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly frequently lost his temper and told colleagues that he thought the president was “unhinged,” Woodward writes. In one small group meeting, Kelly said of Trump: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.” Read more

One Dragon at a Time

I despise Meghan McCain’s smug, shallow millennial-con shtick. But that doesn’t mean I was unable to appreciate the spectacle of Ms. McCain shitting all over Trump while eulogizing her father and hurling a MAGA-mocking cow-pie right in the faces of funeral crashers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump this weekend.

That’s not a universally held opinion, if my Twitter feed is any indication. Some folks are insinuating that those who relished Ms. McCain’s denunciation of Trump are in effect enrolling her in the Resistance. Read more