Kavanaugh Spokesman Resigns Because He (Oh, Dear) Sexually Assaulted A Woman

Ken AshfordPolitical Scandals, Sex Scandals, Supreme Court, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

You can’t make this stuff up:

A communications adviser to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) during the Supreme Court confirmation fight has abruptly resigned after an accusation of sexual harassment — an allegation he denies. 

Garrett Ventry submitted his resignation Friday night, he said in a brief phone interview Saturday morning. He said he denies the allegation but stepped down “in order to not be a distraction” as Senate Republicans continue to work to get Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh confirmed.

“Garrett was one of several temporary staff brought on to assist in the committee’s consideration of the Supreme Court nomination, a team that has done outstanding work,” a committee spokesman said Saturday morning. “While he strongly denies allegations of wrongdoing, he decided to resign to avoid causing any distraction from the work of the committee.

The resignation is another development in the chaos that has engulfed Kavanaugh’s confirmation fight. Christine Blasey Ford, a psychology professor in California, accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers in an interview with The Washington Post published this week.

Kavanaugh has categorically denied the allegation and says he wants to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the matter. The committee and Ford’s lawyers are still embroiled in a standoff over the conditions of her testimony, and Grassley has asked her attorneys to respond by 2:30 p.m. Saturday to his proposal for a Wednesday hearing.

Ventry was on leave from CRC Public Relations, a prominent public relations firm for conservative causes based in Alexandria, Va., that represents influential legal groups on the right such as the Federalist Society and the Judicial Crisis Network.  And The CRC has connections to Ed Whelan, who self-immolated a few days ago when he claimed the Ford assault was a case of mistaken identity. (By the way, Whelan was checking out Professor Ford’s LinkedIn page half an hour BEFORE her name went public.  How did he know about the accusations?)

Breaking: My God

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Rosenstein Suggested He Secretly Record Trump and Discussed 25th Amendment:

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.

Mr. Rosenstein made the remarks about secretly recording Mr. Trump and about the 25th Amendment in meetings and conversations with other Justice Department and F.B.I. officials. Several people described the episodes, insisting on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. The people were briefed either on the events themselves or on memos written by F.B.I. officials, including Andrew G. McCabe, then the acting bureau director, that documented Mr. Rosenstein’s actions and comments.

If Trump is looking for a pretext to fire Rod Rosenstein, this might be it, sarcastic or not.  On the other hand, it came from the “fake news” “failing” New York Times, so why would Trump believe it?

UPDATE:  Rosenstein has come out with a denial, per the AP.

Also, there is some conjecture that the White House itself might be behind this story. Pretext for Trump to fire? Distraction from Kavanaugh? 

Did the NY Times get played (again)???

Hmmmm….. Senator Graham isn’t buying it.

UPDATE #2 — WaPo has a different spin about what happened at the meeting:

While McCabe’s memos assert both the recording and 25th amendment conversations occurred at a meeting within days of Comey’s firing, another person at the meeting, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, insisted the recording comment was said in a moment of sarcasm, and that the 25th amendment was not discussed.

That person said the wire comment came in response to McCabe’s own pushing for the Justice Department to open an investigation into the president. To that, Rosenstein responded with what this person described as a sarcastic comment along the lines of, “What do you want to do, Andy, wire the president?”

That person insisted the statement was never discussed with any intention of recording a conversation with the president.
Another official at the meeting, then-FBI lawyer Lisa Page, wrote her own memo of the discussion which does not mention any talk of the 25th amendment, according to a second person who was familiar with her account.

A third person familiar with the discussions said McCabe had privately asserted previously that Rosenstein suggested invoking the 25th amendment and the idea of a senior law enforcement officials wearing a wire while talking to Trump.

I think the NY Times got taken.

Whoa, THIS below from Andrew McCabe’s spokesperson:

Trump Slows Release Of Confidential Russia Documents

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

I think they actually read the documents:

President Trump on Friday walked back his order earlier this week to declassify information in the ongoing probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, saying Justice Department officials and others had persuaded him not to do so for the time being.

The retreat from his declassification decree issued just four days ago underscores the ongoing tensions between the White House and the Justice Department over the probe by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is examining whether any Trump associates may have conspired with the Kremlin to interfere in the election.

In a pair of Friday morning tweets, Trump said: “I met with the DOJ concerning the declassification of various UNREDACTED documents. They agreed to release them but stated that so doing may have a perceived negative impact on the Russia probe. Also, key Allies’ called to ask not to release. Therefore, the Inspector General has been asked to review these documents on an expedited basis. I believe he will move quickly on this (and hopefully other things which he is looking at). In the end I can always declassify if it proves necessary. Speed is very important to me – and everyone!”

On Fox News, Jeanine Pirro and Hannity have been saying for days that the unclassified FISA warrant and FBI emails/texts would prove up a deep state conspiracy against Trump, and Trump apparently believed them — until someone convinced him that the release of these documents — like the Nunes memo of yore — are pretty weak tea and, if anything, backfire.  Hence, this under-the-radar announcement.


For now, Trump’s Friday tweet staves off a perilous confrontation between the president and his own intelligence officials, who have publicly and privately warned of the dangers of revealing classified intelligence. Democrats have also attacked the decision as reckless, arguing it could endanger international intelligence partnerships and sources.

Trump told The Hill in an interview earlier this week that he decided to release the documents in part at the urging of conservative Fox News TV hosts.

“I have been asked by so many people that I respect, please — the great Lou Dobbs, the great Sean Hannity, the wonderful, great Jeanine Pirro,” he said.

The Insane Theory of Mistaken Identity In The Kavanaugh Sexual Assault Allegation

Ken AshfordCongress, Crime, Republicans, Sex Scandals, Supreme Court, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

I watched this unfold in real time on Twitter.  it was bizarre:

Ed Whelan, a former law clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia and the president of a think tank called the Ethics and Public Policy Center, took this theory to a new, wildly irresponsible place on Thursday night, actually identifying a classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Georgetown Prep, and suggesting that he, not the future judge, might have attempted to rape Ford.

The tweetstorm showed the results of Whelan’s internet sleuthing. The supposed evidence (which we are not embedding because there’s no reason to think the classmate was actually involved) includes:

• A Google map of where Ford, Kavanaugh, and other alleged witnesses lived when they were in high school.
• Real estate photos of the home where Whelan thinks the incident might have occurred, based on Ford saying the house was “not far from” the Columbia Country Club.
• A floor plan that shows that the upstairs bathroom is across from a bedroom in this house, just like Ford described.
• And finally, the big reveal: 35 years ago, this was the home of a Georgetown Prep student who looks kind of like Kavanaugh and was also friends with Mark Judge (who was allegedly present during the assault). Yearbook photos and a current photo of the classmate are provided for comparison to Kavanaugh.
As Twitter users discussed the irony of the head of the Ethics and Public Policy Center possibly being sued for defamation, Whelan added a disclaimer:

To be clear, I have no idea what, if anything, did or did not happen in that bedroom at the top of the stairs, and I therefore do not state, imply or insinuate that Garrett or anyone else committed the sexual assault that Ford alleges.
— Ed Whelan (@EdWhelanEPPC) September 20, 2018

Note: “Garrett” was the last name of the individual fingered by Whelan.

Ford quickly issued a statement dismissing the theory. She said of Kavanaugh and the classmate, “I knew them both, and socialized with” them. She said she’d visited the other classmate in the hospital, so “there is zero chance that I would confuse them.”

So…  based on Ford’s statement that the assault took place “not far” from a particular country club, Whelan found a house only half a mile from the club, where, 36 years ago, a person who looks a bit like Brett Kavanaugh, and who is friends with Kavanaugh’s friends, once lived. What’s more, Whelan pulled some floorplans from Zillow to show that the layout of the house conforms to Ford’s account. Bingo!

And Whelan seemed so SURE.  Politico reported on Tuesday that Whelan had told at least three associates that his confidence in his assertions is “close to 100 percent.” His claims reportedly sparked “intense speculation” among conservatives and even White House aides.

But Whelan’s claim is the only one being taken seriously by conservatives, including several close to Kavanaugh, who were tantalized by his assertions, given his decadeslong friendship with Kavanaugh and close involvement with the nomination process. A graduate of Harvard Law School who served as a law clerk to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, and a blogger on legal issues for National Review Online, he has worked alongside Federalist Society executive director Leonard Leo advising the White House on judicial nominations.

“Ed Whelan is the model of careful, discerning legal analysis and commentary. It’s why all of us who know him take everything he says and writes so seriously,” said Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, where Whelan writes on judicial issues.

Unfortunately, Whelan’s theory went over like a lead balloon.

Even right-wing outlets from Hot Air to the Washington Examinerdismissed the theory and said Whelan was wrong to identify the classmate. “It is inconceivable that this Whelan defense will help Kavanaugh in any way. In fact, it’s so nasty and desperate-seeming that it taints Kavanaugh, despite that fact that he might have had nothing to do with it,” wrote The American Conservative’s Rod Dreher.

The Post reported that top Republicans tried to distance themselves from Whelan after his tweetstorm flopped:

Republicans on Capitol Hill and White House officials immediately sought to distance themselves from Whelan’s claims and said they were not aware of his plans to identify the former classmate, now a middle school teacher, who could not be reached for comment and did not answer the door at his house Thursday night.

All Whelan did was vividly illustrate why Republicans are wrong to reject Ford’s call for an FBI investigation prior to her testimony.

This morning, Whelan deleted all those tweets, and wrote this:

He didn’t retract his theory; he only apologized for the “mistake” of actually naming the guy.

Whelan’s apology is weak. It wasn’t like he just blurted something out. He spent days constructing this crackpot theory, previewing it to friends and influential activists and then published a long thread detailing it.

The bizarre thing is that this wasn’t a nutjob like Alex Jones or Glenn Beck. This was (supposedly) a former Scalia law clerk and “respectable” conservative thinker coming up with this nonsense.

What is curious to me is that there seemed to be advanced notice of this.  For example, the communications guy for Senator Orrin Hatch specifically tweeted to look for Ed Whalen tweets for some big deal involving Kavanaugh, and tweeted that HOURS before Whalen tweeted anything. 

As part of the team of Republicans working to coach Kavanagh through his Senate hearings, Whelan admits he spent days creating this “theory” before spewing it across Twitter, and he discussed it with others involved in Kavanaugh’s nomination. Unknown at this time:

  • Was Kavanaugh part of creating the plan to escape blame by accusing a middle school teacher of sexual assault?
  • With Kavanaugh at the White House every day this week, was Whelan also working on this scheme inside the White House?
  • Who else was aware of Whelan’s scheme before he went public with it on Thursday?
  • Were Fox and other media outlets prompted that this story was coming?

Whelan certainly wasn’t the only Republican pushing this idea. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has already suggested that Dr. Blasey Ford might be “mixed-up” in naming Kavanaugh. On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal ran an editorial calling the accusation against Kavanaugh a “me too ambush” and stating that “mistaken identity is also possible.” Just a day before Whelan went on his Twitter rant, Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker published a column in which she referenced the WSJ editorial and pondered whether or not there could be “a Kavanaugh doppelganger” saying that “as crazy as that sounds” the idea that Dr. Ford mistook someone else for Kavanaugh “would make the most sense.”

So did Whelan coordinate all of this with Kavanaugh and/or Sen. Orrin Hatch?  If so, it not only makes the nominee look guilty as hell, a conspiracy to cover up the allegations against Kavanaugh is disqualifying in and of itself, not to mention potentially illegal.

But the Senate Judiciary Committee now claims they had no foreknowledge of the Whalen tweetstorm.

But on the other hand….

I suspect that Kavanaugh will be asked about this.  For example, he seemed to know the identities of all the people at the party where the alleged assault took place.  How did he get that information?

Meanwhile, Trump, who even *I* praised yesterday for showing remarkable restraint, has become untethered and started tweeting crazy things about Kavanaugh this morning.

Ironically, at 9:13 a.m. on Friday, Kellyanne Conway told reporters that President Trump didn’t need to be advised not to attack Dr. Christine Blasey Ford — the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her — because he knew it was the wrong thing to do.

“There’s no reason to attack her,” Conway said. “The president doesn’t need anybody to tell him. He does the right thing.”

One minute later — ONE MINUTE LATER — Trump opened up on Twitter and attacked Ford.  And these are particular stupid tweets.

Yes, WHY didn’t a scared 15 year old teenager call the FBI 36 years ago?

On Sept. 6, speaking about the allegations of sexual abuse of boys by Catholic priests, to the Daily Caller, Trump said the crisis in the Catholic Church is “so sad to watch.”

“The numbers, the length of time, you know, going back 70 years, I think it’s having a really negative impact on the Catholic Church,” Trump said, according to The Daily Caller. “To me it’s one of the sadder stories ’cause I respect so much the Catholic Church. And to me it’s a very sad story.”

Source: USA Today

But apparently, that doesn’t apply to sexual assault of a woman.

I feel a great disturbance in the GOP Force, as if millions of Republican voices suddenly cried out, “FUCKING SHUT THE FUCK UP, YOU STUPID FUCKING FUCK!” and were silenced (by cowardice).\

UPDATEWhelan denies that the White House knew about his tweet beforehand

A conservative legal commentator and former clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia on Friday denied communicating with the White House or Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh about his theory that the woman accusing Kavanaugh of sexual assault while they were teenagers was mistaking him for someone else.

Ed Whelan, in a brief interview with The Washington Post, declined to answer further questions about his tweets or views on Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination process, which has been upended by the allegation of an assault decades ago.

“I have not communicated at all with [White House counsel] Don McGahn or anyone at the White House, or Judge Kavanaugh, about the topic of the Twitter thread,” Whelan said when reached by phone.

Whelan’s comment follows his apology on Twitter Friday morning for naming a former classmate of Kavanaugh’s and suggesting the man could be responsible for the assault Ford alleges.

Breaking: Ford Says She Is Willing To Testify If “Fair”, But Monday Is Impossible

Ken AshfordCongress, Republicans, Supreme Court, Trump & Administration, Women's IssuesLeave a Comment

NY Times:

The woman who has accused Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh of sexual assault has told the Senate Judiciary Committee, in an apparent bid to jump-start negotiations, that she “would be prepared to testify next week,” so long as senators offer “terms that are fair and which ensure her safety,” according to an email her lawyers sent to committee staff members.

In the email, obtained by The New York Times, the lawyer for Christine Blasey Ford said that testifying Monday — the timetable Republicans have set for a hearing — “is not possible and the Committee’s insistence that it occur then is arbitrary in any event.” The lawyer reiterated that it is Dr. Blasey’s “strong preference” that “a full investigation” occur before her testimony — wording that stopped short of demanding an F.B.I. probe and suggested she is open to testifying without one.

Dr. Blasey has accused Judge Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, of sexually assaulting her when the two were in high school at a gathering of teenagers in Montgomery County, Md. Judge Kavanaugh has categorically denied the allegation and has said he would be willing to testify.

A crack in the stalemate puts the ball in the GOP’s court.

By the way, more than a few people have noticed…. Trump is handling this rather well. No crazy tweets. No misogyny. Pretty weird.  Then again, it is quite possible that he doesn’t realize what is at stake, or doesn’t care.

Lot Of “Smaller” Mass Shootings This Month – Here’s Today’s

Ken AshfordBreaking News, Crime, Gun ControlLeave a Comment


Multiple people have been killed at a Maryland Rite Aid distribution center when a female shooter opened fire Thursday. 

The lone shooter, who has not been identified, is currently in critical condition, but it’s not clear how she was injured, reports said.

At least three people are dead and two more wounded during the shooting spree just after 9 a.m. The suspect was armed with a single gun at the building in Harford County. 

Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler said during a news conference Thursday that no members of law enforcement fired shots. 

“What I understand is the location is secure,” said Rite Aid spokeswoman Susan Henderson said after the shooting. “The distribution center is where products are received and processed for delivery. This is part of a large facility that is a distribution center. The shooting happened adjacent to the primary building.”

The FBI Baltimore office and special agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting in the investigation.

Other news outlets are saying the woman is a disgruntled employee.  And according to CNN, the suspect shot herself in the head, but didn’t die… so she shot herself in the head AGAIN (Yikes!).  She’s still not dead, but is listed in critical condition.

Here’s a text exchange from the incident:


– 7 Shot Total
– 3 Victims Dead
– 26-Year-Old Shooter Has Died

Epistemic Closure Can Kill A Party

Ken AshfordEducation, Election 2018, Fake News, Right Wing Punditry/IdiocyLeave a Comment

An internal poll conducted by the Republican National Committee revealed that “57 percent of people who describe themselves as strong Trump supporters don’t believe Democrats have a chance” of winning back the House. That has Republican operatives worried because it signals complacency, which is a problem for the upcoming midterm elections where turnout is key.

It’s not hard to imagine how the 57 percent of strong Trump supporters came to that conclusion. Here’s Walter Shapiro on that:

Convinced that polls are rigged for the Democrats (remember 2016) and conditioned by a president who denounces all criticism as “Fake News,” strong Trump backers have convinced themselves that the Republican Congress is an impregnable fortress.

This is a classic case of what happens when a group of people live in an information bubble. It is helpful to remember what Andrew Levison recently wrote about that. He identified the three layers of the bubble. The first is the national right wing media network, led by Fox News. The second is made up of local conservative media outlets (think Sinclair) who reinforce the propaganda being distributed by national outlets. But here’s how Levison described the third layer:

Finally, and most importantly, it is the network of personal relationships between neighbors and friends that works to validate and confirm the broader messages. Casual conversations with friends, Facebook messages and e-mails from relatives, and jokes passed among co-workers all reinforce the sense that Democrats are the “other” and lead people who once supported Democrats to mute their views, creating what sociologists call a “spiral of silence.”  The result makes support for the Republican Party seem not just dominant but unanimous.

In other words, when everyone you know is a Republican, you can’t imagine anyone who isn’t. That is what feeds the complacency. I remember growing up in an extremely conservative small town in Texas and wondering how Hubert Humphrey got elected when everyone hated him. That was long before anyone even dreamed of creating Fox News. It wasn’t until I was living in Minnesota and witnessed the overwhelming out-pouring of respect for the man when he died that my own information bubble got popped.

Authoritarianism requires that kind of information control in order to be successful. And it is precisely why Julian Sanchez was so prescient when he wrote about epistemic closure way back in 2010.

One of the more striking features of the contemporary conservative movement is the extent to which it has been moving toward epistemic closure. Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted.

Sanchez goes on to describe how that creates a sense of solidarity, but the bubble is also very fragile in that any breach has the potential to undermine the entire information filter.

If disagreement is not in itself evidence of malign intent or moral degeneracy, people start feeling an obligation to engage it sincerely…And there is nothing more potentially fatal to the momentum of an insurgency fueled by anger than a conversation.

Using my own experience as an example, it was the steady stream of facts that sparked a growing sense of cognitive dissonance that led me to start questioning the entire framework that had been created inside the bubble. Learning that Hubert Humphrey got elected because so many people in Minnesota not only agreed with him, but admired and respected their senator was just one of many examples. Once doubt gets under the hood, a lot of things start crashing.

It is the unconscious awareness of the bubble’s fragility that causes people to defend against even the slightest breach. As Sanchez writes, “A more intellectually secure conservatism would welcome [a conversation], because it wouldn’t need to define itself primarily in terms of its rejection of an alien enemy.”

In my experience, the least effective tool to use against this kind of information bubble is to shout at the true believers about how wrong they are. That doesn’t pose a threat because it merely gives them an excuse to dig in and defend themselves, drawing mostly on anger as the best tool. Instead, it is much more effective to plant small seeds of doubt that have the possibility of creating cognitive dissonance. Once that gets going, the fragility of the entire system becomes exposed.VISI

Trump’s “Crowning Achievement”

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Way back at the beginning of the year, when the infamous “Nunes memo” was being flogged as the smoking gun that would blow the lid off of the Russia investigation by exposing the entire Department of Justice and FBI as the Hillary-loving traitors they are, President Trump played a rare clever hand. Instead of releasing the classified information himself, he played Pontius Pilate and pretended he had no choice in the matter, allowing the Republicans in Congress to do the dirty work. But that was before he decided that destroying the independent legal and intelligence institutions of the United States would become his proudest personal legacy.Click for Sound 

Trump told The Hill TV on Tuesday that he sees his battle against what he calls the “corrupt” Department of Justice, FBI  and intelligence community’s investigation into Russian interference in America’s electoral system as his “crowning achievement.”

He said, “What we’ve done is a great service to the country. Really, in its own way, this might be the most important thing because this was corrupt.” He continued, “They know this is one of the great scandals in the history of our country because basically what they did is, they used Carter Page, who nobody even knew — who I feel very badly for, I think he’s been treated very badly — they used Carter Page as a foil in order to surveil a candidate for the presidency of the United States.”

The “great service” the president is talking about was his decision this week to order the Justice Department to release classified information used in the 2017 FISA warrant application for Page, along with text messages from former FBI director James Comey, former deputy director Andrew McCabe, and former FBI employees Lisa Page, Peter Strzok and Bruce Ohr. According to The Hill, Trump has no idea what’s in the documents or the text messages, but Rep. Devin Nunes and the Keystone Kops of the House Intelligence Committee have obviously convinced him that this will be the revelation that turns the tables on Mueller and finally proves that the witch hunt really was rigged.

The new twist is that Trump is now comforting himself with a grandiose delusion that Americans will believe he’s leading a righteous crusade to save the country, instead of cravenly abusing his power to save himself. That’s unlikely. Polling shows that special counsel Robert Mueller has a much higher approval rating than Trump..

John Solomon of The Hill, who conducted the interview, went to some length on Sean Hannity’s show Tuesday night to assure everyone that reports of the president being unbalanced and ill-informed were way off base. But according to the write up in his own publication, Trump said this:

I should have fired Comey before I got here, I should have fired him the day I won the primaries. 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.

That is a very strange thing for a well-balanced, well-informed, stable-genius president to say, since it makes no sense, not even as a joke.

Trump doesn’t really seem to understand what this alleged “rigged witch hunt” is all about and you can’t really blame him for that, since the surrounding GOP conspiracy theories are byzantine by design. Investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler dug into this latest demand a while back and concluded that this was nothing more than an attempt to feed the right-wing media an alternate narrative. In the end, it may be yet another dud like the previously released “Nunes memo” and the “Comey memos” and all the other big scoops that were teased as big reveals of dastardly Deep State deeds and came up short.

We also don’t know if these documents reveal the kind of sensitive material that will put lives in danger, as the FBI has asserted. It’s fair to note that national-security agencies tend to say that even when it isn’t the case. It’s certainly possible that these releases will further support the Department of Justice and the FISA court’s decisions, as previously released documents have done. But even aside from the gross abuse of presidential power for personal gain (yet another in a long line of corrupt behavior), there’s a bigger structural problem at work here that is extremely worrisome.

Greg Sargent at the Washington Post put it well in an article on Tuesday:

Regardless of the facts, these situations allow Trump and his allies to exploit deep structural imbalances in our discourse and political media. Even if the new release debunks Trumpworld’s narrative, they will lie relentlessly in bad faith to the contrary, and madly cherry-pick from the new information to make their case. And they can count on assistance from a massive right-wing media infrastructure that will faithfully blare forth this narrative — even as the major news organizations adopt a much more careful approach that treats the interpretation of the new information as a matter for legitimate dispute, thus putting good-faith analysis and bad-faith propaganda on equal footing.

And because the details are so deliberately convoluted, that “good-faith analysis” never really penetrates at all. It’s just white noise roaring in the background.

This is all leading toward the day when Trump finally pulls the trigger and fires Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. He will then demand that whichever flunky becomes his acting attorney general disband the special counsel’s office and end the investigation. We will all wring our hands and rend our garments when we see that the “cause” this new Trump appointee cites is some version of Nunes’ absurd “Deep State” narrative. We will understand that it’s nonsense. But what are we going to do about it — take it to the Supreme Court?

Dr. Ford Calls For FBI Investigation Before She Appears

Ken AshfordCongress, Republicans, Sex Scandals, Supreme Court, Trump & Administration, Women's IssuesLeave a Comment

NY Times:

The woman who has accused President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault all but ruled out appearing at an extraordinary Senate hearing scheduled for next week to hear her allegations, insisting on Tuesday that the F.B.I. investigate first.

Speaking through lawyers, Christine Blasey Ford said she would cooperate with the Senate Judiciary Committee and left open the possibility of testifying later about her allegations against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh. But echoing Senate Democrats, she said an investigation should be “the first step” before she is put “on national television to relive this traumatic and harrowing incident.”

This sets up a potential standoff as Republicans are anxious to get Kavanaugh confirmed before the election and an FBI investigation is going to take time.  On the other hand, just holding the vote without a hearing or an investigation is likely to swing a few senators against Kavanaugh, sinking his nomination.

This is what the Republicans fear — anything that causes delay. 

We should hear back from the Republicans today on what they intend to do.  But only the White House can order an FBI investigation, which is what they did in the Anita Hill situation. So far, the White House has shown no inclination to do so.

We might be at a stalemate, but the ball is clearly in the court of the GOP.

Kavanaugh And His Accuser To Testify About Alleged Rape

Ken AshfordPolitical Scandals, Republicans, Sex Scandals, Supreme Court, Trump & Administration, Women's IssuesLeave a Comment

The woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of an attempted rape that occurred 35 years ago has a name and an identity: 
Christine Blasey Ford.

Actually, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a clinical psychology professor at Palo Alto University in California. A biostatistician, she “specializes in the design and analysis of clinical trials and other forms of intervention evaluation.”

Speaking publicly for the first time, Ford said that one summer in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh and a friend — both “stumbling drunk,” Ford alleges — corralled her into a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers at a house in Montgomery County.

While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.

“I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” said Ford, now a 51-year-old research psychologist in northern California. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.”

Ford said she was able to escape when Kavanaugh’s friend and classmate at Georgetown Preparatory School, Mark Judge, jumped on top of them, sending all three tumbling. She said she ran from the room, briefly locked herself in a bathroom and then fled the house.

There was no police report filed, and she did not tell her parents about the incident, nor anyone else, until 2012 when it came up during couples therapy:

The therapist’s notes, portions of which were provided by Ford and reviewed by The Washington Post, do not mention Kavanaugh’s name but say she reported that she was attacked by students “from an elitist boys’ school” who went on to become “highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington.” The notes say four boys were involved, a discrepancy Ford says was an error on the therapist’s part. Ford said there were four boys at the party but only two in the room.

Notes from an individual therapy session the following year, when she was being treated for what she says have been long-term effects of the incident, show Ford described a “rape attempt” in her late teens.

Ford’s husband backed up his wife’s claims:

In an interview, her husband, Russell Ford, said that in the 2012 sessions, she recounted being trapped in a room with two drunken boys, one of whom pinned her to a bed, molested her and prevented her from screaming. He said he recalled that his wife used Kavanaugh’s last name and voiced concern that Kavanaugh — then a federal judge — might one day be nominated to the Supreme Court.

Republicans are falling all over themselves not to attack Dr. Ford, although the alt-right in the social media seems to have that angle covered.  The GOP did NOT want to have hearings on this, but their hand has been forced, and both Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Ford have been called to testify on Monday.

So far, the GOP does not intend to delay the Kavanaugh vote next weekend, which seems like a very terse “investigation” into the truth or falsity of the allegations.

Brett Kavanaugh released a statement this weekend:

This is a completely false allegation. I have never done anything like what the accuser describes – to her or to anyone.

Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday.

I am wiling to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee in any way the Committee deems appropriate to refute this false allegation from 36 years ago, and defend my integrity.

Over the weekend, the Trump team lined about 65 women who attested to Kavanaugh’s good character at the time, which, as many have said, does not negate the fact that he still could have tried to rape someone.  It also begs the question as to how 65 women even KNEW Kavanaugh back then, since he attended an all-boy’s prep school. 

Ask them to answer these questions with as much detail as is expected from Dr. Ford:

  1. When did you first meet Kavanaugh?
  2. How many interactions have you had with him over the years?
  3. Explain the extent of these interactions.
  4. When was the last time you had an interaction with BK?

Instead of expecting us to just take their signature as a statement of facts.

Here’s my take: Ford’s story is credible. If she was making it up, she would not put a potential witness in the same room. She would not include comical details (like how the Mark Judge bounced on the bed and sent all three tumbling).  The only way this could not be true is if she mis-remembered her attacker, i.e., it was someone other than Kavanaugh.

I don’t think the GOP wants this fight. They want Kavanaugh, but they don’t want to have to attack Dr. Ford.  Doing like was done to Anita Hill is out of the question, especially in a #MeToo environment.

Twenty-seven years ago this fall, Anita Hill, came forward, not of her own volition, with claims that Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her when they worked together at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Thomas was confirmed to the Court nonetheless, but a wave of angry women ran for office in the wake of Hill’s treatment by the committee, and her story was crucial to establishing “sexual harassment” as a form of gender discrimination. The seeds sown during the Hill hearings have come into full flower in the past two years, as the #MeToo movement erupted following the election of a multiple accused sexual harasser, and angry women jumped into electoral contests around the country.

Republicans don’t want that again. So the best case scenario for Republicans is to have Kavanaugh withdraw his nomination, but that doesn’t seem likely.

A lot of eyes are on the swing vote female Senate Republicans: Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski.

Various defenses are being floated — like the “horseplay” defense (which flies in the face of Kavanaugh’s “I wasn’t there” defense).

The “what women wear” defense (updated and shined for a #MeToo world, but still the same shit)

The “but everyone rapes, amiraite?” defense:

And the “she’s confused” (a favorite of Senator Orrin Hatch

In related news… 


And the alleged witness to the event, Mark Judge, says through his lawyer that he “has no recollection”…

Unfortunately (for him), if he is subpoenaed, he has no choice in the matter. He has to show up.  And it is not a big deal that he “does not remember” the incident — he has since written that, as an alcoholic, he often blacked out during that time in his life.


Weekly List 96

Ken AshfordWeekly ListLeave a Comment

Increasingly, Trump stands alone. Reporting indicates his sense of betrayal from current and former officials speaking out in Bob Woodward’s book and in the anonymous Times op-ed has left Trump outraged and paranoid — canceling meetings, and trusting a shrinking circle of his family and Stephen Miller. The sense of a pending coup from the “deep state” was further exacerbated by the stunning news that Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, is cooperating fully in the Mueller probe.

Even by Trump standards, his behavior this week was unbalanced and alarming. On the solemn anniversary of 9/11, Trump acted entirely inappropriately, with no one to rein him in. With Hurricane Florence approaching and questions about his past handling of hurricanes resurfacing, Trump bragged about his regime’s performance in Puerto Rico, and then careened into conspiracy theories about the actual death toll.

Stories abound this week about the impact of the regime’s cruel immigration and refugee policies — and the continuing whitening of America. With Hurricane Florence approaching, news broke that Trump’s FEMA director Brock Long is under an ethics investigation and has been asked to resign, along with stories that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis may get pushed out, as well as a continuing outflow of senior officials.

As the week came to a close, questions surfaced about Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, and allegations of sexual assault in high school; but Republicans appear unheeded in bringing the nominee up for a vote, mindful that as Trump’s approval continues to decline, they may well lose control of the Senate in midterms.

  1. Twenty months into office, just half of positions considered key roles in Trump’s executive branch have been filled (364 of 705), and more than 1 in 5 positions have yet to have a nominee named (154 of 705).
  2. On Monday, a CNN poll found Trump’s approval rating has fallen 6 points in the last month to 36%. His approval among independents has fallen from 47% approval last month to 31% now, a new low.
  3. On Monday, a Quinnipiac Poll found voters give Trump his lowest grade for honesty since he was elected, saying 60-32 percent that he is not honest. Trump also got low grades on most character traits.
  4. In all, eight high-quality polls completed over the two last weeks show Trump’s approval rating falling, on average, three points. The dip could have an impact on midterms.
  5. On Thursday, WAPO reported Trump surpassed 5,000 false or misleading claims on the 601st day of his time in office. In the past nine days, Trump averaged 32 false or misleading claims a day.
  6. WAPO reported top civil servants are leaving the Trump regime at a record clip: in fiscal 2017, 18.6% of Senior Executive Service (SES) members left the government. Experts warn of a future crisis from the leadership drain.
  7. On Saturday at the second annual “Mother of All Rallies” at the National Mall, billed as an all-day event with the goal to “preserve and protect” American culture, approximately 350 people showed up at the rally’s peak.
  8. The Southern Poverty Law Center reported the event headlined conspiracy theorists, hate groups like The Proud Boys and American Guard, and famous alt-right names like Mike “Mersh” Schiele and Joey Gibson.
  9. The Guardian reported Trump ordered $25 million earmarked for the care of Palestinians in East Jerusalem hospitals be redirected to “high-priority projects elsewhere,” according to a State Department official.
  10. Republicans in the House passed a bill to reclassify dozens of federal crimes such as burglary, fleeing, and coercion through fraud, as “crimes of violence,” making them deportable offenses under immigration law.
  11. WAPO reported thousands of Vietnamese in the U.S. face deportation after the Trump regime reinterpreted a 2008 agreement reached by W. Bush and Vietnam, a policy shaped by senior adviser Stephen Miller.
  12. The new policy could impact 8,000 Vietnamese who have green cards but never became U.S. citizens. At least 57 people who arrived before 1995 were in ICE detention in mid-June, and 11 have already been deported.
  13. Reuters reported that despite a record high of 68.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, the Trump regime is on track to take in roughly 22,000 refugees, a quarter of the number admitted in 2016 under Obama.
  14. The Trump regime set the 2018 annual refugee ceiling at 45,000, the lowest number since the refugee program was established in 1980. The 22,000 admitted is the fewest in four decades.
  15. The regime has extended the strictest type of vetting to women as well as men from 11 countries, mostly in the Middle East and Africa, and reduced the number of officials conducting refugee interviews from 155 to 100.
  16. Under the new Trump policies, the percentage of refugees who are Muslim is now a third what it was two years ago, while the percentage who are Europeans has tripled.
  17. Current and former officials say the new policy is being driven by a small core including Miller, chief of staff John Kelly, and Gene Hamilton, a former advisor at the Department of Homeland Security.
  18. On Wednesday, NYT reported despite reunification of most of the children separated under Trump’s zero-tolerance policy, the number of migrant children in detention has quietly shot up more than fivefold.
  19. According to data obtained by the Times, children in federally contracted shelters for migrant children reached a total of 12,800 this month, up from 2,400 such children in custody in May 2017.
  20. Federal shelters are at or near full capacity. On Tuesday, the Trump regime said it would triple the size of a temporary “tent city” in Tornillo, Texas, to house up to 3,800 children through the end of the year.
  21. The Guardian reported conditions at detention centers at the U.S. border have grown only grimmer since Trump’s “zero tolerance”policy was first put in place.
  22. Detention centers are overcrowded and unhygienic. Migrants are prone to outbreaks of vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory infections, and other communicable diseases. Basics like food and water are inadequate.
  23. In their cages, or “hieleras,” translation for iceboxes, migrants are taunted and threatened by guards with turning the temperature down. Guard laugh at migrants and say, “Why didn’t you stay in your country?”
  24. Detroit Free Press reported ICE plans to deport Francis Anwana, a 48 year-old who is deaf and has cognitive disabilities, back to Nigeria. Several years ago, his visa was not renewed as he was being moved in foster care.
  25. Immigrant advocates, who say deporting him would be a virtual “death sentence” given his severe disabilities, have raised concerns with ICE and are pushing to prevent his deportation. He has been in the U.S. since age 13.
  26. The Southern Poverty Law Center reported acting ICE director Ronald Vitiello attended an annual media event for anti-immigrant hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
  27. On Monday, Ben Zayn, the mayor of Kenner, Louisiana, banned local booster clubs from purchasing Nike apparel for use at public recreation facilities, citing the company’s campaign honoring Colin Kaepernick.
  28. The College of the Ozarks, a small, private college in Missouri, said it would stop using uniforms with the Nike logo. Truett McConnell University, a small college in Georgia, announced it would do the same.
  29. WAPO reported the director of the Morgan County Public Library in West Virginia said it will not stock a copy of Bob Woodward’s book “Fear,” after residents expressed mostly dismay and outrage on a Facebook post.
  30. Later, the president of the trustees of the Morgan County Public Library reversed the decision, saying the board had not known about it.
  31. On Friday, the Texas State Board of Education voted to eliminate mention of Hillary Clinton and Helen Keller from the state’s history curriculum as part of an effort to “streamline” the curriculum in public schools.
  32. WAPO reported Ron DeSantis, the GOP candidate for Florida governor, spoke four times at a conference hosted by David Horowitz, an activist who has said that African Americans owe their freedom to white people.
  33. Valerie Scogin, a high school math teacher in Louisiana wrote in a racist Facebook post, “go-back-to-Africa,” “quit acting like animals,” and cease “voting for handouts and pay taxes.” She was later fired.
  34. In an online NRA-TV program mocking additions of adding female and international characters to the children’s television show “Thomas & Friends,” host Dana Loesch featured a video of trains in KKK white hoods.
  35. On Wednesday, in an op-ed by Barbara Res, who led construction at the Trump Organization, Res claimed Trump ordered an architect not to include braille in Trump Tower elevator panels.
  36. According to Res, when the architect told Trump including braille is federal law, Trump responded, “Get rid of the (expletive) braille. No blind people are going to live in Trump Tower. Just do it.”
  37. On Wednesday, Eric Trump told “Fox & Friends” that Woodward wrote his book to “make three extra shekels.” Shekels is a term used by white nationalist to describe money tainted by Jewish influence.
  38. When asked on “Morning Joe” how he would win over black voters given his racist past, Mississippi State Senator Chris McDaniel said “After 100 years of begging for federal government scraps, where are you today?”
  39. The gubernatorial campaign of Ron DeSantis, under fire for recent racist remarks about his opponent Andrew Gillum, blocked a former state official from co-chairing a fundraiser, citing racist remarks.
  40. Patient advocacy groups filed a lawsuit against the Trump regime’s expansion of bare-bones “short-term” health plans, which undermine the stability of the Affordable Care Act.
  41. A woman born in Kansas was told by the U.S. Passport Agency out of Houston, Texas that her birth certificate was not enough to prove citizenship. After her senator intervened, the matter was corrected.
  42. WAPO reported on Trump shrinking the Environmental Protection Agency. Since he took office, nearly 1,600 workers have left, while fewer than 400 were hired, bringing staffing levels down to levels not seen since the Reagan administration.
  43. Among those who have resigned or retired include some of the EPA’s most experienced veterans, as well as young environmental experts who would have replaced them, causing concern about a brain drain at the agency.
  44. On Monday, NYT reported the Trump regime is taking its third major step this year to roll back federal efforts to fight climate change, making it easier for energy companies to release methane into the atmosphere.
  45. The EPA will propose weakening an Obama-era requirement that companies monitor and repair methane leaks, and the Interior Department will repeal restrictions on venting and burning methane.
  46. This third step, in addition to weakening rules on carbon dioxide from vehicles tailpipes in July and coal-fired power plants in August, represents the foundation of the U.S. effort to rein in global warming.
  47. On Monday, the Congressional Budget Office issued its monthly review for August 2018, which showed the federal deficit had grown by $222 billion in the first 11 months of fiscal year 2018, reaching a record $895 billion.
  48. The CBO said the increase was due mostly to the new Republican tax law and Congress’ routine decision to increase spending. The CBO also said the deficit will approach $1 trillion by the end of Fiscal Year 2019.
  49. On Wednesday, a Washington federal court judge ruled against Betsy DeVos’s Department of Education, saying the department’s postponement of the Obama-era Borrower Defense rule was procedurally improper.
  50. The lawsuit brought by 19 states and the District of Columbia accused the department of wrongly delaying implementation of regulations to protect students who took out loans to attend college from predatory practices.
  51. Trump’s Interior Department is quietly moving to lease hundreds of thousands of acres of public land to energy companies, for commercial purposes such as mining for minerals and drilling for oil and gas.
  52. According to data compiled by environmental groups, the Bureau of Land Management will put 2.9 million acres in New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona up for potential leasing in the next four months.
  53. NBC News reported next Thursday FEMA will do its first test of the alert system, which would allow Trump to send a message to most U.S. cell phones. More than 100 mobile carriers are participating in the roll out.
  54. The Emergency Alert System is a national public warning system that allows the president to address the nation during a national emergency. The test message will have a header that reads “Presidential Alert.”
  55. On Monday, White House economist Kevin Hassett said at a press briefing that Trump’s tweet that the Gross Domestic Product was the highest “in over 100 years” was not true, saying highest in 10 years was accurate.
  56. Hassett, who was part of the first White House press briefing in 19 days, denied he was included because of Obama’s claim last Friday that Trump inherited an economic recovery spurred by his presidency.
  57. In another tweet Monday morning, Trump mischaracterized a comment Obama made more than two years ago. Trump tweeted that Obama said Trump would need a “magic wand to get to 4% GDP.” This is a false claim.
  58. WAPO analyzed the content of Trump’s July rallies and found 76% of his 98 statements were false, misleading, or unsupported by the evidence. Last week, the average percentage for the two rallies was 72%.
  59. NBC News reported a record-breaking 100 women could be elected in 2018, as 30 to 40 new women are poised to win. The increase is driven by Democrats, as a record breaking 50% of new candidates are women.
  60. The previous record was 24 set in 1992’s “Year of the Woman,” in a backlash against Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court confirmation. This year is in response to Trump and his policies.
  61. On Tuesday, in New Hampshire’s primary, Safiya Wazir, a 27-year-old Afghan refugee won her race with 70% of the votes over a veteran state representative who railed against immigrants “getting everything.”
  62. On Wednesday, Juli Briskman, the cyclist who got fired for flipping off Trump in Week 52, announced she is running to represent the Algonkian District on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors in Virginia.
  63. On Thursday, in New York’s primary, Letitia James became the first black woman to win a major party statewide nomination in New York, defeating her Democratic opponents for attorney general.
  64. On Sunday, Vice President Pence said on “Face the Nation” that Mueller’s team has not asked him for an interview, but he has provided requested information. Pence said he would be willing to speak to Mueller’s team.
  65. On Sunday, Steve Bannon told Reuters that Trump is facing a “coup” based on the anonymous NYT op-ed, adding the “Republican establishment” was looking to nullify the 2016 election and neuter Trump.
  66. On Monday, with the launch of his book, “Fear,” Bob Woodward told the “Today Show,” that he has “never seen an instance when the president is so detached from the reality of what’s going on.”
  67. Woodward claims in his book Trump’s staff believes he is unhinged and erratic. Woodward said, “This has not been treated seriously enough. The things…that Trump did and does jeopardizes the real national security.”
  68. Before the interview, Trump tweeted, “The Woodward book is a Joke — just another assault against me,” adding, “Dems can’t stand losing. I’ll write the real book!”
  69. After the interview, Trump tweeted, “It is mostly anonymous sources in here, why should anyone trust you?” adding, “Bob Woodward is a liar who is like a Dem operative prior to the Midterms.”
  70. Woodward’s book claims Trump exploded at his former lawyer John Dowd, after reading news reports that Mueller had subpoenaed records from Deutsche Bank, exclaiming, “This is bulls — -!”
  71. The book also claims, in a conversation about the federal deficit with Gary Cohn during the transition period, Trump suggested, “We should just go borrow a lot of money, hold it, and then sell it to make money.”
  72. Cohn reportedly explained to Trump that printing money could lead to inflation and be catastrophic for the economy. Cohn was “astounded at Trump’s lack of basic understanding” about the federal debt.
  73. Vanity Fair reported Trump is bitter over Woodward’s book and former allies and employees who betrayed him. He let Cohn and Rob Porter know he would attack them publicly if they didn’t disavow the book. They both did.
  74. Trump is reportedly even more fixated on finding the author of the NYT op-ed. Meetings have been derailed because of Trump’s suspicions. Donald Jr. has told people he’s worried Trump is not sleeping because of it.
  75. The only person Trump trusts outside of family is Stephen Miller. The op-ed has validated Trump’s belief, propagated by Miller and Bannon, that the deep state is out to get him. Trump believes there is a coup.
  76. On Monday, Omarosa told “The View” that Trump has “sicced his entire legal team on me to stop any further release of tapes,”saying “he wants to make sure that I am silent,” but that, “I’m gonna keep on fighting.”
  77. On Monday, CNN reported the White House has again changed phone policy in reaction to Omarosa’s leaking of tapes. White House staffers will no longer be able to leave phones in lockers outside the Situation Room.
  78. On Monday, the Trump regime said it would close the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington, citing the PLO “has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.”
  79. The State Department also said the closure was “consistent with” concerns about Palestinian calls for an investigation of Israel by the International Criminal Court. Neither Israel or the U.S. recognize the ICC.
  80. On Monday, national security adviser John Bolton said if the ICC pursues charges against Americans over alleged war crimes committed in Afghanistan, those involved will be banned from traveling to the U.S.
  81. On Sunday, Reuters reported Energy Secretary Rick Perry will meet with Russia’s Energy Minister in Moscowon Thursday. Perry will be the most senior U.S. official to visit Russia since the Helsinki summit.
  82. On Tuesday, Russia held Vostok 2018, its largest military drills since 1981 when Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as president, at a time of heightened tensions between the West and Russia.
  83. Sen. Mark Warner, ranking Democrat of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the committee will not release its report before midterms, citing wanting to conduct more interviews, including Michael Cohen and George Papadopoulos.
  84. On Sunday, Axios reported that Trump is expected to declassify documents related to the government’s surveillance of Carter Page, and the investigative activities of Bruce Ohr.
  85. Trump allies on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees believe the release will taint the Trump-Russia investigation by showing it was illegitimate, and that the Obama administration illegally spied on Page.
  86. On Tuesday, NBC News reported that U.S. intelligence agencies believe Russia is the main suspect in the mysterious attacks that led to brain injuries of U.S. diplomats in Cuba and China.
  87. On Tuesday, CNN reported New York tax investigators met with Michael Cohen’s attorney, Guy Petrillo, and possibly Cohen, as part of a state probe regarding Cohen and the Trump Organization.
  88. BuzzFeed reported on suspicious money transfers. The first came 11 days after the June 9 Trump Tower meeting: an offshore company controlled by Aras Agalarov wired $19.5 million to his account in New York.
  89. The second came shortly after the election when the Agalarov family sent a series of transactions totaling $1.2 million from their bank in Russia to an account in New Jersey controlled by Arar’s son, Emin Agalarov.
  90. On Tuesday, Donald Jr. told “Good Morning America” that he is not afraid of going to jail in Mueller’s Russia investigation, saying “I’m not because I know what I did, and I’m not worried about any of that.”
  91. Dutch newspapers reported that the two Russian spies who had been plotting a cyber attack from the Netherlands on a Swiss defense lab which was analyzing the nerve agent used in Britain were detained and expelled.
  92. Swiss authorities said the investigation began in March into “suspicion of political espionage,” and led to a joint investigation by Swiss, Dutch, and British intelligence services.
  93. The attempted attack is the latest example of the Kremlin waging a sophisticated and unconventional campaign to work its will abroad, and to undermine adversaries and their alliances.
  94. Rep. Trey Gowdy told The Hill that the House Intelligence Committee should release all transcripts from the Russia probe. Gowdy’s remarks echo those of House Intelligence Democrats, who have called for the same.
  95. On Tuesday, the solemn anniversary of 9/11, Trump started the day with a series of tweets rehashing reports on Fox Business Network and Fox News while he traveled to the Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
  96. The topics of Trump’s morning tweets included: “New Strzok-Page texts,” and “collusion between the FBI & DOJ, the Hillary campaign,” and Obama attorney general Eric Holder.
  97. Trump then retweeted a 9/11-related post by social media director Dan Scavino and on Hurricane Florence,before resuming a series of tweets attacking his adversaries.
  98. Trump tweeted, “You know who’s at fault for this more than anyone else, Comey,” and about “Crazy Maxine Waters,” and quoted Lou Dobbs, saying, “Russian “collusion” was just an excuse by the Democrats.”
  99. Photos of Trump fist-pumping as he exited the airplane in Johnstown, Pennsylvania and walked toward supporters drew national attention and condemnation of being inappropriate for the solemn day by many.
  100. At the Shanksville memorial site where Trump was giving a speech, he walked up to the podium, whilepointing at people in the crowd and mouthing the words “thank you” as they clapped for him.
  101. Later Tuesday, in remarks in the Oval Office, Trump said his regime’s response to Hurricane Maria was “an incredible, unsung success” and falsely claimed Puerto Rico had virtually no electricity before the storm.
  102. When asked about Hurricane Florence approaching, Trump said his regime was “as ready as anybody has ever been” and warned that the storm would be “tremendously big and tremendously wet.”
  103. Trump continued his use of superlatives, saying of Hurricane Florence, “many people are now saying that this is the worst storm/hurricane they have ever seen.”
  104. On Tuesday, BuzzFeed reported that FEMA received 2,431 requests for funeral assistance from Puerto Ricans related to the hurricane Maria, and approved just 75, or 3%.
  105. In a letter, FEMA director Long cited, Puerto Ricans had to provide a death certificate or letter from a government official “that clearly indicates the death was attributed to the emergency or disaster.”
  106. On Wednesday, Sen. Jeff Merkley revealed on the Rachel Maddow Show that the Trump regime redirected $9.75 million from FEMA to ICE for detention and removal, months before hurricane season is set to begin.
  107. The transfer of funds was approved by the Republican chairs of the House and Senate Homeland Security appropriations subcommittees, but not by the rest of the subcommittees’ members.
  108. Director Long claimed that none of the money came from the Disaster Relief Fund. However, the money came from the response and recovery, preparedness and protection and mission support operations budgets.
  109. On Thursday, NBC News reported that the Department of Homeland Security transferred $169 million from other agencies to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the detention and removal of migrants this year.
  110. According to a document sent to Congress by DHS, many of the transfers came from key national security programs, including Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, the U.S. Coast Guard, FEMA and several TSA programs.
  111. DHS also transferred $33 million from other ICE programs to pay for detention and removal, bringing the total to $202 million transferred in.
  112. On Wednesday, NYT reported Trump started a new strategy in mid August of using short videos of himself, shared on Twitter, a strategy reportedly designed by former Fox News executive Bill Shine.
  113. The videos, shot with the White House as the setting, have thus far been less viral and gotten less engagement, in the form of responses, likes and retweets, than Trump’s most provocative text tweets.
  114. On Thursday, Politico reported FEMA director Brock Long is under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security inspector general into whether he misused government vehicles during his commutes.
  115. The inspector general’s interest was drawn after one of the vehicles used by Long for trips back home to Hickory, North Carolina, on the weekends — a black Suburban — was involved in an accident.
  116. Long has also reportedly been clashing in recent weeks with his boss, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen over his travel logs, as the hurricane season approaches. She confronted him at a meeting in late August.
  117. On Wednesday, the Irish Independent reported Trump canceled a November visit to Ireland to visit his golf course in Doonbeg, Co Clare as part of a trip to Europe for Armistice Day celebrations.
  118. On Wednesday, at a news conference, The White House said it has not yet made a final decision on whether Trump will make a stop in Ireland. The Irish Ambassador to the U.S. said he had not been informed of the trip.
  119. On Wednesday, Independent UK reported that Trump canceled the trip to Ireland because massive protestshave already been planned to greet him.
  120. On Friday, the NYT wrote an Editors’ Note to an article which inaccurately reported U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley spent $52,701 on curtains for the UN residence. The order was placed under the Obama administration.
  121. On Thursday, the bitter fight over Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation plunged into chaos as Sen. Dianne Feinstein disclosed that she referred a letter that describes alleged sexual misconduct involving Kavanaugh in high school to the FBI.
  122. On Friday, reporters Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer of the New Yorker obtained the letter, which Sen. Feinstein has had since July. Kavanaugh “categorically and unequivocally” denied the allegations.
  123. Anita Hill called on the federal government to implement a “fair and neutral” way to investigate sexual misconduct, saying she seen “firsthand what happens when such a process is weaponized against an accuser.”
  124. On Wednesday, ABC News reported Paul Manafort has been in ongoing negotiations with Mueller’s office over a potential plea agreement. The negotiations have picked up steam in recent weeks.
  125. On Friday, CNN reported the federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York are considering criminal charges against former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig for failing to register as a foreign agent.
  126. Prosecutors are also considering taking action against the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flomwhere Craig was a partner during the activity under examination.
  127. Like Alex van der Zwaan, who also worked at Skadden, Craig was involved in promoting a report on Yulia Tymoshenko to members of Congress and the media on behalf of the then-president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych.
  128. The inquiry is a Mueller referral, and is now in advanced stages and is closely linked to a case against Manafort. Details about Skadden’s work was disclosed on Friday by Mueller’s office in charges against Manafort.
  129. On Thursday, Rudy Giuliani confirmed Manafort and Trump have a joint defense agreement that allows sharing of confidential information, and that Trump’s lawyers and Manafort’s have been in regular contact.
  130. Giuliani also told Politico he sees no danger for Trump from a Manafort plea deal, saying, “There’s no fear that Paul Manafort would cooperate,” adding, “we long ago evaluated him as an honorable man.”
  131. On Friday, in a stunning development, Manafort agreed to cooperate in the Mueller probe, pleading guilty and promising to tell the government about “his participation in and knowledge of all criminal activities.”
  132. Court documents revealed that Manafort was talking in detail with Mueller’s team as early as Monday. Manafort made multiple statements and a written proffer as the two sides worked toward a deal.
  133. Manafort said his Ukraine work included shaping U.S. perception of Yanukovych and his pro-Russia party. He admitted he didn’t register as a foreign agent and misled federal investigators about his work.
  134. Manafort also pleaded guilty to cheating the IRS out of $15 million and lying repeatedly to try to cover his tracks. Manafort faces as much as 10 additional years and fines of $250,000 per count based on his plea.
  135. As part of the plea, Manafort will forfeit a host of assets, including his condo at Trump Tower, worth an estimated $21.7 million. He will also return to prison while he cooperates.
  136. Manafort agreed to cooperate “fully and truthfully,” and if he complies, he stands to have years shaved off his prison sentence, perhaps serving no time, and to have his family hold on to some property.
  137. Manafort has agreed to meet with law enforcement regarding the investigation without the presence of his counsel.
  138. Both cases brought against Manafort by the special counsel stemmed from his work in Ukraine. Manafort may provide key information on the June 9 Trump Tower meeting, changes in the RNC platform, and other areas.
  139. In reaction, Giuliani said, “Once again an investigation has concluded with a plea having nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign. The reason: The president did nothing wrong.”
  140. Shortly after, press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement: “This had absolutely nothing to do with the President or his victorious 2016 Presidential campaign. It is totally unrelated.”
  141. Trump ally Alan Dershowitz told MSNBC the plea deal is a “big win” for Mueller, saying “It potentially opens up lots of doors that probably haven’t been opened before.”
  142. Dershowitz also said a presidential pardon now is “off the table, saying if Manafort is given a pardon, then he can’t take the Fifth Amendment” and “would have to testify” and could be called in front of a grand jury.
  143. Manafort’s guilty plea revealed hardball tactics. He enlisted a foreign politician secretly on his payroll to deliver a message to Obama in the Oval Office. He also smeared adversaries to protect pro-Russian Yanukovych.
  144. Manafort spread stories that jailed Ukrainian politician Yulia Tymo­shenko was a murderer. In 2011, Manafort spread stories that then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was supporting anti-Semitism by taking up Tymo­shenko’s cause.
  145. In 2012, Manafort paid Skadden Arps $4.6 million to write a report analyzing Tymoshenko’s trial that he then used to spread to the false claim that her conviction had not been politically motivated.
  146. On Friday, Vanity Fair reported it has become common knowledge among close friends of Michael Cohen that he is talking to Mueller’s team. The extent and purposes of the talks is not clear.
  147. On Friday, WSJ reported, as Hurricane Florence was forming in the Atlantic, senior Trump officials were considering replacing FEMA director Long, amid allegations he misused resources.
  148. DHS inspectors found that Long, who was under surveillance, often left FEMA headquarters on Thursdays and traveled home with a caravan of federal workers, who stayed in nearby hotels for the long weekend.
  149. The inspector general is also reviewing communications between Long and a FEMA contractor that appear to include discussions about future employment.
  150. Secretary Nielsen brought Long details of the inspector’s preliminary findings, and asked him to resign if the allegations are true. Trump has been frequently meeting with Long this week ahead of Hurricane Florence.
  151. Intercept published a story about Kavanaugh which was originally posted at Think Progress, but wassuppressed at Facebook after conservative Weekly Standard fact-checked it to be false. It was not.
  152. On Wednesday, defending his regime’s response to past hurricanes, Trump tweeted, “We got A Pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida (and did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico).”
  153. Trump also blamed the response in Puerto Rico on it being “an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent Mayor of San Juan,” referring to his adversary San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz.
  154. Also in the series of tweets, Trump again used hyperbole, saying “Hurricane Florence is looking even bigger than anticipated.
  155. On Thursday, Trump lied about the deaths in Puerto Rico, tweeting, “3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths.”
  156. Instead, Trump blamed the Democrats, tweeting, “This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible,” claiming, “I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico.”
  157. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz tweeted, “This is what denial following neglect looks like: Mr Pres in the real world people died on your watch,” adding “YOUR LACK OF RESPECT IS APPALLING!”
  158. On Friday, Trump continued to attack the Puerto Rico death toll, quoting Geraldo Rivera in a tweet, “70% of the power was out before the storm,” adding it’s a “political agenda couched in the nice language of journalism.”
  159. Trump also tweeted quotes by Ed Rollins who complimented him on Puerto Rico, as “an extraordinary job,” and Lou Dobbs, “The people of Puerto Rico have one of the most corrupt governments in our country.”
  160. On Friday evening, as Hurricane Florence continued to batter the Carolinas, Trump again tweeted about the Puerto Rico death count, “FIFTY TIMES LAST ORIGINAL NUMBER — NO WAY!”
  161. Trump closed out Friday, tweeting that the “Fake News Media” did not cover when Obama said there were 57 states in 2008. This is false.
  162. On Saturday, NYT reported Trump’s relationship with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has frayed. Trump is weary of comparisons to Mattis as the adult in the room, and increasingly concerned that Mattis is a Democrat at heart.
  163. Officials say Trump has largely tuned out his national security aides as he feels more confident in himself. Mattis has balked at some of Trump’s requests and is protective of the military being used for political purposes.
  164. Officials say Trump may fire Mattis, a significant departure given that foreign allies and adversaries, as well as the U.S. national security establishment, view Mattis as the one thing standing between Trump and global tumult.
  165. Mattis has largely avoided the media. Aides say he is fearful about being put on the spot by questions that will expose differences with Trump. He has refused requests to go on “Fox & Friends” to praise Trump’s agenda.
  166. On Saturday, the White House issued a “lid” for the day, meaning no planned news events or presidential movements. Trump did not tweet through noon, or golf, as would be typical.

Manafort Flips

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

It finally happened — Paul Manafort flipped.

The former Trump campaign chair appeared in court in Washington on Friday and pleaded guilty to a reduced set of charges. And as part of his plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, prosecutors said, Manafort agreed to cooperate with the investigation.

It’s enormously important news for the Russia investigation. Many have long speculated that the special counsel’s main aim in charging Manafort with financial and lobbying crimes was to pressure him to “flip” — so he’d agree to provide information related to their true concern of whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to interfere with the election.

Now, it’s happened. And that should make President Donald Trump very nervous indeed.

Manafort was convicted of eight counts of financial crimes last month and is expected to face a years-long prison sentence. This new deal will stave off a scheduled second trial for Manafort, which was scheduled to begin in Washington later this month, as well as dismissing 10 mistrial counts from Manafort’s Virginia trial last month. Much of Manafort’s money and property will also be subject to forfeiture, according to the agreement.

In advance of Manafort’s court appearance Friday, Mueller’s team filed a new document that drops some charges and lays out what Manafort will admit to. He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy against the United States (related to his foreign lobbying work for Ukraine and his finances), and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice (related to attempted witness tampering earlier this year).

The deal marks the end of one phase of the Mueller investigation. Manafort’s prosecution was the most visible activity of the special counsel’s office so far. It also appeared to be part of an initial stage of the investigation that involved trying to get key Trump aides to flip by charging them with false statements or financial crimes.

We don’t know the exact terms of the plea deal, but there is a reason for that: prosecutors want to make Manafort pardon-proof.  Keeping the detail secret was meant to prevent a last minute pardon from Trump undercutting it.

Here’s why this deal is pardon proof:

  1. Mueller spent the hour and a half delay in arraignment doing … something. It’s possible Manafort even presented the key parts of testimony Mueller needs from him to the grand jury this morning.

  2. The forfeiture in this plea is both criminal and civil, meaning DOJ will be able to get Manafort’s $46 million even with a pardon.

  3. Some of the dismissed charges are financial ones that can be charged in various states.

This tweet didn’t age well:

Statement from White House: “This had absolutely nothing to do with the President or his victorious 2016 Presidential campaign,” said Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. “It is totally unrelated.”

Yes. The crimes Manafort has pleaded guilty to ARE totally unrelated to the presidential campaign. But the information that Manafort is turning over in his cooperation with Mueller?  Priceless.  And related to Trump.

Some are calling it Trump’s worst tweet, which is an honor that has much competition.

And it looks like the Trump White House was thrown off a little by the cooperation agreement news:

Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, issued a statement saying, “Once again an investigation has concluded with a plea having nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign. The reason: the President did nothing wrong and Paul Manafort will tell the truth.”

But just minutes later, Giuliani issued a revised statement that conspicuously omitted the “and Paul Manafort will tell the truth” part and merely said “The President did nothing wrong.”

Letter Alleges Brett Kavanaugh Tried To Rape When In High School. Is The Nomination Jeopardized?

Ken AshfordCongress, Political Scandals, Republicans, Supreme Court, Women's IssuesLeave a Comment

NY Times:

WASHINGTON — A secretive letter shared with authorities by the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee charges that a teenage Brett M. Kavanaugh and a male friend trapped a teenage girl in a bedroom during a party and tried to assault her, according to three people familiar with the contents of the letter.

According to the letter, Mr. Kavanaugh, then a student at Georgetown Preparatory School in suburban Washington and now President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, had been drinking at a social gathering when he and the male friend took the teenage girl into a bedroom. The door was locked, and she was thrown on the bed, the letter says. Mr. Kavanaugh then got on top of the teenager and put a hand over her mouth, as the music was turned up, according to the account.
But the young woman was able to extricate herself and leave the room before anything else occurred, the letter says.

The woman considered the incident an assault. She has declined to be publicly identified, and asked Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, not to publicize the letter.

The episode took place more than 30 years ago, when all three individuals involved were minors. The New York Times has not seen the letter, but its contents were described by the three people.
In a statement shared by the White House, Mr. Kavanaugh said the charges were false.

“I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation,” he said. “I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”

As of Friday morning, senators were still planning to move ahead with Mr. Kavanaugh’s confirmation. The Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a key vote to advance the nomination next Thursday, and Republican leaders hope to hold a final vote of the full Senate before the end of September to allow Mr. Kavanaugh to be seated before the start of the Supreme Court’s fall term.

On Thursday, the White House all but accused Democrats of playing dirty, withholding mysterious information until the eve of Mr. Kavanaugh’s confirmation in a last-ditch effort to derail a nominee they have always opposed.

“Senator Schumer promised to ‘oppose Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination with everything I have,’ and it appears he is delivering with this 11th-hour attempt to delay his confirmation,” said Kerri Kupec, a White House spokeswoman, referring to the top Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer. Aides to Mr. Schumer said he had not seen the letter.

Maybe I’m too cynical. I just don’t believe this will change one Republican vote.  He’ll be confirmed.


From CNN:

Both men were drunk, she said, and Kavanaugh attempted to remove her clothes.

At one point, Kavanaugh was on top of her laughing as the other male in the room periodically jumped onto Kavanaugh.

And Republicans are trying to counter the publicity by bringing out all the women he DIDN’T rape

A Weakened Florence Hits The NC Coast

Ken AshfordDisasters, Local Interest, WeatherLeave a Comment

After lingering for days, Hurricane Florence hit the NC coast this morning.  It had slowly been downgraded over the past two days, so it hit as a Category One.  Still pretty serious.

The real threat from Florence isn’t the wind; it’s the rain coupled with its slow speed.  This morning, Wilmington got hit with heavy winds, knocking down trees and taking power out.  But that might be it for wind damage.  Now comes the water damage.

A tree uprooted by strong winds lies across a street in Wilmington, N.C., after Hurricane Florence made landfall Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Florence has veered southward so the Piedmont of NC (where I am) will not get hit too badly.  Maybe 2-5 inches of rain.  But we are in for LOTS of rainy days ahead.

RELATED: Meanwhile Trump is battling the media and, well, everybody, by claiming that the death toll in Puerto Rico was NOT 3000, but actually 16.  Trump claims the number was generated by Democrats to make him look bad.

Some are calling it Trump’s worst tweet, which is an honor that has much competition.

Deficit Doves

Ken AshfordClass Warfare, Corporate Greed, Economy & Jobs & Deficit, Occupy Wall StreetLeave a Comment

Remember when Republicans cared about the deficit?  No longer:

The federal deficit hit $895 billion in the first 11 months of fiscal 2018, an increase of $222 billion, or 32 percent, over the same period the previous year, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

The nonpartisan CBO reported that the central drivers of the increasing deficit were the Republican tax law and the bipartisan agreement to increase spending. As a result, revenue only rose 1 percent, failing to keep up with a 7 percent surge in spending, it added.

Revenue from individual and payroll taxes was up some $105 billion, or 4 percent, while corporate taxes fell $71 billion, or 30 percent.

The August statistics were somewhat inflated, however, due to a timing shift for certain payments, putting the deficit measure through August slightly out of sync with the previous year, the CBO noted. Had it not been for the timing shift, the deficit would have increased $154 billion instead of $222 billion.

Earlier analysis from CBO projected that deficits would near $1 trillion in 2019 and surpass that amount the following year.

This is absurd.  Deficits should go up during times of economic strife and recovery, because you are borrowing money.  But not during good times economically.

Why don’t Republicans care?  Because they are benefiting from the tax cuts which cause the deficit.  Plus, it gives them an excuse to shut down federal programs.