Just don't call CNN 'Fake News'. Lanny Davis - Mr. Incredible - "unintentionally misspoke" when he claimed Trump fixer Michael Cohen was a witness to Trump Sr. getting advance word of the notorious Trump Tower meeting.
Mueller is determined to sniff out any wrongdoing he can find—on one side.
I was intrigued by this question about the FEC reporting on the funding of the Steele dossier, which I captured by screenshot:
So just what is the law on this? Doesn't this look like a conspiracy by the Hillary campaign, the DNC, the tony law firm Perkins Coie, and Fusion GPS to present false Federal filings? Lock 'em up! Oh, I know, but not even a little wristslap fine?
Democrats argue that who paid for the research is irrelevant to the veracity of its claims, which they say should be thoroughly investigated. Yet some of the Democrats who funded the dossier have been wary of being associated with it. The lead Perkins Coie lawyer representing both the campaign and the D.N.C., Marc Elias, pushed back earlier this year when asked whether his firm was the client for the dossier, whether he possessed it before the election and whether he was involved in efforts to encourage media outlets to write about its contents.
In October, the veteran Democratic consultant Anita Dunn, who is working with Perkins Coie, explained Mr. Elias’s earlier response. “Obviously, he was not at liberty to confirm Perkins Coie as the client at that point, and should perhaps have ‘no commented’ more artfully,” Ms. Dunn wrote in an email.
I would guess the law firm may be worried about some mix of FEC exposure and aggrieved clients, but who knows?
Andrew Sullivan has had some good coverage of the Trump Era but there are some glaring errors in his latest (my emphasis):
Four Trump campaign officials and his longtime lawyer and fixer have now pleaded to or been convicted of felonies; Trump’s now-convicted campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, faces another trial shortly; his media fixer, David Pecker, is now cooperating with authorities, and has, TheWall Street Journal reported, been granted immunity; Trump’s White House counsel talked to the special counsel’s office for 30 hours, without Trump’s knowledge, and, according to the New York Times, because he feared Trump might try to make him a fall guy for obstruction of justice...
All very dramatic but as the Times plainly reports, the White House counsel had permission to chat as part of the White House legal strategy. Where the White House acted strangely was not even carefully de-briefing McGahn after his meetings.
And this is just strange:
I still cannot believe that in this climate there would be 67 votes to convict the president in the Senate. I don’t believe any amount of evidence of even outright treason would be enough. The line will be a simple one: Yes, we knowingly got dirt on our opponent from the Russians. So what? Any campaign would do the same, given a chance.
Uh, that is not a hypothetical - the Hillary campaign did exactly that. They kept it legal by way of lawyers, consultants and cutouts but the Steele dossier relied on dirt from Russians unknown with agendas unknown. What we do know is that on many other issues Putin played on both sides to sow division and confusion. Could Team Putin have been supplying Trump dirt to Steele? That would seem to conflict with the idea that Putin had decided to push hard for Trump. On the other hand, per the possibly politicized Intelligence Community report his other goal was to undermine and de-legitimize whoever won:
The key to the report’s assessment is that Russia’s motives “evolved over the course of the campaign.” When it appeared that Mrs. Clinton was more likely to win, it concluded, the Russian effort focused “on undermining her future presidency.” It noted that Mr. Putin had a particular animus for Mrs. Clinton because he believed she had incited protests against him in 2011.
Try to imagine a world in which Hillary is elected President and then various Putin stooges self-identify as sources for the Steele dossier. That would strain even the well-rehearsed cover-up powers of a Clinton DoJ.
Well. Andrew knows all this. What he had in mind is a mystery.
His conclusion is also a baffler as he mulls the appetite for impeachment:
But what if picking him over the insiders means picking autocracy over the rule of law? The next few months will tell us if enough Americans prefer a criminal president to a Democratic one. I’m genuinely afraid of what the answer may be.
The "next few months" don't seem to refer to the 2020 elections and Pence is not a Democrat. Maybe he meant small 'd' democrat? Again, a puzzle.
But as to his gist, well, yeah, a cornered rat will fight. We all lived through the Clinton years.
Mollie Hemingway of The Federalist has sensible takeaways from the Cohen plea deal. Let me emphasize points 4 and 5.
4. Targeted For Political Connections
A big problem for federal prosecutors is that public trust in their application of the rule of law is low because of how they handle political cases. You can read about how Mueller’s FBI routinely abused prosecutorial discretion, including the anthrax case bungling, leniency for Clinton associate Sandy Berger, the disgraceful Scooter Libby prosecution, the railroading of Ted Stevens, and more.
It’s not that Cohen and Manafort aren’t shady people. They are. It’s that the American public can see that Washington D.C. is teeming with shady people and those with the right connections get off scot-free. That is an extremely dangerous situation for the preservation of the republic and trust in her institutions.
5. Campaign Finance Violations Might Implicate Trump, But Might Not
The big excitement in the Resistance over Cohen’s guilty plea is that Cohen says he made illegal campaign contributions by paying two women for non-disclosure agreements. These payments were later reimbursed by Trump. Reimbursements for illegal campaign contributions would be a problem for Trump since he didn’t report them on his Federal Election Commission reports.
The most recent historical analog to this situation is the John Edwards case. The 2004 vice presidential nominee for the Democratic Party was charged with taking and conspiring to take illegal contributions in excess of what the law allowed, and lying about it by not including the contributions on forms filed with the Federal Election Commission. The contributions went to his mistress Rielle Hunter, with whom he had a daughter.
The government claimed the payments were campaign contributions since he was in the middle of a campaign and trying to conceal his affair. Edwards, however, said the hush money was to conceal the affair from his wife. That case resulted in zero convictions — one acquittal and a deadlock on five other counts. The Justice Department never tried the five counts again. The Trump situation is different, dealing with reimbursed payments for non-disclosure agreements. If they were considered campaign contributions, it would be covered here.
My perspective: Trump's underlying behavior - the affair and the hush money - are tawdry but not out of line with what voters understood his character to be in November of 2016. And those behaviors are regrettable but not criminal. The crime Trump may have committed,a campaign finance violation could have been easily avoided if he had been advised to write a personal check (perhaps by way of a shell company) and report it all to the FEC. This would have pushed disclosure past the election and given the opacity of the shell companies the truth may well have remained hidden indefinitely.
So now we are supposed to impeach Trump because he got bad legal advice? That is really punishing form over substance.
Or are we meant to impeach him over an alleged affair from ten years ago?
The Trump and Sanders experience clearly showed that a lot of Americans have lost confidence in the Washington Establishment and the power elite (a feeling that is clearly mutual, if MSNBC is a guide). Busting Trump on this sort of 'gotcha' won't bring the country together again.
Let The Resistance bring a real case and change some minds. Or run a real candidate and get rid of Trump the old-fashioned way. We have alternative processes in this country and FEC technicalities followed by an interminable booth review should not be the way we get rid of a President.
I strenuously object to the mockery of eSports by Steven Hayward of Powerline. C'mon! People watch what they play, and (as best I know) esports have yet to add the interminable booth reviews that have made NFL football unwatchable.
WASHINGTON — The White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, has cooperated extensively in the special counsel investigation, sharing detailed accounts about the episodes at the heart of the inquiry into whether President Trump obstructed justice, including some that investigators would not have learned of otherwise, according to a dozen current and former White House officials and others briefed on the matter.
In at least three voluntary interviews with investigators that totaled 30 hours over the past nine months, Mr. McGahn described the president’s fury toward the Russia investigation and the ways in which he urged Mr. McGahn to respond to it. He provided the investigators examining whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice a clear view of the president’s most intimate moments with his lawyer.
This was all a part of the legal strategy - the truth will keep you free - urged by Trump's original legal team, which hoped to surprise Mueller by cooperating with him.
Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani suggested Saturday that investigators with the special counsel’s office are “panicking” by leaking information about White House counsel Donald McGahn’s cooperation in an effort to prod the president into testifying.
Say what? My handicapping has the arrows pointing in the opposite direction - Team Trump is leaking this to make the points that Trump has been cooperating and there is no need for Mueller to interview Trump since they already have his story by way of the White House attorney (who strictly speaking represents the office of the Presidency, not the current incumbent).
Do keep in mind that one of their objections to a potential Mueller subpoena is that the President won't be providing essential information. Here we go from Douglas Kmiec, former head of the DoJ OLC under Reagan and Bush, commenting on a letter from Trump's attorneys to Mueller:
Who decides when a presidential interview can be refused or subpoena quashed? The authors of the letter think the question is answered by a lower-court ruling, United States vs. Espy, decided in 1997 during the presidency of Bill Clinton. The letter claims that to overcome a privilege claim, special counsel must show that evidence is obtainable from no other source than the president.
This is overstatement. The court of appeals speculated that the ruling would delay obtaining evidence, not preclude it.
I had tackled that back when the letters were getting attention in these two posts (the second of which focused on the Kmiec article). The upshot was that Team Trump has an arguable but probably losing position, although the factual context will be critically important and is at this point speculative.
But my mind-reading is this: The key United States versus Nixon case covered a subpoena for evidence that would be produced at trial. Here we are talking about a grand jury. The prosecutors are looking for enough evidence to indict, not proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. So I suspect Team Trump will ask, what is Trump's testimony going to add beyond the tale told by the White House attorney?
At trial Trump might be a useful corroborating witness, but for a grand jury? If Trump is telling the same story as his attorney he may have added a bit of confidence but he hasn't added new information. Or, if Trump is telling a different story from his attorney than the case is a muddle, which may hinder rather than help the grand jury (Yeah, Team Trump is just trying to save Mueller from himself, amirite?)
I would guess that Steve Vladeck and Benjamin Wittes of Lawfare would come to a different conclusion about grand jury subpoenas but if the evidentiary standard for indictment is lower than for a conviction at trial, the importance of an appearance by the President ought to be less.
Well - that's my two cent speculation as to where Team Trump is headed with this. But how does a leak by Team Mueller that Trump has been very cooperative and they know just about all the advice he got and what he said in key meetings put pressure on Trump to tell his story?
Is this letter - the wokest letter ever - for real, or just something I read in the flailing NY Times?
How Can I Cure My White Guilt?
The thing about privilege is that it can be used for good.
By Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond Aug. 14, 2018
I’m riddled with shame. White shame. This isn’t helpful to me or to anyone, especially people of color. I feel like there is no “me” outside of my white/upper middle class/cisgender identity. I feel like my literal existence hurts people, like I’m always taking up space that should belong to someone else.
I consider myself an ally. I research proper etiquette, read writers of color, vote in a way that will not harm P.O.C. (and other vulnerable people). I engage in conversations about privilege with other white people. I take courses that will further educate me. I donated to Black Lives Matter. Yet I fear that nothing is enough. Part of my fear comes from the fact that privilege is invisible to itself. What if I’m doing or saying insensitive things without realizing it?
I don’t talk about my feelings because it’s hard to justify doing so while people of color are dying due to systemic racism and making this conversation about me would be again centering whiteness. Yet bottling it up makes me feel an existential anger that I have a hard time channeling since I don’t know my place. Instead of harnessing my privilege for greater good, I’m curled up in a ball of shame. How can I be more than my heritage?
How can she (he? xi?) be more than her heritage? It's a puzzle. Another puzzle - is this for real, or has the NY Times flipped the keys to The Onion?
You know what? Go with your gut and bet 'The Onion'. As best I can tell, the Times writers and editors are serious. Authorship of the letter however, is claimed by a spoof comic who - take a seat, please - mocks the eternally woke.
Well, she got me. I can't keep up. The Times has gone over a PC Cliff with the arrival of Sarah Jeong and I don't know what's real anymore. I'm a beaten middle-aged white man. I'm a goblin, and I'm groveling. Just ONE editor, please... I'm begging now...
MEANWHILE, BACK ON MEMORY LANE: I saw through the Times when one of their many well-informed and exhaustively researched editorials on gun control linked to a rival of The Onion (it took them a mere four months to run a correction and change the link). But this game will get harder now that they are re-branding with Onion material.
In the course of relentlessly not covering the Bruce Ohr non-story Katie Benner of the flailing NY Times swerves into creative fiction (my emphasis):
Ms. Ohr’s contract work for Fusion GPS on matters related to Russia has prompted an unsubstantiated theory that the origins of the special counsel’s investigation are tainted. And emails that the Justice Department shared with Congress showing that in 2016 Mr. Ohr was in contact with Mr. Steele and with Glenn Simpson, the founder of Fusion GPS, have only added momentum to that theory.
Republicans in Congress say those emails suggest that Mr. Steele and Fusion GPS, which was hired to dig up dirt on Mr. Trump by a wealthy Republican donor and later by Hillary Clinton’s campaign, worked inappropriately with the F.B.I. and the Justice Department.
They have also argued that the government inappropriately used the dossier, paid for in part by the Democrats, to apply for a warrant to wiretap Carter Page, a former Trump campaign official.
After Mr. Trump secured the nomination, Fusion GPS was hired on behalf of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign and the D.N.C. by their law firm, Perkins Coie, to compile research about Mr. Trump, his businesses and associates — including possible connections with Russia. It was at that point that Fusion GPS hired Mr. Steele, who has deep sourcing in Russia, to gather information.
The WaPo has a similar timeline showing that Steele was hired after the Democrats picked up the Fusion-GPS ball.
The timing and funding of the Steele dossier is not controversial. How can the Times be mis-reporting this at this late date?
Hi too? The controversial Congressman and Deputy DNC Chair Keith Ellison has been accused of domestic violence two days before a critical primary. He's issued a bit of a non-denial denial, and of course Hillary's rule is "Believe The Woman, unless she's accusing a Democrat", so who knows what happens next?
Ed Morrissey at Hot Air has lots more. My issue with the Ellison denial is that the ex-girlfriend alleges that most of the abuse was psychological; she only describes one incident of physical abuse. This is from the CBS coverage of the denial:
Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison on Sunday denied an allegation from an ex-girlfriend that he had once dragged her off a bed while screaming obscenities at her — an allegation that came just days before a Tuesday primary in which the congressman is among several Democrats running for state attorney general.
The allegation first surfaced Saturday night from Karen Monahan after her son alleged in a Facebook post that he had seen hundreds of angry text messages from Ellison, some threatening his mother. He also wrote he had viewed a video in which Ellison dragged Monahan off the bed by her feet. Monahan, a Minneapolis political organizer, said via Twitter that what her son posted was "true."
Ellison denied the allegation of physical abuse. A spokesman for his campaign also denied the congressman had sent threatening text messages.
Hmm, Ellison might be a lying, philandering psychologically abusive person (SO Clintonian! Either one.) as alleged by Ellison, and he's not denying it. O the other hand, should every bad boyfriend be disqualified from public office even if he avoids physical abuse?
On the third hand, Minnesota Democrats could not possibly be concerned with the opinion of a middle-aged white guy from out of state. I'm sure they will choose judiciously.
He explains that he does not favor judging people for their worst tweets and goes on:
Not surprisingly, some on the left pilloried me for that argument. So allow me to apply precisely the same logic in defense of my soon-to-be colleague at The Times, Korean-American technology writer Sarah Jeong, who is joining the editorial board with her own extensive history of unfortunate tweets.
Among these: “White men are bull—”; “#CancelWhitePeople”; “oh man it’s kind of sick how much joy I get out of being cruel to old white men” and “f— white women lol.” She has also bashed the police, called for censoringa fellow journalist, and believed the 2014 University of Virginia rape hoax, in the course of which she lashed out at “white men” and “white college boys.”
We should call many of these tweets for what they are: racist. I’ve seen some acrobatic efforts to explain why Jeong’s tweets should be treated as “quasi-satirical,” hyperbolical and a function of “social context.” But the criterion for racism is either objective or it’s meaningless: If liberals get to decide for themselves who is or isn’t a racist according to their political lights, conservatives will be within their rights to ignore them.
Hmm, with supporters like these who needs critics?
But the real shocker is the NY Times comments section. I clicked on the Readers Choices and copied the most up-voted comments as of roughly 10 PM Thursday. Here we go - pretty uniformly the Times readers who passed by this column are not happy with the Times positioning.
I don't know. Evaluating Trump's strategy is impossible without describing his objectives. Simply assuming he wants conventional things like a House Republican majority after November assumes Trump thinks (reacts/intuits/behaves) like a conventional politician. And we can all agree there is little that is conventional about Trump.
So for example - suppose Trump's focus is his own re-election in 2020; bailing out the Republican establishment is not a priority. Would a Democrat-controlled House hurt or help in in 2020? Well, there is an excellent chance of endless investigations and impeachment. But does that hurt him?
One might think so. On the other hand, Trump has exploited and exacerbated the divisions of an already divided nation and will surely continue to do so. He may relish the idea of keeping the pot at a boil. In a national screaming match judgment and experience are devalued and the guy with the biggest megaphone often wins.
So if he has a strategy that extends beyond today's impulse what is it? Saving the House for Republicans? Or in 2020 running against a do-nothing Democratic Congress that focused on Fake News investigations rather than working to pass his agenda (whatever that is or whether he actually has one)? I don't know, obviously - it would not be my advice to let the House slide but then, I certainly would not have advised him to attack LeBron. We have a strange leader in stranger times.
The NY Times hires a racist to their editorial board but its all good - she regrets it, they don't condone it, and anyway, the Alt-right made her do it.
The Sarah Jeong story has unfolded since her hiring was announced by the Times on Wednesday. David French and Andrew Sullivan are excellent at explaining the contemporary progressive view that marginalized and oppressed ethnic groups and genders (currently including Harvard Law School grads writing at the Times) can experience racism but not be guilty of it. Yeah, yeah.
Robby Soave at Reason points out that a more complete appreciation of the Jeong Tweets does not seem to support her defense that she was merely responding to haters. Whatever. The Times hired her, they endorsed her, and they should own her. And when Trump reads some of her tweets at his next rally ('Dumbass f***ing white people' and 'groveling goblins' are sure to get mentioned), the Times can explain that they are not enemies of the people.
Legal Duty to Report Your Coworkers' Off-the-Job Crimes?
That's what a New Jersey appellate court seems to have created, based on the theory that a criminal's coworkers somehow have a special duty to the victim -- even when the crime has nothing at all to do with the job.
In my opinion a sympathetic plaintiff wanted a defendant who could actually write a big check and the court played ball. If I were a franchisee at McDonalds I would be deeply troubled.