Roger Stone probably views his sentencing Thursday morning as a good news/bad news scenario. The good news is that he wasn’t sentenced to from seven to nine years. The bad news is that he wasn’t let off the hook altogether and was sentenced to three years, four months. Axios What they’re saying: Judge Amy Berman Jackson said just prior to his sentencing that Stone “was not prosecuted for standing up for the president, he was prosecuted for covering up for the president.” She also said that he “will not be sentenced for who his friends are, or who his enemies are.” “The truth still matters. Roger Stone’s insistence that it doesn’t” poses a threat to “the very foundation of this democracy,” she added. […] The big picture: Both the sentencing about-face and Trump’s continued comments on Stone’s case have led to headaches for Barr. Congressional Democrats and former Justice Department officials have scrutinized the revised sentencing recommendation, calling it evidence of political interference. […] Now the big question is, will Trump pardon Stone altogether? The new lead prosecutor told the judge that he could not discuss the circumstances that led to or who wrote a revised sentencing recommendation that argued for significantly less prison time, per Vox’s Andrew Prokop. One way to look at the Judge accepting a revised sentencing recommendation is that it makes it tougher for Trump to argue how horrendously “horrible” or “unfair” the sentence is, which was his initial reaction to sentencing guidelines. Stone is now sentenced to serve less than half the minimum time originally discussed. Arguing horrible on those facts will be difficult. Plus, the optics of pardoning Stone are not what you might call terrific. Roger Stone was found guilty of lying to Congress and threatening a witness. He did it to cover up for Trump. His sentence is justified. It should go without saying, but to pardon Stone when his crimes were committed to protect Trump would be a breathtaking act of corruption. — Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) February 20, 2020 Unfortunately, “breathtaking corruption” is standard operating procedure for Donald Trump. He knows no other way.
Secretary of Everything and all around boy wonder Jared Kushner has embarked on yet another mission for his father-in-law. Now Kushner is in charge of Donald Trump’s new, post-acquittal hobby, flagrant abuse of the pardon power. Who needs the DOJ when you’ve got Jared? If there is one factor which is the hallmark of this mis-administration, it is the desire to do an end run around the professional and empower some know nothing to do a job s/he’s utterly unqualified for, instead. And GOP land approves, apparently. Washington Post: A move by Trump to ramp up the clemency process and seize control from the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney would be welcome by criminal-justice advocates, said Mark Holden, former general counsel of Koch Industries, the private company controlled by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch, whose political network worked closely with the White House on legislation to reduce sentences for nonviolent offenders. “I think the shift would be great,” said Holden, who worked with Johnson and the White House to help secure commutations for Munoz, Hall and Negron. “No disrespect intended to the Department of Justice, but having them decide who gets freed after they’re the ones who locked people up with these ridiculous sentences? There seems to be some bias there.” Jared approved of commuting the sentence of Rod Blagojevich, even though both Democrats and Republicans — particularly those in Illinois — denounced the move. But bear in mind, it was Jared’s idea to fire James Comey as well. Jared Kushner is so far the phuque in over his head that he doesn’t know what day it is, but that doesn’t prevent him from getting on the tube and not only violating the Hatch Act by campaigning for Trump, but peacocking about how Trump has brought “people with fresh perspectives” to Washington. Fresh, yes. Uninformed, definitely. Stupid? Absolutely. And Jared is the poster child. Several officials familiar with the matter said the White House has been discussing ways to revamp the clemency process for months, amid growing consensus that the role of the Justice Department should be minimized. The White House has been disappointed with the Justice Department’s process, officials said. While the Justice Department has traditionally received clemency petitions, the new process involves direct submission of applicants to the White House Office of American Innovation, which is led by Kushner, according to people familiar with the matter. And if you’re worried about Trump’s cronies and reality TV-types getting pardons ahead of those more deserving, you are not alone. Justice Department officials in the past have worried about how Trump handled pardons. There was so much concern about subversion of the traditional pardon process under Trump that then-Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein instructed the department’s pardon attorney that they reported only to him, the attorney general and the president, a person familiar with the matter said. Rosenstein told the pardon attorney that if anyone else from the White House called and asked for a pardon warrant, the pardon attorney must first seek his approval, the person said. The person said Rosenstein was deeply concerned that well-connected friends and benefactors were getting special access. The issue arose in particular when the White House proposed clemency for Oregon ranchers , and Rosenstein insisted officials first hear from prosecutors on the case, the person […]
“There is no such thing as a former KGB man.” — Vladimir Putin One of the most sobering comments that Robert Mueller made when testifying before Congress is that Russian interference with the 2020 election was taking place, “as we speak.” Russia backed Donald Trump as the chaos candidate in 2016 and they’re putting all their chips on the same bet this time as well. Just Security: Putin will continue to attack, namely because his objectives haven’t changed and the United States has not done anything to defend or deter him from this course of action. The only difference this time around is that, after four years of Trump, generating chaos will be even easier to achieve, as Trump and his surrogates have adopted the same playbook. Republicans know they are working in parallel with Russian intelligence, even if they are not working hand in hand. Republicans may insist to themselves there is a difference, but practically speaking, there isn’t. The only way to neutralize this threat is through public awareness of Russia’s tactics and increased civic participation: To that end, read on. […] Russian intelligence ran a further influence campaign using social media, trolls, and bots to amplify the propaganda and to influence individuals to take actions in the United States, including hiring actors to portray Hillary Clinton in a mock jail cell on the back of a pickup truck at rallies. Russians with links to the Kremlin infiltrated conservative groups, such as the National Rifle Association and American evangelical organizations, and made various approaches to the Trump campaign. Russian intelligence also stole Republican Party material which it has yet to weaponize. Trump declared a free press “the enemy of the people” way back and Bill Barr has been playing the press recently. The Washington Post broke a story saying that Barr was distressed about Trump tweeting “commentary” at him and that he was thinking of resigning. A few hours later the Department of Justice tweeted a response to the “Beltway rumor” and stated that Barr had no intention of resigning. Logical assumption? Barr is gaslighting people by leaking one version of the facts and then publicly announcing another. The idea is to discredit top tier news sources and augment the narrative that the press is out to get Donald Trump and cabal. As long as there are dual narratives of everything happening in the country running simultaneously, disinformation and chaos thrive. As such, we can be confident that the 2020 election cycle will provide the Kremlin opportunities to pursue further subversion, disinformation, and deception. We should expect to see a barrage of disinformation, from fake think tanks, fake media outlets, false social media accounts, false identities, trolls, and bots to launder fringe narratives into the mainstream and hijack the public discourse. Lies will target the Democratic nominee (as the corruption conspiracy about former Vice President Joe Biden shows, this step began long ago), as well as seek to divide the Democratic vote. While we are more aware of the existence of this manipulation than we were in 2016, it will remain difficult to separate fact from fiction and to critically assess information. Russian disinformation efforts will be hidden amidst the flood of angry partisan wrangling spread organically by Americans. Even Fox News has internally raised a red flag that its own commentators, like Sean Hannity and […]
Julian Assange is in a pre-trial hearing in the UK. This Twitter thread is worth reading, since Trump is currently suffering from pardon fever and Dana Rohrabacher discussed a pardon for Assange if he could exculpate Russia’s participation in the DNC hack, where the emails which were later published on WikiLeaks were obtained. Ultimately, pardons may be the way that Trump covers his tracks in blanket and shameless fashion. From what we’ve seen so far, that would appear to be the case. Julian Assange court appearance today- His lawyer mentioned a statement, that alleges former US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher visited Assange, saying he was there on behalf of the President, offering a pardon if JA would say Russia had nothing to do with DNC leaks. @SBSNews — Ben Lewis (@benlewismedia) February 19, 2020 Expect we’ll hear more about this come the main hearing. Rest of today’s brief appearance was mainly administrative. — Ben Lewis (@benlewismedia) February 19, 2020 Getting lots of Assange related questions- in short, it's an allegation (not proven) made in a statement by one of Mr Assange's own lawyers. We only know about its existence now as there was a discussion between judge and legal teams about the evidence that's being submitted. — Ben Lewis (@benlewismedia) February 19, 2020 Mr Assange's lawyer who mentioned the statement in court was Edward Fitzgerald QC. The statement itself is by Jennifer Robinson, Mr Assange's long time legal counsel. — Ben Lewis (@benlewismedia) February 19, 2020 Wall Street Journal, September 15, 2017: The proposal made by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R., Calif.), in a phone call Wednesday with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, was apparently aimed at resolving the probe of WikiLeaks prompted by Mr. Assange’s publication of secret U.S. government documents in 2010 through a pardon or other act of clemency from President Donald Trump. The possible “deal”—a term used by Mr. Rohrabacher during the Wednesday phone call—would involve a pardon of Mr. Assange or “something like that,” Mr. Rohrabacher said. In exchange, Mr. Assange would probably present a computer drive or other data-storage device that Mr. Rohrabacher said would exonerate Russia in the long-running controversy about who was the source of hacked and stolen material aimed at embarrassing the Democratic Party during the 2016 election. […] In the call with Mr. Kelly, Mr. Rohrabacher pushed for a meeting between Mr. Assange and a representative of Mr. Trump, preferably someone with direct communication with the president. “I would be happy to go with somebody you trust whether it is somebody at the FBI; somebody on your staff,” Mr. Rohrabacher said. The California congressman said he would be pleased to talk to CIA Director Mike Pompeo, but that the agency “has its limitations” and wanted “to cover their butt by having gone along with this big lie.” The CIA was one of the intelligence agencies that helped determine in January that emails from prominent Democrats were stolen by Russian intelligence and given to WikiLeaks. You may recall that Dana Rohrabacher enjoyed the distinction of being called Vladimir Putin’s “favorite congressman.” You may also recall Kevin McCarthy’s now-famous statement, “I’m pretty sure there are two people on Putin’s payroll. One of them is Rohrabacher and the other is Trump.” The Assange trial bears keeping an eye on. Interesting facts and persons of interest may come […]
This is exactly what Donald Trump needs right now, is a former Democrat who has realized the error of his ways and is now ready to embrace the genius of Trump’s leadership and go forth and preach it from the mount. That is what pardoned felon Rod Blagojevich did in his press conference Wednesday as he signed autographs and declared “I’m a Trumpocrat. I don’t know if they’ll let me vote, but if I can vote, I’ll vote for Trump.” “President Trump is not a typical politician. He’s tough, he’s outspoken, he gets things done. He’s a problem solver in a business where too many politicians don’t want to solve problems. All they want to do is play politics. and get nothing done for the people.” “I’m a Trumpcrat, that’s right. If I have the ability to vote, I’m going to vote for him…our president is tough and outspoken and he has the courage to challenge the old way. He’s the one that’s actually fighting to bring real change, that’s why he gets so much pushback. But not withstanding being tough, he’s also a man with a kind heart.” Then he went on to talk about Donald Trump, righter of wrongs, pardoner of the innocent, the persecuted and prosecuted. Listening is believing. And bear in mind, that while this tribute was going on, Trump was tweeting this: Rod Blagojevich did not sell the Senate seat. He served 8 years in prison, with many remaining. He paid a big price. Another Comey and gang deal! Thank you to @LisaMarieBoothe who really “gets” what’s going on! @FoxNews — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 19, 2020 Yesterday Trump said that Blago’s sentence was “unfair and too long.” Today he’s saying that he’s innocent altogether. Conspiracy theory, much? Now what is absolutely fascinating about this tweet, is that Blago was convicted in 2011 and James Comey didn’t begin serving as Director of the FBI until September, 2013. So Comey must have zapped him from the private sector. No, if Trump wants to get this particular conspiracy theory going right, he’s going to have to lay it at Robert Mueller’s feet, because he was head of the FBI during the time frame in question. Not that it matters.The idea is to generate a talking point, and the two bad guys are Mueller and Comey, so either one will do just fine. If you need to induce vomiting for any reason, keep this clip of Blago handy. Or, just kick back and have a good laugh. Blago should volunteer to teach Post Pardon Propaganda 101, because the class is filling up fast and new acolytes to the Cult of Trump need guidance.
If there is one thing that Rod Blagojevich is not known for, it is subtlety. He famously incriminated himself on a wire-tapped phone call, when he was conspiring to sell Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat in Illinois, when Blago was governor of that state. He is hardly a sympathetic character and even Illinois Republicans are not too crazy about what Trump just did. Rick Wilson, Daily Beast: “I’ve got this thing, and it’s fucking golden. I’m just not giving it up for fucking nothing,” Blago famously said while the FBI was listening in. He was heavy-handed even by Cook County standards, and his career was littered with other examples of the same kind of mercenary zeal. This is not going over well, even with Republicans in Illinois. Representatives Darin LaHood, John Shimkus, Adam Kinzinger, Rodney Davis and Mike Bost—none of them members of the ragged edge of the Never Trump movement, to put it mildly—said today in a joint statement, “As our state continues to grapple with political corruption, we shouldn’t let those who breached the public trust off the hook. History will not judge Rod Blagojevich well.” And make no mistake about why he did it. Let’s get the biggest reason out of the way first: These pardons and clemency decisions are part of a long march by Trump through anything with the fingerprints of Jim Comey or Robert Mueller present. His consciousness of guilt pumping out of every pore means he’s always obsessing over Mueller and the pre-Barr DOJ. Trump knows without Barr to choke out the Mueller Report and defend the Office of Legal Counsel memo he’d be staring at a much different world right now. By the time this is over, Trump will order Betsy DeVos to defund Comey’s high school. It’s all about Trump sending a message flare to the world that if you play ball with him, you’re bulletproof, even as he is bulletproof. This is his post-acquittal mentality. He is drunk on a power high. No, Trump was trying to tell Stone (and Manafort, Gates, Flynn, et al.), and the inevitable chain of aspirational pre-indicted scumbags dragging behind his garbage-barge presidency that if you keep quiet, you’ll be OK. Keep your vow of Orangemerta and he’ll either pardon you or commute your sentence. This was also a message to future campaign staffers, Cabinet members, and everyone else in his orbit that as long as they’re kicking their piece of the vig up to the boss and keeping their mouth shut, they’re good. It’s good to be the king. The next Trump fascination isn’t simply with executive power; it’s with regal power, and the pardon and clemency power itself seems to have a particular fascination and utility for him. It’s because pardons make him feel royal. This is Rick Wilson’s bottom line and it says it perfectly. Finally, and saddest of all, is that Trump sees Blagojevich as a fellow traveler from his real homeland: the world of reality television. He sees Blago as a resident—albeit vastly below his own lordly stature—of what the late Clive James once called “The Fame Planet.” The only thing that matters to Trump is image, and the source of his image is television. If you’re a current Trump staffer looking for that pardon down the line—and odds are, you’ll need one—get […]
Rush Limbaugh is one self satisfied fat cat these days, after Melania draped the Medal of Freedom around his neck at the SOTU. If he was a Trumpkin before, he’s now the High Priest of the Cult. Monday the topic turned to Pete Buttigieg and got ugly — but the good ole boy is making light of it all, just being cool and basking in the glow of self importance. Daily Beast: “A gay guy, 37 years old, loves kissing his husband on debate stages,” Limbaugh exclaimed. “Can you see Trump have fun with that?” Limbaugh went on in this vein, talking about “Mr. Man” Donald Trump, claiming to be oblivious to the reaction he caused until his BFF in the White House called in. “Hell, the president even called me about this,” he said in a segment first flagged by Media Matters. “The president checks in every now and then to see how I’m doing. He’s such a nice guy. And he called.” […] I told the White House, ‘Look, I’ve got a medical procedure in 10 minutes. Can you have the president call me back in 35 [minutes]?’” Limbaugh added. “And they did.” […] “So, he called back, and he said ‘Rush, I just got to tell you something. Never apologize, don’t ever—’ and I said, ‘For what?’” Limbaugh noted. “Well, I had no idea this thing had even bubbled up, you know? I’m doing the medical thing that I have to do here. And I wasn’t even aware of this.” Limbaugh has a history of homophobic commentary and he’s playing us if he expects us to believe that he had no idea there would be any notice of his mockery of Buttigieg or any blow back there from. Get used to it, it’s a long way until November and this is what’s going to be pouring out of right-wing radio, ignorance, intolerance and malice. But Buttigieg’s retort was perfect, quadruple-married Limbaugh is hardly the paragon of family values and he’s “not going to be lectured on family values” by him.
If you’re a white collar criminal, step right up and get in line. This is your lucky day. Donald Trump is giving away mass clemency to one and all, starting with the very worst, because Trump identifies with them. They are men after his own heart. Commuting the sentence of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, for trying to sell Barack Obama’s open senate seat, leads the parade. Blagojevich was convicted of:-fraud and conspiracy charges from trying to sell Obama’s Senate seat-extorting a children’s hospital CEO and racetrack exec for campaign $-lying to the FBI *But* he was a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice and really that's all that matters here. https://t.co/Kv5QgaAQjz — Brian Tyler Cohen (@briantylercohen) February 18, 2020 Blagojevich was literally impeached and removed from office (in a unanimous vote), and barred from ever holding state office again. This is Trump's way of saying f-you to the very idea of impeachment https://t.co/oClAxmTEem — David Nir (@DavidNir) February 18, 2020 Parse through these two tweets and you have the entire picture. Not one more word need be said. Fraud and conspiracy, extortion, and lying to the FBI in connection with malfeasance in government is perfect. And the appearance on Celebrity Apprentice is the icing on the cake. Blagojevich is the quintessentially corrupt public servant, it can’t get any lower. So of course Trump loves him and wants to pardon him. And Blagojevich got off his plane and signed autographs and talked about what a “strong” “kind hearted” man Trump is, to pardon him, a former Democratic governor. It’s great P.R. and soundbite fodder, too, how could anything be more perfect? And then look at the others: Bernard Kerik, convicted of tax fraud and lying to investigators. Another man after Trump’s heart. Of course one cheats on taxes and lies to investigators. What, this should be a crime? And why should Michael Milken have gotten in trouble for selling junk bonds? Trump probably wishes he had established a B.A. in Junk Bond Sales at Trump University — and he could have had Milken as guest lecturer. I’m sure he must regret not thinking of this sooner. He’s got to be kicking himself. And what, gambling fraud is illegal? And that’s what San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo, Jr. was convicted of? So what if he illegally obtained a gambling license and failed to report he was extorted for $400,000? That’s just business as usual in Trumpworld. No crime committed there. This is some PC nonsense. And then he had a sexual assault case that was thrown out of court — something wrong with that? Donald Trump is telegraphing to the world, in no uncertain terms, his contempt for the rule of law. He wants to remake the law. He said Tuesday that he was the “nation’s top law enforcement officer” and by God he’s going to pardon a whole slew of people so that we know who’s boss. Welcome to the pardon abuse episode of Celebrity Apprentice: White House Edition, because that is all that this is.
Two schools of thought on Tuesday night’s banner headline about Bill Barr being so disgruntled with Donald Trump’s ongoing tweets about the Justice Department that he’s considering resigning: He’s setting himself up to have an out, if the pressure from people who are demanding his resignation gets too intense. This way he can make it seem like his idea; He’s just doubling down on his initial P.R. ploy a few days ago, to see if it will fly this time. Or maybe a third option, which is both. Washington Post: Attorney General William P. Barr has told people close to President Trump — both inside and outside the White House — that he is considering quitting over Trump’s tweets about Justice Department investigations, three administration officials said, foreshadowing a possible confrontation between the president and his attorney general over the independence of the Justice Department. […] The standoff between Trump and Barr intensified Tuesday, when Trump declared in a string of early morning tweets that he might sue those involved in the special counsel’s investigation into his 2016 campaign and suggested that Roger Stone, his friend convicted of lying to Congress in that probe, deserved a new trial. Just hours later, a Justice Department official revealed that prosecutors had filed a sealed motion in court arguing the opposite, and they had Barr’s personal approval to do so. Barr had a previously scheduled lunch with the White House counsel Tuesday and was still the attorney general by day’s end — indicating the president’s moves that day were not enough to push him to resign. But he and his Justice Department seemed to remain mired in a political crisis, with an uncertain future. Everything I have seen and read about Bill Barr tells me that he is the gaslighter’s gaslighter. I don’t doubt for a moment that he’s talking this talk, and letting these thoughts leak out to the press, for some tactical purpose. But as to him walking the walk and moving on from Trump because he’s had a come to Jesus moment and he realizes the error of his ways? Puh-leeeze. I’ll believe that when the pigs start appearing on the upstairs window sill and asking me if I want to jump on and take a ride to Oz and play with the monkeys.
Religion may have been the opioid of the masses at one time, but since the 1950’s it has been subsumed by television, a dimension of sight, a dimension of sound, a dimension of mind. Our thoughts and feelings are shaped by the images that we see on television and television is more compelling to many of us than “real life.” Harlan Ellison wrote a two-volume book, “The Glass Teat” wherein he described how a young boy of nine stayed in his room watching television while his mother was begin raped in the next room. The boy had been trained to ignore what was going on around him and go to the glass teat to care for him, and so he did. In 1984 NYU professor Neil Postman was asked to give a lecture on George Orwell’s book, “1984” and opine whether life had moved towards that dystopian society. Postman opined, no, in fact, America was much closer to Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” where the masses give up all identity and individualism so that they could remain lulled into a stupor on a drug called “soma.” It’s bread and circus taken to the nth degree and the death of democracy, because democracy is based upon an involved citizenry engaging in civil discourse and civil discourse is made possible only through information. We now live in an age where the bulk of what the average person ingests as information is coming off of television and as we have seen in the past three years — and before, since Fox News has been in the picture — a great deal of that is disinformation. This is how we have come to this perilous point. Huxley arguably did predict this time in history better than Orwell, although shades of totalitarianism certainly are present as well. Will Bunch Philadelphia Inquirer via Raw Story: “What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.” We are a trivial culture indeed, and we do not take politics seriously and that’s been the case for quite some time now. We don’t want the man with the best ideas — and we’re so misogynistic we don’t want a woman at all — in power. We want to trust our feelings, like lobotomized Luke Skywalkers and pull a lever for the celebrity candidate we feel is the most cool and who confirms our bias. And what’s why we are where we are right now today with Donald Trump in the White House. He is confirmation bias on legs, telling his supporters that they were right all along to be racist, homophobic, sexist, and most of all — stupid. Even as he is. No wonder they love him so […]