Friday, December 6, 2019

Vanity Fair: ‘Trump and Giuliani Appear Quite-to-Very-F**ked’

Bess Levin at Vanity Fair has the most articulate and insightful synopsis so far of what the House Impeachment Report says about what Donald Trump and Rudy “butt dialer” Giuliani actually achieved when they decided to play Spy v. Spy in Ukraine. Bottom line? They couldn’t have been more blatant about what they were doing short of wearing reflective clothing and blowing on kazoos. If this is their idea of clandestine, heaven save us from their notion of overt. Bill Barr is going to have to hold the DOJ upside down and shake it to come up with some distraction that can match this in intensity — and expect him to try. Levin Report: On Tuesday, House Democrats released the Intelligence Committee’s 300-page impeachment report, which concludes, based on over two months of private and public testimony from career diplomats and other administration officials, that Donald Trump “placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States,” sought to undermine American democracy, and, in doing so, endangered national security. For a guy who has insisted that he acted with the utmost integrity when he attempted to extort Ukraine to smear his political rivals, it isn’t a good look! But Trump isn’t the only one for whom the report should be causing some gastrointestinal distress right about now; his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, has also emerged from the account looking like a full-on crook, a portrayal that probably would’ve been of concern to him had his brain not started atrophying when he left the New York City mayor’s office in 2001. Much of the damning information comes in the form of phone records. According to logs obtained by the committee from AT&T, Giuliani was in extremely frequent communication with the White House, specifically the Office of Management and Budget, where acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, of Ukraine “drug deal” fame, is still director. For instance, Giuliani spoke with unidentified individuals at OMB and the White House on April 12, 23, and 24. An OMB call on the latter date lasted over 13 minutes and occurred just one day before Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was told to return from Kiev. Following many of these communications, the Week notes, Giuliani placed calls to or received calls from his indicted associate Lev Parnas, whom Giuliani allegedly dispatched to Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden and his son. Another call of particular interest was the 13-minute one between Giuliani and OMB on August 8, which occurred just one day after Ambassador Kurt Volker messaged Giuliani about a meeting with Ukrainian presidential aide Andriy Yermak and a “visit” the two had discussed. Last month the Washington Post reported that a confidential White House review of Trump’s decision to put a hold on aid to Ukraine “has turned up hundreds of documents that reveal extensive efforts to generate an after-the-fact justification for the decision and a debate over whether the delay was legal,” on which OMB led the charge. In early August, for instance, Mulvaney asking acting OMB director Russell Vought to provide an update on the legal rationale for holding up the aid and how much longer it could be delayed. According to the justification from the OMB lawyers—which the State Department and National Security Council disputed—withholding the aid was legal so long as they referred to it as a “temporary” hold. Was Giuliani strategizing with someone at OMB re: the delayed aid? Who’s to say! […]
John Brian Silverio / Flickr Rudy Guiliani...

Giuliani’s Contact Who Claims To Have Dirt On Bidens Arrested In Germany

Rudy Giuliani is in Kyiv, as we speak, for the purpose of meeting with people who allegedly have information on Burisma and Hunter Biden, for the purpose of smearing Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. Such overt subterfuge is part and parcel of the new normal in American politics since our fall down the Trump rabbit hole in 2016. To that end, a former Ukrainian member of parliament, Oleksandr Onyshchenko, who fled Ukraine after being accused of embezzlement, and who claims all kinds of insider information about Burisma and the Bidens, was arrested in Germany Friday — which is sure to put a crimp in his appearing in Rudy Giuliani’s OAN documentary. Onyshchenko is quite the piece of work. He’s anti-Obama and and George Soros, and pro Yuriy Lutsenko and Vicktor Shokin, both of whom are known to have worked with Giuliani on his Burisma conspiracy theory. He also has accused the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv of working against Trump in the 2016 election, and claims that Paul Manafort was framed. Perfect candidate for a starring role in a Giuliani smear campaign, so sad that he’s in the House of Many Doors and unavailable. Better luck next time, Rudy. Daily Beast: Onyshchenko’s arrest comes as efforts by Trump’s American allies to find information about Burisma Group—where former Vice President Joe Biden’s son was once a board member—have reached a fever pitch. Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, is currently in Kyiv, Ukraine, holding meetings on the subject. Efforts by Giuliani and other Trump administration officials to win political goodies from Ukrainian government officials—including an announcement of an investigation into Burisma—are a central focus of Democrats’ impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump. Democrats’ next impeachment hearing is scheduled for Dec. 9. German authorities arrested Onyshchenko based on a request from Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau and Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO). According to a report from the UNIAN news agency, Ukrainian officials are awaiting a ruling from a German court on whether or not to extradite Onyshchenko. After fleeing Ukraine in 2016, Onyshchenko claimed to have evidence of widespread corruption by then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and he said he’d contacted the FBI with his claims. Two sources familiar with the events confirmed that he did meet with U.S. law enforcement officials in 2016 in an effort to build goodwill. The sources said Onyshchenko appeared to want to share information in hopes of obtaining a visa to travel to the U.S. The U.S. Justice Department confirmed meeting with him at the time but said it had “no plans to have further meetings or communications” with him after that, according to RFE/RL. His allegations were widely seen in Ukraine as part of a Kremlin-orchestrated disinformation campaign meant to undermine the Ukrainian government as it sought to strengthen ties with the West. As the impeachment proceedings against President Trump took hold in October, Onyshchenko claimed to have inside information about Hunter Biden and his work for Burisma. He told Reuters that his friend Mykola Zlochevsky, who founded Burisma, had placed the vice president’s son on Burisma’s board as insurance against criminal investigations. The claim echoes those made by Rudy Giuliani and former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko. “It was to protect (the company),” he said. This guy is exactly the sort of grifting con man that you would expect to be spouting this insanity. Onyschchenko is accused of […]

Democratic Field Narrows As Kamala Harris Drops Out Of 2020 Race

Kamala Harris was one of seven presidential contenders who qualified for the December Democratic debates, but she has decided to pull the plug on her campaign — possibly due to the fact that she’s always been underwater financially, spending $1.41 for every dollar earned. Axios: The big picture: Harris spent the early parts of her campaign as a top-tier contender for the Democratic nomination, but struggled in the polls as Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg emerged as frontrunners. She landed a few standout moments — most notably in the first debate, when she faced off with Biden over his opposition of federally mandated busing in the 1970s. But while Harris’ poll numbers saw a spike after the first debate, the moment failed to significantly alter the course of her campaign. The senator laid off the majority of her New Hampshire staff in early November, hoping to go all-in on Iowa with limited cash on hand. Last week, more than 50 current and former staffers spoke to the New York Times about dysfunction within the campaign. Many of them spoke on the record. Between the lines: Harris publicly questioned whether her failure to gain traction was the result of America being unprepared to elect a woman of color. In an interview on “Axios on HBO,” she called the issue the “the elephant in the room about [her] campaign,” adding: “When there is not a reference point for who can do what, there is a lack of ability or a difficulty in imagining that someone who we have never seen can do a job that has been done, you know, forty-five times by someone who is not that person.” I expect Booker and Klobuchar to go next. The Iowa primary is going to loom very large after January 1.
subfinitum / Flickr voting machine...

Russian Oligarch Bought Company That Controls Voter Registration System and Database. Smoking Gun, Much?

Charlie Pierce introduced this topic better than I can: There is simply no way to argue that the 2016 presidential election was a legitimate exercise in democratic self-government. There are too many bread crumbs leading in the same direction, somewhere north of the Vodootvodny Canal. If it wasn’t rigged, and I am entirely agnostic on that point, it was certainly vandalized to the point of uselessness, and all the vandalism was directed at one specific end: to make sure Donald J. Trump was elected President of the United States. And we are now coming up on another presidential election with the 2016 election still lying on the slab, its autopsy unfinished and its cause of death not entirely determined. Against that backdrop, Pierce directs us to an article from last year, showing that Russian oligarch, Vladimir Potanin, owns AltPoint Capital and they have a financial interest in ByteGrid, a vendor which handles the State of Maryland voter registration database and candidate management operations. Maryland’s two Democratic senators got right on it. Roll Call: “As the Rules Committee prepares to mark up the Secure Elections Act, we respectfully request that you sponsor an amendment requiring that an election infrastructure vendor submit a report to the Chair of the [Election Assistance Commission] and the Secretary of [the Department of Homeland Security] identifying any foreign national that directly or indirectly owns or controls the vendor, as well as any material change in ownership resulting in ownership or control by a foreign national,” Cardin and Van Hollen wrote Monday. “We also recently asked Treasury Secretary [Steven] Mnuchin to review the acquisition of ByteGrid in his role as Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States,” the Maryland Democrats wrote. “While we are hopeful that the Treasury Department’s review will be able to provide additional information about this specific transaction, we are concerned about the implications of this case for elections across the country.” “Currently, CFIUS is authorized to review foreign investments in U.S. companies that result in foreign control of the company. If an investment poses a threat to national security, it can be blocked,” the senators wrote in the letter to Mnuchin. “If either AltPoint Capital or ByteGrid did not file a notice with CFIUS, the Committee has the ability to look back at any completed transaction that results in control and threatens national security and take steps to address the national security threat, including requiring divestment.” It goes without saying that if the Russians just walk in here and buy up the firms that control our voter registration databases and other functions of our elections, that is something that sounds a note of concern; actually more of a cry of outrage and justifiably so. Here’s a link to the Senate Intelligence Committee on the “Russian Active Measures Campaign and Interference in the 2016 Election” report and here’s Pierce’s synopsis of same. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence dropped the first of the reports stemming from its nearly three-years long investigation into the Russian “active measures” as regards the 2016 presidential election. There will be others, but this one was quite enough. There were some astounding conclusions; for example, the report indicates that Russian ratfckers were prepared to raise holy hell all over social media if Hillary Rodham Clinton had won the election. […]
Gage Skidmore / Flickr Devin Nunes...

BUSTED: Devin Nunes Met w/Ukraine Official In Vienna To Dig Up Dirt On Bidens,...

The quality of Devin Nunes’ problems has just escalated out of the realm of fake cows and what he deemed the “circus” of the House impeachment inquiry. Congressman Nunes may be looking at an indictment for breaking federal law, by trying to solicit something of value to a political campaign from a foreign national. Rudy Giuliani’s henchman, Lev Parnas, is testifying that former Ukrainian prosecutor Victor Shokin met with Nunes in Vienna for the purpose of discussing digging up political dirt against Joe Biden. This is precisely what Fiona Hill spoke of with respect to Gordan Sondland, when she said that Sondland was doing a personal errand for Donald Trump whereas she and others were advancing a diplomatic agenda, and those two things had diverged, and were likely to “blow up.” Nunes was part of the contingent that was furthering Donald Trump’s personal political interests in Ukraine, not America’s. CNN: Congressional travel records show that Nunes and three aides traveled to Europe from November 30 to December 3, 2018. The records do not specify that Nunes and his staff went to Vienna or Austria, and Nunes was not required to disclose the exact details of the trip. – Nunes’ entourage included retired colonel Derek Harvey, who had previously worked for Trump on the National Security Council, and now works for Nunes on the House Intelligence Committee. Harvey declined to comment. – Bondy told CNN that Nunes planned the trip to Vienna after Republicans lost control of the House in the mid-term elections on Nov. 6, 2018. – “Mr. Parnas learned through Nunes’ investigator, Derek Harvey, that the Congressman had sequenced this trip to occur after the mid-term elections yet before Congress’ return to session, so that Nunes would not have to disclose the trip details to his Democrat colleagues in Congress,” said Bondy. – At the time of the trip, Nunes was chairman of the Intelligence Committee. In January, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff took over as chairman of the powerful committee, which is now conducting the impeachment inquiry. Here’s where we run into two other names recently in the news with respect to investigating the Bidens, journalist John Solomon, who attacked Fiona Hill, shortly after she exposed the false narrative and conspiracy theory of Ukraine having a part in the 2016 election, and of course Lindsey Graham, because he, too, now wants to launch a formal investigation of the Bidens, as does Nunes. [Parnas’ attorney] Bondy says that according to his client, following a brief in-person meeting in late 2018, Parnas and Nunes had at least two more phone conversations, and that Nunes instructed Parnas to work with Harvey on the Ukraine matters. – Parnas says that shortly after the Vienna trip, he and Harvey met at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, where they discussed claims about the Bidens as well as allegations of Ukrainian election interference, according to Bondy. – Following this, Bondy says that in a phone conversation Nunes told Parnas that he was conducting his own investigation into the Bidens and asked Parnas for help validating information he’d gathered from conversations with various current and former Ukrainian officials, including Shokin. – Parnas says that Nunes told him he’d been partly working off of information from the journalist John Solomon, who had written a number of articles on the Biden conspiracy theory for the Hill, according to Bondy. Nunes has been asked […]

GOP: “All hail King Trump!”

It takes a big man to stand up to his enemies, and a bigger one to stand up to his friends   Albus Dumbledore Well, that’s like, a total bummer, man. Here I was, all ready to settle in for some cheap post holiday entertainment in 2020, circa 2016, GOP eyeball gouging and groin kneeing between Donald Trump, Joe Walsh, Mark Sanford, and William Weld. But it appears now that this will be just one more in a long line of unfulfilled fantasies in my life. This injustice will not stand, man. The Dude will not abide! According to new reporting in Politico, in meetings later this week, four states, South Carolina, Kansas, Nevada, and Arizona will finalize plans to entirely scrap any plans for presidential GOP primaries in those states, handing the state delegates to Trump by default, and making any serious primary challenge to his renomination even more remote. Trump advisers are quick to point out that the party of incumbent presidents regularly forego the primary process for renomination, but what they kind of sweep under the rug is that it normally occurs when the incumbent president isn’t facing any declared opposition. If you look closely, you may notice a kind of a common thread there. In 2018, South Carolina elected a Democrat to congress when a Trumpista defeated incumbent Mark Sanford in the primary. Arizona, which Trump narrowly won, elected a Democrat to fill Jeff Flake’s vacant seat. Nevada gave the Denver boot to GOP incumbent Dean Heller in 2018 and Kansas elected a Democratic Governor as well as a Native American, lesbian, MMA fighter to congress, flipping a seat long held by the GOP. All of these are states in which Trump may have been expected to show possible weakness in a primary battle. Now, to be sure, it is the individual states, and not the RNC that controls state primaries, so no outside interference by the White House can necessarily be inferred. You might remember that I recently wrote an article in which I reminded everybody that South Carolina had actually threatened to take this action just about 9 months ago, and now it appears that others are following suit. Let’s be clear here, I have trouble in conceiving that any of Trump’s challengers could pull off taking a single state in a primary, with the possible exception of Weld in New Hampshire or Massachusetts. But one can only imagine that these individual states internal polling must have shown enough weakness for Trump that the states were loath to risk embarrassing him with a challenger logging an unacceptable percentage of a primary vote. This has got to be the single most pathetic show of emotional insecurity I have ever witnessed. Sweet Jesus, Gerald Ford, who wasn’t even duly elected as President, but replaced President Sneaky when he took it on the lam, damn near ended up in a floor fight at the RNC convention in 1976 against Reagan, but he went through the process. It shows the stunning weakness of character that Donald Trump possesses, that he doesn’t even have to tell these states anything, they just instinctively know that he will be upset by any less than shining results from their state primaries, and take the necessary steps to appease his childish ego. This is a PR nightmare […]

Trump Gloats On Economy, Writes Himself 3rd Person Love Note

Donald Trump congratulated himself Saturday on strong economic indicators continuing, which he believes will handily carry him into a second term of office. Our Country is the envy of the World. Thank you, Mr. President! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 6, 2019 You may recall Larry Kudlow admitting to Chris Wallace on Fox […]
Wall Street Journal / YouTube Can the Democrats Ride a Blue...

Could 2020 be 2016 on steroids in the primaries?

Nam-myoho-renge-kyo   Meditation enlightenment chant Calm your mind grasshopper, there are many long miles to go until this journey is complete. Or maybe not. Seems to me that we’ve been down this road before, and it turned out to be more of a trip to the mall than a cross country trek. Back in October of 2015, two and a half months before the Iowa caucuses, I posted an article online at Daily Kos, where I predicted that the GOP nomination was Trump’s for the taking. There was no crystal ball required (sorry Marianne Williamson), it was simple math. There were 17 candidates in the GOP field, and Trump was running in the high 20’s to low 30’s, and nobody else was even in double digits. Most, if not all of the early GOP primary states were “winner take all” primaries, which meant that Trump could bank all of the primary delegates from those states with only around 32% of the vote. This would allow him to amass such a huge delegate lead that by the time the field winnowed down, he would be almost impossible to catch. That’s what happened in real time. The problem with a large, unwieldy field is that if a single candidate jumps out to a big lead in the polls, especially in early primary states, he’s halfway there. Because, when people start to drop out, it won’t be the ones closest to the front runner, it will be the ones farthest behind. And when they do drop out, their 1-2% isn’t going to help anybody above them appreciably cut into the front runners lead. And while that culling out process continues, the front runner keeps banking early primary state delegates. I am seeing the same dynamic at play so far in the 2020 Democratic primaries, but with even ore exaggerated implications. There are 24 active candidates as we speak, and well more than half of them are polling at under 4%, most of them at 1-2%. Again, the dropping out of any of these candidates, even two or three at a time are not going to help a second tier candidate to make much of a push upwards. And while in this case, there are other candidates in double digits, namely Sanders, Warren, and in some polls Harris, Biden is near or over double digit leads against them, and 1-2% isn’t going to close the gap much. There are a couple of other factors in play here that weren’t present in the GOP primaries of 2016, and they are going to work against anybody whose last name isn’t Biden. First of all is the trajectory of the primary itself. In most primaries, they are basically popularity contests to start with, between the personas of the individual candidates, as well as their positions on issues. That doesn’t seem to hold true as much this time. Persistent polling shows that the #1 issue for Democratic primary voters is finding the strongest candidate to defeat Donald Trump. As the front runner, Biden is already perceived as having the best shot at beating His Lowness, and any other candidate is going to have to prove that they’re a better option, which is going to be difficult to do unless Biden implodes on his own. And that dynamic plays into another similar aspect. Americans love a […]

WaPo: ‘Trump Tries To Force Ukraine To Meddle In the 2020 Election’

The new president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, has vowed to undertake a pro-reform agenda, including land reform, privatization of state companies, and cleansing of the judiciary. This is good news, considering that both Republican and Democratic administrations, and Western leaders have urged such measures in recent years, in an effort to draw Ukraine away from Russia. However, these ideas don’t comport with Vladimir Putin’s plans for Ukraine, so you know who Donald Trump is going to back, and it’s not Western democracies, right? Washington Post: …Mr. Zelensky has so far failed to win the backing of President Trump. Not only has Mr. Trump refused to grant the Ukrainian leader a White House visit, but also he has suspended the delivery of $250 million in U.S. military aid to a country still fighting Russian aggression in its eastern provinces. Some suspect Mr. Trump is once again catering to Mr. Putin, who is dedicated to undermining Ukrainian democracy and independence. But we’re reliably told that the president has a second and more venal agenda: He is attempting to force Mr. Zelensky to intervene in the 2020 U.S. presidential election by launching an investigation of the leading Democratic candidate, Joe Biden. Mr. Trump is not just soliciting Ukraine’s help with his presidential campaign; he is using U.S. military aid the country desperately needs in an attempt to extort it. This is Trump and the GOP at their finest, trying to create an emails-level Joe Biden talking point in 2020, not only to smear Biden but to support Trump’s insane claim that Hillary Clinton was in fact aided by Russia in 2016. In a nutshell, Rudy Giuliani went to Madrid last month and met with a close associate of Zelensky’s to encourage an investigation of Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Hunter Biden once served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company, which was investigated by Ukraine. Then-vice president Joe Biden, along with several other senior Western officials, urged the dismissal of the prosecutor who investigated the firm, because he was accused of blocking anti-corruption measures. It’s a no brainer that Trump and Fox News will spin this to read that Biden urged the firing of the prosecutor to cover up some purported wrong doing on Hunter’s part. Mr. Giuliani also wants a probe of claims that revelations of payments by a Ukrainian political party to Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, were part of a plot to wreck Mr. Trump’s candidacy. In other words, Trump associates want the Ukrainian government to prove that Ukraine improperly acted against Mr. Trump in the 2016 election; but they also want it to meddle in his favor for 2020. Mr. Zelensky is incapable of delivering on either demand. The revelations about Mr. Manafort came from a Ukrainian legislator who was fighting for domestic reform, not Hillary Clinton. And the Biden case, which has already been investigated by Ukrainian authorities, is bogus on its face. Bogus or not, watch for it to be prominently featured on Fox News, although we can only hope and pray that the New York Times does not give it even a fraction of the column inches that it devoted to Hillary’s equally bogus email drama. Meanwhile, the Trump White House claims that military aid to Ukraine has been suspended pending a Pentagon investigation of the matter. Trump is apparently oblivious to the […]

Former GOP Rep Says ‘Republicans Are Going To Get Wiped Out in 2020’ Over...

Former Republican congressman from Illinois, Joe Walsh, says that Donald Trump was elected by angry people, and this is why he gets away with what he does. Wednesday night’s rally in North Carolina should have been the tipping point, Walsh says, and Republicans should have started hopping off the band wagon, but they won’t, because they just don’t care. If you want to hear the whole clip, This is what he said on CNN Thursday, via RawStory: They don’t give a damn what he does, they don’t give a damn what he says…he lied about what he did in North Carolina last night. This is on him. When I tell my [radio show] listeners that…they say, “I don’t care that he lies. I hate the Democrats.” They don’t care that he lies almost every single time he opens his mouth, because he’s so angry. And you get what you got last night. As a former Republican member of Congress, it made me profoundly sad that the standard bearer of the Republican party, my party, is making “Send her back!” his campaign rallying cry. It’s ugly, it’s racist, it’s anti-American…it should have been denounced by the president last night, but he’s not capable of it. Walsh was then asked how much of Republican leaders not speaking out against this, because they don’t want to suffer Trump’s ire. They can’t stand what the president has unleashed, this big bowl of ugly. Privately, they are uncomfortable with what the president did last night. Bullcrap on being private uncomfortable. I’m sick of the private stuff. These Republicans have to get up the courage to stand up publicly and denounce this. If they don’t strongly, publicly denounce this un-American crap, Republicans are going to get wiped out in 2020. So, privately Republican leaders are uncomfortable, but publicly they’re gutless. Okay. Another former GOP rep, David Jolly of Florida, also went to town over the takeaways from Trump’s rally.  We can’t forget that he single-handedly injected this poison into the mainstream of American politics. It is his fault. But you’re going to see Republicans devolve to love it or leave it. And in many ways I think it’s just as dangerous or more so than the chant “Send Her Back.” Love it or leave it suggests that you must agree with political leadership. It is anathema to everything this nation is founded on. Suggesting that Representative Omar must agree with an administration policy of putting kids in cages, or agree with injecting greater insecurity on the world stage, or agree with the president criminally obstructing justice in the Mueller investigation, or criminally engaging in campaign finance violations. And if she fails to agree, then she must leave.” It’s heartwarming that former Republican members of Congress see things this way. What will it take to wake up the current ones? Meanwhile, Trump will doubtlessly forge ahead with his version of George Orwell’s Two Minute Hate, because that’s exactly who he is.  

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