donhall16 / Flickr good news only...
donhall16 / Flickr

Good Day, Newsies! Happy Tuesday!

There is lots of good news to share  —  even more than I could get in here in the time I have.

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Some thoughts I had about the very understandable wish for the Russia investigation (and related investigations) to hurry up, dang it!:  I think the reality of what an effective and masterful “Mueller Time” is and will continue to be is a lot different from the one many of us had been imagining. Although a sweeping day or two of indictments and arrests, possibly lopping off the executive branch and many members of congress in one fell swoop has been sort of an unconscious wish/expectation— which I admit has been a fantasy of mine and one I know has been shared by legions of us, going by what I’ve read lol — in truth such an outcome would be disastrous for our country, throw us into chaos and who exactly is the person or persons in charge to sort all of that out or rescue us? The slow and steady approach, carefully building the cases against all of the perpetrators is the best way to get justice done. And judging by his career, Robert Mueller lll is very capable of just that measured, strategic approach.

In honor of the “smocking gun” that definitely does not exist, let’s start off with today’s first…

???? Musical Interlude ????

 ☭ This Russher Thing ☭

I’m guessing a few Republicans are starting to sweat, because the key phrase here is “at least” and they will be found out:

At least 16 Trump associates had contacts with Russians during campaign or transition, Marshall Cohen, CNN News, December 10, 2018.

At least 16 associates of Donald Trump had contacts with Russians during the 2016 campaign or transition, according to public statements, court filings, CNN reporting, and reporting from other news outlets.

These communications came in the form of face-to-face meetings, phone calls, text messages, emails and video chats.

In the months after the election, Trump and his senior officials repeatedly denied that there had been any contact whatsoever with Russians during the campaign or that there were any ties between the campaign and Russians.

Everyone on this list denies participating in any “collusion” with the Russians.

(Click on the link above to read the full list, with descriptions of the associates’ contacts).

Good news about the alleged Russian spy. Plea hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at 3:15 PM in Washington, DC. ABC News was first with the scoop yesterday:

Maria Butina, accused Russian agent, reaches plea deal with prosecutors that includes cooperation, Pete Madden, Katherine Faulders and Matthew Mosk, ABC News, December 10, 2018.

ALEXANDRIA, VA: In this undated handout photo provided by the Alexandria Sheriff's Office, Russian national Maria Butina is seen in a booking photo in Alexandria, Virginia. Butina is awaiting trial on spying charges. (Photo by Alexandria Sheriff's Office via Getty Images)

She admits, as part of the deal, according to a copy obtained by ABC News that is expected to be filed to the court, that she and an unnamed “U.S. Person 1,” which sources have identified as longtime Republican operative Paul Erickson, with whom she had a multiyear romantic relationship, “agreed and conspired, with a Russian government official (“Russian Official”) and at least one other person, for Butina to act in the United States under the direction of Russian Official without prior notification to the Attorney General.”

Based on the description, the “Russian Official” appears to be Alexander Torshin, deputy governor of the Russian Central Bank and a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Under his direction, the agreement said, she “sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over U.S. politics.”

The agreement, which Butina signed on Saturday, Dec. 8, also notes that the conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison, but the deal could see Butina receive a lesser sentence, depending on the level of her cooperation, before likely being deported back to Russia.

Background worth reading (can only quote a little here): Maria Butina Agrees to Cooperate With U.S., Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, December 10, 2018.

Maria Butina with former NRA president David Keene
Butina with former NRA pres. David Keene

As a result of the deal, Butina will become the first Russian national since the 2016 election to plead guilty to a crime connected to efforts to influence American politics. After running a gun rights organization in Russia, she moved to the United States, where she spent years building relationships with conservatives in hopes of influencing a future Republican presidential administration. During the campaign season, she questioned then-candidate Donald Trump about sanctions; built relationships in the upper echelons of the American gun rights community; arranged for NRA leaders to travel to Moscow; and bragged that she was a channel between Team Trump and the Kremlin, as The Daily Beast first revealed. ✂️

Butina had once hobnobbed with the stars of the Republican firmament, getting pictures of herself with Gov. Scott Walker, Donald Trump Jr., NRA chief Wayne LaPierre, former Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Sen. Rick Santorum, and former NRA president David Keene. On July 11, 2015, Butina was in Las Vegas at an early rally for Trump’s embryonic presidential campaign, and asked the future president a question about Russian sanctions. Trump gave a surprisingly detailed answer. A year and a half later, she attended the invitation-only Freedom Ball after Trump’s inauguration. ✂️

As part of her deal, she has committed to cooperating with American law enforcement “in any and all to matters as to which the Government deems this cooperation relevant.”

‼️ Notable Court Events Scheduled This Week:

Paul Manafort scheduling conference scheduled for today, Tuesday Dec. 11 at 3 PM.

Sentencing for Michael Cohen, Wednesday, December 12 at 11:00 AM.

Maria Butina’s plea hearing Wednesday, December 12 at 3:15 PM.

???? Republicans in Disarray????

‘Siege warfare’: Republican anxiety spikes as Trump faces growing legal and political perils, Robert Costa and Philip Rucker, Washington Post, December 8, 2018. (Sorry for the choppy editing: it’s a long article).

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A growing number of Republicans fear that a battery of new revelations in the far-reaching Russia investigation has dramatically heightened the legal and political danger to Donald Trump’s presidency — and threatens to consume the rest of the party, as well.  ✂️

Rather than building a war room to manage the intersecting crises as past administrations have done, the Trump White House is understaffed, stuck in a bunker mentality and largely resigned to a plan to wing it. Political and communications operatives are mostly taking their cues from the president and letting him drive the message with his spontaneous broadsides.

“A war room? You serious?” one former White House official said when asked about internal preparations. “They’ve never had one, will never have one. They don’t know how to do one.” ✂️

Some GOP senators were particularly shaken by this week’s revelation that former national security adviser Michael Flynn had met with Mueller’s team 19 separate times — a distressing signal to them that the probe may be more serious than they had been led to assume, according to senior Republican officials. ✂️

For now, Republicans on Capitol Hill are still inclined to stand by Trump and give the president the benefit of the doubt. But one pro-Trump senator said privately that a breaking point would be if Mueller documents conspiracy with Russians.

Comey calls on Americans to ‘use every breath we have’ to oust Trump in 2020, Gregory Krieg, CNN, December 10, 2018.

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 07: Former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey is surrounded by reporters after testifying to the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill December 07, 2018 in Washington, DC. With less than a month of control of the committees, House Republicans subpoenaed Comey to testify behind closed doors about investigations into Hillary Clinton’s email server and whether President Trump’s campaign advisers colluded with the Russian government to steer the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
James Comey

Former FBI Director James Comey asked American voters Sunday night to end Donald Trump’s presidency with a “landslide” victory for his opponent in 2020.

“All of us should use every breath we have to make sure the lies stop on January 20, 2021,” Comey told an audience at the 92nd Street Y on New York City’s Upper East Side. He all but begged Democrats to set aside their ideological differences and nominate the person best suited to defeating Trump in an election.

“I understand the Democrats have important debates now over who their candidate should be,” Comey told MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace, “but they have to win. They have to win.”

BIpartisan group of former senators add to the pressure by writing an open letter to the Senate — are you listening Mitch and GOPers?

We are former senators. The Senate has long stood in defense of democracy — and must again. 44 Former U.S. Senators, Washington Post Opinion, December 10, 2018.

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Mitch McConnell

We are on the eve of the conclusion of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation and the House’s commencement of investigations of the president and his administration. The likely convergence of these two events will occur at a time when simmering regional conflicts and global power confrontations continue to threaten our security, economy and geopolitical stability.

It is a time, like other critical junctures in our history, when our nation must engage at every level with strategic precision and the hand of both the president and the Senate.

We are at an inflection point in which the foundational principles of our democracy and our national security interests are at stake, and the rule of law and the ability of our institutions to function freely and independently must be upheld.

John Brennan is not pulling any punches, either:

⚖ In Other Court News ⚖

A Conservative Judge Torched Donald Trump’s Latest Illegal Assault on Immigrants, Mark Joseph Stern, Slate, December 10, 2018.

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In a meticulous 65-page opinion, Bybee—a conservative George W. Bush appointee—explained that the president cannot rewrite a federal statute to deny asylum to immigrants who enter the country without authorization. His decision for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is a twofold rebuke to Trump, halting the president’s legal assault on asylum-seekers and undermining his claim that any judge who blocked the order is a Democratic hack. The reality is that anyone who understands the English language should recognize that Trump’s new rule is illegal. Like so many of Trump’s attention-grabbing proposals, this doomed policy should never have been treated as legitimate in the first place.

Friday’s ruling involves a proclamation that Trump signed on Nov. 9, ostensibly to address the “continuing and threatened mass migration of aliens with no basis for admission into the United States through our southern border.” The order alluded darkly to the caravan of asylum-seekers then approaching the border, which Trump tried and failed to exploit as a campaign issue. To remedy this “crisis” and protect “the integrity of our borders,” he directed the federal government to deny asylum to any immigrant who enters the United States unlawfully.

Watchdog Sues DOJ For Records Of Alleged Pre-Election Leak To Giuliani, Josh Kovensky, Talking Points Memo, December 10, 2018.

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 09: Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) and Jennifer LeBlanc arrive in the East Room before U.S. President Donald Trump introduces Judge Brett Kavanaugh as his nominee to the United States Supreme Court at the White House July 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. Pending confirmation by the U.S. Senate, Kavanaugh would succeed Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, 81, who is retiring after 30 years of service on the high court. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Rudy Giuliani

Advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sued the Justice Department today in a bid to gain quick access to records that may reflect a leak of information about the Clinton email investigation to Rudy Giuliani in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

The lawsuit — filed in DC federal court on Dec. 10 — alleges that Giuliani had advance knowledge that the FBI intended to reopen its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server for government work.

CREW is demanding that its request for information on the matter be immediately processed.

???? LOL ????

???? Musical Interlude ????

???? Good Tech Gnus ????

The unfettered and unaccountable access to peoples’ data may be curtailed, finally!

Facebook, Google scramble to contain global fallout from ACCC plan, Jennifer Duke and John McDuling, The Sydney Morning Herald, December 10, 2018.

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In a 374-page report released on Monday – which reveals several ongoing investigations into potential misuses of market power by the digital giants – the competition watchdog proposed sweeping controls over the handling of personal data, and the advertisements consumers are shown online.

Declaring the digital giants have “substantial” market power, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) wants to create an ombudsman to investigate complaints from consumers, media companies and marketers about Google and Facebook over issues such as defamatory comments and fake ads.

It further calls for the introduction of a new regulatory body to monitor how the digital platforms drive traffic to publishers, and the prices they charge for advertising. The ACCC also proposes changes to the Privacy Act to force digital platforms to be clearer with their terms and conditions and to allow Australians to “opt-in” to targeted advertising.

♀ Reproductive Rights ♀

The Supreme Court declined to hear a case which could have allowed states to block Medicaid coverage for Planned Parenthood. Kavanaugh made another interesting decision here:

Supreme Court turns away Planned Parenthood defunding cases, Alice Miranda Ollstein, Politico. December 10, 2018.

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SCOTUS

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to review whether states can block Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers from their Medicaid programs, passing on a pair of cases that would have served as the first major abortion test for the court’s new conservative majority.

Chief Justice John Roberts and the newest justice, Brett Kavanaugh, joined the court’s four liberal jurists in turning away a pair of petitions from Kansas and Louisiana seeking the ban on abortion providers. ✂️

Tim Jost, an emeritus professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law, said it’s “noteworthy” that Kavanaugh passed on the cases.

“If Kavanaugh was going to deal a major blow to health care rights during his first session on the court, this would have been the case to do it,” Jost said.

???? Global Climate Change ????

Regular people have figured out we need to fight back since we cannot rely on our elected officials to protect the environment or take steps to slow, halt or reverse global climate change:

West Coast Fishing And Crabbing Groups Sue Fossil Fuel Companies For Role In Climate Change, Alastair Bland, NPR News, December 9, 2018.

Alaska Salmon, One Week in June, Commercial fishing boats, Nushagak Bay, Alaska
file photo of fishing boats

While oil companies built seawalls and elevated their oil rigs to protect critical production infrastructure from the rising sea level, they concealed from the public the knowledge that burning fossil fuels could have catastrophic impacts on the biosphere.

That’s what citizens and local governments across the United States are asserting in lawsuits against oil, gas, and coal companies. Plaintiffs in the cases have alleged that fossil fuel producers knowingly subjected the entire planet and future generations to the dire consequences of their actions.

On Nov. 14, fishermen in California and Oregon joined the legal fray by filing suit against 30 companies, mainly oil producers. The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, the plaintiff, contends that the fossil fuel industry is at direct fault and must be held accountable for recent warming-related damages to the West Coast’s prized Dungeness crab fishery, which catches millions of the tender-fleshed crustacean most years, and coastal chefs turn the critters into classics like Crab Louie and Crab Cioppino.

???? Student Debt Forgiveness — A Start ????

Exclusive: Ed Department To Erase Debts Of Teachers, Fix Troubled Grant Program, Chris Arnold, NPR News, December 9, 2018.

Students pull a mock "ball & chain" representing the $1.4 trilling outstanding student debt at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, where second presidential debate will be held between Republican nominee Donald Trump and his Democratic counterpart Hillary Clinton / AFP / PAUL J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

Here’s how this fix will work. For teachers who can prove they have fulfilled all four years of service, their debts will be erased. If they have been paying back these loans, the department says those balances will be erased and teachers will be refunded whatever they have paid into the system.

For teachers who have not yet taught the full four years, they too can now get credit for all years served in a qualifying school, regardless of any past paperwork problems. Their loans will be converted back to grant status, and they will have the opportunity to get back on track and complete their service. One caveat: the original terms of the program require that teachers complete four years of service within an eight-year window, and that’s still the case.

Also, none of this will be automatic. As part of this change, the department will reach out to teachers it thinks might qualify for the fix, which it is calling a “reconsideration process.”

But Federal Student Aid Communications Director April Jordan says the burden is still on teachers to speak up. To get their money back, “they need to raise their hand and tell us that they want us to take a look at their certification again,” she says.

???? Super-cool Science News ????

Voyager 2 Bids Adieu To The Heliosphere, Entering Interstellar Space, Colin Dwyer, NPR, December 10, 2018.

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Just a few months after celebrating its 41st birthday, the Voyager 2 probe has left its familiar environs and entered interstellar space — only the second human-made object in history to do so, after Voyager 1 did it in 2012.

“I think we’re all happy and relieved that the Voyager probes have both operated long enough to make it past this milestone,” Suzanne Dodd, the Voyager project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement released Monday. “This is what we’ve all been waiting for.” ✂️

Launched 16 days apart in 1977, the two spacecraft completed their original mission — observing Jupiter and Saturn — in the early 1980s before turning their focus to Uranus, Neptune and beyond. It was nearly two decades ago that Voyager 2 made its fly-by past Neptune, the outermost planet of the solar system (since Pluto’s tragic demotion, at least).

“You can think of what the technology was. Your smartphone has 200,000 times more memory than what the Voyager spacecraft have,” she added. “So it’s just exciting that we’ve been able to get it into interstellar space.”

???? Meanwhile, From the Schadenfreude File, These Assholes ????

Hahaha, done in by their own vanity! Schadenfreude is not often served up as deliciously as this:

German Neo-Nazis Fell for Art Project and Outed Themselves, Kelli Weill, The Daily Beast, December 6, 2018.

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A leftist art collective in Germany said they were launching a project to identify neo-Nazi rioters. In reality, it was a hoax to trick neo-Nazis into outing themselves.

This summer unleashed a wave of violence in Chemnitz, Germany, where far-right extremists chased down immigrants and threw fascist salutes during a multi-day rally. Nazi-era salutes are illegal in Germany, but most demonstrators evaded arrest and identification. But the art group Center for Political Beauty (abbreviated as “ZPS” in German) wanted to unveil the extremist networks behind the riots. They built a website that claimed to have identified the Chemnitz rioters. Then they sat back and waited while extremists started searching the site for their own names until ZPS revealed the stunt on Wednesday. ✂️

Eventually ZPS identified approximately 1,500 of the estimated 7,000 far-right marchers, Ruch said. But they wanted more names, and more information on the political networks behind the protests. (The riots have been fueled by far-right German Facebook pages, and by established far-right political parties like Alternative for Germany or “AfD.”)

ZPS set up a website with pictures of the 1,500 rioters they’d identified, but visitors to the site could only see 20 pictures at a time. So frantic fascists went to the site’s search bar to see if they’d been named.

And these assh*les

Hahaha, Donald is reportedly “really pissed” that Nick Ayers turned down the “worst job in government”, and Ayers was quickly followed with a hearty “No thanks!” by Mick Mulvaney, Robert Lighthizer, Steve Mnunchin and Mark Meadows. Interestingsubtext in this is that this means both the PrOTUS’s and the VP’s chiefs of staff are out in the same weekend. That’s noteworthy:

Help Wanted: White House Chief Of Staff, Scott Horsley, NPR, December 10, 2018.

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It seems people are not exactly lining up for the chance to try to organize Trump’s impulsive and unpredictable operation, especially in the face of an aggressive special counsel’s investigation and newly empowered Democrats in the House of Representatives. ✂️

Trump has already burned through two staff chiefs in less than two years. John Kelly, the retired Marine general who attempted to instill military discipline around Trump, is expected to leave by the end of the year. Nick Ayers, who currently serves as Vice President Pence’s chief of staff, had been considered the front-runner to replace Kelly, but Ayers took himself out of the running over the weekend. ✂️

“I think this is a watershed moment for the Trump presidency,” Whipple said. “If he cannot get this job right and the right person in it, there’s going to be a world of hurt ahead.”

More here: ‘There was no Plan B’: Trump scrambles to find chief of staff after top candidate turns him down, Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Robert Costa, Washington Post, December 10, 2018.

And even more ridiculousness here: Jon Voight Appears Game To Be Trump’s Chief Of Staff, And Hilarity Ensues, David Moye, Huffington Post, December 10, 2018.

And this assh*le, too

Proud Boys Founder Gavin McInnes Fired From Blaze Media, YouTube Account Disabled, Hayley Miller, Huffington Post, December 10, 2018.

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 25: Activist Gavin McInnes takes part in an Alt Right protest of Muslim activist Linda Sarsour on April 25, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
“Someone very powerful decided long ago that I shouldn’t have a voice,” he wrote in an email. “I’m finally out of platforms and unable to defend myself.” (wah, wah)

The Blaze, founded by conservative pundit Glenn Beck, merged with CRTV last week to form right-wing media giant Blaze Media. McInnes hosted a podcast with CRTV called “Get Off My Lawn,” which he used to discuss his anti-Muslim and misogynistic beliefs. ✂️

His ouster from Blaze comes after several social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, banned him over their policies prohibiting hate speech and “violent extremist groups.” He has also been kicked off Amazon and PayPal. ✂️

The Daily Beast reported Monday that McInnes’ YouTube profile and channel have been deleted. McInnes said YouTube received complaints about copyright violations for old videos featured on his page.

Dishonorable Mention: Pro-Trump Pundit Dan Bongino Out At NRATV, Matt Shuham, Talking Points Memo, December 10, 2018.

⚡️ Lightning Roundup ⚡️

⚡️ Wonkette: COS not the only job nobody wants: Trump AG Nominee William Barr Told Trump To F*ck Off A Non-Zero Number Of Times! Evan Hurst, Wonkette, December 10, 2018.

⚡️ Election Fraud story won’t be swept away: Thousands of mailed ballots in Florida were not counted, Gary Fineout, AP News, December 10, 2018.

⚡️ Mueller’s Memos and the Alleged Lies of the Trump Lieutenants, Natasha Bertrand, The Atlantic. December 7, 2018.

⚡️ This story implicates Tom Barrack and several big name Trump PAC donors: Mueller Says Manafort Lied About Contacts With Trump Officials, Adam Goldman and Sharon LaFraniere, The New York Times, December 7. 2018.

⚡️ Slightly old news, but still useful: All of Robert Mueller’s indictments and plea deals in the Russia investigation so far, Andrew Prokop, Vox, November 29, 2018.

⚡️ Mike Pompeo swaggers his way to failure, Jackson Diehl, Washington Post Opinion, December 9, 2018.

⚡️ There’s also a Pat Robertson link to these guys: NRA leader, Jack Abramoff and GOP operative tied to alleged Russian spy Maria Butina have long history as foreign agents lobbying together, Anna Massoglia, OpenSecrets, December 10, 2018.

⚡️ And across the pond: Roman Abramovich on list of six Russian oligarchs targeted by UK intelligence over links to Putin, Con Coughlin, The Telegraph, December 7, 2018.

⚡️ Good. They’ve needed this for awhile: Meet the Bottomless Pinocchio, a new rating for a false claim repeated over and over again, Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, December 10, 2018.

⚡️ Good riddance, indeed: Good riddance to John Kelly, Matthew Yglesias, Vox, December 10, 2018.

⚡️ Good news for democracy: An insane amount of people turned out to vote in the midterm elections, Harry Enten, CNN, December 10, 2018.

⚡️ Interesting Deep Dive article: John Podesta Is Ready to Talk About Pizzagate, Andy Kroll, Rolling Stone, December 9, 2018.

⚡️ Interesting discussion of possible ways Medicare for all could be financed: Best Option For Funding Medicare For All May Be Employer Mandate, Jon Walker, ShadowProof, December 10, 2018.

⚡️ Seriously, may this assh*le disappear from public life forever: Paul Ryan’s long con, Ezra Klein, Vox, December 10, 2018.

???? Action Roundup ????

Important reminder about ACA signups. If you know anyone who needs health insurance, urge them to sign up soon. Deadline is December 15.

And be sure to check out  Indivisible 2.0  to learn about ways you can help to rescue democracy from the criminals.

???? RoundUp WindDown ????

It’s going to be another hectic week, Newsies. Do your best to get enough rest, eat nutritious food and find time to relax each day. We need everyone at their best as we continue on this marathon.

Speaking of rest, I’ll be trying to get some myself when this diary goes live. Please pick up my slack and post away with good gnus that you’ve read, seen or made! I’ll get here ASAP to join in!

I’ll leave you with some beautiful music. Happy Tuesday, Newsies!

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.

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