Tag Archives: Bannon

MUELLER REPORT PART I – TRUMP CANOODLING WITH RUSSIA – B

B. Involvement of WikiLeaks –Gaping Holes & Unresolved Issues

Immediately after the Billy Bush “grab ‘em” video, WikiLeaks released more stolen documents. How was WikiLeaks kept on such a short leash that it twice responded to developments in the US campaign by releasing documents intended to harm Clinton and offset self-inflicted harm by Trump?  Who was the link and why was the investigation ended before this party was run to ground?  [It may have been Roger Stone who is the subject of ongoing investigation covered by multiple Report redactions] GRU[1] and WikiLeaks were working together and hiding communications so that SCO efforts to collect them all were frustrated. I-MR 45. Mueller was never able to identify individuals other than Assange who were part of the DCLeaks/WikiLeaks coordination of anti-Clinton activities.

This leaves a gaping hole in the results of the investigation and raises the question why the investigation was ended before it was completed. If further efforts to identify individuals other than Assange were likely to be futile, this should have been explained.

Is it plausible that all the lying by Campaign people, I-MR 9-10, was all driven by the concern that the close association of the Campaign to Russians looked bad and was not also to cover up some deeper relationships instigated and nurtured by the Russians who had independent reasons to prefer Trump in the White House rather than the more experienced Hillary Clinton? The Russians are reputedly pretty good at dark statecraft and would likely not have made the trail easy to follow.

 We should not overlook the reasons stated by Mueller that the investigation was incomplete, including:  (1) Fifth Amendment claims by witnesses; (2) some information was “presumptively privileged,” a questionable conclusion not thoroughly explained or developed in the Report; (3) witnesses and documents outside U.S. jurisdiction; (4) some information was deleted by Trump Campaign people under investigation; some information was encrypted or simply not retained.  I-MR 10.

 Given the statement that it is possible that such information would have changed conclusions in some cases, WHY does Report not detail all instances in which (1) witnesses claimed the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination; (2) information was deleted or (3) encrypted information was withheld?

This also raises questions about the basis for wrapping up the investigation when it was. Mueller refers to it being “late” but no explanation for that is given. Late in relation to what? If there was a deadline, what was it, who imposed it, and when was it imposed?

 Russian involvement in the 2016 election clearly had an impact; Mueller estimated tens of millions of people were exposed to fake social media information and Russian organized rallies. I-MR 26, 29. Yet, no effort was made to conclude how big an effect resulted.

 Note that Mueller did not investigate deeply the GRU intrusion into state/local administration of elections, observing that FBI, DHS and state authorities are investigating. I-MR 50.

WHAT is the status of those investigations? These activities occurred in 2016 – three years ago! Many of the states where the impacts might have been greatest were controlled by Republicans who showed no interest in protecting the electoral process from Russian interference; indeed, the record outside the Mueller investigation plainly shows multiple efforts at voter suppression in such states, all aimed at reducing Democratic voter turnout.

 The section of I-MR addressing Trump Campaign interest in WikiLeaks’ use of Russian hacked documents is heavily redacted with Harm to Ongoing Matter, indicating active investigation somewhere in the US government is continuing. I-MR 51 et seq. Again, this was some years ago. What is going on with those investigations?

Trump was personally interested in the missing Clinton emails and frustrated they had not been found. I-MR 52. Manafort was particularly interested in Clinton emails as well. I-MR 52-53. By late summer 2016, the Trump Campaign was planning a press/communications strategy based on expected further leaks of Clinton documents from Wikileaks. I-MR 54. How did Trump know this? Who was providing Trump with direct information about WikiLeaks’ plans for further document dumps? Much of the evidence is heavily redacted, but Trump had links to WikiLeaks that were producing information for him. If Campaign was planning strategy based on WikiLeaks release of Russian-stolen documents, why is this not “coordination” or at least attempted coordination with Russian hacking activities, using Mueller’s own restrictive definition? Again, no explanation.

At I-MR 59-60, there is explicit evidence of Donald Trump Jr conspiring with WikiLeaks to promote a false narrative regarding Hillary Clinton. WHY is this not overt evidence of coordination with Russians through WikiLeaks as intermediary? How can Mueller conclude, at I-MR 61, that there was no evidence of coordination between Russia and Trump campaign regarding the effort to recover Clinton’s missing 30,000 emails.

I-MR 61-62 has a discussion of Henry Oknyansky’s alleged effort to sell dirt on Clinton, promoted by Michael Caputo but concludes that information about the events was conflicted, that Alexei Rasin, who was claimed to have the information could not be found, and that the investigation could not determine the content or origin of the information. Therefore, the conclusion was that there was no evidence of a connection with Russia and this particular set of claimed dirt on Clinton. BUT this is largely inconclusive. There was much smoke but no fire could be found. As noted at outset by Mueller, the absence of evidence does not prove the absence of the fact in question.

I-MR 62-64 discusses Peter Smith’s efforts to locate the Clinton emails, including explicit claims of coordination with the Trump organization, including Flynn, Bannon and Kellyanne Conway. Mueller seems to raise the bar regarding what is probative evidence when he states that the investigation did not find evidence that any of the Trump people “initiated or directed” Smith’s work. If, for example, Bannon or Conway knew about Smith’s work and encouraged it without initiating or directing it, WHY would that not qualify as “coordination?” This is not explained. At I-MR 65, the ultimate conclusion was, in substance, that Smith had fabricated his claims of being in contact with the Russian hackers and that he had acquired the missing emails. But the key issue here is Trump Campaign coordination, not whether people like Smith were overstating what they knew.

 It has been suggested that all of this is just the work of a bunch of small-time hustlers trying to get in on the Trump action. https://bit.ly/2RWv1FT That may be true, but given that the control of the highest political office in the country was at stake, all of this smoke deserves the deepest scrutiny. The story here remains incomplete. Mueller elected to treat conflicted information as essentially neutral, giving equal weight to the “no coordination evidence.” This approach is not required in these circumstances and, given all the lying and withholding going on about the Russian connection throughout the Campaign, there is no apparent reason to treat conflicted evidence as neutral.

Mueller showed little interest in attempted conspiracy between Trump organization and Russia-connected individuals. For example, in fn 288 Mueller states that a Russian internet newspaper registered names for Trump2016.ru and DonaldTrump2016. Ru, then requested an interview by email to Hope Hicks. Mueller concludes this part of the narrative with “No interview took place.” Fine, BUT what was Hicks’ response to the email request and why is that not set out in the Report?

George Papadopoulos attended a March 31, 2016, meeting with Trump & Jeff Sessions, among others, and came away with impression that Trump, and possibly Sessions (some conflict re Sessions position) favored getting a meeting with Vladimir Putin. He pursued the idea through Joseph Mifsud and made many contacts with Russian-govt affiliated individuals. In the course of that work, he was told by Mifsud that the Russians had email dirt on Clinton. I-MR 89. On May 6, Papadopoulos told an unidentified representative of a foreign govt about the damaging emails that Russia wanted to use to hurt Clinton’s electoral chances. On July 26, 2016, after the WikiLeaks email dump, that foreign govt informed the FBI which then opened its investigation into Russian interference in the election.

At no time did Papadopoulos tell the FBI what he had learned. WHY was Papadopoulos not charged with aiding a foreign govt in defrauding the U.S.?? Papadopoulos was working for the Trump campaign at that time and had alerted the campaign about Russian interest in Trump. He believed that the Campaign wanted him to pursue the lead. What was the source of that belief? At the very least this should have been fully explained in the Report.

 Thru the spring/summer 2016, Papadopoulos kept Campaign officials aware of his efforts to arrange a meeting in Moscow with Putin thru emails to at least Lewandowski, Clovis (co-chair of Trump Campaign) and Manafort. I-MR 89. The Report barely mentions responses from any of these people. WHY?  Papadopoulos eventually suggested he personally could attend Russia meetings on behalf of the Campaign “off the record.” I-MR 90. This is an act of concealment, from which a reasonable inference can be drawn that the parties knew what they were doing was wrong.

Next: Campaign Officials Suffering from Failed Memories at Critical Times

[1] A military intelligence agency called the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff, or GRU.

 

Killing Us Bigly – Trump Environment Policy

Killing Us Bigly – Trump Environment Policy

Surely Neil DeGrasse Tyson is one of the smartest, and I think also the funniest, humans on Earth.

In Death by Black Hole (2007) he devoted the first chapter, “Coming to Our Senses,” to the reality that the five senses humans enjoy, while robust for many purposes, are insufficient to help us understand the world and the universe. He wrote this:

“Consider that the human machine, while good at decoding the basics of our immediate environment – like when its day or night or when a creature is about to eat us – has very little talent for decoding how the rest of nature works without the tools of science. If we want to know what’s out there then we require detectors other than the ones we are born with. In nearly every case, the job of a scientific apparatus is to transcend the breadth and depth of our senses.” [Death by Black Hole at 26]

He expanded that idea by noting that the development of our senses as we grow up helps us make sense of the world but almost no scientific discoveries in the past hundred years were accomplished by relying just on our senses. Instead, they came through the use of mathematics and human-created hardware. Id. at 29.

And finally Tyson made this powerful point:

“Our five senses even interfere with sensible answers to stupid metaphysical questions like, “If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”” My best answer is, “How do you know it fell?” But that just gets people angry. So I offer a senseless analogy, “Q: If you can’t smell the carbon monoxide, then how do you know it’s there? A: You drop dead.” In modern times, if the sole measure of what’s out there flows from your five senses then a precarious life awaits you.” [Id. at 30]

That brings me to the environment “agenda” of Not-My-President Trump. His proposed budget, which is subject to review and adoption by Congress, seeks to lay off 25 percent of the Environmental Protection Agency staff, terminate 56 programs involving restoration of some of America’s largest and dangerously polluted bodies of water (the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay). See details at http://wapo.st/2nJy9FX.

To the extent that there is any solace in these proposals, some funding would be directed at the states who would, in theory, act to protect the environment in lieu of the federal government. However, at the root of this view is the inevitability that the influence of the large polluters on state regulators is likely to be significantly greater than they have been able to exercise at the federal level. The threat to “move our assets, and jobs, elsewhere” is powerful lever against aggressive environmental regulation by states and localities, creating a “race to the bottom” among the states to show the big polluters that they are a “coal friendly” or “farmer friendly” state where regulation in the name of the environment is nothing to be feared.

In addition to the possibility, however remote, that the Republican-dominated Congress will reject those drastic cuts, coalitions of environmental groups are using the courts to challenge Trump’s effort to turn environmental protection over to the polluters. See http://wapo.st/2nMn7B6. These actions portend a long fight to protect the country and the world from the Trump agenda to reduce or eliminate regulation of corporate behavior in the interest of the biosphere.

Trump’s approach to the environment is not a “conservative” program. It more closely resembles something an anarchist would propose. Not surprising, perhaps, considering the prominent position at Trump’s right and left hands of Steve Bannon who has vowed to “deconstruct the administrative state.”

There can be no reasonable doubt that the implementation of Trump’s plans will result in many deaths, not only of animals and their habitat, but of humans as well. I haven’t seen any estimates, partly, I think, because Trump’s proposals are in a state of flux and get more draconian with each iteration. But deaths will surely result, along with more black lung disease, cancer and other avoidable ailments arising from lack of care for the environment.

The number and quality of “new jobs” created due to the removal of environmental protections will be miniscule compared to the costs to humans and the planet. All of the regulations that Trump is now sweeping away through Executive Orders and budget hatchet jobs were carefully evaluated, before adoption, for costs and benefits as required by federal law. The destruction of the environmental safety net is not being accompanied by a similar demonstration of costs and benefits.

The ensuing damage to the biosphere and the deaths of animal and human life that will inevitably result from Trump’s policies will be laid by history at Trump’s feet. The blood will be on his hands and on the hands of his enablers in Congress. But the pain and suffering will be felt by others.

Disturbingly, in my view, a contrary view was set out in the Washington Post on Sunday, April 2 at B1 (not posted on WaPo website). The article by Ben Adler, a New York journalist, is entitled “Trump can’t do much to worsen climate change.” As I understand it, Adler’s basic point is that Trump’s anti-environmental policies in the U.S. cannot by themselves do much to worsen global warming and, in any event, other countries will likely step up their game to offset the negative contributions of the United States.

That, I suggest, is wishful thinking of the worst kind. The United States has been a leading force in bringing about the Paris Agreement under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Paris treaty went into effect in the United States just days before the last presidential election. http://unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9485.php.

There are no guarantees that other countries will not lose their resolve in the wake of the United States’ retreat from its commitments as the Trump administration appears intent to do. Moreover, whatever other countries may do in the way of offsets on a global scale will do nothing to resolve the air and water pollution and habitat destruction that Trump’s no-nothing approach to the environment will impose directly on the United States.

If you have young children, or grandchildren, you no doubt understand already the harsh future that Trump’s policies will yield. If so, you should immediately engage with the Resistance to oppose what the administration is trying to do. It is not enough now to wring your hands and hope for better days after the mid-term elections. The damage will have been done by then. It is time now to join actively with the Resistance by connecting with MoveOn.org, PeoplePower.org, the ACLU, Indivisible, the Sierra Club and any of the many other organizations actively working right now to stop the desecration of the planet which is the only home the human race is going to have in any time frame that matters. Just ask Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Keystone Kops Meet Three Stooges – Three Weeks of Trump Administration

Those of you old enough to have seen the old film clips know that the Keystone Kops and Three Stooges comedy shtick involved a lot of bumping into each other, falling down, bopping on the head and nose pulling to what, in the case of the Stooges, were regarded as amusing sounds. In those days such things were indeed considered very funny by millions of fans.

Now we have a modern day version of the same thing playing out in the administration of Donald Trump. But it’s not funny.

The sheer incompetence of Trump’s management style is playing out for the world to see. The latest episodes have him and members of his inner circle huddled over a dinner table in the main dining room at Mar-a-Lago discussing national security and military issues arising from North Korea’s latest missile test. There are photos taken by another guest, not part of the government, showing papers, presumably highly confidential, being lit up by cell phones. The Prime Minister of Japan is at the table and part of the conversation.

While the issue certainly affects Japan and our relations with it, you would think our top government people would first want to discuss the situation among themselves before talking it over with the leader of a foreign power. Press Secretary Sean Spicer said today that all that activity just related to organizing a press conference and that Trump had been advised before the dinner about the missile launch in secure quarters. Maybe. Hard to know what to believe when everyone in Trump’s house has a different version of events, as in, for example, the conflict between Spicer and Kellyanne Conway over whether Michael Flynn was fired or resigned. More alternative facts, I suppose. Take your pick.

Trump has been in power less than one month and chaos reigns around him. The great business leader appears to be thrashing around trying to look like a tough guy who’s on top of his agenda, while the work product is mostly a bunch of Executive Orders that accomplish very little actual change and were mostly unnecessary, including, of course, that masterwork on immigration that has been soundly repudiated by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The travel ban EO appears to have been written by people with no legal degrees. One of the chief authors, Stephen Miller (Senior Advisor to the President), just finished a round of weekend interviews in which he decreed that the authority of the president may not be questioned. Mr. Miller was smart enough to graduate from Duke University, no easy feat if you’re not an athlete, but went to work in politics for the likes of Michelle Bachman. Now, at age 31, he is one of Trump’s closest advisors. With all due respect, Mr. Miller probably should have gone to law school first, or at least a graduate program involving constitutional learning.

Trump’s reliance on Miller, Stephen Bannon (Chief Strategist), Reince Preibus (Chief of Staff) and Kellyanne Conway (Counselor to the President) has produced constant chaos and gaffes at every level, an embarrassment to the United States here and abroad. In case you missed the interview, here is the exact Miller statement:

“Well, I think that it’s been an important reminder to all Americans that we have a judiciary that has taken far too much power and become, in many cases, a supreme branch of government. One unelected judge in Seattle cannot remake laws for the entire country. I mean this is just crazy, John, the idea that you have a judge in Seattle say that a foreign national living in Libya has an effective right to enter the United States is — is — is beyond anything we’ve ever seen before.

The end result of this, though, is that our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.”

Is there something about judges in Seattle we don’t know? Miller smirked when he mentioned Seattle, as if a judge from Seattle was somehow a ridiculous idea that merited no respect? The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals sits in four Western cities, covering nine states plus Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. It rejected the government’s attempt to overturn the District Court’s injunction pending further litigation. That apparently is not good enough to satisfy Mr. Miller’s concept of judicial authority either.

What exactly does Miller mean that as a result of “further actions,” the powers of the president to protect our country will not be questioned?” It sounds like a direct threat to the role of the judiciary in our tripartite system of checks and balances established by the Constitution. Maybe all he meant to say was that next time the Executive Order will be competently and narrowly written so that there is no real question of its legitimacy. Maybe. Mr. Miller should choose his words carefully. Threats to reject the authority of the judiciary as the third co-equal branch of government are more serious than Mr. Miller appears to understand. Oh, and the judge in Seattle did not say that “a foreign national living in Libya has an effective right to enter the United States.”

At the time of the weekend interviews Mr. Miller had ample time to read the 9th Circuit opinion rejecting the government’s request to overturn the decision of the “unelected judge in Seattle.” The court’s opinion eviscerates the government’s arguments one by one, including these findings:

“… although courts owe considerable deference to the President’s policy determinations with respect to immigration and national security, it is beyond question that the federal judiciary retains the authority to adjudicate constitutional challenges to executive action.” [Opinion Part IV]

and

“The procedural protections provided by the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause are not limited to citizens. Rather, they “appl[y] to all ‘persons’ within the United States, including aliens,” regardless of “whether their presence here is lawful, unlawful, temporary, or permanent.” Zadvydas v. Davis, 533 U.S. 678, 693 (2001). These rights also apply to certain aliens attempting to reenter the United States after travelling abroad. Landon v. Plasencia, 459 U.S. 21, 33-34 (1982).”  [Opinion Part VI]

Again, a few years in law school would have helped Mr. Miller grasp these Constitutional fundamentals. Why is the President of the United States relying on this person to speak for his administration in matters of this nature?

Just today a USA Today reported that

“review of presidential documents shows at least five cases where the version of an executive order posted on the White House website doesn’t match the official version sent to the Federal Register. The discrepancies raise further questions about how thorough the Trump administration has been in drafting some of the president’s most controversial actions.”

I won’t belabor this further. The Trump administration is led by a man who claims to be a master business leader, disciplined organizer and super-decisive “very smart” person. In today’s press briefing, Sean Spicer went out of his way to emphasize how “decisive” the President has been in all things. Yet everywhere one looks through the first three weeks of his administration, we see people bumping into each other, heads being bopped and noses yanked. This made for good comedy way back when, but it’s no way to lead a government. Despite months to prepare, all the President’s men seem to have little idea of what they are doing.

#RESIST