February 2, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:42 PM


The Big Flaw in the Memo : It may have just confirmed a key New York Times scoop. (David French, February 2, 2018, National Review)

At the end of last year, the New York Times published a furiously contested scoop claiming that the investigation actually began not because of the Steele dossier but rather because George Papadopoulos had popped up on the FBI's radar. Here's the Times:

During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia's top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton. . . . 

 . . . Exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said that night at the Kensington Wine Rooms with the Australian, Alexander Downer, is unclear. But two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts, according to four current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians' role.

The Times claimed that this information "led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia's attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump's associates conspired."

Well, if the newly released Nunes memo is correct, House Republicans and the Trump administration just confirmed the Times'scoop. In the process, they blew up their core argument against the investigation. The investigation isn't the fruit of the poisonous dossier (though the dossier did play a role); it existed before the dossier.

Nunes memo aims at Russia probe, backfires on Trump and GOP (Noah Bookbinder, Norman Eisen and Caroline Fredrickson, Feb. 3, 2018, USA Today)

When the House Intelligence Committee finally did its dramatic reveal of the so-called Nunes memo, several things were immediately clear -- and all were bad for committee chairman Devin Nunes and President Trump , the man his efforts were ultimately intended to benefit.   [...]

[T]o the extent the document contained any surprises, it was the degree to which it actually undermined the attacks that the president and his allies had been advancing.

One such assault has claimed that the "Steele dossier," opposition research compiled by the private firm Fusion GPS at the behest of the Clinton campaign, served as the basis for the investigation into the Trump campaign and surveillance of a former campaign aide. However, the Nunes memo says information about Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos -- not the Steele dossier -- "triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016 . . . ." Whether that was intended or not, it undercuts the claim that the Russia investigation is based upon the dossier.

Most importantly, the Nunes memo fails utterly at Trump's reported purpose in urging its release: to lay the groundwork for firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller's investigation and is key to protecting that investigation going forward.

The memo says almost nothing about Rosenstein. It notes that he was one of five Justice and FBI officials to sign applications under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) for warrants to wiretap former Trump campaign aide Carter Page. 

One of the others who took the same action was Dana Boente, whom Trump appointed acting attorney general after he fired Obama-administration holdover Sally Yates. Boente, incidentally, was recently chosen to become general counsel of the FBI -- a decision that hardly seems consistent with a sincere belief that the Justice Department under his watch abused the surveillance process. The memo's only other reference to Rosenstein is that a department attorney who met with Fusion GPS officials also did some work with Rosenstein -- a factoid with little if any relevance. 

The Nunes Memo Lands With a Dud (Matt Lewis, 02.02.18 , Daily Beast)

Perhaps the most important substantive detail to emerge from the memo put together by House Intel Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) is the admission that it was George Papadopoulos--not the Steele dossier--which triggered the investigation. This, however, was an admission against interest.

Posted by orrinj at 5:18 PM


Joe Arpaio pleads ignorance after giving interview to anti-Semitic weekly. It was his fifth. (Eli Rosenberg, February 1, 2018, Washington Post)

On Thursday, Joe Arpaio, the contentious former sheriff who is running for a Senate seat in Arizona, took to Twitter to clarify news reports circulating about an interview he did with an anti-Semitic publication known for attempting to sow doubt about the Holocaust.

"It was brought to my attention I gave interview to publication that supports antisemitism," Arpaio, a Republican, wrote about his latest interview with the American Free Press, which occurred in January. "I was unaware and don't support that view point."

But it was at least Arpaio's fifth interview with the weekly, which traffics in stories like "Meet The Man Who Invented The Holocaust," about Nobel Peace Prize-winning author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.

Jews are just another other.

Posted by orrinj at 5:14 PM


Trump and GOP Could Be Paralyzed Without a DACA Fix (A.B. Stoddard, February 02, 2018, RCP)

No one is entertaining a government shutdown over the issue, but Republicans know as soon as they pass another short-term funding bill days from now -- to a hail of scorn from lawmakers in both parties even as they vote for it -- they will have to deal with DACA this month. And if Democrats continue to vote to fund the government, instead of shutting it down, the hot potato is back in the lap of the majority party and the administration that set the March 5 deadline. 

Sen. James Lankford, a conservative who has worked on the issue for months, conceded lawmakers could not reach a unified position at the GOP retreat and he would encourage President Trump to extend the deadline. Sen. John Thune, a member of leadership, admitted Trump's sweeping plan was untenable. "I think that if we can solve DACA and border security, that may be the best we can hope for," he said, adding that the two-part plan would be a "fallback position that can pass the House, the Senate and get signed," and conceded if "other issues enter into that conversation, it gets more complicated." Sen. Marco Rubio had issued a similar warning Wednesday. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:03 PM



The courts repeatedly approved warrants to collect intelligence on a Trump staffer because of his ties to Russia, based in part on information from a long-time reliable FBI source. However, the investigation was initially opened because Australian Intelligence tipped off the FBI about George Papadopoulos's ties to Russia.

It's a confession.

Posted by orrinj at 7:37 AM

F x GOOGLEPLEX (self-reference alert):


The amazing thing is how much more self-indulgent Finnegan's Wake is....

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 AM


Muslim voters say they want to participate, not 'infiltrate' (Riham Feshir, Feb 1, 2018, MPR)

Caucus training has been a longstanding practice in faith organizations. It aims to educate church, mosque and synagogue attendees on how the process works.

Minister JaNaƩ Bates, spokesperson for ISAIAH, said the training is nonpartisan -- the idea that the message has somehow changed to encourage one religious group to take over one political party isn't true.

"Because in this particular training you have this white Catholic woman in a Vikings shirt and a black Muslim man facilitating a training -- it just incited the deepest amount of contempt for people who are really just trying to engage in politics," Bates said. "Muslim Americans have just as big of a right and responsibility to participate in the political process as anyone else."

Bates said faith groups have trained more than 1,000 people this year. The representatives' remarks seem to have energized more voters to turn out for caucusing. A phone bank Thursday night aims to reach an additional 3,000 voters.

"This notion to infiltrate -- this word that's getting thrown around, that Muslim people want to infiltrate the political system -- I would just challenge people to really consider, what is the difference between infiltrating and participating in the political arena?" she said. "We need to really talk about what we're saying and what we mean. Because words do have power, but the reality is, you can't infiltrate a system that's open to the public."

Posted by orrinj at 4:37 AM


Who is Carter Page? Subject Of Nunes Memo Has Ties To Russia -- And Spies  (Nicole Goodkind, 2/02/18,  Newsweek)

Page's work in Russia began in the late 1990s, when he briefly worked for the Eurasia Group, a consulting firm that advises banks and multinational corporations. He left abruptly after three months.  

"It was very clear he was ideologically very strongly pro-Kremlin, which wasn't at all clear when he interviewed. As a result, he wasn't a good fit at Eurasia Group," Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, told The Guardian in 2017.

Bremmer even called Page "the most wackadoodle" Eurasia Group alum on Twitter.

Page would go on to get an MBA from New York University and work at Merrill Lynch, including at their Moscow office between 2004 and 2007. While there, he claimed to have worked on billions of dollars worth of transactions with Gazprom, a state-owned oil and gas company. Individuals involved in the trades have downplayed his role.

But investment banking wasn't Page's only contact with Russia: A Russian spy tried to recruit Page as an asset in 2013. Page--who says he thought the spy was a businessman--provided him with publicly available energy-related documents.

The man and two other operatives later decided that while "enthusiastic," Page was an "idiot," and not worth their time. That spring, Page had his first brush with FBI counterintelligence agents, who interviewed him about his contacts. The Russians were charged in a criminal case in 2015, though Page was not identified as their object of interest until April 2017.

When questioned by The Wall Street Journal about his 2013 meeting with investigators, Page said that he discussed his research on international politics "at length" and criticized the U.S. government's treatment of Russia.

Page began advising the Trump campaign in 2016. Then, the newly minted foreign policy advisor flew to Moscow that July to deliver a speech at Russia's New Economic School. This, too, caught the eye of the FBI. Page delivered a blistering critique of U.S. foreign policy.

"Washington and other Western capitals have impeded potential progress through their often hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change," he said. 

On the other hand, he was on the lower end of wackadoodle on Donald's staff.
Posted by orrinj at 4:24 AM


Release the Second Memo: How Democrats should respond to the release of the classified Nunes talking points. (JONATHAN ZASLOFF, JAN 31, 2018, Slate)

How can Democrats respond? There is one path of maximal resistance that would likely be highly contentious but also highly effective: Use the Constitution to play tit for tat.

The speech or debate clause of the Constitution (Article I, Section 6, Clause 1) provides that "for any Speech or Debate in either House, [members of Congress] shall not be questioned in any other Place." An unbroken two-centuries-old tradition has rightfully interpreted this provision as forbidding prosecution or lawsuits against a legislator for speeches made on the floor or in committee.

Democrats must make clear that if the memo is released, they will take to the floor or the committee and release their own memos into the record, relying on and quoting confidential information if need be. If such information reveals that President Trump obstructed justice, or that the Trump Organization is propped up by laundered Russian money, or White House aides lied to law enforcement, or Jared Kushner agreed to lift Russian sanctions in exchange for Russian election assistance, or anything else, then so be it. The threat to reveal a truth far more damaging than Nunes' cooked-up memo might get Trump and the Republicans to reconsider their game of high-stakes chicken with the rule of law. And Democrats will be immune from any legal retribution.