September 7, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 PM


Papadopoulos sentenced to 14 days in prison (JOSH GERSTEIN and KYLE CHENEY, 09/07/2018, Politico)

Friday's hearing took a dramatic and unexpected turn when Papadopoulos' attorney, Thomas Breen, lit into Trump, arguing that the president himself was more culpable than his client.

Trump, Breen said, "hindered this investigation more than George Papadopoulos ever could," by calling the FBI's Russia inquiry a "witch hunt" and casting doubt on credible allegations of wrongdoing by his associates.

"The president of the United States, the commander in chief, told the world that this was fake news," Breen said, contrasting this with Mueller's "professional" and "well-prepared" team. [...]

Breen's confrontational approach toward Trump in the courtroom on Friday was sharply at odds with public efforts in recent weeks by Papadopoulos' wife to argue that Papadopoulos was the victim of a set-up involving U.S. intelligence and the FBI. Simona Mangiante Papadopoulos, who was in court with her husband on Friday, has accused the FBI of using confidential informants to bait her husband into incriminating the Trump campaign.

Mangiante Papadopoulos also did TV interviews seeking a pardon for her husband, and publicly appealed for new lawyers to try to withdraw her husband's guilty plea.

But George Papadopoulos' lawyers made no effort Friday to point fingers at Mueller's office or the FBI. In fact, they flatly rejected any suggestion of impropriety by the prosecution.

"Our firm would in a second stand up if we saw prosecutorial or governmental misconduct. We have seen no such thing," Breen said in response to a question from POLITICO at a brief news conference after the sentencing. "We have seen no entrapment. We have seen no set-up by U.S. intelligence people. ... Everything we saw, they've been on the square." [...]

During the court hearing Friday, Breen was tough on his own client, but also sought to stress his youth and inexperience. He called Papadopoulos "naive" and "a fool."

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 PM


In Defense of NYT's Anonymous: Government "Stewardship" as a Guard Against Threats to Democratic Order (Daniel J. Rosenthal, September 7, 2018, Just Security)

[t]here is a giant exception to the general rule of rote compliance by the federal bureaucracy to the policy choices of the political leadership. That exception grows out of these agents' responsibility as stewards of their offices. The concept of stewardship by civil servants has traditionally referred to an officeholder's responsibility to take action that advances the public rather than personal interests.

But good stewards not only faithfully do what they are told, they also protect the institutions themselves. They are bestowed with a power and duty to "take care" of something; in other words, to prevent it from breaking down or failing entirely. Under that conception of stewardship, in the most extreme cases, these individuals can and must also refuse to advance attempts to sabotage the very ability of our system to function. Civil servants should think of their responsibility of stewardship as akin to guardians of our system.  They should give the political leadership the space to make policy choices - even drastic ones with which many in the bureaucracy may fundamentally disagree. That's the natural and proper outcome of elections.  But these guardians of our system should remain vigilant against efforts to change the very foundations of our democracy - changes, particularly when made outside of public view, that undermine the ability of the democratic process to function. In the face of such moments, it is their task to hold their ground, throw roadblocks, or take any other lawful action to interfere with the implementation of such anti-democratic changes.

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 PM


DNC Lawyers Raise Prospect That Papadopoulos's U.K. Contact May Be Dead (Joe Schneider, September 7, 2018, Bloomberg)

The Democratic National Committee, which is suing Russia, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks for interfering in the 2016 election, said in a court filing Friday that it believes all the defendants in the case have been served with the complaint, "with the exception of Mifsud (who is missing and may be deceased)." 

THE CASE FOR OBSTRUCTION (James Risen, May 31 2018, The Intercept)

ONE OF THE most important things to understand about Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating the Trump-Russia case, is that he helped nail New York mob boss John Gotti, the gangster known as the "Teflon Don."

One of the most important things to understand about Donald Trump, the con man and hustler who happens to be president, is that he comes from the mob-tinged New York real estate industry and knows exactly what happened to Gotti and other mob bosses felled by racketeering prosecutions waged by the likes of Mueller.

Trump knows that Mueller is now conducting the same kind of racketeering investigation in the Trump-Russia case, and it frightens him.

Mueller is approaching his Trump-Russia investigation in the same way he and his fellow Justice Department prosecutors went after Gotti and other mobsters. He is rolling up Trump loyalists. He is slowly but surely climbing the ladder from low-level operatives to more prominent figures, and holding the threat of prison over their heads to get them to flip and talk about people higher up the ladder. Eventually, Mueller's racketeering case will make its way to Trump. [...]

The answer, unequivocally, is yes.

There are many open questions about other aspects of the Trump-Russia narrative, but not about this. Trump has been trying to block the investigation from the very start. The only real questions about this aspect of the case are whether Trump's efforts to impede the inquiry will meet the legal definition of obstruction of justice, whether he will be criminally charged with obstruction of justice, and whether he will face impeachment in Congress.

And one more: Will Trump fire Mueller if he thinks he is getting too close to making the case for obstruction?

Trump's efforts to derail the investigation have been very public and are becoming increasingly unbalanced.

Trump's current focus on what he calls "Spygate" is straight from the playbook he has been using since the investigation began. He is trying to distract the public from the substance of the investigation by publicly spouting conspiracy theories and other wild claims.

During the 2016 campaign, the FBI asked Stefan Halper, an American who was an emeritus professor at the University of Cambridge, to act as an informant in its fledgling investigation of Russian election interference and possible ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow. Halper, a former Republican operative, was asked by the FBI to talk to Trump foreign policy advisers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, both of whom the bureau believed were in contact with the Russian government.

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 PM


Trump: Justice Department should investigate anonymous op-ed author (Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker, September 7, 2018, NY Times)

President Trump called Friday for the Justice Department to investigate the anonymous author of an op-ed depicting a "resistance" inside the government and said he is considering taking legal action against the New York Times for publishing it.

It doesn't get any better than the reality that the DOJ sleeper cell will Resist this order, demonstrating the accuracy of Anonymous..

Posted by orrinj at 5:02 PM


Study questions Iran-al Qaeda ties, despite U.S. allegations (Warren Strobel, 9/07/18, Reuters) 

The bin Laden files, including a 19-page document not released until last November, show that Iran was uncomfortable with the militants' presence on its soil, said Nelly Lahoud, the study's author and an expert on al Qaeda.

At first, Lahoud said, Iran tried to move as many as possible to third countries.

Later, it detained al Qaeda members, including members of bin Laden's family, after they violated the terms of their stay, which included a ban on phone communications, the study says.

The militant group also viewed Tehran with deep mistrust, the study shows.

Iran's policies tightened even further after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, and detained al Qaeda members were forbidden from leaving the country, it says.

"Iranian authorities decided to keep our brothers as a bargaining chip," the unnamed al Qaeda operative wrote in the document, which was dated January 2007.

Lahoud, who has studied the bin Laden documents since the first batch was released in 2012, said she looked for evidence that al Qaeda and Iran had operational ties in plotting terror attacks.

"This I did not find," she said.

Posted by orrinj at 1:45 PM


It Wasn't Me: Pence, Pompeo and a Parade of Administration Officials Deny Writing Op-Ed (Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman and Eileen Sullivan, Sept. 6, 2018, NY Times)

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, an ally of Mr. Trump's, recommended that the president force members of his administration to take polygraph examinations, and there was at least briefly some discussion of that among advisers to the president. Another option mentioned by people close to Mr. Trump was asking senior officials to sign sworn affidavits that could be used in court if necessary. One outside adviser said the White House had a list of about 12 suspects. [...]

Several West Wing officials looked skeptically at Mr. Pence's staff and the vice president's denial did not persuade them.

Posted by orrinj at 1:25 PM


Trump calls for U.S. probe of NY Times after critical anonymous column  (Reuters, 9/07/18) 

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday called on the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the New York Times after the news outlet published a column this week by an anonymous administration official questioning his fitness for office.

..why Anonymous and the Resistance can be said to be defending the Constitution.

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 8:00 AM


Happy 88th birthday to Sonny Rollins, the WGLJM

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 AM


An Open Letter to the NYT's Anonymous Senior Trump Administration Official (DAVID FRENCH, September 6, 2018, National Review)

Let's put this as bluntly as possible: If you're actively defying the president to pursue your own preferred policies, you're subverting an American presidential election. If you're withholding from the American people actual hard evidence of presidential unfitness, then you're placing your own career before your country. If you're lying or badly exaggerating the facts for the thrill of constant media contact or the approval of your peers, then you're just despicable.

That is blunt, but it's not entirely clear that it is correct.  Given that the resistance members simultaneously swore an oath to defend the Constitution and serve an Executive who is subverting it, resignation or acquiescence is not the obvious course.  Indeed, either may well violate their oath.  Note that no one swears to defend election results.