October 1, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 9:55 PM


Barr Went to Rome to Hear a Secret Tape from Joseph Mifsud, the Professor Who Helped Ignite the Russia Probe (Barbie Latza Nadeau, 10.01.19, daily Beast)

The Daily Beast has learned that Barr and Durham were especially interested in what the Italian secret service knew about Joseph Mifsud, the erstwhile professor from Malta who had allegedly promised then candidate Donald Trump's campaign aide George Papadopoulos he could deliver Russian "dirt" on Hillary Clinton. The Italian Justice Ministry public records show that Mifsud had applied for police protection in Italy after disappearing from Link University where he worked and, in doing so, had given a taped deposition to explain just why people might want to harm him. 

A source in the Italian Ministry of Justice, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told The Daily Beast that Barr and Durham were played the tape. A second source within the Italian government also confirmed to The Daily Beast that Barr and Durham were shown other evidence the Italians had on Mifsud. 

Ever since Robert Mueller concluded his probe in March 2019, Barr has worked to blunt its impact--and investigate the investigators behind it. Barr assigned Durham to look into the Mueller probe's origins. And the Attorney General's name is listed in the whistleblower complaint about the July 25 call Trump made to the Ukrainian president to pressure him into investigating political rival Joe Biden. According to the complaint, Barr was directly involved in the president's attempt to "solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election." The minutiae of his involvement are feeding a scandal gripping Washington that changes by the nano-second. [...]

The Italian intelligence community had Mifsud on their radar for some years before he got involved in the Trump campaign's troubles. His affiliations with both the Link University of Rome and London Center of International Law Practice--both often affiliated with western diplomacy and foreign intelligence agencies--made him an easy target. So did the slew of apartments he owned in Malta that are allegedly tied to a racket involving Russians buying Maltese passports for cheap. 

Malta academic in Trump probe has history of vanishing acts (RAPHAEL SATTER, October 22, 2018, AP)

Mifsud [...]  was in no position to be anyone's mentor. The Ph.D. program was bogus and Mifsud would soon be ousted in a scandal.

Ruvina eventually got a refund for the two weeks she spent at the university in 2012 and began her dissertation elsewhere. Mifsud has since shot to international prominence as a lynchpin of the investigation into Donald Trump's presidential campaign and its ties to the Russian government.

A court document made public last year by U.S. prosecutors alleged that it was Mifsud who dropped the first hint of the hacking that rocked the 2016 U.S. election when he met Trump adviser George Papadopoulos on April 26, 2016, in London and told him the Kremlin had "thousands of emails" on his Democratic presidential rival, Hillary Clinton.

An Associated Press investigation of Mifsud's career has uncovered an international trail of mismanagement and financial problems stretching over a decade. It doesn't answer the key question of whether Mifsud was acting on behalf of Russian interests -- wittingly or otherwise -- when he allegedly passed the tip to the Trump campaign team, but it does sketch out a bizarre academic career punctuated by scandals and disappearing acts.

Posted by orrinj at 9:28 PM


Democratic polls show competitive House races in Texas (Bridget Bowman, 10/01/19, Roll Call)
Democrats are targeting GOP Rep. Michael McCaul in Texas' 10th District. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A handful of Republican-held House seats in the Texas suburbs represent fertile ground for competitive races in 2020, according to recent Democratic polling. 

The surveys in six GOP districts, shared first with CQ Roll Call, are a sign that Democratic outside groups are willing to spend resources in the Lone Star State, where party leaders believe they can make gains next year. The polls were commissioned by House Majority Forward, the nonprofit arm of House Majority PAC, a super PAC tied to the chamber's Democratic leadership.

Three of the districts surveyed have GOP incumbents running for reelection, including Reps. Michael McCaul in the 10th District, Chip Roy in the 21st and John Carter in the 31st. Polls were also conducted in three open-seat races in the 22nd, 23rd and 24th districts. Republicans won all six seats in 2018, all by margins of 5 points or less.

There is nothing in a Trump re-=election campaign to help the GOP. The sooner the party returns to Reaganism from Nativism the sooner it can begin recovering.

Posted by orrinj at 9:21 PM


Pompeo Pushed Out His Own Ukraine Rep to Squash a Growing Scandal (Erin Banco, 10.01.19, The Daily Beast)

When President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani appeared on cable news programs last week, he deflected questions about his work in Ukraine and instead hammered home one talking point over and over again: The State Department knew he was trying to dig up dirt on 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter. 

Giuliani waved his phone on air, flashing text messages between himself and State Department representatives, saying it was the department that connected him to a close adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Giuliani's on-air appearances threw the department into a tizzy, forcing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to try to quell a bubbling internal crisis of confidence, according to three senior U.S. officials. For Pompeo, to solve the problem meant to find someone to blame, and there was only one individual who fit the mold, according to those same sources: former U.S. representative for Ukraine negotiations Kurt Volker.

Volker resigned on Friday. But despite his resignation, the State Department has scrambled to correct course, according to these same U.S. officials, especially after news that Pompeo was on the now-infamous call between President Trump and Zelensky in July. Pompeo had previously denied knowing about it on national television. On top of that, three congressional committees subpoenaed Pompeo for documents related to Trump and Giuliani's work in Ukraine and demanded that five current and former department officials appear for depositions.  [...]

Pompeo's plan appears to have backfired. Despite the secretary's efforts to block several of his current and former officials from speaking to Congress, Volker is set to go to Capitol Hill on Thursday with the backing of a cadre of current and former diplomats. Some of those diplomats spoke to The Daily Beast and requested anonymity because they feared reprisals from Pompeo and other Trump administration officials. 

...is that decent men sacrificed to work at Donald's side so they could act as a restraint on him.  

Posted by orrinj at 9:16 PM


Turkey set to reform controversial laws used in crackdown on free speech (Ragip Soylu, 1 October 2019, Middle East Eye)

Controversial laws accused of muzzling free speech and targeting opposition are set to be reformed after Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) introduced a new draft package to parliament on Tuesday.

The reforms intend to reduce the mass convictions handed to individuals over charges such as insulting the president and disseminating terrorist propaganda, which have become increasingly common in recent years.

Parliament, which opens on Tuesday, is set to debate on the amendments as the first order of business.

With the AKP and its allies holding a parliamentary majority, officials expect the draft legislation to be quickly ratified after minor changes in the parliamentary committees. The opposition parties consider the move as positive but not yet satisfactory.

One of the central aims of the package is meeting the criteria set by the European Union that would allow Turkish citizens visa-free travel to Europe. Brussels has demanded a change in the Turkish counter-terror law that would slash its scope.

The new law that amends Article 7 makes it clear that expression of opinion within news dissemination purposes and criticism cannot constitute a crime.

Posted by orrinj at 8:54 PM


Intelligence Inspector General to GOP: You Know Nothing of My Work (Jonathan Chait, 10/01/19, New York)

Last Thursday, Sean Davis of the conservative news site The Federalist broke an explosive revelation. The Intelligence Community had secretly changed a requirement in its whistle-blower statute to allow whistle-blowers to report secondhand allegations, whereas firsthand knowledge had been required before. This suspicious rule change allegedly allowed the whistle-blower to accuse President Trump of misconduct despite lacking firsthand knowledge of said conduct. The shocking exposure of yet another Deep State plot quickly became the foundation for Trump's defenders as they fanned out across the media.

"The hearsay rule was changed just a short period of time before the complaint was filed," claimed Senator Lindsey Graham. The whistle-blower "has no firsthand knowledge," charged Congressman Jim Jordan on CNN, and when host Jake Tapper noted that firsthand knowledge is not required to file a complaint, Jordan shot back that this was only "because they changed the form. You used to." Meanwhile, Trump demanded, in all caps, "WHO CHANGED THE LONG STANDING WHISTLEBLOWER RULES JUST BEFORE SUBMITTAL OF THE FAKE WHISTLEBLOWER REPORT?"

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy claimed, "Just days before the Ukraine whistleblower came forward, the IC secretly removed that requirement from the complaint form," and promised that Republicans would "not rest until we have answers."

They had answers. They just didn't like them. Actual experts in intelligence law immediately pointed out that Davis's reporting was false and was based on a simple misreading of a change in the wording of a form.

Then yesterday, the Intelligence Community's inspector general, Trump appointee Michael Atkinson, posted a short statement online correcting Davis. Using heavily bureaucratized language and the patient and polite tone city officials use to assure the local gadfly that the water department is not sending alien nodes through his plumbing, the I.G. made a few basic points. First, the rules governing whistle-blowers have not changed. At all.

Those dang IG's, they were the great White hope!

Posted by orrinj at 8:49 PM


Poll: Only 4 in 10 Republicans think Trump mentioned Biden on Ukraine call even though he acknowledged doing so (Maureen Groppe, 10/01/19, USA TODAY)

A new poll shows that only four in 10 Republicans believe President Donald Trump talked to the Ukrainian president about investigating political rival Joe Biden, even though Trump has acknowledged doing so.

Declassified by order of the President
September 24, 2019
SUBJECT: Telephone Conversation with President Zelenskyy of Ukraine
Participants: President Zelenskyy of Ukraine
Notetakers: The White House Situation Room
Date, Time July 25, 2019, 9:03-9:33 am EDT
and Place: Residence [...]

The President: Good because I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that's really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved. Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what's happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great. The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that. The other thing, There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it... It sounds horrible to me.

Posted by orrinj at 8:29 PM


Judge tells DOJ to charge McCabe or drop investigation (RACHEL FRAZIN, 10/01/19, The Hill)
A judge told federal prosecutors on Monday that they needed to charge former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe or stop investigating whether he lied to authorities.

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:19 PM


Trump's grip on GOP Senate may come loose (Juan Williams, 9/30/19, The Hill)

Next year, 23 Senate Republicans will be up for reelection with Trump at the top of the ticket.

Murphy warned that, given Trump's antics, Senate Republicans are thinking they are "going to lose Colorado with Cory Gardner. We're going to lose Maine with Susan Collins. We're going to lose Arizona with Martha McSally. And the Democrats will put the Senate very much in play."

At one time, Trump kept Capitol Hill Republicans in line by threatening to have his supporters back a primary challenge to any dissenting GOP member seeking reelection.

Now, that threat has to be weighed against the increasing fear of a weakened president handing the Senate to Democrats.

There is evidence that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sees impeachment imperiling his majority next year.

Last week, McConnell showed independence from Trump by coming out publicly in support of continuing military aid to Ukraine.

More important, he also pushed the White House to share the whistleblower complaint with Congress.

And McConnell has to deal with a well-known Senate Republican daring to separate himself from Trump on the Ukraine scandal -- Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah).

Romney said he is "deeply troubled" to see reports of Trump pressuring the Ukrainian president to damage Biden. And he later told reporters: "I can't imagine being in the Senate or in any other position of responsibility and looking around to see who's with you. You stand for what you believe in." [...]

But Romney is not the only Republican willing to speak out.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) -- who was recently endorsed for reelection by Trump -- is on the record as saying Republicans "ought not just circle the wagons."

Posted by orrinj at 6:11 PM


NYC Poverty Level Drops To Record Lows, But Income Inequality Persists (ELIZABETH KIM, OCT. 1, 2019, GOTHAMIST)

New York City's poverty rate has declined to historic lows, amid increases in both median household income and jobs , according new census data.

On Tuesday, the de Blasio administration said the city's poverty rate fell to 17.3 percent in 2018, a drop of 3.5 percent since 2013. The poverty rate is the lowest rate for the city since the American Community Survey began releasing annual data in 2006, according to the mayor's press release. City Hall also said that based on its analysis of decennial census data, the poverty level is also the lowest since the 1970s.

In 2016, the city's poverty threshold for a household consisting of two adults and two children was measured as $32,402.

Given the record low unemployment rate in NYC and a $13.50 minimum wage, one parent could stay home and the other work two jobs and you'd have a family income close to $60k.

Posted by orrinj at 6:07 PM


Amber Guyger Convicted of Murder in Shooting of Botham Jean in His Own Apartment (MOLLY OLMSTEAD, OCT 01, 2019, Slate)

Amber Guyger--the Dallas police officer who, in 2018, fatally shot Botham Jean, a black man, after allegedly mistaking his apartment for her own--has been found guilty of murder, the jury announced Tuesday.

Posted by orrinj at 6:02 PM


As Steelmaker Shuts Plant, Governor Points to Tariffs (Jeremy Hill, October 1, 2019, Bloomberg)

Bayou Steel Group filed for bankruptcy Monday, threatening hundreds of jobs after the company ran low on cash and defaulted on its debt.

The steelmaker idled most of its operations and sought Chapter 11 protection in Delaware, it said in a statement. Close to 400 workers may be impacted by the shutdown of Bayou's plant near New Orleans, Natalie Robottom, a local government official, said.

The company sought protection from creditors after a "severe lack in liquidity" led to a default on its senior secured debt, according to the statement. Bayou, which produces steel products like reinforcing bars and beams, will offload its remaining inventory and hopes to sell its assets to a buyer who will restart operations, the company said.

Bayou Steel is "particularly vulnerable" to tariffs because it uses imported scrap metal, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said in a statement following the layoffs. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:52 PM


Former Infowars Editor Says Staff Laughed When He Asked Not To Lie About Sandy Hook (Sebastian Murdock, 10/01/19, HuffPo)
A 13-year veteran of conspiracy website Infowars said in a recent court deposition that he repeatedly attempted to warn staff not to spread obvious lies about the parents of Sandy Hook, only to be met with laughter and ridicule.

"I must have been in that room four to five times, at least, and only to be received with laughter and jokes," Rob Jacobson, who worked at Infowars from 2004 to 2017 doing video production, testified.

What's left of the Right if you take away the obvious lies... 

Posted by orrinj at 5:30 PM


Giuliani turns on 'honest' Ukrainian prosecutor who says Bidens did nothing illegal (Heidi Przybyla and Allan Smith, 10/01/19, NBC News)

For much of this year, Rudy Giuliani was counting on Ukraine's former chief prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, to reopen a dormant investigation into an energy company where Joe Biden's son, Hunter, had once served as a board member.

In an early May phone call with NBC, Giuliani called Lutsenko a "much more honest guy" than the previous, Kremlin-aligned prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, whom the Ukrainian Parliament sacked for failing to crack down on corruption.

Lutsenko recently told NBC News the two talked about ten times and the New York Times reported that Giuliani's allegations that Joe Biden's family engaged in wrongdoing in Ukraine were based on a series of meetings with Lutsenko.

In a White House transcript of a July 25 phone call, President Trump seemed to admonish the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, for firing Lutsenko: "I heard the prosecutor was treated very badly and he was a very fair prosecutor so good luck with everything."

But in a series of interviews with NBC and other news outlets this weekend, Lutsenko said he could find no evidence of wrongdoing involving the Bidens and violations of Ukrainian law....

Posted by orrinj at 5:27 PM


Schwab Cuts Commissions To Zero, As Free Trading Edges Toward The Norm (PETER TALBOT, 10/01/19, NPR)

Wall Street is in a race to the bottom. On Tuesday, Charles Schwab said it will slash its commissions for online trades to zero in response to looming competition from app-based upstarts like Robinhood.

Posted by orrinj at 2:30 PM


Posted by orrinj at 2:21 PM


As drinking declines, nonalcoholic beer gets a slick rebrand: Brooklyn Brewery is betting better taste--and looks--will lure more sober-curious drinkers. (LIZ STINSON, 10/01/19, Fast Company)

Statistically speaking, people have been ready for something like Special Effects for a while. The demand for nonalcoholic beverages has been steadily growing over the last five years; meanwhile, beer sales have flattened. One report found that while NA beers claim just 5% of the current global beer market, the category is experiencing growth of 3.9% on average annually, making it the fastest growing segment of the beer market. Consumer habits back that up. Research from Brooklyn Brewery found 44% of 21- to 34-year-old beer drinkers (read: a very monetizable demographic) actively take time off from drinking alcohol. Fifty-four percent of beer drinkers are looking for ways to reduce their alcohol consumption.

Posted by orrinj at 2:14 PM


While Trump Congratulates Communist China on Its 70th Anniversary, Senate Republicans Condemn It (JOHN MCCORMACK, October 1, 2019 , National Review)
President Donald Trump marked the 70th anniversary of the "People's Republic" with the following congratulatory tweet: "Congratulations to President Xi and the Chinese people on the 70th Anniversary of the People's Republic of China!" But Senate Republicans have marked the anniversary with condemnation of the regime. Missouri senator Josh Hawley: "Seventy years ago, the Chinese Community Party seized power from the Chinese people. Since then, its ruthless rule has resulted in the deaths of millions of its own citizens." Arkansas senator Tom Cotton: "To see the price of the PRC's anniversary celebration, look no further than what's happening in Hong Kong: a ceaseless war against those who wish to live in freedom. From the Great Leap Forward to the Cultural Revolution to the camps in Xinjiang today, it has been a ghoulish 70 years of Chinese Communist Party control." Nebraska senator Ben Sasse: "Today Chinese tyrants celebrated 70 years of communist oppression with their typically brutal symbolism: by sending a police officer to shoot a pro-democracy protester at point-blank range. The freedom-seekers in Hong Kong mourn this anniversary, and the American people stand with them against those who deny their God-given dignity."
One wonders if Senator Sasse has removed all his mirrors.
Posted by orrinj at 2:08 PM


U.S. manufacturing activity fell to its lowest level since the end of the Great Recession in September (The Week, 10/01/19)

The Institute for Supply Management reported Tuesday that the industry's activity hit its lowest level in September since June 2009, when the country was finally emerging from the Great Recession, even though the U.S. economy continues to grow overall.

Well, he did set out to reverse Obama.

Posted by orrinj at 12:58 PM


Rashida Tlaib Confirms House Ethics Probe Into 2018 Payments To Herself (Amanda Prestigiacomo, 10/01/19, Daily wire)

The House Ethics Committee is reviewing payments Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) made to herself following her 2018 election win, the freshman congresswoman's office confirmed Monday. 

While candidates are permitted to draw a salary from their campaign coffers from the time they win their primary until election day, Tlaib paid herself tens of thousands of dollars in two payments following the election on November 6. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:53 PM


Grassley: Whistleblower Followed the Law and Should Be Heard (JOHN MCCORMACK, October 1, 2019, National Review)

Iowa Republican senator Chuck Grassley issued the following statement today:

"This person appears to have followed the whistleblower protection laws and ought to be heard out and protected."

Of course, there is no purpose served by hearing from the whistleblower.  Donald's own transcript demonstrates his guilt. All that is required is impeachment and the vote.

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 AM


The Impeachment Meltdown Begins (MICHAEL SIEGEL, OCTOBER 1, 2019, Ordinary Times)

Normally, I ignore the Presidential tweets. I assume that they are mostly a game, designed to rile up his base or, more often, muddy the political waters so that his wrong-doing and incompetence are concealed in Whataboutist complaints about Democrats. And I do think a lot his defenders are playing that water-muddying game. Rudy Giuliani, for example, is talking about how the whistleblower complaint is "hearsay" even though, as a lawyer and former prosecutor, he knows perfectly well that hearsay is often admissible in Court, let alone a Congressional inquiry.

But I don't think that's the case here. I don't think this is a carefully calculated smokescreen or Trump grinning inanely while riling up his followers. I think we're getting a very real peek into the President's id, an insight into what he is really like.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Australian interest rates cut to record low of 0.75 per cent (SBS, 10/01/19)
Australia's interest rates have dipped below one per cent for the first time, but the Reserve Bank is already preparing to cut them further if the economy remains stagnant. [...]

"Taken together, recent outcomes suggest that the Australian economy can sustain lower rates of unemployment and underemployment."

The low wage growth means Australia hasn't met the RBA's inflation targets...

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Ex-leader of Austria's far-right Freedom Party to quit politics (Deutsche-Welle, 10/01/19)

Strache led the Freedom Party for 14 years. He also served as vice-chancellor from 2017 to 2019 before he was forced from the government after video footage emerged of him appearing to offer public contracts in exchange for campaign help from what turned out to be a fake Russian backer.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why does Donald Trump's phone call to Scott Morrison matter? (SBS, 10/01/19)

President Trump has continually condemned the Mueller inquiry into possible Russian meddling in the 2016 US election as a "witch hunt".

But a meeting between former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Trump campaign aid George Papadopoulos in May 2016, is believed to have helped trigger an initial FBI inquiry into the matter.

At a London bar, Mr Downer was allegedly told about Russian material that could damage Donald Trump's political rival Hillary Clinton - but the Trump campaign aid disputes this version of events.

Mr Downer informed the Australian government about the details of their conversation, which were later relayed to United States authorities.

He has confirmed having this conversation with Mr Papadopoulos.

"I've got nothing to say about it beyond what I've ever said," he told ABC Radio on Tuesday.

A year on, former FBI director Robert Mueller was appointed to lead an investigation into the alleged election interference and potential links between the Russian government and Trump's campaign team.

The Mueller report became a source of hope for President's Trump's political rivals believing the investigation could lead to his downfall.

It implicated 34 members of Trump's campaign team with wrongdoing through indictments, convictions and guilty pleas.

But the final report found insufficient evidence to determine if Trump's campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia.

Its final 448 pages of findings did not reach a conclusion on whether President Trump had committed obstruction of justice through the investigation.

At the time, President Trump said the probe had found "no collusion with Russia" and backed his "complete and total exoneration".

But Mr Mueller later told reporters: "if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so."

Attorney General William Barr launched a counter inquiry into the origins of the Russia investigation in May this year. 

It came after President Trump urged his attorney general to examine the role of the FBI and intelligence agencies and even Australia in setting off the investigation into alleged Russian links.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Intelligence community watchdog refutes Trump's whistleblower claims (Rebecca Falconer, 10/01/19, Axios)

The intelligence community inspector general issued a statement Monday refuting false claims by President Trump and his allies about the whistleblower whose complaint on his interactions with Ukraine triggered a formal impeachment inquiry.

Why it matters: It's rare for the Office of the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community to issue such a statement. But it did so after the president and loyalist lawmakers made false claims while attacking the whistleblower's credibility over the complaint concerning Trump urging Ukraine investigate his political rival Joe Biden and his family.

All that hope the Trumpbots invested in the IGs and it turns out that Donald is their target too. Maybe you don't want to get your analysis from Rush, Sean, Donald and Solomon?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Old Friends Threaten Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Reign ( Laura Pitel, OCT 01 2019, OXY)

When Ahmet Davutoglu was forced out as Turkey's prime minister in May 2016, he pledged eternal loyalty to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "I will sustain my faithful relationship with our president until my last breath," vowed Erdogan's long-serving foot soldier, despite the well-known tensions between the two. "No one has ever heard -- and will ever hear -- a single word against our president come from my mouth."

Fast-forward three years and the bookish, bespectacled academic has broken that silence to emerge as an outspoken critic of Erdogan's government. On Sept. 13, Davutoglu resigned from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) after being threatened with expulsion by the group he once chaired. The 60-year-old is one of several former ministers to have quit the party in recent months. And he is leading one of the two factions plotting to form their own movements to challenge Erdogan. The second is led by Ali Babacan, a 52-year-old former economy minister and deputy prime minister, who has the backing of another onetime Erdogan ally, former AKP President Abdullah Gül.

The veteran politicians are expected to officially launch new parties before the end of the year. Senior figures in both camps say they have been driven by growing alarm at what they see as Erdogan's increasingly oppressive tactics toward opponents, his harsh nationalistic rhetoric, economic mismanagement, disregard for the rule of law and apparent unwillingness to listen to those urging him to change course.

"We thought maybe he would get the message," says a senior AKP dissident. "But there were always excuses....  'If we don't do [something] now, we will regret it in the future.'"

The splintering is significant not only for the unprecedented break that it would represent in the AKP ranks but also for the potential damage it could inflict on Erdogan's 17-year dominance of the national political stage.

In a country where the voting population can be roughly divided into pro- and anti-Erdogan blocks, even shaving a small chunk off the AKP alliance -- which won 52.6 percent in last year's presidential election -- could radically alter the political landscape.