May 14, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 PM


Michael Flynn's Fired Lawyers Just Filed Court Papers to Reappear in His Case (JERRY LAMBE, May 14th, 2020, Law & Crime)

The federal judge overseeing Michael Flynn's criminal prosecution has directed the law firm that Flynn fired to reappear as an interested party in the controversial proceeding. On Thursday, that firm complied by filing a notice of appearance.

When Donald and the Trumpbots fire lawyers it is always and only because the firms refuse to abet dishonest/illegal activity.

Posted by orrinj at 5:46 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:15 PM


Roger Stone Judge Orders White House to Turn Over Ukraine Emails Being Withheld from the Public (JERRY LAMBE, MAY 13, 2020, Law & Crime)

A federal judge in Washington, D.C. has ordered the White House to turn over 20 emails directly relating to President Donald Trump's decision to withhold congressionally appropriated military aid from Ukraine. The administration has refused to produce the communications thus far, claiming the documents are protected from public release by executive privilege.

The order, issued by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, stems from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by the New York Times which sought communications between Michael Duffey, Principal Associate Director for National Security Programs at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and Robert Blair, a senior advisor to then-Acting White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney.

Posted by orrinj at 11:03 AM


The Secrets Flynn Was Desperate to Conceal (David Frum, 5/08/20, The Atlantic)

During the 2016 election, the Obama administration declined to hold Russia to account for its intervention. That's a story in itself. On December 29, 2016, however, the Obama administration did at last announce punitive sanctions on Russia.

The imminence of these sanctions triggered a flurry of communications between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. The Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, reached out to Flynn on December 28. Flynn was vacationing in the Dominican Republic, but on December 29, he spoke multiple times with Kislyak.

On December 30, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would not respond to the sanctions. That same day, Trump tweeted his thanks: "Great move on delay (by V. Putin) - I always knew he was very smart!" Another round of calls followed between Flynn and Kislyak.

What exactly happened here? At first, Trump's team denied that anything untoward had occurred. On January 15, 2017, Vice President-elect Mike Pence appeared on CBS's Face the Nation to assure the country that Flynn and Kislyak had not discussed the Obama sanctions. "He had sent a text to the Russian ambassador to express not only Christmas wishes but sympathy for the loss of life in the airplane crash that took place," Pence said, referring to a December 25, 2016, accident that had killed 92 people. "It was strictly coincidental that they had a conversation. They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States' decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia."

Pence's statement was not true. Flynn lied to the FBI about the calls. Back in 2017, Pence insisted that Flynn had lied to him too.

Flynn's lies mattered not because of some technicality about the Logan Act, the ancient and much-disregarded law forbidding private diplomacy. Flynn's lies mattered because they may have concealed a deal between Trump and Russia over sanctions.

The Flynn-Kislyak call was recorded by U.S. intelligence agencies. The judge in Flynn's case ordered that the call be released. The Department of Justice successfully resisted the order by arguing that the recording was irrelevant to Flynn's conviction and sentencing.

And so Congress and the public remain unaware of what exactly was said to dissuade the Russians from retaliating in December 2016, and what--if anything--the Russians asked for in return. Congress and the public remain ignorant about whether Flynn acted on his own or was directed by President-elect Trump. Congress and the public remain uncertain whether Pence had himself been deceived when he delivered a false reassurance on CBS in January 2017--or whether he was part of the deceit.

Flynn's lies protected Trump and the Trump administration.

As important as it was to know who in the Obama Administration was actually doing their job and unmasking the evildoers, it's even more important that we see the transcript of the Russian communications with the Trump campaign and transition team.  Release everything unless you're hiding something.

Posted by orrinj at 10:57 AM


Appeals court greenlights emoluments suit against Trump (JOSH GERSTEIN, 05/14/2020, Politico)

A lawsuit accusing President Donald Trump of violating the Constitution by accepting foreign government money through his luxury Washington hotel can proceed to fact-gathering about Trump's profits, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.

The Richmond-based 4th Circuit Court of Appeals voted, 9-6, to reject Trump's bid to shut down the lawsuit the governments of Maryland and the District of Columbia brought alleging violations of the Constitution's emoluments clauses.

Trump, who has vigorously fought a series of similar lawsuits for years, will now need relief from the Supreme Court if he wants to block Maryland and D.C. from pressing demands for his business records as his re-election campaign gets into full swing.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Coronavirus Is Mutating. That's Not Necessarily Good or Bad.: Notions that the novel coronavirus is evolving into a more threatening or benign form prey on our ignorance and fear. (JEREMY DRAGHI & C. BRANDON OGBUNU 05.14.2020, Undark)

For the most part, respected evolutionary biologists have chosen to avoid weighing in on these controversies, opting instead to remain above the fray. This is surprising considering that evolutionary biologists are accustomed to debating creationists, and to the art of public discourse around contentious ideas. Their relative silence leaves a gap that less restrained commenters have rushed to fill: Seemingly every mutation in the novel coronavirus has been spun as a sign that the virus is either adapting to better reproduce and spread in its environment or becoming less harmful.

While genomic differences between different strains of the novel coronavirus are stark facts, our interpretation of those differences can be a wellspring of controversy. And right now, the media coverage of SARS-CoV-2 suggests that the American public fundamentally misunderstands how evolution works -- and how to distinguish between two of its key driving forces, adaptation and genetic drift. The latter represents a gradual accumulation of chance events that have no true consequences for how a virus behaves. And when a particular genetic strain appears to make great leaps in its ability to thrive and proliferate, it's often genetic drift, not adaptation, that's at play.

Researchers at the University of Glasgow drove this point home with a letter and formal critique of the National Science Review study on L and S type viruses. The Glasgow researchers argued that among the study's many technical faults was a fundamental one: The study had failed to test whether the overabundance of the L type could have occurred without changes in the virus' infectiousness. In other words, the researchers had failed to consider a null model -- a model that would have tested whether the patterns they saw in the data could have been caused by random chance.

In casinos, null models give the lie to the notion of "lucky days," showing us that each play is independent of the others: A slot machine is just a machine, and contains about as much magic as the flip of a coin. In science, null models can be used to discipline inferential leaps. They are a reminder that, in most cases, the headline-grabbing explanations are less likely to bear out than the boring ones.

Null models are especially critical for making sense of the mounds of genetic information being collected about SARS-CoV-2 evolution. Evolutionary biologists use the term "genetic drift" to capture the roles of chance and luck in an organism's survival and reproduction, and any good null model must account for these effects of chance. While random, the accumulation of genetic drift across generations can have some surprising consequences; one string of evolutionary luck can cause a biologically insignificant, or neutral, mutation to become predominant in a population. The revelation that most genetic differences among species are neutral was controversial for decades but has now become conventional wisdom. The lesson it offers for the present moment is that most commonly encountered mutations of the novel coronavirus will have absolutely no bearing on the pathogen's ability to infect or sicken humans.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


REVEALED: The secret US-Iran deal that installed Kadhimi in Baghdad (David Hearst, 14 May 2020, Middle East Eye)

The nomination of Mustafa al-Kadhimi as Iraqi prime minister was the result of a horse trade between the US and Iran in which Tehran agreed to back the former intelligence chief in return for an unfreezing of some of its assets targeted by sanctions, senior Iraqi political sources have told Middle East Eye.

The US policy of exerting "maximum pressure" on Iran will not change, but the US agreed to de-escalate militarily in the Gulf and to "look the other way" if a third-party country in Europe released some of the Iranian money frozen when sanctions were applied, the Iraqi sources said.

All of our interests in the Middle East are mutual.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump, GOP launch broad attack on Russia probe foundations (ERIC TUCKER and JONATHAN LEMIRE, 5/14/20, AP) 

Names of Americans are routinely hidden, or minimized, in intelligence reports that describe routine, legal surveillance of foreign targets. U.S. officials may make a specific request if they want to know the person's identity, or "unmask" them.

Biden and the other officials had full authority to seek the name of the unidentified American in the reports -- it turned out to be Flynn -- and did so through proper channels, according to Trump administration documents. Rather than reveal any actual wrongdoing, the release of the information by the president's allies seems designed to create suspicion around Biden and other senior Democrats as the November election approaches.

Open Source everything.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Inside Trump's coronavirus meltdown: What went wrong in the president's first real crisis -- and what does it mean for the US? (Edward Luce, 5/14/20, Financial Times)

In hindsight, Trump's claim to global leadership leaps out. History will mark Covid-19 as the first time that ceased to be true. US airlifts have been missing in action. America cannot even supply itself.

South Korea, which has a population density nearly 15 times greater and is next door to China, has lost a total of 259 lives to the disease. There have been days when America has lost 10 times that number. The US death toll is now approaching 90,000.

What has gone wrong? I interviewed dozens of people, including outsiders who Trump consults regularly, former senior advisers, World Health Organization officials, leading scientists and diplomats, and figures inside the White House. Some spoke off the record.

Again and again, the story that emerged is of a president who ignored increasingly urgent intelligence warnings from January, dismisses anyone who claims to know more than him and trusts no one outside a tiny coterie, led by his daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner - the property developer who Trump has empowered to sideline the best-funded disaster response bureaucracy in the world.

People often observed during Trump's first three years that he had yet to be tested in a true crisis. Covid-19 is way bigger than that. "Trump's handling of the pandemic at home and abroad has exposed more painfully than anything since he took office the meaning of America First," says William Burns, who was the most senior US diplomat, and is now head of the Carnegie Endowment.

"America is first in the world in deaths, first in the world in infections and we stand out as an emblem of global incompetence. The damage to America's influence and reputation will be very hard to undo."

The psychology behind Trump's inaction on Covid-19 was on display that afternoon at the CDC. The unemployment number had come out that morning. The US had added 273,000 jobs in February, bringing the jobless rate down to a near record low of 3.5 per cent. Trump's re-election chances were looking 50:50 or better. The previous Saturday, Joe Biden had won the South Carolina primary. But the Democratic contest still seemed to have miles to go. Nothing could be allowed to frighten the Dow Jones.

Any signal that the US was bracing for a pandemic - including taking actual steps to prepare for it - was discouraged.

"Jared [Kushner] had been arguing that testing too many people, or ordering too many ventilators, would spook the markets and so we just shouldn't do it," says a Trump confidant who speaks to the president frequently. "That advice worked far more powerfully on him than what the scientists were saying. He thinks they always exaggerate."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Ex-FBI official reportedly undercut DOJ's argument for dropping the Flynn case, and nobody's informed the judge (The Week, 5/14/20)

Justice Department officials involved in the Flynn case interviewed Priestap last week, two days before Shea signed the extraordinary motion to dismiss the case, The New York Times reports. Priestap said their interpretation of his memo -- and the one pushed by Flynn's lawyers and Fox News personalities -- was wrong. "He said that FBI officials were trying to do the right thing in questioning Mr. Flynn and that he knew of no effort to set him up," the Times reports.

Priestap's memo reflected his own thoughts on the FBI'S internal debate about inteviewing Flynn. "What's our goal? Truth/admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?" Priestap wrote, adding: "Protect our institution by not playing games." His notes also show the FBI "softened its interview strategy" with Flynn, giving him hints to refresh his memory of his conversations, the Times reports. Nevertheless, Flynn "lied repeatedly, and prosecutors have said that agents gave him 'multiple opportunities to correct his false statements by revisiting key questions.'"

Justice Department officials "did not tell Judge Sullivan about Mr. Priestap's interview," though an official said they will submit a report on the interview soon, the Times reports. That may not sit well with Sullivan, who has already expressed skepticism over the DOJ's motion to dismiss the case.

No one takes the motion seriously as a matter of law; it's just service to a corrupt master.  Judges don't love that.