Author Topic: Intelligence expert Malcolm Nance on Trump scandal: “As close to Benedict Arnold  (Read 956 times)

Offline imchills

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On an almost daily basis there are new revelations about the questionable and perhaps illegal connections between President Donald Trump’s administration (and before that his campaign) and the Russian espionage apparatus under the control of Vladimir Putin. It is no longer appears to be a question of whether the Russian government actively worked to undermine or affect the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, but who aided it in doing so.

Trump’s short-lived national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was forced to resign because he did not disclose his contacts with Russia. In addition, Jeff Sessions, now the attorney general, met repeatedly with the Russian ambassador and known intelligence operative Sergey Kislyak. Trump campaign aides Roger Stone and Paul Manafort also had extensive contacts with the Russian government. Stone has even publicly admitted to communicating with WikiLeaks — a group known to act as a conduit for classified information — in an effort to smear Trump’s rival Hillary Clinton. And Trump and his inner circle have unknown but likely extensive financial connections to Russian banks, financiers, corporations and the Russian government.

How much damage has been caused to the American people by Trump’s Russian gambit? Most important, are Donald Trump and his advisers working in support of Russian interests and against those of the Unites States? Are they traitors? How did this all transpire?

In an effort to answer these questions, Salon recently spoke with Malcolm Nance, a career intelligence and counterterrorism officer for the United States government. In his more than three decades working in that capacity, Nance served with U.S. Special Operations forces, the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies. He has worked in the Middle East, North Africa, the Balkans, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. A frequent guest contributor on MSNBC, Nance has authored several books, including “The Plot to Hack America: How Putin’s Cyberspies and WikiLeaks Tried to Steal the 2016 Election.”

My conversation with Nance has been edited for length and clarity. A longer version of this conversation can be heard on my podcast, available on Salon’s Featured Audio page.

In trying to make sense of  the constant revelations about Trump’s connections to Russia, we are often hearing the truism that “the cover-up is worse than the crime.” But in this case, it seems that the public is just seeing the tip of the iceberg.

You are absolutely correct. I think that the activities that have occurred and the thing that we’re seeing indicate a scandal on an order of magnitude greater than anything that’s occurred in the 20th century. What’s occurring now is as close to Benedict Arnold as I think we’re ever going to get in American history. It had better be because the only alternative to what we’re seeing with this information is, if it’s not espionage, then it will be the largest financial scandal in American history.

One would think that someone would have taken Trump’s associates aside and told them, about the ambassador and others, “These guys are Russian spies using diplomatic status as cover?” Did they not understand that or did they just ignore it?

You would think that the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Michael Flynn — who had his own coterie of spies, by the way — would know that. But what would override that? Only one of two things would override that. This incredible belief that you give me a boatload of money and I get a boatload of money. Then you get these incredible, unbelievable returns promised to you, and you bring in more people. That’s what we’re seeing here, in this whole crew . . . and I refer to them in my book as “the Kremlin crew” . . . in that they saw relationships with Russia and the extractive energy industries as an ATM that would make them madly wealthy beyond anything if they controlled the levers of government.

The only other way to explain it is that they ideologically bought into [the idea] that Vladimir Putin is the greatest man on Earth and that the Russian antidemocratic system and autocracy is their way of life. I can’t believe that. I think they wanted to win at all costs, and at the end of “win at all costs,” whether that meant cooperating with Russia or working with them, there was the promise of outrageous quantities of money.

Why was the mainstream American media so far behind on the story with Trump and Russia? Incompetence? Fear? Laziness?

I think a combination of lazy and afraid. The Trump train was just so incredibly wild. For them, it was just a question of keeping up on a daily basis, writing these incredible stories. But putting that aside, the people who really, really understood the American media and really knew what to do and how to do it were Vladimir Putin and Russian intelligence

In fact, Vladimir Putin was the director of Russian intelligence and then became the president of the country from that position. Vladimir Putin understood, from the Communist era when he was a KGB officer that the Russian propaganda system of targeting Western media — that in the digital world you could easily pull the Western media around by a nose ring. He hacked the American mindset through its own news media. I would personally say [it was] the most brilliant intelligence operation quite possibly in the history of mankind at this point, because he selected the president.

Could this be worse than the case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg perhaps in terms of intelligence coups?

Granted, that gave Russia nuclear power and the hydrogen bomb. That was a pure old-school intelligence operation. But now, you could argue that Vladimir Putin has control of 4,000 atomic bombs and they did it using Americans — knowing how Americans thought, knowing how Donald Trump thought. As part of that, you also have the successful attempt to split the “Bernie bros” from the Democratic Party, and also the Jill Steins of the world out there saying, “There’s no difference between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.”

It was a laughable and absurd claim.

“Vote for Donald Trump so that he can destroy the country.” That was the thing that got me about the Stein people. They wanted this anarchy and chaos that we are getting today. The Russians knew this. Vladimir Putin had Jill Stein at his table for the 10th anniversary of the RT network. I don’t care who you are, you can’t say, well, if you received the invitation, you would’ve gone, too. On his right arm, Vladimir Putin had the former director of defense intelligence, Michael Flynn. He had both sides of the election coin at his elbow, and he successfully used his agency and the American media to select the president. Russian intelligence attacked this nation with a cyber-warfare bomb and got members of the American public to prefer a former director of the KGB over anyone in the Democratic Party.

Do you think it is fair to say that Trump and his cadre are traitors and that they should be held accountable based on those criteria?

If we use the rhetorical definition of treason, the common vernacular definition of treason, and it turns out that anyone at any time in this campaign was aware of Russia’s operations, decided to use Russia’s operations and coordinate with Russia’s operations, that right there would be treason. That would be betraying the trust of your nation.

This situation also reflects the way the Republican Party to this point has pursued party over country in blockading these investigations about Trump and Russia. Trump is their opportunity to remake the second part of the 20th century and they’re going to support him no matter what. Also, Trump has surrounded himself with white nationalists, white supremacists and neo-Nazi sympathizers. His cadre is part of a larger movement of extreme right-wing nationalism in Europe as well. Again, that is not being covered extensively.

Vladimir Putin is creating an axis of authoritarian regimes that he will lead. Russia’s a small country. It’s really poor. It has nothing other than oil and weapons sales. They have taken the United States and they now have two pillars in which to hold up Western Christendom by authoritarianism. Now they’re going for others. They’re going to topple Germany. They’re going to topple France. They’re going to topple the Netherlands. They’re going after Norway right now.

If you view Trump as a “Manchurian candidate” in league with Russia, how does that complicate the battle against ISIS and international terrorism?

Well, as far as Trump and Russia is concerned, it doesn’t because they view ISIS as the vanguard of Islam and as being a fundamentalist basis of the religion. The worst part of it all is that this comes from Osama bin Laden. He attacked us on 9/11 in order to induce a clash of civilizations between the Christian West and Islam. In all of these insane right-wingers, none of them have any military experience, and the military people that they do have that are on board with their ideology are the ones who we consider insane. These are the Jack D. Rippers from “Dr. Strangelove,” who want to start a global war and would use their authority at whatever level. This is dangerous.

This administration has got me frightened on a strategic scale because we’re all going to suffer from this. We have a saying in the military: “The stupid shall be punished.” This nation voted for stupid, and we are going to get punished because these people have no sense of decorum, no sense of decency, no sense of living up to any of the traditions enacted over 240 years of this great nation growing.

They are the wrecking crew, and they don’t work for this nation. I really think their ideology is based on an ideology they got from Putin’s philosopher, Alexander Dugin, the man who believes that Western liberal democracy must be destroyed and a strongman authoritarianism [must] step into its place, and then you could reshape the world as you saw fit. That’s Hitler and Stalin talk.

What do you think comes next? Do you think this administration can survive this scandal? Is the partisanship so deep they’re going to weather the storm?

No. There is a very serious chance that this could split the country in a very negative way. That’s what Barack Obama did not want to happen, which is why he didn’t bring all of this out before the election: “No Drama Obama.” He thought that the norms of the United States would be of help, and that the American public, with the information that they had in hand, without any thumbs on the scale, would make the right choice for president. He was horribly wrong. Actually, he wasn’t wrong. He was only wrong by 70,000 people and three counties.

I think this will end in impeachment. If it does not, the American system of government will split in two. I mean, like the Democrats will just stonewall and say, “This is treason.” Then you’re going to get the Republicans who will say, “We’re going to use every level of power to go after anyone that doesn’t agree with us.” But at the street level, you won’t see the changes. You’ll still have the right to speak out. There won’t be any arrests like there were in Russia with Pussy Riot. But people who support Trump will do all of that. They’ll come and attack you. They will silence you. There will be self-appointed groups of people and militias that will make it clear that Trump is God.

Offline Battle

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Friday, 15th November 2019
Trump ally Roger Stone found guilty (all 7 counts) of lying to Congress and witness tampering

by Kevin Breuninger

Roger Stone, a longtime friend and confidant of President Donald Trump, was found guilty of lying to Congress by a jury in federal court in Washington, D.C.

Stone, 67, a self-described political trickster, was charged with lying to Congress about his contacts with WikiLeaks during the 2016 election.

He had pleaded not guilty in the case.

A 12-member jury, comprising nine women and three men, began their deliberations Thursday morning on the seventh day of Stone's trial began in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

Roger Stone, a longtime friend and confidant of President Donald Trump, was found guilty of lying to Congress and witness tampering by a jury in federal court in Washington, D.C.

Stone, 67, a self-described political trickster, was charged with  lying to Congress about his contacts with WikiLeaks during the 2016 election, as well as with tampering with a potential witness against him, Randy Credico.

He had pleaded not guilty in the case.

A 12-member jury, comprising nine women and three men, began their deliberations Thursday morning on the seventh day of Stone's trial began in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

Stone was arrested in a predawn raid at his Florida home in January and charged in a seven-count indictment on charges including witness tampering, obstruction of justice and making false statements to Congress.

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Sunday, 16th February 2o2o
More than 1,100 ex-Justice Department officials call for Barr’s resignation

by Devlin Barrett

More than 1,100 former Justice Department employees signed a public letter Sunday urging Attorney General William P. Barr to resign over his handling of the case of the acting-president’s longtime friend Roger Stone — and exhorted current department employees to report any unethical conduct.

The letter is the latest sign of a crisis of confidence inside the department.

Four prosecutors quit the Stone case last week after Barr and other Justice Department leaders pushed for a softer prison recommendation for Stone, who is due to be sentenced this week.

The four prosecutors had originally recommended a prison sentence of seven to nine years for Stone after he was convicted of lying to Congress and obstruction.

The acting-president publicly attacked that recommendation, and, at Barr’s urging, the Justice Department filed an updated sentencing memo suggesting that Stone should receive less prison time.

Barr has said he did not talk to the acting-president about the Stone sentence, but current and former Justice Department officials have sharply criticized the attorney general.

“Mr. Barr’s actions in doing the acting-president’s personal bidding unfortunately speak louder than his words,” the Justice Department alumni wrote in the letter posted online.

"Those actions, and the damage they have done to the Department of Justice’s reputation for integrity and the rule of law, require Mr. Barr to resign."

Signatures for the letter were gathered by Protect Democracy, a group that has been critical of Barr’s handling of former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian election interference and drumphf.

The letter acknowledges there is little chance that the signatories’ criticism will lead to Barr’s departure, adding:

“Because we have little expectation he will do so, it falls to the Department’s career officials to take appropriate action to uphold their oaths of office and defend nonpartisan, apolitical justice.”

The letter calls on every Justice Department employee to follow the “heroic” example of the four prosecutors who quit the Stone case “and be prepared to report future abuses to the Inspector General, the Office of Professional Responsibility, and Congress; to refuse to carry out directives that are inconsistent with their oaths of office; to withdraw from cases that involve such directives or other misconduct; and, if necessary, to resign and report publicly — in a manner consistent with professional ethics — to the American people the reasons for their resignation.”

The letter calls for similar vigilance in other government agencies, adding:

“The rule of law and the survival of our Republic demand nothing less.”

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Monday, 17th February    Two Thousand and Twenty
DOJ Alumni Statement on the Events Surrounding the Sentencing of Roger Stone
by Depart of Justice Alumni

We, the undersigned, are alumni of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) who have collectively served both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Each of us strongly condemns President Trump’s and Attorney General Barr’s interference in the fair administration of justice.

As former DOJ officials, we each proudly took an oath to support and defend our Constitution and faithfully execute the duties of our offices.

The very first of these duties is to apply the law equally to all Americans.

This obligation flows directly from the Constitution, and it is embedded in countless rules and laws governing the conduct of DOJ lawyers.

The Justice Manual — the DOJ’s rulebook for its lawyers — states that “the rule of law depends on the evenhanded administration of justice”; that the Department’s legal decisions “must be impartial and insulated from political influence”; and that the Department’s prosecutorial powers, in particular, must be “exercised free from partisan consideration.”

All DOJ lawyers are well-versed in these rules, regulations, and constitutional commands.

They stand for the proposition that political interference in the conduct of a criminal prosecution is anathema to the Department’s core mission and to its sacred obligation to ensure equal justice under the law.

And yet, President Trump and Attorney General Barr have openly and repeatedly flouted this fundamental principle, most recently in connection with the sentencing of President Trump’s close associate, Roger Stone, who was convicted of serious crimes.

The Department has a long-standing practice in which political appointees set broad policies that line prosecutors apply to individual cases.

That practice exists to animate the constitutional principles regarding the even-handed application of the law.

Although there are times when political leadership appropriately weighs in on individual prosecutions, it is unheard of for the Department’s top leaders to overrule line prosecutors, who are following established policies, in order to give preferential treatment to a close associate of the President, as Attorney General Barr did in the Stone case.

It is even more outrageous for the Attorney General to intervene as he did here — after the President publicly condemned the sentencing recommendation that line prosecutors had already filed in court.

Such behavior is a grave threat to the fair administration of justice.

In this nation, we are all equal before the law.

A person should not be given special treatment in a criminal prosecution because they are a close political ally of the President.

Governments that use the enormous power of law enforcement to punish their enemies and reward their allies are not constitutional republics; they are autocracies.

We welcome Attorney General Barr’s belated acknowledgment that the DOJ’s law enforcement decisions must be independent of politics; that it is wrong for the President to interfere in specific enforcement matters, either to punish his opponents or to help his friends; and that the President’s public comments on DOJ matters have gravely damaged the Department’s credibility.

But Mr. Barr’s actions in doing the President’s personal bidding unfortunately speak louder than his words.

Those actions, and the damage they have done to the Department of Justice’s reputation for integrity and the rule of law, require Mr. Barr to resign.

But because we have little expectation he will do so, it falls to the Department’s career officials to take appropriate action to uphold their oaths of office and defend nonpartisan, apolitical justice.

For these reasons, we support and commend the four career prosecutors who upheld their oaths and stood up for the Department’s independence by withdrawing from the Stone case and/or resigning from the Department.

Our simple message to them is that we — and millions of other Americans — stand with them.

And we call on every DOJ employee to follow their heroic example and be prepared to report future abuses to the Inspector General, the Office of Professional Responsibility, and Congress; to refuse to carry out directives that are inconsistent with their oaths of office; to withdraw from cases that involve such directives or other misconduct; and, if necessary, to resign and report publicly — in a manner consistent with professional ethics — to the American people the reasons for their resignation.

We likewise call on the other branches of government to protect from retaliation those employees who uphold their oaths in the face of unlawful directives.

The rule of law and the survival of our Republic demand nothing less.

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« Last Edit: February 17, 2020, 11:40:41 pm by Battle »

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Thursday, 20th February 2o2o
Roger Stone sentenced to three years and four months in prison

by Rachel Weiner, Matt Zapotosky, Tom Jackman, Spencer Hsu & John Wagner

A federal judge on Thursday sentenced Roger Stone, the acting-president’s longtime friend and political adviser, to serve three years and four months in prison for impeding a congressional investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The penalty from U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson comes after weeks of infighting over the politically charged case that threw the Justice Department into crisis, and it is likely not to be the final word.

Even before the sentencing hearing began, drumphf seemed to suggest on Twitter he might pardon Stone.

With the proceedings ongoing, drumphf questioned whether his ally was being treated fairly.

In a lengthy speech before imposing the penalty, Jackson seemed to take aim at drumphf, saying Stone “was not prosecuted for standing up for the president; he was prosecuted for covering up for the acting-president.”

She also appeared to call out Attorney General William P. Barr, saying intervention to reduce career prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation was “unprecedented.”

But she said the politics surrounding the case had not influenced her final decision.

“The truth still exists; the truth still matters,” Jackson said, echoing prosecutors’ closing arguments at trial.

“Roger Stone’s insistence that it doesn’t, his belligerence, his pride in his own lies are a threat to our most fundamental institutions, to the foundations of our democracy. If it goes unpunished it will not be a victory for one party or another; everyone loses.”

She added, “The dismay and disgust at the defendant’s belligerence should transcend party.”

drumphf, meanwhile, weighed in publicly from afar — again bucking Barr’s public and private warnings to stop talking about Justice Department criminal cases.

In a tweet, the president compared Stone to former FBI director James B. Comey, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

drumphf has suggested that each of them should be charged.

“‘They say Roger Stone lied to Congress.’ @CNN,” drumphf scribbled during the hearing, tagging the news network.

“OH, I see, but so did Comey (and he also leaked classified information, for which almost everyone, other than Crooked Hillary Clinton, goes to jail for a long time), and so did Andy McCabe, who also lied to the FBI! FAIRNESS?”

Overnight, drumphf also hinted he could pardon Stone, tweeting a video clip in which fox news host Tucker Carlson said, “the acting-president could end this travesty in an instant with a pardon, and there are indications tonight that he will do that.”

Carlson noted a series of pardons and commutations the president granted this week.

Stone, 67, was convicted by a federal jury in November on seven counts of lying to Congress and tampering with a witness about his efforts to learn about hacked Democratic emails related to Clinton.

Prosecutors said the longtime gop operative lied during testimony to the House Intelligence Committee in September 2017 to conceal his central role in the drumphf campaign’s efforts to learn about computer files hacked by Russia and made public by WikiLeaks.

Stone also threatened a witness who was an associate of his in an attempt to prevent the man from cooperating with lawmakers.

Stone, who did not speak in court, showed no visible emotion as the sentence was read.

Emerging from the courtroom in a wide-striped suit and polka-dot tie, he appeared calm.

“I have nothing to say,” Stone said.

“Thank you.”

Stone, his wife and a large entourage exited the courthouse to a large crowd of photographers, supporters and antagonists.

As he climbed into an SUV, protesters shouted “Lock him up!” while supporters yelled

“Pardon Roger Stone!”

Prosecutors also left the courtroom without commenting and a Justice Department spokeswoman later declined to comment.

On Friday, Stone had requested a new trial after drumphf suggested the forewoman in Stone’s case had “significant bias.”

Jackson said previously she would delay implementation of his sentence until she resolves that request.

In addition to prison, Jackson ordered Stone to pay a $20,000 fine and serve two years of supervised release.

The penalty capped an unusual sentencing hearing in which Jackson sought not only to resolve disputes between prosecutors and defense attorneys, but also seek answers on the internal Justice Department haggling over what punishment the government would endorse.
The initial team of four career prosecutors recommended that Jackson impose a term of seven to nine years, only to see drumphf tweet about the matter, and Barr personally intervene.

All four prosecutors then quit the case — with one leaving the government entirely — and their replacements filed a new recommendation suggesting three to four years was “more typical” in cases like Stone’s.

Yet the new prosecutor in court Thursday defended his predecessors and argued for the same stiff sentencing enhancements as they had.

“The Department of Justice and the United States Attorney’s Office is committed to following the law without fear favor or political influence,” Assistant U.S. Attorney John Crabb said.

“This prosecution was and this prosecution is righteous.”

Crabb said the court “should impose a substantial period of incarceration,” although he did not propose a specific number of months or years.

Jackson made clear she thought Stone’s crimes were serious.

She called his House intelligence committee testimony “plainly false” and “a flat-out lie” and said his misdirection “shut out important avenues” for Congress to investigate.

The judge said Stone knew his efforts to obtain damaging information from the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks about Clinton, who was then running against drumphf, “could reflect badly on the acting-president.”

Jackson acknowledged the politics surrounding the situation, and pressed Crabb on why prosecutors filed two very different sentencing memos.

She asked why the Justice Department ultimately chose to recommend bucking the guidelines in the case — when department policies do not let prosecutors argue for a sentence below the guidelines without approval — and questioned why Crabb was in court at all.
“I fear that you know less about this case than possibly anybody else in the courtroom,” Jackson said.

“What is the government’s position today?”
Crabb said the original prosecutors on the case had approval from U.S. Attorney Timothy Shea to make their recommendation and that their filing was “done in good faith.”

He said his understanding was there had been a “miscommunication” between Barr and Shea, centered around “what the expectations were from the attorney general and what the appropriate filing would be.”

He apologized for the “confusion” — although even in court, his position seemed somewhat muddled.

He refused to say whether he had written the softer sentencing recommendation, which bore his signature, because it would expose “internal deliberations.”

Stone had asked for probation, citing his age and lack of criminal history.
Defense attorney Seth Ginsberg argued for mercy, saying Stone is “a real person, not a media figure, not a political character but a real person,” who is soon to be a great-grandfather.

He emphasized Stone has “devoted himself” to various causes — including veterans, animal welfare and football players suffering from traumatic brain injuries — and has “worked to bridge racial divides in this country.”

That, he said, is “who Mr. Stone really is — not the larger than life political persona that he plays on TV, but the real person who goes home every day to his wife and his family.”

Ginsberg argued New York City comedian and radio host Randy Credico, the witness Stone was convicted of threatening, understood Stone was “all bark and no bite.”

Credico appealed for leniency in a letter to the court, saying “Stone, at his core, is an insecure person who craves and recklessly pursues attention. . . . Prison is no remedy.”
Jackson said that although seven to nine years was too harsh, probation would be too light.

Stone, she said, had shown “flagrant disrespect for the institutions of government established by the Constitution, including the Congress and this court.”

She said read aloud some of Stone’s profane texts threatening to kill Credico and steal his dog.

“The defendant referred to this as banter, which it hardly is,” the judge said.

“Nothing about this case was a joke; it wasn’t funny, it wasn’t a stunt and it wasn’t a prank.”

Jackson noted Stone threatened her personally during the trial and stirred up claims that the process was rigged.

Doing so, she said, “willfully increased the risk that someone with even poorer judgment than” Stone would take action and put the entire courthouse in danger.

Barr’s intervention in Stone’s case set off a crisis for the Justice Department, where some prosecutors worried drumphf — who tweeted the intial suggested penalty was “horrible and very unfair” — had pushed his chief law enforcement official to get involved in a criminal case because Stone was a friend.

Barr, though, insisted in an ABC News interview he had made the decision independent of drumphf, and issued a remarkable public rebuke, saying drumphf’s tweets “make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts … and the department that we’re doing our work with integrity.”

This week, those close to Barr said the attorney general has told Trump advisers he has considered resigning over the president’s tweets.

drumphf, though, continued to tweet about the Stone case.

Earlier this week, he suggested his friend deserved a new trial — just as the Justice Department, with Barr’s blessing, made clear it had opposed Stone’s request on that front.

Like prosecutors, Barr has called Stone’s prosecution “righteous,” and added,

“I was happy that he was convicted.”

Stone is one of six drumphf advisers and confidants who have either been convicted or pleaded guilty in connection with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe.

That list includes former drumphf campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former drumphf lawyer Michael Cohen and former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos.

Stone’s two-week trial in November refocused attention on the drumphf campaign’s keen appetite for dirt on its political opponents.

The trial included testimony from former 2016 deputy campaign manager Gates, who testified he overheard a July 2016 phone call in which drumphf himself seemed to discuss WikiLeaks with Stone.

The trial also highlighted drumphf’s ongoing standoff with congressional Democrats, then conducting an impeachment inquiry into whether the president pressured Ukraine to bolster his 2020 re-election bid.

drumphf directed the Executive Mansion to withhold documents and block testimony in the inquiry, which ended in a Senate acquittal.

« Last Edit: February 20, 2020, 06:29:40 pm by Battle »

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Friday, 17th April 2o2o
Stone Cold Denied!
by Dan Mangan

A federal judge on Thursday denied a request for a new trial by trunk friend Roger Stone, who was convicted last fall of lying to Congress and witness tampering.

Stone, 67, had sought a new trial based on his allegation that the jury forewoman committed misconduct by lying on a questionnaire as the panel was being selected.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson's denial of that motion sets the stage for the Republican political operative to soon begin serving a 40-month prison term.

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Friday, 22nd May 2o2o
Trump l'oeil
by Michael Harriot

When they retired from the slave trade, Isaac Franklin and John Armfield had amassed a fortune worth billions in today’s dollars by building a business that was essentially the Amazon of slave-selling.

They didn’t grow anything, nor did they participate in the transatlantic slave trade.

The tycoons had a series of huge concentration camp-like pens and literal dungeons where they kept their human chattel, similar to Amazon warehouses.

They had “headhunters” who purchased their “product” from other slave owners and distributed the enslaved Africans throughout the Deep South for a profit.

They maximized their profit by packing their human cargo onto ships like sardines for short journeys from Virginia to ports in the Deep South.

They made their property walk hundreds of miles in caravans.

They herded them into cages.

Because Franklin and Armfield were only temporary owners of what they called their “merchandise,” they were even crueler than men who were known as the evilest of slave masters.

They beat the men and joked about raping the women.

By the end of their careers, Isaac Franklin and John Armfield were two of the richest men in the entire nation.

Perhaps no organization in history made more money selling slaves than the Franklin & Armfield firm.

They were diabolically depraved human beings who were known for their cruelty, their callous nature and their cold-heartedness.

But goddamned were they effective.

trunk is a bumbling idiot who has failed at everything he has ever tried to do.

While he is known for his business acumen, he has filed for bankruptcy more times than Wesley Snipes, Blockbuster Video, Tom from MySpace and the creator of the Shake Weight, combined.

His presidency has been a dumpster fire fueled by extortion, ineptitude, racism and outright lies.

He has emboldened white supremacists, shredded the Constitution, subverted democracy, endangered the media, undermined congressional checks and balances and destroyed many American’s faith in the presidency.

But goddamned is he effective.

If someone invented a Terminator Robot with the express purpose of dismantling the foundation of the Constitution while safeguarding white supremacy’s 400-year championship streak, there would be many contenders.

trunk is not the first.

He is just the most blatant and the latest iteration in the evolution of presidential malfeasance.

Perhaps Richard Nixon would be the first-generation prototype that combined all the disparate racist and anti-democratic tactics employed by previous presidential administrations.

After all, it was Nixon who coalesced America’s discriminatory, underhanded strategies into a cohesive plan.

He wasn’t the first to weaponize the criminal justice system to use against black people.

But, in 1971, Nixon gave it a name that would be used by all future presidents:

the “war on drugs.”

He wasn’t the first to capitalize off of white Southerners’ longing for slavery and Jim Crow, but he gave it a name:

the “Southern Strategy.”

He wasn’t the first to use racism as a dog whistle, but he perfected it for future Republicans by creating a policy-driven marketing strategy, as Lee Atwater described in 1980:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

“Reaganomics” advanced that strategy by introducing trickle-down, supply-side economics as a political platform.

But even when Ronald Reagan was demonizing poor black people as “welfare queens” and cutting social programs as a way to reduce spending, he didn’t make his white supremacist agenda explicit.

He still distanced himself from the plot to trade weapons in exchange for crack cocaine to sprinkle through black communities.

Reagan was corrupt and evil but he kept it on the down-low for the sake of plausible deniability.

Even when Reagan’s successor, George H.W. Bush, framed a black man so the president could display a bag of crack rock during a presidential address about the problems in “the ghetto,” Bush was careful to keep his anti-blackness to a high-pitched shriek that only white folks could hear.

Same thing with Bill Clinton’s mass incarceration and his approval of heavy-handed prison sentences for the crimes that black people commit (and didn't commit).

George W. Bush’s Supreme Court-aided coup was a Constitutional travesty, but at least he used America’s highest court instead of Russian hackers.

Barack Obama wasn’t immune.

He also deported undocumented immigrants, appointed drug czars who supported marijuana prohibition and buddied up with corporate oligarchs.

But there is one category where the Obama administration ranks as the worst of all time:

Unlike every president since Richard Nixon, the Obama presidency was relatively free of an all-encompassing scandal.

(Unless you count conservatives’ unproven wet-dream conspiracy theories about Hillary’s emails, Benghazi, tan suits or Barack and Michelle’s “terrorist fist jab.”)

And, although we might portray trunk’s egregious disregard for truth, decorum and laws as a bad thing, the truth is, this administration is fulfilling the dreams of Republicans, ex-presidents and politicians who have long-wished someone would say “to hell with America” and go Rambo on the Constitution, protocol and their people who use washcloths on their legs.

trunk is just better at it.

When trunk jumpstarted his presidential campaign by demonizing Mexicans, he was honoring the longstanding tradition of his party.

He simply tapped into a xenophobic ethos that allowed George W. Bush to start two wars, demonize Muslims and ramp up the drug war.

The infamous border wall had been bandied about by Republicans for years; trunk just made it the center of his campaign strategy.

When Dick Cheney sees trunk using taxpayer dollars to bolster his resort businesses, I bet he is kicking himself for not just ignoring the emoluments clause and openly funneling business to Halliburton.

Remember all that time Mitt Romney spent hiding his tax returns?

I bet he is somewhere screaming at his advisers:

“I could have just said ‘no’?”

When George W. Bush refused to speak to the NAACP, he probably had no idea he could have just told the nation’s oldest black civil rights organization that he thought there were some “very good” white supremacists.

Instead of creating the Willie Horton ad, the senior Bush could have just said that black people were broke, homeless criminals and asked America “What do you have to lose?”

Nixon could have avoided Watergate by defying Congress and hiding those infamous tapes.

Reagan could have declared executive privilege and stopped Oliver North from testifying about Iran Contra.

Bill Clinton should have just paid off Monica Lewinsky and declared that special prosecutor Kenneth Star was perpetrating a hoax.

Obama could have saved a lot of money by doing nothing to fight Ebola.

Instead of acting quickly, helping the CDC create a test, closing schools and following the advice of scientists, Obama could have eliminated H1N1 by simply spreading misinformation.

Who knew?

Previous Republican efforts at voter suppression pale in comparison to trunk’s public threat to halt funding if governors didn’t do their best to stop people from voting.

You know Georgia Governor Brian Kemp wishes he could get all that time back that he spent time rigging his race against Stacey Abrams.

Joe Brown, Greg Mathis, Mablean Ephriam and even Gabrielle Union could have all been federal court judges had Barack Obama known he could just appoint all the homies to the federal bench, even if they were unqualified (to be fair, Gabrielle Union’s judicial verdict, Cute Puppy v. Homeless Lady With Decent Voice was a landmark decision for the America’s Got Talent court).

All those presidential briefings and fighting with the press.

All those bipartisan negotiations.

All those campaign speeches appealing to voters’ better angels.

All the steps spent crossing the aisle may have produced some governance, but that Constitution-adhering, truth-telling, coequal branch governing bullsh*t was very time-consuming.

Just as Isaac Franklin and John Armfield realized more than a century ago, trunk has shown us that evil is a much more economical approach to presidenting.

Lying is a better tactic than the truth.

Unapologetic hate is much more productive than empathy.

Divisiveness is easier than coalition building.

And, apparently, for a lot of white people, it is attractive.

trunk supporters are too dumb to find out the truth but many of them don’t give a damn as long as they get what they want.

Who cares if people die as long as their businesses survive?

They might be racist assholes but at least they don’t have to worry about that compassion, truth and equality stuff derailing their gravy train.

For these people, trunk is a hero.

These people profit from trunk’s evil in the same way that white people who didn’t own slaves profited from an economy buttressed by free labor.

Who cares about the children in cages as long as whiteness prevails?

Andrew Jackson might beat out trunk as the most racist president ever.

Ronald Reagan may have been dumber and Nixon may certainly have been more evil.

But those chief executives hid their conspicuous candles of wickedness under bushels of genteel decorum and etiquette that arguably made them more respectable.

Not trunk.

America’s latest model of dimwit-in-Chief is a dimwitted, impenitent, lying, hate-filled turd of an almost human being…

But goddamn, is he effective.