Crime

Ineffable Incompetence (Meddle Mix)

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

A child walks past a graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the walls of a bar in the old town in Vilnius, Lithuania, 14 May 2016. (Photo by Mindaugas Kulbis/AP Photo)

The lede from Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima for the Washington Post:

President Trump asked two of the nation’s top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, according to current and former officials.

And, you know, maybe the theme this week will be something about wondering who is actually surprised. Last week, after all, seemed to focus on President Trump’s apparent inability to not insist on his own impeachment.

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A Fifth of Flynn

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Retired Gen. Michael Flynn, President-elect Donald Trump's incoming National Security Adviser, listens during the presidential inaugural Chairman's Global Dinner, Tuesday, 17 January 2017, in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo)

How many nuts could a wingnut lug if a wingnut could lug nuts? Or, the lede from Chad Day and Stephen Braun of Associated Press:

President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in rebuffing a subpoena Monday in the investigation into Russia’s election meddling. Then a top House Democrat cited new evidence he said appeared to show Flynn lied on a security clearance background check.

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The Impossible Successor

#PresidentRyan | ¿#WhatTheyVotedFor?

Republican U.S. vice presidential nominee Mike Pence speaks at a campaign rally, Oct. 22, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Amid everything else over the last week or so, we ought not forget this:

We’re left with an unsettling picture. Flynn told the transition team he’s the subject of an ongoing federal investigation, and either that information either reached Pence or it didn’t. If Pence was out of the loop, he was dangerously incompetent at his job. If Pence knew, and Flynn became National Security Advisor anyway, that’s worse.

Remember, as the turmoil surrounding Flynn grew more serious, the vice president said he was completely unaware of Flynn’s alleged misdeeds. In March, when Fox News asked Pence about Flynn having to register as a foreign agent, Pence said he was hearing the story for the first time.

Except, as Rachel has explained on the show, that’s literally unbelievable. Not only were there multiple news reports for months about Flynn’s foreign work, but Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) wrote to Pence’s transition team to make sure Team Trump was aware of this.

(Benen)

Because, quite frankly, it still cracks me up that once upon a time, when Rubio was fumbling for water, Paul was drowning in plagiarism, and Christie apparently had nothing to do with that bridge, we might have heard Mike Pence’s name whispered as the cyclical dark horse. The Indiana governor, by Republican accounts, was politically savvy and a dedicated conservative. And while others might disagree about the savvy, it seemed for naught when he signed a RFRA and failed to comprehend what happened next. Except, of course, his dramatic revitalization as Donald Trump’s vice presidential candidate, and then vice president. It was easy enough to joke that we might yet see a President Pence.

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A Certain Shade of Gray

Detail of frame from Durarara!!!

KING 5 overstates the lede:

Washington health experts say deaths due to fentanyl have roughly doubled in the state in only a year. The drug is cut into heroin and other drugs as a cheaper alternative and often times without people knowing.

A new investigation released Wednesday by the State Department of Health, State Toxicology Laboratory, University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, and Public Health Seattle & King County shows deaths from fentanyl and related drugs rose to 70 in 2016 from 28 in 2015.

The State Toxicology Lab says we can’t compare the numbers directly because halfway through the year, the lab changed its testing methods in order to detect smaller amounts of fentanyl. Had it used the old protocol, the lab would have identified 53 fentanyl-related deaths in 2016.

However, the 70 deaths account for 10 percent of all opioid-related deaths in the state.

Even still, the comparative reality isn’t exactly good news. Nor is there much comfort in not being elsewhere. WUSA, via KING 5:

Knoxville police are keeping their eyes out for a dangerous and deadly drug. It looks like a chunk of concrete, can kill with one dose, and is being called ‘Gray Death.’

So far, it’s been found in Ohio, Georgia, and Kentucky, which are all states connected to Tennessee by an interstate.

According to reports, the drug is 10,000 times more potent than morphine, 100 times more powerful than fentanyl, and includes an elephant tranquilizer called Carfentanil.

That tranquilizer showed up in Tennessee for the first time this year. Since then, it’s been found in five separate cases, including one in East Tennessee.

Remember: You can call it “gray death”, and someone will still want to use it.

At the same time, the joke about the nanovirus doesn’t work; the opioid epidemic is a bit more serious than video game obscurities. Still, of course they called it “gray death”.

(It’s a marketplace thing. See, back when KGB was popular as “killer green buds”, the marijuana didn’t actually kill you. Of course they called it “gray death”. Think about who we’re dealing with, here inasmuch as anyone would actually manufacture and distribute the stuff.)

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Tan, LiLi. “‘Kill pill’ intensifying opioid epidemic”. KING 5. 10 May 2017.

WUSA. “New drug called ‘Gray Death’ can kill with just one dose”. KING 5. 10 May 2017.

#WhatTheyVotedFor (Corruption Conundrum)

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

&#;35PutiTrump

The basic conundrum, the New York Times explained Tuesday night:

By firing the F.B.I. director, James Comey, late Tuesday afternoon, President Trump has cast grave doubt on the viability of any further investigation into what could be one of the biggest political scandals in the country’s history.

The explanation for this shocking move—that Mr. Comey’s bungling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server violated longstanding Justice Department policy and profoundly damaged public trust in the agency—is impossible to take at face value. Certainly Mr. Comey deserves all the criticism heaped upon him for his repeated missteps in that case, but just as certainly, that’s not the reason Mr. Trump fired him.

Mr. Comey was fired because he was leading an active investigation that could bring down a president. Though compromised by his own poor judgment, Mr. Comey’s agency has been pursuing ties between the Russian government and Mr. Trump and his associates, with potentially ruinous consequences for the administration.

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Disgrace (James Brien Comey, Jr.)

#resist

In this photo taken May 8, 2017, FBI Director James Comey speaks in Washington. A person familiar with the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server says Huma Abedin did not forward "hundreds and thousands" of emails to her husband's laptop, as FBI Director James Comey testified to Congress. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

And then there is this.

President Donald Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey Tuesday, dramatically ousting the nation’s top law enforcement official in the midst of an FBI investigation into whether Trump’s campaign had ties to Russia’s election meddling.

In a letter to Comey, Trump said the firing was necessary to restore “public trust and confidence” in the FBI. Comey has come under intense scrutiny in recent months for his role in an investigation into Democrat Hillary Clinton’s email practices, including a pair of letters he sent to Congress on the matter in the closing days of last year’s election.

Trump made no mention of Comey’s role in the Clinton investigation, which she has blamed in part for the election result that put him in the White House. But in announcing the firing, the White House circulated a scathing memo, written by deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, criticizing Comey’s handling of the Clinton probe, including the director’s decision to hold a news conference announcing its findings and releasing “derogatory information” about Clinton.

(Pace)

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Infamy (James Brien Comey, Jr.)

FBI Director James Comey testifies before a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on oversight of the State Department, 7 July 2016, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: REUTERS/Gary Cameron)

Peter Elkind, for ProPublica:

FBI director James Comey generated national headlines last week with his dramatic testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, explaining his “incredibly painful” decision to go public about the Hillary Clinton emails found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop.

Perhaps Comey’s most surprising revelation was that Huma Abedin—Weiner’s wife and a top Clinton deputy—had made “a regular practice” of forwarding “hundreds and thousands” of Clinton messages to her husband, “some of which contain classified information.” Comey testified that Abedin had done this so that the disgraced former congressman could print them out for her boss ....

.... The problem: Much of what Comey said about this was inaccurate. Now the FBI is trying to figure out what to do about it.

FBI officials have privately acknowledged that Comey misstated what Abedin did and what the FBI investigators found. On Monday, the FBI was said to be preparing to correct the record by sending a letter to Congress later this week. But that plan now appears on hold, with the bureau undecided about what to do.

Take some time. Let that sink in.

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Image note: FBI Director James Comey. (Photo: Gary Cameron/Reuters)

Elkind, Peter. “Comey’s Testimony on Huma Abedin Forwarding Emails Was Inaccurate”. ProPublica. 9 May 2017.

#DimensionSteve (Just Another Day)

#wellduh | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Detail of frame from FLCL episode 1, 'FLCL'.

From the mixed up files of Steve Benen:

#somethingterrific: “They’re ready, and arguably eager, to break their commitments, but they’re reluctant to talk about it.”

#artofthedeal: “It’s apparently Team Trump’s way of effectively saying, ‘Remember, we can re-take this hostage again at some point.'”

#ruleoflaw: “When a president with autocratic tendencies goes after courts for upholding the law, repeatedly questioning the legitimacy of decisions that go against him, it should make Americans a little nervous.”

#wellduh: “Never mind the incompetent failures, marvel at the ‘robust agenda of activity.'”

#wellduh: “Apparently, however, some took Team Trump’s rhetoric quite literally and reportedly started calling the hotline to report crimes committed by aliens—as in, extra-terrestrials.”

#wellduh: “What he refuses to appreciate is the fact that an American president says something, the world notices.”

#wellduh: “A woman in North Carolina illegally voted for Trump last year, casting a ballot in her dead mother’s name. A local Republican prosecutor has decided not to bring charges.”

#compromise: “But what’s striking to me is how much the larger conversation has changed since Obama left office.”

#wellduh: “We’re occasionally reminded that Sean Spicer isn’t great at his job”.

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Death and the Natural State

VIII. Adjustment.

This is the setup: The state of Arkansas wishes to execute eight people over the course of ten days in four doubleheaders of death overseen by a prisons regime that has never executed anyone at all, using drugs the state has never used before and have shown grotesquely problematic in neighboring Oklahoma, are about to expire, and, according to the manufacturers, do not appear to have been acquired legitimately. Rachel Maddow offered a six and a half minute overview last week.

That would have been Thursday evening. Friday and Saturday saw the whole plan come apart, with one execution stayed at least temporarily, and then a temporary restraining order against one of the intended execution drugs, compelling a federal court to halt all eight executions. This is Arkansas, though; NBC News brings the latest:

Lawyers for the Arkansas attorney general’s office worked feverishly on Saturday in an attempt to dismantle road blocks in the way of a historic spate of executions temporarily halted by court rulings.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson had ordered the execution of eight men over 10 days because one of the state’s lethal injection drugs was set to expire at the end of the month, but a series of court rulings Friday and early Saturday put that schedule in jeopardy.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge made it clear the state was unwilling to concede.

The former Land of Opportunity, naturally, is very much distressed that the courts should meddle with its opportunity excuse for homicidal spectacle.

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A Whiff of the Racket

#extortion | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President Donald Trump, joined by HHS Secretary Tom Price (left) and Vice President Mike Pence (right) explains his intention to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, 24 March 2017, at the White House, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by The Washington Post)

The setup, here, is not particularly complex. We can start with blaming Democrats after the collapse of #Trumpcare, which apparently failed to be #SomethingTerrific. It seems a reliable first instinct for Republicans; that is, as Steve Benen notes:

When Donald Trump’s Muslim ban failed miserably in the courts, the president was quick to assign blame—to everyone but himself. Now that the health care plan Trump wanted has also collapsed, he’s desperate to avoid responsibility, though he seems unsure who to point the finger at first.

Trump’s first instinct, evidently, was to call the Washington Post to blame Democrats.

And if the president seems to be engaging in that weird Republican sense of sport by which one simply says enough wrong that there is no reasonable way to address every problem, well, right, he is. That is to say, here we all are a few weeks later, and Mr. Trump is still upset that Democrats won’t do Republicans’ jobs for them. Again, Benen:

The confused president was nevertheless convinced that Democrats should’ve helped him destroy the most significant Democratic accomplishment since Medicare—because Trump said so. Indeed, despite the White House’s previous claims that Republicans would shift their attention towards tax reform, Trump told the Wall Street Journal yesterday that he not only remains focused on health care, he’s also considering a new hostage strategy to force Democrats to give him what he wants.

In an interview in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump said he was still considering what to do about the payments approved by his Democratic predecessor, President Barack Obama, which some Republicans contend are unconstitutional. Their abrupt disappearance could trigger an insurance meltdown that causes the collapse of the 2010 health law, forcing lawmakers to return to a bruising debate over its future.

“Obamacare is dead next month if it doesn’t get that money,” Trump said, referring to cost-sharing reductions. “I haven’t made my viewpoint clear yet. I don’t want people to get hurt…. What I think should happen and will happen is the Democrats will start calling me and negotiating.”
In other words, when the president says he doesn’t “want people to get hurt,” he means he will start hurting people by sabotaging the American health care system unless Democrats take steps to satisfy his demands.

This is a terrible habit. That is, we all know Donald Trump likes a bit of the tough-guy, wannabe mafioso bluff, but he is President of the United States of Amerca, and should not be seen threatening extortion over legislation, full stop.

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