Justice

A Very Interesting Question

#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)

Yes, that Jack Goldsmith, for Lawfare:

One puzzle that deepens with Mike Schmidt’s New York Times story on “Trump’s Struggle to Keep [a] Grip on [the] Russia Investigation” is why Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has not recused himself from overseeing the Mueller investigation.

In short, before the Schmidt story, we knew that Rosenstein was intimately involved in the president’s decision to fire Comey. Rosenstein’s memo was used as a pretext to fire Comey;Rod Rosenstein is shown during his confirmation hearing to become deputy attorney general on 7 March 2017. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press) Rosenstein knew that the president wanted to fire Comey; and he read the Bedminster draft before he wrote his own memorandum.

In this light, it has been very puzzling for a while why Rosenstein does not have a conflict of interest in the Mueller investigation. The Washington Post reported unequivocally that Mueller’s investigation includes “whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice,” including, as a central issue, in his firing of Comey. Rosenstein was in the middle of that firing. He possesses information about the president’s beliefs and motives in firing Comey, and quite possibly a personal interest in how those beliefs and motives are construed, since he appeared to many to have been used by the president (and was reportedly very angry about it). Rosenstein would thus would very likely be a fact witness in any obstruction inquiry in connection with the Comey firing. It is hard to understand why he did not have a conflict of interest the moment Mueller’s investigation turned to obstruction in the firing of Comey.

File under, he might have a point, y’know.

Just sayin’.

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Image notes: Top —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)  Right — Rod Rosenstein is shown during his confirmation hearing to become deputy attorney general on 7 March 2017. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Barrett, Devlin, Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, and Sari Horwitz. “Special counsel is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice, officials say”. The Washington Post. 14 June 2017.

Goldsmith, Jack. “Why Hasn’t Rod Rosenstein Recused Himself from the Mueller Investigation?” Lawfare. 5 January 2018.

Schmidt, Michael S. “Obstruction Inquiry Shows Trump’s Struggle to Keep Grip on Russia Investigation”. The New York Times. 4 January 2018.

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A Question of Presupposition (Graham Cracked Edition)

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

#PutiTrump: Protest image of Vladimir Putin, artist unknown. Donald Trump in detail of photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for msnbc, 2016.

“I always said he had a blindspot to Russia but things are changing for the better. He finally allowed the Ukraine to be given defensive weapons. But when it comes to Russia, I’ve said on your show a million times, he has an attitude toward Putin that I think is counterproductive. The president does believe his intel agencies.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

It really is easy to pin a lot on the quote; Steve Benen offers this take:

Now, it’s quite likely that Trump and Graham, who appear to now be rather close allies, have had private conversations in which the president has said things to the senator that he hasn’t shared with the public. But if Trump told Graham he now believes Russians stole Democratic documents, it would represent a dramatic change of heart.

As recently as mid-November—not quite two months ago—Trump told reporters that Vladimir Putin personally assured him that Russia didn’t meddle in the American election. “Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” the American president said in reference to his Russian counterpart.

It was part of a lengthy pattern in which Trump refused to accept U.S. intelligence agencies’ findings. “Nobody really knows for sure” whether Russia intervened in the American elections, the president said in July—after intelligence professionals told him they do know for sure.

But according to Lindsey Graham, sometime between mid-November and early-January, Trump changed his mind, and if the senator is right, the shift is a pretty important development.

The analysis is not wrong; we should always bear in mind, however, questions of presupposition.

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A Threshold (Trumping Transformation)

#trumpswindle | #wellduh

President Donald Trump reacts to the song as he arrives at a rally at the Phoenix Convention Center, Tuesday, 22 August 2017, in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo: Alex Brandon/AP Photo)

There is breaking report today via NBC News explaining that Donald Trump’s lawyers are reportedly negotiating with Robert Mueller and the Office of Special Counsel, both for the terms of a presidential interview and in hopes of avoiding one altogether. We ought to mark the point simply as a matter of threshold: Last year, or, that is to say, last month, we heard from the president’s lawyers an expectation that Mueller and OSC would be wrapping up their investigation and clearing the president. Today we hear chatter that they are maneuvering to drag out the inquiry by trying to keep Special Counsel Mueller away from President Trump.

Say what we will about inevitability, but the transformation would seem to mark a threshold.

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Image note: President Donald Trump reacts to the song as he arrives at a rally at the Phoenix Convention Center, Tuesday, 22 August 2017, in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo: Alex Brandon/AP Photo)

Welker, Kristen, Carol E. Lee, Julia Ainsley, and Hallie Jackson. “Initial talks underway about Trump interview in Mueller Russia probe”. NBC News. 8 January 2018.

Perspicacity, Not Clairvoyance

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Special Counsel Robert Mueller (AP Photo)

This is just a note to file away. No reason. Never mind. Anyway, Digby reminds:

Perhaps it’s a coincidence that so much of the information in question was republished on a website called HelloFLA by a Florida Republican and former congressional staffer named Aaron Nevins, who was connected to Trump associate and longtime political operative Roger Stone. It could be completely random that among the core group of Mueller antagonists, those calling the probe a “coup d’état” and demanding purges of members of the “deep state” are Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who proposed that Mueller’s funding be cut off, and the aforementioned Rep. Francis Rooney, who’s been all over TV talking about purging the FBI.

Indeed, as journalist Marcy Wheeler pointed out a while back, one of the ringleaders of the movement to discredit the Department of Justice and Robert Mueller, Rep. DeSantis, directly benefited from Guccifer 2.0’s leak to Nevins after the latter published five documents regarding the DCCC’s recruitment of DeSantis’ Democratic opponent, George Pappas. According to The Wall Street Journal, Guccifer 2.0 even sent a link with a HelloFLA article directly to Roger Stone, who told reporters he didn’t forward the hacked material to anyone—the answer to a question nobody asked.

If Mueller’s team is looking into the digital operation and Roger Stone’s interactions with Guccifer 2.0, as one would expect them to do, then these shenanigans in Florida are also coming into view. That may explain why this little circle of Sunshine State GOP congressmen are so anxious to shut him down.

Flip a coin. Heads, say something, it turns out to be nothing, you end up sounding paranoid. Tails, say nothing, and, well, it’s a complicated tale of tailored traditions having to do with four words best left unsaid. And that’s the thing; say nothing and there will never be any temptation to say those words, but that probably is not so important as the point that such opportunity means something happened.

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#DimensionTrump: The Lulzie Lede (Stone Stupid Mix)

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

L-R: Julian Assange of WikiLeaks; comedian Randy Credico; longtime Republican hand and boasting conspirator Roger Stone.  (Detail of composite image via RT, ca. 2017.)

It ought to be significant of something that Dan Friedman of Mother Jones can possibly offer a lede like this:

Randy Credico, a comedian and radio host who Trump adviser Roger Stone claims was his intermediary to WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, has asserted his Fifth Amendment right ahead of an interview with the House Intelligence Committee that was scheduled for Friday, according to his lawyer. As a result, the committee has released Credico from appearing before the panel as part of its investigation into the Trump-Russia scandal.

To some degree, this kind of utter stupidity really is some aspect of #WhatTheyVotedFor.   (more…)

Everyday, Easy Cowardice (Palmetto Virtue Edition)

#rapeculture | #WhatTheyVotedFor

House Benghazi Committee Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC04) speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, 6 January 2016, before the start of the committee's closed-door hearing. The House committee is looking into the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya and is interviewing former CIA director David Petraeus as the investigation enters its third calendar year, and a presidential election year. (Susan Walsh/AP Photo)

The report from Griffin Connolly, for Roll Call, might not be surprising—

Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, will not initiate an investigation into allegations of sexual assault against President Donald Trump, he signaled in a letter Tuesday.

—but it seems worth pointing out that Republicans are not even trying. Nor is this a new phenomenon; it just seems especially relevant.

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Not Quite Nostalgia (Easy Pickings)

#familyvalues | #WhatTheyVotedFor

This is a candidate for Freudian Slip of the Year:

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore responds Wednesday, 27 April 2016, to complaints made in January by various groups protesting his administrative order explaining the legal status of the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Act and the Alabama Marriage Protection Act in Montgomery, Alabama. (Detail of photo by Julie Bennett)The former judge condemned the Washington Post story during a campaign speech in Huntsville, Alabama. Earlier, another fellow Republican, Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, urged Moore to drop out of the race, saying Moore’s explanations had been inadequate.

In a Huntsville gym, Moore assured supporters that the Post story was “a desperate attempt to stop my political campaign” and that the allegations that he was “involved with a minor child are completely unfalse and untrue and for which they will be sued.”

(Associated Press; accent added)

Just sayin’.

Once upon a time, there was this short, angry man touring the daytime talk show circuit, cosplaying a Grand Something of the Kaykaykay, and to be honest when he got all worked up he reminded of a skinny, embittered, ranting garden gnome, and then someone would talk back to him and he would really go off, to the point we could not understand the words coming out of his mouth.

Whenever these good ol’ boys get themselves so worked up as to stop making any sense whatsoever, the beady-eyed joke in a robe, the unbelievable stereotype of what it takes to be a supremacist, finds time for a comeback tour. Or maybe Cartman is more accessible; imagine one of these angry, Southern, white supremacists getting so screechy and incomprehensible that you never realized until that moment the South Park character was actually a stereotype and not parody.

Oh.

Er … ah … well, now you know.

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Image note: Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore responds Wednesday, 27 April 2016, to complaints made in January by various groups protesting his administrative order explaining the legal status of the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Act and the Alabama Marriage Protection Act in Montgomery, Alabama. (Detail of photo by Julie Bennett)

Associated Press. “The Latest: Moore dismisses allegations, says suit to come”. 12 November 2017.

A Moment in re a Moment

Sometimes it’s a quick rethinking:World Health Organization [WHO]

The World Health Organization rescinded Zimbabwe’s controversial longtime President Robert Mugabe’s status as a goodwill ambassador on Sunday.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus issued a statement announcing the removal of Mugabe’s goodwill ambassador status after he conferred with international health groups.

“Over the last few days, I have reflected on my appointment of H.E. President Robert Mugabe as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for NCDs in Africa,” Tedros said. “As a result I have decided to rescind the appointment.”

(Uria)

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A Moment from the World Today

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe during a meeting with South African President Jacob Zuma, at the Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria, South Africa, 3 October 2017.  (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe/File)

The headline from Associated Press is itself something of a wonder to behold: “WHO chief now ‘rethinking’ Mugabe ‘goodwill ambassador’ post”. The detail, then, is about what we might expect.

After widespread shock and condemnation, the head of the World Health Organization said Saturday he is “rethinking” his appointment of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe as a “goodwill ambassador.”

In a new tweet, WHO director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus said that “I’m listening. I hear your concerns. Rethinking the approach in light of WHO values. I will issue a statement as soon as possible.”

As condemnation poured in from around the world, well, yes, it would seem the decision needed rethinking. Still, we should remember that there is in fact something of an international custom of reaching out to pariah states by giving them seemingly absurd chairs on important panels and committees in the international discourse. Perhaps the time for this, as with many other nod and wink accommodations of bad behavior, has come to an end. If so, call it progress.

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Image note: Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe during a meeting with South African President Jacob Zuma, at the Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria, South Africa, 3 October 2017. (Themba Hadebe/AP Photo)

Associated Press. “WHO chief now ‘rethinking’ Mugabe ‘goodwill ambassador’ post”. 21 October 2017.

Not a Comedy Sketch (Spamtastic)

File photo by Lucy Pemoni/AP Photo.

“A spokesman for the Institute for Human Services, said people are stealing Spam because it’s easy to sell. ‘It’s quick cash for quick drug money,’ Carvalho said.”

Associated Press

There really is nothing more we could possibly add at this time; some circumstances should speak for themselves.   

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Image note: Detail of file photo by Lucy Pemoni/AP Photo.

Associated Press. “Honolulu store owners say thieves are targeting cans of Spam”. 21 October 2017.