Ooo, Somebody’s Scared

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Trump Maladministration

Yesterday three lawyers working for Trump sent a letter to Judge Kimba Wood,  Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, asking that Trump be allowed to review all the documents seized from Michael Cohen before criminal investigators see it.

(If the name “Kimba Wood” sounds familiar, she was nominated to be U.S. Attorney General by Bill Clinton in 1993. Her name was withdrawn because of the nannygate thing, even thought she hadn’t done anything illegal, or anything that a lot of the Republicans in Congress hadn’t done, I’m sure. If she ever wanted to get revenge on the Right for that mess, now’s her chance. She is the judge who sentenced Michael Milken to ten years in prison. I also see in her bio that she originally was nominated to the SDNY court by Ronald Reagan on the recommendation of  Senator Al D’Amato, however. Make of that what you will. )

Judge Wood is scheduled to have a hearing this afternoon for the purpose of ascertaining that Cohen actually works as a lawyer. There’s some question whether he has had anything resembling a “law practice” for several years, in which case any pretense at privilege would go up in smoke.

The stuff seized in the raid last week is supposed to next go to a “taint team,” prosecutors who are not part of the investigation into Cohen, review all the material and eliminate anything that might be covered by lawyer privilege. Trump’s lawyers are trying to stop that, however.

“The president objects to the government’s proposal to use a ‘taint team’ of prosecutors from the very office that is investigating this matter to conduct the initial privilege review of documents seized from the President’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen,’’ Hendon’s letter said.

She added that “the president respectfully requests” that the judge issue an order barring the taint team from conducting an initial review of the seized material and require the government to turn over a copy of that material to Cohen’s lawyers.

Then, the president wants the court to direct Cohen “to identify to the president all seized materials that relate to him in any way and to provide a copy of those materials to him and his counsel,” according to the letter. Any disputes about what material was or wasn’t covered by the attorney-client privilege would then be decided by a judge, under the president’s proposal.

Considering that the FBI apparently seized a truckload of stuff, this kind of review could drag on for years. I hope Judge Wood just says no.

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Trump’s Breaking Point?

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Trump Maladministration

What everyone seems to be reading this weekend: Adam Davidson, “Michael Cohen and the End Stage of the Trump Presidency.” Youn will want to read this all the way through. “There are lots of details and surprises to come, but the endgame of this Presidency seems as clear now as those of Iraq and the financial crisis did months before they unfolded,” Davidson writes. Here’s just a bit:

I am unaware of anybody who has taken a serious look at Trump’s business who doesn’t believe that there is a high likelihood of rampant criminality. In Azerbaijan, he did business with a likely money launderer for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. In the Republic of Georgia, he partnered with a group that was being investigated for a possible role in the largest known bank-fraud and money-laundering case in history. In Indonesia, his development partner is “knee-deep in dirty politics”; there are criminal investigations of his deals in Brazil; the F.B.I. is reportedly looking into his daughter Ivanka’s role in the Trump hotel in Vancouver, for which she worked with a Malaysian family that has admitted to financial fraud. Back home, Donald, Jr., and Ivanka were investigated for financial crimes associated with the Trump hotel in SoHo—an investigation that was halted suspiciously. His Taj Mahal casino received what was then the largest fine in history for money-laundering violations.

The counter-argument, which Davidson addresses, is that Trump’s followers know him to be a ruthless, whatever-it-takes kind of guy, and that’s why they like him. Reports of criminal behavior in business will no more phase them than reports of his rampant promiscuity. Davidson argues that these people haven’t yet been exposed to the depths of Trump’s sleaziness. They still think of him as an actual businessman who became rich through his own shrewdness. When they find out he never was a businessman, really, but just a crook/media personality, they are likely to change their minds.

Sure, many people have a vague sense of Trump’s shadiness, but once the full details are better known and digested, a fundamentally different narrative about Trump will become commonplace.

The narrative that will become widely understood is that Donald Trump did not sit atop a global empire. He was not an intuitive genius and tough guy who created billions of dollars of wealth through fearlessness. He had a small, sad operation, mostly run by his two oldest children and Michael Cohen, a lousy lawyer who barely keeps up the pretenses of lawyering and who now faces an avalanche of charges, from taxicab-backed bank fraud to money laundering and campaign-finance violations.

Cohen, Donald, Jr., and Ivanka monetized their willingness to sign contracts with people rejected by all sensible partners. Even in this, the Trump Organization left money on the table, taking a million dollars here, five million there, even though the service they provided—giving branding legitimacy to blatantly sketchy projects—was worth far more. It was not a company that built value over decades, accumulating assets and leveraging wealth. It burned through whatever good will and brand value it established as quickly as possible, then moved on to the next scheme.

I believe this is true. The question is, how long will it take? Six months? A year? A decade?

I remember lots of people supporting Nixon nearly up to the bitter end. But Nixon became persona non grata everywhere pretty quickly. Eventually even people who cheered on the Iraq War came to realize it was a massive clusterbleep. Unfortunately, it’s probably the case that things have to get worse before people are ready to wake up. Fortunately, it’s a near certainty things will get worse, because Trump is in charge and he’s an incompetent moron.

Now, skip over to David Atkins at Washington Monthly. “It’s Too Late for Trump To Stop the Investigations,” he writes.

With the joint cooperation of both federal and state investigators in pursuing the president’s long-time consigliere Michael Cohen, even successfully muzzling Mueller may well have little effect. Not only would the probe continue at the federal level regardless of a change in leadership, more importantly the state-level investigations would proceed at full pace as well.

The raid by the Southern District New York on Michael Cohen’s residences and office looks more and more significant, and there’s not a damn thing Trump can do to stop it.

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Syria: One and Done, and Nothing Really Changes

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Trump Maladministration

Before we go on to Syria — does anyone remember Trump’s big announcement last August that he was calling for a troop increase in Afghanistan?

President Trump outlined a revised vision for the U.S. war in Afghanistan on Monday, pledging to end a strategy of “nation-building” and instead institute a policy aimed more squarely at addressing the terrorist threat that emanates from the region. …

… But Trump provided few specifics about his policy and how much the U.S. military commitment in the region would increase as a result, insisting that conditions on the ground would determine troop levels and strategy.

What sticks in my head most vividly is a conversation I overheard the next day, in which some locals were telling each other with some excitement that Trump was going to bring back the draft. They were anticipating a major military action in Afghanistan. And I’m thinking, seriously? This is nothing but the usual blah blah blah. In a couple of weeks nobody will remember anything about it. And I was right. There was a modest increase in troops, btw, that nobody seems to have noticed.

This morning I saw someone on social media declaring that we were back at war, and I’m thinking, probably not. It’s not clear to me that yesterday’s strike on Syria was any different from other strikes on Syria. This is just what we do in the absence of having a plan; we periodically fire missiles at Syria.

Krishnadev Calamur writes at the Atlantic:

It was a dramatic action at the end of a dramatic few days. But we’ve seen a version of this before. What’s different about these strikes, Trump said: “We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.” And, as Dunford pointed out later, while the previous strike hit one facility, this one struck three. And while the last one was unilateral, this one involved the British and the French.

But, as was the case with the last strike, we won’t immediately know how effective Friday’s strikes were in stopping further chemical attacks—or what will happen should Russia intervene militarily.

This year’s Syria air strike was bigger than last year’s Syria air strike, but I’m not seeing anyone who thinks it will make any long-term difference. The goal seems to have been to make a show of doing something without doing so much something that there would be any retaliation. Trump may have said that he is “prepared to sustain” whatever you want to call yesterday’s strikes, but Secretary of Defense James Mattis said this was a “one-time shot.” It appears Trump’s administration pays less and less attention to Trump. It’s the only way it can function at all.

Just as a sign of how bleeped this all is, Trump actually tweeted “mission accomplished!” this morning. I’m not kidding.

Lives lost, families blown apart. But we have cool missiles!

Most of the smart people are saying that the “result” is that Assad has won. Krishnadev Calamur concluded,

Any damage sustained to Syrian military facilities can be repaired by Assad’s benefactors, Russia and Iran. Assad has all but won the conflict at a great cost: More than 500,000 people have been killed, the war has created more than 5 million refugees, and entire cities have been flattened. Unless the U.S. supplements Friday’s actions with a broader military role in Syria—one that neither the president nor the American public has the appetite for—Assad will not only remain in power, but also retain his ability to target his people.

Juan Cole:

In our age of politics as reality show, where we have hired the star of NBC’s “Apprentice” to play president (apparently in large part because he is both consistently awful and highly entertaining at once), even geopolitics is done for show.

The United States, France and the UK lost the Syrian War to Russia and Iran. It is all over but the shouting. They had hoped that the al-Assad regime, which had been a thorn in their sides for decades, would be overthrown. It isn’t an ignoble hope. It is a horrible, Stalinist regime with massive amounts of blood on its hands. But the reasons for which Washington, Paris and London wanted it gone were not necessarily noble ones. Syria is among the last states to reject Israel. Its secular elites reached out, isolated after the end of the Cold War, to Iran for support. Its system does not accommodate the Western corporate take-over of the country’s economy. Overthrowing countries that buck the neoliberal, barracuda capitalist Washington consensus and challenge the neocolonial order in the Middle East (with the assumption of Israeli hegemony in the Levant) is a no-brainer for the North Atlantic powers. …

… The missile attacks are for domestic politics, and perhaps to some extent a demonstration of political will to Russia and Iran. As military history they are a footnote.

Those who argue that they were necessary to show resistance to the use of chemical weapons are missing some things. The West backed Saddam Hussein’s use of chem in the Iraq-Iran War. It is hard to see why killing children with chlorine differs from the point of view of the children from killing them with bombs. Military action should be taken in accordance with international law. And, deploying missile strikes ineffectually renders them less effective politically down the road.

These strikes are like when a fistfight breaks out on the reality show Big Brother. The show will go on next week.

It’s worth reading Juan Cole all the way through; he explains what’s actually going on better than most of the big media outlets. And for all the chest-thumping going on in Washington, the more telling news is this:

Moscow met the limited American-led airstrikes against Syria before dawn on Saturday with plenty of bluster and heated rhetoric, starting with an uncharacteristically quick response from President Vladimir V. Putin condemning the attack and accusing the United States of aggravating the humanitarian situation.

But there was also a palpable sense of relief.

The sun was barely up before the Defense Ministry, not famous for speedy reactions, pumped out a statement underscoring that none of the thousands of Russian troops garrisoned in Syria had been threatened by the American, British and French attack and that none of its air defense systems had been mobilized.

This just in: Pro-Assad official says targeted bases were evacuated on Russian warning. Of course they were.

Right now my email in box is clogged with messages from various groups asking me to help stop Trump’s illegal strikes in Syria (by sending them money). I suspect the strikes are over already — for a while, anyway. Until next time somebody decides we have to Do Something about Assad.

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The Slogan “Show Me State” Takes on New Meaning

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Republican Party

Yesterday the Missouri House released a 400-page report about the 2015 “affair” between not-yet Governor Eric Greitens and his hairdresser, which includes the woman’s testimony. You can read the highlights here. Executive summary: Greitens is a predator, an abuser and a creep. See also “House report stings like the slap it says Eric Greitens delivered to his lover.”

First, let me say that the nation owes this woman and her estranged husband, who persisted in calling media attention to the incident, a debt of gratitude. I understand the Republican Party had its eye on Greitens for greater things, maybe even a presidential run someday. Now even the Republican-dominated Missouri House is calling for him to resign. We’re all dodging a bullet with this guy.

Claire McCaskill is running television ads reminding voters that her probable general election opponent, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, initially supported Greitens when the first accusations came out. But now even Hawley is calling for Greitens to resign, so McCaskill may not get much mileage with that.

Greitens claims to be the victim of a “political witch hunt” and is continuing to push his agenda, which includes right-to-work laws, stripping state employees of worker protections and defunding higher ed. The usual Republican stuff.

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Bye, Paul Ryan

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Trump Maladministration

Several news outlets are reporting that Paul Ryan will announce today that he is not seeking re-election and will retire from the House.

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Citizen Cohen

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Trump Maladministration

Trump supporters are whining that Michael Cohen is being treated like a mob lawyer. Yeah, he is, isn’t he? And probably for good reason.

Several op eds and analyses say it is extraordinarily difficult to get a search warrant on records from a lawyer unless there is really, really, really solid evidence that said lawyer is engaged in criminal activity. And there would have to be good reason to think that a subpoena wouldn’t do.

Whatever evidence federal prosecutors have collected concerning Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime attorney, it is most likely extraordinarily strong.

Before federal agents raided Cohen’s home, hotel room, and office Monday afternoon, they would have had to convince high-ranking officials at the Department of Justice and a federal judge that a search warrant was necessary to obtain the evidence sought.

“Doing a search warrant rather than a subpoena suggests the investigators thought Cohen, if given a subpoena, would possibly destroy evidence or withhold key evidence, particularly if it were incriminating,” Clinton Watts, a former FBI agent and a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, said.

So, yes, raiding rather than subpoena-ing is what is done with mob lawyers who are thought to be themselves engaged in ongoing criminal activity. It would not be done if the lawyer were only representing someone thought to be guilty of ongoing criminal activity.

If Cohen were being raided only for material related to the Stormy Daniels payoff, it could be argued that he hadn’t been acting as Trump’s lawyer, since Trump himself said he didn’t know anything about it. But even then I don’t think they would have raided Cohen if they didn’t think he himself had reason to hide something pretty consequential from the law. Whether that “something” also incriminates Trump is not something we can know, yet.

Several news outlets are reporting this morning that yesterday’s raid was looking for information on payments to women, not just Stormy Daniels. But many people are skeptical that’s all the raid was about. As Josh Marshall wrote, what we know about the payment to Stormy Daniels and probably other women doesn’t rise to the level of gravity “to merit this kind of action.”

CNN is reporting that the FBI also sought information relating to Cohen’s ownership of taxi medallions. There have been rumors that Cohen’s taxi business is somehow connected to the Russian mob and various criminal activities. So maybe Cohen literally is a mob lawyer. But I can’t find anything more than rumors. There’s also talk of bank fraud, which might relate to where Cohen got the money to pay off Daniels et al., and campaign finance violations, which might relate to seeing the payoff money as campaign contributions, which I understand is a stretch.

ABC is reporting that the warrant was not sought by the U.S. Attorney from the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman, because Berman (a Trump appointee who was interviewed by Trump for the job) actually is recused from the Michael Cohen investigation. The raid was handled by other people in Berman’s office and approved by a judge.

Now, why did Mueller hand off this investigation to the Justice Department and the Southern District of New York? It might really be that what Cohen is suspected of doing really isn’t related to Trump or the Trump campaign. But let’s assume that isn’t it.

Jed Shugerman writes at Slate,

Why might this U.S. attorney’s office have been involved? One answer is the most basic: a raid of at least two locations simultaneously—office and hotel—requires a lot of bodies and coordination. If you need that many FBI agents, you already need to coordinate with the local office for it to go smoothly. Former prosecutors say that Mueller might have referred this raid to the Southern District for logistical reasons alone. But he still chose to refer the investigation to this U.S. attorney’s office rather than simply use their logistical support.

What else might this move tell us about Robert Mueller’s thinking? First, remember that Mueller has learned that Trump has already tried to fire him, and the person who reportedlystopped him—White House counsel Don McGahn—is rumored to be on his way out of the administration.

The Post is reporting that the subject of the Cohen warrant was an investigation into possible bank fraud, wire fraud, and campaign finance violations, possibly related to a hush money contract with adult film performer Stormy Daniels. Mueller probably could have made a claim that Cohen already fell under his jurisdiction, which is to investigate Russian election interference, links between the Trump campaign and Russia, and “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” But it has been reported that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made the call to involve the U.S. attorney, and perhaps Rosenstein made a strategic calculation about Trump, or they agreed together. It seems, though, that both men know they need to spread Mueller’s work around as a hedge against his firing, and maybe even to try to deter Trump from firing him.

In other words, in order to shut down the investigation Trump would have to not just stop Mueller’s investigation, he’d also have to move against the Southern District of New York.

Republicans are warning Trump not to fire Mueller. Whether there is anything that can be done to protect Mueller is a matter of dispute.  But it’s not hard to imagine that Republicans in Congress really don’t want to deal with the fallout of another Saturday Night Massacre. Especially not in a midterm year.

Meanwhile, Mueller himself is making other news.

The special counsel is investigating a payment made to President Trump’s foundation by a Ukrainian steel magnate for a talk during the campaign, according to three people briefed on the matter, as part of a broader examination of streams of foreign money to Mr. Trump and his associates in the years leading up to the election.

Investigators subpoenaed the Trump Organization this year for an array of records about business with foreign nationals. In response, the company handed over documents about a $150,000 donation that the Ukrainian billionaire, Victor Pinchuk, made in September 2015 to the Donald J. Trump Foundation in exchange for a 20-minute appearance by hMr. Trump that month through a video link to a conference in Kiev.

Michael D. Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer whose office and hotel room were raided on Monday in an apparently unrelated case, solicited the donation.

Oh, my. And did any of that $150,000 find its way into the Trump campaign, I wonder? Trump has already been caught using his “foundation” as a slush fund for self-dealing (which is something he’s accused Hillary Clinton of doing, without evidence).

Mr. Mueller has also examined a deal Mr. Cohen was putting together with Mr. Trump to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Mr. Trump said last summer that Mr. Mueller should not look at his or his family’s finances beyond issues related directly to Russia.

But the special counsel’s investigators have questioned witnesses about whether money from the Persian Gulf had been used to finance Mr. Trump’s political efforts and asked for information on Mr. Pinchuk.

So, Cohen could have lots of information on Trump that is very incriminating, indeed.

Here’s a rundown of Trump associates who are under investigation, under indictment, or have already pleaded guilty.

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Michael Cohen Gets Searched and Seized

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Trump Maladministration

Lots of juicy news is breaking about Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen. Today the FBI raided Cohen’s Manhattan law offices and his hotel suite in the Loews Regency on Park Avenue. Cohen’s attorney said in a statement. “I have been advised by federal prosecutors that the New York action is, in part, a referral by the Office of Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.”

Word is that Cohen is being investigated for possible bank fraud and campaign finance violations, and the records seized included those pertaining to the payoff to Stormy Daniels. That sound you hear is coming from Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, who is whooping it up. According to WaPo,

Among the documents seized were privileged communications between Cohen and his clients — including those with Trump, according to a person familiar with the investigators’ work. Investigators took Cohen’s computer, phone and personal financial records as part of the search of his office at Rockefeller Center, the person said.

Good times.

Update: Just heard on NBC that Rod Rosenstein signed off on the raids, and Trump just called the Mueller investigation “an attack on our country.” Will Trump be restrained from firing Rosenstein and Mueller?

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Trump Is Handed a Clue That Syria Is Complicated. Will He Notice?

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Trump Maladministration

Of all the times for things to go to hell in Syria, it had to be just as Freaking Lunatic Whackjob John Bolton is taking over as National Security Adviser to Clueless Malevolent Moron Trump. They might as well call in Dick the Dick Cheney to complete the Trifecta of Doom.

James Hohmann:

A year ago, President Trump’s new administration announced that removing Assad from power was no longer a priority of the United States government. Soon afterward, the man known as “the Butcher of Damascus” launched a sarin attack that killed more than 80 Syrians. Seeing gruesome images of murdered children prompted Trump to order airstrikes on the airfield that had been used by planes that dropped the gas.

Fast forward almost exactly one year. During a rally in Ohio the Thursday before last,Trump contradicted and undercut months of public commitments from diplomatic and military leaders that America would not cut and run from Syria. Speaking off the cuff during what was supposed to be a speech about infrastructure, the president declared: “We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon. Let the other people take care of it now!”

The next day, news broke that Trump had suspended more than $200 million in stabilization funds for Syrian recovery efforts — to the grave consternation of the professionals at Foggy Bottom.

“I want to get out,” Trump added last Tuesday at the White House during a news conference with Baltic leaders. “I want to bring our troops back home. … It’s time.”

This declaration caught military commanders off guard. Top national security aides persuaded Trump not to immediately pull out the 2,000 Americans who are on the ground during a meeting later in the day. Then they crafted a statement in the Situation Room designed to reassure allies in the region. But for Assad and his patrons in Moscow and Tehran, the president’s preferences were crystal clear.

Then, on Saturday night, at least 40 people were killed in another apparent chemical attack on a besieged, rebel-held enclave near Damascus.

It’s a damn shame Trump is too bleeping stupid to make the connection between his own words and their consequences.

Max Boot, remembered for his knee-jerk support of the Bush-Cheney atrocities in the Middle East, is singing a different tune with Trump:

On April 7, 2017, the U.S. armed forces fired 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase to punish Bashar al-Assad for his use of chemical weapons against his own citizens. The Syrian president reportedly celebrated the one-year anniversary of the strike on Saturday by ordering another attack with chemical weapons that opposition activists said killed dozens of people in the city of Douma. This appears to be at least the eighth such attack by Assad this year — and the most brazen. Having seen that the United States would not react to his repeated violations of international laws, Assad has intensified his use of weapons of mass destruction. …

….Since taking a victory lap for his cruise-missile strike, Trump has left Assad, along with his Russian and Iranian backers, undisturbed to continue their meticulous work of mass murder. Trump even discontinued support for rebel groups fighting Assad and instead focused narrowly on the goal of eradicating the Islamic State. Now, with the finish line in sight, Trump appears to have set a deadline of October for the Defense Department to pull our troops out — even though the Pentagon, State Department, CIA, Israel and the Arab states are all telling him that this would be a monumental mistake. A premature departure will risk the success of the anti-Islamic State campaign and hand eastern Syria to Assad and his patrons.

Trump announced today that he would decide “soon” what to do about Syria. He’s treating the crisis like a reality show episode. See also Trump’s real Syria policy is hypocrisy.

Juan Cole provides background on what’s going on in Syria. He adds:

Trump’s response to Khan Sheykhoun in 2017 was a one-off with no real military or political impact. I strongly suspect that any response he makes now will be similar, a fireworks show for his domestic constituency without much downstream consequence in Syria itself.

Obama decided not to bomb Syria in September of 2013 because the British parliament voted against a joint operation and because the Republicans in Congress made it clear that they would not support an Obama strike on Syria. Russia offered to sequester Syrian sarin gas stockpiles, and Obama took them up on the offer. It appears that some 90 percent of the sarin stockpiles were in fact destroyed or removed. Saturday’s attack used chlorine, a common industrial chemical.

Since Trump’s own strike on the Shuayrat base last year did not forestall the Douma gassing, it is difficult to understand why Trump thinks a strike in 2013 by Mr. Obama would have done so.

The big question is whether the mercurial and erratic Trump will now rethink his decision to get out of Syria entirely by next fall. The US special operations troops that would be pulled out are in the Syrian far east, embedded among Kurds, and have nothing to do with the Damascus area.

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In the Nooz: Pruitt, Kushner, Manafort

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Trump Maladministration

The AP reports:

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt’s concern with his safety came at a steep cost to taxpayers as his swollen security detail blew through overtime budgets and at times diverted officers away from investigating environmental crimes.

Altogether, the agency spent millions of dollars for a 20-member full-time detail that is more than three times the size of his predecessor’s part-time security contingent.

Pruitt is clearly a five-alarm flake. I recall that his background is entirely in law and Oklahoma politics, not in business. As much as I hold corporations and CEOs in disdain, I think even Exxon would have weeded this whackjob out.

Pruitt’s ambitious domestic and international travel led to rapidly escalating costs, with the security detail racking up so much overtime that many hit annual salary caps of about $160,000. The demands of providing 24-hour coverage even meant taking some investigators away from field work, such as when Pruitt traveled to California for a family vacation.

The EPA official said total security costs approached $3 million when pay is added to travel expenses.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said late Friday that Pruitt has faced an “unprecedented” amount of death threats against him and his family.

However,

A nationwide search of state and federal court records by AP found no case where anyone has been arrested or charged with threatening Pruitt. EPA’s press office did not respond Friday to provide details of any specific threats or arrests.

Pruitt has said his use of first-class airfare was initiated following unpleasant interactions with other travelers. In one incident, someone yelled a profanity as he walked through the airport.

Pruitt has been dragging this oversize security detail around with him on family vacations. The article also says that on occasions when Pruitt has to pay for his own plane tickets, he flies coach. Apparently he’s a five-alarm tightwad with his own money.  He got behind on paying the people who were giving him the sweet deal on the Capitol Hill brownstone, and he wasn’t taking their hints he should leave, so they changed the locks.

Now, on to Jared Kushner. Somehow, the Kushner Company got the money to buy out its partner in the 666 Fifth Avenue property.  Vornado Realty Trust is selling its shares to the Kushners. But no one seems to know if this means the Kushners have a new partner or where the money came from.  WTF? And why would the Kushners want to double down on this turkey?

Note also that JP Morgan Chase agreed to a $600 million loan to help the Kushners develop the Brooklyn properties I wrote about awhile back. Seems a bit risky, JP Morgan Chase.

Paul Manafort keeps trying to wriggle out of being prosecuted by Robert Mueller. He’s filed motions to dismiss the cases against him, none successful so far. Late yesterday he filed a motion arguing that evidence found in a storage unit should be suppressed because the FBI lacked a proper warrant.

The FBI first got into the Alexandria, Va. storage unit last May with the assistance of an employee who worked at two or more of Manafort’s companies, an agent told the federal magistrate judge who issued the warrant. Then, the agent used what he saw written on so-called Banker’s Boxes and the fact there was a five-drawer filing cabinet to get permission to return and seize many of the records. …

… The warrant U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan issued for the storage locker on May 27 authorized FBI agents to seize virtually any financial or tax records relating to Manafort or his business partner Rick Gates. Also approved for seizure were any records relating to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, his Party of Regions, a pro-Ukraine think tank called the European Center for a Modern Ukraine and a slew of offshore companies connected to Manafort.

The warrant also indicates that among the records FBI agents were authorized to seize from Manafort’s unit were all records “related to, discussing or documenting the Podesta Group.” Manafort engaged the Podesta Group for Ukraine-related lobbying. The lobbying group belatedly filed a foreign agent registration for that work last year. Earlier this year, the Podesta Group abruptly disbanded. It has not been charged.

Manafort’s lawyers are arguing that the employee was not authorized to allow anyone into the unit and that the warrant was overly broad. I’m no lawyer, but this seems a stretch.

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Icahn to Pruitt to Porter to Daniels et al. to Cohen to Trump, and Beyond

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Trump Maladministration

Summarizing this Rachel Maddow segment would be too time consuming, so please watch the video. You can skip the first three minutes if you are short on time.

Before you lift your jaw off the floor, here’s a juicy bit Maddow left out. Samantha Dravis, the woman on the payroll who couldn’t be bothered to come to work, is a former girlfriend of Rob Porter.

Josh Marshall writes,

InsideEPA, an EPA trade sheet, reports that Scott Pruitt’s downfall is the work of disgraced former White House aide Rob Porter, who leaked damaging information about Pruitt to retaliate against a former girlfriend who told White House officials about Porter’s history of domestic violence.

As was basically reported at the time, Porter’s downfall seems to have started when a former girlfriend, Samantha Dravis, went to White House officials and told them what she knew about Porter’s past, particularly his abuse of two ex-wives. Dravis was a top aide to Scott Pruitt, the EPA Administrator. …

… Dravis’s resignation was announced earlier today.

There’s also a lot of new reporting about Michael Cohen’s business deals and how they might be interesting to Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Investigators were particularly interested in interactions involving Michael D. Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney and a former Trump Organization employee. Among other things, Cohen was involved in business deals secured or sought by the Trump Organization in Georgia, Kazakhstan and Russia.

And what about the infamous $130,000 Cohen paid Stormy Daniels that Trump says he knew nothing about? It seems unlikely that Cohen just casually shelled out that much money out of his own pocket to any woman who claimed an affair with Trump.  That money had to come from somewhere. This suddenly puts the Daniels saga into the middle of the rest of Trump’s messes, and possibly connects to the Russian investigation if any of that hush money can be traced to overseas sources.

Finally, just to get a better idea of what a freak show the Trump Administration is, see “Rex Tillerson’s $12 million army of consultants.”

It was one of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s core goals: radically reshaping the State Department to make it leaner, cheaper and modernized to the standards of a former private-sector CEO.

Now that Tillerson has been fired, the vaunted “Redesign” initiative he launched faces an uncertain future, but at least one clear legacy: around $12 million spent just for private consultants who in some cases charged the State Department more than $300 an hour.

Yep; Tillerson had hired a bunch of pricey business consultants to come in and make the State Department more “efficient.” Yet Tillerson refused to work with anyone who had any experience with the State Department and appeared to not appreciate that it wasn’t Exxon, or even Procter & Gamble.

Congressional aides and former State Department officials noted that, despite months of work, Tillerson’s redesign initiative has had few, if any, tangible accomplishments. …

…Tillerson and his top aides “had disdain for the professionals,” one former senior State Department official said. “You had years of blueprints for reform developed internally, two QDDR documents, and thousands of career officers and civil servants who crave change and reform and would’ve been thrilled to work on this effort at no added taxpayer expense.”

“Instead,” the former official added, “they chose to lavish money on contractors and consultants who knew nothing about the organization.”

If you have ever worked for a company that hired outside consultants to “streamline” things, and the consultants turned out to be a pack of clueless empty (but very expensive) suits who spent no time talking to employees and whose recommendations totally bleeped up your department because the suits had no clue what your department even did when they issued their recommendations, you’ll appreciate this.

One State staffer on the redesign team complained about the Insigniam consultants in particular, saying they showed a poor grasp of how the State Department functions and little appreciation for diplomats’ training and experience. In one meeting with State Department employees last year, the staffer recalled, the Insigniam consultants puzzled their audience with an awkward attempt at explaining the importance of context in conversations.

“They would say something like, ‘If I said to you, ‘Get me some water,’ you’d know to get a cup and go to the sink and bring me back the water, but if you said that to someone in China, they might just scoop up some water from a puddle on the ground.’ And they said this to a room full of diplomats!” the staffer said. “It was painful. We were literally objecting to the way they were talking. We were trying to educate them on what we did so that they could actually help do the job they were hired to do.”

Yep. That’s what running the government like a business looks like.

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