Sunday, January 31, 2021

'What a mess': Ex-prosecutor explains why Trump's impeachment legal team quit on him

Mod: Trump is going to a Senate trial in a little more than a week and all of his lawyers just quit? How'd that happen? 

'What a mess': Ex-prosecutor explains why Trump's impeachment legal team quit on him (Raw Story link): Speaking with "New Day" host Victor Blackwell, CNN legal analysts and former prosecutor Elie Honig explained the likely reasons why Donald Trump's entire impeachment legal team quit on him late Saturday just days before the ex-president faces a trial in the U.S. Senate.

With CNN reporting, "A person familiar with the departures told CNN that Trump wanted the attorneys to argue there was mass election fraud and that the election was stolen from him rather than focus on the legality of convicting a president after he's left office," Hoenig said it likely went deeper than that.

"What a mess," Honig began when asked about the latest developments.

"Here we are, we are a week and change out from trial and the former president has nobody representing him," he explained. "So lawyers generally have a very broad obligation to represent their clients; criminal defending, impeachment defending, whatever it may be. When you see something like this, what it tells you there was a difference in terms of not necessarily just strategy, but if a defense lawyer believes he is be made to make an argument that is either a lie or dangerous or unethical, that's where you see resignations like this."

"So I think it makes a lot of sense," he added. "If President Trump said to the lawyers -- and by all appearances they are legitimate lawyers, they're DOJ alumni, one of them is an ethics expert -- if President Trump said 'I want you to argue this election was stolen,' they have every right and they did the right thing to say, 'no, we're out.'"

"We all knew, they knew, everybody knew that the president told this lie that the election had been stolen from him," host Blackwell offered. "He did that from the night when the returns started to come in and they joined the team anyway. What does that tell you about how central that lie he wanted to be part of, of the case that they were making? It couldn't be just a part of it because they knew that that would be something he wanted to happen, that he wanted that maybe to be the central element."

"Yeah, Victor, he is sticking with it," the ex-prosecutor replied. "If I was a lawyer in that situation, if the former president came to me, I would say something like I am not doing that big lie thing. I will argue constitutionality all day long. 

Maybe that your speech you gave didn't quite step over the line of the First Amendment. I don't agree with those arguments, but they are fair play. If he said, no you are going to rant and rave about this election was stolen, rigged, rigged, rigged -- no, I would do what these lawyers did."

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Trump loses all 5 of his impeachment lawyers -- legal experts don't know what happens next

: It appears that Donald Trump might now be down to Rudy. Which would pretty much be like having no attorney whatsoever.

Trump loses all 5 of his impeachment lawyers - legal experts don't know what happens next (Raw Story link): With just over a week until the start of his second impeachment trial, former President Donald Trump is having difficulties keeping legal representation.

"Five of former President Donald Trump's impeachment defense team attorneys have stepped aside a little more than a week before his Senate trial is set to begin, according to people familiar with the case, amid a disagreement over his legal strategy. It was a dramatic development in the second impeachment trial for Trump, who has struggled to find lawyers willing to take his case. 

And now, with legal briefs due next week and a trial set to begin only days later, Trump is clinging to his election fraud charade and suddenly finds himself without legal representation," CNN reported Saturday night.

"A person familiar with the departures told CNN that Trump wanted the attorneys to argue there was mass election fraud and that the election was stolen from him rather than focus on the legality of convicting a president after he's left office. Trump was not receptive to the discussions about how they should proceed in that regard," CNN reported. Legal experts were shocked by the development.

"There are few things that can lead experienced defense counsel to quit on the eve of trial. It's against our code! But a big one is if the client forces you to lie," former DOJ attorney Norm Eisen tweeted.

"Trump must have been demanding craziness - and then not paying," former federal prosecutor Cynthia Alksne suggested. "Perhaps Gym Jordan will represent?"

Others wondered if Trump even needed a lawyer. "Trump can always choose to rep himself at impeachment," former federal prosecutor Elie Honig noted. Former SDNY U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara also noted that was an option. "Self-representation would be great for ratings," he predicted.

Mod: Trump cross-examining the QAnon Shaman would be a meeting of the minds.

'Fresh evidence' of Trump inciting insurrection to be presented at Senate impeachment trial

: A conviction would be nice, but it isn't completely necessary. After all, the Orange Menace is already out of office. What will really work is the American people getting to see all the evidence, and how embarrassed the Republicans are going to look. 

'Fresh evidence' of Trump inciting insurrection to be presented at Senate impeachment trial (Raw Story link): The second impeachment trial of Donald Trump will look dramatically different than the first according to a new report by The Washington Post.

"House Democrats have sought out new cellphone footage of the Capitol siege as well as updated details about injured police officers as they seek to build an emotionally compelling impeachment case against former president Donald Trump. The goal is to present the Senate with fresh evidence that reveals what Trump knew in advance of the Jan. 6 rampage at the Capitol, as well as how his words and actions influenced those who participated," the newspaper reported Friday evening. "The rioting left five dead, including one member of the U.S. Capitol Police. In addition, two officers, one with the D.C. Police Department, have since died by suicide."

won't just be prosecuting Trump in hopes of GOP senators voting to convict, but will also be focused on trying the case for voters watching the proceedings on television.
"The effort to present new video evidence and witness testimony appears designed to make Republican senators as uncomfortable as possible as they prepare to vote to acquit Trump, as most have indicated they will do. 

The prospect of injured police officers describing the brutality of pro-Trump rioters to Republicans who regularly present themselves as advocates of law enforcement could make for an extraordinary, nationally televised scene," The Post reported.

"The House impeachment managers are determined to present as much evidence as senators allow, to ensure a permanent record of Trump's role in the riots — and to force Republicans to witness the chaos and carnage one more time before they vote against conviction, several individuals familiar with Democratic thinking said."
The prosecution is also expected to use the words of Republicans like Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) against Trump, according to "one person working on strategy with the House impeachment managers."
"Our goal is conviction," the strategist said. "What story are we going to tell to get there? We are going to describe what happened as summarized by Liz Cheney when she announced her support for Trump's impeachment: 'He summoned the mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack.' ''

Video is expected to play a key role in the trial.

Black Lives Matter movement nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize

Mod: What more is there to be said except that there would be immense justice in this happening?

Black Lives Matter movement nominated for Nobel Peace Prize (The Guardian link): The Black Lives Matter movement has been nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for the way its call for systemic change has spread around the world.

In his nomination papers, the Norwegian MP Petter Eide said the movement had forced countries outside the US to grapple with racism within their own societies.

“I find that one of the key challenges we have seen in America, but also in Europe and Asia, is the kind of increasing conflict based on inequality,” Eide said. “Black Lives Matter has become a very important worldwide movement to fight racial injustice. They have had a tremendous achievement in raising global awareness and consciousness about racial injustice.”

Eide, who has previously nominated human rights activists from Russia and China for the prize, said one other thing that impressed him about the Black Lives Matter movement was the way “they have been able to mobilise people from all groups of society, not just African-Americans, not just oppressed people, it has been a broad movement, in a way which has been different from their predecessors.” 

Mod: More at the link. 

Friday, January 29, 2021

‘The perfect target’: Russia cultivated Trump as asset for 40 years – ex-KGB spy

Mod: Trump has quickly become by far the most notorious and significant traitor in American history.

‘The perfect target’: Russia cultivated Trump as asset for 40 years – ex-KGB spy (The Guardian link): Donald Trump was cultivated as a Russian asset over 40 years and proved so willing to parrot anti-western propaganda that there were celebrations in Moscow, a former KGB spy has told the Guardian

Yuri Shvets, posted to Washington by the Soviet Union in the 1980s, compares the former US president to “the Cambridge five”, the British spy ring that passed secrets to Moscow during the second world war and early cold war. Now 67, Shvets is a key source for American Kompromat, a new book by journalist Craig Unger, whose previous works include House of Trump, House of Putin. The book also explores the former president’s relationship with the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.

“This is an example where people were recruited when they were just students and then they rose to important positions; something like that was happening with Trump,” Shvets said by phone on Monday from his home in Virginia.

Shvets, a KGB major, had a cover job as a correspondent in Washington for the Russian news agency Tass during the 1980s. He moved to the US permanently in 1993 and gained American citizenship. 

He works as a corporate security investigator and was a partner of Alexander Litvinenko, who was assassinated in London in 2006.

“This is what they exploited. They played the game as if they were immensely impressed by his personality and believed this is the guy who should be the president of the United States one day: it is people like him who could change the world. They fed him these so-called active measures soundbites and it happened. So it was a big achievement for the KGB active measures at the time.”

Soon after he returned to the US, Trump began exploring a run for the Republican nomination for president and even held a campaign rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. On 1 September, he took out a full-page advert in the New York Times, Washington Post and Boston Globe headlined: “There’s nothing wrong with America’s Foreign Defense Policy that a little backbone can’t cure.”

The ad offered some highly unorthodox opinions in Ronald Reagan’s cold war America, accusing ally Japan of exploiting the US and expressing scepticism about US participation in NATO. It took the form of an open letter to the American people “on why America should stop paying to defend countries that can afford to defend themselves”.

The bizarre intervention was cause for astonishment and jubilation in Russia. A few days later Shvets, who had returned home by now, was at the headquarters of the KGB’s first chief directorate in Yasenevo when he received a cable celebrating the ad as a successful “active measure” executed by a new KGB asset.

Mod: More at the link.

Capitol Police Can Sue the Stop the Steal Mob, Giuliani, and Even Trump Himself

Mod: If you really want to 'Back the Blue,' support their lawsuits against the Terrorist In Chief and his thugs.

Capitol Police Can Sue the Stop the Steal Mob, Giuliani, and Even Trump Himself (Slate link): On Wednesday, it was reported that a second Capitol officer took his own life in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot, bringing to three the number of officers who have died in the aftermath of the event. An additional 134 capitol and D.C. officers are known to have been injured, some quite seriously. The injured police, and the families of those who have died, have civil recourse through lawsuits against a host of people who rioted, or who directly inciting the deadly attack on the Capitol—a list that potentially includes Donald Trump, members of his family, elected representatives, and Rudy Giuliani.

Of course, the easiest cases are claims against the miscreants who actually administered the violence.  Although police officers assume certain risks as a condition of their employment, they are nonetheless able to recover damages against anyone who intentionally attacks them. As one dramatic example, whoever is determined to have struck Officer Brian Sicknick in the head with a fire extinguisher, an act that led to his death, can and should suffer civil liability in addition to criminal charges. 

And those who suffered serious injuries will likely find it worthwhile to sue any rioter who can be identified as having assaulted them (assuming they can pay any judgment levied against them). These victims can recover punitive damages, as well, because tort law allows this remedy for intentional harms. Cases brought by family members of the two officers who killed themselves could also succeed, but they are trickier. Courts have mostly discarded an older rule that saw suicide as breaking the chain of causation between defendants’ actions and victims’ death, but it can still be hard to show that the attacks themselves were a substantial factor in bringing about the tragic event. Still, it’s possible.

Assuming the assailants can be matched to the victims, most of these cases should fall out in favor of the injured officers. A bigger (but perhaps harder to hit) target, however, are those who instigated, incited, and potentially organized the attack. For those seeking accountability for these institutional actors and political gangs, tort claims may be a key answer. 

The injured have a possible case against the Proud Boys’ leadership; a recent review by the Wall Street Journal found that the right-wing hate group, prompted by chairman Enrique Tarrio, helped lead the attack. (A high enough punitive damage award could cripple the group, or even “cancel” it.) The same may be true of those who organized the so-called “Stop the Steal” effort.

But of far greater political significance is a slew of possible claims against others—some of whom hold, or until recently held, elective office. The plaintiffs in such suits would need to show that these potential defendants had a hand in inciting the January 6 riot. Just as with criminal law, those who actively egg others on to violence can be held liable in a civil action for ensuing injuries or death. The First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech blocks some lawsuits from succeeding, but not all.

As I’ve argued previously in a piece for Slate, Trump has danced on the line between permissible, fiery speech and illegal incitement to violence before—as far back as his campaign rallies, in fact. The evidence presented in the upcoming impeachment trial in the Senate should provide grist for the argument that Trump’s rhetoric—which repeated invoked the idea that the election was stolen by fraud and that the crowd must show strength by marching down to the Capitol—crossed that line.

Reading the full transcript of the hourlong ramble leaves a distinct sense that the ensuing mayhem was exactly what Trump wanted, and accounts of his enthusiastic reaction to the riot while it was going on buttress that conclusion. If it’s not enough for incitement, it’s close. Even former attorney general and Trump-enabler William Barr flatly accused his former boss of “orchestrating a mob” to pressure Congress.

Mod: More at the link.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

New York Post: Ghislaine Maxwell forced girls into lurid performances for Jeffrey Epstein, court docs reveal

Mod: Is it an indictment yet? Donny's world has got to be getting just a little warmer this week.

Ghislaine Maxwell forced girls into lurid performances for Jeffrey Epstein, court docs reveal (New York Post link): Accused madam Ghislaine Maxwell once directed a room of underage girls to “kiss, dance and touch one another in a sexual way” for late pedophile boss Jeffrey Epstein — and had regular threesomes with him using sex toys, according to newly released court documents.

An unidentified witness told of the alleged creepy forced performance in testimony that was revealed in 112 court documents running to thousands of pages that were released late Wednesday.

The witness — whose name was redacted — “testified that he watched Maxwell direct a room full of underage girls to kiss, dance, and touch one another in a sexual way for [Maxwell] and Epstein to watch,” the documents stated.

The pair also allegedly used sex toys during group sex with longtime accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre, whose since-settled lawsuit against British media heiress Maxwell, 59, produced the newly released documents.

Giuffre’s ex-boyfriend, Anthony Figueroa, testified that the accuser told him she “and Ms. Maxwell and Jeffrey were all intimate together on multiple occasions.”

“I remember her talking about, like strap-ons and stuff like that … how they would always be using stuff like that,” he said, repeating again later how the sex would be “with the strap-ons and dildos.”

Giuffre also told him that “they would all go out to clubs to pick up girls and try and find them to bring back for Jeffrey.”

Figueroa said that he told the FBI “anything they asked me,” stressing, “I did not hold anything back.” But he did not recall being asked about the accuser’s often-repeated allegation that she was forced to have sex three times with Prince Andrew, only saying it “could be possible” he talked to the feds about it.

Mod: More just like this at the link.

Vice News: The Proud Boys are absolutely reeling at the news their leader is a snitch

Mod: I'm sure Enrique Tarrio is hardly the only snitch in the Proud Boys. These Donald Trump loving losers are hardly honorable people. But take a lot of pleasure in their embarrassment anyway.

Proud Boys Reel at Report Leader Was a Rat (Vice News link): After Reuters broke the news that Enrique Tarrio, 36, the current chairman of the Proud Boys, was a “prolific” police informant, online supporters and members of the right-wing extremist group were defiant, suspicious, and in disbelief at the revelation their leader was reportedly a rat. 

On Telegram, a popular messaging app on the far right, reactions to the story came hard, fast, and varied: some believed this was the classic case of a "fake news” smear campaign, while others said his treachery was all an attempt to counter the “Deep State” and antifascist activists.

Enrique has my support as the leader of the Proud Boys—period!” said one supporter in a Telegram exchange with other Tarrio supporters. Another user was skeptical at the news: “Is this fact or fake news? I never pegged Enrique as an informant.” “They’re trying to take down the Proud Boys—our beacon of light—we won’t let that happen so no worries,” wrote another Proud Boys fan. 

But a former prosecutor in Miami involved in Tarrio’s case confirmed to Reuters that Tarrio had unquestionably been a key informant in both FBI and local police investigations. “He cooperated with local and federal law enforcement, to aid in the prosecution of those running other, separate criminal enterprises,” said Vanessa Singh Johannes in a statement, “ranging from running marijuana grow houses in Miami to operating pharmaceutical fraud schemes.”

In a court transcript from a 2014 proceeding in Miami, an FBI agent and Tarrio’s own lawyer clearly stated that he was an undercover for authorities, helping gather evidence in cases that ultimately prosecuted over a dozen people. 

In the face of seemingly overwhelming evidence that Tarrio was a police snitch, others on the far right went into full damage control mode justifying his actions as acceptable, without a clear understanding of what (if anything) the alleged undercover work actually involved.

“I read it earlier this morning,” said one Telegram user in a chat about the news. “I have no problem with someone informing on human trafficking, child trafficking, kiddie porn, or animal abuse. That's Just me."  (No court documents, whatsoever, support claims that Tarrio’s undercover work heroically exposed a cabal of pedophiles.)  

On Wednesday afternoon, Tarrio broke his hours of silence to finally address his supporters in a screed published on his public-facing Telegram channel in which he accused Reuters of sensationalizing his cooperation with law enforcement as part of a larger conspiracy to destabilize the Proud Boys

“You are seeing the media and government propaganda machine work in real time,” Tarrio wrote. “We’re known because of our work.. Work that will never end no matter how much weight is put upon our shoulders. They’ve silenced us...demonetized us...used us as a scapegoat for their own failures...and most importantly...put us in fucking chains.” 

Mod: Much more at the link.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Walk Away: Tens of thousands of voters drop Republican affiliation after Capitol riot

: You mean to suggest that all of these fleeing former Republicans are looking for something other than the prophecies of the QAnon Shaman?

Tens of thousands of voters drop Republican affiliation after Capitol riot (The Hill link): More than 30,000 voters who had been registered members of the Republican Party have changed their voter registration in the weeks after a mob of pro-Trump supporters attacked the Capitol — an issue that led the House to impeach the former president for inciting the violence.

The massive wave of defections is a virtually unprecedented exodus that could spell trouble for a party that is trying to find its way after losing the presidential race and the Senate majority.

It could also represent the tip of a much larger iceberg: The 30,000 who have left the Republican Party reside in just a few states that report voter registration data, and information about voters switching between parties, on a weekly basis.

Others report monthly activity, and many states do not report granular details about those who leave one party or the other. Once more states report party registration data, the true number of Republicans who have re-registered in recent weeks may prove to be much higher.

Poll: President Biden's first approval rating 63 percent
(The Hill link): The Hill-HarrisX poll's first presidential job approval rating for Joe Biden comes in at 63 percent support among registered voters. Only 37 percent of respondents in the Jan. 21-22 survey said they disapprove of Biden's job in the White House.

The survey, taken in the first two full days of his presidency, finds Biden receiving 61 percent support when it comes to the issues of the economy, stimulating jobs and fighting terrorism. Fifty-seven percent of voters said they approve of Biden's handling of immigration, and 60 percent say the same concerning foreign affairs. 

Biden sees his strongest support on the issues of administering the government and handling the coronavirus pandemic, at 65 and 69 percent approval, respectively. A recent Hill-HarrisX poll found majorities of voters are confident in Biden's ability to achieve key agenda items, particularly those concerning the pandemic.

How the KGB Hooked Trump: 'American Kompromat' gets the lowdown from former Russian and U.S. spies

Mod: Look, I want the Senate trial. No matter what. I don't give a damn whether the Grand Old Putin Party votes to convict or not. That doesn't mean as much. I want the American people to hear all of the evidence so they will know forever what treasonous dirtbags the GOPP really is. Folks got to know.

How the KGB Hooked Trump (Spy Talk link): Was DONALD TRUMP a Russian asset? Just how compromised was he? And how could such an audacious feat have been accomplished? Excerpt from American Kompromat: How the KGB Cultivated Donald Trump, and Related Tales of Sex, Greed, Power, and Treachery, by Craig Unger:

There are boundaries in America’s political discourse—or at least there were until Donald Trump’s presidency. There were still taboos: One simply didn’t say that the president of the United States is a Russian asset. And yet according to Bob Woodward’s Rage, no less than former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, a Republican, had “deep suspicions” that Putin “had something” on Trump, seeing “no other explanation for his Behavior.” And Coats wasn’t the first highly placed intelligence officer to make such assertions. 

In a New York Times op-ed published three months before Trump’s 2016 election, former CIA director Michael Morell wrote, “In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.”

In January 2017, just before Donald Trump’s inauguration, Michael Hayden, former head of both the CIA and the National Security Agency, called Trumpa clear and present danger” to America and “a useful idiot,” a term often attributed to Vladimir Lenin that refers to na├»ve Westerners who could be manipulated for propaganda and other purposes.

In December 2017, the former director of national intelligence James Clapper asserted that Trump was, in effect, an intelligence “asset” serving Russian president Vladimir Putin. And in 2019, former CIA director John Brennan declared that Trump “is wholly in the pocket of Putin,” and went further on “Meet the Press,” adding that he had called Trump’s behavior “treasonous, which is to betray one’s trust and aid and abet the enemy, and I stand very much by that claim.”

Yet somehow, these extraordinary allegations—that the president of the United States is an operative for a hostile foreign power—have not become part of the national conversation. It’s as if the entire country is in denial, even now, after Russian cyber warriors were discovered amplifying claims by Trump and his allies that the election was being “stolen” from them.

So let me try to answer the question: Is Donald Trump a Russian asset? I believe the answer is yes, and that what happened between Trump and the Russian state is best understood as a series of sequential, and sometimes unrelated, operations that played into each other over more than four decades.

“When people start talking about Trump’s ties to the KGB or Russian intelligence, some are looking for this super sophisticated master plan which was designed decades ago and finally climaxed with Trump’s election as president of the United States,” said Yuri Shvets, a former KGB officer who quit before the fall of the Soviet Union, moved to the United States in 1994 and now lives outside Washington, DC. But that’s not how it happened.

According to Shvets, standard Soviet practice was to develop assets and data that might have not have an immediate payoff, but could offer far more value years in the future. 

“That’s a big difference between the KGB and some Western HUMINT [human intelligence] agencies,” Shvets told me in an extended series of interviews.

“The KGB is very patient. It can work a case for years. Americans want results yesterday or a maximum today; as a result, they have none. They don’t get that if you round up nine pregnant women, the baby would not be born within a month. Each process must ripen.”

In Trump’s case, it appears that the results took roughly 40 years to ripen. “Then,” Shvets added, “it paid off much, much more than anyone could possibly have imagined. In terms of his personality, the guy is not a complicated cookie, his most important characteristics being low intellect coupled with hyper inflated vanity. This combination makes a dream for an experienced recruiter.”

Mod: A lot more at the link.