Tag Archives: Mueller Investigation

Please Go Right Ahead Mr. Laxalt, Clutch The Trumpian Phantom Coat-tails?

From the “Please Proceed” Department — Nevada gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt still clings to the Tangerine Tantrum Tosser in the White House. [NVIndy]  Meanwhile, the Tantrum Tosser is now openly calling for the end of the Mueller Investigation.  [WaPo] Now, why might this be?

The walls are closing in?  The first round of indictments hit the periphery of the conspiracy to defraud the US to manipulate the election.  Russians, many Russians, as in 12 members of the Russian intelligence services in the cross hairs of the Mueller probe.  As in the next round may very well include people like Roger Stone, or like people who worked with Roger Stone — say, Donald Trump, Jr.  This would help explain the increasingly shrill tone of unpresidential tweets emanating from Pennsylvania Avenue.  We might be getting up into the top part of the human hearing range, approaching, if not hitting, 28 kHz.   That low rumble, 20 Hz, could be the sound of the Mueller team(s) assembling the paper-work for the next round of indictments?

The walls have already begun to slide inward? Speculation appears to center on two points (1) Mueller is much further along than what appears in published accounts; and, (2) the Trump defense team is privy to information concerning that investigation which is also ahead of the publication curve.  If (and this is a major IF) we adopt both of these statements as possibly true, then the unpresidential tweet tantrums may be indicative of a felt need to “get ahead of the story,” i.e. to attempt to shape a public narrative prior to any action on the Special Counsel’s part.  I’ve enjoyed the various iterations of Trumpian apologetics in regard to the subtopic of collusion.  There was NO collusion.  Okay, there might have been some collusion, but it was done by people who barely related to the campaign.  Well, yeah, there were some campaign connected souls who indulged in some collusion, but collusion isn’t a crime.  I am waiting for the “collusion is a crime, but it isn’t a really serious crime” insertion, to be followed by “a crime isn’t a crime if the President does it.” [See Nixon interview May 1977]

There’s another wall coming in on them?  At the risk of redundancy, conspiracy and obstruction of justice aren’t the only two arrows in the Mueller quiver.  The money questions are bubbling to the surface.  There’s $$$ and the Russian + National Rifle Association element.  There’s $$$ and the Russian connections to former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort. There’s $$$ and the connections from Oligarchs to the Trumps.  There’s $$$ and Russian connections to Trump business operations.  There’s some $$$ washing around in dubious shell corporations, off shore accounts, and small specialty accounts such as those used to pay off porn stars and Playboy models.  There’s $$$ to be made by Russian aluminum and real estate tycoons, et. alia if sanctions are left unenforced or are rescinded. There’s $$$ to be made if tariffs are applied such that Russian commodities can be traded in international markets in the absence of American and other allied producers.  Follow The Money.

The Numbers aren’t adding up.  At no point thus far in 2018 has GOP identification registered above 28% [Gallup] and as of July 2018 the number stands at 26%, with Democrats at 30% and Independents at 41%.   Republicans give Trump an 87% approval rating; Democrats a dismal 5% rating; and, Independents at 38%.  The only term for this is “under water.”  Just for reference, as of July 26, 2002 George W. Bush had a 69% approval rating; Trump’s July 22, 2018 rating was 41%.   We might stick a pin in Richard M. Nixon’s approval rating as of June 25, 1973 when he was pulling a positive 44%. [Gallup]

Here’s the point at which DB recites the familiar mantra:  When you have an increasing share of a declining market your business plan is in serious trouble.

The troubling prospect is that those “campaign style rallies” will become increasingly strident, increasingly petulant, increasingly vitriolic, and increasingly threatening to members of the press.  While it might be superficially pleasurable to watch the continuing meltdown, the fact that five journalists in Annapolis, MD have already succumbed to the pent up hatred of a delusional gunman should give us all pause.

Unsolicited advice for candidate Laxalt:  Be careful who you wish for (as a pillar of support) because some pillars will turn you into yet another pillar of  NaCl.

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More Random Thoughts and Musings: Friday Fun Edition

Trump windsor

Now this is interesting.  Her Majesty decided on a nice BLUE outfit.  A nice Democratic blue ensemble.  The Independent has more.  Perhaps she didn’t get a laminated copy of his election map? Neither, apparently, did the Evening Standard’s estimated 250,000 London Protesters. Faux News was pleased to call them “rowdy.”  And then the indictments came down, just before Orange Foolious’s meeting for his performance review with Putin in Helsinki. Timing in indictments, as in the preparation of Pilau Rice, is important.

Meanwhile, the Russians remain “unapprehended” as the Chicago Tribune reports nearly half the children under the age of 5 separated from their parents remain apart from their families. The ACLU has called for the Misadministration to hand over information regarding reunifying children with their families.

House Republicans may want some separation from the Misadministration after their Strzokanalia (©@Karoli) proved to be a “terrible day for Republicans.”  Stephen Colbert has more. He usually does.

Today seems not the day to shut the TV machine down. Thus, there may (or may not) be more updates to this post as the Blimp Baby Flies, The Brits march, the Misadministration squirms, and GOP members of Congress muse about how to salvage their tattered party banner.  The Queen showed her ‘tea guests’ the exit in about 58 minutes…wishing we could do the same.

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What’s Under The Underside: RICO Edition

There are some other statutes which might be intriguing the office of the Special Counsel beside the ones discussed in the previous two posts.  Based on what we know from already public information there’s room for credible speculation about other laws the current Oval Office occupant, his family, associates, or perhaps even himself have potentially violated.

RICO.  Enacted in 1970 the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act includes elements which may (or may not) be incorporated in some of the Oval Office occupant’s business practices.  The Department of Justice explains:

It is unlawful for anyone employed by or associated with any enterprise engaged in, or the activities of which affect, interstate or foreign commerce, to conduct or participate, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of such enterprise’s affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity or collection of unlawful debt. 18 U.S.C.A. § 1962(c) (West 1984).

And here are the basics:

“A more expansive view holds that in order to be found guilty of violating the RICO statute, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt: (1) that an enterprise existed; (2) that the enterprise affected interstate commerce; (3) that the defendant was associated with or employed by the enterprise; (4) that the defendant engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity; and (5) that the defendant conducted or participated in the conduct of the enterprise through that pattern of racketeering activity through the commission of at least two acts of racketeering activity as set forth in the indictment.”

The Department of Justice outlines the definitions of several crucial words and phrases in its publication quoted above, and IF the Special Counsel is looking into possible violations of the RICO Act, then they will have to meet the intent and letter of the law regarding the acts alleged to be unlawful.  Now what might the Office of the Special Counsel find of interest?  For the sake of brevity in this matter, let’s look at two examples —

There’s that Tower in Panama.  This involved “selling a few condos” a venture accomplished with the assistance of Alexandre Ventura Nogueira, who is now a fugitive. The following item may have grabbed the attention of the Mueller team:

“The investigation revealed no indication that the Trump Organization or members of the Trump family engaged in any illegal activity, or knew of the criminal backgrounds of some of the project’s associates. But Ventura said that the Trumps never asked any questions about the buyers or where the money was coming from.” [NBC]

Who know what, or perhaps deliberately avoided knowing what and by whom, could be of interest to future jurors?

“All that must be shown is: (1) that the defendant agreed to commit the substantive racketeering offense through agreeing to participate in two racketeering acts; (2) that he knew the general status of the conspiracy; and (3) that he knew the conspiracy extended beyond his individual role. United States v. Rastelli, 870 F. 2d 822, 828 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 982, 110 S. Ct. 515, 107 L. Ed. 2d 516 (1989).” [DoJ]

Prosecutors advise that the Due Diligence factor may be in play:

“Legal experts contacted by Reuters said the Trumps should have asked those questions. Because Panama is “perceived to be highly corrupt,” said Arthur Middlemiss, a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan and a former head of JPMorgan’s global anti-corruption program, those who do business there should perform due diligence on others involved in their ventures. If they fail to do so, he told Reuters, they risk being liable under U.S. law of turning a blind eye to wrongdoing.”  [NBC]

Eyes may well have been blind to some Russian Mafia money, some money laundering, and some cash moving via drug cartels.  [NBC] See also reporting in The HillReuters.

Maybe the antics associated with the Panama project should not have come as much of a surprise, the Washington Post published a report on Trump associations with underworld characters in the morass that was New York City construction and corruption early in his career.  The Atlantic summarized the atmosphere, and the times Trump has skated away from actual legal action against him:

“Trump has been linked to the mafia many times over the years, with varying degrees of closeness. Many of the connections seem to be the sorts of interactions with mobsters that were inevitable for a guy in the construction and casino businesses at the time. For example, organized crime controlled the 1980s New York City concrete business, so that anyone building in the city likely brushed up against it. While Trump has portrayed himself as an unwitting participant, not everyone agrees. There have been a string of other allegations, too, many reported by investigative journalist Wayne Barrett. Cohn, Trump’s lawyer, also represented the Genovese crime family boss Tony Salerno. Barrett also reported a series of transactions involving organized crime, and alleged that Trump paid twice market rate to a mob figure for the land under Trump Plaza in Atlantic City. Michael Isikoff has also reported that Trump was close to Robert LiButti, an associate of John Gotti, inviting him on his yacht and helicopter. In one case, Trump’s company bought LiButti nine luxury cars.”

And as of September 19, 2017 Newsweek reported that the Office of Special Counsel was tracking Trumpian maneuvers as if they were part of an organized crime operation.

Then, there’s Felix Sater.   An article in Politico opens the discussion, and offers more background information.  The Washington Post (2016) provides some initial information specifically about Mr. Sater and Mr. Trump:

“On the 24th floor of Trump Tower, in an office two floors below Donald Trump, Felix Sater was trying to revive his career. The Russian-born businessman had already done a stint in prison for stabbing a man in the face with the stem of a margarita glass, and he was now awaiting sentencing for his role in a Mafia-orchestrated stock fraud scheme — all the while serving as a government informant on the mob and mysterious matters of national security.

But Sater and his business partners had an idea: They would build Trump towers in U.S. cities and across the former Soviet bloc. Sater pitched it to Trump, who gave Sater’s company rights to explore projects in Moscow as well as in Florida and New York.” (emphasis added)

Once more there are dots: Sater. Mafia. Russians. Trump.  Predictably, the Oval Office occupant experienced memory loss concerning his knowledge of Mr. Sater:  “Trump has repeatedly said he barely remembers Sater. In sworn testimony in 2013, Trump said he wouldn’t recognize Sater if they were sitting in the same room. In an interview last year with the Associated Press, he said, “Felix Sater, boy, I have to even think about it.”  If this sounds familiar it should, because we’ve now gone through a load of faulty memory moments in regard to George Papadopoulos, who went from sitting in a principals meeting with Trump (see photograph everyone on planet Earth has seen at least once) to “coffee boy.”  And thus Mr. Sater has moved from getting the rights to promote Trump projects in Moscow to “gee, I don’t know him.” A predictable pattern of Trumpian de-recognition.

For additional information see:  The Nation, New York Magazine, New York Times, New York Times.  (A nice hot shower is highly recommended after reading these articles.)

We might end this segment with Sater himself:

“Even allowing for Sater’s long-established record as a liar and self-promoter, there’s plenty here for Mueller and other investigators to dig into. And Sater, too, seems to believe that something big is coming. In his interview with New York magazine, he hinted ominously about the near future. “In about the next 30 to 35 days,” he told reporter Rice, “I will be the most colorful character you have ever talked about. Unfortunately, I can’t talk about it now, before it happens. And believe me, it ain’t anything as small as whether or not they’re gonna call me to the Senate committee.”

Please buckle up, this could be an E Ticket Ride.  What is contained in this short blog post is all from published sources; what we don’t see as yet is what additional information and testimony has been gleaned by the Office of the Special Counsel. Once again we can surmise with some certainty that the Mueller investigation has far more access to witnesses, information, and testimony than journalists ever had; and, will be just as thorough as the best of the reporters working on these stories.

Come for the Obstruction of Justice, and stay for the violations of the RICO Act?

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Watergate by Imbeciles

I have to admit, I wallowed in Watergate. What is happening with the administration at present is not Watergate. Watergate is the descriptive term for a scandal of mis-administration perpetrated with slick lawyering, nifty abuses of campaign finance accounting, and keeping all of it under wraps by the coordination of choreographed White House maneuvers…until it wasn’t.

The current mess is better characterized by blundering legal bluster, unethical campaign finance and possible quid pro quo donations made possible by dark and darker money, and spilling out all over the landscape in bits, pieces, and contradictory dueling press releases.  We’re in Act 5 Scene 5, Dunsinane Castle…

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,  Creeps in this petty pace from day to day

Unfortunately for the occupant of the Oval Office, the news is leaking out daily, and none of it particularly good.  Information about Watergate came to light in chunks, by contrast the travails of this administration is streaming out every twenty-four hours.  Almost by the hour in every twenty-four.  Minute by minute?  Granted that Nixon wasn’t further beleaguered by the copious maw of cable news, but the cover-up was indeed a cover-up until the tapes were released.  Nixon enjoyed more consistent popular support than the current administration until late Summer 1974.  Richard Nixon’s average poll rating during his second term was 34.4%, a figure brought down by a July-August 1974 rating of 24%. Again, in contrast, the current Oval Office occupant hasn’t broken the 50% rate since the inauguration, and now sits about 39%. [Gallup] Considering the daily dose of leaks, press releases, and other negative stories the administration is already at a point not “achieved” by the Nixon administration until rather late in the game.

To the last syllable of recorded time, And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death.

In the present tense we’re looking at political death — the slow demise of benighted individuals who are seeking short term safety at the expense of long range security; and, if the airwaves are replete with Nixonian references now, think what historians will do with this later.

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

We have a President strutting and fretting upon his stage, and a rather poor player at that.  Further, he is playing a part the script for which is poorly written.  He cannot, or will not, separate himself and his administration from the tender embrace of Russian influence.

Scene 5a: It’s now common knowledge that during the transition period the incoming administration was open to rolling back the sanctions imposed by the Obama Administration, and to opening channels (one using Russian facilities) for more communication with the Putin regime. [Newsweek]  Trump was indeed open to returning the Russian compounds in New York and Maryland to please the Russian government. [WaPo] By mid-July 2017 the talks concerning the return of the compounds and the reassignment of some 35 Russian diplomats broke down. [LAT]

Scene 5b:  That back-channel communication proposal forwarded by Jared Kushner is also in the public domain, how convenient it would be to have an open communications connection between the administration and Putin via Russian controlled (and presumably monitored) facilities? [NYT]  Nothing is better designed to give the appearance of kow-towing to the Russian regime than to allow them to open communications with the administration in ways that would be obscured to US intelligence?  The trick to running a cover up is to keep things covered up — NOT to see them in print in the New York Times, Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, Bloomberg News,….

Scene 5c: Another trick to running a cover up is not to have your National Security Adviser resign less than a month after his appointment because his dealings with the Russians are not only coming to light, but are fully centered in the midst of media 1000 watt tungsten lighting.

Scene 5d: Surely no one will think the Oval Office occupant is fretting on stage about his Russian connections coming into that studio lighting if he fires Sally Yates? Fires Michael Flynn? US Attorney Preet Bharara? FBI Director James Comey? Forced out Dana Boente? Forced out Andrew McCabe? Asked Rod Rosenstein for “loyalty?” Discusses how he wants to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller? Fumes over the recusal  of  AG Jeff Sessions? Gee, what’s so inconspicuous about a herd of people heading to the exits?

Scene 5e:  And, what could be less conspicuous than getting right smack dab in the middle of a fight with one’s own Department of Justice over releasing what amounts to  a Republican press release emanating from the staff of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA/Moscow Oblast)?

…it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing

Pro-tip: When running a cover up operation it is extremely helpful to have competent legal advice.  There is nothing about the current defense of the Oval Office occupant that doesn’t reek of one of the oldest cliches in the legal lexicon: “If the facts aren’t on your side argue the law, if the law isn’t on your side argue the facts; and if both aren’t on your side pound the table,” added to the next oldest cliche, “If your client can’t provide a defense, put the prosecution on trial.”

There’s a reason four top law firms declined to offer their services to the Oval Office occupant — “He won’t pay and he won’t listen.” [L&C]  And so we are left with table pounding lawyers and spokespersons who are attempting to divert, distract, and demean (intelligence agencies, DoJ, FBI, etc.) by any means possible, and we will likely have them until the GOP has run out of gerrymandering, vote suppressing, and influence campaigns and voters elect a competent Congress.

In the mean time, it probably isn’t a good thing to demean Nixon’s hour upon the stage by comparing his almost lucid cover up operations with a scrambled inarticulate and self-contradictory melange of imbecility offered up by the current administration.

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It’s not my TV screen that’s too small: Coverage of the Investigation

Wow, the cable news outfits are obsessed about discovering Special Counsel Robert Mueller has questioned Son of the Old South Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions. First, was there anyone in this fine nation who Didn’t think the Special Counsel would have inquiries for the  Attorney General, who recused himself from the Russian probe because he was ever so likely to be a witness?  Yes, this does imply interest in the obstruction of justice question associated with Oval Office behavior.  There’s nothing like reassuring Russians in a White House visit that the “nut-job” (Director Comey) had been taken care of, and going on national TV to tell Lester Holt that firing the FBI Director was related to the investigations into the Russia Matter, to lead a person to wonder not If but How Much the Oval Office Oaf meant to obstruct any serious investigation of Russian interference in 2016.  However, this is only part of a larger picture. We should remember that criminal law specialist Michael Drebeen isn’t the only member of Team Mueller. There are more.

Those who followed the Enron Case will recall Andrew Weissman. Mr. Weissman is a specialist in bribery and fraud, as in foreign bribery cases and big frauds like Enron. From the entangled mess that was Enron accounting Mr. Weissman plucked the pertinent threads and followed them until Jeffrey Skilling learned about life in the Federal prison system.  Maybe it would also serve to remember the Oval Office Oaf declaring last July that his business and his family business records were “off limits.”  Really? And the banter began: “Oh, yes Officer, you can certainly search my car, just don’t look in the trunk!”

Weissman won’t have to go plunging among the lug wrenches and spare tires to search for Trump financial records. One interesting set is coming from Deutsche Bank as of early in December 2017. [Guard] There are two points worth remembering about Deutsche Bank, one — it was the only bank willing to lend OOO money after he’d bankrupted several businesses and gave investors such hair cuts their financial heads were bald, and two — Deutsche Bank has a record of dancing cheek to cheek with Russian Bears of questionable integrity. As in money laundering? As in highly suspect banking practices? As in big fines?  As in getting some fines reduced by the OOO Administration? This widens the probe a bit, but there’s still another facet.

While Mr. Weissman is the man most often cited in matters financial, there’s another Follow The Money man on Team Mueller — Greg Andres, who supervised the case against $8 billion Ponzi Scheme con man Robert Stanford and was associated with the prosecution of the Bonnano crime family.

Aaron Zebley is also a member of Team Mueller.  There’s nothing like having a counter-terrorism specialist on board for an investigation of possible conspiracy charges.  Perhaps making life in the West Wing even more interesting, Mr. Zebley is more specifically a cybersecurity expert.   He has some help in this department from another expert in counter-terrorism.

Zainab Ahmad has her own reputation in counter-terrorism and international cases. She’s prosecuted 13 terrorism cases since 2009 without losing a single one. Let’s assume that people who can follow and correctly interpret the plethora of financial and surreptitious paths of Al Qaeda won’t have all that much more trouble discerning what patterns are associated with good old fashioned money laundering and international criminal behavior.

And while we are speaking of money laundering, yet another member of Team Mueller is Kyle Freeny.  GOP apologists for the White House may fume that Freeny donated something near  a grand total of $750 to Democratic candidates since 2008, but her expertise is — money laundering — the kind wherein nefarious types move money out of one country and try to “launder” it in what appear to be legitimate investments.  There are other members of Team Mueller, and one who is fluent in Russian.  The point of all this is that coverage on cable news, no matter how extensive these days is not even the tip of a possible iceberg.

So, instead of becoming breathlessly enthralled by news coverage about a possible “wind up” of the Obstruction of Justice probe — leaving us to believe we might miss The Big Moment if we change channels — it’s good to have a periodic reminder of the types of investigators working on Team Mueller and their areas of expertise.

We know AG Jeff Sessions has been interrogated by Team Mueller. We don’t know how many forensic accountants are pouring over Deutsche Bank records. We don’t know who has been asking questions of whom concerning bank loans, condominium sales, and other financial transactions of interest.  We don’t know if someone is carefully examining the records released in the Panama Papers.

Team Mueller doesn’t leak like the White House Sieve.  So, we don’t know how many e-mails and other items of correspondence the Russian expert is translating and analyzing, and we don’t know to whom she has spoken and for what purpose.

We don’t know who is talking to whom about real estate or other transactions including the Chinese, the Russians, the Russian oligarchs, and assorted other characters.  We don’t know who is talking to whom about loans, forgiven, repaid, or otherwise. We don’t know who has been missed talking to a Grand Jury because the press on stake out haven’t a clue who the person might be.  This would probably be sufficient to fill up two more television screens.

Indeed, if we were to have coverage of all the people associated with all the angles in this investigation we should buy out the monitor inventory of the local Best Buy?  Install wall to wall, floor to ceiling, flat screens… and we’d still miss something.  What the press can give us are only bits and pieces of a larger, much more complex picture.  it would be a good thing to recall this isn’t a sporting event with a clock, or a game with a set number of innings to play; it isn’t a 40 minute script for a television show or even a multi-episode series.  It’s an investigation of the hodgepodge farrago which is the Trump brand of business and governance entanglements.   It isn’t going to be over at the end of a tidy episode.  It may not be completely over after a season.

The total investigation won’t be over until Team Mueller has completed investigations of money laundering, bribery, cyber-security transgressions, illegally established accounts, equally illegal withdrawals and payments for equally illegal purposes, and all the other facets of the mess OOO has made of his financial and political life.

This isn’t an investigation which calls for popcorn unless you’ve planted at least 40 acres of the stuff.

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Thank You: A List for 2017

thank you cardAs youngsters we were admonished to acknowledge gifts during the holiday season, and not to delay thanking Auntie for bestowing such “creative and unique” items.  That said, this isn’t an obligatory thank you — it’s a Thanks! with a capital letter to those who’ve been an inspiration this year.

 

Thanks to the ladies of the Women’s March!  Prior to that event I’d contacted my Senators and Representatives, but never with any regularity, and certainly never with multiple phone calls in any given month.  The idea of sending post cards hadn’t occurred to me.  I listened to the speakers advise more contact, more persistent contact, more urgent contact — and I bought some postcards.  I also bought a small pocket notebook.  I recorded my calls and post cards in the notebook — at first just to keep track of the topics, and then it became a habit.  The little notebook is half filled now, and I even had to add a piece of ribbon tied on as a bookmark to keep track of my place.  Perhaps I’m gaining a reputation as a pain with a couple of members of the 115th Congress. I don’t care.  They won’t be able to say they’ve not heard from anyone about protecting DACA, or the ACA, or the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, or the EPA, or women’s reproductive rights, or the rights of workers to organize.   My new year’s prediction is that the little notebook will be filled by this time next year — at least I sincerely hope so.

Thanks to the people who attended town hall meetings!  Those who are dependent on the individual health insurance market to secure health plans need our assistance.  Those on employer  group plans need to know that the provisions of the ACA will require  they have real insurance, as opposed to junk policies with outrageous co-pays, high deductibles and limited benefits.  Those who buy policies need to know mental health treatment is on par with physical health needs, and immunizations are essential services.  And, since as they say “it takes two to tango,” everyone is in the pool — men and women, meaning maternity care is also essential.  To those people who put real faces on real problems — Thank You.  To those people who supported the people testifying to those very real issues — Thank You.

Thanks to the organizers of Indivisible!  Should I run out of ideas on a given day concerning what to say and to  whom to say it, there’s Indivisible online to assist me.  I appreciate the tweets and notices from Nevada Indivisible groups, Indivisible Lake Tahoe, Indivisible Reno, and Indivisible Las Vegas.  You are doing good work, and it’s appreciated.

Thanks to the professionals working on the Special Counsel’s investigation!  I understand those investigators aren’t the total solution to the problem of foreign interference in our elections.  However, they are a key facet of the issue and they’ve endured enough flack from partisan hacks for a lifetime already.  They can’t tell us how to protect our election systems in the future, nor can they tell us what actions our state and local officials can take to prevent future assaults — but they can, and I’m sure will, give us an accurate picture of anything prosecutable.  Their efforts are appreciated.

Thanks to the independent members of the press and media!  There are reporters and broadcasters who are not allowing lies and mischaracterizations from the current administration to go unchallenged.   Not all editors are spiking stories about corruption, maladministration, and mismanagement.  Not all reporters are playing the role of stenographer for government issued blather.  Now, more than ever before in my lifetime, we need FACTS.  Good old fashioned FACTS, and good old fashioned news — the kind wherein we learn not only who is supporting a particular policy, but what the implications of the policy proposals are in real life.

Thus, the little notebook continues to sit beside the phone, the post cards are at the ready, and there’s no shortage of topics upon which to comment.  For this, I say THANKS.

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Meanwhile! Back At The Ballot Boxes

Not that I’m unconcerned about sexual harassment (etc) BUT there’s another story which is getting lost behind the steady drip of the Mueller Investigation and the deluge of harassment stories — not to put too fine a point to it, but the Russians played havoc with our election in 2016 and the Congress of the United States hasn’t done squat about it.

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence seems perfectly happy to make charges and counter-charges about “collusion” without apparently looking all that deeply into what espionage techniques and strategies were applied by the Russians, and what was the outcome. Nor have I heard one peep out of them about how to better secure our election institutions and systems against incursions.  Given White House water boy Devin Nunes is in charge of the committee, I don’t suppose we’ll get that much out of this outfit, and that’s both a tragedy and a missed opportunity.

While the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence manages to sound more organized and focused,  there’s not much emerging from that quarter either.   Again, the committee seems to have Republicans intent on proving there’s “nothing to see here,” and Democrats hoping to find the smoking arsenal.  Again, the conspiracy/collusion segment is only part of the story, and while it’s important so too is the notion that we need to find out what the Russians did, how they did it, and how we can prevent this from happening in future elections.

Then there’s the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.   Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) seems rather more interested in absolving Republicans and the President from responsibility for or knowledge of Russian activities than in finding out exactly what happened in 2016.   I wouldn’t want to hang by my hair for as long as it will take to get this outfit to determine what laws were broken, or eluded, by Russians — nor how we might want to modify our statutes to prevent future problems.  The House Judiciary Committee is essentially AWOL on all manner of topics, case in point the “calendar” for the subcommittees is almost blank for the month of December with one FBI “oversight” hearing, and one session with Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein.  The Chairman appears to be more concerned with disparaging the Mueller Investigation than with determining how to identify and prevent foreign incursions into our elections.

Remember back on September 22, 2017 the Department of Homeland Security finally informed 21 states that their elections systems had been hacked in some way, shape, or form:

“The federal government on Friday told election officials in 21 states that hackers targeted their systems before last year’s presidential election.

The notification came roughly a year after officials with the United States Department of Homeland Security first said states were targeted by hacking efforts possibly connected to Russia. The states that told The Associated Press they had been targeted included some key political battlegrounds, such as Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The A.P. contacted every state election office to determine which ones had been informed that their election systems had been targeted. The others that confirmed they were targeted were Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Washington.” (emphasis added)

21 states, notified a year after the fact was bad enough — but not only was the information belated, but some of it wasn’t even accurate.

“Now election officials in Wisconsin and California say DHS has provided them with additional information showing that Russian hackers actually scanned networks at other state agencies unconnected to voter data. In Wisconsin, DHS told officials on Tuesday that hackers had scanned an IP address belonging to the Department of Workforce Development, not the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) said in a statement Wednesday that DHS gave his office additional information saying hackers had attempted to target the network of the California Department of Technology’s statewide network and not the secretary of state’s office.”

So, we might expect the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee to be looking into this?  No, the Chairman, Sen. Ron Johnson is more interested in finding out if members of the Mueller team are biased against the current President.  The “logic” appears to be that because Special Counsel Mueller REMOVED those who made prejudicial statements in text messages therefore the investigation is prejudiced.  It doesn’t get more bass-ackwards than this.   Can we expect oversight regarding the slowness and inaccuracy of the DHS response to election hacking?  Under the current Senate leadership probably not.

The national broadcast media (as usual) is currently chasing the newest shiny object — which members of the Congress can or cannot keep their hands to themselves and their “little soldiers” zipped inside the “barracks.”  This is an important topic — but to continue to focus on the salacious and to continue to ignore the insidious is not in the best interest of this country and its institutions.

There are questions introduced last August which remain unresolved, and for which we should demand answers:

  1. What was the extent and nature of Russian hacking (and meddling) in the US election of 2016?
  2. Will the United States deploy safeguards and countermeasures to address thee Russian activities?
  3. Will the frustrations of state governments with the quality of information shared by DHS be alleviated? Will states receive up to date and accurate information so they can prevent hacking and meddling?
  4. What measures should be taken to prevent future hacking and meddling, and to give the states the support they need to deal with forms of assault as yet undeployed by the Russians?

The Mueller Investigation can explore and illuminate the extent to which criminal statutes may have been broken in regard to the 2016 election, but it cannot determine how the US analyzes, evaluates, and prepares for the next round of elections.  That should be the function of Congress, but then we seem to have one so focused on giving tax breaks to the wealthy and so determined to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid they can barely pay attention to the transgressions of their own members (speaking of Farenholdt here) while chasing conspiracy theories about the “Deep State” opposition to the administration.

Perhaps in the midst of asking our Senators and Representatives about the “questions of the day,” we should squeeze in a couple of questions (see above) that have been sitting on the shelves since last Summer?

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