The Open Thread for February 3, 2018

NICE OWN GOAL, NUNES.  His treasonous and much hyped memo was both a dud and a vindication for Robert Mueller and the FBI’s Russia Probe.   The memo is available here.

Josh Marshall: “Let me try to summarize the core argument of the memo more or less on its own terms. The memo argues that the Steele Dossier was a critical or central part of the government’s (i.e., the FBI’s) argument for obtaining a FISA warrant on Carter Page. In none of its applications or follow up applications (four total) did the FBI disclose to the FISA court that the Steele Dossier was essentially the fruit of the poisoned tree – ultimately funded by Democratic party funds, an inherently political document and only corroborated in its findings to a limited degree. That’s the gist of the memo: the FBI used a tainted and unreliable source to get a warrant for surveillance on an American citizen without disclosing to the court any of the reasons not to credit the information contained in the dossier.”

Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman at the Washington Post: “The whole point of the Nunes memo was always to create a pretext for President Trump to try to take control of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe, and it remains to be seen whether Trump will convince himself that it does give him this pretext.  But this is going to take a lot of self-deception on Trump’s part (not that he won’t rise to the occasion), and a lot of aggressive goading from his favorite cable news personalities — that is, if reality even matters in the least anymore. Because the memo itself is really just a bad joke.  […]

[Further,] it actually shows that the FBI investigation predated the supposed misuse of the Steele dossier, and it shows that the cause of the investigation was information provided by Papadopoulos, which is what the New York Times reported. Remember, this Times report was widely mocked by Trump allies. Yet the memo actually lends that story more credence and, in the process, undercuts the whole alt-narrative that the genesis of the probe was illegitimate.

“Special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation has gathered enough steam that some lawyers representing key Donald Trump associates are considering the possibility of a historic first: an indictment against a sitting president,” Politico reports.

“Neither attorney claimed to have specific knowledge of Mueller’s plans. Both based their opinions on their understanding of the law; one also cited his interactions with the special counsel’s team, whose interviews have recently examined whether Trump tried to derail the probe into his campaign’s Russia ties.”

Said one lawyer: “If I were a betting man, I’d bet against the president.”

Jonathan Chait: “Amid all the lies Donald Trump has told about the Russia scandal, there is one underlying truth: The intelligence community truly fears him and considers him unfit for the presidency. This is not because the intelligence community is traitorous, or left wing, or (as Donald Trump Jr. sneeringly put it) wine-spritzer-drinking elites. It is because the IC had early access to a wide array of terrifying intelligence linking Trump and his orbit to Russia. People who spend their lives protecting their country from foreign threats saw in Trump a candidate who had at some level been compromised by one of them.”

“Trump and his allies have viewed the causality the other way around. Because the IC distrusts Trump, its investigation of Trump’s connections to Russia is therefore illegitimate. Since his election, Trump has seized upon news of the investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia as evidence that the investigators cannot be trusted. If they were unbiased, he reasons, they wouldn’t have been investigating Trump in the first place.”

“The newly released memo by Republican staff follows the tracks of this reasoning.”

Radio Free Europe: “The directors of Russia’s three main intelligence and espionage agencies all traveled to the U.S. capital in recent days, in what observers said was a highly unusual occurrence coming at a time of heightened U.S.-Russian tensions.” These are the same people who planned and executed an attack on the 2016 election.

The black unemployment rate, which President Trump claimed credit for reducing to a record low, jumped last month by the most in almost six years, Bloomberg reports.

“The Labor Department’s monthly employment report released Friday showed that joblessness among black Americans rose to a nine-month high of 7.7 percent in January from 6.8 percent in December, which was the lowest in data back to 1972. The 0.9 percentage-point rise was the most since June 2012.”

“Newly obtained documents show the extensive involvement that family members of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, especially his son, Benjamin Jr., play in official business, despite strong warnings from agency lawyers,” CNN reports.

“I have no confidence whatsoever in what’s going to come out of the House. Nunes seems to be part of the Trump team.” — Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, quoted by Time.

“The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests – no party’s, no president’s, only Putin’s.” — Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), in a statement.

The lawyers for former Trump aide Rick Gates, who was indicted alongside Paul Manafort, have asked for permission to withdraw from the case “effective immediately,” USA Today reports.  The reasons aren’t stated in the public filing but are included in an exhibit “which is the subject of a motion to be filed under seal.”

This suggests Gates may have flipped and is now cooperating with the special counsel. If true, that’s very bad news for Manafort.

A federal judge ruled that the state of Florida “routinely violates the constitutional rights of its citizens by permanently revoking the ‘fundamental right’ to vote for anyone convicted of a felony,” the Tampa Bay Times reports.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker said the Florida “scheme” unfairly relies on the personal support of the governor for citizens to regain the right to vote.

Expense records show that Rick Saccone (R), who is running in the upcoming Pennsylvania special election for Congress, spent $435,172 in taxpayer money using his expense account in his first seven years as a state lawmaker, The Intercept reports.

“Pennsylvania provides state lawmakers with generous salaries and expense policies, allowing them to bill the government for activities they deem as necessary for their job… But Saccone’s profligate use of the legislative expense account may come as a surprise. He was elected in 2010 during the tea party wave on a pledge to cut government spending.”

Politico: “Republican lawmakers often complain when President Trump’s controversial comments suck up the headlines and undercut their messaging. But this week, they tripped over their own feet. The firestorm over whether to release a classified, GOP-crafted memo alleging FBI misconduct has totally drowned out the House-Senate GOP retreat here in West Virginia. Republicans wanted to tout their tax bill and advocate for their 2018 priorities, from infrastructure to military spending.”

“But the controversial document of their own making seemed to be the only thing reporters wanted to talk about. The rank and file and leadership alike were peppered with questions about the memo drafted by aides to House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes.”

Andrew Sullivan: “It triggers a deep and visceral response: a defense of the tribe before all other considerations. That means, in its modern manifestation, that the tribe comes before the country as a whole, before any neutral institutions that get in its way, before reason and empiricism, and before the rule of law. It means loyalty to the tribe — and its current chief — is enforced relentlessly. And this, it seems to me, is the underlying reason why the investigation into Russian interference in the last election is now under such attack and in such trouble. In a tribalized society, there can be no legitimacy for an independent inquiry, indifferent to tribal politics. In this fray, no one is allowed to be above it.”

“On the face of it, of course, no one even faintly patriotic should object to investigating how a foreign power tried to manipulate American democracy, as our intelligence agencies have reported. And yet one party is quite obviously doing all it can to undermine such a project — even when it is led by a Republican of previously unimpeachable integrity, Robert Mueller. Tribalism does not spare the FBI; it cannot tolerate an independent Department of Justice; it sees even a Republican like Mueller as suspect; and it sees members of another tribe as incapable of performing their jobs without bias.”

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) “is seeking documents from the National Rifle Association and the Treasury Department following reports of an FBI investigation into whether a Russian central banker funneled money to the group during the 2016 presidential campaign,” the AP reports.

Said Wyden: “I am specifically troubled by the possibility that Russian-backed shell companies or intermediaries may have circumvented laws designed to prohibit foreign meddling in our elections.”

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

1 comment on “The Open Thread for February 3, 2018

  1. The almighty memo was all about anticipation, now that it’s out the Republicans will put up their usual barrage of lies and accusations. Problem is as far as I can make out it’s all innuendo and proves nothing, nothing other than that the Republicans are desperate to discredit Mueller and shield Trump. Will Trump “take over” the FBI, not a betting man but that’s absurd and highly unlikely. Haven’t seen the FBI’s reply yet, dare say it will shred the memo and the clowns behind it, same for the Dems response. Having said that like all things Republican they’ll be back with more memos, letters and post it notes in the near distant future.

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