Tag Archives: Department of Justice

Can we officially call it a constitutional crisis now? (Updated)

Donald Trump “went there” this morning on the Special Counsel’s Russia probe.

Trump is, once again, setting up Confederate Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III to be the fall guy by signaling he is now ready to pull a Nixonian “Saturday night massacre” if the Attorney General does not do as he is directed by the president, a clear violation of the independence of the Department of Justice from undue influence over criminal investigations by the chief executive. With Robert Mueller closing in, Trump is in a panic and is abusing the powers of the presidency to obstruct justice in order to protect himself.

Chris Cillizza at CNN reports, Donald Trump just tweeted something new about the Russia investigation — and it’s huge:

President Donald Trump has made his displeasure with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, special counsel Robert Mueller and the ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election he is leading crystal clear over the past year. But he took that critique to new heights on Wednesday morning, suggesting that Sessions needed to step in and end the investigation.

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That seems like a pretty clear directive, no?

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Obstruction of justice in plain sight by Donald Trump and his co-conspirators in Congress

Late Saturday night, the government released a redacted version of the FISA Court warrant application for Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page.

The application has been the basis of an elaborate conspiracy theory concocted by Donald Trump and his collaborators in Congress that his campaign was “spied on” by the FBI and intelligence agencies only after the Steele Dossier, a claim for which there is no basis or evidence. It also resulted in the discredited “Nunes Memo” from the House Intelligence Committee, which was entirely refuted by the Democratic minority memo.

Trump ordered the FISA Court warrant application released — the first time any such secret evidence in the FISA Court has ever been released —  in a pathetic attempt to revive his discredited conspiracy theory and renewed his attacks on the FBI and intelligence agencies,  after a week in which he sided with Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence community and was forced to walk it back at least four times, before returning to attacking his intelligence community over the weekend.

What we are witnessing is obstruction of justice in plain sight by Donald Trump and his co-conspirators in Congress. This crime is continuing and is ongoing.

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Guess who’s coming to dinner

Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling (ret.), the former commanding general of the U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army, along with Molly K. McKew, who advises governments and political parties on foreign policy and strategic communications, have co-authored an important piece at POLITICO that you really should read to understand the nature of the war that we are in with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

That’s right, “Make no mistake: Hacking the 2016 election was an act of war. It’s time we responded accordingly.” Putin’s Attack on the U.S. Is Our Pearl Harbor (snippet):

Russia’s cyber warfare capabilities are just one element of an arsenal of hybrid, asymmetric means the Kremlin has focused on expanding since its cyberattacks against Estonia in 2007 and its invasion of Georgia in 2008. In 2013, the Russian chief of the general staff General Valery Gerasimov outlined this concept of warfare, emphasizing that “the role of nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness.” Putin polished what they had learned in earlier operations and put these on full display a year later, as Russia seized and then annexed Crimea, and then launched an invasion of eastern Ukraine fronted by local proxies backed by the Russian military.

While it has become quite popular to debate whether or not what is referred to as “the Gerasimov Doctrine” was intended to be military or security doctrine or not, the way of war Gerasimov discussed is, in fact, how the Russians now fight. Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee in March 2018, General Mike Scaparrotti, head of U.S. European Command, was asked about Gerasimov, and he responded succinctly and with candor: “Russia has a doctrine that … sees these activities below the level of conflict as part of the full spectrum, with the intent that if they can undermine a target country using these means … never having to use military force, that’s their objective.”

Gerasimov has since updated his thinking on the uses of hybrid warfare to erode the will of the enemy, saying that “spiritual resources—the nation’s cohesion and desire to confront the aggressor at all cost,” were one of the most important determiners of victory or defeat in these new shadow wars. Confusing the enemy has always been a doctrinal tenet of Russian war-fighting, so this new approach just replaces the old “Maskirovka” (deception) as a primary objective. The more you read about how Russia has tested and adapted these tactics in its near-abroad, the harder it is to deny that the Kremlin’s attack on America is no outlier but rather one more entry in an ongoing, evolving playbook that is yielding more success than anyone wants to admit.

So where are the air-raid sirens and the calls to arms from those who vow to protect and defend our Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic?

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Russian operative arrested for influence operation in the NRA and GOP

Almost lost in Trump’s Surrender Summit on Monday is news that the Department of Justice announced it had arrested prominent Russian gun rights activist Maria Butina over the weekend, accusing her of setting up “back channel” lines of communication with the Kremlin in an operation that spanned from the months before Trump announced his candidacy in 2015 through February 2017, the month after his inauguration. What a Russian operative’s indictment reveals about the Kremlin’s attempts to infiltrate American politics and the NRA:

In the unsealed indictment, the department accused Butina of conspiring to infiltrate U.S. political groups and advance the agenda of the Russian government through her network of high-profile American contacts in politics and media.

Read the full Complaint and attached Affidavit.

The indictment includes the most explicit and detailed accusation to date against a Russian, working with the help of an American citizen, to influence the 2016 presidential election. It also provides new details about the Russian government’s attempts to curry favor among prominent Americans.

Notably, the charges are not being made by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing Russia’s attempts to meddle in the 2016 election. The investigation was carried out by the FBI’s field office in Washington, and Butina is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the Justice Department’s national security division.

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Trump fails to defend America against Russian attacks; there is a word for that (updated)

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s detailed indictment of twelve Russian intelligence officers for cyber attacks on the U.S. to interfere in the 2016 election offered new details of just how deeply Russian operatives have infiltrated state and local election agencies across the U.S. Mueller reveals depth of states’ election vulnerabilities.

House Administration Committee Democrats in a report released Thursday identified 18 states that congressional researchers say lack key voting safeguards, including paper trails for vote tallies and post-election audits. Drawing on months of input from election officials and cybersecurity experts, it called on Congress to approve $1.4 billion in new election security funding for all 50 states over the next decade. House Democrats list states with weakest election security in new report. You should note that no Republicans signed onto its conclusions.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told a convention of secretaries of state Saturday that “though votes were note changed” in the 2016 election, “ANY attempt to interfere in our elections — successful or unsuccessful — is a direct attack on our democracy,” (emphasis added by her press office.) Homeland Security chief calls Russian hacking “direct attack on our democracy”. You should note that “President Trump has never condemned Russia over its election interference, and the White House press office statement on the indictments does not mention a Russian attack on our democracy.”

Also last week, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned of an impending, potentially devastating cyber attack on U.S. systems, saying the country’s digital infrastructure “is literally under attack” and warning that among state actors, Russia is the “worst offender.” Intel chief Dan Coats says of cyber attacks, “We are at a critical point”:

Speaking at a scheduled event at the Hudson Institute, he adopted the language of former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet who, in the months ahead of the 9/11 attacks, warned that the “system was blinking red.” Coats, citing daily attacks from Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, said, “Here we are, nearly two decades later, and I’m here to say the warning lights are blinking red again.”

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Senate Tea-Publicans abdicate their duty in favor of GOP tribalism

This is inexcusable and indefensible. Senate Tea-Publicans have abdicated their constitutional duty in favor of GOP tribalism to confirm Brian A. Benczkowski to lead the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and oversee the government’s career prosecutors, including those investigating President Trump.

Benczkowski, who has never tried a case in court and who was hired by Alfa Bank — a Russian bank under scrutiny by the Special Counsel over reports of a communications link to the Trump campaign, Was a Trump Server Communicating With Russia? — to prepare a report exonerating the bank, is not qualified for this position.

Benczkowski is now in the line of succession at DOJ, should Trump decide to engage in a “Saturday night massacre” at the Justice Department. He is a Trump loyalist who will play the role of Robert Bork in the Watergate scandal.

The New York Times reports, Justice Dept. Nominee Who Drew Scrutiny for Russian Bank Work Is Confirmed:

Democrats fought the nomination of the former staff member, Brian A. Benczkowski, raising questions about his qualifications. Mr. Benczkowski has never tried a case in court and was also scrutinized over private-sector work for one of Russia’s largest banks.

The 51-to-48 vote was along party lines, with only Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, joining Republicans to confirm Mr. Benczkowski.

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