But Trump Hires The Best People

Either he’s powerful, or he’s gullible. Either he’s a great manager, or a bad one. He cannot be both.

For what it’s worth, Trump doesn’t appear to regret his hiring choices, but his cult base seems to think he’s being played.

Yet, if he hires the best people, why did he lose Michael Flynn, one of his closest aides and National Security Advisor? Reince Preibus? Ryan “Puerto Rico Lineman” Zinke, Tom Price, Steve Bannon… and Paul Manafort, or Rick Gates? And what the heck happened with Scaramucci?

The list of those he’s hired, then had to fire is no longer just a chyron of cable news, it’s an actual list.

Today, the President told the world that the Mueller indictments announced this morning are for crimes from “years ago,” and says Manafort’s role in the campaign was a small one.

This is simply untrue. No one likes the word “lie,” but call it what you want: the indictment includes crimes committed last summer, during the campaign, and Manafort’s role was a large one. He was hired March 29 to run the campaign. In every way.

Here’s what Trump said at the time:

“Paul [Manafort] is a great asset and an important addition as we consolidate the tremendous support we have received in the primaries and caucuses, garnering millions more votes than any other candidate. Paul Manafort, and the team I am building, bring the needed skill sets to ensure that the will of the Republican voters, not the Washington political establishment, determines who will be the nominee for the Republican Party. I look forward to winning the nomination, and ultimately the presidency in order to Make America Great Again.”

And here’s what I said at the time:

“The man doesn’t hide that he plays the card tables across the globe. His digital rolodex swerves the topographical surface of earth from French presidential candidates and African rebel force commanders to Ukrainian oligarchs and American senators. He doesn’t just rub shoulders with dictators and arms dealers, or lobby on behalf of Saudi princes, he runs PR for their organizations – when he’s not fraternizing with them. Think: OLIVIA POPE WITH A BLACK HAT – the Lord of War, and masseuse of criminal legacies. This is the master of Donald trump’s machine today.”

Manafort’s greatest asset was to network the world’s most powerful with the world’s most degraded, and to run PR and campaigns for them. But somehow it was overlooked that his resume’s crown jewel was to elect a pro-Putin Ukrainian president through questionable means. Or, perhaps that’s why he was hired. First, as campaign chairman, then, as manager when he pushed Corey Lewandowski aside to take over the entire campaign a month later.

At this exact moment, trump was teasing the Russians to hack servers on national TV. Donald, Jr., Kushner and Manafort were meeting with Russians about “adoption.” A now-dead GOP operative was communicating with Wikileaks about finding Hillary’s emails. And Roger Stone (Manafort’s longtime business partner and friend) was messaging Guccifer 2.0 about the Wikileaks dump that month. This isn’t “liberal fake news.” It’s on FoxNews. It’s not denied.

The only Russia-connected hires he still has on board are Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (Rosneft/Exxon oil field) and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (Bank of Cyprus). Both of which stand to earn billions among their small circles if sanctions are lifted in the Arctic.

Yeah, it’s all coincidence. And it’s not Trump’s responsibility that he hired all these “great people.” Nah. This is all Hillary.

 

Paul Manafort, Call Scooter Libby, And I Mean Right Now

Always the bad news first. Paul Manafort needs to pick up the phone, and call Scooter Libby.

Libby was tried, convicted, and sentenced to 30 months in prison for making false statements about his conversations with a reporter from Time Magazine in the fallout after the Valerie Plame “outing” affair. Ironically, the only person jailed in the whole CIA leak investigation was New York Times reporter Judith Miller. Libby never served a day–President George W. Bush commuted his 30-month sentence essentially on the day he would have reported to prison, all appeals of his sentence having failed.

Manafort is very likely going to be indicted. The FBI had him under investigation since 2014, under a secret FISA warrant. At first, this was related to his work for Ukraine’s then-president and kleptocrat Viktor Yanukovych. In 2015, the investigation was shelved for lack of evidence. Then it began again at some point in 2016 with a new FISA warrant.

As streiff noted (and he has experience with these kinds of intelligence matters), FISA warrants cover all forms of surveillance. Phones, email, video are all permitted forms of data collection (a.k.a “wiretapping”) for the subject of the warrant. Also, there are no limitations of where the surveillance could or would be carried out. That means Trump Tower is certainly not off limits.

What does this mean?

The good news for Trump: he was right (sort of).

The FBI surveilled Manafort while he was running the Trump campaign. Whatever documents Rep. Devin Nunes saw at the White House SCIF were likely the real thing. The investigation, according to CNN extended “at least into early this year.”

That means after Trump was elected. It means potentially after Trump was president.

It’s inconceivable that then-President Obama didn’t know about surveillance carried out against the president-elect’s campaign staff. It’s inconceivable that Obama didn’t know that Trump’s offices very well could have been under surveillance before the election, or Trump’s conversations with Manafort could have been intercepted afterwards. This entire narrative ties into the classified Comey briefing at Trump Tower. It ties into Trump’s paranoia about wanting Comey to publicly announce that the president was not under investigation.

In March, Politifact published a “timeline of Donald Trump’s false wiretapping charge.” Looks more like Politifact got some of it wrong now–while the president was not the target of the surveillance, it was likely done in Trump Tower, under his nose, and in offices he owns. Trump can claim he is vindicated (if people believe it is a different story). That’s the good news.

In fact, all of this serves to boost Trump’s version of the story, while leaving Manafort in the position of….Scooter Libby. Bad news for poor Paul.

Brace for indictment

The New York Times called the FBI’s tactics against Manafort “shock and awe.” They picked the lock on his door. The FBI raided his home in the early hours of a July day while Manafort was still in bed. They took binders and papers, copied computer data, and photographed “expensive suits” as potential evidence. Then Robert Mueller called Manafort and told him to prepare for an indictment.

Given that President Trump likely knew that the FBI had surveillance on Manfort before Mueller’s appointment, he probably knew this was going to happen sooner or later. For Trump, sooner is better, to get the entire process behind him.

More bad news

We don’t know what Manafort might say to investigators after (if) he is indicted. He may be presented with evidence implicating other Trump campaign staffers, the president’s family, or the president himself. Manafort may “cut a deal” to avoid a state prosecution, immune from Trump’s pardon power. Mueller seems to have all his bases covered.

The only silver lining for Trump would be if he knew, for a fact, he said nothing or did nothing that could implicate himself. His children, on the other hand, may find themselves in a pickle.

Questions

We really don’t know all the facts yet, just that CNN reported some fairly stunning information, again unattributed to named sources.

Speculation here. But Trump’s a luddite. He doesn’t use email. He loves to use cell phones versus land lines. He uses confusing language. The man was born to befuddle investigators and spies. While it’s possible Manafort can take down Trump, I wouldn’t bet on it. If he could have, it would have been done before January 20th.

Also, the raid on Manafort’s home is not breaking news. The Washington Post reported it in August, and Daily Caller covered it also. The new “revelations” here are about the FISA warrant and the timeline of the surveillance.

Of course, not everyone’s convinced that Trump’s “wiretap” claims have any more merit than they did in March.

Obviously, this is an enormous can of worms that just got opened and we’ve barely baited one hook. The questions, at this point, outnumber the answers a thousand to one. What we do know is that Paul Manafort is in trouble–but we’ve always know he was trouble. We know that Trump has a blind spot (or a soft spot) for Russians–but we’ve always known that too.

Mostly, the news here is that Robert Mueller is Eliot Ness. He’s very likely to get his man. Paul Manafort really needs to call Scooter Libby, and the sooner the better.

Scaramucci: “Prove You Didn’t Leak”




He’s at it again.

After his late-night tweet threatening the White House Chief of Staff with an FBI investigation, newly-minted Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci doubled down, danced sideways, and did the Fandango the way only a New York salesman can. His call into CNN’s New Day morning show proved to be a mind-numbing master class in how to sell suicide to an army, which may be the very thing he’s doing with this administration.

After news organizations exploded with the FBI bombshell last night, Scaramucci deleted the tweet (a very common practice lately for the “transparent” communications director), then had the audacity to declare a negative: Reince must prove he’s NOT the leaker. Why, exactly? Because Scaramucci’s allegedly innocent tweet last night just confirmed that reporters know who the leakers are. “When I put out a tweet and I put Reince’s name in the tweet, they’re all making the assumption that it’s him, because journalists know who the leakers are.” Therefore, it’s their fault for *accidentally* confirming it was Reince, by assuming that’s who Scaramucci meant.



Yes, you read that right.

It’s like “Lefty” Ruggiero got a better suit, combed his hair and jumped the podium. Next thing, it’s our fault the White House is in chaos, because we described it happening, right? It’s our fault. Always.


In one short week, we’ve seen the Mooch claim he’s a straight shooter, then claim he’s straightly… not answering” the question being asked.

He’s yelled at an interviewer about leaks, because they knew of staff shakeups before he announced it, then was exposed as being the leaker of that information himself in another interview.

He insisted the president isn’t elitist when interviewing with the BBC because of the “pizza, [and] the cheeseburgers we eat,” *wait, what? Rich people don’t eat pizza?!* then admitted “he’s both! He knows how to operate in an elitist world, and he has unbelievable empathy.” Then, he insulted the reporter, “but you’re coming off as a little bit elitist” for the questioning.

Now, he threatens the Chief of Staff with the FBI on twitter, then claims we all got it “WRONG,” even though White House sources admitted to multiple news organizations that it was true. Then, this morning, he essentially admitted it was Reince he was aiming for, saying it was reporters’ reactions that smoked him out. About a “leak” that didn’t happen anyway. (The financial disclosure was made public via a FOIA request last week)

His fallback argument is apparently to make his target prove a negative – make a claim, get a denial, then demand proof you didn’t do what you didn’t do. It’s like Happy Loman in Death of a Salesman trying to be the wolf of Wall Street. He’s not even very good at it.

Our message to the White House is simple: Please stop lying about things you don’t need to lie about.

This daily drama isn’t even “populism.” It’s just plain arrogance.

 

 

 

 

 

BREAKING: White House Civil War as Scaramucci Goes to FBI on Priebus




Overnight, Anthony Scaracmucci tweeted his intention to ask the FBI to investigate chief of staff Reince Priebus for leaking documents.

CNN’s Ryan Lizza went on the air at approximately 11:40pm Wednesday night to confirm the “ambiguous tweet,” saying his sources have said Scaramucci believes Preibus leaked his financial disclosure documents. Never mind that these documents eventually become public anyway, by law, meaning it’s not a felony to “leak” them. But he’s mad the Politico got the document early, and he’s ready to do the dirty work it takes to root out the perp.

As this comes on the heels of Erick Erickson’s scoop on the widespread tension among cabinet secretaries, the sudden resignation of Sean Spicer and other mid-level officials, and the president’s very public shaming of his closest defender, Jeff Sessions, the White House now appears to be in an all out civil war between ambitious, undisciplined leviathans climbing over one another either for power, or to cover their rear end – a House of canards, you could say, where no one trusts anyone, and every piece of news starts off as rumor just to become tomorrow’s [confirmed] news.



As many astute observers will remember, the two men have no love lost since the transition, as Preibus made sure Scaramucci was not part of the administration. The hiring of Scaramucci last week was seen as a shakeup, but no one expected it to be on this level. So much for draining the swamp. Maybe it was just a change of tides?

If he follows through on his tweeted threat, Scaramucci will likely be aiming for the Chief of Staff job himself, once again leaving the communications department in a lurch for true leadership. And the Mooch would find himself in arguably the most powerful unelected job in the world.

All I can say is, “pray, America.”

Pray for forgiveness first, then for the stability of your country. Because this is unhealthy, whether you like this president or not – we should hate that this immature, banana republic behavior is happening so fast, so often that we’ve lost track of the embarrassments.

Even Chris Matthews Sees Comey’s Testimony As Undermining the Resistance

For the entirety of the Trump presidency we have been bombarded with fake news stories about President Donald J. Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia to defeat Hillary Clinton and bogus claims that President Trump was under FBI Investigation all pushed by the leaders of the so-called Resistance — politicians and the biased media wing of the Democrats’ Party.

The Washington Examiner reports, that thanks to former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, even the ever Liberal Chris Matthews declarers that the anti-Trump conspiracy theories of the resistance “came apart.”

In his written and spoken testimony on Thursday, Comey said that he never felt that Trump had tried to impede the FBI’s investigation into Russia, even that the president had encouraged it and he suggested that former national security adviser Mike Flynn wasn’t at the heart of the investigation. Comey also confirmed that he had told Trump that he was not personally under any investigation and that the president had encouraged the Russia investigation, even if it implicated any of his associates.

You can watch the MSNBC video of Chris Matthews comments or read a partial transcript published by Real Clear Politics below

Partial Transcript:

The bigger story, Nicole touched on it there, the assumption of the president’s critics, his pursuers you might say, is that some time in the last year, the president had something to do with colluding with the Russians –something to do, a helping hand, to feeding their desire to affect the election in some way. Some role they played. Some conversation with Michael Flynn or Paul Manafort.

 

But yet what came apart this morning was that theory.

 

Two regards, the president said, according to the written tell me of Mr. Comey: Go ahead and get anybody satellite to my operation and nail them. I’m with you on that. That would mean Manafort, Carter Page, somebody like that.

 

And then what was fascinating, Comey said that basically Flynn wasn’t central to the Russia investigation, that he was touching on it. Of course, Flynn wasn’t honest in the answering of the official forms to become national security head, but they only touched on that, that it wasn’t related to that but that he could be flipped for that. In other words, they could flip him because they had him on something he dishonestly answered, but it wasn’t central to the Russia thing.

 

I always assumed what Trump was afraid of he had something to Flynn and Flynn could be flipped on that, and Flynn would testify against the president that he had some conversation with Flynn in terms of dealing with the Russians affirmatively. And if that’s not the case, where’s the there there?

 

Indeed, Where is the there there?

Obama-Era Illegal FBI Intelligence Sharing Raises Questions

Adding to the mountain of reasons why former FBI Director James Comey had to go, a 2015 now-declassified ruling highlights “hundreds of violations of the FBI’s privacy-protecting minimuzation rules that occurred on Comey’s watch.”

A shocking report by Circa outlines the once Top Secret FISA court ruling. The FBI has long had issues with balancing its counter-terrorism and counterintelligence roles with its primary function of investigating, collecting evidence, and support prosecution of crimes. But in the days after President Obama took office, the agency increasingly tended toward maximum data collection in its efforts to fight threats.

The FBI normally is forbidden from surveilling an American without a warrant. But Section 702 of the Foreign Surveillance Act, last updated by Congress in 2008,  allowed the NSA to share with the FBI spy data collected without a warrant that includes the communications of Americans with “foreign targets.”

Yet the agency in 2009 assured compliance with rules regarding intercepts gathered overseas about Americans on U.S. soil.

But the IG said it reviewed the same data and easily found evidence that the FBI accessed NSA data gathered on a person who likely was in the United States, making it illegal to review without a warrant.

For years, this cowboy mentality and kid-in-a-candy-shop attitude of having data and using it in creative ways has brought nothing but trouble for the FBI. Comey took over in 2013 from Robert Mueller, who originally oversaw the implementation of FISA Section 702.

Comey and now Mueller have been the chief investigators of the Trump-Russia investigation, at the same time the FBI was–admittedly not the majority of the time, but significantly–playing fast and loose with secret warrantless intercepts on U.S. citizens.

The most serious involved the NSA searching for American data it was forbidden to search. But the FBI also was forced to admit its agents and analysts shared espionage data with prohibited third parties, ranging from a federal contractor to a private entity that did not have the legal right to see the intelligence.

The agency pushed back, claiming that fast-moving counter-terrorism operations don’t allow time for agents to obtain permission every time they need data.

“If we require our agents to write a full justification every time think about if you wrote a full justification every time you used Google. Among other things, you would use Google a lot less,” a lawyer told the court.

It’s true that in a pluralistic, free society like America, homegrown and foreign terrorists would have an easier time operating if it weren’t for Big Brother listening. But remaining a pluralistic, free society is more important than trying to know everything, all the time, wouldn’t you agree?

The availability of nearly-unlimited data, what traitor (and hero to some) Edward Snowden exposed as widespread and comprehensive collection on just about anyone the Feds want, and many degrees of freedom beyond that (called “incidental” but collected nonetheless), might prove an irresistible temptation for some in government whose purposes are less than righteous.

This is why the “unmasking” requests by political appointees in the Obama White House are so troubling (especially that they were considered “routine”). Ben Shapiro raised a couple of important questions on how this relates to former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn (and now presidential advisor Jared Kushner).

Trump acolytes will undoubtedly suggest that this is precisely what happened with Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, who was caught up in surveillance of Russian third parties, unmasked by the Obama administration, and then revealed to the press by someone in the know. They will suggest that we now know that the FBI was often exceeding its mandate by searching data without a warrant that they should not have, and by occasionally allowing that information to flow outside of established channels.

In reality, the business of national security is sloppy. Mistakes will undoubtedly be made. The question is twofold: what sort of mistakes were made with regard to leaking the identity of Flynn to the press? And more generally, were the systems in place for restricting the free flow of classified information about American citizens sufficient?

It’s become more obvious that the safeguards between political and counter-terrorism operational access to and use of intelligence data are too weak. And as Sen. Rand Paul has been arguing for quite some time, we may need to look very closely at how, exactly what, and who is collecting data about American citizens.

BREAKING: Joe Lieberman Out of the Running for FBI Director

Shimon Prokupecz, a law enforcement reporter for CNN, has tweeted that former senator Joe Lieberman, who was rumored to be under consideration by the Trump administration for the position of FBI director, is no longer a candidate for the job:

Lieberman represented Connecticut in the United States Senate as a Democrat, and was the party’s vice presidential nominee when he ran with Al Gore against George W. Bush in 2000. In 2006, he became an independent when he lost the Democrat primary for his Senate seat, and subsequently won re-election.

Known for his tough stance on terrorism, Lieberman endorsed John McCain over Barack Obama in 2008. He retired from the Senate in 2013, and has been in private law practice since.

In spite of his national security bona fides, Lieberman has no experience with law enforcement and was considered a long shot to replace James Comey, who was fired from the FBI by Donald Trump. That firing has been an ongoing source of controversy.

More Troubling News About Trump’s Campaign and Russia

President Trump’s first trip abroad is giving the press something else to focus on, but the embers of the Russian probe are still burning.

Possibly the biggest news from last week are the reports of memos kept by ousted FBI Director James Comey.

More specifically, the news that within those memos, Comey may have documented a conversation with Trump, in which the newly inaugurated president asked him to drop the investigation surrounding his national security adviser pick, Michael Flynn, lit up the internet with armchair prosecutors crying, “Obstruction!”

So are they right?

That part isn’t so clear.

The latest on that front, however, adds another troubling piece.

According to a report out Monday, back in March Trump spoke to two intelligence officials and asked them to publicly announce that there was no evidence of collusion between his campaign and Russia.

Trump reportedly asked Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, and Adm. Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, to make public statements that there were no ties between Russian officials and the Trump campaign. Both officials refused to do so because they thought the requests were inappropriate, according to the report.

I’m going to say “inappropriate” is a delicate way to put it.

If true, it gives weight to the earlier report of Trump attempting to persuade Comey to “let Flynn go.”

With the heat of the Russia investigation swirling around the Trump administration, it’s not so much the one, big bombshell, but the outbreak of so many small, nagging accounts flaring up at once, and all seemingly flowing in the same direction.

Senior White House officials also reportedly asked how they could directly intervene with former FBI Director James Comey’s investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

“Can we ask him to shut down the investigation? Are you able to assist in this matter?” one official reportedly asked.

So many questions, but so few answers, at this point.

Trump’s requests were allegedly made in March, just after Comey’s testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, where he confirmed that the FBI was investigating Russia and possible collusion.