Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The day the world lost its mind

Or perhaps it was just the day that everybody in the United States seemed to lose their minds.  To hear the talking heads on teevee tell it, that is (my wife watches but I don't, so I got updates throughout the evening on yesterday's shitshow).

The day began with the reveal of James Comey's fatal error.  He's likely more than mildly nauseous this morning.  Bold is mine.

The FBI on Tuesday sent Congress a letter correcting Director James Comey’s testimony regarding the “hundreds and thousands” of emails he incorrectly claimed top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin forwarded to her husband Anthony Weiner.

“Director Comey spoke of hundreds and thousands of e-mails being forwarded from Ms. Abedin to Mr. Weiner’s laptop computer,” Gregory A. Brower, the assistant director for the bureau’s Office of Congressional Affairs, wrote in a letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA). “Investigators ultimately determined that two e-mail chains containing classified information were manually forwarded to Mr. Weiner’s account.”

This completely stunned me.  Not just that there were only two emails, but that Comey was so completely wrong about the number of them, testifying under oath to his hideous mistake, which led to ... well, you know.

As we know, it got worse for him.

Comey testified last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Abedin made “a regular practice” of forwarding “hundreds and thousands” of emails to Weiner “for him I think to print out” so Abedin could deliver the hard copies to Clinton.

ProPublica reported earlier Tuesday that piece of Comey’s testimony was inaccurate, and that the FBI had privately acknowledged the director’s misstatements but was still considering next steps.

“The FBI believes it is reasonable to conclude that most of the emails found on Mr. Weiner’s laptop computer related to the Clinton investigation occurred as a result of a backup of personal electronic devices,” Brower wrote in the letter to Grassley.

Epic fail.  Pantsed by his own people.  So while a few Hillbots immediately opened fire, as Gadfly has documented, we had to wait until the end of the day for Trump to wake up.

President Trump on Tuesday fired the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, abruptly terminating the top official leading a criminal investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s advisers colluded with the Russian government to steer the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

The stunning development in Mr. Trump’s presidency raised the specter of political interference by a sitting president into an existing investigation by the nation’s leading law enforcement agency. It immediately ignited Democratic calls for a special counsel to lead the Russia inquiry.

So from there the reactions and spot analysis spiraled out of control.  While Democrats caterwauled about everything from Nixon to 'special prosecutor' -- the best idea coming from Texas Monthly's politics editor, RG Ratcliffe, suggesting two; one appointed by Obama and one by W. Bush -- Republicans clamored for Trey Gowdy to be named the FNG at FBI.  Update: Or maybe Rudy Giuliani.  Or Chris Christie.

This is my effort at documenting a few of the items that make the most -- or least -- sense to me; YMMV.

-- Trump has been on the verge of firing Comey for about a week; a remarkably well-kept secret with this administration.

Trump had grown angry with the Russia investigation — particularly Comey admitting in front of the Senate that the FBI was investigating his campaign — and that the FBI director wouldn't support his claims that President Barack Obama had tapped his phones in Trump Tower.

-- But wait; didn't Trump write in his termination letter to the director ...

While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.

-- Yet there obviously is an ongoing investigation.

However, a recent court filing by the Department of Justice on behalf of the FBI in an ongoing FOIA lawsuit plainly indicates the FBI has an active investigation pertaining to Donald Trump’s actions related to actual or potential election-related hacking and espionage by Russia.

Two, it appears.  Or maybe just the one.

Federal prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas as part of the ongoing probe of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, according to a new report.

The subpoenas to associates of former national security adviser Michael Flynn are seeking business records, CNN said Tuesday.

CNN confirmed with people familiar with the matter that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, Va., issued the subpoenas in recent weeks.

The subpoenas are a significant escalation of the FBI’s broader investigation into possible ties between Russia and President Trump’s 2016 campaign.

The news of subpoenas comes on the same night President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.

Jeff Sessions -- who recused himself from investigating Trump's Russian connections because he lied prevaricated under oath about having conversations with Russians -- will not be the one who appoints any special prosecutor.  That job falls to the new deputy AG, Rod Rosenstein, who was confirmed with 94 votes in the Senate just a couple of weeks ago (and who helped shiv Comey).  Here's more about the man to watch from the NYT.

For the record again, the subterfuge IMHO does not lie in Russia's attempts to hack the election.  They tried; they did not succeed.  US elections are far too decentralized to be hacked by a single source; voter suppression is in fact a more impactful, concentrated, and successful effort.  Here's your proof of that.  But Trump's undisclosed tax returns probably hide a lot of Russian money over several years, especially if his son spilled the beans on that years ago.  That's where the real danger of having a president compromised by a nefarious foreign actor lies.

Let's stop here with a timeline of the events that have unspooled from early July -- an excellent resource -- surrounding Comey and his October 28 letter and everything since, as both a refresher and a tonic for your (or maybe just my) vertigo/dizziness/nausea, etc.  Let's also note that Comey becomes the third person fired by Trump (Preet Bharara and Sally Yates were ahead of him) who has lost their job in the midst of investigating Trump's Russia ties.

More, probably, later.

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