Wondering.

I myself don’t doubt the veracity of sworn law officers.  I do worry that engaged members of the Counter Culture may question that veracity.  So, it is important to provide answers to ill-spirited charges.

 

New York Times story on FISA applications.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/23/us/politics/fisa-surveillance-fbi.html

 

New York Times story on “sloppiness” in filling out FISA warrant requests.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/31/us/politics/fbi-fisa-wiretap-trump.html

 

So, either:

  1. FBI agents were over-worked and made errors.
  2. FBI agents habitually cut corners in pursuit of FISA warrants because they’re over-worked. So, rake though all the warrant applications in order to free the unjustly accused/convicted?   If the Department of Justice is short-handed, maybe they could draft in some people from the Innocence Project?

 

Then there’s this.

New York Times story on “testilying.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/18/nyregion/testilying-police-perjury-new-york.html

 

 

Next Question.

A “ consensus among the “Crossfire Hurricane” agents and analysts … identified individuals associated with the Trump campaign who had recently traveled to Russia or had other alleged ties to Russia.” (IG Report, p. iv.)  These individuals were George Papadopoulos, Carter Page, Paul Manafort, and Michael Flynn.

 

“[I]mmediately after opening the investigation [31 July 2019], the Crossfire Hurricane team submitted name trace requests to other U.S. government agencies and a foreign intelligence agency, and conducted law enforcement database and open source searches, to identify individuals associated with the Trump campaign in a position to have received the alleged offer of assistance from Russia.”  (IG Report, p. iv.)

 

OK, sounds good.  We have learned that the CIA responded that Carter Page had been reporting to the CIA on his contacts with Soviet, sorry, Russian intelligence agents.  That’s not what the FBI told the FISA judge, but that’s what the CIA said.

 

What did CIA, the Department of State, and the foreign intelligence agency report about Paul Manafort?  Manafort had been a long-time assistant to thugs ruling Third World countries whom the United States wanted to flourish during the Cold War.  Did he also report on what he learned during this service?  What, if anything, did he report during his time assisting Yanukovych in Ukraine?

 

If the basic facts about Carter Page can be declassified, then why not those on Paul Manafort?

 

The Exhaustion of Liberalism?

Barton Swaim[1] describes modern liberal democracy in North America and Western Europe:

“Liberal democracies value divided governmental institutions, a regulated market economy, a generous welfare state, personal autonomy and the expansion of political rights to formerly excluded classes.”[2]

Both “conservatives” and “liberals” share these beliefs.  Where they differ is that “liberals” have a deep faith in the ability of government to improve the human condition, while “conservatives” harbor profound doubts.

The “liberal” achievement in Twentieth Century America has been immense: the Pure Food and Drug Act (1906); the enfranchisement of women (1920); the Social Security Act (1935); the Civil Rights Act (1964); the Food Stamp Act (1964); the Voting rights Act (1965); and the amendment of the Social Security Act to create Medicare and Medicaid (1965).  Most of these laws passed during brief periods when a fundamentally conservative country favored dramatic change.

Swaim sees the historical record as demonstrating the exhaustion of liberalism, although not of liberal democracy.  Much of the liberal agenda has been fulfilled.  There aren’t any more dis-franchised people to enfranchise—except for criminals and non-citizens.  Liberals have turned from defending free speech to curtailing it through campus speech codes, demands that social media censor speech that they characterize as “false,” and demanding that the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision be over-turned.  Increasingly, they place their trust in un-elected experts and bureaucrats to know better than do elected officials.  President Obama extended government regulation of business through federal agency rule-writing because he couldn’t get it through Congress, and President Trump is rolling it back in the same way.

Furthermore, he says, liberals haven’t passed any transformative legislation since the mid-Sixties.  The popular support among voters just isn’t there.  Instead, Swaim argues, liberal reforms have advanced along two lines since the Sixties.  On the one hand, liberal legislative reforms have become increasingly small-scale: the Clean Air Act (1970); the Clean Water Act (1972); and the Affordable Care Act (“Obama Care,” 2010).  On the other hand, and far more importantly, the Supreme Court has approved policies that would not have passed Congress: abortion (1973) and marriage equality (2015).

To the extent that the Democrats have “big ideas,” he says, they are not traditionally “liberal” but “radical.”  The “Green New Deal,” “Medicare for All,” and Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Plans-for-That all run well beyond conventional liberal policies.  Hence, the nomination of Joe Biden as the Democratic candidate for president in 2020 is the victory of the backward-looking “liberal” majority over the forward-looking “radical” minority.

Or perhaps not.

[1] South Carolinian (state flag has a half-moon on it that some people have interpreted as a closet endorsement of Islam); BA, University of South Carolina plus some study at the University of Edinburgh; speech-writer for the “intriguing” (HA!) governor, Mark Sanford; and now an opinion writer and book reviewer for the Wall Street Journal.

[2] Barton Swaim, “Joe Biden and the Slow Death of Liberalism,” WSJ, 11-12 April 2020.

Sturmvogel 2 9 March 2020.

In 2004, Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych lost his position as the result of street demonstrations known as the “Orange Revolution.”  Yanukovych wanted to get back in the saddle at some point, so he looked for help.  The oligarch Rinat Akhmetov suggested his friend Paul Manafort.[1]  From December 2004 to February 2010, Manafort reshaped Yanukovych’s image and that of his opponents.  In February 2010, Yanukovych regained the presidency.

In February 2014 Yanukovych lost the presidency to a new round of street demonstrations called “Euromaidan.”   The Russians soon expressed their dissatisfaction with the “Euromaidan” revolution by seizing Crimea and by fomenting pro-Russian uprisings in two eastern “oblasts.”  The Americans and Europeans responded by wall-papering Russian leaders with sanctions and by providing economic aid to Ukraine.  However, the Westerners recognized that Ukraine was a deeply corrupt country.[2]  They insisted upon the creation of a robust National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU).

Ukraine hopped to it: the legislature passed basic legislation in October 2014, then launched a search for a bureau leader in January 2015; and President Petro Poroshenko signed decrees creating the new bureau in April 2015.  Funding for NABU is mandated under American and European Union aid programs and it has an evidence-sharing agreement with the Effa-Bee-Eye.  However, while NABU could investigate corruption cases, the actual prosecution of those cases fell to the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO).  It looks like the idea was to build a fire wall between eager-beaver investigators and actual prosecutors, who could always find fault with the investigations in order to protect the corrupt.

In August 2016, NABU announced that it had discovered a previously secret document that recorded $12.7 million in payments from Yanukovych’s “Party of Regions” to Paul Manafort.[3]

In August 2016, Serhiy Leshchenko,[4] a Ukrainian investigative journalist who had won election to the parliament as a supporter of Petro Poroshenko, held a news conference.[5]  In it, he emphasized the importance of NABU’s so-called “black ledger,” which recorded $12.7 million in cash payments from Yanukovych to Manafort.  Leschenko called for Ukrainian and American authorities to investigate Manafort.  In support of his charges, Leschenko provided a sample of ledger items for six months of payments in 2012.

According to the Steele Dossier, on the day after the New York Times published its story on the “black ledger,” Yanukovych met with Russian President-for-Life Vladimir Putin.  Yanukovych admitted that he had authorized “substantial kickback payments to Manafort,” but “that there was no documentary trail left behind which could provide clear evidence of this.”

A week after the Times story landed on door-steps, Manafort resigned from the Trump campaign.

Two weeks after the press conference, Leshchenko told the Financial Times that “For me, it was important to show not only the corruption aspect, but that he [Trump] is [a] pro-Russian candidate who can break the geopolitical balance in the world.”  The FT reported that Trump’s candidacy had alarmed Ukraine’s political leaders.  It led them to “do something they would never have attempted before: intervene, however indirectly, in a U.S. election.”  The FT reported that Leshchenko claimed that most Ukrainian politicians “on Hillary Clinton’s side.”[6]

What to make of this information?

First, these allegations and reports have nothing to do with CrowdStrike or missing servers or any other fantasy developed by Rudy Giuliani or Donald Trump.  Nor does it bear on the activities of Hunter Biden, let alone any insinuated intervention by his father, then-Vice President Joe Biden.  All those things are mixed together in one of the most squalid scandals of American political history.

Second, it seems perfectly reasonable to believe that in 2016 the prospect of a Trump presidency would scare the bejeezus out of Ukrainians.  President Obama had expressed his withering disapproval of Russian actions in Ukraine after the eviction of Viktor Yanukovych, but American aid came in the form of money, economic sanctions on Russia, and non-lethal military aid.  Trump had expressed sympathy for the return of Crimea to Russia and had hoped for improved relations between the US and Russia.  Ukraine’s leaders had every right to expect that their country—and all their chances for stealing stuff–would suffer under a Trump administration.

Third, it’s difficult to argue that individual politicians and government officials in Ukraine didn’t try to meddle in the 2016 presidential election when they insist that they did.  Obviously, those interventions didn’t work and the same people later mostly tried to deny what they did.[7]

Fourth, a lot of this stuff makes sense if we go with the original intelligence community assessment of the Russian meddling.  First, they said that the Russkies wanted to sow seeds of division in America so as to discredit democracy among its participants.  Later on, they amended this to say that the Russkies wanted Donald Trump elected president.

But what if the Russkies didn’t care who was elected?  What if they just wanted us to fight among ourselves?  As we have done.  (I no longer communicate with one of my oldest friends.)  “Twas a famous victory.”[8]

[1] See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rinat_Akhmetov#Connected_to_2016_Donald_Trump_United_States_Presidential_Campaign_and_the_Robert_Mueller_Special_Counsel_investigation

[2] See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corruption_in_Ukraine  Probably helps if you have read Eric Ambler novels from the 1930s.

[3] Andrew E. Kramer, Mike McIntire, Barry Meier, “Secret Ledger in Ukraine Lists Cash for Donald Trump’s Campaign Chief,” New York Times, August 14, 2016https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/15/us/politics/what-is-the-black-ledger.html  For NABU’s published statement, see: https://nabu.gov.ua/en/novyny/statement-regarding-pmanaforts-appearance-party-regions-black-ledger

[4] See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serhiy_Leshchenko

[5] Kenneth P. Vogel and David Stern, “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump backfire,” Politico, 11 January 2017.  https://www.politico.com/story/2017/01/ukraine-sabotage-trump-backfire-233446

[6] See: Roman Olearchyk, “Ukraine’s leaders campaign against “pro-Putin’ Trump, Financial Times, 28 August 2016.  : https://www.ft.com/content/c98078d0-6ae7-11e6-a0b1-d87a9fea034f  On the FT, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Financial_Times

[7] Leschenko is an exception, but then he gets into brawls in airport lounges and on the floor of parliament.  Not a lot of back-down in that guy.

[8] Robert Southey, “The Battle of Blenheim,” https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45178/the-battle-of-blenheim

Sturmvogel 1 22 February 2020.

In late 2013, Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yanukovych, was being advised by Paul Manafort.[1]  The country was headed toward a widely popular trade deal with the European Union (EU).  That deal, in turn, required Ukraine to make serious efforts against the public and private corruption that had characterized the country since it escaped from the Soviet Union.  Suddenly, Yanukovych announced that the deal with the EU had been abandoned in favor of an alternative deal with Russia.  Crowds, as they say, took to the streets with pitch-forks and fiery brands.  Yanukovych left in his socks.  Manafort lost his client and slunk off into far-from-poverty.  Then Ukraine lost the Crimea and a couple of eastern “oblasts” (administrative districts) to Russian intervention.

Post-Yanukovych Ukraine hoped for help from the West, although it still had the same problem with corruption that the previous agreement had sought to address.  The United States and other Western countries slammed economic sanctions on Russia.  They also agree to provide some “non-lethal” aid to Ukraine’s military.[2]

After the fall of Yanukovych, Alexandra Chalupa reportedly agreed to do some pro-bono work for a Ukrainian client.  In the course of this work and for reasons that have not been explained, she started researching Paul Manafort.  This included digging into the Ukrainian “oligarchs” who had sponsored Yanukovych.  Those oligarchs had been pro-Russian.

Donald Trump sounded very pro-Russian on the campaign trail.  So, in late 2015, when his campaign started to look like it might have legs, Chalupa reportedly doubled-down on investigating Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.

In January 2016, long before Manafort had any role in the Trump campaign, Chalupa told an unidentified  contact at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) that, “I felt there was a Russia connection” to the Trump campaign.  “And that, if there was, that we can expect Paul Manafort to be involved in this election.”  By early 2016, she was telling the pro-Democrat Ukrainian-Americans with whom she was in contact that Manafort was “Putin’s political brain for manipulating U.S. foreign policy and elections.”

During a March 2016 meeting at the Ukrainian Embassy on an unrelated matter, Chalupa told Ukraine’s ambassador, Valeriy Chaly,[3] of her concerns.  The ambassador wasn’t much worried about any links between Manafort and Trump because he didn’t think Trump could win the nomination, let alone the election.[4]

Four days later, Trump hired Manafort as his campaign manager.  Alarms bells started ringing.  The next day, Chalupa made a presentation to the communications staff of the DNC[5] on Trump, Manafort, and possible links between Russia and the campaign.

A week later, Chalupa talked over the possibility of a congressional investigation into the allegations with a legislative assistant to Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio).  This talk produced no results.

Later, the DNC encouraged Chalupa to contact the embassy of Ukraine.  Her reported goal was an interview with Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko.  It was hoped that Poroshenko would talk about Manafort and his connection to Yanukovych.  She didn’t get the meeting, but embassy officials did provide her with information and further leads.[6]  Thereafter, “If I asked a question, they would provide guidance, or if there was someone I needed to follow up with.” [But] “There were no documents given, nothing like that.”  In addition, “Chalupa said the embassy also worked directly with reporters researching Trump, Manafort and Russia to point them in the right directions.”

Accounts by Ukrainian diplomats in the embassy at that time differ from one another.  Either the embassy wasn’t doing anything to help the Democrats investigate Trump and Russia, or they were neck-deep in it.[7]  Andrii Telizhenko,[8] who worked as a political officer in the Ukrainian Embassy, has claimed that he “recalled that Chalupa told him and [Deputy Chief of Mission Oksana] Shulyar[9] that, ‘If we can get enough information on Paul [Manafort] or Trump’s involvement with Russia, she can get a hearing in Congress by September [2016]’.”

“In March 2016, [according to an attorney for Perkins Coie] Fusion GPS approached Perkins Coie (a law firm representing both the Clinton campaign and the DNC).  Did Perkins Coie want Fusion GPS to continue the opposition research previously done for a Republican opponent of Donald Trump?  Fusion had, thanks to its earlier work for a contract with a “Never Trump” Republican, a bunch of leads.  These included, according to Jane Mayer, “Trump’s … tax and bankruptcy problems, potential ties to organized crime, and numerous legal entanglements. They also revealed that Trump had an unusually high number of connections to Russians with questionable backgrounds.”[10]  Initially, Fusion GPS focused on Trump’s “business and entertainment activities,” rather than the Russian aspect.[11]

In April 2016, Marc Elias of Perlins Coie agreed to the deal with Fusion GPS.

In late April 2016, Chalupa made a presentation to a group of visiting Ukrainian journalists at an event held at the Library of Congress.[12]  She had invited Michael Isikoff to attend and introduced him to some of the Ukrainians.  Isikoff already was working on Manafort and Ukraine.

In early May 2016, Chalupa e-mailed DNC communications director Luis Miranda about “a big Trump component you and [DNC research director] Lauren [Dillon][13] need to be aware of that will hit in next few weeks and something I’m working on you should be aware of.”  However, her e-mail account had been under sustained attack by a “state-sponsored entity,” so she wanted to present the information in person.

In June 2016, Fusion GPS hired Christopher Steel to investigate Trump’s Russia connections, rather than any of the other potential scandals investigated earlier by Fusion GPS.  .

 

Did Ukrainians alarmed by Donald Trump’s pro-Russian stance on issues feed Alexandra Chalupa information about Trump’s supposed contacts with the Russians?

Did Alexandra Chalupa repeatedly apprise the Democratic National Committee of what she had learned?

Did people at the DNC take these warnings seriously?

Did they hire Fusion GPS to investigate these specific ties, rather than the other ones raised by the earlier Fusion GPS research on behalf of a Republican “Never Trump” sponsor?

Did any of the information provided to Chalupa end up as leads for, or even in, the “Steele Dossier”?

[1] Kenneth P. Vogel and David Stern, “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump backfire,” Politico, 11 January 2017.  https://www.politico.com/story/2017/01/ukraine-sabotage-trump-backfire-233446  This article inspired push-back.  See: the article in the  conservative Washington Examiner for some mockery: https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/politico-denies-politicos-reporting-on-ukraines-2016-pro-hillary-efforts   On Vogel, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_P._Vogel

[2] A useful starting point on these matters is: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_policy_of_the_Barack_Obama_administration#East_Europe

[3] See the—if you’re a follower of Monty Python–comical description in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valeriy_Chaly_(diplomat)

[4] Nor did I.

[5] On Luis Miranda, then communications director, see: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/09/dnc-names-luis-miranda-as-comms-director/432855/

[6] Hard to understand that unless the ambassador or the foreign minister or the president, Poroshenko, ordered it.

[7] If you spend much time reading about the contemporary Ukraine, you could get the idea that there are a lot of self-interested and devious people in public life.  Makes it difficult to sort out the exact facts.

[8] For a hostile view, see: https://www.thedailybeast.com/andrii-telizhenko-source-for-ukraine-collusion-allegations-met-rep-devin-nunes

[9] See: http://hcdc.clubs.harvard.edu/article.html?aid=1698

[10] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steele_dossier#Research_funded_by_Democrats_produces_dossier

[11] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steele_dossier#Research_funded_by_Democrats_produces_dossier

[12] On the “Open World Program,” see:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_World_Program

[13] See: https://ballotpedia.org/Lauren_Dillon

American Public Opinion on the Impeachment 3 February 2020.

A nation-wide poll taken between 26 and 29 January 2020, sought to establish attitudes toward President Trump during the impeachment hearings.[1]

First, what did a majority of Americans believe?

A large majority (c. 59 percent) of respondents believed that the Democrats in the House and the Senate were inspired to impeach Trump by political motivations.

A majority (53 percent) of respondents believed that President Trump obstructed Congress in his resistance to the House impeachment inquiry.

Over half (52 percent) of respondents believed that Trump had asked the President of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden in order to influence the November 2020 election.

Republicans overwhelmingly (91 percent) opposed Trump’s removal from office.

Democratic voters overwhelmingly (84 percent) support Trump’s removal from office.

Among Independents, 50 percent opposed removing Trump from office.

A plurality just short of a majority (49 percent) of respondents believed that Trump should not be removed from office by the Senate.

Did the partisanship ascribed to the House inquiry and by its managers in the Senate delegitimized the whole process in the eyes of many Americans?

Does President Trump’s resistance to the partisan House inquiry fall within the category of legitimate “punching back” in the eyes of many Americans?

Does President Trump’s suborning of an investigation into Joe Biden fall into the category of a scandal, but not a removable offense?  Or, in essence, does he get a pass on this one because of the sustained bad behavior of the Democrats in the three years since his election?

 

Second, what do minorities believe?

Almost half (46 percent) of respondents believed that Trump should be removed from office by the Senate.

Among Independents 45 percent supported removing Trump from office.

In spite of all the testimony produced by the House inquiry, 41 percent of respondents did not believe that Trump had asked the President of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden in order to influence the November 2020 election.

About a third (37 percent) of respondents believed that the Democrats were inspired by the defense of the Constitution.

A little more than a third (37 percent) of respondents did not believe that Trump obstructed Congress.

There is a big chunk of people—Democrats, Independents, and Republicans—who want Trump removed from office.  They don’t add up to a majority.

There are two separate one-thirds or more of the country who believe absurd things: that Democrats are defending the Constitution and that Trump didn’t invite an investigation.

 

[1] Aaron Zitner, “Americans’ Opinion of President Barely Budge After Impeachment,” WSJ, 3 February 2020; https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/meet-the-press/nbc-wsj-poll-country-remains-divided-over-trump-s-impeachment-n1128326

Listening to the Impeachment Hearings.

First, there is no doubt that President Trump extorted the President of Ukraine to announce an investigation of Joe Biden.  He did so, apparently, to besmirch a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Second, there is no doubt that the Republican majority in the Senate is going to acquit Trump of both counts.  There seems to be a shrinking likelihood that enough Republican “moderates” will join the Democrats to even call witnesses.

Third, the obstruction of Congress charge seems ridiculous because the Democrats on the Intelligence and Judiciary committees never made any serious appeal to the courts.   The Trump administration has been sued many times.  They have fought it out in the courts.  Whenever they have lost, they have complied.

Fourth, once Trump has been acquitted, do the Republicans have any plan to keep him from doing some other outrageous thing?  Throw Mike Pence overboard at the convention and impose some really serious person as Trump’s second vice president?  Grit their teeth until Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been replaced with a conservative.  Behind these actions would be the implicit threat that “Next time, you dumb son-of-a-bitch, we will impeach you.”

Fifth, Trump’s defense has argued that many, perhaps most, political acts combine a legitimate policy interest with a politician’s selfish or self-absorbed personal interest.  Hence, these decisions can not be described as “corrupt.”  Democrats have countered that, under the law, any “corrupt” purpose overwhelms any legitimate purpose.  It renders the whole action “corrupt.”  Well, the Democrats have been bug-eyed with fear and rage since November 2016.  They talked a lot about “collusion” (their term, not Trump’s before they started using it on talk shows).  They raised high expectations that the Mueller investigation would prove that Trump had committed crimes that merited impeachment.  They tried to make a case for obstruction of justice after the Mueller investigation “failed to establish” (i.e. couldn’t find any proof of) such “collusion.”  They wanted Trump removed for political reasons that would advantage the Democrats and disgrace the Republicans.  By their own standards, that would seem to meet the definition of “corruption.”