Donald Trump, at war with intelligence

Yesterday morning, FBI Director Christopher Wray, CIA Director Gina Haspel, and Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Their testimony was timed to coincide with the public release of the annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community,” which was authored by Coates, with the input of every other U.S. intelligence agency. This report, it’s important to note, contradicted President Trump on several fronts. First and foremost, no mention was made, in the entire 42 pages of the report, of a terrorist threat on our southern border which would necessitate the building of a wall. Furthermore, in the words of the New York Times, the report makes clear that, according to the consensus of our intelligence community, “North Korea is unlikely to give up its nuclear stockpiles, and Iran is not, for now, taking steps necessary to make a bomb, directly contradicting the rationale of two of President Trump’s foreign policy initiatives.” Additionally, the authors of the report make it clear that the most significant threat facing our nation today is the cyber threat posed by Russia and China, which, according to the threat assessment, were now “more aligned than at any point since the mid-1950s.”

Here, with more on the cyber threat posed by the likes of Russia, China, and Iran, is an excerpt from Politico.

In a worldwide threat assessment to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats wrote that competitors such as Russia, China and Iran “probably already are looking to the 2020 U.S. elections as an opportunity to advance their interests.”

In his statement, he predicted that these countries “will use online influence operations to try to weaken democratic institutions, undermine U.S. alliances and partnerships and shape policy outcomes in the United States and elsewhere.”

Furthermore, he said, they’ll “refine their capabilities and add new tactics as they learn from each other’s experiences, suggesting the threat landscape could look very different in 2020 and future elections.”

Donald Trump, as you might imagine, replied by tweet, calling those behind this global threat assessment “naive,” adding later that they “should go back to school.” Here is Trump’s tweet, as well as the heated response it got from former CIA Director John Brennan.

Interestingly, as all of this was playing out, the Financial Times was reporting that, according to high-level Russian sources, Donald Trump met secretly with Vladimir Putin during the 2018 G20 summit in Buenos Aires, accompanied solely by his wife, “with no translator or note-taker from the US side to record the dialogue between the leaders.” This, as I’m sure you can appreciate, is not even remotely normal.

While Lou Dobbs on Fox News is arguing that the role of the U.S. intelligence community should not be to deliver accurate, unbiased intelligence, but to provide intelligence that supports the worldview of the President, I’m starting to get the sense that others on the right have had about enough. According to new poll by the Washington Post and ABC News, 1 in 3 Republican and Republican-leaning voters would like for the GOP to nominate “someone other” than Trump in 2020, and Republican Senator Susan Collins is making news today for refusing to say whether or not she’d support a Trump reelection bid… Now here’s that Lou Hobbs segment.

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Home sick, drinking tea, and watching Bella Lugosi movies as it snows outside

Hello, everyone. I am at home, in bed, drinking Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice tea, and eating Fishermans Friend cough drops by the fistful. I hate being sick, but it’s nice that everyone in the house is coughing and wheezing at the same time for a change, as I don’t feel guilty for just laying around and watching movies. Right now, Arlo and I are half way through our Bella Lugosi B-movie double feature. Having watched The Devil Bat (1940), we’re about to start The Invisible Ghost (1941). [The Black Cat (1934), which also stars Boris Karloff, is better, but it’s not streaming for free with Amazon Prime. If you’ve got the extra $3.99, though, I’d suggest making it a triple feature. If it’s snowing where you are, like it is here in Ypsilanti, I can’t imagine a better way to spend the day than sitting in front of a fireplace with a 7 year old, watching Bella Lugosi strangle people.] Here, if you’re not yet sold, are the trailers.

And, yes, this site is being underwritten for the duration of the polar vortex by Amazon Prime, Celestial Seasonings, and Fisherman’s Friend. [We almost got The Snuggie Store onboard, but negotiations broke down at the last minute.] It took about 15 years, but I finally sold out and went corporate. [You’ll be happy to know that the contract still allows me to post about politics, but I just have to do so with a perpetual cold, working in references to the various teas I’m drinking, cough drops I’m chewing, and movies I’m watching.]

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Trump advisor Roger Stone was just arrested by the FBI

For those of you who, like me, could use a little cheering up right now, here’s footage shot outside the Fort Lauderdale home of trusted Trump advisor Roger Stone this morning, where FBI agents took the former protege of Republican rat-fucker Roy Cohn into custody. According to the indictments against Stone, which were opened this morning, the longtime Trump advisor was arrested on one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, five counts of false statements, and one count of witness tampering, all tied to his role as the Trump campaign emissary to Wikileaks during the DNC hack.

You can read the full indictment online, but here’s one of the best excerpts I’ve read thus far… And, yes, if I had to guess, I’d say that Julian Assange will be the next co-conspirator to go down.

Oh, and here’s one more thing to consider… a tweet from our President encouraging Stone not to cooperate with federal investigators looking into the hacking of our 2016 election.

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Good luck to those of you in transit during Trump’s government shutdown

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Textbook witness intimidation

Hearing that Michael Cohen had given word today that he would not be testifying before Congress on February 7 as promised, citing threats made against members of his family by Donald Trump, I decided to pull together a little “witness intimidation” timeline for us to go over as a group. I hope you find the exercise worthwhile and instructive.

NOVEMBER 29: It was announced that Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, had accepted a plea deal with federal prosecutors that would, among other things, require that he acknowledge having knowingly lied to Congress in October 2017 in response to questions about Donald Trump’s ongoing negotiations with representatives of the Russian government during the 2016 election for the construction of a Trump Tower in Moscow. [note: Whether or not you believe the Buzzfeed story about Trump having personally directed Cohen to lie to Congress, it’s worth noting that Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani has conceded that the two men may have talked just before Cohen’s perjured testimony on Capitol Hill.]

DECEMBER 10: Donald Trump takes to Twitter not only to accuse Cohen of lying to federal prosecutors, but to float the idea that his Department of Justice could go after Cohen’s wife and father-in-law for having committed unspecified crimes. [note: By December 16, Donald Trump would be referring to Cohen as a “rat”, for cooperating with prosecutors.]

JANUARY 10: It was announced that, before entering prison to serve his three-year sentence, Cohen would be testifying before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. [When the Democrats took over the House on January 3, calling Cohen to testify was among the first things that they did.] Among other things, we were told that Cohen would be asked by the Democrats on the committee about the campaign finance laws he violated when he paid off Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal on Donald Trump’s behalf, as well as his knowledge concerning those negotiations between Donald Trump and the Russians during the 2016 campaign over the construction of the aforementioned Trump Tower in Moscow.

JANUARY 12: Trump, in a live interview with Fox News host Jeanine Pirro, once again appears to threaten Cohen’s father-in-law… Here’s the exchange.

TRUMP: “In order to get his sentence reduced, he says, ‘I have an idea. I’ll tell… I’ll give you some information on the President.’ Well, there is no information… But he should give information maybe on his father-in-law, because that’s the one that people want to look at. Because where does that money… that’s the money in the family. And I guess he didn’t want to talk about his father-in-law. He’s trying to get his sentence reduced. So it’s pretty sad. You know, it’s weak. And it’s very sad to watch a thing like that. I couldn’t care less.”

PIRRO: “What is his father-in-law’s name?”

TRUMP: “I don’t know, but you’ll find out, and you’ll look into it. Because nobody knows what’s going on over there.”

JANUARY 13: Representatives Elijah Cummings, Adam Schiff, and Jerrold Nadler, the Chairmen of the House Committees on Oversight and Reform, Intelligence, and the Judiciary, issued the following statement in response to the above comments made by Donald Trump on Fox News regarding Michael Cohen’s testimony before Congress, and what might happen to his family members if he were to follow through.

“The integrity of our process to serve as an independent check on the Executive Branch must be respected by everyone, including the President. Our nation’s laws prohibit efforts to discourage, intimidate, or otherwise pressure a witness not to provide testimony to Congress. The President should make no statement or take any action to obstruct Congress’ independent oversight and investigative efforts, including by seeking to discourage any witness from testifying in response to a duly authorized request from Congress.”

JANUARY 20: Giuliani says on CNN that Cohen’s father-in-law “may have ties to something called organized crime.”

JANUARY 23: Through his attorney, Cohen says he no longer intends to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on February 7, citing the repeated threats to his family. In the words of Cohen attorney Lanny Davis, “Due to ongoing threats against his family from President Trump and Mr. Giuliani, as recently as this weekend, as well as Mr. Cohen’s continued cooperation with ongoing investigations, by advice of counsel, Mr. Cohen’s appearance will be postponed to a later date.”

Well, as you might imagine, a few folks are suggesting that what we’re seeing play out is, in fact, a felony.

First, here’s Representative Ted Lieu’s take.

And here’s what Representatives Cummings and Schiff had to say.

“We have received Mr. Cohen’s notice postponing his voluntary appearance in an open hearing before the Committee on Oversight and Reform. We certainly understand the completely legitimate concerns for the safety and security of Mr. Cohen and his family members in light of the attacks last week by President Trump and again this past weekend by his attorney, Rudy Giuliani…

Nevertheless, when our Committees began discussions with Mr. Cohen’s attorney, not appearing before Congress was never an option. We will not let the President’s tactics prevent Congress from fulfilling our constitutionally mandated oversight responsibilities. This will not stop us from getting to the truth. We expect Mr. Cohen to appear before both Committees, and we remain engaged with his counsel about his upcoming appearances.”

For what it’s worth, Donald Trump, when asked about his intimidation of Cohen today, said today that he did not threaten his former attorney. He says that Cohen was merely “threatened by the truth.”

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