Rudy Giuliani to “negotiate an end” to the Mueller probe

At the moment, I’m reading through the just released Comey memos, but I wanted to take a quick break, and share some good news. It looks as though our long national nightmare may finally be coming to an end. The White House today announced that former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani would be joining the President’s legal team, where he’d be leading the effort to bring the Mueller investigation to a successful conclusion. Giuliani, Trump said in a statement, would be working to get the whole matter “quickly resolved for the good of the country.” Echoing these comments, Giuliani told the Washington Post this afternoon that, as Trump had stated, he’d been brought onboard to “negotiate an end” to the Mueller probe. So, now, I think it’s safe to say, it’s just a matter of time. Within a few days at most, I predict all of the uncertainty and chaos of the past year will be behind us, and we’ll all be raising a glass to Rudy Giuliani… our nation’s greatest legal mind… the one man capable of sorting out the misunderstandings upon which the Mueller probe was constructed.

OK, as we all know, that’s never going to happen… This isn’t the kind of thing that one can negotiate an end to. We’re not talking about a first offense for possession of pot. The Mueller probe already has 19 indictments and 5 guilty pleas, and the charges include “Conspiracy against the United States.” You could be the best negotiator in the world… a veritable Donald Trump, if you will… and you still couldn’t negotiate an end to this. As Mueller has told us very clearly, he “like(s) putting people in jail“, and he’s not going to stop until the entire Trump crime family has been completely dismantled.

Some, however, seem to think that Giuliani might succeed where so many others have failed. [Trump’s last attorney, as you may recall, only lasted a day.] Fox News contributor Charles Lane, for example, today said, “Maybe there is honestly some new thinking in the White House about the best approach here, that maybe if you bring in Rudy Giuliani as a whole new face to sit down with Mueller and say, ‘okay let’s cut a deal of some kind here,’…You can’t rule it out.

By that same logic, why not try something really new, like hiring a mime or a circus clown to negotiate with Mueller, or maybe an actor who played an attorney on television? [The last time I checked, Scott Baio was still available.]

But, yes, let’s suspend reality for a moment and try to imagine a world in which the team responsible for this video is the team to bring us closure it what’s probably the largest, most intricate criminal probe in Department of Justice history.

All kidding aside, there is one good thing about all of this. It’ll put Giuliani in a room with Mueller, where, one imagines, the two will discuss just how it came to be that Giuliani knew that the FBI would be reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server just before the election, and the extent to which Giuliani coordinated with anti-Clinton agents within the New York City FBI field office to make it happen.

Oh, one last thing… Speaking of the just released Comey memos, he was on Rachel Maddow’s show this evening discussing them. I particularly enjoyed this exchange, in which the former head of the FBI confirms that Donald Trump told him, shortly after taking office, that he and Putin had spoken in the past about Russian hookers. [As you’ll recall, Trump has said in the past that he and Putin had never spoken prior to his becoming president.]

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Mitch McConnell says he won’t bring bi-partisan legislation protecting Robert Mueller to the floor of the Senate for a vote

As the family is out of the house this evening, I’ve decided to just lay here on the couch, in front of the fireplace, and study up on Jerry Lewis look-alike Sammy Petrillo, the star of Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla. [That’s Steve Calvert as the gorilla above.] As I seriously doubt that any of you would enjoy the trip down that particular rabbit hole, though, here’s something that you might want to discuss in my absence. Yesterday, on Fox News, Mitch McConnell said that he would not be bringing the bipartisan bill to protect Robert Mueller to the floor of the Senate for a vote. “I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor,” the Majority Leader said. “That’s my responsibility as majority leader, (and) we’ll not be having this on the floor of the Senate.” Here’s the video, followed by a tweet from Congressman Adam Schiff, who, as you might imagine, was disappointed, if not shocked, to hear that McConnell had chosen to defend Donald Trump over the rule of law.

Regardless of what McConnell may have said, it looks as though the Senate Judiciary Committee has every intention of pursuing their bill to protect special council Robert Mueller. Saying, “I can’t worry about what’s going on on the floor,” Chuck Grassley, the Republican chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said this afternoon that he’d continue to push the legislation forward. “Last fall,” Grassley told reporters, “I said we’re not going to do anything in this area unless you get together.” And, as Senators on both sides of the aisle worked together in good faith to create a bi-partisan bill, Grassley went on to say, “I feel an obligation to keep my word and move forward.” And, it would appear that the Democrats haven’t given up hope either.

I hope the Judiciary Committee moves forward with a bill, and that members of Senator McConnell’s caucus push him to reconsider,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. “We ought to head off a constitutional crisis at the pass, rather than waiting until it’s too late.”

And, with that, I’m leaving the real world behind, and diving into the history of Sammy Petrillo, the man who claimed to have come up with the idea for The Munsters… the man who Jerry Lewis fought to keep out of Hollywood… the man who Jerry Lewis hated more than any man on earth. For those who would like to join me, I’ll be starting with the November 12, 1950 episode of the The Colgate Comedy Hour starring Martin and Lewis (Petrillo makes his television debut opposite Lewis at around the 26 minute mark) and highlights from Keyholes are for Peeping (NSFW), and then moving on to Beyond Vaudeville episode 7 and Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla. We’ll see if I can stay up late enough to make it all the way through. Wish me luck.

By the way, it sucks that we now live in a world where I can’t just post about Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla. Trump really has ruined everything.

[I suspect it’s quite likely that this is the only blog post being written in the world right now about both the career of Sammy Patrillo and the Mueller investigation. I just wish I had a more clever way to weave the two things together… If only Matthew Calamari, Jr., the Trump security guy who some are speculating might have been the man who accosted Stormy Daniels and her young daughter in that Las Vegas parking structure, had been nicknamed “The Brooklyn Gorilla,” I could have tied this up really nicely. Sadly, though, the universe does not always come through for me.]

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Nikki Haley promises that Russian sanctions are coming, and the Trump administration responds by saying that she was suffering from “momentary confusion”

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Face the Nation this past Sunday that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin would soon be announcing sanctions against Russian companies known to have aided in the development of Bashar al-Assad’s chemical warfare capabilities. The Trump administration, she said, would be sending a “strong message” over the next 24 hours. Well, it’s now two full days later, and that message still hasn’t come. What’s more, it likely never will.

Here’s Ambassador Haley on Face the Nation.

According to several sources within the White House, while Trump had approved of these sanctions against Russian companies, he changed his mind at some point on Sunday, after Haley was on Face the Nation. And, on Monday, as White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders was walking back Haley’s promise of decisive action, and telling reporters that Trump and his team were still “considering additional sanctions on Russia,” and that “a decision will be made in the near future”, a Russian Foreign Ministry official informed the press that, sometime after Haley’s comments were made, a representative of the Trump administration had contacted the Russian Embassy in Washington, telling them not to worry, that the sanctions would not be coming. And, then, today, the White House sent out Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, to tell reporters that Haley had been wrong on Sunday, and that Trump had never agreed to issuing sanctions. The Ambassador, Kudlow said, was suffering from “momentary confusion” when she said that Mnuchin would be announcing sanctions. Well, this, as you might imagine, didn’t exactly sit well with Haley, who just responded, “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.”

So, yet once again, it would seem that our president, after agreeing with members of his foreign relations team to take a stand against Russia, has decided not to follow through. And, what’s more, he’s apparently decided to throw his United Nations Ambassador under the bus rather than personally own up to the fact that he approved sanctions, and then quickly abandoned the idea.

As for why Trump made this dramatic turn on Sunday, I suspect it may have something to do with the fact that it was on this same day that he’d discovered that we’d expelled significantly more Russian diplomats than any of our allies when it became known that Putin had deployed nerve agent on British soil in an attempt to kill a former Russian spy. This, according to reporting in the Washington Post, made Trump “furious”… Here’s an excerpt from that must-read report.

President Trump seemed distracted in March as his aides briefed him at his Mar-a-Lago resort on the administration’s plan to expel 60 Russian diplomats and suspected spies.

The United States, they explained, would be ousting roughly the same number of Russians as its European allies — part of a coordinated move to punish Moscow for the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter on British soil.

“We’ll match their numbers,” Trump instructed, according to a senior administration official. “We’re not taking the lead. We’re matching.”

The next day, when the expulsions were announced publicly, Trump erupted, officials said. To his shock and dismay, France and Germany were each expelling only four Russian officials — far fewer than the 60 his administration had decided on.

The president, who seemed to believe that other individual countries would largely equal the United States, was furious that his administration was being portrayed in the media as taking by far the toughest stance on Russia…

While I suppose it may be possible that the most obvious explanation isn’t the correct one here, it certainly seems as though our president, more than anything else, is motivated by an intense fear that Vladimir Putin may judge his actions as hostile. And, if that’s the case, one has to wonder why… What could it possibly be that Putin has on Trump that would cause him to act in such a way? What would instill such fear in an American president?

For what it’s worth, our President just took to Twitter to reassert that the Russia investigation is “phony,” and that it had nothing to do with why he fired FBI Director James Comey. This, of course, is a lie, at least on one count. As we all know, Donald Trump said very clearly last May to Lester Holt on national television that he fired Comey because he refused to end the Russia investigation. Here’s his exact quote: “In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.’”

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Sean Hannity and the President’s fixer

When news broke last week that the FBI had raided the home, hotel room and office of Trump “fixer” Michael Cohen looking for computers and financial records, no one was more upset than Fox News chief conspiracy theorist Sean Hannity, who said that Mueller had “declared war” on the President. Well, today we found out why Hannity was so upset… upset to the point that he started devoting entire segments of his television show to the exploration of what he called the “Meuller Crime Family.” [See image above and excerpt below.] As we learned today in New York federal court, as prosecutors and Cohen’s attorneys sparred over the boxes of potentially incriminating evidence seized last week in the raids, someone on Cohen’s team, when asked by the judge who Mr. Cohen’s third client was, responded, “Sean Hannity.” [As you’ll recall, Cohen’s team had resisted giving up the name of this third client, but the judge demanded it.]

So, as it turns out, in addition to Donald Trump (for whom Cohen paid off porn star Stormy Daniels), and Republican National Committee member Elliot Broidy (for whom Cohen paid a Playboy “playmate” $1.6 million to have an abortion), it would appear that the President’s fixer also did work for Sean Hannity, the man who, among other things, has insinuated in the past that a murdered DNC staffer by the name of Seth Rich, and not the Russians, had hacked the Clinton campaign, with the implication being, of course, that Hillary Clinton had orchestrated the young man killing.

So, the question becomes, what was it that Sean Hannity needed fixed? And, what are we likely to find out about Sean Hannity in these documents and recordings that were seized from the home, office and hotel room of his attorney? Before we start speculating about that, though, here’s a clip from the Daily Beast about Hannity’s work of fiction concerning the “Mueller Crime Family.”

…Throughout the lengthy, rambling monologue, Hannity accused Mueller of prosecutorial impropriety—from “looking the other way” as a federal prosecutor in Boston at gangster James “Whitey” Bulger’s crimes to prosecuting the wrong man for a post-9/11 anthrax attack. Along the way, Hannity made mention of Democratic donors, connections to the Clinton family, and FBI agents who texted anti-Trump messages after the election. Ultimately, Hannity concluded, there are three connected “Deep State crime families” actively “trying to take down the president”…

So, putting aside for the moment what Hannity might have done to require the services of a man whose profession seems to be buying the silence of porn stars and playmates, what we now know for a certainty is that, the whole time Hannity was defending Cohen, and attacking those involved in the investigation, he was hiding the fact from the American people that he was a client of Michael Cohen’s, who is himself tied up in all of this… Now, as for what Hannity may have needed Cohen’s services for, one would imagine, given that he’s been accused of sexual harassment before, and has worked closely with known sexual harassers like Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes, it has something to do with sex… And, sooner or later, it will all come out. It always does. [Speaking of things eventually coming out, yet another Playboy playmate came out today, saying that she had an affair with Donald Trump.]

update: Sean Hannity is denying that he paid Cohen for legal services. He isn’t saying, however, that others, like Fox News, didn’t pay Cohen on his behalf.

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The “unlawful” bombing of Syria, the curious pardoning of Scooter Libby, and the expanding criminal case against Michael Cohen

Quite a bit has happened over this past week. For the purposes of this post, I’d like to focus on just three of the many story lines that I’ve been following; our bombing of Syria, the Scooter Libby pardon, and the criminal case against Donald Trump’s “fixer,” Michael Cohen.

Let’s start by talking about Michael Cohen, who, as you may recall, had his New York home, hotel room, and Rockefeller Center offices raided last Saturday by FBI agents, who seized both computers and financial records. We knew at the time that New York State prosecutors were after information concerning Cohen’s roll in the intimidation and silencing of Trump’s numerous unsatisfied sex partners, but, over the last several days, it’s become clear that prosecutors are going deeper into the sordid past of the Trump corporation, and the central role Cohen played, as the most senior non-family member of the organization, in securing questionable deals with our planet’s most shadowy figures. On this subject, I’d encourage you to read Adam Davidson’s new piece in the New Yorker, titled, “Michael Cohen and the End Stage of the Trump Presidency.” Here’s a taste.

…This is the week we know, with increasing certainty, that we are entering the last phase of the Trump Presidency. This doesn’t feel like a prophecy; it feels like a simple statement of the apparent truth. I know dozens of reporters and other investigators who have studied Donald Trump and his business and political ties. Some have been skeptical of the idea that President Trump himself knowingly colluded with Russian officials. It seems not at all Trumpian to participate in a complex plan with a long-term, uncertain payoff. Collusion is an imprecise word, but it does seem close to certain that his son Donald, Jr., and several people who worked for him colluded with people close to the Kremlin; it is up to prosecutors and then the courts to figure out if this was illegal or merely deceitful. We may have a hard time finding out what President Trump himself knew and approved.

However, I am unaware of anybody who has taken a serious look at Trump’s business who doesn’t believe that there is a high likelihood of rampant criminality. In Azerbaijan, he did business with a likely money launderer for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. In the Republic of Georgia, he partnered with a group that was being investigated for a possible role in the largest known bank-fraud and money-laundering case in history. In Indonesia, his development partner is “knee-deep in dirty politics”; there are criminal investigations of his deals in Brazil; the F.B.I. is reportedly looking into his daughter Ivanka’s role in the Trump hotel in Vancouver, for which she worked with a Malaysian family that has admitted to financial fraud. Back home, Donald, Jr., and Ivanka were investigated for financial crimes associated with the Trump hotel in SoHo—an investigation that was halted suspiciously. His Taj Mahal casino received what was then the largest fine in history for money-laundering violations.

…The narrative that will become widely understood is that Donald Trump did not sit atop a global empire. He was not an intuitive genius and tough guy who created billions of dollars of wealth through fearlessness. He had a small, sad operation, mostly run by his two oldest children and Michael Cohen, a lousy lawyer who barely keeps up the pretenses of lawyering and who now faces an avalanche of charges, from taxicab-backed bank fraud to money laundering and campaign-finance violations.

Cohen, Donald, Jr., and Ivanka monetized their willingness to sign contracts with people rejected by all sensible partners. Even in this, the Trump Organization left money on the table, taking a million dollars here, five million there, even though the service they provided—giving branding legitimacy to blatantly sketchy projects—was worth far more. It was not a company that built value over decades, accumulating assets and leveraging wealth. It burned through whatever good will and brand value it established as quickly as possible, then moved on to the next scheme…

And, since these raids, there have already been two significant new developments pertaining to the case against Cohen. First, the Washington Post has reported that Cohen was, like Richard Nixon, in the habit of recording his conversations, and that the FBI may have seized these tapes during their raids. And, second, we learned that, contrary to what he might have said, investigators believe that Cohen was in Prague in 2016 to meet with Russians on Trump’s behalf. [If this is true, it would confirm yet one more detail in the so-called Steele dossier, and establish that the Trump campaign was in fact colluding with the Russians.] So, given all of this, it’s not really any surprise that, after hearing that Cohen’s computers and files had been secured by the FBI last Saturday, Trump lashed out during a press conference about recent chemical attacks in Syria, ranting about how these raids against his corporate attorney amounted to “an attack on our country” on the part of Rod Rosenstein and the Department of Justice. [Rosenstein authorized the raids against Cohen.]

And, since then, things have only gotten stranger and more terrifying, with Trump becoming increasingly belligerent on social media, going so far as to call the FBI a “den of thieves and lowlifes.” And, to make matters worse, on Thursday, he announced that he’d be pardoning Scooter Libby, the Dick Cheney staffer found guilty of having liked the identity of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame in retribution for the fact that her husband had exposed the fact that we’d been led to war in Iraq with falsified evidence. “I don’t know Mr. Libby,” said President Trump, “but for years I have heard that he has been treated unfairly. Hopefully, this full pardon will help rectify a very sad portion of his life.” Why the President would do this, given that Libby hadn’t even requested a pardon, no one knows. It seems likely, however, that it was a message to Cohen and others that they should stay quiet, as presidential pardons may be coming their way. [A presidential pardon, by the way, wouldn’t get Cohen out of New York State charges.]

If Trump were to pardon his co-consiprators, like Flynn, Manafort or Cohen, it would certainly be obstruction of justice, adding to the several instances that Mueller is already thought to have documented. As I understand it, though, there’s nothing legally that we can do to keep a president from exercising his pardon power. What we can do, however, is support Congressman Adam Schiff in his effort to pass legislation that would increase transparency in instances where the individual receiving the pardon happens to be involved in a case where the president is implicated.

Oh, and Trump didn’t just float the idea of a pardon my making the sudden and unexpected announcement about Libby. He also apparently called Cohen the following day. When asked why the President would call someone who was being investigated for the commission of several felonies, White House Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said only that the call was made because they “have a long relationship.” [She left out the word “criminal.”]

But then the bombs started falling on Syria, so we all stopped talking about Michael Cohen, the odd and unexpected pardoning of Scooter Libby, and everything else.

Given that Trump absolutely abhorred the idea of military intervention in Syria back with Obama was president, and celebrated the fact that the Republican Congress stopped Obama from using military force in response to President Bashar al-Assad using chemical weapons against his own people in 2013, it’s unclear as to why he decided to launch missiles against the al-Assad now. Some, however, are speculating that it was done primarily to burry the stories noted above. And, given that we’re hearing today that Trump, prior to calling for the strike, had run the idea of an attack by the attorneys defending him in the Russia probe, you can certainly see why people might think that.

[Wag the Dog: “To ‘wag the dog’ means to purposely divert attention from what would otherwise be of greater importance, to something else of lesser significance. By doing so, the lesser-significant event is catapulted into the limelight, drowning proper attention to what was originally the more important issue.”]

The thinking, if you ascribe to this interpretation, must have been that an attack against al-Assad, an associate of Putin’s, would not only take the attention from Cohen, but also give the appearance that the President was taking a strong stance against Russia. This, however, doesn’t hold much weight in light of the fact that, in the wake of the attack, the French defense minister said that Russia had been warned in advance.

Oh, and Trump authorized these attacks without going to Congress, which, according to Congressman Schiff, is “on thin legal ground“… And, again, it’s something that Trump stated that Obama categorically could not do when he was president.

Obama, when he was in a similar position in 2013, attempted to strike back at al-Assad after he’d launched chemical weapons against his own people. In that case, though, Obama went to Congress, argued his case and [was denied. This time, though, Trump, perhaps not remembering his words to Obama, just went ahed and did it without seeking approval from Congress. And, because we live amid constant chaos, that part of the story doesn’t so much as warrant a tiny blip on the American outrage meter. Had Obama bombed Syria without Congressional support at that time, they would have moved to impeach. Now, though, it’s not even a front page story. Some, however, are taking notice. Congressman Jerrold Nadler, for instance, tweeted the following. “As I said in 2013, under Pres. Obama, Constitution requires congressional authorization for use of military force in Syria,” he said. “Trump’s actions tonight,” he went on to say, “appear to be unlawful if not unconstitutional.”

And, on top of it all, we’re told that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein expects to be fired at any minute… Oh, and over in the parallel universe we know as Fox News, they’ve got former FBI Director Jim Comey on trial along with Hillary Clinton.

So, with that, the stage is set for the final act to play out… Buckle up, America. I’m afraid it’s going to get a hell of a lot uglier.

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