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Why Michael Flynn’s Confession Plea Deal Is A Problem For The White House

December 2, 2017

What with the problems running the country, the misogyny and keeping the Russian mistress happy, Trump seems to have been very busy lately; however, his sleepless nights may have more to do with problems closer to home. Michael Flynn’s recent guilty plea makes for an interesting bedtime story. Remember how Jeff Sessions happily lost his memory when testifying about his Russian ties? Seems as if Flynn’s attempt at memory loss came with an attached board book, and it made for a plea bargain that is sweet for Mueller and sour for Trump’s associates. Since Flynn was a former White House advisor, and since he admitted to having close ties to Russia, being charged with multiple felony counts and pleading only to one, the skeletons Flynn is hiding are sure to cause some problems for people like Jeff Sessions, Jared Kushner and Donald Trump.

In addition, the details of Flynn’s guilty plea raise new questions about how much others in the White House — including possibly President Trump himself — knew about the retired general’s conversations with Sergey Kislyak, then Russia’s ambassador to the United States, during the presidential transition.

In a statement read in federal court, Brandon L. Van Grack, an assistant prosecutor on Mueller’s staff, said that in the case of the two conversations at issue, Flynn spoke to Kislyak only after receiving specific instructions from, in one instance, a “senior official” of Trump’s transition team and, in another instance, a “very senior member” of the transition team. Neither official was named. But it has been publicly reported that Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a key adviser, was recently questioned by Mueller’s prosecutors and CNN reported Friday that he was the “very senior” transition official in question.

According to various news sources, the BBC, the AP and CNBC, as of last week, before the plea deal was reached, Michael Flynn’s lawyers were reported to have stopped cooperating with White House counsel, and while this may seem like an inordinately smart move overall (as in, what right mind would cooperate with legal counsel backing Trump?), it’s a tell that the Mueller investigation is moving toward charging a current White House staff member. Most attorneys cooperate when their clients are being investigated, but when one is no longer being investigated, because he has already agreed to a plea deal, and the other client is still being investigated, “sharing” between attorneys closes down.

A NYT op ed focuses on the charges the Mueller investigation chose to set aside in favor of Flynn’s “cooperation” and makes a damning case for arguing that the only reason to set aside easily proven charges is to make room for the accused to provide information in exchange for a more lenient sentence:

On Friday morning, Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. while serving as President Trump’s national security adviser. Making a false statement to a federal official is a felony offense, but nowhere near as bad as what the special counsel, Robert Mueller, could likely have charged Mr. Flynn with, including charges for possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (similar to those brought against the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates) or those stemming from a possible attempt to kidnap a Turkish cleric in Pennsylvania. By pleading guilty and agree to cooperate with Mr. Mueller, Mr. Flynn also appears to have averted prosecution of his son, who was reportedly implicated in some of the misconduct.

Prosecutors generally offer favorable plea bargains like this one only when the cooperating defendant can provide evidence that incriminates someone “up the ladder” — someone more senior than the defendant himself. In our experience, that is particularly true when the prosecutor is deciding not to pursue other, readily provable charges, like those that seem to exist here.

Maybe Flynn’s tipping point was his son, because it clearly wasn’t about protecting POTUS. Maybe Mueller was able to push Flynn to testify in exchange for not charging Flynn’s son with multiple felonies.

Seems that Mueller has his sights set on Donald Trump’s son-in-law, and who knows, maybe that will be Trump’s achilles, too. The same NYT article points out that the pattern of pushing through the family may be the best method to secure convictions:

It is probably Mr. Kushner who is in greatest jeopardy now. Bloomberg has reported that he is the very senior transition member who directed Mr. Flynn to reach out to Russia. Mr. Kushner has already been questioned by the special counsel and by Congress. If he was one of those officials Mr. Flynn spoke to and he was not honest about it when questioned, he could face similar false statement charges.

Mr. Kushner also failed to disclose approximately 100 foreign contacts on his security clearance application; each omission is a potential false statement.

If Flynn is willing to testify in exchange for protecting his son, what would Trump do? For his son-in-law, Kushner, not much, but what about good ole Donald Jr? Donald Jr. had clandestine meetings with Russian officials that he misidentified.

Donald Trump Jr.’s exposure is also deepened by the Flynn plea, along similar lines as Mr. Kushner. He might (or might not) be one of the unnamed transition participants Mr. Flynn identified. Moreover, the president’s son has been interviewed at length as a part of congressional investigations, and Mr. Flynn’s testimony could show he was not candid. Because of Mr. Flynn’s role on the campaign as a trusted member of the inner circle, he may also have a great deal to say about topics like Mr. Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meeting with several Russians, Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kushner, or about the Trump scion’s contacts with WikiLeaks. If Mr. Flynn’s recollection is not the same as what Trump the Younger told Congress, Don Jr. is in serious trouble.

So, that is an op-ed discussion of why Trump Jr. is in trouble, but what is damning for Trump Jr. is the email chain linking him to Russian operatives offering to “help” with Trump’s Presidential campaign.

Here is a sample of one of the email messages sent to Donald Jr.:

On Jun 3, 2016, at 10:36 AM, Rob Goldstone wrote:

Good morning

Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting.

The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.

This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump – helped along by Aras and Emin.

What do you think is the best way to handle this information and would you be able to speak to Emin about it directly? I can also send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first.

Best

Rob Goldstone

That email is published by the Washington Post, and if you click on the link above, you will find a detailed exchange between Donald Jr. and Russian government operatives who offer to help in the campaign by providing information on Clinton. Donald Jr. must have been hoping those emails were gone. Guess nothing is gone now with the iPhone. And, as far as Donald Jr.’s statement that he never met with the Russians knowingly? Well, again that iPhone makes it all happen:

On Jun 7, 2016, at 4:20 PM, Rob Goldstone  wrote:

Don

Hope all is well

Emin asked that I schedule a meeting with you and The Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow for this Thursday.

I believe you are aware of the meeting – and so wondered if 3pm or later on Thursday works for you?

I assume it would be at your office.

Best

Rob Goldstone

[In case you wondered if he knew about the meeting…]

On Jun 7, 2016, at 5:16 PM, Donald Trump Jr. wrote:

How about 3 at our offices? Thanks rob appreciate you helping set it up.

D

On Jun 7, 2016, at 18:14, Donald Trump Jr. wrote:

Great. It will likely be Paul Manafort (campaign boss) my brother in law and me. 725 Fifth Ave 25th floor.

One might wonder what other light Flynn could shed on the Russia investigation when the emails of Trump Jr. are fodder enough for flames. Manafort charged, Kushner investigated, and now Donald Jr.? Seems to be following a pattern.

There are a few more exchanges about changing the meeting times, and then the final note is implicating:

From: Donald Trump Jr.

Sent: Wednesday, June 08, 2016 12:03 p.m

To: Jared Kushner; Paul Manafort

Subject: FW: Russia — Clinton – private and confidential

Meeting got moved to 4 tomorrow at my offices.

Best,

Don

 

 

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Curious Case of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Russian Amnesia

June 14, 2017

Michael Flynn used the same defensive tactic just trotted out by US Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a curiously transmissible case of Russian Amnesia, or perhaps Russian Dementia. Jeff Sessions testified before Congress this week in his opening statements that he hadn’t had contact with Russian Ambassador Kislyak, then upon further questioning admitted to seeing him at a hotel, and then when questioned about whether he had met him two or three times, Sessions argued that information had been “leaked” and should have remained in a closed session.

In his opening statements, Jeff Sessions said he did not meet with Russian officials:

“I did not have any private meetings, nor do I recall any conversations with any Russian officials at the Mayflower Hotel,” Sessions said in his opening statement. “I did not attend any meetings at that event. Prior to the speech, I attended a reception with my staff that included at least two dozen people and President Trump. Though I do recall several conversations I had during that pre-speech reception, I do not have any recollection of meeting or talking to the Russian ambassador or any other Russian officials.

“If any brief interaction occurred in passing with the Russian ambassador during that reception, I do not remember it,” he continued. “After the speech, I was interviewed by the news media, which had gathered as I remember in a different room, and then I left the hotel.”

He later said during questioning from senators that he could have “possibly” had a meeting with Kislyak at the Mayflower but that he did not recall it. Sessions also said he went to the Mayflower that day not knowing that Kislyak would be there.

When Senator John McCain asked Sessions pointedly about his interactions with Russia, namely the security issues after the US government found evidence of election hacking the summer of 2016, months before the election, Sessions developed sudden Russia Dementia. In his opening statements, in the same day, Sessions declared he didn’t meet with Kislyak, but then when questioned, didn’t remember meeting with Kislyak:

But he demurred when Republican Sen. John McCain if he had ever raised concerns with Kislyak about “Russia’s interference in our electoral process.”

“I don’t recall that being discussed,” Sessions replied.

By the time Sessions met with Kislyak at the Republican National Convention in July, cyber security researchers had already confirmed that Russia had hacked the Democratic National Committee. And by the time Sessions met with Kislyak at his office in September, then-President Barack Obama had already commented on the Russian hacking campaign and hinted at what could have motivated it.

When McCain, a Russia hawk who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committeee, asked whether Sessions had ever discussed any issues of national security while meeting with Russian officials in his capacity as a member of that committee, Sessions again said he couldn’t remember.

Funny how a few hours changes a person’s statement, isn’t it? Suddenly Sessions admits to meeting with the Russian Ambassador, but “doesn’t recall” anything that was discussed.

Sessions, who said earlier that he recalled “pushing back” on Russia’s actions in Ukraine when he met with Kislyak. appeared confused, choosing instead to respond to McCain’s earlier question about whether he ever discussed “Russia-related security issues” with Kislyak.

“We may have discussed that,” Sessions said. “I just don’t have a real recall of the meeting. I was not making a report about it to anyone. I just was basically willing to meet and see what he discussed.”

“And his response was?” McCain asked.

“I don’t recall,” Sessions said

When Jeff Sessions was pushed past the Russian Amnesiac defense, he tried invoking executive privilege, even though he is not the President. Jeff Sessions isn’t doing this out of innocence, folks, because he worked for years as a judge–he knows the law. Jeff Sessions is looking for ways get around his required testimony, and in doing so, faces the same instance of impeding an investigation that took out members of Richard Nixon’s team:

“My understanding is that you took an oath, you raised your right hand today and said you would solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And now you’re not answering questions,” Heinrich said. “You’re impeding this investigation.”

He continued:

“So my understanding of the legal standard is either you answer the question, that’s the best outcome. You say ‘This is classified, can’t answer it here, I’ll answer it in closed session,’ that’s bucket number two. Bucket number three is to say I’m invoking executive privilege. There is not appropriateness bucket. That is not a legal standard. Can you tell me what are these long-standing DOJ rules that protect conversations made with the executive without invoking executive privilege?”

The attorney general said it was a “longstanding policy of the Department of Justice” not to reveal conversations between the attorney general and the president, saying he would need to share the questions with the president.

“Can you share those policies with us?” Heinrich asked. “Are they written down at the Department of Justice?”

“I believe they are,” Sessions replied.

“This is the appropriateness legal standard for not answering congressional inquiries?” Heinrich asked.

Sessions replied, “It’s my judgment that it would be inappropriate for me to reveal conversations with the president when he has not had a full opportunity to review the questions and to make a decision and approve such an answer.”

Shoddy judgment, invoking an unwritten policy, to determine that Sessions is above congressional inquiry, but the question is: will it work? Sessions just announced he is above the law because he is friends with the President. Scary types of friendships, those that are in the middle of investigations themselves.

When Sessions was involved in firing James Comey, he claimed that he was not violating his own recusal from the investigation into Russia’s election interference, but played coy with allegations that Sessions was less than honest. Sessions claimed to be persecuted by innuendo, but he dodged questions by saying, “why don’t you tell me?” “Why don’t you tell me?” isn’t an answer Mr. Attorney General:

“I recused myself not because of any wrongdoing but because of a DOJ regulation,” he explained. “The documentation [about the Russian investigation] — what little I received — was mostly already in the media.”

Last week Comey suggested that Sessions’ “continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation [was] problematic,” for reasons he said he could not discuss in public.

Sessions argued that his involvement in Comey’s firing was not a violation of his recusal. “I do not believe that it’s a sound position to say that if you’re recused for a single case . . . you can’t make a decision about the leadership in that agency,” the attorney general said.

“Respectfully, you’re not answering the question,” Wyden shot back. “The question is Mr. Comey said there were matters with respect to the recusal that were problematic and he couldn’t talk about them. What are they?”

Asked Sessions: “Why don’t you tell me?” He added, “This is a secret innuendo being leaked about me, and I don’t appreciate it.”

Sessions revealed that he did discuss Comey’s firing with Trump, saying that he relied on a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to justify the firing and that his involvement as attorney general in that decision did not violate his recusal.

So, you can watch is testimony, or you can watch Steven Colbert’s version, which is just as entertaining:

Is Trump’s Travel Ban Legit? Trump Tweets Undermine His Argument

June 6, 2017

Whenever I think of “the law,” meaning “the laws” that rule our country, our states, our municipalities, I am reminded that all forms of government expect that its citizens will know the laws that govern them and in doing so, will not break them, will “obey the law.” A Huffington Post commenter, who teaches law, Frank H. Wu, has determined that in order to follow a law, we must recognize its legitimacy:

To practice law, or even to obey it, we have to share the sense that it is legitimate. That requires it be principled.

Mr. Wu is struggling with teaching law, particularly in an age in which even, and I suppose, because the President of the United States keeps challenging the legitimacy of law, the boundaries of what should be accepted law become normative with context. Mr. Wu struggles with students who ask him what is “right” about law, what is the “right” answer, while arguing that law should be more objective.  He cites the following premise for teaching law students to examine or investigate a legal dilemma:

Law students are taught a conventional format for essays: “IRAC,” which stands for Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion. I recommend it for not only law but also life. Spot the issue, research the rule, apply it to the situation at hand, and then drive to closure. In the discussion, address the weaknesses of your position and the corresponding strengths of your opponent’s. There are worse formulas for life. The only disadvantage to this modus operandi is discouragement of risk.

Herein lies the risk is telling students that law is objective: it’s not. Telling students that the law is objective, that is usually applied consistently from courtroom to courtroom, implies that the law itself is enough to override political ambition, political financing, and machinations by corporations seeking to buy their own court win, not to mention a President who believes that simply because he posts arguments to Twitter, the courts should follow his dictates.

Lawyers arguing for what Trump himself has called his “Travel Ban,” have ineffectually implored the courts to ignore Trump’s tweets and to focus instead on the language of the law, the Travel Ban. Because intent with the enforcement of the law is just as important as the enforcement itself, the courts can’t ignore Trump’s tweets. CNN argues that Trump’s tweets contradict his aides and their attempted defense of his larger-than-life Twitter fiasco:

The latest example came when Trump defiantly tweeted on Monday night that he wants to call his plan to stop travel from six Muslim-majority countries a “travel ban” and “not some politically correct term.”

“That’s right, we need a TRAVEL BAN for certain DANGEROUS countries, not some politically correct term that won’t help us protect our people,” he tweeted.

The message contradicts what White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said just hours earlier to defend Trump after his early Monday morning tweets about the travel ban.

“I don’t think the President cares what you call it, whether you call it a ban, whether you call it a restriction,” Sanders said. “He cares that we call it national security.” She later added, “I think that the President isn’t concerned with what you call it.”
Trump obviously believes he can argue his position on Twitter more effectively than lawyers paid to defend his position can argue it in court. Is Trump creating a de facto form of law that supersedes the courts, just issuing dictates through a public channel as is common with dictators: I just posted this law on Twitter so now it must be obeyed? Or is it enough to capitalize on terrorist attacks to further Trump’s own agenda? Trump obviously has no objection to using dead bodies to argue for his own personal agenda on Twitter, arguing after the Manchester London attacks at an Ariana Grande concert that the death toll affirmed his position on a Travel Ban.
Let’s just, for the sake of argument, pretend that we institute Trump’s Travel Ban. Let’s just assume that it’s legitimate, as Mr. Wu says we must if we are to study the law. Let’s assume that we ban people from other countries because they are Muslim. I wonder, how does this protect us from violence? Does it stop workplace violence? Does it prevent terrorist attacks? I am not sure how banning other Muslims stops any current Muslims in any country from committing terrorist attacks, if that is the argument behind the ban. Does Trump’s argument really amount to an argument that some Muslims are acceptable but more are not? Or is it that the more Muslims in a country, the more likely they are to suffer terrorist attacks? Perhaps his argument is that if we don’t allow Muslims to fly into the country then perhaps we allow them in by boat, as past immigrants arrived, and this would deter terrorist attacks?
Let us not forget, as good students of the law, that the hardest part of this problem is defining the issue: is it how to defend against terrorist attacks? Or is the issue a means of preventing terrorist attacks? Or are we stating that simply by stopping any more Muslims from entering the country, we make ourselves feel secure in an insecure world? Muslims that are in the country now are safe for us to be around, but incoming Muslims are not? The problem is that the issue can’t even be phrased in such a way as to begin to apply the next step in the logic game, research, to determine an answer.
Trump’s supporters, notably Kellyanne Conway (advisor to POTUS) family, tweeted out that Trump should stop tweeting about law. Ironic, isn’t it?

“The [point] cannot be stressed enough that tweets on legal matters seriously undermine Admin agenda and POTUS — and those who support him, as I do, need to reinforce that [point] and not be shy about it,” Conway tweeted.

The Wall Street Journal also took note of Trump’s tweeting in an editorial published Monday night.

“Over the weekend and into Monday he indulged in another cycle of Twitter outbursts and pointless personal feuding that may damage his agenda and the powers of the Presidency,” the editorial states.

Recapping the president’s Monday tweets on the travel ban, the Journal’s editorial board wrote that it was “merely the latest incident in which Mr. Trump popping off undermined his own lawyers.”

Trump took another shot at the media on Tuesday, writing on Twitter, “I would have relied on the Fake News of CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, washpost or nytimes, I would have had ZERO chance winning WH.”

Since Trump tweets are notoriously full of typos, I wouldn’t put much stock in his last tweet about how he would have relied on “Fake News,” but tweets like this beg the question of whom sets “legitimate law.” Kim Davis, a clerk from the South who refused to follow the Supreme Court dictate that gay couples could marry, stated that her religion was her guiding law, even in a government post. Trump argues that his is an “honest and unfiltered message,” that governs his law, while allowing that the wealthy make the laws.
Legitimacy of the message he intents to publicize, or legitimacy of the law he wants to promote never concern Trump. Kellyanne Conway argues that people need to stop focusing on Trump’s Twitter remarks, as Trump has argued that is his main method for furthering his agenda. Vox.com argues that not every head of state is the head of governance, and if Trump were only head of state, then this argument that we not interpret Trump’s arguments for law would make sense: if Trump were merely a figurehead for past political conventions, as opposed to an executive leader, then a bigoted agenda would be seen as nothing more than courting public opinion:

This isn’t an implausible model for a world leader, to be honest. Plenty of countries separate their head of state and head of government. It would be ludicrous to treat the Pope’s statements as hints to future policy changes within the confines of the Vatican City, or to spend more time on what the Queen is saying than what Theresa May is.

When Trump’s staff says that he’s turning to Twitter because he wants to speak directly to his followers, that’s what they’re aiming for: an image of the presidency as a pure communion between a leader and “his people.”

The issue isn’t whether or not Trump is communicating to his people as much as he is attempting to override the system of law that currently governs the United States to further his own agenda. In this, we must be honest: the system of law is by no means objective in the United States. To belabor that point, let us point out the overwhelming disconnect between political divides for the northern United States and the southern United States, or California and Nebraska, political divides by coastlines. That the POTUS seeks to undermine established law, as his Travel Ban was already dismissed in the courts, Trump’s message is no less than expressions of dictatorship. Legitimacy is a valid test of a law, but it falls short when examining motive and execution. A law is simply language, it’s execution allows discrimination to be acted upon, and that is where the real dangers lie.

James Comes Declares Trump Told Him To Drop Russia Investigation: Comey Runs US Presidents

May 18, 2017

I often marvel at the rise of James Comes, a man who has determined the 2016 US Presidential Election and continues to control the current President Trump. (Gag, hate writing that “President” follow-on.) James Comes, even upon Trump’s firing of him for strange reasons, wields tremendous power. His knife knows no bounds: take out first female presidential candidate by goading public suspicions of e-mail hacking, making Putin’s bedding of Trump demigod look like child’s play, and now taking shots at the current President to ostensibly unseat the man who fired him. By all accounts, Comey put Trump in office and now seeks to remove him when Comes is fired.

I don’t know mourns Comey’s loss from the FBI in and of itself, aside from people who want to speak to the press with gushing innuendo of imagined lost personal relationships at the FBI. Comey, himself, wrongly used his office to interfere with the 2016 presidential election by flashing an e-mail red herring while ignoring the Putin storm of Trump collusion. Then, once Trump is in office, Comey begins investigating him. I am suspicious of James Comey and happy to see him gone. The question is: what does this man want?

Why get on national television and discredit a presidential candidate with allegations of wrongdoing that were found to be invalid and then attack the sitting president after election by saying his corruption had gone on long before the election but he had never thought to investigate until now?

Comey has allegedly released a memo stating that Trump asked Comey to drop the Russia investigation, and according to Comey’s exposition, the heroic Comey refused, which then led to his firing:

“I hope you can let this go,” Comey wrote, quoting Trump in the document, which CNN has not viewed but which was described by the sources.
The bombshell revelation Tuesday escalated the already raging political crises engulfing the White House triggered by the bureau’s probe into alleged cooperation between Trump aides and Russia and new reports that Trump divulged classified information to top Russian officials.
 Would that we could believe Comey. I don’t understand why he never let the memo out before his firing. Or, was Comey merely attempting to control the narrative again. Then the next question is: what could he hope to gain?
In what must be an “oh shit” moment for Trump, although it appears he tends to live in them, something stung Jason Chafftez, the biggest denier that ever lived, to request copies of the memos that Comey apparently kept, and without even testifying, Comey controls the narrative. You can review of Chafftez’s letter here, but in it, Chafftez demands copies of all memos and notes Comey had pertaining to conversations with Trump.
Mr. Rosenstein, who recommended Trump fire Comey, must now contend with a special prosecutor assigned to investigate the Russia contacts with the Trump campaign. Ostensibly Comey was fired for his handling of Hillary Clinton’s email debacle, in which charges were never filed, but James Comey acting as FBI Director, publicly defiled her name a few nights before the election, essentially trying her in the court of public opinion based on fear mongering when criminal charges were denied. Mr. Rosenstein said to Attorney General Jess Sessions that Comey should be removed for Comey’s “refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken” in his handling of the Hillary Clinton email scandal.
 In a memo to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Mr Rosenstein said he could not defend Mr Comey’s “refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken” in the way he handled an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State.
The FBI should never have participated in fear mongering or destroying a person’s credibility by innuendo when the facts of the matter never held up to the scrutiny of the law. Comey should have been fired for that, and it was a good move to fire a man for using his office to influence presidential elections based on hearsay. However, now suddenly Comey is a hero, a maligned official who can’t escape Trump’s ego.
The NYTimes reports that Rosenstein was being forced to hire a special investigator for Russian ties because of Trump’s own commentary about why he fired Comey, ostensibly to prevent any more Russia investigation:

The Justice Department appointed Robert S. Mueller III, a former F.B.I. director, as special counsel on Wednesday to oversee the investigation into ties between President Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, dramatically raising the legal and political stakes in an affair that has threatened to engulf Mr. Trump’s four-month-old presidency.

The decision by the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, came after a cascade of damaging developments for Mr. Trump in recent days, including his abrupt dismissal of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, and the subsequent disclosure that Mr. Trump asked Mr. Comey to drop the investigation of his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.

Mr. Rosenstein had been under escalating pressure from Democrats, and even some Republicans, to appoint a special counsel after he wrote a memo that the White House initially cited as the rationale for Mr. Comey’s dismissal.

By appointing Mr. Mueller, a former federal prosecutor with an unblemished reputation, Mr. Rosenstein could alleviate uncertainty about the government’s ability to investigate the questions surrounding the Trump campaign and the Russians.

Mr. Rosenstein said in a statement that he concluded that “it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authorities and appoint a special counsel to assume responsibility for this matter.”

Rosenstein’s only hope for credibility, or a job after a looming Trump implosion, is to show some measure of credibility, and so as rats jump from a sinking ship, Rosenstein brought in an “independent” investigator, wholly impartial I am sure, because is a former FBI director. Take the FBI out, put the FBI in. It’s like a plug and play game, only with much bigger pawns.

 You might wonder why Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General of the United States, didn’t appoint the special prosecutor, why he would let his assistant, Rosenstein do the appointing. I can lay your fears to rest: Jess Sessions didn’t appoint anyone because he has had ties to Russia that he lied about until he was pushed to disclose them.
Mr. Rosenstein, who until recently was United States attorney in Maryland, took control of the investigation because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself after acknowledging he had failed to disclose meetings he had with the Russian ambassador to Washington, Sergey I. Kislyak, when Mr. Sessions was an adviser to the Trump campaign.
Trump declares his innocence. While the handlers can muzzle Trump in a meeting, they can’t muzzle his Twitter feed, and Trump declared the special investigation a “witch hunt,” according to The NY Times reports:

In a pair of early morning Twitter posts, Mr. Trump cited, without evidence, what he called the “illegal acts” committed by the administration of his predecessor, Barack Obama, and the campaign of his former opponent, Hillary Clinton — and said they never led to the appointment of a special counsel.

“With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special councel appointed!” Mr. Trump wrote, misspelling counsel.

Moments later, Mr. Trump added, “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”

Why Trump couldn’t have just declared his innocence and feigned a world-weary sigh at the push for investigations as though they were silly, instead of erroneously asserting no special investigations occurred with Clinton and Obama is a question regarding sanity best left unanswered. Clinton and Obama were the subject of special investigations for the result of Benghazi crises. It’s simply not true, as with many of Trump’s tweets, that special prosecutors were never assigned during the last presidential tenure.

What’s a president to do? Complain he is being treated unfairly while he is “running the country,” a nightmare few Americans can forget:

With the White House battling multiple scandals — including Trump’s decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey, his alleged leak of highly classified material to Russian officials, and reports he pressured Comey to drop an FBI investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn — Trump and his allies have adopted a mentality of unfairly being under siege.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, appearing Thursday morning on CNBC, said that “we have to just get on with it, get this over. It’s a side show. But what the media forgets in the midst of this side show of media frenzy, the president is running the country.”
It’s as though Trump has forgotten he asked for this spotlight, and his aides act as though they never even knew a spotlight existed. To Trump, being President of the United States was something done behind closed doors, and he admitted as much when he said he could talk to Russia any way he wanted because he had “executive privilege.”
Comey may now turn out to be the biggest leaker yet, proving Trump should keep his friends close and should have kept his enemy closer. According to the Washington Post, Trump is worried that Comey may do to Trump what he did to Clinton, destroy a reputation through media innuendo. Trump warned Comey in a tweet, about how he better hope they don’t have “tapes” of conversations between himself and Comey, sounding exactly like Nixon did during the Watergate scandal, and suddenly from the Comey camp comes a leaked memo about how Trump asked Comey to stop investigating Russian ties to Trump’s campaign:

President Trump is clearly worried that former FBI director James B. Comey is going to come after him, through the media. That’s what Friday’s tweet about “tapes” was all about.

Four days later, a person described by the New York Times as “one of Mr. Comey’s associates” leaked a portion of Comey’s notes from a February meeting with the president. According to the notes, Trump expressed to Comey his desire for the FBI to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

It’s a war of words through the media. Hang legal process, let’s just let the public decide through the press. For Trump, used to controlling every element of his image, it’s blow. Trump is wringing his little hands. Even thought Trump vacillates between defending Michael Flynn and those close to him, and firing Flynn, investigations into Flynn have yet to abate:

Despite the conversation between Mr. Trump and Mr. Comey, the investigation of Mr. Flynn has proceeded. In Virginia, a federal grand jury has issued subpoenas in recent weeks for records related to Mr. Flynn. Part of the Flynn investigation is centered on his financial links to Russia and Turkey.

The Comey scandal, refusing to let Sally Yates testify, the Flynn scandal, and now the appointment of special prosecutor prove that Trump’s trademark phrase, “You’re fired” is no longer the last word.

Man Dragged Off United Airlines Flight Wins Settlement

April 28, 2017

United Airlines, in the middle of a media storm, agreed to pay a settlement to the 69 year old man who suffered a concussion, broken nose and two lost teeth at the hands of United employees. United employees dragged the man off the plan to make room for other flight crew members.

You can watch the video, but honestly, I couldn’t make it through it. Beating a 69 year old man until he is bloody is not something I could watch; however, here is the proof, if you wondered if the story was real.

Since United airlines has taken a financial beating in the wake of this scandal, along with a strange tale of a giant rabbit dying on a United flight (more animals die on United flights than any other), United reached a settlement and has instituted a new round of policies:

Earlier on Thursday, United announced several steps to prevent such episodes from recurring and said that passengers who had arrived on an aircraft shouldn’t have to give up their seats. The airline said it would create a new check-in process that would allow passengers to volunteer to give up their seats for compensation, and increased the limit of that compensation to $10,000 from $1,350.

United had previously announced that it would no longer ask law enforcement officers to remove passengers from its planes over booking issues, and that crew members would not replace boarded passengers.

“I hope other airlines will follow United’s lead,” Mr. Demetrio said in an interview on Thursday. “I have gotten an amazing number of emails from people with tales of woe, and it was not limited to United Airlines. So passenger service is an industrywide issue, and here United has laid the groundwork for the other airlines on what needs to be done.”

 

United Airlines Polices 10-Year Olds’ Pants’ Choices–Won’t Let Them On Flights

March 28, 2017

You would think that the airlines have a tough enough time managing their customers amid safety concerns, but it appears that 10-year old girls in leggings are the most dangerous airline foe around. Fearless girls in leggings attempting to board flights that their employee-parents purchased? Gate agents told the girls their leggings were too tight. While Reuters, quoted below, asserted the “girls were fine with the po0liy” the treatment, and it was only a passenger complained, but Reuters has no factual evidence from the girls to support this. Way to go, Reuters, “reporting” innuendo:

The girls, who were flying standby on Sunday from Denver to Minneapolis using free passes for employees or family members, were told by a gate attendant that they could not get on the plane while wearing the form-fitting pants. 

Passengers using the passes are considered airline representatives, United Air Lines Inc spokesman Jonathan Guerin said, subject to a dress code that prohibits sleep or swimwear, torn clothing and revealing attire.

The girls were fine with the policy, Guerin says, but a traveler named Shannon Watts who overheard the exchange took offense.

Watts was further incensed when another woman who was listening told her 10-year-old daughter to put a dress on over her leggings, apparently thinking United’s policy applied to all passengers, not just those flying free.

Her subsequent tweet storm, which accused the airline of “policing women’s clothing,” quickly went viral, with celebrities such as model Chrissy Teigen and actors Seth Rogen and Patricia Arquette decrying United’s stance.

After the incident, United’s mentions on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram exploded from its average 2,000 daily mentions to 174,000, nearly 70 percent of them negative, said Kellan Terry, a spokesman for the social media analysis firm Brandwatch.

121, 800 people didn’t think it was “fine” to tell young girls they had to change out of leggings because they were too tight. Many people, over a 100,000, in fact, are tired of the pressure put on women, and now on young girls to obsess over what they wear. Here is how to make girls even more paranoid about their appearance– don’t let them fly in leggings.

My own daughter was hassled the last time she flew. (You can read about it here.) She is refusing to fly now. She says that airports and airlines single out girls. It appears she is right.

Delta Airlines published an excellent burn on Twitter:

Flying Delta means comfort. (That means you can wear your leggings. 😉)

United, rather than stating a benign response to Twitter comments, began an ill-fated (and woefully unprepared) Twitter feud with commenters who were irate over United’s policing of young girls’ clothing, whether flying on a buddy pass (parent who works for the airline purchases ticket) or in general. And the response from Twitter commenters was much more adept than from those at United:

We here at @united are just trying to police the attire of the daughters of our employees! That’s all! Cool, right? https://twitter.com/united/status/846104385130160128 

United’s response on Twitter was such a huge botch that United’s Twitter failure was reported as a news story:

As for the fuss that’s erupted over United’s weekend incident, Harteveldt wonders if the airline could avoided much of that with a better social media response. The incident only seemed to gather steam after United responded to the first tweets about the situation not with a gentle explanation, but rather by citing the company’s “contract of carriage” and its “right to refuse transport for passengers” who don’t meet criteria spelled out there.

“United flew itself into a social media mountain on Twitter,” Harteveldt says. “They absolutely failed in every regard in their Twitter communications. United’s responses are partially responsible for this escalating into the controversy it has now become.”

Instead, Harteveldt suggests United would have been better served with a “benign” acknowledgement of the initial tweet and a pledge to look into it rather “than digging in their heels and handling it as they did. It did nothing to help the airline.”

Perhaps United Airlines missed the Fearless Girl statue in New York, but it appears a little girl has the power to terrorize even the most hallowed corporations, entire airlines included.

TSA Invasive New Pat Down To “Lessen Cognitive Burden” On TSA Agents-NSFW illustration

March 10, 2017

TSA admits that the “cognitive burdens” on staffers forced them to allow TSA screeners to use their fingertips to pat down women’s breasts and both genders’ genitalia. Basically TSA is saying their agents are too stupid to find guns or explosives using the backs of their hands, flyers will now be subject to “invasive” (according to web news source) pat downs.

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration has declined to say exactly where—and how—employees will be touching air travelers as part of the more invasive physical pat-down procedure it recently ordered.

But the agency does expect some passengers to consider the examination unusual. In fact, the TSA decided to inform local police in case anyone calls to report an “abnormal” federal frisking, according to a memo from an airport trade association obtained by Bloomberg News. The physical search, for those selected to have one, is what the agency described as a more “comprehensive” screening, replacing five separate kinds of pat-downs it previously used.

The decision to alert local and airport police raises a question of just how intimate the agency’s employees may get. On its website, the TSA says employees “use the back of the hands for pat-downs over sensitive areas of the body. In limited cases, additional screening involving a sensitive area pat-down with the front of the hand may be needed to determine that a threat does not exist.

You can always pay an extra $80 for the TSA-precheck, which might be well worth the money if TSA admits that the cognitive burden of pat downs is too great for its staff. Otherwise, TSA refuses to state how the pat downs will occur, what will be touched and how. Passengers are already subject to a virtual strips search, and now, pat downs akin to a police department arrest scenario. Great time to fly, people.

You gotta know that when airports have to inform local police that passengers will most likely report their “search” as a criminal activity that there is huge problem.

Personally, my daughter who had a TSA agent yell at her, tell her she would separate her from me to take her to a private screening room for a pat down alone, all because of sequins on her shirt, has decided she no longer wants to fly. This from a kid who started flying and traveling with me when she was one-year old. She is the age at which she will be making decisions about the course of her travels, and she is also at the age to be determining whether or not she will fly. She will not. I won’t force her.

I filed a complaint. I spoke with supervisor, who told me there was nothing he could do. My daughter said she didn’t mind her sparkle neckline being patted down, but she was almost in tears at the yelling by the TSA agent. She no longer will voluntarily go through an airport.

While standing in line at the airport, I was also subjected to shoving by the TSA agent, to the point that I received bruises on my shoulders and arms from other passengers’ bags hitting me as the TSA agent pushed them back to “maintain the line.” No one was out of line, really, but some people got confused about whether they were supposed to stand on the line or behind it when they were supposed to approach with their tickets and I.D.

The G– airport TSA agents had also been stealing passengers’ belongings as they went through security, and while an investigation was launched, the damage was done. TSA agents in Michigan really struggle. Apparently their “cognitive burden” was too great. Essentially TSA won’t say how many people are subjected to pat downs, but there are estimates, and while the agents may be too stupid to find guns on people, the real issue was not finding guns in bags. Pat downs don’t help with that.

The TSA screens about 2 million people daily at U.S. airports. The agency said it doesn’t track how many passengers are subject to pat-down searches. These searches typically occur when an imaging scanner detects one or more unknown objects on a person or if a traveler declines to walk through the machine and opts for the physical screening.

“Passengers who have not previously experienced the now standardized pat-down screening may not realize that they did in fact receive the correct procedure, and may ask our partners, including law enforcement at the airport, about the procedure,” TSA spokesman Bruce Anderson wrote March 3 in an email, describing why the agency notified police.

The pat-down change, first reported Friday by Bloomberg News, is “intended to reduce the cognitive burden on [employees] who previously had to choose from various pat-down procedures depending on the type of screening lane,” the ACI-NA wrote in its notice.

Physical screening has long been one of the public’s strongest dislikes about airport security protocols. The TSA has all pat-downs conducted by an employee of the same gender as the traveler and allows a passenger to request a private area for the screening, as well as to have a witness present. Likewise, the traveler can request that the pat-down occur in public view.

Because they TSA agents couldn’t decide how to screen,cognitive burden and all,  everyone gets their butt felt up.

Denver reports that there will be “more intimate contact,” but fails to specify how and where:

At Denver International Airport, employees were notified last week that the searches “may involve an officer making more intimate contact than before.”

The TSA isn’t saying how agents will be touching travelers, but the agency notified local police in case anyone reports an “abnormal” search. Typically, travelers only get a pat-down if something was triggered during screening or they opt out of going through the body scanners.The TSA used to have five types of pat-downs. Now, there will only be one way and they’ll still be performed by agents of the same gender.

Still, the pat-downs have long been disliked by travelers and a more rigorous, invasive search will not be liked by some.The change comes after agents found a record number of guns last month, according to the TSA blog.

In one day, 21 firearms were found at airport security checkpoints across the country. A loaded magazine, a variety of knives and a live smoke grenade were also found.

If you opt out of the digital strip search or “body scanner,” then you will be subjected to a pat down. CBS reports that TSA claims that passengers won’t spend more time in security because of this, but it’s impossible to see how TSA can justify that statement.

A 2015 study found that TSA agents missed 95 percent of planted dangerous and hazardous items planted at security checkpoints as part of an undercover test.

The TSA says the new pat-down policy will not extend the amount of time a passenger spends at a security checkpoint.TSA officers of the same gender as the passenger will use the back of their hand for pat-downs over sensitive areas of the body, including breasts, groin, and buttocks, the TSA website says.The TSA also says that passengers will be told by the officer exactly what they will do before doing it. Passengers may also request a private screening.

If you look at the TSA screening notice on the TSA website, it states that pretty much TSA agents are allowed to molest you, all in the name of safety, of course. Other people’s safety, actually, but obviously not your own, during the TSA molestation procedures:

A pat-down may include inspection of the head, neck, arms, torso, legs, and feet. This includes head coverings and sensitive areas such as breasts, groin, and the buttocks. You may be required to adjust clothing during the pat-down. The officer will advise you of the procedure to help you anticipate any actions before you feel them. Pat-downs require sufficient pressure to ensure detection.

TSA officers use the back of the hands for pat-downs over sensitive areas of the body. In limited cases, additional screening involving a sensitive area pat-down with the front of the hand may be needed to determine that a threat does not exist.

TSA appearing to be in an extreme state of public denial, stated that most flyers won’t notice the difference, but at the same time, had to warn stakeholders that there were more intimate procedures required. You don’t warn the money people of a change in procedure unless you expect a fall-out. When forecasted earnings are going to be hit that so hard that stakeholders have to be notified of impending doom, you know that the situation is bad. TSA blithely announced no one would even notice its new invasive pat downs, a.k.a. TSA molestations:

Invasive is not the word I would use,” said TSA spokesman Michael England, referring to the new pat-down. “We feel like this new procedure will be more effective in finding prohibited items. This is a simple change of procedure that 99.99 percent of people are not even going to notice.”

So, I didn’t come up with this, but this is the image created when I pulled up consumer responses to TSA screen measures:

 

boing boing.net take on TSA screenings

The person who created the post, above, states he was hit in the testicles by TSA agents as retaliation for asking about not crushing his laptop:\

If the TSA thinks that you’re suspicious — or if you opt out of the “optional” full-body scanner — you get a junk-touching “secondary screening” in which the screeners “pat you down” by rubbing the backs of their hands on your genitals and other “sensitive areas” (they can be pretty rough — a screener at ORD once punched me in the balls to retaliate for me asking him not to rest the tub containing my bags on top of my unprotected laptop).

But it’s about to get much worse. Under new TSA rules, screeners will be able to lovingly cup and fondle your genitals and “sensitive areas” during a secondary search. The new guidelines call for searches so invasive, local TSA outposts have been told to notify local cops to expect accusations of sexual assault from fliers.

I predicted this. The day the TSA started letting its best-connected, wealthiest fliers buy their way out of the normal screening procedure, it was an iron-clad certainty that the way everyone else gets treated would get worse, and worse, and worse. We have not hit bottom. I predict cavity searches for “very suspicious circumstances” by 2020, with no way to opt out and choose not to fly once the party gets started.

Generally, studies have shown  that men feel safer in TSA screenings and pat downs than women, and that influences buying decisions for women. As in my post yesterday, https://unaskedadvice.wordpress.com/2017/03/10/nursing-mother-arrested-and-held-until-she-dumped-milk-into-the-sink-marines-send-nude-photos-and-wall-street-ponders-lowest-birth-rate-since-great-depression/, feelings of safety impact women. Feelings of personal safety impact life choices, obviously.

TSA costs and spending have risen exponentially over the years, but at what cost to passengers? Canada kept some data about the “welfare loss” or lost revenue from security charges, not just procedures back in 2011 and posted losses of $2.2 billion:

Using 2011 data, Gillen and Morrison (2015), estimate the welfare loss in Canada due to the imposition of security fees for that year.16 According to these estimates, in 2011 there were 690,000 fewer passengers flying to/from and within Canada as a result of the air transport security charge. This translates into $227 Million in forgone revenue to the airlines and an economic welfare loss of $2.2 Billion.17

TSA screenings and long lines alone cost airlines money, as 2016 predicted record losses in profits:

The data indicates that millions of Americans will either skip planned spending on travel or will spend less (replacing plane trips with road and rail means those travelers will not journey as far, U.S. Travel economists note). All told, the lost travel spending will total $4.3 billion for the three-month summer peak season—a figure that would have directly supported 37,500 additional domestic jobs.

“To put these figures in perspective, the problems at TSA security lines are costing our economy almost a billion and a half dollars in spending and more than 12,000 jobs every month,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow.

…We’re looking at convincing data that says hundreds of thousands of people are potentially reconsidering whether to get on an airplane every single day. Given the importance of travel to both our economy and our way of life, it is not an overstatement to call that a national crisis in need of a national solution.”

A Forbes economist has a view of the TSA that argues that for all the people the TSA pushes into the driving lane, which is more dangerous than flying, TSA isn’t really “saving” lives:

There is no free lunch (or free pat-down).  When you do one thing, you give up the opportunity to do another.  Even if the TSA has made us safer and saved lives (it hasn’t), these saved lives have come at a cost.  For every life saved in a TSA-prevented terrorist attack, more lives are lost on highways as people substitute away from air travel and toward driving.  Getting rid of the TSA would mean fewer dead people, on net.  That’s a win in my book.

People Respond to Incentives.  When you change the costs and benefits of something, people change their behavior.  By making flying more costly, the TSA encourages more people to drive.  Even when we take terrorism into account, flying is far safer than driving.  As a result of the TSA’s new “enhanced pat-downs” and nude imaging, people are going to die today, tomorrow, and indeed every day from now on who wouldn’t die if flying were more convenient.(emphasis added)

The inefficiency and questioned need for TSA regulations has reached such a fevered pitch that Trump is calling for TSA budgetary cuts, something that is definitely necessary considering the success of the TSA programs like “Behavioral Analysis,” which focus on how often people yawn and blink. (I don’t make this shit up–I can’t.)

For example, the TSA’s budget cuts would include a $65 million reduction for the agency’s totally useless behavioral detection officers.

A November 2012 audit by the Government Accountability Office found that, after 10 years of running its behavior detection program, the TSA could not demonstrate its effectiveness. The TSA even admitted that it did not have any way to measure whether the program worked, aside from counting “referrals to local law enforcement” (which turned out to be a list of people arrested for everything from unruly behavior to public drunkenness, the GOA found, but not a single instance of a legitimate national security threat).

“Until TSA can provide scientifically validated evidence demonstrating that behavioral indicators can be used to identify passengers who may pose a threat to aviation, the agency risks funding activities that have not been determined to be effective,” the GAO concluded, using auditor-speak for “this program should be defunded.”

Undeterred by the audit, the TSA is still using behavior detection officers (at an annual cost of around $200 million) and has expanded their use at some airports, seemingly in an attempt to prove their usefulness. Guidelines for the program, published in 2015 by The Intercept, show that the TSA’s crack team of behavior-monitoring agents are told to identify potential threats (like Reason’s Ron Bailey) who yawn too much, blink too little, breathe quickly, make eye contact with security personnel, or don’t make eye contact with security personnel. Truly stunning that they haven’t busted any terrorists with this pseudo-science, isn’t it?

In case you thought that sort of thing was fake, and it’s not, t Reason.com has a real list of behaviors the TSA monitors with its “behavioral analysis.” Be sure to watch closely. A problematic contact lens could get you arrested. Let’s “lessen the cognitive burden” on TSA agents and all fly naked.