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Saturday :: May 26, 2018

An (Obligatory) Harvey Weinstein Thread

So Harvey Weinstein is the new Most Hated Man in America. Turning that image around so that he's viewed as an old school casting couch director who only showed his junk to those who were willing to trade their bodies for camera time and film roles, and who never forced anyone to do anything is going to be a tough sell. The imagery doesn't work in his favor. He's gigantic and the accusing actresses and models probably all weighed 110 pounds or less.

What does work in his favor is the law. While the grand jury may add additional charges, as of now he's charged with forcibly making one woman engage in oral or a*nal s*x with him in 2004, and forcing another woman to have sex with him at (presumably) her hotel in March, 2013. I assume she was a company employee as Harvey Weinstein would never stay at a Doubletree in New York. (He was a Peninsula kind of guy.) [More...]

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Thursday :: May 24, 2018

Trump's Non-Reform "First Step Act"

"First Step" Act, my foot. If this bill passes, it will be the last time federal criminal justice reform is given a thought by Trump. There will be no sentencing reform and no "second step." From the Atlantic:

“The bill is a tempting half-measure, but lawmakers should resist the lure,” Holder wrote in a Monday op-ed for The Washington Post, warning that passing a narrow bill now would “derail momentum” for the broader set of changes Democrats and a coalition of Republicans have sought for years.

More than 100 civil rights organizations have written a letter opposing the bill. The federal prison workers union opposes the bill.

Here is the letter by Senator Durbin, Senator Harris, Senator Booker, Representative Jackson Lee, and Representative Lewis explaining why they oppose the bill. [More...]

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Jared Kushner Gets Security Clearance Back

Jared Kushner's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, was on CNN with Wolf Blitzer yesterday afternoon. I listened on the car radio. The full interview is here, and I highly recommend watching the whole thing. CNN's abbreviated and edited version is here.

Abbe is a terrific lawyer and I believe he is a straight-shooter. As to the interview, he was so articulate and confident, it was like he was interviewing himself. He took the reins right away -- Wolf seemed somewhat flummoxed at the beginning. In this short clip from the interview, Abbe castigates Wolf (and the media) for using prosecutor words like witness, subject and target, which appear in the U.S. Attorneys' manual but don't have a legal meaning of their own.

Before listening to the interview, on hearing the news that Jared Kushner was interviewed again by Mueller for 7 hours in April and that he just got his security clearance restored I was thinking that his interview in April was a proffer session, that he passed the Special Counsel's test for telling "the truth", and that not only did he get immunity from prosecution but that Mueller's team agreed to inform the intelligence division that in the Special Counsel's view, Jared is not a security threat, has cleared up all his filing lapses and is cleared of any wrongdoing.

But according to Abbe, that's not the case. As to the security clearance, he said it was totally separate, proceeded through regular channels and there was no politics involved. [More..]

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Saturday :: May 19, 2018

Saturday Open Thread

It's one of those infrequent gray sky days here. So gray that I've turned on all the lights and lamps and it's only 8 a.m.

I think I'll stay in, ride my Peloton and catch up on paper work.

Has anyone noticed the change in Google News? They took away the personalization feature and made it worthless. Google's presumption that it knows what we want to read better than we do is both arrogant and insulting. I've un-bookmarked it.

This is an open thread, all topics welcome.

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A Beautiful Wedding

I woke up just in time to watch Prince Harry and Meghan Markle exchange vows and be proclaimed husband and wife. It was a very pretty ceremony with very nice music. The only thing I didn't see or hear was "You may kiss the bride."

Prince Charles and Camillia are there, as are Queen Elizabeth and Prince Andrew, and Prince William and Kate. I think the only other people I recognized are James Corden and his wife and George and Amal Clooney.

Meghan and Harry just re-entered the chapel and everyone sang "G-d Save the Queen." They just got outside to cheers and finally, they kiss. Meghan now is all smiles.

Congratulations to the happy couple, now to be known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. It's a gorgeous day in London, and the couple are now entering a horse drawn carriage and riding off to the acclaim of all. Princess Charlotte held a bouquet and waved them off, it was very cute.

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Wednesday :: May 16, 2018

Judiciary Committee Releases Hearing Testimony on Russia Meeting

The Senate Judiciary Committee released 2,500 pages of congressional testimony today including testimony concerning Donald Trump's 2016 "Russia Meeting" in which he hoped for dirt on Hillary.

WAPO analyzes what it all means.

A question: Who did Trump, Jr. call or get a call from after the meeting? The four minute call is to or from a blocked number. Did he talk to his father? He testified he doesn't know (or remember.)

As to alleged efforts to cover-up the real reason of the meeting and protect Don Jr., I think the account in Michael Wolff's book sounds pretty plausible.

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Trump's Financial Disclosure: Cohen Payments

Donald Trump has filed new financial disclosures.

“In 2016 expenses were incurred by one of Donald J. Trump’s attorneys, Michael Cohen,” Trump reported in a footnote of his official Personal Financial Disclosure report, required of top federal officials. “Mr. Cohen sought reimbursement of those expenses and Mr. Trump fully reimbursed Mr. Cohen in 2017. The category of value would be $100,001 — $250,000 and the interest rate would be zero.”

The disclosure is here. The Office of Government Ethics says in a footnote that Trump is required to disclose the payment/liability.

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Monday :: May 14, 2018

52 Dead in Gaza Protests as US Embassy Opens in Jerusalem

Whatever Donald Trump does, he stirs up a hornest's nest. He's like the bull in the China shop. Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, is no different.

52 protesters have been killed (some were reportedly putting bombs on the street)

Palestinians now make up 38% of Jerusalem,

The new embassy hasn't even been built.

A small interim embassy will start operating from Monday inside the existing US consulate building in Jerusalem. A larger site will be found later when the rest of the embassy moves from Tel Aviv.

Palestinean leaders say the move dooms any peace prospect: [More...]

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Sunday :: May 13, 2018

Mother's Day Open Thread

What a treat for Mother's Day: Brunch with the TL kids and grandbaby, who is now 6 months old. I think she is really cute, especially her huge blue eyes. [More....]

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Thursday :: May 10, 2018

Rudy Strikes Out with Law Firm

Rudy Giuliani and his law firm have parted ways. Rudy says it is because he needs to devote all his time to Donald Trump and the Russia investigation.
His law firm, Greenberg Taurig (once home to Jack Abramoff) adds another reason. It disagrees that using law firm funds to pay off an adult entertainment star who claims to have had an affair with a client is routine procedure, when the client has not approved it. (Trump has publicly said he didn't know of the payment beforehand.) Not only isn't it routine, the firm announced in a statement, it isn't acceptable.

“Speaking for ourselves, we would not condone payments of the nature alleged to have been made or otherwise without the knowledge and direction of a client.”

What does "or otherwise" mean in this context?

The only person striking out more than Rudy this month is Michael Cohen.

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Tuesday :: May 08, 2018

Tuesday Primaries and Open Thread

Sorry for the late response to the request for a new open thread and one to discuss the primaries.

Season 6 of Senor de los Cielos starts tonight in 15 minutes. Enemigo Intimo ended last night, it was a really good story with a terrific cast. It's hard to say goodbye to Monica Robles but Roxanna Rodilles is another strong female lead, just in a different way. There will be a season 2.

Again, this is an open thread, all topics welcome.

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Mueller Questions Russian Oligarch About Cohen Payments

I've been waiting for Rudy Giulani and Donald Trump's lawyer troubles to recede from the headlines. I can't think of two people I dislike more.

Today, CNN reports Mueller's team questioned Russian Oligarch Viktor Vekselberg who heads an asset management company called the Renova Group. Vekselberg is reportedly close to Vladimir Putin and made payments to Michael Cohen after the election. According to Stormy Daniels lawyer, $500,000 in payments from a group controlled by Vekselberg were deposited into Cohen's account for his "shell business", Essential Consultants -- the same account he set up to pay Stormy Daniels, between January and August, 2017. [More...]

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Melania's "Be Best" Copies FTC Guide from Obama-Era

Melania Trump had a big to-do yesterday announcing her kids' project called "Be Best". Aside from not understanding what that means (why not "Be the Best" or "Be Your Best Self" or something that made grammatical sense) it turns out her project isn't even about empowering kids or encouraging them to strive and succeed -- it's a guide book for parents on ways to restrict their kids' online activity.

But putting all that aside, there's this: New allegations of plagiarism.

Compare Melania's 17 page pamphlet called "Talking with Kids About Being Online"to this 15 page pamphlet written in 2013, NET CETERA: Chatting with Kids About Being Online. Here is the Net Cetera web page which is still up. It's also available on another government website here, from 2014.

So Melania added a page with her photo and a handwritten note, changed the word "chatting" to "talking", and takes credit for a new program on how parents can restrict their kids internet and social media use.

Sorry, Melania, I'm not impressed. [More...]

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Tuesday :: May 01, 2018

Trump's Former Physician Tells of Office "Raid" for Trump's Records

Remember Dr. Harold Bornstein, Trump's former physician who proclaimed candidate Trump "astonishingly healthy" ("If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency)? NBC reports he's talking now about how he felt violated ("raped" was the word he used)when Trump former bodyguard Keith Schiller and Trump Org. lawyer Alan Garten showed up at his office in Feb. 2017 and took all of Trump's medical files.

In an exclusive interview in his Park Avenue office, Bornstein told NBC News that he felt "raped, frightened and sad" when Keith Schiller and another "large man" came to his office to collect the president's records on the morning of Feb. 3, 2017. At the time, Schiller, who had long worked as Trump's bodyguard, was serving as director of Oval Office operations at the White House.

"They must have been here for 25 or 30 minutes. It created a lot of chaos," Bornstein said, who described the incident as frightening.

Why is he talking now? Because he's delighted that Ronny Jackson is no longer going to be White House physician (a position he had wanted): [More...]

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"We Had That Thing, You Know.

The New York Times obtained a list of the questions Robert Mueller wants to ask Donald Trump. NPR reports:

Most of the questions The Times printed focus on whether Trump may have obstructed justice or tried to frustrate the FBI's Russia investigation, including whether he asked then-FBI Director James Comey to lay off then-national security adviser Mike Flynn; leaned on others to pressure Comey; why he fired Comey and more.

I like the question about his calls to James Comey in March, 2017: [More...]

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