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Mueller Report Almost Done

The Special Counsel (Team Mueller) report on Russia and the Trump Campaign should be out soon.

I wonder if Donald Trump, Jr. gets a pass.

While I don't expect that his father will get indicted, I think he will receive the distinct dishonor of being the man who sits at the desk in the Oval Office with the most number of indicted aides during his time there, ever.

My next thought: I wonder if the next person to occupy the office will insist on fumigating it first, and all new furniture. I sure would.

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Un-President's Day #3 Open Thread

Oh well, at least most people have the day off.

Here's an open thread, all topics welcome.

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Trump's State of the Union

Has anyone thought of taking their blood pressure before and during Trump's State of the Union speech? Mine would rise so much I'm not going to risk it by watching.

If you are watching, please fill us in.

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Trump to Announce Temporary Deal on Shutdown

Donald Trump is making an a announcement that he has reached a deal to re-open the government for three weeks with border wall funding put to the side.

Press conference live here.

He claims Democrats agree a border wall is a necessary part of a security plan. Really?

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Trump's Border Speech

Here is the text of Donald Trump's prime time border speech to the nation.

Repeating anything Donald Trump says just spreads his fear-mongering agenda and keeps it alive. I'm done with that. Just as I'm done with hearing his voice (the mute button is there for a reason).

Yes, it's important to read the legal documents (executive orders, proclamations and the like) he signs but it is absolutely a waste of time to read or listen to what he says or writes about them. He doesn't have the attention span to read the fine print and probably can only understand the Cliff Notes version.

Donald Trump doesn't even understand the government shutdown. I have no interest in watching a speech written by staffers who are pulling the strings of the puppet with a desk in the Oval office who acts like he was elected King.

If America is in a crisis, it's because of Donald Trump -- not refugees and asylum seekers or drug traffickers at and below the southern border.

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Judge Berates Flynn for Attempt to Minimize his Crime

The Atlantic is correct: Michael Flynn's lawyers badly miscalculated when they filed their sentencing memorandum claiming the FBI's failure to warn Flynn that it was a crime to lie to the FBI during a voluntary interview was mitigation for sentencing.

Judge Emmet Sullivan, however, who was set to issue Flynn’s sentence on Monday, was not sympathetic. “How is raising these points consistent with accepting responsibility?” he asked Flynn and his lawyers as they stood before him at the lectern on Tuesday. He then lambasted Flynn for lying to federal agents on White House grounds while serving as the president’s top national-security adviser in January 2017, and for lying about his lobbying work for the Turkish government. “Arguably, you sold out your country,” Sullivan said.

He added that while he would take Flynn’s 33-year public-service career and cooperation into account when sentencing him, he would not try to hide his “disdain” and “disgust” for Flynn’s crimes, and asked the government at one point whether Flynn’s conduct rose to the level of treason.

Flynn's sentencing was continued to March. He's still cooperating (in the case of his partners working with him on behalf of Turkey to "remove" the cleric Turkey believes is responsible for the 2016 coup against President Erdogan from PA to Turkey)for prosecution who were indicted a few days ago.

The Judge may cool off by March, but his lawyers' attempt to minimize his conduct after he pleaded guilty by portraying him as a victim of the FBI was a poor strategy.

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Trump Denies Telling Cohen to "Break the Law"

Donald Trump today denied telling Michael Cohen to break the law.

“I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law,” he said. “He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. It is called ‘advice of counsel,’ and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made. That is why they get paid.”

"Advice of counsel" as a defense is rarely successful. By asserting it, a defendant may end up waiving his attorney-client privilege. The D.C. District Court held in the Manafort case:

"Communications otherwise protected by the attorney-client privilege are not protected if the communications are made in furtherance of a crime, fraud, or other misconduct." [More...]

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Gov't Sentencing Memo on Cohen: Mostly Bluster

The US Attorney's office for the SDNY berates Michael Cohen for his "selective cooperation" in its latest sentencing memo. It then repeatedly asks for a "substantial sentence"

Except, don't miss the part where it says it concurs with the Probation Department that his guideline range is 51 to 63 months. It also says probation is recommending a downward variance to 42 months. It then agrees he should receive some sort of downward variance for his cooperation:

And while the Office agrees that Cohen should receive credit for his assistance in the SCO investigation, that credit should not approximate the credit a traditional cooperating witness would receive, given, among other reasons, Cohen’s affirmative decision not to become one. For these reasons, the Office respectfully requests that this Court impose a substantial term of imprisonment, one that reflects a modest downward variance from the applicable Guidelines range (my emphasis).

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Mueller Recommends No Incarceration for Michael Flynn

The Special Counsel's office has filed its Sentencing Memorandum for Michael Flynn. The memo recommends Flynn be spared a sentence of incarceration due to his timely plea, his years of service to the military, and his cooperation.

Mueller's office also filed a sealed supplement, outlining his cooperation and asking for a downward departure from his sentencing range because of it.
In the Sentencing Memo, Team Mueller writes:

The defendant’s record of military and public service distinguish him from every other person who has been charged as part the SCO’s investigation.

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How Trump Weaseled Out of Live Mueller Interview and Limited His Written Responses

No, of course Donald Trump didn't answer all Robert Mueller's questions -- and of course he weaseled out of orally answering questions, notwithstanding the interview had been all set up. The Associated Press has all the details in Inside Trump’s refusal to testify in the Mueller probe.

A key breakthrough occurred earlier this fall when Mueller’s team said it would accept written answers on Russian election interference and collusion. The concession ensured that Mueller would get at least some on-the-record response from Trump. Prosecutors tabled questions about obstruction, reserving the right to return to that area later.

This sounds like he just capitulated to Trump's demands. I think Mueller should have at least insisted on one or the other: Either a live interview just on the Russia collusion issue or written questions to also encompass obstruction of justice -- both as to the firing of James Comey and his knowledge of Don Jr.'s meeting with the Russian lawyer and her associates at Trump Tower to get dirt on Hillary. [More..]

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NYT: American Jews Opine on Jared and Ivanka

The New York Times examines whether Jared and Ivanka are "good for Jews." Shorter version: It depends which Jews you ask. The Orthodox Jews love them and Reform Jews hate Trump and criticize them.

The deep schism that exists between the two groups is expanding, and the Chabad-Lubavitch, the Orthodox Hasidic group that Jared and Ivanka are members of, is experiencing rapid growth, while membership in liberal Reform synagogues has dropped substantially. The Times reports:

One in five American Jews now describes themselves as having no religion and identifying as Jews based only on ancestry, ethnicity or culture, according to Pew. By contrast, in the 1950s, 93 percent of American Jews identified as Jews based on religion.

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Trump Issues Proclamation on Asylum

Donald Trump has followed through with his threat to limit asylum through executive action. Here is the Proclamation he issued today.

I am similarly acting to suspend, for a limited period, the entry of certain aliens in order to address the problem of large numbers of aliens traveling through Mexico to enter our country unlawfully or without proper documentation. I am tailoring the suspension to channel these aliens to ports of entry, so that, if they enter the United States, they do so in an orderly and controlled manner instead of unlawfully.

Under this suspension, aliens entering through the southern border, even those without proper documentation, may, consistent with this proclamation, avail themselves of our asylum system, provided that they properly present themselves for inspection at a port of entry.

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Trumpís Brazen Move to Stop Muellerís Russia Investigation

Jeff Sessions is out as Attorney General. At the request of John Kelly, he submitted this resignation letter. The most interesting sentence is the first, which states, "At your request, I am submitting my resignation." How is that different than being fired? In any event, there's no reason to feel badly about Sessions' exit. Goodbye and good riddance to him.

But what about Trump's appointment of Sessions' Chief of Staff, Matthew Whitaker, to temporarily take Sessions' place as Acting Attorney General, a move intended to transfer oversight of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the Russia investigation from Rod Rosenstein to Whitaker? Is Whitaker's appointment legal? [More…]

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Trump Says Military Troops at Border Could Increase to 15,000

Via NBC: Donald Trump today said the number of U.S. troops deployed to the southwestern border may increase to 15,000 -- in addition to border agents and ICE.

This is so obviously a political ploy intended to get more votes for Republicans in next week's elections. Not only is it partisan use of the military, it's a waste of expense. 15,000 is more than 3 times the number of troops authorized in Iraq, and roughly the same number sent to Afghanistan.

How many people are in the caravans? Far fewer than the 15,000 troops being sent to prevent their entry. [More...]

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Trump and 3 Children Sued in Class Action Lawsuit

A class action lawsuit was filed today against Donald Trump and his children Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka. The case is Doe et al v. The Trump Corporation et al , SDNY, Case No. 18-cv-09936.

There are four Does (plaintiffs) so far, accusing the Trumpsters of investment fraud. They have sued under the civil RICO statute which allows for treble damages.

You can read the 164 page Complaint here.

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