According to a new report by the New York Times, President Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn told a former business associate that one of the Trump administration’s first priorities was to dismantle President Obama’s economic sanctions against Russia.
Flynn boasted the economic sanctions against Russia imposed by President Barack Obama would be “ripped up,” a whistleblower has told the House Oversight Committee.
Flynn, who last week pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with a Russian official, also believed the lifted sanctions would help move ahead a stalled business deal he had been involved with at one time involving the building of nuclear power plants, according to the whistleblower.
On Inauguration Day, Flynn allegedly texted his former business associate on the nuclear project to declare it was “good to go.”
The bombshell revelations are contained in a lengthy letter written by Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, and sent to committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy. Cummings asked Gowdy to probe the charges.
The former National Security Advisor specifically told his colleague that the sanctions would be “ripped up,” according to a new account given to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) by a whistleblower. Apparently, Flynn and his business partner were looking to expand their financial footprint in the region.
The whistle-blower’s account stems from a conversation with Alex Copson of ACU Strategic Partners, a company that had previously hired Flynn in 2015. On Inauguration Day, Copson reportedly said “this is the best day of my life” because of “the start of something I’ve been working on for years, and we are good to go.” He then claimed Flynn had texted him “to tell others involved in the nuclear project to continue developing their plans,” which were “going to make a lot of very wealthy people” once the Russia sanctions were “ripped up.”
Cummings, the House Oversight Committee’s top-ranking Democrat, relayed these points and others in a letter to Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina). The Times acquired a copy of Cummings’s letter and highlighted its most pertinent points regarding the allegations against Flynn:
Mr. Flynn had worked on a business venture to partner with Russia to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East until June 2016, but remained close with the people involved afterward. On Inauguration Day, according to the whistle-blower, Mr. Flynn texted the former business associate to say that the project was “good to go.”
The Maryland congressman never identified the whistleblower in the letter. Nevertheless, he insisted the allegations compel a full, credible and bipartisan congressional investigation in tandem with the ongoing probe currently headed by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. Considering that Flynn previously agreed to a plea deal with the Justice Department, and is currently cooperating with Mueller’s team of investigators, such a point makes sense.
“Based on the information provided by this whistleblower – and other information we have uncovered – I request that the committee issue a subpoena to compel the White House to produce all of the documents it is currently withholding relating to Gen. Flynn that our committee requested on a bipartisan basis in March,” Cummings wrote.
“These grave allegations compel a full, credible, and bipartisan congressional investigation,” he said, adding the whistleblower will to meet with Gowdy if his identity is kept secret.
“I have attempted to advance this investigation without exposing individuals to personal or professional risk. But the exceptionally troubling allegations in this case — combined with ongoing obstruction from the White House and others — have made this step necessary.”
Flynn is one of four Trump associates charged with crimes by FBI special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s interference with the 2017 presidential race and whether there was collusion by the Trump campaign.
LeNora Millen 12-06-17
SNL Pokes Fun at the White House with a ‘Special’ Christmas Message
‘Saturday Night Live’ pokes fun at Omarosa’s White House departure (Photo Credit: Screen-Shot SNL)
SNL in its usual style of spoofing the current White House is described by many who look forward to the twisted humor of political satire as—“The gift that keeps on giving.”
The ‘ousted staffers’ were not exempt from the SNL Christmas sketch, giving to meaning to spreading joy throughout the holiday season.
Alec Baldwin shape-shifting into his Trumpian style of channeling Donald J. Trump reprised his role by decorating the White House “Tree of Shame” for Christmas.
Channeling Trump, Baldwin says, “You can finally say it again because the War on Christmas is over,” “Soon to be replaced with the War on North Korea.”
Adding a touch of “Merriment to the Moment” Many of Trump’s closest surrogates were invited to the White House to decorate the tree with faces of the president’s “haters and losers.” Those used as decorations on the tree—having been fired over the past 11 months of the current administration’s tumultuous tenure in the Trump White House may not have reveled in the moment.
Kellyanne Conway (Kate McKinnon) hung a James Comey ornament. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (Aldy Bryant), as part of the joyous moment, decorated the tree with Sean Spicer and Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci ornaments. Mike Pence (Beck Bennett), decorated the tree with Mike Flynn, and last, but not least—Ivanka Trump (Scarlett Johansson) hung a Roy Moore ornament on the “Tree of Shame.”
Eric Trump (Alex Moffat) and Donald Trump, Jr. (Mikey Day) sort of faded into the background, but not before naming several pics for the “Tree of Shame.” Jeff Session (Kate McKinnon) send out a big “Elf-You” to Jeff Sessions with her version of a tiny “Elf on the Shelf” Jeff Sessions.
The highlight of the night was Leslie Jones’ “Omarosa”—She did not disappoint. Adding chocolate sprinkles and the icing on the Christmas sketch, Jones’ gave it her all as she banged on the White House windows in desperation to enter the building, from which she was fired.
Appearing to lose sight of all dignity Omarosa (Leslie Jones) forgetting that she was the epitome of a “confident, self-assured black woman” banging the window, pleads with Trump….
“Take me back! She yelled. “I’ll always love you!”
“She’s a tough cookie” Trump (Alec Baldwin) says to Melania (Cecily Strong) “I think we’ll have to move.”
Watch the SNL hilarious opening below:
SNL White House Tree Trimming Cold Opening (Video courtesy of YouTube)
LeNora Millen 12-17-17
Trump Lawyer Accuses Mueller of ‘Unlawfully’ Obtaining Transition Team Emails
The Trump attorney argued that special counsel Robert Mueller’s office has “extensively used the materials in question” during its investigation even though its some of the materials were subject to protections. | Alex Wong/Getty Images
A lawyer for President Donald Trump’s transition team alledges special counsel Robert Mueller unlawfully obtained tens of thousands of private emails during its investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election.
According to an Axios, exclusive special counsel Robert Mueller confiscated thousands of e-mails and communications from President Donald J. Trump’s transition team, including emails from notable figures such as Jared Kushner and other high profile aides.
“Trump officials discovered Mueller had the emails when his prosecutors used them as the basis for questions to witnesses, the sources said. The emails include 12 accounts, one of which contains about 7,000 emails, the sources said.
The accounts include the team’s political leadership and the foreign-policy team, the sources said.”
Kory Langhofer, an Arizona-based attorney representing Trump for America, spelled out the complaint in a seven-page letter sent Saturday to the main House and Senate oversight committees where he accuses Mueller’s team of potential violations of attorney-client privilege and the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unlawful search and seizure.
Mueller’s obtained the records earlier this summer from the General Services Administration, the government agency charged with holding all transition materials, even while it was “aware that the GSA did not own or control the records in question,” Langhofer wrote.
The Trump attorney also argued that Mueller’s office has “extensively used the materials in question” during its investigation even though its prosecutors were aware some of the materials were subject to claims of attorney-client privilege and other protections.
Mueller spokesman Peter Carr defended the special counsel’s work in a statement issued just past midnight on Sunday, several hours after this story first posted. “When we have obtained emails in the course of our ongoing criminal investigation, we have secured either the account owner’s consent or appropriate criminal process,” he said.
The Trump team’s complaint – which a source close to the transition said it intends to elevate by filing a formal letter to Mueller — is the latest in a series of legal maneuvers seeking to challenge the special counsel’s authority. The effort to rein in the probe is expected to increase as the Russia prosecutors continue their work while they simultaneously prepare for a criminal trial next year against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates.
Several former Justice and national security officials and experts in federal criminal law cast doubt Saturday that the Trump transition team’s complaint amounted to a serious breach.
“I seriously doubt there is anything here to taint the Mueller investigation,” according to William Jeffress, a white-collar defense attorney who represented Vice President Dick Cheney’s senior aide, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, during the Valerie Plame CIA leak investigation. Jeffress added the letter included no evidence to prove any privileged information had been obtained by Mueller’s team and that even if it were, there are procedures for retrieving them.
Democrats and Trump critics erupted after news of the letter broke, warning that the allegations against Mueller smacked of a pretext for Trump firing him. White House attorney Ty Cobb on Saturday declined comment about the transition team’s specific complaint, but he insisted to POLITICO that an ouster of Mueller isn’t in the offing.
“As the White House has repeatedly and emphatically said for months, there is no consideration at the White House of terminating the special counsel,” Cobb said.
According to Langhofer’s letter, the Trump transition team first learned that the special counsel had obtained the emails from GSA earlier this week. It took those concerns to Brandon Van Grack, a Mueller prosecutor, who confirmed the special counsel’s prosecutors had obtained laptops, cell phones and at least one iPad from GSA.
“But he assured us that the Special Counsel’s investigation did not recover any emails or other relevant data from that hardware,” Langhofer said.
The Trump attorney added that, during the conversation, Van Grack “failed to disclose the critical fact that undercut the importance of his representations, namely, that the Special Counsel’s Office had simultaneously received from the GSA tens of thousands of emails, including a very significant volume of privileged material, and that the Special Counsel’s Office was actively using those materials without any notice to TFA.” Van Grack also declined to identify the 13 transition officials whose materials the special counsel’s office had obtained.
In subsequent conversations, Van Grack declined to spell out what procedures the special counsel’s office had undertaken to protect the transition’s privileged communications and he also acknowledged Mueller hadn’t set up the kinds of ethical reviews required to protect the evidence and “instead simply reviewed the privileged communications contained in the PTT materials,” Langhofer said.
Trump’s transition lawyer also took aim in its letter at GSA, which it accused of “unlawful conduct” that undermines the Presidential Transition Act of 1963, a law that spells out the procedural rules for a change in power from one president to the next.
After learning in March that Russia investigators were seeking its records, Langhofer said he contacted GSA to get assurances that the transition’s lawyers would be the conduit for the materials. Then-GSA General Counsel Richard Beckler in June explained to him that all requests for the transition’s communications would indeed be routed through its lawyers and that GSA would hold all of the material in secure facilities.
In August, while Beckler was in the hospital and incapacitated, Mueller’s office and FBI agents approached GSA twice for Trump transition materials, Langhofer said. GSA career staff, he added, produced the materials without making exceptions for attorney-client, deliberative process or presidential communications privileges.
Beckler died in September, and career GSA staff didn’t consult or inform his successor of what Langhofer called “the unauthorized production of PTT materials.”
Ken Nahigian, the Trump transition’s executive director and trustee, said in an interview that GSA’s decision to share the emails with Mueller’s office would have a long-term detrimental effect for future transitions. “Future transitions will have to re-examine this relationship,” he said. “Justice by any means isn’t justice.”
The latest complaint against Mueller comes amid a barrage of criticism from Trump allies that the special counsel investigation itself is tainted on multiple fronts. Republicans have increasingly urged Trump to fire Mueller regardless of the political consequences.
Mueller taking on the role since mid-May, has already obtained a guilty plea and cooperation from former national security adviser Michael Flynn. That followed criminal indictments against Manafort and Gates on charges that include money laundering and tax evasion. Both men have pleaded not guilty and a trial is expected next year. The special counsel has also obtained a guilty plea from former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos for lying to the FBI.
As the Trump transition complaint surfaced Saturday, several Democrats and former Justice officials cautioned that it may be an additional attempt at casting doubt on Mueller’s integrity.
“’Private documents’ on a US Government, public email system? What are they afraid was found? Baloney. This is another attempt to discredit Mueller as his #TrumpRussia probe tightens,” Rep. Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat and member of the House Judiciary and Intelligence panels, posted on Twitter.
“Private documents” on a US Government, public email system? What are they afraid was found? Baloney. This is another attempt to discredit Mueller as his #TrumpRussia probe tightens. https://t.co/VZTkwiGmoB… https://t.co/q0HTbwpQRK
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) December 16, 2017
“Why are Trump’s lawyers upset that Mueller obtained transition emails from a government agency? (Hint: They’re just playing politics, but this is a bad sign for them.),” added former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti on Twitter.
THREAD: Why are Trump’s lawyers upset that Mueller obtained transition emails from a government agency? (Hint: They’re just playing politics, but this is a bad sign for them.)
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) December 16, 2017
Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, questioned why Trump officials would be taking issue with an attempt by GSA to cooperate with investigators.
“Our committee has direct jurisdiction over the Presidential Transition Act, and it simply does not support withholding transition team emails from criminal investigators,” the Maryland Democrat said. “The president’s lawyers have said they want to fully comply with special counsel Mueller’s investigation, so it is odd that they now suggest they would have withheld key documents from federal investigators.”
Axios and Politico contributed to this report.
LeNora Millen 12-17-17
FCC Votes to End Net Neutrality Rules
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced last week that the FCC would roll back “net neutrality,” which led to many complaints from Democrats. But they need to answer this: Why is it better for the federal government rather than customers to decide how networks should handle data? (Federal Communications Commission via Wikimedia Commons)
Most people who navigate the Internet have certain expectations when surfing the world wide web. Upon navigating the Internet, the expectation is that the cable or phone company connects to the websites, applications, and selected content without running interference.
Having complete control of the Internet experience void a service looking at every key-stroke, speeding up or slowing content, or blocking equates to expecting to be in control of the Internet experience defined as “Net Neutrality.”
Net Neutrality is the basic principle that prohibits Internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from speeding up, slowing down or blocking any content, applications or websites navigated. Net Neutrality is the way that the internet has always worked.
The Federal Communications Commission voted on Thursday to dismantle rules regulating the businesses that connect consumers to the internet, granting broadband companies the power to potentially reshape Americans’ online experiences.
The agency scrapped the so-called net neutrality regulations that prohibited broadband providers from blocking websites or charging for higher-quality service or certain content. The federal government will also no longer regulate high-speed internet delivery as if it were a utility, like phone service.
The action reversed the agency’s 2015 decision, during the Obama administration, to have stronger oversight over broadband providers as Americans have migrated to the internet for most communications. It reflected the view of the Trump administration and the new F.C.C. chairman that unregulated business will eventually yield innovation and help the economy.
Despite overwhelming opposition from Congress, technical experts, advocacy organizations and, of course, the American people, the FCC moved to eliminate 2015’s Open Internet Order and the net neutrality protections it established.
The order passed, “Restoring Internet Freedom,” essentially removes the FCC as a regulator of the broadband industry and relegates rules that prevented blocking and throttling content to the honor system. The FTC now ostensibly has that role, but it is far from an expert agency on this topic and cannot make preemptive rules like those that have been in place for the last few years.
As expected, the vote was 3 to 2 along party lines, with Chairman Ajit Pai and Republican Commissioners Brendan Carr and Michael O’Rielly voting in favor of the order, and Democratic Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel voting against.
Clyburn and Rosenworcel made their feelings known at the meeting with some fierce remarks on the order and the procedures leading up to it:
“I dissent from this fiercely spun, legally lightweight, consumer-harming, corporate-enabling Destroying Internet Freedom Order,” said Commissioner Clyburn. “There is a basic fallacy underlying the majority’s actions and rhetoric today: the assumption of what is best for broadband providers is best for America. What saddens me is that the agency that is supposed to protect you is abandoning you. But what I am pleased to be able to say is the fight to save net neutrality does not end today. This agency does not have the final word. Thank goodness.”
“I dissent from this rash decision to roll back net neutrality rules,” said Commissioner Rosenworcel. “I dissent from the corrupt process that has brought us to this point. And I dissent from the contempt this agency has shown our citizens in pursuing this path today. This decision puts the Federal Communications Commission on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American public.”
Both will soon publish more substantive dissenting statements that lay out the problems with the order as voted on and perhaps give a hint as to how it may be legally challenged once it takes effect.
Chairman Pai introduced the same talking points he’s been pushing since 2015. That the law that dictates the internet remain “unfettered by federal and state regulation” (that part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act is advisory, and also about porn); that the 2015 rules were “designed in the ’30s to regulate Ma Bell” (they were rebuilt from the ground up in 1996, as he explained moments earlier); that the regulations had destroyed jobs (the jobs never existed); that small ISPs were harmed (I’ve asked the ones he’s cited repeatedly and they have never explained how) — and how edge providers are a bigger threat than ISP discrimination.
He asked that the internet be “driven by engineers” and not “lawyers and accountants” — ironic because hundreds of prominent engineers have pointed out the technical shortcomings of the order, which is largely based on economic analysis and legal hair-splitting.
Pai’s remarks were interrupted by security, which asked everyone to leave the meeting room so it could be swept by what appeared to be bomb-sniffing dogs.
Commissioner O’Rielly said the 2015 order, which was “railroaded” by the Obama administration, dealt primarily with theoretical threats, and called commentary suggesting possible harm “fearmongering.” He also said he saw no reason to have public meetings on the topic, since anyone interested could just leave a comment.
Commissioner Carr said this was “a great day,” recalling the halcyon days of 2008-2014, during which the internet grew unencumbered by 2015’s “unprecedented…massive regulatory overreach.” The open internet we know, he said, emerged from that framework; “Title II did not build that,” he said, and its removal will not lead us to a “Mad Max” version of the internet.
He also said, misleadingly, that the classification of broadband under Title I is the only one “blessed” by the Supreme Court, in 2005. In fact, the Supreme Court famously specifically declined to “bless” any particular classification, deferring to the FCC’s choice as an expert agency; and more recently courts have upheld the classification of broadband as a Title II telecommunications service — not to mention the fact that the people who actually created the modern internet insist that is the case as well.
As with all FCC orders of this magnitude, its effects do not take place immediately. The rules must first be entered in the federal register, something that will likely take place early next year.
According to the Washington Post, “Some analysts believe the uncertainty surrounding net neutrality provides an opening for congressional legislation to settle the issue once and for all. Republicans on Capitol Hill are optimistic. But their efforts are likely to stall unless they can court Democratic votes, and many Democrats view litigation against the FCC as the preferable course of action.”
Varying opinions on “Net Neutrality” point to a divide that began as a bipartisan issue, but has shape shifted into two distinct sides.
LeNora Millen 12-15-17
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