WTF Community

Day 790


(Matt Kiser) #1

Updated 3/20/2019 2:01 PM PDT

1/ Trump called Mueller's report illegitimate because he was never elected and complained to reporters that he now has to deal with "somebody writing a report" despite having "won one of the greatest election of all time." Trump went on to refer to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as just "a deputy" who was "appointed," who then "appoint[ed] another man to write a report," rhetorically asking somebody to "explain that, because my voters don't get it, and I don't get it." Trump nominated Rosenstein, who was confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate in a 94-6 vote. (Talking Points Memo / Roll Call)


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://whatthefuckjusthappenedtoday.com/2019/03/20/day-790/

Mueller's Investigation Poll #'s
#2

Tick-tock


#3

The Pentagon’s inspector general has formally opened an investigation into a watchdog group’s allegations that acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has used his office to promote his former employer, Boeing Co.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed an ethics complaint with the Pentagon’s inspector general a week ago, alleging that Shanahan has appeared to make statements promoting Boeing and disparaging competitors, such as Lockheed Martin.

Shanahan, who was traveling with President Donald Trump to Ohio on Wednesday, spent more than 30 years at Boeing, leading programs for commercial planes and missile defense systems. He has been serving as acting Pentagon chief since the beginning of the year, after James Mattis stepped down. …

This is only the third time in history that the Pentagon has been led by an acting chief, and Shanahan has served in that capacity for longer than any of the others.

Presidents typically take pains to ensure the Pentagon is being run by a Senate-confirmed official, given the grave responsibilities that include sending young Americans into battle, ensuring the military is ready for extreme emergencies like nuclear war and managing overseas alliances that are central to U.S. security.

Thank you CREW for filing the complaint and thank you Pentagon Inspector General for taking it seriously and launching an investigation.

The last two paragraphs of this article are telling. I wonder if one of the motivations behind filing this complaint is to throw a spotlight on Shanahan’s prolonged status as acting Secretary of Defense. Once again, Trump has negligently allowed an acting administrator to remain acting for an unprecedented length of time. This could be sheer incompetence on his part, but I suspect it has more to do with two of his favorite agendas:

  1. Undermine our institutions. Time and again he throws a monkey wrench into the works, apparently pleased by the mashing of gears. He knows perfectly well that a temporary boss is at a real disadvantage when trying to run a tight ship and set long term goals – remember how ineffectual most substitute teachers were? It wasn’t their fault; they were hobbled by their temporary status – and so it is with acting directors.

  2. Make all branches and agencies within our government beholden to him. An acting head of an agency is more easily controlled by Trump because if that person wants to become the permanent head, she or he must please the President to “earn” a nomination.

Another case in point is the FAA – it has had an acting head for over a year. The deputy head is also acting. Would there have been a better chance of averting the recent airline tragedies if the agency had been lead by permanent administrators rather than acting ones? We’ll never know, but installing a permanent administrator to lead the agency is long overdue.

Senator Dick Durbin says he needs to learn more about Stephen M. Dickson, President Trump’s nominee to head the Federal Aviation Administration before deciding if he’ll vote to confirm him. But the Illinois Democrat says having any nominee at all is progress.

The president’s nomination Tuesday of Dickson, a retired Delta executive, to run the FAA for a five-year term came just hours after the agency was put under new scrutiny.

“I can tell you, we’ve been waiting two years to fill that spot”, said Durbin. “And we’ve just learned with the Boeing situation how critical it is when it comes to safety, not only in the United States, but around the world. So I’m glad the president’s sending a nominee. It’s way overdue.”

There’s one more thing that chaps my hide about the way Trump drags out the tenure of acting directors. When it came to appointing a judge to the Supreme Court, suddenly Trump and the Republicans shifted into emergency mode and were running around like their hair was on fire just so they could railroad through their nominee. But god forbid we should staff our crucial government departments in a timely way.


#4

This is a sad story. A women who had the courage to testify against Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and reveal the truth about his notorious “Bunga Bunga” parties, has died, allegedly of heavy-metal radioactive poisoning. It is yet another in a long list of suspicious deaths of reporters and whistleblowers who have spoken out against Putin or his close allies.

ROME—The last time Ambra Battilana saw her friend Imane Fadil alive was in a courtroom in Milan, when the two testified about what happened at Silvio Berlusconi’s “bunga bunga” sex parties in the basement of his Arcore villa outside the city.

Battilana, the Italian model who later wore a wire to catch Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, had moved to America in 2012 because she felt threatened after testifying against the former prime minister. “I left Italy,” she told The Daily Beast. “I didn’t know what was going to happen. I took my brother to the Philippines. I know how my family has suffered. It has been devastating.”

The 33-year-old Fadil was admitted into a Milan area hospital on Jan. 29 complaining of severe stomach pain. The doctors ruled out cancer and common diseases, and they even tested her for the bacterial infection leptospirosis after she told them there were mice in her apartment. They tested her makeup, her apartment, and possible contaminants in the hospital itself.

When test after test proved negative—and her condition slowly worsened—the pathologist called in scores of experts and started looking for something more sinister. But common poisons like arsenic weren’t found in her blood. Finally, on her deathbed at the end of February, she told her brother Tarek and her lawyer Paolo Sevesi she was sure she was poisoned.

More extensive tests were conducted on her deteriorating body, finding elevated traces of metals like cobalt and nickel in her by-then-ravaged system. “It was a mixture of radioactive substances which are not normally available for purchase,” Sevesi told The Daily Beast. On March 1, the model was dead and the homicide investigation begun.

Berlusconi, who has been investigated for witness tampering in four separate cases, which he denies and which have not yet gone to trial, was asked about the murder investigation by reporters last weekend. “Sorry,” he said about the woman’s demise, but, “I didn’t know her.”

Fadil testified back in 2012 when Berlusconi was on trial for paying an underage Moroccan girl, stage name Ruby the Heartbreaker, for sex. He was convicted and then acquitted of the charges because it could never be proved he knew Ruby’s age. …

Fadil and others testified during a succession of “bunga bunga” trials that they were given envelopes with €2,000 ($2,270) in cash at the end of the night if they didn’t participate in sex. Those who did got much more. …

Fadil’s book, which she had nearly finished, according to her brother, was filled with names of attendees.

She also testified at the time that at those parties she had met men who she thought were in the Russian secret service. During that time, Berlusconi and Russian President Vladimir Putin were best of friends. Who can forget Berlusconi bragging to a call girl that he was having sex with her on “Putin’s bed,” as she later testified?

It’s no surprise that when Fadil died from what appears to have been an exotic toxin, many naturally thought that she might have suffered a fate similar to Sergei Skripal, who narrowly survived after he was poisoned with a Russian nerve agent, or Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian spy killed in London by ingesting the radioactive isotope polonium 210.

Later this week, a full autopsy report including toxicology results from bone tissue is expected to be completed by Italy’s leading forensic pathologist and anthropologist, Cristina Cattaneo, who is only called in on the most important cases. The results either will answer some of the mysterious questions around the model’s death—or produce even more.

@dragonfly9 recently posted an update about another suspicious, high profile, Russia-related death: According to documents released as a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, Mikhail Lesin, 57, a former aide of Putin, “died accidentally of blunt force trauma after falling repeatedly in his room while intoxicated.” Radio Free Europe, which filed the FOIA lawsuit, has now published an in-depth report outlining the many suspect circumstances surrounding Lesin’s death:

Mikhail Lesin, the former Russian press minister who turned up dead in a Washington hotel room in 2015, sustained a fracture to a neck bone just below the jaw line “at or near the time” of his death, according to documents released by the city’s medical examiner that provide new details about his final days. …

Once a powerful media adviser to President Vladimir Putin, Lesin fell out of favor with the Kremlin elite sometime around 2012 and had lowered his public profile before he was discovered dead in the Dupont Circle Hotel, located a few blocks from the White House, on November 5, 2015. …

Despite the official conclusion that his death was “accidental,” Lesin’s links with Russia’s ruling elite, the bizarre circumstances of his demise, and a string of strange deaths of Russians across the globe have fueled persistent speculation that he may have been killed.

The autopsy records obtained by RFE/RL show the extent of the cuts and bruising over his head, neck, upper torso, and lower torso, but do not say how the injuries occurred.

“I [an official in the Chief Medical Examiner’s office] explained that the position of the hyoid [bone in the neck] is protected by the mandible and that fractures are commonly associated with hanging or manual strangulation. I also said that I could not exclude a significant fall as a cause for the fracture, but I would expect soft-tissue injury to be associated with the impact,” the official, whose name was also redacted, wrote. …

According to a 2015 article published by the National Institute for Health, “fractures of hyoid bone resulting from trauma other than strangulation are very rare; hyoid bone fracture associated with panfacial trauma are even rarer.”

In 2014, a year before his death, Lesin had drawn the attention of the U.S. Senate, where one lawmaker had called on the FBI to investigate him for possible money laundering.

And last year, BuzzFeed published this bombshell of a story on Lesin’s mysterious death:

This is a long article which adds several more reasons to believe that Lesin’s death was not accidental. Among them: “… he died on the eve of a scheduled meeting with US Justice Department officials. They had planned to interview Lesin about the inner workings of RT, the Kremlin-funded network that he founded.”

While researching these stories, I came across the following authoritative resources that document the alarming number of times Putin’s critics have died under suspicious circumstances:


#5

This is a follow up to the Radio Free Europe article on the autopsy of Mikhail Lesin, a former Putin aide who, after falling out of favor with Putin, died under suspicious circumstances in a Washington, D.C., hotel room in 2015. His death occurred the night before he was reportedly going to be interviewed by the Department of Justice about the Russian television network, RT, which he founded.

RFE obtained Lesin’s autopsy report by filing a Freedom of Information Act document request nearly two years ago. The request turned into a lawsuit when the requested documents were not delivered. RFE prevailed in court – they finally received the autopsy report along with related documents – and then published an article on Saturday (link is above).

The autopsy report concludes that Lesin’s death was “accidental” (blunt force trauma due to multiple falls while he was drunk, alone in his hotel room), but in its Saturday reporting, RFE casts doubt on that claim. And now today, drawing on the expertise of respected medical examiners, RFE is piling on more criticism of the autopsy report – and their arguments are compelling.

A neck bone that rarely breaks, and when it does, it is almost always due to strangulation or asphyxiation. Soft-tissue hemorrhaging on muscles running along the sides and back of the neck. A swollen brain. Extensive bruising and cuts on legs, arms, hands, chest, face, and skull.

The official conclusion is that former Kremlin media adviser Mikhail Lesin’s death in a Washington hotel room on November 5, 2015, was an accident, caused by blunt-force trauma to the head and other parts of the body suffered from falls during a drinking binge.

Yet multiple forensic pathologists and medical examiners who pored over autopsy results and other documents obtained by RFE/RL from the D.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner have raised fresh questions about whether the wealthy former Kremlin insider might have been murdered.

"I’ve done 12,000 autopsies over my career," said Donald Jason, a forensic pathology consultant and retired professor from Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina. "A good number have been alcoholics. And I’ve never seen a fractured hyoid bone on someone who’s falling around drunk."

The fact that Lesin’s hyoid bone – a thin, C-shaped bone that sits at the very top of the neck, above the larynx, and just underneath the jaw bone – was broken is just one aspect of the autopsy highlighted by the experts who spoke to RFE/RL.

"I’ve never seen anything quite like this," said Tom Andrews, who retired in 2017 as chief medical examiner for the state of New Hampshire, and reviewed the file at RFE/RL’s request.

“This is an unusual case, the complexity of the injuries, even for an alcoholic,” he said. "It’s an unusual constellation of injuries to see in an accidental death, in a fall or a series of falls, from a standing height."

Both the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department and the FBI released documents related to Lesin’s death, which made mention of video taken by the Dupont Circle Hotel closed-circuit cameras. Around 300 hours of footage was taken by the FBI for examination, according to the agency’s document release.

Police records, however, state that there was a “problem” with the disk that was storing the video footage from the 9th-floor penthouse where Lesin was staying. An unidentified agent states that he was unable to review footage of the 9th-floor hallway from 1:02 p.m. until 11:14 p.m. due to the problem with the disk – a period that includes nearly three hours after Lesin was last known to have been seen alive.

It’s unclear whether that specific footage was ever reviewed.


(Karen Cartwright) #6

Are Mueller’s approval ratings waining? Is there disapproval because it is taking too long? Are people getting fatigued with the ‘not knowing’ WTF is going on? There is the investigation, the handling of the campaign Russia ties, the this that and the other. Oh and tramples and the GOP trying to discredit the investigation. I am wondering if the investigation is going by the wayside. Concerned is an understatement.


#7

Trump has been trying to discredit the investigation since it started. Don’t worry about the polls, they have no barring on the results of the investigation.

Update: I think you may find this article helpful. :grin:


#8

Thanks @Keaton_James for putting together all these very suspicious deaths, which are always too horrifying to consider.

In 2017 in an interview with Bill O’Reilly with T -

But “Putin’s a killer,” O’Reilly said.

You got a lot of killers,” Trump shot back. “What, you think our country’s so innocent?”

In Oct, 2018 on 60 minutes T acknowledged Putin, but somehow said we don’t. Interesting shift.

President Donald Trump said in an interview broadcast Sunday night that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “probably” involved in assassinations and poisonings, but "it’s not in our country."

“Of course they shouldn’t do it,” the President added.

The condoning of other countries’ murders by the USA, especially of Jamal Khashoggi is definitely concerning, as well as the brutal treatment of the immigrants at the border. It is a remarkable shift into more autocratic policies and we should stand guard against this.


#9

Breaking:

President Trump said on Thursday that the United States should recognize Israel’s authority over the Golan Heights, one of the world’s most disputed territories, in a significant shift of decades-long American policy.

The president’s announcement, in a midday Twitter post, came after repeated pressure from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967 and effectively annexed it in 1981, a move condemned by the United Nations.

(…)

There have been recent signs that the Trump administration was moving in this direction. A recent State Department report used the phrase “Israeli-controlled” instead of “Israeli-occupied” to describe the territories of the Golan Heights, the West Bank and Gaza.

Mr. Netanyahu is scheduled to visit Mr. Trump in Washington next week, and the new United States’ stance on the disputed land is expected to help the prime minister significantly.


#10

House Democrats are raising new concerns about what they say is recently revealed information from Jared Kushner’s attorney indicating that the senior White House aide has been relying on encrypted messaging service WhatsApp and his personal email account to conduct official business.

The revelation came in a Dec. 19 meeting — made public by the House Oversight and Reform Committee for the first time on Thursday — between Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Rep. Trey Gowdy, the former chairman of the oversight panel, and Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell.

Cummings, who now leads the Oversight Committee, says in a new letter to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone that Lowell confirmed to the two lawmakers that Kushner “continues to use” WhatsApp to conduct White House business. Cummings also indicated that Lowell told them he was unsure whether Kushner had ever used WhatsApp to transmit classified information.

(…)

Lowell added, according to Cummings, that Kushner is in compliance with recordkeeping law. Lowell told the lawmakers that Kushner takes screenshots of his messages and forwards them to his White House email in order to comply with records preservation laws, Cummings indicated.

Kushner, whom the president charged with overseeing the administration’s Middle East policies, reportedly communicates with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman via WhatsApp.

Here’s a link to the actual letter :point_down:

https://www.politico.com/f/?id=00000169-a11b-dbd1-a5eb-e5df7a170001


#11

Now for the most depressing polling data ever.


#12

White House refuses document requests from the House Intel Committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Oversight Committee, relating to President Donald Trump’s private discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Lawfare just posted the docs :point_down:


#13

I’m going to start a house committees thread today. It’s time, give me a couple of hours.

image


#14

Follow the :moneybag: .

In late October 2017, Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East adviser, dropped into Saudi Arabia for an unannounced visit to the desert retreat of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was in the process of consolidating his power. The two men talked privately late into the night.

Just a day earlier, Mr. Kushner’s younger brother, Josh, then 32, was flying out of the kingdom.

Jared came to talk policy, but Josh was there on business.

The founder of an eight-year-old venture capital firm, Josh Kushner had spent the three days before his brother’s arrival at an investor conference, where Prince Mohammed had promised to spend billions of dollars on a high-tech future for Saudi Arabia.

As others sat through speeches in a gilded conference hall, several participants said, the younger Mr. Kushner frequently ducked out for more exclusive conversations with Saudi officials.

Some government ethics lawyers say those conversations — never hidden, but not previously reported — create the appearance of a potential conflict of interest. Although Jared Kushner severed his ties with his brother’s company and divested his interest in his brother’s funds around the time he entered the White House, he was nonetheless discussing American policy with the rulers of the kingdom at virtually the same time that his brother was talking business with their top aides.

A spokesman for Josh Kushner’s firm, Thrive Capital, said that it was not in a formal fund-raising period at the time of the conference. A year later, however, the company raised $1 billion. And two people who spoke with Josh Kushner at the conference said he had been actively promoting a health insurance start-up he founded in 2012, Oscar Health, which five months later announced a fresh $165 million round of financing.

A spokesman for Josh Kushner said the management of Oscar Health knew of no direct investment by Saudis. But the spokesman, Jesse Derris, declined to disclose whether Saudis had invested in any Thrive funds. Mr. Derris said only that Thrive had received no money since the presidential election from any Saudi who had not previously invested in its funds.

“Out of an abundance of caution, Thrive instituted a policy shortly after the 2016 election to prohibit investments from new foreign investors with business in front of the current administration,” Mr. Derris said in a statement. “It has abided by that prohibition.”

Jared Kushner appears to have been closely involved in Josh’s venture capital firm, having sat on the board and investment committees of Thrive Capital until January 2017, his financial disclosure forms show.

He also received at least $8.2 million in capital gains from various Thrive funds while working in the White House, according to a financial disclosure form filed in May 2018.

… Kathleen Clark, an expert on government ethics and a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, said Saudi discussions with Josh Kushner raised issues for his brother.

“The timing looks bad, O.K., but the bigger issue is his brother’s business,” she said. “It is reasonable to question Jared Kushner’s ability to be impartial in dealing with the Saudis.”

But the bond between Jared Kushner, 38, and Prince Mohammed, 33, has drawn more scrutiny as the crown prince has displayed more aggression.

A week after the Kushners left the Saudi capital, Riyadh, Prince Mohammed ordered the extrajudicial detention of about 200 businessmen and former officials in a Ritz-Carlton hotel, some of whom were evidently tortured. He was also behind the bizarre kidnapping of Lebanon’s prime minister. And months later, he directed the arrests and, according to relatives, torture of prominent women’s rights advocates.

Then, last October, his agents killed and dismembered the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi inside a consulate in Istanbul — on the orders of Prince Mohammed, American intelligence agencies concluded.

The crown prince has led a four-year military intervention in Yemen that has brought on a humanitarian catastrophe with no end in sight. At the same time, he has sown division among American allies in the region by trying to isolate Qatar over policy disagreements.

Jared Kushner, though, has steadfastly supported the prince.

From the start of the administration, Mr. Kushner has argued persistently that Prince Mohammed can become a vital ally, especially in bringing the Palestinians into agreement with a promised American peace plan. He pushed past the objections of cabinet members and senior officials to persuade Mr. Trump to visit Saudi Arabia on his first trip abroad as president.

And even after a bipartisan backlash over the killing of Mr. Khashoggi, Mr. Kushner argued successfully that Mr. Trump should stand by the prince. Last month, the White House defied a congressional deadline for a report from Mr. Trump about who directed the killing, sidestepping pressure to acknowledge the intelligence findings about Prince Mohammed’s role.

Professor Clark said that ethics laws could require Jared Kushner to recuse himself from White House deliberations about the response to those congressional demands or other specific proceedings involving the Saudis.

Not long after the congressional deadline expired, Jared Kushner flew to Riyadh for his first face-to-face meeting with Prince Mohammed since Mr. Khashoggi’s death.

Josh Kushner, however, has largely escaped the scrutiny that has fallen on the Trump administration, in part because he kept his distance. He stepped away from the family business to found his venture capital firm, and he is a Democrat who has said he voted against Mr. Trump despite the family connection.

the Riyadh conference drew Wall Street titans, and some attendees questioned how a relatively small player enjoyed high-level access to Saudi officials. On a list of the top 100 venture capitalists compiled by the trade publication CB Insights in collaboration with The New York Times, Josh Kushner appeared for the first time in 2018, entering at 99.

Trump and his family disguise their lies by using weaselly language. Once caught, they can say, “I never actually said what you thought I said – so technically I didn’t lie.” We see a perfect example here. Josh Kushner’s spokesman said his company “received no money since the presidential election from any Saudi who had not previously invested in its funds.” If you aren’t parsing every word, it would be easy to walk away from that statement thinking, “OK so no new Saudi money is being invested in the company.” But wait, the company could actually receive unlimited funds from any Saudi who had already invested. All the company needs to do in order to claim “we told the truth” is to keep funneling money through a Saudi or Saudis who invested previously – if one Saudi invested one dollar before the election and then invested millions today that would meet their “ethical” criteria. To me, the way Trump, Kushner & Company twist language is the same as telling a lie. :lying_face:


#15

You are so right on thing. It is almost as if Abbe Lowell has written a script for him.

Various interviews with Vicky Ward, Kushners does a lot to reinforce that they, the brothers and father are out there collecting contacts and funds for their empire. :zipper_mouth_face:


(Matt Kiser) closed #16

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