WTF Community

More Questionable Behavior from Trump, T Admin, DOJ, and R's vs Dems, Press, Justice


Good news to have Governor Brown get the Feds out of Portland - That is a relief, and glad they capitulated.

(David Bythewood) #460

Trump Is Exceeding His Constitutional Powers in Oregon

There are limits to how the executive branch can deploy federal agents.


The oversight hearing must have made an impact. :hugs:

(David Bythewood) #462

Minneapolis police also told the Star Tribune the man is a member of the Aryan Cowboy Brotherhood, a small white supremacist prison and street gang based primarily in Minnesota and Kentucky.

The Aryan Cowboy Brotherhood? Wow.

Still no charges so far, though they feel imminent.

Not long after the man shattered the windows of the AutoZone and ran away, people started looting the store and eventually set it on fire.

Erika I. Christensen, a Minneapolis police arson investigator who wrote the affidavit, said that his “sole aim” was to provoke discord.

“Until the actions of the person your affiant has been calling ‘Umbrella Man,’ the protests had been relatively peaceful,” she said. “The actions of this person created an atmosphere of hostility and tension.”

The destruction quickly spread. The following morning, the Minneapolis Fire Department said it had responded to roughly 30 fires. One man was shot and killed in a pawnshop, while a second man was found dead and burned in another pawnshop.

“This was the first fire that set off a string of fires and looting throughout the precinct and the rest of the city,” Christensen said.

It took months for Minneapolis police to identify the man. Christensen wrote in her affidavit that she spent “innumerable hours” scrolling through social media apps like TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube.

The break finally came last week, when a tip came in naming “Umbrella Man” and said he is a member of the Hells Angels, a motorcycle gang made up of mostly white men who ride Harley-Davidson bikes. Christensen wrote that “Umbrella Man” is also a “known associate” of the Aryan Cowboys, a group described by the Anti-Defamation League as a white supremacist prison gang based mainly out of Minnesota and Kentucky.

Christensen also wrote that just before smashing the windows to the AutoZone, “Umbrella Man” spray-painted in white, “free s— for everyone zone,” on the red doors of the store.

Basically, this guy set off ALL of the looting and arson.

(David Bythewood) #463

In the middle of a damn pandemic, with thousands dying and millions out of work, Trump is trying to sneak $377 MILLION into the latest pandemic bill to renovate the West Wing of the White House!

Administration wants West Wing remodel money in virus bill

(David Bythewood) #464

New Pentagon training refers to protesters, journalists as ‘adversaries’

The training comes amid worsening relations between the federal government and protesters.

A new mandatory Pentagon training course aimed at preventing leaks refers to protesters and journalists as “adversaries” in a fictional scenario designed to teach Defense Department personnel how to better protect sensitive information.

The new course was recently launched as part of Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s effort to improve “operational security,” or OPSEC, and clamp down on leaks. The training materials are public and include a video message from Esper, as well as a July 20 memo outlining his concerns about operational security and directing all DoD personnel — military, civilian and on-site contractors — to take the course within the next 60 days.

“Unfortunately, poor OPSEC practices within DoD in the past have resulted in the unauthorized disclosure or ‘leaks,’" Esper writes in the memo. “The Department of Defense (DoD) remains committed to transparency to promote accountability and public trust. [However] unauthorized disclosures jeopardize our DoD personnel, operations, strategies and policies to the benefit of our adversaries.”

The training comes amid worsening relations between the federal government and protesters. President Donald Trump in June threatened to deploy active-duty troops in U.S. cities to tamp down protests against police brutality, and more recently, federal agents wearing military-style uniforms have cracked down on vandalism and demonstrations in Portland, Ore. And while Trump has repeatedly labeled news outlets as “the enemy of the people,” the Defense Department has been careful to avoid doing the same.

Lt. Col. Uriah Orland, a Pentagon spokesperson, defended the use of the term “adversaries” in the training.

“An adversary — a common generic term for a person or group that opposes ones tactical goals — is acting counter to our information security objectives and therefore personnel must understand that threat,” Orland said in a statement. “Attempting to read more into the use of the term obfuscates the clear purpose of the training: to prevent information from falling into unauthorized hands regardless of its potential use.”

George Little, who was a Pentagon press secretary and CIA spokesperson in the Obama administration, called the characterization “appalling and dangerous.”

“It brings to mind the same tin ear Secretary Esper recently demonstrated when he used the military term battlespace to describe America’s city streets,” Little said. “The Pentagon and the press have a long history over working alongside each other in service of the American people. Even when they don’t see eye to eye on the issues, there’s been a long history of respect for their common mission, and it’s unfortunate that the current Pentagon leadership has largely abandoned it.”

In one section of the course, trainees are given a fictional scenario in which news of a secret military exercise gets out, and TV cameras and hundreds of “anti-government protesters” show up. The exercise and the protest end up as the lead story on the evening news.

In such a scenario, the course instructs trainees to identify the “adversaries,” who it says are driven to exploit “vulnerabilities” for their own gain. In the particular scenario in the course material, the exercise organizers aimed to keep the event unnoticed, a goal that was contrary to the aims of reporters and protesters, Orland explained.

“The protest group was an adversary, not because of its political beliefs, but because its intentions were contrary to the success of the training mission," the narrator says. "Reporters also had contrary intentions and capabilities. They wanted to capture exercise activities and on video and report them on the evening news. In this instance, the reporters are adversaries.”

In the scenario, the protest group “clearly exploited one or more vulnerabilities,” the narrator states.

In another section of the course on insider threats, the media is labeled an adversary, and DoD personnel are instructed to report any contact with the press to their “information security office.”

Orland noted that the training highlights that media personnel are not typically considered a threat, however "their actions of collecting and reporting classified/proprietary information can be just as damaging.”

Price Floyd, who served as acting assistant secretary of defense for public affairs in the Obama administration and director of media relations at the State Department in the George W. Bush administration, also criticized DoD’s new policy on operational security and response to leaks.

“I think this administration confuses leaks with stories that are written that they don’t like,” Floyd said. “Because this administration, of course, gives out information to the press without attribution all the time. In other words, they’re leaking. They want the stories the way they want them.”

He also took issue with how the training course is framed, arguing that in his experience it inaccurately portrays the overall relationship between the military and the media.

“If for some reason a reporter got wind of something that was classified or secret, all it would take is a conversation with public affairs and someone to say, ‘look this is classified, it is secret, talking about it right now puts lives in danger.’”

"I think this witch hunt by Esper is just a way to try to clamp down on what they view as fake news,” he added, “when in fact all the media is doing is reporting the facts.”

Mick Mulroy, an ABC News analyst who served as the Pentagon’s Middle East policy official in the Trump administration, said he does not believe DoD intended to label all protesters and journalists as threats, but called the language in the training materials “poor word choice.”

“‘Adversary’ is a loaded term, we use it to define Russia, for example,” Mulroy said, drawing a distinction between protesters and journalists appropriately exercising their constitutional rights with “protesters that use violence against the military or service members that leak classified information.”

“However, in this climate of labeling the media being a threat to the people and protesters all being lumped together (both violent and nonviolent) the military will want to ensure that they are not adding to the problem with this type of terminology,” he said. “I don’t believe they intended to do that with this choice of terms, but it should be adjusted.”

The new OPSEC effort was launched just weeks after Esper told lawmakers in a hearing that he had begun an investigation to go after leaks, following a New York Times report about intelligence that Russia was paying militants to target American forces in Afghanistan.

Leaks “hurt our nation’s security, they undermine our troops, their safety, they affect our relations with other countries, they undermine our national policy,” Esper told lawmakers this month. “It’s something we need to get control of. It’s bad and it’s unlawful and it needs to stop.”

A separate memo released around the same time as the first laid out new guidelines for the force when interacting with members of the news media.


Looks like there’s going to be a re-review of Flynn’s case…going en banc. Aug 11th is the next date to watch.:boom:


A federal appeals court in Washington will take a second look at a judge’s effort to scrutinize the Justice Department’s decision to drop its case against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit agreed Thursday to revisit U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan’s plan to examine the politically charged matter, reviving the unusual case testing the limits of the judiciary’s power to check the executive branch.

The court’s brief order set oral arguments for Aug. 11. The decision to rehear the case before a full complement of judges wipes out the June ruling from a three-judge panel that ordered Sullivan to immediately dismiss the case and said Sullivan was wrong to appoint a retired federal judge to argue against the government’s move to undo Flynn’s guilty plea.


More of the same…expect delays, planned delays of the mail. US Postal service is at the mercy of T’s loyalist, Louis DeJoy.

The U.S. Postal Service is experiencing days-long backlogs of mail across the country after a top Trump donor running the agency put in place new procedures described as cost-cutting efforts, alarming postal workers who warn that the policies could undermine their ability to deliver ballots on time for the November election.

As President Trump ramps up his unfounded attacks on mail balloting as being susceptible to widespread fraud, postal employees and union officials say the changes implemented by Trump fundraiser-turned-postmaster general Louis DeJoy are contributing to a growing perception that mail delays are the result of a political effort to undermine absentee voting.

The backlog comes as the president, who is trailing presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in the polls, has escalated his efforts to cast doubt about the integrity of the November vote, which is expected to yield record numbers of mail ballots because of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday, Trump floated the idea of delaying the Nov. 3 general election, a notion that was widely condemned by Democrats and Republicans alike. He has repeatedly gone after the Postal Service, recently suggesting that the agency cannot be trusted to deliver ballots.

DeJoy, a North Carolina logistics executive who donated more than $2 million to GOP political committees in the past four years, approved changes that took effect July 13 that the agency said were aimed at cutting costs for the debt-laden mail service. They included prohibiting overtime pay, shutting down sorting machines early and requiring letter carriers to leave mail behind when necessary to avoid extra trips or late delivery on routes.

The new policies have resulted in at least a two-day delay in scattered parts of the country, even for express mail, according to multiple postal workers and union leaders. Letter carriers are manually sorting more mail, adding to the delivery time. Bins of mail ready for delivery are sitting in post offices because of scheduling and route changes. And without the ability to work overtime, workers say the logjam is worsening without an end in sight.


DHS coming after two reporter for what they published. One of them Benamin Wittes, of Lawfare and famous for his tiny cannon booms :boom: when BIG stories have come out responds via twitter. See below.

The intelligence reports about the journalists say they are “provided for intelligence and lead purposes” and have “been deemed necessary for the intended recipient to understand, assess, or act on the information provided.”

One of the journalists, Times reporter Mike Baker, co-wrote an article on July 28 that revealed an internal DHS memo indicating that the camouflaged federal agents sent to put down the unrest in Portland didn’t understand the nature of the protests they were facing.

The DHS memo described the conflict as connected to a years-long history of violence against government personnel and facilities in the Pacific Northwest by “anarchist extremists.” But it acknowledged that “we have low confidence in our assessment” when it comes to understanding the current protests in Oregon’s largest city.

“We lack insight into the motives for the most recent attacks,” the memo said.

Baker included an image of that portion of the memo in a Twitter thread that also linked to the Times article. The DHS intelligence report included that tweet and stated that Baker had posted “a leaked Department of Homeland Security (DHS) internal product.”

A spokeswoman for the Times declined to comment.

The other journalist, Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the editor in chief of Lawfare, had also posted various internal documents to his Twitter feed, including, on July 24, a memo admonishing department personnel not to give information to reporters.

“The ongoing leaks related to our work in Portland remain of great concern as it distracts from our mission and creates opportunities for others to exploit this information for their own benefit,” the unsigned memo states.

Benjamin Wittes response


Lots of issues about how Federal spending was outlandishly far greater than normal, and osme price gouging took place with the production of ventilators. See US House Spending report below.

Democrats say the episode raises questions about one of the Trump administration’s largest contracts for ventilator production.

WASHINGTON — Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump has repeatedly touted his administration’s supply of ventilators, a critical tool for treating patients with life-threatening respiratory symptoms.

But internal emails and documents obtained by Democrats on the House Oversight Committee suggest that the Trump administration failed to enforce an existing contract with a major medical manufacturer, delayed negotiations for more than a month and subsequently overpaid as much as $500 million for tens of thousands of the devices — a costly error at a time when officials from some of the biggest states were warning of shortages.

The communications between administration officials and Philips Respironics, a global medical equipment manufacturer that finalized a $643.5 million contract with the Trump administration in April, are included in a 40-page report shared with NBC News.

The information raises serious concerns about an estimated $3 billion in taxpayer dollars spent on ventilators from a number of suppliers, according to committee staff members who briefed NBC News.

Trump, facing criticism for a slow and inconsistent response to the pandemic, has repeatedly pointed to his administration’s distribution of ventilators as a success story. He falsely claimed as early as April that the Obama administration had left no ventilators in the Strategic National Stockpile upon leaving office. In a speech April 29, Trump said that under his leadership, the U.S. had become “king of ventilators, thousands and thousands of ventilators.”

US House of Representatives Spending report on Ventilators

(David Bythewood) #470

Legal Experts Erupt After Mike Pompeo Says Bill Barr Will Determine Whether to Postpone the Election

President Donald Trump ‘s baseless Thursday morning question about postponing the 2020 general election has been given new life. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested the final decision on any such postponement hinges upon whether Attorney General Bill Barr and others at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) can find a legal justification to change the date.

“Can a president delay the November presidential election, Mr. Secretary?” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) asked during a Senate hearing.

“Senator, I’m not going to enter a legal judgment on that on the fly this morning,” Pompeo replied.

A somewhat stunned Kaine then went on to run through all of Pompeo’s legal bona fides and allegedly merit-based achievements–while noting that he, too, attended Harvard Law School.

“You are one of the most highly trained and accomplished lawyers who are part of this administration,” Kaine summarized, “Can a president delay a presidential election?”

To which Pompeo replied:

In the end, the Department of Justice, and others, will make that legal determination. We all should want–I know you do, too, Senator Kaine–want to make sure to have an election that everyone is confident in.

“Are you indifferent to the date of the election?” Kained asked.

“It should happen lawfully,” Pompeo said–the end of his thoughts on the matter.

Legal experts fumed about and dismissed Pompeo’s suggestion.

“The Constitution gives Congress the power to set a date for the election, Congress has already set a date, and the states are going to run the election process like every other cycle,” national security attorney Bradley P. Moss told Law&Crime in an email. “DOJ can issue all the opinions it wants and the President can issue all the tweets he wants: it changes nothing.”

University of Texas Law Professor Steve Vladeck was a bit more animated in his response.

“NO. THEY. WON’T,” he tweeted in response to Pompeo’s suggestion that DOJ officials will be the final arbiters on the issue.

“Congress already made it in 3 U.S.C. § 1,” Vladeck noted–before citing the law on point here. “‘The electors of President and Vice President shall be appointed, in each State, on the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November, in every fourth year succeeding every election of a President and Vice President.’”

Pompeo’s remarks were characterized as cautious or evasive by some media outlets; however, some experts saw the secretary of state’s response in a bit more sinister light.

“This is not a dodge,” noted trial attorney Max Kennerly . “It’s an erroneous, authoritarian answer. Neither the Department of Justice nor ‘others’ make the ‘legal’ determination of if the Presidential election is delayed. States run their elections, Congress decided the date for elector appointment (3 USC § 1).”

At least one legal expert took a wait-and-see approach to Pompeo’s contribution to the debate.

“Because this is not a thing he can do unilaterally or lawfully, the Justice Department should disclose any formal advice or guidance to the contrary,” legal writer Cristian Farias mused. “The president floating an election delay not only creates confusion; it’s akin to misinforming the public and suppressing voters. That determination may already exist. If so, we need to see it, whether it embarrasses the president or not.”

(David Bythewood) #471

ACLU Wins Court Order Preventing Portland Police From ‘Collecting or Maintaining’ Recordings of Protesters

Sotomayor Slams Supreme Court’s Conservatives for Increasingly Granting Stays to Like-Minded Petitioners

Pentagon Training Materials Will No Longer Refer to Journalists as ‘Adversaries’ (After the Materials Were Exposed by a Journalist)


From Crooked Media’s newsletter - this and that discussed and another one on election ballot counting which I am going to list next. Just so much awful stuff piling up…

President Trump’s appointee to oversee Voice of America has launched an investigation into a deleted video that was deemed to be too pro-Biden . Last week, VOA’s Urdu service posted content about an online Biden campaign event reaching out to Muslim Americans. Top VOA officials found that the content violated the network’s editorial policies and reasonably ordered it taken down, then less reasonably considered immediately firing the four contractors involved in publishing it. Michael Pack, the new CEO of VOA’s parent company who fired the heads of multiple outlets as soon as he took office, has now gotten personally involved, in what appears to be his next step towards transforming VOA into a Trump propaganda machine.

source - crooked media newsletter


Deutsche Bank long known as a lender to T and Co, and has had several fines levied against it because of underhanded banking practices is now saying it will investigate one it’s own bankers, Rosemary Vrablic, who is a private banker working exclusively with T and with Jared Kushner. In light of this article which just came out today from the NYT which states that Ms Vrablic had bought an apartment from Bergel 715 which Kushner had a financial stake in.

Deutsche Bank is holding onto a lot of records which the Congressional oversight committees wants to see in order to find out where T’s money is coming from, and Deutsche is no stranger to controversy. The Supreme Court sent the appeal back to the lower courts for this particular case and would act on it.

There are so many messy financial transactions which do not pass the smell test.

In June 2013, the banker, Rosemary Vrablic, and two of her Deutsche Bank colleagues purchased a Park Avenue apartment for about $1.5 million from a company called Bergel 715 Associates, according to New York property records.

Mr. Kushner, a senior adviser to the president, disclosed in an annual personal financial report late Friday that he and his wife, Ivanka Trump, had received $1 million to $5 million last year from Bergel 715. A person familiar with Mr. Kushner’s finances, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly, said he held an ownership stake in the entity at the time of the transaction with Ms. Vrablic.

When Ms. Vrablic and her colleagues bought the apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Mr. Trump and Mr. Kushner were her clients at Deutsche Bank. They had received roughly $190 million in loans from the bank and would seek hundreds of millions of dollars more.

Typically banks restrict employees from doing personal business with clients because of the potential for conflicts between the employees’ interests and those of the bank.

Deutsche Bank said it had not been aware that Ms. Vrablic and her colleagues had done business with a company part-owned by Mr. Kushner until being contacted by The New York Times.

“The bank will closely examine the information that came to light on Friday and the fact pattern from 2013,” said Daniel Hunter, a bank spokesman.




Monday, August 3, 2020

Statement of Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers on the Public Release of the Department’s Findings with Respect to the 29 FISA Applications that Were the Subject of the March 2020 OIG Preliminary Report

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers stated:

“The Department of Justice has completed its review of the 29 FISA applications that were the subject of preliminary findings by the DOJ Inspector General (OIG) in March 2020. We are pleased that our review of these applications concluded that all contained sufficient basis for probable cause and uncovered only two material errors, neither of which invalidated the authorizations granted by the FISA Court. These findings, together with the more than 40 corrective actions undertaken by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Division, should instill confidence in the FBI’s use of FISA authorities. We would like to express our appreciation to the OIG for their focus on the Department’s use of its national security authority. We remain committed to improving the FISA process to ensure that we use these tools consistent with the law and our obligations to the FISA Court. The ability to surveil and to investigate using FISA authorities remains critical to confronting current national security threats, including election interference, Chinese espionage and terrorism.”


In March 2020, the OIG issued a Memorandum regarding the preliminary findings from its audit of 29 historical FISA applications. The audit was designed to determine whether the contents of the FBI’s Woods files supported the factual statements in these applications. The OIG found deficient documentation in these accuracy (i.e., Woods) files and potential errors. Specifically, the OIG found that FBI was unable to produce the Woods files for 4 of the 29 applications, and the OIG identified numerous apparent errors or inadequately supported facts in all 25 of the 29 applications for which Woods files could be produced.

The OIG did not determine whether any factual assertions in the applications were inaccurate, materially or otherwise. In addition, when the OIG found a fact unsupported by a document in the Woods file, the OIG did not give the FBI the opportunity to locate a supporting document for the fact outside the file.

The Department has reviewed the OIG’s preliminary findings for each application. Each of these applications was also subject to an independent accuracy review. The Department was able to resolve many of the potential issues identified by the OIG. The FBI was also able to compile Woods files for the 4 applications where an original Woods file could not be located, and the FBI was able in many instances to locate documentation to support a factual assertion either elsewhere in the Woods file or in other files available to the FBI. Based on the Department’s findings, of the hundreds of pages of facts contained in the 29 applications audited by the OIG, the Department has identified only one material misstatement and one material omission, neither of which we assess to have invalidated the authorizations granted by the FISC. These findings have been provided to the FISA Court and were posted publicly today.

The filing can be found here.




T has been calling it an ‘attack’ all day…

US defense officials contradict Trump: No indication yet of attack in Beirut - CNNPolitics


This is what the NYT Editorial Board thinks - Congress should finish up on the Relief Bill and no vacation until it gets done. How are both going to negotiate when there are sticking points?
Simple - no vacation.

(This post could go under Opinion - or here. Your call - @Pet_Proletariat @MissJava - Thx!)


No Relief Bill, No Vacation

Millions of Americans can’t wait while the Senate takes the rest of the summer off.

By The Editorial Board

The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.

On Friday, Congress effectively pushed millions of Americans off a financial cliff when it failed to extend the enhanced unemployment benefits put in place in March to soften the economic pain of the coronavirus pandemic. Millions of Americans are also in imminent danger of losing their homes as federal moratoriums on evictions expire.

Preventing this widespread suffering should be the top priority for lawmakers. Instead, the Republican-led Senate dragged its feet for months on another aid package. The Democratic-led House of Representatives passed a $3 trillion relief plan in mid-May. It took until July 27 for the Republican Senate leaders to offer their anemic, $1 trillion counterbid, which everyone seems to have a problem with, albeit for differing reasons. Democrats think it is insufficient to the magnitude of the crisis. The White House favors a short-term, piecemeal fix — larded with unrelated measures, like $1.75 billion for a new F.B.I. headquarters and nearly $400 million to renovate the West Wing — and many Republican members oppose any additional relief.

Negotiations are, to put it mildly, going poorly. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, is engaged in a political charade in which he proclaims himself a hapless bystander, buffeted by the whims of the White House on one side and House Democrats on the other. He is not even attending key meetings between Democratic leaders and the administration’s top negotiators.

But Mr. McConnell is far from without leverage. He must make clear to his members that they need to compromise and help the millions of their fellow Americans who are stuck in miles-long food lines, a hair’s breadth from eviction, jobless, financially ruined or ill because of this terrible disease. One quick and direct way to send a message: Cancel the Senate’s August recess, or at least postpone it until a deal is reached.

It may sound odd to call for treating high elected officials like naughty schoolchildren by denying them their summer break. But lawmakers value their time back home. In a brutal election cycle, with control of the Senate on the line and Mr. Trump’s weak poll numbers giving his party agita, Republican members on the ballot in November are eager to concentrate on their re-election prospects. Nothing focuses the congressional mind quite like anxiety about one’s own political fortunes.

Staying in Washington until they get this crucial piece of the job done is the least that senators can do to show their solidarity with the legions of Americans who are facing far worse this summer than a canceled holiday.


I’m going to leave it because it’s true.