Some dumb numbers that probably don't mean anything - Cleveland Edition
I don't know if I'll keep doing this but I had a fun time preparing for the game last time doing it and hopefully it helps get people excited for the game this weekend.
Positional Talent Breakdown
This is my opinion on the state of the two rosters and is subject to being wrong. The scoring is 3 for a push, +- 1 for slight dis/advantage, +- 2 for a big dis/advantage. This is assuming that Nick Chubb out, as expected.
Source. All of the point spreads were identical, Browns were picked as the better line in 6 out of the 9 sources. |Colts|Browns|Pick|Source| |-2.5|+2.5|Colts|DraftKings| |-2.5|+2.5|Browns|BetMGM NJ| |-2.5|+2.5|Browns|FanDuel NJ| |-2.5|+2.5|Browns|PointsBet NJ| |-2.5|+2.5|Colts|SugarHouse| |-2.5|+2.5|Browns|Bet365 NJ| |-2.5|+2.5|Colts|UnibetNJ| |-2.5|+2.5|Browns|William Hill NJ| |-2.5|+2.5|63% Browns|Yahoo!|
Strength of Victories / Weakness of Losses
This is a measure of the quality of the wins and losses. The strength of victory is one of the tie breaker metrics, described here (high number is good). Weakness of losses is a similar metric but to describe how bad a loss is (high number is bad). Because we have no common opponents to date, that metric is not included. These numbers are between 0 and 1. Because the Browns only loss was to the 3-1 Ravens, they have a better loss score than we do, who lost to the 1-3 Jags. We have a slightly better Strength of Victory than the Browns.
Credit to the Yahoo! app for these values.
Def PPG Rank
Pass Yards/G Rank
Rush Yards/G Rank
The series between the Colts and the Cleveland Browns is tied at 17-17-0. However, since the Colts have been in Indianapolis, they lead the series 12-6, including 8 of the last 9. The two teams have met in the playoffs 4 times, with the most recent one coming in 1988 and the other 3 coming in the Baltimore Colts years.
Keys to winning
For the Colts: - Getting pressure on Mayfield (one of the league's worst under pressure in 2019) - Continued improvement in 3rd down, especially in scoring position - Stopping big plays on Defense - Turning field goals into TDs - (edit) Make Mayfield have to try to beat you deep For the Browns: - Establish the run game against a strong defensive front - Get OBJ going early - Get pressure on Phillip Rivers - Winning field position battle
Fun fact from last game:
For the last 4 elections, when the Colts have beat the Bears, Republicans have won the presidential election that year. When the Bears have beaten the Colts, Democrats have won the presidential election that year. By this B.S. model, Donald trump will re-elected. Edit: I originally saw this on the bears subreddit. Didn't realize it had been cross posted to ours before posting.
Both teams are coming into this game with a 3 game winning streak. This feels like a must-win game for the Browns because they have to compete with the Steelers and Ravens in the AFC North. I believe that the Browns offense, even without Nick Chubb will be able to get more done against the Colts defense than the Colt's offense can accomplish against the Browns Defense. Kevin Stefanski will be able to will his team to victory and expose some of the weaknesses the Colts have been able to keep hidden so far this season on defense. Sadly, I think the Browns will win this game 31-20, please prove me wrong, Colts.
Lost in the Sauce: DHS hides intelligence that reveals Trump using Russia's playbook, again
Welcome to Lost in the Sauce, keeping you caught up on political and legal news that often gets buried in distractions and theater… or a global health crisis. Housekeeping:
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Trump’s playbook is Russia’s playbook
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in July withheld an intelligence bulletin warning of a Russian plot to spread misinformation regarding Joe Biden's mental health. The bulletin, titled “Russia Likely to Denigrate Health of U.S. Candidates to Influence 2020 Election,” was blocked by the office of acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf on July 9.
The bulletin states that analysts had “high confidence” in their conclusion. However, a DHS spokesperson tried to defend the “delay” in issuing the document by saying it did not meet the agency’s standards. This is curious because just a week later, on July 16, DHS circulated a bulletin on anarchists in Portland that officers admitted they had “low confidence” in. Why was the Russia memo held back but the Portland one released?
Trump has been pushing the same line of attack against Biden for months - yet another instance of Russia and Trump operating from the same playbook. For instance, in March Trump said there was “something going on” with Biden; in June Trump ran selectively edited ads asserting that Biden is “unfit to serve as Commander in Chief”; last month Trump ran a digital ad portraying Biden as perpetually confused and mentally unstable. Most recently, Trump said questions about his own health are only in the news because “they want to try and get me to be on Biden's physical level."
DHS is just the latest agency in the Trump administration to erode election security, following actions by the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) last month. DNI John Ratcliffe announced he was ending in-person congressional briefings on election security ahead of November and AG Bill Barr removed a leading career official at the Justice Department’s national security division, replacing him with an inexperienced political appointee. The ODNI’s decision to halt congressional election briefs may have been influenced by top White House officials. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, among others, have repeatedly discussed in meetings with staff and with Trump “how to restrict and control the flow of information on such sensitive topics to Capitol Hill.”
One White House official told The Daily Beast that Meadows has for months been wary of the type of briefings on Capitol Hill that Democratic sources can potentially use to try to make Trump look bad through surreptitious leaks to media outlets.
Meanwhile, interim Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee Marco Rubio (R-FL) said last week that his committee will be granted an exception to the ODNI’s new policy and continue to receive in-person briefings from top U.S. intelligence officials about election-security issues. This essentially means that only Democrat-led committees have been cut out of the process ensuring election security. House Democrats wrote to Ratcliffe insinuating if his office does not provide the previously scheduled briefings this month they will issue subpoenas and/or defund the ODNI in the appropriations bill due by the end of the month. Read the letter here. In addition to attacks on Biden’s health, DHS has determined that Russia is seeking to “amplify” concerns over the integrity of U.S. elections by promoting allegations that mail-in voting will lead to widespread fraud. Intelligence analysts say this strategy has been underway since at least March, coinciding with Trump’s own assaults on mail-in voting.
For instance, in March Trump said if he agreed to funding vote-by-mail expansions in the first coronavirus stimulus bill, the U.S. would see “levels of voting that, if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again” (clip). Fact check: Neither party has historically benefited. On April 7, at the White House press briefing, Trump claimed: "Mail ballots are a very dangerous thing for this country, because they're cheaters… They're fraudulent in many cases" (clip). Fact check: There is no evidence that mail ballots are dangerous or fraudulent.
At a White House press briefing on Friday, Trump denied there is any proof that Russia poisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Instead of backing the German government's analysis of Nalvany's illness, Trump then redirected the criticism from Russia to China (clip).
"I don't know exactly what happened. I think it's tragic. It's terrible; it shouldn't happen. We haven't had any proof yet, but I will take a look. It is interesting that everybody is always mentioning Russia - and I don't mind you mentioning Russia - but I think probably China, at this point, is a nation that you should be talking about much more so than Russia. Because the things that China's doing are far worse.”
Trump then went on to say he’s “taken stronger action against Russia than any other country in the world,” but added “I do get along with President Putin” (clip).
RELATED: Leaked notes obtained by the Telegraph say that when Theresa May asked for Trump to take a strong stand after Russia poisoned Sergei Skripal, Trump replied “I’d rather follow than lead.” He pushed May to “put together a coalition” first.
The Trump administration plans to deport a Russian national living in America, a move experts say is in response to a politically motivated request by Russia. Gregory Duralev was persecuted by the Russian state for exposing corruption. He fled to America and applied for asylum in 2015. While waiting for a decision on his application, he was arrested by ICE and jailed for nearly 18 months. His case is now in court.
“DHS has acted no better than the Russian authorities,” Duralev said. “They simply fabricated charges against me for violations I never committed — and if DHS can trump up charges against immigrants with impunity, nobody can guarantee they won’t start doing it” to regular Americans. “So that’s the main message I now hope to send.”
Michael Cohen & Peter Strzok
Former FBI agent Peter Strzok has a book coming out called “Compromised.” In it, he alleges that FBI investigators came to believe it was “conceivable, if unlikely” that Russia was secretly controlling President Trump after he took office:
“We certainly had evidence that this was the case: that Trump, while gleefully wreaking havoc on America’s political institutions and norms, was pulling his punches when it came to our historic adversary, Russia,” Strzok writes. “Given what we knew or had cause to suspect about Trump’s compromising behavior in the weeks, months, and years leading up to the election, moreover, it also seemed conceivable, if unlikely, that Moscow had indeed pulled off the most stunning intelligence achievement in human history: secretly controlling the president of the United States — a Manchurian candidate elected.”
He now says he doesn’t believe that Trump is literally a Russian spy: “I don’t think that Trump, when he meets with Putin, receives a task list for the next quarter,” Strzok said, referencing the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. “But I do think the president is compromised, that he is unable to put the interests of our nation first, that he acts from hidden motives, because there is leverage over him, held specifically by the Russians but potentially others as well.” In an interview with Politico, Strzok confirms that he and then-deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, opened a counterintelligence case on the president, but that it likely was never pursued. Two weeks ago, NYT reported that Rosenstein secretly closed it. As if there weren’t enough political books coming out this summefall, Michael Cohen is releasing his, called “Disloyal: A Memoir.” The following a couple of quick takeaways: Cohen says that he, Trump, Aras Agalarov, Emin Agalarov, and others, watched a strip show in Las Vegas where one performer simulated peeing on another performer, who pretended to drink it. Trump reportedly reacted with “delight.” Aras Agalarov, a Russian real estate mogul, is a trusted associate of Putin and reportedly served as a liaison between Trump and the Russian president during Trump’s trip to Moscow. WaPo:
On Russia, Cohen writes that the cause behind Trump’s admiration of Russian President Vladimir Putin is simpler than many of his critics assume. Above all, he writes, Trump loves money — and he wrongly identified Putin as “the richest man in the world by a multiple.” Trump loved Putin, Cohen wrote, because the Russian leader had the ability “to take over an entire nation and run it like it was his personal company — like the Trump Organization, in fact.” ...According to Cohen, Trump’s sycophantic praise of the Russian leader during the 2016 campaign began as a way to suck up and ensure access to the oligarch’s money after he lost the election. But he claims Trump came to understand that Putin’s hatred of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, dating to her support for the 2011 protest movement in Russia, could also help Trump amass more power in the United States.
USPS & mail voting
According to a Washington Post report yesterday, Postmaster Louis DeJoy engaged in campaign money laundering, also called a straw-donor scheme, at his former logistics business. Five of his former employees told WaPo that they were “urged” to donate to politicians in North Carolina and would be paid back through bonuses from DeJoy. Such a plan would allow DeJoy to illegally circumvent campaign donation limits.
“Louis was a national fundraiser for the Republican Party. He asked employees for money. We gave him the money, and then he reciprocated by giving us big bonuses,” said David Young, DeJoy’s longtime director of human resources, who had access to payroll records at New Breed from the late 1990s to 2013 and is now retired. “He would ask employees to make contributions at the same time that he would say, ‘I’ll get it back to you down the road,’ ” said [another] former employee. ...A Washington Post analysis of federal and state campaign finance records found a pattern of extensive donations by New Breed employees to Republican candidates, with the same amount often given by multiple people on the same day. Between 2000 and 2014, 124 individuals who worked for the company together gave more than $1 million to federal and state GOP candidates. Many had not previously made political donations, and have not made any since leaving the company, public records show.
More than one million mail-in ballots were sent late to voters during the 2020 primary elections, an audit by the USPS IG’s office determined. Most of the ballots were late, the USPS says, because local election boards sent the ballots to voters at the last minute. Official press release.
[The audit] found the problems during primaries had been most pronounced in Kentucky and New York, where a combined 628,000 ballots were sent out late. In 17 states, the audit found, more than 589,000 ballots were sent from election boards to voters after the state’s ballot mailing deadline. In 11 states, more than 44,000 ballots were sent from election boards to voters the day of or the day before the state’s primary election. One particularly troubling situation, auditors found, unfolded in Pennsylvania, where 500 ballots were sent to voters the day after the election.
Furthermore, only 13% of the ballots were mailed with the recommended bar code tracking technology. Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) was blocked from attending two scheduled tours of USPS facilities last week. Local Postal Service officials informed her and union leaders waiting to accompany her into the building that national USPS leadership had directed them to bar the group from the building. A Postal Service spokeswoman said they simply needed more notice for a tour. Many states, including important battleground states, are not legally permitted to process mail-in/absentee ballots until Election Day, leading to concern that results will be delayed by days or weeks. For instance, in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan election officials cannot even begin processing ballots until Election Day. Processing involves opening envelopes, flattening ballots to run through the scanning machine, and prepping for the scanning.
"When voters have to wait so long for results, it erodes trust in the process and leaves room for partisan bad actors to dispute the will of the people," said Amber McReynolds, CEO of the National Vote at Home Institute, a nonprofit organization.
AG Bill Barr made three stunning false claims about mail voting during an interview with Wolf Blitzer last week. First, Barr wouldn’t even acknowledge that voting twice is a crime - because just hours earlier, Trump encouraged his North Carolina supporters to vote twice to “test” the state’s mail-in voting system (clip).
BLITZER: It sounds like he’s encouraging people to break the law and try to vote twice. BARR: It seems to me what he’s saying is, he’s trying to make the point that the ability to monitor this system is not good. And it was so good, if you tried to vote a second time you would be caught if you voted in person. BLITZER: That would be illegal if they did that. If somebody mailed in a ballot and then actually showed up to vote in person, that would be illegal. BARR: "I don't know what the law in the particular state says.” BLITZER: You can’t vote twice. BARR: "I don't know what the law in the particular state says.”
Then, Barr tried to assert that foreign countries could fake ballots, but when challenged he admitted he had no evidence (clip).
BLITZER: You’ve said you were worried that a foreign country could send thousands of fake ballots, thousands of fake ballots to people that it might be impossible to detect. What are you basing that on? BARR: I’m basing — as I’ve said repeatedly, I’m basing that on logic. BLITZER: Pardon? BARR: Logic.
Finally, Barr cited a supposed incident of mail-in voting fraud in Texas. Too bad it doesn’t exist.
Charles Rettig, the Trump-appointed IRS Commissioner who has refused to release President Trump’s tax returns, has made hundreds of thousands of dollars renting out Trump properties while in office. Rettig makes $100,000 - $200,000 a year from two units at Trump International Waikiki. When first nominated, Rettig failed to disclose his financial ties to Trump Waikiki. When questioned by Congress, he did not directly answer concerns about the properties.
CREW: With Trump’s name removed from some buildings as it began to hurt property values, we can only imagine how toxic it would become if a bombshell in his tax returns were released. Which means the IRS Commissioner has a vested interest in the success of the Trump brand—and of preventing anything that could damage it.
Voice of America staffers say Trump appointee Michael Pack is threatening to wash away legal protections intended to insulate their news reports from political meddling. Since arriving, Pack has fired the network's leaders, pushed out agency executives, refused to approve allotted budgets, and refused to renew visas for foreign employees.
Further reading: “Deleted Biden video sets off a crisis at Voice of America,” Politico.
Pack suggested the staff he fired and foreign journalists he essentially kicked out may have been foreign spies, without offering any evidence to support his claim. A group of 14 senior VOA journalists are openly disputing his explanation:
“Mr. Pack has made a thin excuse that his actions are meant to protect national security, but just as was the case with the McCarthy ‘Red Scare,’ which targeted VOA and other government organizations in the mid-1950s, there has not been a single demonstrable case of any individual working for VOA — as the USAGM CEO puts it — ‘posing as a spy,’ ” they wrote.
The White House is searching for a replacement for Federal Trade Commission Chair Joe Simons, a Republican who has publicly resisted President Donald Trump’s efforts to crack down on social media companies. Simons, a veteran antitrust lawyer, cannot legally be removed by the president except in cases of gross negligence. But the White House has already interviewed at least one candidate for the post.
RELATED: The Justice Department plans to bring an antitrust case against Google as soon as this month, after Attorney General William P. Barr overruled career lawyers who said they needed more time to build a strong case.
Richard Grenell, formerly the highest-ranking out gay official in the Trump administration, has joined a law firm founded by Pat Robertson that has a history of opposing LGBTQ+ rights. Grenell also recently joined the Republican National Committee to do outreach to LGBTQ+ voters. The Trump administration has quietly named a new acting State Department inspector general. Matthew Klimow, the U.S. ambassador to Turkmenistan since mid-2019, is the third acting IG since Trump and Pompeo ousted Senate-confirmed IG Steve Linick in May. Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s current special envoy to Northern Ireland, former Chief of Staff, and former acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is starting a hedge fund focused on financial services regulation. Ethics experts say Mulvaney explicitly using his knowledge of CFPB to place bets for and against companies gives him an unfair and perhaps illegal advantage.
Court and DOJ matters
Court cases The Trump administration must, for now, stop winding down in-person counting efforts for the 2020 census, a federal judge in California ordered. The three-judge panel hearing a challenge to Trump’s new anti-immigrant census policy seemed hostile to the government’s arguments in a hearing last week. A federal judge has stopped the Trump administration from enforcing a rule change that would let health care providers deny medical services to LGBTQ patients on the grounds of religion. Justice Department Federal prosecutors are preparing to charge longtime GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy in connection with efforts to influence the U.S. government on behalf of foreign interests. Broidy helped raise millions for Donald Trump’s election and the Republican Party. Barr ordered another round of changes to FISA rules, tightening the use of government surveillance on political candidates or their staffers — a move conservatives will likely cheer, as they have long criticized how the FBI investigated the Trump campaign in 2016.
Before conducting physical searches or wiretaps of a federal election official, members of the official's staff, candidates for federal office, or their staff or advisers, the FBI must now consider giving them a "defensive briefing," to tell them that they could be the target of foreign influence.
Megathread: William Taylor, envoy to Ukraine, testifies Trump tied Ukraine aid to politically motivated investigations
The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine testified on Tuesday he was told that President Donald Trump made the release of security aid to Ukraine contingent on Kiev publicly declaring it would carry out politically motivated investigations that he sought, according to a copy of his statement to lawmakers. Link to opening statement
Energy was the strongest sector as WTI crude rose above $40 per barrell and oil field services and E&Ps outperformed. Financials finished well higher with banks, vehicle finance and consumer finance among the best groups. Consumer discretionary rose with apparel, auto suppliers, restaurants, hotels helping. Tech outperformed on semis strength though software a bit behind. Industrials were higher as airlines, machinery and building materials led the gainers. Industrial metals and commodity chemicals were strongest in materials. Comm services were weighed on as interactive media and telecom names lagged. Consumer staples underperformed with some softness in grocers and HPCs. Healthcare finished behind as managed care, pharma and biotech were up less than the tape. Utilities the weakest sector though still positive on the day.
Pelosi says bipartisan deal on fifth coronavirus relief package still possible:
Bloomberg noted House Speaker Pelosi said on Sunday a bipartisan deal on a fifth coronavirus relief package is still possible. While stimulus prospects seemed to erode further last week with all of the politics surrounding the SCOTUS vacancy, the White House and Democrats on Thursday agreed to revive negotiations. However, there continues to be a lot of skepticism about any near-term path to a bipartisan compromise given the big differences between Democrats and Republicans over the size and scope of the package. House Speaker Pelosi has repeatedly insisted on a bill with a price tag of at least $2.2T while White House has indicated a willingness to go up to $1.5T (and GOP Senate has only voted on a ~$300B "skinny" package). Pelosi said today that Republicans need to come back to the table with "much more money" to get the job done (Bloomberg). The big sticking points have long revolved around levels of enhanced unemployment benefits and additional state and local government aid.
Caesars Entertainment (CZR-US ) said the board of British gambling group William Hill would likely recommend its $3.9B takeover price, adding that it has finalized due diligence and expects any deal to be completed in second half of 2021. William Hill said last week it received offers from both Caesars and Apollo Management (APO-US ). Devon Energy (DVN-US ) and WPX Energy (WPX-US ), which both have holdings in the Permian Basin, agreed to combine in an all-stock deal that will create an entity with an enterprise value of ~$12B. Deal could be announced as soon as this week. Cleveland-Cliffs (CLF-US ) to acquire US operations of ArcelorMittal SA (MT-US ) for $1.4B in cash and stock to become biggest flat-rolled steel producer in North America. SINA (SINA-US ), which owns the social media platform Weibo, to be taken private by company's CEO in a $2.6B deal. MobileIron (MOBL-US ) to be acquired by Ivanti in an all-cash deal valued at $827M.
Government to ship millions of rapid tests to states to help reopen schools:
Bloomberg and others reported that President Trump will announce on Monday that the US government will ship millions of the Abbott (ABT-US ) 15-minute Covid-19 test in the coming weeks. Government will send out 6.5M rapid tests to governors this week and expects to ship 100M tests over the next several weeks, based on states' populations. States will be able to make the final decision on how to distribute the tests though the government will encourage them to use the tests to facilitate the reopening of schools. While there has been concern about a recent uptick in US coronavirus cases, it has been accompanied by an uptick in testing. According to BofA, the number of daily tests is up by a third since mid-September to a new high of 900K. In addition, there have been a number of headlines as of late about how cruise ships (The Hill) and airlines (Reuters) expect to use rapid testing to get people more comfortable with the idea of traveling.
Dallas Fed Manufacturing Survey beats estimates, highest in nearly two years:
September Dallas Fed Manufacturing Index rose six points m/m to 13.6, ahead of the consensus 8.5 and the highest print since Nov-18. It was the fourth-straight increase following the post-pandemic contraction. The company outlook index held at an above-average 14.9, while the uncertainty index was little changed at 6.7. The production index was up nine points to 22.3, the highest in two years. New orders index up five points to 14.7, growth rate of orders held steady at 133.2. Capacity utilization also up 6.6 points to 17.5. The labor market index another highlight, up 3.9 points m/m to 14.5. Report the latest in a string of positive regional manufacturing reports. September Richmond Fed Empire Manufacturing indexes both well ahead of estimates. Philadelphia Fed Index fell from August, but in line with consensus.
FDA puts partial hold on Inovio's coronavirus vaccine trial:
Inovio (INO-US ) said FDA put a partial clinical hold on its Phase 2/3 coronavirus vaccine trial. FDA raised questions about its Cellectra 2000 delivery device, which is being used in the trial, and request was not due to the occurrence of any adverse events related to an expanded Phase 1 study of the vaccine. Inovio plans to respond to the FDA in October, after which agency will have up to 30 days to notify company as to whether the trial may proceed. AstraZeneca (AZN-US ) trial still on hold in the US despite having restarted in the UK. Pfizer (PFE-US ) and Moderna (MRNA-US ) have said their respective trials could start providing some key results in late October or November, with the former reportedly on track to be first to find out if it works (Bloomberg). Near-term vaccine developments expected to be a big directional driver for the market but upside risk greater than downside risk given number of candidates in late-stage trials (Reuters).
Trump nominates Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court:
As widely expected, President Trump on Saturday nominated Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. Barrett said her philosophy is similar to that of the late staunch conservative Antonin Scalia, noting that judges are not policymakers and must apply the law as written. The WSJ said Barrett's known views fall to the right of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, Trump's prior two Supreme Court picks, and somewhat to the left of Thomas and Alito. Her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee will start in just over two weeks on 12-Oct, setting up a final vote before the election (The Hill). Democrats do not have the votes to stop her confirmation. Multiple reports (Washington Post, Bloomberg) over the last few days have discussed how they will frame Trump's nomination of Barrett as an attack on Obamacare. Just a week after the election, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear another challenge to the ACA.
Trump has set a low debate bar for Biden:
The most important event this week will be the first presidential debate between Trump and Biden on Tuesday. Politico recently discussed how the setup into the debate is particularly interesting given the contrast between the efforts on the part of White House allies to cast Biden as an accomplished debater, and Trump's longstanding attacks targeting his mental health. The NY Times also discussed this dynamic, noting that Trump's efforts to cast Biden as addled and incoherent could backfire. It pointed out that more recently, Trump has claimed that Biden's improved debate performances during the Democratic primary were due to performance-enhancing drugs. Over the weekend, Trump reiterated calls for Biden to take a drug test before the debate. The Times article noted that Biden's campaign has been telling people that no debate outcome will fundamentally change the contours of the race. However, Democrats are concerned about how Biden may react to Trump's comments about his son, Hunter.
Trump's tax history exposed:
NY Times reported President Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes in both 2016 and 2017. Also said he paid nothing in ten of the past 15 years, because of losses. Noted Trump has reduced his tax bill with questionable measures, including a $72.9M tax refund that is the subject of an audit by the IRS. Also discussed how Trump faces mounting business losses and has more than $300M coming due within the next four years for which he is personally responsible. Paper said all of the information was provided by sources with legal access to it. While Biden campaign has already released an ad targeting Trump on tax payments, latest report unlikely to have much impact on the election given the entrenched opinions on the election (Axios) and the loyalty of Trump's base (Washington Post).
Polls show Biden with comfortable lead over Trump, but markets priced for volatility:
Washington Post said latest Washington Post-ABC News poll showed Joe Biden with a 10-point lead over President Trump among both registered and likely voters, statistically unchanged from the 12-point led in August's poll. The paper discussed how Biden remains helped by a big advantage with female voters. Separately, NY Times said a NY Times-Siena College poll showed Biden with an 8-point lead over Trump, underpinned by his wide advantage among women and Black and Latino voters and by his gains among some constituencies that strongly favored the president in 2016. WSJ latest to discuss how investors are betting one of the most volatile US elections seasons on record. Noted futures and options prices show an ambiguous election result is now the stock market's baseline expectation. Highlighted expectations for volatility to continue through December. Also discussed thoughts that if the election goes smoothly, multiple asset classes could extend this year's rally in tandem.
Uncertainty around direction of the dollar headed into election:
Though dollar index a bit weaker in Monday trading, it is still sitting near the best levels since late July. FT noted that some analysts and traders say rising expectations for election-driven volatility across financial markets has pushed investors scrambling for the safety of the dollar, even though the stresses originate in Washington. Positioning also under scrutiny, as a trader noted the overwhelming consensus among investors that the dollar will keep falling. Bloomberg also said that hedge funds have racked up the largest bets against the dollar in nearly three years, which may be setting up a short squeeze. However, Deutsche Bank strategists said a unified government could lead to a weaker dollar given larger fiscal deficits. However, they argued a divided government will likely keep the dollar trend choppier.
Trump's ban on TikTok temporarily blocked by federal judge:
Bloomberg reported President Trump's ban on TikTok was temporarily blocked. District Judge Carl Nichols granted a preliminary injunction against the ban, refusing to grant an injunction against a November deadline for a sale. ByteDance had requested the hold after the president ordered TikTok out of American app stores unless the company sold a stake in its US operations to a domestic buyer. TikTok lawyer John Hall argued ban was irrational given that ByteDance is in talks to strike a deal the president himself has demanded. In a separate case, a federal judge in Pennsylvania on Saturday rejected a request by TikTok users to halt the ban, saying the consequences of the ban wouldn't be severe enough for the users to justify an injunction temporarily blocking the order while the litigation continues.
Jun. 07, 2020 8:43 AM ET take what you will and tell me what you think, I think they named most of the stocks out there. What are your favorites?
Welcome to Wall Street Brunch, our preview of stock market events for investors to watch during the upcoming week. You can also catch this article a day early by subscribing to the Stocks to Watch account for Saturday morning delivery. Podcast listener? Subscribe now to receive Wall Street Breakfast by 8:00 a.m. every trading day on Seeking Alpha, iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify ￼ Fed Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell will be in the spotlight next week when the Federal Open Market Committee meets on June 9-10. Powell is expected to face questions on the central bank's role in the economic recovery and what tools are still available to use. "We think right now they’re just trying to get this Main Street lending program to work. The question is are they going to do more things around what they do in terms of forward guidance and next steps of macro easing," previews Bank of America economist Ethan Harris. On the economic front, reports on consumer prices, producer prices and consumer sentiment will be watched closely. The weekly jobless claims numbers due out on June 11 will be crucial for sentiment after May’s employment report showed a surprising record gain of 2.5M jobs. On the corporate side of things, Lululemon (NASDAQ:LULU) reports earnings with shares sitting near their all-time high and a board battle at GameStop (NYSE:GME) goes to a vote. Earnings spotlight: REV Group (NYSE:REVG) and Stitch Fix (NASDAQ:SFIX) on June 8; Signet Jewelers (NYSE:SIG), AMC Entertainment (NYSE:AMC), Chewy (NYSE:CHWY), Five Below (NASDAQ:FIVE) and GameStop on June 9; Guess (NYSE:GES) and Red Robin Gourmet Burgers (NASDAQ:RRGB) on June 10; Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE), Dave & Buster's Entertainment (NASDAQ:PLAY) and Lululemon on June 11. Go deeper: See Seeking Alpha's complete list of earnings reporters IPO watch: Online car seller Vroom (VRM) is offering about 18.8M shares in an expected range of $17 to $19. The timing for the IPO is intriguing with the pandemic leading to more online shopping for cars, but sales and margins under pressure. How well the Vroom IPO is received by investors could be of interest to Carvana (NYSE:CVNA), Cars.com (NYSE:CARS), TrueCar (NASDAQ:TRUE), AutoNation (NYSE:AN) and even Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) as the concept of online car shopping heads more mainstream. Vroom is expected to have a market capitalization of around $1.92B if it prices at the higher end of the indicated range. Across the Pacific, Chinese gaming company NetEase (NASDAQ:NTES) is looking to raise $1.2B in a Hong Kong listing to fund strategies for international expansion. Shares are expected to start trading on June 11. Also in the IPO world, the quiet period expires for ADC Therapeutics (NYSE:ADCT) on June 9 and IPO share lockups end on XP (NASDAQ:XP), Bill Holdings (NYSE:BILL), OneConnect Financial (NYSE:OCFT) and Sprout Social (NASDAQ:SPT) later in the week. There are also secondary offering lockup expirations on Tilray (NASDAQ:TLRY) and BlackRock (NYSE:BLK) to keep an eye on. Go deeper: Catch up on all the latest IPO news. M&A tidbits: Gaming officials in New Jersey meet to discuss the Caesars Entertainment (NASDAQ:CZR)-Eldorado Resorts (NASDAQ:ERI) merger. The tender offer on the Menarini Group pickup of Stemline Therapeutics (NASDAQ:STML) is also due to expire. Keep an eye on Western Union (NYSE:WU) and MoneyGram International (NASDAQ:MGI) for reports on if the companies are in talks and expect a little more drama around the Tiffany (NYSE:TIF)-LVMH (OTCPK:LVMHF) merger. Projected dividend changes (quarterly): W.R. Berkley (NYSE:WRB) to $0.12 from $0.11, Casey's General Stores (NASDAQ:CASY) to $0.34 from $0.32, National Fuel Gas (NYSE:NFG) to $0.445 from $0.435, Realty Income (NYSE:O) to $0.2330 (monthly), Urstadt Biddle (NYSE:UBA) to $0.14 from $0.28. Spotlight on Snap: Snap (NYSE:SNAP) has its partner summit event scheduled for June 11. The virtual event will feature a keynote address by Snap co-founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy, as well as talks from other team members from across the company. New product features and partnerships will be announced around Snap's augmented reality offerings and a stripped-down version of its platform that partners can embed in their own apps is expected to be unveiled. Developers are expected to be able to use a toolkit provided by Snap to build a Snapchat-like mini-app right in their own websites. The Snap event takes place with the company under a brighter spotlight for how it curates its promoted content on the Discover page. Heading into the summit, shares of Snap are up more than 50% over the last 90 days. Airlines: How high can the airline sector fly? After a series of reports on improved bookings trends, airline stocks are showing positive momentum. American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL) paced the sector with a 77% gain last week, while Spirit Airlines (NYSE:SAVE) +75%, JetBlue (NASDAQ:JBLU) +36%, Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) +36%, Hawaiian Holdings (NASDAQ:HA) +34% and SkyWest (NASDAQ:SKYW) +33% also reeled off big gains. Traffic reports for May are due out next week, which could include more market-moving metric updates. Healthcare watch: At ENDO Online, OPKO Health (NASDAQ:OPK) is due to present data on Somatrogon on June 8 and Neurocrine Biosciences (NASDAQ:NBIX) will present on Crinecerfont. Virtual presentations scheduled for the European Hematology Association conference starting on June 11 include bluebird bio (NASDAQ:BLUE) on LentiGlobin data, Merus (NASDAQ:MRUS) on MCLA-117, Altex Industries (OTCQB:ALTX) on Nomacopan, Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:VRTX) on CTX001, AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN) on AZD1222 and Agios Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:AGIO) on AG-348. Analyst meetings and business updates: Equifax (NYSE:EFX) has an investor update scheduled for June 8. Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) CEO Bob Swan will talk ESG in a discussion with JUST Capital on June 8 and Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) has a business update call scheduled for June 9 covering networks and digital services. Avery Dennison (NYSE:AVY) has a conference call scheduled with R.W. Baird on June 9. Salesforce.com (NYSE:CRM) cloud exec Mike Micucci is participating in the Citi Virtual Software Bus Tour on June 10. Finally, Overstock.com (NASDAQ:OSTK) has an Investor Day scheduled for June 10 and Centene (NYSE:CNC) has a Virtual Investor Day presentation scheduled for June 12. Conferences rundown: Cowen hosts a conference covering the "New Retail Ecosystem" with virtual presentations from Vince Holdings (NYSE:VNCE), Lands' End (NASDAQ:LE) and Macy's (NYSE:M). Also next week, William Blair has a growth stock conference with online talks by execs from a long list of companies, including Pluralsight (NASDAQ:PS), Appian (NASDAQ:APPN), TransUnion (NYSE:TRU), Arista Networks (NYSE:ANET), CyberArk Software (NASDAQ:CYBR), QAD (NASDAQ:QADA), Talend (NASDAQ:TLND), Workday (NASDAQ:WDAY), SmileDirectClub (NASDAQ:SDC), DocuSign (NASDAQ:DOCU), Chewy (CHWY), Zendesk (NYSE:ZEN) and Varonis Systems (NASDAQ:VRNS). The hodge-podge list of companies due to participate at the Stifel 2020 Virtual Cross Sector Insight Conference include Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX), Donaldson (NYSE:DCI), HubSpot (NYSE:HUBS), S&P Global (NYSE:SPGI), Autodesk (NASDAQ:ADSK), Archer-Daniels-Midland (NYSE:ADM), MasTec (NYSE:MTZ), Lindsay (NYSE:LNN), Dycom Industries (NYSE:DY) and Cronos (NASDAQ:OTC:CRON). Meanwhile, the Deutsche Bank 11th Annual Virtual Global Industrials & Materials Summit 2020 will also run next week with presentations ranging from airline companies, paper producers, construction concerns to home builders. Appearances are expected from MYR Goup (NASDAQ:MYRG), WillScot (NASDAQ:WSC), Berry Global (NYSE:BERY), Builders FirstSource (NASDAQ:BLDR), Cabot Corp. (NYSE:CBT), Canadian Pacific (NYSE:CP), Clearwater (NYSE:CLW), Crown Holdings (NYSE:CCK), AMETEK (NYSE:AME), ArcelorMittal (NYSE:MT), Ahland Global (NYSE:ASH), AXTA, Delta Air Lines (DAL), Dow Inc. (NYSE:DOW), Fluor (NYSE:FLR), Garrett Motion (NYSE:GTX), Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO), Saia (NASDAQ:SAIA), Silgan Holdings (NASDAQ:SLGN), Sonoco Products (NYSE:SON), Summit Materials (NYSE:SUM), Target Hospitality (NASDAQ:TH), Vulcan Materials (NYSE:VMC), Westlake Chemical (NYSE:WLK), XPO Logistics (NYSE:XPO), Meritor (NYSE:MTOR), nVent Electric (NYSE:NVT), Peabody Energy (NYSE:BTU), PPG Industries (NYSE:PPG), PQ Group (NYSE:PQG), REVG, Alcoa (NYSE:AA), Rexnord Corp. (NYSE:RXN), Canadian National (NYSE:CNI), CSX Corporation (NASDAQ:CSX), Union Pacific (NYSE:UNP), Kansas City Southern (NYSE:KSU), Honeywell (NYSE:HON), Ball Corporation (NYSE:BLL) and O-I Glass (NYSE:OI). Eating out: The week ahead will see the eat-at-home vs. restaurants trade be hashed around again. Nielsen data could show a deceleration in the stockpiling benefits for Campbell Soup (NYSE:CPB), J.M. Smucker (NYSE:SJM), B&G Foods (NYSE:BGS), Blue Apron (NYSE:APRN), Hain Celestial (NASDAQ:HAIN) and General Mills (NYSE:GIS) - while restaurant stocks like Cracker Barrel (NASDAQ:CBRL), Denny's (NASDAQ:DENN), Dine Brands Global (NYSE:DIN), Brinker International (NYSE:EAT) and Red Robin Gourmet Burgers (RRGB) will look to scrap back from their YTD losses with more people eating out. Notable annual meetings: GameStop may generate the most drama of the annual meetings next week with the company's board up for re-election. Two proxy firms are backing candidates from stakeholders Hestia Capital and Permit Capital for board inclusion, while Michael Burry's Scion Asset management is voting in favor of the board's slate. The annual shareholder meeting arrives with shares of GameStop down 32% YTD. Other annual meetings to watch this week include MercadoLibre (NASDAQ:MELI), SeaWorld Entertainment (NYSE:SEAS), Shake Shack (NYSE:SHAK), Target (NYSE:TGT), Wingstop (NASDAQ:WING), TJX Companies (NYSE:TJX), Mattel (NASDAQ:MAT), Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA), Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) and Dollar Tree (NASDAQ:DLTR). Betting on betting: The brand-new Roundhill Sports Betting & iGaming ETF (NYSEARCA:BETZ) heads into its first full week of trading just ahead of the re-emergence of major sports in the months ahead. The Roundhill Sports Betting & iGaming ETF is designed to offer retail and institutional investors exposure to sports betting and iGaming industries. Holdings include DraftKings (NASDAQ:DKNG), Flutter Entertainment (OTCPK:PDYPY), Penn National Gaming (NASDAQ:PENN), William Hill (OTCPK:WIMHF), Scientific Games (NASDAQ:SGMS), GAN (NASDAQ:GAN), Churchill Downs (NASDAQ:CHDN) and PointsBet (OTCQX:PBTHF). Barron's mentions: Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) makes the cover this week with the company in the middle of the political firestorm. For investors, the bigger issue than the culture debate is that the stock is valued at a sales multiple lower than social media peers. Food suppliers Sysco (NYSE:SYY), US Food Holdings (NYSE:USFD) and Performance Food Group (NYSE:PFGC) are recommended with sales volume slowly recovering. The publication notes that large investors like KKR and Trian Fund Management are taking an interest in the sector. There is also a reminder that COVID-19 drug trials are progressing. Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) is testing its antibody in a Phase 1 trial. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:REGN) is also set to begin testing this month, while a collaboration between Vir Biotechnology (NASDAQ:VIR) and GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) will begin trials later this summer. If the trial results are positive and the pandemic remains intense, emergency authorization of some of the drugs could follow. Sources: Bloomberg, Reuters, CNBC, BioPharmCatalyst, EDGAR
Download any of these for free at https://oppfiles.com/585933 DM me if you have any requests for anything not on the list. Please subscribe the sub to find all the eBook releases. Enjoy! [BOOK] 'The macabresque : human violation and hate in genocide, mass atrocity and enemy-making' Edward Weisband, Oxford University Press 2018(self) 1 [BOOK] Scotland After the Ice Age Environment, Archaeology and History 8000 BC - AD 1000(self) 1 [Book] Ethics of Captivity edited by Lori Gruen(self) 1 [Book] Aspects of American History By Simon Henderson(self) 1 [Book] The Soviet Colossus History and Aftermath By Michael G. Kort(self) 1 [BOOK] Challenges to Political Decision-making Dealing with Information Overload, Ignorance and Contested Knowledge(self) 5 [Article] The EU Competition Law Fining System: A Reassessment, Damien Geradin(self) 1 [Book] Russia and the USSR, 1855–1991 Autocracy and Dictatorship ByStephen J. 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Trump’s war on the intelligence community: 10 days under an authoritarian administration
Over the past 10 days, we've seen Trump fully indulge his authoritarian impulses in an attempt to stamp out any inkling of facts that he dislikes - whether that be for personal, egocentric reasons or to shore up political strength. One could argue the true "start" of this no-holds-barred dictatorial spree actually stretches back to the Republican acquittal in the impeachment trial. I'd agree with that, too. But 10 days ago Congress was given its first formal warning of the dangers facing our democracy in the next nine months. That Trump launched a war on the intelligence community in response to Americans trying to protect their country from foreign influence speaks volumes to me. Trump and the Republican party are actively abetting an attack on our nation. "To abet" is to encourage or assist (someone) to do something wrong, in particular, to commit a crime or other offense. Using the immense power given to him by willing Republicans in Congress, Trump is using his authority to hobble the ability of anyone - even America's national security leaders - to stop him and his regime from carrying out Trump's desires, however corrupt, self-serving, or insane.
10 days ago...
Ten days ago, on Feb. 13, the intelligence community warned House Intelligence Committee members that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election to try to get Donald Trump re-elected. The briefing, provided by top election security official Shelby Pierson, informed House lawmakers that Russia had “developed a preference” for Trump and would also interfere in Democratic primaries. Trump - who learned of the briefing from the committee’s Ranking Member Devin Nunes - grew angry at acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph Maguire for providing the information to Congress. The following day, Trump “berated” Maguire for allowing it to take place. According to The New York Times, “Trump was particularly irritated that Representative Adam B. Schiff” was present because the president worried that Schiff would “weaponize” the intelligence about Russia’s support for him. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff responded to Trump’s anger at the briefing: "We count on the intelligence community to inform Congress of any threat of foreign interference in our elections. If reports are true and the President is interfering with that, he is again jeopardizing our efforts to stop foreign meddling. Exactly as we warned he would do." Side note: A Pardon for Assange Trump is so desperate to keep Russia’s interference on his behalf a secret, that he may have supported then-Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s offer of a pardon to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in exchange for denying Russian involvement in the Democratic National Committee email leak.
Lawyer Edward Fitzgerald told a court on Wednesday that a witness statement application claimed that then-California representative Dana Rohrabacher went to visit Assange at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London on the instruction of the "President." According to the statement described by Fitzgerald, Rohrabacher's mission was to offer Assange a US pardon, if he would "play ball" by saying the Russians had nothing to do with the leak -- an assertion Assange had previously made.
The White House has denied the claim and distanced itself from Rohrabacher. The former congressman admits to making the offer to Assange - but does not state that President Trump directed him to do so.
“I spoke to Julian Assange and told him if he would provide evidence about who gave WikiLeaks the emails, I would petition the president to give him a pardon,” Rohrabacher told Yahoo News. “He knew I could get to the president.”
In retaliation for the briefing, Trump ditched considerations to nominate Maguire to be permanent DNI and quickly replaced him with loyalist Richard Grenell.
Ominous warning: William H. McRaven, a retired Navy admiral who oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden, wrote in The Washington Post that “if good men like Joe Maguire can’t speak the truth, we should be deeply afraid.” McRaven continues: “in this administration, good men and women don’t last long. Joe was dismissed for doing his job: overseeing the dissemination of intelligence to elected officials who needed that information to do their jobs...when presidential ego and self-preservation are more important than national security — then there is nothing left to stop the triumph of evil.”
In the days that followed, two other top Intelligence officials announced their departures: (1) Grenell fired the second-highest-ranking official at the ODNI, Andrew Hallman, who had over three decades of intelligence experience; (2) the top lawyer for the ODNI, Jason Klitenic, submitted his resignation, to go into effect in early March. It is unlikely that Klitenic was pushed out, because he played a role in helping prevent the Ukraine whistleblower’s complaint from reaching Congress last year. Within his first 48 hours, Grenell proceeded to name Kash Patel, former adviser to Rep. Devin Nunes, as a senior adviser in the office of the DNI. As Nunes’ top staffer, Patel authored a memo used to argue that the FBI and DOJ’s probe of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election was actually a deep state plot to take down Trump. Patel also assisted Trump in his pressure campaign against Ukraine: Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Fiona Hill testified to Congress that Patel “misrepresented” as the NSC expert on Ukraine, which was actually Vindman’s position.
Vindman also testified that he was told Patel had been circumventing normal NSC process to get negative material about Ukraine in front of the president, feeding Trump’s belief that Ukraine was brimming with corruption and had interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of Democrats. That upset Vindman, along with Hill and Bolton, he testified, because they were constantly having to counter that narrative with the president.
Furthermore, there is evidence that Patel may have coordinated the hold on aid to Ukraine to begin with:
...the 300-page impeachment report released by House Intelligence Committee Democrats Tuesday said that Patel spoke with Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, in the spring, before nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine was suspended. According to the call records revealed in the report, Patel had a 25-minute phone conversation with Giuliani on May 10. Five minutes after their call, Giuliani spoke with an unidentified number for 17 minutes and then with associate Lev Parnas, a Ukrainian-American who has been accused of illegally funneling foreign money to U.S. political candidates and of aiding Giuliani in his Ukraine investigations.
Richard Grenell, Trump’s newest acting-DNI, has served as U.S. ambassador to Germany since 2018. By taking advantage of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, Trump has been able to maintain a cabinet full of acting officials with little Congressional oversight. If a vacancy occurs in a position that requires Senate confirmation, Trump can appoint someone from any agency who is serving in a different Senate-confirmed position, Grenell, as an ambassador, has already been confirmed by the Senate - though for an entirely different job with entirely different qualifications. Acting officials can serve in the vacant position for 210 days. If the president submits a nomination to the Senate during that time, the acting officer can continue to perform the office’s duties while the nomination is pending, however long it takes. If the nominee is returned, the officer can work as acting for another 210 days, and then through a second entire nomination process, and a final 210 days if that second nominee is returned. Then, if time runs out, the office must remain vacant until someone is confirmed by the Senate for the job.
Note: Enforcement of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act is problematic. It is up to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to track time of acting service for each position. If the GAO finds a violation, the office must send a letter to the agency involved, to the president, and to Congress. At this point, the person’s actions have no force or effect - but someone with legal standing needs to bring a lawsuit in order to enforce the provision.
Therefore, because Maguire was serving as an acting official as well, Grenell cannot remain in the acting DNI position past March 11 unless the president formally nominates someone else for the job. The White House and Grenell have acknowledged that a search for a formal nominee is underway. The administration was reportedly considering Rep. Doug Collins for the post… until Collins turned down the job on national television.
Jan. 2019, Trump said: "I sort of like acting. It gives me more flexibility. Do you understand that? I like acting. So we have a few that are acting. We have a great, great Cabinet." A recent analysis found that acting officials in the Trump administration have held down 22 cabinet and cabinet-level jobs for a combined 2,700 days -- about 1 out of every 9 days across those jobs.
Hypothetical: Let’s say Trump wants to keep Grenell in the position for as long as possible, without nominating him because it is unlikely Grenell would be confirmed, even by the Republican-controlled Senate (see below). As long as Trump nominates someone for the position by March 11, Grenell can serve for however long as the Senate confirmation process takes - typically, around 2 months if the nominee is uncontroversial. That puts Grenell’s end date in mid-May. But Trump could intentionally nominate someone controversial to slow the process, or possibly even instruct his Senate allies to slow-walk the process. That would push out Grenell’s end date into the summer. If the nominee is not confirmed, the 210 day clock resets, giving Grenell an additional six months to serve in his acting capacity. As the end of that six months nears, Trump could put forward a second nominee, during whose confirmation process Grenell can continue to serve in the position. If that nominee fails as well, Grenell has a final six months to be acting-DNI before the position must remain vacant.
Sunday update: A Lawfare analysis
The term of art for this process is “manipulation-by-appointment.” Rather than trying to force intelligence analysts to change their views in ways that are politically convenient, this kind of politicization works by making sure their bosses are politically pliable. Manipulation-by-appointment reduces the risk of a public scandal because politicians are less likely to come into conflict with intelligence chiefs. There is no need to strong-arm intelligence agencies to fall in line with policy if the chiefs are already on board. source
Who is Richard Grenell?
Grenell has no experience as an intelligence officer and has only served in government as a communications director for the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. during the George W. Bush administration. After that, Grenell ran a public affairs consultancy and appeared on Fox News. In May 2018 he was confirmed as the ambassador to Germany, where he quickly made enemies:
Grenell’s tenure as ambassador to Germany has been rocky, at least from Berlin’s perspective. He has palled around with far-right groups, spoken openly of a desire to change Angela Merkel’s government, and made statements about U.S. views that sounded like direct orders to sensitive German ears. Last spring, leaders of two German political parties called him a “brat” and a “failure” and urged his ouster.
Additionally, Grenell is an associate of none-other-than Rudy Giuliani. According to Lev Parnas, Victoria Toensing asked Grenell “for advance notice if the Department of Justice were to move to extradite an indicted Ukrainian oligarch, Dmytro Firtash, from whom Giuliani hoped to get compromising information. Parnas also claims Grenell said he would comply.” Firtash is a powerful ally of Vladimir Putin and has assisted the Russian president’s attempt to gain control over Ukraine’s political system and economy. In 2017, the U.S. Justice Department said Firtash was among the “upper echelon associates of Russian organized crime.” Aside from being remarkably unqualified, it is unclear whether Grenell even has a top-level security clearance or could qualify for one. A report by ProPublica revealed that Grenell used to do consulting work for Moldovan politician Vladimir Plahotniuc, “who is now a fugitive and was recently barred from entering the U.S. under anti-corruption sanctions imposed last month by the State Department.” Grenell failed to disclose this work and did not register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Undisclosed work for a foreign politician would ordinarily pose a problem for anyone applying for a security clearance or a job in a U.S. intelligence agency because it could make the person susceptible to foreign influence or blackmail, according to the official policy from the office that Trump tapped Grenell to lead. “That’s really easy, he should not have a clearance,” said Kel McClanahan, a Washington-area lawyer specializing in security clearances. “If he were one of my clients and just a normal [federal employee], he would almost assuredly not have a clearance.” McClanahan said it’s unclear how Grenell could have already gotten a clearance as an ambassador. The House Oversight Committee is investigating whether the Trump administration has overruled career officials in granting security clearances to political appointees.
Aside from his appearances on Fox News, Grenell may have come to Trump’s attention through the patronage of Trump properties. The Washington Post found that the Trump International Hotel in D.C. listed Grenell as a “Gold” level member of the Trump Organization’s “Trump Card” loyalty program in 2018. Kelly Craft, the ambassador to the U.N., was also listed as a gold level member.
Russia’s bet keeps paying off
Moving back to the source of Trump’s fury: The nation knows that Russia prefers Trump to win re-election. When told this, Trump’s Republican allies on the House Intelligence Committee challenged the ODNI’s conclusion. But, as Russia expert Julia Davis points out, Russian state media has never stopped declaring the multitude of ways that Trump’s election has proven “exceedingly beneficial for the Kremlin.”
Russian state media openly gloats about the Kremlin’s influence over Trump, believing that he can endure the exposure without repercussions, and by flaunting the Kremlin’s sway with the White House, Russia further weakens U.S. democracy, which has always been one of its main pursuits. ...Every denial of Russian election interference coming out of the White House brings Putin one step closer to the fulfillment of his goals. Every election-security bill that is blocked by the GOP in the Senate gives advantage to our foreign adversaries—and they are not sick of winning.
We don’t need to rely on Russian state media to tell us that Putin prefers Trump: The Russian president has told us so himself. In 2018, at a joint press conference with Trump in Helsinki, Putin told the press that he wanted Trump to win in 2016 because he believed Trump’s policies would be more beneficial to the Kremlin. "Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal,” Putin said. Washington Post columnist Max Boot lays out the global benefits Russia enjoys:
Putin doesn’t care about Trump’s sanctions on Iran, which indirectly help Russia by boosting the price of oil. But he does care that Trump has strengthened Russia’s longtime ally in Syria, Bashar al-Assad. ...Trump has facilitated Russian designs not only in Syria but also in Libya, where the Russian-backed strongman Khalifa Hifter is trying to overthrow a United Nations-backed government in Tripoli. The U.S. government ostensibly supports the regime in Tripoli, but Trump called Hifter and gave him a green light for his offensive. Trump is making Russia great again in the Middle East for the first time since Egypt expelled Russian advisers in 1972. ...Far from strengthening NATO, as he now boasts, Trump has weakened it by relentlessly criticizing the alliance and portraying it as a bunch of deadbeats.
The purge, act 2
While Trump purges officials he sees as disloyal from the intelligence community, newly-returned staffer John McEntee is busy searching out “Never Trumpers” to punish. According to Axios, “McEntee called in White House liaisons from cabinet agencies for an introductory meeting Thursday, in which he asked them to identify political appointees across the U.S. government who are believed to be anti-Trump.” Those officials “will no longer get promotions by shifting them around agencies.”
Reminder: McEntee was Trump’s personal aide throughout much of 2017 and into 2018, but was pushed out by then-Chief of Staff John Kelly over gambling debts that threatened his security clearance. Trump reportedly sees McEntee as “the ultimate loyalist” and brought him back at a time when the president “feels he’s surrounded by snakes and wants to clear out all the disloyal people.”
SUNDAY update: The Trump White House and its allies, over the past 18 months, assembled detailed lists of disloyal government officials to oust — and trusted pro-Trump people to replace them — according to more than a dozen sources familiar with the effort. Included in this network of conservative activists assembling purge lists is Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Meanwhile, Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Peter Navarro is on a quest to identify and remove the author known as “Anonymous,” responsible for many anti-Trump op-eds and the book “A Warning.” Last week, it appears that Navarro has zeroed in on a potential suspect: Deputy National Security Adviser Victoria Coates, who is being transferred to the Department of Energy. Though the official White House line doesn’t acknowledge it, The New York Times reported that Coates has been “targeted by a whisper campaign among some pro-Trump conservatives that she was Anonymous.” Allies of Coates deny the allegation.
Several officials who heard Navarro push this said they do not believe Coates is the author and several described her as loyal to the President's agenda. However, the workplace became untenable given these dynamics, so Coates began looking for an exit, officials said, which led to her move to the Energy Department on Thursday. CNN
A weakened National Security apparatus
After last year’s exodus of National Security officials, the entire system is weakened by a lack of expertise and will to stand up for the truth. The NSC has gone from 174 policy positions in October, to fewer than 115 this month. Under Trump’s National Security Adviser, Robert O’Brien, the NSC has been co-opted to building support for Trump’s craziest whims. The New York Times reports:
When President Trump’s national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, convenes meetings with top National Security Council officials at the White House, he sometimes opens by distributing printouts of Mr. Trump’s latest tweets on the subject at hand. The gesture amounts to an implicit challenge for those present. Their job is to find ways of justifying, enacting or explaining Mr. Trump’s policy, not to advise the president on what it should be. That is the reverse of what the National Security Council was created to do at the Cold War’s dawn — to inform and advise the president on national security decisions.
Most recently, O’Brien proved his willingness to do Trump’s dirty work and weaponize intelligence for political gain. In an interview with Face the Nation, O’Brien states that he hasn’t seen any evidence of Russia seeking to help Trump. But, O’Brien says, it is plausible that Russia is seeking to help the Democrats instead.
O’Brien seized gleefully on reports about Russia and Sanders but rejected reports about Russia and Trump. Russian backing for Sanders, he said, would be “no surprise. He honeymooned in Moscow.”
New: Sunday night updates
On Sunday, Trump made a veiled threat toward House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff while claiming without evidence that the Democrat had leaked information from the Russia briefing on Feb. 13: “Somebody please tell incompetent (thanks for my high poll numbers) & corrupt politician Adam ‘Shifty’ Schiff to stop leaking Classified information or, even worse, made up information, to the Fake News Media. Someday he will be caught, & that will be a very unpleasant experience!” tweet Later, while speaking to reporters, Trump called for an investigation into the leak - more concerned about the public learning of the briefing than he is about Russia’s repeated interference in U.S. elections. “They leaked it, Adam Schiff and his group. They leaked it to the papers and - as usual - they ought to investigate Adam Schiff for leaking that information,” Trump said. Schiff responded: “Nice deflection, Mr. President. But your false claims fool no one. You welcomed Russian help in 2016, tried to coerce Ukraine’s help in 2019, and won’t protect our elections in 2020.” Originally written for tomorrow's Lost in the Sauce. As such, I tried to keep it as brief as possible... didn't turn out very brief, however, which is why I posted it separately. The scary part is that it could be much longer! It's not exhaustive. For instance, I'll be covering Trump's pardons in the Sauce newsletter tomorrow even though it would fit in this post, too. As The New Yorker summed up: "The point of authoritarianism is to concentrate power in the ruler, so the world knows that all actions, good and bad, harsh and generous, come from a single source."
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Let’s dig in!
Trump’s incompetence, authoritarian patterns continue with coronavirus response
In a standalone piece published yesterday, I go over Trump’s response to the coronavirus, how he made the spread inevitable, and the impact of Trump’s authoritarian impulses.
Nadler launches Barr investigation
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler sent Attorney General Bill Barr a letter last week requesting a slew of interviews and documents in preparation for Barr’s scheduled testimony at the end of March. Most notably, Nadler requested interviews with the four career prosecutors who withdrew from Roger Stone’s case after Barr intervened to recommend a lower sentence (which Stone received): Aaron Zelinsky, Adam Jed, Michael Marando, and Jonathan Kravis. John Durham, who is leading Barr’s investigation of the origins of the Russia probe, is also on the list, as is Jessie Liu, who supervised not only Stone’s case, but also the attempted prosecution of Andrew McCabe.
“Although you serve at the president’s pleasure, you are also charged with the impartial administration of our laws. In turn, the House Judiciary Committee is charged with holding you to that responsibility.”
While it is likely that Barr won’t comply with many of these requests, Nadler may issue subpoenas directly to individuals of interest. As Democrats learned during the impeachment hearing, career officials are more likely to be forthright and honest about the Trump administration’s crimes and misdeeds.
A divided three-judge panel of the D.C. Appeals Court dismissed the House Judiciary Committee’s lawsuit against former White House Counsel Don McGahn, ruling that federal courts have no role to play in disputes between the Executive and Legislative branches. The two judges who ruled in favor of the Trump administration - Thomas Griffith and Karen Henderson - were appointed by George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, respectively. The pair write that Congress should use other tools to try to compel McGahn’s testimony:
“Congress (or one of its chambers) may hold officers in contempt, withhold appropriations, refuse to confirm the President’s nominees, harness public opinion, delay or derail the President’s legislative agenda, or impeach recalcitrant officers.”
It should be mentioned that the majority does not mention the fact that during the impeachment trial Trump’s lawyers argued that Congress should pursue its subpoenas to executive branch witnesses in court. Judge Judith Rogers, a Bill Clinton appointee, wrote a lengthy dissent that is worth reading in full (starting on the 58th page of this document)
“The court removes any incentive for the Executive Branch to engage in the negotiation process seeking accommodation, all but assures future Presidential stonewalling of Congress, and further impairs the House’s ability to perform its constitutional duties… Future presidents may direct wide-scale noncompliance with lawful congressional inquiries, secure in the knowledge that Congress can do little to enforce a subpoena dramatically undermining its ability to fulfill its constitutional obligations now and going forward.”
Unfair competition suit
Trump also racked up a win in an “Emoluments-adjacent” lawsuit last week: a three-judge panel of the D.C. Appeals Court united to dismiss a wine bar’s claim that President Trump's D.C. hotel is unfairly undermining the business of other venues in the city. Judge Thomas Griffith, a George W. Bush appointee, and Reagan appointee Judge Stephen Williams joined Judge Merrick Garland in the ruling.
Though it is undisputed that the wine bar has experienced a downturn since Trump took office — his gilded hotel now attracting lobbyists, advocacy groups and diplomats who used to frequent the local business — the appeals court said no evidence suggests that the president or his hotel interfered in Cork’s business. The lawsuit “boiled down to an assertion that businesses with famous proprietors cannot compete fairly — a proposition alien to unfair-competition law,” Griffith wrote summarizing the 2017 dismissal of the case by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon.
As I explained in last Sunday’s post, Trump is seeking to purge any disloyal officials from his administration. Newly-returned staffer John McEntee is leading the search for “Never Trumpers” with the assistance of a network of conservative activists including Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. On Monday, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley confirmed that the White House is identifying employees seen as disloyal to force out of their positions.
“It’s not a secret that we want people in positions that work with this president, not against him, and too often we have people in this government—I mean the federal government is massive, with millions of people—and there are a lot people out there taking action against this president and when we find them we will take appropriate action,” Gidley said. “Time and time again we see in the media reports from people in the bowels of the federal government working against this president...The president's been pretty clear about the fact he wants people in this administration who want to forward his agenda. Donald Trump was the only one elected. He was the only one that the American people voted for. They didn't vote for someone at any of these other agencies, any of these other departments.” he said.
One of those purged from the administration, DNI Joseph Maguire, was fired for allowing his top aide to brief Congress on Russia’s intervention in the 2020 election to Trump’s benefit. Last week, Trump said he will nominate Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe to fill the position - again. Trump previously announced his intent to nominate Ratcliffe in July, but withdrew the nomination five days later after members of both parties questioned his qualifications.
Ratcliffe rewind: Following Trump’s announcement last year, “key Republicans in Congress quickly signaled that Ratcliffe lacked the national security expertise that the job requires by law.” Ratcliffe also lied to inflate his resume: “Records and interviews with former colleagues also showed that Ratcliffe had exaggerated his role in terrorism and immigration enforcement cases when he served as a federal prosecutor in Texas. During his campaign and on his congressional website, Ratcliffe had boasted that he ‘arrested 300 illegal immigrants on a single day.’ That turned out not to be true. Former colleagues also said he didn’t play a significant role in a major terrorism case as he has claimed.” (WaPo or non-paywalled)
The current acting-DNI, Ric Grenell, can only serve until March 11 unless a permanent replacement is formally submitted to the Senate for confirmation. The Federal Vacancies Reform Act allows Grenell to remain in position throughout the confirmation process and - should Ratcliffe fail - another 210 days after. If a second person is nominated, the clock “resets” again.
To add onto previous reports of how massively inappropriate Grenell’s appointment is, ProPublica revealed that the new spy chief once got over $100,000 from the Hungarian government, but never reported it. Failing to register as a foreign agent would normally be something the DOJ would jump at prosecuting. Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer wrote a letter to the Justice Department last week asking the assistant attorney general for national security to "immediately investigate." Grenell also wrote op-eds in 2016 defending Vladimir Plahotniuc, a Moldovan politician, and allegedly failed to disclose payments for his work on behalf of the oligarch.
What is the play here? The White House may believe that Ratcliffe is likely to be confirmed because Grenell is so ill suited for the job that Ratcliffe looks better in comparison. Alternatively, Trump is likely comfortable with Grenell as acting-DNI. Knowing that he would never survive the confirmation process, Trump may be using the generous time limits of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act to circumvent the Senate to keep his unqualified loyalist in the position in an acting capacity.
Rep. Robin Kelly, a member of the Oversight National Security subcommittee, introduced legislation last week that would mandate unconfirmed national security leaders testify before oversight committees every 45 days. “...this Administration has consistently used the ‘acting’ denotation to skirt these rules and limit Congressional oversight of our national security...The American people deserve better. They deserve to know who is responsible for protecting their families and our security. Congress must hold these individuals and any Administration accountable to the highest level of oversight and transparency to protect our national security.”
The effect of Trump’s grip on intel
The NSA, CIA, and Pentagon have been urged by the White House not to share information about Russia and Ukraine with lawmakers, while the “Gang of Eight” senior members of Congress were bypassed leading up to at least one major intelligence operation. And intelligence community leaders have backed out of the public portion of the annual worldwide threats hearing, fearing Trump’s wrath if their assessments don’t align with his. “We have an enemy of the United States that is conducting information warfare against us and our executive leadership doesn’t want to hear it, doesn’t want the Congress to hear it, and doesn’t want the people to hear it,” said former acting DNI David Gompert, who said he was “aghast” at the hiring of Grenell. “We now have a situation where the principal objective, evidently, of this acting DNI is to ensure that information about Russian interference and Russian preference for this particular president does not get out.” (Politico)
Ukrainian officials have noticed Trump’s purge and worry that efforts to force out individuals “would in the short term leave a hollowed out U.S. office in Kyiv and space for Russia to ratchet up its aggressive political influence operations.”
“Russia is getting more ambitious. They are already taking an aggressive position. Putin knows what he wants and he does not need to seek approval for his actions inside Russia let alone outside of Russia,” Danylyuk said. “There are not enough people in the administration—in the U.S. administration—to focus on Ukraine and Russia issues. A lot of people left. It will not be easy to find several counterparts.
March is SCOTUS month
This month, several highly-charged issues will be heard by the Supreme Court, setting up potentially-massive changes to the legal framework of our country. This week, Trump’s conservative appointees get their first chance to consider new curbs on abortion rights as the court examines the legality of a Louisiana law that could force two of the state’s three clinics that perform the procedure to shut down.
The case, June Medical Services v. Russo, pertains to a law passed in 2014 that requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges to local hospitals. This requirement has proven to be unnecessary for clinics (an abortion rarely results in complications, and if one did, the patient would be admitted to a hospital regardless of the doctor’s privileges). And it’s so difficult to implement that when Texas passed a similar law, it shut down half the state’s clinics. (Buzzfeed News) While it is overwhelmingly likely that five justices will vote to uphold Louisiana’s law, there is some uncertainty about how they will do so. It is possible that the Court will overrule Roe v. Wade outright. But it is at least as likely that the Court will leave Roe nominally in place while simultaneously watering down the abortion right to such a degree that it loses meaning in red states. The Court often prefers to create the impression that it will not allow the law to swing wildly according to the justices’ whims. (Vox)
Also this week, the court will hear arguments on whether Congress exceeded constitutional boundaries in 2010 when it created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The Trump administration believes the independent structure of the CFPB is unconstitutional and wants the president to have more control over the agency. For instance, Trump wants to be able to fire the director at will.
A court ruling on the President's removal power could affect a multitude of independent agencies including the Federal Trade Commission, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Federal Reserve Board. For more than a century, Congress has been creating such agencies within the executive branch with directors who can only be removed only "for cause." (CNN)
Finally, on March 31, the high court will hear arguments in three cases involving House Democrats’ and New York state prosecutors’ attempts to obtain years of Trump’s financial records and tax returns. Last week, Trump called for Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg to recuse themselves from these three cases. Ginsberg criticized Trump’s character during his 2016 campaign, though she later apologized. Trump did not explain his reasoning for calling for Sotomayor’s recusal, other than her authoring of a dissent critical of the conservative justices on the court.
“Perhaps most troublingly, the Court’s recent behavior on stay applications has benefited one litigant over all others. This Court often permits executions — where the risk of irreparable harm is the loss of life — to proceed, justifying many of those decisions on purported failures ‘to raise any potentially meritorious claims in a timely manner,’” she wrote. “Yet the Court’s concerns over quick decisions wither when prodded by the Government in far less compelling circumstances.” What she really is saying is that the same justices who have no problem allowing condemned prisoners to be killed before legitimate questions about their cases can be resolved have no compunction in rushing to prematurely protect the Trump administration, and the president’s personal interests, from legitimate legal processes. In other words, Sotomayor is calling her conservative colleagues hypocrites who are willing to bend precedent in the pursuit of ideological goals. (Brennan Center)
The latest batch of emails released by the Department of Defense in response to a FOIA suit reveals evidence that the administration withheld from Congress during the impeachment inquiry and trial. Senior members of the Trump administration, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and then–National Security Adviser John Bolton had all advised President Trump to release the military aid to Ukraine, but the final decision was ultimately up to Trump.
The August 26, 2019, email from a senior career Pentagon official states that there was “no ongoing interagency review process with respect to USAI [Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative],” and states clearly: “Final decision rests with POTUS.”
“Critically, the email appears to contradict the White House budget office’s stated rationale for withholding the aid,” American Oversight states. Administration officials had been instructed to tell Congress that the freeze of aid to Ukraine was necessary to allow for an “interagency process to determine the best use of such funds.” The August 26 email clearly states that no such process was in action.
“Tonight’s document release is a reminder that before they lined up parrot the president’s line on Ukraine aid, senior members of the president’s national security team unanimously disagreed with his decision to withhold aid from Ukraine,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight.
An earlier email release revealed that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo fully coordinated with Rudy Giuliani on Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine and the ouster of U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. “We now know Mike Pompeo and his aides encouraged Rudy Giuliani to deliver his bogus 'dossier' smearing Ambassador Yovanovitch during a week in 2019 when Giuliani's henchmen were stalking the ambassador in Kyiv,” American Oversight executive director Austin Evers told Yahoo News.
The House continues Ukraine probe
The Foreign Affairs Committee is reportedly at odds with pro-Trump candidate Robert Hyde, who claimed to have former Ambassador Yovanovitch under surveillance. Chairman Eliot Engel, who is investigating the alleged surveillance and threats to the Ambassador, said in an email to Hyde last month that he was “dismayed to read yesterday that you have made statements to the media which greatly exaggerate the extent of your cooperation with this investigation."
"As you know, we have expressed repeated concern that the records you previously produced contain significant gaps," the House staffers wrote. They added that it was obvious Hyde hadn't turned everything over because his batch of materials was missing records that Congress already knows about because they were turned over by Parnas, who was on the other end of the texts.
Last week, six members of Congress led by Reps. Denny Heck (WA-10) and Jim Himes (CT-04) sent a letter to World Bank Group President David Malpass requesting information about his August meeting with Zelensky in Ukraine. The lawmakers voiced concerns that the meeting could be seen as a part of Trump’s pressure campaign that resulted in his impeachment.
The lawmakers asked Malpass to disclose when he decided to visit Kyiv, whether he coordinated his trip with non-World Bank officials, the “deliverables” of the meeting, the meeting’s impact on the World Bank’s plans in Ukraine and whether they discussed Hunter Biden, Burisma or Viktor Shokin, the former Ukrainian prosecutor general who was ousted under international pressure from leaders including former Vice President Biden. (The Hill)
Russia, Russia, Russia
Trump accused House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff of leaking information about Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2020 election, dismissed the intelligence as “exaggerated,” and refused to acknowledge that Moscow was behind similar efforts in 2016. “Schiff leaked it, in my opinion — and he shouldn’t be leaking things like that,” Mr. Trump said without evidence.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi informed the public that the Trump administration “failed to provide Congress with a report on the ongoing attacks on America’s elections from foreign governments, which was required by the bipartisan FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act.”
It was reported that Senate Intelligence Committee Richard Burr warned Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley that their probe targeting Biden could aid Russian efforts to sow chaos and distrust in the U.S. political system.
The Washington Post reported that “U.S. officials are sitting on test results that may show how the Putin regime twice tried to kill a peaceful opponent whose close ties to the United States, and columns for The Post, are reminiscent of Jamal Khashoggi, the murdered Saudi journalist.”
A Russian court ordered former United States Marine Trevor Reed be detained for another six months on accusations he assaulted police officers in Moscow last year, a charge that his defense team has called “fraudulent.” Meanwhile, former Marine Paul Whelan has been in a Russian jail since 2018 on espionage accusations. Their treatment is a stark contrast from that received by celebrity rapper A$AP Rocky - when detained in Sweden, Trump dispatched his hostage envoy (and current National Security Adviser) to oversee the matter and secure Rocky’s release. No such effort has been made for the two former service members in Moscow.
Hopping the pond to look at Russia’s interference in the U.K.: The wife of former Russian Finance Minister and Putin-ally Vladimir Chernukhin made a £90,000 donation for a game of tennis with Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “The donation comes as Johnson continues to delay publication of a parliamentary report detailing extensive links between his party and donors with links to Russia.”
Alleged Saudi and UAE funding for Trump
Lebanese-American businessman Ahmad "Andy" Khawaja told Spectator Magazine that officials from Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia illegally funneled millions of dollars into Trump’s 2016 campaign. As the CEO of an online payment processing company, Khawaja claims that George Nader obtained his assistance to disguise the money using stolen identities and gift cards as under-$200 campaign contributions that are not required to be reported to the Federal Election Commission.
He remembers Nader explaining why they wanted to fund the Trump campaign. According to Khawaja, Nader said: ‘I’ve been meeting with the Trump campaign people…we have a deal with Trump: my boss, His Highness, made a deal that if we help Trump get elected, he’s going to be harsh on Iran, he’s going to take out the nuclear deal that the Obama administration made. That will cripple the Iranian economy and will sanction Iran from selling oil again. It will make it very difficult for them to compete in the oil market. That’s worth a hundred billion dollars to us. That’s the reason we cannot allow Hillary to win at any cost. She must lose.’ Khawaja says he asked: ‘But you really think he’s going to win? I mean, this is crazy.’ And he says that Nader replied: ‘His Highness is not stupid, he will never bet on a losing horse.’ The money would come from the Saudis. The Emiratis would run the operation, using data bought from the Chinese. Khawaja says that Nader told him: ‘We have all the data already, we have 10 million US consumers’ data. And we have endless money.’ The Russians were ‘on board’ too: ‘He said, “Yes, I have met with Putin already and we have a green light from him. Because Putin is on the same page with us. He wants Hillary to lose.”’
Khawaja and Nader were charged with making false statements, obstruction, and allegedly making illegal contributions to Clinton’s campaign on behalf of an unidentified foreign official. While Nader is currently in jail, Khawaja is a fugitive in the Middle East.
Cuccinelli appointment illegal
A D.C.-based federal judge ruled Sunday that President Donald Trump's appointment of Ken Cuccinelli as acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services director violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, a decision that suspends two policies Cuccinelli implemented while leading the agency. (Politico) Three weeks after assuming his new role, Cuccinelli issued a memorandum announcing a revised policy for scheduling credible-fear interviews, the first step in the asylum process, according to the court ruling. Under the revised policy, the agency reduced the time allotted for asylum seekers to consult with others prior to their interviews. Under Cuccinelli, USCIS also prohibited granting asylum seekers extensions of time to prepare for their credible-fear interviews, "except in the most extraordinary of circumstances." The asylum directives must be set aside, Moss ruled. (CNN)
Eric Trump’s taxpayer-funded business trip
Eric Trump visited a Trump property in development in Uruguay from January 8 to 9, 2019, a two-day business trip that cost taxpayers at least $80,786. CREW obtained records through the Freedom of Information Act today that add to the massive bill of Secret Service protection related to the Trump family’s management of the president’s business empire. The 2019 trip brings Eric Trump’s total up to at least $178,616 in taxpayer funds to work on development of the Trump Organization’s Punta Del Este property alone.
Scottish leader calls for Trump investigation
Parliamentarian Patrick Harvie, a co-leader of the Scottish Greens party, implored the government to pursue a legal order forcing Trump and the Trump Organization to reveal the funding of its multi-million dollar Scottish land acquisitions, saying there were “reasonable grounds” to suspect the U.S. president has been involved in illegal activity.
Mr Harvie said that the House of Representatives had heard testimony which stated: "We saw patterns of buying and selling that we thought were suggestive of money laundering" - with particular concern expressed about Mr Trump's golf courses in Scotland and Ireland. He added: "Trump's known sources of income don't explain where the money came from for these huge cash transactions. There are reasonable grounds for suspecting that his lawfully obtained income was insufficient.”
"Scottish ministers can apply via the Court of Session for an unexplained wealth order, a tool designed for precisely these kinds of situations." The orders can be issued by the courts to compel their target to reveal the source of funding, and are often used to tackle suspected international money laundering.
District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson denied Stone’s request that she disqualify herself from his case for supposed “bias,” issuing a sharply-worded rebuke of the defense’s allegations: "At bottom, given the absence of any factual or legal support for the motion for disqualification, the pleading appears to be nothing more than an attempt to use the Court’s docket to disseminate a statement for public consumption that has the words 'judge' and 'biased' in it," Jackson wrote. “Judges cannot be ‘biased’ and need not be disqualified if the views they express are based on what they learned while doing the job they were appointed to do.” Footage of Roger Stone’s interviews with prosecutors last month has been released… and the only word that can sum it up is “wow.” The entire archive can be found here, but if you are short on time Politico’s Andrew Kimmel made a supercut of the must-see moments that illustrate Stone’s true character: a narcissist who can barely control his anger at being questioned.
Stefanik broke fundraising rules
A constituent of Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik (NY-21) filed an official complaint against her with the Office of Congressional Ethics for using footage of House floor activities to raise funds for her campaign - an express violation of House rules. Stefanik has used clips of her questioning during the impeachment inquiry in fundraising emails, including one with the subject line, that read, “WATCH: I EXPOSED ADAM SCHIFF.”
In a letter sent on June 7, 2018, the House Ethics Committee reminded legislators that “rules specifically prohibit the use of footage of House Floor activities and committee proceedings for any partisan political purpose.” “I think Rep. Stefanik’s use of video of the House hearing to solicit political contributions is a serious violation of that rule,” says Larry Noble, the former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission. “The rule is clear, and so is the guidance given by the House Ethics Committee.” Donald K. Sherman, general counsel of the ethics watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington — a group that routinely opposes the Trump administration — agrees with that assessment. “House Ethics Committee guidance clearly prohibits Members from using video of committee proceedings for campaign purposes,” said Sherman, who was previously a high-ranking Senate attorney, “which Rep. Stefanik appears to have done nine times in the last six months.
Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit government accountability watchdog, filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics asking for an investigation into how Rep. Devin Nunes is paying for his six separate lawsuits against media companies and critics.
The complaint says Nunes appears to be in “blatant violation of House rules,” because he would have trouble paying for all these lawsuits solely from his congressional salary of $174,000 per year. The group argues he’d only be able to pay if he received legal services for free, at a discounted rate, or based on a contingency fee, meaning the lawyer would get compensated from Nunes’ winnings if he prevails in his lawsuits. In all of those cases, the complaint says, Nunes must disclose the legal help he is receiving by filing a legal expense fund, otherwise it would represent an illegal gift given to Nunes under congressional ethics rules. Nunes has not filed a legal expense fund with the Office of Congressional Ethics.
Washington Post: A federal appeals court in California halted the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” asylum policy on Friday, removing one of the key tools the president has used to curb mass migration across the southern U.S. border. The ruling was in effect for only a few hours, however, as the judges later granted a Trump administration request for an emergency stay “pending further order of this court.” Justice Department lawyers said in court filings that 25,000 migrants have been waiting in Mexico and argued that they feared the ruling would lead to an influx on the southern border.
New York Times: The Justice Department said Wednesday that it had created an official section in its immigration office to strip citizenship rights from naturalized immigrants, a move that gives more heft to the Trump administration’s broad efforts to remove from the country immigrants who have committed crimes… Some Justice Department immigration lawyers have expressed worries that denaturalizations could be broadly used to strip citizenship.
The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights: "We reject any denaturalization task force that destroys citizenship as we know it and keeps every naturalized immigrant living in fear. Trump is weaponizing the DOJ to make naturalized immigrants look like second-class citizens."
Jurist: The US Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision in Hernandez v. Mesa on Tuesday, holding that the parents of a Mexican child who was shot and killed by a border official have no right to seek a remedy in American civil court. The child, Jesus Hernandez, had been playing with friends in a dry culvert that straddles the US-Mexico border between El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez. Border Patrol agent Jesus Mesa fired at Hernandez from the US side of the culvert, and the bullet struck the boy on the Mexican side, where he died.
CNN: Secretary of Defense Mark Esper faced a bipartisan grilling from lawmakers Wednesday on Capitol Hill for his decision to divert military funding to pay for the US border wall as he testifies before the House Armed Services Committee… The top Republican on the committee, Rep. Mac Thornberry, also slammed the move saying it is "substituting the judgment of the administration for the judgment of Congress," adding "I am deeply concerned about where we're headed with the constitutional issue."
ACLU: The American Civil Liberties Union today filed a new lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s transfer of an additional $3.8 billion in military funds for border wall construction. Congress did not authorize the funds. “The president is doubling down on his unlawful scheme to raid taxpayer funds for a xenophobic campaign promise that is destroying national treasures, harming the environment, and desecrating tribal lands.”
Associated Press: President Donald Trump may not divert $89 million intended for a military construction project in Washington state to build his border wall… “Congress repeatedly and deliberately declined to appropriate the full funds the President requested for a border wall along the southern border of the United States,” [Judge] Rothstein wrote.
Today, Monday March 2, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case involving the Trump administration’s “expedited removal” of asylum seekers without allowing them a chance to take their application before a federal judge. For a detailed discussion of the case, see the ACLU and Lawfare.
Mother Jones: Melania Trump Got an “Einstein Visa.” Why Was It So Hard for This Nobel Prize Winner? Immigration attorneys say the Trump administration is rejecting highly qualified applicants for “genius” green cards.
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