Comey Strikes Back!

Gonna be one of those Tuesdays!

President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo that Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.

“I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.

The existence of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia.

Mr. Comey wrote the memo detailing his conversation with the president immediately after the meeting, which took place the day after Mr. Flynn resigned, according to two people who read the memo. The memo was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence an ongoing investigation. An F.B.I. agent’s contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations.

Mr. Comey shared the existence of the memo with senior F.B.I. officials and close associates. The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of the memo to a Times reporter.

In the same article The NY Times also reports the White House’s response to their breaking this news.

“While the president has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn,” the statement said. “The president has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations. This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.”

Much more at the link!



Breaking: Grand Jury Issues Subpoenas in FBI’s Russia Investigation

Washington (CNN)Federal prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn seeking business records, as part of the ongoing probe of Russian meddling in last year’s election, according to people familiar with the matter. CNN learned of the subpoenas hours before President Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey.

The subpoenas represent the first sign of a significant escalation of activity in the FBI’s broader investigation begun last July into possible ties between Trump campaign associates and Russia.
The subpoenas issued in recent weeks by the US Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, Virginia, were received by associates who worked with Flynn on contracts after he was forced out as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014, according to the people familiar with the investigation.
Robert Kelner, an attorney for Flynn, declined to comment. The US Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, the Justice Department and the FBI also declined to comment.
CNN reports that this was not just leaked tonight – they’ve been working on the story for several days. And their reporting is a sign that it will not be easy for the Administration to simply make this all go away now that they’ve fired James Comey. Though the President’s surrogates are making those suggestions as they make the rounds on cable news this evening.
Andrea Chalupa reported earlier this evening, on her twitter feed, that:
Source: Comey at the “rocket docket” yesterday in Virginia that expedites cases, submitting intel. Trump panicked.
Members of Congress, in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle, are now calling for a special prosecutor and/or an independent investigation. Pressure will continue to build. And we do not have to passively wait and see what happens. We can help to increase the pressure. Call your members of Congress, both representatives and senators. Tell them you expect them to support the appointment of a special prosecutor and the creation of an independent investigation. Tell your senators that you expect them to take no action on the nomination for a new FBI Director until the Administration provides answers. Tell both your representatives and your senators that you expect no business that is not absolutely necessary to keep the government functioning, such as raising the debt ceiling, to be conducted until a special prosecutor is appointed, an independent investigation is established, and the Administration is forthcoming with answers. Tell them this is not a partisan issue. It is an issue of patriotism. Of country before party. And that you will vote against any senator or representative that puts party before country. America exists because of the participation of its citizenry in a self governing republic. Now we all must take the steps necessary to conserve and preserve our inheritance as Americans for those Americans yet to come. The fate of the Republic is in all of our hands. It is worth fighting for even if it isn’t perfect. And fighting for it is far better than giving in to despair.


Saturday Morning Open Thread: Sporting

The President-Asterisk’s Yuuuge Win was as hard on satirists as the rest of us sane people, but Owen Ellickson has found inspiration at his new gig. Believe me, it’s worth clicking over to read the rest!

(I’ve been collecting stories & snippets about Gorka’s tribulations all week, but is it really worth the bother of bricolaging them into a post here?)

Happy Kentucky Derby Day, from the NYTimes:

Today, even as the sports section real estate set aside for horse racing shrinks each year, the Derby still captures the attention of casual sports fans. To the rare few of us who consider the sport of kings to be the king of sports, it’s a hallowed date even if we have only an inkling of which horse is the best bet to win.

I, for one, have no idea. That is both a statement of fact and a comment on my typically desultory talent at handicapping the Derby, which even for the savviest horse-pickers is a feat astronomically more complicated than the already difficult skill of picking a winner in, say, a middle-of-the-week feature at your local racetrack. The Derby is the only race in America with 20 entries (most races have only seven or eight competitors), and the X-factor of such a large number of colts competing at the unusual distance of a mile and a quarter for the first (and often only) time in their young lives can tax the confidence of even the most cocksure handicapper.

This year is especially tricky. Unlike in most previous years, none of the starters established himself this spring as the horse to beat. There are an inordinately high number of genuine contenders in the field, mostly because none of the horses towers over his cohort in natural ability. Add in the prospect of heavy rain all week in Louisville, where the race is held, and so the likelihood of a muddy racing surface, and today’s Derby is a tricky race for the bettor and racing fan to get a bead on, much less to beat…

And finally, good news / bad news for Game of Thrones fans, from the Washington Post:

There’s big news for “Game of Thrones” fans. HBO has hired four writers to develop spinoffs of the show, which wraps next year. That doesn’t necessarily mean all will make it to the screen. But there will almost undoubtedly be more sinister scheming in Westeros and Essos in our future.

Showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff have long said they won’t stick around for any sequels or prequels. But Entertainment Weekly reported Thursday that the pair will indeed be involved to a lesser extent than they have on whatever series comes out of this, as executive producers. And they’re not the only ones returning. George R.R. Martin, who wrote the series “Game of Thrones” is based on, will be fairly hands on. He’s helping develop two of the four spin-off ideas, collaborating with Jane Goldman (“Kick-Ass,” “Kingsman”) and Carly Wray (“Mad Men,” “The Bastard Executioner”).

This is good news — in a way. Of course we want the man who invented such a vivid world to help create any extensions of that universe. But there’s a downside, too: Is Martin ever going to get around to finishing his “Game of Thrones” books, which fans have been eagerly awaiting for years? It’s not looking good…

You can hardly blame the poor man — it’s gotta be more fun to be lionized by fans at glamorous venues than to sequester himself to further torture his unwieldy crew of hapless characters. It seems to me that Game of Thrones has reached the sort of stature “classical in their way” genre creations like Sherlock Holmes or Star Trek achieve; with or without their creator, the GoT universe will go on, handled well or badly by a myriad of volunteers…
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Apart from entertainment, what’s on the agenda for the weekend?



Thursday Morning Open Thread: Star Wars Day

And for those of us who are so old we remember the days before Star Wars…

Remembering Leonard Nimoy is an intimate journey into Leonard Nimoy’s personal life. Featuring stories from his childhood growing up in Boston, his early career in Hollywood, his big break out role on the Star Trek series, highlights from his remarkable career- to the remaining years of his life battling chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The film features interviews with Leonard’s closest family members including his children, Julie and Adam, his wife, Susan, step-son, Aaron and his six grandchildren sharing poignant stories and special memories. This memorable documentary also includes never-seen-before home videos and photos…

What else is on the agenda for the day?

Because on-topic, leftover from the pre-dawn scare…



Comic Relief Open Thread: Burnt By the Fyre Fest

Looks like the ‘Fyre Festival’ may end up heralding the Trump era the same way Altamont did the Nixon years…

Interviews with dozens of people, including former Fyre employees, contractors, and potential investors, reveal the organizers behind Fyre Fest knew months in advance that they were not going to be able to provide even a fraction of what they were selling. Despite the glossy marketing, McFarland and his company, Fyre Media, had little to offer investors beyond a now-infamous photoshoot featuring 10 of IMG’s most popular models, and a press release touting a partnership with YachtLife, a luxury yacht charter app.

Serious logistical planning for the festival didn’t even begin until late February or early March — less than two months before the thousands of people McFarland had sold a luxury vacation on a private island were scheduled to arrive…

If Fyre Festival seemed last-minute, that’s because it was. McFarland thought of the idea in October 2016 and announced the festival on Instagram a month later, spending millions on models, private jets, and yachts to promote what would be his first-ever large-scale event, sources familiar with the planning said.

He spent $250,000 on a single Instagram post from Kim Kardashian’s half-sister Kendall Jenner and laid out hundreds of thousands more on lesser-name “influencers,” none of whom were paid less than $20,000, one person familiar with the payments said.

Only one model — “Gone Girl” actress Emily Ratajkowski — labeled her promotion as an ad, as required by the Federal Trade Commission. The other models’ omissions are now the subject of a class-action lawsuit…
Read more



Today’s Berkeley Beat Down: Planned Action by the Alt-Right

Earlier today in Berkeley things got violent. A dedicated group of folks on social media, with a significant amount being done by Caroline O.,  have been doing yeoman’s and yeowoman’s work to pull all the social media evidence together indicating who was really responsible: the alt-right. The violence was planned, orchestrated, and telegraphed on social media by a dedicated group of alt-righters. And it was done in such as way as to make it look like black bloc or antifa demonstrators, who are often associated with the extreme left even if they have nothing to really do with left of center politics in reality, were responsible. This allows the alt-right to have its cake (beat the daylights out of people it disagrees with) and eat it too (have it blamed on these same people).

Here’s some video of what went down:

Here’s just a smattering of the evidence that has been accumulated to demonstrate that the folks dressed all in black were alt-righters and were looking to instigate violence:

Based Stickman, real name Kyle Chapman, is this lovely fellow:

Historian Rick Perlstein wrote a bit about Chapman yesterday:

Behold Stick Man

I’ve seen the Berkeley footage Morgoth is referring to. That’s how I made the acquaintance of Stick Man.

Berkeley’s March 4 Trump was organized by a man named Richard Black, who announced that members of the alt-right, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists were banned. Among those who did not get the memo were Moshe Daniel, who goes by the nickname “Kilt Man.” Daniel depicts himself on Facebook with a giant serrated knife and a T-shirt featuring the face of the late Chilean fascist dictator Augusto Pinochet, the legend “PHYSICAL REMOVAL,” and another of those silhouettes of people being dropped from helicopters—a Pinochet-favored method for dealing with dissenters.

The march turned into a “small riot,” as gun-rights blogger Bob Owens, one of the most widely read on the web, and a cool and clear-thinking moderate, described it after reviewing the available documentation. “Both sides came to this incident prepared for a fight,” he wrote, concluding it was impossible to see “who threw the first punch.” In my mind, however, there were at least two moments where the person who threw the first punch was starkly evident. In both cases it was an individual who wore all black, from boots to baseball cap, and carried a distinctive black shield emblazoned with a “V” for victory, and an American flag. The man in black also wore a gas mask, surely in response to a widely disseminated urban legend that antifas are routinely attacking protesters with pepper spray. In one video he whacks a downed anti-Trump protester with the long wooden stick he carries (with two tiny American flags attached, thus he can call it a flagpole). In another, he can be seen smashing his stick down so hard on an unarmed protester’s head that the stick breaks in half.

He’s since become a right-wing folk hero, and, after Berkeley police arrested him on several felony charges, naturally, a right-wing martyr.

(much more at the link)

This is a serious problem. Dedicated, hard core alt-righters who push both Russian derived propaganda and are organizing themselves to conduct violence in a way as to lay the blame on left of center Americans who look to peacefully protest.

 



For We Were Strangers in a Strange Land…

In the wake of today’s unfortunate remarks by the White House Press Secretary, let alone the sad pictures of this year’s White House Passover seder (and I’ll leave the Easter Egg thing to the non-Jewish front pagers as a professional courtesy) I thought it would be appropriate to post the Keane College of New Jersey Holocaust Resource Center video testimony of Mrs. Rae Kushner. Mrs Kushner is, of course, Jared Kushner’s late grandmother whose family survived the Holocaust by fleeing into the forest and connecting with the Bielski Partisans. Given the day’s events and the ongoing debate in the US about what to do in regard to refugees from Syria and elsewhere, it no longer makes sense to save this for a better time.

The full two hours of video can be found here at the US Holocaust Museum’s website. And the transcript found here. But here’s a taste: