Lost in the Sauce: Jan 12 – 18

Welcome to Lost in the Sauce, keeping you caught up on political and legal news that often gets buried in distractions and theater.

Two important things:

FIRST, the headings will guide you through this piece. The Main Course covers the “big” stories and The Sides covers the “smaller” stories.

SECOND:

  • If you enjoy my work, please consider becoming a patron. I do this to keep track and will never hide behind a paywall, but these projects take a lot of time and effort to create. Even a couple of dollars a month helps. Since someone asked last week (thank you!), here’s a PayPal option
  • If you’d like to be added to my newsletter, use this SIGNUP FORM and you’ll get these recaps in your inbox!

Let’s dig in!

MAIN COURSE

The teams

On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed (video) seven managers of the impeachment trial: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (CA) will be the lead manager, assisted by House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (NY), House Administration Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (CA), House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (NY), House Intelligence and Judiciary Committee member Val Demings (FL), House Armed Services Committee member Jason Crow (CO), and House Judiciary Committee member Sylvia Garcia (TX). As Pelosi pointed out, she picked a team of litigators, saying “the emphasis is on comfort level in the courtroom.”

A couple of days later, we learned what Trump’s defense team will look like: Fox News. Trump has named constitutional lawyer Alan Dershowitz, Bill Clinton impeachment-alum Ken Starr, and his successor Robert Ray to his defense team. The three frequent Fox News guests will join lead White House Counsel Pat Cippollone, Trump personal lawyer Jay Sekulow, former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, and former Trump lawyers Jane Raskin and Eric Hershmann to round out the ranks.

A glimpse of strategy:

Trump defenders have given us a preview of the argument they’re likely to make during the impeachment trial: “If he did it, so what?” Former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told Hannity on Thursday, “if everything the Democrats said is true it’s still not impeachable. If everything Lev Parnas said is true, it’s still not impeachable.” Dershowitz indicated that he’ll make a similar argument: abuse of power and obstruction of congress are not impeachable.

Former U.S. federal prosecutor Joyce White Vance:

The implications of the Dershowitz/Trump position: Trump & any future president can keep witnesses from testifying & can withhold all requested documents from Congress. Checks, balances & the 3 branches of gov’t are dead. There is no more oversight of anything the president does.

  • Reminder: Dershowitz and Starr both represented pedophile Jeffrey Epstein and played a crucial role in helping him avoid prison time for multiple charges of soliciting and trafficking underage girls. The Daily Beast: “A suit unveiled by Virgin Islands prosecutors this week alleges Epstein continued to traffic and abuse girls as young as 12 on his private islands until 2018, a decade after Starr and Dershowitz helped him walk free.”
  • What a contrast: It remains to be seen how Starr will balance his past arguments with his defense of Trump. For everything Starr says to defend Trump, there will be clips of him taking the opposite position against Clinton. As Paul Rosenzweig pointed out: “Throughout the Clinton impeachment, Judge Starr consistently opposed the invocation of executive privilege and called for all the witnesses to come forward. Trump will have a hard time squaring that historical record with his current conduct.” However, Trump’s selection of lawyers make it clear he is not worried about this; attorneys who speak to his base were valued over consistent legal and ethical positions.

Impeachment schedule

Tomorrow at 12 pm the House rebuttal to the White House brief is due (see below for those that have been filed already). The Senate will reconvene an hour later. What comes next is largely up in the air, as Schumer has yet to release his organizing resolution – the document that proposes the procedure and schedule of the trial. Democrats have discussed forcing votes on witnesses and documents immediately, but Schumer said he needs to see the organizing resolution before deciding the next course of action. It’s likely Tuesday will be a tug of war between both sides, with Republicans trying to put off voting on witnesses until later and Democrats trying to bring up a vote immediately.

Meanwhile, Republican Senators are reportedly contemplating a speedier trial than took place in Clinton’s impeachment, keeping the same number of hours but spread across fewer days. As of the weekend, GOP leaders were considering giving each side 24 hours for opening arguments; 12 hours each of four days. Each side was also given 24 hours for opening arguments in Clinton’s impeachment, but spread across six days total (3 days each). A Democratic aide told Politico that Democrats will object to a rushed trial.

  • The schedule of Clinton’s impeachment trial was as follows: Trial procedures were adopted first, before the briefs were even filed. Then opening arguments were 6 days, questioning of both managers and defense lasted 3 days, then 3 days of motions (including a motion to dismiss and motions to call witnesses), a 7 day break for witnesses to be deposed on camera behind closed-doors, 1 day of closing arguments, 3 days for deliberations (behind closed-doors), and day for final votes (publicly).

Briefs filed

The first legal filings for the Senate impeachment trial were filed on Saturday, providing a preview of the opening arguments both sides intend to present. The House submitted a 46-page trial memorandum and an additional 60-page statement of facts; Trump’s lawyers submitted a six-page response to the impeachment charges. Since the facts of the case are likely familiar to everyone by now, I won’t summarize them here. Instead, here are key quotes from each filing:

House managers include new evidence, such as the GAO report (see below), to support their existing argument that Trump should be removed from office. They add that to acquit Trump would be a danger to the country:

”President Trump’s ongoing pattern of misconduct demonstrates that he is an immediate threat to the Nation and the rule of law. It is imperative that the Senate convict and remove him from office now, and permanently bar him from holding federal office… If the Senate permits President Trump to remain in office, he and future leaders would be emboldened to welcome, and even enlist, foreign interference in elections for years to come.”

Trump’s team made a political argument, largely avoiding legal jargon:

“The articles of impeachment submitted by House Democrats are a dangerous attack on the right of the American people to freely choose their president.This is a brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election — now just months away… The Articles of Impeachment violate the Constitution.”

UPDATE: Trump team’s rebuttal filed

Can new evidence be presented?

A critical moment to watch for: Will the President’s lawyers object to the managers introducing new evidence? And what is defined as new will be up to the organizing resolution McConnell tries to pass Tuesday – in Clinton’s trial “new” was defined as anything that emerges on or after the day of opening arguments, but there is a chance McConnell could try to disallow all evidence that’s emerged since the House voted on articles of impeachment last month.

There is nothing in the rules that explicitly states that new evidence cannot be introduced. Instead, it simply says it is up to the presiding officer (Chief Justice Roberts) to “rule on all questions of evidence including, but not limited to, questions of relevancy, materiality, and redundancy of evidence and incidental questions.”

If a Senator disagrees with Roberts’ decision to allow or not allow evidence, the entire Senate will vote on the issue. A simple majority (51-votes) can overrule the Chief Justice. If this happens, though, things can get more complicated: a Senator can make a point of order that 67 votes are actually required (which can be argued), and Roberts will have to rule if the 51 vote threshold stands or if 67 votes are actually required.

Will there be witnesses?

As explained above, the timing of a vote on witnesses and documents is still unclear – it is up to McConnell to schedule the votes in his organizing resolution, but Schumer may try to force a vote on witnesses immediately.

Some senators have indicated that they are open to calling witnesses. Sen. Susan Collins (ME), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN) have reportedly been pressing McConnell for “more than a promise” that he’ll follow the Clinton impeachment resolution that allowed votes for witnesses. Last week, Sen. Mitt Romney (UT) told reporters that he would vote in support of a subpoena for former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s testimony.

51 votes are required to call a specific witness, meaning that if all Democrats plus the two independents vote for witnesses, four Republican Senators would have to cross party lines. However, if only 50 Senators vote in favor of issuing a subpoena, it falls to the Chief Justice to break the tie. There isn’t a consensus on how Roberts will act in such a situation. Harry Litman, professor of constitutional law, argues in The Washington Post that Roberts should break the tie in favor of allowing witnesses. However, others (including Sen. McConnell) argue Roberts will consider any tie to be a failure; in other words, he will not treat his “vote” as equal to a Senator and 50 votes will not be enough to approve any action in the trial.

Sen. Ted Cruz (TX) suggested to McConnell that if Democrats want to call a witness, Republicans should insist on calling a witness of their own. For instance, if Democrats want to call Bolton, Republicans should call Hunter Biden. Anonymous officials present at the meeting told The Washington Post that McConnell “appeared receptive” to Cruz’s pitch.

  • A threat: Sen. Rand Paul threatened moderate Republicans last week, saying that if they vote with Democrats to call a witness like Bolton, he will force a vote to subpoena controversial witnesses like Hunter Biden and the whistleblower. “If you vote against Hunter Biden, you’re voting to lose your election, basically. Seriously. That’s what it is. If you don’t want to vote and you think you’re going to have to vote against Hunter Biden, you should just vote against witnesses, period.”
  • Executive privilege: Two legal experts broke down what could happen if John Bolton is subpoenaed to testify and the President follows through with his threat to invoke executive privilege in a bid to prevent Bolton from answering certain questions – perhaps all of them. It is a detailed piece with more nuance than I can convey here. Essentially, if Bolton wishes to testify the only way to stop him is (1) Roberts ruling Trump’s privilege claim is legitimate, and/or (2) a simple majority of the Senate voting to support Trump’s privilege claim (which can overrule Robert’s decision). If Bolton does not want to go against Trump’s privilege claim, Roberts and/or the Senate can likewise order him to testify anyway. If that fails, it seems the only other recourse is referring to the Justice Department for criminal contempt of Congress – though, the DOJ likely won’t act – or using the Senate’s inherent contempt power to fine or jail Bolton. It’s hard to see the Senate doing so. Therefore, even if called to testify, a witness may still be able to avoid answering key questions in the trial.

Video allowed:

The Senate approved the use of video evidence in the trial, ensuring that House managers will be permitted to play clips of Trump, Mulvaney, and witnesses testimony before the entire Senate.

Democrats are particularly interested in playing the clip of Trump on the White House lawn urging Ukraine and China to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, as well as acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney’s combative press conference in which he said Trump withheld military aid to bend Ukraine to his will, before later walking it back. (Politico)

GAO Report

The Government Accountability Office, an independent and non-partisan congressional auditing agency, released a report on Thursday declaring that the White House violated the law when it withheld security aid to Ukraine. The Impoundment Control Act forces the president to spend money that Congress has appropriated. In 2018, Congress approved $391 million in assistance and weapons to Ukraine, but Trump ordered the Office of Management and Budget not to comply with the law.

“Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law,” the decision says. “OMB withheld funds for a policy reason, which is not permitted under the Impoundment Control Act… The President is not vested with the power to ignore or amend any such duly enacted law.”

This is not news to the OMB. Throughout the summer of 2019, Defense Dept. Comptroller Elaine McCusker repeatedly warned the OMB that the hold was illegal. Instead of heeding her warning, the OMB hid their intentional disregard for the law – with the assistance of the Justice Dept., all of McCusker’s warnings were redacted in a FOIA release.

Speaker Pelosi:

”The OMB, the White House, the administration broke — I’m saying this — broke the law… This reinforces, again, the need for documents and eyewitnesses in the Senate.” (The Washington Post)

Parnas speaks

Indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas broke his silence last week, telling Rachel Maddow that “everyone was in the loop” of Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden. “It was never about corruption,” Parnas said. “It was strictly about Burisma, which includes Hunter Biden and Joe Biden.”

What did Trump know?

Parnas told Maddow: “President Trump knew exactly what was going on. He was aware of all my movements. I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani, or the President.”

He went into further detail in an interview with The New York Times: “Mr. Parnas said that although he did not speak with Mr. Trump directly about the efforts, he met with the president on several occasions and was told by Mr. Giuliani that Mr. Trump was kept in the loop.”

Who else knew?

Parnas revealed that then-Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Vice President Mike Pence, and Attorney General Bill Barr played a role in Trump’s scheme:

According to Parnas, Pence did not attend Zelensky’s inauguration in May because the Ukrainian leader refused to announce an investigation into Biden. “To my awareness, Trump called up and said to make sure Pence doesn’t go there,” Parnas told Maddow (Pence aide Jennifer Williams testified to this same fact before the House impeachment committees). Asked if Pence knew the visit was being used as leverage, Parnas responded: “He couldn’t have not known.”

Rick Perry attended the inauguration instead of Pence. Parnas said that Perry called Giuliani on his way to the event and was told that he needed to convey to Zelensky that they had to announce investigations into Joe Biden. Perry then reportedly called Giuliani after the inauguration to relay that he had successfully gotten Zelensky to agree to the announcement. However, the Ukrainians publicly declared investigations into corruption, without mentioning Biden by name. Parnas told Maddow that Giuliani “blew his lid” when this happened. “It wasn’t supposed to be a corruption announcement, it [had] to be about Joe Biden and Hunter Biden and Burisma,” Parnas continued.

Finally, Parnas told Maddow that “Attorney General Barr was basically on the team” as it related to Trump’s actions in Ukraine. “Mr. Barr had to have known everything,” Parnas said. He did not go into many specifics, leaving many to question to validity of his assertion.

  • The Energy Dept. has agreed to begin releasing Rick Perry’s communications with Ukraine officials and associates of Giuliani in response to a FOIA lawsuit filed by American Oversight. The first batch is to be released on Jan. 28, followed by productions scheduled for Feb. 4 and March 16.

Nunes implicated

Last week, House impeachment investigators released troves of documents, voicemails, and text messages given to them by Parnas. Friday’s release contained text messages between Parnas and Derek Harvey, a top aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Cmte). The messages show that last spring, Parnas was working to set up calls for Harvey with the Ukrainian prosecutors who were feeding Giuliani information about Biden (including former prosecutors Viktor Shokin and Yuri Lutsenko). Harvey and Parnas met with Giuliani at Trump’s DC hotel and Harvey passed along Nunes’s contact information just days before Nunes’s number appeared in Parnas’s phone records.

A month ago, the House Intelligence Committee found Nunes’s number in phone records of Lev Parnas. Nunes claimed not to even recall Parnas’s name at the time. However, 24 hours before the Friday drop, Nunes appeared on Fox News to conveniently announce that he remembered speaking with Parnas on the phone. He downplayed the conversation, saying they only spoke about “random things.”

Parnas told Maddow that he met Nunes “several times at the Trump hotel,” but had to work with Harvey because Nunes was under an ethics investigation and could not be publicly seen working with Parnas and Giuliani. Parnas said he was “in shock” seeing Nunes and Harvey lead the defense of Trump at the House impeachment hearings because “they were involved in getting all the stuff [on] Biden.”

Another quid pro quo

The first batch of Parnas documents released by the House reveal a previously unknown quid pro quo involving then-Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. In WhatsApp messages written in Russian, Parnas communicated with then-Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko last March about getting Yovanovitch recalled in exchange for dirt on Biden.

Yovanovitch was recalled the following month, told to leave the country quickly and secretly for her “security.” Until now, it was unknown what threats she was facing. Parnas’s messages revealed apparent physical and electronic surveillance of the Ambassador while she was in Ukraine. Current Connecticut Republican candidate Robert F. Hyde kept Parnas apprised of Yovanovitch’s location in often disparaging messages, even seeming to threaten to have associates do something to her “for a price.”

Parnas told Maddow he did not take these threats seriously because Hyde was a known exaggerator and drunk. In fact, Hyde was once involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital and violated a restraining order issued by a DC judge for stalking a female Republican consultant.

  • On Thursday, FBI agents were seen at the home and business of Hyde, reportedly examining Hyde’s role in Giuliani’s schemes. Ukraine has opened a criminal investigation into the surveillance of Yovanovitch while she was in the country and invited the FBI to collaborate.
  • Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took nearly three days to respond to the allegations. He denied knowledge of the surveillance of and threats against Yovanovitch, and said the Dept. will look into it. However, documents released by the House cast doubt on Pompeo’s claim of ignorance: In a February 2019 message, Giuliani stated that Pompeo is “now aware” of the effort to oust Yovanvitch.

Credibility

A great deal of Parnas has said is backed up by documentary evidence, as well as previous witness testimony. Some of his claims, though, are not corroborated…yet. For instance, the claim that Barr knew about everything needs to be investigated more thoroughly. As Michelle Goldberg writes in The New York Times:

…nothing that Parnas said in the Maddow interview should be taken at face value. Important questions remain unanswered, including who was paying all of the bills. (Remember — he was paying Giuliani, not vice versa.) Parnas’s decision to go public in the first place is hard to fathom.

None of that, however, means that his dramatic interview on the eve of Trump’s impeachment trial shouldn’t be taken seriously. That’s because much of what he says has been corroborated, and because the very fact that a person like Parnas was carrying out high-level international missions for the president shows how mob-like this administration is.

…Parnas is worth paying attention to because he’s shown us, once again, what Trumpism looks like from the inside. It’s part “The Sopranos” and part, as he put it to Maddow, a “cult.” The qualities that discredit Parnas are the same ones that let him fit right in.

How can the Senate determine if Parnas is credible? Bring him in to testify.

THE SIDES

Bribery is good?

A new book by Washington Post reporters Philip Rucker and Carol D. Leonnig revealed (non-paywalled article) that President Trump wanted to strike down a law that prohibits companies from bribing foreign officials, known as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

“It’s just so unfair that American companies aren’t allowed to pay bribes to get business overseas,” Trump says, according to the book. “We’re going to change that.”

The president, they go on to explain, was frustrated with the law “ostensibly because it restricted his industry buddies or his own company’s executives from paying off foreign governments in faraway lands.”

White House economic adviser Lawrence Kudlow confirmed that the administration is “looking at” Trump’s proposal to do away with the law. “We have heard some complaints from our companies,” Kudlow added.

As Jonathan Chait notes: “Trump Tried to Legalize Bribery. Maybe He Wasn’t Worried About Ukrainian Corruption.”

  • Tidbit: From the WaPo article summarizing the book – Early in his administration, for instance, Trump is eager to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin — so much so, the authors write, “that during the transition he interrupts an interview with one of his secretary of state candidates” to inquire about his pressing desire: “When can I meet Putin? Can I meet with him before the inaugural ceremony?” he asks…After the two leaders meet face-to-face for the first time…Trump promptly declares himself a Russia expert… “ ‘I have had a two-hour meeting with Putin,’ Trump told Tillerson. ‘That’s all I need to know. . . . I’ve sized it all up. I’ve got it.’ ”

IC not cooperating

Lead Impeachment Manager Adam Schiff said in an interview Sunday that the intelligence community is withholding documents from Congress on Ukraine. Schiff was responding to reports that intelligence agencies were resisting coming forward in public hearings due to fear of angering Trump, saying that “those reports are all too accurate.”

”I’ll say something even more concerning to me, and that is the intelligence community is beginning to withhold documents from Congress on the issue of Ukraine. They appear to be succumbing to pressure from the administration. The NSA in particular is withholding what are potentially relevant documents to our oversight responsibilities on Ukraine, but also withholding documents potentially relevant that the senators might want to see during the trial.”

Russia hacked Burisma

As the House impeachment inquiry kicked into full gear last November, Russian agents were hacking into Burisma – the Ukrainian gas company on whose board Hunter Biden served (non-paywalled article).

…experts say the timing and scale of the attacks suggest that the Russians could be searching for potentially embarrassing material on the Bidens — the same kind of information that Mr. Trump wanted from Ukraine when he pressed for an investigation of the Bidens and Burisma…The Russian tactics are strikingly similar to what American intelligence agencies say was Russia’s hacking of emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman and the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Top Democrats have asked the intelligence community for more information, including an explanation for why they were not told of the hack themselves.

“I have to say, Rachel, I’m a bit distressed to see this for the first time in a newspaper report,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Monday night. “If the intel community is aware of this, that should have been brought to our attention by now.” (Mother Jones)

  • In addition to investigating the alleged surveillance of Ambassador Yovanovitch, Ukrainian authorities also announced that the country has started “criminal proceedings” around the hacking of Burisma. Ukrainian interior ministry official Artem Minyailo said he has asked the FBI and the cybersecurity company that identified the hack for assistance.

Tax return case update

On Tuesday, District Court Judge Trevor McFadden put the House Ways and Means Committee’s case seeking Trump’s tax returns from the IRS on hold (non-paywalled) pending the outcome of a completely separate case: The D.C. Court of Appeals consideration of Don McGahn’s testimony. House lawyers objected, arguing that the court was risking Trump running out the clock and potentially allowing the subpoena to expire.

McFadden stated that if the House prevailed in the McGahn case, dealing with the same basic issue of standing to sue the Executive Branch, he would be able to more easily do away with the administration’s motion to dismiss (law professors agree with this defense). Some, however, see conflict in his decision: McFadden was not only appointed by Trump, he even donated money to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

The possibility that justice delayed could be justice denied is why judges should be expediting cases like this and ensuring that they are decided quickly to avoid any purposeful attempts at delay by the parties. (Slate)

Mueller memos

Last week, the Justice Dept. released a new batch of FBI memos from Mueller’s investigation. One of the key takeaways is the large role Fox host Sean Hannity played in TrumpWorld.

Hannity is mentioned more than a dozen times and emerges as a central point of contact between the president’s allies who were under investigation and Trump himself…In one instance, former campaign chair Paul Manafort describes Hannity as “a close personal friend” who acted as a “back channel” to the president. In another, Hannity counsels Michael Cohen, Trump’s former longtime personal attorney, after he received an inquiry from Congress.

The Russians were very excited to learn of Carter Page’s connections to Trump:

Denis Klimentov, who is associated with the New Economic School in Russia, said that when Russians learned that Carter Page, whose ties with Russia became a subject of the investigation, was involved “in the Trump campaign in July 2016, the excitement was palpable.”

Conspicuously missing from the latest document drop, however, are memos from the FBI’s interviews with Jared Kushner – even though a court ordered them to be released. Under FOIA guidelines, the Justice Dept. is allowed to redact certain information, but no explanation has been given for the missing documents.

More roadblocks

Attorney General Barr announced (non-paywalled) at a press conference last Monday that future investigations into a president or a presidential campaign will have to be approved by the FBI Director and the Attorney General. This replaces the previous policy wherein a high-level supervisor and an FBI attorney needed to approve of such investigations. The change makes it harder for potential wrong-doing by a presidential candidate to be investigated and raises the possibility that a probe could be shut down for political reasons.

Former director of the U.S. Office of Ethics Walter Shaub: “This is what you get when you allow a slow motion Saturday Night Massacre. The replacement Attorney General is a loyalist who guards the president against the risk of being held accountable to the people. It’s what he was hired to do.”

DOJ still investigating Comey

The Washington Post reported that D.C. federal prosecutors are investigating alleged leaks about a Russian intelligence document in 2017, focusing on whether former FBI Director James Comey played a role in providing details to reporters. The classified document was determined to be bad intelligence pushing a conspiracy about Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

Some former law enforcement officials say they worry Trump or officials at his Justice Department might be ginning up the investigation now because of the president’s hatred of the media — or of Comey… That prosecutors are only now investigating leaks about the document is unusual; typically, such probes begin soon after the material is disclosed.

  • New York Magazine: “The connecting thread is that Trump’s enemies are scoured for any violation that can be found, and held to the strictest letter of the law, while his allies are given broad latitude.”

Treasury IG investigation

Acting Treasury Inspector General Richard Delmar is investigating a tax break created by the Republican 2017 tax bill after reports raised questions about how it was used. The Opportunity Zone program offers tax breaks to investors who put money into specially designated areas, meant to encourage new investment in poor neighborhoods. However, money eligible for the tax break is actually going to luxury projects in affluent neighborhoods.

The president’s friends and family are among those who have benefited from the Opportunity Zone break: Former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey; Richard LeFrak, a New York real estate titan who is close to the president; Anthony Scaramucci, a former White House aide who recently had a falling out with Mr. Trump; and the family of Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser.

Iran strike profiting

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Chris Van Hollen are calling for an investigation into whether Mar-a-Lago members used advanced knowledge of the strike on Iranian general Soleimani to profit in the stock market. According to the Daily Beast, Trump was telling friends and allies at the club about the upcoming strike five days beforehand. Warren and Van Hollen wrote a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission requesting they determine “whether there may have been any illegal trading in defense company stocks or commodities related to individuals’ advance knowledge.”

“Individuals who were guests at President Trump’s resort may have obtained confidential market-moving information and had the opportunity to trade defense industry stocks of commodities or make other trades based on this information. These private individuals, therefore,. would have had the opportunity to obtain significant profits simply by being guests or members at President Trump’s private resort.”

”…Between January 2, 2020…and the end of January 3, 2020, Northrop Grumman stock prices increased by over 5%; Lockheed Martin’s stock prices increased by 3.6%; and the stock prices of Raytheon, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s former employer, increased by 1.5%.

Moscow comes to Kansas City

A Kansas City area radio station will be broadcasting Radio Sputnik programming for six hours a day, seven days a week. The programming will be heard on: KCXL 1140 AM, 102.9 FM, and 104.7 FM. KCXL’s website says that it’s the radio station that will “tell you the things that the liberal media wont (sic) tell you.”

A 2017 U.S. intelligence report found that Sputnik was part of “Russia’s state-run propaganda machine.” The broadcasting company behind KCXL, RM Broadcasting LLC, was ordered by a federal judge to officially register as a foreign agent last year after it was reported that the company was paid over $1.4 million to air Sputnik programming.

FBI cyberattack policy

The FBI will now (non-paywalled) notify state officials when local election systems are believed to have been breached by hackers – a change in policy from previous years when the feds would only notify the direct victims of the cyberattack. Unfortunately, when the cyberattack is targeting our election infrastructure, the public still may not be notified: The policy doesn’t apply in instances where an election technology vendor, such as a provider of electronic poll books, suffers a breach and is considered the victim

Immigration news

  • Reuters: The Pentagon has received a request from within the Trump administration to build roughly 270 miles (435 km) of wall on the border with Mexico and is evaluating its cost and viability, a senior Defense Department official said on Thursday.
    • NPR: President Trump’s border wall comes at a staggering cost: $11 billion, or nearly $20 million per mile. It’s already the most expensive border wall in the world, and the costs keep piling up.
    • WaPo: President Trump is preparing to divert an additional $7.2 billion in Pentagon funding for border wall construction this year, five times what Congress authorized him to spend on the project in the 2020 budget
    • The Hill: Senate Democrats on Wednesday are vowing to force a third vote aimed at ending President Trump’s national emergency declaration amid reports that the White House is shifting more money from the Pentagon to the border wall.
  • ABC News: House Democrats on Tuesday launched a probe into the Trump administration’s controversial policy of requiring tens of thousands of asylum-seekers to wait in northern Mexico for their U.S. immigration court hearings. The Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee demanded troves of documents and data related to the implementation of the so-called “Remain in Mexico” program, which U.S. officials have used to return more than 57,000 Latin American migrants to often dangerous Mexican border cities.
Secured By miniOrange