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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}


Impeachment Inquiry: How Democratic Counsel Dismantled Lewandowski

Americans have good reason to suspect Donald Trump of committing various and serious crimes, but they have no immediate means to hold him accountable. Rising frustration over this malefactor’s impunity was only exacerbated by the latest House Judiciary Committee hearings — which featured two empty chairs and an insolent, prevaricating witness named Corey Lewandowski.

When those hearings ended after six tendentious hours, the public judgment on Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the committee chairman, and his Democratic members, was harsh. Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager, simply refused to answer questions even though he had no legal right to do so, and he ought to have been held immediately in contempt. Republicans on the committee mocked and interrupted the hearing, acting openly as stooges for the White House.

And with few exceptions, the Democrats couldn’t advance their express purpose: to communicate the damning findings of the Mueller Report — the same objective they failed to accomplish when that report’s author finally delivered his stilted testimony before the committee last July.

Although Nadler himself doesn’t hesitate to say that Trump should be impeached, the obstacles he faces are formidable. Speaker Nancy Pelosi surely agrees, but she is reluctant to endorse anything beyond an “impeachment inquiry” — at least not without a solid public consensus that protects her most vulnerable members. But the usually savvy speaker has created a political cul-de-sac. Without her strong support, the impeachment inquiry cannot develop any momentum, and until it gains speed, there will be no firm majority for putting Trump on trial.

That is why the educational purpose of the hearings is so important — and why the usual political grandstanding must be set aside so they can succeed. How that might work became visible only toward the conclusion of the long confrontation with Lewandowski.

Following hours of nasty exchanges between the witness and House members that produced very little, the Democrats turned over the questioning of Lewandowski to Barry Berke, a highly competent criminal defense attorney. Penetrating and implacable, Berke shook Lewandowski’s arrogance, destroyed his credibility, and demonstrated his guilty knowledge of what Trump had asked him to do — namely, to force then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to kill the Mueller probe.

Aided by video clips, Berke showed how Lewandowski had lied on national television when he claimed that he would testify voluntarily before the special counsel. In fact, he first claimed his Fifth Amendment protection and then negotiated a grant of immunity. He also lied when he said on television that nobody in the White House had asked him to approach Sessions on Trump’s behalf. And as he made that admission, Lewandowski angrily retorted that he had no “obligation” to tell the truth to the American people. He will now be known forever as an unrepentant liar — the perfect Trump servant.

Even more important, however, was Berke’s skillful interrogation showing how Lewandowski attempted to conceal the mission Trump had assigned him — by seeking to meet Sessions outside Justice Department headquarters. He didn’t want any log or record to document his actions. Ultimately he had failed to carry out Trump’s wishes, while attempting to get others to do the dirty work.

All of Lewandowski’s mendacities and maneuvers demonstrated, as Berke explained, that he knew what Trump had asked him to do was unethical and unlawful. Certainly that was the conclusion reached by Mueller, who listed Lewandowski’s misadventure as one of several clear instances of obstruction of justice. (Even though never carried out, that scheme was a felonious conspiracy to obstruct justice.)

In the end, Lewandowski was reduced to whining that unlike Berke, he “never had the privilege to attend Harvard Law School,” so he had no way of knowing whether Trump’s instructions were illegal. There is no word for that except pathetic.

Beyond his decimation of a malevolent clown, Berke’s tour de force provided a model for how Nadler should proceed. Going forward, the chairman should let Berke question the witness first — and only permit the members to get their five minutes of fame when the counsel is finished. And he must move now, with the backing of his committee, to sanction the contemptible Lewandowski as well as the two witnesses who failed to show up.  They are assaulting the Constitution, which he and his fellow House members swore to uphold.

Duty calls.

Preparing To Run For Senate, Lewandowski Mocks NH Republicans

Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager, spent Tuesday insulting Republicans in New Hampshire as he prepares to launch a bid hoping to be the Republican nominee for Senate in New Hampshire.

In comments on Tuesday’s “John Fredericks Show,” a Virginia-based radio program, Lewandowski took a page from his former boss, implying that he, and he alone, can save the New Hampshire Republican Party.

“They have decimated the Republican Party in the state,” Lewandowski says of current Republican officials in the state. “And if they think nominating somebody other than Corey Lewandowski … is going to be a recipe for success, then they deserve to lose,” he added.

Lewandowski also blasted Republicans in the state for “making the same mistakes that the Republican establishment has made for too long.”

Lewandowski has not officially launched a Senate bid, but his comments on Tuesday’s program point to him tossing his hat in the ring.

If he gets in the race, he would compete with other Republicans for the chance to take on incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a popular ex-governor who ousted an incumbent Republican in 2008 and fended off a Republican challenger in 2014.

March 2019 poll shows Shaheen leading both New Hampshire Republican Gov. John Sununu and former Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte. At the time of the poll, Lewandowski had not expressed interest in running.

Lewandowski has faced a fair bit of controversy since his rise to power within the Trump campaign. During the 2016 race, he was arrested and charged with battery after assaulting a female reporter on the campaign trail. The charges were eventually dropped.

After Trump got in office, Lewandowski joined a lobbying firm hoping to sell access to Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. He eventually resigned after refusing to register as a lobbyist.

It appears Lewandowski wants to take his scandal-plagued baggage to New Hampshire and jump in the Senate race. And if his radio appearance is any indication, New Hampshire Republicans should be prepared to be berated and insulted along the way.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

Investigating The Investigators? Don’t Forget That Manafort Meeting

Riddle me this: exactly how did the Deep State, anti-Trump conspirators in the FBI and CIA persuade Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to hand over sensitive internal polling data to a Russian spy? Not to mention, what did Konstantin Kilimnik do with it?

More to the point, how is Attorney General William Barr going to explain it away? Particularly in view of the fact that Manafort remains locked up in a federal slammer, having violated a plea agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller for lying to investigators about that very thing.

Because if Barr can’t explain, then all of his weasel-worded insinuations about FBI “spying” on the Trump campaign stand revealed for what they are: the desperate rationalizations of a cunning political operative willing to play along with an absurd conspiracy theory concocted to appease Donald J. Trump and distract his fervid supporters.

According to hardcore Trumpists, see, the only real misconduct that took place during the 2016 presidential election was the Russia investigation itself: a hoax cooked up by a cabal of intelligence professionals directed by the Obama White House. A “coup” attempt, Trump calls it. He’s even used the word “treason,” as if he himself were the United States.

Hint: he’s not.

More excitable Trump cultists are even predicting election year show trials in 2020. Appearing recently on Fox News, longtime Trump associate Corey Lewandowski listed several high-ranking FBI officials he expected to see indicted, especially former director James Comey for “crimes…against the Fourth Amendment.” Whatever those are. He also mentioned former CIA director John Brennan and national intelligence director James R. Clapper, Jr.

Can we pause for a moment here to observe that the U.S. government purging its own intelligence agencies would be a fulfillment of Vladimir Putin’s dreams? Such a spectacle could only make the one-time KGB agent and Russian dictator nostalgic for the Soviet Union’s glory days.

But back to Trump campaign director Paul Manafort’s secretive meeting with Kilimnik, the Russian spy, which deputy campaign manager Rick Gates also attended. A longtime Manafort employee since the American consultant’s days working for pro-Russian Ukrainian strongman Viktor Yanukovych, Kilimnik flew in from Moscow.

Hardly, then, a casual get together. They referred to Yanukovych, deposed and exiled to Russia, in coded messages as “the guy who gave you your biggest black caviar jar.” The meeting took place at the height of the campaign on August 2, 2016 in the Grand Havana Room, a penthouse cigar bar with dramatic views of the Manhattan skyline, very near Trump Tower.

Tellingly, all three left by separate exits.

According to the Mueller Report, they discussed a Ukraine “peace plan” Kilimnik had in mind, essentially a free hand for Moscow. He hoped Trump would endorse it, which, given the candidate’s repetition of Russian talking points about the occupation of Crimea, certainly seemed possible, although it never happened. (Media accounts of Manafort’s previous political work for Yanukovych led him to resign from the Trump campaign soon afterward.)

Only days before, Wikileaks had published the first batch of stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee to great fanfare. Democrats blamed Russian hackers, an accusation U.S. intelligence agencies ultimately confirmed.

Manafort has never come clean about that Kilimnik meeting. Perhaps seeking a pardon from Trump, or possibly fearful of crossing the Russians, he has chosen prison—a standup guy if you learned your ethics from “Godfather” films.

The Mueller Report says bluntly that Manafort “lied to the Office [of Special Counsel] and the grand jury about the peace plan and his meetings with Kilimnik, and his unreliability on this subject was among the reasons that the district judge found that he breached his cooperation agreement.”

Even so, Mueller established that something else the three chums discussed in the Grand Havana Room was Trump campaign tactics for the so-called “battleground states” of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Minnesota. In short, information useful for anybody planning an online disinformation campaign like the one Russian operatives successfully deployed.

Detailed internal polling would have been critical to any such effort. But Manafort lied and the Russians aren’t talking. So in the end, no conspiracy could be proved. For all the circumstantial evidence, the Mueller Report concluded that “because of questions about Manafort’s credibility and our limited ability to gather evidence on what happened to the polling data after it was sent to Kilimnik, the Office could not assess what Kilimnik (or others he may have given it to) did with it.”

That said, an innocent explanation for Manafort’s actions would be hard to imagine. But that’s not the point. Is there any way James Comey made him do it? Indeed, if they knew the facts, most Americans would think that it would be a dereliction of duty for FBI counterintelligence officers NOT to investigate.

Put Comey on trial? Not a chance.

William Barr may be an opportunist, but he’s not fool enough to volunteer to lose the trial of the century.

IMAGE: Paul Manafort, senior advisor to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, exits following a meeting of Donald Trump’s national finance team at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City, U.S., June 9, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

#EndorseThis: John Oliver Sends The Trump Gang To Hell

For Trump, the centerpiece of the midterm election is immigration — and John Oliver agrees, more or less.

The emblematic issue, says Oliver, is Trump’s zero tolerance policy of family separation: “cruel, sloppy, needless, racist, and ultimately exactly what we should have expected.”

This episode is among Oliver’s most devastating takedowns, with a disturbing climax that should remind everyone how immoral and heartless this administration is at its core. The ruinous impact on innocent children continues, as the government still cannot account accurately for hundreds who have gone missing. Oliver rightly asks why the media continue to pay so little attention to their fate, although those 12 Thai boys stuck in a cave transfixed the world.

He does find the humor amid the horror, by fact-checking Trump’s idiotic lies about immigration — and by imagining the very warm welcome for Corey “Womp Womp” Lewandowski at heaven’s pearly gate

Just click to wince and laugh.