The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

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

Tag: corey lewandowski

Trump Fires Pentagon Advisors, Appoints Cronies And Denies Briefings To Biden

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

On Friday, the White House fired nine members of the Pentagon's Defense Business Board and installed people loyal to President Donald Trump, Politico reports. At the same time, Trump's Pentagon officials have refused members of President-elect Joe Biden's transition team to meet with officials at U.S. intelligence agencies.

The aforementioned board members were all fired via form letter email that told them that their terms had expired — even though that wasn't true for three of the members — and they were neither given any warning nor thanks for their service.

Read Now Show less

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.

#EndorseThis: Lewandowski’s Ham Routine Fried By Sacha Baron Cohen

Sacha Baron Cohen – appearing on Who is America in yet another one of his right-wing disguises – sits down across from Corey Lewandowski, noteworthy hot-head and former Trump campaign manager.

Cohen launches volleys of his usual tactics, trying to get Lewandowski to agree to pro-fascist statements concerning the Nazi demonstrations in Charlottesville, and of course President Trump. For those who haven’t seen Borat, the technique of spelling out horrible things that right-wingers have not sensitized to notice shows up in the infamous rodeo scene, where Cohen shouts “I support your war of terror!” to whooping fans of Bush W’s Iraq invasion.

Lewandowski hams it up for a micro-stump speech and manages to avoid direct answers. But what is really interesting is the weird southern accent that begins to slip out of his mouth after hearing Cohen’s magnificent fake twang. Further evidence that the brilliant comic knows how to get inside a subject’s head.

Admission price: Press play.

This Week In Crazy: Alex Jones Drinks Bone Broth Chocolate Milk

Shadow government ruffians, alt-right “journalists,” and bone broth chocolate milk. Welcome to This Week In Crazy, The National Memo’s weekly update on the loony, bigoted, and hateful behavior of the increasingly unhinged right wing. Starting with number five:

5. Joe Scarborough

I don’t know whether it’s the unscripted nature of Morning Joe or its namesake’s political bipolarity, but Scarborough somehow manages to dig his own rhetorical grave at least once a week. This week — Thursday, to be exact — he tried to perpetuate the thoroughly debunked argument that increased immigration inversely affects the wages of “white working class Americans.”

Per MediaMatters:

Contrary to Scarborough’s claim, study after study has found little evidence that immigration negatively affects American’s wages in the long term, and research shows that immigrants tend to take jobs that Americans don’t want.

It’s unsurprising that Scarborough — who fairly recently denounced his old political party — is mimicking the talking points of President Trump, who in early February called the former Florida congressman “a great guy [who] has a great show.”

By then MSNBC execs were reportedly disconcerted by “Scarborough’s friendship with Trump and his increasingly favorable coverage of the candidate.” Of course, Scarborough and co-host Mika Brzezinski subsequently distanced themselves from their old chum, drawing the Twitter ire of Trump.

But with Scaramucci unemployed, Scarborough parroting the right-wing talking points, and Trump ever changing from moment to moment, are we looking at the next White House communications director?

4. Rick Wiles

Some underpaid soul on the RightWingWatch masthead listened to Wiles’s TruNews radio show on Tuesday and clipped the three-and-a-half minutes in which the Florida pastor theorizes that a gang of shadow government ruffians has been injuring politicians in calling-card fashion for more than a decade.

Wiles and his co-host cited vaguely a 2002 incident in which then-President George W. Bush fainted while eating pretzels and sustained a raspberry on his cheek; another in which then-Vice President Dick Cheney, they said, got a “fat lip”; and a third in which Colin Powell, they struggled to remember, broke his arm or leg.

“All three within two weeks” leading up to the US invasion of Iraq, Wiles stressed.

And the violence appears nonpartisan. Wiles also mentioned that Barack Obama and Harry Reid suffered cosmetic injuries between 2002 and Tuesday.

Now with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) showing up on Capitol Hill to deliver the decisive vote on repeal-and-replace with a surgical scar above his eye, that makes six whole politicians — at least three of which were quantifiably old — getting hurt over the span of just fifteen years.

This will not stand.

3. Mike Cernovich

Cernovich — of Gorilla Mindset infamy — announced on Monday during one of his daily Periscope diatribes that he’d “pivoted from a pro-Trump guy to more of a journalistic guy” after short-lived communications directory Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci got the boot.

“I don’t want people to think of me as a pro-Trump guy anymore,” he said. “I want people to think of me as a Mindset guy [whatever that means], a journalist, a commentator, a social media personality, a filmmaker, an author.” Cernovich has a lifetime of pivoting to do, however, before anyone credible thinks of him as anything but a joke — even despite his White House press credentials.

2. Corey Lewandowski

Lewandowski — Trump’s formerly embattled campaign manager who pioneered the unfortunate trend of fired staffers becoming mainstream pundits after taking a reportedly six-figure contract with CNN — reared his closely shaven head on Sunday’s Meet the Press.

On the topic of Gen. John Kelly replacing Reince Priebus as Trump’s chief of staff, Lewandowski abruptly veered off topic to suggest the president fire Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) head Richard Cordray, who’s rumored to be running for governor of Ohio.

“Do you have any business interests here?” host Chuck Todd asked. “Do you have a client that wants to see this happen?”

Lewandowski denied any such stake in calling for Cordray’s dismissal.

In a later segment, though, Politico‘s Eliana Johnson blew Lewandowski’s cover.

According to BuzzFeed, Lewandowski “will headline a fundraiser [on August 3] for US Rep. Jim Renacci, a candidate in Ohio’s competitive Republican primary for governor.” His appearance on Meet the Press was apparently an opportunity to sling mud at his buddy’s opponent on national television.

1. Alex Jones

Last Week Tonight host John Oliver returned from hiatus on Sunday with a long-form segment on Alex Jones — the conspiracy theorist who (it can’t be stressed enough) ate too much chili and lost custody of his kids — and his InfoWars-brand snake oil supplements.

Like Cernovich (see number three), Jones is — prolific’s not the right word. His show runs four hours every weekday. So a rebuttal was bound to come. And it did, on Tuesday.

Of all potential gripes, Jones honed in on Oliver — whom he confused with Trevor Noah — for mocking his Caveman True Paleo Formula, which is available on InfoWars.com, because of course you’re interested. Oliver said jokingly of the chocolate drink made partially from “Bone Broth … and other Ancient Supernutrients,” according to the website write-up, “I can confirm to you that it tastes exactly how you imagine a drink would taste that’s made from chocolate and domesticated bird corpses.”

Jones’s defense:

Everybody knows you leave the bones in in chicken broth when you’re sick — every wive’s tale, every culture.

He said he did market research at Whole Foods and GNC a few years ago and found bone broth to be “the hottest thing.” So he asked his “manufacturer” to produce a bone broth that was “three times stronger than anything else anybody makes.”

And we did it with chicken broth, bone broth — it’s got all the trace elements, the minerals. It’s got the co-factors. It’s got the — basically the stem cells in it. And they take it and they put it together, and it’s super strong.

So no “domesticated bird corpses.” I don’t know about you, but I’m convinced.

Who’s hungry?

Check out previous editions of This Week In Crazy here. Think we missed something? Let us know in the comments! Get This Week In Crazy delivered to your inbox every Friday, by signing up for our daily email newsletter.

Puerto Rico Turns To Lewandowski To Lobby Trump On Debt

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica.

The hedge funds and insurance companies that want financially strapped Puerto Rico to pay them back in full may have found a new ally: Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski.

The newly elected governor of Puerto Rico is in discussions to hire Lewandowski’s lobbying firm, at a time when the island’s creditors are hoping that the incoming Trump administration will be more sympathetic to them than the Obama administration has been. Such a shift would add to concerns that the new administration’s tight ties to banks and investment funds could tilt its policies in favor of Wall Street.

“There’s no contract, but we have active talks” with the governor, says Barry Bennett, who recently formed Avenue Strategies with Lewandowski.

The governor wants Avenue to lobby the new administration regarding Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis, though it’s too early to say exactly what steps the firm would push for, Bennett said. He denied a report by Caribbean Business that Lewandowski recently arranged a get-together between the new governor, Ricardo Rosselló, and Trump. “There was no meeting with Trump,” he said. A spokesman for Rosselló confirmed that the governor did not meet with Trump.

A Trump transition team spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.

Lewandowski gained a bulldog reputation as Trump’s campaign manager. He was charged with battery for grabbing Michelle Fields, a Breitbart News reporter, after a Trump press conference. Prosecutors later dropped the charges. After being ousted from the campaign, but while receiving severance pay, Lewandowski became a CNN commenter and remained close with the incoming president.

Mired in a yearslong depression, Puerto Rico faces a fiscal crisis, with over $72 billion in debt that it cannot afford, and about $43 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. Its creditors consist mainly of insurance companies that specialize in backing municipal debt; hedge funds, which mainly have positions in the island’s general obligation bonds; and mutual funds, which own bonds backed by sales taxes.

Puerto Rico, a commonwealth, is a territory of the United States. Puerto Ricans do not vote in presidential elections but send a delegate to Congress who has limited voting rights. For years, Puerto Rico’s creditors have battled the island’s government and each other in a high stakes negotiating and lobbying campaign. Now, they’re seeking to salvage their investment as Puerto Rico’s financial picture worsens.

Until last year, under its constitution, Puerto Rico could not file for bankruptcy, unlike states and municipalities in the rest of the United States. Last June, Congress passed a law, called Promesa, allowing Puerto Rico to file for a type of bankruptcy if necessary. Bondholders could lose out in a bankruptcy, as the island’s entire debt would be restructured.

Promesa allowed Puerto Rico to temporarily stop making payments on its general obligation debts, primarily held by hedge funds and other financial companies. The island continued to make payments on the debt backed by sales taxes, known as Cofina. Since the general obligation debt is protected by the Puerto Rico constitution, the general obligation holders argue that it’s illegal to allow payment to the Cofina debtholders.

The law also established an oversight board to oversee Puerto Rico’s affairs, putting the island under more direct federal rule. The board is made up of appointees chosen by both American political parties and has a Republican majority.

During the campaign for governor, Rosselló, a 37-year-old biomedical engineer and neurobiologist and son of a former governor, called for negotiations with creditors. A member of the New Progressive party, which advocates Puerto Rican statehood, Rosselló claimed during the campaign that Puerto Rico could pay its debts in full. Creditors view him as more sympathetic than the outgoing governor, Alejandro García Padilla, who refused to negotiate with them. Rosselló is expected to hold talks with creditors through the first part of the year, seeking to strike a deal and avoid bankruptcy, according to people familiar with the matter.

Hedge funds with investments in Puerto Rican bonds include Aurelius Capital Management and Monarch Alternative Capital. John Paulson, the hedge fund manager who backed Trump’s campaign, owned Puerto Rico debt at one point and has substantial real estate on the island. He appears not to own bonds anymore, according to people involved in the negotiations. A spokesperson for Paulson did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump has appointed several high-profile investors and Goldman Sachs bankers to key cabinet and advisory positions. Trump’s choice for treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, is himself a hedge fund manager, though he does not appear to have investments in Puerto Rico debt.

The Obama administration pushed for the Promesa law and antagonized the bondholders, particularly the hedge funds. They contend that the outgoing administration ignored their financial interests in favor of seeking to protect the pensions of public employees and create a model for other municipalities facing similar fiscal crises.

Now with a new governor and a new American president, some of the bondholders believe their negotiating position has improved. Trump “can’t be as bad as what we had,” says one bondholder, who requested anonymity. “I don’t believe they will hold Puerto Rico hostage to try to create a mold that they hope will someday help with Chicago, New Jersey or wherever.”

Update, Jan. 12, 2017: After this story was published, a spokesman for Rosselló confirmed that the governor did not meet with Trump.

IMAGE: Corey Lewandowski, campaign manager for Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, exits following a meeting of Trump’s national finance team at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City, U.S. on June 9, 2016.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo