But-in-a Fix, A Deal Rises

Maria Butina, a 30-year-old Russian gun rights activist who stands accused developing a covert influence operation in the United States, has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy and cooperate with federal, state and local authorities in any ongoing investigations.

She admits, as part of the deal, according to a copy obtained by ABC News that is expected to be filed to the court, that she and an unnamed “U.S. Person 1,” which sources have identified as longtime Republican operative Paul Erickson, with whom she had a multiyear romantic relationship, “agreed and conspired, with a Russian government official (“Russian Official”) and at least one other person, for Butina to act in the United States under the direction of Russian Official without prior notification to the Attorney General.”

courtesy of ABC News

Looks like the witch hunt has snagged another witch. This one has a conspiracy label on her garments, and the implications can be far-reaching beyond the current scope of the Special Counsel investigation.

If you remember, Butina was heavily involved with the NRA. She attended conventions here and also hosted numerous Americans in Russia. She was also an up and coming protegé of Alexander Torshin, a top politician in the ruling party of Vladimir Putin, and they were working towards the goal of making inroads and connections with people within the US political scene.

In her own words:

It may take the election of a Republican to the White House in 2016 to improve relations between the Russian Federation and the United States. As improbable as it may sound, the Russian bear shares more interests with the Republican elephant than the Democratic donkey.

That she’s entering a plea deal that may involve conspiracy charges should be a surprise to no one. The only thing that will be a surprise will be if she spills the beans and how much factual and credible information she gives up.

The information that may be uncovered could reverberate through the entire US political system as the NRA has funded countless politicians on all levels of government. If the NRA is found to have funneled foreign donations into political campaigns, then being bankrupt is the least of their worries.

As expected, Twitter feeds for the NRA and their spokespeople are silent about this story, and I don’t expect anything to change in the near future. After all, hunting season still in effect, and Mueller and his team are still wearing Mossy Oak and loaded for bear.


Self Destruction of an ideology

How long can a group be openly and brazenly corrupt and still maintain power?  I ask this as I’m watching the Republican Party continue to operate and do things that would have destroyed a political party years ago.  Some will try to claim that “Both sides are bad”, but I would love to see the Democratic Party equivalent examples of the following acts.

North Carolina:   In 2016, the incumbent Republican governor loses re-election because voters rejected his ideas and replaced him with a Democrat.  In response, the state legislature holds a lame duck session where they pass legislation stripping power away from the governor that was previously uncontested.  The outgoing Republican signs the legislation, and there is no rebuke from other Republicans.

in 2018, a Republican is in a contested House election and allegations of absentee ballot fraud surface.  This is the same North Carolina that had previously passed a very strict Voter ID law they stated would combat fraud in elections.  Interesting that the law did nothing to stop the fraud, and state Republicans say they see no reason why the GOP winner should not be confirmed and seated in DC.

Wisconsin:  Governor Scott Walker loses his re-election bid because the citizens of Wisconsin decided they had enough of his crap.  At the same time, a Democrat is elected to be the next Attorney General.  In response, the Wisconsin legislature pulls a NC Sore Loser and votes to strip the power of the office of the Governor and Attorney General.

Michigan:  The incoming Governor and Attorney General in Michigan will be Democrats who are replacing current GOP officeholders.  It’s expected that the Michigan legislature, which is under GOP control, will apply the NC Sore Loser Technique as well.

When did it become okay to be openly corrupt with impunity?  I understand the hard-core base of the GOP loves this stuff and cheers it on, but when does karma come back to apply its mandible crush to the rear end of the people perpetrating these acts?

I’ve long prided myself on being open to ideas and policy from both parties, but it’s getting harder and harder by day to find something good about modern-day conservatism.  From my vantage point, conservatism has gone from being about protecting rights and freedom to being nothing more than an ideology of selfish a**holes who don’t care about anything not personally affecting them.

Granted, there are still old-school principled conservatives, and it is not my intent to paint them with a broad brush like this.  However, when you simply refer to yourself as an “independent” instead of fighting to keep your brand, then you end up on the receiving of that broad brush from others because you’ve allowed your brand to be tarnished to hell.

It seems like we are witnessing an ideology on the pathway to destruction.  Will it save itself, continue to slowly devolve, or will it go supernova and end in a blaze of glory?  At the rate things are going, we will find out soon enough.  Maybe I’ll start my own ideology to replace it so the liberal ideology will still have competition to keep it from going supernova as well.


I found myself in utter amazement this morning at how much our society has devolved within my lifetime.  I was watching the ceremony of transferring the remains of President George H.W. Bush from Houston to Washington D.C. this morning when I made the mistake of going on the internet with my phone and looking at the first tab.  For more than two years, the first tab has been fixed on Trump’s twitter feed.  It was primarily for the lulz, but it also serves as a reminder that people who hold important positions are not always the best, brightest, or capable to do so.

The ceremony itself was simple and dignified.  There were no overt or outrageous elements to it.  The ceremony communicated the prestige and importance of the Office of the President and not the person himself.  There are those who supported GHW Bush, and there are those who did not.  Like other presidents who served since I have been breathing, there were things about him that I liked as well as disliked.  The ceremony wasn’t about Bush though.  It was about the office.

Now, contrast the solemn, dignified event with this from the current office holder:

My first instinct was to check a few of my other favorite tags to see what news had just dropped as he was in the middle of one of his patented Twitter rants.  Then, I surmised this was nothing more than anger spilled over from last week’s plea deal that Cohen agreed to.  My second reaction was to try to figure out who Scott Free was and why Cohen’s wife and father-in-law was all over him.  I laughed at that one for a while, and then Trump dropped one that made me come up with the title to this one, WitlessGate.

After reading this one, I thought “I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t think Trump has one either.” to myself while still laughing about poor old Scott Free.  I could be wrong, but Trump’s statement could be interpreted by some as witness tampering when you read 18 U.S. Code § 1512 – Tampering with a witness, victim, or an informant. Trump’s words could be interpreted as a means to keep Roger Stone silent avoiding testifying before the Special Counsel’s Grand Jury.  Under this section of law, there are two passages that could hurt Trump.

(b) Whoever knowingly uses intimidation, threatens, or corruptly persuades another person, or attempts to do so, or engages in misleading conduct towards another person, with intent to

(1) influence, delay, or prevent the testimony of any person in an official proceeding;

(2) cause or induce any person to —

(A) withhold testimony or withhold a record, document or other object from an official proceeding;


(c) Whoever corruptly–

(2) otherwise obstructs, influences, or impeded any official proceeding, or attempts to do so.

The violation of that law can lead up to 20 years behind bars.  The fact that Trump has repeatedly done this kind of stuff makes me wonder what the hell does his legal counsel do to earn their paycheck.

For those who say that the president can make these kinds of statements because they are not a violation of the law, I will advise you to check sections (e), (f), and (g) of this same statute.

(e) In a prosecution for an offense under this section, it is an affirmative defense, as to which the defendant has the burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence, that the conduct consisted solely of lawful conduct and that the defendant’s sole intention was to encourage, induce, or cause the other person to testify truthfully.

(f) For the purposes of this section–

(1) an official proceeding need not be pending or about to be instituted at the time of the offense; and

(2) the testimony, or the record, document, or other object need not be admissible in evidence or free of a claim of privilege.

(g) In a prosecution for an offense under this section, no state of mind need be proved with respect to the circumstance–

In other words, the president would have to shoulder the burden of proof that his conduct was lawful if he were to be charged under this law.  Based on the text of the law, he cannot hide behind any claim of privilege and the testimony that he’s seeking to stop does not have to be admissible.  Furthermore, Stone doesn’t have to be indicted and about to testify if I’m reading (1) correctly.

One final gem.  This goes out to the crowd that believes that no sitting president can be indicted.  You may want to revisit history and rethink that position.


Friday night jam session

It’s been a while since I’ve joined in a Friday Night music thread.  Hopefully, I won’t get called to the principal’s office for co-opting his shtick in the process tonight.

That said, I’m going to open up a jam session because I know this group loves music as much as we love to gab.  This weekend jam is dedicated to Jay Bookman because we wouldn’t be here without him.  I wouldn’t know you all had I not joined in commenting at the AJC.  I wouldn’t have this blog if I had not gotten pissed off with the lack of intelligent discourse there.  So forth and so on…

I’m sure I speak for many when I wish you well on your future endeavors, Jay.  If you write a book, you better have us all in there if you expect us to buy it too.  LOL!!

I was trying to come up with an appropriate song, and of course Johnny Paycheck and “Take This Job and Shove It” immediately came to mind.  I imagine the decision was amicable between Bookman and Cox Media, so I figured that wouldn’t be the best tribute song to choose.  While searching, I came across this duo, and I quit my search afterwards.  I thought I had a wide range in musical tastes, but Jay pushed me further out than where I thought I was.  I don’t know if I could find a better way to salute Bookman, so I’ll leave it at this tune here.  Enjoy.

Was this infrastructure week again?

I spent much of last night and this morning trying to understand the Michael Cohen new plea deal as well as the impact.  I still do not see any criminal connection directly to Donald Trump at this point, but I will also acknowledge that there’s likely factual evidence that the public will never see because of the national security implications of making it public.  I will also say that there is still nothing to this point that would necessitate impeachment proceedings against Trump, but that is only based on the information known to the public.

This current infrastructure week was set up by the Paul Manafort agreement being blown up with Mueller wanting to sentence him right away because he was found to be lying.  Personally, I think the Manafort announcement was very strategic on the part of Mueller, and that’s why Trump has been acting like a rabid squirrel that’s hopped up on crystal meth.

Trump had already submitted his written answers to the Special Counsel which locked him into a story.  Before doing that, Trump could assert anything he wished because nothing was sworn testimony under oath.  Those written answers changed the game.  Unknown to many people, Manafort and Trump had a JDA or Joind Defense Agreement where their counsel could coordinate and communicate with each other.  This was likely done to give the Trump camp a peek at the information that Mueller has so they could try to defend against it.  This also helped Manafort and Trump work together to come up with a good defense story to throw other people under the bus and allow them to skate.  That all fell apart with Cohen’s new plea.

Michael Cohen spent 70 hours or so with the SC office.  There’s no telling of how much or how little information that he gave up in that time.  I’d say that the ability to call Manafort a liar with great confidence along with Trump’s actions after the Cohen announcement gives the impression that Cohen spilled enough beans to serve chili for life.  Cohen was a part of the Trump family for a long time, and he probably knows where many of the “bodies” are hidden as well as who tagged them to begin with.  The most stunning parts of the Cohen plea was that it came out of the blue with no announcement and he directly acknowledged lying to Congress for the benefit of his then boss.

Congress responded by looking back over the testimony of others and making referrals to the DoJ.  I don’t think Cohen’s plea will be the end nor will it be Trump’s downfall.  This plea did serve as a notice to Trump and his legal counsel that they’re not playing with rookies though.  Mueller has held the upper hand from the jump.  As the old saying goes, it’s not the crime that gets you.  It’s the cover up.

We’ve seen Cohen admit to covering up.  We’ve seen charges and plea deals of Manafort and others lying to the Special Counsel too.  The concentric circles of this investigation are growing tighter.  We’ve moved from the outer circles and are just now beginning to get to the inner circles.  Expect more infrastructure weeks to come in 2019.  I don’t think we’ve seen the last of the indictments yet.

This has been one hell of a week, so I think it’s good to end with a laugh.  This has absolutely nothing to do with what I wrote, but I had to share it because it made me laugh.  Enjoy.