And then this morning the world woke to this news: Jeffrey Epstein Found Dead in Cell in Apparent Suicide. Reminder: Epstein is under arrest on charges of sex trafficing—specifically recruiting underage girls to provide sex for himself and a large group of clients over many years. Several years ago he got out of most of the charges of a similar case with a deal offered by a former prosecutor (who later became Trump’s Labor Secretary, and then resigned when this new information came to light).
Their are conspiracy theories being thrown around how this isn’t a suicide but rather a murder to silence him before he could be pushed into a plea deal where he testified against his rich and powerful clients. One reason I don’t buy that is because Epstein’s death doesn’t stop the rest of the criminal case going forward: Epstein: How he died and what it means for his accusers and also Epstein’s Victims Will Continue to Pursue Justice, Lawyer Says.
And I want to unpack that further than those articles do. A number of possible co-conspirators have already been identified. Charges are likely to be pursued against them. And those charges are not solely dependent on flipping Epstein. Remember, the feds have thousands of photographs seized from just one of Epstein’s properties of people having sex with the underage girls. One of the many tools that the feds had in their back pocket on this case is that possessing those photos constituted a crime in an of themself, even if Epstein wiggled out of the trafficing charges.
However, even though we haven’t seen the photos (and I sure as heck don’t want to personally), the description vague description entered into the court records, coupled with that fact that for some years financial experts have suspected that Epstein’s income may be the result of blackmailing rich people, the logical conclusion is that those photos were the blackmail. The photos constitute proof that certain recognizable people had sex with those girls. That, plus the flight records and other details we already know about at least some of the rich and powerful who hung out with Epstein will add up to enough to charge some of those people.
So killing Epstein isn’t enough. Not by a long shot.
Which isn’t to say that there isn’t something fishy about his death: Epstein had been taken off suicide watch before killing himself, source says.
But there are other fishy things besides a conspiracy to silence him. There are plenty of people who think he deserves to die for doing all of that to all of those girls.
The other issue that keeps coming up related to this case, which the political cartoon I linked to above sort of gets at: when the Epstein case came to light, all over social media I kept seeing conservative, Trump-supporting people angrily or snarkily confronting people they perceived as liberal when referencing this case with variants of: “when it turns out the [prominent Democrat X] is one of the clients, you’ll feel differently.”
Let put that to rest: no, no I won’t. If those men took advantage of Epstein’s “parties” and “retreats” to have sex with those girls, then I want them to go to prison. It doesn’t matter if they were a senator, or congressman, or governor who served in the party I usually vote for. It doesn’t matter if they were a president that I voted for twice. I expect them to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
I do think it very telling that the first thing that comes to mind for many Trump supporters is to assume that we will stop caring about criminal activity when we find out the criminal is someone whose politics we support. It’s not a revelation, we have thousands of examples in the last three years alone of how they refuse to believe, make excuses, or otherwise look the other way when the crimes Trump and his cronies comes to light. It’s just one more piece of evidence that they are all right with horrible crimes being committed against certain types of people.
I could keep going, but I’m going to circle back to this: I don’t think Epstein was murdered. His whole life was built around his jet-setting lifestyle that gave him the access, power, and money to indulge his sick desires. Every indicator is that his wealth is the result of a complex illegal scheme of some sort, which the information in the possession of both federal and state prosecutors will put an end to, and once everything is sorted out, he would probably be penniless. The only futures left to him were:
- the rest of his life behind bars
- many years behind bars, then a life of near poverty
So, he took the coward’s way out.
Edited to add:
This is interesting! Epstein’s Pals Just Lost Any Chance of Having Penthouse Evidence Tossed by the Courts — Here’s Why. Just to be clear, they mean evidence seized during the raid on Epstein’s New York Penthouse. This has nothing to do with the porn magazine. Anyway, because it was seized on his property before he died, he is the only person who had standing to petition the courts to disallow it in trials. So…
First, I have written more than once about financial and other shenanigans of local political gadfly and perennial anti-tax, anti-gay, anti-well-anything-decent initiative filer: Tim Eyman. A while back Eyman was caught on video stealing an office chair from an Office Depot. The video was kind of funny: he finds the chair set up near the door, sits in it, spins around in it, then stands up and wheels it out to his car. Moments later he came back inside and bought some other stuff. According to the testimony of the employees, he did not mention the chair to the cashier. He did not pay for the chair. When the cashier called someone over to help Eyman carry his purchases (which included some heavy printers), Eyman tried to turn them down. When they insisted, he led them to his SUV, and had the guy stack things next to the back of the SUV but pointedly did not open the back of the vehicle until after the employee had walked back into the store.
Eyman claims he meant to pay for the chair. But the sketchy behavior in the parking lot clearly said otherwise. Anyway, the case came to a close this week: Lacey lets Tim Eyman off with $193 fine for stealing chair. He also is barred from entering that Office Depot for nine months. The sheer pettiness and stupidity of stealing a $70 office chair when he’s going to be paying for $300 worth of printers other things is, to me, the perfect metaphor for the kind of entitled scam artist that he is. He hasn’t worked an honest day in decades. His only source of income for many years are the political campaigns he wages to cripple the state’s tax system or take rights away from gay and trans citizens.
And that income isn’t all on the up-and-up, either. He’s involved in a lawsuit over campaign finance violations, and he had some bad news there this week: Thurston County judge finds Tim Eyman in contempt again. According to the judge, this charge is for “refusal to disclose complete information related to hundreds of thousands of dollars of payments he solicited from individual donors.” Back in 2002 he settled a campaign finance lawsuit by paying a $50,000 fine and agreeing to a lifetime ban on being the “signer on any financial accounts” for political committees. In the current lawsuit, in which the state says he illegally funneled $300,000 from a 2012 initiative campaign into his personal accounts, the state is seeking $2.1 million dollars plus court costs and a lifetime ban on handling any finances of any political campaign. His previous contempt charge, for not turning over required documents, has been racking up a daily fine that the state says adds up to more than $200,000 so far. I don’t know if this second charge means more daily fines or what.
Meanwhile, another of his initiatives to severely limit local and regional citizens to tax themselves for capital projects will be on the ballot in the fall. He previously filed for bankruptcy protection, but then withdrew that once he learned that monthly reports on his personal finances would be available to the public, and might make some of his supporters question whether they wanted to keep donating to him. It has been said that the most dangerous place to be in this state is standing between Eyman and a TV news camera. Strange how he keeps refusing to turn over information, huh?
His wife filed for divorce last year—he claims that it’s because the state is being mean to him. Which is a really funny way of spelling “tired of being in close proximity of all this negative publicity that her husband’s actions have brought down on him.”
Speaking of men with no morals and sketchy finances: Financier Jeffrey Epstein found nearly unconscious in jail cell, suicide attempt suspected. You may recall the Epstein has been arrested in connection with sex trafficking and sexual abuse of underage girls. You may also recall that the evidence against submitted to the court includes what was described has a massive drove of photos of said underage girls in sexual situations. You may also recall how he got a sweetheart deal on similar charges years ago that meant he didn’t have to do serious jail time and was allowed to leave the jail 6 days out of every week to keep running his so-called business? And that after serving his ridiculously short sentence, he failed to report his movements to law enforcement as required under his plea deal?
Well, the case isn’t exactly looking any better for Epstein: The Feds Want to Talk to the Pilots Who Flew Jeffrey Epstein’s “Lolita Express”. Yes, the feds issued subpoenas earlier this month to Epstein’s pilots. I wonder if that may have prompted the alleged suicide attempt. And I’m using alleged for a couple of reasons, but mainly because it hasn’t been ruled out that he staged the stunt to get transferred out of the prison and into a hospital or mental institution.
Anyway, for years (and even just a few weeks ago) news stories have frequently referred to Epstein as a billionaire (though Forbes magazine famously refused to: Why Sex Offender Jeffrey Epstein Is Not A Billionaire).
It’s always been a little unclear how he made is money. He started his own financial firm some years ago, claiming to only take clients who would deposit $1 billion; yet he never, ever mentioned any client except one, Leslie Wexner, the owner of Victoria’s Secret: How Jeffrey Epstein Used the Billionaire Behind Victoria’s Secret for Wealth and Women. Wexner cut all ties with Epstein years ago after Epstein was arrested on the previous sex trafficking charges that were never prosecuted. People have been wondering ever since how Epstein still lives his opulent lifestyle. Some theories have emerged: ‘I Think He’s Engaged in Blackmail’: A Jeffrey Epstein Expert on Where He Made His Money or How Jeffrey Epstein Made His Money: Four Wild Theories.
One of those wild theories is based on something that Alexander Acosta (the former U.S. attorney who made that sweetheart deal years ago, and who was forced to resign as Trump’s Labor Secretary when the new Epstein charges brought that old deal back into the press) during the vetting for the Labor position. He said that old deal with Epstein wouldn’t be a problem because the only reason he made the deal was that someone warned him to back off because Epstein “belonged to intelligence.” The implication was that Epstein had been providing some sort of information to U.S. intelligence agents. That’s the one I think is least likely. But his secretive money management funds might actually be a big Ponzi scheme, or blackmail could be a major component (and might be a better explanation for why someone would warn Acosta away from the case), or all his off-shore account, besides being a tried-and-true way to avoid paying taxes might also be a money laundering scheme.
I hope that it all comes to light as his trial proceeds. And I hope all the men who participated in the sex parties filled with young girls get what’s coming to them. Whoever they are.
Weekend Update 7/13/2019: Powerful men sometimes face consequences, but what happened at New Republic?
First: Trump Labor chief Alex Acosta resigns due to Jeffrey Epstein case. I wish I’d posted on line on Thursday what I said to my husband when I saw a news stories in which Trump was reported to have said that there was “zero chance” he would fire Acosta over these allegations. Because the moment I read that I thought, “he’s going to be out by the end of the week!” In case you don’t know what this is about, a week ago Trump pal Jeffrey Epstein arrested for sex trafficking dozens of minors and Fund manager Jeffrey Epstein was charged with sex trafficking and conspiracy, accused by US prosecutors of paying girls as young as 14 for sex and using them to recruit others from 2002 to 2005. And not just trafficking: Wealthy financier charged with molesting dozens of girls under the age of 18.
“Prosecutors said the evidence against Epstein included a “vast trove” of hundreds or even thousands of lewd photographs of young women or girls, discovered in a weekend search of his New York City mansion. Authorities also found papers and phone records corroborating the alleged crimes, and a massage room still set up the way accusers said it appeared, prosecutors said.”
How does this involve Trump’s Labor Secretary? Well, 12 years ago Acosta was a U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and mega-rich Epstein was under investigation for very similar charges involving molesting 36 young girls. Acosta stepped in a negotiated a plea deal where Epstein plead guilty to two minor prostitution charges, and would be required to register as a sex offender. Immunity from prosecution was granted on all of the other charges for Epstein, four named co-conspirators, and “unnamed potential co-conspirators.” People have been criticising that deal for years, particularly as it was pointed out that around the same time, Acosta prosecuted much less high-profile defendants on similar charges and got much more serious prison time for them.
Acosta had a press conference earlier this week in which he argued that the case hadn’t been strong enough to win, and besides, state authorities were really to blame. Those officials had something to say: ‘Abhorrent’ and ‘Completely Wrong’: Former Florida Officials Push Back Against Acosta’s Account of Epstein Case.
Some conservative sites are arguing that the new case isn’t prosecutable because of the deal. There are a few problems with that. The original deal only covered the 36 victims mentioned in the deal, for one, and More than 12 new Jeffrey Epstein accusers come forward. So none of these cases would be covered by the prosecutorial immunity. Also, one of the conditions of the deal was not just the Epstein would register as a sex offender, but that as a sex offender he would report his movement to authorities: NYPD let convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein skip judge-ordered check-ins (when you’re rich, you can get away with anything). Which doesn’t automatically mean the deal is voided, but a judge can set aside such a deal on those grounds.
Also, the original plea agreement was approved by a judge (as all have to be), and at that hearing it is traditional that victims of the alleged crimes are given a chance to address the court concerning the deal. At the time, only a few of the victims did so, and Acosta’s office told the court that all of the other victims declined to comment. Several of those victims insist that they were not consulted and not given an opportunity to speak, and a Florida judge ruled earlier this year that the non-prosecution agreement violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act because at least some witnesses were never consulted or informed that it had happened. The federal court where Epstein is currently being tried doesn’t have to abide by the state court’s ruling, but it can take it into account.
So, Acosta resigned yesterday. Good riddance. Though I don’t think that simply resigning and then retiring to a cushy consulting job in the vast alt-right media-and-consulting ecosystem is adequate punishment: How Alex Acosta Got Away With It for So Long – The only way the labor secretary could give Jeffrey Epstein that 2008 plea deal is by ignoring victims.
Every now and then, someone likes to accuse me of only going after bad behavior on one end of the political spectrum. Yesterday evening was an example of the other direction: The New Republic removes op-ed attack on Buttigieg; admits it was ‘inappropriate and invasive’. Yesterday, the New Republic, which is generally considered to be a left-leaning publication, published a op-ed by an out gay writer entitled, “My Mayor Pete Problem.” I saw lots of people commenting on it throughout the day, but didn’t get a chance to go read it until the evening.
It was special.
It literally read (and I said so on line before it was pulled) like a drunken rant you would hear in a gay bar in which someone was critiquing a gay politician and blending opinions about the politician’s personal life choice, speculation about his habits in bed, along with poorly sourced comments on the politicians actual policy positions. Since the essay has been taken down (and a rather lame editorial apology posted), you can’t go read it for yourself. But don’t take my word for it:
In the hard-to-believe essay, Peck repeatedly referred to the also openly gay Buttigieg as “Mary Pete.” …Among the many gratuitous personal insults to the mayor, Peck also compares him to a 15-year-old boy who’s wondering if he should sleep with a 50-year-old man, and speculates about Buttigieg’s sexual preferences in bed — in terms that are not appropriate to repeat in this publication.
—The New York Daily News
Beside the fact that this vulgar hit piece was represented as political commentary (and then after the firestorm of criticism, the editors pivoted to claiming it was satire), the other crime it committed is that it forced me to agree with the arch-conservative wingnuts at the Washington Examiner: Nasty, horribly written New Republic op-ed attacks Mayor Pete as the gay Uncle Tom (Note, this is a donotlink.it link).
When the same publication that frequently insists that IQ is hereditary which therefore justifies some of their racist editorials recognizes that something you’ve published is homophobic, you have really screwed up!
Someone at the New Republic needs to get fired over this.
And here are a collection of awful headlines that I want to clear out and not even think about for next Friday:
Feds Bust Christian Missionary For Molesting Orphans. Arrested. Please, oh please don’t let anyone like Acosta near this case!
Finally, while I don’t feel right trying to end this on a positive note, I will end it with just a bit of schadenfreude:
Anti-Gay Former GOP Rep. William Dannemeyer Dies At 89, Called For Firing And Quarantining People With HIV. When he was still in congress he claimed that queer men infected with HIV “emitted spores” that could infect pregnant women—and that was hardly the craziest thing he ever said. Anyway, here’s hoping his soul is mounted on a nice rotisserie in hell.
I could hold this for tomorrow’s Friday Five, but I want to editorialize a bit here, so…
All right, so, while I am all in favor of transparency and recognize that without whistle-blowers even more corruption, malfeasance, and war crimes would go unpunished than already do, however, not all so-called hacktivists are good guys. Assange has claimed to be a journalist because he supposedly brings information to light. For part of my college career my major was journalism, and I have some strong feelings about journalistic ethics. One of the tenants of journalistic ethics is that if one engages in covert methods of uncovering information, one’s ethical obligations (to ensure accuracy, objectivity, while avoiding causing harm to innocent people) increase.
One of the basic questions an editor is supposed to ask when dealing with sensitive information of a diplomatic, political, or military nature, is will releasing this information place people in danger? And yes, you weigh that against the harm that has been caused or is being caused by whatever it is you are about to expose. It can be a difficult question.
But another one of the harms to innocent people that journalists are supposed to think about is: will releasing this information impede or interfere with legitimate democratic processes? Because elections matter, and who is in power can mean the difference between life and death— particularly for society’s most vulnerable.
The way in which Assange and his colleagues have stolen and dumped, unfiltered, large amounts of information into public view means that they are not even thinking about those kinds of questions. Therefore, what they are engaged in is not journalism, let alone ethical journalism.
I have no idea whether he is guilty of the sexual assault in Sweden that first sent him to seek asylum in the Ecuadoran embassy, but since Sweden isn’t exactly a vicious totalitarian state known for convicting innocent people of bogus crimes, I do wonder why an innocent man wouldn’t be willing to have his day in court there.
Yes, I believe in the Golden Thread of Justice: I believe that a person must be presumed to be innocent until they are proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But I am allowed to judge his character, and here is the thing that completely disinclines me to have any sympathy for the man: after taking shelter in the Ecuadoran Embassy for seven years—seven years in which these people sheltered him, fed him, and suffered strained relations with many allied states—when they asked him for the umpteenth time that he clean his own room and take care of his own cat, rather than expecting embassy staff to do those things for him, he sued the government of Ecuador claiming that these demands are a violation of his civil rights.
Expecting you to clean up after your own cat is not a violation of your civil rights!
He’s a self-important, arrogant jerk. And frankly, everyone is still being way nicer to him than he deserves.
BBC News – Footage shows Julian Assange being dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here
I started this post Saturday, but there were several competing things in the news that I wanted to talk about, and so many of them are depressing, that I decided to put on cold weather gear to go out and free up the snow-covered bird feeder to give myself a mental break. Then I realized that I needed to make coffee. And that made me decide to clean the kitchen counters, unload the dishwasher, and go talk to my husband about dinner plans (since whatever we made would likely require defrosting something from the freezer)… and by the time I had done all that and got back to my computer, I decided to work on my novel instead of doing a Weekend Update post.
Having slept on it, I figured out which news items I definitely wanted to focus on. To follow up on topics that I’ve included in previous Friday Five or Weekend Update posts. And since one of these involves the sentencing of a serial killer, I’m going to put it behind a cut tag. If you aren’t in the mood for discussion of gruesome murders, please don’t click. Otherwise… Read More…
So, the basic headline first: Roger Stone, Longtime Trump Associate, Arrested After Mueller Indictment. He has been indicted for one count of obstruction of proceeding (interfering with an investigation into one or more crimes), five counts of making false statements (lying to Congress under oath), and one count of witness tampering. Let’s be clear, this means that a grand jury has found that the prosecutors have established a prima facia case that he is probably guilty of these crimes.
According to the indictment, Stone informed members of the Trump campaign that wikileaks was illegally in possession of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee, which he could make available to the campaign so that campaign may use the information in the political campaign. I want to note, here, that nothing in the hacked emails indicated that any crimes were being conducted by anyone in the Clinton campaign or the DNC. The so-called damaging information was either stuff that could easily be taken out of context to imply more unsavory things, or indications that many of the running a bunch of political campaigns were ruthless and sometimes held grudges. It can be embarrassing, but hardly illegal.
Obtaining the emails, on the other hand, is a criminal act. Using illegally obtained personal communications can also be a crime.
Anyway, Stone is charged with lying about this under oath multiple times, trying to convince at least one other witness to lie, and generally attempting to impede any legal investigation into the crime of hacking the email servers, stealing the information, and sharing it. This is serious, not just because it ties someone with long-running close ties to the Alleged President to the Russian Collusion case. It also implies that Congressional Republicans didn’t try very hard while investigation Russian interference: Roger Stone’s Indictment Proves the House Republicans’ Russia Investigation Was a Whitewash.
Stone has been an infamous figure in Republican politics for years. He’s well known for various dirty tricks. Be he is also well known for his obsession with disgraced former President Richard Nixon. Stone famously has Nixon’s face tattooed on his back (seriously, be posts pictures of the tattoo on line, himself!). When he came out of federal court on Friday after posting bail, he literally (and intentionally) posed in a manner identical to one of Nixon’s famous things: holding both hands out at an angle from his body, fingers on each handing making a V for Victory, and grinning like a madman.Less pertinent to any actual crimes, but the source of many memes out there comparing Stone to the character of Judge Doom, the villain in the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Look at these pictures! This is how the guy dresses when he is going to places. He looks like he’s cosplaying a a villain from the campy 1960s Batman TV show, for goodness sake! There are more, so many, many more! And I know it is silly and superficial to focus on such a thing, but there is more to his cartoon-ish personality and life choices.
And that is relevant in a few ways: Roger Stone’s Greatest Liability – The longtime Trump adviser’s attention-seeking ways made him an easy target for Robert Mueller.. An easy target, much easier than any one of the thirty-four other people who have either already pled guilty to various crimes related to the Trump campaign or have been indicted before Stone. That Mueller waited this long to get Stone tells us that he has already locked down enough to start going for big fish, as it were.
There is a bit more, though. I mentioned above that Stone is obsessed with Nixon and likes to talk up his relationship to Nixon all the time. Dozens of stories, including at least one of those I’ve already linked to, often refer to his time working on one of Nixon’s presidential campaigns. Specifically indicated that he was involved in the official Nixon campaign organization. That, it turns out, isn’t true: Nixon Foundation disowns Roger Stone.
You have to be pretty bad to have the Nixon Foundation disavow you!
The truth is that Stone was 16 years old the Nixon successfully ran for President in 1968. He was 20 years old when Nixon ran for re-election, and it is true that he volunteered for re-election activities. It is even true that his official title in that capacity was as a “junior scheduler.” But he was not working for the Nixon campaign. He wasn’t even working for one of the state-level committees to re-elect the President. He was the junior scheduler for the committee that was formed by his University’s Young Republican Club to promote Nixon on campus.
My grandpa used to like to tell the story about when I was four years old and I got into an argument with my dad because I thought that Barry Goldwater would be a better President than Lyndon B. Johnson. That didn’t make me a Goldwater campaign aide. And being a member of a campus Young Republican Club supporting the re-election of the then current Republican President doesn’t make one a Presidential Campaign Aide, either.
Stone eventually became the national president of the Young Republicans, and he became infamous for amassing dossiers on all 800 delegates to the national meeting of the club. He and his close friend Paul Manafort used information in those dossiers to blackmail other members of the organization in order to make them vote for his proposals.
Stone did work for the Nixon Administration briefly after college, but he was an extremely low-level Federal employee. As the Nixon Foundation’s official statement said, “Nowhere in the Presidential Daily Diaries from 1972 to 1974 does the name “Roger Stone” appear.” Stone later worked briefly for Senator Bob Dole, but was fired over allegations that he had been involved in various unethical campaign activities.
He did become a campaign strategist for a Republican gubernatorial candidate and later worked on both of Ronald Reagan’s campaigns and for the elder President Bush’s first election campaign. He was one of many founders of the National Conservative Political Action Committee. He worked on various Senatorial election campaigns. And in the 1990s he became a paid lobbyist for one of Donald Trump’s companies
He went to work for Senator Dole again while Dole was running for President, and then had to quit when it was discovered that he and his second wife had been placing ads in various “racy” publications seeking sexual partners for threesomes and more-somes. At the time, he accused a former employee with a drug problem of placing all the ads to embarrass him, but later admitted that the ads were his. And while I don’t think the ads or the private sexual practices of he and his second wife made are usually anyone’s business—remember that politicians he has worked for and promoted and raised money for have actively tried to restrict and criminalize the consensual sexual activities of other people, so it becomes relevant. And then, of course, trying to frame someone else for it is also indicative of his being an immoral, unethical liar.
So it should be no surprise that Trump has praised him: “Roger’s a good guy. He’s been so loyal and so wonderful.”
One of the stories I didn’t link to yesterday was a Buzzfeed piece that only broke on Thursday, but by the time I was working on the Friday Five Thursday night, I had seen so many people link to it or re-reported it that it felt both like old news or at least something that everyone saw, so I didn’t link. Let me remedy that because late Friday a boatload of new developments happened: President Trump Directed His Attorney Michael Cohen To Lie To Congress About The Moscow Tower Project.
I should also admit that, besides seeing so many links to it throughout Thursday, it also just feels like a headline you’ve already read, right? I mean, didn’t we already know this? Except we didn’t know this one, and if a fraction of the details are right, it’s a bigger deal than some of the other well-documented lies and corrupt acts of the Alleged President: BuzzFeed’s Trump-Cohen Story Describes Clearly Impeachable Crimes- The tale of a presidential coverup is familiar — and troubling. This is different than most of the other things we’ve heard about this case because, if the story is correct, it is talking about things Trump did after taking office. If true, it also is a serious crime (and criminal conspiracy) regardless of whether the interactions of the Trump’s campaign organization with Russian officials rise to the legal definition of collusion.
Lying to Congress is a crime. Lying to Congress under oath is a serious crime. A government official (including by not limited to the President) instructing someone else to lie to Congress under oath is a crime. Doing so for the explicit purpose of obstructing one or more criminal investigations (and remember, Mueller’s office is not the only one investigating various possible criminal activities surrounding these events) is a serious crime.
Of course, supporters of the Alleged President got what they think is vindication Friday night (and even he thinks it is, because of course he’s tweeted about it already): Special counsel office: Parts of Buzzfeed article tying Trump to Cohen’s lies to Congress are not accurate. Oh, well, in that case, never mind, right?
Well, no, because you need to both read the actual statement from the Special Counsel’s Office, and you need to think like a prosecutor when you do:
“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate.”
Parse that like a lawyer and you realize that all the Special Counsel’s Office is saying is that 1) the don’t have all the details right, and 2) there are nuances or details which the article omits or misinterprets.
It is not a repudiation of the core of the story: Here’s What Legal Experts and Former Gov’t. Officials Say Mueller’s Statement on the Buzzfeed Story Means. In other words, what the Special Counsel’s Office is saying is that parts of the story are right, parts are wrong, but they can’t tell us which parts are without revealing information that would compromise the current investigation.
Buzzfeed has since responded that they stand by their story. The speculation is that someone in one of the other prosecuting offices has leaked this information. I mentioned above that Mueller’s office isn’t the only one, right? We know that the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York is also investigating many of these things, because they have been filing joint motions to federal judges regarding sentencing and so forth of a bunch of the conspirators who have already either pled guilty or been indicted. We know that prosecutors in Germany are investigating some aspects because of raids they have conducted on bank offices and such over there, and the public warrants filed in conjunction with those raids. There is a strong suspicion (but less public proof) that state prosecutors in New York are also conducting a parallel investigation. There are hints in some of the other activities that numerous other state prosecutors have been given information relevant to state crimes that the Special Counsel’s Office as uncovered—this is not unusual for federal investigators, when finding evidence of crimes that they can’t pursue in federal courts to refer that information to the jurisdictions that can prosecute the crimes.
So it is very possible that someone in one of these other offices, for whatever reason, decided to leak the information to the press. One possibility is that several of the statements made this week by the Attorney General nominee have made it seem likely that he will let Mueller complete his investigation, but then not pass the report on to Congress, instead writing his own summary report. This could make law enforcement officials believe that the information is never going to reach Congress or the public unless someone leaks some of it and gets enough people looking into it that it becomes impossible for a corrupt Attorney General to suppress.
This, by the way, was the motivation that led an FBI official named Mark Felt to start passing information about crimes committed on Nixon’s behalf to two reporters for the Washington Post. Those leaks eventually led to the Watergate investigation and created enough public furor that Nixon resigned from office before Congress could impeach him. For many years, the two reporters refused to reveal the name of their source of secret information, referring to him only as Deep Throat.
This raises the question, why would Mueller say anything at all about it, if it wasn’t his office that leaked it? My guess is two reasons. First, he probably believes that he has already set up enough contingencies against interference from a new Attorney General that the investigation’s results will reach the public. Second, he is very angry at whoever did leak it, even though he isn’t sure who did the leaking. He isn’t worried that the information he gathers won’t eventually become public (because of his contingencies) but he is worried that a spooked Alleged President will find another way to shut down the investigation before he finishes.
So, issuing this statement calms Cadet Bonespur down, giving him reason to tweet about how even Mueller agrees with him the Buzzfeed is wrong. And buys Mueller a bit more time.
Which makes me suspect that he is really, really close to nailing down irrefutable evidence on something. He’s got a lot of people who have been found or had pled guilty to all sorts of things already, which means he’s got a lot of thumbscrews being twisted to flush out more evidence.
It might be time to break out the popcorn soon!
The sad reality is that no matter how many criminal convictions and guilty pleas are racked up around Trump, his supporters will never abandon him. Congressional Republicans have made it clear they won’t fulfill their Constitutional duties (the President was impeachable on violation the Emoluments Claus of the Constitution practically on day one) unless they perceive that sticking by him is going to harm them. So there isn’t going to be a crack in that solidarity until after the midterms, at the earliest.
But still, the wheels of justice grind on. And guilty verdicts will keep piling up.
Meanwhile, I continue to try to find ways to keep my levels of outrage down to manageable levels. Getting caught up on shows via the DVR and Netflix, helps. Getting back to by big pile of to-read books also helps.
What are your strategies to reduce stress?
First up, a little good news: New York City: Felony Crime Rate Hits Record Low. One of the on-going American myths is the mistaken notion that crime is on the rise, that there is far more crime happening today than there was when we were younger or in the good old days, or whatever. But that is simply not true. At all. Don’t believe me? Take it away Brennan Center for Justice:
Even despite recent increases, rates of murder and violent crime remain at historic low points, almost 50 percent below their early-1990s peaks. A preliminary analysis of 2017 crime rates in the nation’s 30 largest cities projects that the overall crime rate and the violent crime rate will decline to the second-lowest levels since 1990.
They have a lot of statistics and analysis (and nifty animated graphs!) on their site. It is true that in 2015 and 2016 several cities saw a dramatic increase in murder rates. However, the murder rate continued downward everywhere else. In 2015 the violent crime rate went down 2.6 percent compared to the previous year, and some people would say that a 2.6 percent change isn’t very significant (in fact, certain conservative politicians argued exactly that), but the fact that it was the 14th year in a row that the national violent crime rate went down is much more significant.
Also, they are projecting that the cities which had dramatic increases in 2015 and 2016 are all seeing declines this year, some quite large (Detroit looks to be seeing a 24% decrease!).
In news that is harder to classify: Trump Deported Fewer Mexican Nationals In 2017 Than Obama Did In 2016. This is a bit surprising given some of the crazy lengths that the Trump administration has gone to rounding up suspected undocumented immigrants. Part of me wants to make the cynical observation that the racist jerks can’t even pull off their racist policies right. I really haven’t found anyone analyzing this story in a way that we can evaluate why the deportation numbers (not just to Mexico) are so far down. Maybe because in their zeal that keep rounding up people who actually are here legally, then losing the legal fight to deport them anyway?
Let’s end with something funny. The Daily Show did an end of the year special, and this skit (don’t be like the idiots commenting on Youtube: it’s a parody of both the music industry, political songs, and much, much more) is definitely worth your time. Watch it all the way to the end! Song for Women 2017 (feat. DJ Mansplain) – The Daily Show:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
Anyone who has ever dealt with an internet troll has seen this tactic.
Unfortunately, anyone who is paying attention to Seattle politics right now are witnessing a particularly loathsome use of the tactic. I’ve written before about the allegations that Mayor Murray hired teen-age prostitutes and/or sexually abused teens in his care 30-some years ago in Oregon. The allegations came to light because of a suspiciously timed lawsuit filed on behalf of an anonymous man, and the lawyer pressing the case behaved strangely—filing motions with the court that weren’t legitimate filings but rather press releases citing strange gossipy items about the mayor (leading the judge to both warn and fine the lawyer). The mayor decided not to seek re-election. When, not long after the filing deadline to run for mayor and one day before the first sworn answers to question were to be given by the plaintiff/accuser, the lawsuit was suddenly withdrawn, a lot of us thought that maybe there wasn’t anything to the allegations.
And since time immemorial, people have accused all queer people of being pedophiles or other kinds of sexual predators, so it was easy to see this as just another example of that prejudice, right?
Murray maintained that when the accusations came to light about 33 years ago and were investigated by both the police and other agencies, he had been cleared—investigators, he said, had all agreed that the accusations from the teens were unfounded. We knew the country prosecutor had declined to file charges. Oregon’s child protective services said that the case had been closed and that most of the files related to the case had been destroyed some years ago. Given how anti-gay the police and prosecutors in that part of Oregon were known to be in the 80s, it seemed that there must not have been any evidence to sustain the charges.
Well, now we know that’s not quite true.
Some of the records that were thought to be destroyed have been found. And after getting permission from the person who was the teen-age accuser at the time, redacted versions of the files have been released. Murray had been a foster parent at the time of some of these accusations, and one of the people who alleged he had sexually abused him was a foster teen in his care. The agency investigated and concluded that there was reasonable cause to believe abuse had occurred. Murray’s certification to be a foster parent was therefore revoked, with the agency officially finding that he should never be allowed to be a foster parent again.
The mayor’s response to this revelation has been to claim he had no idea of the finding and then argue that child protective services always errs on the side of believing the child, therefore the accusations shouldn’t be believed. There have been a series of statements from his lawyers in which the goalposts have been moved a few times while trying to draw a distinction between the criminal law standard of guilt of “beyond a reasonable doubt” and the standards adhered to by agencies like child protective services.
It is technically true that the standard for conviction in a criminal case is higher than the standard used by child protective services. But statistically it is absolutely not true that those sorts of agencies believe the kids all of the time, or even most of the time. The vast majority of the time when such accusations are investigated, the agencies determine that the allegations are probably unfounded. Unfortunately, other statistics indicates that they reach this conclusion erroneously more times than not.
We also now know that at least one prosecutor was convinced that Murray was guilty. She withdrew charges related to the foster child not because there was insufficient evidence, but because the troubled teen ran away from the group home he’d been moved to, and was literally unavailable to testify.
The teens were all kids who Murray had encountered because they were already troubled. They were in the system because of parental abuse, neglect, or abandonment. They had drug issues. They were exactly the sorts of kids that people wouldn’t believe. We know now from numerous studies that they are exactly the sorts of victims certain types of abusers seek out, precisely because of that lack of credibility.
When the agency concluded the allegations of abuse by the foster teen were founded, they were required to notify Murray that his certification was being revoked and offer him a chance to appeal the finding. Murray didn’t appeal. He instead left Oregon and returned to his home town, Seattle. Given the timing of his departure, I’m having a very hard time believing that he never received the notice and the offer of an appeal. So I don’t believe him when he says he never knew about the finding.
And that throws a shadow of doubt over the rest of his denials.
Each time the allegations were brought up to him over the years, his first reaction was immediately attack the credibility of each teen involved. Then it was to attack the credibility and question the motives of any lawyers or investigators who were looking into the allegations. And now, by asserting that child protective services always errs on the side of believing the accuser, he’s attacking the credibility of the agency.
And what makes it loathsome, is that each day he remains in the office of Mayor and gets away with attacking the credibility of the accusers, investigators, and agency charged with protecting kids has a chilling effect on other abuse victims out there. It sends a clear message that if they come forward, they will not be believed. If anyone believes them, those people will be discredited.
Whether Murray committed the abuse or not, the chilling effect helps abusers and hurts abuse victims.
So much time has passed and the waters have been so muddied that these allegations from 30-some years ago probably couldn’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal court (which we’ll never know because of the statute of limitations). But “charges dropped because the witness went missing” is not the definition of exonerated. And “reasonable cause to believe the abuse had occurred” sure as heck isn’t the definition of unfounded. It doesn’t have to reach the criminal law definition of Guilty for reasonable people to conclude Not Innocent.
It has been argued that the city council can’t impeach the mayor because the charter only allows them to do that if he commits a willful violation of duty, which in general meant violation of his duties as mayor while serving in office. But the charter also says the mayor may be removed over an offence involving “moral turpitude.” Turpitude, according to my dictionaries, is “an evil way of behaving.” Whether he committed the abuse or not, I certainly think his behaviors of lying about knowing that the charges had been found as probably true and attacking the standard of proof that a child protective agency should use could be described as evil, don’t you?