Red State’s Streiff has a fascinating article that points you (or should) towards David Reaboi’s article in securitystudies.org on Jamal Khashoggi’s relationship with Qatar’s intelligence agencies. It seems that both dead and alive, Khashoggi was first an agent and then a martyr-pawn of Qatar and Turkey in their struggle against Saudi influence in the Middle East. With Iran allied, of course, in a sort of axis with Erdogan’s Turkey. And with Putin’s Russia clearly forging links with Turkey and Iran, although Syria will make that a balancing act that the Kremlin will be sorely tested by.

This is a tale of two very different ways of dealing with conflicting spheres of influence in perhaps the world’s most volatile region:

  • one a blundering, medieval act of brutality,
  • the other a ruthless and efficient information campaign reaching into the heart of America’s and therefore the world’s media.

And Jamal Khashoggi is a key player in both tales, needless to say. As Reaboi writes at Security Studies Group’s (SSG) article:

The narrative focusing on the death of Jamal Khashoggi was to be put into the service of both Qatar and Turkey’s main interest, undermining the stability of its rival, Saudi Arabia. When complete, the successful information operation would depict Khashoggi a heroic martyr to independent journalism and freedom, while Saudi Arabia would be the embodiment of evil and callousness. It is clear now that, not only was Khashoggi transmogrified in death into a major front in Qatar’s war on its Gulf neighbors; in life, he was Qatar’s asset in that war, as well.

The effort to transform Khashoggi from the political operative he was into a journalist and martyr for freedom was an information operation waged largely in the United States. It targeted a diverse audience spanning from “echo chamber” commentators and media figures to politicians, who would then be moved to act based on the new attitude and information the campaign had inserted into the discussion. This operational aspect is of primary importance; as information operations always work to advance policy interests, in order to succeed, these perceptions must affect policymakers and cause them to alter policy.

Reaboi goes on to defend his outfit in the face of the attacks by the Obama administration former officials who helped forge the Iran Deal and their many sympathizers in the media. This is understandable, but one should remember that his outfit is also promoting a view of the Middle East where the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an ally and one that can even work with Israel in helping to contain Iranian influence in the region. A view closer to historical ties of America, but a view nonetheless just like Khashoggi’s pieces in the Washington Post.

So it comes down to the following: who is a greater threat to America (and to Israel): Iran and it’s allies who openly advocate for the destruction of the Jewish State in a violent frenzied jihad of a holocaust? Or the Kingdom from where most of the 9/11 attackers came from and which financed (indirectly) their horrifying endeavors?

Qatar is key in this impossible equation in which it would seem that the stability and the deeds of the Saudi’s make them the lesser of evils compared with Iran. Qatar itself is tiny, enormously wealthy and very powerful. The Doha (Qatar’s principal city) round of the WTO trade talks has been going on since 2001. The FIFA World Cup will be ridiculously played there in 2022; likely in November because of the extreme heat of its endless summers. Al-Jazeera is based there and Qatari funds flow into the D.C. beltway as freely as any, according to the rumors at least. It is also at loggerheads with its neighboring Gulf States as well as with Saudi Arabia in part because of conflicting positions during the uprisings of the Arab Spring as well as the war in Yemen. And it is Qatari influence and money that propelled Jamal Khashoggi into a position of power and influence far beyond that of your average Washington Post columnist.

So, we now have American foreign policy dividing along partisan lines that mirror the Iran-Saudi fault lines in the Middle East. Obama’s Iran Deal on this side. Trump’s renewed approach to Saudi Arabia with its clownishly brutal Mohammed Bin Salman on the other side. This is hardly optimal.

These sorts of alliances often end up in large regional conflicts that spin out of control. Imagine World War III starting not in Ukraine’s eastern flank. Nor in the Korean peninsula. But in Syria.

No, that’s not a plea to keep the troops there. It’s exactly the opposite. Here’s David Reaboi wrapping his article:

Led by Sen. Chris Murphy and Elizabeth Warren, voices from the political left seemed to outdo each other in berating Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, with whom President Trump and members of his administration have warm relations. They are trying to use outrage over Khashoggi’s death to force a Saudi surrender in the war in Yemen; and end to arms sales, a break in US-Saudi relations, or even to depose Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman from his position in the Kingdom’s order of succession. This, of course, was the Qatari policy aim and the conclusion of a successful information operation.

I would suggest that deposing MSB is not as dangerous a move as Reboi thinks, if an agreement can be worked out with the aging sheiks of the Kingdom. Containing Iran, however, is key. And Syria is not the best place to do that. Riyadh is.

Information warfare in the 21st century is often more successful than bloody violence. Just ask Qatar and the ghost of Jamal Khashoggi.

Let’s review Senator McConnell’s words regarding the stopgap spending bill that punts the issue of funding the border wall into the next Congress. Feb 8 to be exact, six days short of Valentine’s Day. Here’s some of the Majority Leader’s wisdom:

We need the government to remain open for the American people.

No, you don’t Mitch. You need the government to remain open because you love your job and you will do nothing you calculate endangers your next re-election. Especially funding from business groups that aren’t all that worried about a porous southern border, to put it politely.

We need to wrap up our work for this year.

You didn’t wrap up your work, Mitch. You spiked the memos and headed home where the wrapping is on the presents under your tree, not on comprehensive border protection. Yes, criminal justice reform got done. Bravo. There’s lots more to do and you essentially handed “work” on the border over to Nancy Pelosi. Who will do to funding for border security what no Democrat (nor many Republicans) dare do to any government program at all – like say the National Institute of Health funding a $442,000 study of male prostitute behavior in Vietnam:

Starve the border wall to death by defunding it.

There will be important unfinished business in front of us, and we’ll owe it to the American people to finally tackle it.

Smooth, Mitch, very smooth. Words like “it” and “unfinished business” could refer to any piece of legislation lined up for Senate consideration. With a Democrat House, whether the border wall gets any additional dollars at all now remains to be seen. But President Trump remains bombastically optimistic, as he tweeted:

In our Country, so much money has been poured down the drain, for so many years, but when it comes to Border Security and the Military, the Democrats fight to the death. We won on the Military, which is being completely rebuilt. One way or the other, we will win on the Wall!

He’s right on money being poured down the drain. But Trump looks like he’s clearly lost another border wall battle. And perhaps lost the war as well. And that has Freedom Caucus members worried, and betrayed-by-Trump’er Ann Coulter furious as usual:

If anything, Trump’s vulgar narcissism made his vow to build a wall more believable. Respectable politicians had made similar promises over the years — and they always betrayed the voters. Maybe it took a sociopath to ignore elite opinion and keep his word.

On the basis of his self-interest alone, he must know that if he doesn’t build the wall, he has zero chance of being re-elected and a 100 percent chance of being utterly humiliated.

But when Trump is alone with Ivanka, they seem to agree that the wall has nothing to do with it. The people just love him for who he is! In a country of 320 million people, I’m sure there are some, but I have yet to meet a person who said, “Yeah, I don’t really care about immigration or trade, I just love his personality!”

Don’t stop there, Ann.

She doesn’t. After suggesting that Trump should have used the military to build the wall if Congress couldn’t get it done, she suggests there is far more support for the wall than people like McConnell realize. Or perhaps care, seeing their priorities are different. And that comes back to Trump’s persona versus Trump’s policies. This non-shutdown and border wall surrender – and that’s exactly what Schumer has called it, a retreat – may be far more damaging to Trump’s presidency than he realizes.

Does Trump indeed realize that? Or does he believe he can somehow strike a deal with Chuck and Nancy and somehow get enough of his wall built to say he delivered on a key campaign promise? Ann Coulter is suggesting that if he doesn’t get some sort of a wall built, and more than just some really, he will be seen as a blowhard. By his own supporters.

Coulter may just be right.

This changes things. Not because it necessarily alters the facts, although it does shed a different light on Michael Flynn’s perspective of the interview on January 24th, 2017 with the 2 FBI agents. And the “this” that changes things, is Judge Emmet Sullivan’s courtroom tirade. Here’s part of what he said:

You were an unregistered agent of a foreign country while serving as the national security adviser to the president of the United States. Arguably this undermines everything this flag over here stands for.

And yes, the judge pointed at the Flag in the courtroom as he unleashed his accusation against Flynn. The foreign country is not Russia, however. It’s Turkey, which Flynn did indeed lobby for while failing to register as a foreign agent, before becoming Trump’s National Security Advisor. Registering as a foreign agent has been more of bureaucratic form-filling exercise until lately. It has now assumed the moral weight of a felony in Judge Sullivan’s eyes.

Is the Judge legally or even politically right?

It doesn’t matter if the question is fair, unfortunately. There are surely plenty of Democrat examples of unregistered agents who got away with it because it wasn’t something that really mattered much in Washington. Call it acceptable practice to be sloppy about registering. That has now become an untenable position to take. This means far greater transparency brought to bear on foreign lobbying in America. And theoretically, who can argue with greater transparency? So, one can see a host of foreign lobbying regulations coming around the bend or being rigorously enforced if they are already in existence.

But the real question is: did Flynn’s lack of registration mean he somehow is guilty of treason? Because that’s what Judge Emmet has implied, even if he reportedly walked back his words somewhat. It’s clearly what the judge feels. If it is somehow treason, then Washington’s foreign policy establishment should start getting worried, regardless of what side of the aisle they happen to work for.

Now, let’s consider the memo on the Flynn interview that Mueller’s team just released. It’s highly redacted but it clearly shows the agents getting into the weeds of foreign policy by asking Flynn if he talked about sanctions with Russia’s ambassador during the transition period between the election and the inauguration.

Flynn’s answers were cautiously neutral and noncommittal. What ferking business are delicate foreign policy questions for a sitting National Security Advisor (who was an incoming NSA at the time of the conversations with ambassador Kislyak) to a couple of FBI agents? In other words, was Flynn obliged to answer the FBI’s questions? Would no answer have been a lie? These are impossible legal questions. But easy political ones. Comey by his attitude in that recent interview in Manhattan which I detailed in the last blog, clearly thought it was a no-win situation that a better organized administration would have never allowed to happen without a lawyer present.

And now we have a judge lambasting Flynn over his Turkey lobbying and thus somehow giving credence to the theory that he deliberately and knowingly lied in the FBI interview. Which the Mueller team has also recently insisted on. And which Flynn now has seen fit to agree with. He has no other choice at this point, really.

But in all of this tempest, there is again no real evidence of collusion with Russia. Only a failure to register as an agent of the Turkish government. Unseemly, perhaps. A little shady? Yes, it is. But talking about sanctions with the Russian ambassador as the incoming NSA is in no way collusion. As much as Mueller’s team would like the public jury – that is, voters – to think so.

Flynn is being made the scapegoat for what were perfectly acceptable practices before Trump got elected president and the collusion story was put together in order to de-legitimize his administration. And it seems to be working. Fired Deputy Director McCabe is likely grinning ear to ear. His machinations have borne fruit.

Its not just what Christopher Steele said in early August in a defamation lawsuit brought by Russian bankers, or where he said it. It’s why he had to say it. Here’s one of the things Steele said in what seems to have been a written statement to the court:

Fusion’s immediate client was law firm Perkins Coie. It engaged Fusion to obtain information necessary for Perkins Coie LLP to provide legal advice on the potential impact of Russian involvement on the legal validity of the outcome of the 2016 US Presidential election.

Based on that advice, parties such as the Democratic National Committee and HFACC Inc. (also known as ‘Hillary for America’) could consider steps they would be legally entitled to take to challenge the validity of the outcome of that election.

Perkins Coie is an old well-established Seattle law firm. It has represented much of the West Coasts tech giants. It also is apparently counsel of record for:

  • The Democratic National Committee
  • The Democratic Leadership Council
  • The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
  • The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
  • And nearly every Democrat Member of Congress
  • As well as having represented the presidential campaigns of John Kerry, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton.

And leading its Political Law practice is the ebullient Marc Elias, he of the outstretched palms in a joyful evangelical display of hutzpah as he congratulated Minnesota voters in managing to get Al Franken in by a whisker and a recount back in 2008/9. It’s a heart-warming photograph especially the faces of the low-level Democrat officials, turned up in a sort of gleeful stupor at Elias’ relentless, celebratory partisanship. Which when combined with a top-notch legal mind becomes a formidable weapon.

But that weapon was sheathed in November of 2016 and only unleashed this past November in what seems to have proven to be a rather less successful attempt at turning the leadership of the Senate back over to the Democrats based on a few recounts in places like Florida, or Missouri. However, Elias and Perkins Coie were locked and loaded (Yes, I’ve just mixed my military metaphors. Sorry.) and ready to be used to contest the results of the 2016 presidential election.

So, what happened?

Somebody. A few people one supposes. Maybe John Podesta and others said: slow down. We won’t do this just right now. We have to use the dossier and the intelligence community to discredit Trump. We’ll do everything we can and asap, but we have to put the pieces together. I can imagine more than a few shouting matches over tactics, but the general agreement was to put the following political and legal plan into action.

  • Use the electors. Try to somehow convince them not to certify the election. If that doesn’t work.
  • Use the intel community. It’s already been working with us since early in 2016. Have the Steele dossier brought up in a meeting Trump had with then FBI Director Comey which is looking more and more like an entrapment scheme (one of many attempts that began around March of 2016 to draw in members of Trump’s campaign on promises of dirt through Russian connections) that would provide the necessary excuse for the media to mention its existence, especially the golden showers fabrication, and hopefully for some media site to release the dossier. Which is exactly what happened.
  • Entrap Mike Flynn (with the traps laid by former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe) a former Obama intel official  who was hated by the Obama administration and especially the Iran Deal wonks at State led by Ben Rhodes from his perch in the Obama White House. Use a legitimate meeting with the Russian ambassador as a pretext for absurd speculations on using the Logan Act which is itself an absurd bit of legislation that has sat dormant and unused on the books for centuries. And nail Flynn for what seems to have been mistakes and not lies.
  • Have Sally Yates and Bruce Ohr disrupt the Trump administration’s policies at DOJ.
  • Use the Trump Comey meeting and the discussion about Flynn to set up obstruction of justice charges.
  • Set up a situation where AG Sessions has to recuse himself because of legitimate contacts with Russia.
  • When Comey is predictably but tactlessly (in the military sense of the word) fired, use Comey’s friend – Columbia Law prof Daniel Richman – to leak Comey’s memo of the meeting in order to pressure Rod Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel.
  • If no real evidence of collusion is found by the special counsel, use obstruction of justice charges.
  • If even that doesn’t appear to be airtight, go after shady Trump associates on criminal charges that have to do with money-laundering and failing to register as lobbyists, all in order to portray a veneer of corruption around the Trump administration and lay the groundwork for impeachment.

Oh yes, and send Marc Elias back in after the 2018 midterms to see if he can work his magic again.

We wouldn’t have found about the recount plan and the closer than realized links between Perkins Coie and Steele and of course Fusion GPS if it hadn’t been for 3 Russian bankers associated with Alfa Bank (they of the supposed evil server that had a direct line to Putin’s bedside) who had the audacity to fight back in court.

And that pushback produced the documents where Steele stated the possibility, or more accurately the goal, of a recount back in November or December of 2016.

Thanks to the Washington Times for bringing this story into the open. Because mainstream media right now is all about how Cohen will drag down Trump. Which is a not impossible prediction.

But we should keep in mind that Democrats and Never-Trumpers in the intel community – in their desperation to keep Trump from the White House and now to impeach him – have effectively criminalized the transition period for all future incoming administrations. As well as made lobbying by any foreign government a much riskier proposition. This was not done for noble ends and will likely not end well down the road.

Gabriel Malor, a DC area attorney, has laid out the way the SDNY prosecutors – working out of New York’s Southern District and therefore working with one carefully calibrated degree of separation from Mueller’s team – will make the case against President Trump. And they will do so working in tandem with the Democrat House of Representatives. In a piece in The Federalist, he points out the ultimate irony for Trump.

This may be thought of as The National Enquirer Impeachment when the smoke has cleared, and the House has likely attempted to impeach and perhaps has indeed impeached President Trump.

The nuts and bolts of the case will be the payments made to Stormy Daniels and – perhaps even more so – the payments made to Playmate Karen McDougal through American Media Incorporated or AMI. That would be the owners of National Enquirer, who bought up the rights to McDougal’s life story which includes an affair with Donald Trump, of course. This was managed by Michael Cohen and his testimony may give the necessary evidence to prosecute the payments as a campaign finance violation on three counts:

  • It is unlawful, usually at least, for a corporation to make a direct payment to a campaign for a federal office. That’s why PAC’s exist. Was this a direct payment? If it was hush money to help Trump’s campaign, then yes it likely was.
  • It is unlawful to make a contribution to an election for federal office in excess of $2,700. Using a little math: $130,000 > $2,700. It’s hard to argue with that inequality. Again, as long as the payment to Stormy Daniels was for electoral and not just personal reasons, then it may very well be that Trump was an accomplice to this crime.
  • Cohen’s use of service contracts through shell companies to reportedly disguise the payments is in breach of campaign finance transparency laws.

Now here’s where Schiff the milquetoast coyote comes in. While pointing to these possible/probable crimes, he is already linking them to any possible legitimate contacts with Russia and eagerly trying to conflate the two separate cases. One is what’s looking like a campaign finance violation. The other is what is looking like little evidence so far of anything resembling true collusion with Russia.

As Malor points out, the Office of Legal Counsel has deemed that you can’t indict a sitting president, establishing this precedent during the Nixon/Watergate years. Finance campaign violations have a 5-year statute of limitations, apparently. But impeachment proceedings can start whenever the next Congress decides it wants to, which given the Cohen indictments and the possibility of Mueller wrapping up his probe, will probably be sometime in the last week of this coming January. Roughly speaking.

So that’s what Schiff is doing, trying to lay the groundwork for public support for impeachment. He’s got more than a little help on his side, unfortunately for the president. As I said in the last blog, this could have been avoided with a little more caution and a little more thought about process on the part of Trump’s campaign team. But when you hire people like Paul Manafort to run your campaign, that type of thinking is not part of the plan.

And yes, had Trump had a campaign team that was more thoughtful and cautious, he may not have won the election. What brought him to Washington may expel him from Washington as the powers that be across the administrative state, the judiciary and now a good part of Congress – never mind most of the media – have the perfect excuse to do what they’ve wanted to do since late on November 8th just over 2 years ago. Expel Trump from Washington.

If they do attempt this, and it seems certain they will, they should remember the reasons why Trump was elected and do so with a little humility and appreciation for the forgotten man and woman that brought the president to Washington D.C. But there is no humility to be seen anywhere. It died with George H.W. Bush, even if it was sometimes just an act by a very skilled politician, it was also real. And that reality is gone. So we now seem to be approaching the most climactic and (politically) bloody act of the Trump Presidency.

But even so, who can say this will be the final act? One should be very careful about assuming this will sink President Trump. Even if it will be a bloody winter in Washington.

Meng Wanzhou is the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei and is also CFO of the company. She would have thought of Vancouver as a second city to her, seeing that it’s population of wealthy, successful Chinese immigrants practically own the city, and have it made it a completely unaffordable city for even many a hard-working professional who doesn’t have a cool 7 figures to drop on a modest 3-bedroom house.

Something changed and on Wednesday she was arrested in Vancouver in order to be extradited to America on charges relating to the company’s reported defying of sanctions on trading with Iran, as well as perhaps concerns about intellectual property theft, something that just about every major Chinese corporation or SOE is likely to have benefited from.

The Canadian prime minister quickly tried to distance himself from his own judiciary and even John Bolton has publicly said that President Trump himself might not have known. Or in fact, had known what was coming. But it’s possible Trump didn’t know about this, and it certainly undercuts his improvised ceasefire with Xi which was quickly put together at the G20 in Buenos Aires.

Is it the right thing to do? Espionage, especially industrial espionage, but also espionage in order to gain a commanding position in technologies that might be used in the next major war or are being used in various low-scale wars or confrontations with hybrid warfare, is something China has almost certainly been guilty of for some time.

Zhengfei himself was a People’s Liberation Army ex-officer when he founded Huawei back in 1987. It would hardly surprise if surveillance and espionage have been goals from the get go for the corporation. And that brings us to other nations that seem to have made the decision to distance themselves from Huawei’s products. Those nations are:

  • The UK: BT (British Telecom) has decided to remove Huawei equipment from key parts of its 3G and 4G networks. The head of MI6 stated that they would have to decide if they were “comfortable” with the use of Huawei equipment and the position of the Chinese tech company in general.
  • Australia and New Zealand: Governments in both countries have decided to block the use of Huawei equipment in their future 5G networks.
  • Canada: Canadian justice and law enforcement collaborated with America to detain and presumably to extradite Meng Wanzhou.

Let’s see, doing the math, that would add up to – including America of course – um, five countries right? Five Eyes you could almost say.

Although this is conspiracy wonking, it is interesting that the intel community across the Five Eyes alliance decided that a few days after Trump’s tentative deal with China would be the right time to arrest a key Chinese tech executive on Canadian soil, the last place Trump or Xi would have expected such an occurrence. This could be a coincidence. Or it could be a deliberate attempt by the intel community along with officials in Trump’s own DOJ (which remains the purview of Rod Rosenstein more than it is that of Acting AG Matthew Whitaker) to force the President’s hand. Frustration with a lack of sanctions that target espionage in particular could be their excuse.

Or they just want to disrupt the administration, and this is a great way to do it.

Unfortunately, aside from political motivations and questions about timing, this may very well turn out to be something that had to be done. Xi’s China has abused its privileges in the world trading system and is actively trying to intimidate and use its trading partners for its own mercantilist benefits. It comes at an awkward time and it smells a little of Trump derangement syndrome, but this will unleash a confrontation that has been building anyway.

I just wonder if President Trump had any idea this was coming.

There’s a new line of attack against Trump’s tweets and it’s a strictly legal one. But also a soap opera of a mess politically. Here’s the relevant section of 18 U.S. Code 1512 – Tampering with a witness, victim, or informant:

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

(B)

alter, destroy, mutilate, or conceal an object with intent to impair the object’s integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding;

(C)

evade legal process summoning that person to appear as a witness, or to produce a record, document, or other object, in an official proceeding; or

(D)

be absent from an official proceeding to which such person has been summoned by legal process;

or

(3)

hinder, delay, or prevent the communication to a law enforcement officer or judge of the United States of information relating to the commission or possible commission of a Federal offense or a violation of conditions of probation [1] supervised release,,[1] parole, or release pending judicial proceedings;

shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.

Why are we talking about a part of the U.S. Code that seems targeted to deal with organized crime’s ability to threaten witnesses and intimidate or buy them into silence? This is clear from the rest of the section that deals with physical threats including murder of witnesses. Why is the possibility that the President could somehow be legally treated like some Mafia boss who with coded language threatens anybody who could provide damning evidence against them in court being given such weight in the media? Isn’t this some crank or Trump hater? Or out-of-work lawyer?

Because Trump White House advisor Kellyanne Conway’s husband is the out of work lawyer who’s tweeting back at Trump’s tweets and making the legal hints that could be seen as threats.

It started earlier this year when George Conway, a successful New York lawyer and a member of the Federalist Society whose only case at the Supreme Court – Morrison v. National Australia Bank – helped shift the way securities law is applied and won a unanimous decision at SCOTUS that was authored by no less than Justice Scalia, decided he didn’t want a job at DOJ running the civil division. It reportedly had to do with the Mueller probe and with Comey’s previous firing and George Conway apparently became upset about the Trump administration’s fierce criticism of the probe and of Mueller and Comey, and former AG Sessions as well.

So, George Conway began to tweet his discontent and this was accepted apparently as just the way he was; a stubborn contrarian. A Politico post back in May of this year:

Kellyanne Conway’s allies in the White House have worried, at times, about her husband’s tweets—worried about how they will be wielded in the snake-pit environment of the communications department, where enemies might try to use her husband as a weapon against her. “I had some angst for her,” said one former administration official. “My anxiety was that he was putting Kellyanne in a bad spot. But I don’t think it affected her at all. Her standing with the president is rock solid. She’s as loyal as it gets—sometimes to a fault.” The source added: “I would say the likely impact of George’s tweets inside the White House is negligible.”

And while the general reaction from inside the building was a giant “WTF” when he started expressing disagreement with the administration, a year in, they are generally now viewed with nothing more than an eye roll: It’s weird, but it’s just George being George. Most people now view his wife as one of the last inner-circle aides left whose loyalty the president counts on. One administration official said Kellyanne Conway is so close with the president that she would feel comfortable flagging her husband’s tweets for the president herself.

Not anymore. Eric Trump has decided that enough is enough and has attacked Husband George in a series of tweets. We may end up seeing this in the courts, as Democrats would love to use 18 U.S. 1512 as a pretext for obstruction of justice charges.

This will matter for Twitter and for future administrations, but one hopes that if a slightly absurd case like this does make its way to SCOTUS, free speech will prevail.

Meanwhile, we have another circus-like story unfolding in the Trump White House, with Kellyanne Conway suddenly being placed in a rather uncomfortable position. This is high drama legally and low comedy politically.