A few years ago, UK physicist and cancer researcher David Robert Grimes with a smirking mug shot at, where else, The Guardian, sneeringly dismissed the science behind those who are against abortion. He wrote, among other things:

One of the most inflammatory arguments against abortion is rooted in the assertion that the foetus can feel pain, and that termination is therefore a brutal affair. This is extremely unlikely to be true. A foetus in the early stages of development lacks the developed nervous system and brain to feel pain or even be aware of their surroundings. The neuroanatomical apparatus required for pain and sensation is not complete until about 26 weeks into pregnancy. As the upper limit worldwide for termination is 24 weeks, and the vast majority of pregnancies are terminated well before this (most in the first 9 weeks in the UK), the question of foetal pain is a complete red herring. This is reflected in the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’s report on foetal pain, which concludes “… existing data suggests that cortical processing and therefore foetal perception of pain cannot occur before 24 weeks of gestation”.

His snarling dismissal of people’s concern for the pain that an unborn child can feel is now irrelevant, however. That line has been crossed, even as it is circumscribed by all the same conditionals and supposed safeguards that were originally used to describe the choice to have an abortion in the early days of Roe v. Wade.

Governor Ralph Northam – the head of the Commonwealth of Virginia and a pediatrician himself – said the following in an interview:

When we talk about third-trimester abortions, these are done with the consent of obviously the mother with the consent of the physicians — more than one physician, by the way.

And then in the radio interview, he said this:

And it’s done in cases where there may be severe deformities, there may be a fetus that is nonviable. So in this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mothers.

Which means that a child is an accessory from the moment it’s conceived, according to this worldview. And you can always return the accessory if its quality is not to your liking. It will feel pain, it may even have been delivered and be resting there on the multifunctional hospital bed that its mother is also lying on. If they decide it is deformed or wrong somehow, the baby will quickly be put to death.

Of course, Northam’s staff is already qualifying his comments and giving standard excuse that they were taken out of context. Nonsense. Should Virginia’s and New York State’s laws become the new standard around America and elsewhere, then any child will always be a potentially unwanted entity in the law’s eyes who must be granted permission to live. A fallen little angel guilty of the sin of being alive with a wizened face, awaiting for approval to remain breathing.

But Northam’s comments are not generating much airtime in most of mainstream media. We don’t talk about this, only a few nods to the crazed reactions of those of us who would support those who believe we must try to provide succor and care for the unborn or recently born.

Alongside abortion-on-demand, as euthanasia enters the customs of one country after another descending down from the aged terminally ill to depressed teens, and as pain is either medicated or the pained person eliminated, we move one more step towards a rather dreadful singularity, where human life is only valid if it is both attractive and intelligent. The sick, muddled masses who are judged ignorant and wanting are to be pruned from our society, one by one, under the banner of diversity, choice, and enlightened evolution.

God help us all.

Venezuela is personal, yet distant, for me. By the time I was in boarding school my old 3rd grade teacher in the American elementary school run by Creole Petroleum Corporation, Miss Ryan, had married a tall, handsome and very bright MIT graduate, Mr. Trinkunas. He apparently was born in the Baltics or his parents were born there and his family like many in war-torn Europe in the late 40’s perhaps saw opportunity in Venezuela.

I was back on holidays in the early-to-mid 70’s and my younger brother had a new, much younger playmate who he happily bossed around on the playground facing our home on Plaza Escuela, a cute chubby kid with blonde curly hair and a beaming smile. His name was Harold and he would wander into our home from time to time to be grabbed by his mother, (Miss Ryan as we would still call her and then say: sorry Mrs. Trinkunas) and brought back home next door. What was it like growing up a gringo in an oil “camp” in the 60’s and 70’s in Venezuela? More like The Wonder Years than you would suspect, crossed with a Venezuelan Soap Opera from the 70’s or 80’s where the maid is yelling at everyone in the kitchen.

But we were a dwindling bunch by then, a few dozen families in a sort of gated community of several hundred homes for upper middle-class Venezuelan engineers, doctors, and managers. Nationalization was a year or two away and had been decided on years earlier after the Perez Jimenez regime fell a few weeks before I was born. Venezuela had taken control of its resources, become a force in OPEC, and overseen an astonishingly smooth transition, unlike the far more abrupt or even violent politics of oil in Mexico and Southern South America.

In a peaceful, sandy playground my younger brother and Harold played and invented and laughed and then our families went their ways, us up to Canada and the Trinkunas remained in the country for some more years apparently.

Moses Naim, an ex-Cabinet Minister from around 1990, has written an article for Foreign Affairs titled Venezuela’s Suicide. In it he compares the country now (a few months ago when he wrote the article in other words) with its status in the early 70’s when it was among the top 20 countries in terms of GDP per capita. Personally, I am a little doubtful of those statistics knowing full well that poverty was very much a problem even in Venezuela’s so-called golden years, but I’ll take Naim’s word for it. Naim places the blame squarely on Chavismo and its insane economic policies, but even he is forced to admit that the problem existed before Hugo Chavez’s presidency and before the two attempted coup d’état’s (or golpes de estado perhaps we should say). He writes:

“The drivers of Venezuela’s failure run deeper. Decades of gradual economic decline opened the way for Chávez, a charismatic demagogue wedded to an outdated ideology, to take power and establish a corrupt autocracy modeled on and beholden to Cuba’s dictatorship. Although the crisis preceded Chávez’s rise to power, his legacy and Cuba’s influence must be at the center of any attempt to explain it.”

But that can be a problem. It is irresistible to place all the blame on Chavez’s socialism and not think more about Venezuela’s history. Especially the country’s history before foreign capital and foreign workers arrived on the scene around WW I and transformed what had been a politically unstable, and economically impoverished nation with more than its share of political violence. The process by which that occurred, of course, has been fodder for both Latin America pan-nationalists and socialists and third-world advocates of all sorts. That’s because there have been 3 key tyrants in the 20th century history of Venezuela:

  • Juan Vicente Gomez who was from Tachira the Andean state near the Southwestern border with Colombia and who allowed in foreign oil companies in the years leading up to WW I, on terms some have criticized as too lenient and who died in 1935.
  • Marcos Perez Jimenez, who climbed to power following an overthrow of the democratically-elected Accion Democratica in 1948 and who held power until early in 1958 and presided over a period of growth and development but with a fairly brutal police and security force.
  • Hugo Chavez – the third tyrant who in a sense was a return to Venezuela’s past, (as now Dr. Trinkunas has pointed out). An elected strongman who led the country into the new century and who followed the electoral and political rules until he was able to create his own and drag Venezuela into Cuba’s orbit, winning admiration and praise from the progressive elites around the world.

The point about Venezuela isn’t that socialist policies are expensive and often lead to far greater corruption than that found under capitalism. We’ve had most of the 20th century to give us countless examples of that. It’s how Venezuela in the decades after nationalization was unable to move beyond a primary producer and was unable to solve the problems of poverty that have always troubled the country and now have reached epidemic proportions. And from whose ragged and impoverished ranks many of Chavez’s supporters came.

And Harold Trinkunas? He followed his father to MIT but apparently politics rather than engineering was his field and he is now a well-known expert in defense and security issues, especially those concerning Latin America and Venezuela, having taught at the Naval Postgraduate School, and having been resident scholar at various institutes. In Foreign Affairs he writes the following:

“The United States was correct to cooperate with the Venezuelan opposition—the Maduro regime has shown itself unwilling to negotiate in good faith with the opposition in recent years, even when external mediators such as the Vatican were involved. But Washington has chosen a risky path. By escalating with Maduro, the Trump administration has raised the possibility of misperception and misunderstanding leading to inadvertent conflict, especially given how little the U.S. and Venezuelan governments understand and respect each other.

Aggressive U.S. action will also run the risk of splitting the international coalition now backing the Venezuelan opposition and could also turn the situation into a U.S.-Venezuelan conflict rather than an effort to restore Venezuelan democracy. The latter would allow Maduro to fall back on the rhetoric of anti-imperialism and would provide an excuse for his allies—particularly Russia but perhaps also China—to continue offering their support. But even if the United States avoids this particular pitfall, Russia and China will undoubtedly see events in Venezuela as part of a new Western strategy to undermine their authoritarian allies and client states. They will develop countermeasures, and these will be unpleasant.”

With all due respect to Dr. Trinkunas, if countermeasures by China and Russia impede America from taking decisive action regarding Venezuela, we might as well hand over foreign policy in Latin America to Beijing and Moscow. Which in some ways, America already has by being unwilling – understandably of course – to escalate to the level of the Cuban Missile Crisis in response to Putin and Chavez and now Putin and Maduro’s growing military ties. Dr. Trinkuna is right that things will get unpleasant, to put it mildly, and Juan Guaidó may very well end up under house arrest, or worse. Much worse. But America had to act and take sides against Maduro, something the rest of Latin America has been loath to do precisely because of fears of being seen as siding with the United States. Maduro is playing the American-intervention card for all it’s worth, but it’s a faded and dirty little trick that even many Latin Americans are a little tired of supporting.

And so, yes, America will soon have to choose how to respond to what will almost surely be violent attacks on Guaidó and the rest of the opposition (assuming that bribes to the opposition fail) by a military narco-kleptocracy. It will not be easy choice, and an invasion would likely be the wrong course of action. But this was an unavoidable choice, albeit filled with risks. America had to face this choice one way or another.

Let us hope and pray that the growing number of Venezuelans killed by their own security forces will be kept to a minimum and that a transition is possible without full-scale civil war.

Because Maduro’s regime does not even rise to the level of hard-left socialists. They are mere criminals. Drug running, kleptocratic thugs the lot of them. But they, like everything nowadays, are also a symbol of Latin American independence. A poisonous, perverted, and corrupted symbol. Everyone in Latin America knows that, but they can’t quite admit it out loud. Maybe, just maybe, however, we’re getting closer to that moment of self-truth.

Let us hope so.

While Venezuela’s Maduro presides over a country that is collapsing into its own rubble of criminality and in which the National Assemby has declared his presidency illegitimate, and while President Trump and Speaker Pelosi duel over the State of the Union Address, it’s easy to forget about Mueller’s probe.

Byron York at the Washington Examiner once again has reminded us that the probe is still ongoing and that Democrats are signaling that if Mueller doesn’t deliver actionable results, they will launch – and are launching – probes that point directly to their goal: impeachment. Here’s Byron York:

Many Democrats are deeply, emotionally committed to resisting Trump. Sixty-six House Democrats voted to allow impeachment articles to move forward a year ago. Now, with the House in Democratic hands, and after another year of media-hyped Trump-Russia allegations, there’s no reason to believe Democrats would abandon the Russia issue regardless of what Mueller does.

It should be surprising, if not astonishing, that the reaction to the Mueller probe’s stating that the Buzzfeed article was “not accurate” was: to hell with Mueller, we’ll do our own probe. It’s not surprising in the least, of course, and just makes it plain and clear that Mueller is seen by the opposition as a method of removing Trump from the presidency. And that the opposition has always viewed his probe as such.

Opposition, not just Congressional Democrats like House Intel Chairman Adam Schiff. For example, General Michael Hayden and former Obama Solicitor General Neal Katyal penned an op-ed that states:

The recent statement by the special counsel’s office disputing the BuzzFeed article itself highlights the need for a congressional investigation. The BuzzFeed article alleges that Trump ordered Cohen to lie to Congress. Congress of course is the entity with the most at stake when it comes to such a crime. No entity is better poised to find the truth and reveal the facts to the American people.

The president and his advisers have tried already to block the government from investigating these questions. They have criticized special counsel Robert S. Mueller III as engaged in a “witch hunt” and attacked Cohen as a “rat” and a liar. Trump’s lawyers have threatened to assert executive privilege to block answers to Mueller’s questions and threatened to block release of Mueller’s report. A senator has indicated he won’t pursue the interpreter’s notes due to executive privilege. All of this points to a severe danger that, absent an investigation into impeachment, there will be no process to ferret out the truth and report it to the American people.

Note the phrase: investigation into impeachment …

This is the man once in charge of America’s intel community and the former DOJ official who represented the federal government before the Supreme Court. And they are saying that if a multi-million-dollar, multi-year investigation by a high-powered team of prosecutors with enormous latitude to subpoena witnesses and investigate any possible thing that basically strikes their fancy does not produce the outcome we wish (that is, does not lay the basis for impeachment) then Congress will have to investigate. That is, this 116th Congress with its Democrat House majority will have to investigate and produce the necessary evidence to proceed with impeachment.

Trump and all the crazies were right. The Deep State is out to get him and no one’s making up any excuses anymore. It’s plain and simple. Anything that leads to impeachment will do.

It seems that more than few commentators are not that miffed about the cancellation of the State of Union Address courtesy of Speaker Pelosi. The attitude among many conservative and libertarians seems to be: good riddance to the spectacle. Yes, I agree it’s a bit like the Oscars, if you’re one of those people (like me) who no longer watches them or only occasionally blips by them when they’re on. But I insist that the State of the Union does have a purpose and its cancellation for petty, partisan reasons is a shame and quite different from the reasons that many conservative commentators give for returning it to its Jeffersonian form of a written report delivered to Congress.

But now we have the next move in the battle of the border. And I must admit my reaction to Trump’s response upon reading the headlines was a loud laugh. Here’s how President Trump’s letter to Speaker Pelosi opens:

Due to the Shutdown, I am sorry to inform you that your trip to Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan has been postponed. We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the Shutdown is over. In light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I am sure that you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate. I also feel that, during this period, it would be better if you were in Washington negotiating with me and joining the Strong Border Security movement to end the Shutdown. Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative.

Look. Trump’s the guy, that without intending to, got a room full of belly laughs at the UN last September, so please forgive me if I guffawed heartily when reading about Nancy’s ruined jaunt to Europe, Egypt and to Afghanistan. Sometimes a good belly laugh is quite a healthy thing.

Yes, this is ridiculous. This is petty on a grandiose scale. This has become Gatsbyish pettiness, worthy of a great American novel. Tom Wolfe couldn’t write this. And if someone did write this, the editors would ask them if they could just please make it a little more realistic because for goodness sake, revenge in Washington doesn’t work that way.

It does now.

So, one has to ask: what sort of damage did President Trump do to the process of government and governing in America by cancelling Speaker Pelosi’s chartered flight to Europe, Egypt and Afghanistan? Aside from the fact that the latter is where America’s longest war – a war with precious little victories to show for billions in treasure and thousands in American lives – has been fought for the last 17 years, what was the purpose of the Speaker’s visit?

The Daily Beast has a piece that treats Pelosi’s trip as reverently as if it was Nixon heading to China or Reagan to Reykjavík:

For more than three weeks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her staff had quietly planned an international trip to Brussels and Afghanistan to check in on America’s longest war. Like most congressional delegations—“CODELs”—it was time-consuming work, involving coordination between numerous agencies, stakeholders, and international officials along with extra security briefings because of the danger of the destination.

Pelosi’s chief of staff worked with a liaison from the U.S. Air Force who was the lead in setting up travel arrangements and the itinerary for the trip. Senior officials at the Pentagon also had been read in on the speaker’s plans, especially those regarding her visit to war-torn Afghanistan, where extra security was needed for her time in Kabul. Two senior officials on the ground in Afghanistan said they received the itinerary for the trip, as they do other congressional trips, weeks in advance and held it close to the chest. Fellow members of Congress made similar accommodations as they prepared to accompany the Speaker on the CODEL.

Yes, you need to plan a little to make sure that the Speaker of the House of Representatives is safe and secure when going anywhere, especially where islamic terrorists would delight in assassinating her. But often these Congressional Delegations are undertaken to provide the soundbites for policies or positions they’ve already put in place back at home. While flustering low-level Pentagon officials might be a little rude, it is hardly a dangerous thing to do to keep the plane on the ground and Nancy at home unless she pays up for commercial.

Who can guess where this goes now? Nancy will be furious and desperate for her revenge in this increasingly personal battle (it’s been personal since Trump won the nomination, but this is on another level of animosity now) that’s about blunt hostility and polarized bases braying for blood.

But just for a moment, it was great to laugh. We now get to go back to the bickering and plotting. Oh yay.

This past Friday, the NYTimes revealed that the FBI started a probe on Trump’s possible collusion directly with the Kremlin back in 2017. Of course, no evidence of such collusion – especially of any direct links between Putin and Trump – has been found as of yet, but process crimes that are dubious at best in the case of Mike Flynn, and tax fraud by former associates/sleaze ball Paul Manafort and his second in command Rick Gates have been filed.

But consider the motivations for the FBI opening this probe (apart from the Mueller probe). In a CNN-politics piece back in December they open with this leading paragraph:

In the hectic eight days after President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and top FBI officials viewed Trump as a leader who needed to be reined in, according to two sources describing the sentiment at the time.

In other words, because of Trump’s policies and his style of governing, (this occurred less than 5 months into the new administration’s term in office), he needs to be reined in. And who amongst the Resistance would in fact disagree with this? Beneath the faux astonishment at what had been normal political procedures in a transfer of power, (until Trump won the election), was the hostility and even hatred of Trump and his ideas. And this hostility was directly translated into an abuse and overstepping of any reasonable bounds of the FBI’s mission and scope of authority. What business is it of the FBI to rein in any president? The mechanisms are in place and they’re in Congress. Not in the president’s own executive branch of power. As The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway puts it:

Mueller engaged in a limitless “Russia” probe that has rung up countless Trump affiliates for process crimes unrelated to treasonous collusion with Russia to steal the 2016 election, and spun off various investigations having nothing to do with Russia in any way.

The latest Times report does provide more detail than these earlier reports, however, and none of it makes the FBI look good. In fact, it provides evidence of a usurpation of constitutional authority to determine foreign policy that belongs not with a politically unaccountable FBI but with the citizens’ elected president.

The evidence of this is everywhere and they’re not even bothering to hide it anymore.

And Mueller’s probe has gone from one zealous assault to another, often inventing new crimes in the process. But that’s what prosecutorial power is like in today’s world.

Consider, Mueller officials have apparently leaked details to The Daily Beast about a breakfast meeting in late January, 2017, a few days before the new administration was to assume power. The crime? Hard to say, but because it was held at the Trump Hotel in D.C. and involved various foreign dignitaries, there seems to be an intent to resurrect the emoluments clause strategy, a dubious legal claim when it was first proposed.

And for The Daily Beast it was an opportunity to attack Devin Nunes for having the temerity of being there. They admit several paragraphs in that he is not being accused of committing any wrongdoing. But they linger on the fact that Mike Flynn was at the meeting. Yes, the new National Security Advisor generally meets with foreign dignitaries a few days before he assumes office. It’s called a transition of power.

But what we now have is the Mueller probe looking into who paid for the inaugural process. Here’s The Daily Beast:

The breakfast has come under scrutiny by federal prosecutors in Manhattan as part of their probe into whether the Trump inaugural committee misspent funds and if donors tried to buy influence in the White House. The existence of that probe was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. The Special Counsel’s Office is also looking at the breakfast as part of its investigation into whether foreigners contributed money to the Trump inaugural fund and PAC by possibly using American intermediaries, as first reported by The New York Times. Robert Mueller’s team has asked Flynn about the event, according to two sources familiar with the Special Counsel’s Office questioning.

The reasons for Mueller’s probe keep changing. But the target has always been President or Candidate Trump and how to ensure he didn’t reach the White House and once he reached the White House, how to try and ensure that he would be impeached. Here’s Mollie Hemingway concluding her piece in The Federalist:

In sum, the framing of this New York Times article is either poorly conceived or outright disingenuous at every turn. Using the completely lawful and constitutional firing of the bumbling Comey as pretext for opening a criminal investigation into the president is a grand abuse of power by the FBI. Attempting to overtake the authority to determine U.S. foreign policy from the lawfully determined president of the United States is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

For one of the nation’s largest newspapers to suggest that this makes the president — and not the FBI — look bad actually validates two of Trump’s biggest complaints: the media are hopelessly biased, and there really is a “deep state” out to overturn the 2016 election.

I’m not sure anything in the Mueller report will change minds on either side of the issue. And it’s a seemingly similar dynamic playing out over the Border Wall fight: what was acceptable before Trump is immoral in the case of the border wall, or treasonous in the case of the Mueller probe, if Trump’s administration is involved.

Hostility towards President Trump is fraying the constitutional order in America. Not good.

In some ways Ed Buck is your classic over-achieving baby boomer. He was reportedly born in 1954 as Edward Buckmelter in Ohio, came out as gay to his parents in 1970, worked as a fashion model and bit actor in Europe, bought and sold what appears to have been a courier company, making millions in profits, and also became a liberal political activist, making his mark in 1987 with a campaign to impeach Arizona governor Evan Mecham. He’s run for office and has since become a reasonably substantial donor to Democratic candidates or officials.

Especially in California, where he has contributed to former Governor Jerry Brown and LA mayor Ed Garcetti, along with others like Kevin De Leon and the state’s AG Xavier Becerra. You can add Ted Lieu and LA City Attorney Mike Feuer to the list along with LA District Attorney Jackie Lacey. These last two on the list are proving especially relevant in the last few days (and since the summer of 2017 as a matter of fact).

That’s because there’s another side to Ed Buck it seems that is slightly less positive to put it politely.

Dead men have been showing up at his home in Laurel Canyon. And California and LA officials have done diddly squat up until this week.

This is sordid stuff, but because men’s lives – vulnerable, impoverished, often younger, and often black men – have been lost, the details must come out. Right now what we have are sources who were close to Buck at some point or close to some of the victims telling their stories, as well as some diaries of one of the victims. So we have to be careful but what has emerged so far is appalling. As one victim’s, (Gemmel Moore who died of an overdose in 2017), supporter graphically put it:

You see somebody black going up there, you need to come outside and say ‘Don’t do it, don’t go up there.’ Because this is literally like a real life Get Out movie. Somebody’s got to warn them.

Those are the words of Jasmyne Cannick who’s apparently a community activist and has been a supporter of Gemmel Moore’s family in seeking the truth about his death. She has a lot more to say in her interviews for the Daily Beast’s piece on the deaths:

Cannick claims Buck lures men to his apartment for dangerous sexual encounters. She says she has uncovered evidence from Moore’s journal and from other men who say that Buck promises money to people and then injects them with crystal meth for his own gratification.

She then goes on to hammer California’s politicians and DA’s for their complicity in this mess:

I’m not surprised, none of us are surprised. We said that Jackie Lacey [L.A. County district attorney] is going to have blood on her hands and the sheriff’s department is going to have blood on its hands.

This man has had two dead bodies in his house and he’s still in his house. The fact that Ed Buck is a prominent Democratic donor should concern us all.

He spreads his money around to get access and influence into these powerful circles and we need our party to say no, no longer. I’m out here just as a black person I’m outraged, as a Democrat I’m outraged.

He needs to be arrested, he needs to be sent to county jail with no bail, he needs to be charged and then he needs to be convicted and sent to prison. Not just for the person who died today, but also for Gemmel Moore’s death. It wasn’t thoroughly investigated.

This is clearly a case where the lives of those men (one young the other older) clearly didn’t matter. The evidence so far is diaries and apparent conversations with other victims who survived, but they paint a picture of a dangerous sexual predator who preyed on the vulnerable and seems to have forced meth on them and perhaps other drugs as well.

California can no longer bury the dead in Ed Buck’s Laurel Avenue home. It’s clear that a thorough investigation is needed and hopefully will soon be undertaken, or is already underway. Because of Buck’s connections to major Democrats and to DA’s as well, this could get ugly. But Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean’s deaths demand no less.

Never mind that this was preventable by all accounts, had police and prosecutors listened to several complaints from Buck’s victims who survived an evening with the man.

Yes, if it had been say, a donor to Trump’s campaign, we would have black helicopters with DA’s from every blue state bearing warrants while rappelling down ropes onto the accused’s roof. But this is a handsome, apparently charming, LBGQT activist and major Democrat donor. So, silence until absolutely being forced into a corner, seems to have been the modus operandi.

But this is about more than hypocrisy. It’s about corruption in the Judiciary and how the vulnerable never have the same access to justice. The grand irony is that the vulnerable in this case are precisely those that the GOP is so often accused of ignoring or actively persecuting.

But that irony and hypocrisy is secondary. The main issue is justice for Moore and Dean and for the surviving victims as well whoever and wherever they may be.

The Washington Post’s Daily 202, penned by James Hohmann, tried today to put the focus on another Paul Manafort screw up that may perhaps indicate some sort of cooperation with Russia on polling data. Unfortunately for Hohmann, the sources he quotes actually admit that most of that data was public anyway. Here’s the Daily 202:

“A person knowledgeable about the situation” tells the Times that both Manafort and Rick Gates, the deputy campaign manager, transferred the data to Kilimnik in the spring of 2016 as Trump clinched the Republican nomination: “Most of the data was public, but some of it was developed by a private polling firm working for the campaign, according to the person. Mr. Manafort asked Mr. Gates to tell Mr. Kilimnik to pass the data to Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who is close to the Kremlin and who has claimed that Mr. Manafort owed him money from a failed business venture, the person said.”

Anonymous sources who have at least 2 or 3 degrees of separation from whatever actually happened are telling us that perhaps some of the data was not publicly available. This sure feels like Glenn Simpson’s Fusion GPS still hard at work feeding pliant journalists to ensure the Mueller probe stays front and center.

Again, Paul Manafort seems to be the type of lobbyist who would do whatever he thought would bring him economic benefit short of commissioning a hit on somebody or planting bombs in apartment buildings to get elected, something Putin is suspected of having engineered back at the turn of the century. But as of yet there is hardly any real clinching evidence that Manafort was looking for Russian help to get Trump elected while at the same time hoping to pay off supposed debts owed to people in Russia.

Is it impossible? Of course not, but let’s wait for the final report.

However, Hohmann seems to have failed in his quest to get the media to maintain the Mueller probe at center stage, because all the buzz right now is about Trump walking out of a meeting with Pelosi and Schumer because of Nancy’s rigid insistence on not a penny for a wall.

The Mueller probe is already a rerun on declining ratings, slipping out of people’s consciousness unless it produces some dramatic evidence.

It’s not The Apprentice. It’s no longer even The Probe.

It’s The Wall everybody.

And the Wall is just a symbol (it’s more than that of course, it’s part of any comprehensive solution to border security but it’s mostly a symbol right now) for deep divisions over what America’s immigration policy should be. Which of course begs the question of what exactly is the Democratic Party’s position on immigration?

But the issue has been ripped out of the hands of politicians who were, on the whole, never that eager to have rigorous application of the law as well as ripped out of the hands of those in business who don’t mind paying cheaper wages. It is now in the hands of hardline activists who like any good radical will continue pushing out the envelope on what constitutes immigration and what rights a sovereign state should have over its borders until the envelope (that is the bundle of rules and regulations that control a nation’s immigration) is a shredded, flapping bit of recycled paper blown along the sidewalks of Laredo.

Trump took on the evasive and hypocritical conventional wisdom on immigration and its economic consequences and was in large part elected because of that. And now he’s facing the hard left who have a vision of borders and sovereignty that is orders of magnitude beyond anything Democrat and GOP Senators proposed a few years ago. So, this fight does truly matter and if President Trump really did mean what he said (despite the inflammatory rhetoric he loves in order to provoke) then he should keep fighting this fight.

Congress is another matter. And independents – as Byron York has pointed out – are also another matter and a key and diminished constituency that he has to convince in order to win the War of the Wall.

Did his speech do that? Maybe. Maybe not. But the fight continues regardless. And that may now mean considering using emergency powers to get the border wall funded.

Which will mean a whole new fight in the courts perhaps all the way up to SCOTUS.

That may not be a bad thing in the longer run. In the shorter run, it will get a little rough, to say the least.

Ok. Who the hell is Paul Whelan?

Yes, he’s undoubtedly a pawn in a blunt attempt by the Kremlin to get Maria Butina – whose arrest and charges are more about Mueller’s grinding, relentless bureaucratic probe than about real espionage on the part of the Russian woman who by all appearances was a lobbyist with fairly close ties to the Kremlin – exchanged for an American. But as more information dribbles in on Whelan, one has to ask once again:

Who is Paul Whelan?

Let’s summarize the information on him (which are hardly facts at this early stage) that’s in the public domain as of right now:

  • He was born in Ottawa, Ontario to British parents. That would be in Canada, last time I checked. That would mean he has Canadian citizenship by birthright.
  • He moved to Michigan as a child where he seems to have been raised, and then served as a police officer from 1988 to 2000, also in Michigan.
  • He then moved into private business, working for Kelly Services in IT and security before and after his Iraq War stint.
  • He served in Iraq from 2003 to 2008: mostly in administrative duties (as a clerk apparently) and was discharged on charges related to larceny. So, while in Iraq, he reportedly stole and was demoted from sergeant to private and discharged in 2008.
  • After returning to work for Kelly Services after being discharged from the military, he at some point began working for auto parts manufacturer BorgWarner.
  • He has built up contacts with law enforcement in various countries as a result of his work in security for Kelly Services and BorgWarner.
  • He is apparently a Russophile with a friends and contacts in Russia where he was visiting as a private citizen in order to attend a wedding when he was arrested in December.
  • He seems to have both a British passport and an Irish passport through his parents. At the risk of being pedantic, Whelan is of course an Irish surname, so his father might be Irish, and his mother English. Both the British and Irish governments have intervened on his behalf with Britain’s Foreign Secretary publicly accusing Russia of playing “diplomatic chess.”

Here’s an ex-Marine dismissed due to larceny who holds 4 passports, has a history in law enforcement and works in global security for a major auto parts company, who was in Russia and reportedly had a USB drive with a list of Russian intelligence officials on it. If this is a set-up, the FSB chose their target well.

Look, maybe Paul Whelan really is just who he says he is, and that USB drive was planted on him by ruthless FSB thugs who are acting on orders from the Kremlin to get a credible hostage to exchange for Butina.

And even if he did have a list of contacts in Russian intel, what crime did Whelan actually commit?

But on the other hand, it is now clear that Mueller’s heavy-handed arrest of Butina has come with a diplomatic cost that far outweighs any benefits Mueller’s own prosecutors thought that her testimony as a collaborating witness would yield.

Butina was arrested for failing to register as a lobbyist, but the prosecutors have framed that failure as a “conspiracy” to fail to register. Which is a case of inventing crimes as you go along in order to pressure people to try and get the results you’re hoping for. That’s bad prosecutorial practice, and even worse diplomacy.

And Paul Whelan gets to pay the price for Mueller’s prosecutors’ missteps.

Not only was Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel at the center of failed Obama-era criminal reform policies (in this case, PROMISE = Preventing Recidivism through Opportunities, Mentoring, Interventions, Support & Education), but the sheriff also had a far more venal reason for not taking responsibility for the police inaction leading up to, during, and after the Parkland shooting.

According to Real Clear Investigations’ Paul Sperry, Sheriff Israel’s son Brett Israel got off with a 3 day suspension for a violent sexual assault on a 14-year old student. It involved grabbing of genitals and using a baseball bat to simulate sodomy. Two seniors – one of them Brett Israel – were involved in grabbing, kicking and holding down the 14-year old. And sexually assaulting him.

That’s a felony crime, but because of the rules of Obama’s failed experiment with youth crime prevention, Brett Israel, a white privileged kid, got away with violent sexual assault. And guess who administered this travesty as the school’s on-site police officer?

Deputy Scot Peterson.

Yes, the now-retired (on a $8,700 a month pension) deputy who hid behind concrete walls outside the school as Nikolas Cruz went on his rampage killing 17 and wounding many more.

So. A 14-year old suffers a violent sexual assault in 2014 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Deputy Scot Peterson decides not to prosecute the offender for a felony and instead opts for a lesser charge which resulted in a 3-day suspension. And then in the immediate aftermath of the Parkland Shooting, Sheriff Israel allows Deputy Peterson to quickly retire despite the ongoing investigations regarding the shooting. On a full pension. Here’s RCI’s Paul Sperry:

People familiar with the case say Peterson could have referred Israel for felony charges, but reduced the crime to “simple battery,” making him eligible for a leniency program requiring no arrest. “The school district’s disciplinary matrix requires no law enforcement action required regarding the incident,” the deputy wrote.

“A child was sexually assaulted, and Peterson reduced the charges to fit a matrix and report it as information. This allowed the deputy to put it away and not do anything,” said Arreaza, who is suing both Israel and Peterson on behalf of Anthony Borges, a Stoneman Douglas student who survived the massacre, despite being shot five times.

Arreaza said that the same lax disciplinary culture meant Cruz was never expelled or sent to the juvenile justice system despite committing multiple offenses every year throughout middle and high school. Peterson was warned at least twice of the threat Cruz posed as an active shooter but failed to investigate the matter. Peterson had an office on the Stoneman Douglas campus, where he’d been posted for nine years.

Sheriff Israel is defying calls from all sides for him to resign. The Broward Sheriff’s Office Association of Deputies have filed a formal call for him to resign, for goodness sake. His own f#cking deputies want him gone. But with newly elected Florida Governor Ron DeSantis about to assume office, he likely will soon be fired anyway.

Justice delayed is justice denied, but at least the sheriff will see some consequences for his appalling leadership in Broward County. Good riddance.

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.

Maybe Felix Slater – the Russian-born investor/developer/shady-biznethman – is closest to the truth in an interview he had with the Daily Beast on the topic of the Trump organization’s interest in building a Trump Tower in Moscow during late 2015 and up to mid-2016. He said:

It was like, ‘OK, shit, he got the nomination, it’s not happening, it’s not happening now—that was the idea.

If Michael Cohen did indeed have far more contacts with Russia – and even with an aide to Putin – during the first half of 2016, then maybe it was true that Trump the candidate was reluctant to let slip what he considered a good business opportunity in Moscow. And it could be that while Trump was enjoying the process of campaigning for the nomination and the conflicts and the increased media storm around him, he perhaps doubted that he would make it all the way to the White House, and still largely saw himself as a businessman.

But let go he eventually did. Whether the contacts in the late spring and early summer of 2016 are a case of Sater pursuing the deal on his own, or on behalf of candidate Trump, remains to be seen. But even if true, while uncomfortable because of the lies used to cover it up, it does not represent evidence of any collusion. And as Alan Dershowitz said to Fox’s Bill Hemmer regarding the Michael Cohen accusations:

I think the weakness of Mueller’s substantive findings are suggested by the fact that he has to resort to false statement prosecutions, which really shows that he didn’t start with very much, and that the very fact that he’s conducting an investigation has created these crimes. These are not crimes that had been committed prior to his appointment, they’re crimes that were committed as the result of his appointment, and that raises some questions about the role of special prosecutors in creating crimes or creating opportunities for crimes to be committed.

So, let’s review.

  • Trump announces candidacy in the summer of 2015.
  • Trump expresses interest privately in building a Trump Tower in Moscow in fall of 2015 a few months after his candidacy has been declared. It’s hard to say for how many years he’s wanted to build in the city, but one suspects it’s been a while.
  • Trump does far better than anyone expected in the nominating process and is nominated to the GOP and the world’s shock in late spring 2016.
  • Trump’s advisors have final contacts on a Trump Tower in Moscow around June of 2016.

The conspiracy theorists will say something like: it was hinted to Trump by Putin aides or cut-outs that he could help Trump win the election. A Trump Tower Moscow was a potential prize he suggested to the candidate back sometime in early or mid-2016, or perhaps later in the year.

This is probably ridiculous.

By June 2016, Donald Trump realized he had a very real shot at the presidency. Would he invite Russian interference in his own country’s elections to get a tower built? Trump haters will jump up and down and scream: you bet! But up to now, not a shred of evidence has been unearthed to support such a quid pro quo.

Dershowitz’s words remain very relevant when thinking about the Mueller (and the Kenneth Starr) probe. A pack of prosecutors in search of a crime. And yes, when you have associates like Cohen and Sater, prosecutors can and will find crimes to prosecute. But they haven’t found any collusion yet.

Let’s see what else emerges from the charges they laid against Cohen and what kind of evidence his 70 hours of testimony brings into the light.

It’s not your wage anymore that’s the main reason you’re losing your job in places like Macomb or Trumbull counties in Michigan and Ohio as GM lays off thousands and shifts production overseas. Nope, there’s a new reason. One that’s being referred to increasingly whether in relation to specific layoff announcements by corporations like GM, or whether in relation to the folly of rising tariffs in the China-US trade spat.

Global Supply Chains.

Go to supplychaindive.com and read some of the headlines:

What is the business case for autonomous vehicles in the supply chain?

GM closes plants and lays off thousands in move to ‘streamline’

XPO integrates heavy goods last mile tracking with Google

Do you deliver supplies and/or vehicles for GM? You might think about polishing your CV a little. Just saying.

This is a process that is reaching its limits. I don’t mean technological limits. Those are practically endless – even if the rate of technological change seems to be volatile over time. I mean its limits in terms of the value technology adds to society as a whole.

No. I’m not a Luddite. No, I don’t believe more taxes and welters and welters of regulations are the answer. But I do think that a conservative can occasionally do a Buckley and ride athwart at least some small bits of technology crying: “STOP!” Even while using much of said technology.

Here’s Axios on the issue of China and global supply chains:

China has been the world’s biggest exporter for almost two decades and has poured millions into its logistics network so global companies can quickly move goods from factories to cargo ships. China also has one of the best-trained manufacturing workforces in the world.

· U.S. companies can consider moving production from China to Cambodia, Malaysia, Vietnam or elsewhere — both to dodge tariffs and avoid the threat of intellectual property theft, But elsewhere, they face other disadvantages like dirt roads between factories and ports and inexperienced workers, the New York Times reports.

· And China has levers to make sure it isn’t frozen out of global supply chains, Lewis says. For example, it could threaten to take away a foreign company’s access to its massive market.

China started practically from scratch back in the 80’s and 90’s when they began building the infrastructure as well as the logistical systems necessary to create what is now the world’s second largest economy. And that is an achievement that few could have predicted in terms of the speed and scope of the change China underwent.

But when you combine that infrastructure and logistics with a socialist-run authoritarian regime, you get what could politely be called immoral suasion or more bluntly, threats and blackmail.

Is President Trump guilty of similar threat-making? Yes, but not on the same level.

Trump tweets as tough as any but even as President of America he’s circumscribed by the courts and by Congress and, yes, by the endless rules and regulations that both America’s administrative state and the global administrative state (the WTO, the UN, the WHO, and the EU to name a few of the more obvious examples) wield over both corporations and governments.

China less so.

It is precisely the enormous concentration of power in President Xi’s hands that allows him to be transactional in a way Trump can never be. He will not tweet his threats. He will act on them. And Xi will act in accordance with a longer-term plan. Yes, President Trump can and does act on his promises – or at least on far more of them than anyone expected. But it’s unfortunately, often a circus driven by hostile media buzz.

So what kind of transactions could Trump and Xi reasonably agree on at the G20 in Buenos Aires?

What kind of change in behavior could President Trump reasonably demand from President Xi’s regime that would allow both countries to save face and pull back from the trade skirmishes that have been escalating recently?

Unfortunately, any deal will be about supply chains and jobs and manufacturing plants. Maybe they can reach a deal. But it should be about China’s involvement with things like: the theft of intellectual property; the bending the rules of the WTO; the State-Owned Enterprises and off-the-books debt.

And it should also be about demanding a little civics and civility in China’s inexorable thrust to create its region of hegemony in East, South, and Central Asia, as well as in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

Because with China, you don’t ride athwart technology and cry: STOP!

You stand quietly and bravely in front of a tank.

And hope they don’t kill you.

And even that doesn’t work sometimes. So, Trump has a tough dinner with Xi ahead this Saturday in muggy Buenos Aires. He’ll need a little luck and a lot of skill. Let’s hope he has both.

Did Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a few weeks back fly to Saudi Arabia with a plan to help create a plausible deniability around Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman regarding the horrifying execution of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul?

As gruesome as the killing is, the battle of ideologies that are now swirling around this event are as important. That’s not to belittle a death that was apparently cruel and unusual and involved torture of the most savage kind. Technology and media and the way politicians around the globe are using media – from social media to government-controlled media – has meant that the reported details of this killing became widely available through leaks by Erdogan’s regime in Turkey and now through more discrete leaks from the CIA itself in response to President Trump’s equivocation over the issue of MBS’s possible involvement.

But what exactly are the battle lines between competing ideas on America’s foreign policy and its role in the world and competing ideas on what sort of international order should govern the world’s states over the coming decades?

It’s not merely: Trump’s America First Bad; UN and EU good. The options seem to be divided between the already overused term “tribalism” and a liberal global order, but maybe there is another way forward that needs less distractions over what any nation or politician feels about Trump, in order to be seen clearly.

Sumantra Maitra – a doctoral researcher at the University of Nottingham in the UK – has written a piece in The Federalist that is a plea for conservative nationalism as way past or through the liberal-global-order/tribal-nationalism struggle so prominent today. He traces the history of the European and Ottoman Empires’ collapse after WW I and the attempt after WW II to contain and reduce the nation state within a rules-based system. But empire vs. tribe has come back to haunt us and the problem is that a liberal world order invokes no true feelings of belonging or patriotism and leaves us vulnerable to atomized factions. As Maitra states:

Liberals fail to understand and anticipate the desire of normal people to feel passionately about the flag their forefathers fought for. That leads to a vacuum, which is filled by ethnocentric tribalism. If conservatives don’t reclaim healthy civic nationalism, the choice ahead is almost always either ideological internationalism and rules through institutions and bureaucrats, or atomized ethnic nationalism, tribalism, and racism. The elite abhorrence of anything that relates to flags and land and borders shows how much the window has moved in the last couple of decades.

The only unifying force is a healthy, civic, conservative nationalism, the type that stops distinguishing between tribes, races, and ethnicities and unites in a love for the land beneath one’s feet. In a world where the choice is increasingly between Antifa and Abolish ICE mobs on the one hand, and transnational open border Davos Men on the other, conservative nationalism might be the only centrist option.

My problem with Maitra’s erudite plea is that it was precisely love of land beneath one’s feet that drove the millions of young men to follow their general’s orders in WW I and to leave Europe a scarred shell that was ripe for fascism in it’s central and southern regions and communism in its eastern regions. I will assume, however, when he talks about a healthy, civic, and conservative nationalism, he’s talking about a patriotism that is both local and embodied in an idea.

Unfortunately, Europe has often been the preserve of competing empires from Rome to Charlemagne to Madrid, Paris, and London and then to Berlin and Moscow. And finally, to Brussels and Strasbourg. As he states, European politicians are calling for a European army and the French Finance Minister seems to be suggesting Europe turn to some form of empire to compete with both America and China. Hardly surprising coming from a French bureaucrat but rather less subtle than what one expects from Brussels and Strasbourg.

But maybe a conservative nationalism rooted in tradition but moderated by the caution of reasoned civics is what Europe needs. Europe will have nothing of it one fears, however. Perhaps England is returning to a conservative and reasonably cautious nationalism with Brexit, but the way it is being covered in the media suggests that Cabinet ministers heads are being displayed on pikes outside Westminster. A touch exaggerated and very hostile to any form of reasonable nationalism in other words.

So, did Trump display a reasonable and conservative nationalism with regards to his statement on Saudi Arabia and MBS’s possible involvement in the Khashoggi assassination? He’s being attacked from several sides for not condemning the Saudis and for unashamedly lauding the defense industry jobs that the promised Saudi spending will produce. But how to follow Washington’s warnings on the dangers of foreign entanglements when Saudi Arabia itself is sustained by American military support and training?

There is no optimal or easy solution in the Middle East and values such as those that Macron proclaimed might help domestically but are of little use on the ground in feudal aristocracies like the Saudi Kingdom. Because if America withdraws support and allows the House of Saud to collapse what next? A cautious conservatism would have to take into account that uncertainty even as it laid tough sanctions on the Saudis.

And remember that Iran’s belligerence and involvement in places like Syria and Lebanon has helped create the conditions where hundreds of thousands of civilians have died. Does that mean that Europe – upholding its values – has refused to do business with Iran and has applied tough sanctions?

Uhhhh, non! As the French would say.

What the liberal global order want is a dramatic but symbolic gesture against the Saudis so that a period of hypocritical condemnation can take place and then they can continue doing business throughout the Middle East. They just don’t like Trump’s brazen and crass bluntness. Or his honesty in all it’s equivocating, word-salad, ingenuousness.

Here comes Marc Elias, the recount king, as the Daily Signal has dubbed him, although one suspects Elias has been called that for a while now. He’s the lawyer people call when a vote seems close enough for a recount. But there’s a few more interesting facts about Marc Elias:

  • He works at Perkins Coie, that Seattle-based international law firm that hired Christopher Steele to put together an opposition report on candidate Trump – the infamous Steele Dossier, in other words. And Elias was the point man in that operation apparently.
  • Perkins Coie represents all but 3 Democrat Senators, the Democrat House, Senate and gubernatorial campaign committees, and 100 House Democrats. One firm with connections to every major part of the Democratic Party it seems.
  • After secret negotiations with then-House Speaker John Boehner, he managed to get hundreds of millions of dollars of lightly regulated money be approved as legitimate spending money. In other words, a top Democratic operative who pushed for Citizens United and actually helped put in place the current PACs and Super PACs while the GOP took all the heat in the media for that SCOTUS decision. Wealthy Democrats love him for this.

Marc Elias got Al Franken elected through a 6-month endless recount that may very well have relied on convicts votes to achieve a 200-odd vote margin of victory. Democrats love him for this as well. As The Hill’s article covering his past states:

Elias is perhaps best known for his role in one of the nation’s closest Senate races ever, in Minnesota in 2008. Democrat Al Franken trailed incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman (R) by just a few hundred votes when Elias landed in Minneapolis; Elias quickly began a drumbeat, maintained at almost daily news conferences in which he answered questions directly from the media, demanding that every vote be counted.

After half a year of legal wrangling over fewer than 1,000 absentee ballots, Coleman’s 215-vote lead became Franken’s 225-vote win.

“Not all of those votes would have been counted without Marc’s strategy,” said Eric Schultz, who worked for Franken on that race and is now a senior adviser to former President Obama.

Go ahead and say it loud and proud Eric, Elias stole that election fair and square with an avalanche of lawsuits and a chain gang of felons dragging Al Franken over the finish line.

So Elias is in Florida, dashing between courtrooms as he unleashes lawsuits or responds to lawsuits in a chaotic electoral environment. He was a fairly young legal pup – although apparently already a brilliant lawyer who people were noticing and utilizing back in 2000 – but now he’s a grinning tornado ready to demolish the electoral results in Florida by forcing and bending and pleading and cajoling his way through the legal system to get the results he’s paid to get: Democrats in charge again.

As The Hill’s Reid Wilson writes:

When then-Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) finished just a few hundred votes ahead of then-Rep. John Ensign (R) in a costly Senate battle in 1998, Elias worked on Reid’s behalf as the ballots were recounted, ingratiating himself to the man who would later lead Senate Democrats for a decade.

The experience, along with the 2000 Florida recount that handed the presidency to George W. Bush, taught Elias that recounts were about more than just counting ballots; they were extensions of the campaigns themselves, in which battles over media narratives could determine the ultimate winner of a contest.

No system can survive such a forceful and partisan attack on its foundations. When every ballot becomes potential target of a lawsuit, the electoral process is ripped from the hands of voters and placed in the courtroom to be decided by litigation. Yes, that’s what helped elect George W. Bush in 2000 and the person studying that election the most carefully was clearly Marc Elias.

In a close election with poor control and management of the systems – an admittedly challenging task but one that is the basis of America’s republican democracy – then people like Marc Elias start taking over, one election at a time.

It’s time to stop people like Marc Elias as well as all the lawyers who helped get George W. elected and put elections back in the hands of voters. Which means the election process itself has to be clearly and carefully organized and not a partisan circus played out against the backdrop of identity politics and its goal of votes for anyone in America regardless of their legal status.

How to do that? Good question though some sort of civics lessons for all might help. Meantime, we’ve got a few recounts to get through.

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