How Washington Became Gridlocked.

Many Americans decry our failed Congress, angry that the institution seems incapable of addressing their needs. Yet they have continued to vote for the same representatives election after election. It seems they believe other representatives are to blame. Not their own. And they hold both parties equally responsible.

But, as it turns out, Americans should rightfully blame only one party for the inaction of Congress – the GOP.

An episode of MSNBC’s American Swamp explained the problem in great detail. It seems the gridlock began in the early nineties when the newly-elected Rep. Newt Gingrich discovered that CSPAN would telecast speeches from the House floor regardless of the circumstances. Realizing that the network focused solely on the lectern and never showed the empty desks, he took the floor in late evenings to rail against Democrats; to challenge them to respond to his demands and to act. But, unbeknownst to the viewers, the Democrats couldn’t, because they were not there. For months, Newt continued his one-man show, calling Democrats a variety of names and asking his followers to hold them accountable for their inaction and lack of response. He published a list of one-word insults which he handed out to the GOP caucus, so they could all speak like Newt.

Not surprisingly, the farce worked. The audiences began calling their congressmen. They began harassing Democrats. And rightwing media took up the attacks. It only stopped when then-Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill asked CSPAN to have their cameras pan the chamber to expose the empty desks. But, by then, the damage had been done.

When the GOP won the House and Gingrich became Speaker, he took matters a step farther. An admirer and teacher of parliamentary-style politics in which party members vote as a unified block (something very contrary to the US system), Newt brought that mentality to the GOP. Under threat of being “primaried” with their opponents receiving millions in “dark” money, the members of the GOP caucus fell in line to vote as the Speaker wished, regardless of their own individual feelings or judgment.

Political tribalism was born. And succeeding GOP actions made it worse.

To ostensibly save money, the GOP majority in Congress cut the staffs of representatives. Without sufficient staff to research the effects of bills, congressional members were forced to rely on lobbyists, think tanks and Political Action Groups for information. And, if they failed to vote as these interest groups wished, the groups would spend millions to defeat them in the next election. As a result, the representatives learned that, if they valued their jobs, it was better to do nothing than to take a stand.

And, since the conservative-led Supreme Court ruled that money equals free speech and corporations have the rights of individuals, congressional representatives have been forced to spend as much as 40 percent of their time dialing for dollars in order to raise enough money to fend off competitors in their next election campaign.

In addition, former GOP Speaker John Boehner banned earmarks – the tradition of adding provisions to a discretionary spending bill without floor debate. Though sometimes abused, earmarks were a form of congressional horse-trading to provide funding for projects in an individual representative’s home district. In most cases, it was how new bridges were funded; how new roads and road expansionss were funded; how a city got funding for programs and grants. But since the end of earmarks, the process has become more politicized than ever with the decisions on spending often being directed by the executive branch to reward supporters.

Any bills that do make it out of the House must go to the Senate for votes and be signed by the president before they can become law. The current House has sent more than 100 bills to the Senate. But even the most popular bills supported by a vast majority of citizens have been blocked by the self-proclaimed “grim reaper” of legislation – Moscow Mitch. He refuses to bring them to a vote unless they meet his very narrow agenda.

It’s all a recipe for gridlock.

To make matters worse, over many decades, Congress has yielded much of its constitutional authority to the executive branch rendering itself somewhat powerless. So much so, that congressional delegations have been turned away from immigration detention centers despite their role of oversight. Executive branch agencies have refused to turn over documents or respond to subpoenas issued by congressional judicial and oversight committees. And Trump has redirected money from agencies to build his wall despite congressional authority over the budget.

Despite Trump’s very public calls to drain the swamp, he ignores the fact that it was largely created by the GOP. Indeed, he has only made it worse by ignoring the emoluments clause; by using his office to promote his properties and to make money each time he visits one; by placing industry lobbyists in charge of the agencies responsible for regulating the industries they represent.

The interests of the American people be damned.

Free Stuff.

The GOP, its propaganda network, and the corporate-owned media are fond of accusing progressive Democrats of trying to buy votes by offering “free stuff” to voters. Disregarding the fact that nothing the government does is, in fact, free, this has been a popular accusation for longer than I can remember. The GOP used the same talking point when Social Security and Medicare were first proposed, claiming that the programs were unaffordable and that they would bankrupt the nation. Then, like now, the GOP also accused the Democrats who backed those programs of being socialists.

But it’s important to note that GOP candidates also regularly offer free stuff as a way of buying votes. And they also engage in a form of socialism. The difference is in the beneficiaries.

Social Security and Medicare are, in reality, retirement and medical insurance that directly benefit those who pay the premiums through payroll deductions – ordinary working Americans. And the current Democratic proposals, like universal health care and debt-free college education, would also directly benefit ordinary American workers.

The GOP proposals, on the other hand, pander to a different audience: Large multinational corporations, the military-industrial complex and the very, very wealthy.

Take the GOP-passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Most working Americans saw little to no cuts in their income taxes while corporations and the wealthy realized dramatic cuts to their tax burden. The law also allowed multinationals to “repatriate” corporate profits held offshore to avoid paying US income taxes. The GOP promised that the bill would boost the economy and create jobs. It didn’t. Instead, most of the money was used to pay executive bonuses and to buy back stock. That had the effect of starving the companies of capital resulting in layoffs. The same thing happened in 2004 when the US last “repatriated” corporate dollars at reduced tax rates. That year, 58 giant corporations realized 70 percent of the benefit, saving an estimated $64 billion in taxes while, at the same time, slashing an estimated 600,000 jobs.

The real cost of the 2017 tax cut has yet to be tallied. But it has already resulted in record deficits and a record national debt. It was nothing less than a giant gift to corporations paid for by average working Americans!

And that’s but one example. There are many, many others.

The GOP has pushed cuts to inheritance taxes and cuts to capital gains taxes that benefit the wealthy. And, under the guise of its repeatedly debunked trickle-down economic theory, the GOP offers much more free stuff to corporations. Those gifts take the form of corporate incentives to expand or to relocate, long-term tax relief to corporations for expanding in their current locations and promising, but seldom delivering, new jobs, and Tax Increment Financing which exempts corporate facilities from property taxes whenever their owners build or purchase a building and promise to create jobs – a practice so pervasive that many cities have never collected property taxes on their most iconic buildings. Sadly, some “moderate” Democrats have voted for these things, too.

In addition, there are many less obvious free gifts to corporations. Governments pay the cost of building utilities and other infrastructure to reach corporate building sites. And governments are often forced to pick up the cost of food stamps and housing assistance for the employees of Walmart and other companies that fail to pay a living wage. (The cost of subsidizing Walmart’s underpaid workers was estimated at $6.2 billion in 2014.) Governments also pick up the cost of cleaning up mines and other sites despoiled by extraction industries after the corporations have walked away with the resources and profits.

Even more subtle are the allocations to defense contractors who have little oversight and few, if any, real penalties for cost over-runs and delays. In fact, a 2016 study found that the Pentagon can’t account for trillions of dollars in spending. Similarly, private prison corporations have been given sweetheart deals by their GOP sponsors. During the current border crisis, it has been reported that private prison corporations are being paid more than $700 per day to house the refugees and economic immigrants in horrific conditions. For that price, the detainees should be living in luxury hotels. Not suffering in conditions where they are denied access to sufficient food and water, denied basic hygiene, and forced to sleep on concrete with only a foil blanket.

The estimated cost of universal healthcare and free education is dwarfed by the gifts currently being passed along to corporations and the uber-wealthy. Moreover, the progressive Democratic candidates have done something the GOP hasn’t. They’ve explained how they will pay for their “gifts.”

So, the next time you hear someone deride progressive Democratic candidates by calling them socialists and attacking them for their offers of “free stuff,” keep in mind that what’s being “given away” is simply a matter of priorities. The question is: What’s more important to you? American workers? Or greedy corporations and the very wealthy?

Why 2020 Could Be Deja Vu All Over Again.

Despite Robert Mueller’s testimony before Congress that the Trump campaign sought, embraced and used information supplied by Wikileaks and Russia, and despite his report that outlines numerous instances involving obstruction of justice, GOP congressional representatives refuse to admit the possibility that Trump has committed any wrongdoing. Indeed, many acknowledge that they have not read the Mueller report.

Further, despite Mueller’s warning that Russia has stepped up its plans to interfere in the 2020 elections, Mitch McConnell and the GOP-controlled Senate refuse to vote on any legislation intended to tamper-proof our election system. Why? Well, for one thing, McConnell has shamelessly accepted campaign donations from the makers of some of the most vulnerable computerized voting machines. For another, he sees no benefit in doing so. Russian interference benefited his party in 2016 and he likely expects to receive further tens of millions in campaign assistance from Russian oligarchs in 2020 as his PACs did in 2016.

And it must not be forgotten that, in a clear signal to Putin, Trump told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he is willing to accept dirt on his political opponents from foreign governments for his re-election campaign.

These are all obvious signs that Republicans plan to steal yet another election.

During a recent interview on NPR, a former Facebook executive predicted that the 2020 election will be different. Instead of creating false accounts on social media to promote fake news as they did in 2016, he believes they will plant false narratives with US citizens and rely on them to distribute their propaganda. As an example, he referred to the Seth Rich conspiracy theory saying that the conspiracy originated with Russians, but that it was soon picked up and widely distributed by American right-wing media. (It was not only a regular story on Fox News. It was promoted by such “authorities” as Alex Jones Infowars and the mysterious – dare I say fictitious – QAnon.) More troubling, he says that Russia’s goal for 2020 is to seed chaos in the US. So he believes that Russia will execute a cyber attack on voting data (or at least give the appearance of one) to create doubt with the outcome of the 2020 election. That will lead the losing side to reject the outcome and perhaps resort to violence.

If that is the case, you can be certain that, if/when Trump loses, his supporters will be armed, locked and loaded. After all, in 2016, Trump convinced his followers that the election was rigged. In the event of a Hillary win, they threatened to “use their 2nd Amendment rights” to remedy the situation. Imagine what they will do if they think Trump is removed from office unfairly.

If the Russians are successful in 2020, it will pose a lose/lose problem for Democrats. If the Democratic nominee wins, he or she will very likely have to face the prospect of an armed insurrection which will further divide the nation. And, if the president-elect backs down under threat, it will cement the power of the lunatic right.

In either event, the beneficiaries will be Russia and the GOP.

Russia will benefit by a divided and weakened US. The division will also continue to benefit the GOP, which is desperately trying to maintain control of the oligarchy they helped create. Even if the GOP loses control of both the Senate and the White House, Moscow Mitch or his replacement will continue to block any and all initiatives intended to ensure fairness in our elections. They will continue to fight making voting machines tamper-proof and creating a paper trail. They will continue to fight all attempts to end gerrymandering. They will continue to fight the expansion of voting hours and the number of polling places. They will continue to fight automatic voter registration. They will continue to fight any efforts to limit the dirty money used to buy elections. And they will continue to fight any attempt to eliminate or modify the Electoral College.

They will fight these things because they have seen the studies that show a clear majority of Americans favor Democratic policies. They see the increases in voters of color. And they know free and fair elections will make them a minority for generations.

Plenty Of Collusion. But Not Enough Evidence Of Criminal Conspiracy.

The president says that the Mueller Report exonerated him of collusion. It most certainly did not. But you can judge for yourself. With Mueller set to testify before Congress this week, I thought it would be helpful to post the executive summaries of the report. This is the report’s Executive Summary of the findings regarding conspiracy and election interference. Pay particular attention to the boldface sections (boldface added), especially those toward the end of this summary.

RUSSIAN SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGN
The Internet Research Agency (IRA) carried out the earliest Russian interference operations identified by the investigation — a social media campaign designed to provoke and amplify political and social discord in the United States. The IRA was based in St. Petersburg, Russia, and received funding from Russian oligarch Yevgeniy Prigozhin and companies he controlled. Prigozhin is widely reported to have ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, [Redacted: Harm to Ongoing Matter]

In mid-2014, the IRA sent employees to the United States on an intelligence-gathering mission with instructions [Redacted: Harm to Ongoing Matter]

The IRA later used social media accounts and interest groups to sow discord in the U.S. political system through what it termed “information warfare.” The campaign evolved from a generalized program designed in 2014 and 2015 to undermine the U.S. electoral system, to a targeted operation that by early 2016 favored candidate Trump and disparaged candidate Clinton. The IRA’s operation also included the purchase of political advertisements on social media in the names of U.S. persons and entities, as well as the staging of political rallies inside the United States. To organize those rallies, IRA employees posed as U.S. grassroots entities and persons and made contact with Trump supporters and Trump Campaign officials in the United States. The investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. persons conspired or coordinated with the IRA. Section II of this report details the Office’s investigation of the Russian social media campaign.

RUSSIAN HACKING OPERATIONS
At the same time that the IRA operation began to focus on supporting candidate Trump in early 2016, the Russian government employed a second form of interference: cyber intrusions (hacking) and releases of hacked materials damaging to the Clinton Campaign. The Russian intelligence service known as the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Army (GRU) carried out these operations.

In March 2016, the GRU began hacking the email accounts of Clinton Campaign volunteers and employees, including campaign chairman John Podesta. In April 2016, the GRU hacked into the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The GRU stole hundreds of thousands of documents from the compromised email accounts and networks. Around the time that the DNC announced in mid-June 2016 the Russian government’s role in hacking its network, the GRU began disseminating stolen materials through the fictitious online personas “DCLeaks” and “Guccifer 2.0.” The GRU later released additional materials through the organization WikiLeaks.

The presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump (“Trump Campaign” or “Campaign”) showed interest in WikiLeaks’s releases of documents and welcomed their potential to damage candidate Clinton. Beginning in June 2016, [Redacted: Harm to Ongoing Matter] forecast to senior Campaign officials that WikiLeaks would release information damaging to candidate Clinton. WikiLeaks’s first release came in July 2016. Around the same time, candidate Trump announced that he hoped Russia would recover emails described as missing from a private server used by Clinton when she was Secretary of State (he later said that he was speaking sarcastically). [Redacted: Harm to Ongoing Matter] WikiLeaks began releasing Podesta’s stolen emails on October 7, 2016, less than one hour after a U.S. media outlet released video considered damaging to candidate Trump. Section III of this Report details the Office’s investigation into the Russian hacking operations, as well as other efforts by Trump Campaign supporters to obtain Clinton-related emails.

RUSSIAN CONTACTS WITH THE CAMPAIGN
The social media campaign and the GRU hacking operations coincided with a series of contacts between Trump Campaign officials and individuals with ties to the Russian government. The Office investigated whether those contacts reflected or resulted in the Campaign conspiring or coordinating with Russia in its election-interference activities. Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.

The Russian contacts consisted of business connections, offers of assistance to the Campaign, invitations for candidate Trump and Putin to meet in person, invitations for Campaign officials and representatives of the Russian government to meet, and policy positions seeking improved U.S.-Russian relations. Section IV of this Report details the contacts between Russia and the Trump Campaign during the campaign and transition periods, the most salient of which are summarized below in chronological order.

2015. Some of the earliest contacts were made in connection with a Trump Organization real-estate project in Russia known as Trump Tower Moscow. Candidate Trump signed a Letter of Intent for Trump Tower Moscow by November 2015, and in January 2016 Trump Organization executive Michael Cohen emailed and spoke about the project with the office of Russian government press secretary Dmitry Peskov. The Trump Organization pursued the project through at least June 2016, including by considering travel to Russia by Cohen and candidate Trump.

Spring 2016. Campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos made early contact with Joseph Mifsud, a London-based professor who had connections to Russia and traveled to Moscow in April 2016. Immediately upon his return to London from that trip, Mifsud told Papadopoulos that the Russian government had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of emails. One week later, in the first week of May 2016, Papadopoulos suggested to a representative of a foreign government that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to candidate Clinton. Throughout that period of time and for several months thereafter, Papadopoulos worked with Mifsud and two Russian nationals to arrange a meeting between the Campaign and the Russian government. No meeting took place.

Summer 2016. Russian outreach to the Trump Campaign continued into the summer of 2016, as candidate Trump was becoming the presumptive Republican nominee for President. On June 9, 2016, for example, a Russian lawyer met with senior Trump Campaign officials Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and campaign chairman Paul Manafort to deliver what the email proposing the meeting had described as “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary.” The materials were offered to Trump Jr. as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” The written communications setting up the meeting showed that the Campaign anticipated receiving information from Russia that could assist candidate Trump’s electoral prospects, but the Russian lawyer’s presentation did not provide such information.

Days after the June 9 meeting, on June 14, 2016, a cybersecurity firm and the DNC announced that Russian government hackers had infiltrated the DNC and obtained access to opposition research on candidate Trump, among other documents.

In July 2016, Campaign foreign policy advisor Carter Page traveled in his personal capacity to Moscow and gave the keynote address at the New Economic School. Page had lived and worked in Russia between 2003 and 2007. After returning to the United States, Page became acquainted with at least two Russian intelligence officers, one of whom was later charged in 2015 with conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of Russia. Page’s July 2016 trip to Moscow and his advocacy for pro-Russian foreign policy drew media attention. The Campaign then distanced itself from Page and, by late September 2016, removed him from the Campaign.

July 2016 was also the month WikiLeaks first released emails stolen by the GRU from the DNC. On July 22, 2016, WikiLeaks posted thousands of internal DNC documents revealing information about the Clinton Campaign. Within days, there was public reporting that U.S. intelligence agencies had “high confidence” that the Russian government was behind the theft of emails and documents from the DNC. And within a week of the release, a foreign government informed the FBI about its May 2016 interaction with Papadopoulos and his statement that the Russian government could assist the Trump Campaign. On July 31, 2016, based on the foreign government reporting, the FBI opened an investigation into potential coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign.

Separately, on August 2, 2016, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort met in New York City with his long-time business associate Konstantin Kilimnik, who the FBI assesses to have ties to Russian intelligence. Kilimnik requested the meeting to deliver in person a peace plan for Ukraine that Manafort acknowledged to the Special Counsel’s Office was a “backdoor” way for Russia to control part of eastern Ukraine; both men believed the plan would require candidate Trump’s assent to succeed (were he to be elected President). They also discussed the status of the Trump Campaign and Manafort’s strategy for winning Democratic votes in Midwestern states. Months before that meeting, Manafort had caused internal polling data to be shared with Kilimnik, and the sharing continued for some period of time after their August meeting.

Fall 2016. On October 7, 2016, the media released video of candidate Trump speaking in graphic terms about women years earlier, which was considered damaging to his candidacy. Less than an hour later, WikiLeaks made its second release: thousands of John Podesta’s emails that had been stolen by the GRU in late March 2016. The FBI and other U.S. government institutions were at the time continuing their investigation of suspected Russian government efforts to interfere in the presidential election. That same day, October 7, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint public statement “that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations.” Those “thefts” and the “disclosures” of the hacked materials through online platforms such as WikiLeaks, the statement continued, “are intended to interfere with the US election process.”

Post-2016 Election. Immediately after the November 8 election, Russian government officials and prominent Russian businessmen began trying to make inroads into the new administration. The most senior levels of the Russian government encouraged these efforts. The Russian Embassy made contact hours after the election to congratulate the President-Elect and to arrange a call with President Putin. Several Russian businessmen picked up the effort from there.

Kirill Dmitriev, the chief executive officer of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, was among the Russians who tried to make contact with the incoming administration. In early December, a business associate steered Dmitriev to Erik Prince, a supporter of the Trump Campaign and an associate of senior Trump advisor Steve Bannon. Dmitriev and Prince later met face-to-face in January 2017 in the Seychelles and discussed U.S.-Russia relations. During the same period, another business associate introduced Dmitriev to a friend of Jared Kushner who had not served on the Campaign or the Transition Team. Dmitriev and Kushner’s friend collaborated on a short written reconciliation plan for the United States and Russia, which Dmitriev implied had been cleared through Putin. The friend gave that proposal to Kushner before the inauguration, and Kushner later gave copies to Bannon and incoming Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

On December 29, 2016, then-President Obama imposed sanctions on Russia for having interfered in the election. Incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn called Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and asked Russia not to escalate the situation in response to the sanctions. The following day, Putin announced that Russia would not take retaliatory measures in response to the sanctions at that time. Hours later, President-Elect Trump tweeted, “Great move on delay (by V. Putin).” The next day, on December 31, 2016, Kislyak called Flynn and told him the request had been received at the highest levels and Russia had chosen not to retaliate as a result of Flynn’s request.
***
On January 6, 2017, members of the intelligence community briefed President-Elect Trump on a joint assessment—drafted and coordinated among the Central Intelligence Agency, FBI, and National Security Agency—that concluded with high confidence that Russia had intervened in the election through a variety of means to assist Trump’s candidacy and harm Clinton’s. A declassified version of the assessment was publicly released that same day.

Between mid-January 2017 and early February 2017, three congressional committees—the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), and the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC)—announced that they would conduct inquiries, or had already been conducting inquiries, into Russian interference in the election. Then-FBI Director James Comey later confirmed to Congress the existence of the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference that had begun before the election. On March 20, 2017, in open-session testimony before HPSCI, Comey stated: I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts. . . . As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.

The investigation continued under then-Director Comey for the next seven weeks until May 9, 2017, when President Trump fired Comey as FBI Director—an action which is analyzed in Volume II of the report.

On May 17, 2017, Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed the Special Counsel and authorized him to conduct the investigation that Comey had confirmed in his congressional testimony, as well as matters arising directly from the investigation, and any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a), which generally covers efforts to interfere with or obstruct the investigation.

President Trump reacted negatively to the Special Counsel’s appointment. He told advisors that it was the end of his presidency, sought to have Attorney General Jefferson (Jeff) Sessions unrecuse from the Russia investigation and to have the Special Counsel removed, and engaged in efforts to curtail the Special Counsel’s investigation and prevent the disclosure of evidence to it, including through public and private contacts with potential witnesses. Those and related actions are described and analyzed in Volume II of the report.
***
THE SPECIAL COUNSEL’S CHARGING DECISIONS
In reaching the charging decisions described in Volume I of the report, the Office determined whether the conduct it found amounted to a violation of federal criminal law chargeable under the Principles of Federal Prosecution. See Justice Manual § 9-27.000 et seq. (2018). The standard set forth in the Justice Manual is whether the conduct constitutes a crime; if so, whether admissible evidence would probably be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction; and whether prosecution would serve a substantial federal interest that could not be adequately served by prosecution elsewhere or through non-criminal alternatives. See Justice Manual § 9-27.220.

Section V of the report provides detailed explanations of the Office’s charging decisions, which contain three main components.

First, the Office determined that Russia’s two principal interference operations in the 2016 U.S. presidential election—the social media campaign and the hacking-and-dumping operations—violated U.S. criminal law. Many of the individuals and entities involved in the social media campaign have been charged with participating in a conspiracy to defraud the United States by undermining through deceptive acts the work of federal agencies charged with regulating foreign influence in U.S. elections, as well as related counts of identity theft. See United States v. Internet Research Agency, et al., No. 18-cr-32 (D.D.C.). Separately, Russian intelligence officers who carried out the hacking into Democratic Party computers and the personal email accounts of individuals affiliated with the Clinton Campaign conspired to violate, among other federal laws, the federal computer-intrusion statute, and they have been so charged. See United States v. Netyksho, et al., No. 18-cr-215 (D.D.C.). [Redacted: Harm to Ongoing Matter, Personal Privacy]

Second, while the investigation identified numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign, the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges. Among other things, the evidence was not sufficient to charge any Campaign official as an unregistered agent of the Russian government or other Russian principal. And our evidence about the June 9, 2016 meeting and WikiLeaks’s releases of hacked materials was not sufficient to charge a criminal campaign-finance violation. Further, the evidence was not sufficient to charge that any member of the Trump Campaign conspired with representatives of the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election.

Third, the investigation established that several individuals affiliated with the Trump Campaign lied to the Office, and to Congress, about their interactions with Russian-affiliated individuals and related matters. Those lies materially impaired the investigation of Russian election interference. The Office charged some of those lies as violations of the federal false statements statute. Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying about his interactions with Russian Ambassador Kislyak during the transition period. George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy advisor during the campaign period, pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about, inter alia, the nature and timing of his interactions with Joseph Mifsud, the professor who told Papadopoulos that the Russians had dirt on candidate Clinton in the form of thousands of emails. Former Trump Organization attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to making false statements to Congress about the Trump Moscow project. [Redacted: Harm to Ongoing Matter] And in February 2019, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that Manafort lied to the Office and the grand jury concerning his interactions and communications with Konstantin Kilimnik about Trump Campaign polling data and a peace plan for Ukraine.
***
The Office investigated several other events that have been publicly reported to involve potential Russia-related contacts. For example, the investigation established that interaction between Russian Ambassador Kislyak and Trump Campaign officials both at the candidate’s April 2016 foreign policy speech in Washington, D.C., and during the week of the Republican National Convention were brief, public, and non-substantive. And the investigation did not establish that one Campaign official’s efforts to dilute a portion of the Republican Party platform on providing assistance to Ukraine were undertaken at the behest of candidate Trump or Russia. The investigation also did not establish that a meeting between Kislyak and Sessions in September 2016 at Sessions’s Senate office included any more than a passing mention of the presidential campaign.

The investigation did not always yield admissible information or testimony, or a complete picture of the activities undertaken by subjects of the investigation. Some individuals invoked their Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination and were not, in the Office’s judgment, appropriate candidates for grants of immunity. The Office limited its pursuit of other witnesses and information — such as information known to attorneys or individuals claiming to be members of the media — in light of internal Department of Justice policies. See, e.g., Justice Manual §§ 9-13.400, 13.410. Some of the information obtained via court process, moreover, was presumptively covered by legal privilege and was screened from investigators by a filter (or “taint”) team. Even when individuals testified or agreed to be interviewed, they sometimes provided information that was false or incomplete, leading to some of the false-statements charges described above. And the Office faced practical limits on its ability to access relevant evidence as well-numerous witnesses and subjects lived abroad, and documents were held outside the United States.

Further, the Office learned that some of the individuals we interviewed or whose conduct we investigated—including some associated with the Trump Campaign—deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using applications that feature encryption or that do not provide for long-term retention of data or communications records. In such cases, the Office was not able to corroborate witness statements through comparison to contemporaneous communications or fully question witnesses about statements that appeared inconsistent with other known facts.

Accordingly, while this report embodies factual and legal determinations that the Office believes to be accurate and complete to the greatest extent possible, given these identified gaps, the Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events described in the report.

No, Democrats Have Not Moved Left. The GOP Has Moved Right…Way, Way Right.

It’s popular for the media – even the so-called liberal media – to portray the “Squad” and many of the Democratic presidential candidates as far left. As if they are some aberration from the core party principles. Of course, that’s exactly what Republicans want you to believe. Indeed, even some Democratic leaders and “strategists” would have you buy into that claptrap.

It’s not only not true. It’s not even close to reality.

In the 1930s and 40s, the FDR administration and mainstream Democrats embraced social democracy as part of the New Deal. To rescue our economy FDR, the Democratic Party and even some Republicans incorporated ideas that were socialist in nature in order to move people out of the soup lines and back to work. For example, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) built more than 620,000 miles of streets, more than 10,000 bridges, dozens of airports, hydroelectric dams, public buildings and large numbers of houses and apartments. Much of these are still in use today. Rural electric cooperatives (a form of socialism) brought telephones and electricity to hundreds of thousands of rural Americans who had been ignored by large utilities. In addition, the New Deal’s Social Security rescued the elderly from abject poverty. FDR had even proposed a Second New Deal which included single-payer health care, believing that access to quality health care was a human right.

When fascism and support for Nazi Germany threatened to take over the US, Democrats rejected it. And, when World War II broke out, Americans resorted to what some would now consider socialism by pulling together to produce necessary war materials and to ration consumer products in favor of supporting our troops. Indeed, most of our population temporarily abandoned free market capitalism in order to defeat the Axis powers.

Though many in the GOP opposed some of FDR’s initiatives, they supported others. In fact, the GOP was almost equally divided between conservatives and liberals. But things began to change as the result of Senator Joe McCarthy’s Red Scare in the 50s and the growing Cold War.

As post-war Europe followed the path pioneered by FDR, US politicians from both parties distanced themselves from anything that could remotely be misconstrued as communist. That included social democracy. Yet, even in the 70s, the GOP approved of some liberal ideas. For example, in response to Senator Ted Kennedy’s proposal for single-payer health care, Nixon proposed a health care mandate (Obamacare, anyone?). Nixon also supported the formation of the EPA and OSHA. And he aggressively desegregated public schools.

Only after the GOP saw an opportunity to solidify the Jim Crow South by implementing its southern strategy and creating division over abortion to bring evangelicals into the party, did it begin to lurch far to the right. Since then, it has used race and immigration to divide voters and pander to its rural base. And it has used Christian fundamentalist social issues to hold evangelicals – the so-called “values voters” – in line. Meanwhile, right-wing radio hosts and Roger Ailes’s right-wing propaganda network (aka Fox News) have pushed the party even further to the extreme right.

At the same time, Democrats, in trying to recapture the southern states it lost by pushing through the Civil Rights Acts, began to move to the center-right in order to occupy the space once held by mainstream Republicans. For president, they twice nominated the governors of southern states to win elections. And the party has continued to try to bring southerners back into the fold by moving past the center and trending further and further to the right, at the same time denying or ignoring the wishes of traditional Democratic voters in urban areas and in the rural areas of Rust Belt states.

Voters’ positions on abortion, once a non-political issue, now define them as Republicans or Democrats. And, as the Christian fundamentalists and right-wing media have fomented anger over immigration, gay marriage and transgender use of bathrooms (otherwise known as discrimination) Democrats have struggled to respond. They either had to join in the discrimination or be labeled as extreme leftists.

So here we are. We now have a center-right Democratic party that has struggled to adhere to the principles it once cherished, and an extreme far-right Republican party that uses racism and Christian fundamentalism to disguise its fascist, pro-billionaire agenda.

The GOP has long since abandoned its tradition of fiscal conservatism combined with social compassion. It is now the “everybody for themselves party” that is trying to dismantle every aspect of our government except for the military. It would have you ignore issues such as growing debt and deficits, failing infrastructure, income disparity, the lack of retirement pensions and increasingly unaffordable healthcare. Instead, it would have you blame immigrants, “uppity” people of color and the LGBTQ population for your problems. For those of you who refuse to support the party and its narrow-minded, hateful agenda, it attempts to gerrymander away your rights and make it increasingly difficult for you to vote.

And now that a growing number of Democrats are intent on implementing real, substantive change in order to give ordinary working Americans a fair shake, the GOP and its corporate-controlled media try to label them as leftists and socialists. They would have you believe that they are un-American and dangerous. But they are as American and as mainstream as FDR, JFK, Obama and even Ronald Reagan.

It’s Trump, Mitch McConnell, the NRA and the GOP who fail to live up to the ideals of our nation’s Founders

E Pluribus Unum (Out Of Many, One).

The phrase was first recommended as our nation’s motto in 1776 as part of the Great Seal of the United States. It was meant to signify the union of the 13 colonies. But, over time, the meaning was expanded to embrace the fact that our nation is comprised almost entirely of immigrants from every part of the world – people who came here seeking liberty and refuge from persecution.

My, how things have changed!

Even though the motto still appears on the Great Seal, a seal that hangs on the president’s lectern, it now stands in open contrast to whatever comes out of that hate hole – that source of limitless lies – he calls a mouth. Instead of promoting unity, he creates division. Instead of respecting his political opponents and debating policies, he calls for his followers to lock them up. Instead of inspiring freedom and liberty for all, he inspires hate. And instead of welcoming the oppressed, he himself orders their oppression.

He has ordered refugees to be herded into cages that would be considered inadequate for animals. He has ordered children and babies to be ripped from their parents’ arms. He has deported veterans who risked their lives in war zones while wearing our uniform, forcing them to leave their spouses and children behind. He has reinvigorated white supremacists and neo-Nazis – many of them marching under the banner of religion. He has tried to disenfranchise the LGBTQ community by pushing for “religious freedom” – the freedom to deny others their civil rights. He has attacked our most cherished institutions, including the CIA, the FBI and the free press. He has openly shown admiration for dictators and expressed jealousy for their brutal control. At the same time, he has expressed contempt for those who have competing ideas for the future of our nation. He has pushed scientists, experts and loyal public servants out of our government, replacing them with grifters, know-nothings and sycophants.

Most recently, he has resorted to a long-time racist trope telling four congresswomen of color to go back to the countries they came from. He tells those who don’t support him to “love it or leave it” ignoring, of course, the fact that before he took office no one complained more about our government than he did. Worse yet, having repeated lies about a black congresswoman, he proudly stood by as the almost entirely white crowd at his political rally chanted “Send her back!” Instead of trying to stop the chant or to speak over it as he claims, he proudly stood there basking in the moment obviously pleased with the hatred he had fomented.

If this poor excuse for a man – this contemptable bully, this pussy-grabber, this serial philanderer, this abuser of the poor, this unapologetic racist, this grifter, this obstructer of justice, this traitor – is allowed to once again assume office, we should consider changing the motto to something more appropriate, such as the slogan on the back side of the Seal “Annuit coeptis” (He favors our undertakings). The He being Putin. Or maybe we could look to our past to find something suitable that’s more succinct, such as “Whites Only!”

And we should change the nation’s name to The Former Democratic Republic of The United States.

A Primer On Freedom For Trump Supporters.

Following our annual celebration of freedom known as Independence Day, and given recent events, it has become clear that some of you – including our president – are unclear as to what freedom actually means. So I’ll attempt to clear that up for you.

Wikipedia defines freedom as “…having the ability to act or change without constraint. Something is “free” if it can change easily and is not constrained in its present state. In philosophy and religion, it is associated with having free will and being without undue or unjust constraints, or enslavement, and is an idea closely related to the concept of liberty. A person has the freedom to do things that will not, in theory or in practice, be prevented by other forces.”

Those “other forces” are, by necessity, laws. In order for all those within a given society to enjoy a large degree of freedom, there must be limits. Without them, freedom would quickly devolve into anarchy.

Though not themselves perfect, our Founders hoped to usher in an Age of Enlightenment. Through the Constitution, they hoped to create a nation that would serve as a model for the world in which its inhabitants were free from tyranny…even tyranny of the majority. That’s why the Constitution created a framework of laws. Why it forbade the establishment of an official religion. It’s why the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the rights of assembly. It’s why it guarantees the right of citizens to petition the government. It’s why it created a government elected by the people and a court system in which the people could address grievances. And, to ensure equality, Article IV states, “The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states. (In other words, all states.)

That stated, perhaps the best way to define the liberty that our Founding Fathers gave us is to look at what it is not.

For example, dear Trump supporters, you and your hero do not have the freedom to proclaim the United States a Christian nation. Nor do you have the freedom to deny rights to those who practice a religion different than yours or to those who practice no religion at all – no matter how much that may offend you. Freedom does not give you the right to impose your religious beliefs on others. Freedom does not give you the right to harass, bully, assault or threaten those who look different, worship differently, love differently or vote differently than you. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you are free to cage, torture and detain indefinitely those who speak a different language than you just because they crossed our borders seeking refuge.

It does not give individuals and corporations the freedom to cheat, steal or cause harm to others. It doesn’t mean that you are free to pollute the air and water that we all need to survive. Or to steal our natural resources. It doesn’t give you the right to deny medical care and needed pharmaceuticals to others if doing so is against your perverted faith. It does not give you the right to deny other citizens the opportunity to vote even if you disagree with their choices. It does not give your president and his family the right to enrich themselves by pillaging our nation’s coffers. It does not give your Mango Mussolini and his wealthy friends the right to move their profits offshore in order to avoid taxes thereby forcing the rest of us to pick up their share.

And it sure as hell doesn’t give your politicians the right to seek and use the assistance of a foreign adversary in order to defeat their opponents!

Make No Mistake. Today’s GOP Is Racist.

Given Trump’s unrestrained spending, the GOP can no longer claim to be the party of financial responsibility. Given Trump’s boorish behavior, his history of extramarital affairs and sexual assaults, his administration’s forced separation of refugee families and its torturous incarceration of young children, the party can no longer claim to be the party of family values. Given Trump’s lack of a foreign policy, his embrace of murderous dictators and his acceptance of Russian interference, it can no longer claim to be strong on defense.

Given Trump’s disdain for the FBI and his obstruction of justice, it cannot claim to be the party of law and order. Given his tariffs, it cannot claim to be the party of free trade. Given the party’s efforts to suppress voting, to gerrymander, to bury opponents in an avalanche of dirty money, and to steal elections, it most certainly cannot claim that it cares about democracy. Given the party’s determination to cut Social Security, Medicare and other safety net programs such as Meals on Wheels, it cannot claim to care about seniors. And, given its cuts to veteran’s benefits, it cannot claim that it cares for veterans.

What the today’s GOP can reasonably claim to be is a party of xenophobes, homophobes, misogynists, racists and fascists.

Once the party of emancipators and proponents of conservative fiscal policies, the GOP began its evolution following Brown v Board of Education – the Supreme Court ruling that forced the desegregation of public schools. In the wake of that decision, James M. Buchanan formulated a plan to allow the white elite to retain its power over the majority. His ideas were embraced by libertarians, in particular the billionaire Charles Koch, and southern conservatives. Then, following the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968, which were signed into law by a Democratic president (Lyndon B. Johnson), the GOP committed to Lee Atwater’s Southern strategy by reaching out to southern Democrats (the so-called Dixiecrats). Within a few years, the Old South was bright red.

Then, under the guidance of Paul Weyrich, Jerry Falwell and others, the party began the culture wars by embracing Christian fundamentalist anti-abortion and anti-gay views. It pandered to evangelicals, most especially those in the southern Baptist church.

The transformation from the party of Lincoln was complete.

In many ways, Trump is a symptom of nearly seventy years of change. His demagoguery merely gave the movement a celebrity and gave members permission to unleash their true feelings. He and his followers railed against our nation’s first black president questioning his citizenship. He fomented hate against refugees and immigrants from so-called shithole (non-white) countries. And he decried political correctness (aka politeness) which allowed the majority of Republicans to pull off their masks to reveal their true colors…er…color…white.

Trump and his advisors, Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller, even pandered to neo-Nazis and white supremacists (those “very nice people” on the other side of civil rights protestors) encouraging them to crawl out of their hidey holes and light their torches. All the while, Trump and his followers have feigned outrage over being called racists. After all, according to them, they all have a black friend or they work with people of color.

While the GOP rank and file are focused on putting African-Americans, Latinos, the LGBTQ community and “libtards” in their place, the real swamp monsters in the administration are freeing multinational corporations to pollute our environment and fleece consumers. They have given them billions in tax breaks and packed the courts with corporatists, racists and religious fanatics to protect their interests for a generation. Meanwhile the crime-boss-in-chief and his family are filling their very large pockets with taxpayer money, destroying international alliances, threatening our neighbors, the free press and our most valued institutions.

Trump’s supporters voted for him as a way of figuratively throwing a live grenade into Washington. He has done that. He is undoing the very fabric and principles that have held our nation together. And, though his supporters may not yet realize it, he is also eliminating most of the regulations that protect them from predatory financial institutions, health insurance companies, big pharma, corporate polluters and a variety of other greedy scoundrels.

Once his job is complete, and he has finished carrying out the wishes of his billionaire sponsors and friends, not even his followers’ Bibles and guns will be able to protect them.

The Insufferable Cowardice Of Democratic Strategists.

Whenever I listen to Democratic Party “strategists” dismiss the idea of impeachment out of fears that it will help Trump win re-election, my thoughts turn to the lion in the Wizard of Oz who was seeking courage. By basing all of their decisions on polling, these pundits and strategists have shown they lack the conviction of their own beliefs. They are little more than weather vanes – always reacting to the direction the political winds are blowing. And, in doing so, they have caused long-term harm to the future of the party and the nation.

Just look at their recent record. The strongest and most eloquent Democratic member of the Senate, Al Franken, was forced to resign without due process by Democratic leaders pandering to the Me-Too movement. Representative Ihlan Omar was publically shamed and forced to apologize for having the courage to speak up about the out-sized role of AIPAC and Netanyahu in US politics. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has largely been left on her own to defend herself against scurrilous GOP attacks. And instead of using all of the powers granted to them by the Constitution to compel testimony, Democratic-controlled committees have patiently awaited the courts to enforce the subpoenas of administration witnesses, allowing Trump to continue to run out the clock until the 2020 election.

Now ask yourself: What would Republicans do if the roles were reversed? We already know the answers. GOP officials have always circled the wagons around those who have been accused of sexual assault, racism and other antisocial behavior. They have ignored the many outrageous statements made by Sen. Mitch McConnell, Rep. Steve King and others. They have looked the other way from the administration’s corruption. And most continue to support Trump despite his crimes and despicable behavior.

Democratic leaders justify their refusal to call for an impeachment inquiry against Trump by pointing to the rise of President Clinton’s job approval following his impeachment. First, let me state that an impeachment inquiry is not impeachment. It is an investigation. If the House doesn’t find enough evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors, it doesn’t have to vote for impeachment. Second, they should note that, despite Clinton’s job approval, Republicans still took control of the House and the White House in the following election.

Further, the crimes and circumstances are starkly different. Can you really compare the impact of impeaching a president over a sexual indiscretion with an impeachment investigation into a president who gained office with the help of our nation’s greatest adversary; who welcomed and encouraged Russian interference; who provably committed obstruction of justice trying to derail the investigation into his campaign’s complicity with Russians; who resorted to witness tampering and suborning of perjury? A president who is in obvious violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause? A president who refuses to reveal his tax returns, likely because of questionable financial ties to Russian crime bosses?

When the details of this president’s crimes are put on public display in congressional hearings, do you really think voters will show sympathy for him and vote for him in 2020?

Some Democratic Party strategists argue that Trump is setting an “impeachment trap” – that he actually wants to be impeached in order to ensure his re-election. This supposes that Trump is an evil genius who is just daring Democrats to impeach and, in doing so, they will fall into his carefully laid trap. That argument is laughable. Trump may be good at branding and manipulating the media, and he’s certainly good at creating fear and division. But a genius? Hardly.

Based on his panic over the Mueller report, I believe he is actually terrified of impeachment. An impeachment inquiry would give Congress access to information that was unavailable even to the Mueller team. Rather than exonerate Trump, it’s likely to reveal a large number of yet unproven crimes, such as tax fraud and money-laundering. Moreover, an impeachment inquiry is likely to have little negative effect on Democratic prospects for the 2020 elections. No matter what happens, Trump has already accused Democrats of treason; of trying to implement a coup; of trying to overturn the results of the 2016 election. Indeed, he and his new fixer, William Barr, have already begun an investigation into the “oranges” [sic] of CIA and FBI “spying” on his 2016 campaign. That nonsense is already baked into the 2020 campaign.

What’s more likely to damage the outlook for Democrats in the 2020 election is weakness and indecision. We already know that 35 to 40 percent of Americans support Trump. Given that his supporters only believe what Fox News and other conservative media tell them, they will vote for him no matter what happens. Likewise, for those independent voters who haven’t yet made up their minds about Trump (if they even exist), an impeachment inquiry might reveal details that give them reason to either vote against him or to stay home on election day.

The voters Democratic leaders need to most worry about are those in their own base. Since Democrats are the majority party, voter turnout is critical. Failing to hold Trump accountable could well demoralize Democrats. But an impeachment inquiry is almost certain to energize Democrats to vote.

If all of that isn’t enough to convince Democratic leaders to do the right thing, they should re-read Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution which states, “The President, Vice-President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” (Note that it says shall. Not can, may or if it’s convenient.) If gaining the office with the help of a foreign adversary, failing to follow the Constitution, obstructing justice, suborning perjury and witness tampering don’t qualify as high crimes and misdemeanors, it’s difficult to imagine what would.

Finally, they should look to the recent town hall meeting held by Rep. Justin Amash for inspiration. A staunch conservative, Amash is the first member of the Republican caucus to call for impeachment. And, when he laid out his case to his skeptical constituents, they rose to their feet and gave him a standing ovation – proof that it pays to have the courage to do the right thing.