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Amid a deluge of analysis after release yesterday of Barr's letter to Congress, the statement from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) -- plus insights the day before from St. Louis-based journalist and author Sarah Kendzior -- stand as perhaps the words Americans should most remember from a weekend of political intrigue.
Meanwhile, a veteran journalist and a prominent conservative commentator posed perhaps the most compelling questions of the past two days.
Nadler's take came in a Raw Story report titled "I wonder if Barr pressured special counsel." From the article:
When answering questions, Nadler repeated that Barr “auditioned” for his position as attorney general by writing a report on his “extreme view of obstruction of justice in presidential power.”
“Given the fact that the special counsel found ample evidence of obstruction so as not to be able to say they’re not guilty of obstruction, so he said, we’re not exonerating the president, after 22 months for the attorney general reviewing that record in 22 hours is a bit much. I would, in fact, wonder if the attorney general pressured the special counsel into not making that finding so he could make the finding. I’m not aware of any case where an attorney general made the decision on a prosecution or non-prosecution for obstruction of justice.”
Nadler clearly was not impressed with Barr's handiwork:
“Earlier today, I received a four-page letter from Attorney General Barr outlining his summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report while making a few questionable legal arguments of his own,” Nadler said. “I take from this letter three points: First, President Trump is wrong. This report does not amount to a so-called total exoneration. Special counsel Mueller was cleared that his report ‘does not exonerate,’ the president. . . .
"Second, given these questions, it is imperative that the attorney general release the full report and that the underlying evidence,” Nadler continued. “The entire unfiltered report, as well as the evidence underlying that report, must be made available to Congress and to the American people. . . . ”
“Third, the attorney general’s comments make it clear that Congress must step in to get the truth and provide full transparency to the American the president has not been exonerated by the special counsel, yet the attorney general has not decided to go further or to share the findings with the public,” Nadler said. “We can’t rely on what may be a hasty partisan interpretation of the facts.”
Kendzior, author of The View from Flyover Country: Dispatches from the Forgotten America, suggests Barr is so ethically compromised that he likely did not need to pressure Mueller. From Raw Story, via an interview with Joy Reid at MSNBC:
“We know Trump demands loyalty oaths from the people who work for him,” MSNBC anchor Joy Reid noted. “For all we know, William Barr is operating under an oath to the president.”
“The challenge I’m having is having confidence that whatever his report — it’s not the Mueller report, it’s the Barr report — and now we’re supposed to trust whatever he writes is true?”
“Yeah, I don’t think you should trust it,” authoritarianism expert Sarah Kendzior replied.
“And the loyalty is not to the United States, it’s not to the Constitution, it is not to the American people — it is purely to Trump, his money, his family, his personal interest and that is why Barr was selected,” she continued.
Kendzior did not stop there. She said, in so many words, that Barr is an untrustworthy political hack:
“Barr is also a GOP loyalist. The GOP is equally invested in covering up these crimes because the broad scope of the Mueller implicates them,” Kendzior noted. “You may remember that Michael Cohen was the RNC deputy finance chair.”
“So they need somebody who has a record of, you know, exonerating the GOP — which Barr does,” she reminded. “He exonerated people in Iran-contra — some of whom are now appearing again in the Trump administration.”
“So Barr is ideal — unfortunately — for this role,” Kendzior concluded.
As for profound questions raised over the weekend, one came from Elizabeth Drew, long-time Washington journalist and author. Drew cut right to the chase in this item from her Twitter account:
If none of Trump's aides conspired with Russians why was [Paul] Manafort sharing detailed polling data with a Kremlin agent?
David Frum, a conservative commentator and former George W. Bush speechwriter, takes a similar approach, in an article at The Atlantic titled "The Question the Mueller Report Has Not Answered: Why?" Writes Frum:
Good news, America. Russia helped install your president. But although he owes his job in large part to that help, the president did not conspire or collude with his helpers. He was the beneficiary of a foreign intelligence operation, but not an active participant in that operation. He received the stolen goods, but he did not conspire with the thieves in advance.
This is what Donald Trump’s administration and its enablers in Congress and the media are already calling exoneration. But it offers no reassurance to Americans who cherish the independence and integrity of their political process.
The question unanswered by the attorney general’s summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report is: Why? Russian President Vladimir Putin took an extreme risk by interfering in the 2016 election as he did. Had Hillary Clinton won the presidency—the most likely outcome—Russia would have been exposed to fierce retaliation by a powerful adversary. The prize of a Trump presidency must have glittered alluringly, indeed, to Putin and his associates. Why?
As for specific questions, Frum has those, too:
Did they admire Trump’s anti-NATO, anti–European Union, anti-ally, pro–Bashar al-Assad, pro-Putin ideology?
Were they attracted by his contempt for the rule of law and dislike of democracy?
Did they hold compromising information about him, financial or otherwise?
Were there business dealings in the past, present, or future?
Or were they simply attracted by Trump’s general ignorance and incompetence, seeing him as a kind of wrecking ball to be smashed into the U.S. government and U.S. foreign policy?
Many public-spirited people have counted on Mueller to investigate these questions, too, along with the narrowly criminal questions in his assignment. Perhaps he did, perhaps he did not; we will know soon, either way. But those questions have always been the important topics.
Is it too early to label the Mueller report a "whitewash"? Probably. Is it too early to wonder if William Barr is engaging in a cover-up? Probably not -- and that's because key sections of his summary make no sense, when examined in light of what we already knew.
I like Rickey Stokes. He's got the cajones to call a state judge and ask him to explain his crooked rulings in a matter that involves profoundly important First Amendment issues; no other journalist that I'm aware of confronted Neilson directly about my unlawful five-month incarceration that lasted until March 2014 . And Stokes is smart enough not to fall for it when the judge resorts to bobbing and weaving for an answer.
Stokes came up a tad short in a couple of areas on his post about questioning Neilson. First, I wish Stokes had confronted Neilson with Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697 (1931), a U.S. Supreme Court opinion hat is roughly 88 years old and holds that the temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction Neilson issued to justify my arrest are unlawful "prior restraints" -- and have been under First Amendment law that dates back more than 200 years.
Second, Stokes ends his post with a scenario that shows he does not realize the case leading to my incarceration -- Rob Riley and Liberty Duke v. Roger and Carol Shuler -- was handled in a much more crooked fashion than even the appropriately cynical Stokes can fathom. In short, I consider Stokes' missteps to be minor. The important thing is that Stokes confronted Claud Nielson -- something no mainstream media (MSM) reporter in Alabama was willing to do -- and held him up for the lawless, crooked weasel that he is. Rickey Stokes, who is a bail bondsmen by trade, when he isn't writing Rickey Stokes News, will have my eternal respect and gratitude for doing that.
What exactly did Stokes do? Well, let's let him explain it, straight from his March 24, 2014, post, titled "Since October 23 in Shelby County Jail Because He Will Not Remove Article":
JUDGE CLAUDE NEILSON - RETIRED JUDGE DEMOPOLIS, ALABAMA
The Judge is Claude Neilson of Demopolis Alabama. He is retired and specially appointed in this case.
Today I called Judge Neilson and he answered the phone. I asked him how could he hold Shuler in jail on "civil' contempt"? Judge Neilson responded that Shuler held the keys to the jail. That when he removed the articles from The Legal Schnauzer he could be released from jail.
You mean this government paycheck suckin' Judge who is retired and probably drawing a six figure salary still from the people is keeping a man in the Shelby County Jail because he will not remove something from the web?
Let's point out two key issues here?
(1) Stokes' question, in so many words, was, "What law allows you to hold Shuler in jail for "civil contempt"? Neilson responds by saying "Shuler holds the keys to the jail." That's the same pablum, word for word, Neilson spewed during the one hearing I had before him, on Nov. 14, 2013. Stokes' question essentially asks, "What law gives you the authority to throw a journalist in jail over reporting that has not -- as a matter of law -- been found defamatory? (Note: Even if the material of which Riley and Duke complaint had lawfully been found defamatory -- by a jury, as required under defamation law -- the remedy would have been money damages, not incarceration.) Neilson twists Stokes' words and puts the burden on me for being in jail -- all while failing to answer the question of why I was in jail in the first place. Neilson, of course, can't answer that question because there is no law that allows him to issue a "prior restraint" and then hold me in contempt for "violating" a ruling he can't lawfully issue.
(2) Stokes paraphrases Neilson as saying that when I removed the articles from Legal Schnauzer, I could be released from jail." Again, that is the same pablum Neilson spewed in the Nov. 14, 2013, hearing. And again, it doesn't answer the question, which essentially was: How can a journalist be forced to take down a story that, as a matter of law, has not been found to be defamatory? Neilson danced around that issue because there was no answer he could give.
This, of course, involves a practical question that I asked Neilson myself. "Even if I were willing to take down the offending articles, how am I supposed to do it from jail?" Neilson's response: "That's your problem." That shows Neilson is not only a crook, who has no respect for the rule of law, he's also a jackass, who is blind to basic human courtesy and fairness. Calling Claud Neilson a reptile would be an insult to reptiles across the globe.
Stokes picked up on this issue in his post:
First, in the Houston County Jail in Dothan, Sheriff Hughes does not let the inmates have computers. So how in the world can this man remove something from the web? Oh, they did not teach this government paycheck sucking retired Judge that in law school or how to screw people judge school!!!
As for Stokes' second minor misstep, noted in the fourth paragraph above, let's look at the issue he raises near the end of his post:
I do not know Roger Shuler. I do not agree with some of his writings. And my investigation, some of what he wrote, well I hope he has had proof.
(Note: Here is a technical issue the public often gets wrong in a civil case such as Riley, et al v. Shuler, et al. As defendants, Carol and I didn't have to prove anything. The burden of proof is on the plaintiff. They had to prove my reporting was false and defamatory. If they can't do that -- and they did not even come close in this case -- it's party over and case closed -- game, set, match.)
And he was stupid with this lawsuit. Give me the authority to take depositions under oath. MAN - please - please give me that. Especially Rob Riley, Bob Riley, Luther Strange!!! WOW - PLEASE PLEASE - my heart races at the opportunity.
Shuler should have agreed and took the opportunity to get them under oath to answer questions.
Shuler remains in the Shelby County Jail or Jefferson County Jail for Civil Contempt of Court. All for the former Alabama Governor's son--Rob Riley.
As for Stokes' claim that I "was stupid with this lawsuit," he's probably assuming this was a somewhat regular lawsuit, which would follow normal procedures. But there was nothing normal about it. The lawful remedy in a defamation case is money damages, to be determined by a jury. But Riley-Duke did not seek money damages or a jury trial. As for depositions and other forms of discovery, those are precursors to a trial -- and their first function is to help determine, at summary judgment, if there should be a trial at all. But Riley-Duke did not seek a trial or discovery; they wanted Neilson to act as a one-man censor, which is exactly what he did, even though long-standing defamation law forbids it.
we explained in an Oct. 10, 2013 post:
Alabama Republican Rob Riley has filed documents that seek to have me held in contempt of court for violating a preliminary injunction related to certain posts at this blog.
Under Alabama law, however, no preliminary injunction exists because we were not given proper notice of a hearing on the matter. In fact, Riley's own court documents prove that no lawful injunction exists. How do we know? It's spelled out in an Alabama Supreme Court case styled Southern Homes, AL v. Bermuda Lakes, LLC, 57 So. 3d 100 (Ala., 2010).
As you can see, the ruling was issued in 2010, so it's not ancient law. A Yale Law School graduate like Rob Riley should be able to find it. But apparently that kind of research is beyond Mr. Riley's legal skills--and those of retired Circuit Judge Claud Neilson, who issued the injunction.
What issues were at hand in Southern Homes? We addressed that in the Oct. 10, 2013 post, which came less than two weeks before my arrest. In other words, we knew any attempt to arrest us was unlawful well before it happened. That's because there never was a lawful preliminary injunction:
The Southern Homes case involved a preliminary injunction that a circuit judge issued related to the development of 87 acres in Madison County, near Huntsville. The order enjoined Southern Homes from taking any action related to its dispute with Bermuda. But the Alabama Supreme Court found the preliminary injunction was unlawful because Southern Homes did not receive sufficient notice of a hearing, pursuant to Rule 65 of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure (ARCP). From the opinion:
Southern Homes argues, among other things, that it received insufficient notice under Rule 65(a)(1), Ala. R. Civ. P., of the hearing on Bermuda's motion for a preliminary injunction, in violation of Southern Homes' due-process rights. We agree.Rule 65(a)(1), Ala. R. Civ. P., provides that "[n]o preliminary injunction shall be issued without notice to the adverse party."Rule 65(a)(1) does not specify how much notice must be given to the adverse party before a preliminary injunction can be issued. However, as the United States Supreme Court has held in interpreting the federal equivalent of Rule 65(a),2 the notice required by Rule 65(a) "implies a hearing in which the defendant is given a fair opportunity to oppose the application and to prepare for such opposition."Granny Goose Foods, Inc. v. Brotherhood of Teamsters & Auto Truck Drivers Local No. 70 of Alameda County, 415 U.S. 423, 434 n. 7, 94 S.Ct. 1113, 39 L.Ed.2d 435 (1974). See also Alabama Republican Party v. McGinley, 893 So.2d 337, 344 (Ala.2004) (holding that "[t]he hallmarks of procedural due process are notice and `the opportunity to be heard "at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner."'
Bottom line: We were required to receive sufficient notice of the preliminary-injunction hearing to allow "a fair opportunity to oppose the application and to prepare for such opposition (calling witnesses, gathering evidence, etc.)" Instead, we got less than 24 hours notice, violating Alabama law and meaning there was no lawful preliminary injunction for me to violate. In other words, Riley v. Shuler was crazier and more crooked than Ricky Stokes could even imagine.
In a perfect world, Rickey Stokes might have gone a little deeper in his analysis and hit Claud Neilson with even more questions the judge couldn't answer. But that's a quibble. Mr. Stokes did unmask Neilson as a criminal and a fraud, and that is a major public service.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr, in his letter to Congress about the Robert Mueller report, cites an incorrect standard for bringing a federal obstruction-of-justice charge. On so-called collusion, Barr claims Mueller "did not establish" grounds to support such a charge, even though the public already knows of at least three instances where members of the Trump campaign apparently acted in coordination with Russian officials.
Is Barr's four-page letter to be taken seriously? Did Barr write it in good faith? Our answer to both questions is no, and we are not alone in that assessment. A writer at Salon referred to Barr's analysis of the Mueller report as "fake." A writer at Truthout called Barr's letter "meaningless," part of a "disinformation campaign." A writer at The New Republic said the Trump campaign committed crimes, and Barr is "helping . . . cover it up." A writer at Vanity Fair said Barr essentially "pardoned" Trump. A writer at Slate referred to Barr's use of "weasel words" to help protect Trump.
The citizenry appears to distrust Barr's handiwork -- with good reason. Consider Barr's explanation of how he and deputy AG Rod Rosenstein concluded that Mueller's report did not provide sufficient evidence to bring obstruction charges:
Generally speaking, to obtain and sustain an obstruction conviction, the government would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person, acting with corrupt intent, engaged in obstructive conduct with a sufficient nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding. In cataloguing the President's actions, many of which took place in public view, the report identifies no actions that, in our judgment, constitute obstructive conduct, had a nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding, and were done with corrupt intent, each of which, under the Department's principles of federal prosecution guiding charging decisions, would need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to establish an obstruction-of-justice offense.
Notice that Barr twice claims the government would have to prove obstruction "beyond a reasonable doubt" to obtain a conviction at trial. That, of course, is true, but he AG is jumping ahead of the game. The reasonable-doubt standard is for a jury or judge to decide, Barr's letter, however, is about the Mueller INVESTIGATION -- which had the central purpose of determining whether to bring charges or not.
The standard for such a determination is "probable cause," not reasonable doubt. Probable cause has been defined as the presence of "particular facts and circumstances [that are] sufficient to warrant a prudent person's belief that a suspect has committed an offense."
Jed Shugerman, of Slate, noted Barr's peculiar citation to the reasonable-doubt standard:
An indictment requires probable cause, but Barr, and presumably Rosenstein, held the evidence to a higher standard. It is wise for a prosecutor to bring charges not for the barest margin of evidence over the threshold, but to think about the prudence of a trial. Barr and Rosenstein are surely wise to take that trial standard into account in determining whether an indictment might be warranted. But if Barr held himself to that high evidentiary standard to justify his decision not to bring charges, surely it is also relevant to ask whether Mueller’s team also held itself to that same rigorous “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard both on questions of obstruction and conspiracy.
It matters if Mueller had sufficient evidence for probable cause on either of these questions but decided it was insufficient evidence for a prudent indictment with an eye toward a trial and a realistic conviction. Probable cause is relevant for Congress and for the public.
I would take it one step further than Shugerman did: Barr not only held the evidence to a higher standard, he held it to an unlawful standard. Probable cause is relevant for Congress and the public in the Trump-Russia matter, as it is relevant in all criminal matters.
Consider the most high-profile criminal case in Alabama over the past few years -- the federal fraud trial of Birmingham attorney and businessman Donald Watkins, who happens to be black. Charges were brought against Watkins based on probable cause; if prosecutors were forced to indict Watkins only on a reasonable-doubt standard, he almost certainly would not have been charged. In fact, hardly anyone would be charged with a crime under such a standard.
With the Watkins matter in mind, and given that Trump's inner circle consists mostly of white people, Barr appears to have created a double standard based on skin color -- a form of white privilege, if you will.
Consider these words from Slate's William Saletan about Barr's use of the reasonable-doubt standard:
The attorney general says prosecutors would have to prove “each” of these elements of the case “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Even if some of Trump’s acts are both obstructive and corrupt, Barr won’t bring charges unless the “nexus to a … proceeding” can also be proved by the highest legal standard. In a case like this one, that’s an almost impossible threshold for prosecution.
A sage legal observer once noted that a grand jury could find probable cause to "indict a ham sandwich." That illustrates the bar for bringing criminal charges, against most citizens (including Donald Watkins), is relatively low. But for the Trump crowd, Barr has established an "almost impossible threshold." Is that a back-hand slap at any notion of "equal protection under the law"?
First, the top-line item that Trump and his allies have taken as total exoneration: “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
This conclusion is a good one for the president’s defenders. But it doesn’t address any of the evidence of improper relations between Trump surrogates and Russia that we already know about or explain how Mueller viewed these connections within his framework for finding “no collusion.” What about the actions of informal adviser Roger Stone, who allegedly contacted WikiLeaks to seek information for the Trump campaign? The Mueller team’s indictment of Stone alleges, “After the July 22, 2016 release of stolen DNC emails by [WikiLeaks], a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact [Stone] about any additional releases and what other damaging information [WikiLeaks] had regarding the Clinton Campaign.” Who directed the senior official?
What about Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik? Mueller’s team had already concluded that Manafort lied to investigators about offering detailed polling information to Kilimnik, whom Mueller has identified as having “ties to a Russian intelligence service.” The Mueller team’s own court filings seem to contradict Barr’s letter. What did Mueller’s own summary ultimately determine about these contacts, which are very relevant to Congress’ counter-intelligence mandate? Such contacts do not have to be direct to count as conspiracy or even non-criminal coordination.
And that does not include perhaps the most blatant example of apparent coordination. Writes William Saletan:
We know, for example, that in June 2016, Donald Trump Jr. was told in an email that “the Crown prosecutor of Russia” had “offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary [Clinton] … and would be very useful to your father.” The email said the offer was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Trump Jr. wrote back: “If it’s what you say I love it.” Apparently, by the standards asserted in the letter, this doesn’t count as even “tacit agreement … on election interference.”
Mueller could not find probable cause of conspiracy in the Trump Tower meeting that included Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Kremlin-connected lawyer? If Mueller is that inept, how did he ever become director of the FBI?
Regarding the Trump Tower meeting, consider this exchange at Vox during Sean Illing's Q and A with former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti:
Mueller’s decision against collusion is surprising to many people who’ve spent the last two years watching all these stories emerge and seeing various people in Trump’s orbit be charged with crimes. What’s the bar for proving conspiracy or coordination?
I can speak to conspiracy, because I’ve tried a lot of these cases. There you have to prove that someone knowingly entered into an agreement to commit a crime, and that’s very hard to do, especially when there isn’t direct evidence that they did so.
In this case, we certainly know there was a conspiracy among Russian operatives to influence the 2016 election, but the question was always, did any Americans actively and knowingly participate in that conspiracy?
Well, this is what’s so confusing. We have evidence that the president’s son arranged a meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower to discuss damaging information about Hillary Clinton that the Russians stole. If that’s not collusion or conspiracy, what the hell is?
It’s a great question. In the emails we have from Donald Trump Jr. about that meeting, it appears that, first of all, he’s expressing his eagerness to receive help from the Russian government. But it’s not clear, however, that he met with someone, and formed an agreement with her, to make that happen.
In other words, he didn’t have an agreement to do anything concrete with her and did not take a substantial step towards joining that conspiracy or aiding their effort in some way. Based on the public record, that’s what we know. Maybe there’s more that we don’t know. But given what we do know, that doesn’t quite meet the threshold for establishing a conspiracy, even though it’s obviously deeply suspicious.
Mariotti acknowledges that Illing has raised a great question -- perhaps the best question we've seen raised so far regarding Barr's letter. In fact, the question is so good that Mariotti can't come up with much of an answer. Perhaps that's because Mariotti already had said this in the interview:
So Barr’s decision raises more questions than it answers. And given the weight of the decision he was making, that causes me to question his motivations.
Matt Taibbi (Rolling Stone) and Glenn Greenwald (The Intercept) have produced mountains of top-flight journalism on national and international issues. So I've struggled to grasp why they have been averse to any notion that Russians meddled in the 2016 election -- and Trump officials might have helped them. It seems Taibbi and Greenwald have such a deep distrust of the U.S. intelligence community that they believe reporters inevitably were fed bogus information on the Russia story, much the way falsehoods drove the weapons-of-mass destruction (WMD) story during the lead up to the Iraq War under George W. Bush.
Perhaps most alarming is the level of vitriol and disdain Taibbi and Greenwald show toward journalists who might not share their views. One such journalist is Nancy LeTourneau, of Washington Monthly. In an article titled "Why Taibbi and Greenwald Shouldn't Feel Vindicated," LeTourneau suggests the duo's end-zone dances in the wake of Barr's letter are both unseemly and unwise.
That seems particularly true given that Taibbi and Greenwald, in the vernacular of TV talking heads, have "moved the goal posts" on the Russia story. Writes LeTourneau:
It is not surprising that Donald Trump and his enablers are doing a happy dance in response to Attorney General Barr’s letter summarizing the findings of the Mueller report. Barr has given the president what some have called“the best day of his presidency,” which is exactly what he was hired to do.
But there are at least two other people who’ve been busy patting themselves on the back over the last couple of days: Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald. Taibbi has writtentwo articles taking a victory lap, while Greenwald has been busy with television appearances, including one with his buddy Tucker Carlson.
The reason these two are feeling so vindicated is because they’ve been skeptics of almost everything related to the Trump-Russia story from the beginning. Donald Trump isn’t the only person in the country who still hasn’t admitted that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 election. As late as February 2018, after Mueller released his indictments against dozens of Russians for their social media campaigns, Greenwald was still in denial. Here’s what Taibbi wrote about that this week:
"I didn’t really address the case that Russia hacked the DNC, content to stipulate it for now. I was told early on that this piece of the story seemed “solid,” but even that assertion has remained un-bolstered since then, still based on an 'assessment' by those same intelligence services that always had issues…The government didn’t even examine the DNC’s server, the kind of detail that used to make reporters nervous."
No rational person, at this point, can deny that Vladimir Putin and Russia meddled in the 2016 election. Even William Barr admits that. Consider these words from his letter to Congress:
The Special Counsel's report is divided into two parts. The first describes the results of the Special Counsel's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The report outlines the Russian effort to influence the election and documents crimes committed by persons associated with the Russian government in connection with those efforts.
Barr's words confirm there was a story of momentous importance there all along. So why do Taibbi and Greenwald seemingly shrug their shoulders and say, in essence, "There never was anything worth investigating"? Here is LeTourneau's take:
There are those who would suggest that Taibbi buying Trump’s line about the government not examining the DNC’s server suggests that he is unqualified to comment on this issue at all. But the main message from both he and Greenwald is that we can’t trust what U.S. intelligence services tell us, so we must see all of the evidence related to Trump and Russia with our own eyes.
Of course, the fact that something is awry has been obvious to anyone who has been watching Trump in action over these last three years. But what is most astounding to me is that both of these guys have gone all-in on feeling vindicated about their skepticism based on a four-page letter from the attorney general. Neither of them is holding back judgement until we get the chance to see the results of Mueller’s investigation with our own eyes. Where did all that skepticism go?
Indeed. Why would two guys who don't trust intelligence officials buy every word coming from William Barr, long known as a fixer for the Republican Party? Both Taibbi and Greenwald have described themselves as dogged, lawyer-like investigators. So, LeTourneau wonders, understandably, what happened to that approach:
And yet, all of the sudden Greenwald and Taibbi believe that what Attorney General Barr has written about the Mueller report represents the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. One can only assume that being on team DOJ is just fine.
It is human nature to be more attuned to information that reinforces your view of the world. So it probably shouldn’t surprise us that Greenwald and Taibbi have jumped on Barr’s bandwagon. But they are the ones who have been holding themselves above the rest of us as journalists who question those in power and demand evidence.
In terms of "moving the goal posts," let's consider Taibbi's original approach to the Russia story, from a Legal Schnauzer post in January 2017:
Taibbi seems nonplussed that the whole thing hasn't been wrapped up with a colorful bow by now. And oh, there is that Iraq-WMD thing:
"The problem with this story is that, like the Iraq-WMD mess, it takes place in the middle of a highly politicized environment during which the motives of all the relevant actors are suspect. Nothing quite adds up.
"If the American security agencies had smoking-gun evidence that the Russians had an organized campaign to derail the U.S. presidential election and deliver the White House to Trump, then expelling a few dozen diplomats after the election seems like an oddly weak and ill-timed response. Voices in both parties are saying this now."
Taibbi's analysis began with doubts that Russia interfered with the U.S. election. Now that such interference has been proven -- even to William Barr's satisfaction -- Taibbi has switched gears to: "Well, it's just silly to think Trump officials worked in cahoots with Russians."
Greenwald's tone has changed, too. Here is how he explained his position in an April 2018 interview with Jacobin Radio's The Dig program:
What I have said from the very beginning was exactly the same as what I say now, which is that of course it’s possible, and even plausible, that Russia engaged in disinformation campaigns or hacked with the intention of undermining or destabilizing the US, because this is something that the Russians and the US have done to one another and to everybody else for many decades. Nobody would ever say, “Oh, this isn’t something that Vladimir Putin would do, he’s too ethical, he’s too cautious.” This is minor in the scope of what the Russians and the Americans do to one another, and have long done to one another.
So, Greenwald has admitted all along the claims of Russian interference could be true? And we know now they were true. How does that square with his tone in a joint interview this week with journalist David Cay Johnston on Democracy Now!, with host Amy Goodman?
Greenwald called the Trump-Russia story "a scam and fraud from the beginning." He uses words like "moronic,""joke," and "fairy tale" to describe reporting on the matter -- all on a story he admitted at the outset could be true. That's not the only sign of Greenwald being disingenuous. Writes LeTourneau:
Greenwald claims to know what Mueller found during his investigation. But the truth is, all he knows is what Barr wrote about it, which included one quote from Mueller related to this point: “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
Greenwald is a lawyer, so he should know that the specific words another lawyer uses in a situation like this matter a lot. Rather than saying they “found no evidence” for collusion or coordination, Mueller wrote that he “did not establish” that the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with Russians. In other words, they might have found evidence, but not enough to prove it in a court of law. That is precisely why we need to see Mueller’s entire report in order to know what kind of evidence he did or did not find.
Taibbi and Greenwald have taken stances on the Russia story that are so peculiar some have suggested they are Russian agents. LeTourneau refuses to go that far, but she makes clear the story has not represented their finest hours:
I agree with Greenwald and Taibbi that accusing them of being Russian agents smacks of McCarthyism. So I reject that notion wholeheartedly. But in their quest to highlight the failings of U.S. policy, they too often fail to acknowledge the shortcomings of any country that presents itself as an adversary. That is especially true of Russia. It blinds them not only to the possibility that the current president might be compromised, but to the fact that, as Franklin Foer wrote, “Russian-Style Kleptocracy Is Infiltrating America.” That is a failing for anyone who claims to be a liberal.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller might have framed his report on the Trump-Russia investigation as a "just the facts" document that is not designed to make prosecutorial pronouncements, according to a Duke University law professor and former assistant U.S. attorney general.
Walter Dellinger, writing in a recent op-ed at The Washington Post, says the Mueller report probably was written as a facts-only road map for Congressional investigators -- and it still could be a threat to Trump's legitimacy as president. Dellinger, head of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in the Clinton administration, writes:
President Trump and his allies are ridiculing the critics who anticipated that the report from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III would reveal devastating information. But those who vested Mueller’s Russia inquiry with their hopes may yet be proven right.
All we can do right now is speculate about a report that only a few people have seen, at least until the redacted version comes out in April. But even based on what little we know — Attorney General William P. Barr’s summary, the indictments and court filings that came from Mueller’s team — it’s premature to write off its 400-page findings . Mueller’s office may have properly drafted a detailed and damning account of Trump’s obstruction of justice and simply cast it as a set of facts, a road map for the analysts who must decide what to do about it: members of Congress.
Watergate provides precedent for producing a fact-intensive investigative document that is designed to help guide its Congressional audience:
If Mueller believed it was inappropriate to pronounce on the president’s guilt — after all, the Justice Department has a long-standing policy against indicting a sitting president — he could still be following the example of Leon Jaworski, the Watergate independent counsel who decided against indicting President Richard Nixon, but instead submitted to Congress an extensive accounting of all the facts surrounding his efforts to shut down the investigation. Jaworski’s testimony skipped all the adjectives and adverbs. It simply told the story and allowed the branch of government tasked with oversight to do the rest.
What Mueller may not have anticipated (and perhaps could not have avoided) is that Barr would improperly declare the president’s guilt or innocence. But that doesn’t mean Mueller came up empty-handed.
The attorney general does have a role in determining what to show Congress. In particular, he should redact information drawn from grand jury testimony and anything that might give away the tools of American espionage. But why did Barr, in his own letter to Congress describing Mueller’s work, reach a definitive conclusion about the absence of criminal guilt? “The Special Counsel’s decision to describe the facts of his obstruction investigation without reaching any legal conclusions leaves it to the Attorney General to determine whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime,” Barr wrote. But “the Special Counsel’s decision” did not require this at all. Instead, Mueller may have intended for Congress or voters to reach their own conclusions about Trump’s wrongdoing. It was Barr, not Mueller, who decided that Barr should be the judge.
What might be in the actual Mueller report, the one Attorney General William Barr summarized in four pages? Dellinger makes an insider's guess:
The initial portion could document the intervention by military agents of a hostile foreign power in an American presidential campaign. Yes, we already know the outlines of this attack from the allegations in Mueller’s grand jury indictments of Russian operatives. But it would nonetheless be startling to read a coherent account of this brazen attack on democracy. The counterintelligence portion may prove deeply embarrassing to those who argue that Mueller’s investigation should never have existed. Will those critics really maintain that Congress and the American people should be kept in ignorance about such an attack on the United States? This section may also establish that the media “obsession” with “Russia-gate” was entirely proper, indeed essential.
Mueller’s appointment also required him to study “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.” The absence of indictments of Trump campaign officials has left many of Trump’s critics feeling crestfallen and many of his defenders feeling vindicated. Both responses may be an overreaction. Barr says, “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” And, yes, none of Trump’s campaign officials will serve time for complicity with the Russians.
But that hardly means there’s no damaging information about them. The standard by which Mueller measured provable criminality appears (appropriately) to be quite demanding. According to Barr’s letter, Mueller determined that what was needed to establish “coordination” was an “agreement — tacit or express — between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government on election interference.” This standard might preclude indictments where campaign officials knew of Russians’ interference and even welcomed it, but where the special counsel’s office could not expect to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there was an actual “agreement” between the campaign and the Russian government. Even in the absence of indictments in connection with complicity, simply narrating the Russian attempts, and what the Trump team knew about them, would highlight the president’s utter failure to fashion an adequate defense of American democracy.
The section on obstruction of justice might be the most treacherous for Team Trump:
The most damaging aspect of the report would be a thorough account of Trump’s efforts to obstruct justice. The known facts (firing an FBI director who refused to pledge loyalty and cease an investigation; the demand that an attorney general “unrecuse” himself to protect the president; the call for an investigation of the father-in-law of a witness against Trump; the dangling of pardons before witnesses) are all bad enough. The report probably contains others. Don’t forget the allegation that Trump asked the CIA director and the director of national intelligence to push the FBI director to end his investigation of former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn. Don’t forget: The famous “smoking gun” Oval Office tape that forced Nixon’s resignation had him ordering the CIA to persuade the FBI to end its investigation of the Watergate break-in.
Barr’s letter says that Mueller included facts on “both sides of the [obstruction] question.” That statement does not rule out the possibility that the facts are strongly on the side of guilt. But Mueller may simply have determined that he was bound by the 2000 opinion of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) that a sitting president should not be indicted. The OLC held that an indictment would create an unacceptable “cloud over the presidency,” and so it should wait until after a president leaves office. Following his agency’s rule may have deterred Mueller from introducing that “cloud,” particularly in his role as a lone prosecutor who would be unilaterally proclaiming, without trial, that the president is guilty of a federal crime. His caution would be understandable.
If Mueller reasoned that way, he would have concluded that such a judgment should be left to the political branch of government. Congressional review is especially appropriate, because the worst offenses may not be criminal, and may demand something broader than a legalistic focus. It would be a grave offense for a presidential candidate secretly to be indebted to a foreign power and to lie about that relationship, for instance. But nothing in the criminal code forbids it. This is why we have the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
In other words, the Mueller report could play a central role in impeachment proceedings. And that might say a lot about how Americans view the middling of a foreign power in our elections:
There was a time when it was thought that firing Mueller would lead to mass demonstrations nationwide. Prominent lawyers quietly discussed the necessity of being arrested for chaining themselves to the doors of the Justice Department if it came to that. Would that outcome really be so different from one in which the release of the report is indefinitely delayed or its contents excessively redacted? Both cases would prevent the public from finding out what the government discovered.
During my years teaching constitutional history, I reviewed day-by-day the debates at the 1787 Philadelphia Convention. I was struck by how often the Constitution’s framers voiced fears of foreign influence in American affairs. The delegates repeatedly fretted that the fledging nation would become a plaything of European politics, leading to the emergence of a “French party” and a “British party” that would sap our capacity for self-rule. But I thought Americans would never tolerate foreign meddling, and I regarded their worries as unrealistic, even foolish. Until now.
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Matt Osborne, of Florence, Alabama, has claimed since The New York Times exposed his underhanded tactics in early January, that he and his associates were acting within the law. In fact, Osborne claimed no law governed the deceptive use of social media to interfere with a federal election -- such as a U.S. Senate race.
Our recent report showed that a specific law -- 18 U.S.C. 371 ("Conspiracy to Defraud the United States") -- governs such interference, and Osborne likely violated it. In fact, it's the same law Special Counsel Robert Mueller used last July to indict 11 Russian nationals in the Trump-Russia investigation.
Osborne responded to our report, via a series of blog comments and Twitter messages, with a combination of vitriol, ignorance, nonsense, insolence . . . and, well, you get the idea. Osborne, who uses the handle "Stephen Miller's Fright Wig" on Twitter, appeared unable to counter the actual law we had cited -- the law he apparently failed to uncover before diving into the Dry Alabama swamp.
Does that mean Osborne will be prosecuted? Of course not, as we noted in our recent post. Given the disheveled state of our justice system, I'm not sure the feds could stage a solid trespass case -- never mind a case of possible election fraud. But Osborne has admitted engaging in acts that appear to violate Sec. 371, and that seems to go to criminal intent, so mounting a defense if charges are filed could be a challenge.
Meanwhile Doug Jones claims ignorance of the Dry Alabama scheme and has called for a federal investigation. But it strains believability to think Jones was so out to lunch that he was unaware of a scheme designed to help him beat favored Republican Roy Moore for Jeff Sessions' old Senate seat. Could Jones wind up selling Osborne and Co. down the proverbial river in order to protect his own exalted political status? Former Alabama governor Don Siegelman can tell you about Jones' penchant for backstabbing, so Osborne might want to be getting his life raft ready.
Something certainly seems to have Osborne in a state of agitation. Consider this comment he left at our March 20 post about apparent violations of Sec. 371:
Matt Osborne said...
Is there a law against Facebook pages? No. Is there a law against Facebook pages presenting a point of view that you don't really agree with? Again, no. The reason I am going to "escape" charges is that there are no laws against what we did. None. Zero. Zilch. Strictly speaking, it wasn't even a violation of Facebook policy.
And that was kinda the point of doing Dry Alabama. "Look, see what I can get away with? Does this bother you? Maybe enough to pass a law against it? Good, let's have that conversation."
Of course, it's unlikely that Dry Alabama put Doug Jones over the top. The fact that his signs were EVERYWHERE, the massive enthusiasm for his candidacy, is how he won. He and his team worked their butts off to win every last vote they could, and it worked. I live on a street where every yard had a Doug Jones sign in 2017 but then local Republican candidates' signs in 2018. Jones was the most popular Democrat I've seen since I was a kid watching George Wallace win his final term.
Of course, the irony here is that of the two of us, Roger, you are the one who has been to jail for publishing falsehoods. That's what you get for printing the ravings of Bob Riley's aggrieved ex-girlfriend as headlines, I suppose.
March 20, 2019 at 4:25 PM
Notice in the first paragraph that Osborne sets himself up as an expert on federal law; that quickly washes away. Notice in the final paragraph that he takes a dig at me -- and someone he claims to be the "aggrieved ex-girlfriend" of former governor Bob Riley. Here is my response:
Good thing you didn't go into the law because meaningless mental exercises like the one on display here would not get you far. A few points:
(1) Who was your "legal counsel" on this matter? Whoever it was, I would urge you to fire him.
(2) There is a law, as cited in my post, and Robert Mueller has used it to indict multiple Russian nationals for "defrauding the United States" by tampering with a federal election. You violated that law by tampering with a federal election -- the U.S. Senate race in Alabama. Under federal law, statutes often are written broadly, and you must check the case law to know what you are dealing with and how the law has been applied. You should have done that before engaging in a con game like Dry Alabama and then admitting what you had done. Your ignorance of federal law could bite you on the ass, big time.
(3) You don't know whether Dry Alabama put Jones over the top, and it doesn't matter anyway. A law does exist -- even though you are trying to wish it away -- and you broke it. Does that mean you will be prosecuted? Nope. Our justice system might be too broken to do its job. And Doug Jones might successfully cover things up. But you violated the law.
(4) What "falsehoods" have I published? Can you explain how anything I've published has, as a matter of law, been found false? Or are you just taking Liberty Duke's word on that. (Rob Riley, BTW, never has claimed under oath that my reporting was false. His lack of a denial, under oath, suggests even he knows my reporting was accurate.)
(5) So you and your friend, Melissa [Brewer], came to our house because you believed I had published falsehoods? Was your presence there a con job, as I now have come to suspect? Taking advantage of a woman (my wife, Carol) whose husband has just been kidnapped inside their home? Real classy, Matt. Shows how you respect women -- not to mention your disdain for rule of law.
(6) Who is "Bob Riley's girlfriend," of whom you speak? She made me print falsehoods? How? (On the subject of girlfriends, does Doug Jones have one, not his wife? I'm hearing he does. I even have a name and address and workplace. Check it out.)
(7) Congrats on drinking the Doug Jones Kool-Aid to the max. He has a history as a backstabber (ask Don Siegelman), and he will sell you and your Netroots friends down the river at the first opportunity.
March 20, 2019 at 8:31 PM
I challenge Osborne to cite any "falsehoods" I have published, and not surprisingly, he comes up empty. I've reported several times that Osborne and a woman named Melissa Brewer came to our home to visit my wife, Carol, a few days after Shelby County deputies had kidnapped me from inside our house and taken me to jail for a five-month stay. Osborne never has indicated my reporting on that issue was off target, but now he claims the woman was someone other than Melissa Brewer -- whose online profile indicates she is a "copywriter, content curator, and social media strategist" in Washington, D.C.. In fact, the subject of Melissa Brewer seems to be quite sensitive for Osborne. Hmmm . . .
Matt Osborne said...
If Dry Alabama is "interference" in a federal election, then why isn't Brad Parscale [digital media director for Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign] in prison right now? If It was "cheating," then lots of political operators belong in prison, too.
According to the USSC, I have a First Amendment RIGHT to lie, "cheat," and spend dark money on political campaigns.
Roger, her name wasn't Melissa. This is how good you are with facts. We came to visit Carol because we genuinely wanted to be sure she was okay and had some groceries. I wanted to bring attention to the unacceptable beating and arrest of an indie journalist, as I was one at the time. Since then, I have learned that other, better, less-insane journalists have disproven much of your reporting. It's also become clear to me that you are completely bonkers. I suspect that if I went through the IP addresses on these comments, I would find they are mostly coming from inside your house.
March 21, 2019 at 10:40 AM
Osborne has a "right" to cheat on federal elections? I suspect Robert Mueller would beg to differ. Other "less-insane journalists" have disproved much of my reporting? Surely Osborne wants to share their names and links to their work. Well . . . maybe not.
Your ignorance of federal law is blinding, and it could land you in deep doo-doo. A few thoughts:
(1) Whatever Brad Parscale may or may not have done has nothing to do with your situation. Sure, other political operators might belong in prison. But you interfered with a federal election and were stupid enough to admit it. Our system is flawed, and yes, some people get away with unlawful acts and some don't. You might get away with it, and you might not. But you clearly interfered with a federal election, "defrauding the United States," just as Mueller has alleged against Russian nationals. You can't refute that, so you try to change the subject. There is a law against what you did, and if Doug Jones put you up to it, he violated the law, too.
(2) Is the "USSC" the U.S. Supreme Court? What case are you referring to? Does it involve tampering with an election, because that's what you've admitted you did? Again, you are trying to change the subject, to dark money, First Amendment, etc. Your situation isn't about that. It's about tampering with a federal election, which you have admitted to doing. And you call ME insane? Now, that IS "hilarious."
(3) Carol told me she thought the woman's name was Melissa, and Carol usually has a pretty good memory on such things. If that's not correct, what is the woman's name? As you recall, I wasn't around for introductions.
(4) So, you thought my arrest and beating were unacceptable, but now you are OK with it? Is that the effect Doug Jones and Rob Riley have had on you? Or maybe you entered our home under false pretenses all along?
(5) Who are these journalists who have disproven my reporting? Can you provide their names and links to their articles that disprove my reporting? My reporting never has been disproven in court, as a matter of law, so how did these journalists manage to do it? I can't wait to find out your details on that. Also, can't wait for info on "Bob Riley's girlfriend." You mean he had a girlfriend, kind of like Rob's version of Liberty Duke?
March 21, 2019 at 11:28 AM
Osborne seems to engage in classic avoidance behavior. I ask him to cite these court cases that give him a "right" to cheat on a federal election; he has no answer. If Melissa Brewer did not come to our home, I ask him to state the name of the woman who did; again, no answer. I ask him to cite names of journalists who have disproven my reporting, with links to their articles; we get crickets from Matt O.
We will have more from our zany back-and-forth with Matt Osborne, who claims to be a political lefty. For now, I can only note how much he sounds like some of the right-wing loons we've encountered over the years -- especially the noxious Aaron Worthing (also known as Aaron Walker) and Robert Stacy McCain.
(To be continued)
Members of the Anonymous international hacktivist group possess copies of emails that prove who was behind my 2013 "arrest for blogging" and five-month incarceration in Shelby County, Alabama, according to a veteran state political insider. The source also says Claud Neilson, the crooked judge who ordered my arrest, quickly started looking for ways to release me, out of concern that I might be killed or hurt while in jail.
Jill Simpson, a whistle blower on corruption in the Don Siegelman case, writes in a recent Facebook post that a member of Anonymous contacted her and said the emails show my reporting on various GOP bad actors -- likely including Jeff Sessions, Rob Riley, Bob Riley, Luther Strange, Jessica Medeiros Garrison, Liberty Duke, and more -- was accurate. That, of course, does not surprise me, but the claim Anonymous possesses emails about my arrest is a surprise -- one with all kinds of implications.
For one, it means Rob Riley and Jessica Garrison filed their defamation lawsuits against me with zero grounds for doing so. That means they should lose their law licenses (perhaps permanently) -- as should other members of the Riley Jackson Law Firm -- and be on the hook for extensive civil damages. Two, the emails likely provide indisputable proof of a criminal conspiracy to kidnap me -- which could land the conspirators in prison for a lengthy spell.
Simpson refers to the Sessions-Riley branch of GOP criminals as "The Alabama Gang," and she explains how she came to learn about their internal communications about a scheme to silence a troublesome journalist, yours truly. Writes Simpson:
I heard . . . from a guy I had never heard of before who said he was a member of the group of Anonymous and they had restored all of Shuler's stuff on a server in India, where it all remains up to this day from what I understand. Rob (Riley), I heard, got really mad, blaming Roger and myself for Anonymous doing this but we had nothing to do with it, which is one of the reason they went so hard after me on that deal.
From what the individual with Anonymous said, who called me anonymously, they did not like folks who force journalists to remove true pieces about them from the Web and were putting the truth right back up again, in India, about Rob and Luther. I said, "How do you know it is true?" And then is when I was told, "We have all of the emails of the Alabama Gang." Apparently, Anonymous had been watching them for some time, as that is what I was told. The guy said if either Riley ever runs, we release (the emails) . . . and he said we read them for fun every so often.
Long-time readers might recall a controversy shortly after my release from jail where Legal Schnauzer content about the Rob Riley-Liberty Duke affair appeared at a Web site based in India. Now we know Anonymous was behind that.
|Rob and Bob Riley|
As for Claud Neilson it is well known to the Alabama Resistance that he was manipulated by the Riley bunch. During the middle of Roger being jailed and after my shaming Religious-Right Republicans for doing the Riley's dirty work against Roger, with an article I did for OpEd News, where I pointed before anyone else that Roger was being held illegally as the only U.S. journalist imprisoned for outing public corruption. I heard from a member of the Religious Right who told me the Riley-Strange bunch had forced this upon folks like Neilson, this deal with Roger. They told me Mr. Neilson wanted an excuse to let Roger go, as he was afraid Roger would get killed after some guy sky dived off his bed next to Roger -- and Neilson was afraid he would be blamed if Roger was hurt. I was told by several religious right folks that they knew this gang of thugs led by Rob (Riley) and (Montgomery lawyer Baron) Coleman might cause Roger to get killed, and we the progressive left, if we could get Roger's wife to take it down even for a day, they would let him go and give him back to us and never put him back in no matter what. (The Religious Right folks) recognized what had happen. So as many of you all know I got Andy Kreig to come to Alabama, who I turned to for help to talk to Carol, as she refused to take it down (because) it was true.
The impact of Alabama's crooked GOP goes well beyond the state borders. Donald Trump and his associates, Simpson writes, can thank Alabama-connected slimers, such as Sessions, Riley, Strange, Garrison, Tripp Vickers (Alabama State Bar), and Ali Akbar (with his Montgomery lawyer, Baron Coleman), for their headaches with the Mueller investigation. It started, Simpson says, in part from efforts to expose Republican corruption in Alabama. In fact, Simpson notes that Ali Akbar threatened her one day after I wrote about Jessica Garrison's sweetheart deal on a $400,000 house in Mountain Brook:
Y'all will see Roger's time line in this piece, which coincides with my time line, as the next day after he ran the Jessica Garrison piece is when Ali Akbar threatened me -- he and his lawyer buddies in Alabama were going to get me shortly. After that is when Stacy McCain (another National Blogger Club member) called my boyfriend, now husband Jim, and said they were going to get me, with Ali's lawyer who happened to be Baron Coleman, the former law-office mate of Tripp Vickers who did all the meaness to me of getting me placed on disability with the Alabama State Bar due to my missing a hearing awaiting surgery for a broken neck with a doctor excuse.
Looking back, it was awful what they did to both me and Shuler, but I believe it made all of us, our spouses included, more determined than ever to out how corrupt the whole GOP operation is.
When Trump thinks about his investigation, he should thank those in the Alabama Gang who basically pushed us so far we outed it all, and the Trump bunch should thank them for stupidly running their mouths on what they were doing. With Trump, we tracked their whole weapons-grade propaganda machine, run by Russians and British operatives like Cambridge Analytica, because of folks like Ali and Coleman and Bannon and Rob . If Coleman and Ali -- with Riley and Strange and their buddy Vickers -- had not done what they did, then Trump probably would never have had his whole operation tracked.
The New York Times, in early January, exposed Osborne's underhanded actions in boosting the Jones candidacy -- and Osborne has since claim he crossed no legal boundaries. When we recently pointed out that a law (18 U.S.C. 371, "Conspiracy to defraud the United States") prohibits interference in a federal election -- and Special Counsel Robert Mueller used it to indict 11 Russian nationals last July -- Osborne responded with a series of blog comments and Twitter messages that hinted he was about to become unglued.
Osborne's communications with us suggest he is frightfully ignorant of federal law and has the intellectual depth and emotional maturity of a churlish third grader throwing spitballs. If you live in Alabama and care about election integrity -- or if you live anywhere and care about who serves in Congress -- Matt Osborne inserted himself into your life, uninvited. So we wold argue you have a right to know a little something about this guy's thought processes -- and they aren't pretty. With that, let's dive into our give-and-take with Osborne, who uses the handle "Stephen Miller's Fright Wig" at Twitter. Osborne first claims our post cited no specific law, when in fact, it did:
Matt Osborne sez:
Cite said law. Be specific. Don't just wave the name "Mueller" at me.
And remember, accusing someone of a crime that does not exist may be considered libel.
Legal Schnauzer sez:
I did cite the law. Try reading the post. A law does exist, and you've admitted you broke it. Truth is an absolute defense to libel. On the other hand, falsely calling someone "demented" and "insane," while falsely claiming a journalist reported "falsehoods" all could be libel.
Matt Osborne sez:
I did read the post. I did not "interfere" in an election, I *participated* with a Facebook page, because free speech works like that.
Good luck with your demented career regurgitating Dana Jill Simpson's libels.
Legal Schnauzer sez:
From your hometown newspaper (Florence, AL):
"Osborne said . . . ' You could trigger the viewer to reconsider voting for Roy Moore."
You admitted tampering with an election. Good luck with claiming ignorance of federal law.
Matt Osborne sez:
LOL that describes 100% of ALL elections communications
You are really bad at this whole "making me feel skeered" thing Roger
Legal Schnauzer sez:
From one of your local TV stations (Huntsville, AL):
"The New York Times tracked the page down to Osborn, who admits he created the page as an experiment on how big of an impact fake news sites can have on an election."
Again, you admit intentionally interfering with an election.
Matt Osborne sez:
Sigh. Not only did they get my name wrong, they got the "tracked down" part wrong. I approached Scott Shane myself. Fake news!
Also, I don't see any legal minds (other than yours) saying I did anything illegal.
Legal Schnauzer sez:
BTW, we have "Melissa's" name in writing. If the two of you used a false name to enter our home -- and entered for ulterior purposes -- you both might have trespassing and invasion of privacy lawsuits on your doorstep, not to mention other possible counts.
Legal Schnauzer further sez:
I don't care whether you're "skeered" or not. You've stated that you did not cross any legal boundaries, and I'm informing the public that you did. Doesn't mean you will be prosecuted, but there are grounds for it -- probably along with your hero, Doug Jones. He surely knew.
Matt Osborne sez:
See, there you go making stuff up. There was zero involvement by the Jones campaign. Your entire oeuvre is an exercise in schizoid hyper-mentation.
Legal Schnauzer sez:
You never have ID'd these journalists who disproved my reporting or provided links to their work on that subject. How has Jill Simpson libeled anyone? Do tell. Again, Rob Riley never denied an affair with LD (Liberty Duke), under oath, so that's a problem for your theory there.
Matt Osborne sez:
See, I don't *have* to disprove anything. Neither did (Rob) Riley.
YOU have to PROVE your assertions, and so far all you have are unsourced allegations (from Dana). That's not journalism.
Legal Schnauzer sez:
You said you knew journalists who could disprove my reporting, so I'm challenging you to do it. I will take your answer as an admission that you can't. As for Riley, he filed a lawsuit, giving him the burden of proof that my reporting was false, and he couldn't do it.
Somehow, we came back around to Melissa Brewer, still a sore subject for Osborne:
Matt Osborne sez:
HILARIOUS. The only Melissa I know about is the one who set up your fundraiser, I've never met her in person.
But please do keep making threats, they prove my point about you.
Legal Schnauzer sez:
She's the same person who came to our house, and we have (it) in writing. You are lying, which is no surprise for an admitted con artist. You don't have a point about me, other than throwing spit balls, like a 10-year old. Go back to playing with children like Jacob Wohl.
Legal Schnauzer further sez:
You traffic in deceit, you've admitted that. So anyone should believe your statement about Jones camp? Doug Jones might be a lot of things, but he isn't out to lunch, unaware of stuff in his own election effort. No use communicating with someone who is unacquainted with truth.
Matt Osborne sez:
It was not his election effort. It was my effort to elect him. Do you understand the difference, or has paranoia rotted your brain?
No use in talking to someone who sees only what they want to see.
Matt Osborne further sez (referring to the woman who came to our house with him): Nooe. That's someone else entirely. Getting facts wrong again!
Legal Schnauzer sez:
BTW, you know nothing about the sources on my work. "Dana" has not been a source on any of the reports in question. You are drinking from the Jones/Riley cup of corruption. Sad to see how far you have fallen.
Matt Osborne sez:
Well at least I am not melting down in full blown psychosis eh?
Notice that when Osborne has no substantive point to make, which is most of the time, he resorts to calling me "demented,""insane," or "schizoid" -- or he makes a reference to "full blown psychosis." He eventually throws similar attacks at my wife, Carol -- who welcomed him (and Melissa Brewer?) into our home at a time of crisis -- just days after wandering into our basement in the middle of the night, looking for me, only to come upon a messy scene that made her think I had been murdered.
All of this from Osborne, a so-called adult, who not only has no class -- but he's taken it upon himself to sully our federal elections.
(To be continued)
Are American sports officials doing their best to become as arrogant and crooked as our judges? We long have lamented that Americans accept a level of corruption in courts they would not tolerate on fields of play. But we recently saw signs that might be changing.
It came during a Major League Baseball (MLB) game between the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros at Arlington, TX. Here's how the Houston Chronicle sets the scene that led to a troubling verbal confrontation between Astros manager A.J. Hinch and umpire Ron Kulpa:
Kulpa employed an inconsistent strike zone during the first inning. He missed an obvious called third strike in a 2-2 count during [Rangers'] Joey Gallo's plate appearance against [Astros'] Gerrit Cole, forcing the fiery righthander to throw five more pitches in the inning.
Cole was two steps off the mound after releasing the 2-2 fastball, which Statcast showed was blatantly inside the strike zone. Cole escaped the inning allowing only one run, which scored prior to Gallo's plate appearance.
So, the umpire blew two calls, both going against Houston. But that's not the alarming part. Deadspin's Chris Thompson describes that in a post titled "Arrogant Dickwad Umpire Shouts "I Can Do Anything I Want" After Goading A.J. Hinch Into An Ejection." Here's the set-up from Deadspin:
In the top of the second inning of Wednesday night’s Astros-Rangers game, home plate umpire Ron Kulpa called a low strike on a pitch from Rangers starter Mike Minor. It was not Kulpa’s first controversial strike zone call of the evening, and it greatly displeased the Astros bench. Kulpa, a sensitive wiener engorged with power, turned the scene into an embarrassing spectacle:
Virtually everyone in the Astros dugout charged up to the railing in frustration after the low strike. Kulpa yanked off his mask and gestured to the dugout, and Astros manager A.J. Hinch walked out to the plate to calm things down. Kulpa was evidently still pissed: for one thing, he replaced his mask with enough force to permanently lower his hairline; for another, he couldn’t take his eyes off that Astros dugout for even a second, even while Minor toed the rubber for the 0–1 pitch.
Hinch, noticing that Kulpa was waiting for an opportunity to run someone, urged Kulpa to watch the actual baseball game, which was enough of a challenge that Kulpa went ahead and tossed Astros hitting coach Alex Cintron, who’d been the most demonstrative about Kulpa’s strike zone. Hinch once again came out to calm things down, but now Kulpa was fully engaged in a sneering performance of authority. He all but laughed in Hinch’s face while pointing out Cintron in the dugout.
What did the umpire do next? Deadspin has the call:
My absolute favorite part of this comes after Hinch has returned to the dugout the second time and Minor has finally thrown his next pitch. The camera cuts to Hinch at the top step in the dugout, averting his eyes in disgust, because he knows that he can’t even look toward the plate without making eye contact with Kulpa, who is still bird-dogging for another victim. When Hinch finally gives in, you can hear him shout at Kulpa, “You can’t keep doing this! You can’t keep doing it!” And, of course, Kulpa tosses him. And to finally make the point he’s been wanting to make all along, in the ensuing confrontation, Kulpa can be seen shouting “I can do anything I want!” in Hinch’s face.
Kulpa wasn’t done. At the end of the third inning he chirped at Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole and instigated a confrontation, and then before the bottom of the fourth inning he jumped in the middle of Cole’s warmups and started shit again.
You can see the whole imbroglio unfold in the video from MLB.com at the top of this post. Hinch mentioned the "I can do anything I want" comment to reporters in a post-game interview, and Deadspin helpfully provides a video that shows the umpire saying exactly those words.
This is the kind of behavior we've seen in Alabama courts, both state and federal. It also reminds me of a stunning scene from one of my favorite movies about our "justice system."
Here's how we described one of our encounters with former Alabama Circuit Judge J. Michael Joiner -- from a July 2007 post, roughly one month after Legal Schnauzer started:
After Joiner had repeatedly cheated me, I discovered that he and Bill Swatek used to be longtime neighbors and were frequent golf partners. I moved for Joiner's recusal, and Joiner admitted his cozy relationship with Swatek in open court. (Why would such a fine Christian be buds with a lawyer of Swatek's sleazy pedigree?) I asked Joiner in open court why he had denied two motions for summary judgment (MSJ) that, by law, had to be granted because the opposing party did not respond. His answer? "I thought it was the right thing to do." (I'm not making this up! A judge in Alabama says he violated his oath to uphold the law because he thought it was the right things to do! Don't you just love it? What do they teach in law school?)
Joiner also said, "Mr. Shuler, if you don't like the way you're being treated here, you can get on I-65 and go to Montgomery (home of Alabama's appellate courts). Of course, Alabama's appellate courts are dominated by Republicans, and they proved just as corrupt as the Shelby County courts did. (And doesn't Joiner's snarky comment just radiate Christian warmth and charity?)
Here's how we described our interaction with former U.S. District Judge William M. Acker Jr. -- who thankfully, has since died -- when the esteemed jurist admitted in open court he was going to cheat me and then did just that in my First Amendment/employment discrimination lawsuit against the University of Alabama Board of Trustees and individual supervisory types at the UAB campus in Birmingham. Here's the set-up, from an April 2012 post:
The hearing in question took place in Acker's court on December 10, 2010. It's clear from the transcript that Acker is going to convert motions to dismiss to motions for summary judgment--and there had been no discovery in the case. And yet, he granted summary judgment on January 28, 2011, without even a discovery meeting having been held between the parties.
Courtroom crookedness doesn't get much more outrageous than that. But it came as no surprise, given Acker's statements in open court on December 10. One issue on that date was a motion to dismiss from the City of Birmingham, which I had named as a party in my complaint. The record shows that the city attached an affidavit to its motion, and the transcript makes clear that Acker did not exclude it. When a defendant attaches "matters outside the pleadings" to a motion to dismiss and the court does not exclude them, the motion must be converted to a motion for summary judgment and handled according to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP)--and that means discovery must be conducted. This process is outlined in Rule 12(d) FRCP, which ends with this sentence: "All parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion." Law doesn't get much more clear cut than that.
What happened next? I quoted straight from a court transcript:
I pointed out the requirements of Rule 12(d) to Acker, but he wasn't going to hear it. . . . Acker's dark intentions become clear on page 14 [of the transcript]:
MR. SHULER: Well, I just want to be on record that --
THE COURT: You have your record.
MR. SHULER: -- it has to be converted, and I think we all here know that.
THE COURT: I suppose with all the work you have done on this and other cases that you know what a petition for a writ of mandamus is. Have you run into one of those yet?
MR SHULER: That shouldn't be needed.
THE COURT: That would be the way to get an immediate review of my disagreement with you. You better look that up. . . .
MR. SHULER: Isn't that a waste of judicial resources when everybody here --
THE COURT: You know, I give pro se parties slack because they are due it. You are about halfway between a pro se party and a represented party. You are still pro se, so I have got to cut you some slack, but I don't have to give you free legal advice, some of which I have already given you. So I think I'm stopping there on that for the question of the City of Birmingham. They are going to be out, one way or the other. . . .
What kind of con game was Acker pulling? This is how I described it:
So there you have a federal judge admitting that he's not going to follow the law. But Acker does not stop there. Near the end of the hearing, on page 27 in the transcript, he returns to the issue of a writ of mandamus:
THE COURT: . . . But if you file something before I do it, I will read it, and it will be in the file, and the record will be made. But as of now, we are just making the record for today. And don't forget to look up the mandamus rule. Look that up.
To fully grasp what Acker is doing here, you have to understand the purpose of a writ of mandamus. The filing of a petition for such a writ is governed by Rule 21 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure (FRAP). It is a form of appeal while the case still is in the trial court. That's why it is called an "extraordinary writ"; the process is designed to address close questions of law or fact, not to serve as a pinch hitter for a trial judge who is too crooked to rule correctly on simple procedural issues.
The transcript, read in full, shows there was no legitimate reason for Acker to warn me twice that I would need to learn about the mandamus process. But Acker knew two things about mandamus petitions: (1) They are time consuming; and (2) They are expensive, with an appellate docketing fee of $450 every time you file one.
In so many words, Acker was telling me: "I'm going to screw you on every little detail of this case, and you are going to have to spend months of your time and thousands of your dollars just to make the simplest step forward in your case. I will drain you of your resources simply because I can--and no one can stop me."
Acker's words are almost identical to those that came from umpire Ron Kulpa's mouth the other night. They also are almost identical to the words of a judicial character in the 2009 film Law Abiding Citizen, starring Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler. Below is a video of probably one of the most stunning scenes in movie history, and it's a rare and realistic portrayal of court-related corruption in the United States. Warning If you've never seen the movie or this scene, brace yourself. I must admit that I've come to cheer for the abused character, played by Butler, who has the technical skills to cause a judge's painful demise:
As a legal aside, Riley-Duke and Garrison sued me for defamation, and as a matter of law. my reporting never was found to be false or defamatory. In both instances, there was no discovery, no jury trial (as required in defamation cases), and no requests in original filings for money damages (the lawful remedy for alleged defamation). In both cases, crooked Alabama judges -- Claud Neilson and Don Blankenship -- acted as one-man censors, contrary to long-standing law that prohibits such actions. As for Blankenship, he found for Garrison and issued a $3.5-million default judgment, which clearly is void because I received no notice of the default application or hearing. The judgment can be attacked as void at any point, with no time limit under Alabama law.
As for Matt Osborne, he apparently is flustered at our reports that, contrary to his own claims, the Dry Alabama scam violated federal law. Seemingly unable to counter that indisputable fact, Osborne threw an online tantrum and resorted to name-calling against Simpson and me. One of his efforts included this pearl, sent directly via Twitter to me: "Good luck with your demented career regurgitating Dana Jill Simpson's libels."
First, as shown above, my posts were not libelous -- either in reality or as a matter of law. Second, Jill Simpson did not take kindly to Osborne's barb, as she expressed in a Facebook post dated 4/4/19:
The batshit crazy nut Matt Osborne, who in his own press meeting contends he did the fake Russian-bot deal to get Doug Jones elected, smearing Roy [Moore] with a fake site called Dry Alabama, is once again smearing me with lies about stories I did not do, and I believe [the stories originated] with his boss, Doug Jones.
For some reason, Osborne keeps claiming I am responsible for the Rob Riley-Liberty Duke story. So I have decided to address a few things. I did not have anything to do with the Rob and Liberty story being told. In fact, Shuler needs to say it did not come from me again so everyone is clear. It came from old law enforcement boys, as I tracked it down since I keep getting blamed for it.
(Note: I'm not going to disclose sources, but I can say individuals connected to law enforcement were part of my sourcing on the Bill Pryor gay-porn story, and I have reported that several times. As for the Riley-Duke story, I'm not aware of any of my sources being tied to law enforcement, unless it was second- or third-hand. Simpson is correct that she was not involved as a source on any of the stories noted above.)
Simpson says the roots of at least some of these stories originated in the now-defunct Haskell Slaughter la firm, of Birmingham. Doug Jones once was a member of that firm, along with Montgomery-based attorney Tommy Gallion. Simpson also says that Jones pretended to be Rob Riley's friend, while behind the scenes, helping to release unflattering stories about the son of former governor Bob Riley. Again, I'm not aware of the Riley-Duke story coming from anyone tied to Doug Jones, unless it was at a significant distance. Writes Simpson:
Matt [Osborne] is a long-time DNC-Netroots paid operative type, and according to Republicans all across the state, was hired by Doug Jones' bunch to smear Roy Moore. What I really think is that Jones is trying to cover up that the Riley-Duke story came from investigators working for his Haskell Slaughter firm at the time, and he was a ring leader of the story to get close to Rob Riley and cast shade on me. The Haskell Slaughter firm had hired a lot of old ABI [Alabama Bureau of Investigation] boys to follow Rob, which Doug would snitch about to Milton McGregor and Tommy Gallion -- where Rob was going while acting like Rob's friend.
They followed Rob often to a condo on an island near Mobile, I was told by Milton which is where the stories came from -- and where the pictures were taken by some guy named [Bill] Rhegness, who worked for Doug and Tommy -- who worked for the Gaming Kings of Alabama and considered the pictures to be insurance. It was Doug's firm's gaming clients, hiring former retired ABI guys, who were following governors, their sons, and AGs to get the dirt about their girlfriends and or boyfriends (in the case of Pryor). That is how the Pryor pictures were obtained, as well. All these pictures belonged to Doug's firm, not mine, and were obtained for their clients, not mine.
Photos that go to the Luther Strrange-Jessica Garrison affair also are in circulation, Simpson says, and have been used in curious ways. Montgomery attorney Priscilla Duncan is tied to the "Alabama naughty pictures" story, especially in the case of Bill Pryor. Writes Simpson:
Rob Riley is nuts if he thinks I give one hoot who he screws, as is Luther Strange. Tommy Gallion showed me his picture collection, as he is quite proud of it, and as you all know, Tommy is an accomplished Republican political operative. He let Doug, for $1 million, buy into Haskell Slaughter, as Doug wanted to be the next political master, like Tommy, in our state. It is their damn pictures, and they need to leave me out of their shit. I want zero part of it.
I know Tommy and Doug had the Pryor pictures that Roger ran, as Tommy showed them to me after Priscilla [Duncan] showed me the Bad Puppy pictures and asked if my friend [Wayne] Madsen would run them years before, which he did for her. Priscilla has denied it,but those were her pictures, not mine -- and that caused Tommy to show me his, trying to determine if he had a leak, which I believe he suspected was Doug Jones.
In 2018 (or '17?), Priscilla worked for the Jones bunch, trying to put a patch on the election machines in Alabama, which [SOS John] Merrill refused.
As for the Luther Strange pictures with Jessica Garrison . . . well when Lowell Barron was charged, I heard from Milton McGregor that [Montgomery lawyer] Joe Espy and Doug and Tommy had pictures from ABI and were threatening to release them, but Luther decided to drop the charges.
Once again, I heard Doug was saying I had these pictures, when it reality, they belonged to his gaming kings. I complained loudly about this back in 2016 when I heard I was being punished for Doug's gambling king's nasty pictures of Rob and Luther. I even called Luther's office and spoke to an investigator and said I am sick of being blamed for Doug and Tommy's Haskell Slaughter picture collection. I additionally went to the FBI, which was not interested in hearing my story in Gadsden and said it was me, Jill, with all these pictures, and I was like nope it is them.
Osborne is dancing in dangerous territory, Simpson writes, given that he clearly is ill-informed about the origins of these stories :
Now Doug's boy Matt Osborne is once again blaming me for stories I did not tell Roger. So everyone knows, I told Roger, who I like, "I might not do those stories, if I were you, because Rob Riley might have you hurt. I knew already, from telling the Siegelman political-prosecution story that Doug Jones caused my house to blow up on one end, and my car to get blown up, and I did not want anything to happen to Roger, as he had helped protect me telling the stories about those incidents.
That is my opinion, and Matt Osborne needs to stop throwing shade at me for Doug Jones -- and Matt should think long and hard what he is doing. It may buy him a very long time in jail. What. he did to Roy Moore was wrong; he participated in a campaign to smear Roy with fake Russian bots we tracked right to him and Jones. He also has been smearing me as the "aggrieved girlfriend of Bob Riley," so I hear -- and, well, it is him and Doug Jones who do these kooky, crazy stories, not me.
He needs to leave me alone. I might add I am happily married to my husband and not going to put up with his and Doug's nonsense any longer. Doug needs full credit for all the pictures he collected for his gaming kings at Haskell Slaughter.
Jones' back-stabbing ways even extend to national political figures, such as Hillary Clinton, Simpson writes. Ironically, it was the Bill Clinton administration that appointed Jones as a U.S. attorney in the late 1990s:
I have always liked Gallion, and I think he probably is the best political operative the state has ever had. But when things started going toward Doug Jones . . . well, he was just downright the meanest, nastiest political operative our state ever has seen. Matt Osborne keeps slapping at me, as he knows that I know his boy Doug is a snitch and troublemaker -- and I've been outing it.
Osborne needs to leave me alone; my patients with him is wearing thin. I also want to make real clear that Doug Jones has been a long-time Democrat snitch to Republicans, one who would run to Gallion and tell him everything he knew. Jones even joined Gallion's firm, paying in and snitching on Democratic presidential campaigns, such as the one for Hillary Clinton in 2008, while Gallion was helping the John McCain campaign.
I hung around and watched, until June 2008, when I went to Russia to help elect President Obama. I was working to uncover. as a press operative, what was going on with the McCain camp. Tommy Gallion liked me, but got really mad when I helped Obama's bunch out Mccain's involvement with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. But I really switched parties and was always honest with Gallion. I could no longer help the GOP because of Saudi and Russian stuff, due to my FEMA and state clients.
Doug Jones, on the other hand, was yapping a storm about Hillary to McCain bunch, and Tommy shared as he thought he could beat Obama easier than Clinton.I hung around, taking it all in to help Obama. I was secretly at the time leaking to Madsen all McCain was doing, plus Hillary. You can look back at his articles and see it.
I love Tommy, but we were no longer operatives for the same party. As for Doug Jones, he snitches for all sides and is a creep. But Doug and Tommy were helping McCain. I told you all that Jones was a closeted Republican.
Matt Osborne needs to wake up; his guy is a closeted Republican. I am thankful for all I learned from Republican operative Gallion. I feel like I was taught by one of the best GOP operatives how to get info from all sides -- and I have taken all I learned to the Progressive Democrat team.
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Harmison's family ties to the Greene County Prosecuting Attorney's Office also likely explain his corrupt handling of a recent probation-revocation hearing involving former NFL player Dorial Green-Beckham.
In the 11-year history of Legal Schnauzer, I've observed a lot of corrupt judges. But this might be the most blatant judicial scandal I've witnessed. It revolves around a Springfield, MO lawyer named Eric Ryan Olson.
Harmison did not disclose his conflict of interest before conducting a bench trial in the matter. Carol filed six post-trial motions -- including a Motion to Vacate Judgment As Made By A Judge Who Was Disqualified Due to Undisclosed Conflicts of Interest -- which brought the matter to Harmison's attention, in clear and unmistakable language. (Motion is embedded at the end of this post.) Carol's motion showed that the judgment against her was due to be vacated, per U.S. Supreme Court precedent in Liljeberg v. Health Services Acquisition Corp. (U.S., 1988). Harmison, however, did not vacate and gave little or no indication that he had even read the motion.
Harmison's conflict also involves dubious actions that apparently were orchestrated to allow former Gov. Eric Greitens to appoint him to a Greene County judicial seat. Greitens, of course, since has resigned in a wave of scandals.
That leaves us with the following questions:
(1) Did Carol receive "fundamental fairness," required by 32.09? Nope.
(2) Did Carol's judge have an improper "proscribed relationship," or "interest in the cause"? Without question. His son-in-law was part of the team that brought the charges.
(3) Was Carol's trial "impartial" and did it "appear to be so"? Not even close.
Where does attorney Eric Ryan Olson enter the picture? The Greene County Prosecutor's Office brought charges against Carol on Sept. 8, 2016. Olson worked in the office, serving as senior assistant to Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson. At the time, Olson was engaged to Jessica Harmison, Judge Jerry Harmison's oldest daughter.
Carol was not arrested until Jan. 31. 2017. That means Ryan Olson was part of the prosecution team that brought charges against Carol and pursued her arrest. Throughout that time, he was engaged, or married to, Jessica Harmison -- who just happened to be Judge Jerry Harmison's daughter, making Ryan Olson the judge's son--in-law for part of the time that the case against Carol was launched.
How does the Olson/Harmison connection create a disqualifying conflict for Judge Harmison, and how does it tie to the machinations the family took to ensure that Jerry Harmison could be appointed as a judge? We will examine those questions in an upcoming post.
(To be continued)
Jill Simpson, a veteran Alabama political insider, recently wrote on Facebook that Osborne has worked for years with Doug Jones, whom the Dry Alabama scam was designed to get elected. That enhances the likelihood that Osborne and his friend came to our home at Jones' direction, for reasons that had nothing to do with trying to help. Writes Simpson:
Matt Osborne I hear is spreading once again lies about me starting the Liberty Duke-Rob Riley love story and Luther Strange and Jessica Garrison love story that they have been attacking me over for several years now, which I was not involved in. . .
So you all know once and for all, Osborne and Doug have worked together for years. he is part of Doug's network of very ugly operatives running such things as Breitbart Unmasked for Doug. I might add he has screwed with me for years saying all kinds of crazy things about me for Doug and also screwed with Breitbarters claiming I did this and that when it was him and Doug Jones, his rotten Russian-bot buddy.
As for Melissa Brewer, how sensitive is that subject? Let's consider some of our interactions with Osborne on Twitter, which came after we had shown Osborne's claims that he acted within the law on Dry Alabama were false. In fact, Osborne's actions violated 18 U.S.C. 371, the same statute that Special Counsel Robert Mueller used to indict Russian nationals for interfering in the 2016 presidential election. From our back-and-forth with Osborne on Twitter, where he uses the handle "Stephen Miller's Fright Wig":
Matt Osborne sez:
The person who drove to Birmingham with me is my girlfriend. Her name is not Melissa and at no time did she say that was her name. Catol is simply misremembering her name. Melissa is the name of the person who started that fundraiser for you. I don't think it raised a lot but she was not involved in Dry Alabama. Neither was my girlfriend, who is apolitical. She told me after that you two struck her as looney tunes. I defended you at the time but now I can see that she was right.
(Note: I was in jail at the time, so not sure how Osborne's girlfriend could conclude I was "looney tunes." Carol, just a few days earlier, had come upon a scene in our basement that made her think I had been murdered, so a reasonable person might conclude she was a bit stressed. But Osborne's girlfriend concluded Carol was "looney tunes." Sounds like the GF is as caring and empathetic as Osborne himself.)
Legal Schnauzer sez:
We have photos of Melissa Brewer, and she's the same woman who came to our house. Carol isn't misremembering anything. Not sure why you persist in lying about this, but I guess that's become a way of life for you. Perhaps your careless actions have put Melissa in a pickle, and she's not going to be happy about it?
Matt Osborne sez:
LOL Melissa Brewer is not my girlfriend. She lives in Washington, DC, has married a completely different man and taken his surname. LOLOLOL. You are totally proving my point by insisting on this. They look absolutely nothing alike. For one thing, Melissa is about 100 lbs heavier! LOLOLOL
Legal Schnauzer sez:
I didn't say Melissa Brewer was your girlfriend. I'm saying Carol was there, we have photos of Melissa Brewer, and Carol says Melissa Brewer is the woman in our home. You aren't "proving" anything about me because I wasn't there; I was in jail, if you recall. You can take it up with Carol if you want, but she -- understandably -- thinks you are a creep. Carol has told me for several years -- long before Dry Alabama came about -- that the woman who came with you to our home said her name was Melissa Brewer, and she was the one in photos we've seen. Your insistence on lying about this makes me suspect the two of you came into our home under false pretenses, at a time of extraordinary stress, and attempted to pull a con job of some sort -- and we now know you have a taste for that kind of thing.
Matt Osborne sez:
Right, it's a huge CONSPIRACEE!!! against you, one in which we delivered groceries and spent an hour chatting and left, all to FOOL HER into... what, exactly? What was the objective of this nefarious scheme?
Carol is borderline personality. She's so borderline that she gets kicked out of borderline support groups, she's so borderline. She can't remember my girlfriend's name so she latched onto the name of the woman who generously started a fundraiser for you while you were in jail.
I sent Melissa an email this morning. She find this as hilarious and ridiculous as I do.
So go ahead, Roger. Make a police report about a visit you got under "false pretenses" six years ago. Go ahead, I freaking DARE YOU, you have no hair on your ass if you fail to do this. CALL THE FBI. I want you to! LOLBUCKETS
(Note: Osborne again shows his ignorance of the law. I'm not talking about a criminal complaint for trespassing; the statute of limitations on that long has run, and it's not a federal matter, so I wouldn't call the FBI. I could, however, file a civil complaint for trespassing, which has a six-year statute of limitations in Alabama, so there still is time for that.)
Matt Osborne further sez:
Melissa says her name was on the food basket she sent Carol, that's probably how she got Melissa's name. "No good deed goes unpunished" they say.
(Note: Osborne, again, is clueless. Carol did not receive a food basket from anyone -- Melissa Brewer or otherwise. Osborne and his female companion handed Carol a bag of groceries, and that was it. Carol doesn't remember seeing a name on it.)
Matt Osborne further sez:
Feel free to call me at (931) 452-1571 if sanity overtakes you for a moment.
Why would I want to call an admitted con artist like Matt Osborne? I can't think of a reason.
|Ryan Olson, Judge Jerry Harmison's son-in-law, was part of the|
prosecutorial team that brought baseless charges against my wife, Carol
after Missouri deputies had broken her arm.
(Second of two parts -- see Part 1 here)
The Missouri judge who found my wife, Carol, guilty of "assault of a law enforcement officer" heard the case even though his son-in-law was part of the prosecutorial team that brought the charges. That means Judge Jerry Harmison had a disqualifying family interest in the case, and his ruling is due to be vacated, per U.S. Supreme Court precedent.
Harmison's family ties to the Greene County Prosecuting Attorney's Office also likely explain his corrupt handling of a recent probation-revocation hearing involving former NFL player Dorial Green-Beckham.
A judge shall not permit family, social, political, religious, or other relationships to influence the judge’s judicial conduct or judgment.
The Code of Judicial Conduct further holds (at Rule 2-2.11):
A judge shall recuse himself or herself in any proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned . . .
Harmison clearly has violated at least two rules of the judicial code, and courts have referred to the Missouri Code of Judicial Conduct in deciding judicial disqualification issues. In Carol's case, the matter boils down to this simple fact: Eric Ryan Olson, Harmison's son-in-law, was part of the prosecution team that brought baseless charges against Carol, and public records indicate he helped plan the prosecution for at least three months.
Harmison’s son-in-law, Eric Ryan Olson, is a member of the Missouri State Bar and has worked for the Springfield firm of Ellis Ellis Hammons and Johnson since December 2016. Olson is married to Harmison’s daughter, Jessica. Before taking a position with the Ellis firm, Olson worked for three-plus years at the Greene County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, where he was hired by PA Dan Patterson and became senior assistant prosecuting attorney before leaving for a position with the Ellis firm.
Olson is not just a son-in-law to Harmison. He has done the judge a huge favor, so Harmison probably feels he owes him, big time. From the Motion to Vacate:
Why did Olson change jobs? The record indicates it was to help his father-in-law become a judge. Eric Greitens was elected governor of Missouri in November 2016, and Jerry Harmison Jr. apparently knew that gave him the inside track to a judicial appointment in Greene County. But there was a slight problem. With his son-in-law (Ryan Olson) working in the prosecutor’s office, that presented such an obvious conflict that Harmison would not be able to hear any criminal cases. In essence, Harmison would not be able to do the job as a judge with his son-in-law working for PA Dan Patterson.
The solution apparently was to arrange for Olson to take a job with the Ellis firm, opening the way for Harmison to take an appointment from Greitens. Since that appointment, Greitens has resigned in disgrace due to a series of scandals, including an extramarital affair with his one-time hair stylist. Greitens’ administration also was riddled with accusations of fund-raising irregularities, which could involve Jerry Harmison, given that he clearly knew the Greitens election gave him a strong shot at a judicial appointment.
In short, Jerry Harmison is a judge because Ryan Olson, his son-in-law, was willing to change jobs. But that did not clear all the conflicts in Jerry Harmison's path. What about cases -- like Carol's -- that date to Ryan Olson's time as a prosecutor? Missouri law requires Harmison to recuse himself in such matters, but he failed to follow the code that governs judicial conduct:
Ryan Olson’s transfer to the Ellis firm seemed to clear up any conflicts for criminal cases that launched since December 2016, when Olson joined the Ellis firm. But what about cases the Greene County prosecutor launched before that date – like the Carol Shuler case?
The docket in the Shuler case clearly shows the Greene County Prosecutor’s Office brought charges in September 2016. That’s while Ryan Olson was still working at the PA’s Office, as Dan Patterson’s chief assistant. That means Ryan Olson likely was involved in the decision to bring charges against Carol Shuler – even though there clearly was no probable cause to bring the case, and a mountain of reasonable doubt precluded any possibility of a guilty verdict. In short, the public record suggests Ryan Olson was involved in the decision to trample Carol Shuler’s civil rights, which leaves him vulnerable to both civil and criminal liability (per 18 USC 242, deprivation of rights under color of law).
Why did Judge Harmison issue a guilty finding against Carol, contrary to facts and law in the case? The answer seems clear: He was trying to provide legitimacy for the charges that his son-in-law helped concoct out of thin air:
So, why did Judge Harmison find Ms. Shuler guilty, contrary to facts and the law? He was protecting his son-in-law (Ryan Olson), Olson’s former boss (Dan Patterson, who signed off on the misdemeanor information against Carol Shuler), and the buddies Mr. Olson left behind in the PA’s office to go with the Ellis firm. Mr. Olson did his father-in-law a favor to help Harmison become a judge, so Harmison is returning the favor by issuing a bogus guilty verdict that he hopes will protect those who wrongfully brought the case, including his family member, Mr. Olson. Does Harmison care that this leaves Carol Shuler, who always has lived well within the boundaries of the law, with a criminal record she does not deserve? Obviously, Harmison does not care; he cares only about himself, his career, and that of his son-in-law. In other words, Harmison is a typical self-centered Republican – who, like the man who appointed him, is corrupt to the core.
The guilty finding against Carol is due to be vacated under Liljeberg v. Health Services Acquisition Corp. (U.S., 1988). That issue has been put before Harmison once, and he chose to ignore it. If he continues to ignore it, we will go over his head to Missouri appellate courts -- especially since, as we've shown, there is no final judgment and no conviction against Carol.
We also will look into the possibility of pursuing criminal charges against Ryan Olson and his prosecutorial colleagues, under federal civil-rights law:
Harmison’s failure to disqualify in the instant case was every bit as inexcusable as that of the judge in Liljeberg. And no one could seriously argue that Harmison appears to be “disinterested,” given that his son-in-law almost certainly was involved in bringing the baseless case against Carol Shuler.
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The four-factor test perhaps is best explained in a case styled U.S. v. Miller, 527 F. 3d 54 (3rd Cir., 2008):
We first conclude that there is substantial, circumstantial evidence supporting the inference that Miller downloaded child pornography, thus satisfying the act-element of receiving child pornography . . . . The jury found Miller guilty of possessing a zip disk containing child pornography, which was among the twenty-two zip disks stored in the basement with Miller's computer. . . .
More difficult is the question whether Miller received the images knowingly. Other courts, confronting this question, have deemed at least four factors relevant to this inquiry: (1) whether images were found on the defendant's computer, see United States v. Irving, 452 F.3d 110, 122 (2d Cir.2006); (2) the number of images of child pornography that were found, see id. (finding defendant's possession of 76 images relevant); (3) whether the content of the images "was evident from their file names,"United States v. Payne, 341 F.3d 393, 403 (5th Cir., 2003) (finding "number of images in [defendant's] possession, taken together with the suggestive titles of the photographs" established knowing receipt); and (4) defendant's knowledge of and ability to access the storage area for the images.US v. Romm, 455 F. 3d 990 (9th Circuit, 2006). . . .
In U.S. v. Miller, the government did not fare so well on the four-factor test, proving the accused acted knowingly on only No. 4, which involves a defendant's ability to access a storage area for images. How will the government do in U.S. v. Wells, based on the criminal complaint/affidavit filed in the case? (The complaint/affidavit is embedded at the end of this post.) With an honest judge and a competent jury (always big "ifs"), we suspect the government will fare even worse than it did in Miller. Let's check our scorecard:
(1) Were images found on Wells computer?
In Miller, the appellate court found: "The government adduced no direct, forensic evidence that the images were downloaded onto Miller's computer."
In the criminal complaint/affidavit for U.S. v. Wells, the government makes no mention of Wells downloading or saving child-pornography. In fact, the case began with two "Cyber Tips" from Facebook, with the government claiming Wells'"uploaded" images of suspected child pornography. The term "upload" suggests the images originated with Wells, and he placed them on the Web via Facebook. But that runs counter to all other evidence we've seen in the case. Wells has said that he received the images, unsolicited, from a woman in Tennessee named Kara Adkins, and he thought they were of her 19-year-old daughter. We see nothing in the affidavit to suggest the government can counter Wells' version of events. Either way, there appears to be no "direct, forensic evidence" that Wells downloaded anything.
(2) How many images were found on Wells' computer?
In Miller, the appellate court found: "The second factor, the number of images of child pornography found, likewise does not weigh in the government's favor in light of the overwhelming number of adult images that were found. The government presented evidence pertaining to only twenty of the 1200-1400 images found on the zip disk, and the District Court subsequently determined, in the process of sentencing Miller, that only eleven of these images constituted child pornography. Miller contended that he was unaware of the existence of these images . . .
The Wells case started, according to the government, with Facebook reporting two suspect images -- although it's possible only one image was involved, with Adkins sending it to Wells, and Wells quickly sending it back to her.
Did the government have probable cause to search Wells' home, based on two images (maybe only one)? That should be the subject of a Motion to Suppress Evidence, as obtained via an unlawful search. That search, according to the feds, produced 60 images of child porn on Wells' laptop, but the affidavit provides no information on where the images were found on the computer or whether Wells did anything to put them there. The search allegedly turned up 375 images of child erotica (nude children), but that, as a matter of law, does not constitute child pornography.
Bottom line: The Wells case might turn on one or two suspect images, while the Miller court found 11 images were not sufficient to prove knowing intent.
(3) Was content of the Wells images evident from file names?
In Miller, he appellate court found: "Nor does the third factor, whether the content of the images 'was evident from their file names,' weigh in the government's favor. . . . While there is strong evidence that Miller eventually came to view some of the images of child pornography that were on the disk, and thus to knowingly possess the images, this evidence does not lend much support to the inference that Miller knowingly downloaded the images."
Bottom line: It doesn't look like the government is going to get very far with evidence against Wells involving file names.
(4) Did Wells have the knowledge or ability to access a storage area for the images?
This goes to the "sophisticated computer user" element, and the Miller court found the government was on fairly solid ground here: "Turning to the fourth factor, whether the defendant had knowledge of and an ability to access the storage space for the images, it is clear that Miller had access to the images on the zip disk. Indeed, Miller admitted to storing image files, including adult pornography, on the disk."
As for U.S. v. Wells, the affidavit makes no mention of Wells being the kind of user who would know how to store and access images on a thumb cache, browser cache, hard drive, or any other part of a computer's "guts." The affidavit claims "several child pornography images"were found on the thumb cache in Wells' laptop, but it says nothing about what makes them meet the legal definition of child porn, how they got on the thumb cache, or (most importantly) whether Wells knew they were there and had the ability to access them.
Based on its own affidavit in Wells, the government appears to strike out on all four tests to prove knowing conduct in a child-porn case. What about additional tests that we've seen used in other federal cases. We will address those in an upcoming post.
(To be continued)
Dana Jill Simpson, a retired attorney and whistle blower in the Don Siegelman political prosecution, said in a recent Facebook post that Osborne was asking around about our computer in the days before visiting (with a female companion) my wife Carol while I was in the Shelby County Jail. The Dry Alabama scheme, which violated 18 U.S.C. 371 (Conspiracy to Defraud the United States), was designed to trick potential Roy Moore voters and help Democrat Doug Jones land a seat in the U.S. Senate.
Jones, who has strong ties to Alabama's right-wing criminals (Rob Riley, Bill Pryor, Jeff Sessions, etc.), long has trashed our reporting and almost certainly was involved in cheating me out of my job at UAB, causing my violent arrest and incarceration, and helping engineer the theft of our home via a wrongful foreclosure. All, or part, of this likely was driven by Jones' displeasure regarding our reporting on his work with Rob Riley that netted $51 million in attorney fees from a lawsuit against HealthSouth and affiliated entities.
That's why we have referred to Jones as a "bastard-coated bastard with bastard filling," and Simpson has stated the Jones-Osborne alliance goes back several years, probably at least to my arrest in October 2013 and Osborne's curious visit to our home under what now appear to be false pretenses.
Is it my imagination that Osborne might have visited our home with underhanded motives? Jill Simpson doesn't think so. From her Facebook post, dated April 11:
What we recall about Matt visiting Carol was him asking for access to Roger's computer, and Carol telling us when I called to see about her, as I heard what Rob (Riley) had done, and she told us she did not give access to Roger's computer to Matt and the woman with him who wanted access -- nor was she ever giving it to anyone or taking that stuff down. She did not think they should have access to Roger's computer, but they had been asking about it, and I told her to hang on to Roger's stuff, as Roger had not long been in jail long.
We have evidence to support Simpson's statement. While at our home, Osborne arranged an interview with a progressive talk-show host. Carol, at first, was not certain about the host's name, but we now know it was Bob Kincaid, co-founder of the Head On Radio Network (HORN) in West Virginia. (The interview can be heard in a video at the end of this post and at this link.) Carol's recollection is fuzzy on some details, but she believes Osborne suggested the interview be done via Skype -- and that would have involved use of our computer. Carol informed him that our laptop at the time was not equipped with a camera that would handle Skype, so the interview was done by telephone.
Did Osborne try to gain access to our computer? Based on Carol's memory, the answer is yes -- and that fits with the Jill Simpson narrative:
Around that time is when I had an Oppo person from the religious right contact me, saying this was a Rob (Riley) deal, and I was in bed awaiting surgery. The judge doing meanness in the fall to me said he knew I wasn't sick at all . . . in his order. I have always thought that was because they and he knew from my bed with neck surgery I convinced folks to let Roger go, as the judge said something about he knew I worked and that is the only thing I did, and I got Andy Kreig to come talk to Carol, who refused to take it down. Jim drove me with a bunch of pillows around me to see Andy, and Andy I think would tell you I collapsed that day and could not even go to dinner with him. It was during that time I was called by Anonymous and told they heard my problem with Carol was she would not take it down because she and Roger stood by his sources and frankly everyone was scared he was going to die, as a guy above him did commit suicide.
An Anonymous caller said,"Jill, we would fix it where the Rob Riley stuff came down by Carol but went back up in India, as they had ways of knowing it was true and did so. They said they knew the whole bunch's secrets, and I believed the caller, as I had a similar call about what happened on Team Themis deal when a guy was following me and folks thought it might be dangerous. . . . I was told they don't like this BS by Rob and Luther (Strange) and liked our work in Alabama with the press and believed in protecting free press folks like me and Roger. It went up in India the day after Carol took it down, and I must admit I smiled as I have an Anonymous angel who likes my work and Roger's, as well.
The caller from the Anonymous hacktivist group told Simpson they had emails involving Alabama right-wingers that revealed who was behind my arrest -- and the communications showed I was targeted because of my accurate reporting on a number of sensitive topics (likely extramarital affairs involving Rob Riley-Liberty Duke and Luther Strange-Jessica Medeiros Garrison, plus Bill Pryor's ties to 1990s gay porn via badpuppy.com). Writes Simpson:
So folks know, Anonymous is a huge group, and I have zero idea who this person was. Anonymous polices bad behaviors on the Web, like the stunt pulled on Roger, and I as a journalist had covered their stories early on so I got the calls but was talking to numerous journalists . . . who had published about our Shuler in jail problem. I admit that, but I did not do the sex stories; that belongs to Doug Jones and his former law firm Haskell Slaughter, for their gaming kings.
I think it was a very good deal that Matt Osborne did not get that computer, and Carol held folks off, as around that time I heard Matt was part of Doug's Netroots buddies and ran something called Breitbart Unmasked. That is another odd thing Matt was mentioned by the Ali Akbar crowd, who were after Breitbart Unmasked, and Roger and I were getting unwanted credit there as some "RogerS" appeared -- Roger Shuler said it was not him. I have long believed it was some of Matt's bunch, which I believe was the same as the Jones bunch.
We tried for months to get Carol to remove the Rob Riley story, but Carol let us know she thought Roger told the truth, as she had some knowledge about sources and had a good story and she did not want it taken down just to please Rob and Luther -- nor did Roger. I think that is why Carol has had so much happen to her in the years that have followed. I know they kept trying to arrest her, and she evaded them and then had all that awfulness happen with her arm.
Much of this ugliness tends to feature Doug Jones, writes Simpson:
Doug always pleads innocence. he even plotted to get Tommy (Gallion) and Milton (McGregor) on a deal, so Doug could run the operation himself after Tommy took him in. I called Tommy. and Doug said no I was lying. But it became all too clear when Doug's DOJ buddies had been listening in on Tommy and Milton's calls and had Milton arrested. . . .
I might add that firm was like the one John Grisham wrote about in one of his first books, The Firm, but on steroids. I might add when Don Siegelman told Doug Jones who had not publicly announced he was working with them told Tommy my story and that is how I got invited to see them, and so you know, I really think he was collecting my story to help his gaming clients. One of the first people to warn me was John Caylor, who knew how they operated -- and at my first meeting with Tommy, he asked me what would it take for me to just go away and not tell my story; he might could help me, and I said, "I want Karl Rove fired."
Simpson had words of wisdom for Matt Osborne, who seemingly could use some:
Now Doug has his boy Osborne libeling me, saying the Liberty Duke-Rob Riley and Luther Strange-Jessica Garrison stories are mine, but it was Doug Jones' folks who followed Rob and Luther.
In 2017, we get a call from Audit Arizona, a guy saying they needed to add components to election machines. My husband said you can't add anything illegal to those machines and asked who he was working for, and Jim was told Priscilla Duncan was doing this for Jones. I immediately notified a Republican, who I knew who had held office and said,"Please let John Merrill know not to allow them to add anything. Around that time is when we caught fake Russian bots that were of interest to us, but this Web site was different -- and we now know it links to Matt Osborne, who recently started attacking me and he admitted he was a huge Doug Jones guy.
I am sure Doug is mad I know he is the person behind a lot of meanness, but I have been dealing with him since day one, with the way he works on both sides. He is a mercenary operative, who works for whoever, and sometimes both sides, and I am sure he does not like me outing it. But it's too late as his little buddy Matt has harassed me and my friends giving credit to us for Doug's work, and I want it properly attributed.
I feel I got used as Doug's mouthpiece, and I am tired of it. As for Matt, in the end he would be smart to give up Doug now -- before Doug puts him in more trouble than he can ever get out of. I have been watching him Jones disown Matt, and now is the time for Matt to become a real election-integrity guy and tell on his crew, instead of wasting time trying pin a story on me. Doug and his firm were responsible for the Rob Rley, Luther Strange, Bill Pryor sex stories, on behalf of their gaming kings. So, Matt would be wise to stop his bullshit and tell on Doug's ass -- or Matt probably will end up like us progressives, who have been abused and harmed by Doug Jones and his loose tongue.
Also, quit picking on Carol Shuler; she is a legendary folk hero in progressive circles and don't call yourself a progressive in Alabama as you are not considered that by any of us for helping Doug Jones. I might add Carol and Roger Shuler are the real free press in Alabama and all I have heard about you is that you put out sneaky articles without giving your name at Breitbart Unmasked. You were not brave enough to use your name for many years, when Roger and Carol put their lives on the line to stop corruption and bring justice to our state.
Every progressive should ask, " Why is Doug Jones' fake Russian-bot guy . . . attacking me and Roger, and now sweet Carol? Go crawl back under your Doug fake Russian blogging rock and leave all of us the hell alone. Quit casting shade on me on stories and leave other progressives alone. You are only digging a hole that Doug Jones will bury you in, blaming you for all he has done. We all know what he is about, and how he operates. He uses folks for his party of one called "Doug Democrats" He is not a we or us person; he is all about himself.
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U.S. Attorney General William Barr today is expected to release a redacted copy of the Mueller Report, but some legal analysts say Barr's connections to Russia -- via work at his old D.C. law firm -- should disqualify him from taking any action on the matter. One investigative journalist even has suggested that Barr's legal and financial ties to Russia are so strong that he might have been a target of the Mueller probe.
As an aside, Barr's ties to international intrigue has roundabout connections to our Legal Schnauzer story -- no kidding -- dating at least to my reporting in fall 2013 on U.S. Judge Bill Pryor and his activities in 1990s gay pornography via badpuppy.com. Just a few weeks after breaking the Pryor story, Alabama deputies beat me inside our home, doused me with pepper spray, and hauled me to the Shelby County Jail for a five-month stay.
It long has been known that certain Alabama GOP thugs (Jeff Sessions, Rob Riley) have conducted business with Russian mafia types. We now know Bill Barr's old law firm, with its deep ties to Russia, also has tentacles that reach Alabama. And that raises this question: Were Russia mob figures involved in what amounted to the kidnapping of a journalist -- me? The question is not as outrageous as it might first appear.
Barr's ties to Russia have roots in his work at the Kirkland Ellis Law Firm, according to a new report at Newsweek. In an article titled "Should William Barr Recuse Himself From Mueller Report? Legal Experts Say Attorney General's Ties to Russia Are Troubling," reporter Christina Maza writes:
. . . .some experts argue that Barr’s previous work in the private sector could conflict with his continuing supervision of the investigation into Russian tampering in the 2016 election campaign.
Why? A few of Barr’s previous employers are connected to key subjects in the probe. And some argue that, even if Barr didn’t break any rules, his financial ties to companies linked to aspects of the Russia investigation raise questions about whether he should—like his predecessor, Jeff Sessions—recuse himself.
“The legal standard is really clear about these issues. It’s not about actual conflict, it’s about the appearance of a conflict, about the appearance of bias,” Jed Shugerman, a professor at Fordham University’s School of Law and an expert on judicial and government ethics, tells Newsweek. “The problem is that we have so many flagrant conflicts that are so obvious, we get distracted from what the legal standard is.”
What about specifics? Maza has them:
This much is known: On Barr’s public financial disclosure report, he admits to working for a law firm that represented Russia’s Alfa Bank and for a company whose co-founders allegedly have long-standing business ties to Russia. What’s more, he received dividends from Vector Group, a holding company with deep financial ties to Russia.
These facts didn’t get much attention during Barr’s confirmation hearing, as Congress was hyperfocused on an unsolicited memo Barr wrote prior to his nomination, which criticized the special counsel’s investigation—and whether he would release an unredacted Mueller report to Congress. Much of the information is public, but it has so far been unreported in relation to Barr.
Still, Barr’s potential conflicts could face further scrutiny as Democrats in Congress fight to have the Mueller report released to the public.
What is the Vector Group, and how does it fit into the Trump-Russia picture?
On his financial disclosure report, Barr notes that he earned anywhere from $5,001 to $15,000 in dividends from the Vector Group.
The company’s president, Howard Lorber, brought Trump to Moscow in the 1990s to seek investment projects there. The trip is widely seen as the first of many attempts to establish a Trump Tower in Moscow.
The problem, says Shugerman, “is the appearance of bias.”
He added that Donald Trump Jr. “allegedly called Lorber as he was setting up the Trump Tower meeting with a Russian [lawyer]. Lorber has extensive ties to Russia and was allegedly assisting with Trump Tower Moscow plans. On top of Barr’s other choices, which reflect partisan bias, it is bad judgment…to have any financial ties to a person so directly entangled with Trump, Don Jr. and the core of events and questions of the Russia investigation.”
What about the Kirkland Ellis Law Firm? That leads us into the murky waters surrounding Alfa Bank:
Barr’s former law firm Kirkland Ellis LLP, where he was counsel from March 2017 until he was confirmed as attorney general in February 2019, represented Russia’s Alfa Bank. (Barr earned more than $1 million at Kirkland.)
Investigators found no evidence that the Trump Organization had communicated with Alfa. Still, the bank is partially owned by Russian oligarch German Khan, whose son-in-law, the London-based lawyer Alexander van der Zwaan, was indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller for lying about a report his firm had written for Trump’s ex campaign manager Paul Manafort.
Investigative journalist Wayne Madsen has touched on similar issues. From a report dated March 29-31 at Wayne Madsen Report (WMR):
Attorney General William Barr may have been a subject of Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian involvement in the 2016 Donald Trump campaign. When Barr sent a 19-page memo to the Justice Department on June 8, 2018, he was a partner with the Kirkland Ellis law firm. Barr’s unsolicited memo, which was addressed to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Assistant Attorney General Steve Engel, questioned the very legitimacy of Mueller’s investigation of the Trump administration and presidential campaign. Barr’s memo was sent as then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had recused himself from the Mueller probe, was under political fire from Trump and his allies.
Eight days after Barr penned his anti-Mueller memo to the Department of Justice, Barr’s Kirkland Ellis colleague, Brian Benczkowski, who had no previous prosecutorial experience, was sworn in as the Assistant Attorney for the Criminal Division of the Justice Department. Benczkowski headed up the Trump Transition Team for the Justice Department.
Benczkowski’s client at Kirkland Ellis was Russia’s Alfa Bank, which Mueller was investigating for placing a special network server in Trump Tower in New York. Connected to the Alfa Bank server, which Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner wanted to secure with a Russia-supplied encryption system, was Spectrum Health of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The chairman of the board of Spectrum Health is Richard DeVos, Jr., the husband of Trump’s Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, and brother-in-law of Mrs. DeVos’s brother, Erik Prince of Blackwater infamy. Alfa Bank has a business relationship with Amway, the firm co-founded by Richard DeVos, Sr., the father of Betsy DeVos’s husband.
After Sessions was fired by Trump in November 2018, the purge began at the Justice Department. Sessions’s chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, a GOP political hack from Iowa, was named acting Attorney General until Barr could be placed at the helm of the department to kill off Mueller’s investigation, bury his report, and order various U.S. Attorney Offices around the country handling matters related to investigating Trump and cronies to wrap up their investigations. Barr is aided by Benczkowski and his staff to put to rest any lingering matters dealing with the 2016 election and the Trump Organization and 2016 and 2020 campaigns. Barr, who successfully covered up the Iran-Contra scandal on behalf of the Reagan and Bush 41 administrations, is a specialist at cover-ups. He learned the trade in his first job out of law school – working for the Central Intelligence Agency. . . .
While at Kirkland Ellis, Barr had the portfolios for several business ventures involving Russian companies owned by oligarchs. These included representing Glencore, the firm owned by the late international sanctions buster Marc Rich, and its joint venture with the Russian oil company, Rosneft, headed by former Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Igor Sechin. Barr's connections to the very same Russian oligarchs involved in supporting Trump more than likely placed Barr in Mueller's cross hairs.
Madsen suggests the chances of the public ever seeing the guts of the Mueller Report are slim:
The three owners of Alfa-Bank, Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven, and German Khan, are major Russian oligarchs and were targets of Mueller’s probe. One can imagine Mueller’s surprise and disgust when two legal henchmen for the oligarch trio – Barr and Benczkowski – became Mueller’s superiors within Justice. Neither Barr nor Benczkowski chose to recuse themselves from the Mueller investigation, decisions which helped seal the early death of the overall investigation and bury Mueller’s report. After Maria Butina, the Russian intelligence “Mata Hari,” decided to cooperate with Mueller’s investigators, additional links between Alfa Bank and the Trump campaign and administration began to crystallize. These included suspicious Alfa-Bank money transfers to the Wells Fargo Bank accounts of Paul Erickson, a GOP operative and former boyfriend of Butina and Landfair Capital Consulting, the firm of Alex Abramoff and Robert Abramoff, the son and brother of disgraced Republican Party lobbyist Jack Abramoff, respectively. Mueller likely had possession of the suspicious activity reports (SARs) on the wire transfers that were sent by the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN) to the FBI.
It is clear that Mueller was pursuing the Alfa Bank link to the Trump Organization. Mueller secured an indictment and conviction of Alex Van der Zwaan, the son-in-law of Alfa Bank's co-owner Khan, for lying to FBI officials in their investigation of Trump's 2016 campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.
It is very clear that the Kirkland Ellis legal “mafia” in the Trump administration conspired to interfere as much as possible in the Mueller probe and are currently conspiring to bury the Special Counsel’s final report. Barr’s and Benczkowski’s Kirkland Ellis cronies have been salted throughout the Justice Department and White House. They include Principal Deputy Solicitor General Jeff Wall, White House Special Counsel Pat Cipollone– who will be in charge of determining what parts of the Mueller report are protected from disclosure due to executive privilege, National Security Advisor John Bolton, Assistant Attorneys General for the Office of Legal Policy Beth Ann Williams and Steven Engel, Deputy Attorney General nominee Jeffrey Rosen, and outgoing Deputy U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Robert Khuzami. Other Kirkland Ellis GOP alums include Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh and Whitewater special prosecutor Kenneth Starr.
Speaking of the Kirkland Ellis "legal mafia," one of its members played a role in our Legal Schnauzer story. That came when Judge Bill Pryor issued a press statement about our reports on his gay-porn activities in the 1990s at badpuppy.com. Pryor, of course, did not address the press himself, and he certainly did not take questions. He turned the press-agent role over to one of his former law clerks, Jennifer Bandy -- and she just happened to work for . . . Kirkland Ellis. From our report about Ms. Bandy's statement:
How has Pryor responded to all of this? In a dumbfoundingly ignorant way, by apparently aligning himself with three Alabama lawyers who have dubious records on mattes of ethics. Who forms this unholy alliance? We are talking about Birmingham-based lawyer Bill Baxley, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, and Strange's mistress/former campaign manager Jessica Medeiros Garrison.
What signs point to Pryor joining hands with Baxley, Strange, and Garrison? Well, let's consider Pryor's response late last week when D.C.-based lawyer/journalist Andrew Kreig contacted the judge for comment about the gay porn story. Our understanding is that Kreig plans to use Pryor's response in an upcoming article at the Justice-Integrity Project.
Did Pryor grant Kreig an interview? No, he brushed off that possibility, just as he did when I submitted multiple interview requests before writing the post that broke the gay porn story. Did Pryor respond directly to Kreig with a comment. No, the judge assigned that task to Jennifer Bandy, one of his former law clerks who now works for the Washington, D.C., law firm of Kirkland Ellis.
In essence, Jennifer Bandy was a precursor to Sarah Huckabee Sanders -- a white female, who serves as the "face" for her white, male, conservative superiors and lies relentlessly to the public on their behalf:
What does Jennifer Bandy know about this story? Probably nothing. Why on earth did Bill Pryor choose her to issue a "statement" to Andrew Kreig? I haven't a clue. Did the words come from Bandy or Pryor? We don't know.
Anyway, here is Bill Pryor's "official statement" on the matter, per Andrew Kreig:
"Over the last week, I have been smeared by a widely discredited blogger with a political agenda. His allegations have now been picked up by other bloggers. The person in the unsourced, undated photographs is not me, and I deny these allegations. I have been twice vetted by the FBI, including as recently as this past year; I have won two contested statewide elections; and I have been in the public eye for almost twenty years. I will not dignify these disgraceful accusations with any further comment."
According to press reports, Bandy went on to become a member of the "beachhead" transition team for the Trump administration. Her name now apparently is Jennifer Bandy-Dickey, and she took a "counsel" position with the Department of Justice on May 28, 2017. Does she have experience working for Alfa Bank or other Russian entities? We would not be surprised. Does she currently work under the direction of Brian Benczkowski? That seems quite likely.
As for William Barr, the ice under his feet might get even thinner with today's release of the redacted Mueller Report. Writes Wayne Madsen:
Barr’s acquiescence to a massive and illegal infusion of foreign capital into the U.S. political system is worthy of a full background check on him for the purposes of conducting a “mole” discovery. Although a number of CIA moles were discovered in the 1980s and 90s, the 1970s, when Barr was with the CIA, are absent any major mole discoveries. The agents for hostile intelligence services discovered during the 1960s and 70s were mostly with CIA contractors and the military, not with the CIA headquarters.
Barr may be the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. However, that did not keep John Mitchell, Richard Nixon’s Attorney General, out of prison. Mitchell served a 19-month prison sentence in Alabama. If Barr has been a foreign intelligence mole since his days with the CIA, he would not be enjoying “club fed” privileges in a minimum security federal correctional institution but, instead, be looking at a very long Supermax stay with FBI Soviet/Russia spy Robert Hanssen in Colorado.
|William Barr at press conference|
U.S. Attorney General William Barr, at a press conference yesterday morning before release of the Mueller Report, repeatedly proclaimed there was no collusion and no obstruction by anyone connected to the Trump administration in the Russiagate scandal. Barr based his obstruction finding largely on a determination that "the White House fully cooperated with the Special Counsel’s investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims."
Barr went even further, stating: "The President took no act that in fact deprived the Special Counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation. Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the President had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation."
There is a slight problem with the words in quotation marks above -- they aren't true, and the Mueller Report itself says so.
Of course, Barr ignores the most obvious evidence that Trump had "corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation" -- that Trump refused to sit for an interview with the the Special Counsel's team, plus Trump's written answers to questions have been described as "inadequate." But Barr's cherry-picking, obviously designed to deceive the public, goes way beyond that.
On page 10, the Mueller Report addresses a number of events that point to contacts between Trump Campaign representatives and Russian officials. In other words, this was about possible collusion, also referred to as "conspiracy" and "coordination." Specifically addressed were contacts between Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Trump officials, including former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL). The report concludes that these interactions were "brief,""non-substantive," or in "passing."
Was the Mueller team, however, able to reach these conclusions based on a complete evidentiary record? Did they, as Barr claimed, have "unfettered access" to key documents? No, they did not. From the last two paragraphs on page 10 of the Mueller Report:
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.
In other words, some sources -- including some associated with the Trump Campaign -- intentionally took steps to discard "relevant communications" (emails, text messages?) ensuring the Special Counsel did not have a complete record. And the Mueller team admits these gaps in the record could, if filled, provide important new light on the investigation's outcome.
Here are just a few questions that immediately come to mind:
* Who were the individuals who deleted information or obscured it by using certain communications apps?
* Did these individuals make such deletions on their own or did someone instruct them to do it?
* Would it be possible for computer-forensics experts to recover all, or some, of the missing data?
* Could such deletion constitute a crime under the Federal Records Act or similar statute? Many conservatives thought Hillary Clinton committed a felony regarding retention of emails? What about when members of the Trump Administration deliberately discard "relevant communications" that are public property?
Barr's misstatement about Team Trump's response to the collusion investigation was not the biggest whopper the AG dropped on the American public yesterday. There is at least one other that is much bigger than that. We will have details in an upcoming post.
Since we showed Dry Alabama represented a violation of federal law that prohibits defrauding the United States via election interference -- blowing away Osborne's claim that he acted within the law -- the Florence, AL, resident has developed a major case of butt-hurtedness. In communicating with us via blog comments and Twitter feeds, Osborne has exhibited the intellectual heft of a third-grade spitball tosser. But no matter how bad he looks, Osborne keeps doubling down on his inane, insulting, and largely fact-free rants.
Here is Osborne's latest, proving that lack of class, taste, and intelligence is not limited to right-wing trolls. Self-professed liberals can go there, too. Osborne's latest round of invective appears on our April 17 post, where political insider Jill Simpson said Osborne and a female friend appeared at our home -- one week past my "arrest for blogging" in October 2013 -- after Osborne had asked around about gaining access to our computer.
My wife, Carol, invited them into our home, thinking they were friends and genuinely wanted to help at a time of crisis -- and Osborne had arranged an interview for Carol with West Virginia-based Bob Kincaid and suggested she use Skype, which would have required access to our computer. That did not work out because our laptop at the time did not have a camera, which Skype would have required. Carol wound up doing the interview via phone, and to my knowledge, Osborne never even got a glimpse of our computer.
Carol and I both have doubts now that Osborne really was trying to help, particularly given his admitted ties to Doug Jones, whom we view as a "bastard-coated bastard with bastard filling" because of his apparent ties to theft of our jobs, our home, my freedom, and maybe even the loss of our apartment and breaking of Carol's arm in Missouri. Osborne left his first in a recent string of comments at 10:58 a.m. on April 17.
Matt Osborne said...
Deeper and deeper the crazy goes. Why yes, I did suggest Skype as one way to call into Bob's show -- because that was Bob's suggestion, made all the way from West Virginia. It's a suggestion he makes for ALL of his guests. Maybe go ask him?
(Or maybe he and Joe Manchin are part of this conspiracy, too? I'm sure Dana and Carol can think up some way to rope a whole 'nother state into their fabulous fantasy world of borderline psychosis.)
I never asked for a computer, never saw a computer, would not know how to hack a computer if my life depended on it. I don't work for Black Cube. I don't work for Doug Jones. You guys are just nuts, and it's plain to see for any fair-minded observer.
Roger, I now see why your brothers are desperately trying to help you. You do need help. You have got to get off this crazy train.
Well, what do you know, Osborne thinks my bothers -- David (the inept lawyer) and Paul (a radiology tech at Mercy Hospital), both of Springfield, MO -- have been trying to help Carol and me. How on earth did he come up with that idea?
legalschnauzer said...Have you asked Doug Jones about the woman (not his wife) with whom he has an unusually chummy relationship? Isn't that the public's business, given Doug's exalted role in Congress? Want to see if Doug will give you an honest answer?
Matt Osborne @10:58 --
Here is something that might come as a shock to you: When you have admitted to engaging in dishonest and deceptive behavior -- even violating federal law re: interference in a U.S. election -- people might tend to be skeptical about your word. When you've admitted to using people to get your political way, it's natural for me to wonder if you tried to use Carol. That you might have done it by entering my home, without my knowledge or approval, is alarming. Do I resent it? I sure as hell do. Will I consider all of my legal options in this matter? I sure as hell will. A few other points:
(1) No one said you tried to hack our computer. The suggestion was that you were interested in gaining access to it, and you don't deny having asked around about it. If the computer were on and right in front of you -- as if preparing it for use with Skype -- hacking would not be necessary.
(2) Who told you my brothers were trying to "help" me? You certainly didn't get that from me. Their ways of "helping" include: (a) Trying to have us declared wards of the state in a case so lacking in facts that even the State of Missouri dismissed it; (2) Lying about me making a threatening call to 911, which caused cops to storm our house with assault weapons and damn near got me shot in the head; (c) The same 911 lie did lead to cops breaking Carol's arm. That's just a sampler of how my brothers have lied about us and tried to cheat us. In fact, they are trying to cheat us at this very moment. Again, you dive into a subject where your knowledge is woefully lacking. I'd suggest you work on that because you do it over and over.
BTW, you never seem to respond to certain questions or requests, so let me repeat a few items from our previous communications:
(a) Where is the Melissa Brewer receipt that I asked you to send?
(b) Are you going to get me in touch with "RogerS"? I want to speak with him.
(c) What's your girlfriend's name, and what expertise does she have that allows her to make psychological assessments of people she never has met?
(e) Can you ID journalists who have "disproven" my reporting and provide links to their work? This is the 3rd or 4th time I've asked about this, and you never seem to have a response.
A final point: It's ironic that you lob insults and taunts regarding mental health at others, bu you are the one who has admitted to trying to scam others, acting in an outrageously dishonest fashion. Perhaps you should examine your own psychological profile -- the "log in your own eye" -- before noticing the speck in someone else's eye.
I dropped a little Bible stuff on Osborne, a passage that encourages self-examination, and it seemed to fly right over his head. But Osborne, by golly, still had plenty of insults to hurl. And when asked to provide evidence that might provide illumination on some of these issues, he resorted to a cover-up worthy of William Barr --without the jowls:
Matt Osborne said...
"Scam" has a specific meaning in law. It is synonymous with "fraud." IOW, to charge someone as a scammer requires that you can prove they got something of value by deceit. I got nothing of value by deceit in the Dry Alabama campaign as we never even solicited a donation. If I cared to make a court case out of this (which I do not), your use of this word would be a problem for you, not me.
I am not going to supply you with the names of third parties so that you can rope them into your crazyworld.
I am not supplying you with a receipt when I have no assurance that you will redact Melissa's address. She's had enough right wing lunatics coming after her for a lifetime, she doesn't need your crazy adding to her problems. And I will let her decide whether she wants to share anything with you.
I am not going to ask Doug Jones about his alleged girlfriend, and certainly not when that accusation comes from an unreliable source (you). I have no way of contacting him except maybe through his Senate office.
I am not in touch with RogerS and I have no idea how to contact that person, either. Can you contact some random commenter on this blog from five years ago? I don't think so. And I am no longer even at Breitbart Unmasked, so I have no way of even looking at the comment IP. That is not a rational request.
Finally, I mentioned Dana Jill Simpson exactly ONE TIME at BU, in passing, as it related to another story. The notion that Doug Jones was telling me to write hundreds of blog posts about her, on a site which focused on a completely different world from hers, is utterly insane and a perfect example of the real problem here: you people are nuts.
The word "scam" has a specific legal meaning, and Osborne suggested I was defaming him by describing him as a scammer -- even though he has admitted to multiple media outlets that he engaged in an electoral scam? This seemed like pretty weak broth:
Webster describes scam thusly: "a fraudulent or deceptive act or operation."
You've admitted to engaging in a scam, so it is on target to describe you as a scammer. My use of the word is proper and accurate. So far, you've shown extremely limited knowledge of the law, but if you want to cite statutory or case law to support your claim about the legal meaning of the word "scam," have at it. It would be kind of a useless exercise because I'm using scam in its normal, everyday usage -- and in your own words -- it's accurate.
A few other thoughts:
(1) Your GF isn't a third party; she came to our home uninvited and could face legal consequences for that. She wants to remain out of this to keep from sinking deeper into the shit hole you've dug for her? Probably a wise move on her part.
(2) Melissa Brewer can redact her address herself. Problem solved.
(3) My understanding is that "RogerS" still comments occasionally at BU, so I'm sure it wouldn't be hard to ask him to contact me for a conversation. That of course might be a problem if "RogerS" doesn't exist.
(4) I don't expect to get an honest answer from you or Doug Jones about his girlfriend. But that story is in the works. BTW, you've yet to give an example of "unreliable" reporting on my part, and you never ID journalists who disprove my journalism or provide links to their work. Funny how that happens.
(5) You don't say who told you my brothers were trying to "help" Carol and me. Why don't you answer that question, and again, that person would not be a third party. Have at it.
Osborne next provided some information that did illumine things a bit. But unsurprisingly, he twisted it in what seems to be his standard disingenuous way.
(To be continued)
U.S. Attorney General William Barr made a false statement regarding the law governing collusion during his press briefing last week before release of the redacted Mueller Report. That means the Trump Administration was not exonerated on obstruction of justice, and likely remains on the hook for collusion, as well.
During the press conference, Barr addressed the possibility of Trump affiliates conspiring with Russians to publish stolen emails and other documents from the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton Campaign. Said Barr:
The Special Counsel’s investigation also examined Russian efforts to publish stolen emails and documents on the internet. The Special Counsel found that, after the GRU disseminated some of the stolen materials through its own controlled entities, DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0, the GRU transferred some of the stolen materials to Wikileaks for publication. Wikileaks then made a series of document dumps. The Special Counsel also investigated whether any member or affiliate of the Trump campaign encouraged or otherwise played a role in these dissemination efforts. Under applicable law, publication of these types of materials would not be criminal unless the publisher also participated in the underlying hacking conspiracy. Here too, the Special Counsel’s report did not find that any person associated with the Trump campaign illegally participated in the dissemination of the materials.
The highlighted section above is critically important because it isn't true. You will notice that Barr makes no citation to law to support his claim. That's because there is no such citation.
An October 2018 publication from the Brookings Institution, titled "Considering Collusion: A Primer on Potential Crimes," spells out the law governing possible collusion, conspiracy, and coordination -- and it's very different from what Barr said in his press briefing. In fact, the differences are so substantial that it raises this question: Given Barr's blatantly false statement on collusion law, can Americans trust anything he says on the Trump-Russia scandal.
From the Brookings report:
The president and his proxies have frequently advanced the claim that such coordination, even if it occurred, would not be unlawful. Their refrain that “collusion is not a crime” is in one sense correct. Collusion is not a single crime. It is instead a rubric that encompasses many possible offenses. We detail some of the principal ones in this report.
All turn on the possibility that Trump or his associates took action in connection with Russia’s attempts to impact the outcome of our country’s presidential election. The criminal nature of the Russian effort is already well-known. The special counsel’s 191 charges brought against 35 individuals and companies spell out some of the crimes allegedly committed in furtherance of the Russian attack on our democracy. Those include indictments of Russian individuals and entities for their participation in conspiracies to hack into the computer and email systems of Trump’s political opponents and release damaging information and to engage in a social media disinformation campaign using fake identities.
Notice the last highlighted sentence in the section above. It plainly states that a Trump representative would not need to have been involved in illegally obtaining information to support a conspiracy charge. All that is needed would be evidence of an agreement, tacit or explicit, about the release or use of such information. Other avenues exist for holding Trumpists accountable on the subject of collusion. From Brookings:
Another example of a “collusion” crime is conspiracy to defraud the United States, which the special counsel charged against Russian social media propagandists and hackers in a February 2018 indictment. Their cyber-misconduct—which included buying political advertisements on social media and organizing political rallies without revealing their Russian identities—defrauded the U.S. by interfering with our 2016 federal elections. If Trump campaign operatives played a role in these activities—for example, by strategically advising the social media disinformation efforts carried out by Russian operatives, or planning speeches or other campaign events around that disinformation—then the Trump campaign could also plausibly be a part of Russia’s broader conspiracy to defraud the United States.
These kinds of possible campaign encouragement of, or involvement in, illegal Russian activity do not just implicate conspiracy law. Russians have been indicted for violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and their conduct could potentially implicate the Wiretap Act as well. And even if the campaign did not encourage or direct the Russian hacking, individuals associated with the campaign could still be subject to prosecution for aiding and abetting—in lay terms, helping—a violation of those statutes. Aiding and abetting liability could become a factor if, for example, campaign operatives took action to encourage the Russians to publish or otherwise use the hacked materials.
Notice the first section highlighted above. It plainly states that Trump representatives would not need to be involved in hacking Democratic Party computers to be charged with collusion. Using the disinformation to plan speeches or campaign events would be enough.
The second section highlighted above also makes it clear that Trump reps would not need to be involved in document theft to be charged criminally with collusion. Taking steps to aid and abet the Russian scheme would do the trick.
We have more coming on this topic, but for now, here are two take-home points:
(1) Bill Barr brazenly lied to the American people about the law governing collusion in the Trump-Russia probe;
(2) If the rule of law still applies in the U.S., Trump and Co. are no more exonerated on collusion than they are on obstruction of justice.
(To be continued)
|Peer-to-peer file sharing|
If prosecutors strike out on the four-factor test federal courts have established to determine if an accused acted knowingly in a child-pornography case, they have at least two other chances, based on our research. We've shown hat -- given an ethical judge and a competent jury -- prosecutors are likely to strike out on the four-factor test in the pending Missouri case of U.S. v. Scott J. Wells.
So,, how might the feds fare with their two additional strikes in Wells? Let's take a look at the questions those pose. We will call these factors No. 5 and No. 6:
(5) Did Wells use file-sharing software, such as LimeWire or Kazaa?
Our research indicates this might be the most important arrow in the prosecutor's quiver for proving knowing intent in a child-porn case. In fact, if it can be proven an accused used peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing software -- and LimeWire and Kazaa are two of the most commonly used such programs -- his chances of beating charges in a child-pornography case are very slim.
LimeWire was at the heart of U.S. v. Hill (8th Cir., 2014), a case that originated in Southwest Missouri and includes some of the same investigators involved in Wells. From the Hill opinion:
Hill admittedly downloaded and actively used LimeWire—file-sharing software that made the scores of pornography files in Hill's shared folder accessible to any LimeWire user in the world, including Officer Smith. LimeWire itself was a publicly accessible program available for free download by anyone with a computer and an internet connection. Hill had no reasonable expectation of privacy in such publicly shared files and “ ‘cannot invoke the protections of the Fourth Amendment.’ "[quoting United States v. Ganoe, 538 F.3d 1117, 1127 (9th Cir.2008)] . . .
The evidence presented at trial was also more than sufficient to convict Hill of knowingly receiving and distributing child pornography. At trial, Hill unequivocally confessed to “knowingly receiving and distributing child pornography” as charged in the indictment and intentionally using LimeWire to download and view the images and one of the videos for which he was convicted. Hill claimed he searched for and downloaded child pornography in an ill-conceived plan to protect his stepdaughters, not knowing the files in his LimeWire shared folder would be accessible to other users. But the jury was not obligated to accept Hill's admittedly irrational justifications and belated claims of ignorance.
Kazaa was central to a case styled U.S. v. Griffin, 482 F.3d 1008 (8th Cir., 2007). That case started with an investigation of child-porn distribution in Denmark and found its way to James Griffin in Davenport, Iowa. From the Griffin opinion:
Griffin admitted that he downloaded child pornography from Kazaa — an internet peer-to-peer file-sharing network — but maintains that he only downloaded the images and videos for his personal use, not for distribution to others. However, Griffin also admitted that he knew Kazaa was a file-sharing program and knew that, by using Kazaa, other Kazaa users could also download files from his computer. The government asserted that Griffin's use of Kazaa with knowledge of its capabilities constituted distribution. By using the file-sharing site, Griffin enabled other Kazaa users to download files from Griffin's shared folder, including any child pornography files stored there. Otherwise, the government argued, Danish police could not have traced the partially downloaded child pornography clip discovered in Denmark back to Griffin.
Bottom line: Hill and Griffin were toast when prosecutors were able to show they used file-sharing software to receive and distribute child pornography. The law is settled that the use of such programs establishes knowing intent. But what about Scott Wells? What do investigators say in their complaint/affidavit (embedded at the end of this post) about file-sharing programs.
(6) Did Wells pay to subscribe to a Web site that provides access to child-porn images?
The Web apparently is awash with Web sites where a user can pay for a subscription that allows him to obtain images of child pornography. In other words, some people make money -- probably significant amounts of money -- from trading in child porn. Such a subscription, to a now-shuttered Web site called Lolitagurls.com, was central to a case styled United States v. Gourde, 440 F.3d 1065 (9th Cir.2006). From the Gourde opinion:
Turning first to the website itself, the evidence is unequivocal that Lolitagurls.com was a child pornography site whose primary content was in the form of images. Indeed, the owner admitted that it "was a child pornography website that he operated as a source of income." The owner's confession to the FBI established that Lolitagurls.com actually contained illegal content, the possession, receipt or transfer of which would be a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252. . . .
The affidavit then moves from one certainty, that child pornography was on the website, to another—that [Michah] Gourde had access and wanted access to these illegal images. Gourde subscribed to Lolitagurls.com for over two months, from November 2001 to January 2002. As a paying member, Gourde had unlimited access to hundreds of illegal images. He clearly had the means to receive and possess images in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252. But more importantly, Gourde's status as a member manifested his intention and desire to obtain illegal images.
Membership is both a small step and a giant leap. To become a member requires what are at first glance little, easy steps. It was easy for Gourde to submit his home address, email address and credit card data, and he consented to have $19.95 deducted from his credit card every month. But these steps, however easy, only could have been intentional and were not insignificant. Gourde could not have become a member by accident or by a mere click of a button. This reality is perhaps easier to see by comparing Gourde to other archetypical visitors to the site. Gourde was not an accidental browser, such as a student who came across the site after "Googling" the term "Lolita" while researching the Internet for a term paper on Nabokov's book. Nor was Gourde someone who took advantage of the free tour but, after viewing the site, balked at taking the active steps necessary to become a member and gain unlimited access to images of child pornography. Gourde is different still from a person who actually mustered the money and nerve to become a member but, the next morning, suffered buyer's remorse or a belated fear of prosecution and cancelled his subscription. Instead, Gourde became a member and never looked back—his membership ended because the FBI shut down the site. The affidavit left little doubt that Gourde had paid to obtain unlimited access to images of child pornography knowingly and willingly, and not involuntary, unwittingly, or even passively.
A subscription to Lolitagurls.com showed clear knowing intent in Gourde and pretty much ensured he would be convicted -- with the conviction upheld on appeal. What about Scott Wells? Does the government, in its complaint/affidavit, point to his membership in any online provider of illegal images? The feds own evidence, as it exists for now, does not say a word about Wells' involvement with any such subscription site.
Through two posts, we have examined six factors the government usually uses to prove an accused acted knowingly in a child-pornography case. Our analysis shows the feds, based on their own complaint/affidavit, struck out on all six factors in U.S. v. Wells-- and yet, Scott Wells has been detained for more than two years, and he remains (for now) in the Greene County Jail in Springfield, MO.
We can find no sign of probable cause to support Wells' arrest, detention, or a search of his home. And yet, he remains behind bars because of charges the government almost certainly cannot prove.
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