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Hullabaloo


Thursday, August 31, 2017

 

Flipping off the president

by Tom Sullivan

Crosby, Texas officials have evacuated the town. The flooded Arkema chemical plant still threatens to explode at any time. As waters recede in Houston, Tropical Storm Harvey has moved east, flooding Port Arthur and threatening Louisiana with 10 inches of rain.

Still further east, storm clouds of another kind are building. Special counsel Robert Mueller and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have teamed up in the investigation into Paul Manafort's financial transactions. MSNBC's "All In with Chris Hayes" discussed the development last night:

“What Schneiderman and Mueller are gaming out is how to apply pressure on Manafort in a way that would be essentially immune to the dangle of presidential pardon,” “All In” host Chris Hayes explained. “But watching this story, that has to be figuring in the thinking of everyone right now, as a former Watergate prosecutor, I imagine you thought of that as well.”

“I think it’s a brilliant idea, I think it absolutely could work because I believe that the abuse of the pardon power could actually amount to an obstruction of justice,” former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks explained.

“I think the promise of a future pardon for anyone who has been involved in any wrongdoing, and then the pardon of Joe Arpaio, which sends the message to them, ‘don’t worry…you don’t have to cooperate,” Wine-Banks explained.

“You can be in contempt of court and I’ll pardon that too,” she concluded. “So I think the only way to avoid the abuse of his pardon power is to bring state charges.
If the president expects to use his pardon power to defuse the ticking bomb he's sitting on, Mueller and Schneiderman just took away his wire cutters. Presidential pardon power does not extend to state crimes. By bringing Schneiderman into the mix, Mueller just burned the "get out of jail free" card that might keep Manafort from flipping on the president (presuming there is a crime being concealed). And speaking of flipping, Mueller and Schneiderman let Manafort, the president, and any others involved in Russiagate know it.

"One of the people familiar with progress on the case said both Mueller’s and Schneiderman’s teams have collected evidence on financial crimes, including potential money laundering," Josh Dawsey reports for Politico.

New York is not the only state jurisdiction where charges could be filed, NBC reports. Virginia and Illinois might also come into play, but not only them. Presidential pardons issued in an attempt to shut down federal investigations might open the flood gates on state cases:
Beyond the three main states, the legal arguments for potential criminal jurisdiction are even broader, extending to many of the 39 states that were subject to Russian hacking.

According to U.S. intelligence and public accounts, Russian efforts included criminal hacking into Democratic National Committee emails, a conspiracy to distribute that stolen material, and separate computer intrusions into state election systems. That activity could form the basis of felony cases in several states, and conspiracy charges if any Americans were found to be involved.

[...]

According to legal scholars and former prosecutors surveyed by MSNBC, the case for local Russia prosecutions would be stronger if the federal case is prematurely shut down.
Former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather told Chris Hayes last night:
“Donald Trump is afraid,” he continued. “He’s trying to exude power and strength. He’s afraid of something that Mueller and the prosecutors are going to find out. What you’re seeing time after time is a president who is, within himself, seized with fear.”

“That’s going to be a political hurricane out there at sea for him — we’ll call it ‘Hurricane Vladimir,’ the whole Russian thing,” Rather said. “It’s still pretty far out at sea, but each day…it’s building in intensity.”
Breaking: The Arkema facility experienced two explosions about 2 a.m. local time:
Two explosions have taken place at a chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, that lost power due to flooding caused by tropical storm Harvey.

A sheriff’s deputy was taken to hospital after inhaling chemical fumes, and nine others have driven themselves to hospital as a precaution. The plant makes organic peroxides used in the production of plastic resins, polystyrene, paints and other products.

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