Russian-linked donations to GOP Senators could explain their rush to confirm Kavanaugh

GOP Senators like Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham are dead set on confirming Brett Kavanaugh, in the face of unprecedented public opposition and despite the fact they have a list of several other possible nominees who would satisfy conservatives, and who could likely be confirmed with much less difficulty. GOP Senators could force Trump to nominate someone else very easily. All they would have to do is tell Trump they don’t have the votes. They also have time. Even if Democrats win control of the Senate in November, that wouldn’t take effect until January of next year, and if the GOP is willing to force a confirmation through a month before a midterm election, they would certainly be willing to force a confirmation through right after a midterm election. Mitch McConnell hasn’t exactly shown himself to be beholden to convention when it comes to Supreme Court Justice nominations (see: Merrick Garland). But, they aren’t forcing Trump to select a better nominee. They are instead trying to rush through confirmation of this obviously flawed nominee. Why? Midterm elections are just around the corner. Jamming through the confirmation of a historically unpopular Supreme Court Justice, who also stands accused of attempted rape, is not a good way to win a midterm election. So, why don’t they just force Trump to nominate somebody else? What makes Brett Kavanaugh so special that he is worth all this trouble?

The explanation could possibly be found by going back to August 2017 when it was revealed that GOP Senators received millions of dollars in funding from a Russian-linked oligarch:

Dallas News: GOP campaigns took $7.35 million from oligarch linked to Russia

Donald Trump and the political action committees for Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich and John McCain accepted $7.35 million in contributions from a Ukrainian-born oligarch who is the business partner of two of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s favorite oligarchs and a Russian government bank.

During the 2015-2016 election season, Ukrainian-born billionaire Leonard “Len” Blavatnik contributed $6.35 million to leading Republican candidates and incumbent senators. Mitch McConnell was the top recipient of Blavatnik’s donations, collecting $2.5 million for his GOP Senate Leadership Fund under the names of two of Blavatnik’s holding companies, Access Industries and AI Altep Holdings, according to Federal Election Commission documents and OpenSecrets.org.

So, there is already proof out there that Russian-linked money (Blavatnik was born in the Soviet Ukraine and is a shareholder of a Russian aluminum company) made its way into the campaign funds of prominent GOP Senators like Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham. And this is just what we know right now.

There is also the matter of what Paul Manafort knows and what Paul Manafort could be telling Robert Mueller:

Trump’s campaign manager pleads guilty to conspiracy against the United States, will cooperate with special counsel – could implicate numerous people in crimes

In addition, the Republican National Committee could be implicated, as per Manafort’s notes from the meeting:

Manafort’s notes from the Trump Tower Russia meeting reportedly mention political contributions and the RNC

Congressional investigators examining Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election are now focusing on whether the Trump campaign or the Republican National Committee received donations from Russian sources after a meeting involving two Russian lobbyists in Trump Tower last year, according to a Thursday NBC report.

President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, attended the meeting, on June 9, 2016, with two Russian lobbyists: Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin. Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, organized the meeting.

Manafort took notes during the meeting on his iPhone and submitted them to the Senate Intelligence Committee late last month. References to political donations and the RNC in the notes have “elevated the significance” of the meeting for congressional investigators, according to NBC.

The Manafort note is fairly cryptic, but it suggest the possibility that the Republican National Committee may have also taken money from Russia.

Then there’s the fact that the Russians also hacked some GOP e-mail accounts, but no hacked materials from the GOP have ever been released to the public:

NBC News: Russia Hack of U.S. Politics Bigger Than Disclosed, Includes GOP

But the hackers –- some of whom are believed to be Russian government employees working regular hours just like other bureaucrats –- have also quietly targeted a broad array of Republicans too as part of the same cyberespionage campaign, say sources.

If sensitive or potentially embarrassing information about GOP politicians or officials was hacked, but never released, there remains open the possibility that the Russians have been holding the information to be used for “kompromat”, essentially a form of blackmail.

Perhaps not coincidentally, several GOP Senators decided to spend the 4th of July in Moscow this year, something that surely was not a great choice as far as political optics goes, which raises the question of just why they want at all:

Daily Beast: GOP Senators Tell Contradictory Stories About Moscow Trip

A top Republican senator shocked his colleagues when he suggested, after returning from a trip to Moscow with fellow GOP lawmakers, that U.S. sanctions targeting Russia were not working and the Kremlin’s election interference was really no big deal.

Now, the senators who joined him for the series of meetings with senior Russian officials are sharply disputing not only Sen. Ron Johnson’s (R-WI) conclusions—but also his account of what went on behind closed doors in Moscow.

“I think the sanctions are hurting them badly both in terms of their pocketbooks and in terms of their status in the world,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), who joined the congressional delegation last week, said in an interview. “I don’t want to over-state this, but these were very tense meetings.”

Lastly, in 2016, while Mitch McConnell was receiving millions from a Russian oligarch, and was made aware of the fact that Russians had also hacked the GOP, Mitch McConnell was also refusing to go along with President Barack Obama’s wishes to issue a bipartisan statement about the Russian election interference:

MSNBC: McConnell’s response to Russian attack is back in the spotlight

In early September, Johnson, Comey, and Monaco arrived on Capitol Hill in a caravan of black SUVs for a meeting with 12 key members of Congress, including the leadership of both parties. The meeting devolved into a partisan squabble.

“The Dems were, ‘Hey, we have to tell the public,’ ” recalled one participant. But Republicans resisted, arguing that to warn the public that the election was under attack would further Russia’s aim of sapping confidence in the system.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) went further, officials said, voicing skepticism that the underlying intelligence truly supported the White House’s claims.

So, what does all of this have to do with Brett Kavanaugh? Well, there is a circumstantial chance that it isn’t just Donald Trump and the Trump campaign that could be implicated in crimes by the Mueller investigation, but also members of the Republican National Committee, campaign officials for GOP Senators and members of Congress, or even GOP Senators and members of Congress themselves (cough, Devin Nunes, cough). If they know there is a possibility they or others could be implicated in the Mueller investigation, they would also have good reason to try to ensure that the information from the Mueller investigation never sees the light of day, and this is where there is potential for the Supreme Court to get involved.

The first option for covering up the Mueller investigation’s findings would be to fire Robert Mueller. How do you fire Robert Mueller? Well, first you fire Rod Rosenstein, which could be why the recent story about Rosenstein just came out: as a pretext for him to be fired. Then, after firing Rosenstein, Trump could argue that he has the right to fire Mueller.

Trump likely planted the story about Rod Rosenstein

If he does not name a replacement for Rod Rosenstein, oversight of the Mueller investigation would go to the solicitor general, Noel Francisco, who, while not making known if he would fire Robert Mueller himself, has argued in the past that the President can fire anyone in his administration and may use that argument to deem it is within Trump’s right to fire Robert Mueller.

If Trump goes down this path, it could end up going to the Supreme Court, because legal justification for Trump to follow this course of action lacks precedent. If it goes to the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh could end up being the deciding vote. Guess what Brett Kavanaugh previously stated about his opinion of a President firing a special counsel:

NBC News: Would Kavanaugh protect Trump from Mueller investigation?

In a 1998 article in the Georgetown Law Journal, Kavanaugh wrote that Congress should give the president the ability to fire special counsels, an opinion that Democrats have highlighted in the hours since he was nominated Monday evening.

This argument of Brett Kavanaugh’s has been written about many times with regards to how it could mean he would protect Trump from the Mueller investigation. But, it could be more than just Trump who Kavanaugh could end up protecting. It could be Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, or other GOP Senators, staff, or operatives who Kavanaugh could end up protecting if he ended up being the deciding vote that upheld Trump’s right to fire the special counsel.

It’s of course impossible to know with any certainty all that is motivating GOP Senators like Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell, but these men are very experienced political operators, and their actions and words regarding the nomination and possible confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh are making less and less sense from a political standpoint with each passing day. If Rod Rosenstein is indeed fired by Donald Trump, which looks to be a possibility right now, the reactions of these GOP Senators should be watched very closely, whether Brett Kavanaugh ends up being confirmed or not.

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Congressional opposition to Trump’s postal cuts, privatization plan grows

Lawmakers stand behind the “Federal agency with the highest public approval rating.”

Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill want to stop a Trump administration plan that envisions a privatized U.S. Postal Service. (Brynn Anderson/AP)

By Joe Davidson
Columnist
September 24 at 7:00 AM
A hefty, bipartisan congressional coalition wants to ensure that the mail carriers who trudge through snow, rain, heat and gloom of night are federal employees.

Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill increasingly appear ready to block President Trump’s plan to privatize and diminish the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).

With Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) taking the lead and 27 co-sponsors, including five Republicans, backing her, a significant segment of the Senate joins the House in telling Trump that a privatization plan would meet stiff opposition in Congress.

McCaskill’s proposed Senate resolution, introduced last week, says “Congress should take all appropriate measures to ensure that the United States Postal Service remains an independent establishment of the Federal Government and is not subject to privatization.”

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After the Kavanaugh Allegations, Republicans Offer a Shocking Defense: Sexual Assault Isn’t a Big Deal

By Jia Tolentino

September 20, 2018

Many conservatives have reacted as if they believe the accusations against Brett Kavanaugh, defending the right of a Supreme Court Justice to have previously attempted to commit rape.
Photograph by Mark Peterson / Redux for The New Yorker

Ever since the professor Christine Blasey Ford revealed that she was the woman who had accused the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, in a previously confidential letter, the conservative attempt to protect Kavanaugh from her story has been, to put it mildly, forceful. Ford claims that, in the early nineteen-eighties, when they were both attending prestigious private high schools in suburban Maryland, Kavanaugh attempted to rape her at a party. Republicans have framed this story as a craven act of character assassination rather than an account worth investigating before Kavanaugh receives a lifetime appointment to make pivotal decisions about the future of the nation—including decisions about, for example, the options that will be available to women if they get pregnant after being raped.

Kavanaugh says that Ford’s story is not true. He told the Washington Post, “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation.” Some of his allies appear to have settled on a strategy of insisting that Ford is simply mistaken—that she may well have been assaulted, but that it must have been someone else. (This theory quickly reached “Twin Peaks” levels of absurdity, with a conservative Post contributor writing a column titled “Is There a Kavanaugh Doppelganger?”) Other Kavanaugh supporters believe that Ford is outright lying, for political purposes. The conservative commentator Erick Erickson, who tweeted that he does not find the allegations “credible in any way, shape, or form,” later wrote, referring to Roe v. Wade, “Y’all, I’m sorry, but I have little patience for a group of people willing to destroy an innocent man so they can keep killing kids. And that’s exactly what this is about.”

But a startling number of conservative figures have reacted as if they believe Ford, and have thus ended up in the peculiar position of defending the right of a Supreme Court Justice to have previously attempted to commit rape—a stance that at once faithfully corresponds to and defiantly refutes the current Zeitgeist. These defenders think that the seventeen-year-old Kavanaugh could easily, as Ford alleges, have gotten wasted at a party, pushed a younger girl into a bedroom, pinned her on a bed, and tried to pull off her clothes while covering her mouth to keep her from screaming. They think this, they say, because they know that plenty of men and boys do things like this. On these points, they are in perfect agreement with the women who have defined the #MeToo movement. And yet their conclusion is so diametrically opposed to the moral lessons of the past year that it seems almost deliberately petulant. We now mostly accept that lots of men have committed sexual assault, but one part of the country is saying, “Yes, this is precisely the problem,” and the other part is saying, “Yes, that is why it would obviously be a non-issue to have one of these men on the Supreme Court.”

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