'Nothing to See Here!' Screams Secret Service - The Thursday AM Quickie 6/30/22

In case you missed it yesterday, R. Kelly got sentenced to 30 years in prison for sex trafficking -- plenty of time to plan a lucrative comeback as another victim of cancel culture run amok. - Corey

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Anonymous Officials Wouldn't Lie, Would They?

Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson's stunning testimony to the House committee investigating Donald Trump's Jan. 6, 2021 coup attempt was still the talk of the block yesterday. According to this sports betting website, gamblers rate Trump's chances of facing indictment at 22 percent, up from 14 percent, since Hutchinson's testimony. The presumably better-sourced Washington Post confirms that "Hutchinson's testimony 'contained credible nuggets of information that would support' prosecutors viewing Trump as an investigative target in a seditious conspiracy investigation."

Not everyone took this as good news. Within hours after Hutchinson spoke, anonymous sources from the Secret Service were pouring cold water on the most shocking details to any reporter who would listen (and was willing spread their anonymous claims, true or false). In particular, those sources said Trump aide Tony Ornato and Secret Service agent Bobby Engel were prepared to testify that Hutchinson's story about Trump assaulting an agent and seizing the wheel of the presidential limo never happened. Quite a few pundits took those anonymous statements at face value. That's a mistake.

Think about it. Hutchinson, a 26-year-old who became a key aide to Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows after joining the White House as an intern, faced intense pressure from Trumpworld not to testify. Committee members including the co-chair, Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, have already presented evidence of witness tampering by people close to Trump and likely by Trump himself -- and more evidence is to come. Facing all that pressure, why would she make up a story that could be refuted, and tell it under oath? Out of spite? Absurd.

Now consider those seeking to undermine her testimony. Everyone who was in the limo -- especially Trump but also the agents guarding him -- has multiple reasons they might be motivated to lie about what happened on that day. As for the Secret Service officials who cast doubt on Hutchinson's testimony, they did so anonymously, so if they're lying, they will face no consequences at all. Now, let's say that Ornato and Engel do end up testifying to the committee and do contradict Hutchinson's admittedly secondhand account of what happened in the presidential limo on Jan. 6. These anonymous officials have already told the world what these witnesses will say, before they have a chance to use their own words. Even if that's not witness tampering in the legal sense, it could certainly affect their testimony; those comments made it crystal clear to everyone, especially Ortano and Engel, what agency higher-ups (and perhaps Trump) expect them to tell the committee.

What's more, as Washington Post reporter Carol Leonnig told MSNBC, Ortano and Engel were known as Trump's "yes men." They may indeed remain loyal to him, even if they did have some sort of scuffle or, let's say, spirited disagreement with him while his coup attempt was underway. Given all this context, I think it's most likely that Hutchinson truthfully and accurately told the committee what she heard at the time. Even if events didn't happen precisely the way she described them -- although for all anyone knows, they did -- the most important parts of her testimony have not been contradicted by anyone but Trump, who as we all know is a serial liar. It's notable that the anonymous officials did not even try to shoot down Hutchinson's other damning claims: that Trump and his aides knew there would be violence on Jan. 6, that there was some knowledge of and coordination with extremist groups now charged with seditious conspiracy, that Trump wanted his armed supporters let through security checkpoints, or that Trump was angrily determined to get to the Capitol to join the mob. How strange that they tried to discredit the salacious detail most personally humiliating to Trump's ego. I should make clear that it isn't strange at all to anyone with a memory long enough to recall how things worked in Washington under that maniac's personality cult.

Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi -- who, for my money, is the most likely source of the anonymous quotes undermining Hutchinson -- spent yesterday complaining that the committee "didn't reach out" to the agency prior to Hutchinson's testimony. So what? Why would they? And while we're at it, why should American trust the Secret Service, given its consistently embarrassing record? They have a lot to answer for. It was only a few months ago that a member of the Biden family's personal detail got caught taking bribes from two guys posing as Homeland Security agents, whose motives remain unknown. Moreover, the prospect of Secret Service involvement in Trump's plot has already been raised by none other than Mike Pence, who, per the committee's information, was afraid to enter a Secret Service vehicle at the Capitol lest it take him somewhere he didn't want to go. Surely Pence had some reasonable basis for that suspicion. This is an agency that really doesn't want close scrutiny of its conduct, especially as it relates to Jan. 6, and for that reason alone I agree with this Washington Post columnist: bring it on. Testify away. And here's a question for the agents who, by virtue of their proximity to Trump, must have known something about his violent coup plot while it was in the conceptual stage: did they do anything to prevent it?

Some related updates:

  • Through her lawyer, Ginni Thomas, the GOP activist who played a role in the coup planning and wife of the Supreme Court Justice, wants the Jan. 6 committee to "provide a better justification" for interviewing her before she'll agree to do so. She's perhaps a little too accustomed to having things her way.
  • Eastman dropped a lawsuit seeking to prevent the committee from obtaining his call logs, as it emerged the Justice Department, which is running a separate investigation, had seized his phone.
  • Lev Parnas, a key figure in Trump's first impeachment, who connected Rudy Giuliani to Ukrainian officials for the purpose of digging up dirt on Joe Biden and his son Hunter, was yesterday sentenced to 20 months in prison for wire fraud and illegal campaign donations. Per the Associated Press, Giuliani "has not been criminally charged but he is being investigated to determine whether he violated a federal law that governs lobbying on behalf of foreign countries."
  • Fox News viewership falls by nearly half when the network airs daytime Jan. 6 hearings. Their minds are made up, Dear Leader can do no wrong!


Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson Will Be Sworn in Today

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement yesterday with a letter to President Joe Biden. Not long afterward came the news that Ketanji Brown Jackson will be sworn in as Breyer's replacement at noon today. The court will also release its final batch of opinions from its especially ignominious current term today. Yesterday the court decided to undo substantive aspects of its own 2020 decision that found a swath of eastern Oklahoma belonged to Native American tribes and limited the state's ability to prosecute crimes on those lands. In his dissent yesterday, Justice Neil Gorsuch, who wrote the 2020 decision, called the new majority opinion "ahistorical and mistaken"; the Muscogee (Creek) Nation called yesterday's ruling "an alarming step backward for justice on our reservation" that "will have a ripple effect throughout Indian Country across the United States." The decision also inspired disgusting displays of racism from the usual suspects.

Noted Election Denier Denies She Lost Tuesday Primary

A number of states held primary elections the other day but it was a very busy news day and most weren't closely competitive races so I figured you could wait until this morning for results. In Colorado, Trumpist election denier and indicted criminal Tina Peters lost the Republican primary for secretary of state to Pam Anderson; predictably, Peters told supporters "we didn’t lose, we just found evidence of more fraud." Corrupt weirdo Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert won her primary, however. In Illinois, Trumpist extremists won a number of Republican primary contests; as Politico reports, Darren Bailey emerged victories in a crowded GOP gubernatorial field thanks in part to a boost from Democrats who ran ads playing up his ties to Trump. And in New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul defeated two Democratic primary challengers by a wide margin; Andrew Giuliani, son of the beleagured liar and coup plotter Rudy, lost the Republican primary to Lee Zeldin. More results here from the AP and here from the New York Times.

Quickest Quickies

  • U.S. Increases Military Presence in Europe Measures announced yesterday by President Biden at a NATO summit in Madrid include a permanent base in Poland, "stationing of a brigade of 3,000 combat troops in Romania, two squadrons of F-35 fighters in the UK and two navy destroyers in Spain." via the Guardian.
  • FDA Advisers Urge New Vaccines for Covid Variants A final agency decision is expected in coming days as pharma companies will need months to ready new formulas for fall delivery. via the Washington Post.
  • Cops Harass Uvalde Mom Who Rescued Her Own Kids Since speaking up about police negligence during the May school shooting, Angeli Rose Gomez has been falsely accused of crimes and told to shut up through an intermediary. via HuffPost.
  • No More Suitcases Full of Cash for Prince Charles, Palace Claims The pledge from a "royal source" follows a report that Britain's next king accepted £2.5 million in cash from Qatari Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim. via the BBC.



That's how many daily and weekly newspapers in the U.S. have closed since 2005, according to a new report, leaving large parts of the country -- many in "economically struggling, traditionally underserved communities" -- with no local news coverage.


6/30: Emma hosts Natasha Lennard, columnist at The Intercept, to discuss her recent reporting before, during, and after Roe v. Wade's overturning by the Supreme Court. Then, Emma is joined by Greg Casar, candidate for Congress in Texas's 35th district, to give us an update from the campaign trail.

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"Corporate markups are real. Bringing them down would be beneficial to the economy, especially if you don't think that profits will necessarily go to more investment but simply be paid out as bonuses to shareholders and bosses."

-- Roosevelt Institute economist Mike Konczal, speaking to the Los Angeles Times about one cause of consumer price inflation that doesn't get talked about enough, much less addressed by policymakers: price-gouging by corporations to increase their profit margins.

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