Patterico's Pontifications

12/31/2020

Happy New Year’s Eve

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:29 am



This is one year we can stand to be rid of. That said, it has brought its blessings too. For me, we had some extra time with our daughter, and our family got along well and played games and grew closer.

Focusing on the positive, what good things happened to you this year?

12/30/2020

Sen. Hawley Plans To Object to Electoral College Vote Certifying Biden Win

Filed under: General — Dana @ 2:16 pm



[guest post by Dana]

Raise your hand if you’re surprised by this:

Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley said Wednesday he will object when Congress counts the Electoral College votes next week, which will force lawmakers in both the House and Senate to vote on whether to accept the results of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

Hawley is the first senator to announce plans to object to the results, which is significant because both a House member and senator are required to mount an objection when Congress counts the Electoral College votes on January 6.

The objection will not change the outcome of the election, only delaying the inevitable affirmation of Biden’s victory in November over President Donald Trump. Democrats will reject any objections in the House, and multiple Republican senators have argued against an objection that will provide a platform for Trump’s baseless conspiracy theories claiming the election was stolen from him.

Anyway, I’m not wasting any more words on these yahoos. Trump and his fellow Congressional cohorts have pathetically disgraced themselves (and the Republican Party) to an irreparable degree. This move by Hawley will force Trump’s cohorts who are pro-actively working to overturn a legitimate election to come forward. And when they do, they should not be allowed to have their names fade into the woodwork after Biden is sworn in. Their names should be remembered, especially when they come up for re-election. Named and shamed.

Anyway, countering the crazy circus that never seems to end, this:

Everyone needs to take a deep breath. Yes, the President and far too many Republicans are *continuing* to engage in dangerous, anti-democratic behavior—despite having utterly failed to substantiate *any* of the claimed electoral improprieties. But it’s just not going to work.

First, even if a Senator like Hawley joins a House member’s challenge to a particular state’s electors, there’s nowhere near a majority in *either* chamber (let alone both) to sustain the challenge. All that will happen from these challenges is the process getting slowed down.

Second, no, that doesn’t mean that Republicans can “run out the clock.” Even if McConnell somehow allowed this nonsense to drag on for *two weeks,* we’d end up with Acting President Pelosi at noon on 1/20, not President Trump. And the Twelfth Amendment isn’t to the contrary.

Third, none of the (still pending) lawsuits are going to change any of this. #SCOTUS isn’t about to throw out certified electors, and neither Judge Kernodle nor the Fifth Circuit is going to somehow enjoin VP Pence from performing his *ministerial* duty of counting the votes.

I know emotions are raw and tempers are short, but I think it’s actually affirmatively *unhelpful* for folks to buy into any of the preposterous conspiracy theories being spread in right-wing social media. They’ve been wrong *from the start*; the actual *experts* haven’t been.

None of this is to excuse any of the indefensible behavior from the President or far too many elected Republicans at both the state and federal levels.

But there’s no necessary correlation between indefensible arguments and plausible ones. This is all just PR—and sore losing.

Exit question: What do Hawley (and fellow sore losers) get out of sacrificing their integrity and reputations for the biggest sore loser of all?

–Dana

Trump Accuses Georgia’s Governor of Being An “Obstructionist,” Calls On Him To Resign

Filed under: General — Dana @ 10:27 am



[guest post by Dana]

It’s mind-boggling that almost two months after the election and after the vast majority of President Trump’s baseless complaints about election fraud have been tossed by the courts, Trump is now publicly pressuring a sitting governor to resign for refusing to rescind Joe Biden’s election win. As a reminder, Georgia election officials certified that Trump lost the election by approximately 12,000 votes:

In other words, we have the President of the United States calling on a sitting governor who was elected by the people of Georgia to resign because he is standing his ground and refusing to confirm Trump’s ongoing delusion that he won in the state of Georgia.

Trump and his allies have trained their grievances at Kemp and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), accusing the duo of mismanaging the election in Georgia. Trump’s tweet on Wednesday, however, marked the first time the president has called for Kemp to step down.

Trump has also sought to pressure Kemp and other Georgia officials to call a special session of the state General Assembly in a bid to toss out the state’s election results and appoint pro-Trump electors. That effort fell flat, however, and Georgia’s electors cast their votes for Biden on Dec. 14.

Last month, Sens. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), who are facing competitive runoff elections on Jan. 5, demanded that Raffensperger resign over his handling of the election. That demand was immediately dismissed by Raffensperger.

Unfortunately for Trump, after Raffensperger acquiesced to pressure from the President and conducted an audit of ballot signatures, the result was just more bad news for the President:

Law enforcement and election investigators didn’t find a single fraudulent absentee ballot during an audit of over 15,000 voter signatures, according to a report by the Georgia secretary of state’s office released Tuesday.

The audit contradicted allegations that absentee ballots were rife with fraud after President Donald Trump said the election had been stolen, said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Trump lost to Joe Biden by about 12,000 votes in Georgia.

There were 10 absentee ballots that had been accepted but voter signatures didn’t match or signatures were missing, according to the report. But agents from the GBI and investigators with the secretary of state’s office contacted those voters and confirmed they had submitted those ballots.

In one case, a voter’s wife signed her husband’s ballot envelope. Another voter signed the front of the envelope instead of the back. Eight voters had mismatched signatures, but the voters told investigators the signatures were legitimate.

Raffensperger, a Republican said the audit results confirmed the election outcome again after two recounts— both by hand and machine — of all 5 million ballots cast in Georgia’s presidential election.

Meanwhile, early voting has already started in the state’s Senate runoffs. Both President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-president elect Kamala Harris will be heading to Georgia to campaign for Democratic candidates on January 3 and January 4. President Trump is scheduled to hold a “big and wonderful rally” on Monday night on behalf of the Republican candidates.

It’s anybody’s guess whether the antics of the President and his latest call for Gov. Kemp to resign will help or hurt Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue Right now though, it appears to be as tight of a race as you can get:

Even with many prestigious pollsters sitting the Georgia runoffs out, there have been plenty of polls of the two U.S. Senate runoffs and they continue to show an exceptionally close race. As of Tuesday afternoon, Democrat Raphael Warnock had a nominal lead of 0.5 percentage points over Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler in the special Senate election, while Republican Sen. David Perdue had an equally slim 0.4-point lead over Democrat Jon Ossoff in the regular Senate election. We aren’t planning to make probabilistic forecasts in Georgia, but it’s safe to say that a “polls-only” view of the runoffs would put each race at about 50:50.

–Dana

Manhattan D.A. Hires Forensic Accounting Specialists to Look at Trump Financial Documents

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:29 am



The Manhattan D.A. is getting serious:

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has retained forensic accounting specialists to aid its criminal investigation of President Trump and his business operations, as prosecutors ramp up their scrutiny of his company’s real estate transactions, according to people familiar with the matter.

District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. opened the investigation in 2018 to examine alleged hush-money payments made to two women who, during Trump’s first presidential campaign, claimed to have had affairs with him years earlier. The probe has since expanded, and now includes the Trump Organization’s activities more broadly, said the people familiar with the matter. Vance’s office has suggested in court filings that bank, tax and insurance fraud are areas of exploration.

Vance has contracted with FTI Consulting to look for anomalies among a variety of property deals, and to advise the district attorney on whether the president’s company manipulated the value of certain assets to obtain favorable interest rates and tax breaks, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter remains highly sensitive. The probe is believed to encompass transactions spanning several years.

I think the chances they will find nothing are very low. Crooks gonna crook.

12/29/2020

Tough Times For President Trump

Filed under: General — Dana @ 6:29 pm



[guest post by Dana]

Look, can’t this guy catch a break?! After all, he just wants to golf in peace. Not only has he had to contend with his baseless election fraud claims getting laughed out of the courts while a stubborn pandemic that simply will not quit keeps hogging the his spotlight, and now, of all things, it looks like there’s a SHORTAGE OF 24-KARAT GOLD, MARBLE AND LOUIS XIV FURNISHINGS! Will his nightmare never end:

His mood darkened as soon as he walked into his members-only club Mar-a-Lago, three days before Christmas, according to multiple sources. The changes to his private quarters, many of which were overseen by his wife, first lady Melania Trump, were not to President Donald Trump’s liking, and he was mad about it, according to a source familiar with the President’s response.

Several weeks in the works, the renovations, undertaken to make the approximately 3,000-square-foot space feel larger and updated in preparation for the Trumps’ post-White House life, didn’t appeal to Trump’s aesthetics, according to his reaction. Trump was also displeased with other renovations at the property, the source said, not just in the living space.

“He was not happy with it,” said the source, who noted several loud, one-sided conversations with club management almost immediately ensued.

NOTE: It was Melania Trump, and her interior decorator, Tham Kannalikham, who selected many of the details on the renovations, however, not Mar-a-Lago staff, a fact of which Trump was well aware.

Tough times.

Maybe this will cheer him up. Even if it leaves the rest of us scratching our ungilded heads:

President Donald Trump has come out on top as Americans’ most-admired man for 2020, according to Gallup’s annual survey, ending former President Barack Obama’s 12-year run with the title.

This year’s poll results mark the first time Trump has won most-admired man on his own, after last year tying with Obama for the title…18 percent of the U.S. adults surveyed named Trump when asked which man “living anywhere in the world they admire most,” while 15 percent named Obama…

–Dana

Covid Vaccine: Who Is Getting It, Who Isn’t

Filed under: General — Dana @ 11:40 am



[guest post by Dana]

Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York is raising a ruckus with his acknowledgement that addicts in rehab are next to receive the Covid vaccine this week:

During a virtual news conference in Albany, Cuomo said the state was expecting to receive a combined 259,000 doses of Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

In addition to urgent care center employees and “individuals who are administering the COVID-19 vaccines, for obvious reasons,” Cuomo said that shots would be given to residents of “OASAS” — the state Office of Addiction Services and Supports.

The agency runs 12 treatment centers across the state, with five located in or around New York City, and also certifies and monitors “hundreds” of private facilities, according to its website.

“These are congregate facilities. Congregate facilities are problematic. That’s where you have a lot of people in concentration,” Cuomo said.

“Nursing homes are obviously the most problematic because they’re congregate plus older, vulnerable people. OASAS facilities, what we call the O facilities, they’re congregate — not necessarily older — but congregate facilities.”

Residents and staffers will be vaccinated at both the state-run and privately operated rehab centers, as well as at facilities run or licensed by the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and the Office of Mental Health, according to the state Department of Health.

Emergency medical services personnel, medical examiners and coroners and some funeral workers will also get shots, a DOH spokeswoman said.

After lobbying by a non-profit residential treatment center, the decision to give them a place toward the front of the line was made. The decision to prioritize recovering addicts was explained thusly:

…it made sense to give the shots to drug users because they were most likely “to get the disease and spread it.”

“We were overlooked initially. We got the governor’s office’s attention and Gov. Cuomo acted appropriately,” he said.

Meanwhile, Congressional staffers are now eligible to get the vaccine. This after members of Congress received the vaccine earlier this month:

Congress’ attending physician informed lawmakers Monday night that two staffers in every House member and senator’s personal offices are now eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine.

In addition, the Office of the Attending Physician is offering the vaccine to four staffers of every committee chair and every ranking committee member.

Congress received a limited batch of vaccines for lawmakers in mid-December that Monahan at the time indicated would be parceled to a small number of staffers if supplies permitted. His Monday night memo suggested that the early batch will provide for more than 1,000 Capitol Hill staffers to receive the two-shot regimen.

We knew that prioritizing the vaccine was going to be contentious and that any decision would bring about complaints and frustration. But it’s jarring to read about these frustrations unfolding in medical facilities across the nation:

Health care workers across the country have started receiving COVID-19 vaccines, but doctors and nurses at some of the nation’s top hospitals are raising the alarm, charging that vaccine distribution has been unfair and a chaotic “free-for-all.”

At hospitals in Massachusetts, New York, Arizona, California and elsewhere, medical professionals say that those with the most exposure to COVID-19 patients are not always the first to get vaccinated. And others who have little or no contact with COVID-19 patients have received vaccinations.

We also should have known that who you know would be a factor in whether non-frontline workers get the vaccine too.

–Dana

Former ACLU Leader Talks Defending Nazis Right To March And The Ongoing Need To Protect Speech

Filed under: General — Dana @ 9:38 am



[guest post by Dana]

In an in-depth interview at Reason, Former Executive Director Ira Glasser considers today’s uninformed views on free speech:

I went to one of the half-dozen best law schools in the country a year or two ago to speak. And it was a gratifying sight to me, because the audience was a rainbow. There were as many women as men. There were people of every skin color and every ethnicity. It was the kind of thing that when I was at the ACLU 20, 30, 40 years ago was impossible. It was the kind of thing we dreamed about. It was the kind of thing we fought for. So I’m looking at this audience and I am feeling wonderful about it. And then after the panel discussion, person after person got up, including some of the younger professors, to assert that their goals of social justice for blacks, for women, for minorities of all kinds were incompatible with free speech and that free speech was an antagonist.

As I said, when I came to the ACLU, my major passion was social justice, particularly racial justice. But my experience was that free speech wasn’t an antagonist. It was an ally. It was a critical ally. I said this to the audience, and I was astonished to learn that most of them were astonished to hear it—I mean, these were very educated, bright young people, and they didn’t seem to know this history—I told them that there is no social justice movement in America that has ever not needed the First Amendment to initiate its movement for justice, to sustain its movement for justice, to help its movement survive.

Martin Luther King Jr. knew it. Margaret Sanger knew it. [The labor leader] Joe Hill knew it. I can think of no better explication of it than the late, sainted John Lewis, who said that without free speech and the right to dissent, the civil rights movement would have been a bird without wings. And that’s historically and politically true without exception. For people who today claim to be passionate about social justice to establish free speech as an enemy is suicidal.

Among the subjects discussed in depth is whether Glasser believes that today’s ACLU would defend the Nazis’ right to march in the streets by opposing government restrictions on their speech and the continuing misperceptions of what took place and the ongoing need to protect everyone’s right to speech:

What the public sees is, “Oh, there’s the ACLU representing the Nazis.” We never see it that way. We were trying to oppose the government using the insurance bond requirement to prevent free speech. For us it didn’t matter who the client was, because we would use that client to strike down the bond requirements, and that would apply to everybody.

I used to joke that when people would say the trouble with free speech in America is that so few people support it, my response was always, “No, you’re wrong. Everybody in America supports free speech so long as it’s theirs or people they agree with.” Even in our own membership, the perception was that the ACLU was representing Nazis, not that the ACLU was opposing a government restriction on your speech.

Glasser also points out that it’s not one’s party affiliation that determines who protects and who attacks civil liberties and free speech. Rather it’s about who holds power:

Next to slavery and the homicidal, genocidal destruction of American Indians, the worst civil liberties violation that occurred in this country en masse was the incarceration of Japanese-American citizens during World War II. You know which president signed that executive order? Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was a god in my parents’ house because he had saved them from ruin financially. But for me, the antagonist of civil liberties and free speech is not this or that party; it’s power, whoever holds it.

Recently, I read Thomas Chatterton Williams’ (TCW) Self-Portrait in Black and White for a book club made up of similarly educated and socially justice-minded people that Glasser describes above. Briefly, TCW, who was born to a black father and a white mother and is married to a white woman, examines race and identity after his first child is born with blonde hair and blue eyes. During what proved to be the most controversial portion of the book, TCW shares how his elderly, beloved French grandmother-in-law kept “an astonishing, thick-lipped, bug-eyed porcelain head of a slave or servant woman on her coffee table (lidded and hollow inside, meant to hold bonbons, keys, and other knickknacks)”. He comments that “whenever I am in the living room where this keepsake is displayed, I am incapable of denying it my attention.” The book club was appalled that the grandmother-in-law did this. But they were even more appalled that TCW, and especially his white wife did not tell her that it was unacceptable to have such an item on display [in the privacy of her own home]. The group also believed that anyone who saw it had a moral obligation to confront her about it, enlighten her to its offensiveness, and demand that it be removed from view. Interestingly though, this was in spite of TCW describing to readers how he worked through the shock at seeing the object and eventually realized that it wasn’t representative of something he had personally experienced and thus was not obligated to react to it. He did note that, at the end of the day, “…there will be incalculable small, unfortunate situations such as the one I have recounted, instances of micro-aggression brought about in limited spaces between the racist past and a more perfect future. They can either be seized on and blown up or deemphasized whenever possible. To do the latter, it’s inevitable that someone will have to make the first move. I am more committed to getting to that more perfect future than I am to always moving second.” This did not go over well with the group.

My very unpopular take was that it was indeed, an offensive piece of pottery, yet it was a piece of pottery that a homeowner displayed within the privacy of her home. I believed that it was a form of speech. Her home, her speech. Thus, I wouldn’t have made any demands for her to remove it. However, I’m also pretty sure that I wouldn’t want much of anything to do with anyone who knowingly displayed such an object (as opposed to being ignorant about it, or displaying it as part of a historical collection).

Anyway, after a hush of disbelief, followed by an intense pushback at my take, came an incredulous demand of disbelief: “So, what, you would defend allowing the Nazis to march on the streets of America too??”

–Dana

12/28/2020

Trump Allows Unemployment Benefits to Expire for No Particular Reason

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:29 am



The Succeeding New York Times:

President Trump on Sunday abruptly signed a measure providing $900 billion in pandemic aid and funding the government through September, ending last-minute turmoil he himself had created over legislation that will offer an economic lifeline to millions of Americans and avert a government shutdown.

The legislative package will provide billions of dollars for the distribution of vaccines, funds for schools, small businesses, hospitals and American families, and money needed to keep the government open for the remainder of the fiscal year. The enactment came less than 48 hours before the government would have shut down and just days before an eviction moratorium and other critical pandemic relief provisions were set to expire.

But it also came after two critical unemployment programs lapsed, guaranteeing a delay in benefits for millions of unemployed Americans.

The crisis was one of Mr. Trump’s own making, after he blindsided lawmakers and White House officials with a videotaped implicit threat on Tuesday to veto the package, which his top deputies had helped negotiate and which had cleared both chambers of Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support nearly a week ago. The 5,593-page legislation was flown to Florida, where the president is spending the winter holidays, on Thursday and had been waiting for Mr. Trump’s signature since.

The lapse will result in real hardship for real people, who are in most cases suffering through no fault of their own — and there appears to have been absolutely no reason to wait until just after the lapse in benefits to sign. Just the typical erratic behavior from this lout.

It’s the exact same bill he had just finished refusing to sign, calling it a “disgrace.” His opposition has been comically stupid, with the stupidity reaching its grandest heights when Trump made a long speech decrying foreign aid allotments that were in every case almost to the penny what he himself had requested in his own budget proposal. Now Trump has indicated he will send a redlined version of the bill back to Congress with a list of specific items to which he objects and wants deleted. I’m sure they’ll get right on that.

Counting the days until he is gone.

12/27/2020

Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 83

Filed under: Bach Cantatas,General,Music — Patterico @ 9:34 am



It is the first Sunday after Christmas. The title of today’s cantata is “Erfreute Zeit im neuen Bunde” (Joyful time in the new covenant):

Today’s Gospel reading is Luke 2:22-40:

When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

The text of today’s cantata is available here, and contains these words:

Yes, though your faith still sees much darkness,
your Savior can part the shadows of doubt;
indeed, when the night of the grave
makes the last hour terrifying,
you will certainly
perceive His bright light in death itself.

Happy listening! Soli Deo gloria.

12/26/2020

A Note About Facts and the Rules Here

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 1:14 pm



This is not a post about the fate of one commenter on this site. I wouldn’t want to waste a post on that. It’s a rumination on Web discourse, and the importance of facts — and the problem that solid facts can come from sources you may not like, and misinformation can come from people you do like. (Helpful tip: if you find the people you like constantly feeding you misinformation, or if you find that their reaction to being called out on misinformation is to double down, obfuscate, or otherwise obscure the point, you might try finding different people to like.)

So: I wrote a post the other day that noted that there were some Trumpy cretins on the Twitters who were spreading disinformation about the Manafort investigation and convictions. Since I know Manafort to be a straight criminal, I thought I would take a moment to clear up some of that misinformation here. I have read not one, but several books that touch on the Special Counsel investigations. Since not everyone here has (and who can blame you?), I figured part of the value that you get from coming to a site like this is to get information you’re not necessarily going to see elsewhere, which helps you form opinions based on accurate facts.

In my post I said the following:

I have seen two defenses raised by Trumpy liars on Twitter. Both are false.

One is that Manafort never would have been investigated but for his involvement with Donald Trump. We are told that all investigations into Manafort had been closed, and were reopened by the Special Counsel. This is false. Whoever is saying it is either ignorant or is lying to you. I know this because I read the book by Manafort’s chief prosecutor, Andrew Weissman: Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation (affiliate link). I spent my morning reading time today re-reading several relevant passages from the book, to confirm my memory that four separate investigations were already ongoing and had not been closed when the Special Counsel entered the picture. The investigations included FARA, money laundering, bank fraud, and tax fraud issues. A new prosecutor had recently been appointed on one of those investigations.

While it is true that those investigations were being handled incompetently in many cases and at an indefensibly slow pace, they were ongoing. Manafort’s involvement with Trump did not “reopen” those investigations. It just got a competent and speedy prosecutor in charge of them.

That was part of my effort to set the record straight, since I knew that people with a poor track record of truth-telling were out there trying to convince people that Obama had shut down all the Manafort investigations and that Mueller had “reopened” them. It’s not true, and I wanted people to know it’s not true.

Onto that thread toddled a commenter who has been here a while, mostly repeating nonsense from the batshit insane lawyer Sidney Powell on behalf of Michael “hey how about a round of martial law to steal the election” Flynn. This particular time, this commenter unceremoniously squatted down in my comments section and pinched this off:

Paul Manafort was probably the only guy who deserves convictions for his crimes.

However, DOJ had closed the Manafort investigation during the Obama Administration.

It was resurrected by the SCO so they could use it for purposes of quickly gathering evidence with GJ subpoenas. There was no open GJ case in DOJ prior to the SCO being created…there’s documented evidence of that.

(This is completely false, as you should know by now — and if you don’t, you’re about to find out in detail.)

The commenter went on to say that in his opinion it was “absolutely disgraceful that anyone would take Weismann’s word on this” and argued that the FBI would have warned Trump about the investigations (who presumably would have warned Manafort, who presumably would have disposed of much of the treasure trove of evidence that hung him, so it’s pretty easy to see why the FBI would not warn Trump, and anyway Manafort’s dirty ties with Yanukovych were well known and a matter of public record). The commenter concluded by stating that the pardon did not bother him much because there are other examples of corrupt pardons in U.S. history — a common Trumper defense: the firehose of corruption displayed by Trump can be rationalized by reference to occasional trickles of past corruption by others.

It’s not my point here to focus on the commenter’s lame defense of the pardon, but to take issue with his decision to come into my comments section and drop a steaming pile of falsehood referenced in the immediately preceding block quote. We are told there is “documented evidence” that DoJ had “closed the Manafort investigation during the Obama administration” and that it was “resurrected” by Mueller. That is precisely the misinformation I had been at pains to correct in my post. And here comes this guy to tell us all that Patterico is not only wrong, but that it is “documented” that Patterico is wrong, and that it is “disgraceful” that Patterico is trusting the source he cited.

Before I address how utterly offensive that is, let me elaborate a little bit on the proof that what I said in the post is true. I’ll start by elaborating on what is in Weissman’s book, and move on to corroboration from other sources.

Weissman does not simply mention in passing that he took over active investigations. He describes in great detail his meetings with various teams that had been investigating Manafort for years, from the lawyers who oversee FARA registration to a team investigating money laundering by Manafort. All in all, Weissman says, four investigations that were ongoing at the time the Special Counsel entered the picture. Weissman says all of the prosecutors and investigators were gracious and helpful. But he does describe some appalling shortcomings in the investigations, and I’ll go through some of those here, to describe the level of detail that Weissman sets forth. Keep in mind that, according to our commenter who claims to know better, Weissman has to be lying about taking over active investigations, so all of the interchanges I am about to describe are supposedly “made up” and never really happened.

Weissman describes meeting with the team investigating Manafort’s money laundering, and how the higher-ranking folks took seats at the table while lower-level people who had a greater handle on the facts sat in chairs against the wall. Since the gravamen of the money laundering investigation centered on evidence that Manafort was hiding tens of millions of dollars in offshore accounts that he would subsequently launder through LLCs, Weissman asked what the status of the “MLATs” to the offshore banks were. He explains that MLATs are Multi-Lateral Assistance Treaties that allow U.S. law enforcement to seek bank records from foreign banks and other entities. Weissman was told that no MLATs had been issued but that the matter was on their “to do” list — an answer that showed Weissman that the people involved were not terribly focused or motivated, since MLATs are notoriously slow processes that take months. Weissman decided that it was clear he would have to take over the investigation. He resolved to issue the MLAT requests immediately, but in the meantime would issue subpoenas to domestic banks to jump-start the process of acquiring information about Manafort’s finances.

Weissman also asked prosecutors looking into possible tax fraud what Manafort’s tax returns showed. Here again, he was shocked to learn that the prosecutors had not obtained Manafort’s tax returns — usually a fairly routine request to a branch of the IRS (if memory serves) that makes such determinations. Weissman says that it was possible that the IRS was throwing up artificial roadblocks to an investigation of one of the president’s buddies, since the request to the IRS had apparently been made during the Trump administration, but he also believed that it was possible that this team had simply screwed up the paperwork and made an insufficient showing. He knew there was a workaround: subpoena Manafort’s tax documents from his preparers, and use any information thus obtained as part of a revised request to the IRS.

Weissman also describes meeting with the people who had been investigating Manafort’s failure to register as a foreign lobbyist. Manafort had been stonewalling them, falsely claiming he no longer had documents that related to his activities on behalf of Ukraine. Weissman asked what they had subpoenaed, and they responded that criminal subpoenas were not authorized to investigate FARA — something Weissman knew not to be true. He took over that active (but poorly run) investigation as well.

This is a tremendous amount of detail set forth by someone supposedly making up the whole story. Further, imagine how many people could prove Weissman a liar if he were making all of this up. Weissman ended up bringing into the Special Counsel’s office several of the forensic accountants and other investigators who had worked on the matter before Mueller took it over. Weissman names some of them and has praise for their work. If Weissman were making up these stories out of whole cloth, there are probably dozens of people who could come forward and show him to be a liar.

The story Weissman tells is generally one of incompetence and sloth on the part of the people investigating Manafort. But our commenter’s allegation that “DOJ had closed the Manafort investigation during the Obama Administration” and that it had been “resurrected by the SCO” (Special Counsel’s Office) is flatly false. All of these investigations had been going on for years and were still ongoing when Weissman took them over.

If you don’t like Weissman, you might not be inclined to take his word on the more granular details of precisely what took place at these meetings and how every subtlety played out.

But to believe that he simply made up the fact that the investigations were ongoing and that the Special Counsel took them over is tinfoil hat stuff.

By the way, you don’t have to take Weissman’s word for it, either. Public reports corroborate the truth: that Mueller took over already active investigations into Manafort. For example, on June 13, 2017, Newsweek reported:

The special counsel investigating U.S. President Donald Trump team’s alleged ties to Russia has taken over a separate criminal probe into former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

. . . .

The Justice Department’s criminal investigation into Manafort reportedly pre-dates the July launch of the FBI counterintelligence investigation into alleged collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russia.

The “July launch” refers to July 2016, as the Newsweek story was published in June 2017. The counterintelligence investigation into Manafort was first reported by the New York Times in January 2017, months before Mueller was appointed Special Counsel on May 17, 2017.

It’s simply beyond rational dispute that the Special Counsel took over existing investigations, which had been ongoing for years.

I demanded that our commenter either back up the claims he had made (claims he had said were backed by “documented evidence”) or retract it. In response, he delivered a word salad that remains in moderation because it does not comply with my demand. The commenter notes that Manafort was investigation during the Obama years (correct) and that “for whatever reasons no charges were filed until the SCO took over” (also correct) and then says:

I know FBI investigations don’t really get “closed” in the sense that it’s chucked into the ether never to be seen again. It’s really about what resources are used and the level of actives stemming from such investigations.

Actually, this commenter had said the Manafort investigations had indeed been “closed.” And yes, investigations are often “closed” in precisely the manner he denies. So is this a retraction? Not clear enough for me. And then he goes on to say: “I distinctly remember from either CNN or FoxNews (my two go-to news sites) that Manafort wasn’t charged during the Obama administration due to that, to paraphrase, it wasn’t worth it.” Oh! And here I was saying he had no evidence to back up his statement, when in fact we know that God knows who, with God knows what expertise or level of knowledge, asserted on one of two networks that it “wasn’t worth it” to charge Manafort. I mean, our commenter remembers this distinctly — so distinctly that he places the word “distinctly” in bold and italics!! His memory is so distinct in fact that he has narrowed down the place he saw it to one of two networks — although the distinctness does not extend to the identity of the person who made this claim.

Then he says:

Obviously, Manafort deserved to be prosecuted, but for whatever reason (either prosecuturial discretion or incompetence or whatever) he wasn’t charged then.

I spent nearly two days and I couldn’t find it, so I’ll own up to that. But I’d bet good money that it’d exist because it formulated my opinion right then and there.

Then the commenter goes on to do some ad hominems on Weissman.

Now. Does “I’ll own up to” the fact that I can’t find a link to something that doesn’t even contradict what Patterico said, or support what I previously said count as a retraction? I don’t think so. As a matter of fact, the notion that Manafort deserved to be prosecuted, but wasn’t because of prosecutorial incompetence, is completely consistent with the story I have told. And that does not support the claim that the commenter made, which was, just to remind you:

DOJ had closed the Manafort investigation during the Obama Administration.

It was resurrected by the SCO so they could use it for purposes of quickly gathering evidence with GJ subpoenas. There was no open GJ case in DOJ prior to the SCO being created…there’s documented evidence of that.

That claim is false. It directly contradicts what I said in the post to which that comment was appended.

I am not going to allow this commenter to comment again until he owns up to the fact that what he said is false. I want him to admit that he had not a single shred of evidence to back it up. I want him to retract it without any reservation or caveat whatsoever.

Frankly, I would appreciate it if he also shared the source of his false information, and revealed that he has now learned that the source he relied upon was wrong, and that in the future he should be more careful about relying on that source of information.

And if that commenter does not give me that retraction, he has left his last comment on my site.

Because here’s the thing, folks. This commenter has shown that he is willing to throw out false assertions of fact — and when called on it, he has tried to obfuscate. And again: I would not write a long post about my decision to moderate and perhaps ban (depending on whether I get my unreserved retraction) a single person — but there is a larger lesson here.

Web discourse is possible only when people can agree on a common set of facts — or, if they cannot agree on a set of facts, they must be able to discuss using logic, reason, and evidence why they disagree about what the underlying facts are. For someone to come into the comment sections of one of my posts and take a giant dump on it by flatly asserting that I am wrong and that it is “disgraceful” for me to trust the word of someone they don’t like — while giving zero support for their own contrary factual assertions and obfuscating when they are called on it — that is unacceptable. You don’t have to like everything about Andrew Weissman — I am quite sure I don’t like his politics — to be able to evaluate what he says with a clear head. Just because he says it doesn’t mean you get to declare it false.

This is important — for many reasons. One reason it is important: this is how we end up with this insane situation where tens of millions of people seem to believe a narrative about voting fraud in this country that is entirely made up out of whole cloth. (Yes, there are minor and isolated examples of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, including charged cases of Republicans voting on behalf of dead people, but the narrative of widespread Democrat fraud sufficient to swing any state’s election is utter and complete horseshit.) I am done conversing with people who aggressively advance a false set of factual assumptions and refuse to acknowledge when they are wrong. Such people contribute nothing to Web discourse, and in the case of the dispute over voter fraud they pose an actual danger to our republic. I used to be more patient with such people, but I’m done with that.

If I strongly suspect or know that you are propagating falsehoods, I will give you a chance to back it up. I’m not here to squelch legitimate discourse. And if you try to back up your statements but you’re wrong, I’ll show you where you are wrong and expect you to acknowledge it. If it’s a matter of opinion and not fact, I may disagree and we can part ways agreeing to disagree. If it’s a matter of fact, and you persistently refuse to acknowledge that you are wrong, I am done with you. It is as simple as that.

If I am wrong about anything I have said in this post, anyone can tell me. If you can prove it, I will acknowledge it. I expect the people I deal with to do the same. If they can’t or won’t, I will no longer deal with them.

Thus ends the rant.

UPDATE: I have received a sufficient response from the commenter, here, and I accept the apology and will unmoderate him.

I note that he did not identify the source of his misinformation but I hope that he will be more careful about trusting that source going forward.

Hopefully the post still contains useful information and was not a waste of readers’ time. Some of the detail is useful, and the discussion of the importance of facts is (to me) critical.

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