The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Sources Say Mueller Has a Grand Jury; Others Say It’s Just an Okay One

Notice that in one day, the public learned three different things about former FBI Director Robert Mueller’s investigation, from three different news organizations.

The Wall Street Journal: “Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in Washington to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, a sign that his inquiry is growing in intensity and entering a new phase.”

CNN: “Federal investigators exploring whether Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian spies have seized on Trump and his associates’ financial ties to Russia as one of the most fertile avenues for moving their probe forward, according to people familiar with the investigation.”

Reuters: “A grand jury has issued subpoenas in connection with a June 2016 meeting that included President Donald Trump’s son, his son-in-law and a Russian lawyer.”

As Trump would say, “this will all come out in the wash.” Right now, we don’t know what Mueller and his team knows or has found. At some point, if they want to prosecute someone, they will have to showcase their evidence against particular individuals, and the jury – and presumably the interested public – will have a chance to consider that evidence. There’s no point in Trump or his defenders going to DEFCON 1 this early. This could end with minor charges against indivudals on the periphery of Trump’s orbit, or it could lead to something much bigger. Best to keep the powder dry until it’s needed.

But our Andy McCarthy makes an important point:

The Justice Department told the public that this was a counterintelligence investigation; thus, neither the American people nor the people implicated in the investigation were given notice that crimes were suspected, much less what particular crimes and who the suspects are. That is intolerable now that we are formally in a criminal-investigation mode.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that the special counsel should be barred from investigating any crimes he reasonably suspects at this point. Nor do I mean to imply that the president is entitled to more favorable legal standards than any other American would be. But in the higher interest of his capacity to function as president and our capacity to hold our political representatives accountable, President Trump and the American people should be told whether he is suspected of criminal wrongdoing and, if so, what wrongdoing.

Wasserman Shultz: Anti-Muslim Bias Led to My Staffer’s Arrest

Wow. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is basically accusing the FBI of anti-Muslim bias in their arrest of her former IT staffer, Imran Awan. Several members of Awan’s family were accused of “stealing equipment from members’ offices without their knowledge and committing serious, potentially illegal, violations on the House IT network” and the FBI arrested him

His arrest, the congresswoman said, had nothing to do with the months-long investigation of Awan as an IT worker for a variety of members of Congress. An FBI affidavit filed with the criminal complaint said Awan and his wife claimed a property used to secure a home equity line of credit was a “principal residence,” when it was, in fact, a rental property. Wasserman Schultz said there still hasn’t been any evidence presented that he’s done anything wrong involving his work for Congress.

And, she said, she believes he may have been put under scrutiny because of his religious faith. Awan is Muslim.

“I had grave concerns about his due process rights being violated,” she said. “When their investigation was reviewed with me, I was presented with no evidence of anything that they were being investigated for. And so that, in me, gave me great concern that his due process rights were being violated. That there were racial and ethnic profiling concerns that I had,” she said.

Elsewhere in that interview, Wasserman Schultz says she doesn’t think Awan was fleeing the country. The affidavit from the FBI said that Awan’s wife, Hina Alvi, left the country abruptly, with a great deal of cash in March.

ALVI was with her three children, who your Affiant later learned were abruptly taken out of school without notifying the Fairfax County Public School System. ALVI had numerous pieces of luggage with her, including cardboard boxes. A secondary search of those items revealed that the boxes contained household goods, clothing, and food items. U.S. Customs and Border Protection conducted a search of ALVI’s bags immediately prior to her boarding the plane and located a total of $12,400.00 in U.S. cash inside. ALVI was permitted to board the flight to Qatar and she and her daughters have not returned to the United States. ALVI has a return flight booked for a date in September 2017. Based on your Affiant’s observations at Dulles Airport, and upon his experience and training, your Affiant does not believe that ALVI has any intention to return to the United States.

I guess we’ll see whether his wife returns in September. If she doesn’t, then the theory that they planned to flee the country doesn’t seem so farfetched, now does it?

Maybe Awan is innocent of all the charges. But if he isn’t, Wasserman Schultz really deserves to be raked over the coals for making a spurious charge of racial bias.

The Republicans Seek Out and Find Justice in West Virginia

The Republican Party added its 35th governor last night without an election.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced Thursday he’s switching parties to join Republicans as President Donald Trump visited the increasingly conservative state.

Justice told about 9,000 Trump supporters at a rally in Huntington that he will be changing his registration Friday, Aug. 4. He recently visited the White House twice with proposals on manufacturing and coal, noting that neither he nor Trump are politicians and they both ran to get something done, he said.

“This man is a good man. He’s got a backbone. He’s got real ideas,” Justice said. “He cares about America. He cares about us in West Virginia.”

Trump said they spoke a few weeks ago about working together to open coal mines and create jobs in furniture manufacturing and other forms of manufacturing. “But Governor Justice did something else very important tonight. He showed the country that our agenda rises above left or right,” Trump said.

There are some voices who think the West Virginia governor is making a terrible mistake. Matthew Dowd calls it “one of the few examples of getting on the Titanic after it has already hit the iceberg.” Taegan Goddard reacts, “Who knows . . .  but this could go down as one of the most poorly-timed political moves in a long time.”

These guys seem really convinced that there’s going to be an exceptionally broad-based backlash against President Trump that will hurt many, many Republicans out of office. That could happen, of course . . .  although we haven’t seen it so far in any of the House special elections. When we look at the near future, the New Jersey gubernatorial race is a dumpster fire and virtually already over for Republicans, and Virginia’s looks close.

Let’s also remember, this is West Virginia. Assume that the country begins to strongly prefer Democrats in the coming year or three. Justice won’t face the voters again until November 2020, and even if Democrats do make a comeback in that state, what kind of Democrats do you think will be riding that wave? Do you think they’ll be pro-choice, anti-coal gun control advocates? Or do you think they’ll be more like Joe Manchin – pro-government spending cultural conservatives?

In other words, if and presumably when Justice runs for reelection, just how different do you think his agenda and perspective are going to be when he runs as a Republican instead of as a Democrat?

ADDENDA: Hopefully today, a new episode of the pop culture podcast will arrive here. Mickey and I contemplate the siren’s call of high school reunions, the existential crisis of the NFL preseason – with starters now not playing in two of the five weeks, what’s the point? — that bizarre New York Post article announcing zaftig figures are back in style, ABC’s Somewhere Between and other summer programming, and those cultural phenomenon you hate that everyone else seems to love.

This is one of the rare recent podcasts where I didn’t discuss Twin Peaks. Indulge me again.

With six episodes remaining in the new and likely final season on Showtime, I now suspect that Dale Cooper will not “come back” from his lengthy psychological vacation, living an alternate life as addle-brained insurance salesman Dougie Jones.

I predict that at some point, Coop will have a choice of returning to his life as Dale Cooper, an FBI agent who’s been missing for 25 years, or remaining as Dougie, with a wife and son who need him. He’ll choose the path of Dougie.

Right now, everything’s pointing to this. Viewers have been treated to a recurring theme of fathers and their children. Ben Horne laments that his grandson, the child-killing monster Richard Horne, “never had a father.” We saw Warden Murphy get killed right in front of his son. Bobby Briggs turned around his life in part because of his father’s benevolence and faith in him. (He’s having a tough time doing the same with his daughter Becky, but we know Bobby cares about his daughter.) Andy and Lucy are so proud of their faux-thoughtful ninny son. We got a farewell to Doc Hayward, played by Warren Frost, co-creator Mark Frost’s real-life father. And of course, the plot of the entire show was put in motion by the ultimate Bad Father, Leland Palmer.

FBI Deputy Director Gordon Cole at times seems like a fatherly figure to Albert, and Albert seems to tolerate him as an increasingly nutty/Alzheimer’s-ridden father. (At times Albert seems strangely nonchalant about the search for Coop, and I’m starting to think about them sort of as surrogate brothers, learning from the father figure Cole. Miguel Ferrer is a little older than Kyle MacLachlan and Chris Isaak; maybe Albert’s previous irritability stemmed from sibling rivalry with the younger agents being invited into the “Blue Rose” family.)

The FBI is Cooper’s only real family; My Life, My Tapes makes clear that Cooper had been estranged from his brother for decades and his mother died fairly young. Annie, the love interest from season two, has only been mentioned in passing once this season. We saw in the last episode that Audrey’s life has moved on, in a generally bad direction. Other characters discuss Harry Truman as if he’s at death’s door. Life moved on without Dale Cooper; he can’t return to the Twin Peaks he knew because the Twin Peaks he knew doesn’t exist anymore.

The theme of the new series may well be that despite the subtitle “The Return,” you can’t go home again, and a lesson that we can’t spend our days dwelling in nostalgia – which may come across as some heavy-handed lecturing to a devoted fan base.

(I’m reminded that Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost wrote a book called The Six Messiahs, imagining Arthur Conan Doyle traveling the United States in 1894 and being constantly hounded by Sherlock Holmes fans, demanding to know how he could have killed off Holmes, and whether he will bring him back in a future book.)

Learning to accept the twists and turns that life has brought to us is a theme in line with David Lynch’s transcendental meditation/Eastern philosophy thinking. If it shakes out this way, I’ll probably end up chalking up the Showtime series as a fascinating disappointment. This message, well-intended as it is, required a giant bait-and-switch upon the audience, promising a return of a beloved show but only using its trappings to present a very different story . . . 


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