How Reagan Convinced Himself He Didn’t Sell Arms for Hostages

Daily Beast

How Reagan Convinced Himself He Didn’t Sell Arms for Hostages

Philip Taubman – January 28, 2023

Photo Illustration by Erin O'Flynn/The Daily Beast/Getty Images
Photo Illustration by Erin O’Flynn/The Daily Beast/Getty Images

Shocking news about secret arms-for-hostage deals rocked Washing­ton in late 1986. The first hint came with a White House announcement on November 2, that David Jacobsen, an American held hostage in Lebanon by Iranian-directed Islamic forces, had been released. As Secretary of State George Shultz read a draft White House statement about the development, he noted that it referred to freed “hostages,” with the “s” crossed out. That told him that the White House had expected Jacobsen would not be alone. Shultz suspected that the news meant that clandestine White House efforts to free captive Americans in the Middle East by send­ing arms via Israel to Iran might be responsible. He had first heard about the possibility in mid-1985.

Within a few weeks, the dimensions of the story expanded exponen­tially with word that some Iranian payments for American arms had been secretly diverted to the rebel Contra forces in Nicaragua that Washington hoped would topple the leftist Sandinista regime. The funding was in clear violation of a congressional cutoff of aid to the Contras. Overnight, the affair, quickly dubbed the Iran-Contra scandal, engulfed the White House.

Shultz realized that President Ronald Reagan faced an explosive crisis similar to Watergate that might upend his presidency. The fiasco staggered Shultz. It exposed his own failure to stop the arms-for-hostage dealing at several critical moments when he heard about pieces of it, objected to it but stopped short of forcefully intervening. He had delib­erately kept his distance, telling the White House officials who managed the arms shipments to Iran that he did not want to know the details.

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The scandal also forced Shultz to face up to Reagan’s weaknesses as president, for the affair, at its core, was a colossal blunder. As Shultz confronted the issue, he struggled mightily to remain loyal to Reagan while simultaneously protecting his own reputation and legacy. In doing so, he barely escaped indictment for obstruction of justice.

The sudden crisis had been a long time in the making, born of two international flashpoints that the Reagan administration struggled to manage: the Middle East and Central America. The U.S.-Iran skirmish opened on November 4, 1979, when a mob of young Iranians overran the American embassy in Teheran and seized fifty-two Americans as hostages. On January 20, 1981, after 444 days in captivity, the hostages were freed moments before Reagan was sworn in as president. In the years that followed, the Khomeini regime supported Shiite proxy groups in Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East that killed or kidnapped Americans.

Although Reagan administration policy clearly barred making con­cessions to hostage takers, Reagan yearned to free them. He also bought the untenable proposition that by selling arms to Iran he could establish a less adversarial relationship with the ayatollahs and turn Iran into a mod­erating Shiite influence in the region. Israel, for its part, offered to sell American arms in its arsenal to Iran to secure the release of hostages.

While the Middle Eastern plot was taking shape, the American officials who favored it—including CIA Director William Casey, National Security Adviser Bud McFarlane, and marine lieutenant colonel Oliver North, a National Secu­rity Council staff member—grew increasingly concerned about Soviet and Cuban inroads in Central America. When congressional Democrats cut off American support to paramilitary forces trying to overthrow the Nicaraguan government, these men first looked to Israel and South Africa as potential sources of money for the Contras. Over time, the Middle East and Central America vectors converged. The result was an elaborate plot in which Israel sold American weapons to Iran in exchange for hostages, and profits from the arms sales were funneled to the Contras. Reagan enthusiastically endorsed the arms sales but was not informed about the diversion of money to the Contras.

Shultz’s first inkling about irregular activity came in mid-April 1984 during administration debates about Central America policy and possible third-country aid to the Contras. Shultz wanted to maintain American assistance to the guerrilla forces, but not by funneling foreign money to them. He preferred to persuade Congress to extend American aid, if pos­sible. When Casey suggested enlisting South Africa’s help in April 1984, Shultz was appalled, fearing covert foreign funding might lead to the impeachment of Reagan.

The arms-for-hostages operation came up formally in a July 13, 1985, McFarlane memo to Shultz. The national security adviser described an Israeli proposal to ship American arms to Iran to encourage a political dialogue and dislodge hostages from captivity. To get the dialogue started, Iran wanted one hundred American antitank missiles. Shultz told McFarlane to “make a tentative show of interest without commitment.” Shultz neither opposed nor supported the missile transfer—he did not address the question. He advised McFar­lane to manage the initiative personally. Reflecting later on his response to McFarlane, Shultz said, “I was uneasy about my response, but I well knew the pressures from the president to follow up on any possibility of gaining the release of our hostages. I felt that Bud would in fact go ahead no matter what I said and that I was better off to stay in close touch with him and thereby retain some influence over what happened.”

Eight days later, McFarlane outlined the Israeli proposal at a White House meeting. Shultz, apparently reluctant to reiterate his earlier equivo­cation, objected to the arms transfer, arguing that it brazenly violated the administration’s firm stance against trading guns for hostages or making any concessions to terrorists. Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger agreed. The meeting ended incon­clusively, but two days later Reagan told McFarlane to move ahead with the plan. On August 20, Israel shipped 96 antitank missiles to Iran, followed by another 408 two weeks later. One American hostage, Benjamin Weir, was soon freed. Upping the ante, Iran requested a shipment of more powerful weap­ons, medium-range surface-to-air HAWK missiles. When Israel could not deliver the larger weapons directly to Iran and efforts to ship them via a third country failed, Oliver North enlisted the help of the CIA.

Reagan enthusiastically supported the effort, acting on a humanitarian conviction that the United States should do everything possible to gain the release of the hostages. In doing so, he persuaded himself that the United States was not trading arms for hostages but instead was engaged in a noble attempt to save the lives of his countrymen..

Once news of the deal broke into the open in November 1986, Shultz’s attempts to dent the Reagan illusion grew frantic—and perilous for him. His challenge was threefold: convince Reagan that McFarlane, Vice Admiral John Poindexter (who had succeeded McFarlane as national security adviser), Casey, and North had misled him; end the arms-for-hostage strategy; and help Reagan survive the firestorm. Reagan did not want to hear that he had approved an arms-for-hostage strategy. On November 6, three days after the Lebanese newspaper report about the McFarlane mission to Teheran, Reagan declared that news coverage of the trip had “no foundation” and denied that the U.S. was exchanging arms with Iran for the release of hostages.

Shultz tried repeatedly to convince Reagan that his administration was trading arms for hostages and brazenly violating its own policies for dealing with terrorists. Reagan repeatedly rejected his appeals and grew increas­ingly impatient with Shultz. As the tension escalated, Shultz ruminated about his own failure to act more decisively in 1985 and 1986 as evidence of the operation caught his attention. “I felt I should have asked more, de­manded more, done more, but I did not see how,” he recalled. “Did I have myself to blame for the aggrandizement of the NSC staff? I agonized. Ever since my first days as secretary of state, I had sought to make the national security adviser my channel to the White House and, on day-to-day mat­ters, to the president.”

On one level, he was right. Secretaries of state cannot operate indepen­dent of the White House and the national security adviser. But on another level, Shultz was wrong. His willingness to rely on the White House national security staff after repeated setbacks caused by the incompetence and ideological rigidity of the staff does not make for a persuasive defense of his failure to act more decisively to stop the Iran-Contra affair before it reached critical mass.

Shultz’s assertion at the time that he was unaware of many incremental developments in the arms-for-hostage operation, a defense repeated in his memoirs, does not conform with detailed notes kept by Charles Hill, Shultz’s executive assistant. The memory lapse can be explained by the dizzying demands that descend daily on a secretary of state and Hill’s failure to capture all the relevant infor­mation about Shultz’s awareness of the Iran-Contra activities when he re­viewed his notes for Shultz to help prepare Shultz’s congressional testimony. But Shultz’s selective memory also evoked Richard Nixon’s years-earlier warning to Reagan that Shultz had “a wonderful ability to, when things look iffy or are going wrong, he’ll contend he never heard about the issue and was never briefed and was not a part.”

Shultz’s defective memory, compounded by Hill’s handling of his notes, nearly proved disastrous when Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh discovered that Shultz had withheld relevant information about the Iran-Contra affair in his 1987 congressional testimony, delivered under oath. Walsh weighed charging Shultz with obstruction of justice but ultimately found that “Shul­tz’s testimony was incorrect, but it could not be proven that it was willfully false.”

Shultz’s faith in Reagan was shaken by the scandal. The president’s refusal to acknowledge the reality of exchanging arms for hostages was dumbfounding. In a nationally televised address on November 13, 1986, Reagan said he had authorized a small shipment of arms to Iran but was not bartering arms for hostages. “We did not—repeat—did not trade weapons or anything else for hostages, nor will we.” After the speech, Shultz tried to make sense of Reagan’s blind spot. “The president’s speech convinced me that Ronald Reagan still truly did not believe that what had happened had, in fact, happened. To him the reality was different. I had seen him like this before on other issues. He would go over the ‘script’ of an event, past or present, in his mind, and once the script was mastered, that was the truth—no fact, no argument, no plea for recon­sideration, could change his mind.”

On November 16, Shultz made a fateful appear­ance on the CBS News Sunday-morning interview pro­gram Face the Nation. When host Lesley Stahl repeatedly pressed Shultz to state whether any further arms shipments would be made to Iran, he re­plied, “Under the circumstances of Iran’s war with Iraq, its pursuit of terror­ism, its association with those holding our hostages, I would certainly say, as far as I’m concerned, no.” Stahl then asked if Shultz was speaking for the entire administration. “No,” he answered. It was a stunning moment—the secretary of state acknowledging that he could not speak for the U.S. gov­ernment.

He barely survived his candid answer. The White House announced that Shultz did speak for the administration and that Reagan had “no desire” and “no plans” to send further arms to Iran. Yet Reagan continued to defend the operation privately. Meanwhile, Poindexter and North kept working on plans for new arms shipments. Sensing that Shultz’s persistence was annoying Reagan, Casey urged the president to select a new secretary of state.

The same day Casey urged the president in writing to do so, he joined Bush, Shultz, Weinberger, Poindexter and others at the White House for a National Security Planning Group meeting with Reagan to hear from Attorney General Edwin Meese. Reagan had commissioned Meese to investigate the arms-for-hostage operation. Reagan brushed aside Shultz’s ob­jections.

That evening, as Shultz lamented the latest developments, Poindexter, who had strongly defended the operation earlier in the day, called from the White House. His tone was entirely different—mild, even meek. The change in tone pleased but puzzled Shultz. Two days later he learned the reason behind the turnabout: Meese aides had discovered the secret payments to the Contras. When top officials gathered again at the White House, Meese told the group that between $10-30 million dollars had been sent to the Contras. Reagan had not ap­proved the diversion or even known about it. As a result, Poindexter was out and North reassigned. On November 26, three weeks after the first news reports about the deals broke, Shultz and Reagan stilled the rancor that had agitated their relationship and agreed Shultz should stay on as secretary of state through the end of the Reagan presidency.

Excerpted from “In the Nation’s Service: The Life and Times of George P. Shultz” by Philip Taubman, published by Stanford University Press, ©2022 by Philip Taubman. All Rights Reserved.

Philip Taubman is a lecturer at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. Before joining CISAC, Taubman worked at the New York Times as a reporter and editor for nearly 30 years. He is the author of The Partnership: Five Cold Warriors and Their Quest to Ban the Bomb (2012); Secret Empire: Eisenhower, the CIA, and the Hidden Story of America’s Space Espionage (2003); and In The Nation’s Service: The Life and Times of George P. Shultz (2023).

3 Chicago-area oil refineries that dump toxic chemicals into Lake Michigan and other waterways are among worst polluters in US, study shows

Chicago Tribune

3 Chicago-area oil refineries that dump toxic chemicals into Lake Michigan and other waterways are among worst polluters in US, study shows

Michael Hawthorne, Chicago Tribune – January 27, 2023

Oil refineries are dumping massive amounts of toxic chemicals and heavy metals into the Great Lakes and the nation’s rivers with little, if any, oversight from government regulators, according to a new analysis that found some of the worst polluters are in the Chicago area.

During 2021 alone, 81 refineries in the United States that treat waste on-site released 1.6 billion pounds of chlorides, sulfates and other dissolved solids harmful to fish and other aquatic life, the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project determined in its review of federal data.

The refineries also collectively discharged 60,000 pounds of selenium, an element that can mutate fish, and 15.7 million pounds of nitrogen, which contributes to water-fouling algae blooms and dead zones in important fisheries such as the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

Most of the refineries are in low-income, predominantly Black and Latino communities that face disproportionate health risks from industrial pollution.

Some refinery pollution is legal because federal and state officials have failed to limit it, despite requirements in the 1972 Clean Water Act mandating a review of standards for various chemicals and metals at least every five years based on the latest science and improvements in water treatment technology.

“You have refineries that may look like they are complying with the law, but the standards are decades old and really don’t require very much,” said Eric Schaeffer, the group’s executive director and former chief of civil enforcement at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Three Chicago-area refineries — BP Whiting in Indiana, ExxonMobil Joliet and Citgo in Lemont — highlight the consequences of lax regulations and weak enforcement, Schaeffer said Thursday during an online news conference.

Even when limits are in place, oil companies often pay minimal fines for violating the law. Some aren’t penalized at all.

The Joliet refinery, on the Des Plaines River southwest of the city, exceeded its permitted levels of pollution 40 times between 2019 and 2021, federal records show. Neither federal nor state officials have sued ExxonMobil or fined the company for its repeated infractions.

Only three other refineries discharged more selenium than BP Whiting, located on the southwest shore of Lake Michigan about 8 miles from one of Chicago’s water intake cribs. Small doses of the element are healthy, but higher levels can cause hair and nail loss, gastrointestinal distress, dizziness and tremors.

Citgo Lemont and ExxonMobil Joliet ranked fifth and ninth for selenium pollution, respectively, the analysis showed.

A public beach near the Whiting refinery is a popular spot for surfers drawn by big waves when winter winds whip down Lake Michigan from Canada.

Mitch McNeil, chairman of the local chapter of Surfrider, a nonprofit advocacy group, said he and other surfers have suffered eye, ear and urinary tract infections and gastrointestinal illnesses after swimming in dark brown water that smells alternately like metal, sewage, petroleum and a used ashtray.

“People always ask us why we keep surfing in dirty water,” McNeil said. “Our response is we surf in it but you drink it, so you should be just as concerned as we are.”

BP routinely faces scrutiny about air pollution from the Whiting refinery. Water pollution hasn’t drawn as much attention since the Chicago Tribune reported in 2007 that Indiana regulators were planning to relax limits on the refinery’s discharges of ammonia, brain-damaging mercury and suspended solids — tiny particles of sewage sludge.

The company later backed down and vowed to abide by the terms of its existing permit.

Responding to the new analysis of federal data, BP said it will “continue to operate consistent with its permit as part of our commitment to safe, compliant and reliable operations, not just at Whiting refinery but at every facility BP operates around the world.”

Speaking on behalf of the oil industry in general, the American Petroleum Institute did not directly answer questions about the lack of standards for selenium and other pollutants.

“Our industry takes seriously its obligation to protect our nation’s waters and adheres to strict local, state and federal requirements to ensure water is properly treated and tested prior to leaving a facility,” Will Hupman, the trade group’s vice president of downstream policy said in a statement.

Schaeffer noted that federal pollution standards for refineries and several other industry sectors haven’t been updated since Ronald Reagan was president during the 1980s.

Federal judges are taking notice. Calling existing standards out of date is a “charitable understatement,” a federal appellate court concluded after the EPA in 2019 updated its 1982 limits on water pollution from coal-fired power plants.

Environmental groups asked EPA Administrator Michael Regan in 2021 why the agency had fallen so far behind in meeting its legal obligations under the Clean Water Act. The EPA acknowledged the letter but didn’t respond.

An EPA spokesman said the agency is aware of the new pollution analysis “and will review and respond accordingly.”

Most of the top polluting refineries are in California or along the Gulf of Mexico in Texas and Louisiana. Also in the top 10 is a Phillips 66 refinery on the Mississippi River in Wood River, a small, heavily industrialized Illinois city upstream from St. Louis.

The Wood River refinery released more fish-harming nickel than any of the other facilities reviewed. It also ranked among the top 10 for discharges of selenium, nitrogen and total dissolved solids.

For people who live near refineries, the new report reflects what they see, smell and breathe — and ingest when eating locally caught fish or while swimming.

Gina Ramirez grew up on Chicago’s Southeast Side and often visits Whihala Beach in Whiting, 2 miles up the lakeshore from the BP refinery. Nowadays her son joins her.

“To think that we are recreating among some of the most polluted waters is terrifying,” said Ramirez, an outreach manager at the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council and senior adviser to the Southeast Environmental Task Force. “U.S. EPA needs to step up.”

John Beard, a former refinery worker who leads the Port Arthur Community Action Network in Texas, said communities like his rely on the EPA to enforce air and water laws because they can’t afford to fight for a cleaner environment.

“(Oil companies) don’t build these facilities in Beverly Hills, or River Oaks (in Houston) or Madison Avenue,” Beard said. “They don’t build in communities of affluence that have the ways and means to go about seeking justice and correction.”

“Many people say we need the jobs and we need all these products (oil companies) produce,” Beard added. “That’s true. But we don’t need the pollution that comes with it, and they can do better.”

How Barr’s Quest to Find Flaws in the Russia Inquiry Unraveled

The review by John Durham at one point veered into a criminal investigation related to Donald Trump himself, even as it failed to find wrongdoing in the origins of the Russia inquiry.

Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman and Katie Benner –  January 26, 2023

John Durham entering a vehicle.
The veteran prosecutor John H. Durham was given the job of determining whether there was any wrongdoing behind the investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.Credit…Samuel Corum for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — It became a regular litany of grievances from President Donald J. Trump and his supporters: The investigation into his 2016 campaign’s ties to Russia was a witch hunt, they maintained, that had been opened without any solid basis, went on too long and found no proof of collusion.

Egged on by Mr. Trump, Attorney General William P. Barr set out in 2019 to dig into their shared theory that the Russia investigation likely stemmed from a conspiracy by intelligence or law enforcement agencies. To lead the inquiry, Mr. Barr turned to a hard-nosed prosecutor named John H. Durham, and later granted him special counsel status to carry on after Mr. Trump left office.

But after almost four years — far longer than the Russia investigation itself — Mr. Durham’s work is coming to an end without uncovering anything like the deep state plot alleged by Mr. Trump and suspected by Mr. Barr.

Moreover, a months long review by The New York Times found that the main thrust of the Durham inquiry was marked by some of the very same flaws — including a strained justification for opening it and its role in fueling partisan conspiracy theories that would never be charged in court — that Trump allies claim characterized the Russia investigation.

Interviews by The Times with more than a dozen current and former officials have revealed an array of previously unreported episodes that show how the Durham inquiry became roiled by internal dissent and ethical disputes as it went unsuccessfully down one path after another even as Mr. Trump and Mr. Barr promoted a misleading narrative of its progress.

  • Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham never disclosed that their inquiry expanded in the fall of 2019, based on a tip from Italian officials, to include a criminal investigation into suspicious financial dealings related to Mr. Trump. The specifics of the tip and how they handled the investigation remain unclear, but Mr. Durham brought no charges over it.
  • Mr. Durham used Russian intelligence memos — suspected by other U.S. officials of containing disinformation — to gain access to emails of an aide to George Soros, the financier and philanthropist who is a favorite target of the American right and Russian state media. Mr. Durham used grand jury powers to keep pursuing the emails even after a judge twice rejected his request for access to them. The emails yielded no evidence that Mr. Durham has cited in any case he pursued.
  • There were deeper internal fractures on the Durham team than previously known. The publicly unexplained resignation in 2020 of his No. 2 and longtime aide, Nora R. Dannehy, was the culmination of a series of disputes between them over prosecutorial ethics. A year later, two more prosecutors strongly objected to plans to indict a lawyer with ties to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign based on evidence they warned was too flimsy, and one left the team in protest of Mr. Durham’s decision to proceed anyway. (A jury swiftly acquitted the lawyer.)

Now, as Mr. Durham works on a final report, the interviews by The Times provide new details of how he and Mr. Barr sought to recast the scrutiny of the 2016 Trump campaign’s myriad if murky links to Russia as unjustified and itself a crime.

Mr. Barr, Mr. Durham and Ms. Dannehy declined to comment. The current and former officials who discussed the investigation all spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the legal, political and intelligence sensitivities surrounding the topic.

A year into the Durham inquiry, Mr. Barr declared that the attempt “to get to the bottom of what happened” in 2016 “cannot be, and it will not be, a tit-for-tat exercise. We are not going to lower the standards just to achieve a result.”

But Robert Luskin, a criminal defense lawyer and former Justice Department prosecutor who represented two witnesses Mr. Durham interviewed, said that he had a hard time squaring Mr. Durham’s prior reputation as an independent-minded straight shooter with his end-of-career conduct as Mr. Barr’s special counsel.

“This stuff has my head spinning,” Mr. Luskin said. “When did these guys drink the Kool-Aid, and who served it to them?”

Attorney General William P. Barr at the White House in a suit standing on a red carpet with officials in the background.
Attorney General William P. Barr took office in 2019 with suspicions about the origins of the Russia investigation. Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

A month after Mr. Barr was confirmed as attorney general in February 2019, the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III ended the Russia investigation and turned in his report without charging any Trump associates with engaging in a criminal conspiracy with Moscow over its covert operation to help Mr. Trump win the 2016 election.

Mr. Trump would repeatedly portray the Mueller report as having found “no collusion with Russia.” The reality was more complex. In fact, the report detailed “numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign,” and it established both how Moscow had worked to help Mr. Trump win and how his campaign had expected to benefit from the foreign interference.

That spring, Mr. Barr assigned Mr. Durham to scour the origins of the Russia investigation for wrongdoing, telling Fox News that he wanted to know if “officials abused their power and put their thumb on the scale” in deciding to pursue the investigation. “A lot of the answers have been inadequate, and some of the explanations I’ve gotten don’t hang together,” he added.

While attorneys general overseeing politically sensitive inquiries tend to keep their distance from the investigators, Mr. Durham visited Mr. Barr in his office for at times weekly updates and consultations about his day-to-day work. They also sometimes dined and sipped Scotch together, people familiar with their work said.

In some ways, they were an odd match. Taciturn and media-averse, the goateed Mr. Durham had spent more than three decades as a prosecutor before Mr. Trump appointed him the U.S. attorney for Connecticut. Administrations of both parties had assigned him to investigate potential official wrongdoing, like allegations of corrupt ties between mafia informants and F.B.I. agents, and the C.I.A.’s torture of terrorism detainees and destruction of evidence.

By contrast, the vocal and domineering Mr. Barr has never prosecuted a case and is known for using his law enforcement platform to opine on culture-war issues and politics. He had effectively auditioned to be Mr. Trump’s attorney general by asserting to a New York Times reporter that there was more basis to investigate Mrs. Clinton than Mr. Trump’s “so-called ‘collusion’” with Russia, and by writing a memo suggesting a way to shield Mr. Trump from scrutiny for obstruction of justice.

But the two shared a worldview: They are both Catholic conservatives and Republicans, born two months apart in 1950. As a career federal prosecutor, Mr. Durham already revered the office of the attorney general, people who know him say. And as he was drawn into Mr. Barr’s personal orbit, Mr. Durham came to embrace that particular attorney general’s intense feelings about the Russia investigation.

President Trump walking past a blue curtain, while a glass reflects an image of him.
President Donald J. Trump openly suggested that Mr. Durham should charge his adversaries with crimes. Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

At the time Mr. Barr was confirmed, he told aides that he already suspected that intelligence abuses played a role in igniting the Russia investigation — and that unearthing any wrongdoing would be a priority.

In May 2019, soon after giving Mr. Durham his assignment, Mr. Barr summoned the head of the National Security Agency, Paul M. Nakasone, to his office. In front of several aides, Mr. Barr demanded that the N.S.A. cooperate with the Durham inquiry.

Referring to the C.I.A. and British spies, Mr. Barr also said he suspected that the N.S.A.’s “friends” had helped instigate the Russia investigation by targeting the Trump campaign, aides briefed on the meeting said. And repeating a sexual vulgarity, he warned that if the N.S.A. wronged him by not doing all it could to help Mr. Durham, Mr. Barr would do the same to the agency.

Mr. Barr’s insistence about what he had surmised bewildered intelligence officials. But Mr. Durham spent his first months looking for any evidence that the origin of the Russia investigation involved an intelligence operation targeting the Trump campaign.

Mr. Durham’s team spent long hours combing the C.I.A.’s files but found no way to support the allegation. Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham traveled abroad together to press British and Italian officials to reveal everything their agencies had gleaned about the Trump campaign and relayed to the United States, but both allied governments denied they had done any such thing. Top British intelligence officials expressed indignation to their U.S. counterparts about the accusation, three former U.S. officials said.

Mr. Durham and Mr. Barr had not yet given up when a new problem arose: In early December, the Justice Department’s independent inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, completed his own report on the origins of the Russia investigation.

The inspector general revealed errors and omissions in wiretap applications targeting a former Trump campaign adviser and determined that an F.B.I. lawyer had doctored an email in a way that kept one of those problems from coming to light. (Mr. Durham’s team later negotiated a guilty plea by that lawyer.)

But the broader findings contradicted Mr. Trump’s accusations and the rationale for Mr. Durham’s inquiry. Mr. Horowitz found no evidence that F.B.I. actions were politically motivated. And he concluded that the investigation’s basis — an Australian diplomat’s tip that a Trump campaign adviser had seemed to disclose advance knowledge that Russia would release hacked Democratic emails — had been sufficient to lawfully open it.

Michael E. Horowitz sitting at a desk and speaking into a microphone.
Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department’s inspector general, found no evidence that the F.B.I.’s actions in opening the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia were politically motivated.Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

The week before Mr. Horowitz released the report, he and aides came to Mr. Durham’s offices — nondescript suites on two floors of a building in northeast Washington — to go over it.

Mr. Durham lobbied Mr. Horowitz to drop his finding that the diplomat’s tip had been sufficient for the F.B.I. to open its “full” counterintelligence investigation, arguing that it was enough at most for a “preliminary” inquiry, according to officials. But Mr. Horowitz did not change his mind.

That weekend, Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham decided to weigh in publicly to shape the narrative on their terms.

Minutes before the inspector general’s report went online, Mr. Barr issued a statement contradicting Mr. Horowitz’s major finding, declaring that the F.B.I. opened the investigation “on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient.” He would later tell Fox News that the investigation began “without any basis,” as if the diplomat’s tip never happened.

Mr. Trump also weighed in, telling reporters that the details of the inspector general’s report were “far worse than anything I would have even imagined,” adding: “I look forward to the Durham report, which is coming out in the not-too-distant future. It’s got its own information, which is this information plus, plus, plus.”

And the Justice Department sent reporters a statement from Mr. Durham that clashed with both Justice Department principles about not discussing ongoing investigations and his personal reputation as particularly tight-lipped. He said he disagreed with Mr. Horowitz’s conclusions about the Russia investigation’s origins, citing his own access to more information and “evidence collected to date.”

But as Mr. Durham’s inquiry proceeded, he never presented any evidence contradicting Mr. Horowitz’s factual findings about the basis on which F.B.I. officials opened the investigation.

By summer 2020, it was clear that the hunt for evidence supporting Mr. Barr’s hunch about intelligence abuses had failed. But he waited until after the 2020 election to publicly concede that there had turned out to be no sign of “foreign government activity” and that the C.I.A. had “stayed in its lane” after all.

Mr. Barr and Mr. Trump departing Air Force One.
Mr. Barr later wrote that his relationship with Mr. Trump eroded because his “failure to deliver scalps in time for the election.”Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

On one of Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham’s trips to Europe, according to people familiar with the matter, Italian officials — while denying any role in setting off the Russia investigation — unexpectedly offered a potentially explosive tip linking Mr. Trump to certain suspected financial crimes.

Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham decided that the tip was too serious and credible to ignore. But rather than assign it to another prosecutor, Mr. Barr had Mr. Durham investigate the matter himself — giving him criminal prosecution powers for the first time — even though the possible wrongdoing by Mr. Trump did not fall squarely within Mr. Durham’s assignment to scrutinize the origins of the Russia inquiry, the people said.

Mr. Durham never filed charges, and it remains unclear what level of an investigation it was, what steps he took, what he learned and whether anyone at the White House ever found out. The extraordinary fact that Mr. Durham opened a criminal investigation that included scrutinizing Mr. Trump has remained secret.

But in October 2019, a garbled echo became public. The Times reported that Mr. Durham’s administrative review of the Russia inquiry had evolved to include a criminal investigation, while saying it was not clear what the suspected crime was. Citing their own sources, many other news outlets confirmed the development.

The news reports, however, were all framed around the erroneous assumption that the criminal investigation must mean Mr. Durham had found evidence of potential crimes by officials involved in the Russia inquiry. Mr. Barr, who weighed in publicly about the Durham inquiry at regular intervals in ways that advanced a pro-Trump narrative, chose in this instance not to clarify what was really happening.

By the spring and summer of 2020, with Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign in full swing, the Durham investigation’s “failure to deliver scalps in time for the election” began to erode Mr. Barr’s relationship with Mr. Trump, Mr. Barr wrote in his memoir.

Mr. Trump was stoking a belief among his supporters that Mr. Durham might charge former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. That proved too much for Mr. Barr, who in May 2020 clarified that “our concern of potential criminality is focused on others.”

Even so, in August, Mr. Trump lashed out in a Fox interview, asserting that Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden, along with top F.B.I. and intelligence officials, had been caught in “the single biggest political crime in the history of our country” and the only thing stopping charges would be if Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham wanted to be “politically correct.”

Against that backdrop, Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham did not shut down their inquiry when the search for intelligence abuses hit a dead end. With the inspector general’s inquiry complete, they turned to a new rationale: a hunt for a basis to accuse the Clinton campaign of conspiring to defraud the government by manufacturing the suspicions that the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia, along with scrutinizing what the F.B.I. and intelligence officials knew about the Clinton campaign’s actions.

Mr. Durham also developed an indirect method to impute political bias to law enforcement officials: comparing the Justice Department’s aggressive response to suspicions of links between Mr. Trump and Russia with its more cautious and skeptical reaction to various Clinton-related suspicions.

He examined an investigation into the Clinton Foundation’s finances in which the F.B.I.’s repeated requests for a subpoena were denied. He also scrutinized how the F.B.I. gave Mrs. Clinton a “defensive briefing” about suspicions that a foreign government might be trying to influence her campaign through donations, but did not inform Mr. Trump about suspicions that Russia might be conspiring with people associated with his campaign.

Hillary Clinton holding a ballot at a polling place in 2016 surrounded by a group.
The Durham inquiry looked for evidence that Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign had conspired to frame Donald J. Trump.Credit…Doug mills/The New York Times

During the Russia investigation, the F.B.I. used claims from what turned out to be a dubious source, the Steele dossier — opposition research indirectly funded by the Clinton campaign — in its botched applications to wiretap a former Trump campaign aide.

The Durham investigation did something with parallels to that incident.

In Mr. Durham’s case, the dubious sources were memos, whose credibility the intelligence community doubted, written by Russian intelligence analysts and discussing purported conversations involving American victims of Russian hacking, according to people familiar with the matter.

The memos were part of a trove provided to the C.I.A. by a Dutch spy agency, which had infiltrated the servers of its Russian counterpart. The memos were said to make demonstrably inconsistent, inaccurate or exaggerated claims, and some U.S. analysts believed Russia may have deliberately seeded them with disinformation.

Mr. Durham wanted to use the memos, which included descriptions of Americans discussing a purported plan by Mrs. Clinton to attack Mr. Trump by linking him to Russia’s hacking and releasing in 2016 of Democratic emails, to pursue the theory that the Clinton campaign conspired to frame Mr. Trump. And in doing so, Mr. Durham sought to use the memos as justification to get access to the private communications of an American citizen.

One purported hacking victim identified in the memos was Leonard Benardo, the executive vice president of the Open Society Foundations, a pro-democracy organization whose Hungarian-born founder, Mr. Soros, has been vilified by the far right.

In 2017, The Washington Post reported that the Russian memos included a claim that Mr. Benardo and a Democratic member of Congress, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, had discussed how Loretta E. Lynch, the Obama-era attorney general, had supposedly promised to keep the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s emails from going too far.

But Mr. Benardo and Ms. Wasserman Schultz said they had never even met, let alone communicated about Mrs. Clinton’s emails.

Mr. Durham set out to prove that the memos described real conversations, according to people familiar with the matter. He sent a prosecutor on his team, Andrew DeFilippis, to ask Judge Beryl A. Howell, the chief judge of the Federal District Court in Washington, for an order allowing them to seize information about Mr. Benardo’s emails.

But Judge Howell decided that the Russian memo was too weak a basis to intrude on Mr. Benardo’s privacy, they said. Mr. Durham then personally appeared before her and urged her to reconsider, but she again ruled against him.

Rather than dropping the idea, Mr. Durham sidestepped Judge Howell’s ruling by invoking grand-jury power to demand documents and testimony directly from Mr. Soros’s foundation and Mr. Benardo about his emails, the people said. (It is unclear whether Mr. Durham served them with a subpoena or instead threatened to do so if they did not cooperate.)

Rather than fighting in court, the foundation and Mr. Benardo quietly complied, according to people familiar with the matter. But for Mr. Durham, the result appears to have been another dead end.

In a statement provided to The Times by Mr. Soros’s foundation, Mr. Benardo reiterated that he never met or corresponded with Ms. Wasserman Schultz, and said that “if such documentation exists, it’s of course made up.”

Nora R. Dannehy walking to a taxi cab.
Nora R. Dannehy in 2009. A longtime aide to Mr. Durham, Ms. Dannehy resigned from his team in 2020 after disputes with him over prosecutorial ethics.Credit…Mark Wilson/Getty Images

As the focus of the Durham investigation shifted, cracks formed inside the team. Mr. Durham’s deputy, Ms. Dannehy, a longtime close colleague, increasingly argued with him in front of other prosecutors and F.B.I. agents about legal ethics.

Ms. Dannehy had independent standing as a respected prosecutor. In 2008, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey assigned her to investigate whether to charge senior Bush administration officials with crimes related to a scandal over the firing of U.S. attorneys; she decided in 2010 that no charges were warranted.

Now, Ms. Dannehy complained to Mr. Durham about how Mr. Barr kept hinting darkly in public about the direction of their investigation. In April 2020, for example, he suggested to Fox News that officials could be prosecuted, saying that “the evidence shows that we are not dealing with just mistakes or sloppiness. There is something far more troubling here.”

Ms. Dannehy urged Mr. Durham to ask the attorney general to adhere to Justice Department policy and not discuss the investigation publicly. But Mr. Durham proved unwilling to challenge him.

The strains grew when Mr. Durham used grand jury powers to go after Mr. Benardo’s emails. Ms. Dannehy opposed that tactic and told colleagues that Mr. Durham had taken that step without telling her.

By summer 2020, with Election Day approaching, Mr. Barr pressed Mr. Durham to draft a potential interim report centered on the Clinton campaign and F.B.I. gullibility or willful blindness.

On Sept. 10, 2020, Ms. Dannehy discovered that other members of the team had written a draft report that Mr. Durham had not told her about, according to people briefed on their ensuing argument.

Ms. Dannehy erupted, according to people familiar with the matter. She told Mr. Durham that no report should be issued before the investigation was complete and especially not just before an election — and denounced the draft for taking disputed information at face value. She sent colleagues a memo detailing those concerns and resigned.

Mr. Durham walking out a federal court and wearing a suit.
Cracks formed in Mr. Durham’s team as the scope of his investigation shifted. Credit…Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

Two people close to Mr. Barr said he had pressed for the draft to evaluate what a report on preliminary findings would look like and what evidence would need to be declassified. But they insisted that he intended any release to come during the summer or after the Nov. 3 election — not soon before Election Day.

In any case, in late September 2020, about two weeks after Ms. Dannehy quit, someone leaked to a Fox Business personality that Mr. Durham would not issue any interim report, disappointing Trump supporters hoping for a pre-Election Day bombshell.

Stymied by the decision not to issue an interim Durham report, John Ratcliffe, Mr. Trump’s national intelligence director, tried another way to inject some of the same information into the campaign.

Over the objections of Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. director, Mr. Ratcliffe declassified nearly 1,000 pages of intelligence material before the election for Mr. Durham to use. Notably, in that fight, Mr. Barr sided with Ms. Haspel on one matter that is said to be particularly sensitive and that remained classified, according to two people familiar with the dispute.

Mr. Ratcliffe also disclosed in a letter to a senator that “Russian intelligence analysis” claimed that on July 26, 2016, Mrs. Clinton had approved a campaign plan to stir up a scandal tying Mr. Trump to Russia.

The letter acknowledged that officials did “not know the accuracy of this allegation or the extent to which the Russian intelligence analysis may reflect exaggeration or fabrication.” But it did not mention that there were many reasons that suspicions about the Trump campaign were arising in that period — like the diplomat’s tip, Mr. Trump’s flattery of President Vladimir V. Putin, his hiring of advisers with links to Russiahis financial ties to Russia and his call for Russia to hack Mrs. Clinton.

The disclosure infuriated Dutch intelligence officials, who had provided the memos under strictest confidence.

Michael Sussman walking through an open door in a suit.
Mr. Durham accused Michael Sussmann of lying in a meeting with an F.B.I. official. He was acquitted.Credit…Samuel Corum for The New York Times

Late in the summer of 2021, Mr. Durham prepared to indict Michael Sussmann, a cybersecurity lawyer who had represented Democrats in their dealings with the F.B.I. about Russia’s hacking of their emails. Two prosecutors on Mr. Durham’s team — Anthony Scarpelli and Neeraj N. Patel — objected, according to people familiar with the matter.

Five years earlier, Mr. Sussmann had relayed a tip to the bureau about odd internet data that a group of data scientists contended could reflect hidden communications between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank of Russia. The F.B.I., which by then had already launched its Russia investigation, briefly looked at the allegation but dismissed it.

Mr. Durham accused Mr. Sussmann of lying to an F.B.I. official by saying he was not conveying the tip for a client; the prosecutor maintained Mr. Sussmann was there in part for the Clinton campaign.

Mr. Scarpelli and Mr. Patel argued to Mr. Durham that the evidence was too thin to charge Mr. Sussmann and that such a case would not normally be prosecuted, people familiar with the matter said. Given the intense scrutiny it would receive, they also warned that an acquittal would undermine public faith in their investigation and federal law enforcement.

When Mr. Durham did not change course, Mr. Scarpelli quit in protest, people familiar with the matter said. Mr. Patel left soon after to take a different job. Both declined to comment.

The charge against Mr. Sussmann was narrow, but the Durham team used it to make public large amounts of information insinuating what Mr. Durham never charged: that Clinton campaign associates conspired to gin up an F.B.I. investigation into Mr. Trump based on a knowingly false allegation.

Trial testimony, however, showed that while Mrs. Clinton and her campaign manager hoped Mr. Sussmann would persuade reporters to write articles about Alfa Bank, they did not want him to take the information to the F.B.I. And prosecutors presented no evidence that he or campaign officials had believed the data scientists’ complex theory was false.

After Mr. Sussmann’s acquittal, Mr. Barr, by then out of office for more than a year, suggested that using the courts to advance a politically charged narrative was a goal in itself. Mr. Durham “accomplished something far more important” than a conviction, Mr. Barr told Fox News, asserting that the case had “crystallized the central role played by the Hillary campaign in launching as a dirty trick the whole Russiagate collusion narrative and fanning the flames of it.”

And he predicted that a subsequent trial, concerning a Russia analyst who was a researcher for the Steele dossier, would also “get the story out” and “further amplify these themes and the role the F.B.I. leadership played in this, which is increasingly looking fishy and inexplicable.”

Igor Danchenko walking outside of a courthouse surrounded by a group.
Mr. Durham’s prosecution of Igor Danchenko, a Russia analyst who was a researcher for the Steele dossier, ended in acquittal. Credit…Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

That case involved Igor Danchenko, who had told the F.B.I. that the dossier exaggerated the credibility of gossip and speculation. Mr. Durham charged him with lying about two sources. He was acquitted, too.

The two failed cases are likely to be Mr. Durham’s last courtroom acts as a prosecutor. Bringing demonstrably weak cases stood in contrast to how he once talked about his prosecutorial philosophy.

James Farmer, a retired prosecutor who worked with Mr. Durham on several major investigations, recalled him as a neutral actor who said that if there were nothing to charge, they would not strain to prosecute. “That’s what I heard, time and again,” Mr. Farmer said.

Delivering the closing arguments in the Danchenko trial, Mr. Durham defended his investigation to the jury, denying that his appointment by Mr. Barr had been tainted by politics.

He asserted that Mr. Mueller had concluded “there’s no evidence of collusion here or conspiracy” — a formulation that echoed Mr. Trump’s distortion of the Russia investigation’s complex findings — and added: “Is it the wrong question to ask, well, then how did this get started? Respectfully, that’s not the case.”

Trump adviser Eastman faces California disciplinary charges

Associated Press

Trump adviser Eastman faces California disciplinary charges

January 26, 2023

FILE - Chapman School of Law professor John Eastman testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 16, 2017. Conservative attorney Eastman, a lead architect of some of former President Donald Trump's efforts to remain in power after the 2020 election, was slapped Thursday, Jan.26, 2023, with a series of disciplinary charges in California that could lead to his disbarment. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
Chapman School of Law professor John Eastman testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 16, 2017. Conservative attorney Eastman, a lead architect of some of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to remain in power after the 2020 election, was slapped Thursday, Jan.26, 2023, with a series of disciplinary charges in California that could lead to his disbarment. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
FILE - Chapman University law professor John Eastman stands at left as former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani speaks in Washington at a rally in support of President Donald Trump, called the "Save America Rally" on Jan. 6, 2021. Conservative attorney Eastman, a lead architect of some of former President Donald Trump's efforts to remain in power after the 2020 election, was slapped Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, with a series of disciplinary charges in California that could lead to his disbarment.( AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)
Chapman University law professor John Eastman stands at left as former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani speaks in Washington at a rally in support of President Donald Trump, called the “Save America Rally” on Jan. 6, 2021. Conservative attorney Eastman, a lead architect of some of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to remain in power after the 2020 election, was slapped Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, with a series of disciplinary charges in California that could lead to his disbarment.( AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Conservative attorney John Eastman, a lead architect of some of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to remain in power after the 2020 election, was slapped Thursday with a series of disciplinary charges in California that could lead to his disbarment.

The State Bar of California’s chief trial counsel, George Cardona, said in a statement that the 11 charges stem from allegations that Eastman assisted Trump with a strategy — not supported by facts — to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 election by obstructing the count of electoral votes of certain states.

The office intends to seek Eastman’s disbarment.

Eastman, the former dean of Chapman University law school in Southern California, was one of Trump’s lawyers during the election. He wrote a memo that argued former Vice President Mike Pence could keep Trump in power by overturning the results of the election during a joint session of Congress convened to count electoral votes. Critics have likened that to instructions for staging a coup.

The State Bar said Eastman faces charges that he violated the business and professions code by making false and misleading statements that constitute acts of “moral turpitude, dishonesty, and corruption.”

Eastman disputes “every aspect” of the charges filed by the State Bar, which are based on his role as counsel to the former president after the election, his attorney, Randall A. Miller, said in a statement.

The State Bar’s action “is part of a nationwide effort to use the bar discipline process to penalize attorneys who opposed the current administration in the last presidential election. Americans of both political parties should be troubled by this politicization of our nation’s state bars,” Miller’s statement said.

In advising Trump, “Eastman’s assessments were the product of comprehensive research of the law and historical records — including the 12th Amendment and Electoral Count Act — supported by reasonable interpretation of legal and historical precedent, scholarly analysis, and legislative history,” Miller added.

“He was a lawyer, not Rasputin,” Miller said.

The bar disclosed in March that it was investigating Eastman for possible ethics violations.

As the State Bar’s chief trial counsel, Cardona investigates and prosecutes attorney disciplinary matters before the State Bar Court, which can recommend attorneys be either suspended or, in some cases, lose their licenses to practice law. The California Supreme Court ultimately decides what to do.

Eastman has been a member of the California Bar since 1997, according to its website. He was a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and a founding director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, a law firm affiliated with the Claremont Institute. He ran for California attorney general in 2010, finishing second in the Republican primary.

Eastman retired as dean of the Chapman University law school last year after more than 160 faculty members signed a letter calling for the university to take action against him.

In his statement, Cardona said the charges allege that Eastman “violated this duty in furtherance of an attempt to usurp the will of the American people and overturn election results for the highest office in the land — an egregious and unprecedented attack on our democracy.”

Chinese engineer sentenced to 8 years in U.S. prison for spying

NBC News

Chinese engineer sentenced to 8 years in U.S. prison for spying

Chantal Da Silva – January 26, 2023

former Chicago graduate student in electrical engineering was sentenced Wednesday to eight years in prison for spying for the Chinese government.

Ji Chaoqun, 31, a Chinese national, was convicted last year of acting as an agent of China’s Ministry of State Security and making a material false statement to the U.S. Army.

He had come to the U.S. to study electrical engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology in 2013. In 2016, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves under the Military Accession Vital to the National Interest program, which allowed the U.S. Armed Forces to recruit foreign workers whose skills were considered vital to the national interest, the Justice Department said in a news release Wednesday.

During that time, Ji was tasked by Xu Yanjun, a deputy division director within the Ministry of State Security, with providing an intelligence officer with biographical information on people who could potentially be recruited as spies for China, according to the Justice Department. Those identified as potential recruits included Chinese nationals working as engineers and scientists in the U.S., the department said.

“This tasking was part of an effort by the Jiangsu provincial department to obtain access to advanced aerospace and satellite technologies being developed by companies within the U.S.,” the Justice Department said.

Chinese engineer Ji Chaoqun.  (Facebook)
Chinese engineer Ji Chaoqun. (Facebook)

Xu was already sentenced last year to 20 years in federal prison after being convicted in the Southern District of Ohio of conspiracy and attempting to commit economic espionage and theft of trade secrets.

In his application to participate in the Military Accession Vital to the National Interest program, Ji had falsely said he had not had any contact with a foreign government within a seven year period, according to the Justice Department. And in a subsequent interview with a U.S. Army officer, he again did not disclose his relationship and contacts with a foreign intelligence officer, the department said.

Evidence at trial further showed that in 2018, Ji had meetings with an undercover law enforcement agent who was posing as a representative of the Ministry of State Security. During those meetings, he said that he could use his military identification to visit and take photos of “Roosevelt-class” aircraft carriers, the Justice Department said.

He also planned to seek a job at the CIA, FBI or Nasa and intended to pursue cybersecurity work at one of those agencies so he could access their databases, including databases containing scientific research, it said.

U.S. intelligence officials have previously expressed concerns over U.S. universities being a soft target for China’s spies.

Ji’s initial arrest was part of an FBI investigation in Ohio into recruitment by Chinese spies over the past year.

The Chinese foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.

GOP endorses full on crazy: How Kevin McCarthy Forged an Ironclad Bond With Marjorie Taylor Greene

The New York Times

How Kevin McCarthy Forged an Ironclad Bond With Marjorie Taylor Greene

Jonathan Swan and Catie Edmondson – January 23, 2023

House Minor­ity Leade­r Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca­lif.), fist bumps with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) as he arrives for a photo with freshman GOP members of the 117th Congress on the East Steps of the Capitol Building in Washington, on Jan. 4, 2021. (Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times)
House Minor­ity Leade­r Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca­lif.), fist bumps with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) as he arrives for a photo with freshman GOP members of the 117th Congress on the East Steps of the Capitol Building in Washington, on Jan. 4, 2021. (Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times)

WASHINGTON — Days after he won his gavel in a protracted fight with hard-right Republicans, Speaker Kevin McCarthy gushed to a friend about the ironclad bond he had developed with an unlikely ally in his battle for political survival, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

“I will never leave that woman,” McCarthy, R-Calif., told the friend, who described the private conversation on the condition of anonymity. “I will always take care of her.”

Such a declaration from McCarthy would have been unthinkable in 2021, when Greene first arrived on Capitol Hill in a swirl of controversy and provocation. A former QAnon follower who had routinely trafficked in conspiratorial, violent and bigoted statements, Greene was then widely seen as a dangerous liability to the party and a threat to the man who aspired to lead Republicans back to the majority — a person to be controlled and kept in check, not embraced.

But in the time since, a powerful alliance developed between Greene, the far-right rabble-rouser and acolyte of former President Donald Trump, and McCarthy, the affable fixture of the Washington establishment, according to interviews with 20 people with firsthand knowledge of the relationship, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss it.

Their political union — a closer and more complex one than has previously been known — helps explain how McCarthy rose to power atop a party increasingly defined by its extremes, the lengths to which he will go to accommodate those forces, and how much influence Greene and the faction she represents have in defining the agenda of the new House Republican majority.

“If you’re going to be in a fight, you want Marjorie in your foxhole,” McCarthy said. Both he and Greene agreed to brief interviews for this article. “When she picks a fight, she’s going to fight until the fight’s over. She reminds me of my friends from high school, that we’re going to stick together all the way through.”

It is a relationship born of political expediency but fueled by genuine camaraderie, and nurtured by one-on-one meetings as often as once a week, usually at a coffee table in McCarthy’s Capitol office, as well as a constant stream of text messages back and forth.

McCarthy has gone to unusual lengths to defend Greene, even dispatching his general counsel to spend hours on the phone trying to cajole senior executives at Twitter to reactivate her personal account after she was banned last year for violating the platform’s coronavirus misinformation policy.

Greene, in turn, has taken on an outsize role as a policy adviser to McCarthy, who has little in the way of a fixed ideology of his own and has come to regard the Georgia congresswoman as a vital proxy for the desires and demands of the right-wing base that increasingly drives his party. He has adopted her stances on opposing vaccine mandates and questioning funding for the war in Ukraine, and even her call to reinvestigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol to show what she has called “the other side of the story.”

McCarthy’s agenda, Greene said, “if he sticks to it, will easily vindicate me and prove I moved the conference to the right during my first two years when I served in the minority with no committees.”

‘Kevin Did This to You’

It was a right-wing conspiracy theory that first came between McCarthy and Greene, but not in the way that many people think.

When Greene entered Congress in January 2021, Republican leaders viewed her as a headache, and McCarthy regarded her as potentially beyond redemption. During her primary, social media posts had emerged in which she embraced the QAnon conspiracy theory and warned of “an Islamic invasion of our government.”

Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 Republican, had intervened to oppose Greene — an affront she would not forget — but McCarthy, who eschews confrontation and conflict, would not go that far. He issued a statement through a spokesperson condemning the statements, but did not endorse her opponent.

Weeks after Greene was sworn in, more conspiracy-laden posts surfaced, including diatribes in which she had questioned whether a plane really flew into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, and endorsed the executions of Democratic politicians including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama.

Outraged Democrats demanded that McCarthy oust her from congressional committees, and when he made no move to do so, they scheduled a vote to do it themselves. As the pressure built, some of Greene’s far-right allies told her yet another conspiratorial story that she believed: McCarthy, they said, was secretly working with Pelosi to strip her of power.

Enraged, Greene stormed into McCarthy’s office in the Capitol late one night in February 2021 and handed him a letter signed by Republican leaders in her district, urging him to keep her on her committees. They had received “countless” messages, they said, from their voters who were intent on supporting her.

It served as a not-so-subtle warning to McCarthy that the Republican base would be outraged if he did not ensure she kept her committee seats. McCarthy tried to explain to Greene that he agreed that what Democrats were doing was outrageous, but that as minority leader, he had neither the power nor the votes to stop it.

But Greene did not believe McCarthy, a person familiar with her thinking said. After she was booted off the Education and Budget Committees, members of her inner circle told her, “Don’t forget: Kevin did this to you.”

‘The Principal’s Office’

The relationship remained fraught throughout Greene’s first year in Congress, as the same pattern played out again and again in their interactions. A controversy would erupt over an outrageous comment Greene had made, then McCarthy would summon her to deal with the matter privately.

Greene would joke to friends, “Uh-oh, I’ve been called to the principal’s office.”

But even as she continued to traffic in offensive conspiracy theories and spoke at a white nationalist rally, McCarthy refused to punish her and often refrained from even criticizing her comments until pressed by reporters. It was a calculated choice by McCarthy, who leads more by flattery and backslapping than through discipline.

And by early 2022, Greene had begun to believe that McCarthy was willing to go to bat for her. When her personal Twitter account was shut down for violating coronavirus misinformation policies, Greene raced to McCarthy’s office in the Capitol and demanded that he get the social media platform to reinstate her account, according to a person familiar with the exchange.

Instead of telling Greene that he had no power to order a private company to change its content moderation policies, McCarthy directed his general counsel, Machalagh Carr, to appeal to Twitter executives. Over the next two months, Carr would spend hours on the phone with them arguing Greene’s case, and even helped draft a formal appeal on her behalf.

The efforts were unsuccessful at the time, but they impressed Greene and revealed how far McCarthy was prepared to go to defend her. It was part of a broader and methodical courtship of the hard right by McCarthy that included outreach to conservative media figures and Trump’s hard-line immigration adviser Stephen Miller.

He had studied the two previous Republican speakers of the House, former Reps. John Boehner of Ohio and Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, a person familiar with his thinking said, and concluded that one of their fatal errors had been unnecessarily isolating far-right members, who in turn made their lives miserable. So McCarthy set out to do the opposite.

Approaching Symbiosis

Still, the alliance between McCarthy and Greene did not truly begin to flourish for several more months. At a party in the Dallas suburbs at the home of Arthur Schwartz, a GOP consultant and outside adviser to McCarthy, Greene found herself in the corner of a great room chatting with Devin Nunes, a former top Republican on the Intelligence Committee and a committed Trump ally.

Nunes told Greene about the time he had witnessed McCarthy yelling at Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who was then the majority leader, for his party’s decision to remove Greene from her committees, and threatening that he would do the same to Democrats when Republicans came to power.

Greene recalled it as the first time she had heard from somebody she trusted that McCarthy had defended her, rather than conspired with Democrats to blackball her.

“That conversation had a big impact on me,” she said.

From then on, the two settled into a kind of symbiotic relationship, both feeding off what the other could provide. Greene began regularly visiting McCarthy, frequently dropping by his office, and he began inviting her to high-level policy discussions attended by senior Republicans and praising her contributions.

He was impressed not only by Greene’s seemingly innate understanding of the impulses of the party’s hard-right voters, but also by her prowess at building her own brand. He once remarked to allies with wonder at how Greene, as a freshman, was already known by a three-letter monogram: MTG. “She knows what she’s doing,” McCarthy marveled privately. “You’ve got AOC and MTG.”

After Republicans underperformed expectations in the midterm elections, winning only a narrow majority and guaranteeing that McCarthy would have a tough fight to become speaker, Greene was quick to begin barnstorming the right-wing media circuit as one of his top surrogates, using her conservative credentials to vouch for his.

As her peers on the far-right flank of the party refused to support McCarthy, subjecting the Republican leader to a four-day stretch of defeats, Greene was unflinching in her support, personally whipping votes on the House floor and strategizing on calls with Trump.

Greene’s support for McCarthy created a permission structure for other GOP lawmakers to do the same.

Rep. Barry Moore, R-Ala., said in an interview that when conservatives back home sought an explanation for his support for McCarthy, he would comfort them by replying: “Well, Jim Jordan and Marjorie Taylor Greene are standing with Kevin McCarthy. And so am I.”

The relationship has also paid off for Greene, no longer the fringe backbencher stripped of her power. Republican leaders announced last week that she would serve on two high-profile committees: Oversight and Homeland Security. She is also likely to be appointed to a new Oversight select subcommittee to investigate the coronavirus, according to a source familiar with McCarthy’s thinking who was not authorized to preview decisions that have yet to be finalized.

It is already clear that she is influencing McCarthy’s policy agenda.

After Greene had told McCarthy that vaccine mandates were morally wrong and that he needed to stop them, he fought vociferously — and successfully — to include the repeal of the military coronavirus vaccine mandate in last year’s defense bill.

After she told him that the party faithful could not understand why Congress continued to send money to help Ukraine secure its borders, when the United States’ southern border was not secure, McCarthy helped pave the way for Republicans on the Foreign Affairs Committee to put forward and support a bill sponsored by Greene, who does not sit on the panel, demanding that Congress audit U.S. aid sent to Ukraine.

And after she told McCarthy that many people imprisoned for their actions during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol were being victimized, he signaled that Republicans would start an inquiry of their own digging into the work of the panel that was investigating the assault.

“People need to understand that it isn’t just me that deserves credit,” Greene said. “It is the will and the voice of our base that was heard, and Kevin listened to them. I was just a vehicle much of the time.”

In the early hours of Jan. 7, after McCarthy had finally clinched the speakership on the 15th ballot and pallets of Champagne were being wheeled into his new office, Greene opted not to join the celebration. But she sent him a text message the next day telling McCarthy how happy and proud she was — and how she could not wait to get started.

New Brett Kavanaugh Sexual Assault Allegations Revealed in Secret Sundance Doc

Daily Beast

New Brett Kavanaugh Sexual Assault Allegations Revealed in Secret Sundance Doc

Nick Schager – January 21, 2023

Win McNamee/Getty
Win McNamee/Getty

Brett Kavanaugh’s 2018 confirmation to the Supreme Court was embroiled in controversy when multiple women accused him of sexual assault. One of them, Christine Blasey Fordtestified before Congress about the alleged attempted rape she suffered at his hands in high school. Justice is a horrifying and infuriating inquiry into those claims, told in large part by friends of Ford, lawyers and medical experts, and another of Kavanaugh’s alleged victims: Deborah Ramirez, a classmate of his at Yale.

Most damning of all, it features a never-heard-before audio recording made by one of Kavanaugh’s Yale colleagues—Partnership for Public Service president and CEO Max Stier—that not only corroborates Ramirez’s charges, but suggests that Kavanaugh violated another unnamed woman as well.

A last-minute addition to this year’s Sundance Film FestivalJustice is the first feature documentary helmed by Doug Liman, a director best known for Hollywood hits like SwingersGoThe Bourne Identity, and Edge of Tomorrow. His latest is far removed from those fictional mainstream efforts, caustically censuring Kavanaugh and the political process that elevated him to the nation’s highest judicial bench, and casting a sympathetic eye on Ford, Ramirez ,and their fellow accusers.

Liman’s film may not deliver many new bombshells, but he and writer/producer Amy Herdy makes up for a relative dearth of explosive revelations by lucidly recounting this ugly chapter in recent American history, as well as by giving voice to women whose allegations were picked apart, mocked and, ultimately, ignored.

<div class="inline-image__credit">Win McNamee/Getty</div>
Win McNamee/Getty

The biggest eye-opener in Justice comes more than midway through its compact and efficient 85-minute runtime, when Liman receives a tip that leads him to an anonymous individual who provides a tape made by Stier shortly after the FBI—compelled by Ford’s courageous and heartrending testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee—briefly reopened its investigation into embattled then-nominee Kavanaugh.

In it, Stier relays that he lived in the same Yale dorm as Kavanaugh and, one evening, wound up in a room where he saw a severely inebriated Kavanaugh with his pants down, at which point a group of rowdy soccer players forced a drunk female freshman to hold Kavanaugh’s penis. Stier states that he knows this tale “first-hand,” and that the young woman in question did not subsequently remember the incident, nor did she want to come forward after she’d seen the vile treatment that Ford and Ramirez were subjected to by the public, the media, and the government. The Daily Beast has reached out to Justice Kavanaugh for comment about the fresh allegations.

Stier goes on to explain that, though he didn’t know Ramirez, he had heard from classmates about her separate, eerily similar encounter with Kavanaugh, which she personally describes in Justice. According to Ramirez, an intoxicated Kavanaugh exposed himself right in front of her face in college, and that she suppressed memories of certain aspects of this trauma until she was contacted by The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow.

Christine Blasey Ford’s Grace Exposes Her Questioners’ Cruelty

As Ramirez narrates in a trembling tone that seems on the perpetual verge of cracking, she suffered this indignity quietly, convinced that she was to blame for it (because she too was under the influence) and humiliated by the guffaws of the other men in the room. Her account is convincing in its specificity, and moving in its anguish.

Ramirez confesses that some of Farrow’s questions made her worried that she still wasn’t recalling everything about that fateful night, and it’s Stier’s recording that appears to fill in a crucial blank. Stier says he was told that, after Kavanaugh stuck his naked member in Ramirez’s face, he went to the bathroom and was egged on by classmates to make himself erect; once he’d succeeded in that task, he returned to harass Ramirez some more.

It’s an additional bit of nastiness in a story drowning in grotesqueness, and Liman lays it all out with the sort of no-nonsense clarity that only amplifies one’s shock, revulsion and dismay—emotions that go hand-in-hand with outrage, which is stoked by the numerous clips of Kavanaugh refuting these accusations with unconvincing fury and falsehoods.

<div class="inline-image__credit">Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty</div>
Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty

Through juxtapositions of Kavanaugh’s on-the-record statements and various pieces of evidence, Justice reveals the many lies advanced by the judge in order to both sway public opinion and to give Republicans enough reasonable-doubt cover to vote in favor of his confirmation.

Moreover, in a lengthy segment about text conversations between Kavanaugh’s college buddies and Ramirez’s Yale classmate Kerry Berchem, the film persuasively suggests that Kavanaugh and his team were aware of Ford and Ramirez’s charges before they became public, and sought to preemptively counter them by planting alternate-narrative seeds with friends and acquaintances.

While Liman relies a bit too heavily on graphical text to convey some of this, the idea that Kavanaugh (or those closest to him) conspired to keep his apparent crimes secret—along with his general reputation as a boozing party-hard menace—nonetheless comes through loud and clear.

Surprisingly, although Ford is seen speaking to Liman just off-camera at the beginning of Justice, she otherwise doesn’t appear except in archival footage. Still, her presence is ubiquitous throughout the documentary, which generates further anger by noting that the FBI ignored Stier’s tip, along with the majority of the 4,500 others they received regarding Kavanaugh. The Bureau instead chose to send along any “relevant” reports to the very Trump-administration White House that was committed to getting their nominee approved.

The Brett Kavanaugh Probe Should Be About One Thing: Sexual Assault

The effect is to paint the entire affair as a charade and a rigged game in which accusatory women were unfairly and maliciously put on the defensive, and powerful men were allowed to skate by on suspect evasions and flimsy denials.

Justice is more of a stinging, straightforward recap than a formally daring non-fiction work, but its direct approach allows its speakers to make their case with precision and passion. Of that group, Ramirez proves the memorable standout, her commentary as thorough and consistent as it is distressed.

In her remarks about Kavanaugh’s laughter as he perpetrated his misconduct—chortling that Ford also mentions to Congress—she provides an unforgettable detail that encapsulates the arrogant, entitled cruelty of her abuser, as well as the unjust system that saw fit to place him on the nation’s highest legal pedestal.

How an Investor Lost $625,000 and His Faith in George Santos

The New York Times

How an Investor Lost $625,000 and His Faith in George Santos

Grace Ashford, Alexandra Berzon and Michael Gold – January 20, 2023

As Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) was running for office, he also sought investors for a company that was accused of running a Ponzi scheme. (Tom Brenner/The New York Times)
As Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) was running for office, he also sought investors for a company that was accused of running a Ponzi scheme. (Tom Brenner/The New York Times)

A month after the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a lawsuit in 2021 accusing a Florida-based company of operating a Ponzi scheme, one of the firm’s account managers assured an anxious client that his money was safe.

The client, a wealthy investor named Andrew Intrater, had been lured by annual returns of 16% and had invested $625,000 in a fund offered by the company, Harbor City Capital — in part because he trusted and admired the account manager, an aspiring politician named George Santos.

Admiration aside, Intrater wanted to know about his investment and a promised letter of credit that secured it. Santos said that it was already on the way.

“All issued and sent over,” Santos assured him in a text message sent in May 2021.

The letter of credit did not exist, the SEC would later tell a court. The $100 million that Santos told Intrater that he had personally raised for Harbor City did not exist either, the commission said. Nor, seemingly, did the close to $4 million that Santos claimed he and his family had invested in Harbor City.

Santos’ representations form the basis of a sworn declaration that Intrater gave the SEC in May 2022, as part of its Harbor City investigation. Intrater’s interactions with the SEC are the first indication that the commission might be interested in Santos.

Intrater told the SEC that the representations influenced his decision to invest in Santos’ business and political endeavors — an allegation that could leave Santos vulnerable to criminal charges.

“I admired him and fundamentally I thought he’s a hardworking guy — he’s young and he has the ability to win,” Intrater said in a recent interview.

In late December, after Santos’ years of lies were exposed, Intrater reconsidered his appraisal. He shared with The New York Times text messages that he exchanged with Santos, as well as documents and the declaration that he had given to the SEC — all outlining the ways in which he said Santos had misled him.

“I don’t want Republicans having a bum representing Republicans, and I don’t want to have a guy that committed crimes walking free,” he said.

The SEC has not indicated publicly that it is looking into Santos and declined to answer questions about potential inquiries into the congressman or communications between Intrater and the agency. But the SEC reached out to Intrater in March 2022 to seek information on Santos’ dealings on behalf of Harbor City, according to Intrater and his lawyer.

Although Santos claimed to have raised $100 million for Harbor City, SEC documents say the firm had only raised a total of $17 million. And while Santos said that he and his family had invested millions of dollars because of Harbor City, financial disclosures filed during his 2020 run for Congress show that he earned just $55,000 that year, and had no assets.

If Santos had lured investors through the use of false statements, he could face charges of securities fraud, legal experts said.

It is not clear how the SEC is handling Intrater’s sworn declaration; it does not appear to have been filed in court. The SEC lawsuit against Harbor City and its chief executive, J.P. Maroney, was put on hold in October 2022 at the request of Maroney because of a related criminal investigation into him, court documents show. Maroney has denied wrongdoing.

Some of Santos’ interactions with Intrater have been outlined in news accounts, including in Mother Jones, The Daily Beast and The Washington Post.

But documents, as well as interviews and text messages reviewed by the Times, offer new evidence of the lengths Santos went to in an effort to obscure the problems at Harbor City, and how the relationship soured between the politician and one of his biggest supporters.

Intrater is a private equity investor perhaps best known for his financial ties to Viktor Vekselberg, his cousin. Vekselberg is a Russian oligarch whose U.S. assets were frozen in 2018 by the Treasury Department because of his ties to the Kremlin.

Under a license from the Treasury Department, Intrater says, he has continued to manage Vekselberg-connected assets but is in the process of winding them down. He says that he has not distributed or received funds or had business dealings with Vekselberg or related companies since the sanctions.

Intrater is also known for his relationship with Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s onetime personal lawyer; Intrater’s firm, Columbus Nova, signed Cohen to a $1 million consulting contract when the businessman was looking for new investment opportunities in 2018.

Santos met Intrater a few years later; Intrater recalled that Santos called him seeking his financial support in the 2020 congressional race. After Santos lost, the two remained friendly, building a relationship over text messages and lunches at Osteria Delbianco, an Italian restaurant in midtown Manhattan. They bonded over a shared “old school” worldview and having families that fled the Holocaust, Intrater said. (Santos’ family did not actually flee the Holocaust, records show.)

Santos, as The Daily Beast reported, joined Harbor City in 2020, the same year he first ran for the House, and helped establish the firm’s presence in New York as its regional director. Santos had met Maroney, Harbor City’s CEO, when Santos was helping to organize conferences for LinkBridge Investors, Maroney said, and the two stayed in touch.

Maroney liked Santos, whom he described as “a consummate networker.” He hired him to bring in investments from the ultrawealthy.

According to court documents filed by the SEC, Harbor City told investors that it had discovered a way to make guaranteed money by investing in digital marketing and advertising.

But Harbor City was not doing any such investing, and only a small part of the $17 million it raised was used for legitimate business expenses, the government claims. The company, according to civil charges filed by the SEC, was instead engaged in a Ponzi scheme, using investments from new clients to make payments to older investors, while Maroney siphoned money from business accounts to buy a Mercedes and a waterfront house and pay down more than $1 million in credit card bills.

Intrater was a lucrative client. He decided to invest the $625,000 in a Harbor City fund, using a holding company, FEA Innovations. He and Maroney signed a subscription agreement, which was reviewed by the Times, on Jan. 15, 2021.

Intrater became one of Santos’ more generous patrons. In addition to his investments in Harbor City funds, first reported by The Washington Post, he donated more than $200,000 to Santos’ election campaign, associated political committees and a New York political action committee that he would later learn was controlled by Santos’ sister. He liked the political stances of Santos, a Republican, and his rags-to-riches story, he said.

In retrospect, he should have recognized warning signs, he said.

Though Intrater and his lawyers repeatedly requested the letter of credit, it never materialized. And while he received the first interest payment as scheduled in March 2021, the April payment was mysteriously clawed back. He did not receive any future payments from the company, he said.

With the April payment and the bank letter still missing, Intrater followed up with Santos on May 28, 2021. Intrater said he was unaware at the time that the SEC had by then made public its fraud complaint against Maroney and Harbor City.

But all was well, Santos assured Intrater, casually mentioning that he had been let go a few weeks earlier. Santos, who was running for Congress a second time, told Intrater that his political activities were deemed to be a conflict for Harbor City and he was leaving to focus on his real estate and small projects. (Santos has since admitted that he does not own any property.)

Maroney said in an interview that he had no problems with Santos’ political career and that he supported his ambitions, even agreeing to hold a fundraiser for Trump’s reelection bid at his home.

In fact, Maroney and another former Harbor City employee said Santos had been with the firm until the end. Maroney recalled in an interview last month that Santos “was definitely one of the ones that got the notice that everything we had had been frozen.”

Yet months after Harbor City’s accounts were frozen in April, Santos was still telling Intrater that things were fine, maintaining that the $100 million fund he had mentioned was separate from the one described in the SEC case, according to text messages he sent Intrater.

“Hey Andy, I put in calls to everyone I know still working at HC,” he wrote Intrater. “Should hear back today I hope.”

A few days later, Santos was fretting about his own financial exposure, which he had told Intrater was huge. “I’m having a nervous breakdown,” he texted.

As late as January 2022 he swore to Intrater that his family had invested “almost 4M,” and said that he had employed a lawyer, Joe Murray, to help him try to claw back any remaining funds.

The court-appointed lawyer overseeing Harbor City’s assets, Katherine Donlon, would not formally say whether Santos and his family had invested in Harbor City. But she said that she did not recognize their names as investors, in response to a request emailed by the Times.

Murray declined to answer questions from the Times about Santos’ representations to Intrater and on behalf of Harbor City, saying only, “It would be inappropriate to comment on an ongoing investigation.” Santos, who was not named in the SEC suit, has publicly said he had no knowledge of wrongdoing at Harbor City, an assertion that Maroney backed up.

Intrater said that at the time, he felt for the younger man, who he believed was also a victim.

“Take long walks to clear your head in order to deal with the stress,” he coached Santos via text, urging him to avoid stress eating and alcohol.

The two stayed in touch, even as Intrater came to write off his investment. When Santos appealed to him again for political donations in his second run for Congress, Intrater came through, donating tens of thousands of dollars to Santos’ associated PACs.

And he remained receptive to business opportunities presented by Santos, who helped to set up at least two other potential deals. Neither came together.

Neither Intrater nor his lawyer have heard much from the SEC since filing the declaration, they said, with the commission only replying in November 2022 to say that the civil case had been stayed.

By then, Santos had been elected to represent New York’s 3rd Congressional District. A few days later, Intrater had lunch with the congressman-elect and offered his congratulations.

Things changed in December after Santos’ deception became public. In the weeks since, Intrater said he has reached out to the Department of Justice offering information on Santos. The agency declined to comment.

The last time the men spoke, Intrater says, was after he saw Santos being grilled on Fox News, about a week after the Times ran its initial investigation.

“I said, ‘Dude, I saw your interview,’” Intrater said. “‘You look like you’re absolutely lying about everything.’”

Once again, Santos sought to reassure him. But Intrater was no longer interested in explanations.

He told Santos that he was convinced he was a liar and then cursed at him, he said. “I hung up the phone,” he added. “That was it.”

A Republican elections commissioner said he was proud of lower turnout in Milwaukee. Democratic colleagues are calling for his resignation.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

A Republican elections commissioner said he was proud of lower turnout in Milwaukee. Democratic colleagues are calling for his resignation.

Molly Beck, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – January 12, 2023

MADISON – A Democratic member of the Wisconsin Elections Commission is calling on his Republican colleague to resign for praising lower voter turnout in Milwaukee during the 2022 general election that he attributed to targeting Black voters with negative ads, lawsuits filed by Republicans that added voting restrictions, and GOP campaigning that pushed Democratic voters to stay home instead of voting for candidates in their party.

Bob Spindell, the chairman of the Fourth Congressional District GOP and a member of the elections commission, told Republicans in a recent email the district party was proud of lower turnout in Milwaukee “due to a ‘well thought out multi-faceted plan'” that included “A substantial & very effective Republican Coordinated Election Integrity program resulting with lots of Republican paid Election Judges & trained Observers & extremely significant continued Court Litigation,” according to UrbanMilwaukee, which was the first to report on Spindell’s comments.

Democratic commissioner Mark Thomsen said Spindell should leave his position overseeing elections.

“My fellow commissioner Bob Spindell has shown he cannot be fair and should resign from the WEC,” Thomsen tweeted, citing the UrbanMilwaukee report. Thomsen did not respond to a request for an interview.

Bob Spindell, a Republican member of the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
Bob Spindell, a Republican member of the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

“I would suspect that he didn’t read my article,” Spindell told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in response to Thomsen’s tweet.

Democratic commissioner Ann Jacobs also called for Spindell to resign, tweeting, “When you brag about suppressing votes, you are admitting you suppressed votes. Nothing in his claims says ‘our message won’ or ‘people came to our side.’ It is literally ‘We made them not vote – hooray!’ Mark Thomsen is absolutely correct. This is beyond the pale.”

Spindell said by touting lower voter turnout he was praising efforts by Republicans to make inroads with lifelong Democrats. He said Thomsen’s comments were ignoring the fact that commissioners are supposed to be partisan.

“The elections commission was not set up to be fair,” Spindell said. “The oath of office that we take does not say anything about not being nonpartisan. We were appointed by Republican and Democratic officials to be partisan and there is nobody more partisan than Ann Jacobs and Mark Thomsen and that is meant to be a compliment.”

“Three partisan Democrats and three partisan Republicans try to get together and come out with (guidance) that is in the best interest of Wisconsin and at the same time recognizing the interests of the (political parties) must be protected.”

In a five-page memo touting the party’s 2022 campaign strategies, Spindell wrote that the party is “especially proud of how the City of Milwaukee’s gross vote went down from 74% to 63% of registered voters — 37,000 total votes less than cast in 2018.”

“We must remember, in the strategy of things, it is often extremely difficult & hard to convert a hard core, long term generation type Democrat to all of a sudden, bring himself or herself around to vote for a Republican. However, by our Republican efforts, pointing out strongly, how the Democrat Candidates are worse than or certainly no better than their perception of the Republican Candidates, at all levels, they hopefully cannot bring themselves to vote for either one,” Spindell wrote.

“In a Democrat City or Democrat County where up to 80% of the people are voting for the Democrats – that’s a good thing and helped insure that Sen. Johnson got over the goal line.”

In the memo, Spindell claimed Democratic candidates did not receive “the votes they needed” from Black voters because of Republican campaigning targeting Black communities. He touted smaller voter turnout in Milwaukee aldermanic districts with high percentages of Black residents.

“While a great deal of credit goes to the RNC/RPW/Johnson paid staff and our many dedicated volunteers; our recruitment of good candidates & their hard work for these areas; continued presence on a Black Talk Radio Show coupled with Negative Black Radio Commercials, there is still a great deal of much more concentrated work we need to do in the Black and Hispanic Communities by continuing to show how the Democratic Elected Officials and Candidates are not watching out for the livelihoods of the people who live in these areas and the Republicans can,” he wrote.

By ballots cast, the Journal Sentinel reported, Milwaukee had the biggest proportional decline of any municipality in the county, but that may have been driven partly by population decline. Some 17% fewer ballots were cast in the city than in 2018, a drop off bigger than other communities in the county.

However, by another measure, percentage of registered voters, the decline in turnout in the city was in line with other Milwaukee County communities. Overall, Milwaukee County saw about 46,000 fewer ballots cast.

Spindell is one of the 10 Wisconsin Republicans who in 2020 submitted false paperwork to Congress and the National Archives claiming to be an elector for former President Donald Trump despite Trump losing the election, and has falsely claimed the 2020 election was “rigged” but legal.

Spindell has been sued by two of Wisconsin’s real presidential electors over his decision to submit false paperwork to Congress claiming to be a presidential elector for Trump. Spindell and other false electors have defended their actions, calling it a legal strategy in the event the election results were overturned by a lawsuit.

Rep. Andy Biggs spews Kari Lake-like delusion from Washington, D.C.

AZ Central – The Arizona Republic

Rep. Andy Biggs spews Kari Lake-like delusion from Washington, D.C.

EJ Montini, Arizona Republic – January 11, 2023

Rep. Andy Biggs delivers remarks in the House Chamber during the third day of elections for Speaker of the House at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, DC.
Rep. Andy Biggs delivers remarks in the House Chamber during the third day of elections for Speaker of the House at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

Based on her ongoing unhinged behavior there is no doubt Arizona dodged a bullet when Republican Kari Lake lost the governor’s race.

Knowing the state won’t have a person in a position of power who is motivated by a bizarre, single-minded sense of revenge based on moronic or (even worse) mindful delusions affords us a sense of relief.

That is … until we recognize that the spinning barrel of Arizona politics has more than one round in the chamber.

The first Lake-like politician to come out blasting after the election, bent on destruction and with little or no grasp of reality is U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs.

Beginning by burning down the House

First, Biggs tried to metaphorically burn down the House of Representatives by putting himself up for speaker, making his own party look like a bunch of buffoons during days of ridiculous recriminations and deal-making, only to have the guy Biggs said was unfit to be speaker, Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy, wind up as …speaker.Then, on Tuesday, Biggs tweeted:

Last night, my Republican colleagues and I defeated the Democrats’ 87,000-person IRS army. We are working quickly to reverse the Democrats’ negligent policies. This is already a very good start to the 118th Congress!

Essentially, none of that is true.

Biggs and his Republican colleagues “defeated” nothing. To claim they did is not even wishful thinking. It’s close to hallucination. And Biggs knows it.

Last year, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which included roughly $80 billion for the Internal Revenue Service to be spent over 10 years. But, as numerous fact checkers have pointed out numerous times during the election cycle, claims of an IRS “army” going after middle class families are fiction.

The IRS, which had been underfunded by Congress for years, plans to use the money to update its technology systems, to hire and train new technology specialists and customer service representatives, to replace some of the tens of thousands of retiring agents and to hire some news ones.

No ‘army’ and nothing was ‘defeated’

The “army” claim comes from the fact that agents within the IRS’s Criminal Investigation division can carry firearms. In context, there are roughly 82,000 IRS employees. About 2,000 of them are CI agents. And they don’t go after regular folks.

Biggs’ claim that he and the new Republican-controlled house “defeated” the original bill is a fantasy. It’s shocking – or is it? – to think that he and his Republican colleagues believe their supporters are stupid enough to believe that.

The Inflation Reduction Act is law.

The new Republican-controlled House passed legislation to eliminate the IRS funding in that bill, but the House proposal must first get through the Senate and be signed by President Joe Biden.

Neither of those things will happen.

Biggs knows this.

That is reality.

You are equipped with body armor. Use it.

Biggs also knows that fashioning such legislation then pushing it through the House was a colossal waste of time, all designed to send a false message filled with false bravado to gullible constituents who, in turn, might be conned into sending money back to the campaigns of the politicians who, in essence, did nothing.

We have plenty of other elected officials like Biggs – Rep. Paul Gosar, most of the GOP state legislative caucus and more – all with an unlimited supply of conspiracies and misleading information.

Don’t duck for cover, however.

Don’t run from the oncoming barrage.

There is widely available, impenetrable body armor at your disposable: Truth.