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“Not a Target” Doesn’t Mean “Exonerated”

by Kevin Kelton

The border wall between a “subject” and “target” is thin and can crumble quickly. 

Much has been made about reports that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told President Trump he’s “not a target” of the Russia or Michael Cohen investigations. Trump and his supporters seem to believe that exonerates him in both investigations. As they say online, LOL.

Over the years I’ve read many dozens of articles about murder investigations and other felonies. Invariably there’s a spouse, relative or close friend whom all the evidence points to, but the police call him “a person of interest” and not “a suspect.” Usually it’s to get that person to turn themselves in for questioning. But persons of interest can turn into suspects and charged perpetrators very quickly.

Unlike “suspect” and “material witness,” “person of interest”… generally refers to someone law enforcement authorities would like to speak with or investigate further in connection with a crime. It may be used, rather than calling the person a suspect, when they don’t want their prime suspect to know they’re watching him closely. Critics complain that the term has become a method for law enforcement officers to draw attention to individuals without formally accusing them.

Now here’s the FBI’s terminology:

• A “subject” is: “a person whose conduct is within the scope of a Grand Jury’s investigation.” A subject is somewhere between a target and a witness. A subject has engaged in conduct that may look suspicious or unethical, but the prosecutor isn’t certain that a provable crime has been committed and wants to do more investigating in order to be sure.

• A person is a “target” when the prosecutor or Grand Jury has substantial evidence linking him to the commission of a crime. The key thing to remember about these categories is that they are ultimately meaningless and offer you no protection. Why? Because even if you’re currently a witness or subject, there’s no guarantee that your status will remain unchanged.

According to Bruce J. Kelton, a former Justice Department attorney who prosecuted RICO and organized crime cases, “Many individuals who wind up as criminal defendants in federal court started out as subjects and as the grand jury investigation developed turned into targets. To give an example, Bernie Madoff was the initial immediate target in a Ponzi scheme in New York. But by the end of the investigation, 15 others who initially were subjects were indicted and convicted.”

So if you think the fact that Rosenstein told Trump he’s “not a target” means he’s been vindicated, you may be in for a big surprise. And if the president thinks he’s been vindicated, good! Let him continue with that false sense of security.

As for me, I will accept the outcome if he’s never charged. And do a jig if he is.

Kevin Kelton is a cohost of The More Perfect Union podcast and founder of Open Fire Politics on Facebook.

Multiple Bombshells (Ep. 149)

This episode of “The More Perfect Union” podcast looks at Trump’s military strike on Syria and its ramifications, James Comey’s new book and its ramifications, Michael Cohen’s rumored 2016 trip to Prague and its ramifications, and Greg’s ability to do foreign accents and its ramifications.

Spank Me Kindly (Ep. 146)

This episode of The More Perfect Union podcast covers the Stormy Daniels “60 Minutes” interivew, the March For Our Lives, John Bolton, Trump’s congratulatory call to Putin, China tariffs, and Joe Biden’s ominous prediction for 2020. It’s real debate without the hate…and with the laughs.

Teachers Packing Heat (Ep. 142)

This episode of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at the idea of arming public school teachers, the latest in the Trump-Russia collusion investigation, and the possibility of Ohio Gov. John Kasich challenging Trump in 2020.

For more debate between shows, join Open Fire Politics on Facebook.

Nuclear Memo War

by Kevin Kelton

By approving the reckless release of the politically-explosive Devin Nunes memo, President Trump has now demonstrated that he cannot be trusted to heed urgent warnings from his senior advisors. He ignored the dire pleas of his FBI Director, Deputy Attorney-General, Assistant Attorney General, intelligence chiefs, Senators John Thune and Lindsey Graham (both loyal Trump confidants), and probably a few White House higher-ups that we don’t know of yet. When the DOJ and FBI warned him it would be an “extraordinarily reckless” act, the president reportedly erupted in anger and still acted on his reckless impulses.

So how can we trust he will listen to his senior advisors’ warnings not to release a nuclear military strike if that day ever comes? Who is to say that Jim Mattis or HR McMaster will have any more sway over him than the FBI Director,  DAG, and AAG that Trump himself handpicked?

With that in mind, Republicans and others now enabling this reckless president should watch carefully how Trump navigates the next few months. Watch how he responds to a counter-strike memo from Democrats. Will he impulsively escalate the battle? Does he feel the need to always one-up his enemy, always taking the fight to the next level regardless of warnings or consequences? Will he try to fire Rod Rosenstein or Mueller himself, indifferent to the warnings of senior staff?

If so, is this the behavior of a man you truly entrust with the security of your country and your family?

If the 45th president can’t be trusted to suppress his worst urges in political warfare, what makes you think he’d be able to do it in real warfare? The pressure Trump is under from the special counsel investigation is beyond intense. It’s pretty clear to any objective observer that he’s having some kind of nervous breakdown (as most guilty parties do when the police are banging at their front door). If a mannered and proper adversary like Robert Mueller is breaking him, how would he hold up psychologically against a wily, no-rules nemesis who can read Trump’s neurotic wiring and manipulate him like a puppet master working a marionette?

Because if you think Kim Jong-un isn’t watching and reading how Trump handles all this, guess again. Every foreign leader is watching how this game plays out, reading Trump’s weaknesses and his “tells.” Trump is trying to bluff his way out of the Russia scandal with a losing hand, and his pupils and brow sweat are obvious for everyone to see.

So Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, John Kelly, and every senator, congress person and cabinet officer, pay close attention now. Do you really trust this man under pressure? Is he someone whose worst instincts you’ll be able to contain when the going gets extremely rough?

It’s not a joke or a wild hypothetical. We just saw him launch a reckless nuclear first strike on his political enemies. The next one may be with missiles, not memos.

Men Copping Pleas and Feels (Ep. 129)

In episode 129 of The More Perfect Union poccast, Toronto radio host Ward Anderson joins the gang for a wide ranging discussion of sexual mores in the age of Trump, Franken and Moore.

Handicapping 2020 in 2017

by Kevin Kelton

Everyone’s favorite political game is handicapping the 2020 Democratic primary race. So here’s my humble take. While he’s not my first choice, my instincts tell me  that Bernie Sanders will be the nominee. Here’s why.
I think Al Franken got knocked out today, not that I think he was ever a real contender, and I just don’t see anyone from the second tier (Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Andrew Cuomo, Kirsten Gillibrand) generating wide excitement these days. When people start to think about a matchup with Trump, they are going to want to see him spar with someone as bold and colorful and unorthodox as him. A conventional candidate like Martin O’Malley or Andrew Cuomo or even Cory Booker isn’t going to excite the imagination of the media or the masses the way a Trump-Sanders matchup will. Of course it *could* happen that someone strikes lightning in a bottle, like Obama and Sanders did in ’08 and ’16; I just don’t see it this time around — not from anyone in this field or anyone likely to show up.
 
That leaves Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden. Frankly, I am not hearing any groundswell of support for Warren these days. Are you? I’ve been watching the threads in Open Fire when 2020 comes up and I don’t see anyone passionately pushing for her. It seems that, like Chris Christie after 2012, Warren’s window of opportunity may have passed. She’s just not the darling of the left anymore, and center-left Democrats don’t seem to trust her. I think Joe Biden could make a strong run (and I’d probably support him), but I sense that his sheen in the party is fading, too.
 
Now to be honest, Sanders is also a less compelling figure than he was in 2016. Like Ali without Frazier, Bernie just seems smaller without Hillary in the ring. But the difference is, Sanders’ base of support — which was pretty wide and incredibly devoted — is still out there. Everyone who was chomping at the bit to nominate him last time will be just as excited again, and their small donor money will be there, too. So he goes into the primaries with a national organization, tons of enthusiasm from millions of supporters, and money that he can raise regularly without pandering to special interests or corporate donors. All this while Warren, Biden, Cuomo, and Booker are competing against each other for the same finite landscape of big money Democratic donors. Plus the DNC is sensitive to the idea that it was somehow unfair to Bernie last time, so they will bend over backward not to get accused of that again.
 
And finally, in the irony of ironies, Trump’s obvious and deep ties to Putin and the Russians will negate Bernie’s biggest liability: that he’s a socialist. The fear of communism seems to have waned, and what would have been an albatross around Sanders’ neck in 2016 will be a minor issue against the Trump-Putin ticket.
 
Please note: this isn’t me stating a preference; Bernie would not be my first choice. It’s me making a prediction. And I reserve the right to change my prediction as news and circumstances evolve. But my best guess now is that it will be Trump v. Sanders.
 
Of course, my best guess in 2016 was that we’d all be guessing who’ll be running against President Hillary Clinton in her re-election bid. A really bad guess, but at least I was in good company when I made it.

Rand Paul Gets Punched (Ep. 125)

Episode 125 of The More Perfect Union podcast finds the gang mourning yet another mass shooting, looking at the upcoming off-year elections in New York, New Jersey and Virginia, expressing dismay at Senator Elizabeth Warren, and showing compassion for Senator Rand Paul.

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast. 

And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Greg, Rebekah, and lots of other smart, fun people. 

Find us on Twitter at @MPUpodcast

Christmas in October

Episode 124 of the More Perfect Union podcast covers the first wave of the Robert Mueller Russia investigation indictments, the ongoing dysfunction in the Trump White House, a new conspiracy theory tied to the JFK assassination document dump, and why otherwise honorable 93-year-old men in wheelchairs should not be judged by the size and location of their hands.

Trump’s Trade War

by D.J. McGuire

Over the eight months and change of the Trump Administration, two of his closest allies – both geopolitically and personally – have been Justin Trudeau and Theresa May, Prime Ministers of Canada and the United Kingdom, respectively.

This week, the Trump Administration declared a trade war on both of them – and the Democrats are practically silent. Between Trump’s economic ignorance and the opposition’s political malpractice, we’re in for a very bumpy ride.

All About the Base…No Treble (Ep. 112)

Episode 112 of The More Perfect Union podcast touches on the final days of The Mooch and who might replace him, the Trump immigration bill and his battle with sanctuary cities, and the Russia probe’s new grand jury. Then the gang must make some faustian choices between hypothetical 2020 presidential opponents.

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast! 

And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Greg, Rebekah, Cliff, Molly, Helena, and lots of other smart, fun people.

Senator Kid Rock (Ep. 109)

In Part 2 of this week’s “The More Perfect Union” podcast, the gang tries to negotiate their own bipartisan healthcare bill, argues over the reliability of CBO scores, looks at the political viability of Kid Rock and other celebrities in the era of Trump, and then reveals their own thoughts about someday running for office.

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast! 

And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Greg, Rebekah, Cliff, Molly, Helena, and lots of other smart, fun people.