How the Democrats keep losing. 2017, part 4.

How the Democrats keep losing. The most recent addition to this exhibition–probably not the last–is now installed. Georgia’s 6th congressional district went for Republican Karen Handel. In no way was this a surprise, as far as I am concerned. See previous posts on this topic here and here. (Yes, it is time for the I-told-you-so’s.)

The final outcome wasn’t all that much of a squeaker, either. Unofficial results from the Georgia Secretary of State’s website give Handel 51.87 percent of the vote to Jon Ossoff’s 48.13 percent, a margin of almost four points. The end was apparent by 10 p.m. on election night. Handel won by almost 10,000 votes–a not inconsiderable number in a congressional district.

For further perspective, compare the outcome to that of South Carolina’s special election, the same night. Very similar: the Republican candidate, Ralph Norman, won, and by about the same margin. Unofficial results from the South Carolina State Election Commission give Norman 51.10 percent of the vote to 47.88 percent for Democrat Archie Parnell. If you do the arithmetic with close attention, Parnell did slightly better percentage-wise than Ossoff.

Parnell

In other words, the Democratic candidate in South Carolina did slightly better, though still losing, than the Democratic candidate in Georgia. Is this in spite of the attention paid to ‘flipping’ Georgia during the 2016 election cycle–or because of it?

My working hypothesis is the latter.

More national attention means more money, and more money went to Georgia, as everyone on Earth knows. Googling the phrase ‘the most expensive House race in U.S. history’ turns up 6.5 million results. The non-profit, non-partisan OpenSecrets.org has posted a substantial run-down on dollar amounts as of June 19. As of the day before the special election, at least $56 million had been spent. At that time, the NRCC had spent somewhat more than the DCCC, both pouring millions into the race. The NRCC was playing some catch-up ball; Ossoff was the beneficiary of highly-touted donations and campaign appearances by Hollywood celebrities and others from before the April 18th round of the special election.

But what looks like a national bandwagon of bi-coastal celebrities is not the same as a local landslide. In fact, it is not the same as a local win. It does not translate into a local win.

Even money coming in is not everything.

Compare the money spent on the South Carolina special election to that spent on the Georgia special election. As Open Secrets notes in the same article, by May 31 a grand total of $2.06 million had been raised by Norman and Parnell for the South Carolina race, partly in loans to their campaigns by the candidates themselves. The South Carolina total thus comes to about three percent of the Georgia total.

So–same margin of loss for the Democrats, at three percent of the price? And that’s before the final numbers are all in. There is no reason to expect that the cost ratio of the two elections will narrow after final FEC reports.

Leaning over backward here, I have to mention that voter turnout was better in Georgia, significantly better. South Carolina reports 18.25 percent turnout in its special; Georgia reports turnout of 57.97 percent. Any analyst would say that topping 50 percent in an off-year election, or in a midterm election, let alone a special, is outstanding.

However–more money coming in, with more national attention, also means more outsiderism. Jon Ossoff may not have been a total carpetbagger, but he was no home-grown favorite son, either. His negatives were slight but telling–living outside the district, for example–and not palliated by his fudging the distance he lived away. More importantly, Ossoff’s candidacy was not the organic product of community action, or activism. He had a successful career in media and the potential to attract big money. Thus Ossoff was the hand-picked choice of Dems who thought They Were the Ones Who Knew the Score, in Georgia and more outside it.

Thus he tacitly reinforced the perception of rigged elections. Republicans kept tying him to ‘Nancy Pelosi’, but the real damage is that Ossoff’s candidacy was a pale reflection of Hillary Clinton’s. No choice. That’s the Democratic message: We’re the one for you, and when we say ‘one’, we mean it.

I have no  strong hope that writers for either Daily Kos or Rachel Maddow will ever perceive the gut unpopularity of this strategy.

We’re already seeing the fall-out from the special elections in ‘progressive’ public discourse. Short form:

Argument over ‘moving to the left’ misses the point in a big way.

Argument over ‘party leadership’ also probably misses the point.

Candidates win in their own districts. Local talent has to run. Popular, well-liked local talent has to run. And genuine liking comes from having worked for, on behalf of, the people you live among. The hysterical careerists who seem to dominate the Democratic Party nationally have yet to pick up on this.

As to making elections a ‘Referendum on Trump’? Losing strategy. I said so before. Going TrumpTrumpTrump as Hillary Clinton did generates the same outcome Clinton got, or created. Furthermore, making congressional elections a ‘referendum on Trump’ ignores the concerns of the congressional district. It is also basically a form of telling people how stupid they are. (Who are you to have your own opinions or preferences?) Telling people how stupid they are/were may give self-anointed insiders a feeling of power for a few minutes, but it is both mean and a loser. That makes it 0 for 2 in my book.

Meanwhile, the hysteria poured into the Georgia Special sucked away resources that could have gone into home foreclosures, or inmate abuse, or immigrants preyed upon by other immigrants, or the backlog of unprocessed rape kits. If the Democrats would work on these and other issues at home, and would do genuine work, they would be seen doing so.

Not that winning is everything. But losing isn’t anything.

Told you so.

 

 

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Georgia 6th special election

Live-blogging results from GA-6.

7:30 p.m. Two polling places scheduled to stay open until 7:30. No results yet from the Georgia State Board of Elections. 0 of 208 precincts reporting.

An intelligent piece from Axios breaks down the math. Three counties in the district; in the election in April, a combined 77 percent of the vote total came from the two counties that went Republican. This result suggests that Republican Karen Handel has the edge against Democrat Jon Ossoff.

Guess it’s the April arithmetic on one hand against recent opinion polling on the other.

I have no predictions, but it’s hard not to remember the polls just before last week’s Democratic and Republican primaries in Virginia.

7:38 p.m. First results in. Handel ahead 51 percent to 48 percent in the first seventy thousand votes. Unofficial returns.

Handel

8:09 p.m. Ossoff now ahead 50 to 49 percent, with 115,000 votes in. All three counties partially reporting.

Campaign site

8:48 p.m. Ossoff still ahead almost 50 – 49 percent, for the moment. Thirteen of 208 precincts reported.

8:55 p.m. Karen Handel now up by less than one percent. Nineteen precincts reporting.

9:10 p.m. Handel now up by more than a percent. Quite the little quantum leap, for either candidate. Margin 51 to 48 percent, with 82 precincts in.

9:30 p.m. It’s practically a runaway, by the standards of this special. Handel now up 52 to 47 percent in Georgia 6th. Almost half the precincts in, 99 out of 208.

Almost half of DeKalb County in, theoretically Ossoff’s stronghold. Only a third of Fulton in. Almost four-fifths of Cobb County in. Cannot project any big swing from what votes/precincts remain out.

9:48 p.m. Handel still ahead of Ossoff 52 – 47 percent, with 190,000 votes in. The district ha 447,000 registered voters. It will be interesting to read the total turnout once all votes are counted.

9:51 p.m. Three-fourths of precincts completed, 157 out of 208. Handel leading 51 to 48 percent. DeKalb County now 97 percent completed by precincts.

9:54 p.m. Fulton County precincts now two-thirds counted. Cobb County 92 percent counted. Handel ahead 52 to 47 percent, almost. Are the last three percent’s worth of DeKalb County precincts supposed to make all the difference?

10:01 p.m. One of three counties now in–DeKalb. 219,000 votes in, and Handel still leads Ossoff 52 percent to 47 percent.

I may not be NBC, but I’m calling it for Handel. Period.

 

 

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John Doar of Watergate

Today’s history lesson. The Watergate investigation was headed by Republican John Doar, an alumnus of Princeton and of Berkeley Law. Before serving as chief investigator in Watergate, Doar had served as an Army Air Force pilot in World War II and as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the sixties. His duties as Assistant AG included protecting James Meredith at the University of Mississippi.*

John Doar (left)

President Obama awarded Doar the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 (an award overshadowed by Bob Dylan’s).

Below is a key reminder about Doar’s character and performance. Quoted from the wonderful Jimmy Breslin’s How the Good Guys Finally Won:

The second occurrence, the dangerous one, first began to take form months before. It grew out of the nature of the political business. On one hand there was John Doar, unelected, with working methods that were as strict and severe as they were successful. Security is a rather simple word to Doar: it means you say nothing to anybody. As politicians are essentially elected washerwomen, information often their only visible means of support, this secrecy made some members [of the Judiciary Committee] nervous.

I was reminded of Doar in reading that James Quarles, reportedly on the Mueller team investigating matters under the Trump administration, was a member of the Watergate Special Prosecution Force.

Does Robert Mueller remind anyone of Doar?

As a newspaper reader and one of the Washington Post’s last six print subscribers, I have to admit that I myself often enjoy reading about leaks. However, some enlightened skepticism about them is essential–and often a more interesting story. Take for example the phenomenon, throughout the George W. Bush years, of treating as leaks what were actually plants–items planted in media outlets, usually to harm some individual in government no longer in the charmed circle.

A remarkable number of leaks have come from the Mueller team investigating Russia and the 2016 election in the last couple of days. The sources are unnamed at this point, though of course I have my own guesses. One logical claim is unassailable and clear: either Mueller can control the leaks from what purports to be an investigation into serious matters, or he cannot. If he cannot, he is not in control of his team. If he can, he is basically generating the leaks.

Regardless of the benefit of leakers to individual journalists and to individual media outlets, it would be nice to see more informed scrutiny in the news media.

I would also like to see my hunches confirmed as to identity; if someone else won’t provide, I’ll have to do it myself. For analogy and another literary reference, see The Little Red Hen.

*Many people don’t seem to know that the U Mississippi nickname ‘Ole Miss’ is cant for the slave name for the mistress on an antebellum plantation. Funny to hear it used so fondly, since no one would apply ‘Ole Massa’ to anything, at least with affection.

[Update]

Just after posting above, I saw Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s statement on anonymous allegations. From DOJ:

Statement by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Anonymous Allegations

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein today issued the following statement:

“Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous ‘officials,’ particularly when they do not identify the country – let alone the branch or agency of government – with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated. Americans should be skeptical about anonymous allegations. The Department of Justice has a long-established policy to neither confirm nor deny such allegations.”

 

 

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Yesterday’s mass shooting

By now everyone knows about the shootings yesterday of Republicans practicing for tonight’s Congressional Baseball Game, a Washington annual charity event.

June 14, 2017

A sixty-six-year-old white guy named James Hodgkinson went to the ball field, checked to make sure that morning’s practice was GOP–the Democrats had practiced earlier–and once players were on the field, opened fire. Majority Whip Steve Scalise is in critical condition. Tyson Foods lobbyist Matt Mika, shot in the chest, is in critical condition. Congressional staffer Zack Barth was wounded. Capitol Police officers David Bailey and Crystal Griner were wounded, Griner by gunshot and Bailey in the conflict. Bailey and Griner were also praised by every witness for their heroism. The Capitol Police detail was assigned to Scalise as Whip; if Bailey and Griner had not been there, according to rapid consensus, the shootings would have been a massacre. Hodgkinson was shot by police and died of his injuries in a hospital.

Much has already been discovered, in increments, about the shooter’s anger issues and track record of seemingly petty personal and business conflicts.

Whether he had what could be designated a clinical mental illness remains to be determined, along with any other questions about his health. What is certain is that he had traveled to Northern Virginia from Illinois and had taken up a white-van-type post of sorts near the baseball diamond.

And every indication so far is that in his already unbalanced or fragile mental state he went over the edge in the hype around the 2016 election.

[Visual images readily available. I decided not to insert them here.]

I for one have no doubt whatever that the febrile rhetoric amplified through, or coming from, media outlets contributed to his deterioration.

What’s heartbreaking (for me) is that some of the worst is coming from people who do not hesitate to present themselves as enlightened–progressive, champions of tolerance, People Who Know Things. The puffery I could stand, but some of the worst is coming from people I genuinely thought better of. Chagrined at finding out they weren’t on firm ground (championing the Clintons), they seem to know no concept of boundaries, of everyday justice. There have been indirect and less-indirect wishes for violence ever since the election. Every individual in every occupation is exhorted to hashtag-RESIST. Table any question as to whether people who went along with George Bush’s Iraq invasion would have had the nerve to stand up against an actual dictator. Table the question whether the sneaks now glorifying petty rule-breaking and back-stabbing would have had the guts to join the historical Resistance.

World War II

What the hashtag-Resistance seems to boil down to, right now, is a new elevation of the-rules-are-for-other-people into glorious doctrine. Last night’s WaPo article about the Bob Mueller investigation is perhaps a petty example. Not only are the rules for other people, but we are divinely supported in our view that the rules are for other people.

This is a bogus call to arms.

Full disclosure: Being human, I couldn’t help being amused in a way that Mueller’s team is leaking in so many places. More on that later.

[Update June 15]

To prevent any misunderstanding–the above is not intended to assign blame to Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign. There is too much sneaking at a much less macro level, joined with far too much overheated rhetoric at the macro level.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies before Intelligence Committee

Attorney General Jeff Sessions to testify soon before the Senate Intelligence Committee– (Watching live-streamed on C-Span, as with former FBI director James Comey’s testimony last week)

As has been adequately reported, or almost adequately, Sessions requested an appearance in open rather than closed setting. Politico notes that

The attorney general is facing increased scrutiny from lawmakers after former FBI Director James Comey testified last week that he knew details about Sessions before his recusal from the Russia probe that would make his involvement in the investigation “problematic.”

The Department of Justice has already released its statement in response to Comey. (View in full below.) Sessions contradicts Comey’s statement on more than one point.

(Attempting to live-blog this appearance. It may curtail some of the cyber theft of bloggers’ writing typical of some Internet sites. As reported this morning, I have found that at least one site, called “Wiky.Team,” is converting my blog site to pdf and selling/giving it away, without my consent. Guess they don’t know that some of us are trying to make a living.)

2:37 p.m. We’re about to start. Room getting quieter. Vote under way on Senate floor. Occasional video shots of the tunnel-like hallway to the room. Senator McCain seats himself. Probably some wondering whether he will be clearer today than he was when questioning Comey.

2:42 p.m. AG Sessions takes his seat. Ranking Democrats shake his hand. Audio forest of cameras going off.

2:43 p.m. Hearing called to order by Senator Richard Burr, chair. Questions re Russia’s interference in 2016 election. “Still scrutinizing CIA budget,” NSA, etc, rest of intelligence community. Mainly “behind closed doors.” Gist: this open hearing an exception. Though not for this year: this is the tenth open hearing of 2017, and the fifth concerning Russia and the election. His Qs for Sessions:

  1. Did you meet with the Russians?
  2. Did Trump campaign interact with the Russians?
  3. What brought you to recuse yourself?
  4. What role if any did you play in Comey’s firing?

Burr signs off reminding everyone of the need for bipartisanship in intelligence, “above politics.”

2:48 p.m. Senator Warner, ranking Democrat. “Mr. Comey’s revealing testimony last week.” Thanks, but “concern” that Sessions’ appearances before House were canceled so that he could appear before Senate committee. Warner hopes Sessions will speak before the House also. Meanwhile, his Qs for Sessions:

  1. Any contact with the Russians? – as in the course of the campaign. Mayflower Hotel? Provide the committee with any documents, including emails.
  2. Any part in the firing of Mr. Comey? Comey was “so unnerved” by President Trump that he felt he had to write everything down.- “a shocking statement,” from a top U.S. law enforcement official.
  3. “How you viewed your recusal” – did it permit Sessions to take part in Comey’s firing?
  4. “Most importantly,” what are you doing to keep the Russians from doing this again? “Russia massively intervened” in the election.

2:55 p.m. AG Sessions takes the oath. Sessions’ intro statement. Deputy AG has appointed a special counsel to investigate Russia in the elections; reminder.

[First item:] “I did not have any private meetings” with Russians at the Mayflower. Did attend/participate with the president in gatherings, e.g. with the Russian ambassador present. “Then I left the hotel.” “I have never met with” or had any conversation with Russian or other foreign officials re any U.S. election. “I was your colleague in this body” for years –“any collusion with the Russian government” to undermine the integrity of democratic process in this country is “an appalling lie.” Re Senator Franken’s question, and subsequent questions — in any meetings with Russians, others present, public; nothing with regard to the U.S. elections.

[Second item:] From the time of his recusal on, did not receive any information about the investigation. Nothing beyond public reporting. “Taken no action” regarding the investigation, since the date of his recusal. Sent memo to his staff telling them “not to brief me” on the investigation, and they have not. According to regulation, official recuses self re any campaign in which s/he served.

[Third item:] Meeting with Mr. Comey, regarding his conversation with the president (day before). Comey expressed concern re communications with WH. “I responded by agreeing that the FBI” and DOJ needed to be careful re communicating with WH, “especially about ongoing investigations.”

“I did not recuse myself from defending my honor against scurrilous and false accusations.”

Burr, Sessions. The Russian ambassador “was there”; Sessions does not recall a conversation with him. Reception area; no private meeting. Another encounter at the convention, reported.

Burr, Sessions. March 7, 2017, recusal. Specific reasons? C.F.R. (Code of Federal Regulations) [reads aloud] Fed employee cannot participate in a prosecution or investigation if s/he has a “personal or political relationship” with the subject. (As in DOJ statement posted below.)

Burr, Sessions. No interactions with Special Counsel Robert Mueller since the recusal. Burr, Sessions. “Foreign policy team” for Trump campaign? – not very cohesive.

Warner. Tries to get wholesale assurance that Sessions will appear when demanded. [Sen. Overreacher]

Warner, Sessions. No basis for reports that Trump will remove Mueller. Confidence in Mueller. “I know nothing about the investigation.” Sessions could not take any action that would result in Mueller’s being fired. Warner, Sessions. Any talk of firing re the Russia investigations? – cannot comment on internal DOJ discussions. Warner, Sessions. Sessions did not speak with Comey about Comey’s performance. A memo was prepared by the Deputy AG. “Out of the blue, the president fires the FBI director.”

Warner, Sessions. April 27, 2017, meeting at Mayflower Hotel, when Sessions was in Trump campaign. No recollection whether the Russian ambassador had conversation with Jared Kushner. Cannot remember Sessions talking with the ambassador. Would not have been inappropriate if he had, but does not remember a meeting. Sessions was part of the VIP reception. No communications with the ambassador before or after.

Warner, Sessions. Re Comey’s one-on-one meeting with President Trump, “Mr. Comey was sitting” before the president, and they were talking. Next day, Sessions backed Comey up in his concerns. Comey a former Deputy AG.

Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho). Russia awfully important. Flawed NYTimes article. [C-Span crawl: Dianne Feinstein up next.] In Trump campaign, no mention or suggestion of Russian interference.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California). DOJ and AG Sessions were asked for opinion on firing Comey; provided it. “Let his words speak” for themselves. Cannot comment on internal oral communications with the president. The written statement was made public by the president.

Feinstein, Sessions. When Comey publicly declined to prosecute Hillary Clinton, “thunderous thing” — usurpation of the authority of the AG. Historically, also, a public statement not done; caused concern on both sides of the aisle.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida). February 14, 2017, meeting with president. “His testimony was that you lingered.” Sessions was “one of the last ones to leave.” Had finished a counter-terrorism briefing. “I left. It didn’t seem to me to be a major problem.” Rubio, Sessions. Not just a “shrug.” No prohibition on private meetings with the president. Comey could also call his direct supervisor, the Deputy Attorney General. No knowledge of recording by president.

Rubio, Sessions. GOP plank not to provide weapons to Ukraine. No involvement in conversation about it.

Will Wyden reveal what Comey said in the closed hearing?

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon). Open hearing good. “Stonewalling” bad.

Wyden, Sessions. “Basically, I recused myself the first day I got into office”–never got into any files, etc. “Why don’t you tell me?” — “secret innuendo.” [Wyden excoriates closed hearing. Then asks Q about something Comey presumably told them about in closed hearing.]

Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine).

Collins, Sessions. Sessions and Rosenstein had discussed Comey’s email statements before either of them was confirmed. – based on investigation of Hillary Clinton. Collins, Sessions. AG had a “responsibility” to engage in the decisions about Comey as FBI director. Collins, Sessions. Appropriate for Comey to talk of his discomfort with his direct supervisor. That would have been Deputy AG Dana Boente. Esp if he knew Sessions was going to recuse himself.

Senator Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico). [Why do Dems keep talking about “executive privilege”? AG rightly says that’s the president’s prerogative. He is not invoking it.] [On second thoughts, I guess some Dems are playing to media hunger for another Watergate. Trawling for media moments with ‘executive privilege’ sound bite. The ‘executive privilege’ straw man reminds everyone of Nixon.]

Heinrich. “I’m asking about your personal knowledge.” “You are obstructing” an investigation. “Your silence . . . speaks volumes.” [Heinrich is not a lawyer.]

Sessions. “Breathtaking” usurpation of authority of AG. The FBI director does not decide whether to prosecute.

Senator Roy Blunt (R-Missouri).

Blunt, Sessions. No room at Mayflower where Sessions had private meetings. No private meetings. “I didn’t have any formal meeting with him”; “may have had an encounter.” Maybe other ambassadors at that reception as well. No lengthy discussion with Russian ambassador, if any.

Blunt, Sessions. The conversation betw Sessions and Comey was either next morning or morning after that. “Yes, I did respond.” “I think he was incorrect.” Sessions’ chief of staff was with him. Did affirm longstanding guidelines re communications with the WH. They do not prohibit one-on-one conversation betw FBI director and president, but they apply to the entire DOJ re certain investigations.

Senator Angus King (I-Maine). ‘Executive privilege’ again from King. King, Sessions. Protecting confidential communications for the WH and AG. King rehashes Q of Sessions’ revealing a communication already communicated by the president. No information re the Russian investigation. King, Sessions. “My evaluation” of Comey–not a sole written evaluation. Other reasons besides Hillary Clinton.

Senator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma). Precedent for an AG to keep some things confidential.

Lankford, Sessions. This morning Rod Rosenstein “was peppered with questions about Russia” in private setting; “he was very clear” that he’s had no conversations with Sessions about Russia. Also latest story re Mueller’s getting fired: Rosenstein said he was the only one with authority to do that, and he is not contemplating firing him. [Finally – breath of clarity.]

Lankford, Sessions. “Recusal meant recusal.” Reception situation clarified as well. [Reads statement aloud.]

Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia). No discussion of lifting sanctions against Russia.

Manchin, Sessions. Closed session? – maybe. “Very problematic” in an ongoing investigation. No other meetings with Russian officials. None discussed manipulating U.S. campaigns. No other meetings betw Russian officials and Trump campaign than have been reported. Paul Manafort? Steve Bannon? Reince Priebus? Steve Miller? Lewandowski? -Do not recall or do not know of any meeting of Russians with any. Maybe Page, already reported.

Manchin, Sessions. Ask re any “impact” of Russian interference on this election.

Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas). Did Trump or any associates collude with Russia to affect the election? [Answers his own Q: no evidence. Nothing.]

Cotton, Sessions. No understanding of Comey’s allusion to Sessions. No understanding why Comey accused Sessions of not responding. Cannot speculate on why Comey distrusted Trump from the first as stated.

Senator Kamala Harris (D-California). “To the best of your recollection.” Any written docs? “I didn’t keep notes on most of these things.” Will supply Committee “as appropriate.” Harris, Sessions. Any undisclosed conversations with Russians during the campaign? Any communications betw Trump officials and Russia during campaign? None to recall. [Now Harris tries to pin Sessions down on a written DOJ policy re not telling what the AG told the president. “Yes, I consulted.” – “Did you ask [underlings] to show you specific policy on this?” – (Sounds like a no.)] [Harris was much better last time.]

Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas). Formal recusal was on March 2, 2017. Russian investigation began later. Cornyn, Sessions. DOJ letter/memo re Comey did not mention Russia.

[Black-letter law? I thought that the necessity for frank confidential communications for the White House was a given.] [This would not apply if the WH were committing a crime. But neither Dems nor Repubs say that Trump and the campaign colluded with Russia.]

Senator Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island). Seemingly a good opinion of Comey at some months, then agreeing with the Rosenstein memo later. Reed, Sessions. Comey should not have commented publicly on the Clinton email investigation to begin with; went against classical precedent. DOJ recommendation was put in writing (had nothing to do with Russia).

Sure enough, Senator McCain was asking about Ukraine before

Senator John McCain (R-Arizona). Ukraine. McCain, Sessions. Sessions raised concerns about Ukraine as a senator. Even argued with Russian ambassador about the Ukraine. Not about Assad in Syria or the U.S. election. No contacts with Russian officials or lobbyists during the 2016 campaign. Cyber threats not good for anyone. Including the world. [Reasonable view.]

Warner again. “Russian intervention” versus “witch hunt” and “fake news.”

“A series of comments made by Mr. Comey last week”–If there are these longstanding written procedures to protect communications with pres, we need to see them. – ties same back to Russia. [Why wd Dems think they will win politically by wrapping themselves in the mantle of Jim Comey? Have they all forgotten the GWBush White House?]

Burr again. Qs about Mayflower meetings, recusal answered. Provide any documents possible, anything that substantiates your testimony today, individuals present.

5:08 p. m. “This hearing’s now adjourned.”

Department of Justice Issues Statement on Testimony of Former FBI Director James Comey

In response to testimony given today by former FBI Director James Comey, Department of Justice Spokesman Ian Prior issued the following statement:

  • Shortly after being sworn in, Attorney General Sessions began consulting with career Department of Justice ethics officials to determine whether he should recuse himself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States.

Those discussions were centered upon 28 CFR 45.2, which provides that a Department of Justice attorney should not participate in investigations that may involve entities or individuals with whom the attorney has a political or personal relationship. That regulation goes on to define “political relationship” as:

“[A] close identification with an elected official, a candidate (whether or not successful) for elective, public office, a political party, or a campaign organization, arising from service as a principal adviser thereto or a principal official thereof ***”

Given Attorney General Sessions’ participation in President Trump’s campaign, it was for that reason, and that reason alone, the Attorney General made the decision on March 2, 2017 to recuse himself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States.

  • In his testimony, Mr. Comey stated that he was “not *** aware of” “any kind of memorandum issued from the Attorney General or the Department of Justice to the FBI outlining the parameters of [the Attorney General’s] recusal.” However, on March 2, 2017, the Attorney General’s Chief of Staff sent the attached email specifically informing Mr. Comey and other relevant Department officials of the recusal and its parameters, and advising that each of them instruct their staff “not to brief the Attorney General *** about, or otherwise involve the Attorney General *** in, any such matters described.”
  • During his testimony, Mr. Comey confirmed that he did not inform the Attorney General of his concerns about the substance of any one-on-one conversation he had with the President. Mr. Comey said, following a morning threat briefing, that he wanted to ensure he and his FBI staff were following proper communications protocol with the White House. The Attorney General was not silent; he responded to this comment by saying that the FBI and Department of Justice needed to be careful about following appropriate policies regarding contacts with the White House.
  • Despite previous inaccurate media reports, Mr. Comey did not say that he ever asked anyone at the Department of Justice for more resources related to this investigation.
  • In conclusion, it is important to note that after his initial meeting with career ethics officials regarding recusal (and including the period prior to his formal recusal on March 2, 2017), the Attorney General has not been briefed on or participated in any investigation within the scope of his recusal.
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Caveat emptor – “Wiky.Team” (Caymans)

If you are reading this, you know that my web site is located at www.margieburns.com. You know that I am the author. I am the creator of this blog site and am the only copyright owner.

It has now come to my attention, as they say, that a purveyor called “Wiky.Team” is converting my site to pdf and is giving away and/or selling it. Link here.

Wiky.Team does not have my consent. Neither Wiky.Team nor anyone else besides me can lawfully sell, give, or otherwise convey the contents of my blog site, without my knowledge and consent.

I do not know the full extent of the damage. Clicking the link at different moments yields different results. I’ve printed off a couple and downloaded a couple. The most recent one gave

Rating: 4/5 from 8218 votes.

The upload date for this one was June 9, 2016. The most recent posts at that time were several articles I had written on the 2016 Clinton campaign.

Then

Reloading the Wiky.Team page, I get

Rating:  3/5 from 9424 votes.

That was based apparently on an upload date of February 28, 2016. My most recent post was an article I titled “The elephant and the denatured donkey in the room,” also about the 2016 election. (The New Hampshire primary was imminent when I wrote the article, past on the date of the upload.)

Reloading the Wiky.Team page again, I get an upload date of April 15, 2016, and a “rating” of 3.5/5 from 1553 votes. Diminished all around, apparently. Let’s see–what was the new one that date?

Oh, yes. The article titled “Hillary Clinton in campaign 2008: Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination as talking point.”

I wonder, of course, who is uploading my blog site in pdf.

I wonder even more whether the uploaders are getting my work only as a free introductory offer, part of the one-month initial trial period for free. Or are they paying Wiky.Team for my work?

Either way, Wiky.Team has not gotten in touch with me, via direct deposit or otherwise.

More later.

 

 

 

 

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Washington figures– Comey, McCain, New York Times

Today’s Comey testimony —

Fired FBI director James B. Comey’s much-anticipated appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee today did contain three surprises. Keeping it brief, I’d rather highlight the three than recap everything that will be covered by every media outlet.

I watched the presentation live-stream on C-Span, the event unedited and unfiltered by commentary.

It was pretty much a given that Comey would fire back at the man who fired him and would accuse President Trump of lying, that questions from most of the Democrats on the Committee would focus on Trump, and that Republicans’ questions would defend him. It was also a given that some things would not be aired “in an open setting,” to use Comey’s phrase; the Committee was scheduled to hold a closed hearing at 1:00 p.m. Any discussion of the salacious Steele dossier would be reserved for the closed session. It was also a given that Comey would exonerate himself to the maximum extent possible–admit what you can’t deny, deny what you can’t admit. He’s done it before. He also made clear again, as in his prepared remarks (below), that Trump was not the subject of an investigation.

Thus we can skip over Senator Mark Warner’s introductory remarks and Comey’s prefatory comments about his firing, the FBI, and the Russian investigation, already much covered in cable commentary and in print. Pull quote: “Those were lies, plain and simple.”

Senator Burr’s opening questions established Comey’s position that Russia tried to intervene in the election–“no doubt”–but that the interference did not extend to altering votes. Comey also negatived a question whether anyone asked him to stop the Russian investigation. However, he left open the suggestion that criminal aspects not connected with the 2016 election may turn up. Plenty of room for investigation, by both special counsel and Congress. He also commented matter-of-factly and accurately that “There’s all kinds of cyber intrusions going on all the time” — “hundreds” “at least” — but that the 2016 election was the first he knew of affecting the DNC. Comey also said, in response to questions, that the FBI did not have direct access to the DNC hardware but got it via a third party, by spring 2016.

Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch

Surprise 1. Comey said again that he had decided to go public with his July 2016 statement about the Clinton email investigation to protect the credibility of the FBI and of the investigation. Specifically, he was concerned by former president Bill Clinton’s meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Saying that there was one significant item he could not talk about publicly, he said that there was one he could: Attorney General Lynch directed him to call it a “matter,” not an “investigation.” Comey reiterated the statement in response to subsequent questions. (The law prof has since been identified in the press.)

Surprise 2. During questions from Senator Susan Collins, Comey stated that he “asked a friend of mine to share the contents” of his writing with a reporter. The friend was a law professor, “a good friend of mine at Columbia Law School. ” His self-created source–a person close to Comey, as they say–passed the notes along to the New York Times. According to Comey, this transmission took place after the president tweeted about “tapes.” Comey also said he hopes there were tapes and would consent to their release.

Columbia Law

(Hypothetically–suppose Trump had accused Comey of leaking, even through a law-prof friend, to the NYTimes. What would the media reaction have been?)

Surprise 3. Senator John McCain seemed so confused that he sounded like a different person. Twice McCain said “Comey” when referring to President Trump. In a short series of disjointed questions, he accused Comey of having a “double standard” as to the Clinton email investigation and the Russian investigation. To this partisan talking point, McCain seemed to add a suggestion linking the Clinton campaign to Russia. The logical guess is that McCain meant the Ukraine, and Ukraine’s efforts to interfere on behalf of Clinton–but referred to Ukraine as “Russia.” (McCain still got off a reasonably good question. When Trump referred to “that thing” to Comey, why didn’t Comey ask him what “that thing” was? – Comey: it didn’t seem important. McCain: “I think I would have had some curiosity, if it had been about me.”)

The rest of the back-and-forth and questioning was punctuated by a few Comey answers quickly given, then quickly amended. Three examples:

When Angus King (I-Maine) asked Comey whether he had ever called the president, he immediately said no. But–“once I was asked to call the White House switchboard”–so he did.

When Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) asked Comey whether the president had ever asked him about Russian interference in the election, Comey instantly responded no. Then  he said he thought “there was an initial briefing” about Russia and the election, with “conversation” and “questions.” (Manchin also asked Comey, “Do you believe you would have been fired if Hillary Clinton had become president?” Comey: “I don’t know.” “I might have been.”)

When Manchin then asked Comey whether he had talked with Sessions about why Sessions wasn’t in the room (with Trump and Comey), he said no. But–“I did talk to him and said, you have to be [etc.],” but Comey did not tell Sessions about the Flynn conversation.

Further parsing if any will have to wait for a later date. For now, the wrap-up is that new Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) has a laudable ability to cover a lot of ground quickly, concisely, and clearly. Her questions included the following:

Any meetings of Trump officials and Russian officials during campaign, not acknowledged? Any encrypted communications? Anything destroyed? Any efforts to conceal? – Comey: all these Qs not to be dealt with in open session.

Harris: The parameters of Sessions’ recusal? – Any written notice or memo about it? – Comey: don’t know.

Harris: Should Mueller have full authority to pursue his investigation, full independence? –  Comey: yes.

Statement for the Record

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

James B. Comey

June 8, 2017

Chairman Burr, Ranking Member Warner, Members of the Committee.

Thank you for inviting me to appear before you today. I was asked to testify today to describe for you my interactions with President-Elect and President Trump on subjects that I understand are of interest to you. I have not included every detail from my conversations with the President, but, to the best of my recollection, I have tried to include information that may be relevant to the Committee.

January 6 Briefing

I first met then-President-Elect Trump on Friday, January 6 in a conference room at Trump Tower in New York. I was there with other Intelligence Community (IC) leaders to brief him and his new national security team on the findings of an IC assessment concerning Russian efforts to interfere in the election. At the conclusion of that briefing, I remained alone with the President Elect to brief him on some personally sensitive aspects of the information assembled during the assessment.

The IC leadership thought it important, for a variety of reasons, to alert the incoming President to the existence of this material, even though it was salacious and unverified. Among those reasons were: (1) we knew the media was about to publicly report the material and we believed the IC should not keep knowledge of the material and its imminent release from the President-Elect; and (2) to the extent there was some effort to compromise an incoming President, we could blunt any such effort with a defensive briefing.

The Director of National Intelligence asked that I personally do this portion of the briefing because I was staying in my position and because the material implicated the FBI’s counter-intelligence responsibilities. We also agreed I would do it alone to minimize potential embarrassment to the President-Elect. Although we agreed it made sense for me to do the briefing, the FBI’s leadership and I were concerned that the briefing might create a situation where a new President came into office uncertain about whether the FBI was conducting a counter-intelligence investigation of his personal conduct.

It is important to understand that FBI counter-intelligence investigations are different than the more-commonly known criminal investigative work. The Bureau’s goal in a counter-intelligence investigation is to understand the technical and human methods that hostile foreign powers are using to influence the United States or to steal our secrets. The FBI uses that understanding to disrupt those efforts. Sometimes disruption takes the form of alerting a person who is targeted for recruitment or influence by the foreign power. Sometimes it involves hardening a computer system that is being attacked. Sometimes it involves “turning” the recruited person into a double-agent, or publicly calling out the behavior with sanctions or expulsions of embassy-based intelligence officers. On occasion, criminal prosecution is used to disrupt intelligence activities.

Because the nature of the hostile foreign nation is well known, counterintelligence investigations tend to be centered on individuals the FBI suspects to be witting or unwitting agents of that foreign power. When the FBI develops reason to believe an American has been targeted for recruitment by a foreign power or is covertly acting as an agent of the foreign power, the FBI will “open an investigation” on that American and use legal authorities to try to learn more about the nature of any relationship with the foreign power so it can be disrupted.

In that context, prior to the January 6 meeting, I discussed with the FBI’s leadership team whether I should be prepared to assure President-Elect Trump that we were not investigating him personally. That was true; we did not have an open counter-intelligence case on him. We agreed I should do so if circumstances warranted. During our one-on-one meeting at Trump Tower, based on President Elect Trump’s reaction to the briefing and without him directly asking the question, I offered that assurance.

I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-Elect in a memo. To ensure accuracy, I began to type it on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting. Creating written records immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward. This had not been my practice in the past. I spoke alone with President Obama twice in person (and never on the phone) — once in 2015 to discuss law enforcement policy issues and a second time, briefly, for him to say goodbye in late 2016. In neither of those circumstances did I memorialize the discussions. I can recall nine one-on-one conversations with President Trump in four months — three in person and six on the phone.

January 27 Dinner

The President and I had dinner on Friday, January 27 at 6:30 pm in the Green Room at the White House. He had called me at lunchtime that day and invited me to dinner that night, saying he was going to invite my whole family, but decided to have just me this time, with the whole family coming the next time. It was unclear from the conversation who else would be at the dinner, although I assumed there would be others.

It turned out to be just the two of us, seated at a small oval table in the center of the Green Room. Two Navy stewards waited on us, only entering the room to serve food and drinks.

The President began by asking me whether I wanted to stay on as FBI Director, which I found strange because he had already told me twice in earlier conversations that he hoped I would stay, and I had assured him that I intended to. He said that lots of people wanted my job and, given the abuse I had taken during the previous year, he would understand if I wanted to walk away.

My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position, meant the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship. That concerned me greatly, given the FBI’s traditionally independent status in the executive branch.

I replied that I loved my work and intended to stay and serve out my ten-year term as Director. And then, because the set-up made me uneasy, I added that I was not “reliable” in the way politicians use that word, but he could always count on me to tell him the truth. I added that I was not on anybody’s side politically and could not be counted on in the traditional political sense, a stance I said was in his best interest as the President.

A few moments later, the President said, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner. At one point, I explained why it was so important that the FBI and the Department of Justice be independent of the White House. I said it was a paradox: Throughout history, some Presidents have decided that because “problems” come from Justice, they should try to hold the Department close. But blurring those boundaries ultimately makes the problems worse by undermining public trust in the institutions and their work.

Near the end of our dinner, the President returned to the subject of my job, saying he was very glad I wanted to stay, adding that he had heard great things about me from Jim Mattis, Jeff Sessions, and many others. He then said, “I need loyalty.” I replied, “You will always get honesty from me.” He paused and then said, “That’s what I want, honest loyalty.” I paused, and then said, “You will get that from me.” As I wrote in the memo I created immediately after the dinner, it is possible we understood the phrase “honest loyalty” differently, but I decided it wouldn’t be productive to push it further. The term — honest loyalty — had helped end a very awkward conversation and my explanations had made clear what he should expect.

During the dinner, the President returned to the salacious material I had briefed him about on January 6, and, as he had done previously, expressed his disgust for the allegations and strongly denied them. He said he was considering ordering me to investigate the alleged incident to prove it didn’t happen. I replied that he should give that careful thought because it might create a narrative that we were investigating him personally, which we weren’t, and because it was very difficult to prove a negative. He said he would think about it and asked me to think about it.

As was my practice for conversations with President Trump, I wrote a detailed memo about the dinner immediately afterwards and shared it with the senior leadership team of the FBI.

February 14 Oval Office Meeting

On February 14, I went to the Oval Office for a scheduled counterterrorism briefing of the President. He sat behind the desk and a group of us sat in a semi-circle of about six chairs facing him on the other side of the desk. The Vice President, Deputy Director of the CIA, Director of the National CounterTerrorism Center, Secretary of Homeland Security, the Attorney General, and I were in the semi-circle of chairs. I was directly facing the President, sitting between the Deputy CIA Director and the Director of NCTC. There were quite a few others in the room, sitting behind us on couches and chairs.

The President signaled the end of the briefing by thanking the group and telling them all that he wanted to speak to me alone. I stayed in my chair. As the participants started to leave the Oval Office, the Attorney General lingered by my chair, but the President thanked him and said he wanted to speak only with me. The last person to leave was Jared Kushner, who also stood by my chair and exchanged pleasantries with me. The President then excused him, saying he wanted to speak with me.

 

When the door by the grandfather clock closed, and we were alone, the President began by saying, “I want to talk about Mike Flynn.” Flynn had resigned the previous day. The President began by saying Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians, but he had to let him go because he had misled the Vice President. He added that he had other concerns about Flynn, which he did not then specify.

The President then made a long series of comments about the problem with leaks of classified information — a concern I shared and still share. After he had spoken for a few minutes about leaks, Reince Priebus leaned in through the door by the grandfather clock and I could see a group of people waiting behind him. The President waved at him to close the door, saying he would be done shortly. The door closed.

The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, “He is a good guy and has been through a lot.” He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President. He then said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” I replied only that “he is a good guy.” (In fact, I had a positive experience dealing with Mike Flynn when he was a colleague as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the beginning of my term at FBI.) I did not say I would “let this go.”

The President returned briefly to the problem of leaks. I then got up and left out the door by the grandfather clock, making my way through the large group of people waiting there, including Mr. Priebus and the Vice President.

I immediately prepared an unclassified memo of the conversation about Flynn and discussed the matter with FBI senior leadership. I had understood the President to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December. I did not understand the President to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign. I could be wrong, but I took him to be focusing on what had just happened with Flynn’s departure and the controversy around his account of his phone calls. Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency.

The FBI leadership team agreed with me that it was important not to infect the investigative team with the President’s request, which we did not intend to abide. We also concluded that, given that it was a one-on-one conversation, there was nothing available to corroborate my account. We concluded it made little sense to report it to Attorney General Sessions, who we expected would likely recuse himself from involvement in Russia-related investigations. (He did so two weeks later.) The Deputy Attorney General’s role was then filled in an acting capacity by a United States Attorney, who would also not be long in the role. After discussing the matter, we decided to keep it very closely held, resolving to figure out what to do with it down the road as our investigation progressed. The investigation moved ahead at full speed, with none of the investigative team members — or the Department of Justice lawyers supporting them — aware of the President’s request.

Shortly afterwards, I spoke with Attorney General Sessions in person to pass along the President’s concerns about leaks. I took the opportunity to implore the Attorney General to prevent any future direct communication between the President and me. I told the AG that what had just happened — him being asked to leave while the FBI Director, who reports to the AG, remained behind — was inappropriate and should never happen. He did not reply. For the reasons discussed above, I did not mention that the President broached the FBI’s potential investigation of General Flynn.

March 30 Phone Call

On the morning of March 30, the President called me at the FBI. He described the Russia investigation as “a cloud” that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country. He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia. He asked what we could do to “lift the cloud.” I responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could, and that there would be great benefit, if we didn’t find anything, to our having done the work well. He agreed, but then re-emphasized the problems this was causing him.

Then the President asked why there had been a congressional hearing about Russia the previous week — at which I had, as the Department of Justice directed, confirmed the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. I explained the demands from the leadership of both parties in Congress for more information, and that Senator Grassley had even held up the confirmation of the Deputy Attorney General until we briefed him in detail on the investigation. I explained that we had briefed the leadership of Congress on exactly which individuals we were investigating and that we had told those Congressional leaders that we were not personally investigating President Trump. I reminded him I had previously told him that. He repeatedly told me, “We need to get that fact out.” (I did not tell the President that the FBI and the Department of Justice had been reluctant to make public statements that we did not have an open case on President Trump for a number of reasons, most importantly because it would create a duty to correct, should that change.)

The President went on to say that if there were some “satellite” associates of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out, but that he hadn’t done anything wrong and hoped I would find a way to get it out that we weren’t investigating him.

In an abrupt shift, he turned the conversation to FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, saying he hadn’t brought up “the McCabe thing” because I had said McCabe was honorable, although McAuliffe was close to the Clintons and had given him (I think he meant Deputy Director McCabe’s wife) campaign money. Although I didn’t understand why the President was bringing this up, I repeated that Mr. McCabe was an honorable person.

He finished by stressing “the cloud” that was interfering with his ability to make deals for the country and said he hoped I could find a way to get out that he wasn’t being investigated. I told him I would see what we could do, and that we would do our investigative work well and as quickly as we could.

Immediately after that conversation, I called Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente (AG Sessions had by then recused himself on all Russia-related matters), to report the substance of the call from the President, and said I would await his guidance. I did not hear back from him before the President called me again two weeks later.

April 11 Phone Call

On the morning of April 11, the President called me and asked what I had done about his request that I “get out” that he is not personally under investigation. I replied that I had passed his request to the Acting Deputy Attorney General, but I had not heard back. He replied that “the cloud” was getting in the way of his ability to do his job. He said that perhaps he would have his people reach out to the Acting Deputy Attorney General. I said that was the way his request should be handled. I said the White House Counsel should contact the leadership of DOJ to make the request, which was the traditional channel.

He said he would do that and added, “Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.” I did not reply or ask him what he meant by “that thing.” I said only that the way to handle it was to have the White House Counsel call the Acting Deputy Attorney General. He said that was what he would do and the call ended.

That was the last time I spoke with President Trump.

###

PAID CONTENT

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Foreclosures and other dead ends

In case you ever fantasized about making a million or few by house flipping —

There are two avowed official registries of foreclosures that take place in Prince George’s County, Maryland. One is included in the statewide registry maintained by the State of Maryland. The other is maintained by the Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement (DPIE, pronounced “D-Pie,” as in “cherry pie”).

Neither registry is open to the general public. The Maryland Foreclosed Property Registry is, as stated on its website,

an online, password-protected system managed by the Office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation in the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (“DLLR”).

By law,

DLLR may grant access to the Registry only to State agencies and local jurisdictions, including counties and municipal corporations

to facilitate code enforcement, etc. The DLLR’s registry is not a before-the-fact research tool in any case; it is not a list of properties coming on the market.

Effective October 2012, in accordance with Maryland Code, Real Property Article § 14-126.1, every residential property purchased at a foreclosure sale must be registered in this system.

Purchasers are required to submit an initial registration of the property within 30 days after the foreclosure sale.

The purpose of the Maryland registry is to close the chronological records gap between the date of the foreclosure sale and the date the deed is recorded,

when unoccupied homes may fall into disrepair and it can be difficult to identify or contact the new owner.

The purchaser still has that 30-day grace period between buying a foreclosed property and submitting the registration. And again, the registry is not publicly accessible.

The information contained in the Registry is by law not a public record, and DLLR cannot grant access to the general public.

Prince George’s County

The registry maintained by the Prince George’s County Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement (DPIE) is also closely held, though apparently in a different sense. DPIE’s public notice, on the agency website, explicitly tells mortgage holders to register foreclosures:

Foreclosure Property Registration Form

Attention Lenders
Please register a property (residential or commercial) that is in the process of foreclosure. After the information is completed, it will be added to Prince George’s County’s Foreclosure Property Registry.

The form itself tells lenders to deliver it in person or mail it to the DPIE “Foreclosure Registration Unit” in an office condo at 1220 Caraway Court, Largo, Maryland. The form includes spaces for the name, address and contact information of the property owner; it does not include any statement or certification that the property owner has been contacted about the foreclosure.

P. G. County DPIE Foreclosed Property Registration Form

Questions have now arisen as to how the Prince George’s County foreclosure registry is used. Like the State of Maryland registry, it is not open to public view. According to a person with close knowledge of the process, “Historically,” the registry kept by DPIE has been “highly restricted.” The County foreclosure list is announced via DPIE website for the purpose of registration, but the list itself is “held very close to the vest.” Access to the registry is applied for through a Maryland Public Information Act request; form linked here. To find out about the foreclosures, you fill out the form and submit it, asking for records. The form then goes up the managerial pipeline through “appropriate channels.” Indications are that even people involved in the MPIA process are not necessarily involved in the resolution of MPIA requests, nor are they necessarily informed about requests granted or denied. The hole in the channels leaves open a realistic possibility that access to the registry may be secretive but may not always be protected. This possibility has been confirmed in interviews and conversations with County officials.

The stated rationale for holding the P. G. County foreclosure registry so closely is the danger of squatting in vacant properties. The County does not release the information on upcoming foreclosures because officials do not want to give advance notice to squatters. “You can read between the lines” as to this claim, this writer was told. I asked whether the list breaks down into foreclosures on abandoned properties and foreclosures on occupied homes. Answer: no.

Where to file if you’re foreclosing in P. G. County

Asking whether interested parties such as house flippers could access the registry, I was told, “You’re on the right track.” There is no in-house mechanism to prevent exchange of friendly influence or sharing information with flippers. Indeed, the Director of DPIE himself, Haitham Hijazi, is closely connected to more than one house-flipping company through immediate family members as well as through his ownership of property on which his relatives operate their businesses. (Previous blogs on this topic linked here and here, among others.) Dr. Hijazi has not returned messages requesting comment or information. His son Abdullah Hijazi, principal of a house-flipping company who has appeared as party and as attorney in numerous foreclosure cases, has also not replied to request for comment.

The foreclosure registry may be somewhat arcane to the general public. However, as someone with knowledge of the operating structure and the registry has said,  “your information is known by a variety of people here”–meaning in the county and in county government. But–“they also know nobody’s doing anything about it.” The problems with foreclosures, the genuine phenomenon of troubled homeowners being pushed out of their homes by people with a vested interest in the houses is “Probably pretty well known among key people in the county,” I was told, but county officials cognizant of the issues seem to be covered by “teflon.”

As previously noted, Hijazi as head of the Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement is one of County Executive Rushern Baker’s few holdovers from the previous county administration. Baker’s office has not yet had time to return a call requesting comment.

More to come

 

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Montana special election results coming

Gianforte hangs on to a commanding lead of three thousand votes out of 190,000 counted so far.

Gianforte now builds to a two-point lead. Three thousand votes ahead of Rob Quist. About 187,000 votes counted. Not looking too positive for the Democrat at this moment.

Almost 184,000 votes tabulated. Gianforte breaks out a percentage point ahead.

Gianforte ahead by a thousand. Wonder whether this will be the standing pattern for the rest of the night.

Gianforte pulls ahead. By less than a thousand. Gianforte leads by 726 votes out of 181,000.

Breaking: number of precincts fully reported just doubled (approximately), to thirteen.

Quist still ahead by an eyelash.

One percent of precincts (six) finished. Quist’s lead is less than a thousand votes. Quist now leads by exactly 323 votes, out of 178,000 cast.

Updating to 175,000 votes in. Quist leading by barely one thousand votes. The Libertarian, Wicks, holding ten thousand. Two whole precincts reported. Enough of an indicator that it’s close, but people knew that already.

Update: And a few minutes later, it’s Rob Quist again in the lead, 48 – 46 percent, with now 150,000 votes tabulated. Now Quist leads by three thousand votes, less than half the eight thousand Wicks is getting. These are very early returns. A third of precincts partly reporting. Only one precinct fully reported.

May 25, 2017. GOP candidate Greg Gianforte is slightly behind Rob Quist in first returns from Montana in the Thursday special election.

With 103,000 votes counted, Quist leads Gianforte approximately 48 percent to 46 percent. Lead is just short of two thousand votes.

The gap is much smaller than the number of votes being pulled by Libertarian candidate Mark L. Wicks, some six thousand.

Mark L. Wicks

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Jurisdiction, courts, and filings

Searching for trustee filings is not a quick-and-easy process.

The idea is that the filings would show which houses will be coming up on the market in foreclosure sales; this is the kind of tip passed along in online conversation threads for would-be investors who want to dabble in real estate. In Maryland, however, getting such information is easier said than done. I just spoke with a nice clerk at the Prince George’s County Circuit Court, who told me clearly that “we are not required to keep any lists or [that] information.”

Let’s backtrack a little. In an earlier post, I clarified on the basis of information received that, in Maryland, the Circuit Court handles foreclosures. A Circuit Court judge explicitly confirmed the language of the law in writing to a troubled homeowner. All District Court judges know that house foreclosures are not to be handled in the Landlord-Tenant division of the District Court. Regrettably, this crystal-clear law has been repeatedly violated, especially in Prince George’s County, and in the chambers of Judge Crystal Mittelstaedt–where, regrettably, foreclosures have in fact been processed. In legal terms, the District Court lacks jurisdiction to help a house flipper foreclose on a homeowner.

Trying to track down ‘substitute trustee’ filings in Prince George’s County corroborates the principle. When a bank or lender plans to foreclose on a homeowner, often it will arrange with a ‘substitute trustee’, as previously written. By law, a record of the arrangement has to be filed with the county. As one typical legal website explains,

The trustee named in the deed of trust carries out the foreclosure action.  While the original trustee named in the deed of trust may institute the foreclosure, the lender will generally appoint an individual, firm, or company that is experienced in foreclosure matters to be substituted in place of the original trustee.  This is accomplished by the execution of a written document properly recorded in the county where the real property collateral is located.  N.C.G.S. § 45-10 and 11.

Figuring that since foreclosures have in fact been processed in the District Court in Hyattsville, Maryland, I should start there, I called up the court to ask how to look up trustee filings. A nice clerk in the Hyattsville building told me that was “not something we actually handle here,” and transferred my call to the District Court in Upper Marlboro. Another nice clerk there told me, very politely, that the information I wanted “sounds like it may be Circuit Court,” and transferred me there.

Once in Circuit Court, it still took a couple of tries to land in the Foreclosure Department. Note that foreclosures are indeed a department in the Circuit Court, not in the District Court. To put it bluntly, beware of anyone pushing a foreclosure who proceeds through the wrong court. Furthermore, it is a sound principle that the records should be kept in the building where the cases are adjudicated.

Last resort

Even in the right department, however, it would not be an easy or at-a-glance task to look up forthcoming foreclosures by means of substitute trustee filings. One would need a case number and would have to come in requesting to see a specific case.

With that information, one could go to Maryland Case Search, or to some law firms; some large banks have foreclosure sections in their websites; real estate firms have access to foreclosure listings. Everything is easier if you have the information already.

For example, if you already know that one major ‘foreclosure mill’ attorney is John S. Burson, you can find ready confirmation with a quick look at the multi-page list of some of his cases. If you know that the Wittstadts are walking foreclosure mills, you can easily look them up. Each of these names generates more than 500 results in the quick Maryland look-up.

Looking up the name Hijazi also generates more than 500 results. Many of these cases belong to Abdulla Haitham Hijazi, the attorney son of P. G. County DPIE Director Haitham Hijazi. Some of Mr. Hijazi’s foreclosure cases–indicated as such in the Maryland case list–are actions in district courts in Maryland. Mr. Hijazi did not communicate in reply to a request for comment.

Each page shows 25 results. One can find the results here, or go to Maryland Judiciary Case Search and fill in the search boxes with the name/s.

In a quick search of the first page, I counted two cases in the District court in Hyattsville, six in the District court in Frederick County, and five in the District court in Silver Spring. These are all cases involving real property in which Hijazi is listed as “Attorney.” In fact, Hijazi is a party in each. On the entire page of 25 cases, only seven were handled in Circuit Court (none of those in P. G.).

Second page, another 25 results. All 25 were handled in District courts–fourteen in Rockville; one in Glen Burnie; ten in Hyattsville. For those of you keeping score at home, seven of the Hyattsville cases date from 2016 or 2017 and are currently listed as “ACTIVE.”

Presumably there is still hope for those homeowners. Sadder are all the cases listed as “CLOSED.”

Third page, another 25 results. Not all are indicated as foreclosures, but most involve real property and are being processed in District courthouses with Hijazi as the “Attorney” for his company as party–twenty in all, with five in the Upper Marlboro District Court and the rest in the Hyattsville District Court.

As a citizen, I am beginning to wish that our Judicial Disabilities Commission would take an interest in this pattern.

It also looks like a viable class action lawsuit. That could be hard to pull off, admittedly; people who have already been forced out of their homes might be hard to find.

More to come.

 

 

 

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