Ecuador Might Be Preparing To Turn Julian Assange Over To Authorities–Will This Lead To Prosecution By The US?

Glenn Greenwald reports at The Intercept that Ecuador is preparing to turn Julian Assange over to UK authorities. He writes:

A source close to the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry and the President’s office, unauthorized to speak publicly, has confirmed to the Intercept that Moreno is close to finalizing, if he has not already finalized, an agreement to hand over Assange to the UK within the next several weeks. The withdrawal of asylum and physical ejection of Assange could come as early as this week. On Friday, RT reported that Ecuador was preparing to enter into such an agreement…

The central oddity of Assange’s case – that he has been effectively imprisoned for eight years despite never having been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime – is virtually certain to be prolonged once Ecuador hands him over to the U.K. Even under the best-case scenario, it appears highly likely that Assange will continue to be imprisoned by British authorities.

The only known criminal proceeding Assange currently faces is a pending 2012 arrest warrant for “failure to surrender” – basically a minor bail violation charge that arose when he obtained asylum from Ecuador rather than complying with bail conditions by returning to court for a hearing on his attempt to resist extradition to Sweden.

That charge carries a prison term of three months and a fine, though it is possible that the time Assange has already spent in prison in the UK could be counted against that sentence. In 2010, Assange was imprisoned in Wandsworth Prison, kept in isolation, for 10 days until he was released on bail; he was then under house arrest for 550 days at the home of a supporter…

THE FAR MORE IMPORTANT question that will determine Assange’s future is what the U.S. Government intends to do. The Obama administration was eager to prosecute Assange and WikiLeaks for publishing hundreds of thousands of classified documents, but ultimately concluded that there was no way to do so without either also prosecuting newspapers such as the New York Times and the Guardian which published the same documents, or create precedents that would enable the criminal prosecution of media outlets in the future.

Indeed, it is technically a crime under U.S. law for anyone – including a media outlet – to publish certain types of classified information. Under U.S. law, for instance, it was a felony for the Washington Post’s David Ignatius to report on the contents of telephone calls, intercepted by the NSA, between then National Security Adviser nominee Michael Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, even though such reporting was clearly in the public interest since it proved Flynn lied when he denied such contacts…

But the U.S. Justice Department has never wanted to indict and prosecute anyone for the crime of publishing such material, contenting themselves instead to prosecuting the government sources who leak it. Their reluctance has been due to two reasons: first, media outlets would argue that any attempts to criminalize the mere publication of classified or stolen documents is barred by the press freedom guarantee of the First Amendment, a proposition the DOJ has never wanted to test; second, no DOJ has wanted as part of its legacy the creation of a precedent that allows the U.S. Government to criminally prosecute journalists and media outlets for reporting classified documents.

But the Trump administration has made clear that they have no such concerns. Quite the contrary: last April, Trump’s then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo, now his Secretary of State, delivered a deranged, rambling, highly threatening broadside against WikiLeaks. Without citing any evidence, Pompeo decreed that WikiLeaks is “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia,” and thus declared: “we have to recognize that we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us.”..

But there seems little question that, as Sessions surely knows, large numbers of U.S. journalists – along with many, perhaps most, Democrats – would actually support the Trump DOJ in prosecuting Assange for publishing documents. After all, the DNC sued WikiLeaks in April for publishing documents – a serious, obvious threat to press freedom – and few objected.

And it was Democratic Senators such as Dianne Feinstein who, during the Obama years, were urging the prosecution of WikiLeaks, with the support of numerous GOP Senators. There is no doubt that, after 2016, support among both journalists and Democrats for imprisoning Assange for publishing documents would be higher than ever.

Greenwald added on Twitter: “It should take only the tiniest amount of rationality to understand the dangers to journalists from having the DOJ prosecute Assange for publishing classified or stolen documents. From the Pentagon Papers to the Snowden reporting to daily leaks, media outlets do that every day.”

Kevin Drum does not think there would be  much support for prosecution among journalists or Democrats:

I don’t have any independent knowledge of what will happen to Assange next, or whether he will indeed eventually be extradited to the United States. But I will say this. If the case brought against him is a fairly ordinary one of publishing classified material, I expect, contra Greenwald, that virtually no Democrats and absolutely no journalists will support the government’s case.¹ There would, unfortunately, probably be a few Democratic politicians who would cheer his prosecution, but even there I think (or hope, anyway) that their numbers would be small. If this case goes forward, I suppose it will be a good test of whose level of cynicism is currently best calibrated to the current mood of the American public.

¹The exceptions are likely to be nutballs like Breitbart or folks like that. Even Fox News would probably defend him against a straight-up publishing charge.

I agree that serious journalists will not support prosecution, but am not so sure about the Democrats. Again, as Greenwald pointed out, the DNC has already sued WikiLeaks for publishing documents obtained by others. Again, as Greenwald points out, this is a serious, obvious treat to press freedom.

Trump Considered Replacing Sessions With Pruitt, Despite Multiple Scandals

The Trump administration has shown a strange level of inconsistency towards scandal. On the one hand, former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price was quickly fired over the use of private jets. Former  Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin was supposedly fired over European travel, although that appears to have been an excuse to get rid of him over disagreements over privatizing the VA. On the other hand, we are seeing an unprecedented level of corruption and conflicts of interest between business relationships and government positions involving Trump, his family, and others in his administration.

Todd Pruitt is currently facing a number of ethics issues but, at least for now, these are no concern to the Trump Kleptocracy. CNN suggests that this is because Trump was thinking of replacing Jeff Sessions with Pruitt. CNN reports:

President Donald Trump floated replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions with Scott Pruitt as recently as this week, even as the scandal-ridden head of the Environmental Protection Agency has faced a growing list of negative headlines, according to people close to the President.

“He was 100% still trying to protect Pruitt because Pruitt is his fill-in for Sessions,” one source familiar with Trump’s thinking told CNN.

Though the President has, at times, floated several people a day for multiple positions in his administration that are already occupied, the proposition reveals just how frustrated Trump remains with Sessions because of his decision to recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation more than a year ago, while signaling how confident he has remained in Pruitt despite a dizzying number of ethics issues.

The irony is that, while Sessions is wrong on virtually everything, the one decision where he did the right thing was recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

NPR has reported on many of the ethical scandals Pruitt is involved in here.

Obstruction Replaces Collusion As Key Description Regarding Investigation Of Donald Trump

Although Robert Muller’s investigation to date has concentrated on money laundering and obstruction of justice, some in the media such as Rachel Maddow try to make this sound like it is more about collusion which altered the 2016 election result despite lack of evidence of this. It was good to see that this week most of the news media concentrated on talking about obstruction rather than collusion as there is a far stronger case for obstruction of justice.

One example of the conventional wisdom in the political press comes from Politico Magazine which writes, It’s Now Likely Mueller Thinks Trump Obstructed Justice:

Thursday’s explosive New York Times story that President Donald Trump ordered the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller last June renewed the public’s focus on the obstruction of justice investigation against Trump, which will soon culminate in Trump’s interview by Mueller. The case against Trump has grown stronger in recent months, and it now appears likely that Mueller will conclude that Trump obstructed justice…

Impeding or influencing an FBI investigation is a crime only if it is done with “corrupt” intent—in other words, the intent to wrongfully impede the administration of justice. In my experience, proving a defendant’s intent without direct evidence—that is, without statements by the defendant that directly reveal his or her intent—is challenging.

One could argue that Trump provided direct evidence when he told NBC’s Lester Holt that he was going to fire Comey regardless of the recommendations of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and that he was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he did so. But Trump quickly followed up that comment by indicating that he thought the investigation was bogus, and his defense to obstruction could be that he genuinely believed the Russia investigation was meritless.

Before bringing a case, prosecutors anticipate defenses like that one and gather evidence to rebut potential defenses. We have since learned of very substantial additional evidence that would rebut that defense, or a defense that Trump didn’t understand the consequences of firing Comey. While that evidence is indirect, Mueller could argue that we can infer Trump’s intent from that evidence, which is how prosecutors typically prove a defendant’s intent.

For example, last spring, Trump reportedly asked Sessions if the government could drop the criminal case against former Sheriff Joseph Arpaio, whom Trump later pardoned. According to the Washington Post, Sessions told Trump that would be inappropriate, and Trump decided to let the case go to trial and pardon Arpaio if he was convicted. Mueller could argue that this suggests that Trump is serious about killing investigations of his friends. A pattern of behavior is always a stronger indicator of intent than a one-off action.

We also learned that, according to the New York Times, in March—two months before Trump fired Comey—he ordered White House Counsel Don McGahn to stop Sessions from recusing himself. When McGahn was unsuccessful, Trump reportedly erupted in anger, saying he needed Sessions to “protect him” and “safeguard” him, as he believed other attorneys general had done for other presidents. These are very odd statements by Trump that Mueller could argue indicate that Trump wanted Sessions to impede or even end the Russia investigation to “protect him.”

…As we learned Thursday in the New York Times, there was indeed a need to protect Mueller back in June, when Trump ordered the firing of special counsel due to “conflicts of interest” that were not actually conflicts and appear to be thinly veiled excuses to get rid of Mueller. Trump also considered firing Rosenstein and replacing him with Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, the No. 3 Justice Department official, so she could oversee Mueller. According to the Times, Trump has wavered for months about whether he wants to fire Mueller, which is an “omnipresent concern among his legal team and close aides.”

This is an important piece of evidence because it comes after Trump fired Comey and learned that he was under investigation for obstruction of justice. It should be easy for Mueller to prove that Trump read or viewed legal analysis discussing the possibility that Trump obstructed justice by firing Comey. Trump’s desire to fire Mueller despite knowing that firing a law enforcement official overseeing the Russia investigation could raise obstruction concerns is strong evidence that Trump’s intent was to obstruct the investigation. The excuses offered by Trump also bolster Mueller’s case, because they indicate that the president realized that firing Mueller to impede the investigation would be perceived as wrongful.

While we don’t know all of the evidence, Thursday’s revelation suggests it is likely Mueller will conclude that Trump obstructed justice. Some conservative legal commentators have argued that Trump’s constitutional authority to fire personnel and end investigations is so vast that he cannot obstruct justice as a legal matter. Most legal scholars find that argument unpersuasive, but it is an academic point—not one that is decisive—because Mueller has pressed forward in investigating the firing of Comey as obstruction of justice and the power of Congress to impeach Trump goes beyond the text of any statute.

Even if Mueller concludes that he could prove beyond a reasonable doubt in court that Trump was guilty of obstructing justice, I believe he will ultimately present the matter to Congress for potential impeachment instead. After all, according to the New York Times, former independent counsel Kenneth Starr possessed a legal memo concluding that he had the power to indict former President Bill Clinton but did not do so, ultimately choosing to present the matter to Congress. I think Mueller would likely do the same thing, because it’s the more prudential approach given that it’s an open legal question whether a sitting president can be indicted.

Many other publications have similar reports, such as Jeffrey Toobin writing at The New Yorker that The Answer to Whether Trump Obstructed Justice Now Seems Clear.

It has been clear for months that Mueller has been concentrating on money laundering and obstruction of justice based upon his indictments to date and the types of attorneys he has hired. We do know that Donald Trump’s son and son-in-law attended a meeting with Russians after being enticed with promises of information about Hillary Clinton, with no information actually available. This diminishes any claim from Trump that he was above collusion (assuming he was aware of the meeting), but no evidence of any actual meaningful collusion has yet to be presented, while much of the evidence obtained argues against this. Despite MSNBC repeatedly billing the investigation as one into Russian tampering with the election for over a year, Mueller has only hired a single prosecutor who specializes in cyber crimes, and this was not even done until earlier this month.

It would make a major change in the case if it could be proven that the Russians not only hacked the DNC computer but did so with collaboration from the Trump campaign, but there is zero evidence of this to date. Meanwhile, the information obtained through the Congressional hearings has shown that claims about Russian tampering with the election have been highly exaggerated. Similarly multiple media reports of Russian hacking were subsequently retracted as false. We definitely should be talking about obstruction of justice, and money laundering, if interested in a fact-based discussion of Trump’s crimes and the Russia investigation, rather than using Russia as an excuse for Clinton losing the 2016 election.

Can Donald Trump Pardon Himself? Can He Be Indicted While Still In Office?

It has become so widely accepted that the investigations into Donald Trump’s business dealings are very likely to reveal criminal activities that subjects including whether Trump can pardon himself and whether he can be indicted while in office are now being discussed. While many disagree, Donald Trump claims he does have the power to pardon himself. The New York Times reports:

President Trump on Saturday asserted the “complete power to pardon” relatives, aides and possibly even himself in response to investigations into Russia’s meddling in last year’s election, as he came to the defense of Attorney General Jeff Sessions just days after expressing regret about appointing him.

Mr. Trump suggested in a series of early morning messages on Twitter that he had no need to use the pardon power at this point but left the option open. Presidents have the authority to pardon others for federal crimes, but legal scholars debate whether a president can pardon himself. Mr. Trump’s use of the word “complete” seemed to suggest he did not see a limit to that authority.

“While all agree the U.S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us,” he wrote on Twitter. “FAKE NEWS.”

The Washington Post reported in recent days that the president and his advisers had discussed pardons as a special counsel intensifies an investigation into whether associates of Mr. Trump and his campaign conspired with Russia to intervene in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Many Constitutional experts and lawyers disagree with Donald Trump. Laurence Tribe, Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, Richard Painter,  a law professor at the University of Minnesota and chief White House ethics lawyer for George W. Bush from 2005 to 2007, and Norman Eisen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and chief White House ethics lawyer for Barack Obama from 2009 to 2011, wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post entitled, No, Trump can’t pardon himself. The Constitution tells us so:

Can a president pardon himself? Four days before Richard Nixon resigned, his own Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel opined no, citing “the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case.” We agree.

The Justice Department was right that guidance could be found in the enduring principles that no one can be both the judge and the defendant in the same matter, and that no one is above the law.

The Constitution specifically bars the president from using the pardon power to prevent his own impeachment and removal. It adds that any official removed through impeachment remains fully subject to criminal prosecution. That provision would make no sense if the president could pardon himself…

The Constitution’s pardon clause has its origins in the royal pardon granted by a sovereign to one of his or her subjects. We are aware of no precedent for a sovereign pardoning himself, then abdicating or being deposed but being immune from criminal process. If that were the rule, many a deposed king would have been spared instead of going to the chopping block…

President Trump thinks he can do a lot of things just because he is president. He says that the president can act as if he has no conflicts of interest. He says that he can fire the FBI director for any reason he wants (and he admitted to the most outrageous of reasons in interviews and in discussion with the Russian ambassador). In one sense, Trump is right — he can do all of these things, although there will be legal repercussions if he does. Using official powers for corrupt purposes — such as impeding or obstructing an investigation — can constitute a crime.

But there is one thing we know that Trump cannot do — without being a first in all of human history. He cannot pardon himself.

While it is commonly believed that Donald Trump would not be indicted until out of office, The New York Times reports that the commonly held view that a president cannot be indicted while in office is wrong:

A newfound memo from Kenneth W. Starr’s independent counsel investigation into President Bill Clinton sheds fresh light on a constitutional puzzle that is taking on mounting significance amid the Trump-Russia inquiry: Can a sitting president be indicted?

The 56-page memo, locked in the National Archives for nearly two decades and obtained by The New York Times under the Freedom of Information Act, amounts to the most thorough government-commissioned analysis rejecting a generally held view that presidents are immune from prosecution while in office.

“It is proper, constitutional, and legal for a federal grand jury to indict a sitting president for serious criminal acts that are not part of, and are contrary to, the president’s official duties,” the Starr office memo concludes. “In this country, no one, even President Clinton, is above the law.”

Bill Clinton was impeached, but was neither convicted in the Senate nor indicted while in office. While the investigations are at an early stage, it does appear likely that Donald Trump has committed acts far more significant than lying about an affair, and these considerations regarding indictment very well could wind up applying to him.

Quote of the Day: Seth Meyers on Jeff Sessions

President Trump said in a new interview that he had regrets about appointing Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions said today that he will continue to serve as long as it is appropriate. So only until about 1955. –Seth Meyers

At least he managed to remain around longer than Sean Spicer, who announced his resignation today.

Today’s news also makes it likely that Sessions will again be a target of the late night comedians. The Washington Post reports: Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show.

Trump Supporter Roger Stone Forming Coalition To Push For Legalizing Marijuana

As has been the case with other issues, Donald Trump has been inconsistent in his statements and actions related to marijuana. One longtime adviser, Roger Stone, plans to work with people of various political ideologies to push for legalization of marijuana. Another goal is to have marijuana rescheduled to Schedule I so that it can be prescribed by doctors. Business Insider reports:

Longtime Trump adviser and staunch conservative Roger Stone has a new mission: legalizing marijuana nationwide.

Stone announced on Friday at the Cannabis World Congress and Business Expo in New York the formation of the bipartisan United States Cannabis Coalition, an advocacy group with the express purpose of protecting state’s rights to legalize and regulate marijuana…

“I am going to be working with a coalition of Republicans and Democrats, progressives and libertarians, liberals, and conservatives to persuade the president to keep his campaign pledge,” Stone said in a talk on Friday, “and to remind the president that he took a strong and forthright position on this issue in the election.”

Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura will join Stone in the advocacy group, as well as a host of both Republican and Democrat political strategists.

Stone pointed to the decreased rates of incarceration for low-level drug offenses and opioid-related overdoses in states that have legalized marijuana, along with the boon in tax revenue and job creation.

During the campaign, Trump told The Washington Post that legalizing marijuana should be a “state issue,” and he expressed “100%” support for medical marijuana in an interview with Bill O’Reilly in 2016…

Trump hasn’t been friendly to marijuana since he took office. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a noted opponent of marijuana legalization, and he asked Congress in recent days to roll back federal protections for medical marijuana.

The protections in question, the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, directs the Department of Justice to refrain from spending money to enforce federal medicinal marijuana laws.

Sessions has also called for a review of a 2013 directive from the Obama Administration, known as the Cole Memo, which stipulates that the Justice Department place “low priority” on enforcing marijuana laws against businesses and organizations that comply with state law.

“In all honesty it’s time for [President Trump] to tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions to cut the shit,” Stone added.

Stone also called out Homeland Secretary John Kelly, who has called for a federal crackdown on legal marijuana.

Geek.com has more, but prefaced this with a look at Stone’s record:

Roger Stone is bad. This is known.

The depths of the veteran Republican strategist’s consummate shittiness are like a rotting onion. Layer upon layer of dirty political tricks and cons from a conspiracy theorist and serial liar who has found his way behind the scenes into most of the major political controversies and scandals of the past 40-plus years. The Nixon acolyte been allegedly involved in everything from Watergate and the 2000 Florida recount to the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal and of course, his decades-long friendship and association with President Donald Trump (and alleged back-channel involvement with WikiLeaks in the current Russian hacking scandal).

Stone has routinely made racist, sexist, and Islamophobic statements in public and on Twitter, which led to a ban from appearing as a commentator on CNN and MSNBC. Stone showed up to President Trump’s inauguration in an outfit that can only be described as 19th-century robber baron Mr. Peanut meets Oswald Cobblepot. He has a website called the Stone Zone. These trifles alone are irrevocable proof of his objective shittiness.

Nonetheless, Roger Stone may be one of our best hopes for marijuana legalization in this the Year Of Our Lord 2017…at least while Donald Trump is still running the show.

This is an issue which crosses party lines, as Stone himself noted when he praised Bernie Sanders and chastised Hillary Clinton, who has also been a hard line opponent of ending marijuana prohibition and was the most conservative candidate on the issue during the last presidential campaign:

“I’ve looked, I can’t find Hillary Clinton ever coming out for the legalization of cannabis, and this astounds me. I salute Bernie Sanders because he had the courage to say it. I salute Gary Johnson and Dr. Jill Stein; they had the courage to say it. Donald Trump had the courage to stand up for medical marijuana on a states’ rights basis. Where was Hillary?”

While Stone was right that Clinton was too conservative on this (along with other social/cultural issues), Donald Trump has not done any better in turning the matter over to others who are conservative on the issue. It is unknown whether Stone has enough influence on Trump to change this. His description of the political spectrum is also flawed:

“The essence of old-fashioned Barry Goldwater-style conservatism is I don’t want the government telling me what I can smoke,” said Stone. “To me, when the government tells you how to live, what you can ingest, well that’s the essence of big government liberalism, which I oppose.”

His claim of “big government liberalism” being on the other side of the issue might apply to some liberals, but in general polls have shown that liberals are more likely than conservatives to support legalization. Fortunately Stone does understand this enough to be forming an alliance with liberals along with conservatives and libertarians.

A Failed Administration: Both President And Attorney General May Have Committed Impeachable Offenses

With Donald Trump facing considerable criticism for the firing of James Comey (along with multiple other faults), we must also keep in mind that there are other terrible people in  his administration. Among them is Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The Hill reports that Democrats are questioning his role in the firing of Comey:

The top Democrats on two powerful House committees are calling for a report on possible disciplinary actions against Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his role in FBI Director James Comey’s firing.

The Democrats say Sessions may have violated his pledge to recuse himself from any investigations involving Russia’s effort to influence U.S. elections.

In a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, House Oversight Committee ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Judiciary Committee ranking member John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) pressed the Justice Department to explain Sessions’ role in President Trump’s decision to fire Comey.

“Federal law sets forth as a penalty for recusal violations removal from office, and the Attorney General’s violation in this case appears to be particularly grave,” the letter reads.

This criticism isn’t limited to Democrats. Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin has a similar opinion:

Refusing to recuse oneself from a conflict or breaking the promise to recuse from a conflict is a serious breach of legal ethics. “Someone could file a bar complaint, and/or one with DOJ’s office of professional responsibility, if Sessions had a conflict of interest when it came to the firing decision, and  if he did not follow the ethics rules, including those of DOJ by acting when he had a conflict of interest,” legal ethics expert Norman Eisen tells me. “The fact that he broke his recusal commitment, if he did, would be relevant context, and violating an agreement can sometimes in itself be an ethics violation.” In sum, Sessions has risked his law license, whether he realized it or not. He needs to testify immediately under oath; if there is no satisfactory explanation, he must resign. The alternative could be impeachment proceedings.

Yes, impeachment. The Attorney General appears to have committed grounds for impeachment. In addition, Donald Trump firing Jame Comey because he refused to pledge loyalty to him may be worse than firing him to obstruct the Russia investigation. Either way, it is grounds for impeachment, not that we can count on the Republicans to act on this.

But back to Jeff Sessions, he is also showing that he is a problem with regards to policy, seeking to escalate the failed drug war by increasing sentences for violations of current drug laws. Former Attorney General Eric Holder responded by calling Sessions’s policy “dumb on crime.”

“It is an ideologically motivated, cookie-cutter approach that has only been proven to generate unfairly long sentences that are often applied indiscriminately and do little to achieve long-term public safety.”

In the memo, Sessions told federal prosecutors to “pursue the most serious, readily provable offense” that by definition “carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimums.”

Holder also said, “Abandoning this evidence-based progress and turning back the clock to discredited, emotionally motivated, ideological policy also threatens the financial stability of the federal criminal justice system.”

Rachel Maddow Trolls Twitter With Virtual Non-Story On Trump Tax Returns

Rachel Maddow had Twitter excited yesterday evening when she tweeted: “BREAKING: We’ve got Trump tax returns. Tonight, 9pm ET. MSNBC. (Seriously)” I was immediately suspicious as to whether she really had anything. After all, MSNBC pretends to be a news channel. If they really had a major scoop, they would have announced it at the time on whatever show was on. Instead they used this to build excitement for Maddow’s show, and then waited until after the first break to show what they had.

It turned out that she had virtually nothing. All she had was two pages from Trump’ 2005 tax return which showed that he reported an income of $150 million and pain $38 million in federal income taxes. If anything this helps Trump, debunking claims from Hillary Clinton that Trump has “paid nothing in federal taxes.” There was certainly nothing here linking him to Russia. The little information released was so favorable to Trump that some are speculating that Trump was behind the “leak” of these two pages.

We did learn that Trump has taken legal deductions to legally minimize his taxes. Shocking. I do that too (even if not on the level which Trump is able to). He has also supported elimination of the alternate minimum tax. A wealthy Republican wanting to change the tax laws to reduce taxes on the wealthy is hardly a scoop.

I might say that Maddow has jumped the shark here, but I already thought she did this with her fallacious claims blaming Clinton’s loss on third party candidates rather than on Clinton being a terrible candidate who ran a horrible campaign, and her fear mongering on Russia which has reduced her to the level of a liberal Glenn Beck. Once a journalist loses their credibility as Maddow has, this usually cannot be regained, making last night’s fiasco nothing more than confirmation of where Maddow stands.

Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia remains an open question. There have certainly been some items to raise questions, such as the incidents involving Jeff Sessions and Mike Flynn. It does appear that many who have spoken with the Russian ambassador, including advisers to Clinton as well as Trump, have been Retconned into forgetting the meeting.

Thomas Wood has put together an impressive “Russiagate Timeline.” There is certainly enough smoke to demand an investigation, including a review of Trump’s tax returns. However, despite claims from Clinton supporters, there is zero evidence of the key question of whether there was any coordination between Trump and Russia to influence the election.

SciFi Weekend: Time After Time; Arrow; X-Men Casting News; Dark; Sense8; Santa Clarita Diet; Shows From Matthew Weiner and Amy Sherman-Palladino on Amazon; Doctor Who; Star Trek Discovery Air Date; Saturday Night Live

Time After Time is the next network time travel show to premiere. TV Guide answers some questions about it:

Is this really about Sexy Jack the Ripper and Sexy H.G. Wells? Boy, is it! You see, back in the day, before H.G. Wells wrote any of his now legendary novels, he apparently built a real time machine. He was showing off this game-changing piece of machinery to his good friend John — who, as it turns out, is actually the notorious anonymous serial killer Jack the Ripper. And once John discovers the authorities were hot on his tail, he uses the time machine to hightail it to modern-day New York City. Realizing he’s the only one who can stop John from killing again, H.G. follows his old friend to the future, where the world’s sexiest cat-and-mouse game begins!

Is it weird to feel attracted to Jack the Ripper? Yes and no. It’s totally weird to be sexually attracted to a serial killer, but the charismatic power of Josh Bowman is also impossibly hard to deny. Plus, this version of Jack the Ripper isn’t completely evil. There is a part of John that does want to change and leave his psychopathic, murderous tendencies behind. It’s a small part, but it’s big enough that you should feel slightly less confused by your newfound crush on the legendary murderer…

Don’t we have enough time-travel shows on TV right now? While time-travel is definitely one of the TV trends of the season, Time After Time isn’t exactly a time-travel show. In its second episode, the drama establishes its rules for time travel – ones which make it very dangerous to actually travel through time too often. That’s why H.G. Wells doesn’t simply go back in time to stop John from ever taking the time machine in the first place. It’s also why the show only time-travels four times in the first season.

Instead, Time After Time is far more interested in exploring how H.G. Wells’ adventures in modern-day Manhattan eventually inspire him to write The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, The Island of Dr. Moreau and War of the Worlds, which is a fun way to fully take advantage of having H.G. Wells as the show’s dashing protagonist.

The identity of Prometheus has been revealed on Arrow. TV Line spoke with the show’s producer and actor who played him, noting how this differs from the comics:

In the comics, Chase’s alter ego is Vigilante, but the producers chose to flip the script “because everybody would be thinking, ‘Of course he’s going to be Vigilante,’” executive producer Wendy Mericle explains. “We thought it would be a really fun twist to… take the comic-book mythology and turn it on its head and see what kind of story we can mine from a surprise like that. It was also something different for this season. We wanted to change up how we introduced the Big Bad and when we did it.”

…Although viewers are now aware of Prometheus’ true face — he exposed his mug to the audience when he took off his mask following a fight with Vigilante — Team Arrow will remain in the dark for the time being. As a result, the show gets to have “fun” as the characters continue to “interact with Adrian Chase in City Hall and elsewhere without knowing his real identity,” Mericle describes. “We’re going to play around with that for a little while before we let Oliver and the team find out.”

And find out they will, possibly sooner rather than later. “We’re not going to leave it to the end of the season,” Segarra promises. “We’re going to get to watch the pot get stirred a little bit. It’s hard because I already know how [Oliver] reacts, and I love the way it goes. You’re going to see Chase just kind of trying to burn the world around him.”

While we no know the identity of Prometheus, we will probably not learn the identity of the person under the vigilante mask this season.

Regardless of whether they are able to use the X-Men name, we will be seeing a lot of the X-Men in some form on television. ABC will be getting an Inhumans show. FX already has premiered Legion (which is highly recommended). Fox has some casting news on their upcoming untitled show. This includes Natalie Alyn Lind of Gotham:

Written by Matt Nix and directed by Bryan Singer, the pilot focuses on two ordinary parents who discover their children possess mutant powers. Forced to go on the run from a hostile government, the family joins up with an underground network of mutants and must fight to survive. Lind will play Lauren, one of the children at the center of the story. Smart, pretty, popular, organized and already ahead on her college applications, Lauren is the model of a perfect kid.

Amy Acker, who has a lot of genre experience in shows including Angel, Dollhouse, and Person of Interest, will play the other female lead:

Acker will star as Kate Stewart, a woman who is struggling with her separation from her husband, Reed (True Blood‘s Stephen Moyer), and her increasingly challenging teenage children. When her family situation takes a dark turn, she finds that she’s stronger than she thinks.

As noted above, Stephen Moyer has been cast as the male lead:

Moyer will play Reed, an ambitious attorney trying to balance the demands of his job at the DA’s office with his responsibilities to his family.

Patrick Stewart recently announced his retirement with regards to playing Professor X, but now states he might reprise the role in a Deadpool sequel. As I posted on Friday, he has also announced plans to become an American citizen to help fight Donald Trump. Make it so!

Netflix has released a teaser for Dark, an upcoming show being made in Germany, which appears somewhat like a darker version of Stranger Things. The description reads, “A missing child sets four families on a frantic hunt for answers. Their search for a culprit unearths a small town’s sins and secrets.”

Netflix is reassembling the cast for a potential third season of Sense8. The second season will be released May 5.

While reviews have been mixed, I’ve been  hearing a lot of great buzz from viewers of Santa Clarita Diet. We binged a large portion of the season last night and, while certainly not a hard-core zombie show, it was very enjoyable.

Mathew Weiner’s next show, The Romanoffs, to be on Amazon Prime, sounds nothing like Mad Men:

“Romanoffs” will consist of eight hourlong episodes, each of which will tell a standalone story with no recurring plot elements or actors. The only common thread is that each episode will tell the stories of people in contemporary times who believe they are descendants of the imperial family that ruled Russia from 1613 until the Bolsheviks seized power in 1917…

Weiner came up with the notion for “Romanoffs” about a year ago, after a long break following the end of his work on “Mad Men” in late 2014. He had the chance to watch other TV shows “in a non-competitive atmosphere,” and he realized that there was room for a show of this nature. “The rise of (Netflix’s) ‘Black Mirror’ made it easier for me to explain it, even though this show is not in that genre,” he said.

Amy Sherman-Palladino also has a pilot for Amazon:

After venturing into streaming TV with Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life on Netflix last fall, the show’s creator Amy Sherman-Palladino is trying her hand with Amazon this spring. The site announced today that Palladino’s pilot, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, will be among the batch of programs up in pilot season starting on March 17. The one-hour pilot stars Rachel Brosnahan (House of Cards, Manhattan) as the titular Miriam “Midge” Maisel, a 1950s housewife who starts a career in stand-up comedy. Monk’s Tony Shalhoub will play her father; Michael Zegen (Boardwalk Empire) will play her husband. Alex Borstein (the original Sookie!) is also in the cast.

Speculation this week about the replacement for Peter Capaldi on Doctor Who includes Kris Marshall and Anthony Head. Doctor Who returns on April 15 with DoctorWho TV recapping everything which is known about the series so far.

After having been delayed twice, CBS is now saying that the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery will be in late summer or early fall.

The election of Donald Trump has been fantastic for the ratings of the late night comedy shows. Having Donald Trump as a regular target has improved the material on shows including The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Saturday Night Live. The cold open on SNL last night had Kate McKinnon portraying Jeff Sessions as Forest Gump. Of course Donald Trump will likely be upset about him being portrayed by a woman, as when Melissa McCartney played Sean Spicer.

Last night’s episode of SNL has also received a lot of buzz for the above skit:

“Saturday Night Live” just ran a nearly two-minute liberal’s dream sequence disguised as a movie trailer.

The trailer — which promises a Republican “patriot who will put country over party” — features a notable omission: a title character. The point is that no Republican has really stood up to President Trump. You get it.

Trump Returns To Madman Role In Tweets Accusing Obama Of Wiretapping His Phone

The attempts to portray Donald Trump as a sane president in his speech before Congress earlier in the week were destroyed in a series of Tweets this morning. Without citing any evidence, Donald Trump accused Barack Obama of having wiretapped his phones prior to the election. The Tweets said:

Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!

Is it legal for a sitting President to be “wire tapping” a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!

I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!

How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!

This round was preceded by a Tweet accusing the Obama administration of setting up Jeff Sessions, and followed by a Tweet attacking Arnold  Schwarzenegger (who recently announced he is leaving Celebrity Apprentice).

Trump’s speech on Tuesday, received strong approval in the polls and the stock market soared. There were subsequently questions as to whether Trump was at least managing to act sane in public, and the Trump administration even postponed the release of the updated travel ban to take advantage of the positive reception. By late in the week, the news was dominated by stories of Attorney General Jeff Sessions having lied to the Senate about having met with the Russian ambassador. This does look like a warped response by Trump to the negative stories, and resolves any questions as to whether Trump is capable of changing his behavior.

While no evidence was cited, it appears Trump is repeating thing being said on right wing talk radio and at Breitbart. Once again, it is hard to take Trump’s attacks on “fake news” seriously when he, and his administration, have become the major source of spreading “alternative news.”

Former deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes Tweeted in response to Trump: “No President can order a wiretap. Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens like you.”

The New York Times adds:

Mr. Trump’s aides declined to clarify whether the president’s explosive allegations were based on briefings from intelligence or law enforcement officials, or on something else, like a news report. A spokesman for Mr. Obama did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The president’s decision to lend the power of his office to such an accusation — without offering any proof — is remarkable, even for a leader who has repeatedly shown himself willing to make assertions that are false or based on rumors.

It would have been difficult for federal agents, working within the law, to obtain a wiretap order to target Mr. Trump’s phone conversations. That would mean the Justice Department had gathered sufficient evidence to persuade a federal judge that there was probable cause to believe that he had committed a serious crime or was an agent of a foreign power, depending on whether it was a criminal or foreign intelligence wiretap.

Politico reports that Trump’s top aides were caught off guard:

Trump’s top aides were caught off guard by the tweets Saturday morning, a senior administration official said. The president is scheduled to spend a quiet day golfing and relaxing at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla. After several days without a controversial tweet and a relative message discipline following his speech to Congress Tuesday evening, Trump’s angry Twitter tirade marked a return to form—and a trusted tactic of turning around the exact words being used against him on his opponents.