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Kevin Kelton

Joe and the Giant Impeachment Question

by Kevin Kelton

Among the first questions former Vice President Joe Biden will face on the campaign trail is whether he thinks congress should begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. Several candidates have already weighed in with qualified (and in the case of Elizabeth Warren, unqualified) answers of “yes.”

But Joe Biden is a different type of presidential candidate, whose candidacy should be based on character, decency and raising the standards of decorum back to where they once stood. So here’s the answer I hope Biden gives to the impeachment question:

I’m not going to answer that directly because I think it’s unseemly for a candidate to call for the removal of his or her political opponent, just as I thought it was unseemly when candidate Donald Trump was going around the country saying that his opponent should be ‘locked up.’ 

But I will say this: the House of Representatives and the Senate both have an important responsibility for oversight and to hold the executive branch accountable. Because no one, not even a president of the United States, is above the law.

And if you ask me if I think the president committed obstruction of justice? The answer is an unqualified, ‘yes.’

If Biden can nail the right answers on his first few campaign questions – such as Medicare expansion versus single payer Medicare For All, the Green New Deal, and issues of income inequality – he will go a long way toward assuring the 2020 electorate that he’s in step with today’s Democratic base and is not a throwback to the 1990s.

Joe Biden is a great American and great public servant who could make a great Commander in Chief. All he has to do is prove he can be a great candidate.

Kevin Kelton is the co-host of The More Perfect Union podcast and a founder of Open Fire Politics.

Does Not Exonerate (Ep. 202)

This MPU episode looks at the redacted Mueller Report and how Democrats should respond to it in congress and on the 2020 campaign trail.

‘Sanctuary Cities’ PM Fun

As we often mention on the podcast, the MPU co-hosts share a Facebook Messenger PM thread where we chat with each other every day, sometimes debating, sometimes commiserating, sometimes joking. This is one amusing exchange* we had last week….

 

*EDITED.

I Spy With My Little FBI (Ep. 201)

This episode covers Attorney General William Barr’s testimony about the FBI spying on the Trump campaign, Pete Buttigieg’s official entry into the 2020 primary race, what it means to be a “millionaire” running for president, and alleged billionaire Donald Trump’s latest assault on asylum seekers and sanctuary cities.

Our 200th Show! (Ep. 200)

 

This week, the MPU hosts celebrate their 200th broadcast by reflecting on the week in politics. They also talk about the history of the podcast, let us meet their families, and share some fun surprises along the way.

We Need to STOP Talking About Joe Biden

by Kevin Kelton

We rarely do this, but I am going to respectfully rebut the opinion article of my fellow More Perfect Union host, Rebekah Kuschmider, on the subject of Joe Biden. Yes, this is a debate, and no, there is no hate. Just a lot of disappointment.

You see, I agree with Rebekah that we need to have a serious dialogue in this country about women’s rights and male behaviors. Men have gotten way too free with our hands and our attitudes over the last several decades, and there is no excuse for it. We have badly abused our role and our rights in how we relate to women in the workplace, the dating world, and even on the campaign trail. It’s a long-overdue conversation, and we men need to do a hefty dose of active listening.

But the current kerfuffle over Joe Biden isn’t about the #MeToo movement or women’s personal body space. Let’s get honest here. If women wanted to have a serious conversation about Biden’s behavior, it could have happened during his many years in public life prior to the eve of his entree into the 2019 primary race. It could have happened when he ran for president in 1988, or again in 2008, or during his eight years as vice president, or during the two years since. It could have been a sincere discussion about how millions of men his age, not just Joe Biden, have to re-learn what’s socially acceptable behaviors and come to a higher understanding of what’s appropriate forms of affection and what’s not.

Joe Biden has to learn it. Al Franken has to learn it. Garrison Keillor has to learn it. Donald Trump has to learn it. And millions of non-famous men like me have to learn it, too. It could have been a positive social discussion of gender and age and societal rules and changing social norms.

But it hasn’t been. Instead, it’s been a personal hit job on one very public man, just days before he enters the race for president.

So please don’t try to kid me that this is some high-minded social revolution that’s going on here. It is not. It is a very purposeful, very cruel attempt to destroy a single man’s reputation for petty partisan gain.

The people lining up to go public with their personal grievances with Joe Biden aren’t dispassionate non-partisans. They are self-admitted Sanders supporters, women who want to see a female at the top of the ticket, angry far-left liberals trying to stave off another moderate Democratic nominee, and of course Trump sycophants who’d love nothing more than to see the the campaign of the one Democrat they fear the most aborted before his primary run even begins.

As for the handful of women and men who may sincerely be outraged by “Uncle Joe’s” chauvinistic old-school manners, they are blinded by their own self-righteous indignation. The #MeToo movement should be used to advance relations between the sexes, not turn it into a take-no-prisoners blood match to the death.

Any honest study of Joe Biden would show that he acts that way with women and men, girls and boys. A simple Google image search turns up dozens of photos of Joe getting intimate and handsy with other men, with his sons, with his political opponents, even with his old boss, Barack Obama. It’s not that Joe is a creepy perv. It’s that he’s too publicly affectionate, period.

But that is not a crime worthy of public scorn and humiliation. Nor is it a reason to stop a good and highly qualified man from seeking the presidency.

As for Biden’s so-called accusers, let’s take a gander at their motives for a moment. It was telling that one of the women who suddenly came forward last week is an ardent pro-Bernie supporter, and the other used her five minutes of fame to advocate for a female nominee. They both smack of bitter political agendas, and their nasty attempt to turn Biden’s ham-fisted shows of public affection into some kind of creepy sexual predator persona is abominable.

The truth is, Joe Biden is an American hero. A deeply religious man who is clearly devoted to his family, he served his party and his country admirably for almost five decades, including being a great two-term vice president. He was one of the first high public figures to speak out in favor of same-sex marriage, forcing others to follow his lead, and he has been a true champion of women’s rights and gender rights. He’s made mistakes in the past, as pretty much every male of his generation has. (Including this writer.) But to publicly tar and feather him for minor transgressions of contemporary social mores is a sin of all four orders.

If Joe Biden is not the person to lead Democrats into the next election, let the voters decide at the polls. There are plenty of good reasons to support Bernie Sanders, Beto O’Roarke, Pete Buttigieg, or one of the many highly qualified women and people of color in the race. Let them make their cases and let Joe make his.

Yes, Rebekah, you’re 100% right – it’s high time we learn to treat women as equals with full control over their own bodies and their own autonomy. That conversation is ongoing and should continue. But doing it by hoisting a good man on a burning cross doesn’t make it holy. It makes it hollow.

So, with all due respect, I think it’s time we stop talking about Joe Biden. Biden isn’t what’s wrong with America or American politics. The “creepy Uncle Joe” caricature is.

Special Olympics & Special Sandwiches (Ep. 199_b)

This short podcast serves as a prequel for the upcoming 200th More Perfect Union episode, covering Betsy DeVos and her attack on the Special Olympics.

Mueller vs. Mueller: The Conspiracy Right Before His Eyes

According to AG William Barr, special counsel Robert Mueller did not find enough evidence to suggest a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. But we also know from Mueller’s court filings that WikiLeaks and DCLeaks released some 150,000 illegally stolen emails they received from Russian government hackers, that Trump friend Roger Stone encouraged and coordinated with Julian Assange to release those emails, and that Stone kept the Trump campaign informed about the email dumps all along the way.

So how the heck did Mueller not see a criminal conspiracy in his own facts?!

Here are the relevant facts from the criminal indictment of Roger Stone with the names filled in. These are Mueller’s own words. Taken together, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Roger Stone and “senior Trump campaign officials” including campaign chairman Steve Bannon were colluding with WikiLeaks to help coordinate the email dumps. You be the judge.

FROM THE ROGER STONE INDICTMENT. THESE ARE MUELLER’S EXACT WORDS:

During the summer of 2016, ROGER STONE spoke to STEVE BANNON about WikiLeaks and information it might have had that would be damaging to the Clinton Campaign. STONE was contacted by Bannon and other senior Trump Campaign officials to inquire about future releases by WIKILEAKS.

Around July 2016, STONE informed senior Trump Campaign officials that he had information indicating WIKILEAKS had documents whose release would be damaging to the Clinton Campaign.

After the July 22, 2016 release of stolen DNC emails by WIKILEAKS, a Senior Campaign Official was directed to contact STONE about what other damaging information WIKILEAKS had regarding the Clinton Campaign. STONE thereafter told the Trump Campaign about potential future releases of damaging material by WIKILEAKS.

STONE also corresponded with associates about contacting WIKILEAKS in order to obtain additional emails damaging to the Clinton Campaign. (AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is no longer passive. Stone is now active in the conspiracy.)

On July 25, 2016*, STONE sent an email to JEROME CORSI with the subject line, “Get to Assange.” The body of the message read, “Get to Assange and get the pending WikiLeaks emails. They deal with [The Clinton] Foundation, allegedly.”

On August 2, 2016, CORSI emailed STONE, saying: “Word is Assange plans 2 more email dumps. One shortly after I’m back. Second in October. Impact planned to be very damaging. Time to let more than Podesta be exposed as in bed with the enemy if they are not ready to drop HRC. Would not hurt to start suggesting HRC [is] old, memory bad, has stroke, and [is] not well. I expect that to be much of the next [email] dump focus, setting stage for [Clinton] Foundation debacle.”

On August 8, 2016, STONE attended a public event at which he stated, “I have communicated with Assange. I believe the next tranche of his documents pertain to the Clinton Foundation, but there’s no telling what the October surprise may be.”

On August 25, 2016, Julian Assange was a guest on RANDY CREDICO’s radio show. Shortly after, CREDICO sent a text to STONE that said, “Assange has kryptonite on Hillary.”

On September 18, 2016, STONE emailed CREDICO, “Please ask ASSANGE for any State Dept. or HRC e-mail…that mention [a rumored Clinton scandal] or confirm this narrative.”

On September 19, 2016, STONE texted CREDICO again, “Pass my message to ASSANGE.” CREDICO responded, “I did.”

On October 1, 2016, CREDICO sent STONE a text that stated, “Big news Wednesday. Hillary’s campaign will die this week.”

On October 2, 2016, STONE emailed CREDICO, with the subject line “WTF?,” a link to an article reporting that WIKILEAKS was canceling its “highly anticipated Clinton email dump due to security concerns.” CREDICO responded to STONE, “head fake.” Later that day, STONE texted CREDICO and asked, “Did ASSANGE back off?” CREDICO responded, “I think it’s on for tomorrow.”

On October 3, 2016, STONE wrote to a major Trump campaign supporter, “Spoke to ASSANGE last night. The payload is still coming.”

Also on October 3, 2016, STONE received an email from a reporter asking, “ASSANGE – what’s he got? Hope it’s good.” STONE responded, “It is. I’d tell [STEVE] BANNON but he doesn’t call me back.”

On October 4, 2016, STONE received an email from STEVE BANNON asking about the status of future releases by WIKILEAKS. STONE answered that there would be “a load every week going forward.” (NOTE: This is the Trump campaign chairman now coordinating with Stone about Clinton email dumps.)

Later that day, a major Trump campaign supporter asked STONE via text if he had heard anymore from Assange. STONE told the supporter that more material would be released and that it would be damaging to the Clinton Campaign.

Three days later, WIKILEAKS released the first set of emails stolen from Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta. Shortly after WIKILEAKS’s release, an associate of STEVE BANNON sent a text message to STONE that read “well done.” (NOTE: This again is the Trump campaign chairman coordinating with Stone about the email dumps and acknowledging the campaign’s appreciation.)

It should be noted that Stone repeatedly lied to the FBI and investigators about all these matters, falsely denying most of them, and was also charged with Obstruction of Justice in this matter. As the New York Times Editorial Board stated, Mr. Stone participated in and helped conceal an effort by the Trump campaign to cooperate with WikiLeaks in publicizing thousands of emails stolen from the Clinton campaign, which was done to devastating political effect.”

The Roger Stone  indictment – with the charges set forth above – was signed by Robert S. Mueller. If he does not see a criminal conspiracy in these facts, I would love to learn why not.

 

* Where the indictment said “On or about” a date, author changed it to “On” for easier reading. Some missing prepositions and connective words were filled in for clarity.

Life After Mueller (Ep. 199)

On this week’s episode, the gang does a post-mortem on the findings of the Mueller Report and its impact on the 2020 election, the once-rumored pairing of Joe Biden and Stacey Abrams, and whether Pete Buttigieg could emerge as a real 2020 contender.

The Kelton Report (On What Should Be In The Mueller Report)

Dear Mr. Attorney General,

While we await public word of what is in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, here is a summary of the publicly known facts and evidence in the matter of Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election for president of the United States and the Trump campaign’s direct complicity in those efforts.

In June 2015, Donald John Trump announced his candidacy for president, and by April 2016, he had secured enough pledged delegates to become the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party. Russian President Vladimir Putin has publicly admitted he had a strong preference to see Trump defeat his Democratic Party opponent, Hillary Clinton, and Russia began a series of covert espionage efforts to help Trump win.* (*See the enclosed links for details and evidence of all findings in this summary.) The facts and evidence that the Trump campaign was involved in this criminal conspiracy to effect the outcome of the election are as follows:

The Conspiracy

During the months of April through November 2016, agents of the Russian government began a secret espionage campaign to advance Trump’s candidacy and harm Clinton’s reputation and candidacy. As court records show, 12 Russian intelligence officers have been indicted in this effort, and many more agents of the Russian government worked to advance that effort. Part of this effort was to secure and make public emails and other private documents owned or relating to the Democratic candidate, the Democratic National Committee (DNC), and other high officials of the Democratic campaign. The Russians were able to hack into DNC email servers and private servers to steal private electronic correspondence that they believed would be harmful to the Democratic candidate.

In August 2015, Trump publicly parted ways with his longtime friend and political advisor, Roger Stone, a well-known political operative with a reputation for “dark arts” dirty tricks campaigns. It’s believed Trump and Stone set up their public fallout as a pretext for plausible deniability so that Stone could conduct his dark arts dirty political tricks for the Trump campaign without being tied back to the candidate. Indeed, Trump has publicly asserted this deniability several times to the press, even though Trump and Stone stayed in constant contact during the presidential campaign.

In April 2016, Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort gave the campaign’s private polling data to his business client, Russian operative Konstantin Kilimnik. It is reasonable to surmise that Russian operatives then used that data to craft how they could most effectively target American voters with the hacked emails and their content.

On June 9, 2016, Manafort, Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner met with Russian operative Natalia Veselnitskaya and other Russians to discuss how they could work together to disseminate those illegally stolen emails to the American public to maximize damage to the reputation and candidacy of the presumptive Democratic nominee. Once this meeting became public knowledge, President Trump dictated a factually false press statement to cover up the collusion element of the meeting. Further, Trump Jr. lied to congress and committed perjury in an effort to hide the true surreptitious intent and content of the meeting. In that way, both President Trump and his son attempted to obstruct justice to cover up their role in the conspiracy to mislead and defraud the American public.

On July 22, 2016, candidate Trump in a televised press conference urged the Russians to make public any stolen emails they may have in their possession. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens.” Later that day Russian hackers began attempts to break into and hack DNC servers.

From July through October 2016, Trump associates Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi had multiple contacts with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and a Russian agent known as “Guccifer 2.0” about the imminent release of those hacked emails. It’s known that Stone bragged about these contacts to Corsi, radio host Randy Credico, and on radio and YouTube broadcasts hosted by InfoWars owner Alex Jones. In August 2016 Stone tweeted, “It will soon [be] the Podesta’s time in the barrel”, a reference to the chairman of the Democratic campaign, whose hacked emails were publicly released by WikiLeaks six weeks later.

There is evidence that Stone and Corsi conspired with Assange to arrange the email “dump” at a time of maximum damage to the Clinton campaign. Further, there is evidence that  this conspiracy was communicated to Trump campaign Chief Executive Stephen K. Bannon in an email exchange between Stone and Bannon on October 4, 2016. In that exchange, Stone told Bannon that there would be “a load every week going forward.”  The email evidence suggests that Bannon was “directed” to contact Stone by someone in the campaign. As the campaign chairman, the only person who would be in a position to direct Bannon was his boss, candidate Trump. Further, there is sworn testimony from Trump attorney Michael Cohen that Stone personally advised candidate Trump about the coming WikiLeaks email dump in a phone call overheard by Cohen in July 2016, and that Trump responded “Wouldn’t that be great.”

It is reasonable to surmise from this pattern of facts that candidate Trump knew about and was involved in the efforts of his campaign staff to enlist and encourage the Russian government to release the stolen emails. There is evidence that, as president, Trump has taken numerous actions to cover up this conspiracy up to and including criminal obstruction of justice.

In all, there is evidence of at least 102 contacts between Trump campaign staff and associates and operatives of the Russian government. And there is a multitude of evidence that Trump and his associates lied about and attempted to cover up those connections. As president, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey and took other actions designed to hamper the investigation into his campaign and thereby obstruct justice.

The Payback

At the Republican National Convention (July 18-21, 2016), Manafort approved of and led a successful effort to amend the Republican Platform to be favorable to the Russian government’s position un Ukraine. We have evidence to suggest that candidate Trump knew of and approved of this effort to reward the Russian government with the platform amendment.

Trump defeated the Democratic candidate on November 8, 2016 to become the president-elect. In one of his first major moves, Trump appointed campaign associate Michael Flynn to be his National Security Advisor. Flynn subsequently secretly met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to discuss lifting U.S. sanctions against the Russian government. Flynn then lied to the FBI to cover up those discussions.

On January 20, 2017, Trump was sworn in as President of the United States. Within days Trump led efforts to lift sanctions on Russia that had been imposed by the Obama Administration, but congress reportedly blocked those efforts. In 2018 Trump successfully lifted sanctions on a company owned by Oleg Deripask, a Russian oligarch with deep ties to Vladimir Putin. As president, Trump has also made numerous public statements and pushed foreign policies that are favorable to Russian interests. Further, Trump has held private, secret diplomatic talks with Putin without the presence of advisors or an official transcript, suggesting a continued secret quid-pro-quo relationship and possible conspiracy to advance Putin’s agenda in return for his help in winning the 2016 election and support of Trump’s private business interests. 

Conclusions

In these ways, it can be proved beyond reasonable doubt that a conspiracy existed between Trump, his campaign, and elements of the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 presidential election through hacking, espionage, and other illegal means, and that Russia was paid back through foreign policy decisions highly favorable to Putin and Russia by the Trump administration and the president himself. Further, Trump engaged in multiple counts of criminal obstruction of justice in an effort to avoid detection and prosecution for those crimes and to avoid impeachment in the United States Congress.

Based on the facts set forth above, I hereby propose a citizen’s arrest of Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Stephen Bannon, Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., and President Donald John Trump, and recommend indictments of each individual for a coordinated conspiracy to steal and disseminate private emails, conspiracy to commit espionage with a foreign power, obstruction of justice, and a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States.

Sincerely,

Kevin Kelton, concerned citizen

Kevin Kelton is a cohost of The More Perfect Union podcast and runs the Facebook political group, Open Fire Politics.

 

College Daze (Ep. 198)

This week the MPU gang talks about the college admissions cheating scandal, the rise of white nationalism, and Beto O’Roarke’s entrance into the 2020 Democratic primary field.

The ‘Right’ College Is The One You Go To

by Kevin Kelton

I got an 1190 when I took the SAT in the 1970s. And though I went on to become a fairly successful professional writer, my verbal score lagged far below my math score, proving that the SAT’s ability to test “aptitude” was pretty poor in my case.

In the college application world, anything under a 1200 SAT score is considered modest at best, and I ended up getting into Boston University and a few state schools, not the prestigious universities many of my high school classmates got into. Back then B.U. was nowhere near as respected as it is today. But it was still darn expensive, so after my freshmen year I transferred to a somewhat dreary New York state public university to cut my tuition costs. I had adored living in Boston and going to B.U., loved that they had a Division 1 hockey team, and had forged several close friendships I was loathe to abandon. I ended my freshman year devastated that I had to give all that up.

Sounds like a pretty sad story, doesn’t it? But it wasn’t. 

Because while I was studying Business Administration on my new upstate NY campus, I met a guy at the top of our dorm tower watching ˆSaturday Night Live” who shared my passion for comedy, and learned he and some fellow comedy nerds were writing and producing a radio sitcom for the school’s AM station. They invited me to join in, and soon I was working regularly at the station as a disc jockey and newscaster, things I had never thought to try before. In my senior year I roomed with that guy I had met watching SNL and we began writing and hosting our own sketch comedy show on the school’s new FM station. 

I graduated SUNY Albany with a Bachelor’s degree in Business and Marketing (areas for which I had little passion), but I chose to pursue a comedy writing career instead. Forty years later it seems I made the right choice, having written and produced several hit TV series – including an Emmy nomination writing for Saturday Night Live, a dream of its ownand building a very substantial nest egg in the process. Plus that roomie who shared my love of comedy is still my best friend. And it all happened at a school I wasn’t the least bit excited to go to.

I didn’t get into the colleges of my choice. But the journey I did take turned out great.

The same is true for my oldest son. He got into a great in-state public school, UC Santa Barbara, but he still pined to go to the University of Wisconsin where his best friend was attending. So my son applied to transfer to WISCO, but the required collateral paperwork didn’t arrive in time, and he had to stay on at SB. So my son dedicated himself to his newfound passion of sportscasting and is now the play-by-play announcer for several UCSB varsity teams. He plans on pursuing broadcasting as a career, and he knows that the opportunities he got to hone his talents at SB might not have been available to him on the Madison campus. 

Instead of getting into the school of his dreams, he turned his existing school into a dream experience.

I also know someone who eked their way into Harvard, was miserable, and quickly bombed out there, then “found” themself at a less-prestigious public university.

Let this be a lesson (albeit anecdotal) to the high school students who are sweating out the college acceptance wait right now, and to the parents who think their kids’ lives will be ruined if they don’t con an elite university into accepting them. It’s okay to have a dream college, but you don’t have to go to it to live a dream life.

Whatever college you attend will most likely turn out to be the right one for you. Because the one you get into and do attend is the one where you’ll make lifelong friendships, meet lovers you will never forget (and maybe one you’ll marry), find new interests that weren’t on your radar before, and have multiple adventures that will enrich you life forever.

Sadly, we have turned the college acceptance process into an end-all, be-all destination instead of what it should be: a single step on the wonderfully unpredictable journey of life.

So to the student running to the mailbox (or your email) every few hours waiting for that acceptance letter that will change your life, slow down and enjoy the excitement of the wait. Whatever school you attend will be the right school for you, I promise. In all likelihood, within months of arriving on campus, you’ll be living a great new life and rarely give those other schools another thought.

And to the parents of high school seniors, stop trying to micromanage the process. Your job is to protect them from harm, not from minor life disappointments. If your daughter or son doesn’t get into Yale or USC, it won’t be the end of their world. But if they think they’re somehow a failure at 18 because they didn’t live up to your unrealistically high standards, it might.

Let your kids try. Let them fall short. Let them learn to accept adversity and persevere. Those are the lessons that will propel them to success, whatever the name of the school on their diplomas. 

And once they graduate, let them pursue careers in comedy writing or sportscasting or ballet if that is their calling. Love them for who they are, not who you’ve always wanted them to be. Parenting is not about gaming the system to their advantage. It’s about teaching them to excel and be happy with who they are.

Chances are, they’ll turn out just fine. Even with a state school education.

Kevin Kelton is a cohost of The More Perfect Union podcast and runs the Facebook political group, Open Fire Politics.