Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Seven-hour gap in Jan. 6 phone records, plus judge's order referencing possible "felonies," suggest Donald Trump might have waded deep into Nixonian waters

Many left-leaning Americans have been suggesting for several years that Donald Trump is a politician so corrupt that he might make Richard Nixon blush. Many on the right, meanwhile, seem prepared to go to the polls in 2024  and happily vote for Trump -- assuming he is the Republican nominee, and we see little reason to doubt he will be.

Why the disconnect? Our only guess is that it's the result of a toxic, divisive political culture that seems to have taken over America in the 2000s. But events this week suggest the Nixon comparisons are not too far afield.

First, a federal judge stated in an order that Trump likely committed felonies related to Jan. 6. Then, came reports that Trump's phone records show a seven-hour gap on Jan. 6. In between, were multiple reports about other GOP figures and their efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Mother Jones sums it up in an e-newsletter under the headline "The pieces of the January 6 puzzle keep falling into place":

[Last] weekend, CNN reported that the House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol will seek to interview Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who, in a series of text messages, pleaded with Mark Meadows to overturn the election. [Monday] morning, the Washington Post published an article outlining what the committee has discovered about the role Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) played in the plot to keep President Trump in office; it turns out that he had a far greater hand in the scheme than we knew.

And later in the day came the icing on the cake: A federal judge held in a ruling that Trump had likely committed felonies when he "corruptly attempted to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021." The finding doesn't mean that Trump will be criminally charged, but is still a huge development that's likely to amp up pressure on the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute the former president.

"The illegality of the plan was obvious," the judge wrote in a ruling ordering Trump attorney John Eastman to hand over 101 emails that he had fought to keep secret. "If Dr. Eastman and President Trump’s plan had worked, it would have permanently ended the peaceful transition of power, undermining American democracy and the Constitution."

And what about that seven-hour gap in Trump's phone records, which sounds positively Nixonian? This is from an Axios e-newsletter: 

White House records turned over to the House's Jan. 6 committee show a seven-hour, 37-minute gap in President Trump’s phone logs for the day, including the time the Capitol was being stormed, The Washington Post's Bob Woodward and Robert Costa report."

The lack of an official White House notation of any calls placed to or by Trump for 457 minutes on Jan. 6, 2021 — from 11:17 a.m. to 6:54 p.m. — means the committee has no record of his phone conversations as his supporters descended on the Capitol."

We knew there was a hole in the log. But the extent of this gap is a huge deal for the investigation.

Also notable from the story: An aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, "McConnell declined Trump's call on Jan. 6."

Could Trump have used a burner phone, which are known to help hide criminal activity? In a statement to The Post, Trump said, "I have no idea what a burner phone is, to the best of my knowledge I have never even heard the term.

"Trump had nothing to do with the records and assumed his calls were recorded and preserved, a Trump spokeswoman told The Post.

Here is more from The Post report

The records show that Trump was active on the phone for part of the day, documenting conversations that he had with at least eight people in the morning and 11 people that evening. The seven-hour gap also stands in stark contrast to the extensive public reporting about phone conversations he had with allies during the attack, such as a call Trump made to Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) — seeking to talk to Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) — and a phone conversation he had with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

The House panel is now investigating whether Trump communicated that day through back channels, phones of aides or personal disposable phones, known as “burner phones,” according to two people with knowledge of the probe, who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information. The committee is also scrutinizing whether it received the full logs from that day.

One lawmaker on the panel said the committee is investigating a “possible coverup” of the official White House record from that day. Another person close to the committee said the large gap in the records is of “intense interest” to some lawmakers on the committee, many of whom have reviewed copies of the documents. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss internal committee deliberations.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Donald Watkins offers insight on how former Balch attorney Chase Tristian Espy, now facing a child-solicitation charge, wound up in Gov. Kay Ivey's office

Chase Tristian Espy

Of all the unsavory issues surrounding Birmingham's Balch & Bingham law firm, the most troublesome one might involve the child-solicitation charge against a former attorney. It's hard to massage or downplay a story about an accused child predator having been in your midst. And Balch seems to be sinking deeper into a state of disarray following the late-August 2021 arrest of its former attorney, Chase Tristian Espy, on a charge of seeking sex with a child, according to a post at

Perhaps the No. 1 question hanging over the Espy case is this: How did Espy manage to leave Balch and gain a position on the staff of Gov. Kay Ivey, seemingly without the law firm warning the governor about a potential problem on the horizon? Former attorney, banker, and entrepreneur Donald Watkins might have shined light on that question in his Sunday analytical piece about Alabama Power, Matrix LLC (headed by Joe Perkins), and associated entities -- and the "trade secrets" they use to maintain control over the corporate, legal, and political environments in Alabama.

The Watkins piece originated at his online news site and serves as an introduction to a series of posts he plans about the Alabama Power/Matrix relationship and the extensive bag of "dirty tricks" they allegedly keep in their toolbox. We reported on Watkins' insights in a post yesterday titled "Donald Watkins reveals some of the "dirty secrets" Alabama Power, Matrix LLC, and Co. use to maintain a stranglehold on power in the Heart of Dixie. Writes Watkins, focusing on Gov. Ivey and her office:

After [Robert] Bentley exited the governor's office, Perkins and his team of political operatives provided Alabama Power Company with the information they needed to capture and control incoming governor Kay Ivey. They learned that Governor Ivey had serious issues with her alcoholic consumption. According to Alabama Power's intelligence gathering reports, Governor Ivey would often start drinking on the job by noon each day.

Did Balch & Bingham officials sweep Chase Tristian Espy out the door and send him Ivey's way, thinking they could get away with it, since they reportedly had intelligence about an apparent weakness under the governor's umbrella? Is that why Balch felt no need to warn Ivey about a possible problem employee headed her way? Watkins' analysis certainly suggests that scenario might have been in play.

Public records indicate Espy hardly was a mere hanger-on at Balch; in 2017, he helped handle a case styled Midland Funding LLC v. Johnson before the U.S. Supreme Court. A source tells Legal Schnauzer the incident leading to Espy's arrest occurred in March 2021. That apparently means he still worked at Balch when the alleged child solicitation took place, although the exact date of his exit from the firm remains unclear.

According to published reports, Espy worked for former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) before taking a job at Balch in 2012. He left to become a staff attorney in the office of Gov. Kay Ivey, but was promptly fired after the August arrest.

As for, which has covered the Balch & Bingham story with more consistency and detail than any other news site, Publisher K.B. Forbes has asked a number of times: How did Chase Tristian Espy wind up in Kay Ivey's lap, seemingly without warning? Writes Forbes, in an August 2021 piece, shortly after Espy's arrest, under the headline "Prestigious to Egregious: Balch in Disarray After “Seeking Sex with a Child” Arrest":

With the criminal arrest . . . of Chase T. Espy, a former long-time Balch attorney who allegedly was seeking to have sex with a child, Balch & Bingham appears to be in disarray, and former attorneys and ex-partners are allegedly scrambling to distance themselves from the embattled firm, sources tell us.

The once prestigious, silk-stocking law firm appears to have become the cesspool of egregious misconduct, and observers are in disbelief that clients like Southern Company and Alabama Power continue to utilize the law firm engulfed in scandal, impacting children to the elderly.

Balch, in sheer panic, stepped on a land mine . . . while trying to save face by telling the Montgomery Advertiser that they had terminated the alleged sexual deviant “nearly one year ago.”

If true, what did Balch know and did they report Espy’s misconduct to the state bar or local authorities?

After 8 years on the job, an attorney is simply not terminated like a novice.

And why in heaven’s name would Balch let Alabama Governor Kay Ivey hire Espy and put the Administration at risk if they knew Espy appeared to be trouble?

Someone seeking sex with a child online is usually an experienced predator.

That raises all kinds of questions, and Forbes is not shy about spelling them out:

Did Balch know of alleged acts or crimes “nearly one year ago?” Was there a cover-up?

Investigators need to probe the matter to make sure no children were victims of Espy’s alleged deviant and sick behavior.

Since 2017, Balch’s alleged unsavory and criminal misconduct has rocked the firm. And the list grows year to year.

  • A former executive of a Balch client, who was lied to and deceived by Balch, was convicted and sentenced to federal prison in 2018, and appears to have been set up as the “Fall Guy.” 
  • A former aerospace executive of a Balch client was indicted last year after allegedly ripping off the government and using unqualified personnel. Balch scrubbed their website in 2017 after links to the company were exposed.

The ugliness associated with Balch does not end there. Espy has waived his right to a preliminary hearing and is expected to face trial later this yer. Writes Forbes on other Balch issues:

And these alleged criminal acts add another black eye to the alleged historical and institutional racism associated with Balch.

  • Balch & Bingham appears to have grown to power in the 1960s due to its close and inside connection to segregationist and racist Alabama Governor George Wallace. 
  • Schuyler Allen Baker, Sr., a top Balch partner and staunch segregationist, was part of Wallace’s inner circle and the legal team that attempted to block the school door in federal court and keep African-American students out of the University of Alabama. 

And sadly, the alleged systemic racism continues in the 21st Century.

  • Of the more than 200 attorneys at Balch & Bingham, only seven attorneys are African-American or people of color. Engaging in alleged “tokenism,” each one of them is located in a completely different Balch office, except Birmingham which has two African-American attorneys. 
  • Only about 1 percent of Balch partners are non-white. 
  • In 2019, Balch let go of their only African-American female attorney in Birmingham who headed diversity efforts at the firm. This year, Balch hired a Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, seen as a desperate act of window dressing. 
  • Balch was involved in the alleged abhorrent “whites-only” land grab in Vincent, Alabama, that impacted the descendants of slaves. Voters revolted last year and tossed the Balch stooges out of office. 

The rap sheet against Balch is growing longer by the day and chief executives like Tom Fanning of Southern Company need to rid themselves of this embarrassing baggage.

Loyalty and tradition have no place when children, the elderly or minorities are taken advantage of, and said egregious acts appear to be foolishly protected, obscured, or hidden away.

Even Balch’s most honorable partners and professionals would agree.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Donald Watkins reveals some of the "dirty secrets" Alabama Power, Matrix LLC, and Co. use to maintain a stranglehold on power in the Heart of Dixie

The scene of Burt Newsome's vehicle crash

Alabama Power Company and Montgomery-based Matrix LLC employ a "breathtaking range of dirty tricks" to control politicians, public officials, regulatory agencies, judges, law enforcement, and more, according to a report yesterday from former attorney/banker/entrepreneur Donald Watkins at his online news site. 

How far could such "dirty tricks" go? Could they include the head-on vehicle crash (pictured above) that nearly took the life of Birmingham attorney Burt Newsome in September 2020? At that time, Newsome had become a courtroom adversary for Alabama Power, its "sister-wife" law firm Balch & Bingham, and fellow Balch client Drummond Company. He was leaving his office in north Shelby County one day when a large SUV hit him head-on, and as the photo above shows, the driver turned his wheels sharply right -- toward the driver's compartment -- just before impact, suggesting the crash was not an accident. Newsome wound up with a severely broken leg, requiring hours of surgery at UAB Hospital and implantation of a titanium rod.

Watkins himself has crossed swords with Alabama Power and Matrix LLC proprietor Joe Perkins in recent years and has written a number of revelatory and unflattering articles about them at his Web site. Watkins has seen his professional life blow up, and he now resides at FCI La Tuna, a Federal Bureau of Prison facility in Anthony, Texas. He was convicted in March 2019 of bank fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy. Watkins has claimed he was targeted for his online reporting on hot-buttom topics, including the Robert Bentley-Rebekah Caldwell Mason affair, which led to Bentley's downfall as governor -- and a topic we covered extensively here at Legal Schnauzer.)

Were the criminal charges against Watkins legitimate or were they the result of his entanglement with powerful forces in Alabama? The answer to that question remains unclear, but this much is clear: As yesterday's article shows, Watkins has not been silenced.

He tags the article an "editorial opinion," under the headline "Dirty Secrets: The Joe Perkins File":

In January of 2022, Alabama Power company publicly confirmed what we have known for decades --Tuscaloosa, Alabama-based political operative Joe Perkins has run the company's "dirty tricks" program on an independent contractor basis for nearly two decades. Perkins and his companies have been paid millions of dollars during this period, without having to submit invoices to Alabama Power.

Perkins is known in Alabama for: (a) exploiting the weaknesses of local, state, and federal politicians, (b) facilitating clandestine activities that undermine the integrity of democratic institutions, and (c) capturing and controlling a litany of public officials and government regulators who have abandoned their affirmative duty to advance and protect the public interests.

Perkins recorded the fruits of his labor in secret files that he calls "trade secrets." I call them "dirty secrets."

On September 19, 2021, I published an article that featured an example of Perkins' secret files. The article disclosed Perkins' handwritten notes on his plan to destroy me after I published an exclusive series of investigative articles on the role Matrix, LLC, played in the 2015 reported rape case of University of Alabama honors student Megan Rondini. Matrix is Perkins' public relations and crisis management firm.

How do Alabama Power and Matrix LLC work together to maintain a chokehold on power in a Deep South state? Watkins provides examples:

Joe Perkins' clandestine work for Alabama Power has produced a closet full of "dirty secrets" that the company strategically deployed, as needed. Here are a few examples of the "dirty secrets" in this closet:

(1) Alabama Power Company learned that disgraced former Alabama governor Robert Bentley, another Tuscaloosa native, was having an illicit love affair with his married senior advisor, Rebekah Caldwell Mason from 2014 to 2017. Alabama Power reportedly facilitated the love affair by making its corporate jets available to transport Mason to her clandestine rendezvous with Bentley at exotic ports of call after Bentley's staff cautioned him about having Mason on the airplane the state made available for the governor's official business.

After Bentley's wife learned of the illicit affair, she initially refused to attend her husband's inauguration in January 2015. Alabama Power Company officials, who were complicit in the affair, interceded on the governor's behalf and pleaded with Mrs. Bentley to attend the inauguration for public relations purposes. Mrs. Bentley relented at the last minute and attended her husband's inauguration.

(2) After Bentley exited the governor's office, Perkins and his team of political operatives provided Alabama Power Company with the information they needed to capture and control incoming governor Kay Ivey. They learned that Governor Ivey had serious issues with her alcoholic consumption. According to Alabama Power's intelligence gathering reports, Governor Ivey would often start drinking on the job by noon each day.

(3) After Dr. Richard Arrington, Jr., left office as the city of Birmingham's first black mayor (1979-1999), Alabama Power launched an orchestrated political program to capture and control the mayor's office out of fear and insecurity about Arrington's successors in office. Alabama Power's large corporate headquarters is located within three blocks from Birmingham's City Hall.

From 1999 to the present, Alabama Power has viewed all of Arrington's successors in office as weak, lazy, and unqualified for an executive leadership position. For nearly two decades, one of Joe Perkins' primary jobs was to capture and control the men who succeeded Arrington. Perkins achieved this goal by using a combination of: (a) campaign fundraising activities, (b) arranging for their travel on the company's private jets, (c) lavishing VIP perks at entertainment and sporting events upon them, and (d) stroking of their political egos.

Watkins then turns to perhaps the most important job Perkins' has performed for Alabama Power -- in fact, it could be the most important job any political consultant can perform for a client:

(4) Capturing and controlling the state legislators and judges in Alabama is another area where the Perkins/Alabama Power team achieved great success. Alabama Power quickly discovered that the company could silence the voices of the state's entire political leadership with campaign donations, annual contributions from the company's charitable Foundation to pet projects in the black community and passing out trinkets of symbolic power to them. Alabama Power does not view these activities as "lobbying," even though they are the means and manner of controlling the official actions of these public officials.

Alabama Power's chokehold on black legislators and the state's lone black Congresswoman is so strong that none of them is permitted to complain about Alabama's 19-judge all-white appellate court system in a state with a 26% black voter registration population in 2022.

Sadly, Alabama Power's total philanthropic giving to worthy causes and organizations in the state's black community in past years has been less than the amount the company donates to take care of wildlife and zoo animals. Despite the fact that blacks contribute an estimated 25% of Alabama Power's $6 billion in annual revenues, the amount of contracting dollars the company spends with black-owned business is so abysmal that it does not amount to a blip in the company's annual financial statements.

In line with the control of judges is the extremely important matter of controlling law enforcement. Writes Watkins:

Alabama Power Company and Joe Perkins have been extremely effective in controlling federal law enforcement investigations in Alabama. Working with Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), they effectively decide who will serve as the three U.S. Attorneys in Alabama.

Alabama Power and Perkins have influenced law enforcement investigations and prosecutions of some of their political adversaries. They have also benefitted from a very liberal application of prosecutorial discretion in their favor by state and federal prosecutors in matters involving highly questionable business conduct.

Alabama Power first learned how to manipulate the federal law enforcement apparatus in the 1970s and 80s when the company battled former Alabama governor George C. Wallace after Wallace blocked a series of excessive rate increases on the company's customers. In 1972, Alabama Power lobbied President Richard Nixon to jail Wallace because of the former governor's pro-customer activism.

Nixon came close to ordering Wallace's prosecution in order to solidify Alabama Power's financial support during his 1972 re-election campaign. Nixon changed his mind about the criminal prosecution after Wallace announced that he was running for president that year as a Democrat. . . .

In recent years, Alabama Power showcased its control over state and federal prosecutors in Alabama. For example, in 2015, Alabama Power contributed $30,000 to the sham non-profit entity that was established to fund bribery payments to former state Rep. Oliver Robinson in exchange for his efforts to block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from designating the 35th Avenue neighborhood in North Birmingham as a Super-Fund clean-up site.

Even though Alabama Power provided money for the bribery scheme, no company executive was indicted or prosecuted in connection with the bribery scheme. An executive with the Drummond Company, which supplies coal for Alabama Power's "dirty" power plants, and a lawyer with the Balch Bingham law firm, which represents Alabama Power, were subsequently charged, tried, and convicted of bribery in the case, along with Oliver Robinson.

Watkins closes his introductory article by hinting that he has many more insights coming on the way power is maintained and exercised in Alabama. He says it's a subject the state's citizens need to know more about, and we agree. Here are Watkins' own words about what lies ahead in his series:

Alabama Power, the Southern Company, and Georgia Power have substantially benefited from Joe Perkins' clandestine political activities. This work has enriched Perkins. These activities are sweeping in scope and shocking in nature. They speak volumes about Perkins' sway over politicians, government officials, regulatory agencies, law enforcement officials, and state and federal judges in Alabama and Georgia.

The public deserves to know how these public utility companies used ratepayers' money to finance a breathtaking range of "dirty tricks." Hopefully, the bright lights from my investigative reporting will disinfectant the dark and seedy world of Perkins' and Alabama Power's clandestine political activities.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, once bounced from office in sex scandal, faces allegations of domestic abuse in the midst of campaign for U.S. Senate

Sheena and Eric Greitens

Eric Greitens, former Missouri governor who was bounced from office in a sex scandal, faces accusations of abuse from his ex-wife as he tries to gain traction in the Republican race for U.S. Senate. From a report at

Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, now a leading Republican Senate candidate, was physically abusive and demonstrated such “unstable and coercive behavior” that steps were taken to limit his access to firearms, according to new allegations from his ex-wife revealed in court records.

The sworn affidavit from Sheena Greitens is part of an ongoing child custody dispute in Missouri. A public affairs professor at the University of Texas, she sought divorce from Eric Greitens after a sex scandal that led to his resignation as governor in June 2018. She’s now asking the court to move the custody case to Austin in part to spare her children from renewed public attention as Eric Greitens tries to mount a political comeback.

  The Greitens story has national political implications:

The allegations could complicate his bid to emerge from Missouri’s Aug. 2 primary as the GOP nominee and potentially jeopardize his party’s chance to hold onto a key Senate seat in the general election.

In the affidavit, Sheena Greitens casts her ex-husband as someone who threatened to use his political connections and influence in order to destroy her reputation to win custody of the children.

“Prior to our divorce, during an argument in late April 2018, Eric knocked me down and confiscated my cell phone, wallet, and keys so that I was unable to call for help or extricate myself and our children from our home,” Sheena Greitens wrote in the filing. “I became afraid for my safety and that of our children at our home,” later adding that his “behavior included physical violence toward our children, such as cuffing our then-3-year-old son across the face at the dinner table in front of me and yanking him around by his hair.”

Once a swing state, Missouri has become more reliably Republican in recent years. But the race to succeed retiring Sen. Roy Blunt is nonetheless receiving national attention because some in the GOP establishment are anxious that, with the allegations released on Monday and previous scandals, Greitens would face vulnerabilities against a Democrat. And with the Senate evenly divided, the GOP can’t afford to lose what would otherwise be a safe seat.

Greitens once was considered presidential timber, but he has not been able to outrun scandal:

Greitens was a rising GOP star after his 2016 election, a charismatic former Navy SEAL officer and Rhodes Scholar who founded a nonprofit benefiting veterans. He didn’t hide his ambition, either, reserving the website

But that all seemed to fade after he was indicted on an invasion-of-privacy charge in February 2018 in St. Louis, accused of taking a compromising photo of his hairstylist without her consent during a 2015 extramarital affair. In short order, a Missouri House committee began investigating campaign finance issues, and Greitens faced a second felony charge in St. Louis, accused of providing his political fundraiser with the donor list of his veterans’ charity.

Sheena Greitens said her ex-husband admitted to her that he had, in fact, taken a compromising photo of his hairstylist that led to the felony invasion of privacy charge. But she says in the affidavit that he warned her that she could face legal trouble of her own if she ever disclosed that fact. She later learned that was not the case.

Eric Greitens mostly kept a low profile after his resignation in 2018. That changed last year after the Missouri Ethics Commission found “probable cause” that Greitens’ campaign broke campaign-finance law, but also “found no evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of Eric Greitens, individually.”

Greitens said the ruling “fully exonerated” him.

Sheena Greitens’ affidavit, however, offers a bleak picture of his waning days as governor. At one point, she said, Eric Greitens purchased a gun but refused to tell her where it was. He also threatened to kill himself “unless I provided specific public political support,” she wrote.

The behavior was so alarming, she wrote, that on three separate occasions in February, April and May 2018, “multiple people other than myself were worried enough to intervene to limit Eric’s access to firearms.”

At one point, Eric Greitens made a reference to the fact that he had the children — and she didn’t — while trying to persuade Sheena Greitens to delete emails she had sent to the family therapist seeking help, according to the affidavit.

Sheena Greitens said her ex is not shy about threatening to use his influence in abusive fashion:

In 2020, after informing Eric Greitens that she accepted a job at the University of Texas, she said he threatened “to use his political influence to get my job offer revoked.”

Her ex-husband’s reemergence in politics has been taxing, Sheena Greitens said in the affidavit. Meanwhile, his past ability to influence law enforcement and appoint judges, as well as the even greater power he would obtain as a senator are “extremely intimidating,” she wrote.

“Now that Eric is a candidate for federal office, public interest in my life, my relationship with Eric and the breakdown thereof, and the existence of issues of custody between Eric and me are being rekindled and brought back into central public discussion,” Sheena Greitens wrote.

“The weight of these facts and the intimidation they cause” justifies moving the case to Texas, she wrote, where “the reach of his power and influence is significantly less.”

Several of Greitens' fellow Republicans encouraged him to drop out of the Senate race and get help:

          Other candidates in the race on Monday called for Greitens to end his campaign.

“Real men never abuse women and children. Period, end of the story,” GOP U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler said in a recorded statement posted on Twitter. “It’s time for Eric to get out of the Senate race and to get professional help.”

Missouri’s Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who is also running, tweeted: “The behavior described in this affidavit is cause for Eric Greitens to be in prison, not on the ballot for U.S. Senate.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Russia's war in Ukraine has reached a stalemate, which is a tribute to the toughness of defendining forces, but much bloodshed and violence are likely ahead

The war in Ukraine has reached a stalemate, which sounds like a tribute to the toughness and moxie of Ukrainians defending their homeland against an assault from Russia. But it is not necessarily good news, according to a report from Axios:

"The war in Ukraine has reached a stalemate after more than three weeks of fighting, with Russia making only marginal gains and increasingly targeting civilians," the N.Y. Times writes (subscription).

That was the assessment yesterday from the Institute for the Study of War, a widely respected D.C. research group:

  • "Ukrainian forces have defeated the initial Russian campaign of this war," the note says. "That campaign aimed to conduct airborne and mechanized operations to seize Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odessa, and other major Ukrainian cities to force a change of government in Ukraine." That failed.
  • "Russian forces continue to make limited advances in some parts of the theater but are very unlikely to be able to seize their objectives in this way."

Stalemate sounds like the two sides have pretty much reached a standoff. But that does not necessarily paint a rosy picture:

"Stalemate will likely be very violent and bloody," the institute adds.

  • "Stalemate is not armistice or ceasefire. ... If the war in Ukraine settles into a stalemate condition Russian forces will continue to bomb and bombard Ukrainian cities, devastating them and killing civilians."
  • "The World War I battles of the Somme, Verdun, and Passchendaele were all fought in conditions of stalemate and did not break the stalemate."

All of this is driven, in part, by miscalculations from Russian President Vladimir Putin:

Yaroslav Hrytsak, a Ukrainian historian and professor at Ukrainian Catholic University, writes in a N.Y. Times op-ed (subscription) that Putin made two huge miscalculations:

  • "First, he was hoping that, as had been the case with his war against Georgia, the West would tacitly swallow his aggression against Ukraine. A unified response from the West was not something he expected."
  • "Second, since in his mind Russians and Ukrainians were one nation, Mr. Putin believed Russian troops needed barely to enter Ukraine to be welcomed with flowers. This never materialized."

Monday, March 21, 2022

Criminal charges against justice official in Maryland raise this question: Will former Alabama U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town be next in the crosshairs for the feds

Jay E. Town

A justice official in Maryland has been indicted on mortgage-fraud charges. That's a serious matter, but the charges appear to pale in comparison to allegations of misconduct that have been swirling around a former Alabama justice official for months. We are talking about Jay E. Town, a Trump nominee for U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Alabama. An analysis at (BB) suggests the charges in Maryland might be minor league compared to the allegations surrounding Town. Does that mean Town soon could be the target of a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation, much like the one in Maryland? BB publisher K.B. Forbes shares his thoughts on that question

Creating national headlines, the Office of the U.S. Attorney for Maryland indicted Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby in January for alleged mortgage fraud.

The Baltimore Sun reported:

Mosby is charged with two counts of making false statements on a loan application and two counts of perjury. Mosby has pleaded not guilty to all charges and is expected to stand trial in early May. 

The Office of the U.S. Attorney in Maryland gave more details:

According to the four-count indictment… Mosby submitted “457(b) Coronavirus-Related Distribution Requests” for one-time withdrawals of $40,000 and $50,000, respectively, from City of Baltimore’s Deferred Compensation Plans.  In each request, the indictment alleges that Mosby falsely certified that she met at least one of the qualifications for a distribution as defined under the CARES Act, specifically, that she experienced adverse financial consequences from the Coronavirus as a result of being quarantined, furloughed, or laid off; having reduced work hours; being unable to work due to lack of childcare; or the closing or reduction of hours of a business she owned or operated.  The indictment alleges that Mosby did not experience any such financial hardships and in fact, Mosby received her full gross salary of $247,955.58….

Further, the indictment alleges that… Mosby made false statements in applications for a $490,500 mortgage to purchase a home in Kissimmee, Florida and for a $428,400 mortgage to purchase a condominium in Long Boat Key, Florida.  As part of both applications, Mosby was required to disclose her liabilities.  Mosby did not disclose on either application that she had unpaid federal taxes from a number of previous years ….

For anyone who follows legal news in Alabama, the mind naturally turns to Jay Town. Forbes indicates that's where the DOJ's focus should rest, too:

The allegations  against Mosby are nothing compared to the serious and appalling alleged misconduct by Ex-U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town who fled in the middle of the night after resigning in disgrace.

Sources confirmed to us this week that the alleged federal probe involving Town, Alabama Power’s secret million-dollar contracts, embattled law firm Balch and Bingham, the Matrix Meltdown, and alleged obstruction of justice is ablaze.  

And what are just a few of Town’s acts of alleged misconduct?

Here’s that list again:

How does the Town laundry list compare to the case in Maryland? Forbes summarizes nicely:

The alleged felonies and crimes connected to Town’s alleged prosecutorial misconduct is much worse than a prosecutor lying about her financial situation on a loan application or falsely alleging “hardship” to withdraw her retirement funds.

Today, Town would have been a U.S. Senate candidate. But the jaw-dropping photos and our three letters to the Office of Professional Responsibility at the U.S. Department of Justice ended his political career.

Now Town, Crosswhite, and other Balch stooges must face the consequences for their alleged foolish and corrupt misconduct.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Even the atrocities of war cannot dampen the Trump-Putin bromance, although Sean Hannity of Fox News tried his best to knock off at least some of the sheen

Sean Hannity and Donald Trump

The world's most prominent, and nausea-inducing, bromance apparently is so strong that even the brutalities of war cannot put a dent in it. Donald Trump suggested as much last week when a friendly, conservative TV host gave him multiple opportunities to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin for his unprovoked attack on Ukraine -- and Trump refused to bite.

To his credit, Fox News' Sean Hannity tried several times to get Trump to say anything that wasn't fawning about the Russian leader, but Hannity came away with little to show for his effort. From a report at Politico:

Former President Donald Trump on Thursday was given several chances during a Fox News interview to reject autocrats and walk back his praise for President Vladimir Putin of Russia but didn’t.

Fox’s Sean Hannity set Trump up multiple times during the 30-minute exchange to criticize Putin, but the former president didn’t go along. He instead touted his relationships with Putin, the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Xi Jinping of China.

Trump came under fire last month for describing Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as “genius” and “savvy,” keeping in line with his tendency to speak favorably of the Russian leader. Even House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Trump ally, broke with the former president this week, saying there was nothing “savvy or genius” about Putin. McCarthy went on to say that Putin was “evil,” condemning a war that has already left hundreds of civilians dead in Ukraine.

How hard did Hannity try to welcome Trump to the real world? Pretty darned hard:

Hannity not once, but twice, brought up the blow back to Trump’s comments.

“I think you also recognize he’s evil, do you not?” the Fox host said.

Trump again didn’t go that far, but Hannity gave it another try.

“Let me go back to the issue of the criticism, because I’ve known you well over 25 years,” he said. “And when you got criticized for saying that Vladimir Putin is smart, we’ve had many conversations, and you’ve often quoted to me Sun Tzu, ‘The Art of War’: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Is that how you viewed Vladimir? Did you view Vladimir Putin and people like President Xi and Kim Jong Un and the Iranian mullahs as enemies that you needed to keep close?”

Trump, in response, didn’t call his former counterparts enemies.

“I got along with these people. I got along with them well,” he said. “That doesn’t mean they are good people. It doesn’t mean anything other than the fact that I understood them and perhaps they understood me — maybe they understood me even better. That’s OK, because they knew there would be a big penalty.”

Hannity pressed yet again, telling the former president he wanted to understand his thinking, while also trying to put words into Trump’s mouth.

“The thinking is, we got along but you knew that they were looking out for their interests at all times,” Hannity said, with the former president interjecting, “One-hundred percent.”

The Fox News host continued: “And you understood that they were capable of evil things.”

“Putin is for Russia, and you see what happened,” Trump responded. “And that is all because they didn’t respect our leader. Look, there was nobody, and Putin will tell you this — if he was telling the truth, and I am sure he has told it to all of his inner sanctum — nobody was tougher on Russia than me.”

In his typical self-serving fashion, Trump laid all the blame on someone else (Joe Biden), while taking none for himself -- despite his repeated failures to stand up for the authority of NATO and his willingness to sew discord at home (as in Jan. 6).

Friday, March 11, 2022

Are the Alabama Supreme Court and Joe Biden's EPA about to usher in an era of environmental progressivism in highly conservative Alabama?

Alabama Power's Miller Steam Plant

Recent events suggest federal officials are keeping an eye on environmental problems in Alabama, and they intend to do something about the polluters who cause them. Writes Publisher K.B. Forbes at, under the headline "Tide is Turning in Alabama; “Unacceptable” Misconduct Draws Federal Scrutiny":

The Three Stooges (Alabama Power, Balch & Bingham, and Drummond Company) should be prepared to be slapped around by federal authorities and environmental groups.

Two major events occurred recently that show unequivocally that the tide is turning against some of the most powerful and wealthiest entities in Alabama.

WBHM reports:

The Alabama Supreme Court has sided with environmentalists who say the Birmingham Water Works Board (BWWB) is not abiding by a court order to protect land around Lake Purdy and parts of the Cahaba River, which are the largest source of drinking water in the Birmingham area.

The Supreme Court overturned an earlier court ruling that sided with the board and sent the case back to the circuit court.

The decision was unanimous. The conservative court sided with environmentalists, a surprising, if not stunning, defeat for industrial interests.

The win for environmental activists may cause more scrutiny of Alabama Power and its  allegedly toxic ash pond at the Miller Steam Plant.

In addition, Ketona Lakes may become a liability for Drummond as environmental groups research the alleged polluted lakes hidden away since 1985.

And who dare says there won’t be probes of these two sites or more criminal investigations?

That was not the only positive sign for those who care about clean air and water in The Heart of Dixie. Writes Forbes;

Michael S. Regan, the head of the U.S. Environmenal Protection Agency, also made headlines last week calling conditions in Alabama “unacceptable.” reports:

On the eve of the Selma Jubilee, commemorating the “Bloody Sunday” march that helped catalyze support for the Voting Rights Act 57 years ago, the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency toured Alabama’s Black Belt to witness a different kind of struggle: the battle for clean water and basic sanitation.

“It’s very sobering to see that in 2022, in the United States of America, there are people who are subjected to situations that I don’t think any of us would want to be subjected to,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said after touring local homes dealing with wastewater system failures in Alabama’s Black Belt.

“Straight piping into lagoons, failing septic systems, waste and raw sewage backing up into yards into homes, seeing children have to walk around delicately so that they don’t sink or get bogged down into their own front yards. This is not the America that we all know it should be.”

This is unacceptable,” Regan said. “Safe drinking water, safe sewer systems, you know, this is a basic right. These individuals deserve what every American deserves, which is clean water and a safe environment.”

Regan needs to now focus on the environmental racism and alleged corruption in North Birmingham. North Birmingham’s environmental conditions are neither clean, safe nor acceptable.

And even the Three Stooges know it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Russia's Vladimir Putin is proving to be the butcher of Ukraine, and Donald Trump has a long history of siding with the butcher over Western interests

Trump and Putin

American President Joe Biden has been on the political scene long enough to recognize an adversary, and a threat, when he sees one. Biden, in fact, has referred to Russian leader Vladimir Putin as a "killer" -- and Putin seems to be doing his darnedest in Ukraine right now to prove Biden correct. America's most recent ex-president, Donald J. Trump -- unlike Biden -- can't seem to distinguish friend from foe. Trump even has a lengthy record of siding with Putin in Russia's longstanding struggles over Ukraine. That should give anyone considering a future MAGA vote cause for concern. Whether it will or not is another matter, even though Trump's distorted mindset is a clear threat to democracy in the U.S., Europe, and beyond.

How disturbing is Trump's chummy approach to Putin? John Harwood spells it out in an analysis at CNN,  under the headline "Trump has been on Putin's side in Ukraine's long struggle against Russian aggression":

Americans rarely pay much attention to international events. Busy lives leave little time for distant events with unfamiliar protagonists.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine has become a rare exception, its butchery in plain view via saturation coverage for anyone with a video screen. But Americans may not yet have absorbed this disturbing reality: The American president who left office just 14 months ago sided with the butcher.
That's right: In the struggle now uniting the free world against an autocrat's lawless aggression, America's most recent ex-President sided with the autocrat.
It's not just that Donald Trump recently hailed the "genius" of Putin's strike against Ukraine. Since his political career began, Trump has backed Putin in ways connected directly to the Russian's quest to subjugate that country. 

 With scenes of Russia's devastation on a sovereign neighbor a regular feature on newcasts, there no longer is any excuse for American ignorance about Putin's true nature -- from Trump or anyone else. Writes Harwood:

For years, relations between Russia and the celebrity real estate executive were lubricated by money. There was the development financing Trump's sons boasted about, the Palm Beach mansion he sold to a Russian oligarch for $95 million four years after buying it for $41 million, the Manhattan project in association with a mob-linked Russian émigré.
He sought to place a Trump Tower in Moscow even as he ran for president. In 2013, when he staged a beauty pageant there, Trump asked on Twitter: "Will (Putin) become my new best friend?"
Putin seized Crimea from Ukraine the following year. Protests in Kyiv had forced a Kremlin ally to quit the presidency. The ousted president, who fled to Russia, had been advised by an American political consultant. That consultant, Paul Manafort, subsequently became Trump's 2016 campaign manager.

Did Trump seem concerned in the least about any of this? Nope:

Candidate Trump spoke forgivingly about Russia's violation of Ukrainian sovereignty. He mused about lifting sanctions to smooth relations with Putin.
"The people of Crimea, from what I've heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were," Trump told ABC News in July 2016. That had been Putin's justification for the invasion.
President Trump sought to undo one punishment imposed on Putin by proposing that Russia rejoin the G7, an organization of the world's major industrial economies. Other members, who had teamed with the US to kick Russia out during Barack Obama's presidency, declined to go along.
His administration implemented some new sanctions on Russia at the insistence of national security officials and Congress. Trump himself objected.
"In almost every case, the sanctions were imposed with Trump complaining about it and saying we were being too hard," his former national security adviser John Bolton said on Newsmax recently. 
Russia menaced Ukraine throughout Trump's term. He strengthened Putin's hand in several ways.

 In short, Trump hardly could have been a more reliable ally for Putin:

Trump cast doubt on America's decades-old commitment to defending European partners in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Aides feared he might try to withdraw from NATO if he won a second term.
He fomented discord at home, advancing Putin's objective of sapping American resolve. "Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people," his former Defense Secretary James Mattis said in 2020.
Trump shielded Russia from opprobrium. Echoing Russian propaganda, he led fellow Republicans in smearing Ukraine by falsely suggesting that Kyiv rather than Moscow had interfered in the 2016 US presidential election.
"This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves," Fiona Hill, who had directed Russia policy on Trump's National Security Council, told a congressional impeachment inquiry in 2019.
Republicans protecting Trump cast the impeachment as Democratic partisanship. But it traced back to Trump's alignment with Russia against its vulnerable neighbor.
Congress had voted to provide Ukraine nearly $400 million in military aid. Trump delayed sending it.
"I would like you to do us a favor," Trump told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in their infamous July 2019 telephone call.
The favor was for Zelensky to smear presidential rival Joe Biden by investigating him and his son, Hunter. Zelensky never complied.

Has the Trump-Putin alliance proved beneficial for either of them? The short-term answer is no, writes Harwood:

Things haven't worked out as either Trump or Putin wanted.
Trump lost his reelection bid. Biden, who defeated him, now leads the global effort to stop Putin's aggression.
Instead of splintering under military and economic pressure, NATO and the European Union have pulled together in support of Ukraine. Within the US, the two normally brawling political parties have joined to condemn Russian savagery.
Republican senators who voted to acquit Trump of those impeachment charges applauded as Biden excoriated the Russian leader in last week's State of the Union address. A Republican-sponsored "Putin Accountability Act" in Congress seeks to sanction, among others, the Russian oligarch who more than doubled Trump's money on that Palm Beach mansion.
Even Trump has changed his tune. A week after praising Putin's strategic acumen, he denounced Russia's attack on Ukraine as "a holocaust."
The former President remains the leading candidate for the Republican Party's nomination in 2024. But the longer the bloodshed in Ukraine goes on, the bigger a liability Putin will become.
Trump and those around him had wanted the controversy to go away. His former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who listened in the notorious Trump-Zelensky call, berated a reporter who asked about Ukraine a few months later.
"Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?" Pompeo shouted at National Public Radio's Mary Louise Kelly.
They may not have cared then. Unfortunately for Trump, they care now.