The news is a swirl today…. (More)

“I believe he was an ideal choice for this task”

In a House Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein defended special counsel Robert Mueller and the Trump-Russia investigation:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday he has seen no reason to fire Mueller thus far.

“If there were good cause, I would act. If there were no good cause, I would not,” Rosenstein told the committee.
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During the hearing, Rosensetin praised Mueller for his work in the special counsel, saying there was no one better qualified for the job.

“I believe based on his reputation, his service, his patriotism, and his experience with the department and with the FBI, I believe he was an ideal choice for this task,” he told the committee.

GOP Rep. Lamar Smith asked Rosenstein about Mueller asking for clarification about the scope of his investigation, whether Mueller may be “casing too wide of a net” in what he’s looking into.

“There are a lot of media stories speculating about what the special counsel may or may not be doing,” Rosenstein responded. “I know what (Mueller is) doing. I’m appropriately exercising my oversight responsibilities. So I can assure you that the special counsel is conducting himself consistently with our understanding about the scope of his investigation.”

But someone else in the Department of Just Us tried to kneecap Mueller:

The Justice Department on Tuesday night allowed reporters who regularly cover the department to review hundreds of text messages from 2015 and 2016 between FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, Business Insider reported, just prior to sharing the messages with Congress. According to the Washington Post, Strzok and Page, who is married, were involved in a romantic relationship at the time. Mueller removed Strzok, a top counterintelligence agent, from his team last summer after learning of the texts. Strzok also previously worked on the bureau’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. Page, an FBI lawyer, previously left Mueller’s team on her own accord.

The text exchanges between the two included blunt opinions about the ongoing presidential campaign. Strzok questioned Trump’s intelligence and ability, calling him “awful,” an “idiot” and “an enormous douche.”

FBI regulations allow agents to express their personal opinions both privately and publicly on politics, but DOJ’s release of the material gave Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee a weapon to wield during an oversight hearing Wednesday with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
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But Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, sees troubling partisanship at play. The texts “are being used for propaganda purposes,” she told Mother Jones. “I think there’s an ongoing effort to malign both Bob Mueller and the work that that Special Counsel Office is doing. They are grabbing at every single thing to try to demean him.”

In a sane world, the fact that Mueller kicked Strzok off his team after learning about the texts shows that Mueller is indeed running an impartial investigation. In Conspiracy World, the texts damn the entire Trump-Russia probe and firing Strzok was Mueller’s attempt at a cover-up. Yes, really. I couldn’t make that up.

“Immorality sweeps over our land”

Also from the I Couldn’t Make That Up file, Roy Moore says his defeat proves the U.S. has fallen into a moral abyss:

A day after losing the Senate race in Alabama to Democrat Doug Jones, Roy Moore has issued a new statement refusing to concede the election until completion of the final count. But it wasn’t your typical post-election statement.
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“We are indeed in a struggle to preserve our republic, our civilization and our religion and to set free a suffering humanity,” Moore said. “Today, we no longer recognize the universal truth that God is the author of our life and liberty. Abortion, sodomy and materialism have taken the place of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
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“We have stopped prayer in our schools,” Moore said in his statement. “We have killed over 60 million of our unborn children. We have redefined marriage and destroyed the basis of family, which is the building block of our country. Our borders are not secure. Our economy is faltering under an enormous national debt. We have a huge drug problem. We have even begun to recognize the right of a man to claim to be a woman, and vice versa. We have allowed Judges and justices to rule over our Constitution, and we have become slaves to their tyranny. Immorality sweeps over our land.”

This from a guy who, as a judge, said the Bible trumps the Constitution. This from a guy who molested teenage girls, for whom the local cops assigned an officer to keep him away from the cheerleaders at high school football games, a guy who was banned from the local mall because he creeped out young girls.

That guy says “Immorality sweeps over our land,” because voters didn’t want him in the U.S. Senate.

“This is a new frontier in journalism”

The Nevada Independent has reported a second allegation of sexual harassment against Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-NV):

Once-rising Democratic star Rep. Ruben Kihuen made repeated and unwanted sexual advances toward a female lobbyist while he was a state senator, the woman told the Nevada Independent.

The woman, who requested anonymity because of concerns about being identified and the possible consequences in Nevada’s small political world, says that Kihuen touched her thighs or buttocks on three separate occasions without her consent. She also showed the Independent hundreds of suggestive text messages she received from Kihuen – including invitations to come sit on his lap in the middle of a committee hearing and repeated requests to spend the night at her place – over the course of the 2015 legislative session.

Once, he texted her to ask, “What color are your panties?” When she wouldn’t tell him, he said it “Makes me sad” and that “My day can’t go on without knowing.”

She rejected outright, ignored or otherwise attempted to rebuff his persistent advances. The behavior was a continuation of what transpired in the 2013 legislative session, when he sent her dozens of Facebook messages.

The Independent’s Jon Ralston details the rigor of their reporting and the difficult decisions they faced:

I was sent an anonymous email – we have received several since we published this piece and this piece about sexual misconduct in Carson City. The email detailed a period of sustained sexual harassment by an unnamed public official.

In a follow-up email, the woman said she wanted to meet to talk about her experience and show me “proof.” I did so, and she showed me the texts you will find in the story (and hundreds more) and told me about a number of her experiences with Kihuen.

She told me she had never before shared all of the details with anyone, including her boyfriend, who only knew generally about Kihuen’s advances. She said she had read the BuzzFeed story about Kihuen’s improper behavior toward a former employee and she recognized the similarities.

She seemed torn on whether to come forward and said if she did, she would not want to be identified. She said she wanted to protect those around her, even more than herself.

Ralston explains that Carson City, the state capital, is a small city where “Everybody knows everybody” and it was very difficult to protect the woman’s privacy.

I knew after reading the texts she showed me that her claims were true. I knew after listening to her tell the story of her experiences and noting that they echoed those that Samantha told BuzzFeed, that she essentially was corroborating that story. The fact that she was not the first to accuse Kihuen – and that her story was so similar and was also backed up by text and Facebook messages – not only gave her credibility but also influenced our later decision to grant her anonymity.

I asked her whether she would meet with a reporter and me the next day to tell her story again. I gave her no guarantee we would publish the story, explaining to her that we are generally wary of publishing anonymous accounts.

Megan Messerly and I met with her. Megan looked at all the texts and took pages of notes. We also verified that the messages came from Kihuen’s phone number. The woman again said that she did not want her name published because she did not want to be targeted, nor did she want to affect her professional and personal life.

Ralston and Messerly also met with the woman’s boyfriend, who personally witnessed some of the alleged encounters. Of course they contacted Kihuen’s office for a response, and Kihuen refused to answer questions but implied that he and the accuser were dating, which she flatly denies and which is inconsistent with the texts.

This is a new frontier in journalism, one that paradoxically calls for even more caution and care in reporting but also calls for the flexibility to occasionally grant anonymity to women who are making very difficult choices to come forward. Every claim must be vetted and evaluated before publishing. That is what we did here – and will do in the future.

In general, we prefer not to use anonymous sources for reports. In situations in which a person is at some risk of personal or professional harm were his or her identity to be revealed, as in cases of sexual assault or harassment, we will consider using anonymous accounts if we are able to independently verify at least some of the information provided and if the source is proven credible as we investigate and talk to others who have knowledge of the situation.

Contrast that with wingnut conspiracy-mongers Mike Cernovich and Charles Johnson, who publicly boasted that they were about to “end the career of a U.S. Senator,” only to discover that the damning documents they’d been given were forgeries, as proved by responsible media fact-checkers. Now Cernovich and Johnson want praise for not publishing the fraudulent conspiracy they’d teased … while claiming the forgery may still be real, or “a deep-state conspiracy or funded by George Soros.”

Really, I can’t make this stuff up.

And to complete your Skeezy Blizzard:

PBS has indefinitely suspended Tavis Smiley after an independent law firm’s investigation “uncovered multiple, credible allegations of conduct that is inconsistent with the values and standards of PBS.”

Kentucky state representative Dan Johnson (R) was found dead in what police believe was a suicide, after he was charged with molesting a teenage girl at his church.

Sexual misconduct charges – and witnesses – keep piling up against Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX).

So about that “Immorality sweeps over our land.” Looks to me like it’s been sweeping over the land since time out of mind … and the people who’ve been abused are finally standing up to it.

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Image Credit: Rosemarie Morelli

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Good day and good nuts