• Feeling Bad for Cassidy Hutchinson

    July 12, 2022 // 8 Comments »

    I feel bad for Cassidy Hutchinson, the young woman who testified recently in front of the January 6 Committee. She seems unaware she violated the six basic rules of being a staff aide. She doesn’t even know her career is over at a time when she thinks her efforts will be kickstarting her into fame. Someone should put her in touch with Monica Lewinski.

    To understand Cassie’s failure requires one understands the Washington DC ecology. There are the top-level predators, like Trump, and Meadows, his chief of staff, and there are those funny little birds that live off the big guys’ droppings. That would be the staff aides like Cassie. Now there is honor in all work, even if it consists of picking seeds out of droppings — somebody has to do it for the system as a whole to thrive. So Rule 1 of being a staff aide is knowing your place, followed quickly by Rule 2, never forget you will not be staff aide forever.

    The little bird that sits above the rhino’s tail seems important and in a way, is. She keeps the rhino happy and in good humor. Often times other animals find it easier to approach the bird before the rhino, to check he’s in a good mood, has been eating well, stuff the bird knows not because she is important per se but because she sits near the rhino’s butt. Cultivating a good relationship with the bird means better access. Staff aides are like that; they sit in the front office and respond to important people asking things like “Boss in a good mood today?” or “What did he think of my memo?” The aide is a proxy for the big guy. But the aide is not the big guy. She should not forget that.

    A healthy does of “only when spoken to” helps a lot, too. Cassie never “spent time with President Trump.” She attended events as background filler, endless signing ceremonies, celebrations, and presidential announcements, and “frequently watched Marine One depart the South Lawn from my office window.” Just being places is a key staff aide task.

    When they are not serving as a benign, approachable proxy for the big guy, staff aides do a lot of “coordinating.” Spend an hour in any office in DC and you’ll hear that word a half dozen times. Big guys are too important for details, and staff aides are too young to know them. So, for example, Mark Meadows as chief of staff talks to the president, who says “I wanna go to Chili’s for lunch.” Meadows knows that means Secret Service and a motorcade, press, maybe rearranging the afternoon’s Boy Scout meet and greet (all together, a movement, we’re back to those birds) but has no interest in making lots of phone calls as the more calls he personally makes the less powerful he seems. So he asks his staff aide to “coordinate” the movement and she, invoking his name like a hacking cough in a four-pack a day smoker, calls the movement people and says the president wants to go to Chili’s. Actually, she says “Our office needs the president at Chili’s pronto.”

    If the aide is good at her job, she is composed when the boss is stressed, smooth when he is rough, sugar-coated when he is cursing. This is because of Rules 1 and 2: she is not the boss and soon enough won’t be the staff aide anymore and everyone below her (for now) on the food chain will remember whether she was rude, pushy, and power hungry.

    It can be hard to do; I was an ambassador’s staff aide for a year. Many times in a raised voice the ambassador would say “Why hasn’t Jones finished that memo [you told him to write on the ambassador’s behalf]?” followed by me after a deep breath phoning Jones to casually ask how it was going. If I said something like “You know, the ambassador is anxious about that memo” I better have said it nicely because Jones outranked me by three steps and in a few months I might be a wage slave in his shop and he Would Remember. Rule 2.

    Poor Cassie’s career to staff aide-date consisted of a couple of government internships out of her small Virginia public college, where she no doubt got ground down by someone’s staff aide. That aide forgot Rule 3, low levels you chew on when you’re staff aide can get promoted past you and they Will Remember you.

    I got fooled twice as staff aide. Once was to drop a contrarian memo on the ambassador’s desk without the writer’s boss having seen it, and the second to serve as a conduit of what I thought was staff intel but instead was just backstabbing gossip. In both instances I was on the wrong side of Rule 4, don’t get used by senior people. Always remember (Rules 1 and 2) you are disposable. That brings us to Cassie and January 6.

    Trump’s movement away from his January 6 speech venue went bad; Trump wanted to go to the Capitol but this Secret Service detail felt it was unsafe and in a rare gesture, overruled him. Trump was upset and took it out on the two guys in charge, Tony Ornato and Bobby Engel. Back at the office the guys dutifully recounted what happened, with Cassie all ears (Rule 5: as staff aide you’re not well-briefed enough to overhear things and make sense of them.) She heard what may in fact been a bit of macho exaggeration by the guys, Trump grabbing the steering wheel and all, perhaps a bit of bravado as everyone was cooling down. Cassie misunderstood what she heard (Rule 6, it happens), setting the story in The Beast, the massive armored stretch Cadillac limo that is the official presidential ride when whatever happened happened in a Secret Service SUV per video records. A Secret Service agent would never misremember an SUV for The Beast but a former intern would.

    When the January 6 Committee came ’round, Cassie thought she had a tale to tell, Trump out of control in the vehicle and later, throwing his lunch during a tantrum, his ketchup dripping down the wallpaper. The thing is Cassie did not see either happen. She was repeating a Secret Service war story in the first instance and imaging the details in the second (she actually saw the ketchup dripping but not the throw.) Any first year law student will know those are examples of hearsay, second hand information, and immediately dismissible as evidence. It makes sense; why rely on someone’s second-hand remembrance when you can get the actual first-hand witness to testify? In this case, the Secret Service is apparently ready to call Cassie a liar; Trump already did.

    Cassie thought this was her big break, the intern made staff aide who was going to change history. Never mind that she must have come across the definition of hearsay somewhere in her education, never mind that steering wheel grabbing and plate throwing are neither criminal nor impeachable offenses. She was like the bird claiming from her perch on the rhino’s backside he ate too many berries for lunch, or at least she’d heard that from the insect who lives in the rhino’s mouth. She broke all the rules for her few minutes on TV, allowing herself to be used by a Committee who knew damn well she had not witnessed anything  and swearing “under oath” to the truth of something you don’t know first-hand is impossible.

    And that leaves Cassie in violation of another rule, one most people learn on the playground: nobody likes a snitch. Nobody likes one who thinks she is ratting out her boss’ boss, nobody like one who disgraces the Office of the President. Anyone check in on how Monica Lewinski’s career in Washington went? After a quick round on Late Night, Cassie will disappear from DC-land. You don’t violate the rules of being a staff aide without consequence, after all.

     

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy

    Yer Fake News Garbage: Trevor Noah Knows Nothing About the Secret Service

    December 1, 2016 // 29 Comments »

    About 1:30 into the video above, Daily Show host Trevor Noah, as echoed by the Huffington Post, committed fake news.

    Well, to be fair, it was more like ignorance than fake, because Noah’s shock and accusations that Trump is going to charge the Secret Service $1.5 million in rent to help protect him at Trump Tower was only a couple of Googles away from being shown to be wrong.

    To begin, Noah appears somewhat surprised that a president-elect is protected, and that protection costs a lot of money. Noah seems somewhat offended that that protection will take place at Trump Tower.

    Surprise! Any president-elect has to live somewhere. It makes sense he’d stay living where he always does. There is no junior White House. Also, presidents do not give up their homes when they move into the White House. All have kept their own homes and the Secret Service has always protected them there. Reagan and Bush had their ranches, remember. Nothing new here.



    Surprise! The Secret Service has always paid for the facilities they use for their work. See, the government cannot commandeer private property. The payments are based on federal standards, not the commercial rents reported by Noah. The many news services, including Noah, slinging around the $1.5 million figure are basing it on estimated commercial prices. Here’s a source on how the feds pay.

    And here’s Joe Biden charging the Secret Service rent on a cottage he owns, so that they can protect him when he visits his family home in Delaware.

    Speaking of Biden, the taxpayers shell out for Secret Service protection so his spouse, Jill Biden, can keep her paid teaching job at a Northern Virginia community college.

    Oh, but it’s Trump Tower. Now it does make sense for the Secret Service to set up in the building where the protectee lives so when something happens they can run down the stairs, not the street. And because the agents do need office space and to occasionally sleep, what might be the alternative? Hotel rooms at midtown Manhattan prices? The nearest hotel is the Plaza, where rooms go for the high hundreds a night and no federal per diem rates are listed.


    And this: the Secret Service always has reimbursed candidates for certain expenses all the time. An accounting from September showed they had paid $2.6 million back to the Clinton campaign for air fare, $1.6 to Trump.


    Another theme of Noah’s is that Trump is personally profiting from all this. This may be true, as some money is indeed going into his businesses. Of course since the Secret Service isn’t paying commercial rent, Trump might actually be losing money. In addition, let’s wonder, even at commercial rates, how much actually reaches Donald’s own personal pocket after salaries and expenses and all that? Yeah, I know, not enough to notice.


    So bottom line: Noah and HuffPo are back to their old tricks. Taking advantage of the ignorance of their viewers on the basics of security to spread false news, and/or acting on their own ignorance and the apparent inaccessibility of Google to fail once again in their duty as “journalists” to inform the public.


    BONUS: Please don’t waste time claiming Noah and the Daily Show (and I guess HuffPo) aren’t journalists. For better or worse, they serve as a significant source of news for too many people, and, through retweets and social media, have a deep reach into our society.


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    Posted in Democracy

    Secret Service Handcuffs The First Amendment

    May 9, 2016 // 8 Comments »

    First_amendment_area_Muir_Woods

    Thomas Jefferson said that an informed citizenry is critical to a democracy, and with that as a cornerstone the Founders wrote freedom of the press into the First Amendment to the Constitution.


    The most basic of ideas at play is that the government should in no way be allowed to control what information the press can report to the people, and cannot place restrictions on journalists. One of the principal characteristics of any fascist state is the control of information, and thus the press is always seen as a check on government power that needs to be stomped on. Ask any surviving journalist in North Korea, or Saudi Arabia.


    And so it is with terror we learn the United States Secret Service, in the name of security, is for the first time in our Republic’s history running background checks on thousands of journalists who plan to report from this summer’s Republican and Democratic Party nominating conventions.

    Journalists who don’t pass the security screening process, for which of course there are no publicly-stated criteria and which has no system of appeal, will be denied credentials to cover the GOP convention in Cleveland, and the Democrats’ in Philadelphia. As the Daily Beast writes, this is the government deciding who can and can’t be a journalist, and through that process, heavily influencing what will be reported. Happytime government stenographers from CNN? Step right in, sir. Investigative, real journalists from The Intercept? Um, maybe not. Will a journalist from an “un-American” news source such as The Daily Worker be denied simply based on affiliation?


    Oh, the issues are many.

    For example, security clearances are typically denied to persons with an arrest record. Will that also apply to journalists who have been arrested in protest situations while exercising one or more of their First Amendment rights? Drug use is also often a negative indicator for a security clearance, so does that mean a person busted for a loose joint in college may not report from inside the convention hall?

    The Secret Service denies that a protest arrest will lead to a denial, though admits that arrests for assault, or domestic violence, charges could. At issue is that such arrests can cover a very broad spectrum of behavior, determined at a very local level. For example, imagine an African-American falsely charged with assault in some mean Texas backwater. Note also, as in most security clearance processes, the standard is an arrest, not necessarily a conviction.

    Obtaining security clearances also involves the “voluntary” turning over of personal information to the government, to often include associations, employment history, professional affiliations, fingerprints, financials and the like. If a journalist wishes not to hand over that information to the Secret Service, does that automatically bar him/her from playing his mandated role of informing the public? Apparently it does.

    There is also the question of control of all that personal information. The Secret Services states on its website that it has a contract with the Ardian Group, a private contractor, “to capture that Personally Identifiable Information for credentialing production” (though the Service itself makes the actual yes or no decision to allow access.)


    In a widely distributed “Dear Colleagues” letter, John Stanton, Washington bureau chief of BuzzFeed, asked the capper question: “Should the Secret Service have jurisdiction over the First Amendment?”



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    Posted in Democracy

    Secret Service Prostitution: From Reality to Farce

    May 14, 2012 // 5 Comments »

    It used to take awhile for an event to morph into farce. I bet when Abraham Lincoln was shot it took weeks before Civil War-era comedians started telling inappropriate assassination jokes. Things just moved slower then.

    Now of course, with the Internet, reality becomes farce much faster. The Secret Service prostitution scandal from Colombia has already hit bottom, based on an interview from a Colombian radio station with the escort (pictured, at work, above) at the heart of it all.

    To begin, she will be posing soon for Playboy. You can get a preview here (Sort of Not Safe for Work, unless you work for the State Department, as there are no Wikileaks references).

    The Agent’s wife has stated she will stand by her now-unemployed whore mongering husband. For those of you outside the Beltway, this is a Washington-area thing, where political spouses profess loyalty to their low-life mates (Hillary and Bill!)

    According to the escort, the Agent was too drunk to finish the job and that’s why he would not pay her in the morning (she later said he did the deed then passed out, so who cares). She said the other Secret Service staff took up a collection and handed her $250, begging she would not call the cops. “He did not feel he got what he was being asked to pay for,” said the Pretty Woman.

    She was one of 20 professional women brought to the Secret Service party.

    The escort also said that the Agent could not dance well. The escort said he liked to dance in a “disorderly” manner in which “he lifted his shirt to show off his six-pack.”

    When the escort woke the Agent, he refused to pay, telling her “just go, bitch.”

    Eight Secret Service officers have been forced out, the agency is “trying” to permanently revoke the security clearance of one. HINT: Forget the whores, have him look at Wikileaks online!

    And lastly, the escort said no one from the US government has been in touch with her or interviewed her. Get this– the Secret Service (unlike the media) says they can’t find her. So much for intel.

    This appears at odds with Obama’s stated desire for a “rigorous investigation.”

    BREAKING: Apparently both the TODAY show and the US Secret Service have now interviewed the subject. Return to your business, citizens.



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    Posted in Democracy

    Proud Moments in Diplomacy: Prostitution

    May 1, 2012 // 1 Comment »

    Another victory for “smart power” as a Brazilian prostitute sues the American Embassy in her country. Our diplomats and staff abroad truly due represent America, so let’s all get behind this action.

    CNN interviewed Romila Aparacida Ferreira, who claims an Embassy van ran her over after the Embassy Marines and an unnamed diplomatic person threw her out of the vehicle after negotiating a price for sex.

    The official State Department version of events reflects much, much better on the United States:

    “My understanding is that she (Ferreira) was initially in the car, she was asked to leave the car, she got out of the car, the doors were closed, as the Pentagon guy said, the vehicle was at rest, and then, as they started to drive away, she chased after the car, tried to get back in and that’s when she was hurt,” said spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. “I do not have that she was run over by the car.”

    Well, we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

    Now Brazil is an important country for the US, a huge source of tourism (their economy is not in shambles like ours and it is Brazilian tourists who are basically keeping Disney World afloat at present). The US has already enhanced tourism by raising the price of a visa to America to $160 a pop. Brazilian tourists are also required to make an appointment, fill in an application online that, among other things, asks them if they are a terrorist or a prostitute, stand in line at the Embassy, have their fingerprints taken for freedom and be photographed and interviewed. After that, their money is welcome in America. Ms. Romila Aparacida Ferreira is unlikely to qualify as a former prostitute, so any money she gets from the Embassy is not going to be spent in the US of A.

    It is not like whoring around abroad is limited to Brazil. Ace blog Diplopundit wins the day with a post on all things prostitution over at the State Department, including a sampling of diplomats disciplined for whoring around, one apparently with a 13 year old paid for sexy time fun fun fun.

    Please note that these State Department prostitution cases are wholly separate from any State Department employee sex tapes, or any State Department employee Playboy pictures or any State Department employee pedophile cases or any Secret Service prostitution cases you’ve read about in Columbia and El Salvador.

    It is also safe to say that no prostitutes anywhere look or act like Julia Roberts in the movie “Pretty Woman,” nor do any of the Foreign Service buyers resemble Richard Gere.



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    Posted in Democracy

    Double-Threat: Ted Nugent and Me

    April 23, 2012 // 3 Comments »

    Ted Nugent and I go way back, though the relationship has been somewhat one-sided. For example, I saw the ‘Nuge in concert in 1977 when he was the headliner and I was in high school. It was one of the wicked coolest nights of my life, and I guess Ted enjoyed the show too, least as best I could tell from the back of some 20,000 screaming fans. For an encore, Ted slammed his guitar into an amp stack and sent feedback into the concert hall that must have almost blinded several people. It was cool.

    Yet here we are in 2012, both of us on some US Secret Service watch list.



    Ted’s Problem with the US Secret Service

    Ted got into Secret Service trouble for saying things like this:

    If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.

    Ted also owns more guns than the 82nd Airborne and used to feature a bow hunting kill demo as part of his stage act. He wrote songs like “Wango Tango,” “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang” and “Cat Scratch Fever.” Regardless, the Secret Service met with Ted, shook hands and the matter was resolved.

    My Problem with the US Secret Service

    I got into trouble with the Secret Service because of this blog post.

    Based on that blog post, the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) notified the US Secret Service about me:



    I own no guns and do not bow hunt. I have never written a song with the word “Wang” in it, to my knowledge. No one from DS or the Secret Service ever met with me to discuss the “threat” and I only learned that I was on the list several months after the fact. I was and still have not been given a chance to clear my name or even understand what threat I supposedly posed. Just a smear tactic, really, part of a series of retaliatory acts by the Department of State because of this blog and my book. A neat example of the use of security to smear an unwanted employee.


    Today We are All Ted Nugent

    But at the end of the day, Ted did speak for both of us when he said:

    By no stretch of the imagination did I threaten anyone’s life or hint at violence or mayhem. Metaphors needn’t be explained to educated people.

    And that is the point. No one seriously believes that Ted Nugent was going to kill the President, and no one seriously could believe I was going to assassinate Hillary Clinton. Yet in our current era, no one can question “security,” so when a has-been rocker speaks out of turn, the Secret Service has to step in to set an example. And when a has-been foreign service officer exercises his right to criticize a government official, State Department Diplomatic Security has to step in and set an example: no free speech on their watch.

    God bless you Ted, and God Bless America. Also, rock on.



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    Posted in Democracy