Rightwingers and the Russians

Shorter Question Everything

Something odd is going on here.

Congressmen heading to Russia on a fact-finding mission regarding the Boston Marathon Bombing was a bit of an eye-roll, but expected. Bringing along Steven Seagal – a man with ties to Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov – for the ride just added to the circus atmosphere. Having Seagal as the face of the Russian arms industry, while he is touring around with rightwing US congressmen? Yeah, that’s starting to get a little strange. Add in a rightwing US representative defending the harsh sentences handed out to a rock group criticizing Putin in song and you’ve got the makings of something truly bizarre.

Can you just imagine the incredible stink that would be raised if the Democratic party went to Russia – or as some in the rightwing love to call it, the ‘Soviet Union’ – and a) supported the arms industry and b) defended harsh sentences for a similar ‘offense’? The outrage meter would be off the scale. Yet you’ve got these Republicans in Russia, making these sorts of gestures.

It’s bizarre.

Russia is looking at Steven Seagal to be the face of its weapons industry as it guns for first place on the world arms market. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said the action movie star may head up an international marketing campaign to promote the Degtarev arms plant, Russian news agencies reported. He accompanied Seagal on a visit there Tuesday.

Congressional Delegation Finds Few Boston Attack Clues In Russia. The head of a U.S. congressional delegation said Sunday that its meetings in Russia showed there was “nothing specific” that could have helped prevent the Boston Marathon bombings, but that the two countries need to work more closely on joint security threats. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican who led the six-member delegation, described discussions with Russian parliament members and security officials as productive. Some of the meetings, he said, were made possible by American actor Steven Seagal.

Of Kadyrov: The Kremlin has given Kadyrov lavish funding and political carte blanche to fight terrorism since he came to power in 2005. Activists accuse him and his feared security forces of staggering abuses, including torture, kidnappings and murder. “All these accusations are thrown around,” said Seagal, who was given a lavish welcome in Kadyrov’s palace. “Is there any evidence? Has he been indicted?”

• Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) is receiving criticism from some conservatives after defending harsh prison sentences handed out against democracy activists in Russia. During a visit to Moscow on Sunday, the Tea Party favorite declined to condemn the government for sentencing members of the punk group Pussy Riot to two years in prison for singing a song criticizing President Vladimir Putin in that city’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior last year. King said the band members “desecrated” the cathedral, earning the scorn of some conservatives who see the trial as evidence of Putin’s crackdown on dissent. King made the comments during a press conference in Moscow at the end of a congressional delegation aimed at learning more about the Boston Marathon bombing suspects’ links to Islamist militants in the Caucasus. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe, echoed King’s defense of Putin’s Russia.

Issa hits overreach

The transcripts Issa doesn’t want to share. There are transcriptions between Issa’s hand-picked investigators and the IRS employees in Cincinnati, and according to the committee chairman, they point to “Washington” involvement. In what capacity? We don’t know, but the point is to pique one’s interest. OK, but what did the IRS employees say, exactly? Well, we don’t know that, either — Issa has seen the full transcripts, but he’s only willing to release portions that he and his staff have edited and excerpted. If Issa had the goods, why wouldn’t he drop the political bomb and reap the benefits? I suspect he would. Indeed, if you read through the published excerpts, you’ll see plenty of exchanges between Republican investigators and IRS employees. What you won’t see are the exchanges between Democratic investigators and the same IRS employees — Q&A that seems quite relevant in providing context. We’ve seen this schtick before, and it’s never turned out well for Issa. [T]wo Democratic congressional sources involved in the IRS investigation told CNN’s Dana Bash that Issa’s characterization of the interviews is misleading. Their impression from the Cincinnati employees was that the Washington connection the employees were referring to were tax attorney specialists. These individuals answer questions from the tax-exempt division in Ohio about what level of political activity is acceptable for 501(c)(4) status, the sources said. So when Issa refers to “Washington,” he wants you to think “White House.” The truth is more mundane, and not at all scandalous.

Issa Stirs Echoes of McCarthy. In one brief and repugnant interview, the GOP’s chief congressional investigator into Internal Revenue Service abuses cherry-picked evidence, overstated his case, and violated the sacred American principle of presumed innocence. If that was not enough, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., called White House press secretary Jay Carney a “paid liar,” and couldn’t explain why. “We’re getting to proving it,” he said. Meet the best friend of a controversy-plagued Democratic White House: a demagogic Republican.

• John McCain echoes Graham’s suggestion: “I think that we should let these investigations take their course, let the facts come out.” As noted earlier, the overreach by Issa and others appears to be prompting a media backlash of sorts.

• The latest sign of GOP scandal overreach: Senator Lindsey Graham breaks with GOP Rep. Darrell Issa’s claim that Jay Carney is a “paid liar,” and flatly states there is “no evidence” the White House directed the IRS targeting of conservative groups.

The Justice Department on Monday said Attorney General Eric Holder did not lie to Congress in his testimony about a national security investigation involving Fox News reporter James Rosen. Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik said DOJ never intended to prosecute Rosen, but was merely investigating him as part of a broader probe against a State Department employee believed to have leaked information to the reporter. Holder testified before the committee last month that he had never been involved in the prosecution of a journalist for partaking in the unauthorized disclosure of information. But Holder had to sign off on the warrant to secretly search Rosen’s e-mail and phone records, which named the reporter as an aider and abettor of the accused government employee. The discrepancy raised questions for Goodlatte about whether the attorney general misled Congress. Kadzik argued that Justice never intended to prosecute Rosen, meaning Holder’s testimony was entirely accurate.

In other news

Ouch! Young people see GOP as ‘closed-minded, racist, rigid, and old-fashioned’. The College Republican National Committee on Monday issued the latest post-mortem report on the GOP’s 2012 loss, this one focusing on how the Republican brand failed to strike a chord with the under-29 crowd. Citing a series of surveys and focus groups, the 95-page report found that younger voters tended to view the Republican Party as “closed-minded, racist, rigid, and old-fashioned,” especially on issues related to gay rights, Latinos, and “outrageous statements made by errant Republican voices.”

Jill Kelley, the Tampa, Fla. socialite swept up in the sex scandal involving former CIA director David Petraeus, filed a suit with her husband against the FBI and Department of Defense on Monday for defamation and violation of privacy.

The Department of Justice has charged Mississippian James Everett Dutschke with five counts related to sending ricin-filled letters to President Obama, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and a local judge. The Department of Justice announced the federal grand jury charges on Monday. The five counts include stockingpiling ricin, a poisonous substance made out of castor beans, sending ricin-laced letters to Wicker, Obama, and Mississippi Judge Sadie Holand, and attempting to frame another person, Paul Kevin Curtis, with sending the letters.

• UN investigators on Tuesday said they had “reasonable grounds” to believe chemical weapons have been used by both sides in Syria, and warned that crimes against humanity are now occurring daily in the war-torn country. “Allegations have been received concerning the use of chemical weapons by both parties,” said the Commission of Inquiry on Syria in a report to the UN Human Rights Council, adding that “the majority concern their use by government forces”.

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