Comments

  1. says

    News from Newt:

    Newt Gingrich, a longtime supporter of President Trump, on Tuesday called for an “independent person” to lead White House efforts examining the alleged communication between Trump’s campaign team and various Russian officials.

    “Well, on that particular topic, they ought to take a lesson from the past, from Ronald Reagan and others,” the Georgia Republican and former House Speaker said during an interview with “Fox and Friends.” […]

    Link

  2. blf says

    More on the upcoming French presidential election, Emmanuel Macron struggles to impress French Muslims: “Presidential front runner draws praise for avoiding anti-Islam rhetoric but doubts persist over his centrist platform.”

    (By “front runner” I think Al-Jazeera means Macron, along with you-know-who, are the two candidates currently seen as progressing into the second, final, round of voting; this is perhaps slightly different that the typical USAian usage of the ambiguous term.)

  3. says

    “AG Sessions Says DOJ to ‘Pull Back’ on Police Department Civil Rights Suits”:

    Donald Trump’s attorney general said Tuesday the Justice Department will limit its use of a tactic employed aggressively under President Obama — suing police departments for violating the civil rights of minorities.

    “We need, so far as we can, to help police departments get better, not diminish their effectiveness. And I’m afraid we’ve done some of that,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

    “So we’re going to try to pull back on this,” he told a meeting of the nation’s state attorneys general in Washington.

    Sessions said such a move would not be “wrong or insensitive to civil rights or human rights.” Instead, he said people in poor and minority communities must feel free from the threat of violent crime, which will require more effective policing with help from the federal government….

  4. says

    Donald Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said this about Trump’s proposed $54 billion increase in defense spending, and the cuts it will trigger:

    […] It’s the largest proposed reduction [to non-defense spending] since the early years of the Reagan administration. Increased defense spending will be offset by cuts elsewhere. [paraphrase]

    Trump said this:

    […] I think the money is going to come from a revved-up economy..

    I mean you look at the kind of numbers we’re doing, we were probably GDP of a little more than 1 percent and if I can get that up to 3 or maybe more, we have a whole different ball game. It’s a whole different ball game.

    In other words, Trump embraced voodoo economics.

    Yes, he is going to increase defense spending and then pretend that everything is going to be okay because he can magically create 3 percent growth.

    Paul Ryan, Mulvaney, and other Republicans are still solidly behind the idea that huge cuts will be made in other programs, including the Environmental Protection Agency, foreign aid, the State Department (including protection for diplomats in foreign posts), the National Endowment for the Arts, education, health care, etc., etc.

    Voodoo economics has never delivered on its promise. (Think of Kansas, for example.)

  5. says

    Our new Attorney General, Jess Sessions, lives in a bubble that rejects facts:

    […] On Monday, days after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters to expect stricter enforcement of federal pot law, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recycled discredited drug war talking points in remarks of his own.

    “I believe it’s an unhealthy practice, and current levels of THC in marijuana are very high compared to what they were a few years ago, and we’re seeing real violence around that,” Sessions said. “Experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think and there’s big money involved.”

    In reality, violent crime rates tend to decrease where marijuana is legalized. […]

    Sessions isn’t operating entirely by his lonesome in claiming pot liberalization begets violence. A handful of Colorado politicians insist that crime there is going up in acute response to legalization — a claim that others including the Denver police department reject.

    Think Progress link

  6. says

    From Sean Spicer’s college newspaper, “College Voice,” in 1993:

    Sean Spicer can talk and talk and talk, and after the dust settles and after the air is still, man mouths are quivering in awe and wonder at the way Sean can spin his yarn out for miles, without saying anything of consequence.

    Link

  7. says

    Follow-up to comments 1 and 2.

    This is inexcusable.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions acknowledged Monday that he hasn’t read the Obama-era Department of Justice reports on abuses committed by police departments in Chicago and Ferguson, Missouri. Sessions, who is now the nation’s top law enforcement official, said he’s only read summaries of the two reports, according to Reuters, and, apparently, he found no reason to read on. “Some of it was pretty anecdotal and not so scientifically based,” he commented. […]

    Link

    Sessions has not read the DOJ’s reports, and yet he is moving ahead with a plan to “pull back” from investigating abuses by law enforcement.

  8. says

    Rightwing media turns immigrants into criminals even when they are not. Rightwing outlets also paint with a broad brush entire immigrant communities as criminal based on isolated incidents. A new study from the nonprofit Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) compiled the results.

    […] right-wing outlets routinely criminalize immigrants in their coverage. […]

    CIVIC’s report demonstrates that while issues surrounding immigration detention are increasingly visible in the media, coverage in right-wing media outlets like Breitbart.com, The Washington Times, and FoxNews.com is more likely than reports in mainstream media to focus on immigrant criminality.

    The survey also found that Breitbart.com reports on immigration detentions at a higher rate […] the routine criminalization of immigrants in right-wing media narratives has long been a problem and has dangerous consequences. […]

    Additionally, the study showed that the nativist group CIS [Center for Immigration Studies ] outpaces other immigration data sources in terms of press citations, which is problematic given its perspective.

    CIS, which has been categorized a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), was founded by John Tanton, whose record includes advocating for a “European-American majority, and a clear one at that.” CIS has pushed white-nationalist literature, and, according to the SPLC, in 2016 “the group hit a new low” by commissioning Jason Richwine, whose doctoral dissertation “endorses the idea of IQ differences between the races,” to write reports and blog pieces. […]

    Link

    And now Trump is having victims of crimes committed by immigrants sit next to his wife during his speech to Congress this evening.

  9. tomh says

    @ #11
    Sessions’ obvious goal is to close down, or at least neuter, the civil rights division of the Justice Department, which was established in 1957. Trump provides so much background noise and fireworks, that the real damage that will be done to almost every facet of govenment, is overwhelmed.

  10. blf says

    Oh for feck’s sake, Betsy DeVos sparks ire by linking historically black colleges with school choice:

    Education secretary calls HBCUs real pioneers on conservative issue, despite fact that racist admissions policies elsewhere spurred institutions’ growth

    Betsy DeVos […] compared the emergence of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), amid pervasive and overt racial exclusion, with the battle for school choice.

    In a statement tied to a listening session with HBCU leaders, DeVos said HBCUs are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality.

    HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice, [her] statement said.

    DeVos appeared to by [sic] trying to make the point, popular with conservatives, that when schools operate in a marketplace, they tend to fill the otherwise unserved needs of students.

    To many the intended argument didn’t survive the contradiction of associating HBCUs, born out of necessity when black Americans were almost uniformly barred from existing universities by racist admittance policies, with the idea of choice.

    […]

    The comparison was also awkward because the issue of school choice virtually always refers not to colleges but to K-12 education where, traditionally, students are assigned to a public school district according to their address.

    School choice is at the foundation of DeVos’s public education agenda. The billionaire education secretary, with no formal background in the field, has long been a proponent of allowing parents to opt out of public schools. Most experts in the field counter that school voucher systems and other similar programs tend to exacerbate the unequal distribution of educational resources. […]

    […]

    DeVos’s statement comes, somewhat ironically, as Trump signs an executive order to relocate the White House Initiative on HBCUs, a program that has existed since 1980, to the White House. It had previously been administered by DeVos’s Department of Education, but will now be led by an official who reports to a senior adviser to the president.

    Some great tweets are quoted in the article:

    ● “Tone-deaf, uninformed statement from DeVos. #HBCUs weren’t more options for black students — for many years, they were the ONLY option.”

    ● “DeVos saying HBCUs are examples of school choice is like saying the underground railroad is an example of social mobility.”

    ● “HBCUs arose because white schools did not want, refused to enroll black students. School choice, vouchers, arose from EXACT same thing.”

  11. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    Herewith the full text of HR 899:

    A BILL

    To terminate the Department of Education.
    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

    SECTION 1. Termination of the Department of Education.

    The Department of Education shall terminate on December 31, 2018.

    I guess that the goal in Il Douchebag’s America is to make sure that all laws are tweetable.

  12. says

    Trump demands subservience and praise from the people to whom he grants interviews:

    […] Breitbart’s transcript omits any introductory chitchat, but at one point Trump tells Boyle that “there are some great reporters like you,” citing him and one other journalist as “honorable reporters” who are not part of what he termed “the fake media, where they make up everything there is to make up.” […]

    Based on the interviews Breitbart and Fox produced, all journalists need to do to gain the respect of the White House is become propagandists for the administration. Here’s what that takes:

    Find Time To Praise Trump On Issues He Cares About

    […] Perhaps because he has spent his entire life in a wealth and power bubble that has shielded him from criticism, his ego requires careful attention and management. […]

    Interviewers who want to remain off of Trump’s “enemy of the American people” list can help their cause by piling on the praise. […]

    During the Fox & Friends interview, both Doocy and Brian Kilmeade sought to feed Trump’s ego by stressing his popular support. Kilmeade claimed that tonight’s speech will have the biggest audience of any “State of the Union-like address” ever. Doocy told Trump that there are “people who are counting on you all across the country and all around the world.” “The love is great,” Trump replied.

    Doocy even made a point of complimenting Trump’s “beautiful hotel.” […]

    Don’t Question Trump’s Facts

    Trump lies constantly, on matters great and small, for political reasons or for none. It’s nearly impossible for an interviewer to keep up with the sheer volume of falsehoods Trump spews.

    And if they want to stay on Trump’s good side, they won’t try.

    The Fox & Friends and Breitbart interviews were both characterized by a dearth of fact-checking — or even follow-ups. The toughest question in either encounter was probably Doocy’s inquiry about how Trump intended to pay for additional defense spending — and Doocy completely rolled over as Trump offered some pablum about how economic growth will fill in the gaps. […]

    Link

  13. blf says

    Donald Trump’s presidential diplomacy deal?:

    Trump is treating the US as a business venture and replacing the ‘art of diplomacy’ with the ‘art of the deal’.

    Most world leaders are having a hard time adapting to Donald Trump’s foreign policy style. None of his seemingly capricious decisions fit within the staid models of diplomatic consistency or the genteel practice of back-channel advance signalling to key partners that change may be coming.

    The news is brutal, direct, and straight from the president’s mouth. This, of course, is hardly surprising given that the traditional foreign policy bureaucracy has been almost completely shut out of an emerging system that focuses on the construction of a strong leader’s [sic] mastery [sic] of the “art of the deal”, rather than the elitist “art of diplomacy”.

    […]

    The foreign policy style emerging from Trump’s Washington thus appears to be a hyper-transactionalised form of “presidential diplomacy” driven by a winner-takes-all understanding of foreign affairs and diplomacy.

    That is, a zero-sum, greedy, rent-seeking view of the world.

    […]
    Given the size of Trump’s ego and his need to continuously be in the centre of an adoring spotlight, it is highly unlikely that he will back away from his self-conceived role as toughest negotiator on the global stage.

    The very real risk is that he will continue confusing the “art of the deal” with the “art of diplomacy”.

    […]

    The added danger now is that stakes have risen exponentially, meaning that his failures could very well lay waste to whole countries, including possibly his own.

  14. blf says

    Latest Trump executive order aims to dismantle Obama’s clean water rule:

    Environmental policy intended to curb pollution flowing into water sources […]

    Donald Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order aimed at unraveling one of Barack Obama’s signature environmental policies designed to protect American waterways from pollution.

    The president’s [sic] move marked the first step toward fulfilling his pledge on the campaign trail to roll back Obama-era regulations, which include a 2015 rule designed to curb the flow of pollution into major bodies of water, wetlands and ponds by expanding the requirement of permits to pursue any actions that might cause them harm.

    Trump, who cannot simply repeal the entire rule with the stroke of a pen, declared Obama’s policy a massive power grab and ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to formally review it. The action also bolstered the position of Trump’s new EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, who wishes to dismantle the rule and sued the Obama administration over it in 2015 while serving as the attorney general of Oklahoma.

    […]

  15. says

    Really? This is surprising.

    The former British spy who authored a controversial dossier on behalf of Donald Trump’s political opponents alleging ties between Trump and Russia reached an agreement with the FBI a few weeks before the election for the bureau to pay him to continue his work, according to several people familiar with the arrangement.

    The agreement to compensate former MI6 agent Christopher Steele came as U.S. intelligence agencies reached a consensus that the Russians had interfered in the presidential election by orchestrating hacks of Democratic Party email accounts. […]

    […] the FBI’s arrangement with Steele shows that bureau investigators considered him credible and found his line of inquiry to be worthy of pursuit.

    Ultimately, the FBI did not pay Steele. Communications between the bureau and the former spy were interrupted as Steele’s now-famous dossier became the subject of news stories, congressional inquiries and presidential denials, according to the people familiar with the arrangement, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter. […]

    Washington Post link

  16. says

    Trump didn’t want to bring attention to this action he took today: he undid the rule that Obama instituted to tighten gun background checks.

    […] The Obama administration rule required the Social Security Administration to submit records of mentally disabled people to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the FBI database used to determine whether someone can buy a firearm under the 1993 Brady Bill.

    The rule would have applied to about 75,000 people who were “adjudicated as a mental defective” and who had applied for Social Security benefits, and had a mechanism to notify those affected so they could appeal. But congressional Republicans said the rule could ensnare people who had mental health issues but otherwise were competent to own a gun.

    The Social Security Administration finalized the rule last Dec. 19. But under the Congressional Review Act, Congress has 60 legislative days to disapprove of any new regulation on straight majority votes. The vote was 57-43 in the Senate and 235-180 in the House.

    Trump and the Republican Congress have already used that tactic three times, rolling back Obama-era regulations requiring oil and mining companies to disclose payments to foreign governments, and the stream protection rule that required coal companies to mitigate the effects of mining on waterways. […]

    Trump signed the bill without a public ceremony Tuesday, the last day to sign it into law under the constitution’s 10-day requirement. […]

    Team Trump didn’t hold a public ceremony for the let-mentally-defective-people-have-guns bill, but they did hold public ceremonies for two other bills:

    […] The Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act, sponsored by Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., which authorizes the National Science Foundation to encourage its entrepreneurial programs to recruit and support women.

    The Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers Women Act, sponsored by Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., which directs NASA to encourage women and girls to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and pursue careers in aerospace. […]

    USA Today link

  17. says

    Trump’s take on why his administration has failed to fill so many jobs:

    When I see a story about “Donald Trump didn’t fill hundreds and hundreds of jobs,” it’s because, in many cases, we don’t want to fill those jobs.

    A lot of those jobs, I don’t want to appoint, because they’re unnecessary to have. You know, we have so many people in government, even me, I look at some of the jobs and it’s people over people over people. I say, “What do all these people do?” You don’t need all those jobs…. Many of those jobs, I don’t want to fill.

    Is this similar to Trump’s comment that nobody knew how complicated health care issues are? Will he soon be saying the nobody knew what all those people did, or that nobody knew those positions were necessary for government to function? I think he’s just making an excuse for failing, once again, to be a good manager. The other possibility is that Trump just does not know how things work, and he is incapable of learning.

    549 top positions in the executive branch of the federal government require Senate confirmation. The Trump administration has failed to offer even a nominee for 515 of those jobs.

    Positions in the diplomatic corps, in national security, in law enforcement and in many other day-to-day operations are empty.

  18. says

    Trump’s advisor Antony Scaramucci is such a dunderhead. He tweeted:

    It’s not yet clear who the #JCC offenders are. Don’t forget @TheDemocrats effort to incite violence at Trump rallies.

    Scaramucci accompanied that tweet with a link to a Breitbart story about Democrats using trained provocateurs to instigate violence. The Breitbart article relied on reporting lying by James O’Keefe.

    So, it’s not just Trump who is sowing doubt about who is threatening to bomb Jewish Community Centers and who is desecrating Jewish cemeteries, it is also his surrogates.

    The ADL is asking Trump to clarify his latest, stupid, seemingly anti-semitic remarks.

  19. says

    This is a follow-up to comment 31.

    Mixed messages: a White House spokesperson said the opposite of what Trump and some of his surrogates are saying about the rise in anti-Muslim, anti-semitic, and other bigotry-based attacks and/or threats of attacks.

    A White House spokesperson said Tuesday that President Donald Trump condemns “racially or religiously motivated attacks” like the triple shooting in Kansas that left one Indian man dead.

    “It looked like it was racially motivated,” White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wrote in an email to TPM. “The President condemns these and any other racially or religiously motivated attacks in the strongest terms.” […]

    The Kansas City Star editorial board on Monday also remarked on Trump’s lack of comment on the shooting, calling it “disquieting.”

    “At some point, embarrassingly late begins to verge on something more disquieting,” the board wrote in an editorial. “With each passing day, Trump’s silence is even more telling.”

    Link

    For previous discussions of Trump blaming provocateurs for acts of bigotry, see comment 498 in the previous chapter of this thread; also, comments 489, 492 and 494.

  20. says

    After a new wave of anti-Semitic attacks, White House appears skeptical about anti-Semitism

    President Trump spent weeks conspicuously staying quiet about a wave of anti-Semitic incidents across the US before finally describing them last week as “horrible and painful.”

    He should have stopped there. Instead, he is now hinting the attacks might be a “false flag” operation carried out by his political opponents to make the White House look bad.

    In a conversation between the president and state attorneys general Tuesday, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro asked the president about the wave of anti-Semitic threats and vandalism across the country, which have included bomb threats at 90 Jewish community centers and the desecrations of cemeteries outside St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Fort Wayne, Indiana.

    Shapiro later told journalists that Trump called the bomb threats and desecrations “reprehensible,” but then seemed to indicate the threats might not be exactly what they seemed. Trump continued his comments by noting that the threats and vandalism might instead be an attempt to “make others look bad.” […]

    “He just said, ‘Sometimes it’s the reverse, to make people — or to make others — look bad,’” Shapiro told BuzzFeed. “And he used the word ‘reverse’ I would say two to three times in his comments. He did correctly say at the top that it was reprehensible.”

    Early Tuesday, Anthony Scaramucci, an adviser to the president who may be in the running for a top White House post, tweeted out a similar idea […]

  21. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    Nerd@22,

    A lot of my professional career has been financed directly or indirectly by DOE grants and policies aimed at helping English language learners in K-12. So what worries me most is that they’ll cut those programs as part of the war on immigration. And not for personal reasons–I can always find something else–but because those policies* really help kids.

    *Which, btw, are one of the few positive legacies of the W years.

  22. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    So what worries me most is that they’ll cut those programs as part of the war on immigration.

    It won’t be war on immigrants per se, but rather a war on what the right considers a department that should not exist on a constitutional basis. For the Rethug purists, the problem has been that many RINO’s, consider what the Dept. of Educ. does in toto, and consider it a good thing, as it relieves the local districts of some unpleasant decisions with their grants, and allows for learning.

  23. says

    SC I unfortunately missed large chunks of that live stream so I’m not sure how it was left. Were you on top of it and can you give me a quick summary?

    I had to leave before the end – I’d planned to go to the gym around 1, didn’t know how much longer it would be, and wanted to get a workout in today. They were voting on the amendments, so I think it was right before the resolution vote. It was voted down on party lines, as expected: 18-16. But it got a lot of attention (no thanks to the press) and put the Republican capitulation on the record. Nadler tweeted:

    “Fact: we can file Resolutions of Inquiry in all committees, & get any MoC who won’t protect the truth & the Constitution on record. #resist”

    and

    “Make no mistake, we made progress w/ #ResolutionofInquiry. GOP had their safest members take this vote. It will get harder & harder 4 them.”

  24. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    It won’t be war on immigrants per se, but rather a war on what the right considers a department that should not exist on a constitutional basis.

    Let’s just say that they’re not mutually exclusive.

  25. says

    I watched the whole fucking thing, with my racist upstairs neighbor who I think by the way I might be talking out of his racism. This is a guy who was cheering so loud on 11/9 that I couldn’t sleep, and as we watched it together I could see him slipping out of the spell. Between the chin juts and the pandering and lying, even he couldn’t deny what an asshat Trump is.

  26. blf says

    The Grauniad snarks hari furor’s bellowing at the supine mafia of corrupt lawyers, Trump’s Congress speech was a heroic effort in contradiction and cliche:

    […]
    All presidents deserve the respect that belongs to the office of the commander-in-chief. Even orange ones who trash the media, hide their business interests from public view, and shower golden words on Russian foes.

    Yes, even Donald Trump deserves something more than “You Lie!” Especially when he lies.

    So it falls to us, on the occasion of his first address to a joint session of Congress, to take President Trump at his un-tweeted word. At least for one night.

    After just one month in office, it is safe to say this has been the most tremendous start to a presidency. It’s safe to say that because Trump says it all the time.

    I think in terms of effort, which means something, but I give myself an A+, he told the ferocious interviewers on Fox and Friends on the morning of his big speech. I think I get an A in terms of what I’ve actually done, but in terms of messaging, I’d give myself a C or a C+.

    Don’t be so hard on your messaging, Mr President. Your heroic effort has certainly been noticed around the world, in federal courts across the nation, and by the true measure of your success: on Saturday Night Live.

    […]

    The sheer effort required to start a speech condemning racist murders and anti-Semitic attacks was historic. After all, earlier in the day, the same president suggested all those bomb threats to Jewish community centers were the work of his political opponents to make others look bad.

    […]

    A new national pride is sweeping across our nation, he read from his prompter in a tone he used to describe as low energy. And a new surge of optimism is placing impossible dreams firmly within our grasp.

    You can almost feel the surge of optimism in the previously downtrodden minority known as white supremacists. The impossible dreams of David Duke are firmly within his grasp, including his warm embrace of Trump’s conspiracy theories about those anti-Semitic bomb threats.

    […]

    […] we’ve spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas, while our infrastructure at home has so badly crumbled.

    His solution: to spend trillions and trillions of dollars overseas on increased military spending.

    Some people might say this is contradictory, but they don’t see what Trump saw during his election: a moment in history that could not pass without mention or cliche. To underscore this point, he variously described 2016 as an earthquake, a rebellion, a protest, and a chorus.

    Finally the chorus became an earthquake, he orated, and the people turned out by the tens of millions, and they were all united by one very simple but crucial demand, that America must put its own citizens first.

    All except the non-united citizens: those who voted for Hillary Clinton, in greater numbers than moved the earth for Trump.

    […]

    We have begun to drain the swamp of government corruption by imposing a five-year ban on lobbying by executive branch officials, and a lifetime ban on becoming lobbyists for a foreign government, said the president who sounds like he lobbies for Vladimir Putin. If you have any doubt about this, you should ask the Trump Organization’s ethics officer to check the president’s tax returns, just to be sure everything is kosher.

    […]

    We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts, Trump concluded. The bravery to express the hopes that stir our souls.

    Sometimes those hopes and dreams just happen to include the demise of The New York Times, CNN and all the enemies of the people known as the free press.

    […]

    Also:

    ● Fact-checking Donald Trump’s first presidential address to Congress.

    ● An annotated guide to Trump’s first address to Congress.

    ● Trump shocks Congress with a speech that stuck to script: “The apocalyptic vision of American carnage on show at the inauguration was replaced with the kind of broad, sunny platitudes Trump has rarely indulged in”.

  27. says

    I’m so glad I didn’t watch the speech or the ensuing noise from the punditry. The moment I saw earlier in the day a chyron on CNN reading “Trump has an opportunity for a reset with tonight’s speech” (or something very similar), I knew there was no way. Look at all of the things posted on this thread that he’d done or said or that had resulted from his policies just in the 24 hours preceding the event.

    Back in September, in the wake of the Jimmy Fallon disgrace, I recommended the book Hitler at Home. The press and pundits should read it.

  28. says

    Trump’s speech was over-rated by his followers. Sad!

    In short, they loved, loved, loved it. Anyone who disliked it is a traitor. It was very, very, very full of sweet sentiments read almost properly from a teleprompter. And did you see the widow of Navy Seal Ryan crying while everyone applauded? That proves the raid in Yemen was great, tremendous, and massive.

    I feel like I’m letting readers of this thread down a bit. Trump’s speech was so full of clueless statements like “the time for trivial fights is over,” that I think my head was gobsmacked off my shoulders. I am declaring a momentary state of disconnection.

    My conclusion, for what its worth, is that Trump is not self-aware.

  29. says

    Okay, I finished my cup of coffee and now I’m going to make an effort to critique Trump’s speech in a more coherent manner.

    Let’s begin with the lie about unemployment and the poverty rate:

    Tonight, as I outlined the next steps we must take as a country, we must honestly acknowledge the circumstances we inherited. 94 million Americans are out of the labor force. Over 43 million people are now living in poverty.

    Thank you, Obama administration for setting up the circumstances that led to a drop in the poverty rate; that led in September 2016, in fact, to the fastest drop in the poverty rate in about fifty years. NBC News link.

    From Jason Furman, former chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers:

    I usually try to be restrained, but this is unambiguously the best Income, Poverty & Health Insurance report ever.

    Not hyperbolic. Since such reports have been kept, the September 2016 statistics showed that income growth was the fastest on record and that the growth was widely shared (included all income groups and all demographics). People at the bottom saw the largest percentage of increase. The poverty rate dropped.

    From Jonathon Chait:

    It is almost impossible to overstate how thoroughly this data nullifies the central charges made against the [Obama] administration’s policies.

    The left-wing version of the economic stagnation claim charges that Obama’s program has failed at the root level, allowing the rich to hoover up all the gains and doing almost nothing for the suffering masses.

    The more popular right-wing version argues that, whatever social benefits Obama has purchased – 20 million more insured, strict new regulations on Wall Street, lower greenhouse gas emissions – they have come at a terrible and unacceptable price. Obama’s big-government agenda has snuffed out the entrepreneurial genius of American capitalism, dooming its people to endless stagnation, unless and until Paul Ryan can liberate them from stifling taxes and regulation. […]

    […]– the practical outcomes are growing harder and harder to gainsay.

    I disagree on only one point: no, it’s not harder for Republicans to gainsay because they just continue to lie. That’s Trump’s default mode: lying. What he likes best is lying on TV in front of an audience in the millions.

    About that “94 million” Trump mentioned, (and that I heard repeated dozens of times on the morning shows by Republicans this morning): It includes retirees, students, disabled people, stay-at-home parents and so forth.

  30. says

    Trump used Denisha Merriweather to make his point that “school choice” (translate as: tax credits for students to attend private schools) is the thing that will allow “all children to be able to break the cycle of poverty just like Denisha.”

    Denisha’s story is heart-warming and exceptional. Also, she is just one person. From the New York Times:

    […] as school choice is poised to go national, a wave of new research has emerged suggesting that private school vouchers may harm students who receive them. The results are startling – the worst in the history of the field, researchers say. […]

    Public elementary school students who started at the 50th percentile in math and then used a voucher to transfer to a private school dropped to the 26th percentile in a single year. Results were somewhat better in the second year, but were still well below the starting point. […]

    When people try to improve education, sometimes they succeed and sometimes they fail. The successes usually register as modest improvements, while the failures generally have no effect at all.

    […] Martin West, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, calls the negative effects in Louisiana “as large as any I’ve seen in the literature” – not just compared with other voucher studies, but in the history of American education research.

    There’s always the chance that a single study, no matter how well designed, is an outlier. Studies of older voucher programs in Milwaukee and elsewhere have generally produced mixed results […]. Until about a year ago, however, few if any studies had shown vouchers causing test scores to decline drastically.

    In June, a third voucher study was released by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank and proponent of school choice. The study, which was financed by the pro-voucher Walton Family Foundation, focused on a large voucher program in Ohio. “Students who use vouchers to attend private schools have fared worse academically compared to their closely matched peers attending public schools,” the researchers found. […]

    Three consecutive reports, each studying one of the largest new state voucher programs, found that vouchers hurt student learning. […] The assumed superiority of private schools may no longer hold.

    Trump is ignoring the evidence. Betsy DeVos is ignoring the facts.

    Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins

  31. says

    A bit more from “Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins” (see comment 50):

    […] Perhaps the participating schools [participating in the voucher program] were unusually bad and eager for revenue. But this is another way of saying that exposing young children to the vagaries of private-sector competition is inherently risky. The free market often does a terrible job of providing basic services to the poor […]

    […] research has also linked higher test scores to a host of positive outcomes later in life. And voucher advocates often cite poor test scores in public schools to justify creating private school vouchers in the first place.

    The new voucher studies stand in marked contrast to research findings that well-regulated charter schools in Massachusetts and elsewhere have a strong, positive impact on test scores. But while vouchers and charters are often grouped under the umbrella of “school choice,” the best charters tend to be nonprofit public schools, open to all and accountable to public authorities. The less “private” that school choice programs are, the better they seem to work.

    The new evidence on vouchers does not seem to have deterred the Trump administration, which has proposed a new $20 billion voucher program. Secretary DeVos’s enthusiasm for vouchers, which have been the primary focus of her philanthropic spending and advocacy, appears to be undiminished.

  32. says

    What Trump said about the American serviceman killed in Yemen:

    We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of a U.S. Navy Special Operator, Senior Chief William ‘Ryan’ Owens. Ryan died as he lived: a warrior, and a hero – battling against terrorism and securing our nation. [Ryan’s] legacy is etched into eternity.

    Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies.

    Trump didn’t mention the various ways in which he had tried to weasel out of responsibility for the mission.

    From Steve Benen:

    […] The result is an image of a president who launched a mission without an extensive review, who then tried to shun responsibility for the results while making dubious claims about the raid’s value, all before using the deadly incident in a speech.

    I don’t doubt that Trump has extended his sincere support to Owens’ family, but that doesn’t erase the president’s attempts to shirk responsibility for the mission, his claims that appear to be untrue, and the questions as to why he approved this raid in the first place.

    As Rachel noted during last night’s coverage, “That may have been a transcendent moment [in Trump’s speech], but it is light-years away from him trying to say, ‘This was the generals, this wasn’t me, this was Obama’s fault,’ which is how he has dealt with that death thus far.”

  33. says

    Rachel Maddow and Richard Engel discuss Trump’s travel ban and the way in which immigration was portrayed in Trump’s speech. Leaks are also discussed.

    From Trump:

    [My policies] are preventing the United States from becoming a beachhead of terrorists.

    The video is 6:28 wrong.

    Facts are presented to show that Trump’s policies are arbitrary and not fact-based. Trump’s policies are not even practical. Trump’s policies don’t match reality. “Essentially nonsense.”

  34. says

    Rachel Maddow points out that Trump is disconnected from his own policies. That’s what accounts for the disconnect between what Trump says when he is off teleprompter and what he says when he gives a speech to a joint session of Congress.

    He doesn’t write his speeches. He doesn’t write his policies. “He doesn’t have any connection to the policies that he is promoting as president, other than the select few that he memorized from his stump speeches. […] The policy is what’s in the speech, he just didn’t write it and doesn’t understand it.”

    The video is about two minutes long.

  35. says

    “The Worst Performance of Trump’s Presidency Now Belongs to the Press Corps: The media’s reaction to his speech to Congress was shameful.”:

    …Trump’s moral and ethical failings are legion. He is the villain of all his own triumphant and disgraceful sagas. But the plot of this chapter is about a political press corps (not the investigators slowly piecing together the unseemly details of Trump’s foreign entanglements, but the ones who cover day-to-day news and theater) that is outmatched and completely maladapted for the challenge he poses to it.

    Many of the same people now tasked with communicating what matters about Trump’s presidency to the public also covered Trump’s campaign, where they returned serially to the storyline of the pivot, the softening, wherein simply reading a scripted and not-entirely-unhinged speech from beginning to end marked a new beginning for him.

    There is apparently less capacity for living and learning in political journalism than there is in elementary school; less object permanence than in nursery school.

    Trump’s shows of relative restraint on the campaign trail were always temporary, and generally served as a memory hole for offenses against Gold Star parents, beauty show contestants, and sexual assault victims. He rode temporary bouts of “discipline,” celebrated by a political media that failed to raise their bar for his conduct, all the way to the White House, where his erratic and unseemly behavior continues.

    It is possible in some statistical sense that Trump will adjust to the realities of his job, permanently stop labeling unflattering journalism “FAKE NEWS,” and earn the mantle of presidentialism—even if his policies continue to strike me as abhorrent. But he did not do that Tuesday night. All he did was demonstrate once again that his supposed antagonists in the political media have short memories, which makes them easy marks for a tired con.

  36. says

    From SC’s link in comment 55:

    […] many State staffers are surprised to find themselves on the outside. “They really want to blow this place up,” said the mid-level State Department officer. “I don’t think this administration thinks the State Department needs to exist. They think Jared [Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law] can do everything. It’s reminiscent of the developing countries where I’ve served. The family rules everything, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs knows nothing.” […]

    This kind of “deconstruction,” to use Steve Bannon’s word, must just be breaking Hillary Clinton’s heart. She worked so hard to make the State Department run well. Same for John Kerry.

    That’s a good article. Sometimes we need to read about the mundane details to really understand how much destruction has already been caused by Trump and his minions. The empty hallways, empty offices and lack of meetings tell a tale— but the way the employees (those that are left) gather in the cafeteria to all day, or the way they wander the streets of Foggy Bottom during work hours …. those mundane details really paint a picture.

    Like tomh said in comment 13 about a different department:

    Sessions’ obvious goal is to close down, or at least neuter, the civil rights division of the Justice Department, which was established in 1957. Trump provides so much background noise and fireworks, that the real damage that will be done to almost every facet of govenment, is overwhelmed.

    Right. Damage is being done, and for the most part we don’t see it and we don’t discuss it.

  37. says

    From Amy Davidson, writing for the New Yorker, here is an analysis of the “shameless expediency” of Trump’s speech:

    In the first sentence of President Trump’s joint address to Congress, on Tuesday night, he noted that it was, at least for a few more hours, Black History Month, which he said was a reminder of the fight for civil rights and “the work that still remains to be done.”

    In the second sentence, he mentioned the recent threats against Jewish community centers and the vandalism of cemeteries, as well as what he referred to only as “last week’s shooting in Kansas City,” saying that they “remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms.”

    It was, in the most basic sense, proper and welcome for the President to acknowledge such crimes. He and his speechwriters might have been counting on observers being grateful that he had brushed against the bottom rung of decent gestures, with the vague sense that something Presidential had been said.

    But it is worth pausing at that opening and reflecting on its political utility, its incongruity, its evasiveness, and, ultimately, its shamelessness—qualities that characterized the address as a whole. Each instance in those first sentences has a remarkable context; each, in its way, poses questions about what Trump needs to be reminded of, what he wants Americans to pretend never happened, and our own capacity to play make-believe when it comes to his Presidency. [snipped text about Betsy Devos’ clueless comments concerning historically black colleges]

    As to the attacks on Jewish sites across America, the problem isn’t that Trump has been oblivious but that, when he responds to questions about them, he has, more than once, said that some number of them were carried out by his political opponents to discredit him—that the attacks were not anti-Semitic but anti-Trump.

    […] The speech to Congress was the first time that he had mentioned the Kansas attack, which is why his vagueness about it was so striking. A gunman who, according to witnesses, shouted, “Get out of my country!” had shot two Indian engineers, employed by a local company, in a bar crowded with people who had gathered to watch a University of Kansas basketball game. […]

    like a third grader who has finished a workbook page on Martin Luther King, Jr., he [Trump] moved on, an obligation disposed of.

    A few minutes later, he found a different historical marker, one that he proposed as the turning point that will define America when, nine years from now, it reaches the two-hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of its Declaration of Independence: the moment, in 2016, when “the earth shifted beneath our feet” at the advent of Trump.

    A “rebellion” became “a loud chorus” and then, with tens of millions of voters, “an earthquake.” Here, he said, one discovered what really brought America together: “They were all united by one very simple, but crucial, demand: that America must put its own citizens first, because only then can we truly make America great again.”

  38. says

    On the one hand, all of this will be admissible in any future court proceedings, which won’t help the chances of any future ban attempts. On the other (thoroughly disquieting) hand, they could be in part willing to forego the ban’s technical enforcement now that they’ve pushed the envelope and sent a strong message to ICE and CBP – they could be counting on these agencies, even in the absence of a ban, to take care of the more covert, administrative violence that’s harder to track and organize against. On the third hand, the ban has alerted people to their aims, their lawlessness, and their incompetence, and the resistance is growing and increasingly organized.

  39. says

    How GOP O’Care Plan Shifts Tax Credits From The Poor To The Rich

    […] a major loss for lower-income people and older Americans. Those higher on the income scale stand to gain under such a plan.

    […] Unlike the ACA’s tax credits, they do not adjust with income, meaning a wealthy person would be getting the same break as a low income American. Obamacare’s tax credits end for people making 400 percent of the federal poverty line.

    The rate at which the Republican tax credits grow by age is slower that those offered under Obamacare, meaning older people will be bearing a greater burden of their premiums under the GOP plan.

    […] GOP lawmakers have also proposed expanding the ratio for premiums for young and old people to one to five, which could further exacerbate the hit older people would take under the Republican plan.

    Additionally, they are the same nationwide, meaning in areas with higher premiums, they don’t go as far. The Affordable Care Act’s subsidies are priced according to the second-lowest-cost silver plan in the area where the consumer lives, meaning that they reflect the geographical difference in average premiums.

  40. says

    Schadenfreude moment:

    Compared to President Barack Obama’s first address in 2009, Trump’s early ratings are down by 17 percent.

    Hollywood Reporter link

    Approval ratings, also down:

    […] 57% said they had a very positive reaction to Trump’s speech […] they fell below the reviews either Barack Obama or George W. Bush received for either of their initial addresses to Congress. In 2009, 68% had a very positive reaction to Obama, while 66% gave Bush very positive reviews in 2001.

    The audience was made up mostly of Republicans. The poll took the temperature of people who actually watched the speech.
    http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/28/politics/donald-trump-joint-address-poll/

  41. says

    Trump lied by presenting misleading and cherry-picked examples of medical research having saved a person’s life. Trump also misrepresented how his own policies will affect scientific, medical, and pharmaceutical research.

    […] Trump pointed to one of his special guests, college student Megan Crowley.

    Crowley suffers from Pompe disease, an extremely rare genetic disorder. She was diagnosed with the disease when she was 15 months old, and given only a few years to live. Her father, however, founded a company to find a cure. Eventually his efforts led to the enzyme replacement therapy that still treats Crowley, now a sophomore in college, and her brother, who also has the disease. […]

    Trump, however, used it as ammunition against the FDA, alleging that the department unnecessarily slows down advances like the one that saved Megan Crowley’s life. […]

    One of the reasons Trump’s point is attractive is that it does take a long time for drugs to make it to market. Innovation is slow, and true, ground-breaking advancements are rare.

    Most of that innovation, however, happens outside the FDA — in private pharmaceutical labs, universities (sometimes supported by federal National Science Foundation grants), and federal agencies like the National Institutes of Health. Many initially promising hypotheses are rejected during the years-long pipeline. Often, breakthroughs are the result of luck, or painstaking, time-intensive trial and error.
    That means funding and support for scientific research is essential if Trump truly wants to support “far more miracles like Megan.”

    Trump, however, has indicated that he plans to do exactly the opposite. His proposed 2018 budget would shrink the government’s spending on basic science research by 10.5 percent. […]

    Trump has done nothing to indicate that federal funding of research is a priority, though it is often responsible for subsidizing the basic scientific research underlying many advances. […]

    Think Progress link

  42. says

    Steve Bannon was featured on the front page of the Al Qaeda publication Al Masra.

    The article repeats Bannon’s negative comments about Islam and about Muslims in general. The headline, translated, reads: “The war is with Islam as a religion.”

    Jidahist groups are using Steve Bannon as a recruiting tool. This is also likely to result in more terrorist focus on the USA. One researcher noted that in February 2017, Al Masra mentioned America twice as much as in January 2016.

    https://twitter.com/Dr_E_Kendall/status/836606118403141632?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

    I call that the Trump/Bannon Effect.

    A quote from Bannon:

    If you look back at the long history of the Judeo-Christian West struggle against Islam, I believe that our forefathers kept their stance, and I think they did the right thing. [2014]

    From Charlie Winter, a senior fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence at King’s College London:

    [The Muslim ban policy is] far more potent than any video or other piece of propaganda.

  43. says

    Trump takes credit for Lady Gagas success:

    She became a big star and maybe she became a star because I put her on the Miss Universe pageant. It’s very possible, who knows what would have happened without it, because she caused a sensation.

    The quoted text is from the book Time to Get Tough: Making America #1 Again.

  44. blf says

    ‘It is devastating’: abuse survivor quits Vatican child protection body (the Granuiad’s edits in {curly braces} but my emboldening):

    Resignation of Marie Collins, commission’s last remaining member who had suffered sexual abuse, is a setback for Pope Francis

    A prominent survivor of clerical sex abuse has resigned from a special Vatican commission that was created by Pope Francis to tackle the problem, saying the church’s most senior clerics continue to put “other concerns” before the safety of children and vulnerable adults.

    Marie Collins, who was molested by a priest when she was 13 years old, said in a written statement she had made a final decision to resign after she learned that a Vatican department was failing [sic (they are “refusing”)] to comply with a basic new recommendation that all correspondence from victims and survivors should receive a response.

    “I learned in a letter from this particular {congregation} last month that they are refusing to do so,” Collins wrote in a searing statement to the National Catholic Reporter.

    “I find it impossible to listen to public statements about the deep concern in the church for the care of those whose lives have been blighted by abuse, yet to watch privately as a congregation in the Vatican refuses to even acknowledge their letters.”

    She added: “It is a reflection of how this whole abuse crisis in the church has been handled: with fine words in public and contrary actions behind closed doors.”

    Collins’s resignation represents a devastating indictment of the church’s handling of sexual abuse under Pope Francis. For years since her 2014 appointment to the commission, she has been critical of the church’s slow response to issues around clerical sex abuse but has stood by the work of the commission and the pope’s commitment to coming to grips with the problem.

    But on Wednesday, Collins, an Irish national, described a church bureaucracy that was unwilling to cooperate with a commission that had not been provided with enough resources, had inadequate support staff and faced intense cultural resistance within the church despite having had the backing of the pope.

    “I have come to the point where I can no longer be sustained by hope. As a survivor I have watched events unfold with dismay,” Collins said in her statement.

    Collins’s decision to leave the commission comes one year after the only other abuse survivor who was appointed to the commission, Peter Saunders, was forced to take a leave of absence after he complained the commission was doing far too little to tackle abuse.

    Collins said one of the reasons she decided to resign was the Vatican’s failure to establish a tribunal recommended by the commission to hold negligent bishops to account when they ignored reports of abuse. Even though the idea was backed by Francis and announced in June 2015, it was found to have unspecified legal difficulties by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the church body that primarily deals with abuse accusations.

    […]

    Sean O’Malley, a Boston cardinal who has spearheaded abuse issues, said in a statement he was thankful for Collins’s work and would pray for her and all victims and survivors of sexual abuse.

    Note that, as reported, that Boston jerk said nothing at all about preventing future abuses nor about seeking justice for past abuses.

    A small excerpt from Ms Collins’s statement (link embedded in the above excerpt):

    […]
    The reluctance of some in the Vatican Curia to implement recommendations or cooperate with the work of a commission when the purpose is to improve the safety of children and vulnerable adults around the world is unacceptable.

    Is this reluctance driven by internal politics, fear of change, clericalism which instills a belief that ‘they know best’ or a closed mindset which sees abuse as an inconvenience or a clinging to old institutional attitudes?

    I do not know the answer but it is devastating in 2017 to see that these men still can put other concerns before the safety of children and vulnerable adults.
    […]

  45. says

    “Trump played nice for a night—a technique straight out of the autocrat’s playbook”:

    …When advance copies of the speech indicated that Trump was not planning to rhapsodize about nuclear weapons or designate the press the “enemy of the people,” pundits once again speculated that a presidential “pivot” was at hand. But this pivot, which has been a subject of media speculation for months, remains an illusion: Trump never intended to pivot, but rather to pivot America to his extremist goals. In some ways he has already succeeded, as white supremacists like Steve Bannon dominate the White House, and expectations for accountability—the release of tax returns, cooperation with the investigation into Russian meddling—have been lowered.

    America is pivoting towards Trump, and it is only through vigilance and compassion that we can pivot back.

    Trump launched his campaign with lies—slandering Mexicans as rapists and criminals—and has continued to lie ever since. The only variation is the degree of cruelty with which he delivers his propaganda. Last night we saw the “nice Trump,” but this more subdued president is in a sense more dangerous than the unhinged and ranting version we saw at a press conference two weeks ago. This Trump seems to offer reprieve from the chaos his administration has wrought. And the desire of Americans for things to “go back to normal” is so strong that willful amnesia as to the Trump administration’s prior actions is the knee-jerk reaction to a sliver of kindness.

    The impulse to forget is forgivable, but acting on it is not. Every autocrat flirts with benevolence, promoting themselves as the sole protector against threats, the strongman who remembers “the forgotten people.” Trump is actually worse at this game than most authoritarian leaders due to his erratic temperament, leak-prone staff, and combative relationship with the US press. Last night he played the game well.

    But there is only one winner in an autocratic state: the autocrat and his lackeys. Citizens function as pawns and props, conned into complicity until their regret carries no weight. The US currently has an authoritarian-leaning government but is not yet an authoritarian regime, due in large part to the constant vigilance and pushback of citizens. If you seek to stop the slide into authoritarianism, do not let yourself get played. [emphasis added]

  46. says

    Way to miss the point entirely. Representative Kevin Cramer of North Dakota mansplained the fashion choices of Democratic women in Congress, while simultaneously exposing his misogynistic attitudes and his ignorance:

    “But by the way, did you notice how poorly several of them were dressed as well?” he asked. “It is a syndrome. There is no question, there is a disease associated with the notion that a bunch of women would wear bad-looking white pantsuits in solidarity with Hillary Clinton to celebrate her loss. You cannot get that weird.”

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic women in the chamber wore white as a silent protest against Trump.

    “It’s not even a protest,” Pelosi, who wore white and purple, told MSNBC on Tuesday ahead of Trump’s address. “It’s a statement of values. It associates ourselves with our suffragette mothers, the color of white, the color purple.” […]

    Politico link

  47. says

    From Jake Tapper:

    “Trivial fights” should be “behind us,” but hours later WH offers @VP Pence interviews to every major US TV broadcaster except @CNN

  48. says

    Trump may have figured out a way to really, really never get blamed again for a failed raid against ISIS. He’ll just abrogate his responsibilities as Commander in Chief. That way he won’t have to keep embarrassing himself by blaming Obama and/or “my generals.”

    The White House is considering delegating more authority to the Pentagon to greenlight anti-terrorist operations like the SEAL Team 6 raid in Yemen that cost the life of a Navy SEAL […]

    President Donald Trump has signaled that he wants his defense secretary, retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis, to have a freer hand to launch time-sensitive missions quickly, ending what U.S. officials say could be a long approval process under President Barack Obama that critics claimed stalled some missions by hours or days.

    In declared war zones, U.S. commanders have the authority to make such calls, but outside such war zones, in ungoverned or unstable places like Somalia, Libya, or Yemen, it can take permissions all the way up to the Oval Office to launch a drone strike or a special-operations team. […]

    […] that added authority might give Mattis and senior military officers pause, after Trump blamed military leaders Tuesday for the loss of Navy SEAL Senior Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens during the fraught Jan. 28th raid against al Qaeda in Yemen, instead of accepting responsibility for the raid’s outcome as commander in chief. […]

    The Daily Beast link

  49. says

    David Cay Johnston analyzed the economic policy portions of Trump’s speech:

    […] Trump’s address to Congress promised the economically impossible—massive spending increases combined with big new tax cuts—without vastly increasing the national debt Trump’s already complained is far too big.

    Let’s call this what it is: fake math.

    The true equation is simple: More spending and less revenue add up to negative cash flow.

    Those negative numbers […] mean more federal debt or fewer government services. Since Trump promised massive new federal spending on the military and veterans, and on infrastructure, and on preserving the most expensive aspects of the Affordable Care Act, it’s clear that his agenda means more federal debt. […]

    As always, Trump spoke in vagaries Tuesday, a strategy that has won him solid support among those who fail to think critically about what he (and other politicians) say. He did not say how big his tax cuts would be, how much more he wants to spend, or provide any of the details needed for a meaningful assessment. […]

    […] he did not even give a nod to interest costs. That was significant because the era of near-zero interest rates is ending. The Federal Reserve has signaled that it thinks the economy has recovered sufficiently for it to start raising interest rates. […]

    Big new spending, big new tax cuts, and higher interest rates are a formula for more federal debt, assuming Congress turns Trump’s fake math into federal budget reality.

    Trump [claimed] on the campaign trail, that economic growth will pay for all of his expensive promises. Think of that as counting your chickens before the eggs are even laid, much less hatched. […]

    Trying to sound presidential, Trump also laid claim to potential new jobs that were in the pipeline long before November. […]

    Trump declared that “we must restart the engine of the American economy” and talked as if the nation has been in economic collapse, citing the rise in the stock market in the last three months, but making no mention of its record growth under Obama.

    How many Americans know that the U.S. enjoyed a record 83 consecutive months of private-sector job growth through the end of January? How many know that nearly 16 million private-sector jobs were added since the Great Recession ended, more than Europe and Canada combined, and that during that period the number of government jobs was flat?

    Trump justified his plan for a big corporate tax cut by saying, “Right now, American companies are taxed at one of the highest rates anywhere in the world.”

    That’s a subtle bit of language because, while the tax rate set by Congress is high, the actual rates paid are among the world’s lowest, especially for multinational companies. […]

    Trump also used fake math in saying he had “cleared the way for the construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines—thereby creating tens of thousands of jobs […]”

    And those “tens of thousands of jobs” building the two pipelines? More like 50 permanent jobs for the whole Keystone Pipeline; fewer for the Dakota Access.

    Calling things 200 or more times bigger than they are is an especially good example of Trump’s fake math.

  50. says

    Wonkette covered a speech Trump gave on Sunday to a group of governors who met with him at the White House:

    The modern world can sometimes be confusing for an old fashioned guy like Donald Trump. […]

    Thus, we may have to forgive him for not realizing, when giving a speech this Sunday to our nation’s governors, that not only do they let ladies be governors of states now, but that we have four of them in this country.

    Upon greeting said governors at a White House event on Sunday, Trump heartily welcomed all of them — and their wives and daughters.
    Via Huffington Post:

    “He welcomed all the governors, their wives and their daughters last night,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) told The Huffington Post on Monday. “It was weird.”

    Brown, one of four female governors in the U.S., took the slight in stride.

    “It was just ― I’ve been there before,” she said. “I think people forget that there are female governors in the world.”

    Other women in charge of states include Govs. Susana Martinez (R-N.M.), Mary Fallin (R-Okla.) and Gina Raimondo (D-R.I.).

    Why he also thought that only daughters were in attendance and not sons is a question for the ages.

    […] what kind of heterosexual woman would want to do a man’s job, like governing a state? And what kind of man would permit his wife to do such a thing? […]. As Trump himself has said, “Putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing!” Because then they lose their “softness.” […]

  51. says

    So much for Trump’s rant against news organizations using anonymous sources:

    News broke Tuesday night that Trump himself spoke as an anonymous “Senior Administration Official” to several news organizations ahead of his big speech, and was quoted on how “the president” really wants to bring people together with his new immigration policy in which he maybe won’t send all of the Dreamers back to countries they haven’t lived in since they were infants. […]

    Link

  52. says

    “‘Says Who?’ – Piecing Together the Michael Cohen Story”:

    …Cohen and his extended family appear to have been part of that flow of luxury apartment purchases from people from the former Soviet Union. And Cohen himself joined the Trump Organization in the period when Trump’s reliance on investment capital from the former Soviet Union for projects like Trump Soho moved into high gear.

    Trump has repeatedly insisted he has no loans from the Russia and no ‘deals’ in Russia. There is no specific evidence to refute his claims. But Trump’s real need has been for investment capital and wealthy people to purchase units in his luxury projects or those to which he licenses his name. And there is voluminous evidence for both.

    Press attention has tended to focus on people like Carter Page and Paul Manafort and Mike Flynn. But Cohen plays a far more central role in this era of Trump’s business history than these others. He is also the only one who shows up clearly acting as a go-between to the President for someone trying to shift administration policy to reduce or eliminate sanctions on Russia….

  53. blf says

    Police chiefs object to Trump’s efforts to involve them in immigrant deportations:

    [… L]etter from more than 60 law enforcement heads asks to soften push to include police in roundups, saying it makes their communities less safe

    Police chiefs from across the US, including several from states that voted for Donald Trump, are resisting White House moves to force them to become more involved in deporting undocumented immigrants.

    […]

    [The letter, written under the auspices of the Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force, a coalition of senior law enforcement experts convened by the National Immigration Forum,] was released to coincide with a hearing on Tuesday of the US Senate committee on homeland security and governmental affairs, convened by Republicans under the provocative title the effects of border insecurity and lax immigration enforcement on American communities.

    The letter writers […] make plain their objection to being drawn into the immigration fray. They state bluntly: “Immigration enforcement is, first and foremost, a federal responsibility. We believe we can best serve our communities by leaving the enforcement of immigration laws to the federal government.”

    [… T]he letter suggests that there is no shortage of opposition to Trump’s plans within law enforcement circles. The authors put forward a very different vision, arguing that police engagement should be strictly limited to targeting “threats such as dangerous criminals and criminal organizations causing harm”.

    They also appeal to the Trump administration to draw back from its threat to penalize so-called sanctuary cities that are resisting the immigration crackdown. They point out that there is no agreed definition of what a sanctuary city is, and warn that a withdrawal of federal funds from those areas as punishment “would not make our communities safer”.

    […]

    There is considerably more analysis and discussion of the letter and issues at the link, plus an image of the letter.

  54. says

    Contrasting responses of media and veterans (not a random sample, of course) to Trump’s calling attention to Ryan Owens’ widow, Carryn, during the speech.

    (While I’m somewhat on the subject…This makes me angry every time I think about it: The other night, Lawrence O’Donnell had John Schindler on, and asked him about Owens’ father. Schindler said that his refusal to meet with the president* had been “childish,” adding that he’d thought another parent who’s refused to meet with, I can’t remember…Bill or Hillary Clinton, was also “childish,” presumably thinking this made him sound fair-minded. It was really gross. If I were O’Donnell, I would never have him on again.

  55. blf says

    Here in France, the slightly-less-fascist than the full-fascist le penazis wingnuts are burning fiercely, France’s François Fillon plays his last card:

    Scandal-hit candidate is in bunker mode, avoiding the public as he accuses the state of a political assassination attempt

    Once again, François Fillon, the French right’s scandal-hit presidential candidate, has refused to quit the election race. Badly wounded and with his party, Les Républicains, bewildered and divided, it remains to be seen whether he can reach the finish line.

    Fillon, who once styled himself a sleaze-free Mr Clean, now finds himself at the centre of a full judicial investigation into misuse of public funds and a list of other potential offences. He announced on Wednesday that judges had summoned him to press charges later this month.

    […]

    Five weeks after the allegations first broke, on-the-stump campaigning has become damagingly difficult for Fillon, who has appeared to retreat into a bunker. Although on-message party workers applaud him at carefully staged rallies, when he ventures outside those confines, he is inevitably met by protesters banging saucepans and shouting “crook!”

    […]

    Fillon’s last-ditch strategy is to convince just enough core rightwing voters that he is the victim of a terrible plot against him by the justice system, the government and the media. He hopes to mobilise voter outrage against the system.

    He has taken the advice of the former president Nicolas Sarkozy, whom he once mocked for having to deal with judicial woes. Sarkozy’s suggestion was to grab headlines every day with radical, hardline policy. Fillon has tried this — first he said the legal age of responsibility should be lowered to 16, then he said he would arm all municipal police. But each time he has been drowned out by fresh twists in the legal investigations.

    With every intervention, Fillon has cranked up his language to stir outrage on the right. On Wednesday, he said the judicial investigation was the state attempting to muzzle rightwing voters and steal the election. Last weekend, he warned — after protests against Front National [le penazis –blf] supporters in Nantes — that the government was allowing tensions to fester and that the country was in a quasi civil war situation.

    “Really, a near civil war?” shot back Jean-Jacques Urvoas, the Socialist justice minister. “Before he was talking about an institutional coup d’etat, what will he say next? An extermination of the programmes? A Holocaust of the candidates?”

    […]

    This eejit took the advice of Sharkoführer?! Geesh!

    And François Fillon vows to fight on despite formal inquiry into ‘fake jobs’ :

    […]
    Just weeks after he pledged to stand down if formally put under investigation, the beleaguered conservative candidate made what many saw as his last, determined stand on Wednesday.

    […]

    From the beginning, despite what has been said, I have not been treated like any other {legal} party{…} the rule of law has been systematically broken. The press has repeated the investigators’ views and only theirs. The arguments I have presented haven’t been heard or broadcast. The presumption of innocence has completely and entirely disappeared. [And yer mother’s a hamster and yer father smells of elderberries!!!1!]

    His attacks and refusal to stand down, after saying he would, prompted the resignation of a former government minister and high-profile member of his election team and a terse rebuke from the country’s justice minister.

    […]

    President François Hollande also called Fillon to order. “Being a presidential candidate doesn’t give one the authority to throw suspicion on the work of the police and judges, to create a climate of defiance that is not compatible with the spirit of responsibility or, worse still, to throw extremely serious accusations against the legal system and more widely our institutions,” Hollande said in a statement.

    […]

    There is no exact equivalent of mise en examen, or putting under formal investigation, in British or US legal systems; the nearest is being charged or arraigned. Only an investigating judge can decide to put a suspect under formal investigation, and only if he or she finds “serious and concordant” suggestions of law-breaking.

    […]

  56. says

    “You Cretins Are Going To Get Thousands Of People Killed”:

    …You think Donald Trump noticed how the first thing he did that actually got the TV guys to like him was kill a troop?

    Here are some things Donald Trump is famous for:

    1) Noticing which things he does that elicit positive attention and then doing those things over and over and over again.

    2) Craving the validation of the press, generally the sort of press a 70-year-old upper class New Yorker pays attention to, especially cable news.

    If one dead American service member won him this much praise, just imagine how much they’ll respect him when he kills a couple hundred—or a couple thousand!

    Now that Trump has learned that there is a direct relationship between a president’s body count and how “presidential” the mainstream political press considers him to be, the whole world is fucked.

  57. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    I’ve been struggling to put into words what bothered me about Il Douchebag’s use of Carryn Owens as a prop last night and that horrible, awful, stupid inappropriate fucking joke about breaking a record, but I need not have bothered. Paul Waldman did it for me.

    Let’s review the facts. The Yemen raid on Jan. 29 was the first military action of Trump’s presidency[*]. The idea for raiding this compound, partly in pursuit of the leader of AQAP leader (who wasn’t there) was presented to Trump over dinner one night, and according to NBC News, military representatives “told Trump that they doubted that the Obama administration would have been bold enough to try it,” which was apparently good enough to get him to sign off.

    Then almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong. The militants knew they were coming, possibly tipped off by the increased sound of drones in the area. The team encountered stronger resistance than it expected. A couple of dozen civilians were killed (we don’t know exactly how many, but it could be as many as 30), including children, among them an 8-year-old American girl. Owens was killed. A $75 million Osprey aircraft was damaged in a “hard landing” and had to be destroyed lest it fall into AQAP’s hands.

    We all know that if it had been Hillary Clinton who ordered the Yemen raid, there would already be multiple congressional investigations underway and subpoenas would be falling like rain. That’s one thing the White House doesn’t have to worry about. But they decided that the way to handle questions about the botched raid was to use Ryan Owens as a shield. The raid was a terrific success, said spokesman Sean Spicer, and “anyone that would suggest it’s not a success does a disservice to the life of Chief Ryan Owens.”
    […]
    Then that very night, Trump went before the country, looked Owens’ widow in the face, and presented a tribute to her husband’s undeniable service and courage. As the applause went on and Carryn Owens stood weeping, Trump offered what in the tiny, narcissistic world he exists in is the highest form of praise: And Ryan is looking down, right now, you know that. And he’s very happy, because I think he just broke a record, referring to the length of the ovation.

    What exactly is that supposed to mean? Owens set the “Longest Applause for Dead Servicemember In Joint Speech to Congress” record? What kind of person could possibly think that would matter to anyone? Oh, right — Donald Trump would.

    There are legitimate, outstanding questions about whether Trump’s inexperience, his ignorance, and his desire to seem “tough” — in particular, tougher than Barack Obama — led to Ryan Owens’ death. A president not as spectacularly unprepared and clueless as Trump might have asked a different set of questions, might not have been so easily manipulated — and certainly would have shown some desire to learn from the tragedy.

    But Trump seems determined not to learn a thing. All we’ve heard from him and his aides in the month since the disastrous raid was what a great success it was (despite the fact that at least some reports say that the raid produced little if any useful intelligence). So what happens next time, and the time after that?

    Just a couple of things to add: I’m sick of hearing that the military protects our freedom. Obviously that’s not specific to Trump–politicians of all stripes say that–but there’s no threat to our freedom in Yemen. The biggest threat these days comes from DC.

    Second, I think Waldman misses the larger purpose behind last night’s theater. All fascists need their martyrs, preferably young, strong, and idealistic, and if he has a telegenic widow so much the better. Il Douchebag has found his in Owens, and he will continue to exploit him. Just another brick in the wall.

  58. blf says

    Trump’s next target: people living with HIV/Aids:

    Countless Americans affected by the virus are living in fear of losing the treatment they were only able to receive because of Obamacare

    A month into Donald Trump’s presidency [sic], and the ways in which Trumpism is a threat to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender existence are almost too many to count. However, those most vulnerable to HIV/Aids will be hit the hardest.

    [… T]he ACA has been a lifesaver for many people living with HIV: its subsidies for private insurance and its robust expansion of Medicaid in many states have greatly increased their access to medical treatment. If you doubt the scale of the continuing epidemiological emergency, consider that only about half of African Americans with HIV have access to continuous medical treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

    One way the ACA has addressed the crises is by funding the prevention efforts of Aids service organizations. Beyond people living with HIV, this work is helping to keep the transmission of the virus from further harming the most vulnerable communities […]

    But if “silence equals death”, as the Act Up slogan says, then loud protest is needed to keep people living with HIV from losing access to medication.

    Creating swaths of uninsured people living with HIV who will likely lose access to viral suppressing medication (which makes HIV almost impossible to transmit) will also increase the likelihood of transmission to others. We know that when people in prison who are HIV-positive are released with little medication, they often stop taking it altogether when they run out; their viral load then becomes very high and, research has shown, their sex partners are more susceptible to becoming HIV-positive. (And if Republicans failed to keep the Obamacare provisions which allow people with pre-existing conditions to buy insurance without discrimination, it would be even worse.)

    Remember: when then Indiana governor Mike Pence presided over one of the worst HIV outbreaks in the history of the country in 2015, he first turned to prayer before then turning to Obamacare to ameliorate the outbreak (the latter worked).

    But as vice-president, Politico reported this week: “Pence is helping to lead the Republican effort to dismantle the program that helped him halt the deadly outbreak in an impoverished swathe of Indiana.” Pence wants to end what he knows worked. His horrific HIV record, steeped in heterosexism, racism and Christian supremacy, is going to hurt people living with HIV, queer people, ethnic minorities and the poor the most.

    […]

    In funding prevention programs, the ACA still remains an important channel of government information about HIV/Aids. But if it disappears, the loss may be especially harmful in states which only teach abstinence only sex education.

    As an LGBT community (and this applies to our supporters too), we cannot be focused simply on the Trump administration’s conservative stance on our civil rights. We must be vigilant about how HIV/Aids stands to harm the most vulnerable among us first, do all we can to protect the 1.2 million people in the US already living with HIV, and insist that the government keep the epidemic from getting even worse.

  59. says

    This CNN piece, describing Trump’s speech as his “most presidential showing to date” and a “commander-in-chief style speech” is depressingly fascinating. What they’re concerned with is a simulacrum, however shabby, of a president.

  60. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Seen both my US Senators on MSNBC in the last week. *Clinched fist salute for their resistance to the Bad Rug.*
    Just got a robot call from my Congresscritter, a democrat, about a phone town hall meeting tomorrow night. Think I might decide to actually join in, and ask some hard questions on the general resistance, ACA, SCOTUS, etc. Remind him that if he isn’t part of the solution, Bob Dold (R) will win his off year re-election bid again.

  61. blf says

    The Guardian view on Trump’s Congress speech: different tone, same threat:

    The contrast between the presidential inaugural and the address to Congress was striking. But there are still two Donald Trumps and neither of them is good

    […]

    Much of this [attempt to not act and sound like a Dalek –blf] can be explained by the nature of the event. Congress — and in particular a Republican Congress addressed by a nominally Republican president [sic] — expects to be treated with respect […]

    Mr Trump sometimes talks as though he is a dictator. That may indeed be his instinct. But […] Congress is not his to command. His political impulses and theirs are different on issues such as entitlement programmes like Medicare and social security, as well as geopolitics. […]

    [… T]here are no grounds for thinking, in this most chaotic and divided of administrations, that the battle between the disruptive Mr Trump and the more diplomatic one has been resolved, or will be. Mr Trump may hate the establishment but he needs it to enact much of his agenda — and most politicians on Capitol Hill face re-election in 2018. The big issues of the coming months — the budget, tax, healthcare, immigration, trade — are all political battlegrounds […]

  62. Ichthyic says

    …but it was Trumpenstein’s “secret plan” to cripple ISIL within his first 30 days in office! I’m shocked it didn’t work. SHOCKED, I tell you.

    I mean, who needs to listen to the intelligence agencies telling him it wouldn’t have worked, right? those guys all just hate him anyway.

  63. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    but it was Trumpenstein’s “secret plan” to cripple ISIL within his first 30 days in office! I’m shocked it didn’t work. SHOCKED, I tell you.

    But Trumpenstein is tool of ISIS, as he tries to pretend this a Xian vs. Muslim problem, which supports ISIS playbook. Trump, a tool puppet of many masters….

  64. says

    “Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking”:

    In the Obama administration’s last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election — and about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians — across the government. Former American officials say they had two aims: to ensure that such meddling isn’t duplicated in future American or European elections, and to leave a clear trail of intelligence for government investigators.

    American allies, including the British and the Dutch, had provided information describing meetings in European cities between Russian officials — and others close to Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — and associates of President-elect Trump, according to three former American officials who requested anonymity in discussing classified intelligence. Separately, American intelligence agencies had intercepted communications of Russian officials, some of them within the Kremlin, discussing contacts with Trump associates.

    As Inauguration Day approached, Obama White House officials grew convinced that the intelligence was damning and that they needed to ensure that as many people as possible inside government could see it, even if people without security clearances could not. Some officials began asking specific questions at intelligence briefings, knowing the answers would be archived and could be easily unearthed by investigators — including the Senate Intelligence Committee, which in early January announced an inquiry into Russian efforts to influence the election.

    At intelligence agencies, there was a push to process as much raw intelligence as possible into analyses, and to keep the reports at a relatively low level of classification to ensure as wide a readership as possible across the government — and, in some cases, among European allies. This allowed the upload of as much intelligence as possible to Intellipedia, a secret wiki used by American intelligence analysts to share information.

    There was also an effort to pass reports and other sensitive materials to Congress….

  65. says

    (The headline in the article I link to in #94 misleads. It implies that Obama directed the effort, but the article states that all of their sources said he wasn’t involved.)

  66. blf says

    Only $20m in existing funds found to pay for Mexico wall, document says:

    Construction for Donald Trump’s proposed border wall hit a financial roadblock over low ‘existing funds and resources’ in the homeland security department

    Donald Trump’s promise to use existing funds to begin immediate construction of a wall on the US–Mexico border has hit a financial roadblock, according to a document seen by Reuters.

    The rapid start of construction […] was to be financed, according to the White House, with existing funds and resources of the Department of Homeland Security.

    But so far, the DHS has identified only $20m that can be redirected to the multibillion-dollar project, according to a document prepared by the agency and distributed to congressional budget staff last week.

    The document said the funds would be enough to cover a handful of contracts for wall prototypes, but not enough to begin construction of an actual barrier. This means that for the wall to move forward, the White House will need to convince Congress to appropriate funds.

    […]

    The DHS only searched for extra funds within its $376m budget for border security fencing, infrastructure and technology, so it would not have to ask for congressional approval to repurpose funding, according to the document.

    Contractors cannot begin bidding to develop prototypes until 6 March but more than 265 businesses already have listed themselves as interested parties on a government web site.

    Those interested range from small businesses to large government contractors such as Raytheon.

    That sounds like 265+ business to boycott and, ideally, drive out of business. Nazis are not welcome.

    Some more information on these scumbags, Almost 200 Firms Have Bid To Build Trump’s Border Wall:

    […]
    Several corporate titans, among them Raytheon, a defense contractor, and Caddell, a construction company with a global portfolio, have expressed preliminary interest in building the wall. Leo A Daly, an international architecture and engineering firm, was one of the more prominent design firms listed. Dozens of companies described themselves as minority owned, veteran owned, or small disadvantaged businesses. Nineteen of the interested vendors are woman-owned companies, and 15 are Hispanic American owned.

    […]

    Any company (or companies) picked for the job faces a sincere reputational risk. “No Ban, No Wall” has emerged as a rallying cry for Muslim and Latino communities and their allies at protests held across the nation. The firm that wins the final RFP may also earn undesirable exposure from activists.

    [… A] border wall with Mexico may be a project in which Trump cannot resist playing developer-in-chief. He has already invited Jorge Pérez, a former business partner and the head of Related Group, to help build the wall.

    Pérez rejected Trump’s offer, calling the wall “the most idiotic thing I’ve ever seen or heard in my life.”

    The above article contains a link to the presolicitation, however, to obtain the list of scumbags you must have an account.

  67. blf says

    Afghan-Canadian doctor detained at US border and asked about tribal chief:

    Sardar Ahmad, Fulbright scholar from Afghanistan who has lived in the US and is now a Canadian citizen, held for five hours at US border

    A Canadian doctor originally from Afghanistan was held for five hours at the US border and questioned about his tribal chief before he was eventually allowed entry to the US.

    Sardar Ahmad left Afghanistan more than a decade ago to move to the United States on a prestigious Fulbright scholarship. In 2007, he moved to Canada to complete his medical residency, eventually setting up practice in the southern Ontario city of Sarnia and becoming a Canadian citizen.

    After receiving notice that his Nexus card — part of a program designed to expedite border crossings for low-risk, pre-approved travellers — had been revoked, Ahmad decided to use his lunch break on Friday to pay a visit to the Nexus office in Michigan.

    As he explained the situation to officials at the Blue Water Bridge crossing, Ahmad said his car keys were taken from him. He was then held for more than five hours and questioned about his life in Afghanistan, the family he had left behind and whether he had seen a lot of gunmen while growing up there.

    […]

    Last week, as Ahmad was being held by border officials, he worried about the elderly patients who were waiting to see him at his clinic. “I was telling (the US border agents): ‘I need to call my clinic to at least cancel the patients,’ and they said, No, you can’t touch the phone.”

    While an official did eventually allow him to contact the clinic and enter the US, Ahmad said he declined to enter the country and that the experience left him with little interest in traveling to the US again.

    […] US Customs and Border Protection said it could not discuss individual cases due to privacy concerns. In its email, the agency noted that it was committed to the fair, impartial and respectful treatment of all members of the trade and traveling public.

  68. says

    “Sessions spoke twice with Russian ambassador during Trump’s presidential campaign, Justice officials say”:

    Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Justice Department officials said, encounters he did not disclose when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow during Sessions’s confirmation hearing to become attorney general.

    One of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.

    The previously undisclosed discussions could fuel new congressional calls for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russia’s alleged role in the 2016 presidential election. As attorney general, Sessions oversees the Justice Department and the FBI, which have been leading investigations into Russian meddling and any links to Trump’s associates. He has so far resisted calls to recuse himself.

    At his Jan. 10 Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Sessions was asked by Sen. Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, what he would do if he learned of any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of the 2016 campaign.

    “I’m not aware of any of those activities,” he responded. He added: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”

    In January, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) asked Sessions for answers to written questions. “Several of the President-elect’s nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?” Leahy wrote.

    Sessions responded with one word: “No.”

    Sessions’s public position on Russia has evolved over time.

    In an interview with RealClear World on the sidelines of the German Marshall Fund’s Brussels Forum in March 2015, Sessions said the United States and Europe “have to unify” against Russia.

    More than a year later, he spoke about fostering a stronger relationship with the Kremlin. In a July 2016 interview with CNN’s “State of the Union,” Sessions praised Trump’s plan to build better relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    “Donald Trump is right. We need to figure out a way to end this cycle of hostility that’s putting this country at risk, costing us billions of dollars in defense, and creating hostilities,” Sessions told CNN….

  69. says

    This one’s pretty vague, from the WSJ – “Investigators Probed Jeff Sessions’ Contacts With Russian Officials”:

    U.S. investigators have examined contacts Attorney General Jeff Sessions had with Russian officials during the time he was advising Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, according to people familiar with the matter.

    The outcome of the investigation, and whether it is ongoing, wasn’t clear, these people said. The contacts were being examined as part of a wide-ranging U.S. counterintelligence investigation into possible communications between members of President Trump’s campaign team and Russian operatives, they said….

  70. says

    Sessions will just claim that he was doing his job as a Senator at the time, and that he meets with ambassadors all the time

    We’re supposed to take his word for the claim that he didn’t discuss any election issues with the Russians.

    He does seem to have lied to his fellow Senators during the confirmation hearings, but he will wiggle out of that as well.

    We are already hearing from team Trump that the new Washington Post story and the new New York Times story are false …. and that both stories are just evidence of Democrats trying to take Trump down, (and also to create ill will in order to dump on the obviously great speech Trump gave to Congress).

  71. says

    Graham was careful, he said that “If the FBI determines that there is evidence that suggests there should be a prosecution, then Jeff Sessions can not make that decision, a special prosecutor is needed” [paraphrasing].

    McCain did not go that far. He said the intelligence committees should have a chance to do their job.

    Neither suggested Sessions should step down, but to be fair, Bash just dropped in their lap as breaking news.

  72. blf says

    China accuses western media of fake news about human rights:

    The Guardian among outlets to report on alleged torture of lawyer Xie Yang, which sparked Beijing’s Trump-style rebuke

    China has launched a Donald Trump-style attack on foreign media, branding claims that a leading human rights lawyer was tortured by government agents fake news.

    Xinhua, the government’s official news agency, accused the overseas media of hyping a series of cleverly orchestrated lies by publishing reports about the plight of attorney Xie Yang, who was detained in July 2015 at the start of a crackdown known as China’s war on law.

    Reports about Xie’s alleged torture by security agents surfaced on overseas human rights websites late last year. More detailed accounts of similar claims subsequently appeared in newspapers including the Guardian, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and Japan’s Asahi Shimbun.

    Experts said the allegations, while impossible to verify, were consistent with abuses previously documented by human rights groups.

    On Thursday, however, China’s Communist party-controlled media launched unusually pointed criticism over the claims that Xie had been abused, directing its ire against four articles published by overseas websites focused on human rights in October and November 2016:

    Investigations reveal ‘torture stories’ about Chinese lawyer Xie Yang are nothing but cleverly orchestrated lies

    […]

    It alleged the reports had been entirely fabricated by Jiang Tianyong, another prominent human rights lawyer who disappeared last November after being seized by police.

    […]

    David Bandurski, an expert on Chinese journalism from the University of Hong Kong, said Beijing had long used the concept of fake news (jia xinwen) to discredit reporting it did not approve of.

    […]

    “There are many unfortunate parallels between the language used by Mr Trump on the media and the sorts of attacks we’ve seen in authoritarian countries like China,” Bandurski said.

    […]

    [Sarah Cook, a senior research analyst for east Asia at the Freedom House advocacy group,] said China’s fake news claim also underlined how Trump’s use of the concept to discredit unwanted press coverage was being picked up by different authoritarian regimes and leaders and state media around the world.

    The US president’s repeated attacks on the media not only made it harder for Washington to criticise press freedom violations elsewhere but also provided “cover for regimes like the one in Beijing” to attack the press, Cook said, adding: “I’m assuming they must be pretty pleased.”

    […]

    The reports about Xie’s alleged torture published in the Guardian, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Asahi Shimbun were based on detailed transcripts of conversations between the prisoner and two of his lawyers, Chen Jiangang and Liu Zhengqing, that took place in January.

    Chinese reports did not directly refer to those stories or interviews but instead focused on four less detailed accounts that were published late last year by dissident-run human rights websites including China Free Press and Boxun.

    […]

    Speaking to Reuters, Xie’s lawyer Chen said his client’s torture claims were genuine.

  73. says

    We are already hearing from team Trump that the new Washington Post story and the new New York Times story are false

    Sessions own spokesperson has acknowledged the contacts. His responses to Senators’ questions are on tape and in writing.

  74. says

    Matt Yglesias is making the point this morning that I woke up thinking about from a slightly different angle.

    Several people seem strangely reluctant to believe that Trump could possibly have been personally involved with any collusion. But if anything’s been consistent about him, it’s that he cheats and lies. He cheats in sports, he’s cheated and lied in business for decades, and he’s cheated on and lied to his wives. He sees himself and Putin as forging a rightwing power alliance to rule the world, and he’s always wanted to win at any cost. Of course he would cheat in an election and lie about it.

  75. blf says

    Similar to @108, Cambodian Government Cites Trump in Threatening Foreign News Outlets:

    In a sign that President [sic] Trump’s criticism of the news media may [sic] be having a ripple effect overseas, a government spokesman in Cambodia has cited the American leader in threatening to shutter foreign news outlets, including some that receive money from Washington.

    The spokesman, Phay Siphan, said that foreign news groups, including the United States-financed Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, should reconsider how they broadcast — or risk a government response if their reports are deemed to spread disinformation or threaten peace and stability.

    The White House decision to bar several news outlets, including The New York Times, CNN and Politico, from a briefing last week, Mr Phay Siphan said in a Facebook post on Saturday, sends a clear message that Mr Trump sees that news broadcast by those media outlets does not reflect the truth, which is the responsibility of professional journalists.

    Freedom of expression, he wrote, is subject to the law and must respect the state’s power.

    […]

    [Shawn W. Crispin, the Bangkok-based Southeast Asia representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists, a nonpartisan advocacy group based in New York,] said he worried that Mr Phay Siphan’s comments would “open a can of worms” in Southeast Asian countries where journalists already face official intimidation, such as Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

    Representatives for Voice of America and Radio Free Asia pushed back against Mr Phay Siphan’s comments on Tuesday.

    “For decades, Voice of America has been a model of the very American bedrock of values of a free and independent press,” Amanda Bennett, the broadcaster’s director, said in an email. “Those are the principles we have long lived and worked by, especially in places around the world where those values are under attack.”

    […]

  76. says

    Steve Benen discussed the New York Times report that Obama’s team took steps to protect intelligence files related to the Trump team’s connections to Russia. He also discussed new reports from Politico.

    I heard Ted Cruz say that all of the new reporting on those connections to Russia was a “nothing burger.” Other Republicans are saying the same. At this point, I can’t see why they are continuing to go this route since it is no longer tenable. The “nothing burger” is now full of meaty details.

    From Benen:

    […] This is actually two parallel revelations packaged together. First, there’s apparently additional evidence, including information from U.S. allies abroad, that point to communications between Putin’s government and Trump associates. The nature of those talks is unclear, but if they occurred, the denials from the president, the vice president, and their aides weren’t true.

    Second, there’s staffers in Obama’s White House, who believed it was important to preserve evidence before the intelligence “could be covered up or destroyed” by Trump and his administration.

    The Times’ reporting added that there was a “suspicion among many in the Obama White House that the Trump campaign might have colluded with Russia” during Russia’s espionage operation.

    Politico, meanwhile, reported this morning, “An Obama White House national security official said the administration was gravely concerned in its final days about increasingly apparent ties between Trump associates and Russians, and about what appeared to be promises made by more than one individual to representatives of Russian President Vladimir Putin about policy changes that would occur once Trump was sworn in as president.”

    The Politico piece quoted the senior official from the Obama White House saying, “It seems pretty clear that [former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn] was not a rogue here. I don’t believe that Flynn was the only person promising things to the Russians, communicating to them what would happen once the Trump administration came in.” […]

    Here’s a repeat of the excerpt from the New York Times article that is most relevant:

    American allies, including the British and the Dutch, had provided information describing meetings in European cities between Russian officials – and others close to Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin – and associates of President-elect Trump, according to three former American officials who requested anonymity in discussing classified intelligence. Separately, American intelligence agencies had intercepted communications of Russian officials, some of them within the Kremlin, discussing contacts with Mr. Trump’s associates.

    Add to this the fact that Jeff Sessions met one-on-one with the Russian ambassador in September 2016 … this is not over by a long shot.

  77. says

    Republicans are amending their health care proposal to replace Obamacare, but their plan is secret. They are even hiding the bill from the Congressional Budget Office, which is an indication that they don’t want anyone, even legislators, to know how much it is going to cost.

    […] House Republican leaders have a new version of their major Obamacare repeal and replacement bill. They just don’t want you to see it.

    The document is being treated a bit like a top-secret surveillance intercept. It is expected to be available to members and staffers on the House and Energy Commerce panel starting Thursday, but only in a dedicated reading room, one Republican lawmaker and a committee aide said. Nobody will be given copies to take with them…. With this latest draft, leaders are taking additional steps to make sure it doesn’t leak prematurely, before some members have signed onto it. […]

    Bloomberg link

  78. blf says

    I’m currently having WiFi troubles in the café, so apologies for not excerpting… This isn’t surprising per se, Research indicates Trump travel ban was based on misleading data: “Donald Trump insists that most convicted terrorists came here from outside our country, but there is plenty of evidence that contradicts him”. Apparently hair furor & the dalekocracy is using a report complied by(? for?) Jeff Sessions last year which counts only “international”-related “terrorism” incidents (in the States), and excludes domestic terrorism.

  79. blf says

    This is an interesting read, Dutch elections: all you need to know: “After Brexit vote and Trump win, presence of anti-Islam, anti-EU Geert Wilders is drawing global attention to 15 March vote”. Again, due to intermittent café WiFi problems, I’m not excerpting.

  80. says

    Here’s what Sessions said during the confirmation process:

    I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.

    That’s a lie, but Sessions says it is not a lie because he met with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak as a Senator and that he didn’t think the conversations he had with the Russian were relevant to the questions being asked during the confirmation hearings.

    I’m not buying that, Jeff Sessions. Neither is Steve Benen.

    […] * Why would Sessions talk to an official with the Russian government? Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) noted overnight that she’s been on the Senate Armed Services Committee for a decade, and she’s never had any reason to call or meet with the Russian ambassador. What’s more, the Washington Post talked to 20 senators who were on the committee in 2016 – from both parties – and not one of them had communicated with the Russian ambassador.

    Sessions, however, had two separate meetings. He says the communications were “superficial” and unimportant, but we have no idea if that’s true. We also don’t know why he’d take steps to conceal conversations that were anodyne.

    It’d also be interesting to know if Sessions had other routine meetings with the Russian ambassador prior to 2016, or if this was unique to last year’s election period. […]

    * Is Sessions facing legal jeopardy? Richard Painter‏, the chief ethics lawyer in the Bush/Cheney administration, said, in reference to the comments Sessions made under oath, “Misleading the Senate in sworn testimony about one’s own contacts with the Russians is a good way to go to jail.”

    * Is there anything from Sessions’ past that could make things worse for him? As a matter of fact, yes. During the Bill Clinton impeachment affair 20 years ago, Sessions characterized lying under oath as a high crime, worthy of removal from office. Public officials can’t “play games with the law and the truth,” he said in 1999.

    * Should Sessions, in his capacity as Attorney General, officially separate himself from a possible role in the investigation into the Russia scandal? Obviously, yes, as even some Republicans have acknowledged. Given his role as a leading Trump ally, it was already incumbent on Sessions to recuse himself from the process, but now that we know about his contacts with a Russian official during the campaign, the debate is effectively over. […]

  81. says

    Here is the official White House response to the report about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ meetings with the Russian ambassador during the campaign.

    This is the latest attack against the Trump Administration by partisan Democrats. General Sessions met with the ambassador in an official capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is entirely consistent with his testimony. It’s no surprise Senator Al Franken is pushing this story immediately following President Trump’s successful address to the nation.

  82. says

    Dear Jeff Sessions, take a look at what you said in the past:

    […] As an article published on Fox News’s website days before the election said, “The appropriate response when the subject matter is public and it arises in a highly charged political atmosphere is for the attorney general to appoint a special counsel of great public stature and indisputable independence to assure the public the matter will be handled without partisanship.”

    The article, which called for an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server and pay-to-play allegations surrounding the Clinton Foundation, argued that Loretta Lynch, then the attorney general, could not serve as a neutral arbiter, given her impromptu meeting with Bill Clinton on her airplane earlier in the year. One of the article’s co-authors was Jeff Sessions.

    The quoted text is from the New York Times.

  83. Ogvorbis: A bear of very little brains. says

    Lynna @122:

    Oh, no. This is completely different because Trump gave a speech and actually read the teleprompters instead of free-associating and FAKE NEWZ and Obama and Clinton so for really good reasons, failing NYTimes, this doesn’t apply.

  84. blf says

    The Onion, Man Trying To Leave Hateful Message At Local Synagogue Frustrated Phone Line Always Tied Up With Other Threats.

    And from a British satire site, Trump live tweets secret tour of area 51:

    […]
    During his visit to the top secret facility, Trump secretly tweeted his day, here is his Twitter feed shortly before it was deleted.

    Just arrived in Roswell, what a crap hole, why on Earth would aliens even want to visit here?

    Settled in nicely, have just checked the document of an alien I think is illegal, he was.

    Secret service have taken him away, will be deported back to Zyrion C.
    […]
    Being shown around these top secret alien ships, they’ve got lasers and everything.
    […]
    Discussing the intergalactic expansion of Trump merchandise with Ambassador Clinton [“the alien that crashed at Roswell”]
    […]

  85. blf says

    Here in France, Calais mayor bans distribution of food to migrants:

    Natacha Bouchart says handing out of meals poses security threat, as city tries to stop establishment of new refugee camp

    The mayor of Calais has banned the distribution of food to migrants as part of a campaign to prevent the establishment of a new refugee camp as hundreds of people return to the port three months after the original one was demolished.

    Natacha Bouchart, from the centre-right Les Républicains party [of the failing, and flailing, wingnut François Fillon –blf], said she would implement policies to prevent the distribution of meals to migrants […]. Officials have already obstructed attempts by local charities to open showers for teenage migrants in the town.

    Food distribution volunteers said they had been forced to do so in secret because of a heightened police presence. Refugee charities said they would ignore the ban […]

    […]

    Sarah Arrom, who has been helping to distribute food with the charity Utopia56 for the last four months, said police had fired teargas to prevent volunteers from giving breakfast to around 30 teenagers in a field […]

    Twice this week teenage refugees had been detained by police after visiting the Secours Catholique centre, which offers showers for refugees in the city, she said.

    “Conditions are becoming more and more problematic for the migrants. They don’t sleep, they can’t take a shower, they are more and more tired. We are really worried about their future.”

    […]

    Renke Meuwese, who works with Refugee Community Kitchen and Help Refugees, said the kitchens were making about 400 meals a day, up from about 50 last month.

    He said police seemed to be particularly concerned about reducing the visibility of refugees. “They are trying to make the refugees invisible, so they make it harder to distribute in town than the countryside. We can’t distribute at day so we have to do it at night. They are trying to push them out of sight.”

    […]

  86. says

    So Paul Ryan said that SSessions* would recuse himself if he was the subject of an investigation (truthfully, I’m not sure if he even meant that he’d have to recuse himself from the larger investigation or just from the investigation of himself). That’s now the Republican standard for the Attorney General of the United States. Pretty far cry from an expectation of impartiality, being above reproach, and avoiding even the appearance of impropriety. No one will forget this.

    * (That was a typo but I’m keeping it.)

  87. blf says

    The European Parliament is taking action on hair furor’s Muslim ban, MEPs seek to exempt citizens with joint EU citizenship from US travel ban:

    MEPs want to use aviation agreement signed by US and EU in 2007 to prevent discrimination based on religious affiliation

    The European parliament has taken a first step in trying to prevent Donald Trump’s attempted travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries affecting those with joint EU citizenship, by testing the legality of the order under an international agreement.

    […]

    It is hoped that the president’s executive order will be found in breach of the “open skies” deal by causing undue interference in the business models of EU airlines.

    If the EU is unable to successfully argue that case, MEPs intend to argue that the agreement should be amended, or that EU legislation be devised to ensure that there cannot be any discrimination against European nationals based on religious affiliation.

    “That is our end goal,” a source close to the committee[] said. “It is important to put this on the agenda. The European commission may not be able to do anything but it needs to send a message about our values.”

    […]

    The International Air Transport Association has already complained that Trump’s executive order was issued “without prior coordination or warning, causing confusion among both airlines and travellers”. “It also placed additional burdens on airlines to comply with unclear requirements, to bear implementation costs and to face potential penalties for non-compliance,” a statement said.

    However, the MEPs initiative is the first attempt to test the legality of the executive order under an international agreement.

    […]

      † It’s not immediately clear which committee is meant here — probably the Transport Committee, but possibly the Joint EU-US Committee.

  88. blf says

    Here the Grauniad has (and hopefully will continue to) track Trump associates’ links with Russia: what we know so far: “Questions continue to be asked about the scale of alleged Russian influence over the president and the campaign that took him to the White House. Here we look at the links — known and alleged — between Donald Trump’s associates and allies and Moscow”.

    It does not seem to mention people like Dana Rohrabacher (see @404(previous page), “Putin’s favorite Congressman”, only the more directly-connected daleks. (There are also diagrams showing the connections to both hair furor and various Russians.)

  89. says

    Nunes and Schiff are doing a joint* press conference. The FBI isn’t giving them a full briefing.

    * Joint but serial. Nunes answered questions first, and now Schiff is.

  90. KG says

    “For decades, Voice of America has been a model of the very American bedrock of values of a free and independent press,” Amanda Bennett, the broadcaster’s [Voice of America] director, said in an email. – New York Times, quoted by blf@114

    Comedy gold!

  91. says

    Trump is going to speak at 2:30 and CNN and MSNBC have boxes alerting people to it, CNN periodically cuts to the venue and shots of the helicopter landing, and evidently both networks are going to carry it live and in full, because that’s how they roll.

  92. says

    This is a follow-up to comment 116.

    The super-secret, must be hidden from we the people, Republican health care bill has gone missing!

    What started as House Speaker Paul Ryan trying to strong-arm a top-secret Obamacare replacement plan through Congress in the next three weeks has turned into a total and complete clusterfuck. This is just indescribably ridiculous.

    […] the secret draft plan was supposed to be locked in a secret room where only House Republicans on the health subcommittee were allowed to see it. It was being treated like the most sensitive national security intelligence document ever.

    Until Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee found the room, which was being guarded—I am not kidding—by Capitol Hill Police. That galvanized Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who had been on a lengthy tweeting tirade against Ryan’s tactic, into action: “I am heading to the secure location where they are keeping the House obamacare bill. I will demand a copy for the American people.”

    When he got there, the drama intensified—he was denied entry! Paul holds an impromptu press conference because of course the press flocked to the secret room to see the action. But wait! The bill isn’t there! Even Republicans who are allowed into the room aren’t able to find it. “Rep. Kevin Brady (R) just came out of H-157 too. He also says no bill inside. The great hunt for a GOP replace bill continues. “[From Sarah Kliff]

    As of press time, the Republican plan is on the lam and no one knows exactly what’s in it, or why it has to be classified. […]

    Link

    From Nancy Pelosi, “Release the hounds.”

    #WheresTheBill

  93. blf says

    UN climate chief unable to secure meeting with US state department:

    Global governance expert decries ‘snub’ of Patricia Espinosa as Trump administration considers whether to pull out of Paris climate deal

    Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is currently in the US and has sought a meeting with Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, and other officials over the commitment of the new administration to global climate goals.

    However, Espinosa said she had not had a response to her request and a state department official said there were no scheduled meetings to announce.

    The official added: As with many policies, this administration is conducting a broad review of international climate issues.

    [Previous] US secretaries of state haven’t always met directly with the head of the UNFCCC, with meetings often conducted by the US climate envoy, a position currently vacant. However, the lack of response to Espinosa, the former foreign minister of Mexico, is unusual even given the nascency of the new administration.

    “I don’t think it’s a good sign — it’s a snub,” said Maria Ivanova, a global governance expert at the University of Massachusetts. “[… N]ot responding to the executive secretary is not good manners.”

    […]

    This stance[] has been countered by a group that reportedly includes Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, and her husband, the Trump adviser Jared Kushner. The duo are understood to have convinced Trump to not include language critical of the Paris agreement in a forthcoming executive order. Dozens of large businesses, including Nike, Hewlett-Packard and Ikea, have also urged Trump to stick with the Paris deal.

    […]

      † It’s not all clear what “This stance” is referring to; probably “exiting” the Paris deal (based on the rest of the paragraph), but possibly the method for such an exit (there are at least two schemes discussed (redacted from the above excerpt)).

  94. says

    The count of Congressional Democrats calling on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign is now up to 105.

    In related news, team Trump decided not to provide an ethics course for White House Staff, Cabinet nominees and other political appointees. The ethics course they rejected was to provide training in the areas of leadership, ethics, and management.

    […] The documents suggest the program could have better prepared officials for working within existing laws and executive orders, and provided guidance on how to navigate Senate confirmation for nominees and political appointees, how to deal with congressional and media scrutiny, and how to work with Congress and collaborate with agencies — some of the same issues that have become major stumbling blocks in the early days of the administration. […]

    The program was expected to cost $1 million, the documents show. The contract-based training program was authorized in 2000, and the Obama and Bush transitions both received the training. […]

    Politico link

  95. says

    Seth Meyers took a closer look at Trump’s speech to the joint session of Congress, and, more specifically, at the stupid media praise for Trump being “normal” and/or “presidential.”

    Scroll down for video.

  96. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    The super-secret, must be hidden from we the people, Republican health care bill has gone missing!

    In order to read it, you must time your jump perfectly, then walk through the wall at the end of the level, go down the third pipe from the left, then…

  97. says

    Wonkette covered the fact that Jeff Sessions met with the Russian ambassador during the campaign and then lied about it:

    It looks like the Trump-Russia fuck-tussle is officially transitioning into the important Shit Hitting the Fan stage, as the Washington Post reported Wednesday evening that Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III met twice during the campaign with the Russian ambassador, then said during his confirmation hearings, in answer to both oral and written questions, that he hadn’t ever spoken to no Russkies, ever.

    The official Trump line on all this is apparently to claim it’s a big nothingburger, since Sessions was definitely meeting ambassador Sergey Kislyak while wearing his “member of the Senate Armed Services Committee” hat, not his MAGA hat, and also all the fuss over this is simply a plot by Barack Obama loyalists to step on Trump’s hugely successful speech Tuesday night.

    […] While he was was an advisor to Donald Trump’s campaign on foreign policy, explaining in small words that we can’t just nuke countries where Trump doesn’t have golf courses, the future attorney general had two meetings with Russian ambassador Kislyak, one in July during the Republican National Convention, and another in September, in Sessions’s office, at the same time Russian intelligence services were diddling the American election as hard as they could. Then, during his confirmation hearings to be attorney general, Sessions explicitly denied he’d ever had any contacts with Russians […]

    “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.” […]

    Sessions’s spokesperson, Sarah Isgur Flores, didn’t deny that Sessions had met with the Russian ambassador, but insisted “There was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer,” because Sessions thought he was being asked about meetings he may have held as a member of the Trump campaign, not as a senator, which pretty much made him two different people […]

    “Members of the committee have not been beating a path to Kislyak’s door,” a senior Senate Armed Services Committee staffer said, citing tensions in relations with Moscow. […]

    Nope, never met with any Russians to discuss a political campaign. And he didn’t have foreign relations with that ambassador. […] But Sessions having a one-on-one meeting in his office with Kislyak in September? That there’s a burger, and we need to find out what toppings were on it, even if Sessions says now he hardly even remembers it. […]

    Not surprisingly, there are now all sorts of calls for Sessions to, at a minimum, recuse himself from any investigations of the Trump campaign and Russia; […]

    Sessions isn’t good enough, he’s not smart enough, and darn it, we’re tired of him. […]

  98. says

    “US Senate calls on British spy Chris Steele to give evidence on explosive Trump-Russia dossier”:

    Christopher Steele, the former MI6 spy who prepared the explosive Trump report, has been approached about testifying before the US Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the new President’s alleged links with Russia, The Independent can reveal.

    Mr Steele’s friends say it is currently unlikely he would be willing to travel to the US. But it is understood Democrats – as well as some Republicans – in Congress are prepared to facilitate discreet initial meetings in the UK or on other neutral territory.

    Mr Steele has not yet responded to requests to meet with Senate officials – described as informal at this stage – for testimony, which have come over the last fortnight. But friends say he may be willing to speak about his investigation to senators and US officials if certain security conditions are met.

    Mr Steele has been regularly supplying information to the FBI. In June last year, for instance, he produced a memo which went to the bureau stating that Mr Trump’s campaign team had agreed to a Russian request to dilute attention on Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine.

    Four days later Mr Trump stated that he would recognise Moscow’s annexation of Crimea: officials involved in his campaign having already asked the Republican party’s election platform to remove a pledge for military assistance to the Ukrainian government against separatist rebels in the east of the country.

    Mr Steele claimed the Trump campaign was taking this path because it was aware that the Russians were hacking Democratic Party emails. The same day that Mr Trump spoke about Crimea, he called on the Kremlin to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails.

    However, Mr Steele became increasingly frustrated that the FBI was failing to take action on the intelligence from others as well as him.

    He came to believe there was a cover-up, that a cabal within the bureau blocked a thorough inquiry into Mr Trump, focusing instead on the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. The MI6 officer’s passing of information to the FBI ceased in December last year.

  99. blf says

    Countries pledge millions to plug hole left by US ‘global gag rule’ (also known as the “Mexico City policy”):

    Brussels conference hopes to raise $600m for safe abortions worldwide after Trump administration reinstated US funding ban

    Countries have pledged tens of millions for family planning schemes in developing countries to plug a gap left by Donald Trump’s ban on US funding to groups linked to abortion.

    About 50 governments are attending the hastily convened She Decides conference in Brussels on Thursday, with early pledges closing in on $100m (£80m).

    Sweden promised $22m and Finland $21m to compensate for the reinstated “global gag rule”, which bans US funding for NGOs that provide abortion or information on the procedure to women in developing countries.

    […]

    Organisers hope to raise $600m. […]

    […]

    Sweden’s international development minister [Isabella Lövin (who is also environment minister)] cited evidence from the World Health Organization showing that, under George W Bush’s presidency, the rule increased abortions and maternal deaths from unsafe terminations. “This is something we can prevent,” she said.

    Alexander De Croo, Belgium’s deputy prime minister, told the Associated Press: “This should not be a moment where we are taking steps back into the dark ages.”

    […]

    Afghanistan, Chad and Ethiopia are among the developing countries sending representatives to the conference, where they are expected to give evidence on how funding for family planning makes a difference to women’s lives.

    Organisers have also expressed hope that US foundations may get involved by contributing funds. While the conference has been warmly welcomed by NGOs, some have voiced fears the money cannot be raised quickly enough to fill the shortfall left by Trump’s executive order.

    […]

  100. says

    UnknownEric @141, Ha! Thanks for the laugh. I needed that.

    Meanwhile, let’s look at Donald Trump Jr.’s most recent connection to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

    Donald Trump Jr. was “likely” paid at least $50,000 in October by a French foreign-policy group whose president nominated Vladimir Putin for the Nobel Peace Prize and whose president’s wife “regularly visits Moscow to coordinate policy with Russia’s Foreign Ministry” on behalf of a different group that she leads […]

    Trump Jr., a prominent campaign surrogate for his father who is now running the Trump Organization with his brother Eric, gave a speech at a dinner held by the Center of Political and Foreign Affairs in Paris on Oct. 11. A speaking agency that represents Trump Jr. lists his fee for such events as $50,000, and the Trump Organization has not denied that he was paid by the CPFA.

    The CPFA is run by an individual named Fabien Baussart, who along with his Syrian-born wife, Randa Kassis, has been publicly supportive of Russia’s position regarding the civil war in Syria. Kassis apparently leads a Syrian party called the Movement for a Pluralistic Society and told the Journal she has traveled to Moscow on several occasions to meet with “Russian diplomats.” […]

    Trump Jr. thus (apparently) joins former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort as individuals in POTUS’s inner circle who’ve been paid by Putin-affiliated entities.

    Trump advisers Roger Stone and Carter Page, along with Flynn and Manafort, are also reportedly being investigated for having had contact with Russian intelligence officials during the campaign, while attorney general and former Trump-campaign national security advisory committee chairman Jeff Sessions met in September with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. and then failed to disclose that meeting to the Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearings.

    Slate link

  101. says

    The rightwing explanation for Trump ordering his steak well-done, with ketchup, can be found on InfoWars and on the r/The_Donald subreddit:

    Only men with testosterone deficiencies order their steak anything less than burnt to a crisp.

    Satanists and pedophiles like their meat raw, so it makes sense that Trump would like his well done.

    My buddy claims real men eat their steak well done.

    90% of HollyWood thinks their palette is too fine for such a condiment as ketchup.

    POTUS and Billionaire eating like the working class people he loves so dearly. Keep killing it Mr. President, I want 8 years of this.

    Okay, then. Anything Trump does or says will be justified by the members of his cult.

  102. blf says

    Tom Hanks sends espresso machine to help White House press fight for truth:

    […]
    Tom Hanks has delivered an espresso machine to the White House press corps to provide a caffeinated boost to their efforts in the “good fight for truth”.

    The gesture continues a long-running tradition by Hanks, who first bestowed a new coffee machine for the journalists covering the White House in 2004, during George W Bush’s presidency.

    This time, the machine was accompanied by a note […]: “To The White House Press Corps, Keep up the good fight for Truth, Justice and the American way. Especially for the Truth part.”

    […]

    Hanks […] has previously referred to Trump as “a self-involved gasbag” […].

    The coffee machine replaces one that Hanks bought in 2010, after he noticed that the “poor slobs of the fourth estate” had left his original gift from 2004 in a sorry state from overuse.

    “You know, you are supposed to clean this after every use,” he reportedly told the journalists.

    […]

    Twittered photo.

  103. tomh says

    @ #148
    Hanks is a good guy. Among other things, he’s contributed a lot of money to AIDS research.

  104. blf says

    Re @149: What exceptional eejits think the Scottish won’t protest much? Even ignoring the (widespread, as far as I know) dislike of teh trum-prat in Scotland, the Scottish have a reputation for a rather robust attitude towards protesting. Some examples of protests in Scotland about hair furor, Signs of the times: Scotland’s Trump protests and Just 19 Incredibly Scottish Signs Telling Donald Trump He’s A Bawbag†. And note that was in the middle of winter, an autumn visit is exceptionally unlikely to deter protests due to the weather.

      † Bawbag: “Scrotum”, “Specifically applied pejoratively to one who is foolish or annoying […]”.

  105. blf says

    @154, the dead cat, not to mention the turkeys, are each, individually, smarter than all the congressional thugs combined.

  106. says

    Sessions’ memory seems to come and go.

    Ari Melber is calling it a partial recusal because it only concerns investigations related to the campaign (i.e., prior to election day).

  107. blf says

    Whilst I suspect this Analysis: outcry over Jeff Sessions’s Russia ties could be big blow for Trump (“With Sessions under pressure to resign, Trump faces the loss of a central figure from whom he has borrowed staff, intellectual direction and popular support”) is flawed — it seems to be assuming that should Sessions leave, that will be the end of his influence — it also makes the interesting points that Sessions and teh trum-prat seem to be close, and “there are intricate bonds between one of the president’s earliest campaign supporters and numerous corners of the current presidency.” Sessions has recommended(or similar) numerous daleks, including (e.g.) Rick Dearborn (deputy chief of staff in the White House) and Stephen Miller (senior adviser to the president for policy), plus other monsters such as Paul Manafort and Carter Page.

  108. says

    SC @156, Sessions still doesn’t think he did anything wrong. Also, he made the point that he was considering recusing himself from any investigations related to Trump’s campaign before the news broke about his meeting with the Russian ambassador.

    I thought that Sessions’ description of the meeting in his office in September was inadequate.

  109. says

    Looking at anti-semitic attacks and threats from a different angle:

    Except for Tel Aviv in Israel, New York City is home to the largest Jewish population on earth. And since January 1, the number of attacks and threats made towards Jews in the five boroughs is up 94 percent compared to the same period last year.

    The New York Police Department has documented 68 hate crimes since the year began, more than half of which targeted Jews. Over the same span in 2016 there were 44 hate crimes — an increase of 55 percent from year to year. […]

    Think Progress link

  110. says

    Rick Perry has been confirmed as energy secretary.

    […] Perry also helped smoothed his path by contritely rescinding his pledge to dismantle the Energy Department — uttered during his 2012 presidential campaign — and reversing course on years of comments dismissing climate change science and scientists.

    Perry lacks the academic pedigree of his immediate predecessors, Ernest Moniz, Steven Chu and Sam Bodman, each of whom earned doctorates from elite institutions, but he brings substantial management experience from his 14 years running the Lone Star State. Perry’s supporters are quick to point to that tenure to argue that he will be up to the challenge presented by DOE’s 17 national labs and 100,000-plus employees and contractors spread across the country. […]

    Link

  111. militantagnostic says

    BLF @153

    These are people who throw telephone poles for fun. I am sure autumnal weather will not deter them.

  112. blf says

    I suggest putting on a padded suit of pillows and putting down any drinks before viewing the photograph at the link (also check your insurance policies for injuries and damage caused by uncontrolled laughter), If the cap fits: Vietnam absentee Donald Trump’s military look raises eyebrows (indeed, Norad is now tracking numerous new small additional objects in Earth orbit):

    ● President donned bomber jackets and naval cap during warship visit
    ● Twitter comment suggests Trump is ‘cosplaying as a military man’

    He has been attempting to sound more presidential. Now he wants to look like a commander-in-chief, too.

    Donald Trump donned a green bomber jacket and even dumped his Make America great again baseball cap in favour of a naval one when he spoke on a new aircraft carrier in Virginia on Thursday.

    But not everyone was impressed by the Top Gun navy flight jacket fashion statement — from a man who, while surrounding himself with military officers in government, received in his youth five deferments from the Vietnam war draft: four for university and one for heel spurs.

    After touring the USS Gerald R Ford, […] Trump, with the jacket over his shirt and tie, told crew members: You know what, they just gave me this beautiful jacket. They said, ‘Here Mr President, please take this home’.

    [… more typical hair furor blathering, redacted for your comfort & safety (I may never recover) …]

    Ahmed Tawakal‏, based in Nairobi, Kenya, tweeted: “The only jacket Trump should be wearing is a straight jacket.”

  113. says

    blf, all of Trump’s clothing is a costume if you think about it. He is cosplaying POTUS, and I am not surprised that he was like a toddler wanting his parent’s attention when he donned the military-ish costume to tour the USS Gerald R Ford.

    Trump’s face looks so clownishly actor-like in that photo. He is so pleased to be playing “Commander in Chief.” He doesn’t really want to be commander in chief because that would require taking responsibility for his actions.

    I bet we’ll hear him talk about that jacket and hat again.

  114. says

    From the New York Times:

    […] Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and now a senior adviser, also participated in the meeting at Trump Tower with Mr. Flynn and Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador. But among Mr. Trump’s inner circle, it is Mr. Flynn who appears to have been the main interlocutor with the Russian envoy — the two were in contact during the campaign and the transition, Mr. Kislyak and current and former American officials have said.

    But the extent and frequency of their contacts remains unclear…

  115. says

    I wish people would stop “clarifying” that there’s nothing unusual or necessarily illegal about a senator, campaign aide, or member of a transition team meeting with a generic ambassador. That’s true in the abstract, but in these completely unusual circumstances these meetings with this particular ambassador and their concealment are highly fucking suspicious. It’s not just the lying that’s the issue.

  116. says

    More on the Russia-Trump connection, including emphasis that Michael Flynn and Kushner met with ambassador Sergey Kislyak in Trump Tower:

    The phone calls with the Russian ambassador that led to Michael Flynn’s ouster as national security adviser were an afterthought Thursday as Attorney General Jeff Sessions stepped in front of TV cameras and addressed revelations that he had met twice with that envoy during the campaign.

    So it was a good moment for the White House to confirm to the New York Times that, in addition to those calls, Flynn met with ambassador Sergey Kislyak for about 20 minutes at Trump Tower in December.

    Spokeswoman Hope Hicks told the Times that Flynn, in addition to President Trump’s advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, met with Kislyak to build a relationship and “establish a line of communication.”

    Flynn resigned last month and apologized for not informing the President and Vice President Mike Pence about the substance of the calls he had with Kislyak before inauguration. Reports that Flynn had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with the envoy contradicted statements from Flynn and the White House denying he had done so.

    Link

    Trump himself recently told us that he didn’t think any of his transition team met with Russians.

  117. says

    White House aide Sebastian Gorka says we who question Trump’s creation of a new office to highlight crimes committed by undocumented immigrants are “un-American.”

    We want to help the victims, the victims of crime, the victims of people who have already broken the law by being here,” he said. “If you object to that, you are in favor of pain, in favor of tragedy, and in favor of chaos, and that is un-American.”

  118. says

    SC help me out here… How does your link @179 confirm that Trump ordered the platform change?

    It doesn’t. It confirms that Gordon said that, to Jim Acosta of CNN. Actually, he said this:

    “At convention Gordon says he and others advocated for GOP platform to include language against arming Ukrainians against pro-Russian rebels.”

    “Gordon says this was in line with Trump’s views, expressed at March national security meeting at unfinished Trump hotel in March.”

    “Gordon says Trump said at meeting at unfinished Trump hotel in March that he didn’t want to go to ‘World War Three’ over Ukraine.”

    “Then Senator Jeff Sessions presided over the meeting, Gordon added.”

  119. says

    Chris Hayes interviewed Carter Page, and it was something.

    Rachel Maddow has a document leaked by someone in the intelligence community (and verified by DHS) showing that their conclusion is that the national security rationale for the Muslim ban is bullshit.

  120. says

    House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Trey Gowdy, (the guy who ran that 11-hour marathon of questioning Hillary Clinton about Benghazi), thinks that the meeting Jeff Sessions had with the Russian ambassador “should never have made it to the public domain”, nor should the the fact that Sessions lied (presumably).

    We cannot overlook the fact that the methodology of the collection and the content of that transcript never should have made into the public domain. And people may like that it did today, because it hurts Republicans, but what it really does is it hurts our country because you are leaking classified information.

    I’m not focused on the leak, but the leak is really, really, important. […]

    Oh, yes, you are focusing on the leak. You are following the example Trump set: deflect questions about the connections to Russia by focusing on the leaks.

    Yes, the Washington Post and the New York Times are, in part, publishing information based on leaks. This evening, Rachel Maddow based part of her reporting on a leaked document that concludes that Trump’s “extreme vetting” will not work.

    Talking Points Memo

  121. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    SC #183 Rachael Maddow is also showing the FBI is not be forthcoming with facts about the Russian involvement. The word “subpoena” is being floated about Comey by those on the committee.

  122. says

    omg, Tuck Carlson is interviewing the homophobic family that refused to serve a gay couple a cake. Because that’s what’s happening right now, tonight. #newsfromthefoxside

  123. says

    erik @187, yeah, Fox News always has their priorities right. /sarcasm

    Regarding Maddow’s exclusive reporting:

    The Rachel Maddow Show has obtained, exclusively, a Department of Homeland Security intelligence assessment document. The document, from the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, makes the case that most foreign-born, U.S.-based violent extremists are likely not radicalized when they come to the U.S., but rather become radicalized after living in the U.S. for a number of years.

    The document follows another piece of research (pdf) from Homeland Security that undercut President Trump’s rationale for a travel ban as a means of keeping violent extremists out. On Friday, the Associated Press published an analysis from Homeland Security that said citizenship in any given country – including the seven countries listed in the executive order – is likely an unreliable indicator of whether someone poses a terrorist threat.

    The new assessment, obtained by the Rachel Maddow Show and dated March 1, tracks 88 violent, foreign-born extremists in the United States. More than half of them had been in the U.S. more than 10 years before they were indicted or killed.

    Homeland Security tonight has confirmed the authenticity of the document. The department says production of it began in August 2016, and that it likely would have reached the White House. We have asked the White House for comment tonight. They have not responded.

  124. says

    Am I the only one that’s excited about this because I feel like I’m watching history unfold? This scandal is SOOO big that it transcends borders. It might lead to heartache and suffering, but it could also be the beginning of the end for the GOP and the alt-right. Between Milo and Trump, Bannon and his ilk are going to have to crawl back under their rock. That’s my optimistic assessment of how this is going to turn out. When the dust settles, and either Pence or Ryan are POTUS, the right is going to be on their heels as the left takes back the senate and the house HANDILY in 2018, the the whitehouse in 2020.

  125. militantagnostic says

    Madow vial Lynna @188

    The document, from the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, makes the case that most foreign-born, U.S.-based violent extremists are likely not radicalized when they come to the U.S., but rather become radicalized after living in the U.S. for a number of years.

    Your border/immigration assholes are working on that by attempting to radicalize them on their way into the USA (Union of Scared Authoritarians).

  126. blf says

    Union of Scared Authoritarians

    No, not Union — unless you are referring to the Border Patrol Union, the labour union for the goons, who (if my memory is correct) were an early endorser of teh trum-prat.

  127. KG says

    SC@149, blf@153,
    Here is a link for “Scotland Against Trump”; and here’s another. Probably the government’s plan is to block all access to Balmoral Estate, which is off main roads, privately owned by the Queen, and only open to the public from April to July. My guess is that if Trump does come, there will be a massive demonstration against him in Edinburgh, and smaller scale attempts to get as near Balmoral as possible. Trump’s golf courses at Menie and Turnberry (where I demonstrated against his visit last summer) are other possible venues. His visit could be a considerable unifying force – unionists and independentists, leavers and remainers, left and centre!

  128. says

    “Exclusive: Trump aides’ bid to plug leaks fuels government paranoia – sources”:

    President Donald Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin used his first senior staff meeting last month to tell his new aides he would not tolerate leaks to the news media, sources familiar with the matter said.

    Current and former officials said that in a departure from past practice, access to a classified computer system at the White House has been tightened by political appointees to prevent professional staffers from seeing memos being prepared for the new president.

    And at the Department of Homeland Security, some officials told Reuters they fear a witch hunt is under way for the leaker of a draft intelligence report which found little evidence that citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries covered by Trump’s now-suspended travel ban pose a threat to the United States.

    The clampdown has fueled paranoia among Washington career civil servants who say it appears designed to try to limit the flow of information inside and outside government and deter officials from talking to the media about topics that could result in negative stories.

    Some reports of government dysfunction have infuriated Trump just weeks into his presidency….

    Several officials in different agencies who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity said some employees fear their phone calls and emails may be monitored and that they are reluctant to speak their minds during internal discussions.

    In addition, the sources say that limits imposed on the flow of information have blindsided cabinet-level officials on some major issues and led to uncertainty among foreign governments about U.S. policy.

    At the State Department, the fear of getting caught in a leak investigation or running afoul of White House positions is so acute that some officials will discuss issues only face-to-face rather than use phones, email, texts or other messaging applications, two State Department officials said.

    “There is a climate of intimidation, not just about talking to reporters, but also about communicating with colleagues,” said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

    There also is high anxiety in parts of DHS, officials there said.

    “The atmosphere has become toxic, and that is not conducive to the work,” said a DHS official on condition of anonymity.

    They said officials fear phone calls and emails are being monitored to try to find who leaked the draft intelligence report to the Associated Press….

  129. says

    WSJ: “The Trump administration says Attorney General Jeff Sessions was acting as a then-U.S. senator when he talked to Russia’s ambassador at an event during last year’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, but Mr. Sessions paid for convention travel expenses out of his own political funds and he spoke about Donald Trump’s campaign at the event, according to a person at the event and campaign-finance records….”

    The article also notes that Sessions “didn’t definitively rule out the possibility that he had additional meetings” in addition to the two that are known, and that “he doesn’t think he met with any Russian officials besides Mr. Kislyak.”

  130. says

    SC #183 Rachael Maddow is also showing the FBI is not be forthcoming with facts about the Russian involvement. The word “subpoena” is being floated about Comey by those on the committee.

    Yes. Here’s the interview with Adam Schiff. We’re at an incredible conjuncture. There are two broad explanations for Comey’s behavior, and they’re on opposite ends of the spectrum. I’ve tended to favor, and continue to favor, the positive one, but we know so little that at this point it’s really just intuition.

  131. says

    OK. I think I understand.

    “Suspect Arrested in St. Louis in Bomb Threats Against ADL, 7 Other Jewish Centers”:

    A man allegedly waging an intense campaign of harassment against a former lover was responsible for bomb threats against the Anti-Defamation League and some Jewish centers around the country, authorities said Friday.

    Law enforcement sources told NBC 4 New York the 31-year-old suspect, Juan Thompson, was arrested in St. Louis in connection with multiple threats against Jewish centers, including some in the New York tri-state area.

    But additional sources told NBC News Thompson is not believed to be the person behind the series of threats targeting Jewish community centers across the nation in recent months.

    There have been five such waves of threats this year, forcing dozens of evacuations in multiple states. No injuries have been reported in any of the cases and no devices have been found. The FBI is assisting in that probe.

    Thompson is considered a “copycat,” the sources said. A criminal complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan indicated that Thompson was trying to “harass and intimidate” an unnamed victim with whom he had a relationship.

    He allegedly made at least eight of the threats — some in the victim’s name, and some in his own name, as part of a purported campaign to smear the victim….

    That same Twitter account was also linked to a journalist, Juan Thompson, who wrote for online publication The Intercept from late 2014 until early 2016. In February 2016, The Intercept said Thompson fabricated quotes in his stories and created fake email accounts to impersonate people.

    Thompson is charged with one count of cyberstalking, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, in connection with the case….

  132. says

    From the Washington Post, we have a summary of what Jeff Sessions said during his confirmation hearing. He was aware of the reporting about Russia’s meddling in the U.S. presidential campaign:

    When Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) pointed out that the FBI had concluded Russia was behind the intrusion, Sessions observed, “at least that’s what’s been reported.” Later, he allowed, “I have no reason to doubt that.” Asked by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) whether he had any reason to doubt the accuracy of the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia used cyber attacks “to attempt to influence this last election,” Sessions said, “I have no reason to doubt that and have no evidence that would indicate otherwise.”

    Compare the above to what Jeff Sessions said to Tucker Carlson last night on Fox News:

    Carlson asked, “Did the [Trump] campaign believe that the Russian government, the Putin government, favored Trump over Clinton in this race?”

    Sessions replied, I have never been told that.

    Carlson asked if Sessions though Russian officials intervened to help Trump.

    Sessions replied, I don’t have any idea, Tucker. You’d have to ask them.

    What the heck is Sessions doing? He’s already in trouble for not speaking forthrightly, for misleading people in Congress. And now he is adding another layer of dishonesty.

  133. says

    Lately, Trump has tweeted less often. But this morning, he was back at it. He tweeted that it is “pathetic” that the Democrats in the Senate “have still not approved my full Cabinet.”

    What is he talking about?

    Republicans are the majority, Democrats are the minority. Thanks to rules that were changed much earlier, the minority Democrats cannot filibuster nominees. In short, the Democrats have no way to reject Trump’s nominees. They can vote against them, but they can’t stop them from being approved.

    Furthermore, Republicans control the voting schedule, they control the calendar that dictates the activities in the Senate.

    As of yesterday, with the approval of Perry and Carson, all of Trump’s cabinet choices that were up for a vote have been approved.

    The other recent tweet was highlighted in SC’s comment 194. In that tweet, Trump connected the questioning of Sessions with the fact that Democrats lost the election. Nope, not connected.

    Projecting, Trump also said that Democrats have “lost their grip on reality.” Say what now?

  134. says

    I posted that yesterday @ #143. I can’t believe no one’s been talking about that article!

    There isn’t much to talk about until he agrees to testify.

    My big question is why we haven’t heard a peep yet from Boente on how he plans to proceed. I expected a special prosecutor by now.

  135. says

    As SC noted in comment 177, Mike Pence’s email was hacked. Pence archived, sent, and received sensitive information on the private email account that was hacked.

    Pence attacked Hillary Clinton over her email use repeatedly. Clinton’s email was never hacked.

    Paul Ryan suggested that Hillary Clinton’s security clearance be revoked. He said no such thing about Mike Pence.

    Double standard?

  136. says

    There isn’t much to talk about until he agrees to testify.

    There’s the section I quoted from the very end:

    Mr Steele has been regularly supplying information to the FBI. In June last year, for instance, he produced a memo which went to the bureau stating that Mr Trump’s campaign team had agreed to a Russian request to dilute attention on Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine.

    Four days later Mr Trump stated that he would recognise Moscow’s annexation of Crimea: officials involved in his campaign having already asked the Republican party’s election platform to remove a pledge for military assistance to the Ukrainian government against separatist rebels in the east of the country.

    Mr Steele claimed the Trump campaign was taking this path because it was aware that the Russians were hacking Democratic Party emails. The same day that Mr Trump spoke about Crimea, he called on the Kremlin to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails.

    However, Mr Steele became increasingly frustrated that the FBI was failing to take action on the intelligence from others as well as him.

    He came to believe there was a cover-up, that a cabal within the bureau blocked a thorough inquiry into Mr Trump, focusing instead on the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. The MI6 officer’s passing of information to the FBI ceased in December last year.

  137. says

    The other recent tweet was highlighted in SC’s comment 194. In that tweet, Trump connected the questioning of Sessions with the fact that Democrats lost the election. Nope, not connected.

    Embarrassingly enough, it wasn’t a tweet. It was an official statement that read, as erikthebassist pointed out, like a series of tweets.

  138. says

    @216 – He tweeted it first, check his feed. They may have released it later as an official statement but I had his feed up as he was spewing it and at the time there was no “statement”.

  139. says

    SC @216, even worse. As an official statement, that was amateurish in the extreme.

    Regarding the proposed interview of Mr. Steele, I hope that goes forward. I’ve always felt that the Trump team’s soft (or almost laudatory) views about Moscow’s annexation of Crimea smelled like quid pro quo.

    Josh Marshall posits a fairly simple explanation, one in which Trump is looking out for Trump’s money.

    […] the 2014 Russian seizure of Crimea comes along, to be followed by […] the imposition of western sanctions. If Trump is significantly dependent on capital out of Russia, those sanctions are going to put a crimp on all his ventures. It won’t be fatal. But it will hurt – potentially a lot.

    They’re also bad for a lot of people he works with and likes and needs. That also means they’re bad. Remember, what is good for Donald Trump is right and vice versa. The sanctions regime is bad for Donald Trump. It’s bad for his friends. Ergo the sanctions regime is bad.

    We should also remember that by 2015 Trump had spent 10 to 15 years working in the company of people like Felix Sater, Tevfik Arif, Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort. They are all from or invested in or implicated in that world. They think a certain way and he does too. […]

    […] Sanctions wrong; Russia good; Putin good; Putin strong. […] It also gets us most of the way to explaining why he has so many people in his orbit with conspicuous on-going communications and relationships with suspicious figures in the Russian intelligence world or the criminal underworld.

    […] the iron equation of what’s good for Trump being right, good and obviously the best. The final reason this theory makes sense to me is that Trump’s world is pervasively disorganized and corrupt. That’s less fertile ground for conspiracies than influence operations, […]. It also gives some explanation or some logic to the fact that Trump’s Russia-infused coterie includes a lot of people who just seem like idiots.

    Why did Carter Page go on Chris Hayes’ show last night? Why is he on TV at all? That simply makes no sense. Why did Michael Cohen take a meeting with a shady pro-Russian Ukrainian parliamentarian – with Felix Sater in tow! […]

    it requires no fantastical facts not currently in evidence: no extortionate sex tapes, no treasonous deals with Putin. It all comes more or less together by long association, interest and some specific and clear characteristics of Trump’s personality. It’s not clear these broad outlines require anything illegal or any one thing beyond putting personal financial interest above the national interest. […]

    The need to lie and lie conspicuously about things that aren’t even that central to the action is almost always a sign of something big under the water than hasn’t surfaced yet. […]

    I snipped a lot of the introductory material in Josh Marshall’s essay. Read the entire posting to get the full story.

    Carter Page did look like an idiot when Chris Hayes interviewed him. SC noted that up-thread.

  140. says

    @216 – He tweeted it first, check his feed. They may have released it later as an official statement but I had his feed up as he was spewing it and at the time there was no “statement”.

    He definitely released it as a statement. There are several news articles referring to it as such, as does CBS at my link @ #194. I saw it several times in tweets last night quoted as and called a statement with no mention of the tweets. I don’t know at what point relative to that he tweeted it – probably right around the same time. CNN:

    President Donald Trump stood by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday, releasing a statement saying Sessions did not make any misleading statements under oath during his confirmation hearings, but that he could have been more accurate in his responses to lawmakers.

    “Jeff Sessions is an honest man. He did not say anything wrong. He could have stated his response more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional,” Trump said. “This whole narrative is a way of saving face for Democrats losing an election that everyone thought they were supposed to win. The Democrats are overplaying their hand. They lost the election and now, they have lost their grip on reality. The real story is all of the illegal leaks of classified and other information. It is a total witch hunt!”

  141. says

    Hate crime in Florida:

    You guys are a couple of [F-Word for homosexuals]. I bet you [F-word for homosexuals, plural] voted for that [B-word] Hillary. You live in Trump country now. […] I’ll cut you up.

    The man is being charged with “aggravated battery with a deadly weapon with evidence of prejudice.” The “deadly weapon” was a scooter that Brandon Davis used to threaten two bicyclists.

    It’s the “you live in Trump country now” phrase that says it all. People like Davis think they have permission to threaten everyone who is not like them.

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/brandon-davis-accused-running-down-men-sccoter

  142. says

    Doesn’t matter if Trump’s defense of Sessions is a series of tweets, or a statement, or a tweet-like statement. It’s all bad. What a childish and ill-formed man.

  143. says

    A closer look at the influence of the Daily Mail:

    The U.K. tabloid the Daily Mail is mounting a crusade against refugees and immigrants in Europe. The tabloid’s fearmongering, xenophobic claims of immigrant criminality — which are often completely false and unsourced — have positioned the outlet as a favorite among American conspiracy theorists and white nationalists.

    Investigative journalists should also look for a connection to Russia, or to money flowing from Russians.

    The Daily Mail, which is the U.K.’s most popular online and print newspaper, is known for peddling junk science, led the latest right-wing assault on climate change science, and has been accused of racism, sexism, and xenophobia. […]

    After the Mail published Hopkins’ piece, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ Infowars reprinted her report with the title “KATIE HOPKINS REPORTS FROM HELLACIOUS SWEDEN, ‘WHERE FEMALES FEAR TO TREAD.’” The anti-immigration hate website VDare.com also amplified her report. In the past week, Infowars has reprinted at least two Daily Mail articles […]

    On March 1, Breitbart London cited the Daily Mail in an article about a “Muslim convert” who allegedly “planned to buy a nine-year-old virgin slave girl after he joined [the] Islamic State.” According to The Guardian, the U.K. citizen the article mentions, Patrick Kabele, was in fact arrested in August 2016 for attempting to travel to Syria, but the Daily Mail ‘s claim that he wrote in his diary that he “wanted to buy a nine-year-old slave girl” can be found only on other tabloid news sites […]

    ​Duncan Gardham, who wrote the piece about Kabele, is another of the Daily Mail authors creating xenophobic content, along with contributor Julian Robinson. […]

    […] “‘Trump was RIGHT!’ Inside the Stockholm suburbs where cars are torched, drugs sold openly and fire engines must be bulletproof”

    The Mail’s unsourced, misleading, and sometimes completely fabricated claims about supposed immigrant criminality in Sweden do not exist in a vacuum. After President Donald Trump on February 18 mentioned “what’s happening last night in Sweden” before listing cities hit by terrorist attacks, his media cronies defended him by perpetuating the myth of “no-go zones” in Sweden.

    […] Further, Trump’s claims that the United States’ current immigration system threatens jobs and lowers wages, drains government benefits, and makes communities less safe come straight from nativist groups and fringe right-wing media outlets like Breitbart and Infowars, the same outlets that regularly cite anti-immigrant content from the Daily Mail. […]

    Link

  144. says

    Doesn’t matter if Trump’s defense of Sessions is a series of tweets, or a statement, or a tweet-like statement. It’s all bad. What a childish and ill-formed man.

    The tweets are bad enough. For that to be released as an official statement is disgraceful.

  145. says

    SC @224, Trump has responded to the doughnut-eating photo:

    We should start an immediate investigation into @SenSchumer and his ties to Russia and Putin. A total hypocrite!

    A younger-looking Schumer had coffee and doughnuts with Russian President Vladimir Putin in New York in 2003.

  146. says

    SC @ 220 and Lynna at 223 – I’m not trying to be contrarian or split hairs. I think it does matter which came first because we are used to him vomiting his bile all over twitter, but now even official statements are sounding like they come word for word from him, a sign that he is no longer listening to his handlers and they might be losing what little control they had on him.

    It appears you are right however as the statement seems to have been released just prior to 8pm EST and I watched him spew it on Twitter sometime between 8:30pm and 9pm when I got home from work.

    So Again, as Lynna stated, this is worse as he appears to be coming unhinged and no longer listening to or consulting his advisors.

  147. says

    SC @226, maybe Trump’s minions are being lazy and trying to save time with those official statements. While the Boss Man is on his way to Mar-a-Lago again, maybe they just put out a compilation of tweets and call it a statement? Ineptitude, rampant ineptitude.

    You are right, stupid to begin with … and then it gets worse. Is everyone that works for Trump turning into Trump?

  148. says

    More financial shenanigans from team Trump:

    Donald Trump’s presidential campaign accepted illegal contributions in the weeks after election day and falsely recorded them as paying down the campaign’s debt, according to a complaint filed by two watchdog groups on Thursday.

    The Campaign Legal Center and left-leaning non-profit Common Cause allege that the campaign violated federal election laws designed to prevent campaigns from circumventing contribution limits. The groups are accusing Team Trump of attributing donations for his 2020 campaign—yes, he’s already a declared candidate—to his previous, 2016 run, freeing up donors to give more down the line. […]

    Link

  149. says

    Ok now I’m really confused.
    Obama removed Boente from the line of succession for AG, then Trump changed the order again to get Boente in as acting AG after firing Yates?

    So is Boente another Trump boy?

    CHANGING THE DOJ LINE OF SUCCESSION:

    On the same day that Jeff Sessions was sworn in, Trump quietly signed an executive order to change the order of succession at the Justice Department if the attorney general resigns.

    It was significant because the president had just fired Sally Yates as acting AG after she wouldn’t defend his travel ban. As he was entitled to do, Trump went outside the official order of succession to elevate Dana Boente, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, to replace her. A week before his term ended, Barack Obama had (also without fanfare) changed the order of succession to remove Boente from the list.

    Because the Senate hasn’t yet confirmed Trump’s nominee for deputy AG, Boente is now serving in that role on an acting basis. Sessions’ recusal himself from overseeing the FBI’s Russia investigation means it will be handled by Boente.

  150. says

    The flow of Russian disinformation is expected to increase:

    When it comes to Russian propaganda, we haven’t seen anything yet.

    […] Many may by now be familiar with Moscow’s highest profile media outlets, like television channel RT […] and the flashy Sputnik “news” multimedia website […]. But the full range of Russia’s information operations are still truly appreciated only by the small cadre of foreign policy and national security professionals who have been forced to grapple with their far-reaching and negative effects. […]

    Its objective is clear and unequivocal: to obscure objective facts through a veritable “firehose of falsehood,” thereby creating doubt in Western governments, undermining trust in democratic institutions, […]

    Last month, in a presentation before the Duma […] Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu formally unveiled the establishment of a new military unit designed to conduct “information operations” against the country’s adversaries. The goal of the new initiative, according to Vladimir Shamanov, head of the Duma’s defense committee, is to “protect the national defense interests and engage in information warfare.”

    […] Shoigu did not elaborate on the mandate of the new unit, or its size. (The overall number of active duty Russian information operation troops has been estimated at around 1,000, with a budget of approximately $300 million annually). Nevertheless, the announcement is significant for at least two reasons.

    First, it marks the culmination of a steady militarization of Russian propaganda. Once seen largely as a political strategy designed to shape foreign perceptions about Soviet (and later Russian) conduct abroad, disinformation (dezinformatsiya in Russian) has progressively taken on a distinctly martial character.

    […] the Russian military has waded into the informational space with a vengeance, taking on an extensive—and aggressive—role in molding foreign opinion and perceptions. Today, in keeping with the country’s 2014 Defense Doctrine, the manipulation of “information” has become a critical element of Russian military strategy. […]

    Link

  151. says

    Arnold Schwarzenegger is quitting his job as host of “Celebrity Apprentice,” or at least, he is not renewing for another season:

    […] With Trump being involved in the show people have a bad taste and don’t want to participate as a spectator or sponsor or in any other way support the show. It’s a very divisive period right now and I think the show got caught up in all that division. […]

    Link

  152. says

    Team Trump lies even when there is no reason to lie.

    Here are some quotes of what Melania Trump said when she went to read to children at New York Presbyterian hospital (the quotes are from pool reporters who were there):

    We will read some books today. Do you know what is today? It’s a reading day! So I came to encourage you to read — and to think about what you want to achieve in life.

    This is one of my favorite books! This one is from my library.

    [Coming to a passage about a “slump”:] So sometimes you don’t feel good, right? But then what do you do?

    Reading: You’ll go places where you feel better. You’ll be as famous as famous can be. With the whole wide world watching you win on TV!

    Do you like the book? I will leave it here. I encourage you all to read a lot, to get educated!

    Here is the statement from the White House that purports to quote what Melania said:

    Loving to read early in life has the power to make each one of you a lifelong learner.

    Dr. Seuss has brought so much joy, laughter and enchantment into children’s lives all around the globe for generations. Through his captivating rhymes, Dr. Seuss has delighted and inspired children while teaching them to read, to dream, and to care.

    Education is a great equalizer and nothing can be more critical to achieving empowerment than reading and literacy.

  153. says

    In a taped interview from last March, Trump said that he had nothing to do with the Republican National Party platform document, and that he had nothing to do with the change in that document that softened the Republican stance on Russia’s annexation of part of Ukraine. “I wasn’t involved in that,” Trump said in an interview with ABC after the convention. “Honestly, I was not involved.”

    Now we see that reporters are looking anew at conflicting stories, and conflicting evidence from the Trump team:

    […] Gordon’s [J.D. Gordon] remarks represent a dramatic shift from previous comments, and they come as Attorney General Jeff Sessions faces intense scrutiny over two previously undisclosed meetings with Russia’s ambassador to the US — one of which was timed to the convention.

    In January, Gordon told Business Insider that he “never left” his “assigned side table” nor spoke publicly at the GOP national security subcommittee meeting, where the amendment — which originally called for “providing lethal defense weapons” to the Ukrainian army to fend off Russian-backed separatists — was read aloud, debated, and ultimately watered down to “providing appropriate assistance” to Ukraine.

    According to CNN’s Jim Acosta, however, Gordon said that at the RNC he and others “advocated for the GOP platform to include language against arming Ukrainians against pro-Russian rebels” because “this was in line with Trump’s views, expressed at a March national security meeting at the unfinished Trump hotel” in Washington, DC. […]

    “Gordon says Trump said at the meeting … that he didn’t want to go to ‘World War Three’ over Ukraine,” Acosta said.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/jd-gordon-trump-adviser-ukraine-rnc-2017-3

    As was noted up-thread, Jeff Sessions presided over the meeting in Washington D.C.

    More details from the RNC convention:

    […] Diana Denman, the GOP delegate who proposed amending the Ukraine platform to include the “lethal weapons” language, contradicted Gordon’s version of events in an interview with Business Insider in January. She said Gordon and another Trump campaign representative asked the cochairmen of the subcommittee to table the amendment after she read it aloud.

    “Two men sitting over to the side of the room — I had no idea who they were but later found out they were Trump representatives — jumped up and tore over to get behind the three cochairmen,” she said.

    Gordon then left the room to make a phone call, Denman said. Equal parts confused and angry over her proposal being scuttled, Denman said she confronted Gordon about whom he was calling.

    “I’m calling New York,” Gordon replied, according to Denman.

    “I work for Mr. Trump, and I have to clear it,” she recalled him saying, apparently in reference to the amendment. […]

  154. says

    Lynna @237, I’m pretty sure that ground was already covered upthread but it’s worth repeating. I wish we could sticky comments, because it seems as clear as day to me right now that the ‘criminal act’ that is going to bring Trumputin down is him making a deal with the Russians that if they gave the hacked DNC emails to Wikileaks, he would soften his and the party’s platform on the Ukrain.

    I also think it’s fairly obvious that he thought the Russians would also hack Hillary’s personal email and there would be a lot more meat on that bone that there actually was.

  155. microraptor says

    SC @240:

    I feel sooooo much safer knowing that ICE will deport those dangerous fugitives who illegally came to this country so they could pick cherries and tomatoes.

    I think I just rolled my eyes hard enough that I sprained a muscle.

  156. says

    Trump is still tweeting:

    I hereby demand a second investigation, after Schumer, of Pelosi for her close ties to Russia, and lying about it.

    Pelosi replied:

    .@realDonaldTrump doesn’t know difference between official mtg photographed by press & closed secret mtg his AG lied about under oath.

  157. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    According to Racheal Maddow, bookmark DC.org, which give an unauthenticated web site.
    Somebody who was noticing that a Russian oligarch was in the same small airports as our lying President during the campaign. I’ll try for a link in the morning.

  158. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Me @253, Sorry, DCreport.org. I wasn’t able to load the direct link, but it appears to exist by google. May have been overwhelmed when I tried to link.

  159. KG says

    A couple of updates from the Yoo Kay:
    1) The House of Lords passed an amendment to the bill allowing the government to trigger “Article 50”, beginning the formal process of leving the EU. The amendment requires the government to introduce proposals within three months of Article 50 to ensure EU citizens in the UK have the same residence rights after Brexit. The government, which lacks a majority in the Lords (unaffiliated “crossbench” members hold the blaance of power) wants to use these EU citizens as bargaining chips to gain reciprocal rights for UK citizens resident elsewhere in the EU to keep their rights of residence. They pretend there is no question of agreement not being reached on this – but the implicit threat to expel EU citizens resident in the UK is useless if the government is not ultimately prepared to use it. The bill returns to the Commons, where the amendment is likely to be overturned; it would then go back to the Lords, who could (but probably won’t) reinstate it. Legally, this could go on for 6 months before the Commons is able to overrule the Lords. However, it’s unlikely the opposition parties or the Lords will have the guts to persist.
    2) Interesting results in elections for the Northern Ireland Assembly (the N.I. Executive has devolved powers to run a lot of the province’s affairs). By the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, which (largely) ended political violence in Northern Ireland, the Executive must be a coalition including the largest (UK) Unionist and (Irish) Nationalist parties in the Assembly. (All parties, and independents, have to register as “Unionist”, “Nationalist” or “Other”.) Other parties are entitled to join the coalition if they have enough seats, but need not do so. If no agreement can be reached between the largest parties, the province reverts to direct rule from London. This election was called because Sinn Féin, the largest Nationalist party, withdrew from its coalition with the DUP (the largest Unionist party), in a dispute about responsibility for a botched renewable energy financing scheme: the First Miinister and DUP leader, Arlene Foster, refused to stand down temporarily while an enquiry was held – she had been the minister responsible for introducing the scheme. (Incidentally, the weirdness of a coalition between the DUP, founded by the “Reverend Doctor” Ian Paisley, and Sinn Féin, the political wing of the Provisional IRA during the “Troubles”, can hardly be overstated.) In the election, which is by Single Transferable Vote in multi-member constituencies, the number of Assembly members was to be reduced from 108 to 90, by cutting the number elected from each constituency from 6 to 5.

    So – with all that context (briefly) explained – the big winner from the election was Sinn Féin. It just failed to draw level with the DUP, now having 27 seats to the DUP’s 28 (before the election: 28 to 38), and increased its first-preference votes by nearly 4%. The big losers were the DUP and the second Unionist party, the UUP – which lost 6 seats. For the first time, Unionist parties now lack an overall majority in the Assembly – including an independent and the sole representative of the hard-right TUV, they still have one more seat than the Nationalist parties, but “Other” parties (the liberal Alliance, the Greens, and a Trotskyist group, the PBPA) now hold the balance. Interestingly, parties that opposed Brexit in the EU referendum have a clear majority.

    The big question now is whether the DUP and Sinn Féin can agree to form a coalition. The election was a bitter one, and it’s hard to see either how Sinn Féin could agree to serve under Arlene Foster as First Minister, or how the DUP could accept that she must stand aside. However, neither wants to revert to direct rule, and there are of course the perks of office to consider! Nor will the UK government want to reimpose direct rule when it has one or two other things to occupy its time. My guess is that it will find some sort of bribe additional funding for the province as encouragement, and the DUP and Sinn Féin will bravely come to an accord to retain their ministerial powers and privileges for the good of the people.

  160. KG says

    Further to my #255 (2): apparently if there’s no agreement between the DUP and Sinn Féin within 3 weeks, a new election will be called. Hard to see how that would resolve things. The UK government is raising the possibility of new legislation at Westminster to give the partiues more time.

  161. says

    Blake Hounshell from Politico asks the question on many minds: “Is Trump basing his claims off of this Breitbart story or from a briefing he received?”

    He’s referring to Trump’s early AM series of tweets accusing Obama of wiretapping him prior to the election (before switching to going after Arnold Schwarzenegger). My guess would be the BB story, for one thing because it’s doubtful he would briefed about this at 5 AM. No idea whether or not he was actually surveilled, of course. It’s a dubious claim. It certainly seems like he’s frightened (possibly because he’s aware of more information coming out shortly) and trying desperately to distract attention, which won’t work. He’s also nuts.

  162. says

    Here’s Maddow’s story from last night about Trump’s and Dmitry Rybolovlev’s planes being at the same airports at the same times. I would link to the DCReport article, but the site is always overwhelmed when I try to visit it.

    It’s funny – I saw tweets about this beginning before the election. (In fact, the images Maddow uses are from this account.) The problem is that the information has been surrounded by so many claims on Twitter that were quickly revealed as false that it was difficult to trust it.

  163. says

    About those tweets from 3:30 AM this morning, I think Trump knows he is screwed. He knows more information is coming out. He can’t stop it, so he is deflecting as best he can. Blame Obama, claim illegal wiretaps, etc.

    Also, the dude is still using Breitbart as a source of information. Conspiracy theories and batcrap craziness.

    Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!

    Is it legal for a sitting President to be “wire tapping” a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!

    How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!

    Trump followed that up with:

    Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t voluntarily leaving the Apprentice, he was fired by his bad (pathetic) ratings, not by me. Sad end to great show

    From Daily Kos:

    As more and more hidden contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials are revealed, Trump is throwing out pictures of very public meetings between the Russian ambassador and Democratic lawmakers in an attempt to obscure the meetings that were happening with his team—including at least one meeting that took place in Trump Tower. […]

    Trump Tower isn’t just home to Trump and his real estate “organization.” Paul Manafort, who is under investigation for his relationship to pro-Russian forces in Ukraine, has lived in Trump Tower for a decade. It’s where Felix Sater and the Bayrock are located. And it is where Jared Kuschner and Michael Flynn secretly met with the Russian ambassador.

    There are a lot of very good reasons why some of the communications at Trump Tower should be tapped, including evidence of money laundering and that email server that at least appeared to be in communications with a Russian bank.

    While Trump’s phone tapping accusations are just as likely to be sourced from the rantings of right-wing radio as any verifiable facts, the purpose of tweeting about them is clearly to try and derail of a cycles of leaks and discoveries that’s showing Trump’s team to be glued to Russia in a dozen ways.

    It may also be a preemptive strike against more serious information that still hasn’t reached the public.

  164. says

    Robert Costa is reporting:

    “Trump left WH in a fury on Friday, fuming about Sessions’s recusal and telling aides that Sessions shouldn’t have recused himself…”

    “Bannon is working closely with Trump on combating what he calls the ‘deep state’ in intel comm, per multiple people at WH”

  165. says

    Trump spoke at a donor retreat in Palm Beach, Florida. It was a closed meeting, but we have some reports. Here is part of what he said, which, (after bragging), was mostly begging for cash:

    […] I need you guys to step up and overwhelm them. [Overwhelm his opponents with Republican cash.]

    He described how important it was to win his home away from home, Florida, and how easy it had been to appear “presidential,” including his speech to a joint session of Congress and on a visit to a Navy aircraft carrier in Virginia.

  166. says

    SC @262, that news about Bannon confirms my first impression that Trump’s bonkers tweet-raging act 3:30 A.M. was pure Bannon conspiracy theory. Now we’re going to see a resurgence of old “deep state” conspiracy theories, plus the development of new ones.

  167. says

    Conflicts of interest, Trump style:

    […] The developer of a Trump Tower in Vancouver thanked the president while his sons were present.

    When the 63-story Trump Tower opened in Vancouver on Tuesday, project developer Joo Kim Tiah made it clear that he feels indebted to President Trump. While Trump’s sons Donald Jr. and Eric and daughter Tiffany were present, Tiah proclaimed, “I’d like to thank President Trump, who is not here.” He also added that he looked “forward to more future ventures together.”

    Tiah is the son of one of Malaysia’s wealthiest businessmen. […]

    Link

  168. blf says

    Just a note about the term deep state: This is commonly-used (outside the dalekocracy) to refer to actors within a government (since as the military or the bureaucracy) does not implement, or sabotages, orders from the leadership. Turkey is a commonly-cited example.

    However, hair furor and the dalekocray is using the term slightly differently (an alternative narrative if you will) to attack and attempt to discredit the leaks, leakers, and leak-publishers. Whilst leaking is a tool of Turkey-like deep states, it is not what deep state itself is restricted to. Beware this difference in meaning / emphasis between how the term is used by, say, NYT and by, say, faux or breitbart! Same words, different meaning…

  169. says

    The Yemen raid is still in the news, and rightly so.

    From Andrea Mitchell:

    Fmr Deputy CIA Dir David Cohen on Yemen raid: It was not approved by the Obama administration. I was there, I was in all of those meetings.

    From Susan Rice:

    Cohen is correct. It is false that the Yemen raid was approved by the Obama Admin. No specific conop ever presented to WH for that raid.

  170. blf says

    To perhaps no-one’s surprise, Trump on track to spend exorbitant amount of taxpayer dollars on travels:

    By one estimate the president has already rung up as much in travel costs as the Obama and Biden families did in eight years — all at the expense of taxpayers

    Nothing used to rile devoted Barack Obama critics like the president’s winter Hawaiian vacation. A watchdog group once calculated that the Aloha state trips cost taxpayers $3.5m a pop — in airfare, security arrangements, communications and medical staff.

    Among the harshest critics of Obama’s travel was Donald Trump, then a private citizen. President Obama’s vacation is costing taxpayers millions of dollars—-Unbelievable! Trump tweeted in 2012. Two years later, Trump tweeted that Obama’s motto” was: If I don’t go on taxpayer funded vacations & constantly fundraise then the terrorists win.

    [… Hair furor] is on track to spend many more millions of taxpayer dollars on trips that might be construed as vacations for him and his family than Obama ever dreamed of. […]

    By one sketchy estimate, Trump and his family, in their security and travel demands, have already rung up as much in accounts payable by taxpayers as the Obama and Biden families did in eight years, a figure elsewhere calculated, by the Washington DC-based Judicial Watch, as topping $97m.

    […] The complicated receipt involves weekend trips by Trump to Mar-a-Lago […]; travel by his children and their government security details on Trump family business; and costs associated with protecting Trump’s Manhattan home, the high-rise Trump Tower building, where Trump’s wife and youngest child live […].

    There is a short synopsis of the estimated spending (called “The Trump Tax”) at the link.

    The Grauniad’s The first 100 days of Trump says he’s spent 33 of 42 days at the Wacko House (and tweeted 505 times).

  171. blf says

    SC@269, Thanks! I was about to point out a real President cannot (as in never, as far as I know) order a wiretap.

  172. says

    A few highlights from the Trump administration’s attempts to destroy, well, almost everything:

    […] The Trump administration has proposed cutting federal funding for restoring Puget Sound by 93 percent.

    “Hundreds of millions dollars every year go from EPA to the states for water quality infrastructure,” Dennis McLerran, the regional head of the EPA in the Obama administration, said. “And if that is cut back, you will see efforts to protect public health cut back.”

    Programs to clean up major water bodies were hard hit: The Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay would also lose more than 90 percent of their EPA funding; cleanup funds for San Francisco Bay and Long Island Sound would be eliminated.

    The proposed cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would also eliminate funding for a variety of smaller programs, including external research, coastal management, estuary reserves and “coastal resilience,” which seeks to bolster the ability of coastal areas to withstand major storms and rising seas. […]

    So far these are proposals but there’s a wall to build and a Navy to construct and mucho bad hombres to catch and it’s for damn sure that the 1% club isn’t going to pay for it. We are so screwed.

    Link

  173. blf says

    Rats deserting a sinking ship… Here in France, Fillon faces growing pressure to step down as backers quit campaign:

    MPs and senators desert scandal-hit presidential candidate, warning he risks driving the French right ‘into the abyss’

    The scandal-hit French presidential candidate François Fillon is under growing pressure to step down as dozens of MPs and senators quit his campaign, warning that he is leading the French right into certain electoral disaster.

    Thierry Solère, an MP and Fillon’s one-time loyal chief campaign spokesman, on Friday became the latest of at least 100 elected politicians to walk out, fleeing what concerned party supporters are calling “Fillon’s sinking ship”.

    The rightwing former minister Nadine Morano said Fillon must step down as candidate, warning he was in a “dead end”, his electoral chances slipping away, and he risked bringing “catastrophe” to the right.

    […]

    About 70% of French voters think Fillon is wrong to stay in the race when he is likely to face charges […]

    Instead he has turned on judges and the justice system and attacked the workings of the French state this week with increasingly inflammatory language, calling for his supporters to rise up and resist.

    Many in his mainstream rightwing party saw this as a populist-style turn in his campaign and his rhetoric was likened to that of Donald Trump or Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

    […] Fillon, asked on Thursday what he would do if all elected politicians quit his campaign, he said he would carry on without them.

    […]

    Apparently the police raided his home yesterday (Fillon faces more defections day after police raid home). The “Plan B” being discussed is for Alain Juppé (who, at 71, is older than teh trum-prat) to be the wingnut non–le penazi candidate, but there are multiple obstacles to that — not only Juppé’s conditions (he’s said he’s willing if…), but also a French legal requirement known as parrainages. This is essentially a demonstration of widespread support acrosss the country from elected officials, and is discussed further in Fillon deserters plead for Plan B, but the clock is ticking. There is a hard deadline of March 17th, and Juppé — who was previously convicted of fake-jobs scandal — is starting from scratch.

  174. blf says

    How Jeff Sessions should remind Americans of the past:

    The Jeff Sessions lie about his meetings with Russian officials has brought the Trump administration to a crossroads.

    […]

    [… W]hile the vast majority of Americans reserve their greatest mistrust for members of the US Congress — fully 59 percent have a “low” or “very low” opinion of them, according to a recent poll — they find it intolerable when someone lies to them.

    Take the case of Elliott Abrams. An experienced US diplomat and Washington insider, Abrams was, until recently, in the running for the No 2 job at Rex Tillerson’s State Department.

    Articulate, hardworking and experienced, Abrams got caught up in the Iran–contra scandal of the 1980s, and lied about his role in it. He pleaded guilty to two counts of “withholding information from the Congress”, […] his name cannot now appear in print without being followed by a two word descriptive: “convicted liar”.

    Of course, Abrams admission of withholding information isn’t what nixed his nomination to the State Department’s No 2 spot, it was President Donald Trump’s discovery that Abrams had criticised him during the campaign, a far greater sin, presumably, than public mendacity. That said, if it wasn’t axiomatic before, it is now: the American people don’t respect the Congress, but you better not lie to them.

    That’s the problem now being faced by Jeff Sessions […]

    Put simply, Sessions has an Abrams problem: the issue is not that he talked to a Russian official […] but that he lied about it. The former claim can put a chink in your political credibility, the latter claim can land you in jail.

    [… discussion of the Watergate and Iran–contra scandals …]

    At a key point in both cases, those in the White House made a choice between telling the truth, or covering up the facts in the hope that the scandal would burn itself out.

    That’s where the US is now. The Jeff Sessions lie to the Senate about his meetings with Russian officials has brought the Trump administration to a crossroads: the newly minted president can either tell everything about his, and his aides, contacts with Russian officials, or he can order his administration to continue the delicate and dangerous dance of shaving the truth.

    The difference between the two, particularly for those skeptics who believe the reporting about Russia’s influence on the election is thin, and politically motivated, might well be the difference between a tempest in a teapot — and a political volcano.

  175. says

    Lead poisoning kills 10 million animals per year. That’s why the Obama administration ordered a reduction of the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle on public lands, with the phase-out occurring over a five-year period.

    The first thing Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke did when he took office was overturn the phase-out.

    Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said:

    Switching to nontoxic ammunition should be a no-brainer to save the lives of thousands birds and other wildlife, prevent hunters and their families from being exposed to toxic lead, and protect our water.

    It’s ironic that one of the first actions by Secretary Zinke, who fancies himself a champion of hunters and anglers, leads to poisoning of game and waterfowl eaten by those same hunting families.

    It’s another sad day for public health and wildlife under the Trump presidency when special interests again prevail over common-sense environmental safeguards.

    Rightwingers have another take on the story. As you might expect, the NRA was cheering. Chris Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement, thanking Zinke:

    This [phase-out] was a reckless, unilateral overreach that would have devastated the sportsmen’s community,.

    The Obama administration failed to consult with state fish and wildlife agencies or national angling and hunting organizations in issuing this order. This was not a decision based on sound scientific evidence — it was a last second attack on traditional ammunition and our hunting heritage.

    As far as the “scientific evidence” goes, it is firmly on the side of Obama’s proposed phase-out. More than 500 studies document the dangers of lead exposure connected to the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle.
    See: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/get_the_lead_out/scientific_reports.html

    When he was still a member of the House of Representatives (Congress critter), Zinke voted against every endangered species protection bill that came up.

    Let’s give the last word to Dan Ashe, head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

    Exposure to lead ammunition and fishing tackle has resulted in harmful effects to fish and wildlife species. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, lead poisoning is a toxicosis caused by the absorption of hazardous levels of lead in body tissues.

    Ingested lead pellets from shotgun shells have been a common source of lead poisoning in birds. The service recognized the problem of avian exposure to lead shot used for waterfowl hunting and enacted restrictions in 1991 and hunting and waterfowl populations have thrived since.

    Link

  176. says

    blf @275, Trump and his minions routinely omit the part where they lied about meeting the Russian ambassador (and other Russian contacts). Why did they lie?

    In other news, State Rep. John Bennett from Oklahoma asked a group of Muslim high school students to complete a survey about their adherence to Sharia law. One of the questions on the survey: “Do you beat your wife?”

    Tulsa World link

    When questioned, Bennett responded via email:

    CANT REFUTE FACTS! According (to) her testimony in the Hadith (a collection of Muslim sayings and traditions), Muhammad physically struck his favorite wife for leaving the house without his permission.

    According to the Qur’an, Hadith and Islamic law, a woman may indeed have physical harm done to her if the circumstances warrant, with one such allowance being in the case of disobedience. This certainly does not mean that all Muslim men beat their wives, only that Islam permits them to do so.

    As the Tulsa World reporter noted:

    Bennett is critical of Islam and Islamic leaders, having called Islam “a cancer,” and has often clashed with the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Oklahoma, which sponsored the Muslim Day activities.

  177. says

    @276 – I’m certainly not a gun guy, but a friend I work with is, so I asked him about lead ammunition and if there were any advantages. I also went out and read a few forums where gun enthusiasts and hunters debate the topic.

    It seems the ONLY advantage to lead ammunition is that it’s cheaper. That’s it, oh, and it may do less damage to the insides of the gun over time as it’s softer. However, most gun enthusiasts agree that the trade off isn’t worth it because the lead powder gets in the rifling grooves and throws off accuracy very quickly, causing them to constantly have to clean the weapon.

    So it seems the only people who would worry about this are people who intend to stockpile large amounts of ammunition because it’s cheaper, but your normal every day enthusiast and hunter has no need for lead ammunition.

    I could be talking out of my ass, but that’s what I found in my brief look into this.

  178. blf says

    Women’s leader from India’s ruling BJP charged with child trafficking:

    Juhi Chowdhury, state secretary of Bharatiya Janata party, arrested for alleged involvement in a cartel that police say sold Indian babies to people overseas

    A women’s leader from Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party has been charged for her alleged role in a child trafficking cartel, which police say sold Indian babies to people from foreign countries, including Australia, France and the US as well as to Indians.

    […]

    Nishat Parvez, the director general of West Bengal’s Crime Investigation Department, said that authorities had received a tip-off about a trafficking ring, which allegedly posed as an NGO and obtained fake licences and government funding.

    […] In November, police arrested eight people, including two women, for their alleged involvement in the case, and said they recovered three babies in cardboard biscuit boxes. “We have information that at least 17 babies were sold, and there is evidence of more,” said Parvez.

    Babies were allegedly sold for between 100,000-200,000 rupees (£1,200-2,400).

    […]

    An estimated 135,000 children are trafficked in India every year. Many are brought from villages to big cities to work in factories or as domestic workers.

    Had she been one of teh trum-prat’s dalekcrats, she would have been eating them and then selling the bones, hair, and other remains overseas for “traditional medicines”, sending the remains by diplomatic pouch on taxpayer-paid specially-chartered flights. Once leaked, hair furor would tweet Glad to see prompt removal of ILLEGALS! Keep up good work!

  179. blf says

    Rex Tillerson skips launch of US state department’s human rights report:

    Bush and Obama administrations held ceremonies to announce report, but this year a US official instead takes questions over phone — on condition of anonymity

    The US state department released its annual report on human rights around the world on Friday […].

    Tillerson declined to unveil the report in person, breaking with precedent established during both Democratic and Republican administrations. A senior US official answered reporters’ questions by phone on condition of anonymity rather than appearing on camera, also a break with precedent.

    “The report speaks for itself,” the official said in response to a question about why Tillerson did not unveil it. “We’re very, very proud of it. The facts should really be the story here.”

    The report, mandated by Congress, documents human rights conditions in nearly 200 countries and territories and is put together by staff in US embassies. This year’s report was largely completed during Barack Obama’s tenure.

    […]

    So far in his one-month tenure, Tillerson has not held a news conference and has mostly refrained from answering questions from the media.

    […]

    The report is available here.

  180. says

    Maggie Haberman points out that “Trump was known for years to tape calls in his own offices. And during campaign, staffers fretted their offices were bugged.” And as someone notes in the responses, there have long been allegations that he listened in on calls at Mar-a-Lago. It almost makes me wonder if there’s anything like that going on in his hotels…

  181. blf says

    The week in patriarchy: Texas doctors fight for right to lie to pregnant women:

    A new bill would let doctors lie to prevent abortions and — look, over here! — Ivanka Trump is trying to distract us from Trump’s misogyny with feminism

    These days it’s hard to keep too many things in your head at once — there’s a new scandal unfolding every day, from Mike Pence’s emails (emails!) to yet another person in the Trump administration admitting to meeting with Russians. (At this point, maybe it would just be easier if the White House let us know who didn’t have a meeting with a Russian ambassador.)

    But please don’t get too overwhelmed with The Americans-like intrigue of all this — too many other things need your attention. This week, for example, Texas legislators advanced a bill that would make it legal for doctors to lie to women about the health of their pregnancy in order to prevent them from getting abortions. So if your fetus was sick, or had a disability or chromosomal abnormality, your doctor could literally not tell you — and that would be legal. It’s astounding, yet somehow in this mess of bad news every day, it’s also largely unremarked upon.

    […]

  182. says

    erik @279, thanks for the additional info. Sounds to me like the NRA doesn’t have a leg to stand on in this argument. However, Zinke already rescinded the no-lead-ammunition-use-on-public-lands rule. I don’t know what will happen now.

    In other news, the Washington Post has weighed in on the controversy Trump started by tweeting about imaginary wiretaps:

    Some current and former intelligence officials cast doubt on Trump’s assertion.

    “It’s highly unlikely there was a wiretap,” said one former senior intelligence official familiar with surveillance law who spoke candidly on the condition of anonymity. The former official continued: “It seems unthinkable. If that were the case by some chance, that means that a federal judge would have found that there was either probable cause that he had committed a crime or was an agent of a foreign power.”

    A wiretap cannot be directed at a U.S. facility, the official said, without finding probable cause that the phone lines or Internet addresses were being used by agents of a foreign power — or by someone spying for or acting on behalf of a foreign government. “You can’t just go around and tap buildings,” the official said.

  183. says

    The Gateway Pundit, another favorite rightwing “news” source for Trump and his minions, explains it all:

    Barack Obama’s close confidante Valerie Jarrett moved into his Washington DC mansion recently to help run shadow government and take down the Trump administration.

    The Obama house in the posh Kalorama section of Washington DC is the nerve center of the shadow government [The Gateway Pundit, 3/2/2017]

    That’s supposed to explain all of the allegations swirling around team Trump.

    Rush Limbaugh said something similar:

    When I use shadow government here in these descriptions I’m talking about Obama administration holdovers in what I call the deep state which is these deeply invisible bureaucratic positions, people who are there by virtue of appointment, they’ve never been elected you don’t know who they are. These are the people leaking. These are the people held over from the Obama administration. [Premiere Radio Network, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 3/2/2017]

    The debunking from Snopes:

    The former president may well engage in civic activity or political activism in his post-presidential life, and the non-profit group that has been aligned with him for years is engaged in political opposition activity during the term of a president with vastly different policies. Neither of these items are particularly surprising, but neither do they mean that President Obama is hunkered in Washington in a “shadow White House” from which he sends forth armies to thwart President Trump. [Snopes, 2/17/17]

  184. says

    Trump’s staff seems to have no clue what is behind the wiretap tweets:

    […] One White House official said he woke up Saturday morning to Trump’s tweets and grimaced. It was unclear, this person said, where the president had gotten the idea, but that it likely wasn’t from an official source. “It could have come from anywhere,” this person said.

    Several other people close to Trump said they weren’t sure where he got his information for the posts. One of these people said most of Trump’s aides were back in Washington and woke up exasperated at the posts.

    After making the explosive claims – and trashing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s TV ratings – in the Twitter rant, the president headed to the golf course near his Mar-a-Lago resort.

    Politico link

  185. says

    One more Jeff Sessions/Russia connection, (one that I don’t think was mentioned yet in this thread), the connection that includes Richard Burt:

    A Republican lobbyist was earning hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote one of Vladimir Putin’s top geopolitical priorities at the same time he was helping to shape Donald Trump’s first major foreign policy speech.

    In the first two quarters of 2016, the firm of former Reagan administration official Richard Burt received $365,000 for work he and a colleague did to lobby for a proposed natural-gas pipeline owned by a firm controlled by the Russian government, according to congressional lobbying disclosures reviewed by POLITICO. The pipeline, opposed by the Polish government and the Obama administration, would complement the original Nord Stream, allowing more Russian gas to reach central and western European markets while bypassing Ukraine and Belarus, extending Putin’s leverage over Europe.

    […] At the time, the Russian state-owned oil giant Gazprom owned a 50 percent stake in New European Pipeline AG. In August, five European partners pulled out and Gazprom now owns 100 percent.

    This spring, Burt helped shape Trump’s first major foreign policy address […] Burt recommended that Trump take a more “realist,” less interventionist approach to world affairs […] Trump’s April 27 speech sounded those themes and called for greater cooperation with Russia.

    […] The Russian ambassador to the United States broke the diplomatic norm against attending campaign events to sit in the front row. […]

    In addition to helping shape Trump’s speech, Burt attended two dinners this summer hosted by Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who had been named chairman of Trump’s national security committee. Burt was invited to discuss issues of national security and foreign policy, and wrote white papers for Sessions on the same subjects, according to Burt and another person with knowledge of the situation. […]

    We have no knowledge of this,” wrote Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks in an email. “In fact, our team cannot verify his self-proclaimed contributions to Mr. Trump’s speech and, I don’t believe Mr. Trump or our policy staff has ever met Mr. Burt. To our knowledge he had no input in the speech and has had no contact with our policy team.” […]

    The revelation of Burt’s simultaneous lobbying and campaign-advising comes at a time of mounting concerns about Russian attempts to manipulate the presidential election. […]

    Politico link

  186. blf says

    White House confirms ‘dramatic’ cuts proposed to US foreign aid budget:

    Budget director confirmed on Saturday proposed cuts for the state department and USAID by about a third, to help fund expansion of US military budget

    [White House Office of Management Budget director Mick Mulvaney told Fox News] on Saturday that the Trump administration will propose “fairly dramatic reductions” in the US foreign aid budget later this month.

    […]

    Mulvaney said the cuts in foreign aid would help the administration fund a proposed $54bn expansion of the US military budget.

    “The overriding message is fairly straightforward: less money spent overseas means more money spent here,” said Mulvaney […].

    From memory, most of the actual sending does occur in the States — and as I recall, must do so as part of the various agreements. At one time — I don’t know if this is still true or not — aid / supplies from the States had to be shipped using States-flagged ships(or whatever), which was quite a lucrative scam.

    The US spends just over $50bn annually on the state department and USAID [aid alone is around $31bn (2015) –blf], compared with $600bn or more each year on the Pentagon. […]

    (My emboldening above.)
    As a reminder, USAnnihilate!Annihilate!Annihilate! is already extremely niggardly with aid, as measured by percentage of gross national income (c.0.17%, 20th in 2015 (Sweden, c.1.40%, is 1st)). In absolute terms, the EU as a whole is more generous (c.$88bn). The UN has a goal of 0.7% of GNI.

    “I am very concerned by reports of deep cuts that could damage efforts to combat terrorism, save lives and create opportunities for American workers,” said Ed Royce, the chairman of the House of Representatives foreign affairs committee.

    Furthermore, more than 120 retired US generals and admirals […] sent a letter to Congress, urging it fully fund diplomacy and foreign aid.

    “Elevating and strengthening diplomacy and development alongside defense are critical to keeping America safe,” they said. “We know from our service in uniform that many of the crises our nation faces do not have military solutions alone.”

    […]

  187. says

    Follow-up to comment 287.

    I forgot to mention that Richard Burt also sits on the board of Alfa Bank. That’s the bank that launders Russian money, and that is connected to the Bank of Cyprus, the bank where new Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was Vice Chairman.

    Alfa Bank was connected to the Trump Organization when it was discovered that the two servers were pinging each other, and mostly only each other. “The parties were communicating in a secretive fashion.” Less pinging, less communication, occurred between Spectrum Health (Devos connection) and Alfa Bank.

  188. says

    From Wonkette:

    […] No, President Trump. The Department of Justice getting a FISA court to agree to let it look at your computer traffic with Alfa Bank, while you and every person you have ever met are doing weird Russia stuff, is not “a police state” “worse than Watergate.” It’s how a country of laws works. […]

  189. says

    This is a follow-up, of sorts, to comments 272 and 288 in which it is pointed out that team Trump is dramatically, and nonsensically cutting services and even whole departments.

    The Trump administration is planning to make drastic cuts to the weather satellite budget of the National Weather Service’s parent organization, NOAA [..]. Weather experts […] stated that these proposed cuts would impair the Weather Service’s forecasting ability in a number of critical ways that would endanger Americans including hurricane and tornado forecasts.

    I would think that such cuts would also impair weather forecasting for the military.
    Navy Times link

    The apparent motivation for these cuts is the elimination of climate science satellites. The people proposing these cuts don’t seem to understand that climate science is the integration and analysis of weather data over time. Satellites provide critical instantaneous data on weather, sea ice and crop conditions that are used commercially by public and private organizations to make decisions that are critical to protecting life, transporting goods, growing food and managing water supplies, etc.

    The Weather Service’s capabilities to forecast and monitor storms like Sandy that ravaged trillions of dollars of infrastructure up and down the east coast will be damaged by Trump’s planned cuts. […]

    Link

    […] NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research would lose $126 million, or 26 percent, of the funds it has under the current budget. Its satellite data division would lose $513 million, or 22 percent, of its current funding under the proposal. […]

  190. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Just heard on MSNBC that the White House announced Trump will sign a new executive order Monday to ban Muslims again. His administration is hard pressed to supply the evidence showing the country is at risk unless his order is implemented.

  191. blf says

    Pure evil! US considers separating women and children who cross illegally into US:

    New policy would allow the government to keep parents and children in custody separately, to deter mothers from migrating to the US with their children

    Women and children crossing together illegally into the United States could be separated by US authorities under a proposal being considered by the Department of Homeland Security, according to three government officials.

    Part of the reason for the proposal is to deter mothers from migrating to the United States with their children, said the officials, who have been briefed on the proposal.

    The policy shift would allow the government to keep parents in custody while they contest deportation or wait for asylum hearings. Children would be put into protective custody with the Department of Health and Human Services […].

    Currently, families contesting deportation or applying for asylum are generally released from detention quickly and allowed to remain in the United States until their cases are resolved. A federal appeals court ruling bars prolonged child detention.

    […]

    Implementing the new policy proposal “could create lifelong psychological trauma”, said Marielena Hincapie, executive director at the National Immigration Law Center. “Especially for children that have just completed a perilous journey from Central America.”

    […]

    Next, the goons in the DHSgestapo will be using the children as living “clay pigeons” for target practice.

  192. blf says

    Fact check: what did Trump’s tweets about Obama’s wiretaps mean?. All six tweets are discussed. I particularly liked the debunking of the first tweet:

    The first meeting Jeff Sessions had with the Russian Amb was set up by the Obama Administration under education program for 100 Ambs

    Sessions met Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in July 2016, at an event on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. The event was co-hosted by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and Global Cleveland, in coordination with the RNC and the Department of State.

    The state department has invited ambassadors to both party conventions for decades, as an educational program. Several dozen ambassadors from around the world attended the Republican convention this year […]

    […] Kislyak and other ambassadors approached Sessions after he finished giving a speech. Sessions then spoke with Kislyak alone, the [anonymous justice department] official said, citing a former staffer for the senator. To say the meeting was set up by the Obama administration is false.

    Nor was the second meeting, held on 8 September in Sessions’ office, arranged by the state department.

    Where did the claim come from? On Friday, Breitbart News published an article claiming that the state department sponsored the July meeting.

  193. says

    blf @294, proof that, again!, Trump is using Breitbart as a news source. Breitbart is not even close to reliable. Proof also that Trump needs to support his confirmation bias habit hourly.

    In other news, a lot of people in California are fighting against the latest deportation tactics that result from Trump’s executive orders.

    Lawmakers in California have filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to look into the activities of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the state […]

    It’s telling that an FOIA request has to be filed to get information that ICE should already be giving to the state. There’s a lack of transparency.

    […] “When the safety of Californians is at stake, we must demand greater transparency, with the backing of federal courts if necessary,” the lawmakers [Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon and California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon] said […]

    Federal authorities detained and arrested hundreds of people last month after Trump pledged to intensify the fight against illegal immigration.

    The state lawmakers, however, maintain that the government has not provided enough information about the new policy. […]

    Some religious leaders in California have also responded to the the change in immigration enforcement by forming an underground network of homes that will shelter families facing deportation.

    According to CNN, the Rapid Response Team network plans to give shelter to hundreds and potentially thousands of illegal immigrants in Southern California.

    Link

    Sheltering people is a good, and probably necessary, emergency step that has to be taken, but, in the long run, Trump’s policies will have to be challenged in court and, hopefully, changed.

  194. blf says

    ‘Gun for hire’: how Jeff Sessions used his prosecuting power to target Democrats:

    As the justice department’s man in Alabama, Trump’s attorney general indicted political opponents in remarkably thin cases, court filings show

    […]

    It was 1989 and [Arthur] Outlaw, the Republican mayor of Mobile, Alabama, was girding himself for his re-election campaign. Word was that Lambert Mims, a popular local Democrat, would run against him. Some Republicans were growing skittish.

    But a close friend of Outlaw’s had something planned. The friend had been president of the state Young Republicans, chairman of the regional GOP, then a senior official in the Mobile County Republican party. And now he was the top federal prosecutor in southern Alabama.

    “Jeff says that Mims won’t be around by that time,” an Outlaw aide said ominously, while discussing the election at a City Hall meeting that February, according to a sworn affidavit from an official who was in the room.

    A few months later, Mims confirmed that he would be challenging Outlaw. Then Jeff Sessions made his move.

    Sessions, then the US attorney for Alabama’s southern district, indicted Mims on criminal corruption charges relating to obscure four-year-old negotiations over a planned recycling plant. Mims was the ninth notable Democrat in the area to be indicted by Sessions since the young Republican was appointed by President Ronald Reagan. He would not be the last.

    Opponents concluded that Sessions used his federal prosecutor’s office, and the FBI agents who worked for him, as political weapons, according to more than half a dozen veterans of Mobile’s 1980s legal and political circles. Some alleged in court filings that the ambitious young Republican actually worked from a “hitlist” of Democratic targets.

    “Sessions was a gun for hire,” said Tom Purvis, a former sheriff of Mobile County, “and he went after political enemies.” Purvis was acquitted of charges against him that Sessions oversaw after Purvis unseated another Outlaw ally from the elected sheriff’s position.

    Bolstering the claims are the remarkably thin prosecution cases brought by Sessions against some of those Democrats he indicted, which are detailed across thousands of pages of archived court filings that were reviewed by the Guardian.

    Sessions had no direct evidence that Mims had committed a crime. The recycling plant was never even built. “I’ve never seen such a flimsy, weak case as this against anybody,” Mims’s attorney said in court.

    Still, Sessions’s office, which boasted a 95% conviction rate, persuaded a jury to find Mims guilty. […]

    A few years later, Sessions ran to be Alabama attorney general. His old friend Outlaw, who was also a wealthy businessman, personally donated $25,000 to Sessions’s campaign. It was more than any other contributor gave.

    […]

    In September 1982, Bob Gulledge, a first-term Democratic state senator, was preparing to defend his seat when Sessions indicted him for alleged land fraud conspiracy. Gulledge and an associate had profited from the sale of a tract of land that had been bought with a mortgage from a government-backed lender where the associate was also an executive.

    “What are we doing here? Where’s the crime?” Gulledge’s exasperated attorney asked the court at trial, after Sessions gave an extravagant 90-minute opening statement.

    […]

    So underwhelming was the evidence [against Mims] when played in court that the Mobile Register’s front page headline the following day was: “Recording reveals no wrongdoing”.

    […]

    Asked following the trial whether he had brought the prosecution to kill Mims’s political career, Sessions said nothing could be further from the truth. These cases are based on the law and the facts — and not on any other consideration, he said.

    It’s a long story and I’ve redacted much to create the above excerpt.

  195. says

    blf @296, that’s a fairly damning record for Jeff Sessions. It sounds like he was part of a good-ole-boy network that used positions in public office to do favors for one another … and they put that above the public good.

  196. says

    Trump followers still have hurt feelings over the Women’s March and other massive rallies in support of anti-Trump action (big protests were held, huge, massive). Trump followers are so hurt that they scheduled some more rallies to support Trump. The effort did not go well.

    […] small pockets of [Trump] supporters gathered to show the world their overwhelming response to the historic turnout for the Women’s March at rallies across the country. They fell just a bit short. […]

    January’s Trump protest in Nashville had at least 15 times more people in attendance.

    Turnout in other cities was even more depressing. In Cleveland, a livestream of their March 4 Trump rally showed a sparse crowd of maybe a few hundred supporters, compared to the 15,000 that turned out to protest him on January 21.

    In Connecticut, March 4 Trump attendees appeared to be taking a leisurely stroll down a back road. In Orlando, the Florida Republican party touted “great” turnout above a dimly lit photo of about 200 people (January’s protest had 5,000).

    Denver’s ABC affiliate counted “dozens” of people in front of the capital building (January: 145,000). And in Sterling Hill, Michigan, a small crowd was met with a group of counter-protesters carrying signs and flags of their own across the street. […]

    Last month, Donald Trump himself called on his supporters to stage their own rally to counter the hundreds of protests in recent weeks, promising that it would be the “biggest of them all.” No word from Trump just yet about today’s turnout.

    Think Progress link

    Photos are available at the link.

    Here is one photo:
    https://twitter.com/carigervin/status/838089045666377729?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

  197. blf says

    I giggled at the comparison I’ve emboldened from This is not what Putin planned as he cosied up to Trump:

    Russia’s president never wanted to dethrone America, but use it to further his kleptocracy. He’ll have to think again

    […]

    […] But this [“the dethroning of America as hegemon of the world liberal order and the looming eclipse of the west as we know it”] is a problem for Putin, because he never meant it. Putin’s friends have stolen many billions of dollars over the last 17 years and that money is no good to them if they can’t spend it in Monaco, Mayfair, Malibu or Manhattan. The anti-western act was always just a game of balls and cups, intended to distract the Russian electorate from the wholesale theft going on all around them. But it proved so successful Putin has now helped elect an anti-westerner as leader of the free world.

    Trying to explain this argument […] I found myself mimicking Michael Caine. Kislyak is gaping at the shattered remains of the US political system, while Putin snarls into his ear: “You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off.” Russia is toxic in Washington now. By Saturday morning, Trump himself had joined in the frenzy, accusing Obama of arranging Sessions’ contacts with the Russians, and of repeatedly meeting Kislyak. It is hard to imagine Trump even proposing a grand bargain with Putin, let alone achieving one.

    The best hope for Russia is that Trump ends up an ordinary Republican president, one who will perhaps prove irritating to Putin’s ego, but who will at least safeguard the global financial system that allows Kremlin insiders to keep the billions they have siphoned into the havens of the west. […]

    In case you don’t get the Michael Caine reference, it’s to a scene in the movie The Italian Job.

  198. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    I’m beginning to think that Oklahoma exists for the express purpose of making Texas look good.

    “Rep. John Bennett, who in my opinion doesn’t even deserve to be a representative at this point, is refusing to meet with Muslims unless they answered questions from an anti-Muslimism hate group,” Soltani said in the video.

    In an email to the Tulsa World, Bennett confirmed he handed the questionnaire to three Muslim students.

    The list included questions like whether Muslims agree with the killing of Christians, whether pedophilia is acceptable and even asking directly “Do you beat your wife?”

    The list is from the group ACT for America which is considered an anti-Islam extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and an anti-Muslim bigotry group by the Anti-Defamation League.

  199. says

    James Clapper categorically denies Trump Tower was wiretapped, but also says their report about Russian hacking included no evidence of of the Trump campaign colluding with the Russians, and was not aware of any evidence that existed when he left the position, however he said it’s possible such evidence has been uncovered since then.

  200. says

    From Sean Spicer:

    Reports concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election are very troubling.

    President Trump is requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity, the congressional intelligence committees exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016.

    Neither the White House nor the President will comment further until such oversight is conducted.

  201. says

    Josh Marshall discussed a new development in the Trump/Russia story.

    […] Last week I wrote about Michael Cohen and his extensive network of personal and business relationships in the Ukrainian-American emigre community. One of those was a man named Alex Oronov, who runs a major agribusiness concern in Ukraine. Oronov was a partner in the ethanol business Cohen and Cohen’s brother Bryan set up in Ukraine about a decade ago. Oronov is Bryan Cohen’s father-in-law.

    Today [March 4] we learned that Oronov apparently organized that ‘peace plan’ meeting that brought together Ukrainian MP Artemenko, Cohen and Felix Sater. About four hours ago Andrii Artemenko, the Ukrainian parliamentarian who came to New York with that ‘peace plan’, went on Facebook to announce that Alex Oronov has died. […]

    The rest of the post is a sort of pained rant, blaming Oronov’s death on the reporting of The New York Times. The Times you’ll remember published the story on Feb. 19 describing the meeting between Artemenko, Michael Cohen and Felix Sater. Artemenko describes himself as a pawn caught up in a war between the Times and Donald Trump and said the stress created by the article and the subsequent press attention was too much for Oronov to bear.

    A notable detail is that Artemenko says that it was Oronov who arranged the meeting described in that initial story by the Times. Here is a loose translation courtesy of a friend who is a Russian speaker: “Yes, I’m guilty …. Alex Oronov, my partner, my friend, my mentor, Alex was a family member of Michael Cohen. And he organized all kinds of stuff, including an introduction and a meeting for me with Michael Cohen.” […]

    Are witnesses to the Trump/Russia connection story mysteriously dying, or did the 69-yearold Oronov die of natural causes? We don’t yet know.

    Relevant: Have You Noticed? Russian Diplomats “Dying Suddenly” All Over the Place

  202. says

    Another incident involving desecration of a Jewish cemetery:

    Five tombstones at a historic Jewish cemetery in New York were damaged over the weekend, the latest in what appears to be a spate of attacks on Jewish burial grounds as anti-Semitic incidents spike across the country. […]

    Link

    In wiretapping news, most Republican legislators didn’t know what to say in response to Trump’s bonkers tweet storm about wiretapping. Marco Rubio commented that he had seen “no evidence” to back up Trump’s claims. He continued:

    I’d imagine the president and the White House in the days to come will outline further what was behind that accusation. The president put that out there, and now the White House will have to answer as to exactly what he was referring to.

    Senator Susan Collins said:

    It would be more helpful if he turned over to the intelligence committee any evidence that he has.

    Isn’t that sweet? She thinks Trump has evidence … or maybe she is just trolling Trump masterfully.

  203. says

    Tweet o’ the day.

    The accelerated moral collapse of the Republican Party is sickening to watch. Trump has claimed – on the basis of a BB conspiracy post – that Obama committed a crime and is a bad/sick man. Not only will they not stand up and say how outrageous, irresponsible, disrespectful, and wrong that is, some are suggesting that they’ll look into it as part of a formal inquiry. If Trump had read about the birther lie and tweeted it out yesterday, they might be starting up congressional investigations. They’re accommodating and remaining silent about his patent unfitness and dishonesty (once again), and even promising to institutionally recognize his lunacy. They’re the pathetic lickspittles who’ve been there propping up every autocrat throughout history.

  204. tomh says

    @ #307
    Yeah, it’s obvious they don’t care what Trump says or does as long as he rolls back every regulation in sight and rubber-stamps their awful agenda. As for looking into this latest stupidity, that’s just to pacify Trump, there won’t be any looking into it because there won’t be any meaningful investigation of Russian connections or anything else. All smoke and mirrors while they destroy every worthwhile part of the government.

  205. says

    Writing for Vox, Andrew Prokop focused on an explanation for Trump’s latest off-the-tracks crash:

    […] Trump’s previous attempts to push back on the Russia scandal have failed. He’s tried to call it fake news, he’s tried to call it Democrats trying to distract from their election loss, he’s tried to point out that Democrats have met with Russian government officials in the past at times too. Nothing has worked.

    Trump has felt besieged by a seemingly endless series of leaks from apparently every level of the government, many of which have been related to these investigations into his associates’ contacts with Russian operatives during the campaign. And we know that when Trump feels on the defensive, he usually wants to hit back against someone. […]

    That sounds about right to me. We don’t have to look for a good, or even a politically strategic, reason behind Trump’s wiretapping claims. There is no reason other than this: a bully fails in several attempts to silence his critics so he starts hitting everyone and anyone.

    Trump apparently fumed at his staff and at Sessions as well. He blamed everyone but himself for his stupidity and for his inability to govern.

  206. says

    Roger Stone was mentioned up-thread. Here are few more details about Stone’s personal Twitter meltdown. Stone replied to another Twitter user, Caroline O (@RVAwonk), when Caroline asked if he knew “what libel is”:

    Bring it! Would enjoy crush u in court and forcing you to eat shit-you stupid ignorant ugly [B-word] !

    Stone later deleted that tweet. Stone was, at one time, Trump’s top political advisor, and he now claims to be a “confidant to Trump.”

    Stone’s tweet that prompted the question about libel was:

    The buck stops here. Obama responsible for illegal surveillance of @realDonaldTrump – must be charged, convicted and jailed.

    Stone also went after Republican strategist Ana Navarro:

    Really? @ananavarro is fat, stupid and fucking Al Cardenas.

    Stone did not delete that tweet. Apparently, calling women “fat” and/or “stupid” is his thing.

    Stone has claimed he had a back channel to Assange, then denied that in a taped interview, and has now reclaimed the “back channel”:

    @RVAwonk you stupid stupid [B-word] -never denied perfectly legal back channel to Assange who indeed had the goods on #CrookedHillary

    Stone later deleted that tweet. Maybe he deleted it because it proves collusion between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks?

    Stone’s conclusion to this round of misogynistic and crude tweets, (and there were more tweets that I didn’t include), was this:

    Just nothing better than calling out liberal jerk offs on Twitter. We won, you lost. You’re done!

    Nice choice of advisors and confidants, Mr. Trump.

  207. says

    From SC’s first link in comment 310:

    Telecommunications giants like Verizon and AT&T will not have to take “reasonable measures” to ensure that their customers’ Social Security numbers, web browsing history and other personal information are not stolen or accidentally released.

    Wall Street banks like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase will not be punished, at least for now, for not collecting extra money from customers to cover potential losses from certain kinds of high-risk trades that helped unleash the 2008 financial crisis.

    And Social Security Administration data will no longer be used to try to block individuals with disabling mental health issues from buying handguns, nor will hunters be banned from using lead-based bullets, which can accidentally poison wildlife, on 150 million acres of federal lands. […]

  208. blf says

    Arkansas lawmaker wants to bring concealed gun into state buildings:

    Mickey Gates proposes that legislators should be allowed to bring weapons into capitol to feel safer, despite presence of armed guards and metal detectors

    […]

    Republican representative Mickey Gates is proposing that lawmakers licensed to carry a concealed handgun be allowed to bring their weapons into the Arkansas capitol and other publicly owned facilities throughout the state.

    […]

    Last year, security officials at the Oklahoma capitol complained about a growing trend among conservative legislators who were declining to submit to weapons screening that has been required at government buildings for several years, and breezing through checkpoints.

    An Associated Press reporter watched six GOP Oklahoma house members set off alarms at that state capitol as they walked through metal detectors with their briefcases and satchels.

    Whilst setting off metal detector ≠ gun, it’s obviously not good for the security this eejit claims to be worrying about if not all alarms are investigated.

    In New Hampshire in January, Republican representative Carolyn Halstead dropped her loaded gun on the floor near some children. It didn’t fire and nobody was hurt.

    Later that month in Kansas, Republican representative Willie Dove acknowledged he inadvertently left a loaded gun in a public committee room where a secretary found it a few minutes later.

    The Arkansas proposal is among several guns rights measures filed in the state legislature since Republicans expanded their majorities in both chambers in the November election.

    A proposal to allow concealed handguns at college campuses has stalled after facing resistance from the National Rifle Association over age and training requirements. Other measures include a bill that would eliminate the need for a license to carry a concealed handgun.

    I’m tempted to suggest the eejit’s idea needs a bit of refinement along the lines: “All votes shall be taken by circular firing squad.”

  209. says

    No situational awareness, or no shame? Clueless about civil rights history?

    After Alabama’s Secretary of State John Merrill promoted the state’s voter ID law at a church service held Sunday to commemorate the anniversary of a civil rights milestone in Selma, patrons walked out.

    The service at Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Alabama was held to commemorate the 52nd anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” march that erupted in police violence on Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge […]

    Barber [Rev. William Barber], who is president of the North Carolina NAACP, and church patrons walked out after Merrill spoke in support of Alabama’s voter ID law […]

    “We can’t be polite about this. We can’t be casual or cavalier,” Barber told a reporter. “We have more voter suppression in recent years than we’ve seen since Jim Crow.” […]

    “I don’t care if you came as secretary of state, to stand up and tell another lie, to push the lie of voter ID and confuse people, normalize it, on a day when the nation is watching,” Barber said. “You cannot come and stand in that pulpit and promote a voter suppression tactic and then we just sit there.” […]

    “If you undermine voting,” he added, “everything else falls apart.” […]

    Link

    Merrill is the guy that said closing 31 driver’s license offices in majority black counties would not have a negative impact on voting. The offices were supposed to be a main source of the photo ID required for voting in Alabama.

    Merrill is also the guy who criticized officials who removed Confederate symbols from government buildings.

  210. says

    Satire from Andy Horowitz, writing for The New Yorker:

    In a frenzy of early-morning activity on Saturday, President Donald J. Trump ordered aides to immediately cover every phone in the White House with tin foil, White House sources confirmed.

    According to the sources, Trump contacted staffers Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer at approximately 6 a.m. and instructed them to purchase enough tin foil to cover every phone in the building.

    The President, still wearing his bathrobe after what was reportedly a sleepless night, personally supervised the tin-foil installation, sources said.

    “Wrap it tighter,” he was heard bellowing at Conway.

    After the installation was complete, Trump ordered the Secret Service to check every room in the White House for signs of former President Barack Obama. […]

  211. says

    FBI Director Comey asked the Justice Department to publicly reject Trump’s claim that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower before the election.

    Sounds to me like Comey is fed up with Trump’s inaccurate Twitter tantrums.

    Link

  212. says

    More from the link in comment 318:

    Comey wants the Justice Department to deflate Trump’s claim because there is no evidence to support it, the Times reported, and it insinuates that Comey’s FBI broke the law, the officials told the paper.

  213. says

    Oh, FFS. More unreliable rightwing “news” sources are backing up Trump’s tweets about wiretapping.

    The CEO of Newsmax Media, known for having a relationship with President Trump, wrote on Sunday that Trump insists he will be proven right regarding his allegation of wiretaps at Trump Tower.

    “I spoke with the President twice yesterday about the wiretap story. I haven’t seen him this pissed off in a long time,” Christopher Ruddy wrote in an article for his website.

    “When I mentioned Obama ‘denials’ about the wiretaps, he shot back: ‘This will be investigated, it will all come out. I will be proven right,’” he said. […]

    The Hill link

    Yes, that’s right, my friends. Hair Furor is in a hole and still digging.

    Newsmax link to fake and/or ignorance-based “news.”

  214. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Ari Melber on MSNBC pretty much showed that our unesteemed president may have crossed a line with his latest idiotic tweets into slander, which would likely stand even against a public figure like our Ex-President. Basically, if Trump did not consult with anybody “in the know” before his tweet, it is reckless disregard for the truth….

  215. says

    SC’s first link in comment 321: [eyebrows permanently raised] So now the bonkers, ignorant Hair Furor is going to require that his aides, surrogates and spokespeople enthusiastically defend his lies? Yikes.

    Scarborough is an “intermittent lackey,” but part of his brain still works, so I think he has met his limit when it comes to tolerating Trump’s dumpster-fire of an administration.

  216. says

    I know that Hair Furor has always depended on people like Spicer, Conway, etc. to defend his lies, but what strikes me as ominous is the added requirement that they do so enthusiastically. Does Trump think that will somehow make the lies true? (Maybe it would it the eyes of his followers.)

    How long can this go on?

  217. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Lifes little ironies. Snap of Clinton reading Pence email headline goes viral.

    A photo of former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton glancing at a newspaper headline about U.S. Vice President Mike Pence using private email has gone viral on social media, with thousands of people commenting on it.

    Pence and others involved in the Republican presidential campaign last year criticized Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as U.S. Secretary of State.

    Clinton was on an airplane traveling from Boston to New York on Friday when a fellow passenger snapped a photo of her glancing down at Friday’s USA Today newspaper front page headline “Pence used personal email in office”.

    Pence’s use of an AOL email account was first reported by the Indianapolis Star on Thursday. It said Pence used the account, which was hacked last summer, at times to discuss sensitive matters and homeland security issues while he was governor of Indiana.

    Typical Rethug attitude. I can do anything I want with impunity. You are limited by unfair laws….

  218. says

    Ari Melber on MSNBC pretty much showed that our unesteemed president may have crossed a line with his latest idiotic tweets into slander,…

    Ari Melber’s 5-7 Sunday show is truly good (last week’s segment on Trump and hip hop). I don’t understand why MSNBC isn’t doing much more to promote it – I’m not even sure if it has a name, and it’s not yet listed as a regular show.

  219. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I don’t understand why MSNBC isn’t doing much more to promote it – I’m not even sure if it has a name, and it’s not yet listed as a regular show.

    That may change. He has substituted all over the schedule, the latest being for Lawrence Odonell on The Last Word during his latest break.

  220. says

    “You mean ‘presidential’. This is Presidential(r), a new Trump product line.”

    Fascist trivia:

    The 1923 commemoration was replete with national and commercial iconography. A ‘Commemorative Medal’ decorated with Roman imagery was issued and awarded to all persons who ‘participated in the Black Shirt Revolution’…. For those who were not so fortunate as to be awarded a medal, Italian entrepreneurship stepped in with various commercial ventures. For example, on October 28 Il Popolo d’Italia prominently displayed an advertisement for Fascio, ‘a perfume of ardor and irresistible youth’. (Mabel Berezin, Making the Fascist Self, 1997, pp. 85-6)

  221. says

    “Inside Trump’s fury: The president rages at leaks, setbacks and accusations”:

    …Trump enters week seven of his presidency the same as the six before it: enmeshed in controversy while struggling to make good on his campaign promises. At a time when White House staffers had sought to ride the momentum from Trump’s speech to Congress and begin advancing its agenda on Capitol Hill, the administration finds itself beset yet again by disorder and suspicion.

    At the center of the turmoil is an impatient president increasingly frustrated by his administration’s inability to erase the impression that his campaign was engaged with Russia, to stem leaks about both national security matters and internal discord and to implement any signature achievements.

    This account of the administration’s tumultuous recent days is based on interviews with 17 top White House officials, members of Congress and friends of the president, many of whom requested anonymity to speak candidly.

    Gnawing at Trump, according to one of his advisers, is the comparison between his early track record and that of Obama in 2009, when amid the Great Recession he enacted an economic stimulus bill and other big-ticket items.

    White House legislative staffers concluded late last week that the administration was spinning in circles on the health-care plan, amid mounting criticism from conservatives that the administration was fumbling.

    Trump, meanwhile, has been feeling besieged, believing that his presidency is being tormented in ways known and unknown by a group of Obama-aligned critics, federal bureaucrats and intelligence figures — not to mention the media, which he has called “the enemy of the American people.”

    That angst over what many in the White House call the “deep state” is fermenting daily, fueled by rumors and tidbits picked up by Trump allies within the intelligence community and by unconfirmed allegations that have been made by right-wing commentators….

    The president has been seething as he watches round-the-clock cable news coverage. Trump recently vented to an associate that Carter Page, a onetime Trump campaign adviser, keeps appearing on television even though he and Trump have no significant relationship.

    Stories from Breitbart News, the incendiary conservative website, have been circulated at the White House’s highest levels in recent days, including one story where talk-radio host Mark Levin accused the Obama administration of mounting a “silent coup,” according to several officials.

    Stephen K. Bannon, the White House chief strategist who once ran Breitbart, has spoken with Trump at length about his view that the “deep state” is a direct threat to his presidency.

    Advisers pointed to Bannon’s frequent closed-door guidance on the topic and Trump’s agreement as a fundamental way of understanding the president’s behavior and his willingness to confront the intelligence community…

    “It’s not paranoia at all when it’s actually happening. It’s leak after leak after leak from the bureaucrats in the [intelligence community] and former Obama administration officials — and it’s very real,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. “The White House is absolutely concerned and is trying to figure out a systemic way to address what’s happening.”…

    I love this part:

    Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), an advocate of improved relations between the United States and Russia, said he has told friends in the administration that Trump is being punished for clashing with the hawkish approach toward Russia that is shared by most Democrats and Republicans.

    “Remember what Dwight Eisenhower told us: There is a military-industrial complex. That complex still exists and has a lot of power,” he said. “It’s everywhere, and it doesn’t like how Trump is handling Russia. Over and over again, in article after article, it rears its head.”

    Right, it’s the MIC that’s after him, due to his determination to slash the military budg… Oh, wait…

  222. microraptor says

    Lynna @315:

    If Trump had ever showed more foresight, I’d suspect him of planning for an insanity plea in his eventual impeachment.

  223. says

    “Russian Hackers Said to Seek Hush Money From Liberal U.S. Groups”:

    Russian hackers are targeting U.S. progressive groups in a new wave of attacks, scouring the organizations’ emails for embarrassing details and attempting to extract hush money, according to two people familiar with probes being conducted by the FBI and private security firms.

    At least a dozen groups have faced extortion attempts since the U.S. presidential election, said the people, who provided broad outlines of the campaign. The ransom demands are accompanied by samples of sensitive data in the hackers’ possession.

    Attribution is notoriously difficult in a computer attack. The hackers have used some of the techniques that security experts consider hallmarks of Cozy Bear, one of the Russian government groups identified as behind last year’s attack on the Democratic National Committee during the presidential election and which is under continuing investigation. Cozy Bear has not been accused of using extortion in the past, though separating government and criminal actors in Russia can be murky as security experts say some people have a foot in both worlds.

    The hackers’ targeting of left-leaning groups — and the sifting of emails for sensitive or discrediting information — has set off alarms that the attacks could constitute a fresh wave of Russian government meddling in the U.S. political system. The attacks could be designed to look like a criminal caper or they could have the tacit support of Russian intelligence agencies, the people said.

    Russia’s intelligence agencies maintain close relationships with criminal hackers in the country, according to several U.S. government investigations.

    Regardless of who is behind the latest round of hacks and ransom requests, there is also indication that state-sponsored hackers continue a broader targeting of liberal groups in the U.S.

    The day after the election, the FSB, Russia’s main intelligence agency, targeted the personal emails of hundreds of people, including national security experts, military officers and former White House officials, according to data provided by cyber security researchers who are tracking the spying and who asked not to be identified because of the risks of retaliation. The list was weighted toward people who have worked in Democratic administrations or who are linked with liberal causes….

  224. says

    Steve King: “@RealDonaldTrump needs to purge Leftists from executive branch before disloyal, illegal & treasonist acts sink us.”

    Steve King is on the House Intelligence Committee headed by Devin Nunes, who is quoted in the WaPo article cited above @ #333. The committee is demanding that Comey inform it about ongoing investigations.

  225. blf says

    Here in France, and in a follow-up to @273, Alain Juppé, the former PM who has been convicted in a previous fake jobs scandal, has now firmly stated he will not run for president (Juppé says he will not replace Fillon in French presidential race). François Fillon, in the meantime, has gone into complete meltdown, going back on his promise to resign if a formal investigation was launched (one has been), and “[blaming] the Socialist government, politically biased judges and the media”. He had two rallies — other reports suggest they were lightly attended — over the weekend, and his party, the wingnut Les Républicains, are holding an emergency meeting today (Monday, it was originally scheduled for later (tomorrow?)) to decide what to do.

  226. says

    “Study: Breitbart-led right-wing media ecosystem altered broader media agenda”:

    The 2016 Presidential election shook the foundations of American politics. Media reports immediately looked for external disruption to explain the unanticipated victory—with theories ranging from Russian hacking to “fake news.”

    We have a less exotic, but perhaps more disconcerting explanation: Our own study of over 1.25 million stories published online between April 1, 2015 and Election Day shows that a right-wing media network anchored around Breitbart developed as a distinct and insulated media system, using social media as a backbone to transmit a hyper-partisan perspective to the world. This pro-Trump media sphere appears to have not only successfully set the agenda for the conservative media sphere, but also strongly influenced the broader media agenda, in particular coverage of Hillary Clinton.

    While concerns about political and media polarization online are longstanding, our study suggests that polarization was asymmetric. Pro-Clinton audiences were highly attentive to traditional media outlets, which continued to be the most prominent outlets across the public sphere, alongside more left-oriented online sites. But pro-Trump audiences paid the majority of their attention to polarized outlets that have developed recently, many of them only since the 2008 election season.

    Attacks on the integrity and professionalism of opposing media were also a central theme of right-wing media. Rather than “fake news” in the sense of wholly fabricated falsities, many of the most-shared stories can more accurately be understood as disinformation: the purposeful construction of true or partly true bits of information into a message that is, at its core, misleading. Over the course of the election, this turned the right-wing media system into an internally coherent, relatively insulated knowledge community, reinforcing the shared worldview of readers and shielding them from journalism that challenged it. The prevalence of such material has created an environment in which the President can tell supporters about events in Sweden that never happened, or a presidential advisor can reference a non-existent “Bowling Green massacre.”

    Our analysis challenges a simple narrative that the internet as a technology is what fragments public discourse and polarizes opinions, by allowing us to inhabit filter bubbles or just read “the daily me.” If technology were the most important driver towards a “post-truth” world, we would expect to see symmetric patterns on the left and the right. Instead, different internal political dynamics in the right and the left led to different patterns in the reception and use of the technology by each wing. While Facebook and Twitter certainly enabled right-wing media to circumvent the gatekeeping power of traditional media, the pattern was not symmetric.

    What we find in our data is a network of mutually-reinforcing hyper-partisan sites that revive what Richard Hofstadter called “the paranoid style in American politics,” combining decontextualized truths, repeated falsehoods, and leaps of logic to create a fundamentally misleading view of the world…. By repetition, variation, and circulation through many associated sites, the network of sites make their claims familiar to readers, and this fluency with the core narrative gives credence to the incredible.

    Rebuilding a basis on which Americans can form a shared belief about what is going on is a precondition of democracy, and the most important task confronting the press going forward. Our data strongly suggest that most Americans, including those who access news through social networks, continue to pay attention to traditional media, following professional journalistic practices, and cross-reference what they read on partisan sites with what they read on mass media sites.

    To accomplish this, traditional media needs to reorient, not by developing better viral content and clickbait to compete in the social media environment, but by recognizing that it is operating in a propaganda and disinformation-rich environment. This, not Macedonian teenagers or Facebook, is the real challenge of the coming years. Rising to this challenge could usher in a new golden age for the Fourth Estate.

    (The study was funded by the Open Society Foundations, so the Right can dismiss it as Soros propaganda regardless of the actual strength of the data or analysis.)

  227. blf says

    The Onion, Jeff Sessions Spits In Face Of FBI Interrogator Trying To Get Him To Turn On Trump:

    Angrily dismissing offers of a plea deal if he would agree to cooperate with an investigation into the current administration’s ties to Russia, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reportedly spit in the face of an FBI interrogator Thursday who was attempting to convince him to turn on President Trump. […] At press time, Sessions had reportedly begun to break down and was frantically divulging everything he knew after agents asked him how long he thought he would last on the inside with all the people he had helped put away on marijuana charges over the years.

  228. says

    “Democrats To Ask For Info On Contact Between WH Counsel And DOJ”:

    Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee will on Monday ask for more information about a report that the White House counsel asked the Justice Department for an order authorizing surveillance of the Trump campaign, although there’s no evidence that such an order exists.

    White House Counsel Don McGahn was reportedly acting on President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that the Obama White House ordered a wire tap of Trump Tower.

    “In our experience, it is highly unusual for the White House to seek access to a government application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. In almost any circumstance, it would be inappropriate to ask for that information if the President and his associates are related to the underlying investigation,” the Democrats wrote in a letter to McGahn to be sent on Monday.

    In their letter, Democrats wrote that reports on McGahn’s request are especially concerning, given previous reporting that White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus asked the FBI to push back against reports on ties between Trump aides and Russia.

    They asked McGhan for information on any contacts between White House staff and the Justice Department or FBI about probes into Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 election. The lawmakers plan to send a similar letter to the FBI….

  229. blf says

    And from a British satire site:

    ● Obama put a camera in my shower too says Trump:

    […]
    Just as the [wiretap] conspiracy began to cool, he then added more fuel to the fire by claiming that he had found a camera in his shower and that Obama was behind that too.

    He was behind the White House leaks of my personal info and now this man is watching me naked.

    It is thought that Trumps administration was tipped off after it was brought to their attention that ‘Some one of similar stature to Trump’ was having their naked shower livestreamed on the internet.

    “We believe it is Trump.”, said an anonymous source close to the POTUS. “What gives it away is the pot belly, small hands and extremely small penis.”

    […]

    That obviously wasn’t me., he said. My penis is much much larger than that. Many times larger I’ll show you if you want.
    […]

    ● All future Executive Orders to be 140 characters or less:

    […] Trump has announced to the world that all future Executive Orders, including after he leaves office, will have to have 140 characters or less, so he can tweet them on Twitter.

    Instead of asking Twitter to up their character limit or posting them elsewhere, Trump has said that it is Entire possible to fit hundreds of pages of legislation into just under 150 characters.

    I’m fed up of having to tweet multiple details about executive this, executive that. It’s boring you know. So in line with my smaller government policy, I’m going to get rid of all of the jargon. What you see on Twitter is what you get. [Buzz! Fail! That’s about 240 characters –blf]

    Take this for example, ‘Enforcing Federal Law with Respect to Transnational Criminal Organizations and Preventing International Trafficking’ 125 characters fits in very neatly. Yes there won’t be anything else to it but it’s pretty self explanatory if you ask me.

    […]

    All of my Orders will be written in plain English and if you can’t understand that, then you’re obviously not as bright as I am.

    Also, rest assured I will still be sitting in the Oval office at the presidential desk and have all of those people standing by gawping idly at me when I type these things into my phone.

    ● Yellowstone promises to save us from Trump presidency:

    […]
    Professor Jamie Sanchez who has been studying the massive volcanic chamber underneath the park for five years said, “Yellowstone is threatening to blow, for some this will be excellent news. As we speak the fifty mile wide chamber is being filled with tonnes of molten magma, ready to burst out into the atmosphere and send Donald Trump packing to his Doomsday shelter in the mountains of Switzerland.”

    […]

    “If this volcano erupts, the world will be saved from a Donald Trump presidency. Our planet will be in a catastrophic state, but at least that orange faced buffoon won’t be our president.”, he said.

  230. says

    “FBI investigating data breach involving state voters”:

    ATLANTA – The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating an alleged data breach at the Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State University.

    Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Aaron Diamant reports the state voter data kept by the Center for Election Systems was compromised. Sources tell Diamant the hack happened Wednesday night.

    The Georgia Secretary of State uses the Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State to facilitate elections in all Georgia counties and maintain voting machines.

    Diamant confirmed the Governor’s office asked the GBI to contact the FBI after learned of the scope of the problem.

    “Obviously this is a big incident that affects a lot of people in the state of Georgia,” cyber-secutiry consultant Tony UcedaVelez said. “There could be numerous types of threat motives that are in play.”…

    There’s an upcoming special election for a House seat in Georgia.

  231. says

    Apparently Kim Jong Un is offended that the media is paying more attention to our batshit insane leader than him, as he’s been the holder of the title “World’s Most Batshit Insane Leader” for quite some time.

    Now that his title is in danger of being lost, he’s firing missiles at Japan and getting ready to do an underground nuke test.

  232. blf says

    Currently, the States and S,Korea are conducting their annual joint military exercises (North Korea fires four missiles into sea near Japan):

    […]
    Monday’s [N.Korean missile] launches are believed to be in protest at the start last week of huge joint military exercises involving South Korea and the US that North Korea regards as a rehearsal for an invasion. Pyongyang threatened to take “strong retaliatory measures” after the annual military drills began last Wednesday but did not elaborate.
    […]
    The launches could also be designed to communicate Pyongyang’s anger towards China, coming as Xi Jinping attended the 10-day annual national people’s congress in Beijing.
    […]
    Last month, China announced a suspension of all coal imports from North Korea until the end of the year, depriving Pyongyang of an important source of foreign currency.
    […]

    Doing provocative things at the time of the annual joint exercises is normal N.Korean practice. That does not mean the missile launches should be ignored or condoned, only that it’s not unexpected.

  233. blf says

    Here we go again… Revised travel ban: Trump signs order targeting six Muslim-majority countries:

    Iraq dropped from list of affected countries with Syrian refugees no longer facing indefinite ban — but 120-day suspension of refugee program to stand

    […]

    As with the previous order, people from Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Syria and Libya will face a 90-day suspension of visa processing. […]

    The revised order will keep in place a 120-day suspension of the refugee program, but it will no longer identify Syrian refugees as subject to an indefinite ban. […]

    The order will not come into effect until 16 March, according to leaked guidance documents published by Just Security, in contrast to the first order which was implemented immediately.

    […]

    Other changes will include an exemption for green card holders, who were swept up in the chaos that resulted from the previous order at airports across the country. Language granting priority to religious minorities for entry has also been scrapped, officials said, while attempting to make the case that the travel ban did not seek to target individuals of any one faith.

    This is not a Muslim ban in any way, shape, or form, an official told reporters on the call. There are dozens and hundreds of millions, if not 1-point something billion Muslims who are not subject to this executive order.

    […]

    But Grace Meng, an immigration researcher for Human Rights Watch’s US program, argued the reported changes contained within Trump’s revised order were “merely cosmetic”.

    “President Trump still seems to believe you can determine who’s a terrorist by knowing which country a man, woman or child is from,” Meng said in a statement. “Putting this executive order into effect will only create a false sense of security that genuine steps are being taken to protect Americans from attack, while undermining the standing of the US as a refuge for those at greater risk.”

    […]

    The White House has continued to defend the travel ban as a pressing matter of national security. But the administration nonetheless delayed its own rollout of the revised order last week, citing a desire not to crowd out the positive media coverage that followed Trump’s joint address before Congress.

    Asked if the White House had undermined its own rationale for the travel ban in doing so, officials on the DHS call declined to weigh in after an audible silence.

    I think that question might be best addressed to the White House, an official said. Although I don’t think the underlying, very real security concerns are changed in any way.

    And here is the full text of this cosmetically tweaked Muslim ban.

  234. blf says

    More States-side border goons out of control, Attorneys file petition to release Afghan family detained by Ice at LA airport:

    Immigration officials stopped family of five en route to Seattle, where they had been approved to relocate after rigorous vetting process

    Attorneys have filed a petition seeking the release of an Afghan family of five who were detained by US immigration officials when they arrived at Los Angeles international airport (LAX) on Thursday.

    Lawyers say the mother and father and their three children landed for a connecting flight to Seattle, where they planned to resettle. But they were detained by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

    The Los Angeles Times reported that the International Refugee Assistance Project had filed a petition in federal court on Saturday, seeking the release of the family.

    The petition argues that the family […] were approved for relocation after intense vetting because the father had been employed by the US government in Afghanistan.

    […]

    “These are the people we should be putting out the welcome mat for,” [Talia Inlender, an attorney from Public Counsel, a not-for-profit group that provides free legal services,] said. “They’re putting their own lives and families at risk, and instead of providing them that welcome mat, we are detaining them.”

    Inlender told the Times the family had been split up, the father being taken to one detention center and the mother and children to another. She said she believed the mother and children were now at LAX.

    The US district judge Josephine Staton issued a temporary restraining order late on Saturday banning the government from removing the family from California.

    The order came within an hour of a flight to Texas that the government had planned to place the mother and children on […].

    “The mother cannot read or speak English and her children are aged seven years, six years, and eight months old,” the order said. “The balance of equities tip in their favor and the injunction is in the public interest.”

    […]

    The case, Inlender said, was reminiscent of many in the aftermath of an executive order issued by the Trump administration in January […].

    Afghanistan was not included under the order, which covered Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

    “I was one of the first attorneys on the ground at LAX when that order came up,” Inlender told the Times. “The past 24 hours has been reminiscent of those moments — the stonewalling and not being allowed access to clients.”

    […]

  235. blf says

    Bahrain moves to ban opposition party and let army courts try civilians:

    Justice ministry files lawsuit to dissolve secular Wa’ad group amid fresh crackdown on dissent and human rights in Gulf state

    Bahrain has taken steps to ban the main opposition party and transfer many civilian judicial cases to a military court, in what appears to be a new crackdown on dissent and human rights.

    […]

    The Gulf state, led by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, has been repeatedly accused of curtailing freedoms of expression, association and assembly. Rights groups allege that torture and other abuses are common, especially in the country’s notorious prisons.

    On Monday Bahrain’s justice ministry filed a lawsuit seeking to dissolve the main remaining opposition group on the grounds that it undermined security […].

    The secular National Democratic Action Society, or Wa’ad, had perpetrated serious violations targeting the principle of respecting the rule of law, supporting terrorism and sanctioning violence by glorifying people convicted for terrorism cases, the ministry said.

    Authorities last year dissolved the then largest opposition group al-Wefaq and revoked the citizenship of the country’s top Shia Muslim cleric.

    On Sunday the upper house of parliament approved a constitutional amendment that critics say will allow authorities to run the country under an undeclared state of martial law. The change will allow civilians to be tried by military courts if the case involves the military.

    […]

    Much of the redacted text in the above except is basically, the UK government clapping its hands and all-but-saying good job! Bahrain buys a lot of military and police stuff from the UK; there is also a UK naval base (at least) there, Bahrain paying for Royal Navy base despite human rights criticism.

  236. says

    blf @356, during the announcement of the revised travel ban executive order claims were made that Iraq was dropped from the list of countries because Iraq had assured the U.S. that travelers are/would be properly vetted.

    That’s ridiculous. If the U.S. thought travelers from or passing through Iraq were not properly vetted six weeks ago, what has changed?

    That’s ridiculous. It is patently obvious that Iraq was dropped from the list because Iraq threatened to bar travelers from the U.S. Travelers from the U.S. would include contractors and others essential to fighting the was against ISIS. In other words, Iraq called Trump’s bluff and Trump caved.

    During the announcement of the new ban order, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly made a big deal out of the “we’re just following the law” argument, and he repeated in several ways the idea that people working to enforce the law were doing so humanely. In other words, Kelly indirectly acknowledged that a lot of cruel, ugly situations were precipitated when DHS personnel tried to enforce the previous ban.

    Kelly also said, “We do not make the law, but are sworn to enforce it. We have no other option,” and I take that as another way of saying, “This is bonkers, but we have to enforce it.”

    SC pointed out up-thread that the ACLU is ready to take on the problems and the legal issues associated with the new ban. “Yup” (comment 339).

  237. says

    SC @341, maybe telling all those lies took a toll on Kellyanne Conway. She needed a break. Yes, it does look like Sarah Huckabee Sanders is the new designated defender of Trump’s batcrap crazy pronouncements.

    Excerpt:

    […] Sarah Huckabee Sanders: He firmly believes that this is a storyline that has been reported pretty widely by quite a few outlets. The wire tapping has been dicussed in the New York Times, BBC, Fox News. And we believe that it should be looked–

    Stephanopoulos: Sarah, I have to stop you. I have to stop you right there. Every single article you mentioned does not back up the president’s claim that President Obama had him wire tapped. Not a single one of those articles backs that up. So what is the president’s evidence?

    Sarah Huckabee Sanders: It does back up the fact that the administration was wire tapping American citizens. There was wide reporting suggesting that his administration was ordered by this president specifically, his administration could have done this.

    Stephanopoulos: I have to stop you again, because that is simply not true. […]

    BTW, Kellyanne Conway, though less visible on TV these days, also defended Trump when speaking to Ainsley Earhardt on Fox News:

    […] He’s the President of the United states. He has information and intelligence that the rest of us do not, and that’s the way it should be for presidents. I would note that curiously with the timing, the day after his amazing joint session, which everybody’s polling, and most honest analysts said was a complete home run for him, that the New York Times had a report that clearly showed that there was a rush to preserve and sprinkle intelligence information around the Obama administration toward the end of it. Now we should ask why that is.

    What she just did there is to put the White House directly in the mix when it comes to backing up a bonkers conspiracy theory from Mark Levin and Breitbart News.

    Now the imaginary wiretaps, having been seeded in fertile conspiracy theory ground, are growing rapidly.

  238. says

    But the administration nonetheless delayed its own rollout of the revised order last week, citing a desire not to crowd out the positive media coverage that followed Trump’s joint address before Congress.

    Worked out well.

  239. says

    Spicer won’t hold an on-camera briefing today – it’s now been a week since the last one.

    In related news, back on February 27th I said “So no public comment from the State Department until at least March 6th (and that’s likely wishful thinking).” The first briefing has now been postponed until tomorrow, so we’ll see if that happens.

  240. says

    “Right-Wing Media Scramble To Recast Obama As Trump-Era Villain”:

    …Politically, why the urgent need from the Trump loyalists in the press to bring back Obama, and his allegedly conniving cohorts, just weeks after he left office? Because there has to be an explanation for why Trump and his administration have suffered such a chaotic first few weeks, why they have sparked so many controversies and experienced so many early losses. There must be an explanation for why Obamacare hasn’t been repealed, why the White House travel ban was overturned by the courts, and why Trump is so deeply unpopular.

    Yes, the White House has declared war on the press, but that blame game doesn’t really address Trump’s endless political setbacks. So the default explanation has become “It’s Obama’s fault.” That, and his all-powerful “shadow government.” (He’s kinda like George Soros, but with Secret Service protection.)

    By elevating the supposed looming, off-stage threat of Obama, the right-wing media also allow Trump to play the perpetual victim….

  241. says

    Here are a few more aspects of the new travel ban that Trump just signed, including the fact that this obnoxious ban could well be expanded soon:

    […] Officials said the president will also ask the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department to assess whether any other countries should be added to a future travel ban. The officials didn’t say if the White House has immediate plans for another ban to be implemented after the 90 days are up.

    What are the odds that more countries will be added? What are the odds that another ban will be put in place in 90 days when this one expires?

    The executive order will also suspend the Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days, according to officials. And it will slash the number of refugees accepted into the U.S. through that program this year––cutting the number in half, from 110,000 to 50,000.

    The 120 day suspension is terrible for refugees who have already been given permission to enter the U.S. fairly soon. That permission will expire during the suspension period and they will have to start over.

    Cutting the number of refugees admitted per year by more than half is not justified.

    Administration officials said the executive order would say the FBI is currently investigating 300 people who entered the U.S. as refugees for suspected connections to terrorism. But officials on the call didn’t say what countries those 300 people are from, how long they have been in the U.S., and whether any of them have become naturalized citizens. A DOJ official on the call declined to provide reporters with any additional details about those 300 people being investigated. […]

    Yeah. So team Trump tried very had to come up with proof that the six countries mentioned in this new ban pose some kind of immediate threat, but they came up with nothing. They threw the “300 people” fact into an argument where it doesn’t belong, and they are hoping nobody will notice.

    Link

  242. says

    SC @366, Adam Schiff nailed it. He’s right.

    Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez commented on the new travel ban:

    […] This second Muslim ban is just as unconstitutional as the last one and it isn’t making us any safer.

    These bans cause chaos at our airports, costs our economy billions, and worst of all, it’s fueling discrimination against the Muslim community. This is not who we are as a country.

    Trump’s obsession with religious discrimination is disgusting, un-American and outright dangerous. It’s obvious today that Trump hasn’t read the Constitution and couldn’t care less about the facts.

    Don’t be fooled – he promised again and again during his campaign that he would single out and persecute a
    specific religious group, and that’s exactly what he’s trying to do now.

    We look forward to the day the courts once again rule against President Trump.

    Link

  243. says

    I hate to speculate, but does Dana Boente’s involvement of the prosecution of two hackers with Russian ties
    have anything to do with Trump quietly changing to order of succession, making him the acting Deputy Attorney General? And does that have anything to do with his silence so far on Russiagate, including his failure thus far to appoint a special prosecutor? Doesn’t the fact that this case is still awaiting sentencing mean he should recuse himself as well? And why am I asking this question and not the media?

    If I want to go completely out on a limb, is it possible he helped squash evidence in that trial that would have linked the Trump team to the hackers?

  244. says

    “Trump to track ‘honor killings’ by Muslim men while proposing cuts to violence against women grants”:

    President Trump’s second Muslim ban, signed on Monday, includes a provision directing the Department of Homeland Security to collect and make public “information regarding the number and types of gender-based violence against women, including so-called ‘honor killings,’ in the United States by foreign nationals.”

    According to numbers from a Department of Justice-sponsored study conducted in 2014, there are less than 30 such “honor killings” in the country each year….

    The inclusion of the “honor killings” provision in the new Muslim ban marks the second time in a week the Trump administration has outlined a plan to use federal resources “to whip up as much racial panic as possible,” as Matt Yglesias of Vox puts it. The first instance was Trump’s vow to create the Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement office, or VOICE, during his speech to Congress last week, even though immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans.

    In a similar vein, the number of “honor killings” in the U.S. stands in stark contrast to the roughly 1,500 women who are murdered as a result of domestic violence in a given year. But according to numerous reports, Trump’s budget proposal will eliminate the Department of Justice’s Violence Against Women grants….

  245. says

    Republicans are still trying to rob all of us. They want to transfer federal public lands to state or local governments.

    The chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee is asking budget writers for $50 million to pay for transferring federal land to state or local governments.

    Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) put the request in a wish list sent Friday to the House Budget Committee. […]

    One response from a conservation group:

    “Make no mistake: America is wide awake to these assaults and will not let a bully like Chairman Bishop use hard-earned taxpayer dollars to ensure oil, gas and mining industries can lay waste to the forests, parks and refuges that belong to us all,” Matt Keller, senior director of conservation with the Wilderness Society, said in a statement.

    Link

    Both Trump and his new Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke seem to oppose land transfers, but other Republicans like Jason Chaffetz have supported land transfers. Chaffetz withdrew his support after getting an earful from protestors.

  246. blf says

    The lie is mutating, White House does not know if alleged surveillance of Trump was by wiretap:

    […]
    The White House has admitted that Donald Trump does not know what type of surveillance he is alleging he was put under by Barack Obama, despite a tweet on Saturday explicitly saying his phone was tapped.

    […]

    […] Spicer admitted he could not be more specific about what the abuse might have been. I think that there’s no question that something happened. The question is, is it surveillance, is it a wiretap, or whatever?

    But there has been enough reporting that strongly suggests that something occurred and I think that’s why what he has said yesterday is that he wants Congress to look into this. And I think that there is enough out there now that makes one wonder how some of this happened without the existence of surveillance.

    A journalist attempted to press the issue further but Spicer interrupted him and said: I’m going to put a pin in this.

    He added later: The president speaks very candidly. His tweets speak for themselves.

    Trump’s early Saturday morning tweets […] came shortly after similar claims were made by a conservative radio host, later summarised by the rightwing Breitbart News.

    […]

    […] Democrat Nancy Pelosi, minority leader in the House, has accused Trump of behaving like an autocrat. “It’s called a wrap-up smear,” she said. “You make up something. Then you have the press write about it. And then you say, everybody is writing about this charge. It’s a tool of an authoritarian.”

  247. says

    Ben Carson, who is presently the head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development for the Trump Administration, said some stupid stuff:

    Ben Carson says slaves were “immigrants” who “had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great grandsons, great granddaughters might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.” […]

    Vox link

  248. says

    The Trump team’s fundraising pitch confirms that the new travel ban is also … wait for it … really a Muslim ban.

    We already knew that, but the lawyers who have to defend the new ban in court must be getting tired of Trump undercutting them by reiterating “radical Islamic terrorism” etc. all over their fundraising emails and postings.

    “Because you care about keeping America safe, I want you to be the first to know that I just signed a NEW Executive Order on immigration […] radical Islamic terrorism […]”

    https://twitter.com/gdebenedetti/status/838837253162037248?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

  249. says

    erik @373, Rosa Hwang posted:

    Gold Star father Khizr Khan cancels scheduled speech in Toronto after being told his “travel privileges are being reviewed.”

    Sounds like an authoritarian move from the Trump administration.

  250. blf says

    President [sic] Donald Trump is the most powerful cornered animal in the world:

    […]
    For all his inconstancy of character, Donald Trump is a master manipulator. He rose to political prominence by slandering Barack Obama. He rode the birther myth as far as it would go — before brazenly jettisoning it with the insistence that it was all the handiwork of Hillary Clinton.

    Now once again, he seeks to buoy his political fortunes by attacking Obama. Perhaps what is so striking about the tweets is not their desperation, but their cynicism. In exclaiming This is McCarthyism!, Trump said something deeply revealing — only about himself. McCarthyism was never in the first instance about wiretapping. It was about defaming public officials with charges of treason without a shred of evidence. Sounds familiar, no?

    […]

    It’s hard to know where it goes from here. Perhaps Trump will turn his attention to a more traditional enemy: not a perceived political rival but a nation allegedly threatening American interests. Not an Australia [sic], but a North Korea or Iran or even China. No better way to drown the voices of dissent than by pounding the martial tattoos of the war drum. Or maybe he will continue to tilt at his fellow Americans.

    Since his election a scant six weeks ago, Trump has defamed a great newspaper, a federal judge, and a former president. He has attacked whole institutions, pillars of American democracy. He appears willing to hold a great constitutional order hostage to his narcissism and political [sic] insecurities.

    One wishes to echo the words of Joseph Welch who famously asked of Joe McCarthy: “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

    The same author (Lawrence Douglas) also wrote another relevant column, Why Trump wants to disempower institutions that protect the truth: “The US president [sic] is attacking the very institutions that are meant to expose lies: universities, the media and the judiciary. Democracy is impossible without them”.

  251. blf says

    Follow-up to @357, Afghan family detained by Ice in Los Angeles to be released, lawyer says:

    […]
    An Afghan family of five who traveled to the United States on special visas and were detained by immigration officials at the Los Angeles airport will be released on Monday, one of their lawyers said.

    […]

    Talia Inlender, senior staff attorney for Public Counsel, said immigration authorities had agreed to release the family from custody. The family will be allowed to remain in the country subject to an immigration review at a later time, said Inlender, one of a team of lawyers representing the family.
    […]

  252. says

    Steve Bannon continues to refer to a 1970s novel, “The Camp of Saints.” For background:

    […] The Southern Poverty Law Center has described it as “a racist fantasy about an invasion of France and the white Western world by a fleet of starving, dark-skinned refugees.” (In the novel, the leader of the refugees is described as regularly eating human feces.) Raspail [French author of the book] once said that “the proliferation of other races dooms our race, my race, to extinction.”

    Here is HuffPo’s partial list of Bannon’s citations from the book, or references to the book:

    “It’s been almost a Camp of the Saints-type invasion into Central and then Western and Northern Europe,” he said in October 2015.

    “The whole thing in Europe is all about immigration,” he said in January 2016. “It’s a global issue today—this kind of global Camp of the Saints.”

    “It’s not a migration,” he said later that January. “It’s really an invasion. I call it the Camp of the Saints.”
    “When we first started talking about this a year ago,” he said in April 2016, “we called it the Camp of the Saints. … I mean, this is Camp of the Saints, isn’t it?”

  253. blf says

    Israel is now trying to out-prat teh trum-prat, Israel passes law barring entry for supporters of boycott of Jewish state:

    Wording of new law leaves open possibility it could be used against Palestinians temporarily residing in Israel, says Haaretz

    Israel’s parliament has passed into law a bill barring entry into the country to those supporting a boycott of the Jewish state.

    […]

    A visa will not be granted nor a residence permit of any kind to any person who is not an Israeli citizen or permanent resident if he, or the organisation or body in which he is active, has knowingly issued a public call to boycott the state of Israel or pledged to take part in such a boycott, the statement said.

    […]

    The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement campaigns for a global boycott of Israel until, among other demands, the country withdraws from all occupied Palestinian territories. Israel sees the movement as a strategic threat and accuses it of antisemitism — a claim BDS denies.

    Haaretz newspaper said the wording of the new law left open the possibility that it could be used against Palestinians living in Israel as temporary residents while their applications for permanent residence were being considered. Such a process is required by Palestinians seeking right of abode with their Israeli-Arab spouses.

    […]

    More about BDS, Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: What is BDS?:

    Everything you need to know about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, and what’s being done to combat BDS.

    […]

    Expect to see the fight get even nastier with more lawsuits, McCarthyism, “black ops” and smear tactics, covert intelligence gathering and restrictions on BDS activists’ freedom of movement. As Amnesty International has noted with concern, there have even calls for “targeted civil eliminations”.

    But Israel’s forte has always been the hard power of military coercion. Indeed, its diplomats appear unable to comprehend the BDS movement without comparing it with a war. It is clueless about how to deal with a non-hierarchical social movement waging a struggle on the terrain of moral persuasion.

    […]

    As the article points out, “BDS is comparable with – and takes direct inspiration from — the historic anti-apartheid movement which helped to isolate South Africa globally and end white rule.”

    Also, here at FtB, Apartheid in Israel? It’s been there for ages.

  254. says

    SC @377, yes, as Matt noted, the missive from the White House closely echoes an ExxonMobil press release.

    […] The President’s statement came two hours after he was scheduled to meet with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, formerly the company’s CEO, and an hour after Exxon’s current CEO announced the expansion at an energy conference. […]

    Neither the White House nor ExxonMobil immediately responded to TPM’s request for comment, but White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the White House had been in touch with the oil giant.

    “Exxon made it clear to the White House and to the President that because of his policies that they continue to expand their investment,” he told reporters Monday afternoon. […]

    In fact, one paragraph in both statements – from Exxon and from the White House – is nearly identical. The latter spelled out “U.S.” and removed “expansion” from the phrase “Growing the Gulf expansion program,” from the company’s statement. […]
    Link

    Trump also tweeted about ExxonMobil news. In the tweets, Trump also congratulated himself, of course.

  255. tomh says

    @ #383
    Comey, the same clown who, two weeks before the election, had no problem trumpeting speculation, proved to be false, about possible emails involving Clinton, all against DOJ policy and even orders. Now he has to beg the DOJ to deny the latest Trump stupidity? What happened to his voice? He was happy to spread rumors to Congress, the press, the public like some hero. Now he’s a little mouse, afraid to speak. Pathetic.

  256. says

    Apparently, Trump has offered Planned Parenthood a deal: stop providing abortion services and you can keep federal funding.

    New York times link

    The White House, concerned about the possible political repercussions of the Republican effort to defund Planned Parenthood, has proposed preserving federal payments to the group if it discontinues providing abortions.

    The proposal, which was never made formally, has been rejected as an impossibility by officials at Planned Parenthood, which receives about $500 million annually in federal funding. That money helps pay for women’s health services the organization provides, not for abortion services.

    “Let’s be clear, federal funds already do not pay for abortions,” Dawn Laguens, the executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said on Monday. “Offering money to Planned Parenthood to abandon our patients and our values is not a deal that we will ever accept. Providing critical health care services for millions of American women is nonnegotiable.” […]

  257. says

    Follow-up to comment 387.

    Trump confirmed discussions with Planned Parenthood in a statement:

    As I said throughout the campaign, I am pro-life and I am deeply committed to investing in women’s health and plan to significantly increase federal funding in support of nonabortion services such as cancer screenings. Polling shows the majority of Americans oppose public funding for abortion, even those who identify as pro-choice. There is an opportunity for organizations to continue the important work they do in support of women’s health, while not providing abortion services.

    Ignorant sod.

  258. says

    For the last few days, I’ve seen Republicans on TV taking seriously (or pretending to take seriously) Trump’s libelous claim about Obama, and even promising to investigate it on the basis of no evidence. I think about Marco Rubio who, despite being a spineless wonder in terms of action, did manage to recognize that the Russian hacking and interference campaign could just as easily target Republicans. They haven’t yet awakened to the fact that Trump could do the same thing to any one of them that he’s doing to Obama. Next time it could be any Republican he perceives as disloyal who becomes a wrecker and a traitor – could be Ryan, McCain, Rubio, Nunes, King, or any one of them. If they go along with this, they send a signal to him that this is a useful tactic and to the public that no matter how wild and substanceless his claims are they should be granted credibility and pursued. By the time they realize this autocratic weapon can be turned on them, it could be too late.

  259. says

    On “All In” tonight, Chris Hayes interviewed Robert Costa. Costa said that, since Trump does not use a computer, he does not read rightwing websites like Breitbart online, instead, Trump’s staff prints out a big stack of paper for him everyday.

    The staff prints out Breitbart full-of-bullshit “news” (and similar output from other far rightwing sites) and Trump sits there every day reading that crap. Day in and day out, he receives printed garbage and ingests it. That input, plus his TV viewing, is what he pays attention to every day. His other source of information consists of checking his Twitter feed on his phone, while (according to Costa), filtering the tweet responses to see what his supporters are saying to him.

    After that, Trump makes decisions.

    Holy crap, that process depends on garbage input. Garbage in, garbage out.

  260. says

    In the new episode of Pod Save America – “The most damning conclusion of all” – they interview Adam Schiff. Recommended.

    (The laughter about the flower-delivery service ad is due to the fact that they were advertising a different flower-delivery service like last week. All of these services right now suck, in my opinion.)

  261. says

    I can’t believe only one news outlet (USA Today) managed to take advantage the opportunity to run the headline “Putting the Ban Back Together”.

  262. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Lawrence ODonnell on MSNBC just said that the House rethug ACA replacement has already lost 4 rethug senators. Doesn’t sound like very good news to Speaker Ryan the idiotlogue.

  263. says

    Nerd of Redhead… Kochcare is going no where and the GOP is seriously divided on this. The ACA is pretty safe for now.

    In other news, is the confirmation hearing for the new Derputy AG the biggest thing to pay attention to tomorrow?

    Spell check wants me to fix derputy, I’m not gonna.

  264. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    The ACA is pretty safe for now.

    I don’t share you optimism.

    Tomorrow I will be dismantling a 25 year old cupboard so I can have wall space for an electrical upgrade in conjunction with moving my electric meter from my basement to be the side of the house. All politics are local. Mine says take care of local business.

  265. says

    I love Ani DiFranco…

    Although she could use a lesson in capitalization.

    dear comrades,
    this wednesday, march 8, the organizers of the women’s march are calling for a women’s general strike.
    if there are any women who feel able or compelled to participate, here is some information about how.
    if you are unable to participate (or not a woman!) you can simply support the effort by wearing red that day or helping to spread the word about it, or by helping to enable those women that are acting to participate. i believe this general strike idea is a very powerful one. there’s been so many times when i’ve gone to france or spain or somewhere in the much more socialistic european landscape, and witnessed some kind of huge, powerful worker’s strike going on. the rail system is shut down or the busses or something equally dramatic and business as usual has been ground to a halt to call attention to some egregious issue. i long so much for us workers in america to achieve that sort of unity and ferocity. would it be possible for us to organize a real general strike to protest the trump administration?? or are we just too big and vast a nation? we would need the big labor unions on board. the auto workers, the farm workers, the transportation workers. we would need the tech companies and the schools… the financial sector would probably never join because they are too invested (pardon the pun) in any and every republican free ride. anyway… it is a lofty dream. (one i have every night now!) this action on march 8th is at least a nod to such a concept, a toe in the water.
    blessings to you all and great thanks for whatever ways you might be devising to take part in the resistance (or just to be good and loving people in this age of… the opposite) much love, ani

  266. says

    More evidence of disagreements within the ranks of Republicans when it comes to Paul Ryan’s proposed replacement for Obamacare:

    Four Republicans senators hailing from states that have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act fired a shot across the bow — in the form of a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) — against the changes to the program that were included in draft House Obamacare repeal legislation.

    “While we support efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and make structural reforms to the Medicaid program, we are concerned that the February 10th draft proposal from the House of Representatives does not provide stability and certainty for individuals and families in Medicaid expansion programs or the necessary flexibility for states,” the letter, signed by Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), said.

    If Republicans lose three votes in the Senate, their Obamacare repeal bill is doomed.

    There are 20 Republican senators representing Medicaid expansion states, and how to handle the issue has become a flashpoint in the Obamacare repeal debate. GOP lawmakers have floated freezing enrollment on the expanded Medicaid programs before winding them down. The Feb. 10 draft bill would scale back the expansion in 2020, allowing the states to continue covering their expanded populations but with far less funding to do so from the federal government. […]

    Link

    I think the proposed cuts to Medicaid will be disastrous if they are implemented.

  267. says

    A few excerpts from the New Yorker article by Adam Davidson that Rachel Maddow spent a lot of time discussing this evening:

    The President helped build a hotel in Azerbaijan that appears to be a corrupt operation engineered by oligarchs tied to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. […]

    The building, a five-star hotel and residence called the Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku, has never opened, though from the road it looks ready to welcome the public. Reaching the property is surprisingly difficult; the tower stands amid a welter of on-ramps, off-ramps, and overpasses. During the nine days I was in town, I went to the site half a dozen times, and on each occasion I had a comical exchange with a taxi-driver who had no idea which combination of turns would lead to the building’s entrance. […]

    A former top official in Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Tourism says that, when he learned of the Trump hotel project, he asked himself, “Why would someone put a luxury hotel there? Nobody who can afford to stay there would want to be in that neighborhood.”

    The Azerbaijanis behind the project were close relatives of Ziya Mammadov, the Transportation Minister and one of the country’s wealthiest and most powerful oligarchs. According to the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, Azerbaijan is among the most corrupt nations in the world. […] Ziya Mammadov became the Transportation Minister in 2002, around the time that the regime began receiving enormous profits from government-owned oil reserves in the Caspian Sea. At the time of the hotel deal, Mammadov, a career government official, had a salary of about twelve thousand dollars, but he was a billionaire. […]

    The sustained back-and-forth between the Trump Organization and the Mammadovs has legal significance. If parties involved in the Trump Tower Baku project participated in any illegal financial conduct, and if the Trump Organization exerted a degree of control over the project, the company could be vulnerable to criminal prosecution. Tom Fox, a Houston lawyer who specializes in anti-corruption compliance, said, “It’s a problem if you’re making a profit off of someone else’s corrupt conduct.” Moreover, recent case law has established that licensors take on a greater legal burden when they assume roles normally reserved for developers. The Trump Organization’s unusually deep engagement with Baku XXI Century suggests that it had the opportunity and the responsibility to monitor it for corruption.

    Before signing a deal with a foreign partner, American companies, including major hotel chains, conduct risk assessments and background checks that take a close look at the country, the prospective partner, and the people involved. Countless accounting and law firms perform this service, as do many specialized investigation companies; a baseline report normally costs between ten thousand and twenty-five thousand dollars. A senior executive at one of the largest American hotel chains, who asked for anonymity because he feared reprisal from the Trump Administration, said, “We wouldn’t look at due diligence as a burden. There certainly is a cost to doing it, especially in higher-risk places. But it’s as much an investment in the protection of that brand. It’s money well spent.” […]

    Maddow Blog link to “Sketchy Trump deal sparks calls for another investigation” video, 22:58 minutes long.

    Maddow Blog link to video that includes an interview with Adam Davidson, and that also includes Senator Sherrod Brown’s call for an investigation “to examine whether the President or his family is exposed to terrorist financing, sanctions, money laundering, and other imprudent associations through their business holdings and connections.” The video is 5:35 minutes long.

  268. blf says

    Slightly related to @405’s “an administration that’s barely held together” is today’s Paul Krugman column in the INYT (ex-IHT), A Party Not Ready to Govern:

    According to Politico, a Trump confidante says that the man in the Oval Office — or more often at Mar-a-Lago[] — is “tired of everyone thinking his presidency is screwed up.” Pro tip: The best way to combat perceptions that you’re screwing up is, you know, to stop screwing up.

    But he can’t, of course. And it’s not just a personal problem.

    It goes without saying that Donald Trump is the least qualified individual, temperamentally or intellectually, ever installed in the White House. As he veers from wild accusations against President Obama to snide remarks about Arnold Schwarzenegger, he’s doing a very good imitation of someone experiencing a personal breakdown — even though he has yet to confront a crisis not of his own making. Thanks, Comey.

    But the broader Republican quagmire — the party’s failure so far to make significant progress toward any of its policy promises — isn’t just about Mr. Trump’s inadequacies. The whole party, it turns out, has been faking it for years. Its leaders’ rhetoric was empty; they have no idea how to turn their slogans into actual legislation, because they’ve never bothered to understand how anything important works.

    Take the two lead items in the congressional G.O.P.’s agenda: undoing the Affordable Care Act and reforming corporate taxes. In each case Republicans seem utterly shocked to find themselves facing reality.

    The story of Obamacare repeal would be funny if the health care — and, in many cases, the lives — of millions of Americans weren’t at stake.

    First we had seven — seven! — years during which Republicans kept promising to offer an alternative to Obamacare any day now, but never did. Then came the months after the election, with more promises of details just around the corner.

    Now there’s apparently a plan hidden somewhere in the Capitol basement. Why the secrecy? Because the Republicans have belatedly discovered what some of us tried to tell them all along: The only way to maintain coverage for the 20 million people who gained insurance thanks to Obamacare is with a plan that, surprise, looks a lot like Obamacare.

    Sure enough, the new plan reportedly does look like a sort of half-baked version of the Affordable Care Act. Politically, it seems to embody the worst of both worlds: It’s enough like Obamacare to infuriate hard-line conservatives, but it weakens key aspects of the law enough to deprive millions of Americans — many of them white working-class voters who backed Donald Trump — of essential health care.

    The idea, apparently, is to deal with these problems by passing the plan before anyone gets a chance to really see or think about what’s in it. Good luck with that.

    Then there’s corporate tax reform […]

    […]

    At this point, then, major Republican initiatives are bogged down for reasons that have nothing to do with the personality flaws of the tweeter in chief, and everything to do with the broader, more fundamental fecklessness of his party.

    Does this mean that nothing substantive will happen on the policy front? Not necessarily. Republicans may decide to ram through a health plan that causes mass suffering, and hope to blame it on Mr Obama. They may give up on anything resembling a principled tax reform, and just throw a few trillion dollars at rich people instead.

    But whatever the eventual outcome, what we’re witnessing is what happens when a party that gave up hard thinking in favor of empty sloganeering ends up in charge of actual policy. And it’s not a pretty sight.

      † Hair furor has actually spent more time at Wacko House then in Florida (the Grauniad’s clock has 35 of 46 days in Wacko House). I assume Mr Krugman knows this, and this is just a snark.

  269. blf says

    Why you should NOT let Ben Carson drill a hole in your head (“The US politician has claimed he could stick electrodes in your brain and have you recite verbatim a book you read 60 years ago. In no way is this true”). The author (Dean Burnett) usually writes a snarky science-based column (“Brain Flapping“, e.g., How internet porn caused the rise of Donald Trump), but in this case he is incandescent, explaining “if you’re sceptical that I’d go to the extent of reading an entire PhD thesis just to flesh out a topical article, I can assure you I have indeed read it. And wrote it. IT WAS MY PHD! For the first time since starting this often-farcical semi-satirical science blog, I can legitimately quote my own published research, because when it comes to the role of the hippocampus in memory retrieval, this is legitimately my area of expertise.”

    The column also refers to this Carson jaw-dropper from the same speech, Ben Carson incorrectly suggests African slaves were immigrants to US: “Housing and Urban Development secretary portrayed enslaved people’s forced migration to Americas as journey to land of dreams and opportunity in speech”.

    I don’t know what it is the thugs drink / smoke / inject, but I absolutely don’t want any of it — or them…

  270. blf says

    The Grauniad has some snarky suggestions for hair furor, Six surveillance films to make Trump paranoid: “From All the President’s Men to the Bourne series, wiretapping is widespread in Hollywood. No wonder Trump is twitchy …”. The films are:

    ● The Conversation (1974).
    ● All the President’s Men (1976):

    [… T]his is a film about the brilliance and cunning of two men — Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) — who belong to what Steve Bannon openly refers to as the opposition party. Those Washington Post reporters broke the Watergate story with the help of the unnamed source they christened Deep Throat — and don’t be surprised if those were the two words that made Trump’s ears prick up. Though he may not have been paying quite as much attention to the scene where Woodward tells Bernstein: “If you’re gonna do it, do it right. If you’re gonna hype it, hype it with the facts.”

    ● Sneakers (1992).
    ● Enemy of the State (1998).
    ● Blow Out (1981).
    ● The Bourne series (2002-present).

  271. says

    As Steve Benen pointed out, Trump was tweeting while he watched Fox & Friends this morning.

    […] “122 vicious prisoners, released by the Obama Administration from Gitmo, have returned to the battlefield. Just another terrible decision!”

    […] Trump has no idea what he’s talking about. As the president should at least try to understand, of the 122 prisoners in question, 113 were released by the Bush/Cheney administration, not Obama. This was documented quite clearly by officials in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, who wrote a report that was only a page-and-a-half long – brief enough for even Trump to read.

    But he didn’t want to read it. Trump instead relied, once again, on conservative media instead of officials on his own executive branch. This happens with alarming frequency.

    But looking past the president’s unwillingness to read brief reports on national security, we also see evidence that Trump remains preoccupied with Barack Obama. […]

    These are the words of someone with a preoccupation. The Washington Post reported yesterday on comparisons with Obama “gnawing at” Trump. […]

    Since Inauguration Day, Trump hasn’t just talked about how much he thinks Obama likes him, the president has also blamed Obama for protests, blamed Obama for executive-branch leaks, and accused Obama of tapping his phone.

    Trump’s interest in Obama has never been altogether healthy. After all, Trump’s pre-election claim to political fame was championing a racist conspiracy theory about the Democratic president. During the election season, Trump tried to convince voters that Obama was “the founder of ISIS.”

    And now, based on the president’s ongoing whining, it seems Obama has taken up residence in Trump’s head. […]

  272. says

    “Kremlin-backed media turns on Trump”:

    Kremlin-controlled news outlets used to root for Donald Trump’s election. Now they’re reveling in the chaos and division of his early presidency.

    It’s not that the Kremlin-controlled outlets which all but explicitly rooted for Trump to defeat Hillary Clinton last fall have changed their view of the New York mogul. It’s that Moscow’s main goal was always to undermine the U.S. political system, regardless of who is in the White House, experts said.

    “The Russian government is savoring the severe damage to America’s international image a result of the tumultuous first weeks of the Trump administration’s tenure,” said Andrew Weiss, a former Clinton White House National Security Council official for Russian affairs.

    That’s particularly true given dimming hopes in Moscow that Trump can now deliver on his pledge to cooperate with Putin.

    Putin’s Russia might like to befriend and strike deals with Trump. But Moscow is also happy to see him founder if it weakens American resolve at home and abroad, said Weiss, now vice president for policy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

    The uproar over Trump’s alleged ties to Moscow have put Russian news outlets in an awkward spot. On one hand they are celebrating the confusion surrounding charges that Trump and his associates might have had illicit ties to Moscow.

    At the same time, Moscow’s media rejects such talk as McCarthyism, and points a finger at former President Barack Obama as a sinister figure using Russia as a means of undermining Trump.

    Obama’s influence has been a recurring theme….

    Could also be that Putin bit off more than he could chew.

  273. says

    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had a few things to say about the House Republicans’ proposed legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare:

    After seven years of talking about the same thing over and over again, you’d think the Republicans would have been able to come up with a better plan than this. This plan is a mess. Trumpcare will make health insurance in America measurably worse in just about every way and leave more Americans uninsured. It does, however, greatly benefit the very wealthy and special interests. […]

    Trumpcare is breathtakingly irresponsible. It shifts the costs and the burdens from the rich to the poor and middle class, […], and raises premiums on older Americans. It seems designed to cover fewer Americans and make that coverage less affordable and less generous. […]

    They’re rushing it through because it’s very hard to defend what they have done, and the longer it’s out there, the harder it’s going to be for their colleagues, Republicans, to vote for it. Lawmakers will be voting blind […]

    Link

    Just a few reminders about Trumpcare:

    – it lets insurers charge women more for insurance

    – it lets insurers leave out coverage for a lot of preventative care

    – it benefits wealthy Americans

    – it turns Medicaid into a block grant in 2020, and cuts Medicaid funding down the road

    – shifts Medicaid costs to the states.

    – the tax credits offered are less generous than those in the Affordable Care Act, especially for low-income people

    – tax credits offered in Trumpcare don’t adjust by geography, so in areas where premiums are higher, low and middle income people will be less likely to afford insurance

    – we may even see a resurgence of lifetime or annual caps as insurers compete under Trumpcare, since many insurance-marketplace reforms of Obamacare have been dropped

    – we may also see higher deductible plans

    – health savings accounts are touted by Republicans, but such plans are not useful for poor people

    – the Republican plan defunds Planned Parenthood by refusing payouts of Medicaid funds to organizations that provide abortion care (refusal to pay, for example, for cancer screening because abortion services are offered)

  274. blf says

    Could also be that Putin bit off more than he could chew.

    That’s similar to the “You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off” hypothesis, albeit as presented in @301, Putin & Cronies, UnLimited, need a place to stash their ill-gotten billions: A stable US with a conman / kleptomaniac / puppet in Wacko House would be more accommodating, but not an unstable wobbling drunken wreck with a full collection of incompetents, all claiming to doing the steering.

  275. says

    SC noted up-thread that more bomb threats were received by Jewish Community Centers. Here are a few details:

    Jewish community centers in at least five states and multiple offices of the Anti-Defamation League reported bomb threats on Tuesday in what was at least the fourth wave of threats made against Jewish organizations since January. […]

    Some of the threats were delivered via email.

    A partial list:
    David Posnack Jewish Community Center in Davie, Florida
    Jewish community centers in Portland, Oregon, and Rockville, Maryland
    Anti-Defamation League — multiple ADL offices
    JCC in Dewitt, New York
    JCC in Rochester, New York
    Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center in Milwaukee

  276. blf says

    Senate votes to repeal labor protection laws that safeguarded poultry workers:

    Trump has vowed to sign bill to eliminate Obama-era mandate to disclose on-site injuries and fatalities, which occur at a high rate in chicken-processing industry

    The Trump administration and Senate Republicans rolled back labor protection laws on Monday in a pair of moves that labor advocates predict will chill complaints by vulnerable workers, especially in the low-wage food processing industry, which relies heavily on easily exploited undocumented laborers.

    The Senate voted along party lines, 49–48, to repeal an Obama-era executive order mandating accurate labor violation record-keeping, meaning that companies with on-the-job accidents and fatalities no longer have to disclose that information in order to receive lucrative government contracts. Earlier the same day, Trump issued an executive order promising to rigorously evaluate all grounds of inadmissibility or deportability with respect to foreign nationals on US soil.

    The House already voted to pass the bill revoking the record-keeping order; Trump has said he will sign it into law. Some 134 public interest groups, from the ACLU to the Sierra Club, signed a petition to the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, asking the Senate to keep the disclosure law as is. McConnell, with his fellow Republicans, voted to rescind it.

    Debbie Berkowitz, formerly a senior official with the Obama administration’s Office of Safety and Health Administration (Osha), […] said one of the industries most likely to experience the impact of the repeal is the poultry industry, an industry with high rate of worker injury and death, large government contracts, and a historical reliance on undocumented workers.

    Berkowitz told the Guardian she believed the chicken-processing industry targets recent refugees and undocumented immigrants for employment because they are less likely to complain. Under Trump, she said, things will get even worse. “This administration is totally for corporations and lobbyists and not for the American worker,” she said.

    […]

    “You shouldn’t be allowed to get away with hiring workers and then terrorizing them to get away with unsafe working conditions.” Berkowitz currently works for a non-profit called the National Employment Law Project. “This is an industry that purposely locates in areas, in rural out-of-the-way areas where they can hire workers that are newly resettled from other countries.”

    The poultry industry will also probably benefit from continued exploitation of undocumented workers and recent refugees, noted by Oxfam, Human Rights Watch and many others, while undocumented workers themselves continue to live in fear of edicts like Trump’s executive order, she said. “Workers are already scared to talk to Osha; they definitely won’t talk to Osha now,” said Berkowitz […]

    There are reasons for that high level of mistrust: under George W Bush, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) agents impersonated Osha inspectors in order to gain access to facilities where undocumented immigrants were employed.

    The specter of a 2008 raid on a Postville, Iowa, poultry processor looms large over any worker afraid of being separated from family and community over immigration status. Workers at the Postville AgriProcessors chicken processing facility asked Ice to forgo any planned enforcement actions while they unionized. Instead, Ice arrested 600 people and tried 300 of them in four days in an ad hoc courtroom set up at a local fairground, where they were sentenced five at a time.

    […]

    Worker protections save taxpayer money, said Berkowitz and too often, the plight of the animals being processed receives closer attention than the treatment of the people processing them […]

    I cannot find it now — so the following is all from memory, with appropriate caveats — but a year or two ago there was a column / article in the New York Times pointing out that once a regulation has been repealed, it can only be reinstated by Congress. Upshot is things like this chicken-powered Osha-enfeebling reinstatement of slavery will be difficult & slow to reinstate under some future sane government…

  277. says

    Regarding Jason Chaffetz’s clueless remarks, does he really think the cost of an iPhone equals the cost of health insurance? It does not, not even for bare bones, high-deductible insurance.

    Does he really think that chemotherapy treatments are equal in cost to an iPhone?

    And what planet is he living on if he thinks that it is easy for anyone in the workforce to get by without a smart phone? That’s difficult. Sometimes you need a phone just to look for a job.

    As Saad pointed out, “I wonder who pays for his health insurance…”

    What Chaffetz said:

    […] And you know what? Americans have choices, and they’ve gotta make a choice. And so maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care. They’ve gotta make those decisions themselves.

    Some people have to choose between food and rent, or between food and prescription medicine, or between food and bus fare to a job interview. Chaffetz is an arrogant, clueless, overly privileged asshole.

  278. blf says

    And here in France, and a follow-up to @345, Monday’s emergency meeting of François Fillon’s wingnut Les Républicains party has supposedly unanimously backed him, Conservative Fillon wins ‘unanimous’ support from party leadership (I think the quoting of “unanimous” is because that’s how the party described it):

    France’s embattled presidential hopeful François Fillon on Monday won “unanimous” support from his Republicans party, putting him firmly back in the driver’s seat after veteran conservative Alain Juppé rejected calls to stand in his place.

    […]

    The infighting among Republicans and Fillon’s chaotic campaign have made an already unpredictable election even harder to call.

    The disarray appears to have benefited centrist, pro-business candidate Emmanuel Macron in particular, as well as far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who are shown in polls to be the likely top two candidates in the first round of voting on April 23.

    Polls suggest 39-year-old Macron would beat Le Pen in the decisive second round on May 7 — but after Donald Trump’s victory [sic] and Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, analysts caution against bold predictions.

    […]

    Current President François Hollande also warned in an interview published Monday that the threat of a Le Pen presidency was real but that he would fight to prevent it happening.

    […]

    <rant> For some reason, France24 — the French attempt at an English-language “BBC World Service” — uses unaccented / “English” spellings (e.g., Francois, Juppe, …), which I have attempted to correct in the above excerpt (unmarked). And rather annoyingly, they described Fillon’s problem as “Le Canard Enchaine newspaper revealed in late January that he had paid his wife Penelope and two of their children nearly 900,000 euros ($950,000) as his parliamentary assistants.” Which is true, but omits the critical point those jobs apparently don’t actually exist — hence the name “fake jobs”. If the jobs actually did exist, then what Fillon did is legal in France. (Also, the correct spelling is Le Canard Enchainé.) </rant>

  279. says

    Just to be even clearer about what Republicans are proposing for “Trumpcare,” here is a partial list of categories of people and organizations who would be harmed:

    – Medicaid beneficiaries (about 70 million people) will see a loss of coverage, or (more likely) a reduction in coverage

    – Hospitals: “These changes alone could result in deep funding cuts for essential hospitals, which now operate with little or no margin,” said Bruce Siegel of America’s Essential Hospitals, an advocacy group for safety-net hospitals. “Our hospitals could not sustain such reductions without scaling back services or eliminating jobs.”

    – Planned Parenthood

    And who are the winners?

    – wealthy people: The move would save the top 0.1 percent of earners about $195,000 annually, according to the Tax Policy Center.

    – the device industry: The bill would strike down the 2.3 percent medical device excise tax opposed by the industry, Republicans and some Democrats.

    – the indoor tanning industry: The bill would repeal the ACA’s 10 percent excise tax on indoor tanning, which was included in the law as both a revenue raiser and a public health measure.

    The above text is a summary from a Politico article

  280. says

    Wonkette covered the Republican health care plan:

    The Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is finally here, and it’s designed to achieve the nation’s most important health care goals: having a plausible chance of collecting just enough Republican votes to pass, maybe.

    Oh, and if it does become law, millions of people will go back to being uninsured, and many of them will get sicker and die, or go bankrupt, but that’s hardly important. The main thing is fulfilling eight years of promises to repeal Obamacare, […]

    Our favorite Dumb Republican Talking Point is that this plan eliminates the hated mandate that everyone must buy health insurance or pay a tax penalty. And it does. Oh, but there’s a “but”: If you drop your insurance and don’t buy a new plan within 2 months, your new insurance will cost 30% more for an entire year. But it’s not a mandate!

    Instead of the ACA’s subsidies for insurance plans sold on the individual market, the Republican version would offer refundable tax credits of between $2000 and $4000 a year, depending on the enrollee’s age and income. This would actually provide better financial help for one slice of the self-insured market: middle-aged people who make a bit too much to qualify for subsidies under the ACA, which doesn’t provide any subsidy for people making over $48,000 a year. So, will there be much difference between getting a subsidy and getting a tax credit? Of course there will be: lower-income people will get screwed, as God intended. […]

    Say, here’s a neat trick: the GOP plan will free insurance companies to charge older enrollees five times as much as they do younger ones, which will probably swallow up the somewhat expanded tax credits for a lot of people. The ACA only allowed insurers to charge three times as much as youngs. That means “adults ages 60 to 64 would see their annual premiums soar 22%, or nearly $3,200, to nearly $18,000,” according to a study commissioned by AARP. Hooray for individual responsibility! If you’re going to insist on aging, the costs should be on YOU.

    […] Beyond the rollback of Medicaid expansion, the House bills would also cut funding for Medicaid as a whole, because Fuck The Poor is why:

    […] this could hurt not only poor adults, but also low-income children, women, senior citizens and the disabled. […]

    The winners under the new plan are people who are younger and healthier, who will be less inclined to buy into insurance pools, and will never age or need medical care in the future, because as most 20-year-olds know, if you’re young and healthy now, you stay that way forever.

    Also, insurance companies will have a hell of an incentive to support the GOP plan: Under the ACA, insurance companies could only deduct the first $500,000 of executives’ income as a business expense. The GOP, which at least knows how to reach out to the truly needy, removes that limit so insurers can write off their CEOs’ entire multi-million dollar compensation. Surely that will motivate them to find cost-effective solutions for all policyholders. […]

  281. blf says

    Apparently, approximately concurrently with the unleashing of the cosmetically-revised Muslim ban, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) suspended the “fast track” for obtaining an H1-B visa within c.15 days, albeit at higher cost. That is going to piss off a lot of people and companies, since the alternative is often to wait for six months or more.

    US suspension of fast track for H-1B visas leaves foreign workers in limbo (Grauniad edits in {curly braces}):

    The visas, which allow skilled workers to come to the US temporarily, are in especially high demand in Silicon Valley and the medical sector

    […]

    H-1B visas allow skilled workers to come to the US temporarily. They are in high demand, particularly in Silicon Valley and the medical sector, and are allocated by lottery. It can take more than six months for an application to be reviewed. Premium processing allows applicants to pay an extra fee ($1,225) to ensure a response within 15 days.

    The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on Friday that it was putting that facility on hold from 3 April 2017, justifying the move as a means to clear a backlog in processing of H-1B visas. However, some fear the suspension — which USCIS said could last up to six months — is a first step towards the Trump administration clamping down on this type of immigration.

    A perhaps more benign, albeit seemingly-unlikely, interpretation (hinted-at in the article (below)) is as part of, or as a prelude to, clamping down on the abuses of the H1 system. An abuse (scam) I am familiar with is this: Broadly, an individual can only obtain such a visa if no qualified person in the States is available. The scam is to draw up the requirements so tightly that they precisely describe the person who needs a visa whilst being very unlikely anyone in the States meets the requirements. There are various other scams as well. Despite the scamming, it is a useful program, and oversubscribed.

    […]

    “I don’t think {USCIS} would voluntarily take such a massive budget hit,” added Boston-based immigration attorney Matt Cameron. “USCIS is almost exclusively funded by application fees so they are giving up hundreds of millions of dollars.”

    The H-1B visa program currently admits 85,000 immigrants each year. Technology companies have been lobbying to extend the program to allow for more foreign immigration […] Meanwhile documents obtained by numerous news outlets have offered vague suggestions that White House reforms may seek to prioritize American workers and restrict outsourcing companies that have dominated the program.

    “Whatever you think of H-1 policy and the way it’s being used, it’s unfair to have a sneak attack on the whole system,” said Cameron. “A lot of massive companies rely upon {premium processing} every year for their hiring and budgeting schedules.”

    […]

    It’s not just new recruits who will be affected, but those seeking to extend their H-1B visas (something required every three years) or those switching from one employer to another.

    […]

  282. says

    Steve Benen commented on Jason Chaffetz’s stupid remarks about the cost of health care:

    […] On its face, Chaffetz’s argument is plainly foolish. A new iPhone costs several hundred dollars, while decent health care insurance costs several thousand dollars a year. For a congressman who enjoys a generous, taxpayer-financed salary and benefits package to suggest low-income Americans should give up their smart phones in order to buy health security is misguided.

    “Misguided,” hmmm, too kind by half, Mr. Benen.

    But I think there’s also an assumption among many on the right that struggling Americans have themselves to blame, and the poor are simply making bad decisions with their available resources.

    Chaffetz’s on-air comments to CNN are practically a caricature of the sentiment: maybe struggling families would be able to buy their own coverage, without government aid, the argument goes, if only they didn’t bother with a smart phone.

    It’s a perspective predicated on the idea that low-income families would be in better shape if they reprioritized. It’s also why GOP lawmakers routinely vote to cut food stamps and unemployment benefits.

    I understand that voting decisions are often irrational, but I’ll look forward to the public reactions to news that the Republican health care plan directs resources from the bottom up, gives the wealthy a big tax break, undermines working families’ health security, and its defenders are asking the poor to take care of themselves by forgoing iPhone purchases.

    What I liked about this analysis was the spotlight on a common conservative myth: the myth that poor people wouldn’t be poor if they just managed their money better; and that poor people can be forced, through legislation, to be more like Jason Chaffetz.

    All too convenient excuses for destroying the safety net.

  283. says

    Steve Benen also neatly summarized the consequences of Paul Ryan’s rush to get a vote on his health care proposal:

    […] Lawmakers have no idea what the Republican bill costs, how many it will cover, how many Americans will lose their insurance, or what the impact will be on the budget deficit. [Ryan] hopes to rush the process to prevent everyone – voters, reporters, lawmakers, stakeholders, et al – from coming to terms with just how bad a bill he’s produced, so committees are poised to vote on a blueprint members know little about. […]

    […] the ACA was publicly available for a month before a single vote was cast, and it was the subject of 130 hearings across the five committees, all as part of a debate that lasted over a year […]

    Republicans said the ACA was written without bipartisan input, which isn’t true, and which hasn’t stopped them from writing their alternative plan without even trying to solicit bipartisan input.

    Republicans said deductibles are too high under the ACA, which led them to write a bill in which deductibles will be even higher. […]

    Republicans attacked “Obamacare” for not reaching universal coverage, and now they’re embracing a plan that would make the uninsured rate worse, not better.

    New York’s Jon Chait had a piece in early January, highlighting the irony: “[T]he claims that conservatives have falsely made about passing Obamacare provide a true description of the Republican plan to undo it.” […]

  284. blf says

    An analysis by Joe Mulhall (“[…] senior researcher at anti-racism organisation, Hope not Hate, where he monitors far-right groups and individuals. He runs Hope not Hate’s anti-Muslim monitoring unit, which tracks organised anti-Muslim groups in Europe and North America. […]”) of the existing Breitbart London, Breitbart’s click-hate echo chamber is a threat to Europe. Here’s why:

    Our analysis of 500 articles on Breitbart London shows its attempt to subvert the postwar liberal consensus — and with it the protections offered to minorities

    Breitbart is not a news website. Nor is it a media outlet, and its staff are not ordinary journalists. Breitbart is a political project, with a specific political agenda, and staffed by willing propagandists.

    As Hope not Hate’s new report, Breitbart: A rightwing plot to shape Europe’s future shows, while ostensibly a rightwing news outlet like any other, Breitbart is in reality part of a transatlantic political movement with a common worldview and coordinated objectives. It doesn’t just report on events: it seeks to make them and (mis-)shape them.

    Indeed, Breitbart publishes falsehoods and peddles half-truths. Its unsubstantiated conclusions are drawn from its existing prejudices and published to advance its agenda; Breitbart is a click-hate echo chamber.

    It fits comfortably within a contemporary movement of people, political parties and philosophical currents that seemingly aim to undermine the current liberal democratic progressive consensus and the societal norms that are derived from it.

    While Breitbart regularly publishes content that is anti-feminist, homophobic and transphobic, central to its politics is a rejection of multiculturalism, manifest as opposition to immigration and liberal refugee policies.

    As shown by an analysis of the last 500 articles published on Breitbart London in our new report, one of the website’s main focuses is on migration, especially Muslim immigration into Europe. […]

    […]

    Take for example the Breitbart article, Political Correctness Protects Muslim rape Culture. Based on an unsubstantiated claim that there is indeed a rape epidemic, the piece states that the epidemic is a byproduct of the influx into Europe of a million, mostly Muslim, migrants, arguing that: It’s just not politically correct to talk openly about Islam’s rape culture and that like honor killings, with massive Muslim immigration on the horizon, it could be coming to a town near you all too soon.

    […]

    The article goes on to point out connections to Ukip (the British nazi party, formerly led by Nigel Farage), Geert Wilders (who is a Brietbart columnist and führer of the Dutch nazis — and who is polling distrubingly well for next week’s election), the len penazis here in France, and other usual suspects.

  285. says

    Wow. Alex Jones to Trump:

    They’re going to destroy you, they’re going to destroy Barron, they’re going to destroy Eric, they’re going to destroy Donald Jr., they’re going destroy me, they’re going to destroy Matt Drudge, they’re going to destroy Ron Paul, they’re going to destroy anybody like [White House senior adviser] Stephen Bannon that actually stood up for the little people, because that example can’t be allowed. Because if you let one ant stand up, they might all stand up, and those little ants outnumber the parasites 1000 to one. If they want a war, let’s let them have it. Now they’re getting their ass kicked in the economy, your approval ratings are going up. Sir, they don’t care. They’re going to intimidate and pay off and roll people in your second-level operation to try to burn you. You must go on the offense. This is war. You think George Washington kicked the Redcoats’ ass just with information? No. We tried to start this country peacefully; they wouldn’t let us. And the rebirth of this country — and I want peaceful resistance in the info war — but through your office and through the attorney general they’re already trying to broke-back and hamstring. These criminals are all on the Communist Chinese and Russian payroll. They’re the ones who sold us out to every foreign interest — that’s what globalism is.

  286. blf says

    Utterly clewless! Farcebork has reported the BBC to the authorities for child pornography after the BBC found the stuff on farcebork and reported it to farcebork, and has not taken down most of the reported child pornography. Facebook to face select committee over failure to remove images:

    BBC investigation flagged posts to Facebook of sexualised images of children, but only 18 of 100 were taken down

    Facebook will be questioned by a powerful group of MPs over its failure to remove sexualised images of children following a BBC investigation that found posts reported under its own guidelines were not being taken down.

    The BBC investigation revealed that of the 100 images and posts it flagged using Facebook’s tools, just 18 were deemed by moderators to breach Facebook’s guidelines, which explicitly bar sexualised images of children.

    […]

    The culture, media and sport select committee is planning to question Facebook executives after Easter as part of its fake news inquiry and now will expand the investigation to include the social network’s moderation policy.

    The committee’s chair, Damian Collins MP, had earlier on Tuesday described the company’s response to the investigation as “extraordinary”.

    After asking the BBC for examples of posts that had not been removed, Facebook contacted a senior executive at the corporation to say it would not do an interview and would be reporting both the content and the investigating team to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop), which is part of the National Crime Agency.

    Angus Crawford, who led the BBC investigation, said the team had been surprised the images had been passed to Ceop, given that Facebook’s moderators had failed to remove them.

    “We didn’t believe the content was illegal. We were further convinced the content wasn’t illegal when we reported the content to Facebook when their own moderators said it did not breach community guidelines,” Crawford said in a Facebook Live stream on Tuesday.

    “Which way do they want it? That it’s illegal and their moderation isn’t working or actually it’s perfectly legal content, but they didn’t want to do an interview?”

    In a statement released earlier on Tuesday after the BBC had published its story, Facebook UK’s policy director, Simon Milner, said the social network had followed our industry’s standard practice in reporting the images.

    It is against the law for anyone to distribute images of child exploitation. We also reported the child exploitation images that had been shared on our own platform. This matter is now in the hands of the authorities.

    We take this matter extremely seriously and we continue to improve our reporting and take-down measures.

    […]

    Farcebork not only deliberately distributes fake news, but child pornography, and considers pointing out problems with what it distributes a crime. They are very similar to Brietbart and the Raping Children Cult, utterly useless and completely corrupt.

  287. says

    blf @437, that’s a good article. It’s really clear in it’s analysis of Breitbart.

    SC @439, that whole “rape culture” thing reminded me that Trump included an “honor killing” mention in his new travel ban. A stew with a lot of odd ingredients.

    Steve Bannon must be really pleased to see his attitudes and his goals spread far and wide.

  288. blf says

    Good grief, this eejit must be taking lessons from hair furor, François Fillon faces fresh allegation over undeclared €50,000 loan:

    Rightwing presidential candidate failed to report interest-free loan from billionaire Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière, French newspaper says

    I love the way the Grauniad, a British newspaper, can spell the names correctly (despite its reputation for poor proofreading), whilst France24, a French site, cannot (see @428 rant).

    The scandal-hit French presidential candidate François Fillon received an interest-free, undeclared loan of €50,000 (£43,000) from a billionaire businessman in 2013, according to the latest revelations by the French weekly Le Canard Enchainé.

    […]

    The latest allegation about the undeclared loan highlights another aspect of Fillon’s current legal woes: the relationship between the Fillon family and Ladreit de Lacharrière. The businessman is the chief executive of Fimalac, a financial services holding company, and owns the literary magazine, La Revue des Deux Mondes.

    Among the issues currently being investigated by judges is Fillon’s alleged failure to make a full and complete declaration of his financial situation to the state transparency watchdog for people in public office. […]

    Fillon is also under investigation over misuse of company funds after his wife, Penelope, was paid large sums by the literary review owned by Ladreit de Lacharriere, for which she was alleged to have only written two book reviews. […]

    Judges are looking at whether Ladreit de Lacharrière paid Penelope Fillon about €5,000 a month before tax between May 2012 and December 2013 in return for being recommended by Fillon for France’s highest honour, the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour, in 2010. This could be classed as influence-peddling.

    […]

  289. says

    And … round and round we go:

    White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on Tuesday that President Donald Trump has not asked FBI Director James Comey for evidence to prove the unsubstantiated claim that President Barack Obama was “wiretapping” Trump’s phones at Trump Tower ahead of the 2016 election.

    “It’s been a full three days since the President said that President Obama had his wires tapped, his phones tapped, at Trump Tower,” ABC’s Jon Karl said during Spicer’s daily briefing. “In those three days has the White House come up with any evidence whatsoever to prove that allegation?”

    “I addressed this multiple times yesterday,” Spicer said. “We put out a statement on Sunday saying we would have no further comment and we were asking the house and the senate intelligence committees to look into this concern and report back.”

    “Can’t the President just ask the FBI director?” Karl pressed. “Has he asked him?”

    “No, the President has not,” Spicer said. […]

    Talking Points Memo link

    They will never say what they should say which is that Trump messed up. They could even spin it as Trump misunderstanding information or reports given to him by someone else. As it is, the whole thing remains a prime example of Trump’s ignorance.

    He libeled President Obama, invented a crime that did not exist, and then he asked congressional committees to find proof for his lie. The orange buffoon does not even have the right to demand investigations be done by Congress. What a farce.

    Spicer keeps saying he already answered questions about the “wire tapp” when he has not answered the questions.

  290. says

    Just heard Paul Ryan speaking during a press conference about the bill he is pushing to repeal and replace Obamacare. Among other things, he said that the bill defunds Planned Parenthood and gives the money to community health centers. [shudder]

    Many of the community centers he referenced are thinly-disguised anti-abortion organizations with religious overtones. They often provide misinformation, and do not provide health care.

  291. blf says

    Spicer keeps saying he already answered questions about the “wire tapp” when he has not answered the questions.

    Actually, he does answer them. The problem is he doesn’t realise teh wire tapp is N-way: It not only reports what hair furor and his daleks (like Spicer) say direct to Obama, it allows Obama to substitute-in different noises as a replacement. What the reporters hear is Obama’s substituted vacuous lies and unhinged rants, not Spicer’s calmly reasoned, evidenced, and detailed answers. It can also be used to download comic books from the future (Obama doesn’t know when to stop… (with apologies to Doctor Who)).

  292. blf says

    And now for someone who really doesn’t know when to stop, and who would treat any comic book from the future as Teh Trvth (unless he perceived it as disagreeing with his beliefs or decreasing his profits / income), Mark Levin: the man who started the baseless Obama wiretap rumor:

    One of the most energetic and successful rightwing talk radio hosts has been on the attack despite the slim basis for his claims — and Donald Trump is listening

    […] Breitbart acknowledged in their reporting that the case [for a silent coup by Obama] was first made on Mark Levin’s radio show […].

    Levin stitched together material — including from the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Guardian — on Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa) court warrants sought during the election. In some cases, the reports he cited were simply mentioning unconfirmed information from sources such as rightwing tabloid site Heat Street. But Levin went on to claim that the Obama administration had used police state surveillance tactics against the Trump team.

    […] His syndicated three-hour program […] gets more than 7 million listeners a week

    […]

    Levin’s audience is as unusual as it is loyal. Political scientist Dan Cassino, who researches conservative media, points out that in the last American National Election Study in 2013, “among all news outlets, including liberal shows, listeners to the Mark Levin program have the highest political knowledge of anyone, and it is the only show whose audience is 100% conservative”.

    The intense conservatism of his audience may explain why Levin operates almost entirely within the rightwing bubble. His appeal to moderates is extremely limited, and Cassino says that his program is primarily about “helping people justify decisions they have already made”.

    The relatively advanced political knowledge of his listeners may be because Levin’s show offers material, and an agenda, that goes beyond the high-octane bloviation of his competitors.

    […]

    Free markets, a hawkish foreign policy, and constant attacks on Democrats and the left are important components […], but nothing is more important to Levin than his ultra-originalist version of the constitution, which above all stresses states’ rights. He is a major proponent […] of a constitutional convention for the purposes of limiting the power of the federal government.

    [ …] Republicans are not beyond the reach of Levin’s acid tongue.

    He reserves a special scorn for those Republican politicians who he sees as compromising with their opponents, or not adhering closely enough to constitutional conservatism. His regular punching-bags get patented nicknames: Lindsey Graham is goober, John Mccain is John McPain, and he once called Mitch McConnell The Benedict Arnold of the US Senate. Major media outlets get similar treatement — Levin regularly lambasts the New York Slimes, the Washington Compost, and MSLSD.

    Levin received a major blow last year, when his favored candidate, Ted Cruz, was defeated by Donald Trump […]

    Political scientist George Hawley, whose book deals with the recent challenges being faced by the conservative movement, says that Levin is fairly representative of the problems that movement figures have had with Trump.

    Stranded between a president they didn’t support and an audience who voted for him, hosts such as Levin have lately tried to split the difference by continuing to criticise Obama — and by extension Democrats — and the left.

    “They have to keep their listeners tuning in,” Hawley says. “The overwhelming majority of talk radio listeners voted for Trump. That audience is not going to want to hear talk about why Trump violates some particular abstract principle of conservatism. They’d rather hear why the other side is a bunch of criminals and socialists.”

    […]

  293. says

    Breitbart is attacking the new bill – calling it “Obamacare 2.0.” Could be a plot to ruin Paul Ryan, but if so today’s press conference was sort of strange….

  294. says

    Bernie Sanders responds to WaPo piece criticizing him for calling Trump a liar (!) – “What should we do if the president is a liar?”:

    We face a very serious political problem in this country, and that problem is manifested in a post written yesterday by Amber Phillips of The Washington Post. In her piece, Phillips criticizes me for lowering the state of our political discourse, because I accused the president of being a “liar.”

    What should a United States senator, or any citizen, do if the president is a liar? Does ignoring this reality benefit the American people? Do we make a bad situation worse by disrespecting the president of the United States? Or do we have an obligation to say that he is a liar to protect America’s standing in the world and people’s trust in our institutions?

    It is easy to know how we respond to a president with whom we disagree on many, many issues. I disagree with Trump’s support for repealing the Affordable Care Act. I disagree with Trump’s plan to give huge tax breaks to billionaires. I disagree with Trump’s appointment of an anti-environmental EPA administrator. I disagree with Trump’s appointments of major Wall Street executives to key economic positions and his plans to loosen regulations on Wall Street designed to protect consumers. And on and on and on! These strong policy disagreements are a normal part of the political process. He has his views. I have mine.

    But how do we deal with a president who makes statements that reverberate around our country and the world that are not based on fact or evidence? What is the appropriate way to respond to that? And if the media and political leaders fail to call lies what they are, are they then guilty of misleading the public?…

  295. says

    Ah, yes, the ACA just looks better and better:

    The Congressional Budget Office said Friday that its projections for the federal government’s spending on the Affordable Care Act’s coverage provisions in 2019 are now a third lower than what they were when the law was passed in 2010.

    CBO Director Keith Hall said in written responses to questions posed by the House Budget Committee that the CBO expects the federal government to spend $148 billion in 2019 on the law’s coverage provisions, down from the $214 billion estimated when the law was passed. […]

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/cbo-third-obamacare-costs

    OMG, Obamacare is costing us less! By all means, let’s repeal it.

  296. says

    SC @453, are they going to delete the scientists next?

    In other news, Republicans want to make it harder for people to sue corporations.

    […] Republicans in Congress are pushing a new law limiting class-action lawsuits, proposing legislation that would scale back the ability of large groups of consumers to band together and sue businesses. […]

    In recent years, companies have increasingly relied on legal fine print to avoid the lawsuits, inserting language into contracts requiring disputes to be settled by private arbitrators, not the courts. In the final years of the Obama administration, regulators moved to limit those arbitration clauses, proposing rules that ban them from student loan agreements and some financial services.

    But some in Congress are now moving in the other direction, drafting a law that would make it harder to launch class-action lawsuits in the first place. […]

    The law, if passed, “will eviscerate class actions, which are often the only avenue for Americans to hold corporations accountable if they are victims of widespread illegal behavior,” wrote Linda Lipsen, CEO of the American Association for Justice, a national plaintiff lawyer association.

    “If this bill becomes law, it will deny justice to Americans who suffer from financial fraud and deceptive scams, massive civil and human rights violations, or unsafe products and toxic workplaces that cause horrific injuries and deaths.” […]

    Other such changes being pushed include reversing rules on federal contractors who have a history of labor violations, on overdraft fees applied to prepaid debit cards, and many other regulations finalized in the last year of the Obama administration, which can be quickly reversed via a fast-track process. […]

    BuzzFeed link

  297. says

    People who run hospitals do not like the Republican proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare:

    A major hospital group that represents nearly 5,000 hospitals came out against the Republican Obamacare repeal legislation introduced this week.

    Richard Pollack, CEO and president of the American Hospital Association, sent a letter Tuesday to members of Congress raising concerns about the the bill’s overhaul of Medicaid and other proposals included in the legislation, called the The American Health Care Act.

    “We look forward to continuing to work with the Congress and the Administration on ACA reform, but we cannot support The American Health Care Act in its current form,” Pollack said.

    He also warned against moving forward with the bill, which will be marked up Wednesday, before the Congressional Budget Office has returned its score.

    “Any ability to evaluate The American Health Care Act, however, is severely hampered by the lack of coverage estimates by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Lacking that level of analysis and needed transparency, we urge that Congress should. wait until an estimate is available before proceeding with formal consideration,” Pollack said. […]

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/hospitals-letter-republican-health-care-bill

    I like the way Pollack got in a dig at Republicans for not doing the most basic financial research and coverage research. (The lack of a report from the CBO.)

  298. says

    Jeff Sessions responded in writing to further questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee:

    I did not mention communications I had had with the Russian Ambassador over the years because the question did not ask about them.

    Senator Al Franken characterized Sessions’ response as “ridiculous.”

    That’s a ridiculous response. It’s not a clarification at all. Of course the question didn’t ask about the Russian ambassador. He answered a question that he asked himself, which is “did I meet with any Russians,” and he answered it falsely. He said, “No, I hadn’t.”

    “I think he should come before the committee and explain this.

  299. says

    Buddy Carter was on All In tonight. The man’s a fool. Before the women’s marches and town halls, I would’ve probably sighed and assumed that nothing could be done because…Texas. I don’t know about Carter’s district specifically, but in general I’m no longer so pessimistic about whole states and regions. We’re everywhere.