Discuss: Political Madness All the Time


Lynna is your curator. I don’t think this thread will run dry for a long time.

gop-2016-trump

(Previous thread)

Comments

  1. says

    Follow-up to comment 494 in the previous chapter of this thread.

    […] repeal would increase the deficit by $137 billion, according to the CBO in 2015. That number is probably a little different two years on, but it’s not as if Republicans really care about the deficit anyway. […]

    Link

    That increase in the deficit is a problem, and it is a problem to add to other problems. 32 million people would lose their health-care coverage by 2026 if the Republicans repeal Obamacare, (18 million lose their coverage in the first year). Premiums go up about 20-25 percent in the first year after repeal, and they increase about 50% the following year. Premiums would double by 2026.

  2. blf says

    The next casualty of Betsy DeVos? Civil rights protections on campus:

    The secretary of education’s plans for the Office for Civil Rights are deeply disturbing

    Betsy DeVos wants to return the Office of Civil Rights in her Education Department to its role as a neutral, impartial, investigative agency. Lest our sense of irony has been dulled by the clown car that is Trump-era federal politics, her goal is nothing of the sort.

    In fact, the goal of our 11th  — and worst — Secretary of Education is simple: the dismantling of the office designed to ensure the compliance of our country’s universities with the various anti-discrimination statutes that are on the books. […]

    […]

    In her announcement, DeVos decried the Obama administration’s guidance on [transgender restrooms] as it deprived the public of meaningful opportunities to provide input. You can Google articles on “obama transgender bathroom guidance hearings” from January 20th to the present day to see if any “meaningful opportunities to provide input” were granted to the public. But some advice: I would refrain from holding your breath while doing so, lest your family incur unexpected funeral costs.

    […]

    In her statement&bsp;— which was prompted by a blistering critique of the “diminished” focus on civil rights investigations from 34 Democrats in the US Senate — DeVos said:

    At the previous administration’s direction, OCR all too often automatically handled individual complaints as evidence of systematic institutional violations. As a result, OCR staff were forced to expand the scope of these investigations dramatically beyond the facts alleged in the filed complaint.

    DeVos’s claim that this is somehow an error, that the Office of Civil Rights should somehow ignore the possibility that there are institutional issues that preclude the equal delivery of education to all students, is baffling.

    This shift in ethos places the onus on students to seek out information on systemic discrimination and safety issues on their campuses, essentially deputizing them as investigators without compensation for their labor. Certainly, school district and college administrators will be reluctant to voluntarily open up their books in an environment where education is just as much of a marketized commodity as any other commercial product.

    […]

    The advice about reading and not holding your breath also applies to the readers’s comments.

  3. says

    Follow-up to comment 499 in the previous chapter of this thread.

    Here’s more info on the eighth man at the meeting, Ike Kaveladze:

    […] Kaveladze, a U.S. citizen who was born in the former soviet republic of Georgia, currently works for the Agalarovs as a vice president of their family company, Crocus International. But Kaveladze also has a checkered history.

    An October 2000 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) accuses Kaveladze of being involved in a massive effort, over nearly 10 years, to launder $1.4 billion of Russian and Eastern European money through U.S. banks. […]

    In a a nine-month inquiry that subpoenaed bank records, the investigators found that an unknown number of Russians and other East Europeans moved more than $1.4 billion through accounts at Citibank of New York and the Commercial Bank of San Francisco.

    The accounts had been opened by Irakly Kaveladze, who immigrated to the United States from Russia in 1991, according to Citibank and Mr. Kaveladze. He set up more than 2,000 corporations in Delaware for Russian brokers and then opened the bank accounts for them, without knowing who owned the corporations, according to the report by the General Accounting Office, which has not been made public.

    Kaveladze denied any wrongdoing and described the GAO investigation as a “witch hunt.” […]

    Corporation A initiated a series of wire transfers of money on its behalf through Absolute Bank in Moscow, Russia, to the Bank of New York in the United States, which had a correspondent banking relationship with Absolute Bank. The Bank of New York then transferred the funds to Republic National Bank of New York, which had a correspondent banking relationship with Trust Commercial Bank in Latvia. Republic National Bank, in turn, sent the funds by wire to Trust Commercial Bank in Latvia where they were deposited into Corporation B’s account. Approximately $6.8 million was moved in this fashion from Corporation A to Corporation B during a 2-month period. Using wire transfers, money was moved in large dollar amounts into and out of accounts on the same day or within 1 or 2 days.

    […] The investigation into possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia has expanded into financial matters: The Senate Intelligence Committee has received “a trove of banking records from the Treasury Department” which tracks suspicious financial activity. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said the documents could reveal “information that relates to financial connections between Russia and President Trump and his associates, whether direct or laundered through hidden or illicit transactions.” […]

    Link

  4. says

    Meanwhile, Trump is thinking about giving back the Russian compounds in the U.S. that Obama took away as partial punishment for interfering in the election process.

    The Trump administration is reportedly nearing a deal with Russia to return two espionage-linked compounds on American soil. The compounds, located in Maryland and New York, were seized by the Obama administration in December in response to Russia’s interference in the presidential election on President Donald Trump’s behalf.

    News that a deal is close to being struck comes while the official Twitter account of the Russia’s embassy to the U.S. threatens “retaliation measures” if the compounds aren’t swiftly and unconditionally returned.

    The Russian embassy Twitter account issued a similar threat in May. Juliette Kayyem, former assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs in the Department of Homeland Security and a former member of the Homeland Security Adviser Committee during the Obama administration, linked the threat of “counter measures” with a Kremlin-connected lawyer’s admission last week that she met with Trump campaign officials in June 2016.

    Appears Putin wanted Trump to take him literally and seriously. The timing of these disclosures is not a coincidence.

    Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova recently told reporters that “[i]t is best to immediately return our property, otherwise Russia has the right to come up [with a] tit-for-tat response in relation to American property in Russia. I want to confirm that the retaliatory measures are in the works.” […]

    Link

  5. says

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan to repeal Obamacare without a replacement is already meeting enough opposition to kill it:

    Three Senate Republicans said Tuesday they will vote against a key procedural motion to take up a measure to repeal Obamacare without a replacement, dooming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s latest plans to salvage a GOP health bill.

    The opposition from GOP Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins came a day after Senate Republicans’ bill to repeal and replace Obamacare collapsed.

    McConnell said Tuesday that he would still move to hold a vote soon, which would put senators on the record. […]

    Politico link

    That last bit sounds like McConnell making a Trump-like threat of revenge. Republicans who don’t vote for repeal with no replacement are facing threats.

    Three women are saying “no” to a bill crafted solely by Republican men.

  6. says

    The tagline from a New Yorker cartoon featuring a caricature of Mitch McConnell giving a speech:

    And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you meddling Democrats, conservatives, moderates, the C.B.O. report, insurance companies, common decency…

  7. blf says

    Trump pivots from Obamacare repeal to ordering Republicans to let it fail:

    Frustrated president [sic] still lacks major legislative achievements six months into tenure as Republican defections in Senate doom replacement healthcare bill

    Donald Trump said Republicans should let Obamacare fail, after the dramatic collapse of efforts to repeal and replace Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA).

    The president spoke as a new plan to simply repeal the 2010 law with no replacement was effectively strangled at birth by a deeply divided party. This followed the withdrawal of legislation, blindsiding the president [sic], on Monday night.

    Venting his frustration, Trump said: Let Obamacare fail and it will be a lot easier. And I think we’re probably in that position where we’ll let Obamacare fail. We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We’ll let Obamacare fail and then the Democrats are going to come to us.

    […] Trump will mark six months in office on Thursday without a major legislative achievement, despite Republicans controlling the White House, Senate and House of Representatives.

    […]

    On Tuesday, the Arkansas senator Tom Cotton told the conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt: I don’t see how any Republican senator who voted just 18 months ago for this very piece of legislation could now flip-flop 18 months on with Obamacare still inflicting so much harm on Americans […].

    As recently as January, however, Cotton himself warned against repealing the healthcare law without a replacement.

    […]

    There are, however, two possible consolations for Trump from the latest setback. Projections by the CBO and others suggest that the Republican bill would have hit his own supporters the hardest […]. Paradoxically, doing nothing may be better for his base.

    Secondly, he is already returning to themes of his anti-establishment election campaign, blaming Washington politicians from both parties for the deadlock.

    […]

    As others have noted in many comments previously, hair furor and teh dalekocracy have been undermining ACA in an effort to get it to “fail”.

  8. Hj Hornbeck says

    I’m not up late, YOU’RE UP LATE.

    Also, this is intriguing reading:

    (THREAD) We must consider the *possibility* the intel dossier Don received on June 9, 2016 *wasn’t* Clinton kompromat—but *Trump* kompromat.

    (1) The New York Times now reports that the intel dossier left with Don (that he now can’t recall) came from the king of Russian kompromat.

    (2) No less than Fox News has noted that if the Trumps received *top-shelf* Clinton kompromat, they would have used it during the campaign.

    (3) We know from the Manafort-Priebus call a week before the inauguration that the Kremlin’s kompromat on Clinton involves Ukrainian money.

    (4) The Trump campaign clearly *had* that kompromat—which is why Manafort told Priebus to release it—but never used it during the campaign.

    There’s a lot more speculation behind that link.

  9. says

    A summary from Steve Benen:

    Trump liked the House bill and then he didn’t. He liked the Senate bill and then he didn’t. He liked “repeal and delay” – a policy he rejected in January – and then he didn’t. He liked letting the current system “fail” on purpose, only to rediscover his interest in the Senate bill.

    The combination of presidential ignorance and incoherence goes a long way in explaining why the Republicans’ health care initiative hasn’t gone especially well.
    As of today, Trump is having lunch with Republican Senators in order to put the health care bill back in play:

    I will be having lunch at the White House today with Republican Senators concerning healthcare. They MUST keep their promise to America!

    The Republicans never discuss how good their healthcare bill is, & it will get even better at lunchtime.

    I loved Lindsey Graham’s brief on-camera interview in which he said that he would like to see a bill that people liked. YouTube link. He did not acknowledge that “a bill that people actually liked” is, currently, Obamacare.

  10. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment #8.

    From the New York Times:

    The dinner discussion caught the attention of other leaders around the table, some of whom later remarked privately on the odd spectacle of an American president seeming to single out the Russian leader for special attention at a summit meeting that included some of the United States’ staunchest, oldest allies.

    In other news, Representative Barbara Lee has been trying to get the 9/11-era Authorization for the Use of Military Force repealed so that a new AUMF that is less broad can be used to give the President authorization for military action.

    Last month, Rep. Lee was pleased to see that her measure passed within the House Appropriations Committee on a bipartisan basis, with near unanimity.

    But, bad news:

    Ryan stripped my 01 AUMF repeal amdt from DOD Approps in the dead of night. This is underhanded & undemocratic. The people deserve a debate!

    Ryan should be ashamed of himself for forcing Republicans to strip out my bipartisan AUMF amdt in the dead of night. What is he afraid of?

    https://twitter.com/RepBarbaraLee/status/887519977460334592

  11. says

    Follow-up to the second part of comment 15.

    More from Representative Barbara Lee:

    Over the years, I’ve seen Republican leadership deploy every manner of undemocratic, underhanded tactics in Congress. But stripping my bipartisan amendment to repeal the 2001 AUMF — in the dead of night, without a vote — may be a new low from Speaker Ryan. Congress has been missing in action on matters of war and peace for nearly sixteen years. Republican leadership showed last night that they will do anything to maintain this status quo. Refusing to debate and vote on our ongoing wars is an abdication of our constitutional responsibility. Our men and women in uniform deserve better. Speaker Ryan should explain why he is undermining the democratic process and acting in such an autocratic manner. What is he afraid of?

    From Rebekah Entralgo:

    […] The Pentagon has also supported a new AUMF. Last month, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. told Congress: “It would send a loud and unmistakable message to our young men and women deployed that the people at home in the form of the Congress support what they’re doing.”

    The 60 words that comprise the 2001 AUMF have since been used to justify at least 37 military operations in 14 countries, among them, the war in Iraq and the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

    The authorization has been characterized by Rep. Lee as a “blank check” for war. Hastily written in the days following the attacks on September 11, 2001, Lee was the only member in both houses of Congress to vote against it over concerns that its language was too broad.

    Lee hasn’t given up. She proposed a standalone bill to repeal the AUMF, but it has yet to receive a committee hearing.

  12. says

    The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity held its first meeting today. Trump was there to laud the commission and to rehash some of his favorite idiotic theories:

    In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally. […]

    Politico link

  13. says

    Yikes. I know that the leaders in Turkey don’t like the Kurds, but this is really a stab-in-the-back for U.S. troops. Turkey exposed the locations of secret American bases.

    In the latest display of Turkish anger at U.S. policy in Syria, the state news agency has divulged the locations of 10 U.S. military bases and outposts in northern Syria where the U.S. is leading an operation to destroy the so-called Islamic State in its self-styled capital of Raqqa.

    The list published by the Anadolu news agency points to a U.S. presence from one end to the other of the Kurdish self-administration region—a distance of more than 200 miles. The Anadolu news agency even listed the number of U.S. troops in several locations and in two instances stipulated the presence of French special forces.

    Turkey has openly criticized the Trump administration—and the Obama administration before it—for relying in the battle against ISIS on a militia led by Kurds affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK. A separatist movement now at war with Turkey, the PKK has been listed by the U.S., EU, and Turkey as a terror organization.

    To avoid the appearance of allying with such a group, the U.S. military set up the Syrian Democratic Forces, which have a large component of Arab recruits. But they are led by officers from the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian affiliate of the PKK.

    Although Turkey’s powerful president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, regularly vents his anger at the U.S., it is still highly unusual for a NATO ally to reveal details of a U.S. military deployment during active operations in a war zone. […]

    Daily Beast link

    Is Turkey sliding towards an alignment with Russia and Asad?

  14. says

    WTF?

    When Jonathan Galaviz left his job at a casino consulting firm to go work for the Trump State Department, he didn’t have any concerns about job security. The firm—which consults for at least two Russian state entities, according to its website—proudly announced that Galaviz would be back after his stint at State. Galaviz himself consulted for a Russian government corporation on casino gambling.

    It’s a situation that has left ethics experts baffled.

    “We look forward to welcoming back Jonathan to GMA after he completes his service with the Trump administration,” Global Market Advisors managing partner Steve Gallaway told a casino trade publication when Galaviz took the State Department job in April.

    Until Tuesday afternoon, the company’s website listed Galaviz as its chief strategist.

    “Note: Mr. Galaviz is currently on unpaid leave from GMA while serving in the Trump Administration in Washington DC on a full-time basis at the U.S. Department of State,” read his bio page.

    The Trump administration hasn’t shied away from ethically dicey situations. But ethics experts say this is one of the strangest.

    “I’ve never seen this arrangement, to be honest with you, for somebody who is taking a position in the U.S. government to be on unpaid leave from a for-profit entity,” said Virginia Canter, the executive branch ethics counsel at the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

    “It borders on recklessness. It exposes him to some serious potential for conflicts of interest,” she added.

    “This arrangement carries a high degree of risk and he will probably need a lawyer following him around to make sure he understands each and every day what he can and cannot participate in.” […]

    The Galaviz bio page was removed shortly after The Daily Beast emailed Galloway asking about it. […]

    Daily Beast link

  15. blf says

    Anther false bridge or beach closure or similar would seem to coming as retaliation, Chris Christie catches ball, gives it to young Mets fan, is booed anyway:

    […]
    A week after Chris Christie was called a “bum” during his stint as a sports radio host, the New Jersey governor’s guest role at a baseball game ended in similarly dismal circumstances.

    Christie attended the New York Mets’ game against the St Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night and showed off his athletic prowess — he was a good high school baseball player — when he caught a foul ball with his left hand, and gave it to a young boy nearby in the crowd. If Christie was expecting some affection from his fellow Mets fans, he was mistaken: they booed him heartily. Christie didn’t get much respect as the incident was replayed on the Fox Sports broadcast either. “Nice to see him get from the beach here to the ballpark,” said announcer Dan McLaughlin to laughter in the commentary booth.

    […]

    A few short excerpts from the embedded link (‘You’re a bum’: Chris Christie battles with callers in sports radio host tryout):

    [… T]he first poll released since the beach incident showed his approval rating holding steady at a dismal 15%, an all-time low. Eighty per cent of respondents disapproved of his leadership, the Monmouth University poll showed.

    […]

    In the Monmouth poll, released on Monday [10 July (probably) –blf], 800 people were asked for the first word that came to mind to describe how they felt about Christie in the beach photos. Most said “disgusted” and “angry, outraged”. Tied for the next biggest share was “jerk, profanity used.”

    […]

  16. says

    Spencer Ackerman talks about Trump’s “secret” plan to “crush” ISIS:

    At long last, Donald Trump has a plan to fight the Islamic State. Well, sort of. According to the document’s text and those briefed on it, the plan is long on overblown rhetoric and short on a substantive strategy to destroy the jihadist group.

    Unclassified portions of this strategy document—it remains classified—were read to The Daily Beast on Tuesday. The strategy is so reminiscent of Barack Obama’s approach, […]

    The major departure from Obama’s approach to ISIS is linguistic. The strategy, which Trump ordered up on January 28 and the Pentagon sent to Capitol Hill on June 26, claims to describe a “comprehensive international campaign to crush ISIS’ claim of invincibility.” It seeks to “deny ISIS a geographic haven from which to hatch murder” and to “eliminate ISIS’ ability to operate externally and to eradicate its ability to recruit and finance terrorist operations.”

    But the strategy retains the framework of operating through local allies that the Obama administration adopted to avoid another open-ended ground war in the Middle East.

    Similarly, the objectives outlined in the document are more modest than the up-front rhetoric about “eliminating” and “eradicating” ISIS capabilities suggests—let alone Trump’s pledge in his first congressional address in February to “demolish and destroy ISIS.” Or Trump’s campaign promise to “utterly destroy ISIS.” Or his 6-month-old executive order for the Pentagon to plan—in 30 days—the “defeat” of ISIS. […]

    The strategy itself is primarily concerned with ISIS’ presence in Syria, to the point of treating ISIS affiliates in places like Libya, Afghanistan, and beyond as afterthoughts. That’s despite U.S. forces fighting the terror group on these far-flung battlefields. […] Last week, U.S. troops killed the emir of ISIS in Afghanistan, Abu Sayed, in Kunar province. […]

    Without specificity, the document envisions the U.S. “working with local governance institutions and independent civil society organizations” in post-ISIS Syria. In advance of Trump’s first meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin at the G-20 earlier this month, the Trump administration acquiesced in the short term to leaving Syrian dictator Bashar Assad in power while it signs onto Russian-led plans for ceasefires in regions of the country where, at present, U.S. forces do not operate. […]

    “I remain concerned about the administration’s lack of a specific post-conflict plan in Iraq and a clear way forward in Syria beyond simply defeating ISIS,” Rep. Seth Moulton, a Massachusetts Democrat on the armed services committee and a Marine veteran of Iraq, told the Daily Beast. “Syria’s brutal civil war has endured for over six years, killed over 400,000, and rendered millions homeless. With over 500 American servicemembers active in Syria, we need a clear strategy that defines our end goals and how we will achieve them.” […]

    With the ISIS strategy light on a policy framework for Syria, the congressional staffer said there was already discussion of adding an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill calling for a comprehensive Syria strategy.

    The unclassified portions of the document do not call for additional resources, such as more troops or substantial supplementary funding, for the strategy. But Trump, in April, delegated what the Pentagon calls “force management authority”—that is, the power to set troop levels— to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. […]

  17. says

    Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein went on Fox News and criticized former FBI director James Comey for the partial release of the Comey memos documenting meetings with Trump.

    This thing between Rosenstein and Comey is getting a bit weird. This latest criticism comes after Rosenstein wrote a memo critical of Comey that team Trump used to justify firing Comey … before Trump undermined the whole sham by admitting on network TV that he fired Comey because of the Russia/Trump investigation.

    Here’s an excerpt from Rosenstein’s comments on Fox:

    […] “We take confidentiality seriously, so when we have memoranda about our ongoing matters, we have an obligation to keep that confidential,” Rosenstein says in an interview set to air Wednesday night on Fox News’ “The Story with Martha MacCallum.” […]

  18. says

    Writing for Vox, Ezra Klein highlighted the basic problem team Trump has when it comes to health care.

    […] The core problem is Trump has no idea what he’s talking about on health care and never bothered to learn. “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated,” he famously, and absurdly, said.

    His inability to navigate its complexities meant he couldn’t make persuasive arguments on behalf of the bills he supported, and he routinely made statements that undercut the legislative process and forced Republicans to defend the indefensible.

    Trump’s post-election promise of “insurance for everybody” with “much lower deductibles” set up a standard Republicans had no intention of ever meeting but kept having to answer for. At his occasional meetings with wavering members of Congress, he’s made superficial political arguments to people who had deep policy concerns. The discussions left legislators feeling insulted and annoyed that the president hadn’t bothered to do the barest amount of homework.

    Because Trump doesn’t understand the legislation or the trade-offs it made, he can’t make persuasive arguments on its behalf in public or private, and so he mostly doesn’t try. […] Trump [uses] the bully pulpit to argue on behalf of the legislation, [to diss the] Congressional Budget Office reports […]

    When Trump does weigh in, it’s often a disaster. Asked by Fox News’s Tucker Carlson how he responded to analyses showing the House health bill would hurt the people who voted for him, he replied, “Oh, I know,” and said the bill was “very preliminary.” Later, after holding a Rose Garden ceremony to celebrate the passage of the House health bill, he called it “mean.” But he never articulated a standard for a bill that wouldn’t be mean, and he never came up with a policy that wouldn’t hurt his supporters.

    Later, during a particularly delicate moment in the Senate’s negotiations, he tweeted that Senate Republicans should perhaps abandon the current process and “immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!” This tweet of no confidence didn’t make McConnell’s job any easier. At another point, Trump suggested it would be fine if Republicans failed to pass anything at all.

    In this context, Trump’s missive this morning is comical. No one has ever heard Trump discuss, with any specifics, how good the Senate health care bill is. No one believes he can, or that it would be a good idea if he tried.

  19. says

    Writing for Vox, Dylan Matthews discussed the Republican war on the Congressional Budget Office, and the Republican proposals for tax reform. I snipped the “war on the CBO” text. You can read that section at the link. Here is an excerpt from the discussion on tax reform:

    […] The Trump administration hasn’t released much in the way of details about what it wants, but the provisions it has spelled out are all big, expensive tax cuts:

    – Cutting individual income tax rates and collapsing them into just three brackets: 10, 25, and 35 percent
    – Doubling the standard deduction, e.g., from $12,000 to $24,000 for couples
    – Repealing the alternative minimum tax, the estate tax, and the 3.8 percent Obamacare tax on investment income for the rich (if health reform doesn’t repeal it first)
    – Adding a new deduction for child care expenses
    – Cutting the corporate rate from 35 percent to 15 percent
    – Treating “pass-through income” as corporate income taxed at 15 percent, rather than individual rates
    – Exempting foreign income from corporate tax

    These are really costly changes. The Tax Policy Center estimates the gross revenue loss over 10 years at $7.7 trillion. And that’s not even including all the cuts likely to make it in. Most Republicans also want to adopt “full expensing,” a corporate tax reform that lets companies deduct the entire cost of their investments immediately, instead of spreading the deduction over several years

    Under the budget reconciliation process Republicans will use to avoid a filibuster, one of the few binding constraints was that the law must reduce the deficit after a 10-year window. They couldn’t pass big cuts like this and make them permanent. […]

    Republicans have ideas for how to cover the cost. One of the biggest is the hugely controversial border adjustment measure, which Walmart, the Koch brothers, and other influential business lobbies are loudly opposing. Another is ending the deductibility of interest for debt, a very worthwhile proposal that is sure to enrage banks that take out massive amounts of debt; Goldman Sachs veteran turned Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has said he opposes this shift. […]

    Matthews made the point that the CBO is going to be really important when it comes to assessing tax reform proposals.

  20. says

    At the luncheon he hosted today, Trump had Senator Dean Heller of Nevada sit next to him … then he publicly threatened Heller.

    https://twitter.com/frankthorp/status/887726888461803520

    […] That was the president of the United States threatening his party’s most vulnerable senator up for re-election in 2018 with the loss of his job if he didn’t come around to supporting an already dead health care bill.

    What’s especially fun about this is that Heller wasn’t even one of the Senators to come out and kill the revised version of the bill, nor did he kill the backup plan of repealing Obamacare without a replacement. That was Sens. Susan Collins, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Jerry Moran in the first instance, and Sens. Collins, Shelley Moore Capito, and Lisa Murkowski in the latter.

    […] it seems like the relatively moderate Heller, who represents a state that has gone to Democratic presidential candidates in the past three elections, is going to be conservatives’ fall guy for Trumpcare’s failure.

    […] Apparently Plan D in the health care battles is to go back to scapegoating the man representing the Republican Party’s most vulnerable seat in the Senate. Conservative media started to once again place a target on Heller’s back after the failure of the Senate bill became clear on Monday. Trump is apparently following that game plan.

    In addition to this peculiar and seemingly ad-libbed threat, Trump tried to sell his defunct bill with an extended soliloquy on his view that Obamacare is dead and on the professed merits of Trumpcare.

    “This is far better than Obamacare and more generous than Obamacare,” he said of a bill that will gut $772 billion in Medicaid funding over the next 10 years imperiling health care for millions of Americans including 5 million special needs children. Trump also promised his bill would lower premiums for the people who remained in the health care system. (It would do so by allowing healthy individuals to buy cheap, bare-bones plans that offer little in the way of actual coverage.) […]

    Slate link

  21. says

    Jeff Sessions is against democracy, and he is for authoritarianism:

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions plans to increase one of the least democratic powers of law enforcement — civil asset forfeiture.

    In a memo to the Justice Department, Sessions issued an order that authorized “federal adoption of all types of assets seized lawfully by state or local law enforcement under their respective state laws . . . whenever the conduct giving rise to the seizures violates federal law.” […]

    “We hope to issue this week a new directive on asset forfeiture — especially for drug traffickers. With care and professionalism, we plan to develop policies to increase forfeitures,” Sessions said in prepared remarks before the National District Attorneys Association. “No criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime. Adoptive forfeitures are appropriate as is sharing with our partners,” he continued.

    […] controversy surrounds the practice of asset forfeiture, a practice which is problematic and “allows law enforcement officials to permanently take money and goods from individuals suspected of crime,” the Washington Post reported.

    The Post elaborated:

    There is little disagreement among lawmakers, authorities and criminal justice reformers that “no criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime.” But in many cases, neither a criminal conviction nor even a criminal charge is necessary — under forfeiture laws in most states and at the federal level, mere suspicion of wrongdoing is enough to allow police to seize items permanently.

    In the past police officers have kept cash because state law allows them to, the Post reported, creating a an incentive for profit. “In 2014, federal law enforcement officers took more property from citizens than burglars did.” Millions more were taken by state and local authorities.

    […] Former Attorney General Eric Holder “essentially abandoned the forfeiture practice in 2015, amid complaints that it was prone to abuse and encouraged police departments to carry out seizures in order to win more funds to buy equipment and vehicles,” according to Politico. “Holder allowed a heavily restricted version of the program to resume last year.” […]

    The issue has oddly united both liberals and conservatives, specifically those who lean libertarian. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.,said he was afraid that expanding the “adoptive” forfeitures would undermine the attempts states have made to rein in the entire practice.

    “This is a troubling decision for the due process protections afforded to us under the Fourth Amendment as well as the growing consensus we’ve seen nationwide on this issue,” Issa told Politico. […]

    Salon link

  22. says

    Trump is giving Putin another present: he is scrapping a CIA program that arms and trains rebels fighting against Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

    […] The program will be phased out over the course of months, the Washington Post reported, citing unnamed senior U.S. officials.

    An unnamed current official told the Washington Post that scrapping the program “is a momentous decision” on Trump’s part and a victory for Russia: “Putin won in Syria.”

    Talking Points Memo link

  23. says

    Trump has elevated another shady character to a position of power, and this is a lifetime appointment.

    [When the Senate confirms Judge John K. Bush, he] will become both the most appalling extremist on the federal bench, and a judge who lied to Congress.

    […] Bush has had long career as an extreme right-wing blogger, under his own name and under the pseudonym ‘G. Morris.’ […]

    But what has gone unreported until now is how duplicitous, evasive, and outright deceptive Judge Bush was in defending the statements to the Senate, as revealed in the official record of his answers to questions senators posed to him.

    Bush’s responses to Senators who pressed him on these statements indicate that he is unrepentant, uncooperative, and uninterested in the democratic process by which judges are confirmed.

    For example, in 2008, Bush repeated Birther claims—made in the Birtherism-supporting World Net Daily—that “Obama’s kin” living in Kenya was a criminal. He also repeated a claim by Birther Jack Cashill that Obama didn’t write his book, Dreams from my Father.

    Oh, but I’m not a Birther, Bush told the senators, “I usually relied upon readily available sources on the internet discussing topics that might be of interest to the blog’s readership.” […]

    Then there was that time he reblogged a photo of a sign reading “Obama supporters vandalized-tresspassed [sic] and stole my Palin-McCain sign violating my 1st Amendment right to free speech. Do it again and you will find out what the 2nd Amendment is all about!!!”

    That’s a pretty clear threat to shoot the Obama supporters, right? Oh no, just “political hyperbole” that “did not seriously threaten any physical harm,” Bush said. […]

    Another example: Bush said that he scare-quoted the term “climate change” on a blog post not because he doesn’t believe it is real, but merely “to incorporate by reference specific views advanced by others about climate change.” Right.

    On the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges that legalized same-sex marriage, Bush stated “I have not had occasion to study this decision of the Supreme Court in light of any methodology of constitutional interpretation.” […] Really? […]

    But the single worst instance of Bush’s contempt for the Senate came when Senator Al Franken pressed Bush on his statement that “the two greatest tragedies in our country—slavery and abortion—relied on similar reasoning and activist justices at the U.S. Supreme Court, first in the Dred Scott decision, and later in Roe.”

    The meaning of this execrable statement is clear: slavery and abortion are the two greatest tragedies in our country. […] Bush provided the preposterous “explanation” that Roe was tragic because “it divided the country” whereas Dred Scott was tragic because it “took away Mr. Scott’s freedom” and because of its “taking the issue of slavery out of the political process and leading to civil war.”

    […] Obviously, his blog post was analogizing abortion to slavery—pointing out its similarity, not its differences. He’s just embarrassed that his comment meant for the hard-right echo chamber looks a lot worse in the open light of day.

    Second, wait a minute—so slavery should have been decided by the “political process?” Wasn’t Dred Scott tragic because it decreed that a human being was property? Wouldn’t it have led to the Civil War even faster had it decreed slavery unconstitutional? […]

    Daily Beast link

  24. says

    Two senators, Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin, have teamed up in a bipartisan effort to provide a permanent legislative solution to the currently tenuous status of Dreamers.

    […] Trump extended DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] in June, but has vacillated on the issue of Dreamers […]

    “It’s a decision that I make and it’s a decision that’s very, very hard to make. I really understand the situation now. I understand the situation very well. What I’d like to do is a comprehensive immigration plan. But our country and political forces are not ready yet,” Trump said last week.

    A White House official speaking on background said Trump “campaigned on enforcement first, and that is where his focus is.” […]

    The bipartisan bill is likely to receive some support from Democrats and moderate Republicans, a push to provide a permanent legislative solution before any legal challenge against DACA takes effect.

    Many members on both sides of the aisle are on record in support of making DACA benefits permanent, and have supported previous iterations of the Dream Act dating back to 2001.

    In their bill, Graham and Durbin — the top Democratic sponsor of every version of the Senate bill — will set guidelines for qualification, similar to DACA and earlier Dream Act guidelines. […]

    The Hill link

  25. says

    Team Trump is threatening the forests of the U.S., with help from extremist Republican legislators.

    […] Extreme legislation introduced by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) would give logging interests virtual absolute primacy in setting forestry policy, to the exclusion of others that depend on our forests. The reckless logging likely to follow would do serious damage to the forests’ natural ecology. […]

    Turning our forests into political battlefields is likely to produce a boom-and-bust cycle that is uneconomical for industry, chaotic for local communities, and ruinous for hikers, trout enthusiasts, hunters, and wildlife.

    The Resilient Federal Forests Act (H.R. 2936) would eliminate much of the open process that currently guides forestry project approvals. […] Instead, the bill would exempt logging projects covering areas twice the size of Manhattan from serious environmental review.

    It would make compliance with the Endangered Species Act a sham by removing obligations to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s experts. It would similarly disregard recreational interests by allowing logging in riparian buffer zones that can pollute, and change the temperature of, prime fishing streams.

    H.R. 2936 also broadly undermines access to court to enforce environmental laws. […]

    We must not overlook the benefits of targeted logging, but pretending it is the solution to all problems ignores scientific evidence and invites an equally heedless response.

    Forests can pull massive amounts of carbon out of the air that otherwise would contribute to climate change. Reckless logging is thus a major global environmental problem. Although a small fraction of timber goes into long-lasting wood products, the great majority either is sold as fuel pellets or is rotting in a landfill within a few years, releasing carbon back into the atmosphere. […]

    As frustrating as it may be for the logging industry to work with, and sometimes lose to, local community, recreational, and environmental concerns, its long-term interests require preserving both the natural and the political ecologies. Congress would not be doing anyone any favors by passing heedless legislation like H.R. 2936.

    The Hill link

  26. says

    Follow-up to comment 31.

    […] it is not inherently questionable or suspicious to end our covert support for anti-Assad rebels in Syria, as President Trump has just done, according to reports this afternoon. But it is highly, highly disquieting in the context of Trump’s extremely suspicious behavior with respect to Russia in general. […]

    The mix of President Trump’s bizarre toadying to Russia and Putin himself, combined with the latest revelations about Don Jr and the rest make it no longer credible that there’s any innocent explanation to this mystery. I think a lot of higher-ups in government have not fully thought through and absorbed what this means.

    Talking Points Memo link

  27. says

    People close to Trump are having trouble paying their legal bills:

    […] A person close to Michael Flynn told Bloomberg this week that the ousted national security adviser is establishing a fund to raise money for his defense. Covington & Burling attorney Robert Kelner is representing Flynn as investigators probe his lobbying work during the campaign on behalf of Turkey and his contacts with Russian officials. […]

    Former campaign aide Michael Caputo is also having trouble paying former New York state attorney general Dennis Vacco to represent him in congressional probes, he told the Associated Press this week. Noting with irritation that the Trump campaign was footing the legal bill for Donald Trump, Jr., who met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer and others with ties to Russia at Trump Tower last year, Caputo told the AP he was using his children’s college funds to cover his own legal bills.

    “Lucky for them,” Caputo said of those whose legal fees were covered by the campaign. “And unlucky for me. And unlucky for my children who are now going to community college.” […]

    Link

  28. says

    Follow-up to SC’s link in comment 38.

    TUR: Do you believe Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 3 to 5 million votes because of voter fraud?

    KOBACH: We’ll probably never know the answer to that question, because even if you could prove that a certain number of votes were cast by ineligible voters, for example, you wouldn’t know how they voted.

    The host, seeking clarification, added, “So, again, you think that maybe Hillary Clinton did not win the popular vote.” The Kansas Republican responded, “We may never know the answer to that question.” Tur, incredulous, said what I was thinking. “Really?” she asked.

    From Steve Benen:

    All of this is deeply ridiculous. We know, because the evidence tells us, that Trump lost the popular vote by millions of votes. We know, because the evidence tells us, that there was no systemic “voter fraud,” and that Kobach’s efforts to prove otherwise are a sham. Common sense suggests he should have no role in a “voting integrity” commission.

    But what’s especially striking about this is the bizarre habit of Republicans to call into question the integrity of an election process in which they won. In light of developments such as Trump-Russia scandal, and the role of a foreign adversary’s espionage operation to elect its preferred candidate, there are plenty of Trump critics on the left who’ve questioned the legitimacy of the current president’s election.

    But Kobach’s interview with Katy Tur served as a reminder that Trump and his allies are raising similar questions from a different perspective. It’s the opinion of the Trump White House that Trump may have won an election whose integrity is in doubt.

  29. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comments 39 and 40.

    In CBO and JCT’s estimation, under this legislation, about half of the nation’s population would live in areas having no insurer participating in the nongroup market in 2020 because of downward pressure on enrollment and upward pressure on premiums. That share would continue to increase, extending to about three-quarters of the population by 2026.

    From Chuck Schumer:

    The latest CBO score of the Senate Republican ‘repeal and run’ bill confirms: it was a horrible idea in January and it’s a horrible idea now.

    President Trump and Republicans have repeatedly promised to lower premiums and increase coverage, yet each proposal they offer would do the opposite. Instead of careening towards a plan that would devastate the American health care system, Republicans should work with Democrats to pass real solutions to lower premiums, stabilize the market and improve coverage for millions of Americans.

  30. says

    Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify next Monday before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Unfortunately, the question/answer session will be held in private.

    Paul Manafort and Don Junior will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee next Wednesday.

  31. says

    Industry experts at all levels know that Trump is blathering on in near-total ignorance when he claims that he can revive the coal industry.

    There’s no future in transporting coal, says Hunter Harrison, CEO of CSX freight railroad.

    Harrison told analysts on Wednesday that CSX, one of the country’s largest transporters of coal, won’t buy any new locomotives to haul the fuel. “Coal is not a long-term issue,” he said. The company currently hauls some 800,000 carloads of coal a year.

    “Fossil fuels are dead,” Harrison continued. “That’s a long-term view. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s not going to be in two or three years. But it’s going away, in my view.”

    Harrison joins a chorus of experts who understand that economic reality makes President Donald Trump’s pledges to significantly expand the use of coal just empty words.

    “These [coal plants] will not reopen whatever anything President Trump does,” as Bloomberg New Energy Finance explained earlier this year, “nor do we see much appetite among investors for ploughing money into U.S. coal extraction — stranded asset risk will trump rhetoric.” […]

    https://thinkprogress.org/fossil-fuels-are-dead-says-rail-baron-b177af077344

  32. says

    With his appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, Trump is working to further weaken unions. Marvin Kaplan and William Emanuel have long anti-union records.

    […] If they are confirmed by the full Senate, Republican appointees will control the five-person board and be able to undo rulings that made it easier for workers to form unions.

    During the Obama administration, the NLRB, an independent agency tasked with protecting workers’ right to organize, frustrated employers by consistently siding with workers. […]

    Perhaps most important, the board ruled that workers, regardless of union status, cannot be forced to sign arbitration agreements that require disputes to be resolved by individual tribunals instead of class-action lawsuits argued before an open court. […]

    Other NLRB decisions, like allowing workers to discuss union matters over company email, were more straightforward. But taken together, the rulings helped keep unions relevant in the modern workplace. Since the mid-1950s, the share of private-sector workers who belong to a union has dropped from about one out in three to one in fifteen.

    […] Emanuel is a shareholder and longtime lawyer at Littler, the world’s largest management-side e[…]mployment law firm. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has called it is one of the nation’s “most ruthless” union-busters. Emanuel’s clients include Uber and other companies accused of violating workers’ rights, according to his ethics disclosure form.

    Outside of his legal practice, Emanuel has decried California’s “terrible climate for job creation,” citing the state’s generous overtime and break requirements for employees.

    Kaplan was previously an attorney for the House education and labor committee. In that role, he drafted a bill to reverse an NLRB rule, dubbed the “ambush election rule” by conservative critics, that allowed workers to vote on unionization as soon as 11 days after a petition was submitted. The bill, which did not pass, would have also reversed the board’s recognition of micro-unions.

    […] Pressed by Franken, Emanuel declined to criticize arbitration agreements that prevent women who are sexually harassed from suing their employers in court.

    […] Emanuel told Warren he does not expect to recuse himself if the issue comes up. […]

    Mother Jones link

  33. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Katy Tur was moderating MTP Daily, and asked the question why didn’t MMc the idiotlogue include those with lady parts in t he discussion prior to putting out a proposed bill. The only answer was that the idiotlogue wouldn’t like their responses…..

  34. says

    “Citing Recusal, Trump Says He Wouldn’t Have Hired Sessions”:

    President Trump said on Wednesday that he never would have appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions had he known Mr. Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation that has dogged his presidency, calling the decision “very unfair to the president.”

    In a remarkable public break with one of his earliest political supporters, Mr. Trump complained that Mr. Sessions’s decision ultimately led to the appointment of a special counsel that should not have happened. “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Mr. Trump said.

    In a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times, the president also accused James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director he fired in May, of trying to leverage a dossier of compromising material to keep his job. Mr. Trump criticized both the acting F.B.I. director who has been filling in since Mr. Comey’s dismissal and the deputy attorney general who recommended it. And he took on Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel now leading the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election.

    Mr. Trump said Mr. Mueller was running an office rife with conflicts of interest and warned investigators against delving into matters too far afield from Russia. Mr. Trump never said he would order the Justice Department to fire Mr. Mueller, nor would he outline circumstances under which he might do so. But he left open the possibility as he expressed deep grievance over an investigation that has taken a political toll in the six months since he took office.

    Asked if Mr. Mueller’s investigation would cross a red line if it expanded to look at his family’s finances beyond any relationship to Russia, Mr. Trump said, “I would say yes.” He would not say what he would do about it. “I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia.”

    While the interview touched on an array of issues, including health care, foreign affairs and politics, the investigation dominated the conversation. He said that as far as he knew, he was not under investigation himself, despite reports that Mr. Mueller is looking at whether the president obstructed justice by firing Mr. Comey….

    Much more at the link.

  35. says

    Matthew Miller: “Why would Trump care whether Sessions recused himself or not unless he wanted him to quash the investigation? Unbelievable thing to admit.”

    He just characterized this on Maddow as an open attack on an independent DOJ, and called on Sessions and Rosenstein to stand up to Trump. He predicts a “massive, massive crisis.”

  36. says

    “Trump’s embrace of Russia making top advisers wary”:

    President[*] Donald Trump’s persistent overtures toward Russia are placing him increasingly at odds with his national security and foreign policy advisers, who have long urged a more cautious approach to dealing with the foreign adversary.

    The uneasy dynamic between the president and top aides has been exacerbated by the revelation this week of an extended dinner conversation between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the recent summit in Germany….

    The officials spoke only on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

    The three foreign officials who have spoken with top Trump advisers described a disconnect, or “mixed signals,” between Trump and his team over Russia, highlighting a lack of a clear policy. U.S. officials echoed that sentiment, with one saying diplomats and intelligence officials were “dumbfounded” by the president’s approach, particularly given the evidence of Russia’s election meddling.

    McMaster expressed his disapproval of Trump’s course to foreign officials during the lead-up to his trip to Germany. The general specifically said he’d disagreed with Trump’s decision to hold an Oval Office meeting in May with top Russian diplomats and with the president’s general reluctance to speak out against Russian aggression in Europe, according to the three foreign officials.

    McMaster and other national security aides also advised the president against holding an official bilateral meeting with Putin.

    In a highly unusual move, McMaster did not attend the bilateral meeting with Putin. Only Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and a translator made up the U.S. side….

  37. says

    I wish people would stop doing this. Trump is lying. They didn’t talk about adoptions. He just hadn’t come up with a remotely convincing explanation (because there is none) of what sort of non-political “pleasantries” would be exchanged for that long by him and Putin. This was recent bullshit from his son that popped into his head as a convenient lie, so he said it.

  38. says

    I just want to say… Lynna and SC, please never stop what you are doing in this thread. The documentation is impeccable. This thread is a library of history focused on the last 18 months (including the previous threads).

    I often end up here late at night just to make sure I have ingested the news of the day correctly.

    *switches cameras* If you are a lurker and want to understand the importance of what the contributors here are doing, dig way back in this thread to any random 24 hour period, and look at the granularity with which the news of the day is distilled. Nothing is missed, the major issues are highlighted and due skepticism, as would be expected, is applied.

    This thread is my light in the darkness some nights.

    Please don’t stop.

  39. says

    I don’t know how to feel about McCain. His lack of spine for the last two decades has caused immense suffering.

    If I was a real asshole, which apparently I am for thinking this to begin with, I’d say I’m gravely concerned about his health.

    On the other hand, he’s been an important part of a stable democracy over those same 2 decades and made a sacrifice for his country that few people will ever live to tell about. So he’s a fucking hero.

    He’s Schrodinger’s Hero.

  40. says

    Thank you, Erik. Very kind of you to say.

    Follow-up to #10 – “A Top Rohrabacher Aide Is Ousted After Russia Revelations”:

    Paul Behrends, a top aide to Representative Dana Rohrabacher, has been ousted from his role as staff director for the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee that Rohrabacher chairs, after stories appeared in the press highlighting his relationships with pro-Russia lobbyists.

    “Paul Behrends no longer works at the committee,” a House Foreign Affairs Committee spokesperson said on Wednesday evening.

    One of the sources with knowledge of the events suggested that Behrends was fired from the committee under pressure from House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce….

  41. says

    Here’s the transcript of Trump’s NYT interview. So many portions are described as “[garbled]” or “[inaudible]” that I don’t quite believe all of them were; on the other hand, the whole thing is a barely comprehensible rant.

    TRUMP: Or Monday? Monday. And then they’ll vote on this, and we’ll see. We have some meetings scheduled today. I think we have six people who are really sort of O.K. They are all good people. We don’t have bad people. I know the bad people. Believe me, do I know bad people.

    On this, I believe him.

  42. says

    Unreal string of lies:

    I would say yeah. I would say yes. By the way, I would say, I don’t — I don’t — I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows? I don’t make money from Russia. In fact, I put out a letter saying that I don’t make — from one of the most highly respected law firms, accounting firms. I don’t have buildings in Russia. They said I own buildings in Russia. I don’t. They said I made money from Russia. I don’t. It’s not my thing. I don’t, I don’t do that. Over the years, I’ve looked at maybe doing a deal in Russia, but I never did one. Other than I held the Miss Universe pageant there eight, nine years [crosstalk].

    No, I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia. So I think if he wants to go, my finances are extremely good, my company is an unbelievably successful company. And actually, when I do my filings, peoples [sic] say, “Man.” People have no idea how successful this is. It’s a great company. But I don’t even think about the company anymore. I think about this. ’Cause one thing, when you do this, companies seem very trivial. O.K.? I really mean that. They seem very trivial. But I have no income from Russia. I don’t do business with Russia. The gentleman that you mentioned, with his son, two nice people. But basically, they brought the Miss Universe pageant to Russia to open up, you know, one of their jobs. Perhaps the convention center where it was held. It was a nice evening, and I left. I left, you know, I left Moscow. It wasn’t Moscow, it was outside of Moscow.

  43. says

    Ronald Klain – “The one area where Trump has been wildly successful”:

    Progressives breathed a sigh of relief recently when Justice Anthony M. Kennedy decided to remain on the Supreme Court for presumably at least one more year. But no matter how long Kennedy stays, a massive transformation is underway in how our fundamental rights are defined by the federal judiciary. For while President Trump is incompetent at countless aspects of his job, he is proving wildly successful in one respect: naming youthful conservative nominees to the federal bench in record-setting numbers.

    …He not only put Neil M. Gorsuch in the Supreme Court vacancy created by Merrick Garland’s blocked confirmation, but he also selected 27 lower-court judges as of mid-July. Twenty-seven! That’s three times Obama’s total and more than double the totals of Reagan, Bush 41 and Clinton — combined. For the Courts of Appeals — the final authority for 95 percent of federal cases — no president before Trump named more than three judges whose nominations were processed in his first six months; Trump has named nine. Trump is on pace to more than double the number of federal judges nominated by any president in his first year.

    Moreover, Trump’s picks are astoundingly young….

    How conservative are Trump’s picks? Dubbed “polemicists in robes” in a headline on a piece by Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick, Trump’s nominees are strikingly . . . Trumpian….

  44. says

    Trump said “No. 1, you know, a lot of the papers were saying — actually, these guys couldn’t believe it, how much I know about it. I know a lot about health care” and this in the same interview.

  45. says

    Matthew Miller responding to Sessions/Rosenstein press conference a few minutes ago:

    “That was pathetic from Sessions & Rosenstein. POTUS attacked the very mission of DOJ, and they have nothing to say. Might as well quit now.”

    “What are the career employees at DOJ supposed to think when POTUS attacks their mission and the AG and DAG won’t stand up for them?”

  46. says

    Very minimal sourcing, but…“Mueller Expands Probe to Trump Business Transactions”:

    The U.S. special counsel investigating possible ties between the Donald Trump campaign and Russia in last year’s election is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe.

    The president told the New York Times on Wednesday that any digging into matters beyond Russia would be out of bounds. Trump’s businesses have involved Russians for years, making the boundaries fuzzy so Special Counsel Robert Mueller appears to be taking a wide-angle approach to his two-month-old probe.

    FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said.

    Agents are also interested in dealings with the Bank of Cyprus, where Wilbur Ross served as vice chairman before he became commerce secretary. The are also examining the efforts of Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law and White House aide, to secure financing for some of his family’s real estate properties. The information was provided by someone familiar with the developing inquiry but not authorized to speak publicly.

    The roots of Mueller’s follow-the-money investigation lie in a wide-ranging money laundering probe launched by then-Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara last year, according to the person.

    As part of their investigation, Mueller’s team has issued subpoenas to banks and filed requests for bank records to foreign lenders under mutual legal assistance treaties, according to two of the people familiar with the matter.

  47. says

    erik @54, Thanks! Very nice of you to put that in writing.

    Thanks, SC, for the links and comments regarding Trump’s interview with the New York Times. I see that PZ also picked up on some of the more egregious blathering from our Bullshitter in Chief.

    There are Republicans who are also fed up with Trump:

    “I don’t even pay any attention to what is going on with the administration because I don’t care. They’re a distraction. The family is a distraction, the president is a distraction,” complained Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho). “At first, it was ‘Well yeah, this is the guy we elected. He’ll learn, he’ll learn.’ And you just don’t see that happening.”

    Mike Simpson is as conservative as they come.

    Representative Simpson also said, “Quite frankly, I’m starting to wonder if anyone in the family knows what the truth is.”

    I’m seeing more Republicans simply going around Trump, or advising that the Senate and House more or less ignore the Executive Branch and continue to work on their own. I don’t think they’ll be successful with that strategy either, but I am encouraged to see Trump isolated.

  48. says

    In the New York Times interview, Trump said that he thought it would be a “violation” if Robert Mueller started looking into his finances. Mueller is looking into his finances.

    This is from Bloomberg Politics:

    FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said.

    Agents are also interested in dealings with the Bank of Cyprus, where Wilbur Ross served as vice chairman before he became commerce secretary. They are also examining the efforts of Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law and White House aide, to secure financing for some of his family’s real estate properties.

    There’s also an going investigation of Deutsche Bank, Trump’s biggest lender.

    “Banking regulators are reviewing hundreds of millions of dollars in loans made to Mr. Trump’s businesses through Deutsche Bank’s private wealth management unit, which caters to an ultrarich clientele.” The German bank, the article added, has already been “in contact with federal investigators about the Trump accounts,” and expects it will “eventually have to provide information” to Mueller and the special counsel’s investigators.

  49. says

    Good news: Rhode Island just became the ninth state with automatic voter registration.

    Gov. Gina Raimondo has signed a bill that allows qualified voters to automatically register.

    The new law would provide automatic voter registration for eligible citizens when they’re obtaining or renewing a driver’s license, unless the person chooses to opt out…. The bill passed last month in the House and Senate and had bipartisan support. Rhode Island becomes the ninth state to put in place automatic voter registration.

    U.S. News link

    Still not a perfect solution. A lot of voters and potential voters don’t have a driver’s license. But this is definitely a step in the right direction.

    Illinois is poised to become the 10th state, and Nevada will have automatic voter registration on the ballot next year.

    In most developed countries that are democracies, automatic voter registration already is the norm. Representative David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island, is sponsoring an AVR bill that would apply nationwide. He has 108 co-sponsors on the bill, but they are all Democrats. Making it easy for everyone to vote is a Republican nightmare. If we elect more Democrats, maybe we can push AVR through Congress.

  50. says

    My comment 73 repeats a lot of what SC already posted in comment 70. Apologies for the repetition.

    From Trump’s self-aggrandizing interview with the NYT:

    I have had the best reviews on foreign land. So I go to Poland and make a speech. Enemies of mine in the media, enemies of mine are saying it was the greatest speech ever made on foreign soil by a president.
    ————-
    I’ve given the farmers back their farms. I’ve given the builders back their land to build houses and to build other things.

  51. says

    “Exxon Mobil Fined for Violating Sanctions on Russia Under Tillerson”:

    The Treasury Department has fined Exxon Mobil $2 million for violating sanctions that the United States imposed on Russia in 2014 while Rex W. Tillerson, now the secretary of state, was chief executive of the oil company.

    “Exxon Mobil demonstrated reckless disregard for U.S. sanctions requirements,” the Treasury said in a report announcing the penalty.

    According to the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, Exxon Mobil violated the sanctions when the presidents of its American subsidiaries did business with an individual whose assets were blocked. They did so by signing legal documents related to oil and gas projects in Russia with Igor Sechin, the president of Rosneft OAO, and an another person.

    Exxon did not voluntarily disclose the signings, according to the Treasury, which called the infractions “an egregious case.”…

    A piddling fine for an egregious case.

  52. KG says

    In most developed countries that are democracies, automatic voter registration already is the norm.

    Not the UK! But then, given the monstrously unfair FPTP voting system, maybe the qualification “that are democracies” excludes us. In 2013 the Tory/LibDem coalition changed the registration system to make it less likely young people, renters, and the mobile would register (previous to that, only one registration form per household was needed, and “household” included a university residence, after it, every individual needed to complete a form). This was justified on the grounds of preventing electoral fraud, but of course there was no evidence this was a significant problem.

  53. says

    Evil. Slime-like. Sneaky. Bad for health care.

    The Trump administration has spent taxpayer money meant to encourage enrollment in the Affordable Care Act on a public relations campaign aimed at methodically strangling it.

    The effort, which involves a multi-pronged social media push as well as video testimonials designed at damaging public opinion of President Obama’s health care law, is far more robust and sustained than has been publicly revealed or realized.

    The strategy has caught the eye of legal experts and Democrats in Congress, who have asked government agencies to investigate whether the administration has misused funds and engaged in covert propaganda in its efforts to damage and overturn the seven-year-old health care law. It’s also roiled Obama administration veterans, who argue that the current White House is not only abdicating its responsibilities to administer the law but sabotaging it in an effort to facilitate its undoing by Congress.

    “I’m on a daily basis horrified by leaders at the Department of Health and Human Services who seem intent on taking healthcare away from the constituents they are supposed to serve,” former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in an interview with The Daily Beast. “We always believed that delivering health and human services was the mission of the department. That seems to not be the mission of the current leadership.” […]

    Under Secretary Tom Price’s stewardship, HHS has filmed and produced a series of testimonial videos featuring individuals claiming to have been harmed by Obamacare. Those “viral” videos have had decidedly limited reach, often gathering somewhere between 100 and 200 views each. But the Department has made a heavy investment in them nonetheless. To date, it has released 23 videos. A source familiar with the video production says that there have been nearly 30 interviews conducted in total, from which more than 130 videos have been produced.

    Daily Beast link

  54. says

    YouTube link to an excerpt of Katy Tur’s coverage of Trump signaling Putin from afar at the G20 summit dinner, and of Trump talking to Putin for an hour.

    Before he got up and went to sit by Putin, Trump pathetically gestured and hand-signaled to Putin repeatedly.

  55. says

    KG @77, thanks for that info on the United Kingdom and the FPTP voting system.

    In other news, here are additional details pertaining to Don Junior’s meeting with the Russians, details that fill in more of the backstory.

    […] one possible reason for such eagerness [“I love it,” from Don Junior, and the fact that Kushner and Manafort showed up for the meeting] might have been an online report that the Kremlin had somehow obtained Hillary Clinton’s personal emails. At least one top Trump campaign official had embraced this story and circulated it on social media—even though the report, which was highlighted on Fox News and disseminated by a conservative website founded by Laura Ingraham, lacked any sources and was first posted on a pair of bizarre conspiracy sites, including one associated with neo-Nazis.

    Clinton’s emails were the Holy Grail of Clinton-haters during the 2016 campaign. […] Her foes also pushed the idea that hackers from Russia or other governments might have penetrated her server and swiped her emails, gaining all sorts of national security secrets and negative information. (There was no evidence any such hacks occurred.) […]

    Link

  56. KG says

    Lynna and SC, please never stop what you are doing in this thread. The documentation is impeccable. – erikthebassist@54

    Seconded!

  57. says

    Trump talked to the NYT about France’s President, Emmanuel Macron:

    TRUMP: He’s a great guy. Smart. Strong. Loves holding my hand.

    HABERMAN: I’ve noticed.

    TRUMP: People don’t realize he loves holding my hand. And that’s good, as far as that goes.

  58. says

    Steve Been provided a helpful summary of Trump’s attacks on the independence of the Department of Justice.

    […] * Attorney General Jeff Sessions: By recusing himself from the investigation into the Trump-Russia scandal, Sessions isn’t in a position to steer the probe in a way the White House likes. This, in Trump’s mind, is an outrage.

    * Special Counsel Robert Mueller: Trump accused Mueller of leading a team filled with conflicts of interest, and added that if the special counsel examines Trump’s finances, the president may fire him. [Not in so many words. The threat was more veiled than that.]

    * Former FBI Director James Comey: Trump suggested at one point that Comey may have been effectively trying to blackmail him, accused Comey of lying about their interactions, and insisted that the former director “illegally” leaked information. None of this is to be taken seriously.

    * Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein: Trump suggested the deputy A.G. is not to be trusted because he may not be a loyal Republican. “Rod Rosenstein, who is from Baltimore,” the president said. “There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any. So, he’s from Baltimore.” (Rosenstein is not actually from Baltimore, though he served as a Bush-appointed U.S. attorney in Maryland.)

    * Acting FBI director Andrew McCabe: Trump, probably taking his cues from conservative media outlets, thinks McCabe is suspect because his wife was a Democratic candidate in Virginia.

    […] Trump came across in the interview as someone preoccupied with a sense of grievance and paranoia – this is an inordinate number of enemies for a president to have at the Department of Justice.

    And all of this seems to extend from Trump’s apparent belief that federal law enforcement is there to serve his, not the nation’s, interests. […]

    Christopher Wray, the president’s nominee to lead the bureau, told the Senate Judiciary Committee he believes the FBI must be independent of the White House. If Wray was telling the truth, Trump’s Justice Department enemies list may soon have a new member.

  59. says

    I was waiting for this to happen. One White House reporter defied orders and live-streamed the press briefing.

    At every White House news briefing since June 29 — and many before, too — President Trump’s spokesmen have ordered a room full of smartphone-toting journalists not to film the session or even broadcast live audio. On Wednesday, one reporter defied the White House by streaming live sound of the briefing online.

    Ksenija Pavlovic, a former political science teaching fellow at Yale who founded a news site called Pavlovic Today, used the Periscope app to stream audio of Wednesday’s briefing. She tweeted a link to the feed:
    https://www.pscp.tv/w/1djGXLBRmoRGZ […]

    I hope other reporters follow suit.

    The White House has continued its unprecedented streak of off-camera only briefings. For reasons they refuse to explain, the norm in the White House is now to refuse any video recording of the official White House press briefings. In many cases they are now banning audio recordings! The policy is remarkably un-American. Listen as the multiple White House Press Corps reporters repeatedly question White House spokesman Sean Spicer about the camera ban, reminding Spicer his salary is paid by the taxpayers and he has a duty to report to the people of the United States. His answers are as pathetic as this entire failure of a presidency. In fact, this about sums it up. [audio available at the link]

    Daily Kos

    One reporter commented that Spicer is not seen on TV because Trump doesn’t want to see him on TV.

  60. says

    Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort filed requests to hire 70 more foreign workers. The jobs to be filled are cooks, housekeepers and servers.

    […] The jobs would begin on Oct. 1 and end in May 2018, according to the filings. Those positions would take advantage of the H-2B visa program, which allows U.S. employers to bring foreign nations to the country for temporary, non-agricultural work.

    The Trump National Golf Course in Jupiter, Fla., also filed a request to hire temporary foreign workers as cooks for the same period of time.

    The requests came as the White House celebrates what it has designated “Made in America Week,” highlighting American-made products and re-upping the administration’s emphasis on bringing jobs back to the U.S.

    Employers must establish that there are not enough American workers able or willing to fill the temporary positions in order to qualify for H-2B classification. […]

    [Trump] signed an executive order in April promoting what he has dubbed a “Buy American, Hire American” agenda. The order also tightened rules on granting H-1B visas to skilled foreign workers.

    But the Trump administration moved to expand the H-2B program on Monday, saying it would offer an additional 15,000 visas because not enough American workers are willing or able to fill the country’s employment needs for the rest of the 2017 fiscal year.

    Trump has defended the hiring of foreign workers at Mar-a-Lago, saying during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in September that “getting help in Palm Beach during the season is almost impossible.”

    The Hill link

  61. says

    Writing for The New Yorker, John Cassidy discussed Trump’s clueless abdication of presidential responsibility. Here is the conclusion from the article, the entirety of which is worth reading.

    […] Trump is what he is: a self-obsessed carnival barker with authoritarian instincts and little grasp of policy or history. In the long run, his unwillingness (or inability) to change strategy means he is unlikely to go down in history as a transformative figure but, rather, one who exploited a unique set of conditions to win the Presidency. In the short run, Trump’s vacuousness means he has nothing to offer except a laughable effort to blame the Democrats for what has happened. “They’re responsible for passing Obamacare,” Trump’s spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said on Tuesday. “They’re responsible for the mess we’re in.”

  62. says

    Wray was passed unanimously out of the Senate Judiciary Committee today. Am I the only one who’s concerned about Trump’s confidence in Wray? This is how he concluded a string of lies/confused blather about Nixon and the DoJ job chart:

    TRUMP: And nothing was changed other than Richard Nixon came along. And when Nixon came along [inaudible] was pretty brutal, and out of courtesy, the F.B.I. started reporting to the Department of Justice. But there was nothing official, there was nothing from Congress. There was nothing — anything. But the F.B.I. person really reports directly to the president of the United States, which is interesting. You know, which is interesting. And I think we’re going to have a great new F.B.I. director.

    HABERMAN: Chris Wray.

    TRUMP: He’s highly thought of by everybody. I think I did the country a great service with respect to Comey.

    Is someone misleading him, or is there a basis for his excitement about Wray? Maybe he just thinks everyone will forget about his firing of Comey if Wray works out, but it’s strange, as is the seemingly unquestioning support from Democrats. Maybe they know more than they’re letting on…

  63. says

    This is a great short piece by Brian Beutler, making a more fleshed-out version of an argument I’ve made here once or twice – “Democrats, Not Republicans, Stand for ‘Freedom’ in Health Care”:

    …No matter how you look at it, the basic tradeoffs at the heart of Trumpcare are unforgivably cruel. But for the most part, Democrats are using “mean” as a stand in for only one of the two main value propositions at the heart of Republican health policy: that distributing resources from the rich and healthy to the poor and sick is wrong. They have essentially ignored the second value proposition: that freedom means the freedom to beg your boss for health care, or fend for yourself.

    There’s real political power in the correct argument that conservatives are “mean” because they aren’t charitable enough. But there is also power in the complementary argument that Republicans have coopted the language of freedom to impose a form of indenture.

    President Barack Obama made a version of this appeal in his second inaugural address, as an implicit rebuke to his vanquished rivals, who crusaded during the campaign against moochers on government assistance. “The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative,” he said. “They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”

    This is especially true of the Affordable Care Act, which created an insurance system in parallel to the employer-sponsored system, so that working-age people who lose their jobs or leave their jobs don’t lose the entirety of their health insurance subsidy in the process. A more thoroughgoing national health care plan like Medicare-for-all, also known as single-payer, would sever the link between employment and insurance entirely and forever. But Obamacare weakened the phenomenon of “job lock” substantially.

    Notwithstanding Obama’s second inaugural, the liberating aspects of universal health care have not been central to the Democrats’ value proposition, whether they’re fighting for expanding access to health care or fighting GOP efforts to limit it. The challenge for Democrats is to turn the GOP’s revealed commitment to maximal job lock into a liability.

    …The GOP has laid bare a vision in which the government uses the universal need for health care as a perpetual lever to extract people’s labor regardless of their circumstances. Can Democrats sell the country on the opposite idea, that this yoke makes everyone less free?

  64. says

    Writing for Talking Points Memo, Sam Thielman looked at the role that “pop stars” play when it comes to getting Putin’s message and policies out into the world.

    It might look odd or unbelievable to us, but for Putin and for Russian oligarchs it is business as usual to use a pop star as go-between.

    […] Though the younger Agalarov’s role in his family’s political dealings has all but vanished in his father’s long shadow, oligarchs and politicians in Russia and the former Soviet bloc often see pop singers as power brokers. Emin himself admitted in an Irish Examiner interview that “I end up singing songs that I believe in — that don’t necessarily need to earn me a living,” which puts the onus on his father’s real estate businesses to support his singing career. But it doesn’t follow that Emin is a joke outside the music world: though it didn’t rocket the singer to international fame, the $20 million deal between the Agalarovs and the Trumps bring Miss Universe to Moscow is a familiar sight to those in the region who have often seen pop stars at the center of political power.

    Emin has made headlines recently for brokering the meeting between Donald Trump, Jr. and a Russian lawyer promising damaging information on Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government campaign of support for the elder Trump’s presidential bid. But he began making overtures to the Trump family on his own behalf through Olivia Culpo, Miss Universe 2012, who appeared in one of Emin’s music videos. The Miss Universe organization must have felt it had something to gain from the relationship: Erin Brady, Miss USA 2013, told the New York Times that she and other contestants were required to appear without pay in that same video as part of the competition. […]

    Emin explained in an interview on the Crocus Group’s website, after filming the music video with Culpo “we met with her managers [Miss Universe head Paula Shugart, according to Mother Jones], they came to Russia and met with Aras [Agalarov]. Then we all met with Donald Trump and shook hands.” Emin and Trump remained friends. Trump appeared in another music video for Emin the next year, again alongside pageant contestants, this time clad in their sashes, and Trump also sent him a happy birthday video.

  65. says

    Trump’s spokesperson for his legal team has quit. Trump is asking his advisors if he can pardon himself, his family and his aides.

    Trump’s team is also actively looking into ways to discredit Mueller and others on Mueller’s team.

  66. says

    President Trump’s lawyers are looking into the president’s authority to grant pardons in connection with the special counsel investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

    Trump himself has talked to advisers about his ability to pardon his aides, family members and himself in the investigations, according to the Post, though one adviser cautioned that the president’s inquiries were made in curiosity, rather than in connection to the Russia probes. […]

    Trump’s lawyers have reportedly been discussing presidential pardons among themselves, and are also looking at ways to undercut or limit the special counsel investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

    That includes putting together a list of special counsel Robert Mueller’s potential conflicts of interest, which could potentially be cited by an attorney general to do away with Mueller. […]

    http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/343059-trump-lawyers-discussing-presidential-pardon-powers-possible-mueller

  67. says

    Trump’s lawyers explore pardoning powers and ways to undercut Russia investigation

    Some of President Trump’s lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president’s authority to grant pardons, according to people familiar with the effort.

    Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people. A second person said Trump’s lawyers have been discussing the president’s pardoning powers among themselves.

    Trump’s legal team declined to comment on the issue. But one adviser said the president has simply expressed a curiosity in understanding the reach of his pardoning authority, as well as the limits of Mueller’s investigation.

    With the Russia investigation continuing to widen, Trump’s lawyers are working to corral the probe and question the propriety of the special counsel’s work. They are actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work, according to several of Trump’s legal advisers.

    A conflict of interest is one of the possible grounds that can be cited by an attorney general to remove a special counsel from office under Justice Department regulations that set rules for the job.

    The president is also irritated by the notion that Mueller’s probe could reach into his and his family’s finances, advisers said.[…]

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trumps-lawyers-seek-to-undercut-muellers-russia-investigation/2017/07/20/232ebf2c-6d71-11e7-b9e2-2056e768a7e5_story.html

  68. says

    “Trump team seeks to control, block Mueller’s Russia investigation”:

    Some of President Trump’s lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president’s authority to grant pardons, according to people familiar with the effort.

    Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people. A second person said Trump’s lawyers have been discussing the president’s pardoning powers among themselves.

    Trump’s legal team declined to comment on the issue. But one adviser said the president has simply expressed a curiosity in understanding the reach of his pardoning authority, as well as the limits of Mueller’s investigation.

    With the Russia investigation continuing to widen, Trump’s lawyers are working to corral the probe and question the propriety of the special counsel’s work. They are actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work, according to several of Trump’s legal advisers.

    Trump has been fuming about the probe in recent weeks as he has been informed about the legal questions that he and his family could face. His primary frustration centers on why allegations that his campaign coordinated with Russia should spread into scrutinizing many years of Trump dealmaking. He has told aides he was especially disturbed after learning Mueller would be able to access several years of his tax returns.

    Further adding to the challenges facing Trump’s outside lawyers, the team’s spokesman, Mark Corallo, resigned on Thursday, according to two people familiar with his departure. Corallo did not respond to immediate requests for comment….

  69. says

    “Trump Aides, Seeking Leverage, Investigate Mueller’s Investigators”:

    President Trump’s lawyers and aides are scouring the professional and political backgrounds of investigators hired by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, looking for conflicts of interest they could use to discredit the investigation — or even build a case to fire Mr. Mueller or get some members of his team recused, according to three people with knowledge of the research effort.

    The search for potential conflicts is wide-ranging. It includes scrutinizing donations to Democratic candidates, investigators’ past clients and Mr. Mueller’s relationship with James B. Comey, whose firing as F.B.I. director is part of the special counsel’s investigation.

    Some of the investigators have vast experience prosecuting financial malfeasance, and the prospect that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry could evolve into an expansive examination of Mr. Trump’s financial history has stoked fears among the president’s aides. Both Mr. Trump and his aides have said publicly they are watching closely to ensure Mr. Mueller’s investigation remains narrowly focused on last year’s election.

    Mr. Mueller’s team has begun examining financial records, and has requested documents from the Internal Revenue Service related to Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul J. Manafort, according to a senior American official. The records are from a criminal tax investigation that had been opened long before Mr. Trump’s campaign began. Mr. Manafort was never charged in that case.

    Federal investigators have also contacted Deutsche Bank about Mr. Trump’s accounts, and the bank is expecting to provide information to Mr. Mueller.

    Mr. Sekulow is one part of a legal team in the midst of being reorganized, according to three people with knowledge of the matter. The role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced….

    Mr. Sekulow, a firebrand lawyer with deep conservative credentials, will serve as Mr. Dowd’s deputy….

    Mark Corallo is no longer working as a spokesman for the legal team. A former Justice Department spokesman, Mr. Corallo was one of several people cautioning against publicly criticizing Mr. Mueller.

    The shake-up comes weeks after Mr. Dowd and Mr. Kasowitz had a face-to-face meeting with Mr. Mueller….

  70. says

    Matthew Miller:

    “Takeaway from the Post & NYT pieces is we are headed for certain crisis. Trump just will not, cannot allow this investigation to go forward.”

    “Not for nothing, discussing pardoning yourself and your family at the beginning of an investigation looks super guilty.”

  71. says

    (Everyone seems to be talking about how Trump’s financial activities related to Russia going back years would logically arise from the investigation, but I recall that the Steele memos said that sources suggested that the Kremlin actually had kompromat on Trump related to his crooked dealings in China and elsewhere.)

  72. says

    Preet Bharara: “If Mueller is fired, will Congress pass a new independent counsel statute? If Mueller is fired, will any high-level DOJ officials resign in protest? If Mueller is fired, how much obscene & horseshit character assassination will Trump & allies level against this honored military vet?”

  73. says

    From Politico re Corallo’s resignation:

    Mark Corallo…had grown frustrated with the operation and the warring factions and lawyers, these people said. Corallo also was concerned about whether he was being told the truth about various matters, one of these people said.

    Corallo has been close to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the Russia investigation, and has praised him publicly. He didn’t like the strategy to attack his credibility, one person who spoke to him said.

    Also: “Corallo…had told others he couldn’t believe how White House operated and had never seen anything like it.”

  74. says

    Re #110 – here’s the relevant section from the Steele memos:

    Commenting on the negative media publicity surrounding alleged Russian interference in the U.S. election campaign in support of Trump, Source E said he understood that the Republican candidate and his team were relatively relaxed about this because it deflected media and the Democrats’ attention away from Trump’s business dealings in China and other emerging markets. Unlike in Russia, these were substantial and involved the payment of large bribes and kickbacks which, were they to become public, would be potentially very damaging to their campaign.

  75. says

    If Trump tries to pardon anyone, that pardon automatically is an admission that a federal crime was committed.

    Trump is refusing to accept the basic premise that the law(s) applies to him and to his family. I don’t think the courts will agree with him.

    Trump also thinks he is a dictator who can say exactly what Mueller can investigate, and what he can’t look into. Trump is not a position to “allow” Mueller to investigate some areas and to prevent him from investigating others.

    Why does Trump think this way?

  76. says

    Mueller sent a letter to the White House:

    The letter from Mueller began: “As you are aware the Special Counsel’s office is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, including any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of Donald Trump. Information concerning the June 2016 meeting between Donald J Trump Jr and Natalia Veselnitskaya is relevant to the investigation.”

    The preservation request is broad and includes text messages, emails, notes, voicemails and other communications and documentation regarding the June 2016 meeting and any related communication since then. […]

    http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/21/politics/robert-mueller-russia-investigation-trump-tower-meeting/index.html

  77. says

    Remember when representatives of the Kushner Companies were caught selling U.S. visas for $500,000 per visa back in May? “Invest $500,000 and immigrate to the United States.”

    Apologies were issued and promises of reform were issued, along with explanations that visas for investors were routine and could be above-board/legal in some circumstances.

    Well, no changes were made and Kushner Companies are selling entry into the USA for people that invest in Kushner-built buildings.

    Jared Kushner’s status as a top aide to President Donald Trump was used to lure Chinese investors to his family’s New Jersey development, even after his family’s company apologized for mentioning his name during a sales pitch in May, CNN has found.

    References to Kushner are part of online promotions by two businesses that are working with Kushner Companies to find Chinese investors willing to invest in the 1 Journal Square development in exchange for a US visa. […]

    The promotions are aimed at bringing in investors who pay at least $500,000 apiece and in exchange get US visas, and potentially green cards, for themselves and their families if the development meets certain criteria. The deals are part of a legal US government program called EB-5, which grants up to 10,000 immigrant visas per year.

    http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/20/politics/draft-kushner-visas/index.html

    From Mark Sumner:

    […] Real estate developers have often used the program to develop luxury properties, especially when analysis leads U.S. banks to believe those properties aren’t a good fit for the markets where they’re being built.

    The original intent of the EB-5 visa program was to promote investments into poor neighborhoods. But, like so many other loopholes, ultra-wealthy developers have hijacked the program to build gold-plated palaces. […]

    Link

  78. says

    About that claim that Natalia Veselnitskaya is not a “government lawyer.” I guess it depends on your definition. She represented the FSB for eight years.

    The Russian lawyer who met Donald Trump Jr. after his father won the Republican nomination for the 2016 U.S. presidential election counted Russia’s FSB security service among her clients for years, Russian court documents seen by Reuters show.

    The documents show that the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, successfully represented the FSB’s interests in a legal wrangle over ownership of an upscale property in northwest Moscow between 2005 and 2013.

    The FSB, successor to the Soviet-era KGB service, was headed by Vladimir Putin before he became Russian president.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-russia-lawyer-exclusive-idUSKBN1A61LZ

  79. says

    Well! [raised eyebrows] Spicer has resigned!

    […] White House press secretary Sean Spicer has resigned, according to a White House official.

    The official said Spicer decided to leave the White House because of President Donald Trump’s expected move to name Anthony Scaramucci, a Wall Street financier and longtime supporter, to the position of White House communications director. […]

    http://www.politico.com/story/2017/07/21/sean-spicer-resigns-white-house-press-secretary-240802

  80. says

    Representative Adam Schiff commented on team Trump’s efforts to circumscribe Mueller’s investigation:

    There is no doubt that Mueller has the authority to investigate anything that arises from his investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, including financial links. Indeed, this is a very important part of Mueller’s responsibility, given that any financial impropriety between Russia and the Trump organization — such as money laundering — could represent just the kind of ‘kompromat’ that Russia could utilize to influence administration policy.

    Meanwhile, Trump junkie Kellyanne Conway said this during an interview on Fox & Friends:

    […] The question isn’t what is there to hide, the question is what was the purpose of this investigation in the first place? Russia.

    The president said to the New York Times less than two days ago, “we don’t make money in Russia, we don’t have hotels in Russia.” Let’s go back to what the purpose of the investigation was — Russian interference in our election.

  81. says

    Paul Manafort demanded that the New York Times retract an article they published yesterday. The Times refused.

    […] an article published Wednesday […] reported he had been in debt to pro-Russia interests by as much as $17 million before he joined Trump’s presidential campaign in March 2016.

    In the article, Mike McIntire reports based off of audited financial statements filed with government authorities in Cyprus, that the money was owed by shell companies connected to Manafort’s consulting business with a pro-Russia Party of Regions in the Ukraine.

    “The Cyprus documents obtained by The New York Times include audited financial statements for the companies, which were part of a complex web of more than a dozen entities that transferred millions of dollars among them in the form of loans, payments and fees,” McIntire wrote.

    Jason Maloni, a spokesperson for Manafort, said in an email to the Times that “despite the implications and innuendo, The New York Times offered no evidence that these transactions represent current obligations” and that “the documents you provided are LLC docs that do not show these are personal or current obligations.” […]

    “We have carefully reviewed the request from Manafort’s representatives and see no basis for a correction,” a spokesperson for the paper said. […]

    Link

  82. says

    The hackers backed by Putin are under attack. It is Microsoft that is going after the Russian hackers.

    A new offensive by Microsoft has been making inroads against the Russian government hackers behind last year’s election meddling, identifying over 120 new targets of the Kremlin’s cyber spying, and control-alt-deleting segments of Putin’s hacking apparatus.

    How are they doing it? It turns out Microsoft has something even more formidable than Moscow’s malware: Lawyers.

    Last year attorneys for the software maker quietly sued the hacker group known as Fancy Bear in a federal court outside Washington DC, accusing it of computer intrusion, cybersquatting, and infringing on Microsoft’s trademarks. […] The lawsuit is a tool for Microsoft to target what it calls “the most vulnerable point” in Fancy Bear’s espionage operations: the command-and-control servers the hackers use to covertly direct malware on victim computers. […]

    Since August, Microsoft has used the lawsuit to wrest control of 70 different command-and-control points from Fancy Bear. […] Rather than getting physical custody of the servers, which Fancy Bear rents from data centers around the world, Microsoft has been taking over the Internet domain names that route to them. These are addresses like “livemicrosoft[.]net” or “rsshotmail[.]com” that Fancy Bear registers under aliases for about $10 each.

    Once under Microsoft’s control, the domains get redirected from Russia’s servers to the company’s, cutting off the hackers from their victims, and giving Microsoft a omniscient view of that servers’ network of automated spies.

    “In other words,” Microsoft outside counsel Sten Jenson explained in a court filing last year, “any time an infected computer attempts to contact a command-and-control server through one of the domains, it will instead be connected to a Microsoft-controlled, secure server.” […]

    Link

  83. says

    Writing for Vox, Matthew Yglesias summarized one conclusion that came out of the NYT interview:

    […] reading the transcript of Donald Trump’s recent interview with three New York Times reporters, two things stand out. One is the sheer range of subjects that Trump does not understand correctly — from French urban planning to health insurance to Russian military history to where Baltimore is to domestic policy in the 1990s to his own regulatory initiatives. The other is that Trump is determined, across the board, to simply bluff and bluster through rather than admitting to any uncertainty or gaps in his knowledge.

    It’s an approach that’s certainly commonplace among Trump’s cohort of rich Manhattanites. People who’ve spent years surrounded by flatterers and lackeys eager to get their hands on their money tend to come away with an inflated sense of their own domains of competence. But precisely because the demands of the presidency are so unimaginably vast, it’s a frightening attribute in a chief executive.

    The complete interview is a little bit hard to parse, since Trump keeps ducking off the record and the transcript interrupts. But it really is worth taking in the whole thing — the scope is breathtaking. […]

    Trump makes lots of weird, trivial errors
    In the course of the interview, Trump also makes a lot of random little factual errors:
    – He says Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife doesn’t speak any English, but she seems to speak English fine.
    – He says Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is from Baltimore, when he grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs and has lived for years in Bethesda, just outside of DC.
    – He says the FBI director “reports directly to the president of the United States,” which also isn’t true. In fact, the FBI director reports to the director of national intelligence.
    – He says the Russia investigation is “not an investigation” (whatever that means) and also that “it’s not on me” (it is).
    – He says James Comey wrote a letter to him, when he actually wrote a letter to his former colleagues at the FBI.
    – He says 51 Republican senators came to his health care meeting at the White House, when in fact Susan Collins and Rand Paul didn’t attend and John McCain was sick, so the number was 49. […]

    Read the entire article to see Yglesias analyze to more substantial/important errors that Trump made in that interview.

  84. says

    Wonkette live-blogged the Scaramucci takeover of Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ press briefing. Here is an excerpt:

    2:47 PM: Reporter asks Scaramucci if he’ll apologize for being “wrong” when the president INEVITABLY contradicts whatever the press shop has said. Scaramucci calls it a “hypothetical” (LOL!), does a charming namedrop to Harvard Law, and ends with the whole country’s love for Trump. This guy’s going places.

    2:50 PM: Reporter: The President made Sean Spicer lie about the size of the inauguration on his very first day. Are you willing to lie about the size of the inauguration too?

    Scaramucci: Pretty sure the president doesn’t lie and is always right, and I am not going to contradict him […]

    2:55 PM: Scaramucci basically “Let Bartlett Be Bartletting” for the ULTRABELOVED God King Donald Trump, whom all the peasantry loves, along with No. 1 Fan Anthony Scaramucci. […]

    AGAIN WITH THE COUNTRY’S LOVE FOR THE PRESIDENT, thrice in one sentence, oh my god Donald Trump has such a half-chub (his biggest chub) right now, ugh.

    3:00 PM: Ok, now he literally said “let President Trump be President Trump.” Trump is gonna give him TWO SCOOPS at dinnertime.

  85. says

    Trump refuses … again … to appear and to speak at an NAACP event.

    In a move that is surprising to absolutely no one, Donald Trump will not be speaking at this year’s annual NAACP convention which begins on Saturday in Baltimore.

    This is the second year in a row that he has declined an invitation to speak at the event. The same invitation has been extended to, and accepted by, his predecessors in previous years— with Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan all speaking at the event. In fact, Trump has just made history by becoming the first sitting president in more than 30 years to break with tradition and not meet with the nation’s oldest civil rights group at their annual convention.

    This move solidifies every thing we need to know about him and his priorities. Of course, we didn’t need this latest refusal to figure out that this president is a racist and a bigot who cares little for minorities or improving their lives. […]

    Link

  86. says

    “Senate Intel Chair: ‘The Unmasking Thing Was All Created By Devin Nunes’”:

    Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) on Friday accused his counterpart in the House, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), of creating a false narrative about Obama administration national security adviser Susan Rice.

    Speaking to CNN after Rice was interviewed by the panel in closed session, Burr said he asked no questions about whether she improperly requested and revealed the identities of U.S. individuals swept up in intelligence reports—an accusation Nunes has made repeatedly.

    “The unmasking thing was all created by Devin Nunes, and I’ll wait to go through our full evaluation to see if there was anything improper that happened,” Burr told CNN. “But clearly there were individuals unmasked. Some of that became public which it’s not supposed to, and our business is to understand that, and explain it.”…

  87. says

    Trump just exchanged an awkward liar for a smooth and snakelike liar.

    Sean Spicer began his tenure as White House Press Secretary by defending a lie about the crowd size at Trump’s inauguration being “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration. Period.”

    On the day of Spicer’s resignation, new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci defended another, more dangerous Trump lie.

    Asked by a reporter if he stands by Trump’s claim that three to five million illegal votes cost him the popular vote, Scaramucci said, “If the president says it… my guess is that there is probably some level of truth to that.”

    “I think what we have found sometimes, the president says stuff, some of you guys in the media think it’s not true or it isn’t true, and it turns out it is closer to the truth than people think,” he added.

    There isn’t a shred of evidence that widespread illegal voting occurred during last year’s election. But Trump has leveraged his claim into the creation of a White House Commission on Election Integrity. During their first meeting earlier this week, the commission made clear that its goal is to suppress votes.[…]

    Link

    In my opinion, Trump just didn’t like the way Sean Spicer looked. Also, spicer wasn’t a rich guy. Scaramucci looks good and he is a billionaire. He’s also a liar that is willing to say 14 times in one press briefing that he loves Trump.

  88. says

    “Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show”:

    Russia’s ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, according to current and former U.S. officials.

    Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s accounts of two conversations with Sessions — then a top foreign policy adviser to Republican candidate Donald Trump — were intercepted by U.S. spy agencies, which monitor the communications of senior Russian officials both in the United States and in Russia. Sessions initially failed to disclose his contacts with Kislyak and then said that the meetings were not about the Trump campaign.

    One U.S. official said that Sessions — who testified that he has no recollection of an April encounter — has provided “misleading” statements that are “contradicted by other evidence.” A former official said that the intelligence indicates that Sessions and Kislyak had “substantive” discussions on matters including Trump’s positions on Russia-related issues and prospects for U.S.-Russia relations in a Trump administration.

    Russian and other foreign diplomats in Washington and elsewhere have been known, at times, to report false or misleading information to bolster their standing with their superiors or to confuse U.S. intelligence agencies.

    But U.S. officials with regular access to Russian intelligence reports say Kislyak — whose tenure as ambassador to the United States ended recently — has a reputation for accurately relaying details about his interactions with officials in Washington….

  89. says

    Remember when Obama and Biden were leaving office, and told reporters there would be public retaliation against the Kremlin for the election interference and also covert retaliation? They were asked about the latter and whether Putin would know it was them, and they implied that he probably wouldn’t. Has that come to pass, or could it still be in the future?

  90. snuffcurry says

    @SC, 142

    The insertion of “cyber implants” or “cyber bombs,” in response to Russian interference and to be ‘detonated’ if or when necessary, began under Obama and continues today. As for “covert,” it would appear that the US did intend Russia to detect this campaign — part threatening deterrence, part retaliation — but that it not be made public.

  91. says

    Thanks for those links, snuffcurry. Seems I’d read bits and pieces of the story but not the comprehensive account. I’m inclined to believe that there’s also something larger. Possibly wishful thinking, but Biden’s comments appeared to suggest something bigger and not really traceable.

  92. says

    “Polish Parliament Approves Law Curtailing Courts’ Independence”:

    Brushing aside warnings from the European Union and ignoring tens of thousands of protesters in the streets, Poland’s Parliament gave final approval to a landmark measure on Saturday that would restructure the Supreme Court, putting it under effective control of the governing party.

    The new law was the latest in a series of acts from the Law and Justice party that critics say are aimed at curtailing the judiciary, the country’s last bastion of independence. If President Andrzej Duda signs the laws, as expected, Poland will take its largest step yet away from the West’s liberal values* in a nation that was once a symbol of democracy’s triumph over communism.

    After a long day and evening of emotional debate, and protests that migrated across central Warsaw, the Polish Senate approved the new Supreme Court legislation at 2 a.m. by a vote of 55 to 23.

    Before the vote, protest leaders called for a rally in the square outside the Supreme Court, the same space where President Trump spoke two weeks ago, praising the government and offering no criticism of the court plan.

    On Friday, though, the State Department offered a more blunt assessment. “The Polish government has continued to pursue legislation that appears to undermine judicial independence and weaken the rule of law in Poland,” it said in a statement. “We urge all sides to ensure that any judicial reform does not violate Poland’s constitution or international legal obligations and respects the principles of judicial independence and separation of powers.”

    Pressure was brought to bear on Mr. Duda from domestic critics and the European Union, which itself was under pressure — to follow through on threats to punish Poland if the legislation became law.

    Frans Timmermans, the second-most powerful official in the European Commission, said Wednesday that if Mr. Duda signs these bills into law as written, the consequences could be swift and potentially devastating.

    He said Poland was drawing perilously close to the implementation of Article 7 of the European Union treaty, formally chastising it for violating the bloc’s democratic standards and potentially leading to stiffer penalties. Such a step has never been taken against a member nation, and it could mean economic sanctions and perhaps even the loss of all voting rights in the union, although that is considered improbable.

    In the meantime, the union may begin legal proceedings against Poland as early as next week before the Court of Justice of the European Union, the bloc’s highest tribunal. Invoking so-called infringement procedures, in which a member nation stands accused of violating standards of democracy and the rule of law, is a long, complicated process, sometimes lasting years.

    Another opposition party, Modern, addressed a letter to each of the senators saying history “will never forgive them” if they fail to “save the Republic from dictatorship.”

    Those who favor the new court laws “are laying foundations for totalitarianism,” said Marek Safjan, a judge on the European Tribunal of Justice and a former member of Poland’s constitutional tribunal.

    The future promises to be rocky, said Jerzy Stepien, director of the Institute of Civic Space and Public Policy at Lazarski University and a former president of the constitutional tribunal.

    * Ugh.

  93. says

    Supreme Court to hear Wisconsin gerrymandering case on October 3rd:

    The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Wednesday that it will hear a major case against partisan gerrymandering, Gill v. Whitford, on Oct. 3. As we’ve previously explained, this lawsuit seeks to invalidate Wisconsin’s Republican-drawn state Assembly districts as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, a step the Supreme Court has never taken before despite issuing rulings in the past saying that such gerrymanders could theoretically violate the Constitution.

    The high court could set a sweeping national precedent if it upholds a lower court ruling that struck down the map last last year. And since the justices will hear the case at the very start of their next term, the court could feasibly issue a ruling by the spring of next year. If the plaintiffs prevail, that should give Wisconsin enough time to be required to redraw the lines in time for the 2018 elections.

  94. blf says

    Two short excerpts from The week in patriarchy: Trump clearly doesn’t understand health insurance:

    If you want to be able to sleep this weekend, do yourself a favor and don’t read the New York Time’s expansive interview with Donald Trump. The president makes little sense as he answers questions about everything from Russia to Jeff Sessions and healthcare — and if you were already worried about whose hands the country is in, this piece will not put your mind at ease. For example, it seems pretty evident that the president of the United States has no idea how health insurance works.

    I used to see interviews like this and be a bit pleased — because the more coverage of Trump’s stupidity the better. But if you don’t realize by now that a total clown is in charge, there’s no interview or expose that’s going to change that. So join me this week in a good old fashion wallow: things are bad, the president is bad. At least it’s Friday.

    And:

    Scotland just became the first nation to offer free sanitary products to low-income women. Access to tampons and pads aren’t just a hygiene issue — but a health and rights issue. At least one country is getting it right.

    From the second excerpt above, the second embedded link (The case for free tampons: “The cost of a product that half the world’s population needs multiple times a day, every month for approximately 30 years, is simply too much”) says:

    In countries where sanitary products are inaccessible or unaffordable, menstruation can mean missed school for girls (UNICEF estimates 10% of African girls don’t attend school during their periods) and an increased dropout rate, missed work for women and repeated vaginal infections because of unsanitary menstrual products. One study showed that in Bangladesh, 73% of female factory workers miss an average of six days — and six days of pay — every month because of their periods.

  95. blf says

    Bipartisan group agrees on Russia sanctions for meddling in election:

    Group of House and Senate negotiators settled on a sweeping package of sanctions, which also includes penalties against North Korea and Iran

    Congressional Democrats announced […] a bipartisan group of House and Senate negotiators have reached an agreement on a sweeping package of sanctions to punish Russia for meddling in the presidential election and its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria.

    Steny Hoyer of Maryland […] said lawmakers had settled lingering issues with the bill, which also includes stiff economic penalties against Iran and North Korea.

    The sanctions targeting Russia, however, have drawn the most attention due to Donald Trump’s persistent push for warmer relations with Vladimir Putin and ongoing investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign.

    Passage of the bill, which could occur before Congress breaks for the August recess, puts Congress on possible collision course with Trump. The White House had objected to a key section of the bill that would mandate a congressional review if Trump attempted to ease or end the sanctions against Moscow.

    If Trump were to veto the bill, he risks sparking an outcry from Republicans and Democrats and having his decision overturned. The sanctions review was included in the bill because of wariness among lawmakers from both parties over Trump’s affinity for Putin.

    […]

    “A nearly united Congress is poised to send President Putin a clear message on behalf of the American people and our allies, and we need President Trump to help us deliver that message,” said Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top ranking Democrat on the upper chamber’s foreign relations committee.

    […]

    The review requirement in the sanctions bill is styled after 2015 legislation pushed by Republicans and approved in the Senate that gave Congress a vote on whether then president Barack Obama could lift sanctions against Iran. That measure reflected Republican complaints that Obama had overstepped the power of the presidency and needed to be checked by Congress.

    According to the bill, Trump is required to send Congress a report explaining why he wants to suspend or terminate a particular set of sanctions. Lawmakers would then have 30 days to decide whether to allow the move or reject it.

    Sanctions against Iran may not belong in that bill — it depends on why they are being applied / extended, e.g., fantasy about the nuclear deal or real concerns about something-or-other — but otherwise, based only on this article, it sounds reasonable, albeit details are still not entirely clear.

  96. says

    SC @151, I see that one of the first things Apol (the new acting ethics director) did was to approve the latest of Jared Kushner’s 39 revisions to his financial statement. Shaub was right, team Trump put in place a more permissive head of the Office of Government Ethics.

    This is Trump’s signature move: find somebody who will let you get away with unethical and possibly criminal practices.

  97. says

    Re #153 – “Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says a case dealing with how far political parties can go to draw election districts to their benefit might be the ‘most important’ the court will hear next term.”

  98. says

    SC @161, Scaramucci reminds me of Kellyanne Conway. He has better hair, and he was very concerned about “hair and makeup.” Trump approves as far as I can tell.

    Conway, Scaramucci, and Jay Sekulow (lawyer on Trump’s legal team) have all been on TV claiming that no one is talking about pardons. Trump actually tweeted about pardons, claiming unlimited power. Scaramucci then said that the White House doesn’t really have a Russia or policy problem, it has a “communications problem.” Yeah, about that, your problem is that Trump communicates that he has unlimited power to pardon people on his team that are iinvolved in any scandals..

    Scaramucci has his own communication problems:

    […] By midday Sunday, Scaramucci had outed Trump as an anonymous source who called him questioning whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election at all (“I won’t tell you who,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” and followed up moments later with, “How about it was the President”).

    He and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, promoted after Spicer’s resignation, also appeared to be on different pages about whether Trump supports legislation imposing tough new sanctions on Russia.

    “We support where the legislation is now,” Sanders said on Sunday.

    Scaramucci, on the other hand, offered, “He hasn’t made the decision yet to sign that bill.”

    Link

    New face, same old senseless bloviating.

  99. says

    Follow-up to comment 164.

    Scaramucci said “somebody” called him doubting whether Russia interfered in the election at all.

    “Somebody said to me yesterday, I won’t tell you who, that if the Russians actually hacked this situation and spilled out those emails, you would have never seen it, you would have never had any evidence of them,” he said. “Meaning that they’re super confident in their deception skills and hacking.”

    Pressed on who his anonymous cyber security expert source was, Scaramucci said, “How about it was the President.”

    “He called me from Air Force One and he basically said to me, ‘Hey, you know, this is — maybe they did do it, maybe they didn’t do it,’” he said.

    Link

  100. says

    Kellyanne Conway was on CNN today. Here is a summary:

    […] Conway took umbrage with the media’s insistence on covering such “non-stories” as the president of the United States continually lying to the American public. After host Brian Stelter argued that his network was committed to covering the many scandals emanating from the White House, an incredulous Conway pushed back, demanding to know what “scandals” Stelter was referring to.

    “The scandals are about the president’s lies,” replied Stelter. “About voter fraud; about wire-tapping; his repeated lies about those issues. That’s the scandal.”

    Despite overwhelming evidence that the White House is indeed lying in both of those cases—there is zero evidence to support Donald Trump’s claim that 3 million people voted illegally, or that his office was wire-tapped—the administration continues to promise “investigations” into both matters. But Conway’s response on Sunday was a new approach to how the administration handles allegations of lying.

    “[Donald Trump] doesn’t think he’s lying about those issues, and you know it,” she said. […]

    Link

    Well, that’s okay then. The ignorant, narcissistic man-baby doesn’t know he’s lying, so we should cut him some slack. [insert long string of swear words]

  101. says

    SC @167, that would be funny if it wasn’t also indicative of the ongoing dumpster fire that is our current executive branch.

    Scaramucci also had communication problems when he said that he and Trump discussed pardons during one of the meeting they had last week. Other Trump mouthpieces making the rounds of the Sunday shows said that there was no talk of pardons. Except for Scaramucci, the spin was mostly of the, “there’s nothing to pardon, so why would be talking about pardons” type.

    Scaramucci sort of combined two types of spin:

    […] “I’m in the Oval Office with the President last week, we’re talking about that, he says he brought that up,” Scaramucci said on “Fox News Sunday,” referring to Trump’s tweet about pardons.

    Trump on Saturday claimed “all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon.”

    His tweet came amid reports that Trump has inquired about his authority as it pertains to pardoning his staffers, family members and even himself.

    Jay Sekulow, an attorney on Trump’s outside legal team, said Sunday that “pardons are not on the table.”

    “We have not, and continue to not, have conversations with the President of the United States regarding pardons. Pardons have not been discussed,” Sekulow said.

    Scaramucci said Trump “doesn’t have to be pardoned.”

    “There’s nobody around him that has to be pardoned. He was just making the statement about the power of pardon,” Scaramucci added. “And now all of the speculation and all the spin is, oh, he’s going to pardon himself.”

    Link

  102. says

    I’m looking at the second link in SC’s comment 169, which leads to Trump’s tweet:

    It’s very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back, do very little to protect their President.

    Trump better be damned glad that most Republicans are doing nothing when it comes to the investigations of Russian collusion and/or election interference. If they had any integrity, they would join the people in the intelligence community who think that Trump and his campaign should be part of the investigation. And, they would join Walter Shaub in condemning Trump for ethical violations.

    If Republican legislators get more involved, we might see more Nunes-like farces, but we’d more likely see people dropping their support for Trump.

  103. says

    Another thing Scaramucci has in common with Trump: he is threatening to fire everyone.

    We have to get the leaks stopped. What’s going on right now is a high level of unprofessionalism, and it’s not helping the president. … I will take drastic action to stop the leaks […] pare down the staff. […] It’s not fair to the president. It’s actually not fair to America.

    Oh, please. The leaks are the best thing about the White House at this point in time.

  104. says

    Tremendous Ben Wikler thread about Trumpcare vote, the legislative state of affairs, and what can be done.

    In DC, there’s an emergency die-in at the Capitol tonightat 5:30, a disability rights march to and rally outside the Capitol tomorrow morning, and a march organized by Planned Parenthood on Wednesday. Wikler also provides information and links for other actions – in Alaska, Nevada, West Virginia, and elsewhere.

  105. says

    Kushner has released a statement ahead of his testimony. It’s remarkably implausible and incomplete. This part actually made me laugh:

    I had no ongoing relationship with the Ambassador before the election, and had limited knowledge about him then. In fact, on November 9, the day after the election, I could not even remember the name of the Russian Ambassador. When the campaign received an email purporting to be an official note of congratulations from President Putin, I was asked how we could verify it was real. To do so I thought the best way would be to ask the only contact I recalled meeting from the Russian government, which was the Ambassador I had met months earlier, so I sent an email asking Mr. Simes,* “What is the name of the Russian ambassador?”

    I mean, sure, that’s definitely the easiest and least embarrassing way to learn the name of an ambassador. (I assume he did send this email, but this makes no sense.) The explanations for the December meetings with Kislyak and Gorkov are…unconvincing, as is the account of the SF-86 submission, and there’s almost nothing about the digital operation he reportedly oversaw.

    * Mr. Simes:

    With respect to my contacts with Russia or Russian representatives during the campaign, there were hardly any. The first that I can recall was at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. in April 2016. This was when then candidate Trump was delivering a major foreign policy speech. Doing the event and speech had been my idea, and I oversaw its execution. I arrived at the hotel early to make sure all logistics were in order. After that, I stopped into the reception to thank the host of the event, Dimitri Simes, the publisher of the bi-monthly foreign policy magazine, The National Interest, who had done a great job putting everything together. Mr. Simes and his group had created the guest list and extended the invitations for the event. He introduced me to several guests, among them four ambassadors, including Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

  106. blf says

    Well, if you assume / project everyone lies as much as you do, then sure, Generalissimo Google, the Russian embassy site, and other trivially- / rapidly-accessed sources clearly cannot provide the correct name of the Ambassador — they must be Fake News & lies — so the thing to do is send an e-mail to an acquaintance…

    (If the name you cannot recall is not a public figure or you don’t recall the person’s position — neither of which applies here(@177) — this isn’t all that stupid: “Would you please remind me of the name & title of that nice Russian gent you introduced me to April last year? …”)

  107. says

    I’m still shocked that discussions of Republican Senators who are on the fence about repealing the ACA make so little comment about, or simply take for granted, that their concern with re-election is a central consideration.

    On one side of the scale with repeal: 184,000 people in WV would lose coverage (tens of millions nationwide), thousands would suffer or die (millions nationwide), women and children would be hit especially hard, the state would lose 16,000 jobs and hundreds of millions in tax revenue, people would be rendered more powerless, inequality would increase, society would be crueler,… Further: There is actually a good and simple option – to work on a bipartisan basis to fix the problems with the ACA, which is easily doable.

    On the other side: Capito might not get re-elected.

    In light of the first, to even consider the second is an almost criminal failure to abide by the oath she swore and just shockingly awful. Capito said she didn’t go into public service to hurt people. She shouldn’t even have a question about the right thing to do.

  108. says

    Also, add to the first side of the scale: they haven’t had a single hearing, there’s been no public deliberation, their so-called leadership and the WH have told the public huge lies about what the legislation would mean, and they don’t even know which specific bill they’ll be voting on the day before the vote.

    Voting to pass any repeal bill would be a terrible thing to do to their constituents and the country, and they know it.

  109. says

    Reading this petition from the “Catholic Sisters for Healthcare,” already with over 7,000 signatures,* I was curious about the specific religious breakdown of the Senate. Naturally, there are several Catholics, including Lisa Murkowski. Interestingly, almost every religion/sect is over-represented relative to its share of the population. This is explained by the last line: “Those without religious affiliation are represented by 3% of the Senate for 22.8% of the population.” (And the population figures are from 2014, so the under-representation is probably even worse.)

    * I will say that since we’re stuck with a pope for the foreseeable future, we’re lucky this one is in place.

  110. says

    Trump put a different kind of pressure on Jeff Sessions today:

    So why aren’t the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?

    Hey, Dunderhead, it was you beleaguering the Attorney General by disparaging him during that interview with NYT. You said you would have never hired him if you’d known he was going to recuse himself from the Russia investigation (and that’s an entirely new level of stupid right there). Now you are asking him to investigate a person for whom there is no evidence that she (or her team) committed any crimes.

    Why are you still obsessed with Hillary Clinton?

    Who helped you write a tweet that included “beleaguered”?

    There are more Trump tweets from this morning. Is he desperate to distract the media from the fact that his son-in-law Jared Kushner is being questioned by intelligence committee staffers this morning?

  111. says

    More Republicans are willing to contradict Trump and his team when it comes to Robert Mueller. Here’s an example:

    […] “Why aren’t you, why aren’t Republicans in general, defending Donald Trump more against what is becoming an obvious witch hunt here with Robert Mueller?” Wisconsin radio host Jay Weber asked Ryan Monday morning […]

    [I snipped the bit where Mueller basically repeated Kellyanne Conway’s attacks against the “Democrats” on Mueller’s team, and the supposed Mueller/Comey friendship.)

    “Remember, Bob Mueller is a Republican who was appointed by a Republican who served in a Republican administration and stayed on until his term ended,” Ryan responded. “But I don’t think many people are saying Bob Mueller is a person who is a biased partisan. He’s really sort of anything but.” […]

    “So what we’re not focused on doing is spending all of our time on Russia, spending all of our time on this intrigue,” Ryan concluded. “We want to spend our time focusing on solving people’s problems.”

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/ryan-defends-bob-mueller-investigation

  112. says

    Also the parliamentarian’s rulings. One more thing about Obamacare: The Republican rhetoric about freedom doesn’t just concern their false claims about “consumer choice” but also their attempts to claim that somehow, while cutting hundreds of billions from health care programs, they’ll be giving states more flexibility and more options so they won’t have to accept a “one size fits all” top-down approach. This is plainly false in that states have come up with a variety of general plans within the ACA framework. But it also leaves out that the ACA has provided for experimental/trial health care delivery projects in a number of states. I’d seen a segment on a TV program about one of these in MA or RI a few years ago, and heard really nothing else since, but it’s clear that supporting and funding local experimental projects to improve the cost and efficiency of care would be gone if the ACA were repealed, innovation would stagnate, and states would have the flexibility to choose to tell people to get sick and die.

  113. says

    Adam Schiff has come to Trump’s attention. Schiff is one of the best legislators when it comes to succinctly summarizing Trump’s bullshit as bullshit.

    Trump tweeted:

    Sleazy Adam Schiff, the totally biased Congressman looking into “Russia,” spends all of his time on television pushing the Dem loss excuse!

    Schiff responded:

    With respect Mr. President, the problem is how often you watch TV, and that your comments and actions are beneath the dignity of the office.

    Schiff is a frequent guest on Rachel Maddow’s show, and he appeared on “Face the Nation” yesterday. CBS News “Face the Nation” link. Excerpt below:

    […] the president is clearly worried that Bob Mueller’s going to be looking into allegations, for example, that the Russians may have laundered money through the Trump organization. That is really something in my opinion he needs to look at. Because what concerns me the most is anything that could be held over the president’s head that could influence U.S. policy. That would be among the most powerful form of kompromat. So I think it is something he needs to look at. It’s something plainly the president is very concerned about but clearly within the scope of Bob Mueller’s investigation.

    And I’ll say this in light of all the talk about Jeff Sessions lately. It does concern me that the president should bring this up now if it’s an indication that he wants to somehow push Sessions out and get in a new attorney general who would then take Rod Rosenstein’s place as supervising the Mueller investigation. If this is part of a longer-term stratagem to define or confine the scope of the Mueller investigation, that would be very concerning.

  114. says

    The AARP has written to Congress about the health care bill … again.

    AARP, on behalf of our 38 million members, strongly opposes the repeal and delay amendment. AARP also remains steadfastly opposed to the American Health Care Act (AHCA) and the Better Care Reconciliation ACT (BCRA) due to the devastating impact the legislation would have on Americans 50 and older. We urge all Senators to vote NO on the Motion to Proceed, as well as reject the repeal and delay amendment and the BCRA. […]

    As our members expect from the AARP, we will monitor each Senator’s vote on the Motion to Proceed, and on the votes to pass the repeal and delay amendment, and the BCRA. We will notify them and other older Americans by reporting those votes in our publications, online, through the media, and in direct alerts to our members.

  115. says

    A male Republican Congress critter characterized as “repugnant” the decision of female Republican senators to vote against McConnell’s health care bill.

    Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) is livid at the inability of the Senate to repeal Obamacare, and he knows exactly who to blame: the Republican women of the Senate.

    During a radio interview on a Corpus Christi station last Friday, Farenthold said he finds it “absolutely repugnant” that “the Senate does not have the courage to do some of the things that every Republican in the Senate promised to do.”

    Farenthold singled out female senators for opposing the repeal of Obamacare, before suggesting that if they were men, he’d ask them to settle things with a gunfight.

    “Some of the people that are opposed to this [i.e., repealing Obamacare] — there are some female senators from the northeast,” Farenthold said. “If it was a guy from south Texas I might ask them to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr-style.”

    It appears Farenthold was referring to Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). Collins is the only female Republican senator from the northeast, and last week, she announced she will vote against a motion to allow the Senate to debate repealing Obamacare unless a replacement bill is in place. Other Republican female Senators, including Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Shelly Moore-Capito (R-WV), have opposed various versions of the Republican plan. […]

    Think Progress link

  116. Hj Hornbeck says

    Oh good, now we know who to blame for the difficulties in passing Trumpcare: female senators.

    During a radio interview on a Corpus Christi station last Friday, [Rep. Blake] Farenthold said he finds it “absolutely repugnant” that “the Senate does not have the courage to do some of the things that every Republican in the Senate promised to do.”

    Farenthold singled out female senators for opposing the repeal of Obamacare, before suggesting that if they were men, he’d ask them to settle things with a gunfight.

    “Some of the people that are opposed to this [i.e., repealing Obamacare] — there are some female senators from the northeast,” Farenthold said. “If it was a guy from south Texas I might ask them to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr-style.”

    Aww, he’s unwilling to shoot female senators. What a gentleman.

  117. says

    “Some of the people that are opposed to this [i.e., repealing Obamacare] — there are some female senators from the northeast,” Farenthold said. “If it was a guy from south Texas I might ask them to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr-style.”

    Because the widely-recognized hero of this cultural moment is Aaron Burr.

  118. Hj Hornbeck says

    Let’s try again. Jared Kushner just gave a statement outside the West Wing, with the official presidential seal and everything. Steve Herman offers the following summary:

    “My name is Jared Kushner. I am senior advisor to Donald J. Trump.”

    “Every day I come to work with enthusiasm and excitement for what can be. I have not sought the spotlight,”

    “The record and documents…will show that all of my actions were proper.”

    “I did not collude with Russia nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so.”

    “I look forward to taking questions from the House committee tomorrow” (but apparently not from reporters), @jaredkushner concludes.

    And with that @jaredkushner turns around and heads back into @WhiteHouse.

  119. says

    Hj @198, You left out the part where Kushner said that he “reveres” Donald Trump. He also said, twice, that it is an “honor to serve” Trump and that he “believes” in Trump. Family cult.

    Kushner also used part of a very brief statement to say that Trump won because he had better ideas and ran a better campaign, and that to suggest otherwise is un-American (paraphrasing). That part of his post-Senate-interview statement was meant to bolster the idea that any investigation into Russian interference/collusion is just a liberal way to find an excuse for the fact that the Democratic candidate lost.

    I really don’t get how Trump and team Trump can continue to push the idea that the investigations are based on the hurt feelings of Democrats. What a simplistic worldview, and what an amazing denial of facts.

  120. says

    Chuck Schumer wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times as part of the Democratic Party’s rollout of the “Better Deal” campaign. Here is an excerpt [bolding is mine]:

    Americans are clamoring for bold changes to our politics and our economy. They feel, rightfully, that both systems are rigged against them, and they made that clear in last year’s election. American families deserve a better deal so that this country works for everyone again, not just the elites and special interests. Today, Democrats will start presenting that better deal to the American people.

    There used to be a basic bargain in this country that if you worked hard and played by the rules, you could own a home, afford a car, put your kids through college and take a modest vacation every year while putting enough away for a comfortable retirement. In the second half of the 20th century, millions of Americans achieved this solid middle-class lifestyle. I should know — I grew up in that America.

    But things have changed.

    Today’s working Americans and the young are justified in having greater doubts about the future than any generation since the Depression. Americans believe they’re getting a raw deal from both the economic and political systems in our country. And they are right. The wealthiest special interests can spend an unlimited, undisclosed amount of money to influence elections and protect their special deals in Washington. As a result, our system favors short-term gains for shareholders instead of long-term benefits for workers.

    And for far too long, government has gone along, tilting the economic playing field in favor of the wealthy and powerful while putting new burdens on the backs of hard-working Americans. […]

  121. says

    A new round of finger-pointing is coming soon from the White House as the health care bill looks likely to fail … again.

    White House aides are already considering how to distance President Donald Trump from Congress and how to go after the Republicans who vote no — an idea the president seems fond of, according to people who have spoken to him. Several people said he plans to keep up the fight, no matter how this week’s vote goes.

    He threatened Republicans on Twitter Sunday, saying they would face electoral consequences, and complained about his party not defending him — even though congressional Republicans are tired of defending him all the time. […]

    Meanwhile, those close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell say they are frustrated that the president has shown little focus on his political agenda, particularly health care. Trump’s interview with the New York Times this week, for example, where he raged about Attorney General Jeff Sessions instead of promoting health care, was “political malpractice,” one senior GOP aide said. […]

    http://www.politico.com/story/2017/07/23/republicans-trump-despair-deliver-240868

  122. says

    This looks like more of team Trump’s efforts to destroy the environment, including public lands in the USA:

    […] The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on Monday submitted a proposed revocation to the Federal Register to wipe from the books a rule that required fracking operators on public lands to disclose chemicals used in fracking and to ensure certain precautions are taken around clean water sources. […]

    Link

  123. says

    It looks like Emin and Aras Agalarov got some kind of payback from the Kremlin for arranging meeting(s) with team Trump:

    The involvement of a Russian billionaire developer and his pop-star son in setting up a meeting between a Kremlin-linked lawyer and members of Donald Trump’s inner circle may have landed the father-son duo in controversy in the United States, but it doesn’t seem to be hampering their business back home. On July 13—two days after the role of Aras and Emin Agalarov in arranging the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting was revealed—Moscow’s city-planning and land commission granted approval for their company, Crocus Group, to begin constructing a sprawling shopping and entertainment complex in the Moscow suburbs. […]

    The development will join the Crocus Group’s chain of glitzy “Vegas” mega-malls in suburban Moscow. The original Vegas is Russia’s largest retail-entertainment complex, complete with a Ferris wheel, ice-skating rink, movie theater, and 400 stores. […]

    Much of the financing for the Crocus Group’s recent projects has come from the state-controlled Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, which is currently under US sanctions imposed due to Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea. While Trump was in Russia in November 2013 for the Miss Universe pageant—which was held at a Crocus Group property outside Moscow—Agalarov organized a meal for the visiting real estate mogul with some of Russia’s top businessmen, including Sberbank CEO Herman Gref, a longtime Putin ally who previously served as Russia’s economic minister under Putin. (In 2016, Gref recommended that Putin hire his former Sberbank colleague, Sergey Gorkov, to head up Russia’s state-owned development bank, Vnescheconombank. Gorkov got the job, and in December, he met with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner at the behest of then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak—a meeting that Kushner left off his initial application for a security clearance.) […]

    In a recent interview with Forbes, Agalarov said Sberbank might also provide his company with the financing for the new Vegas shopping complex. “It is also ready to give us a loan for the fourth Vegas, but I haven’t yet decided, because I’m already so indebted [to the bank],” he said. “Our debt is almost $100 billion rubles.” (That’s about $1.68 billion.) […]

    Mother Jones link

  124. says

    The meeting with Mr. Gorkov lasted twenty to twenty-five minutes. He introduced himself and gave me two gifts — one was a piece of art from Nvgorod, the village where my grandparents were from in Belarus, and the other was a bag of dirt from that same village.

    I’m confused about this. Why is a representative of Russia giving him dirt from Belarus? Is this the Russian spelling? Why would someone want dirt from a village where his ancestors were subject to pogroms and from which his grandparents fled as survivors of the Holocaust, in which the vast majority of Jewish people in the country were murdered? It’s a strange and seemingly insensitive gift.

  125. says

    Representative Ted Lieu, a Democrat from California, has tailored some of his proposed amendments to the Make America Safe Appropriations Act for Fiscal 2018 to slow Jared Kushner’s roll:

    […]
    The first amendment […] would block anyone who has resubmitted a SF-86 security clearance form more than twice to add previously undisclosed contact with Russian officials from receiving a salary or the expenses for an office space or support staff. Such a person would also not be able to receive classified information.

    Good idea to go after the funding.

    The amendment is clearly aimed at Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, who has updated his security clearance form multiple times since taking a position in the White House, including one update that featured more than 100 contacts with foreign officials. […]

    “Let us be clear: Any individual who committed the same act and was not related to the President would have been stripped of their security clearance and investigated. If the President wants to create special rules for his son-in-law, Congress must act instead by prohibiting him from receiving classified information and relieving taxpayers from paying his expenses.”

    The second amendment is the same one Lieu offered to the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) earlier this month, blocking defense funds from being used to “conduct business, including the purchase of hotel rooms or conference space, with any entity owned by or significantly controlled by the President or a member of the President’s immediate family.”

    Lieu has repeatedly called for Kushner to be stripped of his security clearance. He said Sunday that Kushner should be investigated for his “lies” on the form and that “his security clearance needs to be revoked immediately.”

    http://thehill.com/homenews/house/343468-dem-amendments-target-kushner-trump-businesses

  126. says

    From Josh Marshall:

    We saw and heard from Jared Kushner today. It was a more polished presentation and a significantly better haircut. But at the end of the day, it was a carbon copy of President Trump: the collusion story is fake news that “ridicules” Trump voters.

    Link

  127. says

    Revenge:

    The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has been a constant thorn in the side of congressional Republicans, repeatedly pointing out that Trumpcare would have a disastrous impact on the American health care system. The most recent version of Trumpcare, according to the CBO, would strip 22 million people of coverage by 2026.

    In an apparent response to this political black eye, four Republican congressmen introduced legislation on Monday that would eliminate the CBO’s Budget Analysis Division and reduce the office’s staff by 89 employees. […]

    Link

  128. tomh says

    From USA Today:

    “Just six months after his inauguration, Americans already are split down the middle, 42%-42%, over whether President Trump should be removed from office, a new USA TODAY/iMediaEthics Poll finds.”

    It goes on to say that a third of those surveyed say they would be upset if Trump is impeached; an equal third say they would be upset if he’s not.

    Maybe there’s hope for 2018 yet. Fifteen months is a looong time in American politics.

  129. says

    Mitch McConnell: “Tomorrow, I will keep my commitment to vote to move beyond the failures of #Obamacare. I will vote yes on the motion to proceed.” (responses are great)

    Ron Wyden: “This is it, folks. Leave it all on the field. Call. Tweet. Text. Email. Show up. Prove our commitment to not throwing 22 million Americans to the wolves on health care. #KillTheBill”

  130. says

    So gross. (And, you know, becoming an Eagle Scout – the highest achievement in the organization – is actually really hard. You have to do an extensive community/national/global service project, amongst many other service requirements. Trump represents the opposite of that ethos, and these impressionable kids have to be an audience for his fucked up propaganda.)

  131. says

    The quote I keep hearing from Kushner’s press conference yesterday is “I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sectors.” He’s not saying that he wasn’t paid any Russian funds, just that he didn’t rely on it.

  132. Hj Hornbeck says

    Wow, never saw this coming.

    A leading psychiatry group has told its members they should not feel bound by a longstanding rule against commenting publicly on the mental state of public figures — even the president.

    The statement, an email this month from the executive committee of the American Psychoanalytic Association to its 3,500 members, represents the first significant crack in the profession’s decades-old united front aimed at preventing experts from discussing the psychiatric aspects of politicians’ behavior. It will likely make many of its members feel more comfortable speaking openly about President Trump’s mental health.

    The impetus for the email was “belief in the value of psychoanalytic knowledge in explaining human behavior,” said psychoanalytic association past president Dr. Prudence Gourguechon, a psychiatrist in Chicago. “We don’t want to prohibit our members from using their knowledge responsibly.”

    That responsibility is especially great today, she told STAT, “since Trump’s behavior is so different from anything we’ve seen before” in a commander in chief.

  133. Hj Hornbeck says

    Looks like The Mooch will be a worthy replacement for Sean Spicer.

    Scaramucci told the news outlet that Short would be the first of many fires if he’s not able to stop leaks coming from the communications and press team. But speaking to reporters later on the White House grounds, Scaramucci refused to say whether he fired Short, calling it “an unfair thing for me to comment on.”

    “This is the problem with the leaking,” he said. “This is actually a terrible thing. Let’s say I’m firing Michael Short today. The fact that you guys know about it before he does really upsets me as a human being and as a Roman Catholic.”

    The brash former hedge fund manager said he would take an aggressive approach in rooting out leakers. “I’m going to fire everybody, that’s how I’m going to do it,” Scaramucci said, adding that he “a thousand percent” has the authority from President Trump to do so. “You’re either going to stop leaking or you’re going to get fired,” he added. “If I got to get this thing down to me and [White House press secretary] Sarah Huckabee [Sanders], then the leaking will stop.”

  134. says

    From SC’s link @226, excerpts from Trump’s speech to the Boy Scouts:

    Tonight, we put aside all of the policy fights in Washington, DC you’ve been hearing about with the fake news. Boy, you’ve got a lot of people here. The press will say it’s about 200 people. It looks like about 45,000 people.

    Instead, we’re going to talk about success. About how all of you amazing young Scouts can achieve your dreams. What to think of what I’ve been thinking about — you want to achieve your dreams. I said, “Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts?”

    You know, I go to Washington and I see all these politicians, and I see the swamp and it’s not a good place. In fact today I said, “We ought to change it from the word swamp to the word cesspool or perhaps to the word sewer,” but it’s not good. Not good.

    By the way what do you think the chances are that this incredible massive crowd, record-setting, is going to be shown on television tonight? One per cent or zero? The fake media will say President Trump spoke — and you know what this is — “President Trump spoke before a small crowd of Boy Scouts today.” That’s some, that is some crowd. Fake media. Fake news.

    [He falsely suggested the media wouldn’t show the crowd on television] Some of you here tonight might even have camped out in this yard when Mike (Pence) was the governor of Indiana, but the scouting was very, very important. And by the way, where are our Indiana scouts tonight? I wonder if the television cameras will follow you. They don’t like doing that when they see these massive crowds. They don’t like doing that.

    By the way, just a question: did President Obama ever come to a Jamboree? And we’ll be back. We’ll be back. The answer’s no, but we’ll be back.

    [He told a meandering five-minute story about developer William Levitt.] He sold his company for a tremendous amount of money and he went out and bought a big yacht and he had a very interesting life. I won’t go any more than that because you’re Boy Scouts, I’m not going to tell you what he did — should I tell you? Should I tell you? Oh, you’re Boy Scouts, but you know life, you know life. What happened is he bought back his company and he bought back a lot of empty land…and in the end he failed and he failed badly. He lost all of his money, he went personally bankrupt, and he was now much older. And I saw him at a cocktail party. And it was very sad. Because the hottest people in New York were at this party. It was the party of Steve Ross. Steve Ross, he was one of the great people. He came and…

    [He mocked Hillary Clinton’s campaign strategy.] “Michigan came in. And we worked hard there. You know, my opponent didn’t work hard there. Because she was told, she was told she was going to win Michigan.”

    Totally inappropriate. A lot of parents whose sons were there are complaining.

  135. Hj Hornbeck says

    Trump may regret his bromance with Sessions.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions has no plans to leave office as friends say he’s grown angry with President Donald Trump following a series of attacks meant to marginalize his power and, potentially, encourage his resignation.

    “Sessions is totally pissed off about it,” said a Sessions ally familiar with his thinking. “It’s beyond insane. It’s cruel and it’s insane and it’s stupid.”

    Turning a friend into an enemy while they wield substantial power is a bad move. Chuck Schumer is already leveraging the spat to peel Republicans away from Trump.

  136. says

    Wow, never saw this coming…

    I’ve seen some confusion, so to clarify (in case people don’t click on your link) – it’s the American Psychoanalytic Association and not the larger American Psychiatric Association (which is still holding to the Goldwater Rule, and which, incidentally, I abhor). As the article notes, the American Psychological Association has no such rule.

  137. says

    tomh @234 and Hj at @232, Just to put the icing on this toxic cake, Scaramucci was complaining about “leaking” information that he had earlier given to Politico’s Tara Palmeri. She reported that the Mooch told her, “that he plans to dismiss assistant press secretary Michael Short.”

    […] Fifty minutes later, Time’s Zeke Miller reported that Scaramucci said leakers were “unpatriotic” and that Scaramucci refused to confirm Short’s firing, saying it would be inappropriate to speak publicly about the matter — even though, as Miller pointed out, he already had. […]

    Link

  138. Hj Hornbeck says

    One thing I haven’t heard mentioned yet in this thread, but is worth bringing up: both Rachael Maddow and now Chuck Schumer have pointed out that if Trump appoints someone during the congressional recess, they do not have to be reviewed by the Senate. This gives Trump a way to bypass oversight.

  139. says

    Hj @237, Paul Ryan seems ready to throw anyone under the bus if that is what Trump wants to do:

    Reporter: The President appears to be laying the groundwork to fire his attorney general then make a recess appointment of someone who could fire the special counsel. Does that concern you? Is there anything you could do to stop it?

    Ryan: Look, the president gets to decide what his personnel is, you all know that. He’s the executive branch, we’re the legislative branch. He determines who gets hired and fired in the executive branch, that’s his prerogative.

    Reporter: But would that be obstruction of justice if he was firing him because he recused himself from the Russia investigation?

    Ryan: It’s up to the president to decide what his personnel decision is and any possible fallout that comes with that.

    Link

    Okay. Maybe Ryan is “loyal” (cowed by) Trump, but, on the other hand, maybe he just sees the coming crisis as inevitable. He’s washing his hand of the “fallout” and expects Trump to deal with it alone.

  140. says

    A sampling of posts on the Boy Scouts of America Facebook page:

    Michael Christopher Stafford My son and I, along with others I am sure,will be dropping out of Scouts due to supporting behavior that is contrary to the Mission Statement. […]
    ——————–
    Valerie Millett Since when does this organization get involved in politics? In fact, isn’t NOT allowed? Who let this happen? I can’t believe the Boy Scouts booed a living American President.
    ——————–
    Beth Mitchell Huntsberry The BSA should immediately lose their tax exempt status. I will no longer be associated with the organization. My time and money will go elsewhere.
    —————–
    Carla Rae Faulkner My husband was a scout leader for years and all 3 of our sons were Boy Scouts. I cannot believe what happened at the jamboree today and I can’t believe BSA condoned that 40 minute campaign speech to impressionable young men. It was full of lies and having them boo a former president is totally unacceptable.
    ————————-
    John Beverly I have 3 boys there including my nephew. I’m driving there now to get them. We’re officially done with BSA!

  141. says

    Not only are police departments in the USA being turned into military-style outposts, the Pentagon is arming them without sufficient oversight:

    […] Department of Defense (DOD) officials attempted to give $1.2 million worth of rifles, pipe bombs, and night vision goggles to a fake police department without verifying any of its information, falling for a Government Accountability Office (GAO) sting intended to test the DOD’s safeguards for the so-called 1033 weapons sales program. […]

    The 1033 program has been arming local police forces around the country since 1997. It allows Pentagon leaders to offload surplus merchandise to U.S. law enforcement offices, with little or no influence over how the materials get used locally.

    The rifles and pipe bombs dispersed by the Pentagon arrive to police departments inactive, having been disarmed for use in simulation exercises. But they can be easily converted back to useful killing tools with a few quick repairs using “commercially available items,” the GAO report said. The 1033 program is supposed to apply stringent protocols to ensure such dangerous taxpayer-bought hardware doesn’t get handed over to the wrong people.

    Yet when the GAO set out to test those safeguards, it discovered a system no more scrupulous than any other online store.

    “It was like getting stuff off of eBay,” the GAO’s Zina Merritt told the Marshall Project. Pentagon officials sent a few emails, never figured out that the address listed on the fake police department’s application did not exist, and were ready to put the shipment in the mail “less than a week after submitting the requests,” according to the report.

    The sting proves that neither the DOD nor the Department of Justice ever acted upon an executive order from former President Barack Obama that placed new controls on the military hardware distributed through the 1033 program. Obama imposed the new restrictions in 2015 and instructed DOD and DOJ to form a collaborative oversight group for the program […]

    More than 11,000 local police agencies received over 3.4 million orders of Pentagon equipment in just the first two years of the program, which has since passed more than $6 billion worth of hardware meant for foreign-service military action into the hands of American street cops. […]

    Link

  142. says

    What could possibly go wrong?

    The Environmental Protection Agency has asked the Heartland Institute, a D.C.-based rightwing think tank that denies the human causes of climate change, to help identify scientists to join the agency’s so-called red team-blue team effort to “debate” the science of climate change, according to the Washington Examiner.

    […] earlier this month, Pruitt suggested the possibility of creating a red team to provide “a robust discussion” on climate science and determine whether humans “are contributing to [warming].”

    The Heartland Institute offers a model of what the EPA red team might look like. Their contrarian Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change — often referred to as a red team — publishes regular volumes of a report called “Climate Change Reconsidered.” […]

    https://thinkprogress.org/heartland-is-the-red-team-2d46cb6a17ca

  143. says

    I’m not sure I understand completely why Trump is running a shame-Jeff-Sessions campaign on Twitter. Why doesn’t he just fire Sessions? Or does Trump really think that shaming Sessions on Twitter will force him to open investigations on Hillary Clinton?

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!
    —————–
    So where is the investigation A.G.

    From Adam Schiff:

    Fully transparent: @POTUS wants to force Sessions to resign so he can appoint someone to curb Mueller probe. Only works if Senate lets it.

    As SC noted in comment 249, Democratic senators will not let Trump make any recess appointments. They will use procedural means to keep the senate technically in session (no August recess).

  144. tomh says

    @ #249
    I’m waiting for the Republicans to do away with the filibuster, they can do it with 51 votes, which would remove those pesky Democrats from the equation altogether. I’m actually surprised they haven’t done it yet.

  145. tomh says

    If Sessions resigns, rather than being fired, an interesting quirk in the rules would allow Trump to temporarily fill the vacancy with someone of his choice who has already been confirmed by the Senate to another position. That could include Cabinet members or other Justice Department officials and would get around the recess appointment blockade. I don’t doubt that he would find someone willing to fire Mueller and even look into prosecuting Clinton.

  146. says

    A cartoon in The New Yorker featured a drawing of the torso of a Boy Scout. The sash was festooned with the following badges: Branding, Wig Weaving, Tweeting, Firing, Cocktail Party Attendance, Yachting, Self-Flattery, and Pardoning.
    https://www.newyorker.com/cartoons/daily-cartoon/tuesday-july-25th-merit-badges

    As for the motion to proceed with the health care bill: a lot of senators trusted McConnell’s pledge that this was the first step to debate and to amendments. He has not allowed any time for debate or amendments or hearings. We are all going to suffer for this. Damn.

  147. Hj Hornbeck says

    Oh, let’s make this official.

    Senate Republicans voted Tuesday afternoon to open debate on their health care legislation, without any clear idea of what that bill will ultimately be or how it will affect millions of Americans.

    Two Republicans — Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) — voted no. Sen. John McCain, who has brain cancer, flew back from Arizona to vote yes, and Vice President Mike Pence cast a tiebreaking vote for the motion to officially pass.

    The Senate will then debate the House’s health care bill for the next day or so, while they scramble to figure out what exactly they want to pass at the end of this process.

  148. Hj Hornbeck says

    Meanwhile, on the Senate floor,

    a bill that would repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act is being read in its entirety. A similar bill passed Congress in 2015 before being vetoed by President Barack Obama. This bill would repeal all of the taxes in the bill, eliminate subsidies to people buying health insurance on the private market, and end the Medicaid expansion that extended the program to everyone earning 138 percent of the federal poverty line (in states that chose to expand the program). It would also defund Planned Parenthood for a year.

  149. says

    From Tierney Sneed:

    […] The fact that Senate Republicans sought to move forward with the Obamacare repeal effort without a robust replacement plan, or even a comprehensive repeal bill, ready to pass comes after months of frenzied negotiations that fell short this week. For seven years Republicans ran on repealing and-replacing the Affordable Care Act during which they never settled on a consensus replacement. The disagreements on health care reform that divide the GOP conference had not been solved when Senate Republicans voted Tuesday [today] to move forward anyway.

    They will now move onto a few days [S few days! They should allocate a few months.] of floor debate on the effort that will also bring a series of votes on amendments related to the yet-to-be-determined health care bill.

    That Republicans would subject themselves to this politically ugly process that may fail in the end reflects the immense pressure GOP senators were under from President Trump and conservative groups not to abandon what appeared to be a doomed effort just a few days ago. […]

    Link

    Where are the hearings?

  150. says

    With the wound on his head still clearly visible, John McCain returned to the Senate today. Here are comments regarding his speech from Matt Shuham:

    […] Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) struck a harshly dissonant chord on Tuesday, delivering a charged speech calling for bipartisan cooperation after casting his vote to continue debate on the repeal of Obamacare. […]

    If McCain had not made the trip to Washington, D.C. two weeks after a surgery to remove a blood clot above his left eye — and after the discovery of an aggressive form of brain cancer — the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act and make deep cuts to Medicaid would very likely not have proceeded.

    Senate deliberations, McCain said, can be “sincere and principled.” But lately, he said, “they are more partisan, more tribal, more of the time than at any time that I can remember.”

    “Let’s return to regular order,” he said, though the motion he had just voted to support was described by several congressional reporters as the most unusual, and the most shrouded in secrecy, they had seen in a health care bill in their careers. […]

    “We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle,” he said.

    McCain said he could not support the Obamacare repeal effort “as it is today,” though it’s not clear what version he, or Republican leadership, has prioritized, nor which is most likely to pass the Senate if any.

    He said of the process by which Republican leaders had pursued the repeal effort — “asking us to swallow our doubts and force it past a unified opposition” — “I don’t think that’s going to work in the end, and probably shouldn’t.”

    “Let’s see if we can pass something that will be imperfect, full of compromises and not very pleasing to implacable partisans on either side but that might provide workable solutions for problems that Americans are struggling with today,” he said toward the end of his remarks. “What have we to lose by trying to work together to find those solutions? We’re not getting done much apart. I don’t think any of us feels very proud of our incapacity.”

    Link

    McCain sounded good, but he voted incorrectly.

  151. says

    McCain’s vote and his grandstanding were completely at odds, and his vote means weeks or months of terror for people who don’t know whether they or their families will continue to have health care, and possibly far worse. Given the context, his star turn today looks selfish, callous, and even cruel.

    WSJ – “Trump Won’t Say if He Will Fire Sessions”:

    …He dismissed Mr. Scaramucci’s decision during the presidential campaign to endorse two other Republican candidates before backing Mr. Trump. He said Mr. Scaramucci offered his support before he was ready to enter the race. “His first choice was Trump,” Mr. Trump said. “I think it’s important to say that.”

    Mr. Sessions was the first U.S. senator to back Mr. Trump, a decision that was seen as a major blow to rival Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas). The endorsement came ahead of a handful of primary contests in Southern states with large numbers of evangelical voters—including Alabama, Mr. Sessions’s home—that Mr. Cruz’s campaign had banked on winning.

    Mr. Sessions’s endorsement came at a rally in Alabama, one of the biggest of the campaign.

    “When they say he endorsed me, I went to Alabama,” Mr. Trump said on Tuesday, recalling the endorsement. “I had 40,000 people. He was a senator from Alabama. I won the state by a lot, massive numbers. A lot of the states I won by massive numbers. But he was a senator, he looks at 40,000 people and he probably says, ’What do I have to lose?’ And he endorsed me. So it’s not like a great loyal thing about the endorsement. But I’m very disappointed in Jeff Sessions.”…

  152. says

    Felix Sater and Michael Cohen, (names you will recognize from the ongoing investigation into connections between the Russians and team Trump), grew up together.

    Two very different men have been instrumental in introducing financiers and clients from Russia and the former Soviet bloc to the Trump Organization’s real estate machine: Felix Sater, Donald Trump’s former business partner and a convicted felon, and Michael Cohen, Trump’s brash, longtime personal attorney.

    […] the two men know each other dating back to their teenage years, when they were acquaintances from nearby towns on Long Island. […]

    The two men say they arrived in business with Trump through different avenues. While Cohen declined to speak broadly about Sater, he agreed to confirm or deny some of Sater’s statements and add slightly to Sater’s explanation of how the two men entered the Trump orbit independently of each other.

    “The family knew about me because I purchased several Trump apartments over the years and Don, Jr. had sold me multiple apartments at one of the properties and was combining them [into a single deal] for me,” Cohen explained.

    Sater’s tale is a little more dramatic and harder to confirm in its particulars. In his telling, he began working with one of his neighbors, a Kazakh real estate developer named Tevfik Arif, at a new firm called Bayrock, the offices of which were downstairs from the Trumps. That’s how Sater said he landed a meeting with Trump.

    “I walked in and knocked on his door and told him I was going to be the biggest developer—this is 2000, 2001—first in the United States and then worldwide,” Sater said of the President. His braggadocio paid off, he said: “We got along very, very well.”

    But the Russian money didn’t begin to flow immediately. […]

    He pegged the date to when Russians finally had money to spend abroad around 2005, the same year Bayrock signed a one-year deal to explore developing a Trump Tower in Moscow. […]

    Cohen is from Five Towns, the informal name for a few tony suburban hamlets […] in Nassau County, east of Jamaica Bay. Sater hails from the less genteel Brooklyn neighborhoods of Brighton Beach and Coney Island, […]

    Sater went to prison for a year, which he describes as “the worst time in my life,” and a few years after his release, he became embroiled in a stock fraud scam.

    […] Cohen told TPM the pair had known each other […] in their teenage years [..]

    Sater told TPM he called the now-notorious meeting with Cohen and Ukrainian politician Andrii Artemenko in February to discuss the future of Ukraine. Cohen took the meeting, and told the New York Times that he ultimately left the proposal on the desk of then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn (Cohen would later give several contradictory interviews in which he walked back his involvement). […]

    Asked why he arranged the meeting, Sater told TPM “Because I could!” Trump had distanced himself from Sater—in a 2013 deposition, he claimed not to know what Sater looked like—but he had Cohen’s ear, and the issue at hand pertained to a region of the world of interest to both men. […]

    Talking Points Memo link

  153. militantagnostic says

    Lynna @148 quoted

    The 1033 program is supposed to apply stringent protocols to ensure such dangerous taxpayer-bought hardware doesn’t get handed over to the wrong people.

    I think all police departments would be in “wrong people” category for that stuff as well.

  154. Hj Hornbeck says

    Thankfully, there was some good news today.

    The House on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to advance new financial sanctions against key U.S. adversaries and deliver a foreign-policy brushback to President Trump by limiting his ability to waive many of them.

    Included in the package, which passed 419 to 3, are new measures targeting key Russian officials in retaliation for that country’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election, as well as sanctions against Iran and North Korea in response to those nations’ weapons programs.

    Members of the Trump administration, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have resisted the congressional push — in particular a provision attached to the Russian measures that would require Congress to sign off on any move to relieve those sanctions.

    As well as some intriguing news.

    Manafort, Judiciary expected to cut deal tonight to drop subpoena for his appearance on Wednesday; will keep talking

    Sounds like Manafort is about to flip..

  155. says

    SC @274 and Hj @275, that sounds like a veto-proof majority. Probably enough to make Trump’s blood boil.

    In health care news, here is an excerpt from John Cassidy’s article in The New Yorker:

    When future historians look back on the early decades of the twenty-first century in America, they will have many tragic and troublesome episodes to dwell on: the hanging chads of Palm Beach County, the invasion of Iraq, the passage of the Patriot Act, the Citizens United ruling, the Republican-controlled Senate’s refusal to grant Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland a hearing, and the election of Donald Trump and his subsequent dumbing down and demeaning of the Presidency.

    In this chronology, Tuesday’s health-care vote may also figure prominently: it could well be remembered as a historic abuse of the legislative process that the Founders spent so much time and energy constructing.

    Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, is asking his colleagues to vote blindly and authorize consideration of a health-care-reform measure that could dramatically affect the welfare of tens of millions of Americans and shake up roughly a sixth of the U.S. economy. […]

    McConnell is refusing to clarify what he intends to do because he and his colleagues in the Republican leadership believe that keeping things uncertain gives them the best chance of bringing on board some of the moderates and conservatives who scuttled their previous efforts. “We have no earthly idea what we will be voting on tomorrow other than that it’ll be moving to the House bill,” Senator Rand Paul, of Kentucky, who was one of those conservative dissidents, told Fox News on Monday. “But everybody knows it’s not really going to be the House bill.”

    It is a ludicrous situation, and one that makes a mockery of the idea of the Senate as a highfalutin deliberative body. […] If McConnell were to succeed in getting some sort of bill passed, it would be a travesty.[…]

    Thankfully, the opponents of the Republican designs—which, let us not forget, could lead to at least twenty million Americans losing their health-insurance coverage, and countless others ending up with skimpier plans and astronomical deductibles—are also rallying. Democratic politicians and activists are fired up and engaged, as are organizations representing the people and interest groups that the reform would affect. On Monday night, A.A.R.P., which has about thirty-eight million members, called on all senators to vote against the motion to proceed.

    […] If the vote were to go McConnell’s way, it would be another sign that American democracy is failing.

  156. says

    The Senate health care bill is in the grave, but the casket is not yet covered with dirt. Writing for Talking Points Memo, Cameron Joseph fleshed out the same metaphor in an article titled “Parliamentarian Shovels More Dirt On Senate GOP O’care Replacement”:

    In case Senate Republicans’ efforts to pass a bill to both repeal and replace Obamacare didn’t look dire enough already, the Senate parliamentarian has decided two more portions of the bill can’t be included without a 60-vote threshold. […]

    According to Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee, the parliamentarian has struck down even larger portions of the bill than before. The latest parts of the bill subject to the so-called “Byrd Bath,” violating the Byrd rule that constrains what can be considered under reconciliation, are the GOP’s plan to allow insurers to charge older Americans five times more for health insurance than younger ones, and a provision allowing small businesses to create health associations that could be sold across state lines.

    That’s on top of a whole host of other objections the parliamentarian has made that already were going to force a 60-vote majority to pass and kill the bill, as it currently doesn’t even have majority support in the Senate. […]

  157. says

    An ICE agent speaks out (bolding is mine):

    The agent, who has worked in federal immigration enforcement since the Clinton Administration, has been unsettled by the new order at ICE. During the campaign, many rank-and-file agents publicly cheered Trump’s pledge to deport more immigrants, and, since Inauguration Day, the Administration has explicitly encouraged them to pursue the undocumented as aggressively as possible.

    “We’re going to get sued,” the agent told me at one point. “You have guys who are doing whatever they want in the field, going after whoever they want.” At first, the agent spoke to me on the condition that I not publish anything about our conversations. But that has changed. Increasingly angry about the direction in which ICE is moving, the agent agreed last week to let me publish some of the details of our talks, as long as I didn’t include identifying information. […]

    “We used to look at things through the totality of the circumstances when it came to a removal order—that’s out the window,” the agent told the New Yorker. “I don’t know that there’s that appreciation of the entire realm of what we’re doing. It’s not just the person we’re removing. It’s their entire family. People say, ‘Well, they put themselves in this position because they came illegally.’ I totally understand that. But you have to remember that our job is not to judge. The problem is that now there are lots of people who feel free to feel contempt. […]

    The agent was especially concerned about a new policy that allows ICE to investigate cases of immigrants who may have paid smugglers to bring their children or relatives into the country. ICE considers these family members guilty of placing children “directly in harm’s way,” […]

    […] the agent said that rationale was just a pretext to increase arrests and eventually deport more people. “We seem to be targeting the most vulnerable people, not the worst.” The agent also believes that the policy will make it harder for the government to handle unaccompanied children who show up at the border. “You’re going to have kids stuck in detention because parents are too scared of being prosecuted to want to pick them up!” the agent said. […]

    The quoted text is from an article in The New Yorker.

    Do we feel safer when ICE is acting like this?

  158. tomh says

    @ #279

    The problem with counting on the parliamentarian to stop the bill, is that her guidance is just that – guidance. It can be simply ignored while the debate goes on, and then the presiding officer of the Senate—Vice President Mike Pence—technically makes the final call on parliamentary procedures, and could overrule the parliamentarian’s objections. It hasn’t been done in 40 years, but that will be no barrier for the Republican leadership.

  159. says

    I was too busy to do it this morning, but I think Trump’s tweets from early today should be recorded here:

    “The Amazon Washington Post fabricated the facts on my ending massive, dangerous, and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting Assad…..”

    “So many stories about me in the @washingtonpost are Fake News. They are as bad as ratings challenged @CNN. Lobbyist for Amazon and taxes?”

    “Is Fake News Washington Post being used as a lobbyist weapon against Congress to keep Politicians from looking into Amazon no-tax monopoly?”

    “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump campaign – “quietly working to boost Clinton.” So where is the investigation A.G. @seanhannity”

    “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!”

    “Problem is that the acting head of the FBI & the person in charge of the Hillary investigation, Andrew McCabe, got $700,000 from H for wife!”…

    I won’t go through the large number of false claims and errors caused by (willful or negligent) confusion or delusion. Just this morning Trump: declassified an entire covert CIA operation on a whim while repeating Kremlin talking points; threatened a private company and its owner with the power of the state because he doesn’t like a media outlet’s coverage of him; tagging his own lead media propagandist, called on his AG to investigate his former political opponent; did so in the course of attacking the AG because the AG properly recused himself from an investigation of Trump, interfering with Trump’s open attempts to obstruct justice; attacked the independence of the DoJ and the rule of law; and attacked and menaced the intelligence and criminal justice agencies.

    In one morning.

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