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

    If there were an afterlife, James Buchanan, Warren Harding and Richard Nixon would be sharing an ethereal bottle of wine right about now.

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

    This current (and on-and-on-and-ongoing) disaster, to me, clearly illustrates two of the prime tactics used by the radical right to defend the indefensible.

    First (as I wrote yesterday) is the tactic of a non answer followed by lots and lots and lots of different people claiming that, oh, that was already answered. That was already investigated.

    Now, of course, we have the unvetted release of intelligence information to an adversary. Yes, the US often shares intelligence — sometimes with our adversaries — in specific circumstances. However, that intelligence gets laundered even more thoroughly than the money flowing through New York City real estate. Every intelligence agency ensures that, when they send information to any other agency, unless there is a specific agreement in place regarding usage of the data, the source is very carefully hidden. CIA and NSA have specialists who do this. The US Army, when briefing soldiers and officers, is careful to obfuscate the source in case a soldier is captured or compromised. This is elementary trade craft.

    Trump has no clue how intelligence agencies work. So does anyone really think that he imparted laundered intelligence? Of course not. Which is why the very specific denials are so interesting.

    Claims that Donald Trump did not discuss sources or methods is disingenuous at best. The articles never mentioned sources or methods. Hell, Trump probably does not understand what a source is and has no clue what methods are used — he probably thinks that From Russia With Love is an accurate portrayal of modern spycraft. The fact that spokeslyers for the White House are making this claim shows that they know the damage done. And it covers their arses quite well. Trump didn’t have to discuss sources or methods. The imparting of minimally processed information by itself will often show the source of the information.

    During WWII, the US and Britain compromised both German and Japanese codes. And spent a great deal of time coming up with cover stories that could ‘accidentally’ be leaked to foreign agents or the press to steer Nazi and Imperial intelligence services away from Enigma and the work of the NSA. Because they knew that acting on the information would expose the code breaking.

    Again, claiming something is answered to deflect real investigation is a standard tactic. So is this. The average American has no clue how information is laundered and processed to avoid revealing sources or methods. Tillerson knows this. So by making this claim, Tillerson sets up a narrative to claim that, once again, the evil press is making things up out of whole cloth. Which the Fox News viewertariat and the listeners of talk radio and the Brietbart readers will swallow with no comment.

    Never mind that Trump just damaged our ability to share information with friendly intelligence services. Never mind that Trump just told the Russians who we are communicating with in the Middle East. Never mind that this revelation — we have someone inside ISIS who is involved with the planning of terror plots, or we have electronic means of listening in to ISIS leadership — will, via Syria, via Iran, wind up in the hands of ISIS. And it will kill people. And scare off anyone who might be willing to cooperate with any intelligence agency.

    So congratulations, GOP. President Trump, by discussing unlaundered information, has revealed sources and methods, damaged our ability to collect intelligence, damaged our ability to share intelligence, possibly killed people trying to help us, and scared off any future sources. But all you can think about is how this damages the President, how this makes him look, how this affects the chances of giving billions to the rich via tax breaks and a new ‘health care’ bill. I understand loyalty to your party. But shouldn’t loyalty to the country come into play at some point?

  3. blf says

    If there were an afterlife, James Buchanan, Warren Harding and Richard Nixon would be sharing an ethereal bottle of wine right about now.

    Well, they can’t have any of the vin rosé I opened for this nice sunny afternoon! (Besides, I just finishiced it.)

  4. says

    “Manafort Got $3.5M Mystery Mortgage, Paid No Tax”:

    Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort took out a $3.5 million mortgage through a shell company just after leaving the campaign, but the mortgage document that explains how he would pay it back was never filed — and Manafort’s company never paid $36,000 in taxes that would be due on the loan.

    In addition, despite telling NBC News previously that all his real estate transactions are transparent and include his name and signature, Manafort’s name and signature do not appear on any of the loan documents that are publicly available. A Manafort spokesperson said the $3.5 million loan was repaid in December, but also said paperwork showing the repayment was not filed until he was asked about the loan by NBC News.

    News of the missing documents comes as New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is taking a “preliminary look” at Manafort’s real estate transactions, according to a source familiar with the matter.

    A spokesperson for Spruce Capital said the loan came from an unnamed independent broker. Asked about Spruce backer Alexander Rovt and whether he had any role in the deal, the spokesperson said “We are unaware of any connection to Alexander Rovt.”

    Rovt is a Ukrainian émigré to the U.S. who earned more than $1 billion selling fertilizer in Ukraine and buying real estate in New York. In 2011, he sold all his overseas interests to Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch who had been Manafort’s business partner in a failed $850 million hotel redevelopment deal.

    Firtash is under U.S. indictment in an unrelated case and facing extradition from Vienna, Austria.*

    A spokesperson for Alexander Rovt said, “As far as he knows, [Manafort’s loan] came to Spruce through an unrelated broker like any other deal.”…

    * After Austrian courts decide about extradition to Spain.

  5. blf says

    The fact that spokeslyers for the White House are making this claim [that sources and methods were not discussed] shows that they know the damage done [highly classified intelligence was compromised].

    Indeed, McMaster — as a specific example — is considered a competent adult. And that is the tale he spun, avoiding the actual question in its entirety: If Spicer (e.g.) had been the one to claim that, everybody would be laughing (and wondering); but it was McMaster, who seems to know what he is doing. As the Washington Post put it (McMaster and Tillerson are complicit in Trump’s dishonesty, so must they resign?):

    [… N]ational security adviser H.R. McMaster put his reputation, honed over decades, on the line to issue a non-denial denial — claiming that The Post’s story was wrong because President Trump did not disclose to Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador “sources and methods.” The Post did not say anything of the sort, but rather, accurately[†] reported that Trump revealed highly classified material obtained from an ally — the disclosure of which would endanger our relationship with our ally and jeopardize the means by which we obtained the information.

    Also, McMaster apparently only read prepared text, another thing professionals do to try and avoid “misspeaking”.

      † This is the Washington Post reporting / defending their own story, so I’ll allow some license here. Pedantically, there is no confirmation (that I am aware of), albeit hair furor’s tweets earlier this morning are being taken as confirmation by some.

      ─────────────

    On a very minor historical correction, the NSA did not exist during WW ][ (it wasn’t founded until c.1950). The warlords’s “Purple” code (similar to the nazi’s “Engima”) was broken by the Friedmans, working for the Army’s Signal Intelligence Service (SIS). William Freidman suffered a (short?) mental breakdown as a result of the stress / efforts. He did, later, work for the then-new NSA for awhile.

  6. blf says

    What a Maroon, Would you be interested in a tuxedoed dinosaur, smelling slightly of herring, fond of cheese, in fact very fond of cheese, and also of moar cheese, and only deranged mildly? Will require an amazing amount of cheese bait to entice, subsequent shipping also not included.

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

    Our son would be interested, but with the zoning restrictions and all it might be best to send him your way.

  8. says

    Follow-up to previous comments noting that a U.S. ally “might stop sharing intelligence” after Trump’s leak.

    From Steve Benen:

    […] Foreign Policy magazine reported yesterday that our NATO allies are “scrambling” to tailor their upcoming meeting “to avoid taxing President Donald Trump’s notoriously short attention span.”

    A source briefed extensively on the meeting’s preparations explained, “It’s kind of ridiculous how they are preparing to deal with Trump. It’s like they’re preparing to deal with a child – someone with a short attention span and mood who has no knowledge of NATO, no interest in in-depth policy issues, nothing…. They’re freaking out.”

    And that was before our NATO partners learned that Trump apparently shared highly classified secrets with Russia for unknown reasons. The Associated Press reported today that U.S. allies “have anxiously wondered” if America’s strange amateur president could be trusted with sensitive national security information, and now those countries have “new reasons to worry.”

    A U.S. official said Trump revealed highly classified information about an Islamic State plot to senior Russian officials during an Oval Office meeting last week. The information had been obtained by a U.S. partner and shared with Washington, according to the official.

    “If it proves to be true that the American president passed on internal intelligence matters, that would be highly worrying,” Burkhard Lischka, a senior German lawmaker, said in a statement to The Associated Press.

    A second European official told the AP that their country might stop sharing intelligence with the United States as a result of Trump’s disclosure to Russia.

    Consider the scope of this fiasco. On the one hand, we have U.S. intelligence agencies – the target of frequent Trump attacks for unknown reasons – which will now have an incentive to keep sensitive information from the White House in order to safeguard it from the president’s reckless incompetence.

    On the other hand, we have allied governments abroad, which were already worried about Trump’s trustworthiness, and which are now weighing even less intelligence sharing with the United States. […]

    From Ned Price, a former senior analyst for the CIA:

    […] Look, there is a core assumption that undergirds our intelligence relationships the world over, our information sharing relationships with friends, with allies, and frankly at times even with adversaries. And that is we will share with you if you share with us with a reciprocal understanding that we will safeguard each other’s information. And there is not to be onward passage of that information without explicit consent of the country that gave us that piece of information.

    So, if the details today in the Washington Post report are true, President Trump betrayed that core premise, that core assumption under which all of our intelligence relationships are forged.

    And, of course, it will infuriate this purportedly close ally. But that’s, in a way, small potatoes. What is a much graver threat I think to the United States and to our people is that countries around the world – countries that perhaps have a better presence in places like Syria, or have more expertise in groups like ISIL or core al Qaeda – they will think once, they will think twice, or maybe they will stop sharing information with us to begin with if they cannot be confident that we can safeguard their information. […]

    Link to Maddow video from which the above dialogue was excerpted.

  9. tomh says

    On Bloomberg Business Tuesday morning, Sen. Mitch McConnell said he recommended to Trump that he nominate Merrick Garland to replace fired FBI Director James Comey. If McConnell is recommending it, I’m against it, not that Trump would take advice from him anyway.

  10. says

    Some highlights from McMaster speaking at the press briefing this morning:

    – McMaster did not deny that Trump shared classified information.

    – McMaster said Trump shared info “within the context of the conversation,” — in other words, there was no plan, no pre-meeting discussion.

    – McMaster repeated that Trump, as president, can declassify whatever he wants to declassify. [Trump may have that legal right with USA intelligence, but not with the intelligence from our allies.]

    – McMaster said that Trump was not aware of the source of the information he shared.

  11. says

    Follow-up to comment 12.

    McMaster repeated several times that whatever info Trump shared with the Russians was “wholly appropriate” and that Trump did not reveal “sources and methods.”

    Just to remind ourselves, the Washington Post article never claimed that Trump revealed sources and methods, only that he had revealed enough info that the Russians could probably use that info to figure out the sources and methods.

    McMaster confirmed that Bossert did contact the directors of the CIA and the NSA after the meeting. From the Washington Post article:

    […] Thomas P. Bossert, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, placed calls to the directors of the CIA and the NSA, services most directly involved in the intelligence-sharing arrangement with the partner.

    One of Bossert’s subordinates also called for the problematic portion of Trump’s discussion to be stricken from internal memos and for the full transcript to be limited to a small circle of recipients, efforts to prevent sensitive details from being disseminated further or leaked.[…]

    McMaster offered the explanation that he did not know why Bossert called the CIA and the NSA, but that he presumed it was out of an abundance of caution.

  12. says

    From Josh Marshall, an amusing comic panel, (but also troubling) confirming that he was right when he said: “Remember if Trump is true to form, tomorrow he’ll say that he totally told Lavrov and it was awesome.”

  13. says

    Schumer demands unedited transcripts of Trump-Russia meeting

    Until the administration provides the unedited transcript, until the administration fully explains the facts of this case, the American people will rightly doubt if their president can handle our nation’s most closely kept secrets. […]

    If the reporting is accurate, in one fell swoop, the president could have unsettled our allies, emboldened our adversaries, endangered our military and intelligence officers the world over, and exposed our nation to greater risk. Given the gravity of the matter, we need to be able to quickly assess whether or not this report is true and what exactly was said.

    Schumer is asking for the transcripts to be disclosed to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

  14. blf says

    The Onion:

    ● Russian Officials Scrambling As Plan To Delegitimize Western Democracy Moving Way Faster Than Intended: “Working frantically to readjust the schedule they had outlined back in June 2015, Russian officials admitted to reporters Thursday that they have been left scrambling after seeing their plan to delegitimize Western democracy move much faster than they had intended. ‘We originally had a two-to-four-year timeline to carefully undermine the legitimacy of the American political system, so we’ve had no choice but to suddenly push ahead on a few things we didn’t expect to even start talking about until at least 2018,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov […]”.

    ● Mar-A-Lago Assistant Manager Wondering If Anyone Coming To Collect Nuclear Briefcase From Lost And Found.

  15. says

    Quotes from McMaster’s press briefing today (not presented in the order they were spoken, just excerpts from my notes and notes taken by others):

    I should just make maybe the statement here that the president wasn’t even aware where this information came from. He wasn’t briefed on the source or method of the information either.

    […] in no way compromised any sources and methods. […]

    […] He [Trump] made the decision in the context of the conversation. […]

  16. says

    McMaster may be out front defending Trump, but other WH staff members are hiding and/or are really dismayed.

    […] Communications staff and senior staffers at the White House were literally “hiding in offices,” according to a senior Trump aide, as a gaggle of White House press stormed White House hallways just after the Washington Post story broke on Monday evening.

    “Do not ask me about how this looks, we all know how this looks,” the senior aide told The Daily Beast on Monday evening. Trump administration officials spoke to The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity so as to speak freely. The aide described a scene at the White House as tense and “a morgue,” where senior officials such as Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Stephen Bannon convened to sketch an immediate path forward in handling the aftermath. […]

    Three senior administration staffers expressed bewilderment and frustration at news that Trump apparently shared highly classified information about ISIS threats against the U.S. homeland with Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador to Washington last week. […]

    Administration officials see the optics of the situation as catastrophic to an administration struggling to deal with a torrent of news about the FBI’s investigation, Comey’s firing, and increasingly loud calls for an independent probe into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russian officials.

    “At this point I’m wondering if we’ll ever be able to stop talking about Russia,” a White House staffer said shortly after the Post story was published. “It’s totally self-inflicted. Every time I feel like we’re getting a handle on the last Russia fiasco, a new one pops.”

    Asked about the reported details of Trump’s meeting, the staffer declined to weigh in on specifics but described publicly reported information as a body blow to the White House’s image. “I don’t know what was said in the meeting, what the classified information is, or really any of the details,” the staffer said. “I just know how it looks, and obviously it looks really bad.” […]

    When another senior White House official was asked by The Daily Beast on Monday night if this would accelerate President Trump’s demands for a crackdown on national security leaks, the aide simply replied, “Oh, definitely.”

    The official, who is familiar with Trump’s thinking on these matters, said it will exacerbate “his animus and suspicion towards ‘Deep State’” and Obama-holdover actors, who Trump and some of his closest advisors have suspected of trying to damage his presidency through anonymous leaks to the press. […]

    Daily Beast link

  17. says

    More responses from the intelligence community:

    […] “People in the intelligence community are uncomfortable with what he said because his comments may have put the Russians on the trail of this particular intelligence partner,” said this official, confirming to The Daily Beast that Trump shared information about an ISIS plot that the U.S. received from a foreign intelligence ally. “He did share information about an ISIS plot.”

    “But they also believe the temperature is too high in the media,” the official said, speaking anonymously to describe conversations with current intelligence officials. “It’s too early for us to know what the reaction is going to be. The intelligence community has to reach out to this partner. They might say it was an egregious violation…and go dark, but they might not.” […]

    “With news like this I’m beginning to wonder why Trump ran in the first place and if he really cares about the country,” said a senior Trump appointee involved in counter-ISIS policymaking. “I miss candidate Trump. Now he’s just a pathetic mess.”

    “I doubt he did it to collude [with the Russians]. I think he’s dumb and doesn’t know the difference,” a former FBI official told The Daily Beast. “He thinks he’s arranging some business deal except that he’s not.”

    “I don’t think he shared the classified intelligence to collude. I think he shared because he thinks he’s playing chess when he’s actually playing checkers. […]

    When asked if the Russians could use the information Trump provided in way that harms the U.S., this official said, “of course.” […]

    Same link as was provided in comment 19.

  18. says

    Some news has emerged from the New Yorker interview with Sally Yates:

    […] Sally Yates said now-dismissed National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s name appeared in unredacted form in U.S. intelligence reports on his now-infamous December phone calls with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

    After The Washington Post reported in February that Flynn and Kislyak had a phone conversation regarding sanctions the Obama administration imposed on Russia in December, several prominent Republicans and Trump administration officials claimed that because Flynn is a U.S. citizen, mentions of his name would have been “masked” or concealed in intelligence reports on the conversation and demanded to know who “unmasked” Flynn’s name and leaked the information about his call with Kislyak.

    In the interview, however, Yates said Flynn’s name was never “unmasked” and added that there are two common instances in which Americans’ names are included in the reports: “because [the] intelligence only made sense if you knew who the identity of the U.S. person was, and that’s an exception to the minimization requirements,” she said, or, “If it’s evidence of a crime.”

    Daily Beast link

    New Yorker link

  19. says

    More tidbits from the Yates interview in The New Yorker (see comment 21):

    […] Yates said that it appeared that McGahn did not know that the F.B.I. had interviewed Flynn until Yates told him, in their meeting the day after the interview. […]

    Yates gave the White House much more than a “heads-up” about Flynn, and expected them to act immediately. […]

    Yates did not learn about the executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries until it was made public.

    You’re not going to believe this but I just read online that the President has executed this travel ban. I had been sitting in Don McGahn’s office an hour before to talk about the Flynn issue and he didn’t tell me.

    […] Yates struggled with whether to resign over the order or stay on and refuse to defend it. […]

    Yates said she has ruled out running for governor of Georgia in 2018, but that doesn’t mean she’ll be staying out of public life completely. […]

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

    from Lynna @ 20,

    “I think he shared because he thinks he’s playing chess when he’s actually playing checkers.”

    More like tic-tac-toe.

    And he’s losing.

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

    blf@7:

    On a very minor historical correction, the NSA did not exist during WW ][

    You are correct. I mistyped. I intended to refer to the US Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence. Or the equivalent at the time. My bad.

    Lynna @19:

    “Do not ask me about how this looks, we all know how this looks,” the senior aide told The Daily Beast on Monday evening.

    That really is all they care about. Damaging intelligence relationships, killing people, making it harder to collect intelligence — all mean nothing. Only the way it looks. Traitors.

  22. microraptor says

    What a Maroon @23:

    The scary thing is that he’s not bright enough to realize when the only winning move is not to play.

  23. blf says

    Chess? Checkers? Tic-tac-toe?
    More like this fun new game he just discovered, called Rock-Paper-Nuclear. It even has shiny big red button! Currently, he’s pouting because there on no crayons for coloring the rock, and the paper has lots of words on it. On both sides, but none of them Jane, Dick, or Spot.

  24. says

    From Anderson Cooper’s interview with Sally Yates:

    […] “There is certainly a criminal statute that was implicated by his [Flynn’s] conduct,” Yates said in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

    “You wanted the White House to act,” Cooper said.

    “Absolutely, yes. We expected the White House to act,” Yates said. “We certainly felt like they needed to act.”

    “Did you expect them to act quickly?” he asked.

    “Yes,” Yates replied.

    Yates said she doesn’t know why the White House concluded that Flynn’s conduct was problematic because he misled Vice President Mike Pence, and not in a legal sense.

    “I don’t know how the White House reached the conclusion that there was no legal issue,” she said. “It certainly wasn’t from my discussion with them.” […]

    http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/16/politics/sally-yates-anderson-cooper-cnntv/

  25. says

    The link in comment 28 also leads to a video excerpt of the Yates interview with Anderson Cooper.

    Whether he is fired or not is a decision by the President of the United States to make, but it doesn’t seem like that’s a person who should be sitting in the national security adviser position.

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

    CatieCat @ 27,

    The scary thing is, he’s playing solitaire, and still losing.

    And blaming it on the refs.

  27. says

    Ben Sasse is a Republican senator representing Nebraska. He had this to say about Trump giving classified information to the Russians:

    […] It’s not helpful that this was with the Russians, right? I mean, this is just weird. We and the Russians do not have aligned interests. They want to exacerbate our internal distrust of each other. They want to fracture NATO. Putin is an enemy of the freedom of speech, religion, press and assembly, which is the beating heart of what America means.

    Again, there’s technical stuff that happened in this meeting that we don’t really yet know about. But one of the basic duties of someone who’s in a public office and has a public trust responsibility should be to be celebrating what America is about and to be telling that story. Right now, Washington isn’t doing any of that. […]

    [Regarding McMaster’s statements] I think it’s actually something quite different from a full rebuttal of the story. […]

  28. says

    From Russia, with love:

    […] Russian Foreign Ministry officials told the Interfax news agency Tuesday that the reports that Trump shared classified information were “fake.” Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the ministry, also rejected the claims in a Facebook post. “Guys, have you been reading the American newspapers again?” she wrote, calling the Washington Post’s reporting — since confirmed by several other outlets — “yet another fake.” She suggested U.S. newspapers could be put to various uses, but shouldn’t be read. “Lately it’s become not only harmful, but dangerous, too.”

    Note that the Russians and Trump are on the same page. Their defense when the facts are revealed is to shout “Fake news!”

    […] Members of the Trump administration have also denied the reports about Trump sharing classified information in the meeting, but Trump himself appeared to confirm them in two tweets Tuesday morning. With Trump and White House officials seemingly not on the same page yet again, recent comments from Lavrov add to the complexity of the controversy.

    On Sunday, Lavrov gave an interview with Russia Insider which didn’t mention the meeting in question, but did respond to questions about U.S.-Russia relations. Pressed on why U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he made little progress when meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and why the U.S. was supposedly trying to isolate Russia at the United Nations, Lavrov was a bit flummoxed. “It is very difficult to answer the question why such contradictory statements are being made by different representatives of the Trump administration,” he said. “Perhaps they haven’t gotten accustomed to working together yet?” […]

    “We should primarily consider what President Trump says,” Lavrov insisted. “He expressed a high opinion of State Secretary Tillerson’s visit to Moscow and his own recent telephone conversation with President Vladimir Putin. Mr. Trump expressed willingness to continue our efforts to progress in the issues of mutual interest.” […]

    Think Progress link

  29. blf says

    There’s some brilliant snarking in this serious column, Many want to know Donald Trump’s state of mind. So do the courts:

    […]
    Donald Trump’s campaign of presidential sabotage accelerates with each passing day. Recent casualties include James Comey (lost his job), Rod Rosenstein (lost his credibility) and some top-secret intelligence (lost to the Russians). Not to mention some pretty important principles, like the rule of law and respect for apolitical law enforcement.

    You’ve probably asked yourself: “What is Trump thinking?” You’re not alone. Lawyers and judges, too, have started probing the basis for Trump’s latest acts of constitutional arson. While they have plenty of raw material, they face a major obstacle: to study Trump’s mind is to enter a strange new world where laws of grammar, logic and meaning are always up for grabs and retroactively adjustable.

    Moreover, on some vital issues, the very concept of “intent” may not really apply to Trump’s outbursts. As David Brooks notes, we appear to be dealing with a man “whose thoughts are often just six fireflies beeping randomly in a jar.”

    […]

    The column then goes on to more seriously consider one issue raised, “in this topsy-turvy world, how do we deal with legal rules that consider state of mind?” That discussion then concludes:

    […]
    Most important, if courts bury their heads in the sand, the gap between lived reality and our constitutional law will grow intolerably vast. For the sake of their own legitimacy, federal courts cannot invent a parallel reality in which Trump is judged without reference to relevant statements broadcast on a global stage. Judicial decisions upholding or invalidating Trump’s acts will reverberate through American life without any such precious limitations. And those rulings will shape what we think the constitution means in our own lives.
    […]

    The author is attorney Joshua Matz, a former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Kennedy,

  30. says

    On Friday, Trump departs for his 11-day, five-country tour. Here are the aides he is taking with him: Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Reince Priebus, Gary Cohn (economic advisor), Dina Powell, Steve Miller, H.R. McMaster, Hope Hicks, Sarah Sanders, Michael Anton (National Security Council spokesperson) and Sean Spicer.

    Secretary of State Tillerson will meet up with Trump in Sicily for the G7 conference.

    Kellyanne Conway is staying home.

    When he was president, Obama usually traveled with one senior advisor, one press secretary, national security advisors as needed, and that’s all. He left his chief of staff at home most of the time.

    Jared Kushner played a big part in planning Trump’s trip. He chairs the trip-planning meetings.

  31. says

    Some analysts are saying that they are worried that Russia will share the info from Israel with Iran.

    From the Daily Beast:

    […] According to the Times, the new revelation adds new foreign policy kindling onto the fire of an already explosive fallout.

    Israel is one of the United States’ most important allies and and intelligence collectors in the Middle East, and the information could easily pass to Iran, a close ally of Russia and one of Israel’s main threats. Israeli officials did not confirm the information’s origin.

    Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, said the two countries will in any case maintain a close counterterrorism relationship. “Israel has full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States and looks forward to deepening that relationship in the years ahead under President Trump,” Dermer said.

    Trump doubled down on Tuesday morning, tweeting that he had the “absolute right” to share the facts he divulged. “As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety,” Trump wrote. “Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”

  32. says

    From Dara Lind, writing for Vox:

    If it’s possible to work for Donald Trump and still remain an honest person, we haven’t seen evidence of it yet.

    Time and again, even the most serious and respected people in the Trump administration […] have ended up going out to defend Trump over something indefensible. They may not be technically lying, but they are advancing Trump’s narrative instead of advancing the truth. And more often than not, Trump has repaid them by making them look like fools — admitting he committed whatever sin they’ve helped to cover up.

    Take National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who was trotted out to the press Monday night to push back against reports that Trump had divulged super-classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador during a meeting last week (and possibly put a key anti-ISIS source in danger by doing so).

    McMaster’s carefully worded non-denial denial all but went up in smoke by Tuesday morning, when Trump tweeted that he’d had very good reasons to give information to the Russians. […]

    Something similar played out last week, when Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. That time it was Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — whose memo to Attorney General Jeff Sessions was originally presented as the reason for firing Comey — and Vice President Mike Pence, who spent a lot of time last Wednesday pointing to Rosenstein’s “recommendation” when asked about the firing. By Thursday, Trump had told NBC’s Lester Holt that he’d already decided to fire Comey no matter what Rosenstein’s memo said.

    The White House communications staff (including Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders) routinely lies in service of the president. They say things that they either know to be untrue or have no knowledge of whatsoever and present as truth anyway (only to be proven wrong).

    What McMaster, Pence, and Rosenstein have done is different. They’ve made statements that are carefully crafted to avoid saying anything that’s technically inaccurate. But those statements have been made to serve a White House narrative that is, itself, a lie.

    They’re being accurate. But they’re not being honest. […]

    Sean Spicer just started his briefing. He is focusing on the “dangerous” leaks to the press, and not on the issue of Trump having fucked up yet again.

  33. blf says

    Malcolm Nance (“a career US counter-terrorism Intelligence officer”) is furious, Trump’s reckless chatter with Russia could have fatal consequences:

    The president [sic] is treating spies as just another bauble he can flaunt in front of others to make him look smart — this could cost lives

    It looks like President [sic] Donald J Trump has finally lived up to everyone’s expectations. Throughout the campaign, Trump hammered home the assertion that only he could safeguard classified information. He repeatedly pointed to Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as an example of why she couldn’t be trusted with the nation’s secrets. Critics argued that given the chance, Trump would not be able to resist disclosing highly classified information. Has that moment finally come?

    […]

    [The] information was unilaterally shared with the US in a highly classified program by [another] country. So secret was the information that only a handful of Americans knew it. The information was kept away from even our closest allies […]. According to reports, this country trusted the US to safeguard its activity and thus protect the life of its source who brought the information. In a moment of unbridled egoism, the president [sic] failed to do that.

    […]

    This intelligence breach could lead to a chain of actions that could spell fresh disasters. The allied country, which remains unnamed, is surely likely to lose faith in America’s ability to safeguard its secrets. Now other countries will check what information is being given to Washington, which could slow down the global counter-terrorism information sharing process. This could have potentially fatal consequences, allowing Isis or al-Qaida to slip through the lines.

    […]

    If [the intelligence source] is a human asset, Trump’s reckless display of ego may force an action he may be loath to execute. As part of the information-sharing process, the United States may have agreed to dedicate national resources to rescue him or her if there is a risk of “Going black” — a dark euphemism for when sources are exposed, captured and killed.

    A high-value asset recovery operation usually involves numerous CIA officers or assets on the ground who will have to risk their lives to ensure special operations commandos can fly in and bring that agent out.

    […]

    American and allied intelligence professionals […] pride themselves on being able to keep secrets so others may live.

    Unfortunately, Trump’s view of intelligence and spycraft is based in a feral, willful disdain of anything that requires more than passing thought. Though he has all the information of the entire intelligence community at his fingertips, he treats spies as just another bauble he can flaunt in front of others to make him look smart.

    Republicans are bending over backwards to explain that the president can do whatever he wants with this country’s security. So long as they get their conservative agenda to remove healthcare from millions, ban abortion, and give away trillions in tax cuts they are willing to tolerate anything even if it puts our most sensitive intelligence at risk. It is a party devoid of patriots or real patriotism.

    This disclosure is the final straw. […]

    Mr Nance has repeatedly inflamed wingnuts. As an example, last year he observed “This is my nominee for the first ISIS suicide bombing of a Trump property”, referring to teh trum-prat’s eyesore in Istanbul. A bit tasteless, perhaps, but a valid point: As others have also noted, trum-prat branded buildings are a tempting target, both for protests (such as the recent highly amusing projections on the Washington DC eyesore), and far less benign acts. The eyesore in Istanbul seems particularly easy for the kookgroups to reach, so suggesting it could be the first to be attacked is plausible.

    Wingnutlandia went full-rabid wild, however, and accused Mr Nance of calling for daesh to bomb that building. (And probably accused him of other things as well.)

  34. says

    Follow-up to blf’s comment 40: It has also been noted that whatever assets Israel used to gather the intel will now have to be pulled (or have already been pulled).

    Basically, Trump burned the assets, human or electronic (or both), so that now they can no longer be used.

  35. says

    I’m going to take this as good news: Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) has taken himself out of the running for FBI Director. Earlier, Representative Trey Gowdy (Republican from South Carolina) also took himself out of consideration for the job.

  36. says

    From Clint Watts:

    […] Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the infamous Ambassador Sergey Kislyak must have giggled inside, maybe even smirked a little as Russia’s preferred president bragged to them about how “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day.” Trump’s bravado allegedly revealed highly classified specifics about an Islamic State terror group plot to bomb civilian aviation, one that has triggered months of incremental bans on laptops being carried into airplane cabins bound for the U.S.

    He gave that information—which came from an ally as part of what The Washington Post describes as “an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government”—to an adversary, Russia. The same adversary under scrutiny for its widespread hacking of American leaders, including the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, […]

    By releasing classified intelligence, at best, Trump created a gaffe for which any American other than the commander in chief might be imprisoned. At worst, he revealed and put at risk the life of an essential intelligence source of a critical foreign ally. […]

    Most damaged in this ad-hoc information exchange is the partner country and its intelligence service providing such valuable support to America. Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe at The Washington Post suggest the information came from a non-traditional, sensitive intelligence-sharing arrangement with “access to the inner workings of the Islamic State.” This points to a highly coveted human-intelligence source likely provided by a Middle Eastern partner that is quite likely an adversary of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad—a Syrian regime allied with Russia.

    Trump’s revelation may well place this rare human source, a type the U.S. intelligence community has struggled to develop after the Sept. 11 attacks, in physical danger. It badly damages a critical intelligence-sharing relationship now and well into the future. […]

    Even more complicated is Russia’s relationship with the U.S. intelligence-sharing partner country. If Russia had not received the same intelligence as the Americans, for example, Russia may wonder why this country was holding out. Or if Russia received a different version of the intelligence from the partner country, Trump’s unapproved information dump might undermine or exasperate Russia’s relationship with the partner country.

    Trump’s braggadocio “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our allies,” the Post reported and the news that he’s done so will strain trust not just with the country sharing this piece of information, but also among other allies and inside the U.S. intelligence community. […]

  37. says

    Some Republicans are getting a clue (though not nearly enough of them):

    Rep. Steve Knight (R-Calif.) on Tuesday called for a special prosecutor to take over the FBI’s investigation into Russian election interference, joining a growing chorus demanding action on the probe.

    […] The FBI and House and Senate Intelligence committees are all investigating Russian election meddling and ties between President Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin.

    “It is time for an investigation of Russia’s intervention in the U.S. Election. There is too much at stake at home and abroad to not take this step,” he said. […]

    As stated before, I continue to support any efforts done by the House Intelligence Committee and join many of my colleagues in supporting the assignment of a special prosecutor to take over the ongoing FBI investigation.”

    Last week, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), tweeted that he was “reviewing legislation to establish an independent commission on Russia.” On Friday, he was joined by Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who said that a special prosecutor to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia was “on the table.” […]

    The Hill link

  38. says

    More troubling signs of discord in the WH:

    President Trump has called National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster “a pain” and complained that he talks too much in meetings, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

    Some senior advisers worry about leaving Trump alone during meetings with foreign leaders, the report said.

    McMaster has tried to subtly correct Trump in conversations when he thinks necessary and help keep him on topic — a habit that has annoyed Trump, the Times wrote. […]

    The Hill link

  39. says

    More Republicans voicing dissatisfaction with Trump:

    […] “We need to have immediate classified briefings on what occurred at this meeting so that Congress can at least know as much as Russian leaders,” Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) said Tuesday.

    Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), a former military intelligence officer, also demanded “a thorough account of the President’s meeting with Russian officials,” including “a transcript of the meeting.”

    Several Republican Senators echoed these concerns, and called for similar briefings on the matter.

    “If information was shared with the Russian ambassador, it seems to me it’d be okay to share with the U.S. Senate,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) griped to reporters Tuesday.

    Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who sits on the Intelligence Committee, called on the White House to brief the committee “immediately.” […]

    Other Republicans disputed their own colleagues’ assertion that they have been given less information than the Russians about the ISIS plot.

    “That is not my understanding. That’s ridiculous,” Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) told TPM, adding that perhaps the lawmakers had said this “in jest.”

    But even senior Republican lawmakers who lead relevant committees, including Foreign Relations Committee chair Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), told TPM it was true that Trump seems to have revealed more to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak than to Congress.

    “Certainly, more than I’m aware of,” he said. “Anything about the [ISIS laptop] threat is more than has been discussed with us.”

    Talking Points Memo link

  40. blf says

    Re Lynna@44, Possibly just poor wording on his part, but I note Knight called for “an investigation of Russia’s intervention in the US Election.” A brief to restrict the investigation to that does not sound very promising. By which I do not mean something won’t be found, eventually, but it’s (1) Likely to be mostly smoke and a few mirrors; and (2) Notably doesn’t look into, or possibly even touch on, other hair furor / dalekocray–Russia suspicions (such as, e.g., Flynn or this recent compromise).

    Overly-restrictive investigative briefs is a frequent trick the UK governments like to pull to deflect from other, and possibly more important, issues and misdeeds; and then to claim, later, the issue / misdeed was (fully) investigated.

  41. says

    Another Trump lackey is born:

    Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster has long been considered one of the best generals of his generation—a scholar-soldier with a reputation for speaking truth to power.

    All of which made the National Security Adviser’s appearance Tuesday in the White House briefing room extra bizarre. Over the course of 17 muddled minutes, he all-but-admitted that President Donald Trump shared classified information with representatives of the Russian government.

    Then he claimed that the media was jeopardizing national security by reporting on the disclosure of such sensitive information.

    Then McMaster said some of the information actually wasn’t so sensitive—in fact, you could read about it in the press.

    It all climaxed with McMaster insisting that Trump didn’t know where this classified information came from (according to The New York Times, it was Israeli intelligence), but was totally justified in giving it to the Russians, anyway.

    In the process, the general—who literally wrote the book about standing up to presidential authority—was forced to play press flack for an administration reluctant to share key details. Sean Spicer, with less hair. […]

    The real problem, they say, isn’t that the president divulged information that the White House still has not denied was classified—it’s that someone in the meeting told The Washington Post about it.

    “Our national security has been put at risk by those violating confidentiality and those releasing information to the press that could be connected to other information that’s publicly available to make Americans more vulnerable,” McMaster said. He called leaks to the media “the real issue.” […]

    Link

  42. says

    Meanwhile, in the alternative universe that Fox news viewers apparently live in, #sethrich is trending on Twitter and is the lead story from all the usual right wing lying news organizations.

    To save everyone here the trouble, I looked into why, and what’s being reported. You’ll get a kick out of this.

    So, this asshat Rod Wheeler, who is a PI and Fox news contributor, was apparently “Hired by a third party” to investigate Seth Rich’s murder, according to the Rich Family. He is claiming that he has “evidence” in the form of Seth’s laptop, which is currently in the possession of either the DC Police or the FBI, he’s not sure which, and he’s never seen the laptop, however he claims that this laptop contains evidence of communications with Wikileaks in the days prior to his murder.

    Again, he’s never seen this laptop or these emails, but he’s sure they exist.

    Oh of course, Fox says they have a source who is a federal law enforcement officer that corroborates this claim. And of course, Julian Assange has implied in the past that Seth was the source of the hacked DNC emails, without coming right out and saying it.

    This is the entire basis for #sethrich trending and Fox News leading with this story everywhere. That’s it.

    The Rich Family released a statement. The teal dear on that is that they wish these conspiracy theories would stop, and they have no reason to believe these emails exist or that their son had anything to do with wikileaks or the DNC hack. The PI reporting this is in violation of his contract which states he was not supposed to speak with anyone other than the family or law enforcement without their prior consent, including the media.

    So these right wing lunatics will believe a self promoting PI and an unnamed source when it comes to trying to justify the conspiracy theory that Hillary had a low level former DNC staffer murdered, but don’t believe their own president when he admits via Twitter that he leaked highly classified information to the Russians, and admits that he fired Comey because of the investigation into the connections between his campaign and the Russians, or that the Russians hacked our democratic process.

    At what point is Fox News screaming fire in a crowded theater and running fowl of free speech in perpetuating these outright lies and conspiracy theories while ignoring the real threat to our future?

    At what point is the GOP as a whole committing treason by not putting a stop to this madness?

  43. says

    Then McMaster said some of the information actually wasn’t so sensitive—in fact, you could read about it in the press.

    Jake Tapper just a few minutes ago reported that the (so-called) administration is still begging the media not to reveal the name of the city, saying it could get people killed. That’s how sensitive the information is.

  44. blf says

    How Trump undercuts his staff again and again (various minor edits, unmarked, for formatting reasons):

    The undercutting follows a familiar sequence: a Trump official is sent in front of the media to give a message — then Trump swoops in and says the opposite
    […]
    Here’s a rundown of some of the White House’s mixed messages.

    ● Trump gave classified intelligence to Russia.
    Staff: This story is false.
    Trump: I wanted to share information, I had absolute right to do it.
    […]

    ● James Comey’s firing.
    Staff: Comey was fired at the suggestion of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general.
    Trump: I’d already decided to fire him; it was related to this Russia thing.
    […]

    ● How to deal with North Korea
    Staff: softly, softly.
    Trump: could be major, major conflict.
    […]

    ● More nuclear weapons. Or not.
    Trump: we need more nukes.
    Staff: there will be no more nukes.
    Trump: let there be an arms race.
    […]

  45. says

    They just had some sort of Senate Intelligence Committee briefing. Manchin is saying they haven’t been briefed on what was discussed in the meeting, seen a transcript, etc.

  46. says

    Meanwhile, in the alternative universe that Fox news viewers apparently live in, #sethrich is trending on Twitter and is the lead story from all the usual right wing lying news organizations.

    Their treatment of his family, Vince Foster’s family, and this poor kid is shockingly heartless and awful.

  47. blf says

    (Cross-posted from We don’t need conspiracy theories to explain Trump; also see @10.)

    Some excerpts from the Foreign Policy article on the upcoming Nato meeting, NATO Frantically Tries to Trump-Proof President’s First Visit:

    A ‘freaked-out’ NATO braces for Donald Trump’s first meeting of the transatlantic alliance.

    NATO is scrambling to tailor its upcoming meeting to avoid taxing President Donald Trump’s notoriously short attention span. The alliance is telling heads of state to limit talks to two to four minutes at a time during the discussion, several sources inside NATO and former senior US officials tell Foreign Policy. And the alliance scrapped plans to publish the traditional full post-meeting statement meant to crystallize NATO’s latest strategic stance.

    […]

    “It’s kind of ridiculous how they are preparing to deal with Trump,” said one source briefed extensively on the meeting’s preparations. “It’s like they’re preparing to deal with a child — someone with a short attention span and mood who has no knowledge of NATO, no interest in in-depth policy issues, nothing,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They’re freaking out.”

    Still, despite these changes, experts are wary of how Trump will react to NATO meetings and their long-winded, diplomatic back-and-forth among dozens of heads of state, which can quickly balloon into hours of meandering discussions. One former senior NATO official […] described these meetings as “important but painfully dull.”

    […]

    “Even a brief NATO summit is way too stiff, too formal, and too policy heavy for Trump. Trump is not going to like that,” said Jorge Benitez, a NATO expert with the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank.

    Another change: NATO traditionally publishes a formal readout, known as a declaration, after each major meeting or summit. While they’re often lathered in diplomatic drivel, declarations signal new strategies and key policy shifts that come out of closed-door meetings […].

    This year, NATO has scrapped plans to publish a full formal meeting declaration. […] NATO isn’t publishing a full declaration “because they’re worried Trump won’t like it,” another source said.

    […]

    […] NATO leaders will use the meeting to unveil their new headquarters […] The building is way behind schedule and over budget.

    The senior NATO official […] expressed concern that this could be a sore spot with Trump as he pushes European countries to spend more on defense. Although Trump may know little about the military alliance, he does profess to know something about getting buildings done on time and on budget.

    […] After months of Trump’s threatening a radically new approach to global alliances the United States helped create, there’s nobody even charting a new course. Trump hasn’t appointed any high-level posts for Europe, including key Pentagon postings, undersecretaries of state, an assistant secretary of state for Europe, or a new ambassador to NATO. […]

  48. says

    On Friday, Trump departs for his 11-day, five-country tour. Here are the aides he is taking with him: Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Reince Priebus, Gary Cohn (economic advisor), Dina Powell, Steve Miller, H.R. McMaster, Hope Hicks, Sarah Sanders, Michael Anton (National Security Council spokesperson) and Sean Spicer.

    They all tend to troop around with him here, too. There have been reports that they’re all afraid not to be around all the time, believing others will take advantage or poison him against them in their absence.

    Trip should be fun.

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

    So Trump starts bragging and burns an Israeli asset in ISIS.

    I thought he would be bad as President. I had no idea just how bad it could get.

  50. says

    NYT:

    …In the meeting with the Russian ambassador and foreign minister, Mr. Trump disclosed intelligence about an Islamic State terrorist plot. At least some of the details that the United States has about the plot came from the Israelis, the officials said.

    The officials, who were not authorized to discuss the matter and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that Israel previously had urged the United States to be careful about the handling of the intelligence that Mr. Trump discussed.

    Israel’s concerns about the Trump White House’s handling of classified information were foreshadowed in the Israeli news media this year. Newspapers there reported in January that American officials warned their Israeli counterparts to be careful about what they told the Trump administration because it could be leaked to the Russians, given Mr. Trump’s openness toward President Vladimir V. Putin….

    I remember those reports.

  51. says

    Aaaaaand just as Matthew Miller predicted – “Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation”:

    President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo that Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.

    “I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.

    The existence of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia.

    Mr. Comey wrote the memo detailing his conversation with the president immediately after the meeting, which took place the day after Mr. Flynn resigned, according to two people who read the memo. The memo was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence an ongoing investigation. An F.B.I. agent’s contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations.

    Mr. Comey shared the existence of the memo with senior F.B.I. officials and close associates. The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of the memo to a Times reporter.

    “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

    Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey that Mr. Flynn had done nothing wrong, according to the memo.

    Mr. Comey created similar memos — including some that are classified — about every phone call and meeting he had with the president, the two people said. It is unclear whether Mr. Comey told the Justice Department about the conversation or his memos.

    The Feb. 14 meeting took place just a day after Mr. Flynn was forced out of his job after it was revealed he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of phone conversations he had had with the Russian ambassador to the United States….

  52. says

    Holy shit – “Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.”

  53. says

    Reporters are being told by White House contacts that Comey’s version of events is not true. Does team Trump really think that is going to be believed by most people.

    Burr said that “the burden is on the New York Times.” Sheesh.

  54. says

    From the White House:

    The White House denied that Trump asked Comey “to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn.”

    “The president has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations,” the White House said in a statement to the Times. “This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.”

    Trump has no credibility. Team Trump has no credibility.

  55. says

    Josh Marshall says, “This isn’t smoke. It’s fire.”

    With the latest revelation – that President Trump straight up asked James Comey to end the Flynn investigation – this is starting to feel like a prize fight where one boxer just took three straight punches to the head. It’s hard to know how much longer this can go on. But I suspect the answer is this: a lot longer.

    We talk a lot about smoke and fire. But this isn’t smoke. This is the fire. It’s not clear to me what more we need to know. The only question is whether we decide to put it out or just let it keep burning. As I said above, I bet we’re going to let it burn for quite a while longer. […]

    The President isn’t just astonishing crooked. He’s amazingly stupid. Unsurprisingly Comey kept a record. All by the book. All recorded. If you didn’t see it yesterday, take a look at my post on how to understand who James Comey is.

    How much longer? I’m pretty sure a lot longer.

  56. says

    The WH is issuing statements “on background”? And no one is willing to put their name to statement?

    On background: While the President has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the President has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn. The President has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations. This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the President and Mr. Comey.

    On background: Deputy Director McCabe said in his testimony last week that the WH had not interfered with any investigation.

    The statement came from the White House Press Office.

    In the Washington Post’s confirmation of the existence of the Comey memo, the memo is described as “two pages long and highly detailed.”

  57. says

    Washington Post link

    […] Comey’s description of the event make clear his understanding of the conversation was that the president was seeking to impede the investigation, according to people who have read the account or had it read to them, these people said. Comey felt the conversation was improper and decided to keep the details of the conversations away from the case agents working on the Russia probe. […]

  58. says

    ABC: “The life of a spy placed by Israel inside ISIS is at risk tonight, according to current and former U.S. officials, after President Donald Trump reportedly disclosed classified information in a meeting with Russian officials last week.”

  59. says

    Rachel Maddow is reporting that a new subpoena has been issued in the federal investigation of Paul Manafort – evidently related to the loan discussed in the confusing article linked @ #5 above.

  60. says

    re 76 – and of course LM is taking credit for having reported it, because she threw shit at the wall about “FISA warrants”. Sorry I’m just so disgusted with her her followers right now.

  61. says

    The Bernie Kasich debate was basically a bromance. Dana Bash said they were getting questions from viewers asking about a joint ticket. I’ll admit I bought in to a certain extent, I still like Bernie and the things he says, and Kasich was very conciliatory. They seemed to agree that we can make money and care for everyone at the same time.

    But I don’t buy it. When Trump is no more, sides will be picked again and Kasich will continue to back the corrupt GOP, and Bernie will continue to throw the dems under the bud for his own benefit.

  62. Pierce R. Butler says

    SC @ # 61: The Feb. 14 meeting took place just a day after Mr. Flynn was forced out of his job …

    According to my calculations, exactly on the first anniversary of Scalia Croakday. I have to wonder if even the oxymoronic Justice would have regretted the present consequence of his money-über-alles judicial coups. Somebody please check his grave for sounds of spinning &/or puking.

    Which puissant Republican will we lose on next Valentine’s Eve?

  63. says

    I’m perplexed at how many media outlets are framing this. They all report that Erdogan’s security detail rushed and attacked Kurdish protesters outside the ambassador’s residence, but then they characterize it as a “clash,” an “altercation,” or a “protest turned violent.” This violence against protesters by representatives of the Turkish state in the US capital is utterly outrageous.

  64. says

    Elijah Cummings is doing a press conference, slamming the Republican “leadership” and calling for an independent commission. Now Adam Schiff is speaking.

  65. says

    On his show last night, Chris Hayes mentioned that he couldn’t get any Republicans to come on his show to comment about the Comey memo, nor about Trump revealing classified into to the Russians.

    Sort of to be expected, I guess.

    But you know Republicans are backing down, at least some of them are, when Bret Baier, a Fox News host, says: “We’ve tried [but] there aren’t Republicans willing to go on camera tonight.”

  66. says

    Video of Erodgan’s thugs attacking American protestors can be viewed on Daily Kos.

    Tuesday on D.C.’s “Embassy Row,” protesters gathered to demonstrate against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A pro-Erdogan group showed up and began attacking the protesters. Unbelievably, Erdogan’s security guards joined in the melee and began viciously attacking the protesters. Watch as these thugs attack women, older people, everyone, as the D.C. police try to break it up.

  67. says

    Follow-up to comment 91.

    In the video, you can see DC cops telling Erdogan’s men, “You know better!”

    You an also see DC cops pushing Erdogan’s men back on Embassy grounds.

  68. microraptor says

    Lynna @91:

    How does the law handle that sort of thing? This happened in front of, not inside of the embassy, so it’s considered to be on US soil, right? Since the security guards aren’t diplomats, I’m assuming that they’re not covered under diplomatic immunity (which as I understand it doesn’t actually protect someone from something like felony assault charges in the first place).

  69. says

    More follow-up to comment 91.

    It is utterly incredible two American citizens were arrested and Turkey’s security guards were allowed to viciously attack AMERICAN CITIZENS in Washington, D.C. and what is the response of the Trump White House? Crickets. It is nothing short of outrageous.

    Nine people were taken to the hospital. As far as I know, none of the people hospitalized were Erdogan’s bodyguards.

  70. says

    microraptor @94, I think Erdogan’s bodyguards might also have diplomatic immunity, since they are (sort of) “embassy personnel.” However, they can be detained (not arrested), and the process of expelling them from the country can be started.

    I think Trump or his DOJ might have to start the process of expelling the thugs … so that’s not going to happen.

    DC cops did the right thing in pushing the thugs back onto embassy grounds. I wish more DC cops had been there sooner. Two Kurdish women were thrown to the ground and viciously kicked by Erdogan’s men.

  71. says

    Trump welcomed Erdogan warmly in the Oval Office:

    We’ve had a great relationship and we will make it even better. We look forward to having very strong and solid discussions.

    The video shows Erdogan’s men breaking through a line of DC police separating the two factions of protestors. Both sides threw a lot of punches, but there was no reason for Erdogan’s thugs to join the fray. They escalated the violence.

    In VOA [Voice of America] video, men in suits can be seen kicking the anti-Erdogan protesters who are already on the ground, and at one point, a man in the pro-Erdogan faction stops to stomp on a flag in the Kurdish colors.

    “All of the sudden they just ran towards us,” Yazidi Kurd demonstrator Lucy Usoyan told ABC, saying she was attacked by a pro-Erdogan supporter. “Someone was beating me in the head nonstop, and I thought, ‘Okay, I’m on the ground already, what is the purpose to beat me?’”

    A Facebook video shows many of the protesters wandering around the lawn dazed and bloody afterwards while waiting for an ambulance, which took some of the injured to George Washington Hospital. Two people were arrested, one for assaulting a police officer, according to the Washington police. […]

    Tuesday’s incident isn’t the first time Erdogan’s security detail has displayed an ignorance of civil liberty protections on protesting and free speech while visiting the nation’s capital.

    On a visit last year, Turkish security forces accused human rights protesters of supporting terrorism, and at a speech by Erdogan at the Brookings Institution, they forcibly removed a Kurdish journalist from the scene, kicked another, and threw one on the sidewalk. Inside the event, Erdogan’s detail kicked journalists whose coverage they objected to out of the press pool. Brookings staff repeatedly escorted the journalists back into the room. […]

    In the past year, Erdogan’s government has detained over 110,000 people, and arrested nearly 50,000 academics, judges, military officers, and police.

    Turkey also is now the world’s largest jailer of journalists, with over 130 in jail at the start of 2017. In 2016, Turkey shut down 179 media outlets. […]

    Think Progress link

    Trump should not be meeting with that guy in the Oval Office. Maybe Erdogan and his thugs should not even be allowed into the USA. Trump should do something useful and issue an Erdogan ban.

  72. says

    Andrea Mitchell just asked Leahy about the attack on protesters at the Turkish ambassador’s residence. He said it’s “outrageous” – “We have to stand for something.”

  73. says

    Paul Ryan needs to watch Lester Holt interviewing Trump again (or over and over again, if necessary).

    Less than 24 hours after news of the Comey memo broke thanks to the New York Times, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) dismissed it as “speculation and innuendo” and placed the blame on the people he sees as trying to harm the president, rather than Donald Trump himself.

    “The point is this,” the speaker said when asked about the controversy at a press conference on the Hill Wednesday morning. “We can’t deal with speculation and innuendo. There is a lot of politics being played. Our job is to get the facts and be sober about doing that.”

    This omits the fact that Trump himself admitted he fired Comey in part because of the Russia investigation. In an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt last Thursday, Trump upended two days’ worth of White House statements by admitting that he was thinking about the Russia investigation when he decided to fire Comey: “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.” […]

    “It is obvious there are some people out there who want to harm the president,” he said at the Wednesday press conference. […]

    Link

  74. microraptor says

    Salty Current @98:

    McCain is going to do what he’s always done: say that he’s mildly uncomfortable with the situation, then continue to vote on party lines because actually taking a stand for his alleged principles is way too radical a concept.

  75. says

    Trump International Hotel in Toronto may have been built with Russian funds.

    Last week, lawyers representing President Donald Trump issued a circuitously written letter seeking to minimize the allegations that their client — who, again, is the president of the United States of America — has potentially compromising financial ties to the Russian government.

    This week, the Wall Street Journal reported that the president’s business ties to Russian state institutions go deeper than previously known. The Journal said on Wednesday that the state-run bank Vnesheconombank (VEB) financed an $850 million deal with Russian-Canadian real estate developer Alexander Schnaider — who then funded the construction of a Trump-branded hotel in Toronto.

    […] The letter from Trump’s lawyers would seem not to apply to transactions between Russian state entities and Trump business partners, where the money could indirectly — but decisively — go toward supporting Trump projects. […]

    Trump has previously said he has “NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING” to do with Russia. […]

    Federal and congressional investigators are now scrutinizing financial links between Trump and the Russian government.

    Think Progress link

  76. says

    Fox News hosts are getting really desperate. Lloyd Grove, writing for The Daily Beast presented his take on the twisting, spinning, and inaccurate reporting coming from Fox:

    Down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass, Fox & Friends opened Wednesday’s show with a bracingly novel theory: Former FBI Director James Comey could well be criminally liable for keeping notes on—but not immediately reporting—President Trump’s alleged request to quash the Mike Flynn investigation.

    […] “If you don’t report it immediately, then that’s against the law.” […]

    “By writing a memo, Comey has put himself in a box,” Earhardt recited, quoting Jarrett [Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett, a defense attorney in a former life]. “If he now accuses the president of obstruction, he places himself in legal jeopardy for failing to promptly and properly report it. If he says it was merely an uncomfortable conversation, he clears the president of wrongdoing and sullies his own image as a guy who attempted to smear the man who fired him. Either way, James Comey comes out a loser.” […]

    “There was clearly a leaker in the FBI, who was friends with Comey, and didn’t like the fact that he was fired,” Earhardt added.

    Predictably, Doocy said Comey has probably been memorializing his conversations with government officials over a long career in Washington—so Doocy is, of course, curious to see Comey’s copious notes on the nefarious comments of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and their own attempts to obstruct or escape justice. […]

    Give the friendly Fox News folks credit—they were straining to do their level-best, even if it risked a mental hernia, to put a smiley face on Trump’s latest—as White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders might described it—“atrocity.”

    But even Doocy had to admit that it was “dumb” for the president to raise the subject of the Flynn investigation with the FBI director. And, after running a clip of Trump foreign-policy adviser Sebastian Gorka, the White House’s resident Hungarian fascist, claiming the Comey memo is “no longer fake news, it’s now dishonest news,” Kilmeade acknowledged, “That is a bit of a stretch. This isn’t fake news. That’s real news. Anybody would be reporting that.” […]

    So, yeah, Fox is pushing the theory that Comey is a criminal.

  77. says

    Seth Meyers took a closer look at Trump’s week of scandals.

    The video is 11:53 minutes

    Highlights:

    Trump fired the FBI director to obstruct an investigation into his own campaign

    He then threatened that FBI director with secret tapes

    Trump followed up by leaking highly classified information to the Russians

    We then learned that Trump tried to interfere to shut down an investigation into his former National Security advisor

  78. says

    The Trump/Pence campaign for 2020 is using the obstruction of justice charges against Trump to raise funds:

    You already knew the media was out to get us.

    But sadly it’s not just the fake news… There are people within our own unelected bureaucracy that want to sabotage President Trump and our entire America First movement.

    Steve Bannon was right when he said, “If you think they’re going to give you your country back without a fight, you’re sadly mistaken. Every day is going to be a fight. That is the promise of Donald Trump.” […] [snipped some Drain The Swamp nonsense.]

    Link

  79. says

    Cummings noted this morning that in response to his and Chaffetz’s Oversight requests for Flynn-related documents, the WH has given them “Zilch. Nothing.” He’s mentioned this before. Chaffetz is now hinting around subpoenaing Comey’s memos, but he hasn’t been publicly forthcoming about the stonewalling.

  80. says

    Down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass, Fox & Friends opened Wednesday’s show with a bracingly novel theory: Former FBI Director James Comey could well be criminally liable for keeping notes on—but not immediately reporting—President Trump’s alleged request to quash the Mike Flynn investigation.

    This is stupid on so many levels, but I have an honest question: to whom do they think it would have been reasonable to report it?

  81. says

    Today Trump gave a commencement speech at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Here are some excerpts:

    Look at the way I’ve been treated lately. Especially by the media. No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly. […]

    Over the course of your life, you will find that things are not always fair. You will find that things happen to you that you do not deserve and that are not always warranted. […]

    [I have] accomplished a tremendous amount in a very short time.

    […] As you leave this academy to embark on your exciting new voyage. I am heading on a very crucial journey, as well. In a few days, I will make my first trip abroad as President. […]

    Things will work out just fine. Great honor. Good luck. Enjoy your life.

    Link. Video of the event is also available at the link.

  82. says

    “Gay Russians Are Trying To Flee Kidnapping And Torture. The US Has Denied Them Visas.”:

    The United States has declined visas to gay Chechens fleeing a wave of kidnappings, torture, and disappearances in the semi-autonomous Russian region, according to the organization Russia LGBT Network.

    A group of around 40 Chechens are now in hiding in other parts of Russia, Russia LGBT Network spokesperson Svetlana Zakharova told BuzzFeed News, and are having difficulty securing visas that would allow them to flee the country.

    Since the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta first reported the abuse of dozens of gay Chechens in April, just two have managed to secure visas to safe countries despite the European Union and the United States expressing concern about the allegations, Zakharova said. A handful of gay Chechens have fled without visas because they believed the danger of staying in Russia was too great.

    Zakharova told BuzzFeed News that “negotiations have been difficult” with representatives of countries that could provide safe refuge for survivors of the violence. She would not name the countries the organization was still trying to secure visas from because this could put any Chechens whose applications ultimately succeeded in danger, but she said in an email to BuzzFeed News on Tuesday that “we were informed that the US is not going to issue visas for people from Chechnya.”

    The US State Department called on Russian authorities to investigate the allegations after they were first reported, including a statement from the US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who said, “If true, this violation of human rights cannot be ignored.”…

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

    From Lynna @ 114,

    No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly.

    Et tu, Comey?

  84. says

    What a Maroon @120, JFK was shot. That’s worse treatment.

    Other examples of bad treatment can be cited. Trump is a whining toddler.

    And then there’s the point that Trump prompts almost all of the negative feedback with his own actions or words. He shoots himself in the foot, or speaks out of his ass, etc. and then he blames someone else.

  85. says

    Bad, bad news. Ramping up the deportation force? Yikes. Arming ICE deportation officers with M-4 rifles? (They already have handguns and stun guns.) Yikes.

    House Republicans are moving forward this week with an attempt to make President Donald Trump’s promised “deportation force” even bigger and, potentially, more heavily armed.

    The House Judiciary Committee is set to mark up multiple immigration bills on Thursday, including one from committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) that would facilitate mass deportations. Borrowing from past legislation to bolster Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the bill would require Immigration and Customs Enforcement deportation officers to have access to not just standard-issue handguns and stun guns, but also M-4 rifles or equivalents.

    The little-noticed legislation is one of four immigration-related bills that the Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider, two of them specifically focused on ICE, the third on U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the fourth on human trafficking. If passed, they would give the Trump administration more resources to deport immigrants and make it easier to do so.

    “As a package, the House Judiciary bills would turbocharge Trump’s mass deportation agenda,” Frank Sharry, head of pro-immigration group America’s Voice, said in an email. “It seems Goodlatte and fellow Republicans want to go down in history as the Congress that aided and abetted one of America’s darkest chapters.”

    Goodlatte’s ICE authorization bill would add 10,000 officers focused on deportation, 2,500 in detention, and 60 trial attorneys. It would authorize officers to make arrests without a warrant if they had reasonable grounds to believe the person had committed a felony, and would allow ICE to arrest people for civil offenses without a warrant, even if they are not considered “likely to escape before a warrant can be obtained,” which is the case under current law. […]

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/immigration-bill-republicans_us_591b4563e4b05dd15f0bf674

  86. says

    Republicans are trotting out ridiculous excuses to explain away or excuse Trump’s pressuring of Comey to let Flynn off the hook:

    […] “Having spent time on Air Force One with the president, I can say that he jokes a lot,” Rep. James Comer (R-KY), a member of the House Oversight Committee, told reports. “Sometimes when you say a joke, everybody gets a joke. But when you write it on paper, it sounds very different.” […]

    “The important thing to remember [about Trump] is that he’s not a polished politician who speaks in talking points,” he said. “He’s a normal person, and that’s why he won the election. People voted for him because they were sick and tired of politicians and political speak. This is a guy who doesn’t measure everything he says.” […]

    “[…] It’s right in line with the Indivisible playbook of keeping Congress and the White House diverted into other issues so that we can’t get to the things we promised to do,” Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) said. […]

    Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) similarly would not name who exactly he believes is working against Trump, saying only: “It’s pretty clear there are a lot of people who want to see the president distracted. They want to see him not focused on his job.”

    Aderholt says he sees no need for Comey to testify on Capitol Hill nor a reason to appoint a special prosecutor. […]

    “I’m sure we’re going to want to hear from Mr. Comey about why, if this happened as he allegedly describes, why didn’t he take action at the time,” [Paul] Ryan said Wednesday.

    Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) echoed the idea that Comey should have resigned as soon as he witnessed anything unethical, questioning why he waited until he was fired to begin releasing damaging information.

    “The timing is interesting to me that Comey was released from his position days before this comes out,” Loudermilk said. “Is this sour grapes or is there something to it?” […]

    “It’s being made a bigger deal than what it is,” he said. “If it’s not this, something else will come up, and if nothing else comes up, everybody will go back to ‘he needs to release his tax records.’” […]

    “It doesn’t sound like a threat to me when you say, ‘I hope something happens,’” he said. “Any legal scholar out there would tell you that is clearly not obstruction of justice.” […]

    “We have some major leaks that are threatening our national security,” he said. “That’s what the story ought to be, not something the president may have said in some private meeting. The real issue we have is that we have leaks that in my opinion could be considered treason right now.”

    This line from Republicans in particularly chilling in light of reports that Trump instructed Comey in that fateful February meeting to “consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information.” […]

    Link

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

    Lynna @ 121,

    Yeah, that’s pretty much my point–Caesar had it worse, too. Though neither of them had anything on James Garfield.

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

    From Lynna’s quote @123

    “Having spent time on Air Force One with the president, I can say that he jokes a lot,” Rep. James Comer (R-KY), a member of the House Oversight Committee, told reports. “Sometimes when you say a joke, everybody gets a joke. But when you write it on paper, it sounds very different.”

    Hmmmm. It was just a joke. Where have we heard that before? Oh, right. Rape threats, murder threats, job threats, yadda, yadda, yadda.

    Hmmmm. Isn’t there a phrase that we have used around these parts? Oh, right. INTENT DOESN’T MATTER, YOU INSUFFERABLE FUCKWIT TRAITORS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    By the by, Lynna, how do you keep up with this?

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

    What a Maroon @127:

    Yeah, that’s pretty much my point–Caesar had it worse, too. Though neither of them had anything on James Garfield.

    Even if you leave out assassinations, I would put the press coverage of Lincoln up against anything that Trump imagines and, once again, Trump would look like a crybaby.

    Not to mention unPresidential. Celebrating the graduation of new officers at the Coast Guard Academy by making it all about Trump. Pathetic.

  90. says

    Ogvorbis @126:

    By the by, Lynna, how do you keep up with this?

    Yeah, about that. I don’t really keep up. Lots of stuff slips by me. I depend on other commenters to take up the slack. I’ve developed a few shortcuts to find reliable coverage, but really I’m in the same boat as some other commentators. Trump fucks up so often that no one can even type that fast. Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo is hiring more people. (Part of Trump’s full employment program, no doubt.)

    What a Maroon @125, I got the Caesar reference. I wonder if Caesar whined as much as Trump does? Two of a kind maybe? Reagan was also shot. Lincoln was mercilessly maligned, as Ogvorbis noted. Trump spent years dissing President Obama and questioning where Obama was born. Now that was unfair.

    In other news, Sheriff David Clarke is getting a promotion from Trump:

    Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. will leave office next month to accept a federal appointment as an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

    He will work in the department’s Office of Partnership and Engagement as a liaison with state, local and tribal law enforcement and governments. “I’m looking forward to joining that team,” Clarke said Thursday afternoon […]

    Milwaukee Journal Sentinal

    Clarke is the dunderhead that runs a jail in Milwaukee that refused water for a mentally ill inmate for days. The inmate died of dehydration. Washington Post link

    Clarke’s new job does not require Senate confirmation.

    More highlights from Clarke’s not-so-illustrious career:

    The Wisconsin sheriff became a conservative icon after making a string of wild and outlandish statements. He aligned himself with Trump and made regular appearances on Fox News, further elevating his platform.

    Clarke has “compared Beyonce to a Ku Klux Klan member, called for the Great Seal of the United States to feature a semi-automatic rifle, and repeatedly demanded a literal uprising against the government in protest of President Obama’s gun violence proposals, potential election rigging and marriage equality.” He once tweeted that anti-Trump protests “must be quelled.”

    Right Wing Watch link

    Clarke compared Obama to Hitler, and compared members of Black Lives Matter to ISIS.

  91. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Dang, it’s getting so that I just can’t stand some of the clueless rethugs on panels on MSNBC. A Texas Senator on MTP Daily just showed he couldn’t be non-partisan, and any “rethug” like Trump would get a free pass, but Hillary Clinton was the devil incarnate.
    Why bother with such idiotology?

  92. says

    Nerd @129, I’m not sure what’s happening with MSNBC, but there are more and more clueless (or partially clueless) rightwing commentators, and the network is hiring more rightwing hosts.

    In other news, the ACLU is looking for ways to resist Jeff Session’s version of the Department of (In)Justice:

    […] Scene 1 of the ACLU’s new localized plan, called the Smart Justice campaign, which was hatched back in October. [Udi Ofer], the campaign’s director, calls the strategy Ten-Ten-Ten: A three-year nationwide push for 10 new lawsuits, 10 new state laws, and victories in 10 key district attorney races—a local pincer attack against the nation’s incarceration rate. Ofer says his team hopes to cut that rate one day by 50 percent.

    To many, it’s not at all obvious why the ACLU should target local races, rather than use its precious money to challenge Sessions head-on—a stark imperative when your organization’s raison d’etre is to sue the Justice Department. But the Sessions DOJ, Ofer explains, isn’t as powerful as it seems. “Ninety percent of incarcerated populations are in state prisons or in local jails,” Ofer says—the reason why Obama-era clemency policies barely made a dent in the number of incarcerated Americans. “It’s a state-based problem, and it’s a problem that needs to be resolved by the states.” […]

    Politico link

  93. says

    Trump is selling his estate in the Caribbean, and since the price he is asking is above market value I’m wondering about money laundering:

    Le Chateau des Palmiers, which President Trump described as “one of the greatest mansions in the world” when he bought it in 2013, was quietly listed for sale last month on the website of Sotheby’s International Realty, whose St. Martin office noted coyly in an Instagram post, “It’s huuuuuge!” The price, according to a person familiar with the listing: $28 million.

    The effort to sell the high-priced estate in the midst of Trump’s tenure could present a similar ethical problem to the one his lawyer cited in defending his decision not to sell off his company after the election: that a buyer could overpay as a way to gain currency with the president.

    If the estate is sold, the public probably would learn little, if anything, about who has purchased it.

    […] Four St. Martin real estate agents told The Washington Post that the $28 million price tag far outstrips the amount that sellers are getting for the most exclusive properties on the Caribbean island, where the market is still rebounding from the 2008 banking crisis.[…]

    The quoted text is from the Washington Post.

  94. says

    […] Between Jan. 22 and April 29, ICE arrested 10,845 people whose immigration violations were the only marks on their record. That’s nearly triple the 4,242 people arrested during the same time period in President Barack Obama’s final year in office.

    Of all the people arrested by ICE this year, nearly 75% had a criminal record. In Obama’s final year in office, 92% of people arrested by ICE in the country had a criminal record. […]

    USA Today link

    ICE is arresting people who are not “bad hombres.”

  95. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Lynna @132, who are the people who are supposed to be taking the new low paying jobs the Trump still fictional stimulus package is predicted to employ? Trump delusionally thinks I’m unemployed, searching for work.
    *Checks IRA balance*.
    Nope, no way I would take minimum wage job….

  96. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 133.

    Politico link

    The Justice Department is appointing a special prosecutor to investigate Russia’s alleged involvement in the 2016 presidential election.

    Meeting the demands of Democratic lawmakers, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein named former FBI Director Robert Mueller to oversee the probe.

    “Based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command,” Rosenstein said in a statement. “A special counsel is necessary in order for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome. Our nation is grounded on the rule of law, and the Public must be assured that government officials administer the law fairly.”

    White House spokespeople have said they view the appointment of a special counsel as unnecessary.

    Rosenstein made the decision as acting attorney general after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the matter due to his role in the Trump campaign.

    Mueller has agreed to resign from his private law firm, Wilmer Hale, to pursue the probe, the Justice Department said. […]

  97. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    SC #136
    Katy Tur (I think) ended MTP Daily with the duck ramp, and puns thereon. Loved it.

  98. says

    I am so frigin ecstatic over Muller I can hardly contain myself at work. I work around a bunch of 20 somethings who like Trump. I put the kibosh on political talk in my row of cubicles when they were all celebrating the day after the election, made it clear it would become an HR issue if it didn’t stop, so since then, no political talk… but now I can’t scream how excited I am!

    This means the GOP, the WH and Sessions can no longer conspire to slow down or otherwise obstruct the investigation, and they will get the resources they need! It also effectively makes a lame duck out of Trump, who will get nothing done legislatively.

    I know more than a few GOP sens and reps are soiling their expensive suits right now.

  99. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    SC #138, looks like Rosenstein’s revenge after being played by Trump. Integrity restored (for the moment).

  100. says

    Joe Lieberman’s firm has done a lot of work for Trump. He introduced Betsy DeVos at her Senate confirmation hearing. He also wrote a letter of support for Jeff Sessions for his Senate confirmation.

  101. says

    addon to 140 – it also renders the house and senate committees investigations as redundant and makes the possibility of impeachment much more likely.

  102. says

    In other breaking news

    KIEV, Ukraine — A month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, one of his closest allies in Congress — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on Capitol Hill with his fellow GOP leaders: that Trump could be the beneficiary of payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, according to a recording of the June 15, 2016 exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a Californian Republican known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia.

    House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) immediately interjected, stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy’s assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy….

  103. says

    it also renders the house and senate committees investigations as redundant

    I think it’s a focused law enforcement investigation, while those have a different broader remit.

  104. says

    [sigh] WTF is this about? An “Arab NATO”?

    President Donald Trump will be unveiling plans for a new “Arab NATO” during his trip to Saudi Arabia later this week, according to a Wednesday report from the Washington Post […]

    discussions about creating an Arab military alliance have taken place between the Trump administration and the Saudi government since Trump’s victory last November. Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and White House senior adviser and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner have been leading the discussions.

    What could go wrong?

    A main objective of the Trump administration, the Washington Post reported, is “to put forth a framework and basic principles for a unified Sunni coalition of countries, which would set the stage for a more formal NATO-like organizational structure down the line.” White House officials said the organization will “guide the fight against terrorism and push back against Iran,” but did not elaborate further. […]

    Initial countries that will participate, according to the Post, could include the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan. But “a unified Sunni coalition” could leave out Arab countries like Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, or even Yemen.

    Alex Vatanka, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, told ThinkProgress he had concerns about who the member countries would be […]

    “There’s nothing wrong with the idea of more military interaction among Muslim states, or in this case Arab states, that’s to be applauded,” Vatanka said. “Any kind of integration designed to counter something as threatening as the menace of terrorism, should be applauded, but those of us who are analysts have to step back and say, how plausible is it?”

    Vatanka pointed to differences between the UAE and Saudi Arabia that could come between them in such an alliance, for example. […]

    In addition to the creation of an “Arab NATO,” the Trump administration is currently planning the largest arms sales in U.S. history ahead of his trip to Saudi Arabia on Friday. A series of arms deals for Saudi Arabia worth more than $100 billion is near completion, a senior White House official told Reuters last week. The final details are still unclear, but the total deal could be worth more than $300 billion over the next ten years.

    Think Progress link

  105. says

    @146 – True, but they aren’t going to find out anything that Mueller can’t with true subpoena and prosecutorial authority. They will best be left to discussing the Russian interference and what we can do in the future to stop it, which will largely be a political fight, but they can leave the criminal aspect alone for now and let Mueller do his job.

    So when I said redundant, I meant in the context of prosecuting Trump and his cadre of miscreants, including very possibly some rather big names in the Senate and House, if the news breaking in your 145 is anything to go by.

    That’s dangerously close to a conspiracy to cover up a crime.

  106. says

    Bad news for Baylor, a Christian university:

    The bottom just keeps falling at Baylor University.

    On Tuesday night, the Christian university was served with its seventh Title IX lawsuit. This one was filed by a former volleyball player, “Jane Doe,” who accuses more than a half dozen football players of drugging her and taking turns raping her in 2012.

    Following the alleged gang rape at an off-campus apartment, Doe recalls the players yelling, “Grab her phone! Delete my numbers and texts!” And according to her lawsuit, this wasn’t an isolated incident. The suit alleges that the football team systematically hazed freshmen recruits by asking them to run “trains” on freshmen girls at their parties — in other words, inviting girls to parties in order to drug and gang rape them.

    Between 2011 and 2014, there were at least 52 alleged acts of rape, including five gang rapes, by at least 31 different football players. Two of those involved 10 or more players, and some of them were recorded.
    The football program makes up less than one percent of Baylor’s student population, and yet a former Title IX investigator at the school said it was responsible for nearly one-third of her sexual assault cases. […]

    Doe says that football players used gang rapes as “bonding” rituals, and that photos and videos of semi-conscious girls being gang raped were often circulated among the players. Along with gang rape, dog fighting was prevalent at parties hosted by Baylor football players, she alleges. […]

    https://thinkprogress.org/new-title-ix-suit-alleges-brutal-gang-rapes-and-dog-fighting-at-baylor-football-parties-e82e15880dd0

  107. says

    McMullin verifies: “Evan McMullin, who in his role as policy director to the House Republican Conference participated in the June 15 conversation, said: ‘It’s true that Majority Leader McCarthy said that he thought candidate Trump was on the Kremlin’s payroll. Speaker Ryan was concerned about that leaking’.”

    Some of the others denied it until they learned WaPo had the recording. I somewhat suspect Rick Wilson had a hand in this….

  108. says

    From Josh Marshall:

    Yesterday afternoon I was going to write this post about expanding our muckraking team here at TPM. Then we had the second afternoon in a row when a shattering blockbuster news story broke right at the end of the day turning everything upside down and scrambling my plans.

    Which is to say that President Trump is managing to be corrupt faster than I can hire people to cover his corruption, which is both impressive and daunting.

    So here goes. We are hiring reporters in both our DC and New York offices. These are investigative reporting positions. But I prefer to think of them as muckraking jobs. Because digging into big scandals and stories about corruption and abuses of the public trust, sometimes unseen and unexplored is what our history is as a site and what I love to be a part of. If you’re interested, please see the job listing after the jump. […]

  109. says

    True, but they aren’t going to find out anything that Mueller can’t with true subpoena and prosecutorial authority. They will best be left to discussing the Russian interference and what we can do in the future to stop it, which will largely be a political fight, but they can leave the criminal aspect alone for now and let Mueller do his job.

    I disagree. Of course, the matter of the interference is extremely important in and of itself and reason for them to continue. Also, different investigators can avoid the problem of tunnel vision and take up different leads. They could never have brought criminal charges regardless, but they can follow unique lines of investigation. It’s great that we don’t have to rely on them, though.

  110. says

    NBC: “Flynn, Manafort Are Key Figures In Russia Probe Mueller Will Lead.”

    Former Trump aides Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort have emerged as key figures in the FBI’s investigation into Russian campaign interference, which has just been taken over by a special counsel, four law enforcement officials told NBC News.

    Officials say multiple grand jury subpoenas and records requests have been issued in connection with the two men during the past six months in the ongoing probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian attempts to influence the election, an inquiry that will now be overseen by former FBI Director Robert Mueller.

    The FBI, with the help of the Treasury Department, the CIA and other agencies, is examining evidence of possible contacts, money transfers and business relationships between a variety of Trump associates and Russian officials, the sources say. The investigation goes well beyond Flynn, Manafort and a possible American connection, to include how Russian intelligence services carried out the campaign of fake news and leaking hacked emails that intelligence officials say was meant to hurt Hillary Clinton and benefit Donald Trump….

    Maddow should be interesting tonight.

  111. says

    SC – My point is that because the GOP controls both and was refusing to use subpoena power or allocate adequate resources, they were failing as investigative bodies from a criminal standpoint. I would agree with you if they were truly bipartisan but we both know they were not, so IMHO, in light of that, from a criminal standpoint they are as good as useless at this point, unless the GOPs running them start taking it seriously.

    In other news… This twitter thread by Abramson is very illuminating:
    https://twitter.com/SethAbramson/status/864973824768585728

  112. says

    SC – My point is that because the GOP controls both and was refusing to use subpoena power or allocate adequate resources, they were failing as investigative bodies from a criminal standpoint. I would agree with you if they were truly bipartisan but we both know they were not, so IMHO, in light of that, from a criminal standpoint they are as good as useless at this point, unless the GOPs running them start taking it seriously.

    But they were never supposed to take over law enforcement/prosecutorial functions, and the FBI/DoJ always could, so this doesn’t make them redundant. It just means everyone is far less reliant on them to get at the facts, but that alone is wonderful. Even better would be this plus a select committee, but I want the committees to continue their work, problematic as it’s been.

  113. says

    Josh Marshall:

    …It is critical to understand that the most important details we need to know about the Russian disruption campaign and the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with it may not be crimes. Indeed, I would say that the crimes we’re likely to discover will likely be incidental or secondary to the broader actions and activities we’re trying to uncover. Just hypothetically, what if Russia had a disruption campaign, Trump campaign officials gave winks and nods to nudge it forward but violated no laws? That’s hard to figure but by no means impossible. (Our criminal laws are not really designed for this set of facts.) The simple point is that the most important ‘bad acts’ may well not be crimes. That means not only is no one punished but far, far more important, we would never know what happened.

    People who committed crimes should be punished. Unquestionably. But the truest and deepest national interest is that the whole story be thoroughly investigated and the full story get a public airing. That is far more important to the health of the Republic and its safety than whether particular individuals spend time in prison. Again, it’s not either/or. But one is far more important than the other. A counter-intelligence probe or even a criminal investigation could wind up and the details and findings never be known. That can’t be allowed to happen. We need a fully empowered commission charged not with investigating and prosecuting criminal conduct but ascertaining, as far as possible, what happened and then bringing that information before the public.

    That’s critical. This is an important step. Great that it happened. But the country can’t get past this without that full accounting.

  114. says

    (I don’t think I agree with Marshall that “the crimes we’re likely to discover will likely be incidental or secondary to the broader actions and activities we’re trying to uncover.” I definitely think, given the histories and character of the people involved and just what’s emerged publicly so far, that there were serious crimes directly related to collaboration with the election interference. Whether evidence necessary to bring them to trial can/will be discovered is another question, but it’s certainly possible.)

  115. says

    CNN is reporting – based on one Republican source – that now with the special counsel appointed Comey probably won’t testify, and that Rosenstein has been furious with the WH.

  116. says

    SC @164, as for Flynn delaying the plan to take Raqqa back: all during that delay civilians in that city were suffering and dying.

  117. snuffcurry says

    Regarding the ongoing exchange between SC and erikthebassist about Mueller’s brief, it does, in fact, appear that that the FBI investigation under his counsel will remain deeper and broader, if not different, than those of both House and Senate committees. Rosenstein’s directive identifies that brief as encompassing:

    (i) any links an or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and
    (ii) any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation; and
    (iii) any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a).

    (ii) is crucial and (iii) cites a section from the Code of Regulations that defines the role of a Special Counsel as including

    the authority to investigate and prosecute federal crimes committed in the course of, and with intent to interfere with, the Special Counsel’s investigation, such as perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and intimidation of witnesses; and to conduct appeals arising out of the matter being investigated and/or prosecuted.

    Whether Mueller is entitled to investigate obstruction that took place prior to his appointment is not explicit.

    It does remain that Special Counsel is not independent from DoJ influence as a Special Prosecutor would be, and that Mueller is not obligated or, indeed, vested with the authority, at the end of the day, to disclose anything the investigation uncovers that isn’t prosecutable as a federal offense. All three investigations are going to be necessary and this Lawfare post explains how each differ from the other and why an independent commission is also needed.

    However, what Marshall says (“the crimes we’re likely to discover will likely be incidental or secondary to the broader actions and activities we’re trying to uncover”) is absolutely true. Direct collusion with sufficient evidence suggesting intent is going to be very hard to prove. Financial entanglements and breaches or violations of policy regarding the protection and dissemination of intelligence (pre- and post-election through inauguration) + heaps of perjury is our best bet at striking Trump and Co’s Achilles’sHeelCapone’s Tax Fraud.

    As this thread at LGM reminds us, Whitewater is another such precedent, with an admittedly different outcome.

  118. tomh says

    @ #168
    “It does remain that Special Counsel is not independent from DoJ influence as a Special Prosecutor would be”

    Special prosecutors don’t exist anymore. That title was established by law after Watergate, and allowed to expire in 1999. The Justice Department kept the concept alive, by regulation, in the form of special counsel.

  119. says

    Regarding the ongoing exchange between SC and erikthebassist about Mueller’s brief, it does, in fact, appear that that the FBI investigation under his counsel will remain deeper and broader, if not different, than those of both House and Senate committees.

    I suppose it depends on what is meant by breadth here. As the Democrats on the committees have been pointing out, the FBI investigation has far more capabilities than they do, and they need it to continue independently in order to carry out their own work. On the other hand, its work isn’t public and, to the extent that prosecutions don’t result, its findings, even if serious, might not be made public. In contrast, congressional investigations can call witnesses for public hearings (and we’ve learned a lot through those already) and produce public reports. And of course they’re capable of addressing the issue of what to do about continuing/future Russian (or other) interference in US elections, which the FBI doesn’t cover (though their findings can contribute).

    However, what Marshall says (“the crimes we’re likely to discover will likely be incidental or secondary to the broader actions and activities we’re trying to uncover”) is absolutely true. Direct collusion with sufficient evidence suggesting intent is going to be very hard to prove. Financial entanglements and breaches or violations of policy regarding the protection and dissemination of intelligence (pre- and post-election through inauguration) + heaps of perjury is our best bet at striking Trump and Co’s Achilles’sHeelCapone’s Tax Fraud.

    I still disagree. I would agree that the crimes more likely to be discovered – and which perhaps have already been discovered – aren’t direct collaboration. But in my view people are far too hesitant, given what’s publicly known to date, to acknowledge that there’s a distinct possibility that evidence of direct collusion/collaboration can be found. Sometimes people appear to think it didn’t happen, and sometimes they appear to believe that it would be close to impossible to find.

    I question both of those assumptions. I’ve believed for several months – since before the election – that there was collaboration of some sort, and what’s been learned since has made me even more suspicious. Trump is, as I said during the campaign, corrupt to the core of his being, and some of his associates have been sleazy political operators for decades. Trump is also arrogant and sloppy in the best of times, and for several months now has believed he’s above the law and out of anyone’s reach and so been even more unconstrained than usual. It could be that there wasn’t direct collusion, and it could happen that even if there was, and even with the leverage of serious charges for other crimes, the FBI can’t produce sufficient evidence to charge any of them on anything directly related to collaboration. Totally possible. But in my view people are too willing to assume it.

    (People keep saying there’s “no evidence” of collusion, but I think the story that’s come out about Flynn even so far is evidence. The former Acting AG said in a public hearing, under oath, that she believed Flynn’s behavior with respect to the Russian ambassador was possibly criminal. How is that not evidence? Trump’s and his team’s behavior both before and after her warnings about this behavior and Flynn’s exposure to blackmail is evidence. They made him NSA despite news reports about his being an unregistered foreign agent, warnings from Obama and members of their own transition team, letters from Flynn’s lawyers, and a letter from Elijah Cummings. They hired him after he informed them himself that he was under federal investigation. They deliberately avoided a real vetting process. They didn’t act on Yates’s urgent warning, and fired her. They told a series of contradictory and implausible lies to the public about Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak. They sabotaged the House Intel investigation just before Yates was scheduled to testify, and the people who were directly involved with Nunes’ midnight run are still in their WH jobs and haven’t apparently been disciplined. Trump pressured Comey to drop the investigation of Flynn, ultimately fired Comey, and lied about the reason for the firing. None of this, particularly taken on its own, is conclusive, but it is evidence.

    And just generally, circumstantial evidence is, well, evidence. And Adam Schiff said several weeks ago that there’s “more than circumstantial evidence.” I don’t understand where this “no evidence” refrain, or the idea that only a smoking gun is real evidence, is coming from, even aside from this.)

  120. says

    Catastrophic blockquote fail – sorry!

    Regarding the ongoing exchange between SC and erikthebassist about Mueller’s brief, it does, in fact, appear that that the FBI investigation under his counsel will remain deeper and broader, if not different, than those of both House and Senate committees.

    I suppose it depends on what is meant by breadth here. As the Democrats on the committees have been pointing out, the FBI investigation has far more capabilities than they do, and they need it to continue independently in order to carry out their own work. On the other hand, its work isn’t public and, to the extent that prosecutions don’t result, its findings, even if serious, might not be made public. In contrast, congressional investigations can call witnesses for public hearings (and we’ve learned a lot through those already) and produce public reports. And of course they’re capable of addressing the issue of what to do about continuing/future Russian (or other) interference in US elections, which the FBI doesn’t cover (though their findings can contribute).

    However, what Marshall says (“the crimes we’re likely to discover will likely be incidental or secondary to the broader actions and activities we’re trying to uncover”) is absolutely true. Direct collusion with sufficient evidence suggesting intent is going to be very hard to prove. Financial entanglements and breaches or violations of policy regarding the protection and dissemination of intelligence (pre- and post-election through inauguration) + heaps of perjury is our best bet at striking Trump and Co’s Achilles’sHeelCapone’s Tax Fraud.

    I still disagree. I would agree that the crimes more likely to be discovered – and which perhaps have already been discovered – aren’t direct collaboration. But in my view people are far too hesitant, given what’s publicly known to date, to acknowledge that there’s a distinct possibility that evidence of direct collusion/collaboration can be found. Sometimes people appear to think it didn’t happen, and sometimes they appear to believe that it would be close to impossible to find.

    I question both of those assumptions. I’ve believed for several months – since before the election – that there was collaboration of some sort, and what’s been learned since has made me even more suspicious. Trump is, as I said during the campaign, corrupt to the core of his being, and some of his associates have been sleazy political operators for decades. Trump is also arrogant and sloppy in the best of times, and for several months now has believed he’s above the law and out of anyone’s reach and so been even more unconstrained than usual. It could be that there wasn’t direct collusion, and it could happen that even if there was, and even with the leverage of serious charges for other crimes, the FBI can’t produce sufficient evidence to charge any of them on anything directly related to collaboration. Totally possible. But in my view people are too willing to assume it.

    (People keep saying there’s “no evidence” of collusion, but I think the story that’s come out about Flynn even so far is evidence. The former Acting AG said in a public hearing, under oath, that she believed Flynn’s behavior with respect to the Russian ambassador was possibly criminal. How is that not evidence? Trump’s and his team’s behavior both before and after her warnings about this behavior and Flynn’s exposure to blackmail is evidence. They made him NSA despite news reports about his being an unregistered foreign agent, warnings from Obama and members of their own transition team, letters from Flynn’s lawyers, and a letter from Elijah Cummings. They hired him after he informed them himself that he was under federal investigation. They deliberately avoided a real vetting process. They didn’t act on Yates’s urgent warning, and fired her. They told a series of contradictory and implausible lies to the public about Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak. They sabotaged the House Intel investigation just before Yates was scheduled to testify, and the people who were directly involved with Nunes’ midnight run are still in their WH jobs and haven’t apparently been disciplined. Trump pressured Comey to drop the investigation of Flynn, ultimately fired Comey, and lied about the reason for the firing. None of this, particularly taken on its own, is conclusive, but it is evidence.

    And just generally, circumstantial evidence is, well, evidence. And Adam Schiff said several weeks ago that there’s “more than circumstantial evidence.” I don’t understand where this “no evidence” refrain, or the idea that only a smoking gun is real evidence, is coming from, even aside from this.)

  121. says

    Trump tweeting this morning:

    “With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special counsel appointed!”*

    “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”

    * He originally misspelled it as “councel,” which it took him two hours to correct.

  122. says

    More on Trump and Flynn:

    Late last month, fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn—under investigation by federal prosecutors, with his lawyer seeking immunity for him to testify to Congress–met with a small group of loyalists at a restaurant in the northern Virginia suburbs.

    Saddled with steep legal bills, Flynn wanted to reconnect with old friends and talk about potential future business opportunities. But one overriding question among those present were his views on the president who had fired him as national security advisor.

    Flynn left little doubt about the answer. Not only did he remain loyal to President Trump, he indicated he and the president were still in communication. “I just got a message from the president to stay strong,” Flynn said after the meal was over, according to two sources who are close to Flynn and are familiar with the conversation, which took place on April 25.

    The sources who spoke to Yahoo News say Flynn did not indicate how Trump had sent the message—whether a written note, a text message, a phone call or some other method. (The White House did not respond to a request for comment.) But the fact that the two men have stayed in contact could raise additional questions about the president’s reported request to former FBI Director James Comey to shut down a federal investigation into the retired Army general….

  123. says

    Hope this is true – that’s only about six weeks:

    Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is expected to announce Thursday that he is resigning before the end of this congressional term, according to three sources familiar with his plans.

    Chaffetz did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday evening or Thursday morning. Multiple sources say he will leave Congress on June 30….

  124. says

    SC @172, Trump can throw Twitter fits all he likes. (Just making himself look more unfit to be president … if that’s possible.) More facts are surfacing that prove him wrong. “Trump campaign had at least 18 undisclosed contacts with Russians”:

    Michael Flynn and other advisers to Donald Trump’s campaign were in contact with Russian officials and others with Kremlin ties in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race, current and former U.S. officials familiar with the exchanges told Reuters.

    The previously undisclosed interactions form part of the record now being reviewed by FBI and congressional investigators probing Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election and contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

    Six of the previously undisclosed contacts described to Reuters were phone calls between Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, and Trump advisers, including Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, three current and former officials said.

    Conversations between Flynn and Kislyak accelerated after the Nov. 8 vote as the two discussed establishing a back channel for communication between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin that could bypass the U.S. national security bureaucracy, which both sides considered hostile to improved relations, four current U.S. officials said.

    In January, the Trump White House initially denied any contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign. The White House and advisers to the campaign have since confirmed four meetings between Kislyak and Trump advisers during that time.

    The people who described the contacts to Reuters said they had seen no evidence of wrongdoing or collusion between the campaign and Russia in the communications reviewed so far. But the disclosure could increase the pressure on Trump and his aides to provide the FBI and Congress with a full account of interactions with Russian officials and others with links to the Kremlin during and immediately after the 2016 election. […]

    Reuters link

  125. says

    SC @178, Chaffetz better run away from Congress before he gets himself into more trouble. He just said, “I question” whether the Comey memos are “actually there.” So Chaffetz is floating the idea that the Comey memos may not exist? It’s like he is determined to bury himself in Trump-related sludge before he slithers over to Fox News.

    […] “I do think in the light of day in a public setting he should be able to tell us about not only the materials, if they’re there, and I question whether or not they’re actually there, but if they’re there, and then how did he take them?” Chaffetz told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

    “Why do you question that?” Stephanopoulos asked.

    “Well, nobody’s seen them,” Chaffetz said. “Even the reporter that did the story hasn’t seen them. Nobody I know of, even the reporter, has not [sic] actually seen these documents.” […]

    The House Oversight Committee chairman told Stephanopoulos that “I don’t know that a special counsel was warranted at this point. I have not seen the direct, full evidence of an actual crime.”

    He went further speaking to Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Wednesday night.

    “I don’t think they should have actually appointed somebody,” Chaffetz said.

    “I have not seen any evidence of actual collusion. Where is the actual crime that they think they need a special prosecutor to prosecute?” he added. “I haven’t seen that. There’s been a lot of flailing, but that flailing started before Jan. 20.” […]

    Link

  126. says

    Maddow was great as usual last night, but this particular segment is required watching for anyone interested in the nuts and bolts of what the special counsel can and can’t do and the various legal issues surrounding this.

    After watching that complete episode, I’d like to offer a reassessment of my earlier comments regarding the “redundancy” of the house and senate investigations. I never said they shouldn’t continue their work, only that they should leave the criminal aspect to Mueller and concentrate on the political aspects, such as defining what Russia did, with whose help and ways to combat it going forward.

    I still believe, as snuffcurry confirms in 168, that the Mueller investigation will have much more power to get to the bottom of this and that the congressional investigations are somewhat hobbled by GOP partisans, however, knowing that Trump actually has the power to fire Mueller, I now think that it is imperative that the house and senate investigations run as concurrently as possible in the event that Trump goes nuclear.

  127. says

    It’s Congress that can impose additional sanctions on Russia if their investigations find more evidence of Russian interference in U.S. elections.

    In other news, Josh Marshall, discussed Flynn’s lobbying work on behalf of Turkey:

    […] Let’s deal first with killing the anti-ISIS operation with Kurdish forces. This is incredibly serious. We’ve known that Flynn was taking hundreds of thousands of dollars during the campaign to lobby on behalf of Turkey. But Turkey is a longtime US ally and member of NATO. While that’s obviously bad, it wasn’t clear what the concrete negative or illicit effect was. […] Here though Flynn’s Turkish lobbying seems arguably to have had a very, very concrete effect, one it could only have had if President Trump had put him in a position of unique power after knowing he was being investigated over that Turkish money.

    It’s beyond the scope of this post to weigh the relative merits of this particular anti-ISIS plan. But it seems like it was the consensus position within the US national security bureaucracy to go ahead with it. Flynn vetoed it. Flynn’s decision clearly mimicked the Turkish position […] Flynn was being paid huge sums of money to advance their interests. […]

    Every decision in the Syria/ISIS theater has lives attached to it. The combination of the money, the non-disclosure and the veto is grave beyond almost anything we’ve seen so clearly documented in the entirety of Trump-related scandals to date. […]

    This is a big, big deal. And it doesn’t just touch Flynn.

    If I’m understanding the timeline correctly, Flynn did this when the Trump team already knew he was a paid agent working on behalf of Turkey, indeed, already knew the DOJ was investigating him for that undisclosed payment. You can likely make determinations about people who lived or died because of this decision. It doesn’t get more serious because it’s not just about abstract decision-making but life and death when illegal money is involved and the cash is arguably driving the decisions. […]

  128. tomh says

    “knowing that Trump actually has the power to fire Mueller”

    Trump does not have the power to fire Mueller. He can instruct his Attorney General, Sessions, to fire him, and Sessions would either comply or resign. If he resigned, it would devolve onto Rosenstein, etc. This is what happened with Nixon and the Saturday night massacre.

  129. says

    Follow-up to comment 128.

    Apparently, Sheriff Clarke announced his new appointment to the Trump administration, but the Trump administration is not confirming the appointment:

    It’s hard to say whether or not Milwaukee’s failed Sheriff David Clarke is or is not the next assistant deputy secretary of Homeland Security, as reports are mixed—Clarke says he accepts the job while the White House says nothing is official. […]

    Link

    Meanwhile the renewed attention on Clarke drew the ire of Army veteran Charles Clymer:

    1/ Okay, regarding Sheriff David Clarke, can I be petty for a second about something that’s always irritated me?

    2/ Look at this fucking guy’s uniform. You see all that shit pinned all over his address uniform jacket? That’s not supposed to be there. Link.

    3/ I can’t be the only military veteran who has seen Clarke’s uniform and been like: that’s fucking ridiculous.

    4/ Let me explain why this is irritating for me. Military (and police) decorations are earned. They take hard work and sacrifice.

    5/ Colin Powell once described a dress uniform as a solider’s resume. You can tell what they’ve done by their ribbons and badges.

    6/ Implied here, of course, is that the more shit you have on your uniform, the more impressed civilians will be. It projects authority.

    7/ If you’ve earned decorations, wear them! But Sheriff David Clarke is trying to pull a fast one on average Americans.

    8/ I mean look at this fucking shit. It’s literally a sloppy assortment of badge replicas arranged neatly, but it looks imposing.

    9/ / On the left side, you have what appears to be more badge replicas/pins and several ribbons, one of which looks unauthorized

    10/ And then up top, you have the flag pin arranged on the lapel as though it’s part of the uniform code. Pretty sure it’s not.

    11/ Y’all, this is something a fucking 10 year-old does. And I know because I was 10 and did this with a pin collection one day. Stupid fun.

    12/ But a grown-ass adult arranging his uniform in a way with novelty pins to give the appearance of being highly decorated? What the fuck.

    13/ It’s so cringe-inducing every time I see it because I think of other military folks shaking their damn heads at this Mickey Mouse shit.

    14/ Anyway, David Clarke is fucking awful, but his toy uniform, especially, sets my teeth on edge. Rant over.

    Sounds like Clarke is perfect for Trump’s team. He’s a scam artist, a charlatan.

  130. says

    Follow-up to comments 127 and 128.

    Gail Collins also mentioned Lincoln in her article about Trump’s unseemly whining:

    We will pause now to recall that Abraham Lincoln was accused of everything from drunkenness to treason to being a “fungus from the corrupt womb of bigotry and fanaticism” before being assassinated. You’d think Trump would remember that, since he seems to regard himself as an expert on Lincoln.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/17/opinion/trumps-speech-coast-guard.html

  131. says

    tomh @ 184 – I would suggest watching the Maddow segment I linked where she interviews the guy who wrote the special prosecutor regulations. Near the end he says “Yes it is important to note that the President does have the power to get rid of Mueller”

    And I just realized my earlier link was just to the Maddow show and not the specific segment so here’s a better link.

  132. says

    Follow-up to comment 105.

    Lawfare debunked Fox News’ claim that Comey is a criminal, that Comey broke the law:

    Lawfare’s Robert Chesney, a legal expert on national security, debunked a claim from Fox News’ Gregg Jarrett that former FBI Director James Comey may have broken the law by not reporting that President Donald Trump pressured him to drop the FBI’s investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Chesney called Jarrett’s op-ed “nonsense,” explaining that, of the two statutes he cited, one “does not apply” and the other “is not a criminal law at all.” […]

    In a May 17 Lawfare post, Chesney roundly debunked Jarrett’s assertion. Chesney noted that Jarrett overlooked a statute requirement that “affirmative steps to conceal [the obstruction] are required” for Comey’s actions to be criminal and that he did not take such steps.

    Furthermore, Jarrett incorrectly implied that the recipient of such a report would be Justice Department prosecutors; Chesney wrote that “the more obvious recipients for any such notificiations (sic) would be…the FBI. Jim Comey was, of course, FBI Director at all relevant times, and deeply engaged” in the investigation he would report to himself. Finally, Chesney observed that Jarrett also cited “28 USC 1361,” which “is not a criminal law at all” and “makes no sense [to cite] in this context” […]

    Media Matters link

    […] Second, and more fundamentally, Jarrett’s op-ed implies that the obligation to report runs specifically to Justice Department prosecutors. That’s not what the statute says, however, and of course the more obvious recipients for any such notificiations (sic) would be…the FBI. Jim Comey was, of course, FBI Director at all relevant times, and deeply engaged in supervision of existing, related criminal (and probably also counterintelligence) investigations. It’s more than a stretch to suggest that the misprision statute somehow creates a “two-person” requirement for knowledge of possible federal crimes, such that it is not enough for one FBI person to be aware of the possible criminal behavior. A “crooked cop” scenario would of course be different, but no one is alleging (nor could they) that Jim Comey was in cahoots with a plan to obstruct the Flynn investigation.

    Third, even if misprision concerns required Jim Comey to convey knowledge of Trump’s actions to others at FBI, it remains quite possible that he did exactly this.

    Well, enough about misprision. It’s a bogus argument. What about the other statute Jarrett cites?

    I’m at a loss here. The statute—28 USC 1361—provides federal courts with jurisdiction to issue writs of mandamus. All lawyers in the U.S. will recall the writ of mandamus from good ol’ Marbury v. Madison: it is a name for an order that obliges a government official to perform some non-discretionary act. Needless to say this is not a criminal law at all, and its application here is a bit of a mystery to me. I suppose he has in mind some notion that the FBI Director has a non-discretionary obligation to contact DOJ prosecutors when there is evidence of obstruction or any other crime, posthaste, and thus one might in theory follow the path of William Marbury, filing a petition for a writ of mandamus to make the Director do so. You can see that this makes no sense in this context. […]

    Lawfare link

  133. tomh says

    @ #187
    “The power to get rid of” is not the same as “the power to fire Mueller” as you originally claimed. Trump can instruct the AG to fire him, then fire the AG if he won’t, and keep appointing new AGs until he finds one, if he can, who will fire Mueller. This is what Nixon did. It may seem the same to you, but it’s not.

  134. says

    Some details from Trump’s upcoming two-day trip to Saudi Arabia:

    […] The two-day trip to the kingdom will feature visits from an array of peculiar figures such as Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who […] has been indicted for war crimes. Fox News host Bret Baier is also expected to deliver a speech, while American country singer Toby Keith will perform a male-only concert in Riyadh, the nation’s capital. The Saudis have also prepared a countdown clock for Trump’s meetings on Saturday on a website that was launched to promote the events.

    “United under a single vision – Together We Prevail – this highly anticipated event, the first of its kind in history, will renew our mutual commitment to global security and further strengthen already deep business, cultural and political ties,” the website says.

    Perhaps the most important event is the Arab-Islamic-U.S. summit […] It will feature a feast with the president at a banquet as the two nations look to “forge a new partnership” to fight against extremism, […]

    […] “Saudi Arabia is delighted at being the No. 1 (stop for Trump’s visit), delighted by the re-emergence of a strong diplomatic relationship with the United States and delighted by the opportunity to show off Saudi leadership of the Arab and the Muslim world by getting everybody to turn up in Riyadh for multiple, overlapping summits.”

    On Sunday Trump will deliver a speech to the Muslim world that will be penned by his Senior Policy Adviser Stephen Miller. Despite concerns over human rights within the country, the main focus of his talks “will be on securing more multi-billion dollar military deals, advancing economic ties and isolating Iran.”

    The arms deal, negotiated by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, is expected to be one of the largest in history and could total up to $350 billion over the course of 10 years.

    Salon link

  135. KG says

    in the event that Trump goes nuclear – erikthebassist@182

    Hmm. Maybe save that expression for the possible case where Trump actually does go nuclear, rather than the case where he fires the special counsel? We should not forget or minimise the fact that this man has the power to destroy civilization.

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

  137. says

    Trump threw Rosenstein under the bus again today. Earlier, Trump told Lester Holt that he had the Russia investigation on his mind when he fired Comey. In a press conference with the president of Columbia today, Trump seemed to change the order of events again. He came back to basing the decision on what Rosenstein wrote.

    Weird and disconcerting.

  138. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Weird and disconcerting.

    Not in Trumpfart Land, where The Trumpfart is never wrong, only wronged.

  139. says

    Follow-up to comment 198.

    Excerpts from what Trump said during the press conference today:

    I believe [appointment of a special counselor to investigate Russian election hacking ] hurts our country terribly, because it shows we’re a divided, mixed-up, not unified country. And we have very important things to be doing right now, whether it’s trade deals, whether it’s military, whether it’s stopping nuclear—all the things that we discussed today. And I think this shows a very divided country.

    It also happens to be a pure excuse for the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have easily one because of the Electoral College being slanted so much in their way. That’s all this is. I think it shows division, and it shows that we’re not together as a country. And I think it’s a very, very negative thing. And hopefully, this can go quickly, because we have to show unity if we’re going to do great things with respect to the rest of the world.

  140. says

    More excerpts from Trump’s statements during the press conference today (rough approximation, as transcript is not yet available. Joan McCarter made these notes:

    Have you done anything puts you in danger of impeachment? “Nobody thinks so. Comey was hated. Should have been a bipartisan decision. It was a poor, poor performance by Comey at the hearing. That’s why Rosenstein wrote the letter. [That’s the part I remember, where Trump threw Rosenstein under the bus … again, and in addition, Trump seemed to change his mind again on what prompted the firing of Comey.]

    Then Comey readjusted the record. That was something that was terrible. The FBI is special. Special. Special. Throws in the “very successful Trump campaign.”

    Looks forward to getting whole situation behind us.

    Now gets into healthcare. Obamacare is dead. Gone. A fallacy. Biggest tax cut in the history of our nation. We lost so many jobs and so many companies. He’s just trying to hit all the lines from all his rallies to stay on track here.

  141. says

    More evidence of Trump’s poor memory popped up during the press conference. Josh Marshall caught it:

    There was an additional weirdness that on question two Trump called on “Peter Alexander” (NBC), then thought he was talking to “Peter Baker” (NYT) but was actually talking to a third reporter from the local ABC affiliate. I’m not sure that necessarily matters but it just added to the atmosphere of chaos and general weirdness.

    Also from Josh Marshall:

    […] Trump also couldn’t help lashing out at Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General who made the decision to appoint the Special Counsel. Rosenstein reportedly told Senators earlier today that he knew before he wrote his memo that Comey was going to be fired. It was apparently a foregone conclusion and Rosenstein wrote a memo laying out a justification for firing Comey. That doesn’t make Rosenstein look good at all, in my view. But he left no doubt that Trump made the call.

    Trump went back to trying to hang the decision on Rosenstein, even though Trump himself said last week that he’d already made up his mind. The only real consistency in Trump’s remarks are that he did nothing wrong and his anger at whomever he’s angry at at that moment. Everything else is mutable and up for grabs. He’s mad, mad at everyone, mad at Comey, also mad at Rosenstein and he made that anger clear in something like a million ways during this brief performance. […]

  142. says

    Follow-up to comment 201.

    Here’s a better transcript of that excerpt from Trump’s press briefing today:

    […] Director Comey was very unpopular with most people. I actually thought it would be a bipartisan decision. […]

    He [Comey] had the very poor performance on Wednesday. That was a poor, poor performance. So poor, in fact, that I believe—and you would have to ask him because I don’t like to speak for other people—but I believe that’s why the deputy attorney general went out and wrote his very, very strong letter.

  143. says

    CNN: “Investigators on the House intelligence committees have obtained access to valuable data from the Treasury Department, a development that will open their doors to investigate possible connections between President Donald Trump’s business empire and Russians, CNN has learned….”

  144. says

    “Turkey says ‘pro-Kurd’ US envoy Brett McGurk should leave”:

    Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has accused a senior US diplomat of backing Kurdish militants and said he should be sent home.

    He said Brett McGurk, the US envoy to the coalition against so-called Islamic State, was “definitely” supporting the YPG in Syria and the separatist PKK….

    Set aside the assholishness of this – here’s the important part:

    On his return to Ankara, the foreign minister said Turkey had been assured that after the operation in Raqqa, territory seized from the jihadists would be handed back to the local Arab population. But he said Mr McGurk was openly supporting the Kurds and “it would be beneficial” if the US special envoy left.

    President Erdogan told Turkish media in Washington that he had told Mr Trump that Turkey would hit back “without asking anyone” if it came under attack from the Syrian Kurds.

    Trump will screw over the Kurds in a second after they bring down ISIS. They should never believe their autonomy within Syria will be respected by this regime. No deal they strike with Trump will be honored. It’s tragic in every way possible.

  145. says

    “Comey Is Said to Have Become Unsettled by Interactions With Trump.”

    So Trump essentially stalked Comey,* trying to get his “friendship” and fealty. Comey documented it all and tried his best to keep him at arm’s length (literally at one point attemting to blend into the curtains). Comey also didn’t entirely trust Rosenstein.

    * I imagine Trump developed his ability to ignore boundary-setting, clear indications of inappropriateness, and physical resistance in his interactions with women.

  146. says

    From the article:

    Mr. Comey described all of his encounters with the president and the White House — including the phone call from Mr. Trump — in detailed memos he wrote at the time and gave to his aides. Congressional investigators have requested copies of the memos, which, according to two people who have read them, provide snapshots of a fraught relationship between a president trying to win over and influence an F.B.I. director, and someone who had built his reputation on asserting his independence, sometimes in a dramatic way.

  147. says

    Wittes expands quite a bit on the Schmidt article linked above – “What James Comey Told Me About Donald Trump.” He’s Schmidt’s source for much of the information in the piece. (Once again, I have the sense that Trump’s “advances” and Comey’s reactions mirror Trump’s pattern of sexual harassment and assault.)

    An excerpt:

    The first point is a general one: Comey was preoccupied throughout this period with the need to protect the FBI from these inquiries on investigative matters from the White House. Two incidents involving such inquiries have become public: the Flynn discussion and Reince Priebus’s query to Andrew McCabe about whether the then-Deputy FBI Director could publicly dispute the New York Times’ reporting regarding communications between Trump associates and Russian officials. Whether there were other such incidents I do not know, but I suspect there were. What I do know is that Comey spent a great deal of energy doing what he alternately described as “training” the White House that officials had to go through the Justice Department and “reestablishing” normal hands-off White House-Bureau relations.

    Comey never said specifically that this policing was about the Russia matter, but I certainly assumed that it was—probably alongside other things. While I do not know how many incidents we’re talking about, how severe they were, or their particular character, I do know this: Comey understood Trump’s people as having neither knowledge of nor respect for the independence of the law enforcement function. And he saw it as an ongoing task on his part to protect the rest of the Bureau from improper contacts and interferences from a group of people he did not regard as honorable. This was a general preoccupation of Comey’s in the months he and Trump overlapped—and the difference between this relationship and his regard for Obama (which was deep) was profound and palpable.

    Second, Comey described at least two incidents which he regarded as efforts on the part of the President personally to compromise him or implicate him with either shows of closeness or actual chumminess with the President.

    Comey never told me the details of the dinner meeting; I don’t think I even knew that there had been a meeting over dinner until I learned it from the Times story. But he did tell me in general terms that early on, Trump had “asked for loyalty” and that Comey had promised him only honesty. He also told me that Trump was perceptibly uncomfortable with this answer. And he said that ever since, the President had been trying to be chummy in a fashion that Comey felt was designed to absorb him into Trump’s world—to make him part of the team. Comey was deeply uncomfortable with these episodes. He told me that Trump sometimes talked to him a fashion designed to implicate him in Trump’s way of thinking. While I was not sure quite what this meant, it clearly disquieted Comey. He felt that these conversations were efforts to probe how resistant he would be to becoming a loyalist. In light of the dramatic dinner meeting and the Flynn request, it’s easy to see why they would be upsetting and feel like attempts at pressure.

    In retrospect, I think I know what Comey must have been thinking at that moment. He had been asked to pledge loyalty by Trump. When he had declined, and even before, he had seen repeated efforts to—from his point of view—undermine his independence and probe the FBI’s defenses against political interference. He had been asked to drop an investigation. He had spent the last few months working to defend the normative lines that protect the FBI from the White House. And he had felt the need personally to make clear to the President that there were questions he couldn’t ask about investigative matters. So he was asking himself, I suspect: What loyalty oath had Rosenstein been asked to swear, and what happened at whatever dinner that request took place?…

    He believes the incidents described by Comey “sketch a trajectory in which Trump kept Comey on board only as long as it took him to figure out that there was no way to make Comey part of the team. Once he realized that he couldn’t do that—and that the Russia matter was thus not going away—he pulled the trigger.”

  148. says

    Susan Hennessy:

    “Compare the @nytimes story to Ben’s essay. For every line cited in press, someone has essay’s worth of impressions article couldn’t convey. The sum total of those overwhelms, but it only barely begins to capture the profound breaches of democratic norms we have watched unfold.”

  149. says

    @213 – I don’t have the time to dive too deep into whatever cesspool you are propping up, but the very first article I read on your second link talked about how Mueller was opposed to torture and how he politically navigated those waters, so part of me wants to tell you to fuck off with that bullshit, but I’ll read more before I actually tell you to fuck off with that bullshit.

  150. says

    “F.B.I. Once Warned G.O.P. Congressman That Russian Spies Were Recruiting Him”:

    The F.B.I. warned a Republican congressman in 2012 that Russian spies were trying to recruit him, officials said, an example of how aggressively Russian agents have tried to influence Washington politics.

    The congressman, Dana Rohrabacher of California, has been known for years as one of Moscow’s biggest defenders in Washington and as a vocal opponent of American economic sanctions against Russia. He claims to have lost a drunken arm-wrestling match with the current Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, in the 1990s. He is one of President Trump’s staunchest allies on Capitol Hill.

    As a newly appointed special counsel investigates connections between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives, the warning to Mr. Rohrabacher shows that the F.B.I. has for years viewed Russian spies, sometimes posing as diplomats, as having a hand in Washington.

    Mr. Rohrabacher was drawn into the maelstrom this week when The Washington Post reported on an audio recording of Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House majority leader, saying last year, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.” Mr. McCarthy said on Wednesday that he had made a joke that landed poorly.

    But the F.B.I. has taken seriously the possibility that Russian spies would target American politicians. In a secure room at the Capitol, an F.B.I. agent told Mr. Rohrabacher in 2012 that Russian spies were trying to recruit him as an “agent of influence” — someone the Russian government might be able to use to steer Washington policy-making, former officials said….

  151. says

    Oh! My question @ #227 has been partially addressed:

    …As they dig into the viralizing of such stories, congressional investigations are probing not just Russia’s role but whether Moscow had help from the Trump campaign. Sources familiar with the investigations say they are probing two Trump-linked organizations: Cambridge Analytica, a data-analytics company hired by the campaign that is partly owned by deep-pocketed Trump backer Robert Mercer; and Breitbart News, the right-wing website formerly run by Trump’s top political adviser Stephen Bannon.

    The congressional investigators are looking at ties between those companies and right-wing web personalities based in Eastern Europe who the U.S. believes are Russian fronts, a source familiar with the investigations tells TIME. “Nobody can prove it yet,” the source says….

  152. says

    Trump and his team are trying to make this statement Trump made yesterday come true:

    Obamacare is collapsing. It’s dead; it’s gone. There’s nothing to compare anything to because we don’t have health care in this country…. We don’t have health care. Obamacare is a fallacy. It’s gone.

    Meanwhile, as Steve Benen noted:

    Bloomberg Politics reported that the Affordable Care Act is helping Americans detect cancer earlier, which saves lives and money. A day earlier, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a new report that showed the nation’s uninsured rate dropping to the lowest point on record.

    Team Trump’s attempts to sabotage ACA were noted by the Los Angeles Times, “Health insurers plan big Obamacare rate hikes — and they blame Trump”:

    The growing frustration with the Trump administration’s management — reflected in letters to state regulators and in interviews with more than two dozen senior industry and government officials nationwide — undercuts a key White House claim that Obamacare insurance marketplaces are collapsing on their own.

    Instead, according to many officials, it is the Trump administration that is driving much of the current instability by refusing to commit to steps to keep markets running, such as funding aid for low-income consumers or enforcing penalties for people who go without insurance. […] many executives, including chief executives of major health plans, offered withering criticism of the Trump administration’s lack of leadership […]

    At one recent meeting, Seema Verma, whom Trump picked to oversee the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs, stunned insurance industry officials by suggesting a bargain: The administration would fund the CSRs if insurers supported the House Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

    “It made no sense,” said one official at the meeting.

    From Steve Benen:

    […] a top Trump administration official effectively played the role of a mob boss, telling private insurers they should endorse the Republicans’ regressive health care plan, and in exchange, the White House wouldn’t crash the health markets by scrapping cost-sharing reductions.

    If it sounds like an organized-crime scheme, that’s because, for all intents and purposes, it is. […]

  153. says

    Shady as hell:

    Donald Trump’s attorneys originally wanted him to submit an updated financial disclosure without certifying the information as true, according to correspondence with the Office of Government Ethics.

    Attorney Sheri Dillon said she saw no need for Trump to sign his 2016 personal financial disclosure because he is filing voluntarily this year. But OGE director Walter Shaub said his office would only work with Dillon if she agreed to follow the typical process of having Trump make the certification. That is standard practice for the thousands of financial disclosure forms OGE processes each year.

    The Associated Press obtained the letters under a Freedom of Information Act request.

    “As we discussed, OGE will provide this assistance on the condition that the President is committed to certifying that the contents of his report are true, complete and correct,” Shaub wrote in a May 10 letter. “When we met on April 27, 2017, you requested that he be excused from providing this certification.”

    In her letter to Shaub, Dillon says the president will “sign and file” documents regarding his 2016 financials by mid-June — an indication that she agreed to the OGE requirement that the president certify the information as true to the best of his knowledge.

    Dillon also stressed in her letter, dated May 9, that Trump is under no obligation to file a financial disclosure this year and is doing so voluntarily. “President Trump welcomes the opportunity to provide this optional disclosure to the public, and hopes to file it shortly,” she wrote….

  154. says

    SC @232: Since the Office of Government Ethics is insisting that Trump certify the 2016 financial disclosure as true, my bet is that the disclosure will not be filed.

    Why would Trump and his attorney’s try to get away with filing uncertified documents? Because, as you put it, they are “shady as hell,” and they planned to file inaccurate or incomplete documents.

    Speaking of shady:

    A timeline, it appears, has been set for the shady “elections integrity” commission that President Trump created after making bogus claims of millions of illegal votes cast in the 2016 election.

    The commission, which was unveiled with an executive order last week, will have its first meeting in July, with a report expected within a year, according to Associated Press profile of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), the proponent of restrictive laws who is vice chair of the commission. […]

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/muckraker/timeline-trump-elections-commission-july

  155. says

    This is funny, but also alarming.

    Keep your receipts, people. Rep. Elijah Cummings kept the receipt for the letter he and others on the House Oversight Committee sent to Mike Pence warning Pence that Flynn was working for Turkey.

    @RepCummings warned #VP about #Flynn’s Turkish work on Nov 18, but VP says he didn’t know until March.

    #VP now sticking to his claim, and his aide says of @RepCummings letter, “I’m not sure we saw the letter.”

    @RepCummings Well, here’s #Trump team’s official receipt to @RepCummings promising to “review your letter carefully.” […]

    https://twitter.com/OversightDems/status/865538577693777920/photo/1

  156. says

    SC @232: Since the Office of Government Ethics is insisting that Trump certify the 2016 financial disclosure as true, my bet is that the disclosure will not be filed.

    Why would Trump and his attorney’s try to get away with filing uncertified documents? Because, as you put it, they are “shady as hell,” and they planned to file inaccurate or incomplete documents.

    That was exactly my reaction. He wants to use these things for PR – “I gave all of this information voluntarily!” – as long as he can get away with lying or giving partial or misleading information,* but if he can’t do that the value of the exercise disappears and he’ll just drop it. Good for the AP reporters who FOIAled that plan. And good for Walter Shaub as always (I love how he made a point of noting “When we met on April 27, 2017, you requested that he be excused from providing this certification” in the correspondence).

    * He also lies on his taxes and other forms for which he’s under oath, but there was previously less scrutiny.

  157. says

    Blasts from the recent past (quotes from Hillary Clinton’s speeches and debates):

    As Michelle Obama has said, the presidency doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are. And I think it’s fair to say that my opponent has already revealed who he is.

    […] It is pretty clear you won’t admit that the Russians have engaged in cyber attacks against the United States of America. That you encouraged espionage against our people. That you are willing to spout the Putin line, sign up for his wish list, break up NATO, do whatever he wants to do.

    […] Trump would rather believe Vladimir Putin than the military and civilian intelligence professionals who are sworn to protect us.

    […] He praises dictators like Vladimir Putin and picks fights with our friends — including the British prime minister, the mayor of London, the German chancellor, the president of Mexico and the Pope.

    The United States has kept the peace through our alliances. Donald wants to tear up our alliances.

    […] You know, every time Donald thinks things aren’t going in his direction, he claims whatever it is, is rigged against him. This is a mind-set. This is how Donald thinks, and it’s funny, but it’s also really troubling. That is not the way our democracy works.

    He is not just unprepared — he is temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibilit. Rather than solving global crises, he would create new ones.

  158. says

    More details about the whole firing-of-Comey scandal:

    […] According to Rosenstein, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was interested in removing Comey even before he assumed that role. “In one of my first meetings with then-Senator Jeff Sessions last winter, we discussed the need for new leadership at the FBI,” Rosenstein told senators. One of Sessions’ main problems with Comey, Rosenstein’s remarks suggest, was that Comey was too independent of top Justice Department officials. “Among the concerns that I recall were to restore the credibility of the FBI, respect the established authority of the Department of Justice, limit public statements, and eliminate leaks,” he said.

    Rosenstein went on to confirm that he heard about Comey’s impending removal on May 8, the day before it happened, and that Trump “sought my advice and input.” In response, Rosenstein drafted his memo that criticized Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email use. He sent that memo to Sessions the next afternoon—just a few hours before Comey’s firing was made public that evening. Trump has at various times since May 9 pinned the dismissal on Rosenstein and contradicted that line by saying was planning to fire Comey regardless of Rosenstein’s memo. But Rosenstein makes clear that the decision came from Trump, not him. “My memorandum is not a statement of reasons to justify for-cause termination,” he told senators. But he agreed with the decision, saying, “I thought it was appropriate to seek a new leader.”
    […]

    Link

  159. says

    In his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak, Trump gloated about firing James Comey:

    […]

    An unnamed American official read out a summary of the meeting to the Times.

    “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump said, according to the document summarizing the meeting. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

    “I’m not under investigation,” the President reportedly told [the Russians].

    […] Press Secretary Sean Spicer did not deny the accuracy of Trump’s quotes in a statement to the Times.

    “By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia,” Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in the statement. “The investigation would have always continued, and obviously, the termination of Comey would not have ended it. Once again, the real story is that our national security has been undermined by the leaking of private and highly classified conversations.” […]

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/trump-russian-officials-nut-job-comey

  160. says

    NYT:

    President Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office this month that firing the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, had relieved “great pressure” on him, according to a document summarizing the meeting.

    “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

    Mr. Trump added, “I’m not under investigation.”…

    WaPo:

    The law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest, showing that the probe is reaching into the highest levels of government, according to people familiar with the matter.

    The senior White House adviser under scrutiny by investigators is someone close to the president, according to these people, who would not further identify the official.

    The revelation comes as the investigation also appears to be entering a more overtly active phase, with investigators shifting from work that has remained largely hidden from the public to conducting interviews and using a grand jury to issue subpoenas. The intensity of the probe is expected to accelerate in the coming weeks, the people said.

    The sources emphasized that investigators remain keenly interested in people who previously wielded influence in the Trump campaign and administration but are no longer part of it, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort….

  161. says

    McClatchy: “Trump-Russia probe now includes possible cover-up, Congress is told”:

    Investigators into Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential elections are now also probing whether White House officials have engaged in a cover-up, according to members of Congress who were briefed Friday by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

    That avenue of investigation was added in recent weeks after assertions by former FBI Director James Comey that President Donald Trump had tried to dissuade him from pressing an investigation into the actions of Trump’s first national security adviser, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, members of Congress said, though it was not clear whom that part of the probe might target.

    Even as members of Congress were mulling over the expansion of the case into possible cover-up, and its reclassification from counterintelligence to criminal, the scandal appeared to grow….

  162. says

    Josh Marshall: “Comey was a troublemaker who Trump took out and Trump’s confiding in, bragging about it to Lavrov and Kislyak. This mindset, this sense of who’s on which team, who you can confide in makes explicit collusion encounters during the campaign vastly more plausible than they were a couple of hours ago.”

  163. says

    On his trip abroad Trump may not receive the praise he usually gets for clearing the very low bar of managing not to fuck up too badly. Many European officials are already calling it like it is:

    “Chaos.”
    “Circus.”
    “Laughingstock.”

    Those were just a few of the comments I heard in Berlin this week from senior European officials trying to make sense of the meltdown in Washington at just the moment when a politically imploding President Trump embarks on what he called “my big foreign trip” in this morning’s kickoff tweet. […]

    Many I spoke with said they had made a fundamental mistake of viewing Trump primarily as an ideologue with whom they disagreed rather than what he increasingly appears to be: an ill-prepared newcomer to the world stage, with uninformed views and a largely untested team that will now be sorely tried by a 9-day, 5-stop world tour that would be wildly ambitious even for a seasoned global leader.

    “People are less worried than they were six weeks ago, less afraid,” a senior German government official with extensive experience in the United States told me. “Now they see the clownish nature.” Or, as another German said on the sidelines of a meeting here devoted to taking stock of 70 years of U.S.-German relations, “People here think Trump is a laughingstock.” […]

    Politico link

  164. says

    Yikes. Global warming brings a new disaster to our attention. the Arctic “doomsday” see vault just flooded.

    Deep underground in the far reaches of the arctic North, there’s a fortress that’s supposed to be one of humanity’s safeguards if we can’t feed ourselves in the future. It’s a vault containing 500 million seeds, representing 880,000 different crops, many of which can’t be found in fields today. It’s the ultimate failsafe if the world’s farms burn or diseases decimate our staples and we have to start over. The facility is supposed to keep these seeds safe for hundreds of years, without human oversight.

    What the designers weren’t counting on so much: floods linked to climate change.

    The Guardian is reporting that a flood due to melting arctic permafrost has breached the facility, creating an icy mess. The seeds are safe for now — they’re packaged in moisture-proof bags, and the flood didn’t reach the vault, just the entrance. Still, it caught the facility managers by surprise. The Guardian reports:

    Soaring temperatures in the Arctic at the end of the world’s hottest ever recorded year led to melting and heavy rain, when light snow should have been falling. “It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there and that it would experience extreme weather like that,” said Hege Njaa Aschim, from the Norwegian government, which owns the vault.

    The “doomsday” vault’s location — inside a mountain on a Norwegian archipelago — was chosen in part for its cold temperatures. They make refrigerating the seeds for long-term preservation easy, without the need for energy-consuming refrigerators. It can run — so its architects hoped — without human supervision. […]

    Vox link

  165. says

    Reuters checking in:

    The Trump administration is exploring whether it can use an obscure ethics rule to undermine the special counsel investigation into ties between President Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russia, two people familiar with White House thinking said on Friday.

    Trump has said that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s hiring of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead the investigation “hurts our country terribly.”

    Within hours of Mueller’s appointment on Wednesday, the White House began reviewing the Code of Federal Regulations, which restricts newly hired government lawyers from investigating their prior law firm’s clients for one year after their hiring, the sources said.

    An executive order signed by Trump in January extended that period to two years.

    Mueller’s former law firm, WilmerHale, represents Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who met with a Russian bank executive in December, and the president’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who is a subject of a federal investigation.

    Legal experts said the ethics rule can be waived by the Justice Department, which appointed Mueller. He did not represent Kushner or Manafort directly at his former law firm.

    If the department did not grant a waiver, Mueller would be barred from investigating Kushner or Manafort, and this could greatly diminish the scope of the probe, experts said.

    The Justice Department is already reviewing Mueller’s background as well as any potential conflicts of interest, said department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores.

    Even if the Justice Department granted a waiver, the White House would consider using the ethics rule to create doubt about Mueller’s ability to do his job fairly, the sources said. Administration legal advisers have been asked to determine if there is a basis for this.

    Under this strategy, the sources said the administration would raise the issue in press conferences and public statements.

    Moreover, the White House has not ruled out the possibility of using the rule to challenge Mueller’s findings in court, should the investigation lead to prosecution.

    But the administration is now mainly focused on placing a cloud over his reputation for independence, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity….

  166. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Damn, MSNBC should have all rethugs NOT show up to show “fairness”. They are just liars and bullshitters.

  167. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I got a robo call from my democratic US CongressCritter, where he was holding a town-hall-meeting nearby. I may show up and ask about what is stopping the democrats from offering a public option in the state exchanges if there is only two or less options available. *evil grin*

  168. says

    There’s more:

    CNN: “Sources: Russians bragged about relationship with Flynn.” “FMR. Official: Flynn and Russia relationship was a ‘five-alarm fire’.” “Source: Some Intel officials chose to limit intelligence shared with Flynn because of his relationship with Russia.” “Sources: Russians believed they would be able to use Flynn to influence Trump and his advisors.”

  169. KG says

    “People are less worried than they were six weeks ago, less afraid,” a senior German government official with extensive experience in the United States told me. “Now they see the clownish nature.” – Lynna, OM@259 quoting Politico

    Then those people are fools. If Trump was a competent hard-right ideologue, sure he’d be dangerous. But not as dangerous as Trump the cognitively damaged* malignant narcissist lacking impulse control – and able to order the launch of nuclear weapons.

    *See here.

  170. says

    The most appropriate cultural ambassador for Trump: “Country music icon Toby Keith will perform in the Saudi capital of Riyadh on Saturday night in a double bill with a Saudi lutist, the Associated Press reports, that will coincide with President Trump’s state visit. Tickets are free but available only to men.”

  171. microraptor says

    Salty Current @282:

    It’s not just dictators who have that look- that was the way the Robber Barons of the late 19th/early 20th Century built, too. I just read Empty Mansions, the biography if Huguette Clark, who was the daughter of copper tycoon Senator William A Clark and that describes perfectly the huge mansion he built in New York. The place was torn down after his death due to how large and gaudy it was: nobody but Clark himself (and perhaps Donald Trump) would have wanted to actually live in something like it.

  172. says

    What Trump tweeted in January of 2015:

    Many people are saying it was wonderful that Mrs. Obama refused to wear a scarf in Saudi Arabia, but they were insulted.We have enuf enemies

    Now, the rightwing press is all aflutter with praise for the fact that Melanie and Ivanka did not cover their hair. Trump is silent on the issue.

    Hillary Clinton and Angela Merkel did not cover their hair when they visited Saudi Arabia.

  173. says

    From Joy Ann Reid, writing for The Daily Beast:

    […] What’s also clear is that Trump, while not the canniest or most articulate fellow, fully understands that the investigation into his campaign and his friends presents a clear and present danger. He is hugging Flynn close because Flynn could hurt him. He repeatedly tried to recruit Comey into The Family to keep Comey from bringing him down. […]

    Who knows if Trump fully understood what his team was doing to help get him his precious election “win.” After November he probably thought making friends with Putin, through the back channels Flynn was setting up, would enable him to set the whole world at peace, making him the Greatest President of All Time (take THAT, Obama!)—and also a real billionaire, with Trump hotels, Trump condos and Trump licensing deals strewn the world over, all managed by The Family.

    Clearly, Russia thought having Flynn on the inside would be a goldmine of influence for them. […]

    The problem is that Trump thinks the danger of Russiagate is merely to his plan and to his pride; his desperate need to believe he won the election because of his sheer awesomeness and not through a confluence of unfortunate events. What he fails to comprehend is that the real danger is to his presidency itself, and to the country he doesn’t have the slightest idea how to lead.

  174. says

    From Josh Marshall:

    […] Rosenstein has now written an explanation and justification for the firing memo and appeared in a close door session before members of Congress.

    The memo Rosenstein penned to explain the firing memo and why he wrote it is a minor bureaucratic masterpiece. It does what lawyers are trained to do in an advocacy context: state clearly and emphatically what can be discussed and argued, ignore or seek to make irrelevant what cannot be discussed and put a firm interpretation on what is inherently subjective.

    The complexity of this whole story, or rather Rosenstein’s role in it, rests on the fact that within the four corners of the original memo, Rosenstein’s arguments are quite defensible. His argument about Comey disregarding longstanding department guidelines and principles of non-interference in elections is significantly stronger than his argument about usurping the authority of his DOJ superiors. But both are solid. The arguments are not only arguable, they’re frankly hard to argue with. In the second memo, Rosenstein not surprisingly makes a strong stand on just this point. “I wrote it. I believe it. I stand by it.”

    Rosenstein is on considerably weaker ground in another declaration. “My memorandum is not a statement of reasons to justify a for-cause termination.” This comes under my third category: “a firm interpretation on what is inherently subjective.” I would say that within the bounds of inherently subjective questions, this claim is about as close as you can get to being demonstrably false.

    […] While Rosenstein never uses the words “Comey should be fired”, the memo is clearly written as a brief to argue for and justify that action. […]

    […] Although the President has the power to remove an FBI director, the decision should not be taken lightly. I agree with the nearly unanimous opinions of former Department officials. The way the Director handled the conclusion of the email investigation was wrong. As a result, the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a Director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them. Having refused to admit his errors, the Director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions.

    Where Rosenstein’s second memo (the one justifying the firing memo) really gets interesting though is his discussion or rather lack of any discussion of President Trump. […]

    In Rosenstein’s reconstruction of events, Trump decided to fire Comey. Rosenstein in parallel but with no possible effect on the outcome – since the decision had been made – wrote out his own “longstanding concerns” about Comey’s actions and his belief that “it was appropriate to seek a new leader” at the FBI.

    What remains undiscussed through all of this is that Rosenstein knew that whatever Comey’s errors, Comey was in fact being fired to stymie the investigation into Trump’s and Trump’s associates ties to Russia, and that Rosenstein chose to make himself a party to that bad act. […]

    It is as I wrote a minor bureaucratic masterpiece and a tour de force of evasion.

  175. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 268.

    Here is an excerpt from Wonkette’s coverage:

    […] Wilmer Hale has 1,000 attorneys, 12 offices in the US, Europe, and Asia, and 19 different practice specialties. While there, Mueller worked on the NFL investigation into Ray Rice’s domestic abuse, consumer litigation of Volkswagon emissions cheating, and the lawsuits over defective Takata airbags. He had no involvement in Kushner and Manafort’s real estate deals and ALLEGED naked jello wrestling with corrupt Russian banks. In fact, he would be unable to access any information on this ALLEGED wrestling, even if he’d wanted to. Because professional operations have firewalls to protect their data. Unlike the White House.

    Wilmer Hale has already waived its conflicts, if you’ll forgive the lawspeak. The law firm says that it have no privileged information to protect, since Mueller never got anywhere near Kushner and Manfort. The Justice Department can waive its conflicts, since it knows that Mueller isn’t going to go easy on those guys, who were never his clients anyway. That leaves Kushner and Manafort to argue….????? Well, they got nuthin’ really. But they’ll still give it the old college try. […]

  176. says

    The Justice Department, as run by Jeff Sessions, made another move against human rights. Luckily, the U.S. District Court Western District issued a restraining order to temporarily shut Sessions’ anti-immigrant move down.

    The Justice Department temporarily shut down a non-profit group in Seattle that provides free pro se, or temporary, legal representation to immigrants for nearly a month on a technicality […]

    The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), which offers legal services to upwards of 10,000 immigrants each year, helped immigrants at Seattle-Tacoma International airport avoid deportation under the Trump administration’s Muslim ban executive order earlier this year. But federal authorities shut down the group’s operations via a cease-and-desist letter in April, warning the group to close its asylum program and drop its clients or face disciplinary action.

    The NWIRP is accused of breaking an obscure law meant to punish fraudulent, predatory immigration lawyers, also known as “notarios” who will take on a case, collect a fee, and then drop it before seeing it through. NWIRP filed suit against the Justice Department in early May, and was granted a restraining order Wednesday that allows them to the group to resume operations […]

    The Justice Department also indicated that it was planning to “continue issuing cease and desist letters to non-profit organizations providing legal services to immigrants,” according to NWIRP’s complaint filed with the U.S. District Court Western District of Washington at Seattle.

    The court extended the temporary restraining order nationwide as a result. The court also agreed that the Justice Department’s cease-and-desist letters caused “significant and ongoing” harm.

    Immigrants aren’t entitled to legal representation under U.S. law, but groups like NWIRP aim to help immigrants facing deportation navigate a complex justice system.

    […] Since Trump took office, immigrant arrests are up nearly 33 percent.

    Link

    Real smart move, Jeff Sessions. Go after the non-profits who are doing good while not spending federal dollars. “Doing significant and ongoing harm” seems to be Jeff Sessions’ motto.

  177. says

    NBA player Enes Kanter, a critic of the Erdogan regime, was traveling in support of his charity. The Turkish government revoked his passport, he wasn’t allowed to leave the airport in Romania, and he potentially faced deportation to Turkey. The latest seems to be that he was allowed to leave Romania and on his way to London, but he hasn’t yet tweeted an update.

  178. says

    Bad news: billionaires are lining up to back Trump’s give-to-the-rich-and-screw-the-poor tax plan:

    In a major jolt of support for President Trump, the powerful political network overseen by conservative billionaire Charles Koch is launching a multimillion-dollar campaign to drive Trump’s tax plan through Congress. […]

    Trump’s one-page tax blueprint, released last month, includes plans to slash the corporate tax rate, reduce taxes for high-income earners and abolish the federal estate tax.

    The group plans to throw “the full weight of the network” behind the campaign with the goal of passing a tax overhaul this year, said James Davis, a top official in Koch’s Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce. […]

    USA Today link

  179. says

    Saudis give Trump a reception fit for a king

    […] From his airport greeting by King Salman of Saudi Arabia — a courtesy that was never extended to his predecessor, President Barack Obama — to the military flyover and cannons that accompanied his descent from Air Force One, to a lavish cardamon coffee ceremony and medal presentation at the Royal Court, the American president on Saturday was treated like a real-life king. […]

    From the airport to the Ritz Hotel, Trump passed American flags and billboards displaying his face next to King Salman’s image, under the slogan “Together We Prevail.” At night, a large image of Trump was beamed onto the outside of his hotel.

    In a grand reception room at the Royal Court, decorated with glitzy chandeliers, a plush blue-and-white carpet and high-backed chairs, Trump was awarded the gold medallion, known as the King Abdul Aziz Collar. The medal, considered the highest honor in Saudi Arabia, was bestowed on Trump for “his efforts to strengthen the relationship between the two friendly countries,” and placed around Trump’s neck by the hands of the king. […]

    “This was a tremendous day,” Trump said Saturday evening, at a bilateral meeting back at the Ritz Hotel with the Crown Prince. “Tremendous investments. Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States, and jobs, jobs jobs.” […]

    Maybe the Saudis are trying to get Trump’s head to swell so much with self-love that it explodes.

  180. says

    From Jeff Shesol, writing for The New Yorker:

    […] What Trump demands is not, in fact, loyalty; it is fealty, servility, sycophancy.

    And he feels that this is owed him not only by his staff or Cabinet but by the director of the F.B.I., by Congress, by judges, even by journalists: in an interview with the Associated Press in April, Trump observed, “When I won, I said, ‘Well, the one thing good is now I’ll get good press.’ ”

    All are expected to fall into line. So far, the President’s aides are sticking with him—there have been no high-level defections from the Administration.

    Michael Flynn, who was dismissed from his job as national-security adviser earlier this year, is even defying a subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has demanded documents concerning his interactions with Russian officials. Trump has encouraged him to “stand strong,” Flynn told a group of friends in April.

    But, with Republicans on the Hill growing restive in the face of every new day’s dramatic revelations, and with the Russia investigation now in the experienced hands of Robert Mueller, a former F.B.I. director, Trump may be about to find out how loyal his people are willing to be.

  181. Pierce R. Butler says

    erikthebassist @ # 221 – Jeez, haven’t you already gotten in enough trouble around here for premature ad hominem flame-ons?

    As for Mueller’s torture-cover-up record, pls see, e.g.,

    The FBI’s Hands Off Approach to Torture

    Wexler Holds FBI Director Mueller’s Feet to the Fire

    Justice Probe of CIA Torture Evidence: Another Whitewash?

    – and other articles I bet you can find by yourself, if you only try. (Hint: don’t settle for the first article you see when the subject involves political whitewashing!)

    Shame on Rosenstein for picking a Special Counsel with such (after-the-fact) bloody hands – and on all the liberals cheering him on.

  182. says

    Pierce, you are trying to imply that Mueller does not have integrity or isn’t a good choice. You make an assertion that Mueller has blood on his hands and link to three articles that say no such thing. Mueller has broad support on both sides of the aisle and from the media of every stripe. You are holding what I can only call an extreme minority position.

    In every article you just linked and in the research I’ve done which is admittedly about 2 hours of reading, what I see is a guy who was morally opposed to what they were doing but legally powerless to stop it, and who did the only thing he could then do which was to keep himself and his agents away from it.

    That scandal was from the top down and a lot of people got away with a lot of bullshit surrounding it, but I just don’t see Mueller as complicit in a cover-up as you are implying.

    I use strong language often. Being a tone troll used to be a bad thing around here, because arguments should be based on substance and facts, not the style of the arguer, but you do you.

    And also, you might note, that I was careful to not actually tell you to fuck off, and now that I’ve done what I promised and researched this a bit, I don’t feel the need to. You are wrong, imo, I had every right to do my happy dance at news of a special counsel and I’m still relieved that it’s happened, your admonishment aside.

    Maybe I’m missing something on Mueller, or not connecting dots. Feel free to enlighten me if that’s the case, but don’t tell me when to be happy about a political development. There’s been nothing but bad and worse news for months. This was the first sign of a light at the end of the tunnel, and I’d seriously resent anyone who wants to rain on that parade without good evidence and a solid argument.

    Yours was the third tsk tsk I’d gotten from the peanut gallery, on just this page of comments, over petty stupid shit. My patience with people here who get their rocks off jabbing me in the ribs, because I once completely misread a post someone made and reacted poorly, is beginning to wear thin.

  183. militantagnostic says

    Lynna @ 296

    Saudis give Trump a reception fit for a king

    They strangled him with the entrails of a priest?

  184. Pierce R. Butler says

    erikthebassist @ # 299: … you are trying to imply that Mueller does not have integrity…

    Yeah, covering up torture and failing to prosecute it does carry that implication.

    Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL): … why did you not take more substantial steps to stop the interrogation techniques that your own FBI agents were telling you were illegal? Why did you not initiate criminal investigations …

    Sure, a Bush-appointed law enforcement bureaucrat who looked the other way throughout years of explicit brutal crimes against humanity couldn’t conceivably take part in a coverup of politically-charged malfeasance. Mueller was not “legally powerless”, he was complicit.

    Mueller has broad support on both sides of the aisle and from the media of every stripe. You are holding what I can only call an extreme minority position.

    You actually use Congress, corporate media, and opinion polls as your moral barometer? And you think you have the right to call other people full of shit?

    … his was the first sign of a light at the end of the tunnel, and I’d seriously resent anyone who wants to rain on that parade

    If you prefer to believe what makes you feel good rather than what the facts show… let me tell you about L. Ron Hubbard!

  185. Pierce R. Butler says

    *slaps self on wrist*

    Apologies to all for html failure @ my # 302 – only the ‘graf beginning “Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL)” should have been blockquoted.

  186. says

    erik @300, Caputo is a buddy of Paladino? That alone puts Caputo in the “highly suspect” category.

    militant agnostic @301: Thanks for the laugh!

    In other news, while he was in Saudi Arabia, Trump said:

    We are not here to lecture. We are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship,[…]

    And then Trump proceeded to do just that. The only lecture-ish phrase from which he refrained was “radical Islamic terrorism.” He did use the phrases “Islamic extremism,” “Islamic terror of all kinds,” and a few variations on those.

    Excerpts from Trump’s lecture:

    […] I stand before you as a representative of the American People, to deliver a message of friendship and hope. That is why I chose to make my first foreign visit a trip to the heart of the Muslim world, to the nation that serves as custodian of the two holiest sites in the Islamic Faith.

    […] America will not seek to impose our way of life on others, but to outstretch our hands in the spirit of cooperation and trust.

    […] Muslim-majority countries must take the lead in combatting radicalization […]

    Few nations have been spared its violent reach. […]

    But, in sheer numbers, the deadliest toll has been exacted on the innocent people of Arab, Muslim and Middle Eastern nations. They have borne the brunt of the killings and the worst of the destruction in this wave of fanatical violence. […]

    There can be no coexistence with this violence.

    There can be no tolerating it, no accepting it, no excusing it, and no ignoring it.

    […] the nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them. The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their countries, and for their children.

    It is a choice between two futures – and it is a choice America CANNOT make for you.

    A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and extremists. Drive. Them. Out. DRIVE THEM OUT of your places of worship. DRIVE THEM OUT of your communities. DRIVE THEM OUT of your holy land, and DRIVE THEM OUT OF THIS EARTH. […]

    […] Muslim nations must be willing to take on the burden, if we are going to defeat terrorism and send its wicked ideology into oblivion.

    The first task in this joint effort is for your nations to deny all territory to the foot soldiers of evil. Every country in the region has an absolute duty to ensure that terrorists find no sanctuary on their soil. […]

    http://www.politico.com/story/2017/05/21/full-transcript-trumps-speech-to-the-arab-islamic-american-summit-238654

  187. says

    Trump continues his lecture (he sounds a bit like Trump-as-God):

    […] Barbarism will deliver you no glory – piety to evil will bring you no dignity. If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and YOUR SOUL WILL BE CONDEMNED.

    Trump also made a big deal out of cutting off funding for terrorism. While this is a good goal, it is not a new goal, nor a new effort. Trump made it sound like he was the first guy to think of cutting off funding, and the first guy to really bring people together to do so. Not true.

    […] We must cut off the financial channels that let ISIS sell oil, let extremists pay their fighters, and help terrorists smuggle their reinforcements.

    I am proud to announce that the nations here today will be signing an agreement to prevent the financing of terrorism, called the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center – co-chaired by the United States and Saudi Arabia, and joined by every member of the Gulf Cooperation Council. It is another historic step in a day that will be long remembered. […]

  188. says

    Trump also spent an inordinate amount of time condemning Iran. In that way, he joined Saudi Arabian leaders and others in heaping condemnation on a common enemy. Trump really dislikes the Iran nuclear deal, and I think he is trying to build a consensus for bringing that deal to an end, and for attacking Iran:

    […] no discussion of stamping out this threat would be complete without mentioning the government that gives terrorists all three—safe harbor, financial backing, and the social standing needed for recruitment. It is a regime that is responsible for so much instability in the region. I am speaking of course of Iran.

    From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms, and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region. For decades, Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.

    It is a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room.

    Among Iran’s most tragic and destabilizing interventions have been in Syria. Bolstered by Iran, Assad has committed unspeakable crimes, and the United States has taken firm action in response to the use of banned chemical weapons by the Assad Regime – launching 59 tomahawk missiles at the Syrian air base from where that murderous attack originated. […]

    Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran […]

  189. says

    During his speech in Saudi Arabia, Trump mentioned “God” nine times. The hypocrisy runs deep.

    […] Our goal is a coalition of nations who share the aim of stamping out extremism and providing our children a hopeful future that does honor to God. […]

    With God’s help, this summit will mark the beginning of the end for those who practice terror and spread its vile creed. […]

    Every time a terrorist murders an innocent person, and falsely invokes the name of God, it should be an insult to every person of faith.

    Terrorists do not worship God, they worship death. […]

    If we do not stand in uniform condemnation of this killing—then not only will we be judged by our people, not only will we be judged by history, but we will be judged by God. […]

    When we look upon the streams of innocent blood soaked into the ancient ground, we cannot see the faith or sect or tribe of the victims – we see only that they were Children of God whose deaths are an insult to all that is holy. […]

    Thank you. God Bless You. God Bless Your Countries. And God Bless the United States of America.

  190. says

    As Jen Hayden noted:

    […] Coincidentally, the Saudis have also agreed to donate a whopping $100 million to the recently announced women’s fund inspired by […] Ivanka Trump. […]

    $100 million is quite the kick starter for a vaguely defined fund, right? […]

    The donations and the White House are not tied. Definitely not. No way! It is a total coincidence the $100 million dollar donation is being made the same weekend a $110 billion arms deal is announced. And never mind that Ivanka Trump is traveling to Saudi Arabia in her official capacity as an ‘Assistant to the President of the United States.’

    What Trump said in October 2016:

    [Trump said in an interview with Chris Wallace that the Clinton Foundation is a] criminal enterprise.

    Saudi Arabia giving $25 million, Qatar, all of these countries. You talk about women and women’s rights? These are people that push gays off business, off buildings. These are people that kill women and treat women horribly and yet you take their money. So I’d like to ask you right now why don’t you give back the money that you’ve taken from certain countries that treat certain groups of people so horribly?

    The White House claims that Ivanka is not soliciting funds for the foundation to support women entrepreneurs. Supposedly, the World Bank is doing all the soliciting. That’s not what it looks like.

    Furthermore, Sean Spicer used his White House job and connection to tout the $100 million donation from the Saudis:

    Saudi Arabia, U.A.E. Pledge $100 Million to World Bank’s Women Entrepreneurs Fund

    https://twitter.com/PressSec/status/866156699635384320

    Spicer’s previous tweet touts the arms deal for more than $300 billion that was brokered by Jared Kushner. So, yeah, there’s a connection.

    Ivanka’s brand will be boosted by the Saudi donation to her “inspired” foundation. An emolument of sorts. Plus, there’s an agreement for a gigantic arms deal the Saudis wanted, and then a huge donation to Ivanka’s pet project. Looks like quid pro quo.

  191. says

    Wonkette covered bills introduced in California and Wisconsin that make it a crime to secretly remove a condom during sex without the consent or knowledge of one’s partner. You would think that: 1) such a bill should not be necessary and 2) if such a bill becomes necessary, everyone would back it. You would be wrong.

    […] Over on The Daily Stormer […] very upset about this and believes it is a conspiracy on behalf of Jewish people and feminists to “make all Goyish sex rape” and also to prevent them from continuing the white race. For some reason they seem to believe that the laws will only apply to White Christians, despite the fact that this is definitely not mentioned in either piece of legislation. […]

    The k*kes know that anything leads to a healthy White baby is bad for the Judenreich and must be stopped ASAP – after all, that baby might grow up to be a brick layer, der Grenadier or a Daily Stormer reader.

    So go ahead, dear reader, and stealth for the glory of the white race! Spill your seed into as many white thots as you desire.

    Thots, of course, stands for “that ho over there.” […] he thinks it’s part of some plot to make there be fewer white babies, and that this is a thing that Nazis should actually do in order to propagate the white race. […]

    The second “Editor’s Note” includes actual instructions for removing a condom so that one’s partner doesn’t notice.

    Also this friendly tip!

    Then, when she comes up pregnant, threaten to call her family members if she has an abortion. You can also threaten to post about it on the internet.

    Again, only do this in jurisdictions where this is legal. So like, if you live in Wisconsin, take her on a romantic vacation to the UP of Michigan (it is a very romantic place, btw).

  192. says

    Follow-up to comment 309:

    Ivanka gives Saudi speech on female empowerment. Female reporters were kicked out, but were told later it was great!

    Link

  193. says

    @304 – Lynna, yeah they are tight. Caputo worked on Paladino’s gubernatorial run and that’s when they helped Roger Stone distribute flyers calling the Independant in the race a “sick pervert”. He sued them all for defamation which was supposed to go to trial in March but was delayed because of the Trump Russia investigation.

    Stone’s lawyers suggested the delay and the plaintiff agreed.

    @302 – There’s a lot wrong with everything you said but I don’t feel like arguing. We’re all on the same side. You can have the last word.

  194. militantagnostic says

    SC @313
    Is that for real? It looks like they are playing with a Ouija board.

  195. says

    Update to #s 174 and 195 – the AP is reporting that a source has told them that Mike Flynn is going to decline the Senate Intelligence Committee’s subpoena and take the fifth later today.

  196. says

    This is a good article summarizing Pence’s implausible claims of ignorance,* and I agree that the art is perfect.

    (And well done, Notre Dame protesters. Congratulations, and I’m sorry Pence was inflicted on you.)

    * My only criticisms relate to what it leaves out: the numerous news reports abut Flynn’s work as a foreign agent that were the basis for Cummings’ letter, Pence’s similar pattern of lying throughout the VP debate with Tim Kaine (most of the media chose to focus on Kaine interrupting him and how Pence purportedly came off as “avuncular”), and Pence’s documented history of exactly this sort of feigned ignorance in Indiana.

  197. says

    In an interview this morning, Nikki Haley said “I think we absolutely need” the investigation led by Mueller. Also,

    Haley said she would work to reassure U.S. partners in the Middle East that their secrets remain safe with the Trump administration.

    “So much of what I do at the United Nations is based on sensitive information, so much of what a lot of the Cabinet members, what they do is based on sensitive information,” she said. “So we’re trying to reassure all of our counterparts that what they tell us is kept, trusted, and valued and we will return the favor.”

  198. says

    SC @319, Wilbur Ross interpreted the lack of protests in Saudi Arabia as a show of public support for Trump and his team. Not so. Protests were banned in Saudi Arabia six years ago: “security forces would use all measures to prevent any attempt to disrupt public order.”

    People didn’t disturb Ross’ 79-year-old-white-male-conservative idea of what’s right and good because if they had protested, security forces may have put them in jail (or worse).

  199. says

    Billy Bush spoke out about the “Access Hollywood” tape. He is more honest about that awful moment than Trump has been:

    […] the former “Today Show” host told the Hollywood Reporter that he regrets how he handled the interview at the time.

    “I heard it for the first time seven and a half months ago, three days before the rest of the world heard it. I was shocked and alarmed and totally and completely gutted. It was awful. And my participation was awful, too,” Bush told the Hollywood Reporter. “I remember that guy, he was almost sycophantic. It was my first year as co-host of Access Hollywood, and I was an insecure person, a bit of a pleaser, wanting celebrities to like me and fit in.”

    Bush said that he wished he had steered Trump toward a different topic.

    “Looking back upon what was said on that bus, I wish I had changed the topic. [Trump] liked TV and competition,” he said. “I could’ve said, ‘Can you believe the ratings on whatever?’ But I didn’t have the strength of character to do it.”

    The former television host said that he has done a lot of self-reflection since the Washington Post published the tape in October.

    “I am not grateful for the moment,” Bush told the Hollywood Reporter. “But I’m grateful for what I’ve gotten out of it. I’m grateful that it hit me all the way to my core.”

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/billy-bush-addresses-trump-access-hollywood-tape

  200. says

    Wow:

    The Supreme Court struck down two congressional district maps in North Carolina Monday, holding that the state had engaged in an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.

    The ruling is a victory for the black North Carolina voters who had argued the plans packed African-Americans in districts that already had a high percentage of African-Americans, thus diluting their presence in other districts.

    As a result, the ruling sends the North Carolina legislature back to the drawing board — with significant potential implications for the 2018 midterm elections….

    Surprisingly, in the 5-3 decision, Clarence Thomas was in the majority.

  201. says

    Is the White House trying to hide more shady deals and associations with shady individuals?

    The White House is trying to keep the Office of Government Ethics from viewing documents detailing which former lobbyists have been hired by the Trump administration for positions in the federal government […]

    The Trump administration asked Walter Shaub Jr., the director of the Office of Government Ethics, to withdraw his request for copies of the waivers for former lobbyists, arguing that Shaub did not have the legal authority to make such a request […]

    “This data call appears to raise legal questions regarding the scope of O.G.E.’s authorities,” Mick Mulvaney, the head of the Office of Management and Budget wrote in the letter, according to the Times.“I therefore request that you stay the data call until these questions are resolved.” […]

    Shaub told the New York Times that he was surprised by the White House’s response to his request.

    “It is an extraordinary thing,” he said. “I have never seen anything like it.”

    An executive order signed by President Trump bars lobbyists from working in the federal government on issues pertaining to their former clients for two years, but allows the administration to issue waivers. Shaub was requesting copies of these waivers, […]

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/white-house-ethics-office-lobbyists

    Trump is caught, again, in a trap of his own making. Mulvaney’s Office of Management and Budget is also making a lot of noise about the fact that the information about the waivers was leaked. Of course they are. The info was leaked to the New York Times.

  202. says

    Trump plans to cut $193 billion from food stamp funds. The cut will be spread out over ten years, and it represents more than 25% of the food stamp budget.
    Associated Press link

    The budget is supposed to be released tomorrow. There are also planned cuts to Medicaid. We’ll see how bad it is after everyone gets a look at the details. Some Republican senators are already trying to soften the blow by saying things like, “The budget’s a starting point. We’ll go to work from there.” That’s Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee speaking.

  203. blf says

    Ozland is, along with France and Spain, trying to obtain a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. As Human Rights Watch puts it (undated?):

    Australia[‘s …] failure to respect international standards for asylum seekers and refugees continues to take a heavy human toll. The country has maintained its draconian policy of mandatory detention of asylum seekers offshore [on Manus Island and Nauru –blf], and outsourcing of refugee obligations to other countries. Indigenous Australians remain significantly overrepresented in the country’s prisons. Australia still does not recognize the right of same-sex couples to marry. Other human rights concerns include overly broad counterterrorism laws and restrictions on the rights of people with disabilities.

    This would make Ozland an “excellent” choice in the tradition of existing members such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and (big)China. Or, as First Dog on the Moon puts it, We are well-suited to sit beside Saudi Arabia on the United Nations Human Rights Council (cartoon): “We proudly punch above our weight when it comes to cliches and gold-standard non-speak about flouting international law”. (Human Rights Watch’s report on Ozlands bid, Australia Vies for UN Human Rights Council Seat.)

    It’s important to note the facilities on Manus Island(† see Tigger Warning below!) and Nauru are concentration camps in all but name (Australia struggles to save refugee agreement after Trump’s fury at dumb deal, Feb-2017):

    Both Australian-run detention camps have been the subject of sustained criticism by the UN, human rights groups and other nations over systemic sexual and physical abuse of those detained, including rapes, beatings, and the murder of one asylum seeker by guards; child sexual abuse; chronic rates of self-harm and suicide; dangerous levels of sustained mental illness, harsh conditions and inadequate medical treatment leading to several deaths.

      † Trigger Warning: The above “Manus Island” link is to the Grauniad’s archive of Manus Island concentration camp reports. It makes for very grim reading, with shooting rampages, intensive surveillance, suicides, harsh conditions being made (deliberately!) harsher, and so on; plus lies, head-in-sand, condemnations from AI, the UN and others, …

  204. says

    “Emboldened by Rouhani’s Win, Iranians Seek Further Reforms”:

    Iranians came out in force to dance in the streets this weekend, breaking Islamic rules, to celebrate the re-election of President Hassan Rouhani by a large margin.

    Emboldened by the election results, others gathered in the capital, Tehran, to begin demanding what they hope a second term for Mr. Rouhani will bring: the release of opposition figures, more freedom of thought and fewer restrictions on daily life.

    For those who had voted for Mr. Rouhani, there was a feeling of tremendous relief that his challenger, the hard-line cleric Ebrahim Raisi, who criticized the nuclear deal with the United States and other Western powers, had lost.
    Continue reading the main story

    “Bye bye, Raisi,” the crowds chanted during the street gatherings.

    The middle-class Iranians in the Tehran neighborhoods who brought Mr. Rouhani his victory, often by waiting for hours in long lines at polling stations, drove their cars and played loud music in jubilation, often stopping to get out and dance, ignoring a ban on such gatherings.

    Police officers simply stood by, often smiling. One officer, stationed in the northwestern Saadat Abad neighborhood, told people in a passing car that this evening, everything was allowed.

    Pumping their fists in the air, the group — including middle-class families pushing baby strollers, hipster youths wearing John Lennon-style glasses and unemployed men with holes in their shoes — snaked through the streets in long lines. Here, too, the police stood by and did not interfere….

    (The pictures are good.)

  205. says

    From Joan McCarter, writing for Daily Kos:

    The new budget proposal from popular vote loser Donald Trump will be unveiled Tuesday […] everybody but the wealthy suffer […]. It will cut $1.7 trillion over 10 years on the backs of everyone but the wealthy. It makes totally unrealistic growth assumptions and gives a cold shoulder to Senate Republicans who are opposing the steep Medicaid cuts in Trumpcare.

    For Medicaid, the state-federal program that provides health care to low-income Americans, Trump’s budget plan would follow through on a bill passed by House Republicans to cut more than $800 billion over 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that this could cut off Medicaid benefits for about 10 million people over the next decade. […]

    The proposed changes include the big cuts to Medicaid. The White House also is expected to propose changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, though precise details couldn’t be learned. SNAP is the modern version of food stamps, and it swelled following the financial crisis as the Obama administration eased policies to make it easier for people to qualify for benefits. As the economy has improved, enrollment in the program hasn’t changed as much as many had forecast. […]

    Trump has instructed his budget director, former South Carolina congressman Mick Mulvaney, that he does not want cuts to Medicare and Social Security’s retirement program in this budget, Mulvaney recently said, but the plan may call for changes to Social Security Disability Insurance, seeking ideas for ways to move people who are able out of this program and back into the workforce.

    […]The Medicaid cuts are particularly onerous, and suggest that if Trump can’t get them through Trumpcare, he’ll try to get them through his budget. Additionally, the budget is reported to cut “federal funding for Habitat for Humanity, subsidized school lunches and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, which coordinates the federal response to homelessness across 19 federal agencies,” as well as the Children’s Health Insurance Program. […]

  206. says

    SC @333, meanwhile, Trump and Tillerson made a point of dissing Iran bigly while they were in Saudi Arabia.

    Another tidbit from the Trump-in-Saudia-Arabia show:

    “You are a unique personality that is capable of doing the impossible,” Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, in Saudi Arabia for a summit on fighting terrorism, told the U.S. leader on Sunday.

    “I agree,” Trump replied.

  207. says

    SC @335, [painful laughter]. Right. Trump confirmed that Israel supplied the intel he gave to Russia by saying that he “never mentioned the word Israel.” In that video, Trump is obviously very pleased with himself for making that point.

    The original Washington Post story did not mention Israel. Trump just did. Trump claimed the Washington Post story was wrong because it claimed he had mentioned Israel. Trump is wrong on all levels here.

    The New York Times later reported that Israel was the source of the classified intelligence that Trump leaked to the Russians.

    […] “I never mentioned the word or the name Israel. Never mentioned during that conversation,” he told reporters during a press availability with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “They’re all saying I did, so you have another story wrong. Never mentioned the word Israel.”

    However, no one ever accused the president of mentioning Israel by name during the Russia meeting—instead, as the Times originally reported, he disclosed classified information that was provided to intelligence officials reportedly by Israel, unbeknownst to him. The point of the controversy surrounding his revealing of the information to Russian diplomats was not that he mentioned a specific source, but that the information he revealed was enough for the Russians to figure out the source.

    Daily Beast link

  208. says

    So, yeah, Trump is now in Israel. Here’s part of what he had to say:

    Trump, in remarks before meeting with Rivlin, says “we just got back from the Middle East.”

    Has Israel moved? Is it no longer in the Middle East?

  209. Saad says

    Video of the comments @ #330.

    Holy fuck, somebody save the planet from this menace.

  210. blf says

    Revelations from the ridiculous (the emphasis is in the original, as are edits in {curly braces}):

    Or how in America no one dies from having no access to healthcare.

    So long as Republicans stick to their talking points and carefully selected allocutions, there’s enough double talk, flimflam, and amphibology that a listener might think there’s sense there. Or at least that the speakers think so. But then there are the unfiltered utterances. It is from these that real revelations come.

    Republican congressman Raul R Labrador, for example, declared: Nobody dies because they don’t have healthcare.

    Of course not. And no one gets cold because they don’t have a coat, and cars don’t crash when their brakes don’t work.

    He later tried to walk his talk back toward reason-world. I was trying to explain that all hospitals are required by law to treat patients to emergency care regardless of their ability to pay. Which was very important because the Republican plan that he voted for does not change that.

    That sounds better, but it’s actually worse.

    The original statement is self-evidently idiotic. But the explanation contains grains of semi-truth, so it’s misleading and it requires research to realise how fatuous and dangerous it is. An accurate statement would be that most, not all, hospitals are required to treat patients, but only if their condition qualifies as an emergency. And only to the point where they are stabilised.

    […]

    […] In 2009, the American Journal of Public Health published a study that concluded that “nearly 45,000 annual deaths are associated with lack of health insurance{…}” and that “uninsured, working-age Americans have a 40 percent higher risk of death than their privately insured counterparts.”

    [… USAians] have fewer doctors. They’re down at number 31 in life expectancy. Infant mortality is almost twice as high as the average of OECD countries. They are the most obese.[†]

    The use of emergency rooms for what should be doctors’ office visits is one of the reasons for such high costs and poor results. That’s why Labrador’s explanation is worse than his original statement. It sounds like it has some sanity in it, but it’s an endorsement and an embrace of the most expensive and less effective way to provide medical care.

    One commonality of all the places that pay less to get better results is that they have universal healthcare. […]

    [… discussion of the hostility to what works (universal healthcare) in the States …]

    Presumably there are real solutions to America’s healthcare woes. Other nations have succeeded. It would be nice to report that the kinds of nonsense quoted above are just debating tricks to create confusion and obfuscation in defence of various kinds of profiteering. But, sadly, they seem sincere.

      † The “[USAians] are the most obese” is not further explained. This is an odd claim, as various islands / countries in the South Pacific are generally considered to have the highest rates of obesity; e.g., Nauru — 45.10% of population (date unclear) — albeit that source does note:

    Though America is not the most obese country in the world, North America still continues to lead the charts. While a majority of other countries that top of the list are small and sparsely populated countries. Mexico and the US continue to top the list in recent years trading spots for number 1 in North America. […] According to the CDC an average adult is 26 pounds heavier now than in the 1950’s.

    The original claim is perhaps a minor error, albeit in reality the States is — depending on what is measured — c.10th–c.20th most obese country on the planet, making the claim apparently roughly an order-of-magnitude (in ranking) wrong.

    (I did not check the other claims in that paragraph; I was just wondering “what happened to various South Pacific islands?”, which are famously obese.)

  211. blf says

    Follow-up to @294, Enes Kanter calls Turkey’s Erdoğan ‘Hitler of our century’ after airport detainment [sic†]:

    ● NBA player wants to become US citizen after Turkish passport canceled
    ● 25-year-old credited Homeland Security and NBPA lawyers for their help

    […]

    NBPA is the National Basketball Players Association. Apparently, Mr Kanter learned of the cancellation of his Turkish passport whilst in Jakarta (Indonesia), with a report that the Indonesian authorities were looking for him, apparently after Turkey claimed (his words) “he’s a dangerous man, we need to talk to him.” He is now back in New York.

      † Albeit not mentioned in this article, my understanding is he was never actually detained, at least not in the sense of arrested. (I am quite open to correction on this probably minor point.)

  212. says

    Albeit not mentioned in this article, my understanding is he was never actually detained, at least not in the sense of arrested. (I am quite open to correction on this probably minor point.)

    I believe he was detained in the sense that he wasn’t allowed to leave that area in the airport (he took selfies with the security people, so I don’t think it was frightening in that regard – just that he was prevented from leaving).

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

    Meanwhile, in Mississippi

    A Mississippi state lawmaker is under fire after calling for the lynching of leaders who supported the recent removal of Confederate monuments in Louisiana.

    In a Facebook post published Saturday night, Mississippi state Rep. Karl Oliver went on a diatribe about the controversial statues in his neighboring state, which have been taken down in recent weeks:

    The destruction of these monuments, erected in the loving memory of our family and fellow Southern Americans, is both heinous and horrific. If the, and I use this term extremely loosely, “leadership” of Louisiana wishes to, in a Nazi-ish fashion, burn books or destroy historical monuments of OUR HISTORY, they should be LYNCHED! Let it be known, I will do all in my power to prevent this from happening in our State.

    Our hero has since issued a notpology:

    I, first and foremost, wish to extend this apology for any embarrassment I have caused to both my colleagues and fellow Mississippians. In an effort to express my passion for preserving all historical monuments, I acknowledge the word “lynched” was wrong. I am very sorry. It is in no way, ever, an appropriate term. I deeply regret that I chose this word, and I do not condone the actions I referenced, nor do I believe them in my heart. I freely admit my choice of words was horribly wrong, and I humbly ask your forgiveness.

  214. says

    Follow-up to comments 319 and 325.

    About Wilbur Ross’s praise for the lack of protesters in Saudi Arabia, here’s an excerpt from a report written by Amnesty International:

    […] The authorities severely curtailed the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, detaining and imprisoning critics, human rights defenders and minority rights activists on vaguely worded charges. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees remained common, particularly during interrogation, and courts continued to accept torture-tainted “confessions” to convict defendants in unfair trials.

    Women faced discrimination in both law and practice and were inadequately protected against sexual and other violence […] Courts imposed many death sentences, including for non-violent crimes and against juvenile offenders; scores of executions were carried out. […]

    From Joyce Carol Oates:

    Not a single hint of a protester in Auschwitz, most days.

  215. says

    Follow-up to comment 230.

    Team Trump continues to play around with destroying the healthcare insurance market … but more sneakily this time.

    The White House was expected to deliver a final decision Monday about whether it would continue to defend a lawsuit that could determine the fate of Obamacare’s coverage markets. […] it will instead ask the court for an additional three months to make up its mind—a delay that will leave insurers grappling with further financial uncertainty as they determine rates for next year, almost certainly leading to higher premiums for their customers.

    The suit, which was first filed by House Republicans against the Obama administration, challenges the government’s ability to continue sending crucial subsidies to insurers to compensate them for limiting the out-of-pocket costs they charge low-income enrollees. […] Trump himself has threatened to abandon the case and cut off the CSRs, which most experts believe would amount to dropping a bomb on Obamacare’s insurance exchanges. Because insurers are still required by law to keep costs down for poorer enrollees, the industry would face severe financial losses without the subsidy payments, which are predicted be worth $7 billion this year. […]

    By simply leaving the fate of the CSRs in limbo, Trump is pretty much ensuring Americans will pay more for their health coverage next year. […] Allowing this issue to linger for another three months will force pretty much every coverage provider to set its prices without knowing whether the subsidies will last, which will force them to charge more. […]Here’s how the Kasier Family Foundation researcher Cynthia Cox summed up the situation for me:

    If the stay continues, then insurers will continue to face a great deal of uncertainty for next year. This could cause some insurers to drop out of the market and others to raise premiums substantially since they won’t know whether they will get these payments by the time they have to file their premiums for next year. This uncertainty will likely mean less choice of insurers or possibly some parts of the country with no choice of insurers on the exchanges. We also suspect that insurers will have to raise their rates so much that premium tax credits will also increase substantially, meaning it will cost tax payers more than if the government had made these payments.

    […] Simply cutting off the CSRs would be an overt move that would trigger a wave of media attention, with lots of cable news headlines about Trump choosing the nuclear option on health care. Delaying the issue will instead subtly sabotage the exchanges without capsizing them outright—which will make it easier for Trump to suggest that Obamacare is failing on its own and must be replaced. The president is doing plenty of damage by doing nothing.

    Slate link

  216. says

    MSNBC is reporting that Elijah Cummings wrote a letter to Jason Chaffetz saying the House Oversight Committee has evidence that Flynn lied in his security clearance interview (specifically, he claimed his RT trip was paid for by US companies).

    Burr and Warner (Senate Intel Committee) just issued a statement in response to Flynn’s invoking the fifth, saying they’ll “vigorously pursue” his testimony/documents.

    Comey will meet with Mueller about what he can say in his congressional testimony.

  217. says

    In today’s episode of The Family Grift:

    …Kushner, 36, who is emerging as a singularly powerful figure in the Trump White House, is keeping nearly 90 percent of his vast real estate holdings even after resigning from the family business and pledging a clear divide between his private interests and public duties.

    The value of his retained real estate interests is between $132 million and $407 million and could leave him in a position to financially benefit from his family’s business.

    The documents reflect the opaque decisions that Kushner and his attorneys made to allow him to keep much of his outside investments while seeking to remain within the boundaries that government ethics officials would find acceptable.

    Kushner’s form lists hundreds of private companies. Some of the investments he kept are held by shell companies that are virtually impossible to track, and Kushner has declined to make public more information on those entities….

    (I love this detail: The article says his “most valuable asset” is something called BFPS Ventures, about which they can get almost no information. The last line reads: “Kushner’s representatives have declined to reveal what the initialism BFPS stands for.”)

  218. says

    CNN is now reporting that Mueller has been briefed on Comey’s memos, that Comey will be a witness in Mueller’s investigation, and that Warner is saying Comey will testify the week of June 5th.

  219. says

    “Trump asked intelligence chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence”:

    President Trump asked two of the nation’s top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, according to current and former officials.

    Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.

    Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the requests, which they both deemed to be inappropriate, according to two current and two former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private communications with the president.

    Trump’s conversation with Rogers was documented contemporaneously in an internal memo written by a senior NSA official, according to the officials. It is unclear if a similar memo was prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to document Trump’s conversation with Coats. Officials said such memos could be made available to both the special counsel now overseeing the Russia investigation and congressional investigators, who might explore whether Trump sought to impede the FBI’s work.

    Current and former senior intelligence officials viewed Trump’s requests as an attempt by the president to tarnish the credibility of the agency leading the Russia investigation.

    A senior intelligence official said that Trump’s goal was to “muddy the waters” about the scope of the FBI probe at a time when Democrats were ramping up their calls for the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel, a step announced last week.

    Senior intelligence officials also saw the March requests as a threat to the independence of U.S. spy agencies, which are supposed to remain insulated from partisan issues.

    In addition to the requests to Coats and Rogers, senior White House officials sounded out top intelligence officials about the possibility of intervening directly with Comey to encourage the FBI to drop its probe of Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, according to people familiar with the matter. The officials said the White House appeared uncertain about its power to influence the FBI.

    “Can we ask him to shut down the investigation? Are you able to assist in this matter?” one official said of the line of questioning from the White House.

    Current and former officials said either Trump lacks an understanding of the FBI’s role as an independent law enforcement agency or does not care about maintaining such boundaries….

  220. says

    This whole notion is ridiculous. As a businessman in just the past several months, Trump used his bogus foundation to bribe state AGs to quash investigations into his fraudulent “university,” and has since paid them off with more favors. His business skills, developed over decades, include lying, manipulating, cajoling, suborning, and threatening in order to avoid financial and legal accountability. The argument that he didn’t know what he was doing here is fucking absurd. I almost want them to try to make it, so people can start going back through his history in business.

  221. says

    Reuters:

    Sterling extended losses after British police said they were treating an explosion in Manchester as a possible terrorist attack, while the euro retained gains made on comments by German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the common currency was “too weak.”

    Sterling remained under pressure after police said at least 19 people were killed and about 50 injured in an explosion at a concert in Manchester where U.S. singer Ariana Grande had been performing….

    I fucking hate capitalism.

  222. says

    Wow… .
    Monica Lewinsky says goodbye to Ailes

    Scathing, true, and made me feel stupid for not previously understanding the extent to which #monicagate changed the landscape for news and journalism. It was a complete turning point, and here we are.

    And at the heart of it, was sexism. She wasn’t a person, she was a whore with a cigar and a blue dress. This piece she’s penned should be part of any course that talks about the harms of misogyny and a patriarchal culture.

    This review of her op-ed hammers it home and makes me optimistic that something good might come out of this mess.

  223. says

    and twitter, reading comments about Monica Lewinsky, which is trending, has destroyed that hope in a half a second…. I’m not linking it, but it’s disgusting, and never ending.

  224. KG says

    The Manchester attack appears to have been by a suicide bomber using an IED. Latest figures are 22 dead, 59 injured. General election campaigning has been suspended by all the main parties.

  225. says

    Update to Lynna’s #329 – Shaub won’t be bullied by Mulvaney: “The ethics director says he expects to see the waiver information within 10 days.” (“House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican who says he is soon leaving office, did not respond to requests for comment.” “Grassley’s office did not return repeated requests for comment.”)

  226. says

    Coats and Rogers are also testifying today before Senate committees. Coats is supposed to start momentarily, but I can’t find it on any of the SPANs.

  227. says

    I’ve been waiting on some good reporting about what happened here.

    It puts the tweets of Preet and Joon that I linked to way upthread in context. This is pure speculation, but something tells me there was a deal made that will have implications on the Trump investigation. The connection to Russian money laundering and New York real estate, combined with the surprising and hasty settlement speaks to something.

    Of course, it could be as simple as Joon wanting to clear his case load to concentrate on ‘something else more important’.

  228. says

    This from the NYT provides a good summary of the major points and themes of today’s hearings so far.

    My assessment of the Brennan hearing (I was busy and missed the beginning) seems to be shared by a number of other people. Gowdy was laughably ineffective at what he was trying to do; the Republicans’ strategy of yielding a bunch of their time to him backfired in a big way. I should say that I don’t think this was necessarily due to Gowdy’s incompetence – although he once again seemed slow to realize that his plan wasn’t working – but more likely due to the fact that the reality simply goes against their narrative. They’re completely craven, but I’m perplexed by why they continue to refuse to recognize that the more information that’s revealed the worse things are going to go for Trump. I can’t think of a single piece of exculpatory evidence that’s emerged, and even if there has been one or two they’ve been swamped by inculpating evidence. It’s highly unlikely – and even more so given Trump’s character and history – to get better for them from here on out.

  229. says

    David Corn: “Republicans Focus on Protecting Trump at Russia Hearing: They kept pressing ex-CIA chief John Brennan to say no evidence of Moscow-campaign collusion exists.”

    (Wow – because I’d missed the beginning of the hearing, I didn’t even catch that Conaway was present – was wondering where he was. He’s heading the committee in this investigation, and didn’t ask one question after opening the hearing with “a prayer that invoked Jesus.” So maybe there’s one who’s aware enough to stop sticking his neck out…)

  230. blf says

    The Grauniad’s short guide to The investigations swirling around Donald Trump (heavily redacted but not marked):

    ● Robert Mueller
     An FBI counter-intelligence investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections and possible collusion in this effort by the Trump campaign

    ● House intelligence committee
     Possible collusion of the Trump campaign with Russia following the revelations about Michael Flynn

    ● Senate intelligence committee
     Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election, including in the Republican primaries, and possible Trump campaign collusion

    ● House oversight committee
     Whether Trump put pressure on Comey to shut down his Russia investigation before he fired him

    ● Senate judiciary committee
     Flynn’s departure and Trump’s interactions with Comey

  231. says

    SC @383, thanks for that summary. I only had time to watch snippets of Brennan’s testimony today.

    I agree that Gowdy, Rooney and other Republicans tried very hard, (and in various ways), to get former CIA chief John Brennan to say that there was no evidence of collusion between team Trump and the Russians. Instead, they managed to get Brennan to repeat several times that the intelligence he saw showed a pattern of contacts that concerned him, and that was ample reason to make sure a the FBI investigated thoroughly.

    Gowdy’s concentration on leaks was all too predictable. Republican’s are also still trying to create a crime out of the unmasking of names of US citizens in intelligence reports. That unmasking has been explained to them so many times that you would think the necessary, and non-criminal aspects of unmasking would sink in.

  232. says

    My summary from the hearings today: Team Trump’s contacts with Russia prompted the investigation, especially when the background of Russia’s interference in the election was taken into account.

    In other news, the Department of Justice announced that Mueller’s appointment as special counsel is compliant with ethics rules. You may remember, (from SC’s comment 268, and other comments), that team Trump immediately began to look for a way to discredit Mueller or to claim that his appointment to oversee the investigation into Russian interference violated ethics rules. The DOJ just shut that argument down.

    Wonkette (see comment 291) presented an amusing take on team Trump’s little foray into “that’s unethical” land. That’s a lot of hypocrisy from their side, plus, they were wrong.

    […] “Government ethics regulations permit the Department of Justice to authorize an employee to participate in a matter where their former employer represents a party.

    The department said it “cannot confirm or deny that Mr. Mueller’s former firm represents an individual or individuals who are within the scope of the Special Counsel appointment” but has “considered the relevant issues and determined that Mr. Mueller’s appointment as Special Counsel is consistent with the Rules of Professional Responsibility.”

    Link

  233. blf says

    The only good news about Trump’s budget? It’s unlikely to pass:

    The White House’s proposal, full of cuts to major programs, aims to balance the federal budget in a decade — benefitting the rich as it clobbers the poor

    Donald Trump launched a budget proposal Tuesday and, as may not be a surprise, it’s a horror. The pompously titled A New Foundation for American Greatness is a rightwing wish list of tax cuts for the rich and beatings for the poor. Fortunately, as with most things Trump, it’s as likely to become reality as his great big beautiful wall.

    The aim of the budget is to balance the federal budget in a decade — a noble goal that would be achieved by the ignoble means of substantially cutting spending on programs to help the needy while encouraging faster economic growth by cutting taxes for the rich. The plan that has shown little evidence of working elsewhere.

    Who loses? Poor people. Over the next 10 years:

    ● $616bn would be cut from Medicaid […]
    ● $193bn would be cut from food stamps […]
    ● $250bn would be saved by repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act […] the administration says.
    ● $143bn would be cut from student loan programs.
    ● $72bn would be cut from disability programs.

    Science, medical research, the arts — all would see cuts. The list goes on and on.

    Among the more Trumpian touches is a plan to save $40bn by barring undocumented immigrants from collecting tax credits aimed at low- and middle-income families especially with children.

    […]

    [… T]he growth will supposedly come from Trump’s equally preposterous tax cut plans for businesses and individuals — a move that will boost the US’s somewhat lackluster growth to 3% over the next decade, according to [Trump’s budget director Mick] Mulvaney.

    The Congressional Budget Office has US growth pegged at a full percentage point less than that, the Federal Reserve has it at 1.8%. Experts! What do they know? […]

    [… T]he Fed and CBO are not alone. Most serious economists doubt the US economy will grow consistently at 3% for the next decade. In the Washington Post, Larry Summers, the former Treasury secretary, called it “a logical error of the kind that would justify failing a student in an introductory economics course”.

    […]

    Despite the title, the column doesn’t make much of a case the budget won’t be passed (I’ve redacted the few sentences on this point). The argument seems to be “Congress will change it because that’s what always happens”, which is neither evidenced nor too comforting.

  234. says

    Brennan also said that Trump broke protocol when he shared classified intelligence with the Russians.

    Regarding the hearings, I remember how spectacularly Trey Gowdy failed when he grilled Hillary Clinton for 11 hours. Now, he has failed by grilling Brennan. In both cases, he proved that the person testifying had more integrity than he has, and that the person testifying was grounded in reality and facts while Gowdy was off in fantasy land.

    […] Brennan’s comments about the “well founded” basis of the Russia investigation blow up Trump’s talking point — one he pushed as recently as May 18 on Twitter — that the probe is just a “witch hunt” promoted by Democrats upset about Hillary Clinton’s defeat.

    Link

    I doubt that Trump or Gowdy will ever learn.

  235. says

    Oh, FFS. The White House is really failing when it comes to doing due diligence before they grant press credentials to rightwing nutters.

    […] On Monday, Infowars announced it has been granted press credentials that will allow Washington bureau chief Jerome Corsi — a prominent swiftboater and birther — to attend White House press briefings.

    Later that same day, Infowars founder Alex Jones smeared the victims of the attack during the Ariana Grande show in Manchester that killed at least 22 people, describing them as “liberal trendies.” […]

    Link

  236. says

    Trump wants to appoint a rightwing blogger who equated abortion to slavery to the appeals court.

    John Bush is a lawyer and the president of the Louisville chapter of the Federalist Society, an increasingly radicalized conservative legal group that’s played a major role in selecting Donald Trump’s nominees to the federal bench. Bush is also a blogger at a site called “Elephants in the Bluegrass,” where he’s written on subjects such as why slavery is like abortion or the virtues of shooting Obama supporters.

    And, if President Trump has his way, Mr. Bush will soon add another title to his resume: judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

    Bush, who boasts a conventional legal resume for a federal appellate nominee, revealed in response to a standard questionnaire the Senate Judiciary Committee provides to judicial nominees that he blogs at the Elephants in the Bluegrass site under the pseudonym “G. Morris.” And as “G. Morris,” Mr. Bush has been unusually open about his political and legal views for a potential federal judge.

    For one thing, Bush appeared to suggest that deadly force is the appropriate response to Democrats engaged in minor transgressions. […]

    Link

  237. says

    Please, journalists, approach Trump’s budget plan with more skepticism when it comes to Social Security.

    A number of usually reliable reporters were duped by White House spin that President Donald Trump’s draconian budget proposal for fiscal year 2018 to slash spending for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) was not a violation of his major campaign pledge to protect Social Security from cuts.

    During his June 16, 2015, announcement to run for president, Trump clearly and unequivocally promised that if he was elected, he would “save Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security without cuts.” Trump’s campaign declaration fit previous statements he made in the run-up to his announcement, wherein he claimed he was “the only [Republican] who won’t cut Social Security” and stated “I am going to save Social Security without any cuts.” […]

    After Trump’s repeated statements that he would not cut Social Security, the White House’s decision to include significant cuts to SSDI in its 2018 budget request represents a broken campaign promise. Some journalists — including Washington Post reporter Philip Bump, Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik, and NBC News reporter Benjy Sarlin — caught on to what was actually being proposed, and Vox’s Dylan Matthews stated that these cuts clearly break “a crucial campaign promise.” Yet, despite this, several other journalists fell for the White House’s misleading spin.

    In the midst of an otherwise brutal recap of Trump’s budget, HuffPost reporter Arthur Delaney claimed “the document mostly honors Trump’s unorthodox campaign promise not to cut Social Security or Medicare” before actually quoting Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, as he expounded on proposed cuts to “disability insurance.”*

    In her write-up of the budget that detailed the profound impact it will have on low-income communities, New York Times reporter Yamiche Alcindor noted that Trump “would cut access to disability payments through Social Security” but casually added “the main function of Social Security — retirement income — would flow unimpeded.”

    New York Times reporter Julie Hirschfeld Davis included similar misleading language in her report on the budget, arguing, “The blueprint also steers clear of changing Social Security’s retirement program or Medicare” and promoting the administration’s claim that Trump’s promise to protect “retirement” was intact.

    Washington Post reporters Damian Paletta and Robert Costa also fell for the White House’s misdirection gambit, writing of the president’s campaign rhetoric: “Trump insisted that they could not cut retirement benefits for Social Security.”

    NPR reporter Scott Horsley also detailed the “significant cuts to social safety net programs” while promoting the Trump administration’s spin that the campaign promise was merely to “preserve” the “Social Security retirement program.”

    Axios reporter Jonathan Swan managed to write a review of Trump’s budget that committed both sins; first claiming that the Trump budget fulfilled “his campaign promise” not to touch Social Security and later claiming that it merely would not affect retirees […]

    Media Matters link

  238. says

    Regarding the hearings, I remember how spectacularly Trey Gowdy failed when he grilled Hillary Clinton for 11 hours. Now, he has failed by grilling Brennan. In both cases, he proved that the person testifying had more integrity than he has, and that the person testifying was grounded in reality and facts while Gowdy was off in fantasy land.

    And they might make him chair of the Oversight Committee when Chaffetz leaves. Of course.

  239. says

    Another example of team Trump trying to pretend global climate change does not exist by editing it out of official government documents:

    On Thursday, a group of scientists, including three working for the U.S. Geological Survey, published a paper that highlighted the link between sea-level rise and global climate change, arguing that previously studies may have underestimated the risk flooding poses to coastal communities.

    However, three of the study’s authors say the Department of Interior, under which USGS is housed, deleted a line from the news release on the study that discussed the role climate change played in raising Earth’s oceans.

    The quoted text above is from the Washington Post.

    From Steve Benen:

    […] The public statement originally said, “Global climate change drives sea-level rise, increasing the frequency of coastal flooding.” The U.S. Geological Survey changed the text so that it now says, “The frequency and severity of coastal flooding throughout the world will increase rapidly and eventually double in frequency over the coming decades even with only moderate amounts of sea level rise.”

    In other words, officials were comfortable describing the problem, but not identifying the cause of the problem. The news release isn’t wrong, exactly, so much as it was made deliberately incomplete.

    The Post’s report added that the decision to change the news release “came from officials at the Interior Department itself,” adding, “During the first days of the Trump administration, federal agencies halted scientists from publishing news releases and doing other communication with the public. Later, the Environmental Protection Agency and Departments of Interior and Energy scrubbed portions of their websites that discussed the science and risks of climate change.”

    In case federal officials need a reminder, sea levels will continue to rise whether Republicans accept climate science or not.

    Link

  240. says

    The official White House take on former CIA Director John Brennan’s testimony is delusional:

    This morning’s hearings back up what we’ve been saying all along: that despite a year of investigation, there is still no evidence of any Russia-Trump campaign collusion, that the President never jeopardized intelligence sources or sharing, and that even Obama’s CIA Director believes the leaks of classified information are “appalling” and the culprits must be “tracked down.”

    Well, that’s one way to look at it.

  241. says

    Dunderheads from the USA’s rightwing anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion movement are embracing Viktor Orban, the trump-ish leader of Hungary.

    The World Congress of Families 2017 global gathering will get underway in Budapest, Hungary, later this week. The event, titled the Budapest Family Summit, will bring American anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion activists together with their allies from around the world. WCF leaders have been openly praising Hungary’s illiberal leader, Viktor Orbán, who is scheduled to speak at the Budapest Democratic Forum being held in conjunction with the summit.

    […] “Hungary has a well-deserved reputation as one of the most family-friendly countries in Europe.” Well, unless you’re talking about refugee families, of course. Or LGBTQ families.

    Here’s what WCF has to say about Hungary and Orbán:

    […] The adoption of key provisions in the Hungarian Constitution in 2011 defining marriage between a man and a woman and protecting human life from conception to natural death have made the Orbán government the hero of pro-family and pro-life leaders from all over the world. […]

    […]. Orbán is considered an ideological ally of other European right-wing nationalists, like Marine Le Pen of France and Geert Wilders of the Netherlands. But, unlike those figures, and like Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Orbán is in power—and he’s using it. […]

    Orbán’s agenda has been clear for some time. Back in 2014, Bloomberg noted that he had “amassed more power than any of his predecessors since the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, replacing the heads of independent institutions including the courts with allies, tightening control over media and changing election rules to help him retain a constitutional majority in Parliament.”

    Orbán has also cracked down on civil society organizations, much as Putin has. […]

    Another Religious Right leader who has fallen for Orbán is globe-trotting anti-gay activist Scott lively, who wrote about his adoration last year. […]

    It really raises my ire when these doofuses who have not gotten all the anti-gay, anti-abortion and pro-totalitarian-christian-religion laws they want passed in the USA take their show on the road to push Religious Right policies in other countries.

    Right Wing Watch link

  242. says

    A member of the Federal Election Commission is calling on the agency to investigate whether Russian agents paid for Facebook ads to spread damaging stories about Hillary Clinton ahead of last fall’s presidential election. […]

    Politico link

  243. blf says

    This is from roughly a week ago, but I failed to notice it, and do not recall having seen it mentioned, Trump expands policy that bans US aid for overseas abortion providers:

    ● Trump widens ‘Mexico City policy’ [global gag rule], which had been suspended under Obama
    ● Rule will prevent foreign aid going to groups that even discuss abortion rights

    The Trump administration on Monday [15-May] significantly expanded a Reagan-era policy banning foreign aid to international healthcare providers who discuss abortion or advocate for abortion rights, in a move critics fear will jeopardize efforts to fight diseases such as malaria, HIV/Aids, and the Zika virus.

    The new terms of the ban will apply to $8.8bn in existing foreign aid provided by the state department, USAid, and the Department of Defense — dwarfing the $600m in programming that fell under the ban during previous administrations.

    […]

    Critics feared the broader policy could significantly cut aid to groups combating the types of infectious diseases that have plagued poorer countries.

    “There is no indication that the Trump administration has conducted any assessment of the impact of the expanded global gag rule,” said Serra Sippel, the president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity. “For example, how will this expansion impact prevention of the spread of HIV or Zika, especially given the role of contraceptives in prevention efforts?”

    […]

    Because dangerous births and abortions drive such a high rate of maternal deaths in poor countries, many international health advocates say that a ban on even discussing abortion inhibits their work.

    Research has also repeatedly called into question the assertion that the ban results in fewer abortions.

    A study of nearly two dozen countries in sub-Saharan Africa found that the abortion actually rate rose during the George W Bush administration in countries affected by the ban.

    […]

  244. says

    Congresswoman Jackie Speier was interviewed on the Rachel Maddow show tonight. She talked about “following the money” as part of the House Intelligence Committee’s Trump-Russia investigation. She said that the Committee is finally getting a forensic accountant to help them. That’s a good sign!

    Here’s some more good news:

    […] Democrats flipped not one but two state legislative seats in special elections—and both came in deep red territory. In New Hampshire, Democrat Edie DesMarais defeated Republican Matthew Plache by a 52-48 margin in the state House’s 6th Carroll District, a seat Donald Trump won 51-44 last fall. Meanwhile, in the New York Assembly’s 9th District, Democratic Christine Pellegrino beat Republican Thomas Gargiulo 58-42, even though Trump romped to a 60-37 victory there in November.

    This means that DesMarais moved the needle 11 points in the Democratic direction while Pellegrino did the same by an astounding 39 points. And while these are the first two seats to actually change hands since Trump’s election, Democrats have consistently outperformed the 2016 presidential results in special elections across the country. […]

    Link

  245. says

    Giuliani is dancing around the facts, but I don’t think he’ll get away with this.

    Here’s what he said in January:

    I’ll tell you the whole history of it: When he [Trump] first announced it, he said “Muslim ban.” He called me up, he said, “Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.” What we did was we focused on ― instead of religion ― danger. The areas of the world that create danger for us, which is a factual basis, not a religious basis. Perfectly legal, perfectly sensible, and that’s what the ban is based on.

    Here’s what Giuliani said in a court filing on Monday:

    Neither I nor my firm has represented the Trump Administration. In particular I have not served on any Trump administration commission “relating to the so-called Muslim Ban Executive Orders.” For clarity, I have not participated in writing any of the Executive Orders on that subject issued by the Trump administration.

  246. says

    Hillary Clinton criticized Trump’s proposed budget:

    […] an unimaginable level of cruelty. […]

    This administration is mounting an onslaught against the needs of children, people with disabilities, women and seniors.

    Poverty is neither a crime, nor a character flaw. Stigmatize those who let people die, not those who struggle to live. [partial quote from author Sarah Kendzior’s book “The View From Flyover Country.”]

  247. says

    David Letterman commented on Trump in a GQ interview:

    […] I’m disappointed that this man is representing me and my country. It makes me sick. […]

    [Letterman responded to a question about having Trump on “The Late Show” in the past.] No, no reason to regret it…. But we always looked forward to having him on. He was a great guest. He was just a big, wealthy dope who’d come on and we would make fun of his hair. I would refer to him as a slumlord.

    But now, this goon… I don’t know. He’s demonstrated himself to be a man without a core, a man without a soul. Is there a guy in there? […]

    http://www.gq.com/story/david-letterman-interview-2017

  248. says

    Here are Maddow’s segment on the Brennan hearing from last night and a clip of Nicolle Wallace talking about Republican toadies like Gowdy.

    Further to #s 383 and 385 – As I was walking and picking fresh catnip yesterday, it occurred to me that the strategy of (all but one of) the Republican committee members might have been smart. A few of them made memorably stupid remarks, but overall yielding their time to Gowdy made him the face of craven toadyism. If this was the plan, it could have been motivated by self-protection alone, or perhaps they really dislike Gowdy, who seemed quite pleased to take the spotlight.

  249. says

    Marc Kasowitz is the attorney Trump has retained to represent him in whatever cases stem from the Russia-related investigations.

    Kasowitz has no background in constitutional law, nor in defense cases. He represented Trump in the following civil cases: divorces, real estate transactions, allegations of fraud at Trump University, etc.

    Kasowitz was also the lawyer Trump used to bring a $5 billion lawsuit against a New York Times reporter. Kasowitz and Trump lost that case.

    One of Kasowitz’s other clients is Sperbank, Russia’s largest state-controlled bank.

    What could go wrong?

  250. says

    Follow-up to comment 421.

    Writing for Talking Points Memo, Caitlin MacNeal provided more details about Marc Kasowitz, Trump’s private lawyer:

    […] Kasowitz represents Trump in a defamation lawsuit filed by Summer Zervos, a former “Apprentice” contestant who accused Trump of groping her. Kasowitz sought to dismiss that case on behalf of Trump in March, arguing that Trump is immune to lawsuits in state court as President.

    Kasowitz also sent a letter to the New York Times in October on behalf of Trump, arguing that the paper’s report about allegations that Trump groped several women was “reckless and defamatory.”

    Trump’s decision to hire Kasowitz may have thrown a wrench into the White House’s plans to consider former Sen. Joe Lieberman as the next FBI director. Trump himself said last week that Lieberman, who is a partner at the same law firm as Kasowitz, was his top pick for the job. Lieberman is no longer the leading candidate for the position, CNN reported Wednesday.

  251. blf says

    Lynna@412: “What could go wrong?”

    He might not hire Orly Taitz, Larry Klayman, and Matt Stever. Without their expertise and special skills, hair furor is doomed!

  252. blf says

    me@423, obviously I was referring to the Marc Kasowitz report at @421, not whatever @412 is about, albeit I’m sure Tpyos likes my crossed digits…

  253. blf says

    The story is a bit involved, but Oklahoma Accidentally Makes All Civil Litigation “Loser Pays”. Essentially, an bill amending the law to extend the statute of limitations for lawsuits alleging sexual abuse during childhood was itself amended in such a way that in all civil lawsuits, the loser pays. It’s not entirely clear if this was an accident or not, albeit the governor did sign the bill despite knowing it revised “a legal rule that’s been around for centuries”.

    The amended law does not take effect until later this year, albeit there is apparently very little time left in th current legislative session to correct the error — if indeed it is an error. The author of the amendment which implemented “loser pays”, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Anthony Sykes, has remained silent on the entire affair, which, supposedly, was only spotted by the governor’s office just before it was due to be signed into law.

  254. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 419.

    “Thank you so much,” President Trump said to Pope Francis when they shook hands.

    After shaking hands, the pope and POTUS walked into the pope’s private study, which is just off the room where they shook hands. When pool entered the study, the pope and the president were seated across from each other at the pope’s wooden desk.

    POTUS told the pope it’s “a very great honor.”

    The pope did not say anything. He did not smile. He looked at pool several times. We were quickly ushered out at 8:33am.

    Quoted text above is from the press pool report.

    From Bloomberg News:

    Francis gave the U.S. president a copy of his 2015 encyclical calling for urgent, drastic cuts in fossil-fuel emissions after a half-hour meeting in his private study.

    Francis’s choice of gift suggests he is adding his voice to those pressing Trump not to renege on the Paris accord, which is the cornerstone of global efforts to limit climate change. The Vatican said in a statement that the talks focused on international affairs and the promotion of peace, with particular emphasis on health care, education and immigration.

    “Thank you, thank you,” Trump told Francis as they shook hands after the meeting. “I won’t forget what you said.” Trump has said climate change might be a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.

    From Jen Hayden, writing for Daily Kos:

    And what did Trump give Pope Francis? A bronze statue, a piece of granite from the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial and a first edition set of writings by Martin Luther King, Jr. Trump pointed to them and said, “These books are from Martin Luther King. I think you will enjoy them.” Donald, these books are by Martin Luther King, Jr. […]

    He then boarded Air Force One and promptly got back to pushing his budget, which drastically slashes funding for children’s health care, food for the poor, assistance for the disabled, disease prevention and critical medical research for cancer and other deadly diseases.[…]

    Photos from Obama’s visit with the Pope show both men smiling.

  255. says

    blf @423:

    He might not hire Orly Taitz, Larry Klayman, and Matt Stever. Without their expertise and special skills, hair furor is doomed!

    Ha! I didn’t think of it that way. This farce does need more characters like Orly Taitz.

    In Trump-budget news, I would just like to point out that while he strips funds from health care for children, Trump is asking for $4.6 billion to inject into his harassment of undocumented immigrants. That includes $1.6 billion to get started on the border wall for which Mexico will not pay.

  256. says

    Trump’s lackey, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, tried to defund “sanctuary cities.” The courts put a stop to that. (A federal judge in San Francisco blocked the order. The judge said that the president had overstepped his authority by authorizing the executive branch to withhold funds appropriated by Congress.)

    Never fear, team Dunderhead has come up with another way to defund sanctuary cities:

    […]Sessions himself seemed to give up on the defunding plan on Monday when he released a memo with a narrow interpretation of a sanctuary jurisdictions, limited to localities that violate US Code 1373, a federal law that concerns communication between local and federal officials and does not mention detaining immigrants. […]

    But the Trump administration’s budget changes all that. In two separate sections of the nearly 1,300-page document, the administration aims to broaden US Code 1373’s definition of a sanctuary jurisdiction and give the Justice and Homeland Security departments the ability to withhold more funding—including grants aimed at preventing terrorism.

    […] Phil Wolgin, managing director of immigration policy at the liberal Center for American Progress, referring to Sessions’ memo. “And then we see this language today which would radically redefine 1373 to do all the things that they’ve been trying to do.” […]

    A key portion of Trump’s budget proposal authorizes the withholding of public safety funds for non-compliance with federal officials: “The Secretary of Homeland Security or the Attorney General may condition a grant or cooperative agreement awarded by the Department of Homeland Security or the Department of Justice to a State or political subdivision of a state, for a purpose related to immigration, national security, law enforcement, or preventing, preparing for, protecting against or responding to acts of terrorism.”

    If Congress adopts this language, Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly could withhold funds to jurisdictions that do not comply with requests for information about individuals and requests to detain individuals. The departments could also force jurisdictions to promise compliance with such requests as a condition of receiving future grants. […]

    Link

    If you don’t like reality, just redefine it: “radically redefine 1373 to do all the things that they’ve been trying to do.”

  257. KG says

    Interesting times in the self-styled “United Kingdom”:

    Prime Minister Theresa May said soldiers are being placed at Buckingham Palace, Downing Street, embassies and the Palace of Westminster to support armed police in protecting the public.

    Military personnel may also be seen at other events over the coming weeks, such as concerts, Mrs May said, working under the command of police officers.

    She said she did not want people to feel “unduly alarmed” but said it was a “proportionate and sensible response”.

    Mrs Rudd said 984 troops had been deployed in the first instance. Up to 3,800 are available.

    She said she “absolutely” expected the raising of the threat level to critical to be temporary, adding that the bomber had been known “up to a point” by the intelligence services.

    The highest threat level, which is decided by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre – a group of experts from the police, government departments and agencies – has only been reached twice before.

    The first time the threat level was raised to critical was in 2006 during a major operation to stop a plot to blow up transatlantic airliners with liquid bombs.

    The following year, security chiefs raised it once more as they hunted for the men who had tried to bomb a London nightclub and attacked Glasgow Airport.

    The Metropolitan Police says it has increased its presence across London.

    Meanwhile, Chelsea Football Club have cancelled their Premier League victory parade, due to take place in London on Sunday, so as not to divert police resources.

    In Northern Ireland, extra police officers have also been deployed at key sites and on transport networks.

    I don’t for a moment believe this vile mass-murder was a false flag operation, but its timing could be very helpful for the Tories, both electorally, and in justifying a stepped-up surveillance programme and other authoritarian measures when* elected. Immediately before the attack, May had been forced into a “humiliating U-turn” over a scheme to pay for the social care old or disabled people need, which was in fact far from the worst aspect of their manifesto. Now she has several days to pose as the “strong and stable” leader. However, it has appeared that the murderer was known to the security services, and the latest “breaking news” (no details) is that a Muslim community worker says his extremism had been reported to them years ago.

    *They are still likely to win handily, but the polls and arguments had shifted to narrow their lead.

  258. says

    Also in Trump’s proposed budget: more money for his security detail.

    […] Trump himself has quietly requested steady or increased funding for the programs he personally uses, including for his own security, operations at the White House, and the vice president’s residence. […]

    Elsewhere in the budget, Trump also requests $60 million, in part to hire more Secret Service agents, who guard him and his family, as well as the multiple Trump residences outside of Washington that have to be secured at all times. […]

    Link

  259. says

    Follow-up to comments 421 and 422.

    About that Russian bank that Trump’s lawyer, Kasowitz, represents:

    […] Marc E. Kasowitz is representing OJSC Sberbank of Russia, which is accused in US federal court of conspiring with granite company executives — including Russia’s former minister of economy and trade — in what the plaintiffs say amounts to a “textbook case of Russian corporate raiding.”

    BuzzFeed News link

    Herman Gref, Sberbank’s CEO, had this to say about Trump:

    “I have met Trump and my impression from the interaction is very positive. I know several people from his team,” said Gref, who has been a close Putin adviser. […]

    Quoted text above is from the Washington Post.

    In addition to this weirdness, we have previous reporting on a meeting between Jared Kushner and Sergey Gorkov, formerly the deputy chair of Sberbank.

  260. says

    Oh, FFS. Team Trump is so bad at math that they made errors amounting to trillions of dollars in their budget proposal:

    […] Budget proposals always involve some guesswork into the unknowable, and administrations routinely massage numbers to their political advantage. But this proposal is unusually brazen in its defiance of basic math, and in its accounting discrepancies amounting to trillions-with-a-t rather than mere millions or billions. […]

    Trump critics in the budget-wonk world are pointing to another $2 trillion of red ink as a blatant math error — or, less charitably, as an Enron-style accounting fraud. […]

    Politico link

    From Steve Benen:

    […] Trump’s White House unveiled a budget plan that double-counts $2 trillion. The president and his right-wing budget director, House Freedom Caucus co-founder Mick Mulvaney, specifically counts on $2 trillion in revenue to eliminate the deficit that the administration also devotes to paying for Trump’s tax cuts.

    Harvard economist Lawrence Summers, the former Treasury secretary and National Economic Council director in the previous two Democratic administrations, wrote in the Washington Post that this represents “the most egregious accounting error in a presidential budget in the nearly 40 years I have been tracking them.” Summers added that the mistake is “a logical error of the kind that would justify failing a student in an introductory economics course.”

    […] Trump World is saying now that “the mystery money” problem has been exposed.

    Mick Mulvaney, who’s chiefly responsible for the Trump administration’s budget, is currently pretending that the double-counting gimmick doesn’t exist. “We stand by the numbers,” he told reporters yesterday.

    Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, meanwhile, sat down with CNBC’s John Harwood, who asked the Trump cabinet secretary to respond to the concerns. Mnuchin responded: “So the budget was built on, what is the administration’s economic plans, and economic numbers which we’ve talked about, which are getting to 3 percent growth. So I think [Lawrence Summers], I think in all fairness to him, the issue is more of this is a preliminary document that will be refined, as we go through a process with Congress determining how money is spent.”

    Oh. So confronted with evidence that the Trump budget is basically a giant fraud, the president’s budget director has decided to stick his head in the sand, while the president’s Treasury secretary intends to worry about making the numbers add up some other time. […]

  261. says

    Follow-up to SC’s link in comment 412.

    So, Trump told Duterte about the US nuclear subs near the Korean peninsula. Sheesh.

    We have a lot of firepower over there. We have two submarines, the best in the world. We have two nuclear submarines, not that we want to use them at all.

    As Josh Marshall put it, “The calls are coming from inside the house.”

    Did Trump have permission to share that classified information with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte? Duterte is the dunderhead who thinks its okay to kill thousands of his own people without giving those people recourse to a court trial?

  262. says

    Steve Benen summarized the current state of the Russia-Trump scandal:

    […] A foreign adversary attacked our election and helped elect its favored candidate. The president’s claims that no one from his team was in contact with Russia during its attack have been discredited. The president fired the director of the FBI because of his dissatisfaction with the ongoing investigation. Before the firing, the president reportedly urged the FBI director to go easy on his disgraced former national security advisor, who remains at the center of the controversy, and who’s already pleaded the Fifth.

    This week, we learned Trump also reportedly urged the director of national intelligence and the director the National Security Administration to publicly comment on the ongoing federal investigation, while White House officials “sounded out top intelligence officials about the possibility of intervening directly” with the then-FBI director in order to “encourage the FBI to drop its probe of Michael Flynn.” Yesterday, the former director of the CIA pointed to “contacts and interactions” between Russia and the Trump campaign that he found alarming, despite Trump’s assurances that no such communications occurred.

    To borrow a cliché, we’ve worked our way through the smoke and arrived at some fire. […]

    Link

  263. says

    The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), responded to Trump’s proposed budget:

    Today the Trump administration released its comprehensive budget for the Federal government for FY 2018. The White House has requested that Congress appropriate approximately $42 million to NEH for the orderly closure of the agency. This amount includes funds to meet matching grant offers in effect as of October 1, 2017, as well as funds to cover administrative expenses and salaries associated with the closure.

    As NEH awaits Congressional action on the President’s proposed budget, the agency is continuing normal operations and will be making the next round of FY 2017 awards following the meeting of the National Council in July.

    Since its creation in 1965, NEH has established a significant record of achievement through its grantmaking programs. Over these five decades, NEH has awarded more than $5.3 billion for humanities projects through more than 63,000 grants. That public investment has led to the creation of books, films, and museum exhibits, and to ensuring the preservation of significant cultural resources around the country.

    NEH grants have reached every part of the country and provided humanities programs and experiences to benefit all of our citizens. Hundreds of veterans leaving the military service and beginning to pursue an education have benefited from the Warrior-Scholar program, a boot camp for success in the college classroom. Students, teachers, and historians have access to the papers of President George Washington. NEH On the Road circulates traveling versions of major exhibitions to rural towns and small cities all over the map from Greenville, South Carolina, to Red Cloud, Nebraska, and beyond. Through these projects and thousands of others, the National Endowment for the Humanities has inspired and preserved what is best in American culture.

    https://www.neh.gov/news/press-release/2017-05-23

  264. says

    This is good news. It looks like the governor of Alabama will sign a law that returns the right to vote to thousands of felons. “The state has been relying on a century-old, white supremacist phrase to disenfranchise felons.”

    […] Alabama had been disenfranchising felons using a century-old, discriminatory provision which states that “no person convicted of a felony of moral turpitude” should be permitted to vote. But the state had never officially defined what constituted such a crime, leaving it up to individual registrars to make that decision themselves.

    […] thousands of other Alabama citizens had been wrongfully turned away from the polls for decades. […]

    This week, Gov. Kay Ivey (R) is expected to sign a bill […] Under the Definition of Moral Turpitude Act, which passed both chambers of the legislature with bipartisan support, less than 50 specific felonies will justify disenfranchisement. Thousands of people are expected to have their rights restored. […]

    When the Alabama constitution was adopted in 1901, the disenfranchisement of those “convicted of a felony of moral turpitude” had less-than-veiled racial implications.

    Though no official definition was given, crimes of “moral turpitude” were commonly understood as crimes more frequently committed by black citizens. According to the president of the all-white constitutional convention, the purpose of the disenfranchisement provision was to “establish white supremacy in this state.”

    And that’s exactly what the law did. “It allowed registrars to deny the right to vote to black people and grant the right to vote to white people,” said Danielle Lang, the deputy director of voting rights for the Campaign Legal Center, which is currently challenging Alabama’s disenfranchisement law in court. For decades, unelected county registrars were given broad discretion to decide who they would block from the polls. […]

    Link

  265. says

    Carsdotcom is suspending its advertising on Hannity’s show.

    To no one’s surprise, Trump’s organization isn’t tracking foreign spending at its properties.

    Somewhat related, I think Trump hiring Kasowitz is great news. It certainly appears that Trump’s lawyers, regardless of their previous shadiness, have all been brought into his practice of law as bullshit PR and game-playing. (Kasowitz is a case in point.) They tend to go along with actions desired by Trump that shouldn’t succeed, often don’t, and sometimes get him into even more trouble. The DoJ and McGahn appear to have been roped into this to some extent. It’s especially risky when they’re facing off against highly competent and knowledgeable people like Mueller, Comey, Yates, and Bharara who can smell bullshit a mile away. For justice, for the country, and for the public interest, this is a positive development.

  266. says

    This week, Gov. Kay Ivey (R) is expected to sign a bill […]

    Who recently became governor when Bentley had to resign after totally unturpitudally* violating ethics and campaign finance laws.

    * Yes, I just made this word up.

  267. says

    Israel is changing their intelligence-sharing guidelines when it comes to providing information to the USA. They’re trying to protect themselves from Trump’s indiscretions.

    Israel confirmed Wednesday that it has changed its intelligence-sharing protocols with the United States after President Trump reportedly disclosed to Russian officials classified information from Israel.

    “I can confirm that we did a spot repair and that there’s unprecedented intelligence cooperation with the United States,” Israel’s defense chief Avigdor Liberman told Army Radio. “What we had to clarify with our friends in the United States, we did. We did our checks.” Liberman declined to specify what changes have been made.

    Link

  268. says

    SC @445 and 446, on top of all the bad stuff in the bill itself, we are learning that forty of the Republicans who voted for Trump’s American Health Care Act held shares in healthcare companies. Their shared were called at $23 million, and they earned more than $2 million on the investments. (Shades of Jeff Sessions’ nefarious doings before he became Attorney General.)

    From Justin Glawe:

    […] The investments may be valued at as high as $39 million and took in as much as $6 million in profits, according to the disclosure reports that require members of Congress to report investments and income within a certain price range.

    Several Republicans with key roles in passing the bill held more than $500,000 in medical company shares.

    The majority of the companies in which lawmakers own stock represent the giants of the pharmaceutical and medical-device industries. Republicans owned between $1.3 million and $4.9 million in shares of Abbott Labs, Johnson & Johnson, and 3M, three of the country’s largest medical-device manufacturers. They also owned between $2.7 million and $5.5 million in pharmaceutical giants Merck, Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pfizer, and Shire.

    The AHCA would benefit these companies by eliminating billions of dollars in taxes and fees on pharmaceutical and medical-device manufacturers […]

    Members of Congress aren’t expressly prohibited from owning stocks in individual companies, Painter said, unlike employees of federal agencies and members of the Executive Branch. As a White House ethics lawyer, Painter said he routinely advised aides and other employees of the Executive Branch to either completely divest from investments in individual companies or shift their assets to diversified mutual funds in order to comply with ethics rules.

    “I don’t understand why members of Congress don’t do that,” Painter said. “The bottom line is that these folks are supposed to be in Congress to represent their constituents, not maximize their wealth. It’s fine if you want to be a stock picker, but go be a stock picker, not a member of Congress.”

    However many millions, this is clearly conflict-of-interest territory. I don’t care if they are legally complying with ethics rules, it looks unethical to me.

  269. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 443.

    So Comey fell for part of a Russian disinformation campaign? Maybe? Probably? Unfuckingbelievable.

    First of all, I would have been highly skeptical of an email or letter that claimed that Attorney General Loretta Lynch had promised to go easy on Hillary Clinton. Why would Comey fall for that?

    Apparently, the email that was altered by the Russians was a bit ambiguous, but it still suggested that Lynch said she wouldn’t let the probe go too far. What in Lynch’s background or work record makes Comey (or anyone at the FBI) think that was true. It smacks of fraud even to me.

    So the email with the bogus shit was mixed in with real emails, (according to some sources) — that still doesn’t make me more likely to believe it.

    From Josh Marshall:

    […] Notably, the apparently fraudulent email never appeared in any of the document dumps during the course of the election. It only seems to have dropped directly into the FBI’s hands. [Red flag!]

    There is a lot here that is unclear, a lot left to supposition. But fraudulent documents get woven into caches of genuine documents for specific reasons, sometimes merely to sow confusion, more often to trigger specific actions.

    […] Some dissenting sources suggest that the phony email didn’t play much role in Comey’s decision. It only got pulled in as an ex-post facto explanation once Comey’s decision-making came into question. (Even if true, that in itself would be a highly disturbing development.) Regardless, the idea that the FBI and James Comey himself could have been punked by such an operation and taken such consequential actions on the basis of it is simply astonishing.

  270. says

    More details regarding the bogus Russian document describing a nonexistent email (a follow-up to comments 443 and 448):

    […] The Washington Post on Wednesday shed more light on why he [Comey] chose to make that announcement, which broke FBI protocol not to comment on closed cases where no charges are brought.

    Before Comey’s July announcement, the FBI obtained a Russian intelligence document of dubious origin and veracity that claimed to cite communications between then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Clinton’s campaign, in which Lynch assured a campaign staffer that the Justice Department would not closely investigate the email server.

    The document did not include the email in question and merely described its contents. The Post reported that many people within the U.S. intelligence community believed the document either contained bad intelligence or was fake. FBI officials, who said the source who provided the document had offered up un-corroborated information in the past, called the document “junk” and “unreliable and based on multiple layers of hearsay.”

    The agency tried to verify the document by searching for the compromising email in question and could not find it, according to the report. Then when the FBI interviewed Lynch to determine the validity of the document’s claims, she said she had never communicated with the Clinton staffer in question.

    Still, the Post reported that the document had a major impact on Comey, who believed he needed to speak publicly about the Clinton email server case in order to get out ahead of accusations of coziness and special favors. Without giving Lynch a heads up, and in the heat of the general election, he publicly criticized Clinton’s handling of classified material over email, a decision some have argued helped Donald Trump clinch the presidency.

    The New York Times reported on the existence of the document back in April, but did not characterize it as a document prepared by Russian intelligence officials and did not question its validity. Instead the Times cited: “The document, which has been described as both a memo and an email, was written by a Democratic operative who expressed confidence that Ms. Lynch would keep the Clinton investigation from going too far.”

    The Times reported, as did the Washington Post, that Comey feared the document could be leaked by Wikileaks, undermining the public’s view of the Justice Department’s integrity. […]

    Link

    WTF? The New York Times got it wrong as well?

  271. says

    Some comments on the Republican health care bill from an expert:

    […] Jacob Leibenluft, senior advisor at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said that the major takeaway from the CBO score is that Republicans’ talking points don’t hold up. AHCA supporters still claim that the waivers wouldn’t harm anyone who needed essential health benefits or anyone with preexisting conditions, but this bill doesn’t bear that out.

    “What the changes of bills have effectively done is resulted in system where sicker and older people are even worse off in terms of how much they would pay and quality of insurance coverage they would get.” Leibenluft said.

    Those changes would do little to boost overall coverage numbers, either.

    “I think what that points to is how deeply unfixable the basic structure is. The problem is they’re pursuing hundreds of billions in tax cuts in a bill that needs to reduce deficit and that requires deep cuts to health coverage. And it’s not possible to undo those cuts to coverage while maintaining that basic structure.”

    Fundamentally, the bill’s failures come down to allowing states to waive essential protections the ACA put in place: No matter what approach states took to waivers, people’s health care coverage would be adversely affected.

    “It’s just a matter of how you distribute the pain,” Leibenluft said. […]

    https://thinkprogress.org/cbo-score-healthcare-b48fd88baac8

  272. says

    “Top Russian Officials Discussed How to Influence Trump Aides Last Summer”:

    American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers, according to three current and former American officials familiar with the intelligence.

    The conversations focused on Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman at the time, and Michael T. Flynn, a retired general who was advising Mr. Trump, the officials said. Both men had indirect ties to Russian officials, who appeared confident that each could be used to help shape Mr. Trump’s opinions on Russia.

    Some Russians boasted about how well they knew Mr. Flynn. Others discussed leveraging their ties to Viktor F. Yanukovych, the deposed president of Ukraine living in exile in Russia, who at one time had worked closely with Mr. Manafort.

    The intelligence was among the clues — which also included information about direct communications between Mr. Trump’s advisers and Russian officials — that American officials received last year as they began investigating Russian attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of Mr. Trump’s associates were assisting Moscow in the effort. Details of the conversations, some of which have not been previously reported, add to an increasing understanding of the alarm inside the American government last year about the Russian disruption campaign….

  273. says

    Josh Marshall:

    There is a lot here that is unclear, a lot left to supposition. But fraudulent documents get woven into caches of genuine documents for specific reasons, sometimes merely to sow confusion, more often to trigger specific actions.

    Malcolm Nance has been warning about this since last summer! It’s called black propaganda. (At the time of the release of the hacked information from Manafort’s daughter’s phone, this was my suspicion regarding the documents purportedly showing he’d been blackmailed by the Ukrainian legislator who was telling people about the ledger – a suspicion that’s only grown since evidence of some payments came to light.)

  274. says

    What led up to Gianforte bodyslamming Jacobs was that Jacobs was …asking him his reaction to the CBO score. “I wasn’t expecting detailed policy, but then again I wasn’t expecting to get bodyslammed.” The Guardian has the audio. Jacobs called his editor and then the police. He’s now in the hospital having his elbow, on which he landed, examined.

    Gianforte seems stable.

  275. says

    @461 – interesting how you are so “meh” about that lol. For me that was a “wow, holy fucking shit” moment.

    Those financial ties happen to be investments in russian indexes that are themselves heavily invested in Gazprom and Rosneft.

    So a guy running in a special election in MT somehow knew to be invested in Russian indexes, which if Trump’s plans came true, would shoot through the roof?

    If Trump and Putin get their way, a lot of rich people will get a fuckton richer, and this bodyslam might blow the lid off of it.

    Here’s a headline that I noticed but didn’t really think about too much, very important:

    http://www.politico.com/story/2017/05/23/fec-trump-russia-facebook-238695

    And this tweet by the NYS district court: https://twitter.com/SDNYnews/status/867428214469275650

    Did a NYS prosecutor throw some shade about a much much bigger story than we could have imagined that is about to break loose?

    Are the GOP, at large, guilty of insider trading?

  276. Demeisen says

    You know you’re living in interesting times when a politician goes WrestleMania on a reporter.

  277. says

    Eyewitness account from a Fox News field producer and photographer about the body-slamming of the Guardian reporter by Republican Greg Gianforte in Montana:

    During that conversation, another man — who we now know is Ben Jacobs of The Guardian — walked into the room with a voice recorder, put it up to Gianforte’s face and began asking if him if he had a response to the newly released Congressional Budget Office report on the American Health Care Act. Gianforte told him he would get to him later. Jacobs persisted with his question. Gianforte told him to talk to his press guy, Shane Scanlon.

    At that point, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the man, as he moved on top the reporter and began yelling something to the effect of “I’m sick and tired of this!”

    Jacobs scrambled to his knees and said something about his glasses being broken. He asked Faith, Keith and myself for our names. In shock, we did not answer. He then said he wanted the police called and went to leave. Gianforte looked at the three of us and repeatedly apologized. At that point, I told him and Scanlon, who was now present, that we needed a moment. The men then left.

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/05/24/greg-gianforte-fox-news-team-witnesses-gop-house-candidate-body-slam-reporter.html

  278. says

    From John Dingell, formerly a Congressional representative from Michigan: “Hell, I spent 60 years in Congress without bodyslamming a single reporter. This guy in Montana won’t last long if he manages to win.”

    “Lock him up.” [the incident was the] “only substantive GOP response to questions about the CBO score.”

  279. says

    Woah… First Fox retracts the Seth Rich story from their website, then the Fox crew backs up the Guardian reporter that got body slammed, now this? We are living in the upside down. The first cracks in the northern wall are beginning to spread, billions of snowflakes unite, winter is coming.

    https://twitter.com/DavidUberti/status/867579286236135424

    Sorry about not embedding my links… too much happening and too tired to bother.

  280. says

    More from the Fox News reporters who were in the room:

    […] To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte, who left the area after giving statements to local sheriff’s deputies. As for myself and my crew, we are cooperating with local authorities. It is not clear if charges will be filed against Gianforte at this time.

    So much Gianforte’s campaign personnel trying to say that Jacobs was the perp and Gianforte was the victim!

  281. says

    erik @464, Ted Lieu is great. He also said, “Thank goodness Trumpcare is not yet law. Injuries from Greg Gianforte assaults are still covered.”

  282. blf says

    Greg Gianforte — who has now been charged with misdemeanor assault — is also a creationist who has given substantial donations to the appalling Glendive Dinosaur & Fossil Museum (Montana). According to this somewhat-credulous article, Dinosaurs, the Bible and a Glendive museum, the “museum” has a decent collection of fossils (cries at the misuse!); and Gianforte donated(? funded?) a T. rex (albeit probably a cast, not an actual fossil). The “museum”, at least (not sure about Gianforte), is in the YEC / big-bad-book-is-literally-true school, not unlike Ken “piglet rapist” Ham.

  283. blf says

    This column wanders around somewhat, but does make some good points, Is this real life? Or is this a cabaret of the Von Trump family on tour?. Here, however, I will just excerpt some of the snarks:

    Those asking “Could it get any weirder?” after Trump’s gripping-the-orb moment in Saudi Arabia have had their answer, it is no: weird is the new normal. […] A man with access to a nuclear arsenal who’s ignorant that Israel is, actually, in the Middle East.

    […] America’s Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus shut its doors this week and it’s not hard to see why. What kind of circus can possibly compete with a sacked James Comey, Michael Flynn’s refusal to testify and Wednesday’s revelation that during the election Russians were feeding fake documents about Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton to the FBI?

    Observe the difference between Pope Francis’ positive engagement with the former president and his dour reticence to even speak to the grinning successor. If any institution on earth knows about a) nepotism and b) sex scandals, it’s the Vatican, and yet photographs reveal not even the pope’s legendary capacity for forgiveness can extend to the clan of pussy-grab-enablers descending on his home in mantillas. The pope’s official gift to the climate-change-denying Trump? His papal encyclical on climate change. What deep water western civilisation is truly in when the pope — the pope — is actively trolling the president of the United States.

    [… (Speaking of President Obama) A]n American president who heavily comprehends his geopolitical responsibility seem as distant from present circumstances as an architectural map of Atlantis.

  284. blf says

    There has been a string of leaks, apparently originating in the States, about the investigation of the recent bombing of a children’s concert in Manchester. Leaked details have included the name of the loon who blew himself and others up (potentially alerting the other nutters he was working with, such as the bombmaker, that the police would be able to trace contacts, &tc), pictures of some of the bomb parts (similar concerns), and so on. Essentially, the UK police see the leaks as compromising the investigation, which at the moment is (very understandably) trying to find the bombmaker and accomplices to prevent another attack.

    The police are so annoyed they have stopped sharing information with USA intelligence, UK police ‘stop passing information to US’ over leaks of key evidence:

    Police hunting the terror network behind the Manchester Arena bombing have stopped passing information to the US on the investigation as a major transatlantic row erupted over leaks of key evidence in the US […]

    […]

    Relations between the US and UK security services, normally extremely close, have been put under strain by the scale of the leaks from US officials to the American media.

    Theresa May is expected to confront Donald Trump over the stream of leaks of crucial intelligence when she meets the US president at a Nato summit in Brussels on Thursday [today].

    British officials were infuriated on Wednesday when the New York Times published forensic photographs of sophisticated bomb parts that UK authorities fear could complicate the expanding investigation […]

    It was the latest of a series of leaks to US journalists that appeared to come from inside the US intelligence community, passing on data that had been shared between the two countries as part of a long-standing security cooperation.

    […]

    Only hours earlier Amber Rudd, the home secretary, had rebuked the US security services for leaking the bomber’s name to American media before it had been made public in Britain, but her warnings appeared to have had no impact.

    “I have been very clear with our friends that that should not happen again,” Rudd had said.

    […]

    The article goes on to note similar leaks have happened before, such as after the London Underground bombing. As such, this isn’t necessarily anything to do with hair furor or the dalekocracy.

  285. blf says

    “[T]he Qatari emir criticised Donald Trump, described Iran as a force for stability in the region and threatened to withdraw ambassadors from a range of Middle Eastern countries including Saudi Arabia.” As a result,
    Saudi Arabia and UAE block Qatari media over incendiary statements, and Qatari is now claiming the websites were hacked. “However, a number of Arab news agencies pointed out the some of the emir’s remarks had already appeared on Qatar state broadcasting before they were disowned, raising questions whether they were genuine, but should not have been reported.”

    One of the blocked sites is al-Jazeera. To-date, I’ve not been able to find any story on this (onging?) censorship at their English-language site.

  286. blf says

    Follow-up to @473, Here’s a nice concise summary of just why the UK police are furious at the leaks in the States, “British police are angry that as their officers are in hot pursuit of of suspected terror network, with raids deemed so risky it is being carried out by elite armed officers, sensitive information is being regularly leaked by the US.” (From the Grauniad’s live blog, 10:11 mark.)

  287. blf says

    US raid killed five Yemen civilians, says rights group disputing official story:

    London-based human rights group cites local sources, who say the raid went wrong from the start when US Navy Seals opened fire on a 70-year-old [blind] man

    Five civilians were killed in a US navy Seal raid in Yemen against al-Qaida militants, a human rights organisation said on Wednesday [24-May].

    US central command said that the raid on Tuesday had killed seven members of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap) in Marib governorate […]

    However, Reprieve, a London-based human rights group, said it had talked to two sources from the raided village, al-Jubah, who dispute that account.

    Both sources said that the raid went wrong from the start as the Seals opened fire on a 70-year-old partially blind man, named as Nasser Al-Adhal, who had come out of his house to see what was going on […]. On hearing al-Adhal being shot, other men then emerged from their homes, and four of them were shot dead by the Seals […]

    […]

    “The four other villagers were killed when they started to argue with the Navy Seals after the shooting of Nasser al-Adhal. Six villagers were seriously injured, including another elderly man who was around 69 years-old,” Reprieve said in a statement, adding that a fight with al-Qaida militants started only after the villagers had been killed.

    […]

    Meanwhile, there is a State of emergency in Yemen’s capital as cholera kills 115 people: “Health ministry in Sana’a calls on aid donors to help prevent an ‘unprecedented disaster’, as two-thirds of the population lack safe drinking water”. And, Scientists race against time as Yemen’s deadly cholera outbreak spirals:

    Health system in Yemen at breaking point as sharp spike in reported cases prompts urgent work to identify suspected new cholera strain

    With more than 2,000 suspected cases reported daily, medical supplies are running low and in some hospitals beds are shared by up to six children. Scientists are urgently trying to identify the suspected new strain at specialist laboratories in France.

    Malnutrition, lack of clean water and a conflict that has destroyed infrastructure and hampered access to medical supplies have allowed the epidemic to escalate, according to those coordinating the aid response.

    “This is the second wave of cholera we have seen here recently, and it is spreading at an alarming rate,” said Nevio Zagaria, head of mission in Yemen for the World Health Organization (WHO).

    […]

    The immediate forecast is grim, however. Even by the most conservative estimates, there will be 150,000 cases of cholera within the next six months, said WHO statisticians.

    Yemen has a population of almost 27 million. With food shortages and hunger spreading, the UN estimates nearly 19 million people are in need of help.

    Among the most vulnerable are the undernourished. Medics on the ground said children are dying from a preventable disease because they lack supplies to treat them.

    The States flies in commandos to kill an old blind man, but won’t lift a finger to stop a deadly epidemic or prevent a famine.† Among other reasons, doing so would annoy Saudi Arabia (e.g., the capital, Sana’a, is controlled by people the Saudis’s are fighting), so instead the States is backing, and participating in, the Saudis’s invasion, which seems to be a war-by-proxy between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

      † Pedantically, not strictly true; the States has pledged to the UN(?) c.$90m for Yemen. However, as per usual, the relief is not working very well, Yemen aid not reaching intended recipients, say activists on ground.

  288. says

    The front page of today’s Bozeman Daily Chronicle. The three major local papers that had endorsed Gianforte have rescinded their endorsements.

    Steve Kornacki said last night that about 3/5ths of expected voters had already voted, so it’s not clear what effect this will have. (As Rachel Maddow covered in some detail, there was early on a bipartisan plan to have everyone vote by mail, which would have saved the state a lot of money and made voting easier, but the Republican leadership torpedoed it because more people would likely vote which they rightly feared favored the Democrat.)

  289. says

    *endorsement retraction*

    “Democrats urge Deutsche Bank to audit accounts held by Trump and family”:

    Democrats on Capitol Hill are putting pressure on Deutsche Bank to hire an independent auditor to review private accounts held by Donald Trump and his family, in order for Congress to determine whether the US president has financial ties to Russia.

    Maxine Waters, the top ranking Democrat on the House financial services committee, also said she wanted Deutsche to hand over all communication and documentation relating to the underwriting of loans made to Trump and his immediate family members, including all assets and guarantees that were used to collaterise the loans.

    Deutsche extended about $300m in loans to Trump before he became president, even as the former reality television star and businessman was being shunned by other financial institutions because of his poor track record and string of failed businesses.

    Democrats in the House have also written to the US treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, demanding that his department hand over “all records of loans, guarantees, or other forms of credit” that have been extended to Trump and passed through Russia. It also sought more information on allegations that gambling casinos once owned by Trump were used to launder illicit funds. Among other requests, the letter also asked Mnuchin to hand over information about possible Russian involvement in any Trump-branded businesses.

    The request came after an article recently emerged that showed one of Trump’s sons, Eric, told Golf writer James Dodson in 2014 that Trump’s golf courses relied on Russian money because of tight financing….

  290. says

    OMG – Trump’s speech at the opening of the new NATO HQ. The leaders were doing everything they could not to elbow each other and snicker, and it looked like a few lost the battle.

  291. says

    SC @481, despite beginning their article with a claim that they were at a loss for words, the editors of the Billings Gazette wrote an excellent explanation for rescinding their endorsement. They presented all of the obvious reasons, and then they dug a little deeper. Well done, Billings Gazette.

    Excerpt:

    […] Although we’re greatly troubled by this action against a member of the media who was just doing his job, to make this an issue of media intrusion or even a passionate defense of the role of a free press during an election would be to miss the point.

    If what was heard on tape and described by eye-witnesses is accurate, the incident in Bozeman is nothing short of assault. We wouldn’t condone it if it happened on the street. We wouldn’t condone it if it happened in a home or even a late-night bar fight. And we couldn’t accept it from a man who is running to become Montana’s lone Congressional representative. […]

    We’d point out that all the other questionable interactions Gianforte had with reporters, including one case where he joked about ganging up on a reporter, must now be seen through a much more sinister lens. What he passed off as a joke at the time now becomes much more serious. […]

  292. says

    SC @484, Trump is scolding our European allies, and he’s too stupid to know what he is talking about. A true laughingstock.

  293. says

    Rightwing media sources are defending Greg Gianforte:

    From Daily Caller: What kind of a wuss files charges over broken glasses? Someone who wants to influence an outcome, that’s who.
    ——————-
    From Infowars: Far-left liberal journalist Ben Jacobs was reportedly “body slammed” on Wednesday by GOP congressional candidate Greg Gianforte […] Jacobs is a long-standing Democratic operative […] The clip would perhaps be interesting if they didn’t manipulatively edit out their actual interaction with a blatant jump cut in the middle.Regardless, the same hack reporter attacked Gianforte from the right by asking him why he only reluctantly supported Donald Trump. Gianforte was noticeably angry.
    ——————–
    From GotNews: A former minion for the Iowa Democratic Party now operating as a Guardian reporter, Ben Jacobs, assaulted Montana Republican House candidate Greg Gianforte on Wednesday. Jacobs has a history of opposing his political opponents’ freedom of speech, as GotNews reported in October.
    ———————
    From Media Research Center: Jacobs is an obnoxious, dishonest first class jerk. I’m not surprised he got smacked.
    ——————-
    From NewsBusters: Let’s ask why on Earth a House candidate in Montana should have to answer questions from a reporter for a BRITISH newspaper????
    ——————
    From Fox & Friends: Gianforte’s campaign says the men both fell.

    The text above is a summary culled from a Media Matters report.

  294. says

    Excerpts from an interview that ABC conducted with Ben Jacobs:

    JACOBS: […] The only thing in Gianforte’s statement that is factually correct is my name and my place of employment.

    STEPHANOPOULOS: So walk us through what happened. Now you walk up. You want to ask a question about the CBO [Congressional Budget Office] report. What happens next?

    JACOBS: Then, as you said, then you hear exactly what happens, what happens in the audio and I never touched or came close to Gianforte and it’s — it became — it became something that turned on a dime into the type of encounter I’ve never expected to have with a politician and one that’s very disappointing for what it means for the press and what the role of reporters are to ask questions of politicians in the United States.

    STEPHANOPOULOS: So he put his hands on your neck. The Fox reporter said he was punching you?

    JACOBS: That’s – the Fox reporter says that. I was on the ground at that point so it was a little bit sudden, but I went from being vertical one moment to being horizontal the next.

    STEPHANOPOULOS: We hear him saying on that tape that he’s sick and tired of this. Have you had any history with the candidate?

    JACOBS: No, I hadn’t. I’ve been following the candidate. Went to a couple of campaign stops. I think there may have been some discontent with an article done by a colleague of mine, but I have no personal interactions with him other than sort of following him around from the couple campaign stops in Great Falls and Helena.

    STEPHANOPOULOS: He’s been charged with misdemeanor, not felony assault. Is that good enough for you?

    JACOBS: It’s done. I’ve made my statement to the police and that’s the decision the police made.

    STEPHANOPOULOS: And do you expect to take any further legal action?

    JACOBS: I’m still — this is still sort of 12 hours after it happened. I’m still — still trying to quite figure out what’s going on and cope with the fact that it’s someone who’s a reporter being brushed into the center of a story, which is not a comfortable place.

    STEPHANOPOULOS: Not a comfortable place to be, but it is still possible that you will take further, perhaps civil action?

    JACOBS: I haven’t even begun to think about that right now. Right now I’m just more concerned about trying to figure out what’s going on and just expressing my concern of the fact that — that reporters trying to ask basic policy questions of politicians are sort of meeting this response and being very heartened by the reaction I’ve been getting by my fellow colleagues.

  295. says

    From the CBO report on TrumpCare:

    […] People who are less healthy (including those with preexisting or newly acquired medical conditions) would ultimately be unable to purchase comprehensive nongroup health insurance at premiums comparable to those under current law, if they could purchase it at all — despite the additional funding that would be available under H.R. 1628 to help reduce premiums. As a result, the nongroup markets in those states would become unstable for people with higher-than-average expected health care costs. […]

    Repeat that until every Republican voter hears it.

  296. says

    SC @489, maybe we could hire Gianforte to body slam Trump every time Trump acts like an asshole.

    In other news, Seth Meyers and Stephen Colbert took a look at Trump’s budget and at the math problems in Trump’s budget. Scroll down for the videos. Slate link.

  297. says

    Betsy DeVos really, really wants to defend taxpayer-subsidized discrimination, she just doesn’t want to say it out loud. DeVos testified at a a House Appropriations subcommittee. She was there to defend Trump’s budget, especially the part of the budget that funnels taxpayer money to private and parochial schools.

    […] Clark [Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.)] used Bloomington, Indiana’s Lighthouse Christian Academy as an example. The school currently gets more than $665,000 in state funding through a school voucher program, Clark said. It also openly reserves the right to deny admittance to any student in a family where there is “homosexual or bisexual activity” or family members who practice “alternate gender identity.” If Indiana applies for federal funding for schools like these, Clark asked DeVos, would her Department of Education require them to stop discriminating against LGBTQ students and families?

    DeVos didn’t say yes or no. She just smiled and stuck to the generations-old cover for violent oppression in America. “The states set up the rules,” she said. “I believe states continue to have flexibility in putting together programs.” […]

    Slate link

    Devos smiles a lot, as if her smile make discriminating against certain children a-okay.

  298. says

    They paid attention to Trump’s statements and logically concluded that the motivation was a desire to exclude Muslims. The Ninth Circuit hasn’t even ruled yet – the Fourth Circuit is in Richmond, VA, and its ruling means the ban can’t be enforced.

  299. says

    “How Alleged Russian Hacker Teamed Up With Florida GOP Operative”:

    The hacking spree that upended the presidential election wasn’t limited to Democratic National Committee memos and Clinton-aide emails posted on websites. The hacker also privately sent Democratic voter-turnout analyses to a Republican political operative in Florida named Aaron Nevins.

    Learning that hacker “Guccifer 2.0” had tapped into a Democratic committee that helps House candidates, Mr. Nevins wrote to the hacker to say: “Feel free to send any Florida based information.”

    Ten days later, Mr. Nevins received 2.5 gigabytes of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee documents, some of which he posted on a blog called HelloFLA.com that he ran using a pseudonym.

    Soon after, the hacker sent a link to the blog article to Roger Stone, a longtime informal adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump, along with Mr. Nevins’ analysis of the hacked data.

    Mr. Nevins confirmed his exchanges after The Wall Street Journal identified him first as the operator of the HelloFLA blog and then as the recipient of the stolen DCCC data….

    The episode shows how the hacker’s activities extended to exposing Democrats’ get-out-the vote strategies in swing states and informing a Trump ally of hacked data during the national campaign.

    U.S. officials believe Guccifer 2.0 is linked to Russian military intelligence. Guccifer 2.0 denies that….*

    DCCC documents sent to Mr. Nevins analyzed specific Florida districts, showing how many people were dependable Democratic voters, how many were likely Democratic voters but needed a nudge, how many were frequent voters but not committed and how many were core Republican voters—the kind of data strategists use in planning ad buys and other tactics.

    The Journal reviewed these documents as well as Democratic voter analyses also sent to Mr. Nevins about congressional districts in Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Texas.

    Besides posting some of the hacked material on his blog, Mr. Nevins said he passed some on to Florida journalists. He said he didn’t use any in his consulting business, which includes running grass-roots-style campaigns for corporations and wealthy landowners seeking to influence local politics.**

    Mr. Nevins said he hasn’t been contacted by any investigators about last year’s political hacking.

    He isn’t convinced the Russians were behind it, Mr. Nevins said, but even if they were, it doesn’t matter to him because the agenda of the hackers seemed to match his own.

    “If your interests align,” he said, “never shut any doors in politics.”

    * Not “linked to” – “a front for.”
    ** Nice euphemism, WSJ. That’s called astroturfing.

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

    Re 497, in a subsequent decision the court ruled that the sensation of wetness is often caused by the presence of water.

    But they were split on the question on the purpose of guns.