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

    I have just finished rereading (for the umpteenth time) the Harry Potter books. And reading accounts of Devos’s actions and statements, such as:

    “The states set up the rules,” she said. “I believe states continue to have flexibility in putting together programs.”

    from Lynna @495, reminds me of Delores Umbridge. I wonder if we can get her to start wearing a baggy cardigan and a black bow on the top of her head?

    From SC @498:

    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.”

    These people have no morals at all.


    This page.

    Whoops. There is no next page yet. But now there is.

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

    Oh, and FIRST!!!!!

    (I’ve never done that before. Here or anywhere else. Honest.)

  3. says

    Josh Marshall wrote about Trump’s embarrassing speech to NATO members.

    We just saw this embarrassing spectacle of President Trump not stating an unequivocal commitment to honoring Article 5 of the NATO Treaty, which requires all member state to defend another member state under attack. But Trump also returned to this issue of NATO members being behind on their payments and owing the United States huge sums of money. This is simply false. And it is a falsehood in the service of President Trump’s still not fully explained desire to undermine NATO.

    There are two funding issues with NATO. A few years ago, NATO decided to require all member states to spend 2% of GDP on defense spending. The great majority of member states currently spend less than 2%. The ones who do meet that number are the US and a handful of states mainly on NATO’s eastern periphery. But they have until 2024 to reach that goal. So even on the terms of the agreement itself, they’re not behind.

    But the key point is that these are not payments owed to the US. They are spending on each country’s own military. There are lots of reasons for that, not least of which is keeping the alliance a real alliance and not one superpower military along with other armies which are either so small or have such low readiness that they don’t add to the force the US can bring to bear on its own. […]

    Some NATO member states are down at 1%. The US is over 3.6%. But that’s not because we’re picking up the slack for major European powers. It is because the US has made a longstanding strategic decision to be the dominant, indeed, overwhelmingly dominant military power literally everywhere in the world.

    In any case, these are pretty piddling amounts in the big picture: the US direct cash contribution to NATO is 2 or 3 hundred million dollars a year. Trump himself should hit that number with Mar-a-Lago visits soon.

    The idea that Europe is somehow behind on its payments is simply false, whether you’re talking about the 2% goal or the NATO budget contributions. The President got up there at a ceremony for the opening of the new NATO headquarters and let off with an aggressive barrage of straight up lies.

  4. says

    Another slimy addition to Trump’s swamp:

    [… Katharine Gorka, a controversial national security analyst and anti-Muslim activist, has been named as an “adviser” to the Department of Homeland Security’s policy office, after serving on President Trump’s transition team for the department. During Barack Obama’s presidency, Gorka extensively criticized DHS for teaching employees — wrongly, in her view — that Islam is a religion of peace.

    Gorka’s appointment is listed in documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the watchdog group American Oversight. Her title, as of April 7, is listed as adviser to the department’s office of policy. The documents also list a previous “temporary transitional” appointment in the chief of staff’s office, with a pay grade listed as GS-15, the highest standard pay for a federal civil servant, indicating a salary of at least $8,600 a month. […]

    The Intercept link.

  5. says

    The FBI isn’t sharing the Comey memos with congress, citing Mueller’s investigation (as I noted in the previous iteration, Matthew Miller has suggested that the less sharing the more serious the obstruction investigation appears).

    Also, the Senate Intel Cmte. has granted Burr and Warner full subpoena powers.

  6. blf says

    Gianforte is reported to have won with c.51%, Greg Gianforte wins Montana race for Congress after ‘body-slamming’ reporter:

    The Associated Press called it after 522 of 681 precincts — or 77% — reported. At that point Gianforte had 163,539 votes, or 51% of the vote, compared with challenger Rob Quist’s 140,594 votes, or 44%.
    The electoral impact of Gianforte’s outburst — the audio of which was quickly turned into a radio advertisement for Quist — was blunted by the large proportion of early voters in the state. More than 250,000 vote-by-mail ballots had been cast by Wednesday evening.

  7. blf says

    Some nice snarks in this analysis (which is worth reading in full), Trump at G7: president’s last world tour stop brings uncertainty and risk:

    The risk is that — on a range of agenda items — Trump finds himself in the G1. His six colleagues, with varying degrees of emphasis, are likely to want to change his instincts on climate change, protectionism, the treatment of refugees and novel ideas like a web tax on the giant technology companies. Japan will be seeking a tougher strategy on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

    According to diplomats, the leaders have been exchanging views on how best to engage Trump, or locate the true figures of influence in the White House.

    One diplomat said: “We need to show a degree of humility. In foreign policy terms, the second half of Trump’s 100 days were immeasurably better than the first half, recognisably Republican. The trick is to make sure he does not feel cornered, and if you have an idea, make him feel it is his idea, and in America’s interest. At the same time, we need to get some commitments from him.”


    I have no idea why these supposedly experienced people think a commitment from hair furor is anything other than a toxic hot air tornado. For instance, his contracts with various subcontractors are commitments, yet he is widely known to break them. Not rarely, but frequently. Routinely, even.

  8. KG says

    According to latest polls, the Tory lead over Labour in the UK general election, while still clear, has narrowed further – down to 8% and 5% in the most recent two. 5% is less than the gap at the 2015 election, although both parties are polling above their vote-share then, due to the apparent collapse of the UKIP vote. It’s still pretty unlikely the Tories won’t get an absolute majority of seats, owing to our grossly undemocratic electoral system – but May called the election because she thought she’d get a landslide, which would give her the political capital to push through anything she wants, both on Brexit and more widely. Also, if Labour end up with a significantly larger share of the vote than last time, Corbyn will probably be able to hang on to the leadership – at least until the party conference in September, when a change in the rules for electing the leadership may be made which would make it easier for a leftist to get sufficient backing from MPs and MEPs to reach the final stage where all members vote. I’m pretty sure he won’t want to hang on until the next general election is due in 2022, when he would be 73, but he’ll want to choose his time to go, to help both the party as a whole, and the left within it.

  9. blf says

    As previously noted (@496(previous page) and other comments), hair furor’s second Muslim ban continues to be blocked. Teh dalekocracy is not giving up, Trump travel ban: White House appealing to supreme court after block upheld:

    Jeff Sessions confirmed appeal after a federal court upheld ruling that attempts to curb immigration from Muslim majority countries could violate constitution
    The Virginia-based fourth circuit of appeals on Thursday upheld a March ruling from a Maryland district court, which found grounds that the ban violated the equal protection clause of the US constitution. In a rare move, the court had granted a full hearing earlier in the month, meaning 13 judges had heard arguments. The ruling was a 10–3 majority.

    I find it worrisome that any of the judges either thought the Muslim ban was legal, or that there was a problem with the lower court’s ruling. For example, from later in the article:

    In a dissenting opinion, Judge Paul Niemeyer argued that campaign statements were short-hand for larger ideas and so should not be used to assess the executive order’s intent. Because of their nature, campaign statements are unbounded resources by which to find intent of various kinds, Niemeyer wrote.

    The fourth circuit’s chief judge, Roger Gregory, said of those same statements, when “viewed from the standpoint of the reasonable observer, creates a compelling case that EO-2’s primary purpose is religious.” Indeed, to which I will add, teh trum-prat was unusually consistent about banning Muslims. He said it repeatedly, he said it consistently(?), and such a ban was also repeatedly referred to after the election.

    Back to the article:

    The Department of Justice strongly disagrees with the decision of the divided court, which blocks the president’s efforts to strengthen this country’s national security, Sessions said, confirming the department will appeal to the supreme court.

    The timing of the decision will prove awkward for the Trump administration, as the supreme court will finish its term in late June, meaning a full appeal will likely not be heard for another four months, barring a specially arranged session. “It is too late for the court to hear a full-dress appeal before the term ends,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond. “That means the court might not hear the appeal until it returns for the new term in October.”

    That presupposes the court will agree to hear the attempted appeal.

  10. blf says

    Ukip, the British nazi party, just released their election manifeastohate, Ban burqas to promote vitamin D and other odd ideas in Ukip’s manifesto:

    Ukip has launched its election manifesto, and it certainly has some eye-catching bits. Here are nine of the strangest
    ● Encouraging higher vitamin D intake by banning the niqab and the burqa in public places
     The Ukip manifesto gives several reasons why it would like to see face-coverings banned. One is that women wearing them are deprived of vitamin D.
    […] Ukip has its science slightly muddled here — humans don’t intake vitamin D from sunlight. Sunlight causes the body to make it.

    ● A beekeeper brazenly flaunting his face-covering
     When Ukip first announced its ban on face-coverings it was asked if it would apply to beekeepers, and there, on page 52 of the manifesto, is a picture of one — just 15 pages after the burqa ban section.
     [Ukip fruitcake Suzanne] Evans has helpfully clarified on Twitter that this man wouldn’t be covered by the ban. Because you can see his face.

    ● Is there a basis for climate change science?
    It’s a shame Ukip didn’t get its science right with regards to vitamin D, as it makes a rather bold claim about the 2008 Climate Change Act. On a page adorned with the face of Roger Helmer MEP, Ukip promises to repeal the act because it has no basis in science.
     Who would you trust on the science here? The vast majority of the world’s peer-reviewed scientists? Or Roger Helmer MEP?

    I’ve never(?) head of this eejit before, but apparently he’s a übernutter, Meet Ukip’s seal-hating, gay-baiting, victim-blaming Newark candidate, Roger Helmer (“He doesn’t think homophobia exists, blames rape victims, and seems to be sexually confused about Earl Grey tea”).

    ● A return to fishing on mainland Europe
     One of Ukip’s Brexit tests is that the UK should have exclusive right to fish in a 200-mile zone around the British coast, which would, we calculate, mean we could potentially take up a monopoly on fish in Amsterdam’s canals. […]
     While we are on the subject of fish, Ukip promises to remove VAT on fish and chips in its manifesto.


    ● We are going to give the world a ship called NOSH
     Ukip is proposing to build and equip a naval hospital that wouldn’t carry weapons, but could instead be used to confirm Britain’s status as a force for good in the world. Which all sounds great, except they have called it “a Naval Ocean-going Surgical Hospital”, or NOSH for short.
     Sending a ship around the world named after a slang term for oral sex sends a message to the world, that’s for sure.


  11. blf says

    That idiotic DHS immigrants = crime database (Victim Information Notification Exchange (Vine)) is even more idiotic, Trump immigration database exposes crime victims’ personal info, lawyers say:

    Database tracking status of migrants who committed crimes also includes those who are crime victims, putting them at risk of further violence and violating laws

    A new US immigration database has exposed the personal information of crime victims, putting them at risk of further violence and violating federal laws designed to conceal the identities of abuse survivors, according to a coalition of attorneys.

    The online database — recently unveiled as part of Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda and accessible to the general public — includes immigrant victims who have sought federal protections as survivors of human trafficking, domestic violence and sexual assault, activists said.

    [… C]ivil rights campaigners and attorneys have discovered that the database also includes immigrants who are crime victims themselves and are supposed to be shielded from public disclosures for safety reasons.

    That means immigrants who have applied for relief under the Violence Against Women Act [VAWA] and other similar programs have had their private information exposed because they are undocumented. Attorneys fear that the database will allow abusers and traffickers to track the locations of their victims, interfere with their cases and inflict further violence.

    “It has certainly put a very powerful tool in the hands of abusers,” said Archi Pyati, chief of policy and programs at Tahirih Justice Center, a nonprofit that provides legal services to immigrants and refugees fleeing violence. “Federal law says you’re not allowed to do this.”

    Critics said this kind of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) searchable database broadly exposing victims is unprecedented and is the latest example of the Trump administration endangering the most vulnerable immigrants under the guise of public safety. […]

    Tahirih wrote to DHS on Thursday urging the agency to remove protected victims of violence from Vine or otherwise take down the entire database. Tahirih noted that the website includes detained immigrants who have applied for VAWA protection, U visas and T visas, which are programs that are supposed to allow victims of trafficking, violence and other crimes to safely report the abuse they faced and gain relief from deportation.

    Under federal law, DHS is barred from disclosing any information about those applicants, advocates noted. But the Vine database allegedly allows members of the public to look up these immigrants’ personal information, including the facility where they are being held, the status of the case and the reason for the detention. Members of the public can also sign up for alerts so they are notified when an immigrant’s status changes.


    Another NWIRP [Northwest Immigrant Rights Project] client in the database was a confidential informant for law enforcement in the US and faces risks because of his cooperation. That individual remained in the database at the end of the day [Thursday].

    Both clients are in DHS custody because they are undocumented, said [NWIRP directing attorney] Tim Warden-Hertz, who provided the Guardian with redacted records to back his claims.


    Tahirih said it first raised the issue to DHS two weeks ago, but no changes were made, prompting the Thursday letter.

    After its launch, the DHS database also mistakenly included children, some as young as a few months, the Los Angeles Times reported in April.


    “We’re really concerned in the context of human trafficking,” said Grace Huang, policy director at the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence. [Referring to the slavers] “They’ll know where to pick them up.”

    Warden-Hertz said that some defendants whose cases are shielded from the public in immigration court, to protect their safety, are now being exposed by a different entity of the federal government — the Vine database.


  12. blf says

    In @18 I somehow lost the link to the LA Times article referenced by the Grauniad, Babies and children listed in Homeland Security’s immigrant database of alleged criminals (27-April (caution, There seems to be an autoplay video at the LA Times link as well!)).

    In addition to children and babies, at that time, “The database also included unaccompanied minors — children who came to the United States without their parents — who are currently held in group homes.”

    Also, the article noted that, even back then (admittedly only a month ago):

    [After fixing the children problem, c]oncerns remained about the amount of private information still easily available to the public, including potential asylum applicants whose identities are supposed to be confidential under DHS policy.


    [A trial search by the LA Times] reveal the detention facility the immigrant is housed in, custody status, age, country of birth, date of birth, race, gender and aliases. There doesn’t appear to be any way to distinguish between someone who may have perpetrated a crime beyond being in the country illegally.

    Attorneys representing immigrants expressed anger and worry over the release of names that were supposed to be protected.


    [One reason t]he names of asylum seekers are […] kept secret to protect them from retaliation in the event that asylum is denied and they are sent back home.


    A DHS spokesperson said the database does not violate privacy policies because it doesn’t identify anybody as an asylum applicant.


    The article ends with this related story:

    This isn’t the first time the Trump administration has erred in releasing information aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration.

    Under Trump, Immigration and Customs Enforcement began publishing reports on the cities and other jurisdictions that were releasing immigrants from jail or after arrest, flouting requests to hold certain immigrants for transfer to federal detention.

    But the first few reports were plagued by errors. In some cases, ICE mixed up names, confusing Franklin counties in Iowa, New York and Pennsylvania. In other cases, the detainees had already been picked up by ICE, or had never been released in the first place.

    Earlier this month, ICE suspended publication of the reports.

  13. Saad says

    blf, #13

    Gianforte is reported to have won with c.51%, Greg Gianforte wins Montana race for Congress after ‘body-slamming’ reporter

    America. What will it take for people to wake the fuck up?

    Don’t think 2018 is going to be some easy election.

  14. says

    Der Spiegel editorial – “It’s Time to Get Rid of Donald Trump”:

    Donald Trump is not fit to be president of the United States. He does not possess the requisite intellect and does not understand the significance of the office he holds nor the tasks associated with it. He doesn’t read. He doesn’t bother to peruse important files and intelligence reports and knows little about the issues that he has identified as his priorities. His decisions are capricious and they are delivered in the form of tyrannical decrees.

    He is a man free of morals. As has been demonstrated hundreds of times, he is a liar, a racist and a cheat. I feel ashamed to use these words, as sharp and loud as they are. But if they apply to anyone, they apply to Trump. And one of the media’s tasks is to continue telling things as they are: Trump has to be removed from the White House. Quickly. He is a danger to the world.

    Nothing is as it should be in this White House. Everyone working there has been compromised multiple times and now they all despise each other – and everyone except for Trump despises Trump. Because of all that, after just 120 days of the Trump administration, we are witness to an American tragedy for which there are five theoretical solutions.

    The first is Trump’s resignation, which won’t happen. The second is that Republicans in the House and Senate support impeachment, which would be justified by the president’s proven obstruction of justice, but won’t happen because of the Republicans’ thirst for power, which they won’t willingly give up. The third possible solution is the invocation of the 25th Amendment, which would require the cabinet to declare Trump unfit to discharge the powers of the presidency. That isn’t particularly likely either. Fourth: The Democrats get ready to fight and win back majorities in the House and Senate in midterm elections, which are 18 months away, before they then pursue option two, impeachment. Fifth: the international community wakes up and finds a way to circumvent the White House and free itself of its dependence on the U.S. Unlike the preceding four options, the fifth doesn’t directly solve the Trump problem, but it is nevertheless necessary – and possible….

    (This was first published almost a week ago. Intervening events haven’t softened Brinkbäumer’s views.)

  15. says

    Thank you, New York Times:

    The New York Times reviewed videos and photos to track the actions of 24 men, including armed members of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security detail, who attacked protesters in Washington last week. Many of the protesters were American citizens.

    The men kicked people lying on the ground and put a woman in a chokehold just a mile from the White House. They outnumbered the protesters nearly two to one.

    The State Department has condemned the episode, and some American lawmakers have called for the men to be prosecuted. But none have been charged with a crime. Here’s what video of the main actors shows about the identities of the men and the roles they played in the clash….

  16. says

    Here’s the WaPo article about Kushner – “Jared Kushner now a focus in Russia investigation”:

    Investigators are focusing on a series of meetings held by Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and an influential White House adviser, as part of their probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and related matters, according to people familiar with the investigation.

    Kushner, who held meetings in December with the Russian ambassador and a banker from Moscow, is being investigated because of the extent and nature of his interactions with the Russians, the people said.

    FBI agents also remain keenly interested in former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, but Kushner is the only current White House official known to be considered a key person in the probe.

    In addition to possible coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election, investigators are also looking broadly into possible financial crimes — but the people familiar with the matter, who were not authorized to speak publicly, did not specify who or what was being examined.

    In addition to the December meetings, a former senior intelligence official said FBI agents had been looking closely at earlier exchanges between Trump associates and the Russians dating to the spring of 2016, including one at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. Kushner and Kislyak — along with close Trump adviser and current attorney general Jeff Sessions — were present at an April 2016 event at the Mayflower where then-candidate Trump promised in a speech to seek better relations with Russia. It is unclear whether Kushner and Kislyak interacted there….

  17. says

    CNN’s reporting adds another dimension:

    The FBI’s criminal probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election is increasingly touching on the multiple roles of senior White House adviser Jared Kushner on both the Trump campaign and the Trump transition team.

    Points of focus that pertain to Kushner include: the Trump campaign’s 2016 data analytics operation; his relationship with former national security adviser Michael Flynn; and Kushner’s own contacts with Russians, according to US officials briefed on the probe.

    The FBI has collected data on computer bots, programs that perform repetitive functions like searches, allegedly linked to Russia that helped target and push negative information on Hillary Clinton and positive information on Donald Trump through Facebook and other social media, the officials say.

    Federal investigators have been taking a closer look at the Trump campaign’s data analytics operation, which was supervised by Kushner, officials say, and are examining whether Russian operatives used people associated with the campaign — wittingly or unwittingly — to try to help Russia’s own data targeting.
    Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, worked with and helped oversee the campaign’s data operation contractors based in San Antonio, Texas.

    Kushner has described how, beginning last June, he began testing the use of data targeting to sell Trump merchandise. Eventually, according to a November Forbes magazine profile, the data operation helped the Trump campaign figure out where the candidate’s message was resonating in states like Michigan and Wisconsin, places where conventional political wisdom suggested they would be wasting time and money.
    “I called somebody who works for one of the technology companies that I work with, and I had them give me a tutorial on how to use Facebook micro-targeting,” Kushner told Forbes….

  18. says

    blf @18:

    “It has certainly put a very powerful tool in the hands of abusers,” […]

    Putting powerful tools in the hands of all kinds of abusers is what the Trump administration does.

    That database is the basis for a horror story.

  19. says

    Trump is such a dull man that he can’t learn:

    […] Despite focusing on trade policy for two years, Trump apparently did not realize that Germany, as an EU member, does not make individual trade deals with the United States. He also didn’t brush up on this fairly obvious fact before welcoming the German leader to the White House.

    A month later, a senior German official told The Times of London that Trump asked Merkel 10 times about negotiating a trade deal. According to the official, she replied every time, “You can’t do a trade deal with Germany, only the EU.” The official added, “On the eleventh refusal, Trump finally got the message.” […]


    Maybe Trump didn’t learn, even after being schooled by German Chancellor Angela Merkel 11 times.

    Donald Trump had some tough words for the Germans at the NATO summit in Belgium on Thursday. “The Germans are bad, very bad,” he reportedly told Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Union. “Look at the millions of cars that they’re selling in the USA. Horrible. We’re gonna stop that.”

    It is certainly true that Germany runs a big trade surplus with the world and with the United States…. But Trump can’t stop the German cars from coming in to the U.S. because, to a large degree, they’re already here…. Trump could try to stop the sales of German cars in the U.S. But that would involve shutting down a bunch of factories on American soil that employ American workers and use a lot of U.S.-produced parts. Yes, that would be bad – very bad.

    Trump Reportedly Wants to Stop Germans From Selling So Many Cars Here, Where They’re Made

  20. blf says

    An illustration of hair furor’s rent-seeking greedy zero-sum world view, Trump ‘complained to Belgian PM of difficulty setting up golf resorts in EU’:

    US president said his view of Europe was based on experiences trying to do business, according to account of Brussels meeting

    Le Soir, a Belgian daily newspaper, reported that the US president acclaimed the chocolates, which were a gift from the Belgian government, during a meeting with the country’s prime minister, Charles Michel.

    “These are the best,”[†] he said, before explaining that his ambivalent attitude towards the EU was a consequence of his experiences trying to set up businesses, notably golf resorts, on the continent.

    “He made a lot of references to his personal journey. He explained, for example, the functioning of Europe on the basis of his difficulties in doing business in Ireland,” one source told the Francophone paper.

    A second source told the newspaper: “Every time we talk about a country, he remembered the things he had done. Scotland? He said he had opened a club. Ireland? He said it took him two and a half years to get a licence and that did not give him a very good image of the European Union. One feels that he wants a system where everything can be realised very quickly and without formalities.”

    No apparent concern about others, or thought at all as to why there are formalities, licenses, &tc. And then the subcontractors will actually want to be paid, in full and on time!

      † An example of stuck clock syndrome: A continuous liar is sometimes correct, typically by accident. In this case, he’d probably say the same time about a box of Crunchy Frog (video).

    Of course, he continued to blatantly lie:

    A French official said Trump, who had spoken favourably of Marine Le Pen, told the newly elected French leader, Emmanuel Macron: You were my guy in the presidential vote.

    The official, who spoke anonymously to the Associated Press, said Trump told Macron he hadn’t endorsed Le Pen. Trump in April described Le Pen as the strongest on what’s been going on in France and said: Whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism, and whoever is the toughest at the borders, will do well in the election.

    Trump never spoke publicly about Macron before the vote […]

    Also, whilst I am unkeen on this sort of trivial, it’s a bit amusing, “Trump’s meeting with Macron was also notable for a long and awkward handshake. Pictures and video showed the two leaders gripping each other’s hands while grimacing slightly.”

  21. says

    Rush Limbaugh commented on the bodyslam of reporter Ben Jacobs in Montana by Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte:

    I must join the chorus of people condemning what happened out there. This manly, obviously studly Republican candidate in Montana took the occasion to beat up a pajama-clad journalist, a Pajama Boy journalist out there…And the manly, studly Republican simply didn’t realize that on the big stage you can’t do this kind of stuff and kicked the guy’s ass to the ground. This cannot be accepted. This must be condemned.

    Limbaugh continued in this vein for some time, and then he complained some more about Jacobs being smug and arrogant. He also called Jacobs an “average Millennial.”

    And that, my friends, is nearly the same reaction that is coming from rightwing media in general, and from a disturbing number of Republican voters in Montana.

    For example, Geraldo Rivera called the negative reaction to the body slamming incident “gigantically overblown.”

    The Sinclair-owned station in Montana refused to air the audio recording of the assault.

    A panel on Fox News cheered the assault as “Montana justice” and called Jacobs a “snowflake.”

    Alex Jones and Mike Cernovich are both claiming that Gianforte was “set up.” (A liberal conspiracy by Ben Jacobs and George Soros, I guess.)

    Rightwing media is celebrating the war on the “liberal” media, and they are celebrating violence against journalists.

  22. blf says

    To no great surprise, hair furor is quite likely to also sink the upcoming G7 summit in Sicily, Hopes for refugee crisis plan fall into chasm between G7 and Trump:

    Disagreements with US are so fundamental that Sicily summit might not be able to issue communique

    Fundamental disagreements between the US president [sic], Donald Trump, and other G7 leaders at the joint summit in Sicily have become so vast that they may be forced to issue a brief leaders’ statement rather than a fully-fledged communique, dashing Italian hopes of engineering a big step forward on migration and famine.

    A carefully laid plan prepared by the Italian hosts for a comprehensive package on the migration crisis has been blocked. Its replacement removes any commitments on the US to take refugees.


    The disagreements have spread to climate change, trade and food security, revealing the chasm between Trump and his fellow leaders at the summit.

    Or as the article excerpted in @14 put it, “Trump finds himself in the G1.”

    The European council president, Donald Tusk, pointedly called on Trump to accept that the refugee crisis requires a global response as he spoke at the opening of a summit he said was likely to be “the most challenging G7 in years”.


    Amid reports that the US was refusing to sign up to a communique if it implied an American commitment to take in more refugees, Tusk said: “We have to keep this position that the migration crisis is a global issue, and not only local or regional, and I hope we will convince our new colleagues around the table that what we need today is solidarity at the global level.”

    And a very very bad possibility seems to be edging closer:

    On climate change, Trump’s economic adviser Gary Cohn has signalled that the US will not stick to the pledges made by the Obama administration at the UN’s Paris climate change conference in 2015.

    We know that the levels that were agreed to by the prior administration would be highly crippling to the US economic growth, Cohn said on the way to the summit. At the Paris summit the US pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26–28% compared with 2005 levels by 2025.

    Cohn said Trump, who has dismissed global warming as a hoax, would make a final decision when he returned home, but stressed he would put economic development first.

    No, what hair furor is putting first is his own profits, then those of his family & cronies, then his fantasies. Some of those might, mostly by accident & mostly in the short-term (probably), relate to so-called economic development.

  23. says

    blf @31: “Pictures and video showed the two leaders gripping each other’s hands while grimacing slightly”

    I think Macron was just refusing to let Trump get away with his usual grip-and-pull action that puts the other person off balance. Justin Trudeau employed a similar preventative tactic when he had to shake hands with Trump. Macron seems to have used more of the “I’m stronger than you are, you bully” in his handshake.

    The “rent-seeking” personality made Trump look like a bore to the Europeans. Trump may be more interested in destroying NATO just so that he can make easier deals to build golf courses than to please Putin. Putin must be smiling ear-to-ear after hearing that ignorant and insulting speech Trump gave to NATO members.

  24. blf says

    Oh good grief, Lady Justice statue in Bangladesh is removed after Islamist objections:

    Hardline groups said sculpture of woman holding sword and scales outside supreme court was example of idol worship

    A statue of Lady Justice has been removed from the supreme court building in the Bangladeshi capital after objections from Islamist groups.

    The sculpture, by the local artist Mrinal Haque, was installed in front of the court in December, and depicts a woman in a sari clutching a sword and scales, similar to the traditional depiction of the Greek goddess Themis.


    Haque oversaw the removal to ensure no damage was done to the statue, telling local media it was a “slap in the face of the progressive people in this country”.

    “This is a Bengali woman, wearing a sari. There is nothing Greek about it. This is nothing but a symbol of justice,” he said.

    He told the Associated Press he felt terrible. “This is injustice. This is not fair. My mother has died and I can easily compare my present feeling with that loss.”


    Around a dozen student activists held a march at Dhaka University on Friday to protest against the statue’s removal, but were blocked by police who laid barbed-wire fences and fired teargas.

    The campaign to remove the statue was started by Hefazat-e-Islam, a conservative religious movement that runs a large network of Islamic schools across Bangladesh. It had threatened to launch a mass movement if the statue remained in place.


    Anisuzzaman, a participant in the country’s 1971 liberation war and a professor of Bengali literature, said the statue’s removal was “a sad development and we deplore it”.

    “We see this as the government bowing down to the pressure of those who have used religion for political ends,” said Anisuzzaman, who like many south Asians uses only one name.

  25. blf says

    There is an editorial in today’s dead-tree edition of the International New York Times (ex-IHT), which makes a point similar to what I said yesterday about the USA essentially only causing or enabling harm in Yemen (see @476(previous page)). Will President [sic] Trump Help Save Yemen?:

    Add cholera to the famine threat and other crises that are devastating Yemen. More than 360 people have died of the disease in recent weeks, and thousands more are at risk.

    All that is unfolding against a civil war that has killed 10,000 people in two years and come to a grim stalemate in which President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi and his Saudi and United Arab Emirates backers continue to fight Houthi rebels, an indigenous Shiite group with loose ties to Iran.

    President [sic] Trump could have used his trip to Saudi Arabia this week to spotlight the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen and push for a political solution to the conflict. Instead, he basked in the adulation of King Salman and his court, uncritically embraced the country’s foreign and domestic policies, and then sold the Saudis $110 billion in arms.

    The package includes precision-guided munitions, which President Barack Obama withheld last year in an effort to pressure Saudi Arabia to halt attacks that have killed thousands of civilians and struck hospitals, schools, markets and mosques. He also worried about possible Saudi war crimes in which America could be implicated.

    Mr Trump made perfunctory references to Yemen on his trip, but mostly to praise the Saudi war effort and condemn Iran for supporting militant groups. He could be using the leverage he has with his new Saudi friends to push for a resolution to the fighting. […]


    Since 2015, the Saudi-led coalition has been bombing the Houthis to try to push them out of Yemen’s capital, Sana [sic†]. The war has put seven million people in danger of starvation, crushed the economy and decimated the health system.

    The problems are exacerbated by a virtual blockade of the Houthi-held port of Hudaydah [sic‡], a lifeline for food and medicine entering Yemen. Efforts by the Saudi-led coalition to screen ships for Iranian arms intended for Houthis has disrupted deliveries, and cranes needed to unload supplies have been damaged in the fighting. The country’s public and private reserves are so depleted that employees have not been paid and many have stopped working.

    “This is a clear-cut decline into massive famine that is man-made and avoidable,” said Jan Egeland, the Norwegian Refugee Council head who recently visited Yemen. One encouraging development is that Saudi Arabia has not so far made good on threats to bomb and seize Hudaydah [sic‡], apparently heeding warnings by the United States and others.


    The editorial notes the Saudis make interpret hair furor’s blatherings — his praise of the war, the arms deal including the previously-prohibited weapons, and lack of admonishments / warnings — as a signal to escalate this apparent proxy war with Iran. In addition, “the chaos is allowing Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen to become stronger, the population more radicalized and drawing American forces further into that fight.”

      † The preferred spelling of Yemen’s capital is Sana’a (albeit, as Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge notes, the name is “also spelled Sanaa or Sana”).

      ‡ And the preferred spelling is Al Hudaydah (albeit, again, there are various alternative English-language spellings).

  26. says

    Trump boasted about saving jobs at Carrier. Those boasts were never entirely accurate, and now the foundation (what there was of a foundation) is evaporating. Trump lied and/or exaggerated. Now, reality is here to bite him.

    From the Washington Post:

    Carrier, the company President Trump pledged to keep on American soil, informed the state of Indiana this week that it will soon begin cutting 632 workers from an Indianapolis factory. The manufacturing jobs will move to Monterrey, Mexico, where the minimum wage is $3.90 per day.

    That was never supposed to happen, according to Trump’s campaign promises. He told Indiana residents at a rally last year there was a “100 percent chance” he would save the jobs at the heating and air-conditioning manufacturer.

    What Trump promised in 2016:

    Carrier stepped it up, and now they’re keeping over 1,100 people. And by the way, that number is going to go up substantially as they expand this area, this plant. The 1,100 is going to be a minimum number.

    From Steve Benen:

    [Trump] gave those Carrier workers and their families a “100 percent” guarantee that he’d save those jobs – even though he had no idea what he was talking about. Trump later boasted that the number of jobs at that plant would soon “go up substantially,” which only added insult to injury because he had no way of making that happen.

    I don’t blame Trump for Carrier’s business decision; I blame Trump for deceiving those workers, looking them in the eye and making promises he couldn’t keep.

  27. says

    More proof that Trump himself is sabotaging Obamacare:

    North Carolina’s largest Obamacare insurer wants to raise premiums by nearly 23 percent, but said most of the increase is due to the failure of President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans to guarantee crucial payments to insurers.

    Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina said Thursday it would have asked the state regulators for an 8.8 percent increase if Trump and the GOP-led Congress agreed to continue funding payments to insurers for so-called cost-sharing reductions.

    Instead, the insurer is requesting an average increase of 22.9 percent for Obamacare plans that now cover about 502,000 people.

    Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina was looking at a modest increase and instead consumers will now be paying a “Trump tax.”

    From Steve Benen:

    […] When private insurers don’t know about the fate of existing federal subsidies, they need to protect themselves against potential future losses imposed by Republicans. It’s Business 101.

    And so, by playing games, Trump and his GOP allies are effectively forcing insurance companies to start charging consumers more today because they don’t know what the White House and Congress will do tomorrow.

    The president, in other words, is imposing a political surcharge on the cost of middle-class health coverage for no reason. By threatening to make things worse, Trump and allies are already making things worse.

  28. blf says

    A small follow-up to @17, Ukip ‘would ban balaclavas in public: “Deputy leader reveals in radio interview that ban on face coverings such as burqas would also include woollen garments used for winter sports”.

    Good grief. I have a balaclava for precisely that reason — winter sports (in my case, originally purchased yonks ago for winter-time bicycling). And some people wear scarfs in a manner which hides parts of their face. What a bunch of eejits; What does ‘need to think this through’ mean?, albeit they probably need help with the words of more than four letters.

  29. says

    Oh, FFS:

    [Trump’s] top adviser Gary Cohn suggested to reporters aboard Air Force One that Trump might be open to lifting NATO sanctions on Russia. The sanctions were imposed after Russia annexed Ukrainian territory, an action that also prompted the G7 leaders to kick Russia out of the group.

    “The discussion on sanctions and Russia came up at NATO tonight. It was a pretty broad discussion with a lot of NATO talking about Russian Sanctions,” Cohn said, per press pool reports. Asked about the U.S. position on Russian sanctions, he added, “I think the president is looking at it.” […]

    Cohn refused to either confirm or deny that Trump was considering lifting Russian sanctions, leaving the door open. Trump has floated the possibility of lifting the sanctions before, though his stance remains ambiguous: another senior administration official told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday that Trump was “leaning” toward keeping the sanctions in place.

    In the midst of questions over ties between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence operatives — and over Trump’s own leaking of classified intelligence to the Russians — anything less than a strong endorsement of the sanctions sends a troubling message to America’s NATO allies, already stung over Trump’s admonishments. […]

    Think Progress link

  30. says

    blf @40, not having the right gear for outdoor activities in the winter can result in frostbite. What the heck are these people thinking?

  31. blf says

    Greg Gianforte’s victory in Montana hands Republican party a fresh liability:

    The election of a man who has just been charged with assaulting a journalist will create a fresh headache on Capitol Hill for Speaker Paul Ryan

    [… Gianforte’s win means] the party will now have to decide whether to embrace, accommodate or ostracise a man who made himself the personification of Trump’s media-baiting, violence-inciting campaign rhetoric. The legal saga will put a dark cloud over him and his movements on Capitol Hill are likely to receive outsized and negative coverage. In short, he is a liability adding to Ryan’s already considerable burden.

    “This is going to be another of those moral tests for the Republican party,” said Charlie Sykes, a conservative author and commentator. “It should be an easy one for them to say there is no place for violence against reporters.”

    In normal politics, Skyes added, the incident would have been universally condemned. But, since the ascent of Trump, the compass has moved. “It’s hard to overstate the cynicism we’ve seen from Republicans in Washington who will stop at nothing when votes are involved. How far down the road are Republicans willing to go?”


    For months it was feared that Trump had created an atmosphere in which a journalist might be physically attacked. Now it has happened and, in most political contexts, such an action would be instantly disqualifying […]

    But the millionaire tech entrepreneur has aligned himself with Trump and may be untouchable for as long as the president’s populist base remains loyal. Trump’s cheerleaders have been ready to defend or even champion Gianforte, suggesting that he could prove a thorn in Ryan’s side.

    Tom Tancredo, a former Republican congressman from Colorado, said: “They’ll be so happy he’s been able to get elected I doubt there’ll be any issue in the Congress about it. I don’t see anything happening on that score.”

    He denied that Gianforte’s “body slam” of a journalist should be disqualifying […]


    Republican pollster and consultant Frank Luntz said: “I wonder how Republicans would’ve responded if it was a Democrat in question. I’ve been saying for months that there is a poison in American politics that will destroy everyone. I’m afraid it’s happening.”

  32. says

    John Boehner commented on Trump’s reign so far:

    Everything else he’s done [in office] has been a complete disaster. He’s still learning how to be president.


  33. tomh says

    You may remember that NBA basketball player Enes Kanter was detained in an airport after his Turkish passport was cancelled. In today’s news, Turkey issued an arrest warrant for Kanter, accusing him of being a member of a “terror group”, a pro-government newspaper reported. Sabah daily added that the prosecutor would apply for an Interpol red notice — to inform Interpol’s 190 members that someone’s arrest is sought and thus ensure their deportation — to the justice ministry. Kanter previously backed Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen in Twitter postings after an attempted putsch last July aimed at ousting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    Kanter’s response on Twitter: “I am already going to come to (Turkey) to spit on all of your ugly, hate-filled faces.”

  34. blf says

    US army ‘lost track of $1bn worth of arms’:

    Amnesty International urges the US and other countries to stop arms transfers that could fuel atrocities.

    The US army has failed to monitor over $1bn worth of arms and other military equipment transfers to Kuwait and Iraq, Amnesty International says in a report citing a 2016 US government audit.

    The now-declassified document by the US Department of Defence (DoD) audit, was obtained by the rights group following Freedom of Information requests.

    The audit reveals that the DoD “did not have accurate, up-to-date records on the quantity and location” of a vast amount of equipment on hand in Kuwait and Iraq.


    [Amnesty International] says in the report that its own research has “consistently documented” lax controls and record-keeping within the Iraqi chain of command, which had resulted in arms winding up in the hands of armed groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL [daesh –blf]).

    “After all this time and all these warnings, the same problems keep occurring,” [AI Arms Control and Human Rights researcher Patrick] Wilcken said.


    “[… G]roups such as Amnesty International repeatedly called on irresponsible arms transfers to be tackled, as the weapons were not only falling into the hands of groups like ISIL but also pro-Tehran Shia jihadists fighting for the Iraqi government,” Tallha Abdulrazaq, a security researcher at the University of Exeter, told Al Jazeera via email.

    “While ISIL certainly needs to be fought, if this is achieved by hurling arms at groups that are just as extreme as the militant group, how does that resolve the situation?”


    Whilst of a different nature, that $110bn arms deal springs to mind… (The transfers discussed in the above excerpt are generally intended for the various factions fighting daesh, and “included small arms and heavy weapons, machine guns, mortar rounds and assault rifles.”)

  35. KG says

    You might think that even within the terms of John Wayne style macho masculinity, launching a surprise attack and breaking your opponent’s glasses – rather than challenging him to “come outside and settle this” – would be considered contemptible. Such is the moral degradation of American conservatism, that almost all the right-wingers who are not excusing Gianforte’s assault on Jacobs are celebrating it.

  36. blf says

    This isn’t quite the appropriate thread, but the clearly appropriate one, Discuss: Through a feminist lens, has been closed to comments since sometime last(!) year. So I’m noting it here, apologies — The gender wars of household chores: a feminist comic: “The French comic artist Emma illustrates the concept of the ‘mental load’. When a man expects his partner to ask him to do things, he is viewing her as the manager of their household chores”.

    Some of the readers’s comments are interesting, but be prepared for mansplaining.

  37. says

    In Brussels (site of the G7 Summit), Melania Trump wore a jacket by Dolce & Gabanna. The jacket cost $51,000. She carried a matching purse that cost $1,630. Everyone loved it, according to a lot of press reports. Melania wore an outfit that closely matched the U.S. median household of $55,775 in 2015 (according to the U.S. Census Bureau).

    See the Daily Mail article on G7 fashion.

    Remember when conservatives threw a hissy fit over the gown Michelle Obama wore to an official state dinner? The gown from Carolina Herrera cost $12,000.

  38. says

    An excerpt from Hillary Clinton’s speech today in Wellesley, MA.

    Transcript of the excerpt:

    When people invent their own facts and attack those who question them, it can mark the beginning of the end of a free society. (Applause)

    That is not hyperbole. It is what authoritarian regimes throughout history have done. They attempt to control reality—not just our laws, and our rights, and our budgets, but our thoughts and beliefs.

    Right now, some of you might wonder, why am I telling you all this—you don’t own a cable news network, you don’t control the Facebook algorithm, you aren’t a member of Congress…YET. (Applause)

    Because I believe with all my heart that the future of America, indeed, the future of the world, depends on brave, thoughtful people like you insisting on truth and integrity right now, every day. You didn’t create these circumstances, but you have the power to change them. (Applause)

    You can read the full transcript here:

  39. says

    From Wonkette’s coverage of Hillary Clinton’s speech at Wellesley College:

    She reflected on her own graduation from Wellesley and what was going on in the world at the time, the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement, the carnage of Vietnam, and oh also one other thing [Nixon, Watergate]:

    HILLARY: We were furious about the past presidential election, of a man whose presidency would eventually end in disgrace with his impeachment for obstruction of justice …


    HILLARY: … after firing the person running the investigation into him at the Department of Justice.

    We see what you did there, Hillary!

    Hillary talked about how facts are literally dead because of the existence of the internet, and she even mentioned people “concocting elaborate, hurtful conspiracy theories about child abuse rings operating out of pizza parlors,” because why not make fun of PizzaGate truthers? They are deplorable, and also very stupid, therefore they deserve it. […]

    Hillary got very serious as she called bullshit on Trump’s cruel budget, and talked of the dangers of leaders who attempt to create their own realities, [See comment 54]

  40. blf says

    I don’t recall seeing this mentioned, so apologies if it is a repeat, New York and New Hampshire are ‘thunderbolts’:

    [… I]n New Hampshire and New York this week […] two Democratic women won long-time Republican state legislature seats on Tuesday night.

    In New Hampshire Edie DesMarais became the first Democrat ever elected to represent her New Hampshire house seat […]. In New York, Christine Pellegrino won the 9th assembly district — which voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in November — with 58% of the vote.


  41. blf says

    It was quite a week for toxic masculinity:

    If there was ever a week to remind you how much toxic masculinity underpins the Republican party — this was it. Trump pushed Montenegro’s prime minister (complete with self-satisfied smirk) and Montana’s newest representative won despite assaulting a Guardian reporter — a move Rush Limbaugh lauded as manly.

    When this is all over, gender studies professors are going to have a hell of time teaching students about the era in history that amounted to little more than a (ahem) measuring contest.


    At least among the continued horrors of living under a Trump presidency, Black Lives Matter got some of the recognition it deserves when it won the Sydney Peace Prize. Naomi Klein, a previous recipient, said that movement founders Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi “embody the core principle of the Sydney peace prize: that there will never be peace without real justice.”


    The Texas House passed an anti-choice bill that would make it a crime to drive a woman to get an abortion and on a scale from 1 to 10, I’m at a Handmaid’s 11.


    A great tweet is also quoted, “Our domestic & international policy on women’s issues is literally now just Ivanka appearing & saying the word ‘women’ & then drifting away.”

    Some more about the Sydney peace prize won by Black Lives Matter (from the link embedded in the above excerpt (Grauniad edits in {curly braces})):

    Each year the Sydney Peace Foundation honours a nominee who has promoted “peace with justice”, human rights and non-violence. Past recipients include Julian Burnside, Prof Noam Chomsky and the former Irish president Mary Robinson.


    “We’re not just about hitting the streets or direct action{…} it’s a humanising project,” [Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors] told Guardian Australia. “We’re trying to re-imagine humanity and bring us to a place where we can decide how we want to be in relation to each other versus criminalising our neighbours or being punitive towards them.”

    Cullors said an aspect of that was evaluating the role of police, looking at the underlying causes of incidents which draw police attention and questioning whether police can address the problem.

    “The complicated part of this is the question becomes: do we need police? Are police going to give us ultimate safety?” Cullors said.

    “In our opinion: no, police are not going to give us safety. We’ve seen time and time again that actually what they do is provide death{…} In our country, police are the first responders to people with psychiatric issues, police are the first responders to drug use and overdose, police are the first responders to issues of domestic violence.

    “And what we have seen time and time again, when they become the first responders, they don’t de-escalate. They actually escalate{…} When they become the first responders, our family members end up dying.”


    Indeed. De-escalation, harm-reduction, and calming is notably lacking from far too many of the current goons.

  42. says

    More on the handshakes, and on how delighted some of us are to see Trump bested in this display of dominance:

    […] Thursday brought a new twist in Trump’s handshake hall of fame: the President met his match.

    Appearing in a photo-op with the investment-banker-turned-French-President Emmanuel Macron, Trump found himself in a stone faced, white-knuckled stand-off. He attempted to release his hand not once, not twice, but three times. Macron, barely containing a triumphant smile, finally let go.

    “They shook hands for an extended period of time,” the Washington Post’s Philip Rucker wrote in a pool report. “Each president gripped the other’s hand with considerable intensity, their knuckles turning white and their jaws clenching and faces tightening.”

    The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart took credit for warning France’s ambassador to the United States, Gérard Araud about Trump’s gamesmanship.

    “‘Did you warn him about Trump’s handshakes?’ my philanthropist friend asked,” Capehart wrote Friday, recalling a party on Monday night. “A look of surprise popped on Araud’s face as he inquired what exactly did that mean. Both of us told him about Trump’s affinity for the alpha male, grab-and-pull power pump that always seemed to reduce the other person to a rag doll. Forewarned, Araud said he would alert Macron.”

    Macron later head-faked Trump, choosing instead to greet German Chancellor Angela Merkel, then Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, and then, crossing back to his right, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, before turning to the American President. […]


    Ha! The Washington Post does beyond the call of duty, offering not just great journalism, but handshake diplomacy lessons as well. Or should we say handshake warfare lessons.

    Closeups of Trump’s face show him attempting to smile while obviously in pain. (Wonkette did a good job of pulling and posting the evidence.)

  43. says

    “Sources: Comey acted on Russian intelligence he knew was fake”:

    Then-FBI Director James Comey knew that a critical piece of information relating to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email was fake — created by Russian intelligence — but he feared that if it became public it would undermine the probe and the Justice Department itself, according to multiple officials with knowledge of the process.

    As a result, Comey acted unilaterally last summer to publicly declare the investigation over — without consulting then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch — while at the same time stating that Clinton had been “extremely careless” in her handling of classified information. His press conference caused a firestorm of controversy and drew criticism from both Democrats and Republicans.

    Comey’s actions based on what he knew was Russian disinformation offer a stark example of the way Russian interference impacted the decisions of the highest-level US officials during the 2016 campaign.

    The Washington Post reported Wednesday that this Russian intelligence was unreliable. US officials now tell CNN that Comey and FBI officials actually knew early on that this intelligence was indeed false.

    In classified sessions with members of Congress several months ago, Comey described those emails in the Russian claim and expressed his concern that this Russian information could “drop” and that would undermine the Clinton investigation and the Justice Department in general, according to one government official.

    Still, Comey did not let on to lawmakers that there were doubts about the veracity of the intelligence, according to sources familiar with the briefings. It is unclear why Comey was not more forthcoming in a classified setting.

    Sources close to Comey tell CNN he felt that it didn’t matter if the information was accurate, because his big fear was that if the Russians released the information publicly, there would be no way for law enforcement and intelligence officials to discredit it without burning intelligence sources and methods. There were other factors behind Comey’s decision, sources say.

    In at least one classified session, Comey cited that intelligence as the primary reason he took the unusual step of publicly announcing the end of the Clinton email probe….

  44. blf says

    Whilst I didn’t spot anything too interesting in this column (unless you are unfamiliar with the story), it does contain several nice snarks, Why is Sean Hannity peddling bonkers conspiracy theories?:

    [… Y]ou and I both know that Fox News carries a heavy burden. Besides having lost Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes recently, the network also has to maintain the appearance of being a legitimate news organization and not be seen merely as conservative propaganda in high-definition blonde highlights sandwiched between reverse-mortgage advertisements blaring for 24 hours a day. […]

    After the Fox News retraction, Hannity […] generously thanked his irredeemable friends for their support.

    I suspect Hannity thinks “irredeemable” means something else than “not able to be improved or corrected”, which is the generally accepted definition. Or maybe he’s just being honest about his friends.

    Regardless, his comment makes me think that, while we don’t need Hannity on the air any longer, maybe we do need new words in our language. Allow me to propose one.

    Hannity (n): 1. the blockheaded belief in something beyond all facts to the contrary; 2. the sum of the results of being caught in an ideological lie but continuing anyway; 3. a description of the cynical politics of the factually challenged rightwing media.

    I’ll use it in a sentence: when Donald Trump keeps saying he has won the most electoral college votes since Ronald Reagan, he’s uttering something worse than a lie; he’s stating a Hannity.


  45. blf says

    Afghan singer burns ‘naked’ outfit she wore at Paris concert (France24 edits in {curly braces}):

    An Afghan singer and TV star publicly burned a figure-hugging skin-coloured jumpsuit after she was criticised for wearing it at a concert in Paris.

    The outfit caused controversy because the beige colour made it look as though she was naked on stage, with her detractors accusing it of being un-Islamic. Aryana Sayeed responded by posting a video on Facebook of her setting the dress on fire, writing in the caption, “Today we resolve one of the biggest current problems of Afghanistan so we can start focusing on other bigger problems!”


    In the video, she says:

    This is the poor little dress that seems to be the biggest single problem facing Afghanistan right now. If it weren’t for this dress, apparently, everything would be fine in our country. This whole controversy is ridiculous and unfortunate{…} Just look at it. I had no idea that Afghan citizens were so touchy about skin-coloured clothing.

    People think this dress is transparent. But it’s in their imagination! The dress is not transparent. It has long sleeves, it has two thick layers of fabric, and it even has long skirts going down to the floor. You can see it clearly here on this video. Don’t go by what you can see in screenshots from videos of the concert.

    I never wear clothing that exposes too much skin. This dress is a very normal outfit for Afghanistan. I wish the people who protested against my clothing, who were making such a fuss about it — I wish they would talk about the real problems in Afghanistan.

    If I hadn’t worn this dress, there would still be paedophilia in Afghanistan.

    If I hadn’t worn this dress, Farkhunda would still have been stoned. {Editor’s note: Farkhunda Malikzadaw was beaten to death by a mob in 2015 after being falsely accused of burning a Koran.}

    If I hadn’t worn this dress, child marriage would still be happening. Young girls would still be married off against their will.

    If I hadn’t worn this dress, there would still be violence, and suicide attacks in our country{…}

    So I have decided that — because some people say this dress is the biggest problem in Afghanistan — I’m going to solve the problem. I will torch this filthy, immoral dress, in the hope that the Afghan people can focus on the real problems that bring us so much dishonour around the world.


    So{…} the biggest problem in Afghanistan has been solved. I did not burn my dress because I’m giving in to the criticism. I burnt it in the hope that people stop talking about it and focus on the real problems facing our country.

  46. says

    “Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin”:

    Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.

    Ambassador Sergei Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, son-in-law and confidant to then-President-elect Trump, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.

    The meeting also was attended by Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser.

    Kislyak reportedly was taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate — a proposal that would have carried security risks for Moscow as well as the Trump team.

    Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said that although Russian diplomats have secure means of communicating with Moscow, Kushner’s apparent request for access to such channels was extraordinary.

    The discussion of a secret channel adds to a broader pattern of efforts by Trump’s closest advisers to obscure their contacts with Russian counterparts….

    The Post was first alerted in mid-December to the meeting by an anonymous letter, which said, among other things, that Kushner had talked to Kislyak about setting up the communications channel. This week, officials who reviewed the letter and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence said the portion about the secret channel was consistent with their understanding of events.

    For instance, according to those officials and the letter, Kushner conveyed to the Russians that he was aware that it would be politically sensitive to meet publicly, but it was necessary for the Trump team to be able to continue their communication with Russian government officials….

  47. Anton Mates says

    I had no idea who Aryana Saeed was before this thread. Now I do and she’s awesome. Can Afghanistan invade us and make her our president? The world would be grateful on many levels.

  48. says

    “Senate Intelligence Committee requests Trump campaign documents”:

    The Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race, has asked President Trump’s political organization to gather and produce all documents, emails and phone records going back to his campaign’s launch in June 2015, according to two people briefed on the request.

    The letter from the Senate arrived at Trump’s campaign committee last week and was addressed to the group’s treasurer. Since then, some former staffers have been notified and asked to cooperate, the people said. They were not authorized to speak publicly.

    The letter was signed by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the Senate committee’s chairman, and Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), the committee’s ranking Democrat. Spokespeople for Burr and Warner declined to comment.

  49. says

    Wow – Tucker Carlson has on…Dana Rohrabacher. Chyron: “Rep. Rohrabacher: Russia Claims are Sinister and Have No Substance.”; “D.C.Smear Machine Leaks into Overdrive.”

    Rohrabacher is insisting the Kremlin didn’t have anything to do with the DNC hacks and going on about how the US should partner with Russia even though it’s an “imperfect government.”

  50. says

    SC @70:

    […] the US should partner with Russia even though it’s an “imperfect government.”

    Yeah, that was, apparently, Jared Kushner’s idea too. It’s as if the Russians have wooed a whole bunch of Trump supporters, and then brain washed them.

  51. says

    Follow-up to SC @65.

    More revelations regarding Jared Kushner:

    […] Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser, Jared Kushner, had at least three previously undisclosed contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States during and after the 2016 presidential campaign, seven current and former U.S. officials told Reuters.

    Those contacts included two phone calls between April and November last year, two of the sources said. By early this year, Kushner had become a focus of the FBI investigation into whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, said two other sources – one current and one former law enforcement official.

    Kushner initially had come to the attention of FBI investigators last year as they began scrutinizing former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s connections with Russian officials, the two sources said. […]

    The new information about the two calls as well as other details uncovered by Reuters shed light on when and why Kushner first attracted FBI attention and show that his contacts with Russian envoy Sergei Kislyak were more extensive than the White House has acknowledged.

    Mother Jones link to reprint of Reuters story.

    SC @70, It’s as if the Russian’s wooed and then brainwashed a whole bunch of Trump supporters.

  52. says

    Apologies for the partial repetition in comment 72. My comment 71 seemed to have failed to post (it took a long time to appear), so I repeated that info.

    More from Reuters:

    […] Reuters was first to report last week that a proposal for a back channel was discussed between Flynn and Kislyak as Trump prepared to take office. The Washington Post was first to report on Friday that Kushner participated in that conversation.

    Separately, there were at least 18 undisclosed calls and emails between Trump associates and Kremlin-linked people in the seven months before the Nov. 8 presidential election, including six calls with Kislyak, sources told Reuters earlier this month. Two people familiar with those 18 contacts said Flynn and Kushner were among the Trump associates who spoke to the ambassador by telephone. Reuters previously reported only Flynn’s involvement in those discussions. […]

    FBI scrutiny of Kushner began when intelligence reports of Flynn’s contacts with Russians included mentions of U.S. citizens, whose names were redacted because of U.S. privacy laws. This prompted investigators to ask U.S. intelligence agencies to reveal the names of the Americans, the current U.S. law enforcement official said.

    Kushner’s was one of the names that was revealed, the official said, prompting a closer look at the president’s son-in-law’s dealings with Kislyak and other Russians.

    FBI investigators are examining whether Russians suggested to Kushner or other Trump aides that relaxing economic sanctions would allow Russian banks to offer financing to people with ties to Trump, said the current U.S. law enforcement official.

    The head of Russian state-owned Vnesheconombank, Sergei Nikolaevich Gorkov, a trained intelligence officer whom Putin appointed, met Kushner at Trump Tower in December. The bank is under U.S. sanctions and was implicated in a 2015 espionage case in which one of its New York executives pleaded guilty to spying and was jailed. […]

  53. says

    From Josh Marshall:

    […] in secret meetings in December, Jared Kushner proposed to Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak setting up a “back channel” so the Trump team could communicate secretly and securely with Moscow.

    But this use of the phrase “back channel” does a serious disservice to back channels. A back channel is secret and unofficial communication through trust intermediaries that goes around the national security and diplomatic bureaucracy and provides some plausible deniability.

    Kushner proposed using the Russian government’s own secure communication facilities, presumably housed in Russian diplomatic facilities in Washington and New York, to communicate with Moscow behind the back of the US government, state, intelligence apparatus, military, etc.

    Why exactly would you want to do that? […]

    This is truly extraordinary. As the Post notes, even Kislyak seems to have found it shocking, not least because under normal or even abnormal circumstances the Russians (or any other government) would never let the US government see or have any contact with these facilities and hardware.

    Frankly, I’m still forming my opinions about what this means. But it makes all the most ominous reads about what is at the heart of Trump/Russia story considerably more plausible. What exactly did the Trump team need so urgently to discuss with the Russian government? Why the need for such absolute security? After all the transition would be the US government in little more than a month.

  54. says

    From Josh Marshall:

    […] President Trump’s visit to Brussels/Europe wasn’t just another grab bag of impulsive aggression and gaffes. It wasn’t scattershot. It was quite clearly focused on destabilizing and perhaps eviscerating the NATO Alliance and somewhat secondarily, but relatedly, the European Union. This has been the strategic goal of Russia and before it the Soviet Union for decades. The sum total of everything that happened on this trip casts the entire Trump/Russia story in a decidedly more ominous light. […]

    There are plenty of theories as to why President Trump might want to destabilize our alliance with our European allies and upend the global liberal internationalist order. But that he wants to do that seems basically beyond question at this point. His still largely unexplored and in many ways inexplicable relationship with Vladimir Putin’s Russia is just the most viable explanation. On virtually every other issue he is almost infinitely malleable and susceptible to blandishments and praise. Except this one. Here he remains fixed on True North. […]

    Again, let’s go back to Brussels and NATO. Trump now has around him a number of advisors who if they are reasonably criticized on various grounds hold conventional pro-NATO views on Europe. Defense Secretary Mattis appears to be the most important of these. McMaster, Powell and others figure in the mix too. They apparently worked on him closely to make a clear statement of honoring Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty – our commitment to come to the defense of any NATO member threatened with external aggression. It was even apparently in the speech he was supposed to give. But Trump nixed it and insisted on these entirely fraudulent entirely fraudulent claims of the Europeans owing the US vast sums of money. […]

    Whether Vladimir Putin has something on Donald Trump or somehow has him in his pay hardly matters. If he doesn’t, he apparently doesn’t need to do since Trump insists on doing more or less exactly what Putin would want of him entirely on his own. […] look at the evidence before us. A simple statement on a decades old security commitment is the simplest, most pro-forma thing to do. And yet he refuses. Again and again. […]

    Will both the Trump and Kushner families go down the tubes, financially speaking, if they don’t do the bidding of the Russians?

  55. says

    Malcolm Nance discussed Jared Kushner’s alleged request to establish a secret channel with the Kremlin:

    […] Had any individual other than these individuals who worked immediately for President Trump, performed these actions at any time in the SF-86 security clearance process, they would have immediately had their clearances pulled.

    They would have had their jobs terminated.

    Some of these contacts are so suspicious that they would have warranted their own counterintelligence investigation. This nation is in a counterintelligence investigation. They are in a spy hunt over at the FBI, and now we have this story—should it prove true—of an American citizen who is the senior adviser to the president of the United States, attempting to establish what we call in the intelligence community ‘covert communications’ with a hostile nation’s potential intelligence agency or senior leadership.

    That brings you — that crosses the line to the espionage act of 1917. This cannot be explained. Put aside the other 18 contacts with Moscow. This one incident requires Jared Kushner and all of his immediate staff to have their clearances pulled right now and to have the FBI descend on there and to determine whether this is hostile intelligence in the White House one step from the president.


  56. says

    Ari Melber, sitting in for Rachel Maddow discussed the revelation that Jared Kushner asked the Russian ambassador to set up a back channel to the Kremlin using Russian facilities. The video is 15:57 long.

    Melber also mentioned the Senate Intelligence Committee request for Trump’s campaign documents.

    Melber also discussed previous stories about attempts to establish a Trump-Putin back channel, including the meeting of the Blackwater founder with Russians in the Seychelles (a meeting set up by a Saudi Prince). The back channel set-up attempt by Mike Flynn was also mentioned.

  57. says

    Lawrence O’Donnell made the point that when Europeans read their news sources tomorrow, they will see that Jared Kushner tried to set up a secret back channel with the Russians.

    And that news comes on the heels of Trump having insulted fellow NATO members.

  58. KG says

    and to determine whether this is hostile intelligence in the White House one step from the president. – Malcolm Nance quoted by Lynna, OM@76

    Well, be fair. Having some form of intelligence existing in the President’s vicinity has to be a plus!

  59. KG says

    Bizarrely, I just heard John Sopel, the BBC correspondent touring with Trump, claim in BBC radio 4’s morning news bulletin that his trip was “normal-ish”. You can read a version of his tripe here. In the broadcast version, Sopel didn’t even mention Trump shoving the Montenegrin PM aside (which is in the written version). In neither version did he mention Trump repeating his nonsense about European NATO members owing the USA huge sums of money.

  60. blf says

    [… W]hen Europeans read their news sources tomorrow, they will see that Jared Kushner tried to set up a secret back channel with the Russians.

    And that news comes on the heels of Trump having insulted fellow NATO members.

    Yep. For instance, lead story on the Granuniad’s site, Jared Kushner discussed creating secret communications channel with Moscow: “Russia’s ambassador told his superiors that he and Kushner discussed ways to shield White House transition team discussions from monitoring, sources said”. Not quite the top article on Al Jazeera, which nonetheless also has a report, Jared Kushner sought secret line to Russia: “Trump’s son-in-law tried to create a secure communications channel with Russia in December, Washington Post reports.”

    And, Donald Trump’s Europe tour leaves leaders strangely shaken: “US president’s [sic] first visit to Europe memorable for body-language battles and patchy understanding of the bloc”.

    I haven’t read any of the articles (yet), as I have more important things to do, like drinking enough café to become & remain vertical, ideally with mostly-controlled motion (and preferably not lurching (makes it hard to go up and down stairs (including to the café machine!))) to make it to the morning organic market and then back…

  61. blf says

    Well, I survived the trip down the stairs to the café, and then to and from the market, albeit pursued back by a rampaging somethings… not sure what, probably not peas (not enough snarling and not all that fast either). The whatevers are now trying to break down the front door using what sounds like a battering ram (which, judging from the snarling, is a pea). The clams from the market don’t seem to be too worried, which is probably a good sign.

    Anyways, White House agrees to detail ethics waivers for former lobbyists:

    The White House will comply with a request from the US government’s ethics agency to provide information on which former lobbyists are working in the administration […]

    Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), said in a letter that the administration was not seeking to impede efforts by the Office of Government Ethics to obtain that information, despite earlier protests from Walter Shaub, the director of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE).


    OMB has never sought to impede OGE, [Mulvaney] wrote.


    Never tried to impede? What colour(s?) is the sky over tram-pratstan?

    The thumping and snarling at the front door has stopped. The clams remain calm. Just peeked outside. Nothing there, and only a few more dents in the door. The sky is still the current normal, metallic green (rather bright, probably will be quite warm today) with silverish streaks, and swarms of newly-hatched pigs darting about.

  62. says

    The tourism industry in the USA continues to suffer thanks to Trump and his cronies.

    The US tourism business is in trouble — and President Trump may be to blame.

    America’s share of international tourism has dropped 16% in March, compared to the same month in 2016, according to Foursquare data released Wednesday.

    The decline began in October 2016, the month before the presidential election. From October to March, tourism-related traffic has fallen an average of 11% in the US, compared to the previous year. Meanwhile, tourism in the rest of the world has increased 6% year-over-year during the same period. […]

    […] the drop in international tourism could result in an additional 1% to 2% drop in sales at US shops, restaurants, and attractions. Hotels, with 15% of booking from foreign visitors, are expected to be hit even harder.

    In 2017, the retail industry can’t afford to lose potential sales. Retailers have announced more than 3,400 store closures so far this year, and Credit Suisse analysts expect that figure to grow to more than 8,600 before the end of the year. […]

    Business Insider

    Tourists are choosing to travel to other regions. They are choosing to stay away from Hair Furor.

    The area where I live will definitely suffer from this drop in tourism. We are surrounded by a lot of public lands, including national parks, that tend to draw tourists.

    blf @82, I saw your description of the metallic green sky and the swarms of pigs. Sounds like a lovely Saturday in your neck of the woods. I am, however, wondering what was in all that coffee you drank. We’ll assume, for now, that the clams are innocent.

  63. says

    Correction to comment 77: It was a person from the United Arab Emirates that arranged the meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and an un-named Russian associate of Putin. This was part of the “back channel” communication set-up that Kushner allegedly proposed in December.

    The covert communications were, purportedly, supposed to be between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin. Mike Pence was the head of the transition team. Mike Pence’s claims of ignorance about so many things are starting to wear thin.

    From the Washington Post:

    […] Though Prince had no formal role with the Trump campaign or transition team, he presented himself as an unofficial envoy for Trump to high-ranking Emiratis involved in setting up his meeting with the Putin confidant, according to the officials, who did not identify the Russian.

    Prince was an avid supporter of Trump. After the Republican convention, he contributed $250,000 to Trump’s campaign, the national party and a pro-Trump super PAC led by GOP mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, records show. He has ties to people in Trump’s circle, including Stephen K. Bannon, now serving as the president’s chief strategist and senior counselor. Prince’s sister Betsy DeVos serves as education secretary in the Trump administration. And Prince was seen in the Trump transition offices in New York in December.

    Prince and his family were major GOP donors in 2016. The Center for Responsive Politics reported that the family gave more than $10 million to GOP candidates and super PACs, including about $2.7 million from his sister, DeVos, and her husband.

    Erik Prince has had lucrative contracts with the UAE government, which at one point paid his firm a reported $529 million to help bring in foreign fighters to help assemble an internal paramilitary force capable of carrying out secret operations and protecting Emirati installations from terrorist attacks. […]

    From the Intercept:

    […] The Prince family’s support for Pence, and the Christian supremacist movement he represents, has deep roots. Erik Prince’s father, Edgar, built up a very successful manufacturing business in Holland, Michigan, and became one of the premier bankrollers of what came to be known as the radical religious right. They gave Gary Bauer the seed money to start the Family Research Council and poured money into James Dobson’s Focus on the Family. […]

    The Prince and DeVos families gave the seed money for what came to be known as the Republican Revolution when Newt Gingrich became House speaker in 1994 on a far-right platform known as the Contract with America. The Prince and DeVos clans also invested heavily in a scheme developed by Dobson to engage in back-door lobbying activities by forming “prayer warrior” networks of people who would call politicians to advocate for Dobson’s religious and political agenda. The Princes consistently poured money into criminalizing abortion, privatizing education, blocking gay rights, and other right-wing causes centered around their interpretation of Christianity.

  64. says

    The NRA would like for you to know that you can buy insurance to cover your legal costs if you shoot another human being.

    […] last month the NRA announced a new insurance product, Carry Guard, which they marketed to their millions of members online and at their annual meeting in Atlanta. The idea of firearms liability insurance has been previously championed by gun safety advocates on the left, who envisioned insurance as an instrument of public safety that could encourage safer guns and safer behavior. As implemented by the NRA, though, firearms liability insurance has a different function—to insulate gun owners from the expense and other possible consequences of a shooting. […]

  65. says

    Oh, no. Trump’s stupidity strikes again.

    Leaders of the G7, the world’s most exclusive geopolitical club, issued their 2017 declaration Saturday, with U.S. President Donald Trump refusing to join his counterparts in pledging commitment to the 195-nation Paris accord on climate change.

    The statement also included language on trade, which appeared to be a compromise between the new U.S. administration’s skepticism about some current trade deals and the more pro-free trade views of other G7 members. On Russia, Trump went along with the group, maintaining a hard line on the conflict in Ukraine. […]

    While the declaration included remarkable language highlighting that the U.S. stood apart, the other G7 members expressed some relief that Trump had not outright rejected the accord and said they remained hopeful he would come around

    “The United States of America is in the process of reviewing its policies on climate change and on the Paris Agreement and thus is not in a position to join the consensus on these topics,” the leaders wrote. “Understanding this process, the Heads of State and of Government of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom and the Presidents of the European Council and of the European Commission reaffirm their strong commitment to swiftly implement the Paris Agreement, as previously stated at the Ise-Shima Summit.”

    Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn told reporters on Saturday that the president “continues to study” the Paris agreement. […]


    Trump probably didn’t want to tell the G7 leaders to their faces that he would not go along with the Paris agreement, because that might make them dislike him (more). However, I think that as soon as he is out of the G7 members’ presence, Trump will renege on the agreement (which Obama had supported).

  66. microraptor says

    Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn told reporters on Saturday that the president “continues to study” the Paris agreement. […]

    Hair furor’s conclusion: too many big words, not enough pictures. It’s bad, it’s very bad.

  67. says

    Saturday morning tweets from Hair Furor:

    Many NATO countries have agreed to step up payments considerably, as they should. Money is beginning to pour in- NATO will be much stronger

    The characterization of “payments” and of money pouring in are false.

    […] the commitments are for NATO allies to spend more on defense overall, mainly on their own militaries – so the increases would not necessarily be seen at headquarters but in the military budgets of individual countries.


  68. says

    A lawsuit filed against Hillary Clinton has been dismissed.

    A federal judge in Washington has dismissed a lawsuit alleging that Hillary Clinton’s lax security surrounding her emails led to the deaths of two of the Americans killed in the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

    In a ruling Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson tossed out the wrongful death claims as well as allegations that Clinton essentially slandered the parents of the deceased by contradicting accounts the parents gave of events related to their children’s deaths.

    The suit was filed last August […]

    “The Court finds that Secretary Clinton was acting in the scope of her employment when she transmitted the emails that are alleged to give rise to her liability,” Jackson wrote in her 29-page opinion. “The untimely death of plaintiffs’ sons is tragic, and the Court does not mean to minimize the unspeakable loss that plaintiffs have suffered in any way. But when one applies the appropriate legal standards, it is clear that plaintiffs have not alleged sufficient facts to rebut the presumption that Secretary Clinton was acting in her official capacity when she used her private email server.


  69. says

    Trump was the only leader at the G7 Summit that did not hold a press conference afterward. In fact, Trump didn’t hold any press conferences during the entire trip. He did send out lackeys to try to get reporters to say he was great and successful. But no questions were taken from the press by Hair Furor.

    Trump provided us with his assessment of the trip:

    […] we have been gone for close to nine days. This will be nine days. And I think we hit a home run no matter where we are […] Our travels took us to some of the holiest sites in the three Abrahamic religions and to gatherings of both America’s oldest and newest friends. We traveled the world to strengthen long-standing alliances and to form a new partnership among nations devoted to the task of eradicating the terrorism that plagues our planet […]

  70. blf says

    Trump’s big trip began well — but in Europe his flaws were painfully exposed:

    Once he reached Brussels, Trump seemed to abandon Obama’s foreign policy rule of ‘don’t do stupid shit’, and his inability to work by consensus was stark


    The White House’s primary aim for the tour was to achieve Barack Obama’s touchstone goal: “Don’t do stupid shit.” For a few days, that seemed to work. The Saudi and Israeli legs of the trip were tightly controlled, Trump stuck to his scripted remarks, and the president made his keynote counter-terrorism speech in Riyadh in a deliberate and determined manner.

    Well, there were the problems of praising the lack of protesters when protest is neither allowed nor safe; of blaming Iran for everything; of lecturing Muslims on Islam; and so on.

    It was only when Air Force One reached Brussels that the caravan began to lose its way. That was perhaps inevitable for both policy and personal reasons. With King Salman and Netanyahu, there was a shared list of priorities and talking points: a view that Iran was a primary enemy, the desirability of huge US arms contracts, denunciations of terrorism. Trump was the centre of attention, literally treated like royalty and assured the things he did and said were historic.

    In Europe, Trump had to play a different role: a senior member of a group seeking to act in concert and by consensus. But Trump does not do collegial, a fact that was grasped before in Europe but is now viscerally understood after the president shoved the Montenegrin prime minister out of the way to get front and centre of a Nato leaders’ photo-op. It was demonstrated again at the G7, when he did not even bother to put on headphones to hear the speeches of his fellow world leaders, including his Italian host.

    Good grief! I have no idea what language(s) hair furor understands — my guess is none (including English) — but that is astonishing. At a guess, if challenged on this, he’ll either deny it or say something like I have a great team! They deal with that. I point the way. That’s presidental, thate is. It’s why I won the biggest victory every. More fake news! Sad.

    These are the ways of a man without curiosity. He does not read books, and listens fitfully and reluctantly to others. He is reportedly fed up with McMaster because he goes on for too long about world affairs. The briefing papers McMaster’s team drew up before this trip had to be condensed to a few bullet points on a single page for each issue, and even then Trump grew bored of reviewing them before departure, and groused about how long the whole excursion would take.


    Trump’s denunciation of the Germans at a European Union meeting for being bad, very bad, because of the large number of German brand cars sold in the US, showed his comprehension of the global auto trade was just as shaky [as his grasp of how Nato operates]. The vast majority of German cars sold in the US are made there by American workers. For example, the BMW plant in South Carolina is the company’s largest anywhere in the world. It is also the biggest exporter of cars from the US.


    One tidbit in the column (redacted from the above excerpt), is that when hair furor “met Israeli prime minster Benjamin Netanyahu, [… Jared] Kushner was in the room but national security adviser HR McMaster was left outside.”

    Lynna@84, innocent clams!? Probably the only thing clams are innocent of is the Big Bang, and that’s simply because they’re really bad navigators of none-existent spacetime. They are the Nac Mac Feegle of the sea, but without any of the former’s redeeming characteristics, albeit, also unlike the former, they taste good. BURP! And the café contained coffee, coffee, coffee, a touch of water, and moar coffee. It did not contain any tea for flavour.

  71. says

    blf @ 93:

    […] It was demonstrated again at the G7, when he did not even bother to put on headphones to hear the speeches of his fellow world leaders, including his Italian host. […]

    Oh, FFS. What a lout. I hadn’t heard that detail before.

    The briefing papers McMaster’s team drew up before this trip had to be condensed to a few bullet points on a single page for each issue, and even then Trump grew bored of reviewing them before departure, and groused about how long the whole excursion would take.

    Ah, that’s also very telling. No attention span. No patience. And he feels no need to really learn about world affairs. No wonder part of his dinner conversation consisted of complaining that it was hard to build golf courses in Europe.

    In other news, I’m still puzzled by the fact that Jared Kushner is definitely part of the “war room” convened by team Trump to push back against the growing Russia scandal. The scandal is growing, in part, because of Kushner.

    Jared Kushner, whose own ties to Russia are under federal scrutiny, will help coordinate messaging from a new White House “war room” intended to diffuse mounting pressure from the scandal surrounding possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Kremlin to influence the 2016 election.

    Kushner and White House chief adviser Steve Bannon will be involved in the messaging operation, Reuters reported Friday, as well as former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who could join the administration as early as next week. […]

    Part of the strategy for managing disclosures like this is getting Trump back on the road, Reuters reported. The President will hold a campaign-style rally next week in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

    Nope. Something has already gone wrong with the Cedar Rapids plan. It has been cancelled.

    Efforts to maintain message discipline over the Russia story are threatened by Trump’s own off-the-cuff speaking style and habit of airing his grievances on Twitter, in interviews and at public events. […]


    Maybe team Trump (or Jared himself?) simply believes that Jared can do no wrong? So, sure, have him run the war room.

    As for bringing Corey Lewandowski back into the team, WTF?

  72. says

    Trump already knows and has already met Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but you might think otherwise if you listed to Trump’s comments at the U.S. Naval Air Base in Italy:

    Speaking about a nearby helicopter, Trump speculated that it might be Japan’s “Prime Minister Abe” or “Justin from Canada,” meaning Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

    “Great people,” he said. “We made a lot of good friends this week, I’ll tell you, a lot of good friends. They’re good people.” […]

    Twitter users have since taken to the social media platform to comment on the president’s nickname for his Canadian counterpart. [snipped Twitter posting about Justin Bieber, etc.]

    The Hill link

    Trump called Trudeau “Justin from Canada” in other situations as well.

  73. says

    From Ryan Lizza, writing for the New Yorker:

    […] I was reminded of his role in Comey’s removal while discussing Kushner with a person close to Comey. […]

    Whether Kushner is mentioned in the Comey memos is not known. The source close to Comey offered a terse “no comment” when I asked about additional details, but the point is that Comey was aware of and carefully documenting how the White House reacted to him and his Russia investigation. “That’s a memo-driven place,” the source said
    Some of the commentary about these Comey memos has suggested that they were simply personal notes that weren’t shared widely at the F.B.I. That is not the case.

    “The Bureau has them all,” the source close to Comey said. “They’ve always had them all. That’s another thing that people sort of missed the point of. These memos weren’t just some personal little effort on the part of Jim. He was the tip of the operation, and knew it, and really felt accountable to the rest of the people around him to tell them what is going on and help them be a part of the decimaking on what he should say and do.”

    The F.B.I.’s interest in Kushner appears to be related to the two known meetings that he had with Russian officials. The first, which was originally reported by The New Yorker, occurred in early December, at Trump Tower, when Kushner and Michael Flynn, then the incoming national-security adviser, met with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador to the United States. On Friday evening, the Washington Post added dramatic new details about what occurred at this meeting, which it said took place on December 1st or 2nd. Kushner and Kislyak, according to the Post’s sources, “discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring.”

    Kushner then met with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Vnesheconombank, a Russian bank, later that month, reportedly at Kislyak’s request. The bank is the subject of U.S. sanctions that were placed on Russia in 2014, after its invasion of Ukraine. Perhaps more concerning, Gorkov is also a graduate of Russia’s Academy of the Federal Security Service, which trains the country’s spies. The meetings may have been entirely innocent. It’s not uncommon for an incoming White House adviser to meet with foreign officials. But the meetings seemed even more curious when it was reported that Kushner failed to disclose them on a standard security form, known as a SF-86, that all White House officials must fill out and s[…].

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

    One more tidbit from Il Douchebag’s excellent adventure: While the other G7 leaders walked through Taormina, Trump (perhaps in an effort to save his precious energy?) rode a golf cart.

    The Times of London reported the six other world leaders – from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan – walked 700 yards to take a group photo at a piazza in a hilltop town. The U.S. leader decided to wait until he could get a golf cart.

    Trump was late for the photo, but joined the other world leaders during the walk down from the piazza.

    Trump’s brief separation from the foreign leaders ahead of the photo op comes shortly after he refused to take part in a pledge supporting the Paris climate deal. The U.S. was the only country represented at the summit that did not sign the deal on Saturday.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there was a “very intense meeting” where all six other nations “made it clear that we want the U.S. to stick to its commitments.”

    As an aside, Trump’s superpower seems to be making people like Merkel sympathetic.

  75. blf says

    Some people might find this entertaining, A papal encounter with the bat-faced duck-lion:

    Beelzebub, the gluttonous emperor of hell, master of calumny, foremost in wickedness and crime, is a fallen angel who presides over the Order of the Fly. Some say he is as high as a tower. Others say he has the figure of a snake, but with the generative organs of a young woman, and the face of a bluebottle.

    Consequently, the god of Ekron’s first ever official visit to the Vatican last week was fraught with difficulties regarding imperial protocol, dietary requirements and appropriate toilet usage. To which facilities were the Swiss Guard to direct a pert-breasted snake-fly?


    Sad-faced Pope Francis had my sympathy, whatever ailed him. […] I find in Francis much to admire, at least in comparison to all the evil popes that precede him.

    Pope John XII raped pilgrims and drank toasts to a Satan; Pope Alexander VI had an incestuous relationship with his daughter and made naked boys leap from cakes; Pope Benedict XVI wore extravagant Prada shoes […]


    […] As is customary, the two exchanged gifts. Francis gave Ba’al Zebûb a large medallion that depicted an olive, a symbol of peace. He also offered the Prince of Demons […] some of his latest writings (encyclicals), including his work on the need to protect the environment.

    Belzebuth offered the pope a large box, filled with novelty condiment dispensers. Pope Francis’s advisers had warned him the Father of Lies might test him with an offering of unimaginable horror, which he was to accept unflinchingly, but Francis was taken by surprise. This is a gift for you. The ketchup comes out of an asshole and the mustard is a shaved pussy, the demon was overheard saying. I think you will enjoy them. I hope you do.


    Pope Francis knows evil. […] But he has never had to confront, until now, corruption in a manifestation so blank and uncomprehending and unapologetic. In short, Francis’s visitor this week forced him to acknowledge evil in a different form, evil at its most banal. And his own impotence before it was written on his defeated papal face.

  76. blf says

    Right-wing provocateurs say they are being silenced. Cry me a river:

    Its hard to sympathise when arch-capitalists such as Bill O’Reilly, Katie Hopkins and Sean Hannity find themselves at the receiving end of corporate savagery

    here is a delicious irony when free market zealots become victims of the very system they celebrate. When those who pontificated over and over about the evils of the nanny state and the genius of consumer choice and the “invisible hand” suddenly realize that consumers don’t like them any more, and that invisible hand is about to yank them out of their position of power. When the market tells them: “You know what? You’re losing us money. We couldn’t care less what you did or how much you made for us yesterday. Get lost.”

    Of course, it is leftists and liberals who are most often accused of not being tough enough to survive in the dog-eat-dog world of capitalism. […] They need laws to protect them.

    Yet, when arch-capitalists such as Bill O’Reilly, Katie Hopkins and Sean Hannity find themselves at the receiving end of corporate savagery, their reactions speak volumes. Sermons about the reign of the consumer disappear, replaced by hysterical accusations of conspiracies, political correctness gone wild and cowardly corporate censorship.


    When it was announced Katie Hopkins was leaving [British radio station] LBC immediately — after a tweet (later deleted) in which Hopkins called for a final solution for Muslims — chat rooms and websites claimed mob rule and thought policing. Even Julian Assange weighed in on Hannity, tweeting: On @SeanHannity: regardless of the politics no one should be cheering advertisers controlling the parameters of acceptable debate.

    For critics and scholars who have for decades pointed to the acute dangers connected to corporate control of the media, howling from the far-right over O’Reilly, Hopkins and Hannity rings hollow for a couple of reasons.

    [… T]hese are people who have served a political ideology that has pushed deregulated markets conducive to the concentration of corporate control — which in the case of media also means excessive advertiser influence.

    It is worth remembering that O’Reilly, Hopkins and Hannity are three individuals. They are not the sum total of far-right, and thus the argument that what we are seeing is tantamount to the eradication of their worldview from the media is a sad joke.

    Breitbart, Fox News, the Daily Mail and Daily Express are all alive and well. Bill O’Reilly wasn’t replaced by Noam Chomsky. He was replaced by Tucker Carlson […]

    So, when senior people at Breitbart and on-air talent at Fox News start saying they are only now realizing the extent of corporate and advertiser power? Cry me a river. They are either liars, naïve, or been in a coma for the last 50 years.


    Unfettered corporate and advertiser control of the media are real and are bad for democracy. But when people like Bill O’Reilly, Katie Hopkins and Sean Hannity claim victim status after advertiser pressure, let’s remember that they are suffering the consequences of a system they so gleefully championed.

  77. snuffcurry says

    re blf’s blockquote from comment 93

    It was demonstrated again at the G7, when he did not even bother to put on headphones to hear the speeches of his fellow world leaders, including his Italian host.

    He wasn’t wearing headphones, no. Not that I blame anyone for thinking that he wasn’t listening to translations — he’s delayed doing so before in public, feigning understanding before remembering to insert them — but he was wearing an ear bud throughout the summit.

    Weirdly enough, the Guardian article blf is quoting seems to have removed that line without indicating any editing or updating.

  78. says

    By the way, I recommend Get Me Roger Stone on Netflix. A major flaw, though, in my view, is that since it isn’t organized around capitalist imperatives the structural forces behind Trumpism remain relatively opaque. The best segments are from the interview with Jane Mayer, who talks about how these supposedly renegade, outsider rightwing movements have long manipulated people in the service of capitalist interests (unfortunately, there’s no reference to earlier incarnations of fascism); a documentary about Trumpism structured around that would be even more useful.

  79. says

    “Angela Merkel Says Germany Can’t Fully Rely On The US Or The UK Anymore: The German Chancellor said she realized this after spending the past few days with Trump.”:

    After attending a G-7 summit in which President Donald Trump split from other world leaders on issues of climate change, trade, and refugees, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told her country that Germany could no longer rely on the US and UK for help.

    “The times in which we could completely rely on others are on the way out. I’ve experienced that in the last few days,” she said Sunday at an election rally in Southern Germany.

    “We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.”

    Merkel brought up the US and the UK’s Brexit explicitly, saying that she hopes to maintain a friendly relationship with the two countries, but that she has come to understand that they are no longer countries to lean on….

  80. says

    I didn’t link to the NYT article about Kushner’s attempt to set up covert communications with the Kremlin, because the claim it contained that the purpose was to engage in dicsussions of Syria strategy, which would be a problem in any case, was completely implausible spin. Evidently the people making the claim were speaking on Kushner’s behalf, which the NYT did not state. WaPo’s editors did not repeat their spin because they refused to be accurately represented as speaking for Kushner.

  81. says

    SC @106, I’ve seen that “Syria strategy” excuse popping up everywhere. This seems to be the way rightwing media has decided to explain Kushner’s madness. It is likely also the excuse Kushner has decided to employ. And some mainstream media (like the NYT) are repeating it, which is highly irresponsible.

    To state just one of many problems with this explanation: if that was the real reason, where was General Mattis?

    Another question: if that was the real reason, why didn’t the Trump transition team ask the official transition office at the White House to set up the communication link for them?

    Meanwhile, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly seem to want to join McMaster in the group of previously-respected professionals who are now ruining their reputations for Trump.

    […] “I know Jared. He’s a great guy, decent guy. His number one interest, really, is the nation, so you know there’s a lot of different ways to communicate, backchannel, publicly with other countries,” Kelly told Chuck Todd on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”

    He said Kushner made those efforts “before the government was in place during the transition period, I think, from what I understand.”

    “And I think any time you can open lines of communication with anyone, whether they’re good friends or not so good friends, is a smart thing to do,” Kelly said. “I don’t see any big issue here relative to Jared.” […]

    Kushner suggested setting up the secure backchannel, according to the report, and even proposed using communications equipment in stateside Russian diplomatic facilities.

    “Had you ever, in your lifetime of government service, both in the military and outside of it, had you ever used another government’s communications facility though?” Todd asked Kelly. “The idea of sort of going around American communications?”

    “Well, no, but I didn’t have to,” Kelly replied. “I mean in my previous life, we wouldn’t do that kind of thing, but you know, politics being what they are — a better way to put it, not politics, but the kind of interaction here in Washington. There’s a lot of ways to communicate with people.”


    Note that Kelly threw in a not-so-veiled reference to not being able to trust anyone in Obama’s administration … so, of course, they had to go around them. Bullshit.

  82. says

    [sigh] Let’s get up to date on Trump’s tweets. Now that he is back in the USA, he is trying to discredit anyone who criticizes him as “fake news.”

    It is my opinion that many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies made up by the #FakeNews media.
    Whenever you see the words ‘sources say’ in the fake news media, and they don’t mention names….it is very possible that those sources don’t exsist but are made up by fake news writers. #FakeNews is the enemy!

    Trump is champion of fake news (remember the Birther conspiracy), so he should know. (See SC’s link in comment 103.)

  83. blf says

    Weirdly enough, the Guardian article blf is quoting [@93] seems to have removed that line without indicating any editing or updating.

    I confirm the line is now missing, there is no note regarding the edit, and that that is weird. For what it’s worth, I do recall noticing, when excerpting the article, there wasn’t any supporting hyperlink / source. I was not too concerned at that, despite — as other commentators have noted — not seeing the detail reported by anyone else.

    The Hill reports (White House’s Spicer: Trump listened ‘as usual’ to translation at G7):

    White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer pushed back Saturday against claims that President Trump was not listening to a translation of Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni’s speech at the G7 summit in Sicily.

    “As usual @POTUS wears a single ear piece for translation in his right ear,” Spicer wrote on Twitter in response to a tweet by BBC reporter James Landale suggesting that Trump was not listening to a translation of Gentiloni’s address.


    Hence, I presume the Grauniad based the claim on the disputed BBC tweet. However, since it is Spicer claiming to the contrary, it’s not apriori clear hair furor was listening to a translation; Spicer is not a name commonly associated with truth-telling.

    Generalissimo Google™ indicates the usual suspects are calling this (particularly the BBC’s tweet) fake news, which it clearly isn’t. A mistake, possibly, and if so, very poorly handled by the Grauniad, which should have included a notice the article was edited. (It is possible will be a notice in the Corrections & Clarifications column.)

    The apparently now retracted claim does not alter the Grauniad’s larger point in any material fashion: “These are the ways of a man without curiosity. He does not read books, and listens fitfully and reluctantly to others. […]”

  84. blf says

    Hair furor’s delusions have consequences, Part something-in-the-zillions, Merkel says EU cannot completely rely on US and Britain any more:

    German chancellor tells election rally in Munich that Europe must take its fate into its own hands after ‘unsatisfactory’ G7 talks

    Europe can no longer completely rely on its traditional British and American allies, Angela Merkel has warned, saying the EU must now be prepared to “take its fate into its own hands”.

    Speaking after bruising meetings of Nato and the G7 group of wealthy nations last week, the German chancellor suggested the postwar western alliance had been badly undermined by the UK’s Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s election.

    “The times in which we could completely depend on others are to a certain extent over,” she told an election rally in Munich on Sunday. “I’ve experienced that in the last few days. We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.”


    Merkel said the result of the “six against one” talks was “very difficult, if not to say very unsatisfactory”. Trump was more positive on Twitter, saying: Just returned from Europe. Trip was a great success for America. Hard work but big results!


    And more on the Macron–hair furur handshake, Emmanuel Macron: my handshake with Trump was ‘a moment of truth’:

    French president says his white-knuckle prolonged handshake with US counterpart was designed to show he’s no pushover
    “My handshake with him — it wasn’t innocent,” Macron told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper in an interview on Sunday. “It’s not the be-all and the end-all of a policy, but it was a moment of truth.”

    The much commented-upon power play, during which each man held the other’s gaze for a long moment, was described by one observer as a “screw you in handshake form”. It ended when the US president, after two attempts, finally succeeding in disengaging.


  85. blf says

    Donald Trump is the world’s worst tourist […]:

    Trump’s Big Foreign Trip has been hilarious. He has been the very picture of a bad tourist gone feral. He’s the worst person you’ve ever met abroad. Everything Trump has done since leaving the comfort of the US has been astonishing, almost as if the Russians have paid him to create a bonk-headed one-man library of gifs designed to denigrate all travelling Americans.

    With every breath of his trip, Trump has managed to carve out an image of a terrified old man several leagues out of his depth. He goes to Saudi Arabia, and ends up palming a glowing orb like a bewildered ITV daytime game show contestant. He goes to Italy, and ends up experiencing a papal visit so excruciating that it came off like the pilot of an unmade sitcom entitled The Pope and The Dope. He goes to Belgium, and barges Montenegro’s president out of the way so brazenly that the only logical explanation is that he somehow mistook the occasion for a beauty queen molestation contest with a prize of unlimited ketchup-drenched steaks. Best of all, whenever he attempts to lurch into any sort of publicly affectionate display with his own wife, she furiously bats his hands away as if they are made of bees. If you can magically bring yourself to forget that you’re watching the most powerful man in the world, it has been terrific.


    [… T]here is something especially bad about Trump. His casual readjustment after shoving that poor Montenegrin. His alligator-wrestle of a handshake. His obnoxious, unearned swagger. Donald Trump is the world’s worst tourist, and the fact that he happens to be American is colossally unfortunate.

    But one man does not represent an entire country, and we would do well to remember that, just as I’ll remember it on holiday whenever anyone tries to bring up Boris Johnson [UK’s foreign minister and another lout & habitual liar].

  86. blf says

    ‘They treat everyone like criminals’: US asylum fails reporter fleeing Mexico:

    Martín Méndez Pineda thought the US would protect him after months of threats, but instead found conditions worse than what he was aiming to escape

    When Mexican journalist Martín Méndez Pineda walked across the border bridge to El Paso in February, he thought he would finally be safe.

    After months of threats and harassment from corrupt police officers which forced him to abandon his job and family in Acapulco, Méndez sought asylum in the US.

    The 26-year-old reporter thought the US would protect him, given the unprecedented wave of deadly violence against the press in Mexico […].

    Méndez was detained for over a hundred days in overcrowded custody centres, shackled like a criminal and subjected to hateful taunts from security guards.

    Eventually, he abandoned his asylum claim and returned to Mexico after he was twice denied bail in the US, and told that he faced at least another year held in grim conditions.

    “The guards didn’t care why I was there, what I was running from, they treat everyone like criminals. I couldn’t take it,” Méndez told the Guardian.


    At least 10 [Mexican reporters] have claimed asylum in the US over the past decade, according to Reporters without Borders (RWB).

    But Méndez is the first to be refused bail in what campaigners fear could set a dangerous precedent amid America’s increasingly hostile stance against migrants and refugees.


    “The guards screamed at us with disgust, they treated us like rubbish. You don’t know how much the people are suffering in there,” he said.


  87. says

    blf @111, glad to have the correction/clarification. Maybe Hair Furor doesn’t want to mess up his hair with headphones.

    Or, as you pointed out: Spicer could be lying. Trump could be listening to translations or not listening to translations. We have no way of knowing. We do know not to trust WH sources.

  88. says

    blf @113, that is a great article [insert three of Trump’s exclamation points, which are, for once, deserved].

    In other news, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, made an intelligent statement about Jared Kushner:

    […] “I do think there ought to be a review of his security clearance to find out whether he was truthful, whether he was candid. If not, then there’s no way he can maintain that kind of a clearance,” Schiff said on ABC’s “This Week.”

    He cited reports that Kushner, who is President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, discussed setting up a secret communications channel between Trump’s transition team and Moscow with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak before Trump’s inauguration.

    “You have to ask, well, who are they hiding the conversations from?” Schiff said.”If these allegations are true and he had discussions with the Russians about establishing a backchannel and didn’t reveal that, that’s a real problem in terms of whether he should maintain that kind of a security clearance.”

    Schiff said he was “disappointed” with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster’s response to reports that Kushner discussed setting up a backchannel to the Kremlin.

    “We have backchannel communications with a number of countries,” McMaster told reporters on Saturday. “What that allows you to do is communicate in a discreet manner so I’m not concerned.” […]

    I am also disappointed in McMaster.

  89. says

    More from Adam Schiff:

    I was disappointed to see the general [McMaster] say that. I have a lot of respect for him. Sadly I think this is an administration that takes in people with good credibility and chews them up and spits out their credibility at the same time. Anyone within the Trump orbit is at risk of being used.

    I agree. That’s a good analysis of the situation.

  90. says

    Confirmation of more bad news coming soon:

    President Donald Trump has privately told “confidants” he intends to leave the Paris accord on climate change, “according to three sources with direct knowledge,” Axios reported Saturday.

    After persuading voters that America isn’t great anymore, Trump apparently intends to make sure of it — by having this country lead the effort to kill humanity’s last, best hope of avoiding catastrophic climate change.
    Quitting a unanimous agreement by 190+ nations after a two-decade negotiating process would make us a rogue nation, a global pariah, like Vladimir Putin’s Russia. And, it could make Putin happy […]

    While the White House’s attack on domestic climate action already undermines the global effort to avert climate catastrophe, we shouldn’t discount the importance of a U.S. withdrawal from Paris — especially if Trump teams with Russian President Vladimir Putin to undermine the whole global negotiating process.

    “Will Trump repay Putin by ending Russian sanctions and killing the Paris climate deal?” was a question I posed back in January, […]. Politically, Trump can’t end the sanctions now given the explosive news of recent weeks on the FBI investigation into collusion between his campaign in Russia.

    But Trump can pull out of Paris, an agreement Putin has never liked, because it means a large fraction of Russia’s fossil fuel reserves would remain in the ground, unable to provide vast revenue for him and the Kremlin. Unsurprisingly, Putin’s greenhouse gas target “is one of the weakest put forward by any government, anywhere,” as Climate Action Tracker explains. It “lies significantly above emissions that would result from current policies.”

    As of May 14, the U.N. reports Russia still hasn’t ratified the deal — and Russia has said it won’t until 2019 or 2020 at the earliest. If the president of the second-largest emitter exits Paris, then the fifth-largest emitter will have a great excuse to opt out, too. Together they could deal a fatal blow to the ongoing negotiating process. […]

    That’s right. On the issue of climate change and of the Paris agreement, Trump is in accord with Putin.

  91. says

    Remember when both Trump and his sons said that there would be a firewall between the WH administration and the Trump businesses because Don Jr. and Eric would run the business and stay out of politics?

    They lied.

    […] Trump’s sons, along with Eric Trump’s wife, Lara, met privately earlier this week with GOP leaders to “share their concerns and outlook” according to a Washington Post story detailing their visit to the Republican National Committee’s headquarters in Washington.

    Their visit to the RNC raised red flags among two prominent Republicans who were cited by the Post wondering “whether it was appropriate for the president’s sons, who run the Trump family real estate business, to be highly involved in discussing the party’s strategy and resources.”

    Since their father took office, Donald Jr. and Eric Trump have fundraised for Republicans, rallied their father’s supporters in advance of his 2020 presidential bid, and defended their father on social media, while at the same time managing their father’s empire, […]

    Trump’s sons have said they are abiding by the ethics arrangement that precludes them from discussing the family business with their father, who in turn is not supposed to discuss government business with his sons or the company’s executives,[…] Eric Trump, however, said in a March interview with Forbes that he and his father were very close, and that he would give his dad business profitability updates every quarter. […]


  92. says

    Wonkette covered some of Jared Kushner’s financial woes:

    […] So young Jared, who was all of 26, negotiated for his family’s real estate company to buy 666 Fifth Avenue in New York for $1.8 billion. As reported in Bloomberg,

    The original purchase in early 2007 was his grand entry into Manhattan — taking the company his father built on suburban garden apartments into a future marked by more prestigious urban properties. Costing a then-record-setting $1.8 billion in early 2007, the building would later become a symbol for a period of irrational exuberance in U.S. real estate, where a belief in forever-climbing rents sent values soaring. The deal was financed with a $1.215 billion loan from Barclays Capital, which was divided and sold in commercial-mortgage bond offerings, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

    The deal was a disaster from the beginning. The Real Deal pulled no punches describing how totally out-of-whack the financing was, even after the Kushners brought in Vornado Realty Trust as a partner in 2011.

    Critics had slammed the deal for being overleveraged – cash flow at the time of the purchase covered only 65 percent of the debt service – and indeed, Kushner eventually needed to work out a deal with the lenders and bring in Vornado Realty Trust as a partner in order to hold onto the asset.

    “The capital stack [for 666 Fifth],” said one luxury condo developer active in the market, “is insane.” The investor documents obtained by Bloomberg estimate that the completed redevelopment will be worth $7.2 billion. For the project to pencil out at those numbers – even assuming very rosy projections for the office and retail components – the partnership would have to be underwriting the condos at an average of up to $9,000 per square foot, the developer said. That’s a price not even the most ostentatious of the current crop of buildings has come close to – 432 Park Avenue, for example, was asking an average of $6,894 per square foot, according to an analysis by TRD in January 2014. And it’s had to offer significant discounts to buyers. […]

    In plain English, just to pay off the interest on their loan, the Kushners need to convince buyers to pay 25% above the going market rate for their condos. And no one is buying.

    But wait, there’s MORE! Because, Wonder Boy Jared signed a deal that included escalating interest payments. Like every other idiot during the real estate bubble, Jared figured he’d be able to refinance later. Except that trick only works if prices continue to rise by 10-20% every year — which they didn’t because that bubble popped in 2007. […] now he’s up shit’s creek, because no American bank will lend money to a project this far under water. By December, Kushner Company will be paying twice as much in interest as they did in 2011.


    Now, we all know that Jared sold his stake in the family business to his relatives. […] Jared IS Kushner Company, and Kushner Company IS Jared. He steered them into this mess, and he’s going to get them out.

    […] suggesting that Jared and his buddies Sergei Kislyak and Michael Flynn were having secret meetings to discuss strategies for Syria, WE ARE DISINCLINED TO BELIEVE IT. Because that smarmy little fucker needs money for his family’s company, and he can’t get it from anyone but Oleg the Oligarch.

    Jared had a secret meeting at Trump Towers with Sergei Kislyak and Michael Flynn in December, while he was still head of his family business. […] That same month, Kushner also met with Putin’s favorite kleptocrat financing institution, Vnesheconombank. BY SHEER COINCIDENCE, he forgot to list all these contacts on his SF-86 disclosure form to get his security clearance.

    […] Kushner was desperate for money, and he had the power to give the Russians access to the American market. […]

  93. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    AM Joy was good this morning. The final segment had George Takei on talking about the recent Star Trek flap, and how the critics don’t understand the diverity of the Star Trek Universe.

    I don’t have a link for other bit I wanted to mention, which involved Joy Reid on Meet The Press (she was late to the start of her own show). A WSJ reporter (Kimberly Strassel) on MTP told about Obama opening a back channel with Iran prior to his inauguration in 2008. The rest of the panel didn’t believe her. Joy Reid finally dug up the source. That paragon of thruthiness, Breitbart. Bad journalistic technique, Ms Strassel, you aren’t a journalist, rather a propagandist. Be ashamed.

  94. snuffcurry says

    Lynna, 115

    Spicer could be lying. Trump could be listening to translations or not listening to translations. We have no way of knowing. We do know not to trust WH sources.

    The initial sources for the presence of an earbud are press photographs showing it in his right ear during the summit; other press pool photographs from 2017 are also included to demonstrate that Trump favors that particular set-up. We definitely will never know whether Trump is actively listening to anyone at any time; chances are, he’s not, at least with any degree of sophistication.

    Maybe Hair Furor doesn’t want to mess up his hair with headphones.

    The linked Gizmodo article shows a variety of headphone and earbud positions used by former POTUSes and other heads of government. The chronological transition from headphones to earbuds is pretty straight-forward. I personally favor the single earbud during live translations so I can catch short remarks made by other speakers without having to keep my hand on the headphones at all times to swiftly slip it on and off as necessary.

    Again, Trump is a dunce and his behavior at the summit, from documented instances of physical assault to random acts of posturing to his inability to hold simple conversations with other people, is appalling, his ignorance and fear of being found out as an ignoramus obvious. I am reminded that Reagan rarely liked to ask questions when being presented with complicated policy proposals because he felt curiosity made him look weak and uninformed. This appears to be a common fallacy amongst all idjits, that they think they know best or have to pretend so in all circumstances, thus rendering collaboration, cooperation, and research tools of the weak and powerless.

  95. blf says

    There’s a lot of stuff here, so I haven’t read it all (yet), but it seems hilarious, The Trump Documents: “The Onion has obtained hundreds of documents from an anonymous source within the White House.” Do take a look at the Presidential Briefings.

    Also in The Onion, Homesick Trump Stays Up All Night On Phone With Automated Mar-A-Lago Reservations Line: “Sad and lonely from the diplomatic trip that has kept him thousands of miles away from his private estate for almost a week, a homesick Donald Trump stayed up all night on the phone with the automated Mar-a-Lago reservations line […]”.

  96. says

    Remember when Trump said he had total confidence in Michael Flynn? Well, now Trump is saying he has total confidence in Jared Kushner.

    Jared is doing a great job for the country. I have total confidence in him. He is respected by virtually everyone and is working on programs that will save our country billions of dollars. In addition to that, and perhaps more importantly, he is a very good person.

    The quoted text is from a statement Trump made to the NY Times.

  97. says

    Local governments in charge of some US cities have passed resolutions calling for Trump’s impeachment. The cities don’t have any legal standing to bring impeachment charges, but they are trying to put pressure on Congress critters.

    So far, these cities have asked for, or are considering asking for, impeachment proceedings:
    Brookline, Massachusetts
    Cambridge, Massachusetts
    Amherst, Massachusetts
    Pelham, Massachusetts
    Leverett, Massachusetts
    Newton, Massachusetts (proposal pending)
    Los Angeles, California
    Richmond, California
    Alameda, California
    Berkely, California
    Chicago, Illinois (proposal stuck in a committee headed by a Republican)

  98. says

    Follow-up to Nerd’s comment 122:

    Joy Ann Reid explained what real, traditional, and useful “back channels” are: Daily Kos link to video excerpt.

    Text summary of back story:

    […] A part of good journalism is researching false statements and correcting the record after the fact if necessary. Joy-Ann Reid did just that.

    Kimberly Strassel attempted to characterize Trump’s establishment of a communications channel using Russian facilities to evade U.S. Intelligence as something done by both Obama and Reagan. In fact, she tried to spin a Breitbart story equating President Obama’s establishment of a backchannel with Iran as a similar event that did not get the scrutiny from the media as is Trump’s Russia collusion.

    “Let me set the scene for you,” Strassel said. “It is 2008. We are having an election. And candidate Obama, he is not even President-elect, sends William Miller over to Iran to establish a back channel and let the Iranians know that should he win the election, they will have friendlier terms.”

    Joy-Ann Reid did her homework and said the following on her MSNBC Program AM Joy immediately after she left the Meet the Press set.

    “There is a new book that’s out,” Joy-Ann Reid said. “It is called “Alter Egos.” It’s by New York Times White House correspondent Mark Landler. And it talks about what a backchannel actually is. Because I want people to understand what that means. And it talks about the then-incoming Obama Administration setting up an actual backchannel through Oman, to try to set up the pre-conditions to have an Iran deal. This was done through the State Department, through Hillary Clinton, the incoming Secretary of State, in which you open up discussions with even an adversarial country, in a way that you do so outside of the public, so they can set conditions up in order to have an Iran deal. … That is a backchannel. Going and meeting in a secure facility of a country to which you have dubious links, including financial, in a secret facility that is theirs, and that is out of the reach of American Intelligence communities is not a backchannel. So, not to correct Ms. Strassel when she isn’t here, but I thought that was very important.”

    Joy-Ann Reid takes journalism seriously. If more of our ‘journalists’ reacted to misinformation with the immediacy and urgency displayed by Reid, we would have a much better-informed country.

  99. says

    From Germany, more bad reviews of Trump’s words and actions:

    Germany’s foreign minister on Monday said that President Trump’s actions have weakened the West.

    “Anyone who accelerates climate change by weakening environmental protection, who sells more weapons in conflict zones and who does not want to politically resolve religious conflicts is putting peace in Europe at risk,” Sigmar Gabriel said […]

    “The short-sighted policies of the American government stand against the interests of the European Union. The West has become smaller, at least it has become weaker.”

    Gabriel also called on Europe to stand up to the Trump administration, arguing that the continent’s refugee crisis could escalate.

    “If the Europeans are not resolutely opposing this right now, the migration flow to Europe will continue to grow,” he said at a discussion on migration and refugees in Berlin. “Those who do not oppose this U.S. policy are guilty.” […]


  100. blf says

    Close friend of Trump investigated over alleged €170m tax evasion:

    Real estate mogul Thomas Barrack, under investigation in Italy, played a critical role in Trump’s 2016 US presidential campaign

    A close friend and major fundraiser for Donald Trump is under investigation in Italy for allegedly evading €170m (£147m, $190m) in taxes after the sale of a luxury resort on Sardinia’s Emerald Coast, the beach playground frequented by Gulf Arabs and Russian oligarchs.

    Thomas Barrack played a critical role in Trump’s 2016 election campaign and inauguration and has been described as one of the president’s [sic] key advisers outside the West Wing.


    […] Barrack helped to recruit his longtime close friend, the former lobbyist Paul Manafort, who had a history of lobbying on behalf of Russian and Ukrainian interests close to Vladimir Putin, to join Trump’s campaign. […]

    Barrack […] was the first major business figure to lend Trump his stamp of approval, calling the Republican candidate intrinsically and academically first class and kind, compassionate, empathetic.


    In the run-up to the election, few endorsements of Trump seemed as personal as those delivered by Barrack.

    Donald’s natural alliance is with the little guy, Barrack told Charlie Rose during the Republican National Convention last year. He is a disruptor{…} a man who can step into the middle of the fray and take the heat.

    The Italian investigation into Barrack’s financial activities in Sardinia is unrelated to Trump and Manafort. But it relates to Barrack’s dealings with Qatar, and Barrack — who speaks Arabic and began his career working for the Saudi royal family — is seen as having influence over Trump’s Middle East policy.

    Shortly before the US election, Barrack called for a radical historic shift in {the US} outreach towards the Arab world, singling out brilliant young leaders in the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia who he claimed represented the region’s best hope. Writing in Fortune, he also said that the only solution {to the Syrian war} is one that works with Russia and not against them.


    Details of the allegations are complex and involve several entities that are based in Luxembourg, a tax haven, and the US state of Delaware, where many shell companies are incorporated. Deutsche Bank, which also serves as a private bank for Trump and his close family and has been mired in legal troubles in the US, advised Colony on the deal.


  101. blf says

    We need a new defence strategy — Donald Trump has hung Europe out to dry:

    The Polish army fields three divisions, as does Germany’s Bundeswehr. France has two, Romania two, the UK two and the Baltic states could just about scrape together one. As of last week, those are the only forces Vladimir Putin has to consider as he threatens, bullies and cajoles the western diplomatic order into disintegration.

    Because from the mouth of Donald Trump came only cowardice.

    Trump declined[†] to reiterate any commitment to Nato’s article 5, which mandates mutual defence in the face of attack. He lashed Europe’s leaders about defence spending and then bragged to US troops in Sicily that, as a result of his own election, money is beginning to pour in.

    While Theresa May could only smile at her shoes, it fell to a shocked Angela Merkel to spell out what Trump meant [see @105, @112, and probably others –blf]. “The times in which we could completely depend on others are, to a certain extent, over. I’ve experienced that in the last few days,” she told a party rally. “We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.”

    Behind the scenes, Trump’s diplomats signalled it is not just on defence that the multilateral order is under threat. Trump may, as early as this week, pull the US out of the Paris climate treaty. Even if he does not, his commitment to it will be seen as weak. And his aides refused to include a commitment to free trade in the G7 communique.


      † A overstatement of sorts there, hair furor did not explicitly decline to support article 5. He did not mention it. However, since it is de rigueur to mention article 5, this has been taken as a signaling disapproval. Article 5 is the heart of Nato, so this really has people shaken.

  102. blf says

    France24 is reporting (Trump irritates allies and returns to brewing crisis in US):

    But despite disagreements over many policy issues, leaders also warmed to the US president.

    “I saw someone who is willing to listen and who wants to work,’ said France’s Macron. “I think Donald Trump understood the importance of multilateral discussion and that, along with the pragmatism he demonstrated during his campaign, Trump will now take into account the interests of his friends and partners.”

    The Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, the G7 summit’s host agreed. “I found him very willing to engage, very curious, with an ability and desire to ask questions and to learn from all his partners,” he said.

    This is hair furor they are being quoted as talking about???!? I see no comprehension there at all. Both Macron and Gentiloni appear to be faux news commentators.

    (Cross-posted from Why Fox News is a joke here at poopyhead’s, with minor edits.)

  103. microraptor says

    Justin Trudeau asks Pope for apology

    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has a request for Pope Francis: say sorry for the role of the Catholic Church in a Canadian school system where indigenous children were abused.

    The PM met the pontiff at the Vatican on Monday as part of his trip to Italy for the G7 summit.

    The residential schools were set up from the 1880s to take children from their families and assimilate them into mainstream Canadian society.

    The last one closed in 1996.

    Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has called for a papal apology, as part of the healing process for survivors.

  104. says

    Follow-up to comment 120.

    Steve Benen described the situation this way:

    […] the heads of the president’s private-sector enterprise are intervening in politics, urging his allies to do more to “help” the president. […]

    Background from the Washington Post:

    Amid mounting questions at the White House about Russia, three prominent members of President Trump’s family – his sons Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., and Eric’s wife, Lara – have ramped up their engagement with the Republican Party’s national political operation, having met privately with GOP leaders to share their concerns and outlook.

    Their most recent effort came Thursday, when the president’s eldest sons and Lara Trump visited the Republican National Committee’s headquarters in Washington…. Their appearance at the RNC irked at least two prominent Republicans who were briefed on the session, who wondered whether it was appropriate for the president’s sons, who run the Trump family real estate business, to be highly involved in discussing the party’s strategy and resources.

  105. says

    David Corn: “…Explicit collusion may yet be proved by the FBI investigation overseen by special counsel Robert Mueller or by other ongoing probes. But even if it is not, a harsh verdict can be pronounced: Trump actively and enthusiastically aided and abetted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plot against America. This is the scandal. It already exists—in plain sight….”

  106. says

    – Michael Flynn, National Security Advisor
    – K.T. McFarland, Deputy National Security Advisor
    – Monica Crowley, advisor to the National Security Council
    – Katie Walsh, Deputy White House Chief of Staff
    – Boris Epshteyn, a Special Assistant to the President (he led the White House’s television surrogate operation)
    – Andy Puzder, nominee for Labor Secretary
    – Vincent Viola, nominee for Army Secretary
    – Philip Bilden, nominee for Navy Secretary
    – Anthony Scaramucci, White House liaison to the business community
    – Shermichael Singleton, Senior Adviser at HUD
    – Craig Deare, the NSC’s senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs
    – Marcus Peacock, senior White House budget adviser at OMB
    – Todd Ricketts, nominee for Deputy Commerce Secretary
    – Mark Green, nominee for Army Secretary
    – James Donavan, nominee for Deputy Treasury Secretary
    – Mike Dubke, White House communications director

    That’s a list of all the departures from team Trump so far. Dubke is the latest. He hasn’t left yet, but he did turn in his resignation and Trump accepted it.

  107. says

    CNN – “Sources: Russians discussed potentially ‘derogatory’ information about Trump and associates during campaign”:

    Russian government officials discussed having potentially “derogatory” information about then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and some of his top aides in conversations intercepted by US intelligence during the 2016 election, according to two former intelligence officials and a congressional source.

    One source described the information as financial in nature and said the discussion centered on whether the Russians had leverage over Trump’s inner circle. The source said the intercepted communications suggested to US intelligence that Russians believed “they had the ability to influence the administration through the derogatory information.”

    But the sources, privy to the descriptions of the communications written by US intelligence, cautioned the Russian claims to one another “could have been exaggerated or even made up” as part of a disinformation campaign that the Russians did during the election….

  108. says

    More propaganda efforts from team Trump, per the Washington Post:

    To believe Donald Trump, you must believe two largely contradictory things.

    You must believe that there are a slew of leakers in the executive branch who are providing damning details to the press illegally, and who must be rooted out and punished. […]

    You must also believe that the press makes up imaginary leakers simply to slowly and incrementally report false stories that are tangentially embarrassing to the president. The most recent examples of Trump making that case came on Sunday (“Whenever you see the words ‘sources say’ in the fake news media, and they don’t mention names,” he said on Twitter, “it is very possible that those sources don’t exist but are made up by fake news writers. #FakeNews is the enemy!”), […]

    Trump, unlike most politicians and, frankly, most people, will nonchalantly argue two logically inconsistent points at the same time.

    On the campaign trail, he mastered the art of vague assurance that he stood for whatever his audience stood for, and, in office, that skill doesn’t seem to have faded. If it is best that people think a leak was made up by the media — like The Washington Post’s report that Jared Kushner asked Russia to help set up a secure communication system with the Trump team — then Trump will argue that the media made it up. (We didn’t.)

    If the leak is incidental to him or if he’d like to put the heat on someone else — if, say, someone in law enforcement leaks photos of a terrorist attack in the U.K. — he’ll argue that the leakers need to be caught. […]

    And there’s more to the propaganda effort. Take at look at this excerpt from instructions given to members of the press on Air Force One, near the end of Trump’s recent stint as a bad tourist. An unidentified Senior Administration Official is talking:

    I’ll just implore you all, whether you’re talking about our successes on trade and migration in the G-7 or summit in Saudi Arabia, to tell the story back home about what an unprecedentedly and historically successful trip this was by an incredible leader and an amazing man who has done extraordinary things in a very short time for the country he loves and the people of America that he serves so faithfully.

    Maybe the Senior Administration Official who implored the press to spout nonsense should identify himself or herself by name, and then just bribe the press. French coffee? German beer? Belgium chocolates?

  109. says

    Quite funny. Josh Marshall and the Talking Points Memo design team decided to help Trump by designing a new Trump Family Coat of Arms:

    With the news that President Trump stole another family’s Coat of Arms and made it into his own, we spoke to heraldry experts and had the TPM design team create a new Coat of Arms for the Trump Family. …

    Okay, we didn’t actually talk to heraldry experts. But the other part is true.

    The motto: “CARPE OMNIA”

    You can see a photo of the new design at the link. It features a golf club, dollar signs, weasels, a “for rent” sign, etc.

  110. says

    Follow-up to comments 76, 86, 116, and 121.

    About that security clearance that Jared Kushner holds, he has been using it. The Washington Post reported that Kushner gets his own, separate intelligence briefing early each morning. Talking Points Memo summarized:

    White House senior adviser and son-in-law to the President Jared Kushner receives a separate intelligence briefing […] earlier in the morning than when Trump sits for his briefing, […]

    Kushner often joins Trump for his intelligence briefing as well, according to the Washington Post. Trump in November had reportedly said that he wanted Kushner to have access to the presidential intelligence briefings.

    Kushner has come under increased scrutiny recently as reports have revealed that he has become a focus of the FBI’s Russia investigation. Kushner also reportedly sought to establish a secret line of communication with the Russian government before Trump took office.

    Trump’s intelligence briefings feature visual aides like videos and “killer graphics,” CIA Director Mike Pompeo told the Washington Post. […]

  111. says

    [Devin] Nunes [Republican representative in the House] is still ostensibly the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, though he had to recuse himself from leading the investigation into Trump–Russia after his game of follow-the-leader with Trump destroyed his last shred of dignity.

    Apparently, no amount of humiliation will stop Nunes from continuing to say stupid stuff:

    “The Democrats don’t want an investigation on Russia. They want an independent commission. Why do they want an independent commission? Because they want to continue the narrative that Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are best friends, and that’s the reason that he won, because Hillary Clinton would have never lost on her own; it had to be someone else’s fault,” [Devin Nunes] told Republicans at the $75-per-plate Tulare County Lincoln Dinner on April 7. His remarks were recorded on video and provided to The Times.

    LA Times link

  112. says

    Judd Legum: “1. The endless stories casting the Russia probe as a ‘communications issue’ for the White House are moronic…”

    I couldn’t agree with this more. It’s bizarre. And not only do they talk about this all like it’s a PR matter, they constantly ask pundits to offer advice to Trump and his associates about what they should and shouldn’t do. It’s completely perplexing.

    I keep coming back to the Wittes interview in which he says that Comey had conveyed to him his concern that these aren’t honorable people. That’s at the heart of everything.

  113. says

    These press briefings are surreal exercises in futility. The first 15 minutes consist of Spicer reading propaganda, and that’s followed by him pathetically, sycophantically praising Trump, making false assertions, and refusing to provide straight answers. They’re painful to watch, and a national shame.

  114. says

    “Trump administration plans to minimize civil rights efforts in agencies”:

    The Trump administration is planning to disband the Labor Department division that has policed discrimination among federal contractors for four decades, according to the White House’s newly proposed budget, part of wider efforts to rein in government programs that promote civil rights.

    As outlined in Labor’s fiscal 2018 plan, the move would fold the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, now home to 600 employees, into another government agency in the name of cost-cutting.

    The proposal to dismantle the compliance office comes at a time when the Trump administration is reducing the role of the federal government in fighting discrimination and protecting minorities by cutting budgets, dissolving programs and appointing officials unsympathetic to previous practices….

  115. blf says

    Perhaps not much which hasn’t already been mentioned in this article, Trump clashes with German leaders as transatlantic tensions boil over, other than hair furor has managed to tick off big China:

    The Chinese prime minister, Li Keqiang, is also due to make the trip to Berlin later in the week ahead of Friday’s EU-China summit. Beijing was disappointed by the Trump administration’s failure to send a senior representative to its mid-May summit on its “Belt and Road” global investment initiative.

    He also got a blunt message from Narendra Modi, his fellow authoritarian in India, who is visiting Germany:

    […] In remarks cleared [sic] aimed towards Washington, where Trump has yet to declare his position on the Paris agreement, Modi said it would be “morally criminal” not to act on climate change, and praised Merkel’s “vision”.

    And finally:

    “What is different is the leadership,” [Adam Thomson, a former British ambassador to Nato and now the director of the European Leadership Network,] said. “Bush’s leadership of the north atlantic alliance was divisive. Obama’s was selective. But it is debatable whether there is any leadership at all under Trump.”

    (The Grauniad’s articles on big China’s Belt and Road scheme.)

  116. says

    SC @144, I agree.

    I would like to add that team Trump’s talk about holding a series of rallies in the near future is just another way of addressing the Russia scandal as if were a PR problem.

    Trump and his team think that if they can just get Hair Furor out there rallying the base everyone will be so distracted, and so newly in love with tax policies and other Trumpian lies, that no one will pay attention to the Russia thing (which they would like to put into the “fake news” category permanently).

    The plan for a series of rallies is a PR move.

  117. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 148.

    From Steve Benen:

    […] As regular readers may recall, there was also a meeting that took place in a hotel lobby in New York in January. Cohen was joined by Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Artemenko, a member of a pro-Putin party, and Felix Sater, a businessman who’s worked for years to facilitate Trump business deals in Russia. (The trio discussed a plan to end hostilities between Russia and Ukraine, effectively by giving Vladimir Putin everything he wants in exchange for nothing.)

    There was also an unfortunate incident from the campaign season, in which Cohen threatened a reporter, saying, “What I’m going to do to you is going to be f***ing disgusting,” He later apologized.

    And that’s in addition to the mention of Cohen in the Steele dossier as having attended secret meetings in Prague to discuss Russia’s hacking of Democratic targets.

    Cohen refusing to comply with subpoenas from Congress may slow the investigation down, but I doubt it will stop them. Furthermore, I’ll bet Mueller’s interest in Cohen has now been upped a notch.

  118. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 145.

    How can anyone sit in those press briefings and not laugh out loud when Sean Spicer says stuff like this:

    I think the relationship that the President has had with Merkel he would describe as fairly unbelievable. They get along very well. He has a lot of respect for her. They continue to grow the bond that they had during their talks in the G7.

  119. says

    Follow-up to comment 152.

    More examples of Spicey being high-larious:

    I want to begin by recapping the incredible, historic trip that the president and first lady have just concluded because it truly was an extraordinary week for America and our people. […] It was an unprecedented first trip abroad. […] We’ve never seen before at this point in a presidency such sweeping reassurance of American interests and the inauguration of a foreign policy strategy designed to bring back the world from growing dangers and perpetual disasters brought on by years of failed leadership. […] The leaders of more than 50 Arab Muslim nations was a historic turning point that people will be talking about for many years to come. […] The president’s historic speech was met with nearly universal praise. […] This was a historic event […] The president then went to Israel where he was received with incredible warmth […] and gave a highly praised address at the Israel museum […] This was an extraordinarily successful nine-day trip the president took.

  120. says

    @155 – I’ve seen several threads on twitter debunking this claim. It’s more like 1m over the past week, close to 5m in a month, if you count both the @POTUS and @realdonaldtrump accounts.

    Interestingly, the @realdonaldtrump account has been blocking it’s most popular detractors since Friday.

  121. says

    @162 – I think that asshat professor supported “day of absence” in past years because it was minority groups voluntarily making themselves absent, but when there was a movement amongst the white majority to take their turn and make themselves absent, he and a subset of white people objected because they feel persecuted as the privileged majority that they are.

  122. says

    @162 – furthermore, it’s ridiculous to object as these kinds of protests they are never exclusionary. White guys on campus weren’t going to get their ass kicked or get in trouble any more than a guy showing up to the woman’s march or a cis-het male showing up to a gay pride parade.

    Show up screaming and drunk and waving confederate flags and #magaing all over the damn place and there might be a problem. Let people make their statement and respect it, no problem.

  123. microraptor says

    logicalcat @162:

    I think I made the mistake of reading the comments section of that article and need to disinfect my eyes.

  124. snuffcurry says

    re logicalcat’s link at 162 about an instructor describing himself as the victim of a witch hunt, I’d be quite interested to know what he, the instructor, means when he proposes, in response to a request for white students and faculty to voluntarily cede occupation of their campus to students and faculty of color for a day*, “a public presentation and discussion of race through a scientific / evolutionary lens” (emphasis added). That’s tripping some alarm bells, along with him quite literally white-washing concerns about inequality as a preoccupation with “phenotypes.” That’s just a hair’s breadth away from accusations of shock horror Identity Politics in terms of dogwhistles. Fashioning himself a martyr to “conventional wisdom” is equally overwrought.

    *I don’t have the complete background on this Day of Absence, but it sounds like an equally fruitful alternative to the A Day Without [People of Color / Women / Trans People] format, where the marginalized themselves leave to make a point about systems coming to a halt when undervalued and invisible members of a community no longer accept being second-class.

  125. says

    “Federal Appeals Court Rules In Favor Of Transgender Student”:

    A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled in favor of a transgender student’s challenge to a Wisconsin school district’s policy limiting his restroom usage — a big win for those seeking to advance transgender rights in the courts.

    The decision of a unanimous three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit keeps in place a district court’s preliminary injunction halting enforcement of the Kenosha Unified School District’s policy against the student, Ash Whitaker.

    The appeals court upheld the lower court’s rulings in favor of Whitaker on both statutory and constitutional grounds, finding that he is likely to succeed on his claim that he is protected from discrimination under the sex discrimination ban in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 because he is transgender and that the school district’s policy violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

    The broad ruling in favor of transgender rights comes even as the Trump administration pulled back an Obama-era policy that pressed for recognition of transgender rights under existing civil rights laws.

    The decision to withdraw the pro-transgender Title IX guidance came in late February. It, in turn, led the US Supreme Court to send back the case of Gavin Grimm, a Virginia student who had brought a similar lawsuit, to the lower courts….

    “A policy that requires an individual to use a bathroom that does not conform with his or her gender identity punishes that individual for his or her gender non‐conformance, which in turn violates Title IX,”* [Judge Ann Claire Williams] wrote for the panel.

    Regarding the constitutional argument, she noted that “the School District argues that since it treats all boys and girls the same, it does not violate the Equal Protection Clause.”

    “This is untrue,” Williams wrote for the court. “Rather, the School District treats transgender students like Ash, who fail to conform to the sex‐based stereotypes associated with their assigned sex at birth, differently.”

    Because of that, Williams explained the school district would have to show “exceedingly persuasive” reasons justifying the policy.

    “This burden has not been met here,” she wrote….

    * I wrote about about the Title IX guidance here.

  126. says

    Before I muted Sean Spicer’s droning propaganda rant yesterday, I took note of this bit:

    We’ll begin holding industry listening sessions next week, providing an opportunity for business leaders and job creators to give us their inputs on what reforms are necessary to allow us to grow jobs and the economy.


  127. says

    SC @173, I thought Trump told us earlier that he barely knew Carter Page.

    In other non-news, I have work obligations that will keep me from posting on this thread for the next few days. I’m sure that those who post here often will take up the slack. Play reasonably well together, my friends.

  128. says

    The notion of world leaders calling each other up via cellphone may seem unremarkable in the modern, mobile world. But in the diplomatic arena, where leader-to-leader calls are highly orchestrated affairs, it is another notable breach of protocol for a president who has expressed distrust of official channels. The formalities and discipline of diplomacy have been a rough fit for Trump — who, before taking office, was long easily accessible by cellphone and viewed himself as freewheeling, impulsive dealmaker.

    Presidents generally place calls on one of several secure phone lines, including those in the White House Situation Room, the Oval Office or the presidential limousine. Even if Trump uses his government-issued cellphone, his calls are vulnerable to eavesdropping, particularly from foreign governments, national security experts say.

    From Steve Benen:

    In case this isn’t obvious, Trump spent a year condemning Hillary Clinton for using a private email server to conduct official business – which makes it odd that he now wants to use a private phone to conduct official business.

  129. says

    Sarah Kendzior – “What The Trump Campaign’s Potential Collusion with Russia Really *Means*—and Why It’s So Scary: What’s good for Trump and Putin is not necessarily good for American citizens.”:

    …As a hyper-capitalist, authoritarian state dominated by sleazy oligarchs and corrupt officials, Russia suppresses free speech, independent media, public protests, and brutally persecutes marginalized groups like LGBT citizens, Muslims, and migrant laborers. When not busy repressing its own people, the Kremlin tries to repress citizens of other states, both militarily (as in Ukraine) and through media manipulation. It is not, in other words, a government whose ideals we want to align with or empower.

    That’s what’s most disconcerting about the Russian interference scandal: It’s the possibility that worst elements in each of our governments could collaborate secretly against the welfare of citizens. It’s an affront to sovereignty and to humane governance. As an American, you should care about that.

  130. says


    Fired FBI director James Comey plans to testify publicly in the Senate as early as next week to confirm bombshell accusations that President Donald Trump pressured him to end his investigation into a top Trump aide’s ties to Russia, a source close to the issue said Wednesday.

    Final details are still being worked out and no official date for his testimony has been set. Comey is expected to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russia during last year’s presidential election.

    Comey has spoken privately with Special Counsel Robert Mueller III to work out the parameters for his testimony to ensure there are no legal entanglements as a result of his public account, a source said. Comey will likely sit down with Mueller, a longtime colleague at the Justice Department, for a formal interview only after his public testimony….

  131. blf says

    The Onion:

    ● Officials Struggling To Condense Trump’s Intelligence Briefing Down To One Word:

    […] “The president prefers his briefs to be concise and straightforward, preferably no longer than two or three syllables, so we’re now focusing on compressing each day’s classified intel and any intercepted geopolitical chatter down to the sole most salient word,” said Deputy National Security Advisor K.T. McFarland, adding that a team of staffers had been tasked with stripping each briefing of the overly technical or complex details that President Trump disliked, such as arcane insider terminology, multiple bullet points, and any compound or hyphenated words. “[…] We recently gave him a briefing that consisted only of the term ‘nuclear proliferation,’ but he clearly became distracted by the end of the first word, so we shortened it to simply read ‘bomb,’ and he seemed to respond well to that.” […] Trump had asked officials to continue formatting his daily intelligence memos in the model of his most recent briefing, which consisted entirely of a brightly colored clip-art fighter jet.

    ● ‘Washington Post’ Reporter Frustrated Every Space In Parking Garage Taken Up By Anonymous Source:

    Circling every level multiple times with no luck whatsoever, Washington Post reporter Philip Rucker was frustrated Tuesday that every space in the parking garage was taken up by an anonymous source. “I’ve gone around and around, but I can’t find a single spot that isn’t already filled by an unidentified White House leaker,” said an exasperated Rucker, who recalled how easy it was to nab a prime parking place to clandestinely receive privileged information only a few short years ago. […]

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

    Well, yeah, the acceptance of, and embrace of, racism by our President HAS led to a normalization of RACISM in the US. The first link, Lebron James’ home was vandalized with racist graffiti. The second link reports the SECOND noose found in or near the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture. (both links to CNN)

  133. says

    Summary of some of the most recent US news:

    Congressional investigators are looking into whether Sessions had yet another undisclosed meeting with Kislyak (in April 2016). Al Franken was on Lawrence O’Donnell last night and said he and Leahy, after receiving some information about it, had sent a letter to the FBI a few months ago requesting that they look into this possibility.

    Trump is moving to return to the Russians the two US compounds from which they were expelled by Obama at the end of December as part of the sanctions over election rigging. Adam Schiff: “.@POTUS should not return properties Russians used for espionage that were shuttered after they interfered in our election. Why reward them?”

    The House Intel Committee issued seven subpoenas. Four were to Flynn and Cohen and came from the whole committee. The other three were from Devin Nunes alone – to the intelligence agencies, requesting information about unmasking of Trump associates. Nunes is supposed to be recused from the Russia investigation, didn’t consult with Democrats on the committee as he was supposed to before taking this step, and could just have asked the agencies for the information without a subpoena. Meanwhile, Trump – who yesterday accused the former heads of the FBI and CIA of felony perjury – tweeted this morning: “The big story is the ‘unmasking and surveillance’ of people that took place during the Obama Administration.” The attempts to divert from and subvert the investigations seem to be escalating.

    In related news, Trump has apparently stayed in touch with Roger Stone.

    Trump will announce his plan with regard to the Paris Accord today at 3 PM.

  134. says

    ProPublica – “Tom Price Bought Drug Stocks. Then He Pushed Pharma’s Agenda in Australia.”:

    …Price’s lobbying abroad, which has not previously been reported, is another example of how his work in Congress could have benefitted his investment portfolio. He traded hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of shares in health-related companies while taking action on legislation and regulations affecting the industry. ProPublica previously reported that Price’s stock trades are said to be under investigation by federal prosecutors….*

    * Of note.

  135. says

    Putin did an interview with international journalists:

    President Vladimir Putin says the Russian state has never been involved in hacking.

    Speaking at a meeting with senior editors of leading international news agencies Thursday, Putin said that some individual “patriotic” hackers could mount some attacks amid the current cold spell in Russia’s relations with the West.

    But he categorically insisted that “we don’t engage in that at the state level.”

    Putin also said that “no hackers can influence election campaigns in any country of Europe, Asia or America.”

    President Vladimir Putin has warned that attempts to contain Russia won’t succeed.

    Without naming any particular country, Putin said that Russia has faced attempts to hurt its legitimate interests.

    Speaking at Thursday’s meeting with senior editors of leading international news agencies, Putin said the current atmosphere “makes it somewhat inconvenient to work with one another or even to talk, but some day this will have to stop.”

    The Kremlin’s aspirations for better ties with Washington have withered amid Congressional and FBI investigations into Trump campaign ties with Russia.

    Putin said the “Russo-phobic hysteria” in the U.S. is aimed “against the current president of the U.S. to prevent him from working normally,” but predicted “this will end, sooner or later.” He added that “we are patient, we know how to wait and we will wait.”

    President Vladimir Putin has expressed regret that anti-Russian sentiments in the U.S. have prevented cooperation on fighting terrorism.

    Asked if he could offer any advice to Trump, Putin said it would be “counterproductive” to give advice to a political counterpart and added that “a person like President Trump doesn’t need any advice, especially if it comes to political issues.”

    He concluded by saying that “my wish is to forge a constructive dialogue underpinned by national interests,” and “I believe it’s possible with the current U.S. president.”

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has hailed President Donald Trump as a straightforward person with a fresh vision.

    Speaking at Thursday’s meeting with senior editors of the world’s leading news agencies, Putin said Russia had been encouraged by Trump’s campaign statements in which he lamented Russia-U.S. ties being at a historical low and promised to improve them.

    He praised Trump as “a straightforward person, a frank person.” Putin added that while some see Trump’s lack of political experience as a disadvantage, he sees it as beneficial because “he has a fresh set of eyes.”

    (Megyn Kelly, now at NBC, will do a one-on-one interview with Putin.)

  136. blf says

    Donald Trump’s incompetence is a problem. His staff should intervene:

    The evidence is becoming overwhelming that Donald Trump lacks the temperament, basic knowledge or intelligence to be a minimally competent president. There are ways he can deal with this and compensate for it, but first he must become aware of it, and there is no evidence that anyone in his inner circle is going to tell him. […]

    In recent days, there have been a number of press reports suggesting that President Trump is unable to absorb essential information needed to do his job. His attention span is too short, he won’t read anything longer than a page, and must be bribed with flattery to keep his mind focused. Writing in the New York Times on 18 May, Peter Baker asked those working at foreign embassies in Washington what they have learned from their interactions with Trump.

    Said Baker: “Keep it short — no 30-minute monologue for a 30-second attention span. Do not assume he knows the history of the country or its major points of contention. Compliment him on his Electoral College victory. Contrast him favorably with Barack Obama. Do not get hung up on whatever was said during the campaign. Stay in regular touch. Do not go in with a shopping list but bring some sort of deal he can call a victory.”

    A few days later, a group of Washington Post reporters explained that Trump’s own staff have learned to deal with the unique challenges of briefing him, which revealed much about his limitations. As they wrote: “White House aides also have talked about having a rotating cast of staff brief the media, a group that could include officials such as national security adviser HR McMaster. Having several aides share the briefing responsibilities could help prevent Trump […] from growing bored or angry with any one staff member.”


    Another Washington Post story reported that those briefing Trump daily on foreign intelligence are frustrated that they must simplify complex matters to an extreme degree, using “killer graphics” [see The Onion†, @124 & @183 –blf] to hold his attention. “Yet,” the report went on, “there are signs that the president may not be retaining all the intelligence he is presented, fully absorbing its nuance, or respecting the sensitivities of the information and how it was gathered.”

    Foreign countries like Britain and Israel have now become wary of sharing sensitive intelligence with the US if it may come to Trump’s attention, for fear it will leak out in a late-night tweet.

    The idea that Trump is just not up to the job of being president is growing among the general public, according to a May 10 Quinnipiac Poll. People were asked: “What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of Donald Trump?” The top answer given was “idiot,” followed by “incompetent.” Other popular terms from the poll were “unqualified” and “ignorant.”

    […] Erick Erickson, a founder of the popular Republican website RedState published an op-ed article on May 19 containing this remarkable paragraph: “The president exudes incompetence and instability. Divulging classified information to the Russians through bragging; undermining his staff’s defense of his conduct through inane tweets; even reportedly asking the FBI director to suspend an investigation of a former adviser — all these strike me not so much as malicious but as the ignorant actions of an overwhelmed man.

    “[…] The sad reality is that the greatest defense of the president available at this point is one his team could never give on the record: He is an idiot who does not know any better.”


      † Yes, I know The Onion is satire. Yet, judging by the claims in this column, some of that satire is very close to the truth.

  137. says

    France’s government investigators have concluded that there’s no evidence APT28 was behind the hacking of Macron’s campaign, saying the hack “was so generic and simple that it could have been practically anyone.”

  138. says

    US political news update:

    Trump pulled the US out of the Paris Accord, managing to make himself an even bigger global laughingstock. The move was condemned by the global community, and inspired cities, states, and businesses in the US as well as other governments and international alliances to reaffirm their respect for science and their commitment to addressing global warming. The impetuous decision was weak scientifically, politically, economically, morally, and psychologically.

    Michael Isikoff did some great reporting on the Trump transition team’s efforts to get rid of the sanctions against Russia – “How the Trump administration’s secret efforts to ease Russia sanctions fell short.”

    When the OGE pushed the White House to release information about lobbyist waivers, we learned that they’ve given a lot.

    As I said last year, I feel for people who’ve lost their family members, but this is an appalling basis for an organization and it hurts the legacy of their loved ones to be linked to this sort of hate, vengeance, and cruel policy. It’s no surprise it’s given rise to accusations of exploitation, abuse, and abandonment.

  139. says

    Brian Beutler – “Ivanka Trump’s Political Brand Is Dead”: “…It may be Ivanka’s tragic circumstance that she was born to an ethically vacant parent, and that forging a bond with him required making herself in his self-image. But it is our tragic circumstance that the man in question is a moral obscenity, a mental flyspeck, a fraud, and president of the United States. In the context of his presidency, her commitment to their relationship requires her to piss down our backs and tell us it’s raining….”

  140. says

    The first article in #196 was extra infuriating because it focused on a request from a woman and so brought to mind past and present systems in which women need men to sign off on forms. It occurred to me that many of the congressional committee heads are men, and that this sick covert policy means that women and other underrepresented groups would overwhelmingly be ignored by government agencies. By my rough count, 17 House committees have male heads, with only three chaired by women. In the Senate, the ratio is 15-1. Several committees have a woman ranking member or co-chair, whose requests would go (or are going) unheeded if they lack the approval of the male Republican chair.

  141. says

    Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn on Theresa May’s response to Trump’s Paris disaccord:

    The reason this matters is the signal it sends, the signal it sends about British leadership, and Theresa may [sic] is sending a signal that she is weak and feeble and spineless, I’m afraid …

    If ever there was a moment when Britain needed a strong leader, it was now, and it turns out we’ve got an incredible weak one who is missing in action. I’m afraid that is what people are increasingly thinking about Theresa May …

    “Given the chance to present a united front with our international partners, she has instead opted for silence and subservience to Donald Trump. It is a dereliction of her duty both to our country and to our planet. That is not the type of leadership Britain needs to negotiate Brexit.”

  142. says

    Megyn Kelly seems to be off to a great start.

    And Garry Kasparov points out that Putin thrives politically on attention. (I watched an interview with Jerry Brown last night; he’s in charge of an economy far larger, more diverse and dynamic than Russia’s.)

    (As an aside, I’ve never understood their line, which I assume is supposed to drive us off the trail, about how acknowledging that our election was fundamentally distorted or fixed by the Kremlin’s interference is totally humiliating. It seems to be mostly projection. My primary emotions in response to the active measures and their effects are anger and sadness, not humiliation. Open democracies are vulnerable to such surprise attacks, but that’s not anything humiliating.

    Putin, in contrast, is afraid of investigative journalists, anti-corruption activists, real political challengers, protest bands, demonstrations, open debate, gay people, Hillary Clinton, free and fair elections,… That sort of weakness is what should be humiliating.)

  143. blf says

    Trump science: homeopathy is definitely the best approach for CO2 levels:

    Donald Trump may have used his very good brain to create scientifically sound reasons for pulling the US out of the Paris climate treaty. Sort of.

    So, Donald Trump has pulled the United States, the biggest polluter in the world after China […], out of the ground-breaking Paris accord, the global treaty aimed at tackling climate change by curbing carbon dioxide, CO2, emissions. Obviously, this hasn’t gone down well with … well, essentially anyone. But despite this widespread condemnation of what looks to be a disastrous, damaging, illogical decision with dubious motives, maybe, just maybe, Trump knows what he’s doing?

    Trump keeps saying he has a very good brain and is one of the smartest people anywhere in the world, so maybe we should take him at his word? […] Granted, nothing he’s done or said thus far supports his claim to be one of the smartest people alive, but when much of your campaign was based on anti-intellectualism, you can’t be seen doing or saying intelligent things. It’s quite smart if you think about it, briefly.

    So, maybe Trump knows something every other leader, scientist, industrialist and voter doesn’t. What could his logical and scientifically-valid reasons for withdrawing from the Paris accord be? He [sic] are a few possibilities.

    ● A better border wall?

     […] Maybe his plan is to resolve this by building the wall from bricks of solid CO2, or as it’s more commonly known, “dry ice”. It’s a solid, so could conceivably be used to make bricks and walls. But it also sublimates when it’s exposed to higher temperatures (e.g. those of the US-Mexico border), meaning it turns directly from a solid to a gas […].

    By building a border wall out of dry ice, Trump achieves several aims at once. He fulfils his campaign promise, he creates thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of jobs (constructing a wall spanning several states from bricks made out of a brittle substance that evaporates at room temperature would require an eye-watering amount of labour, investment and infrastructure). To do this he’d need copious carbon dioxide, and would need it produced in the USA, which the Paris treaty[†] would prevent. So they’ve got to go. But maybe Mexico would contribute some of their CO2 as well, thus lowering their own emissions? You could argue this is Mexico paying for the wall.

    And when the wall’s complete, filling his campaign promise, step back and watch it evaporate entirely, so everyone who didn’t want it is also happy. Everybody wins. Sort of. All because Trump abandoned the Paris accord. Very clever.


    ● … homeopathy?

     […] The alternative medicine [sic] that argues that like cures like, so you treat sleeplessness with caffeine, and so on. If you accept this to be true, then logically if climate change is caused by CO2 you should treat it with more CO2, something the Paris accord would prevent.

    But then, homeopathy also argues that the more dilute something is, the smaller the dose, the powerful the effects. So, increasing CO2 is bad for climate change, even homeopathically. I guess if Trump next comes out with some new climate treaty which is like the Paris deal but much better, this will all add up.


      † The Paris agreement is carefully designed to not be a treaty, because otherwise it would have to be approved by the numskulls in USAsphyxiate Senate.

  144. blf says

    Follow-up of sorts to @205, a reader’s comment, commenting on the conclusion (which I redacted):

    [… I]t must be one of these things, right? The alternative is that the US president [sic] is a clueless arrogant pension-age manbaby who would put his own ego and profits and those of his cronies before the survival of humanity and the planet itself. And surely that’s an even more ludicrous conclusion. Surely.

    Or maybe he’s just desperately trying to put a stop to the FBI’s Russia Investigation, and has taken the term “scorched Earth” policy way too literally.


  145. blf says

    This week showed the president doesn’t have the moral compass of a child:

    This year, my first grader learned how to be a good steward to the earth. She explained to us how we needed to shut lights off more often, eat meat less and buy our berries from places where workers were paid fair wages. It made us proud that she understands just how important it is to take care of the world around us — not just for ourselves, but for future generations.

    It’s not a great week when you wish the president of the United States had the moral compass of a six-year-old. […]

  146. blf says

    Al Jazeera reports Hackers leak emails from UAE ambassador to US:

    Hacked emails belonging to Yousef al-Otaiba show close coordination with pro-Israel, anti-Iran think tank.

    The Intercept reported on Saturday that the emails released by a group called “Global Leaks” show the relationship between al-Otaiba and a pro-Israel, neoconservative think tank — the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).

    I have no recollection of ever hearing of FDD before. However, they appear to be firmly committed to stooopidity, as per this Slate article, The Little Think Tank That Could (“Inside the small, pro-Israel outfit leading the attack on Obama’s Iran deal”): “Its research and advocacy have centered on the Middle East and in particular on conflicts and issues that impinge on Israel. And its positions have closely tracked those of the Likud party and its leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — not just on the Iran deal, but on the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians and the desirability of a two-state solution.” The Slate article is a long but interesting read.

    Back to Al Jazeera’s report:

    The hacked emails, some of which date back to 2014, reveal a high-level of backchannel cooperation between the FDD, which is funded by pro-Israel billionaire Sheldon Anderson, and the UAE.

    The emails obtained by The Intercept also show FDD and UAE collaboration with journalists who have published articles accusing Qatar and Kuwait of supporting “terrorism”.


    The leak includes a proposed agenda for an upcoming meeting between the FDD and the UAE government scheduled for June 11–14.

    The agenda includes in-depth discussions on Qatar, including Qatar-based Al Jazeera.

    One item on the agenda is: “Al Jazeera as an instrument of regional instability”.


    In early March, Dubowitz emailed Otaiba a listing non-US businesses operating in Saudi Arabia or the UAE “looking to invest in Iran”.

    “This is a target list for putting these companies to a choice, as we have discussed,” [Mark Dubowitz, CEO of FDD,] wrote.

    (I hope this posts Ok — the current FtB site(?) problems are making “Preview” exceptionally slow, with “Post…” not being any better. It’d be faster to snail-mail poopyhead a hand-written letter, still complete with Typos offerings.)

  147. KG says

    There has been another terrorist attack in the UK, this time in London. Seven dead (apart from the three murderers), around thirty injured. Theresa May says: “It is time to say, enough is enough”. As if the general opinion after earlier attacks was that they were just youthful peccadillos. One might remind May that her party has been in power for seven years, so if anyone has not taken the matter sufficiently seriously, it’s her and her colleagues, who have reduced police numbers. Trump, of course, used the occasion to promote his anti-Muslim travel ban, despite the fact that the identity of the attackers is not yet known, and most terrorists in Europe have not been recent arrivals.

  148. blf says

    As per @209, I don’t recall now where I saw this pointed out, but (paraphrasing) “That’s three incidents now on this PM’s watch, after she was Home Secretary for years.” (The UK’s Home Secretary is responsible for policing and related matters.)

  149. blf says

    Oh for feck’s sake, Far right raises £50,000 to target boats on refugee rescue missions in Med:

    Aid charities have saved more than 6,000 from drowning this year. Now anti-Islam Identitarians are crowdfunding to pay for vessels to chase them down

    Far-right activists are planning a sea campaign this summer to disrupt vessels saving refugees in the Mediterranean, after successfully intercepting a rescue mission last month.

    Members of the anti-Islam and anti-immigrant Identitarian movement — largely twentysomethings often described as Europe’s answer to the American alt-right — have raised £56,489 in less than three weeks to enable them to target boats run by aid charities helping to rescue refugees.

    The money was raised through an anonymous crowdfunding campaign with an initial goal of €50,000 (about £44,000) […] A French far-right group hired a boat for a trial run last month, disrupting a search-and-rescue vessel as it left the Sicilian port of Catania. They claimed they had slowed the NGO ship until the Italian coastguard intervened.


    The threat from the far right infuriates charities operating in the Mediterranean. One senior official, who requested anonymity, said politicians had helped create a climate where supporters of the far right felt emboldened to act in such a way. “When the British government and its European counterparts talk about swarms of migrants, or perpetuate the myth that rescue operations are a pull factor or a taxi service, that gives fuel to extreme groups such as this. The simple reality is that without rescue operations many more would drown, but people would still attempt the crossing,” the official said.


    The efforts of humanitarian organisations have been credited with saving huge numbers of refugees. Médecins Sans Frontières began operations in the Med in May 2015 and rescued more than 22,500 people, many off the Libyan coast, over the next seven months.

    […] All search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean are coordinated by the official Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Rome in accordance with international maritime law.

    Yet the European far-right groups have accused NGOs of working with traffickers to bring migrants to Europe and claim that search-and-rescue boats are not carrying out a humanitarian intervention. The central aim of the new wave of far-right groups is preserving national differences in the belief that white Europeans will be replaced by immigrants, a stance that is articulated with anti-migrant, anti-Muslim, anti-media sentiments but repackaged for a younger audience.


  150. blf says

    Hair furor lies, part lots-of-zillions, tweeting At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is “no reason to be alarmed!”. What Sadiq Khan actually said:

    My message to Londoners and visitors to our great city is to be calm and vigilant. You will see an increased police presence today, including armed officers and uniformed officers. There is no reason to be alarmed by this.

    (From the Grauniad’s live blog at the 15:29 mark.)

  151. blf says

    Follow-up to @212, the USA embassy in London is far more sensible than you-know-who, tweeting “I commend the strong leadership of the @MayorofLondon as he leads the city forward after this heinous attack.”

    (From the Gruniad’s live blog at the 20:13 mark.)

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

    So while the White House is totally into “it’s not a travel ban no sirree bob!” mode, the leaker-in-chief* is back twitting again:

    People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN! Trump wrote early Monday morning in a multi-post flurry. “
    The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C.

    *Or perhaps leakee-in-chief.

  153. says

    What a Maroon @214, what a perfect example of self-sabotage.

    blf @212 and 213, I heard Sarah Huckabee Sanders trying really hard to explain this away during this morning’s press briefing. To summarize, she said that Trump either did not say what he said, or that he did not mean what he said, or that the media is twisting what he said (and the media is focusing on the wrong things). My take is that Trump either lied again (blatantly), or he repeated some stupid report he heard on Fox, or he really does not understand much of the information he is given.

    blf @211, I would not be surprised to hear that those far-right dolts get themselves in trouble and have to be rescued in the Mediterranean.

    In other news, Nikki Haley strayed from Trump’s script again:

    “President Trump believes the climate is changing and he believes pollutants are part of the equation.” […]

    Haley wouldn’t address Trump’s infamous claim that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive,” saying only that, “[He] knows that it’s changing and that the U.S. has to be responsible for it and that’s what we’re going to do.”

    Haley’s comments come after days of other Trump team members refusing to answer when asked about Trump’s beliefs and/or plans regarding climate change. I think his withdrawal from the Paris climate accord speaks for itself.

  154. says

    Steve Benen dissects a particularly dull-witted statement from Trump:

    Dems are taking forever to approve my people, including Ambassadors. They are nothing but OBSTRUCTIONISTS! Want approvals.

    Benen’s analysis:

    We may need to consider the possibility that Trump doesn’t know what “obstructionist” means. […]

    1. Democrats are in the minority, and don’t control the Senate calendar.

    2. Filibusters on executive-branch nominees have been eliminated. Senate Dems can slow the process down a bit when they want to, delaying votes by a couple of weeks in some instances, but they don’t have the power to block any of Trump’s nominees on their own. It’s simply not possible as a procedural matter.

    3. In order for nominees to be confirmed, they have to be sent. Of the 559 key positions in the administration requiring Senate confirmation, Trump has not yet nominated anyone for 442 of the posts. This is especially true when it comes to ambassadors: for the vast majority of these diplomatic positions, the White House hasn’t yet nominated anyone. […]

    […] there is no current U.S. ambassador to Great Britain, which affects our response to the two recent British terrorist attacks. Trump chose Woody Johnson for the post months ago, but the administration never formally nominated Johnson, so the Senate hasn’t been able to even consider acting.

    Trump apparently wants to blame Democrats for this. Even by his standards, that’s completely bonkers.

  155. says

    From today’s press briefing:

    The President’s power to exert executive privilege is very well established. However, in order to facilitate a swift and thorough examination of the facts sought by the Senate Intelligence Committee, President Trump will not assert executive privilege regarding James Comey’s scheduled testimony.

  156. says

    The free world… all of Christendom… is at war with Islamic horror. Not one penny of American treasure should be granted to any nation who harbors these heathen animals. Not a single radicalized Islamic suspect should be granted any measure of quarter. Their intended entry to the American homeland should be summarily denied. Every conceivable measure should be engaged to hunt them down. Hunt them, identity them, and kill them. Kill them all. For the sake of all that is good and righteous. Kill them all.

    That’s Congress critter Representative Clay Higgins, from Louisiana, ranting on his Facebook page.

    From Talking Points Memo:

    […] Mother Jones reported that Higgins’ campaign spokesperson, Chris Comeaux, wrote in an email to the publication: “Rep. Higgins is referring to terrorists. He’s advocating for hunting down and killing all of the terrorists. This is an idea all of America & Britain should be united behind.”

    Higgins has long cultivated an image of himself as a tough-talking police officer and military veteran. Before being elected to Congress in 2016, he was know for his direct-to-camera warnings to would-be and accused criminals, as the spokesperson for the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office in Opelousas, Louisiana.

    “all of Christendom… is at war with Islamic horror” does not sound to me like a statement restricted to “terrorists.” Higgins did specify “radicalized Islamic suspect[s],” but the repetition of “kill them all,” along with the general category “Islamic horror,” sounds like a recipe for vigilante justice. It sounds racist. It sounds like racism based on religion.

    Also, note the dehumanization in the phrase “heathen animals” … weird dehumanizing that includes the concept that some animals are not heathens? Are some animals Christians? Or, and this is probably closer to what Higgins was thinking, all non-Christians (i.e. “heathens”) are animals, not humans.

  157. says

    From Josh Marshall:

    […] for all the horror of President Trump’s decision to abandon the Paris climate accord, the decision had all but nothing to do with climate policy or anything related to it. The mix of the deepening Russia scandal crisis and European leaders harsh rejection of him at Brussels have pushed the President into a rage and humiliation cycle that is playing out before our eyes.

    […] Trump is clearly a floundering moron. […]

    Many factors went into Trump’s victory. A big part is what is probably best described as a perfect storm of contingent events: a weakened Democratic candidate, bizarre interventions by the FBI, active assistance by a foreign state, the singularly important role of political polarization which allowed Trump to consolidate softly-anti-Trump GOP support once he’d captured the nomination.

    But a and perhaps the critical factor is that while Trump is not remotely strategic, he is intuitive. And he had a particular breed of wildness that was remarkably powerful in particular political moment – let’s call it the politics of vengeance and destruction.

    He is like a thrashing firehose of id but ripping this way and that not by the force of water pressure but by impulse, hurt and rage. […] he is doing immense damage literally to the whole world […] He is, as always, out of control – his own control most of all. […]

  158. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Don’t know is happening, but wasn’t able, like lately, to watch MSNBC videos with Firefox to confirm a good link.

  159. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Speaking of MSNBC, I hope Rachel Maddow is back tonight.


  160. microraptor says

    SC @225:

    How exactly was Trump’s National Security Team blindsided like that? Did they somehow develop collective amnesia and forget who they were working for? Did they manage to blank out everything Trump has done since being sworn into office?

  161. says

    SC @225:

    How exactly was Trump’s National Security Team blindsided like that? Did they somehow develop collective amnesia and forget who they were working for? Did they manage to blank out everything Trump has done since being sworn into office?

    I think it’s so unprecedented that people whose experience of government hasn’t prepared them for this still can’t quite fathom it, and they continue to assume at some level that he won’t be as extreme/grotesque/sick/awful as he is. (People did the same thing with Hitler.) If they looked rationally at Trump’s history, though, they would have to conclude that the only reasonable expectation is that, if not blocked, he’ll act with maximal dishonesty, menace, vileness, violence, callousness, cruelty, bigotry, indecency, disloyalty, betrayal, destructiveness, greed, corruption, incompetence, ignorance, stupidity, duplicity,…

    I’d say that people like Mattis, McMaster, and Powell (I have no positive expectations for Tillerson or Kelly – quite the contrary) need to urgently recognize this and act accordi- …Well, I am saying this, I suppose, and the correct action given this recognition is to resign. (Do they have something on McMaster? What the hell is he doing there?)

  162. says

    “Trump Hotel Received $270,000 From Lobbying Campaign Tied to Saudis: Gulf kingdom opposes law that lets Americans sue foreign countries over terrorist attacks”:

    President Donald Trump’s Washington hotel received roughly $270,000 in payments linked to Saudi Arabia as part of a lobbying campaign by the Gulf kingdom against a controversial piece of terrorism legislation last year.

    The payments—for catering, lodging and parking—were disclosed by the public relations firm MSLGroup last week in paperwork filed with the Justice Department documenting foreign lobbying work on behalf of Saudi Arabia and other clients.

    As part of a lobbying effort against the bipartisan Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA, Saudi Arabia’s Washington lobbyists and consultants spent approximately $190,000 on lodging, $78,000 on catering, and $1,600 on parking at the Trump International Hotel. The Daily Caller website first reported on the payments.

    Mr. Trump last month made Saudi Arabia the first stop of his first international trip as president, and described the country as a key ally in the war on terror and an important partner in bringing peace and stability to the Middle East.

    Saudi Arabia has been lobbying against JASTA, a law that was passed by Congress over former President Barack Obama’s veto. It allowed Americans to sue foreign governments over terrorists attacks.

    The payments to the Trump Hotel were made by one of MSLGroup’s* subcontractors and reimbursed by the Saudi government, according to Michael Petruzzello, an MSLGroup executive. They were part of a lobbying campaign bringing American military veterans to Capitol Hill to advocate against JASTA, he said.

    All the hotel spending took place between Nov. 2016 and Feb. 2017, according to Mr. Petruzzello. Most of the payments to the hotel were made before Mr. Trump was officially sworn in as president, but some were in late January and early February—after Mr. Trump became president….

    * I saw a quote from the article and I could swear it originally said “Qorvis MSLGroup’s…” Hm…

  163. says

    Further to #s 230 and 233: On one of the MSNBC shows tonight, David Frum contrasted Sessions with Trump, claiming that Sessions is a “normal” politician.

    He’s a normal Confederate politician.

  164. KG says

    Trump has used the occasion of the terroist attack in London to renew his feud with the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. The dishonesty of the out-of-context quote from Khan was egregious even by Trump’s world-beating standards. The wrath at Khan arises from the latter’s trenchant criticism of candidate Trump’s Islamophobia and buffoonery.

    Trump has also used the occasion to sneer at those advocating gun control, because the London terrorists used a vehicle and knives. Had they possessed guns, of course, it is likely they would have killed many more than seven.

  165. says

    Trump has used the occasion of the terroist attack in London to renew his feud with the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. The dishonesty of the out-of-context quote from Khan was egregious even by Trump’s world-beating standards.

    I’m still sick about this. He’s a sad, evil old man.

  166. says

    Today is D-Day.

    Tomorrow, Rosenstein, McCabe, Rogers, and Coats are scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee (about FISA, but other questions will likely be asked).

    Thursday at 10 AM Comey will testify. Thursday is also the British election.

  167. says

    From the link provided by SC in comment 222:

    […] The report indicates that Russian hacking may have penetrated further into U.S. voting systems than was previously understood. It states unequivocally in its summary statement that it was Russian military intelligence, specifically the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, that conducted the cyber attacks described in the document:

    Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate actors … executed cyber espionage operations against a named U.S. company in August 2016, evidently to obtain information on elections-related software and hardware solutions. … The actors likely used data obtained from that operation to … launch a voter registration-themed spear-phishing campaign targeting U.S. local government organizations.

    This NSA summary judgment is sharply at odds with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denial last week that Russia had interfered in foreign elections: “We never engaged in that on a state level, and have no intention of doing so.” Putin, who had previously issued blanket denials that any such Russian meddling occurred, for the first time floated the possibility that freelance Russian hackers with “patriotic leanings” may have been responsible. The NSA report, on the contrary, displays no doubt that the cyber assault was carried out by the GRU. […]>/blockquote>

  168. says

    microraptor @228, Trump’s national security team wrote the acknowledgement of, and recommitment to, Article 5 of NATO into Trump’s speech, which he was supposed to read off a teleprompter. They thought Trump would read the speech as they had written it. Trump didn’t do that.

    My guess is that they thought that since the speech, as written, had been approved, Trump would not delete the Article 5 section.

    I think Trump changed other parts of that speech as well.

    It’s a bad sign. Even “Mad Dog” Mattis has no way to influence Trump’s bad decisions.

  169. says

    Follow-up to comments 240 and 242 from SC.

    From Steve Benen:

    […] This is a delicate and complex situation, but the core details, at least as they relate to us, are relatively straightforward: the United States has 10,000 troops stationed in Qatar, right now, and the president of the United States seems to have publicly endorsed Saudi Arabia and its allies isolating Qatar in rather dramatic ways.

    This is, in other words, a diplomatic crisis, which Trump is making worse by failing to be diplomatic. The result not only puts a partnership at risk in the Middle East, but it creates unpredictable threats for American military personnel who are already in Qatar, wondering what’s about to happen as their Commander in Chief abandons the U.S. alliance with their host country.

    What’s more, Trump started tweeting on the subject early this morning, in ways that suggest he was just sharing the first thoughts that came to his mind. In other words, the president’s messages weren’t coordinated with U.S. diplomatic and/or intelligence officials, and it’s very likely the tweets weren’t reviewed in advance by officials who understand the Middle Eastern crisis.

    Trump just thought it’d be fun to freelance, without any meaningful appreciation for the consequences.

    And why did he do this? Because the president is apparently desperate to congratulate himself. Note that Trump didn’t just take sides in a burgeoning conflict between two U.S. allies; he also did so in a way that’s supposed to reflect well on him personally: Qatar is being isolated, he said, because of his trip. The president’s efforts, he tweeted, are “paying off.”

    Sometimes, Trump’s ignorance and recklessness sparks laughter. Other times, the fact that he doesn’t seem to have any idea what he’s doing is quite terrifying.

  170. says

    From Steve Benen:

    […] The president’s sons tried to dismiss the seriousness of the Russia scandal, for example, and as Politico noted, Don Jr. decided to go after the mayor of London, too.

    London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s time would be better spent addressing the terrorism in his own city instead of attacking U.S. President Donald Trump, the president’s son said in an interview that aired Tuesday morning. “Rather than the mayor of London attacking maybe he should do something about it,” Donald Trump Jr. said in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “Maybe he should do something to fix the problem rather than just sit there and pretend there isn’t one. I think that’s an important message.”

    […] The U.K. is one of our closest allies. London just suffered a deadly attack. The fact that the American president and his surrogates are going after the city’s mayor — who, by all appearances, has done nothing at all wrong, and hasn’t “pretended” that terrorism isn’t a problem — is plainly ridiculous.

    But even putting aside the awful arguments Trump’s sons were making during the interview, it’s important to ask why they’re playing the role of presidential surrogates in the first place. […] the Trumps blurring the ethical lines further out of existence.

  171. says

    Are Trump’s tweets official presidential statements or not? Kellyanne Conway said in an earlier interview that we should all pay less attention to the tweets. However, during the press briefing today, Sean Spicer characterized the tweets as “official statements by the President.”

    […] “The President is the President of the United States,” Spicer said at his daily press briefing. “So they’re considered official statements by the President of the United States.”

    In recent days, White House officials have downplayed the importance of Trump’s tweets, which the President often uses to air more unfiltered opinions than those given out by his administration’s press shop. On Monday, Trump lashed out at his own Justice Department for offering a “watered down, politically correct” version of his executive order barring travel to the United States from a handful of majority-Muslim countries.

    Top aide Kellyanne Conway claimed the same day that the media has an “obsession with covering everything he says on Twitter, and very little of what he does as President.” She denied that tweeting is Trump’s favored method of communication.

    “That’s not true,” Conway said, though Trump has not given any interviews since early May. […]


  172. says

    Schiff and Conaway (heads of the House Intel Cmte.) are reportedly going to be doing some kind of press briefing about the Russia investigation at 6:15. (Which is strange, because Schiff was just on CNN about a half hour ago and didn’t mention it.)

  173. says

    From Ned Resnikoff, writing for Think Progress:

    President Donald Trump had a “bill signing” on Monday. After delivering some televised remarks, he sat at a small desk emblazoned with the presidential seal, signed a document, and handed out pens to assembled members of Congress. But the actual document he signed was not a bill, never passed through Congress, and had no legal effect whatsoever.

    Instead, what Trump signed was a set of “principles” for his plan to hand air traffic control duties to the private sector. The document was purely symbolic; no one has even introduced new legislation to enact these principles, though the basic gist of them was derived from an older proposal.

    […] the very same day as Trump’s pantomime bill signing, Brookings Senior fellow Bruce Riedel announced that the administration’s much-ballyhooed $110 billion weapons deal with Saudi Arabia is, in fact, “fake news.”

    “There is no $110 billion deal. Instead, there are a bunch of letters of interest or intent, but not contracts,” wrote Reidel, citing “contacts in the defense business and on the Hill.”

    […] “None of the deals identified so far are new, all began in the Obama administration.”

    When Trump doesn’t yet have a fake policy to fake-announce, he sometimes pledges that one will be announced soon, and chalks that up as an achievement in of itself. […] Other times, he boasts about wholly imaginary legislation, as when he said last week that his “tax bill is moving along in Congress” and “doing very well.”

    There is no tax bill.

    President Trump is not embellishing his agenda with fictitious achievements. The pretend bill signings and symbolic declarations are his agenda. […]

    The problem with such victories [is] their essential hollowness […]

    Some of these non-policies can invigorate Trump’s base, or provide the temporary illusion of momentum. But few have translated into anything approaching a real legacy. And none of them have arrested the inexorable downward slide of the president’s approval rating — quite the opposite, in fact. Based on the Gallup daily tracking numbers, it looks like taking away millions of people’s health coverage and ripping up multinational agreements to mitigate climate change are unpopular even in the abstract.

    The secret of any good con is knowing when to take the money and beat a hasty departure. But Trump’s con landed him a four-year term in America’s highest office; his efforts to extend that grift for the duration have not, so far, been particularly successful.

    Fake “bill signing”? WTF?

  174. says

    Follow-up to comment 245.

    Here are the words Trump cut from his NATO speech on May 25: “We face many threats, but I stand here before you with a clear message: the U.S. commitment to the NATO alliance and to Article 5 is unwavering.”

  175. says

    CNN is reporting: “Sources: Russians planted false story behind new Mideast crisis.” The Qatari government has issued a formal statement. What is happening?

  176. says

    AP – “Pro-Trump group labels Comey political ‘showboat’ in new ad”:

    A nonprofit issues group is labeling James Comey a political “showboat” in a television ad set to air Thursday, the day the former FBI director testifies on Capitol Hill.

    Comey “put politics over protecting America,” a narrator says in the 30-second spot, titled “Showboat,” which was shared with The Associated Press. It accuses him of being “consumed with election meddling” even as “terror attacks were on the rise.”

    Great America Alliance has paid for the ad, which is slated to run digitally Wednesday and appear the next day on CNN and Fox News. The group, formed after President Donald Trump’s election to advocate for his administration, is not required to disclose its donors.

    The message of the ad reflects a strategy by Trump and his advocates to erode Comey’s credibility….

  177. says

    “Trump Aides’ Idea: Help Russia, Ask for Nothing Back”:

    The White House explored unilaterally easing sanctions on Russia’s oil industry as recently as late March, arguing that decreased Russian oil production could harm the American economy, according to former U.S. officials.

    State Department officials argued successfully that easing those sanctions would actually hurt the U.S. energy sector, according to those former officials and email exchanges reviewed by The Daily Beast.

    In one email exchange, a State Department official feels the need to explain that lowering punitive sanctions on the Russian oil industry would be rewarding Moscow—without getting anything from the Kremlin in return….

  178. says


    Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently offered to resign as his relationship with President Donald Trump has grown increasingly tense, ABC News reported late Tuesday.

    ABC News reported, citing two unnamed sources, that Trump “repeatedly lashed out” at Sessions over the attorney general’s decision in March to recuse himself from the investigation into possible collusion between members of Trump’s campaign and Russia to interfere in the 2016 election….

  179. says

    NYT – “Comey Told Sessions: Don’t Leave Me Alone With Trump”:

    The day after President Trump asked James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, to end an investigation into his former national security adviser, Mr. Comey confronted Attorney General Jeff Sessions and said he did not want to be left alone again with the president, according to current and former law enforcement officials.

    Mr. Comey believed Mr. Sessions should protect the F.B.I. from White House influence, the officials said, and pulled him aside after a meeting in February to tell him that private interactions between the F.B.I. director and the president were inappropriate. But Mr. Sessions could not guarantee that the president would not try to talk to Mr. Comey alone again, the officials said.

    Mr. Comey’s unwillingness to be alone with the president reflected how deeply Mr. Comey distrusted Mr. Trump, who Mr. Comey believed was trying to undermine the F.B.I.’s independence as it conducted a highly sensitive investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia, the officials said. By comparison, Mr. Comey met alone at least twice with President Obama….

  180. says

    WaPo – “Top intelligence official told associates Trump asked him if he could intervene with Comey on FBI Russia probe”:

    The nation’s top intelligence official told associates in March that President Trump asked him if he could intervene with then-FBI Director James B. Comey to get the bureau to back off its focus on former national security adviser Michael Flynn in its Russia probe, according to officials.

    On March 22, less than a week after being confirmed by the Senate, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats attended a briefing at the White House together with officials from several government agencies. As the briefing was wrapping up, Trump asked everyone to leave the room except for Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

    The president then started complaining about the FBI investigation and Comey’s handling of it, said officials familiar with the account Coats gave to associates. Two days earlier, Comey had confirmed in a congressional hearing that the bureau was probing whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 race.

    After the encounter, Coats discussed the conversation with other officials and decided that intervening with Comey as Trump had suggested would be inappropriate, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal matters….

  181. says

    @258 – Watching the news in real time sometimes makes my head swim. Maddow just read a statement from Coates on air that flatly denies that happened.

    I’d dig up for a link for you but I’m thinking over a post on the Reality Winner situation from an ITsec pro’s perspective and don’t want to get distracted.

  182. says

    So… On Reality Winner, I have some thoughts and no where to put them where anybody would possibly care except for here… so here you go…

    I think this is going to be an incredibly interesting criminal case to watch over the next few years and here’s why:

    IF, she is the source of the leak, from an ITsec pro’s point of view, I don’t think there’s any way they can prove it, unless she confesses. Reports are that she immediately fessed up when confronted by FBI agents, but if that’s true, and she didn’t have a lawyer present, that confession won’t hold up.

    Based on the timeline, it was only what 5 days between the report coming out and her being arrested? That tells me that they didn’t rule out a lot of possibilities before deciding it was her.

    Lemme splain; One of an ITsec pro’s biggest headaches is that people are notoriously bad when it comes to their own personal IT security, careless with credentials, leaving PC’s unlocked, having easy to guess passwords, you name it.

    Now, why a 25 year old person with limited experience or background was allowed to have access to the information in question is one discussion, but whether or not that was advisable, it tells you something, that a lot of people had access to that information. The reports are that only 6 people printed the document.

    Ask me how it easy it would be for me to print something and make it look like someone else did it… go ahead, a I dare ya.

    very very, unbelievably easy to do.

    I could wait until they leave their workstation unlocked, and in about 10 seconds, find and print the document, swing by the printer and snag it and they would never know.

    I could guess their password and login as them and print it. If they have 2fa, which they better if they have access to that kind of information but somehow I’m not convinced they do, because again, I know how bad ITsec for all sorts of organizations is, and know that stupid people are always going to be the weakest link, I could still do it if they left their keys at their desk with their 2fa FOB on it, or if it’s a mobile token, I could have hacked their personal email account and created a clone of their phone a long time ago, because that isn’t hard to do.

    I know how deeply a person’s identity can be compromised, to the point that everything they do online can be keystroked and copied, so that nothing they do, even at work, is guaranteed to be them and not someone else who is in possession of their accounts and logins.

    I’m just saying, there’s a lot more to that story that isn’t being talked about because it would scare the shit out of people if they knew how insecure our systems really are.

    Human points of entry are the best points of entry, and this girl could be a victim of a larger operation.

  183. militantagnostic says

    SC @242

    CNN is reporting: “Sources: Russians planted false story behind new Mideast crisis.” The Qatari government has issued a formal statement. What is happening?

    What ever it is, it is going to make things interesting for the American military personnel at the Al Udeid Air Base.

  184. says

    What Trump tweeted:

    The FAKE MSM is working so hard trying to get me not to use Social Media. They hate that I can get the honest and unfiltered message out.

    What Hunter at Daily Kos thinks about this:

    1. There is no news outlet in the world that genuinely wants you, Donald J. Trump, to stop using Twitter. […] In past years CNN would have to shoot down a commercial airliner to get the same sort of consistent news fodder that you, Donald J. Trump, provide them on a daily basis. There are indeed people in the country who want you to stop using Twitter; many of them work in the same building you do.

    2. So which idiot in Donald Trump’s immediate line of vision is telling him that the “media” does not want him to tweet? How did this come up? […]

    3. What (and this is just idle curiosity at this point) is the “FAKE MSM”?

    Is the implication that the “mainstream media,” using a term already intended as derogatory, is itself also fake? Not that the news they report is fake, but that, say, the Washington Post does not actually exist? […] Are we progressing from the assertion that specific stories Donald doesn’t like are “fake” to a new notion that the entire concept of “the press” is itself a fiction, a conspiracy against him by unseen forces? Or is this just an accidental word jumble, a byproduct of the man squatting in the most powerful office in the world being only a half-step above illiteracy or dementia?

    […] 5. Why is “Social Media” capitalized, like a brand name? Does Donald believe the—you know what, never mind. […]

  185. says

    Maddow covered this development this evening, and so did Darren Samuelsohn at Politico: Special Counsel Mueller added an expert, Andrew Weissmann, in the Mafia and fraud to his investigative team.

    Special counsel Robert Mueller is assembling a prosecution team with decades of experience going after everything from Watergate to the Mafia to Enron […]

    His first appointments — tapping longtime law-firm partner James Quarles and Andrew Weissmann, the head of the Justice Department’s criminal fraud unit — were the opening moves […]

    Mueller is expected to take an expansive view of his role. He inherited a spate of existing federal probes covering figures including the president’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser, Jared Kushner, and former campaign hands Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn and Carter Page. […]

    He already has picked three former colleagues from his last job as a partner at the Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr law firm: Aaron Zebley, who also was Mueller’s FBI chief of staff; Jeannie Rhee, a former DOJ attorney; and Quarles, who got his start in Washington some four decades ago as an assistant Watergate prosecutor.

    But Mueller’s biggest hire to date was Weissmann, who is taking a leave from his current post leading the Justice Department’s criminal fraud section. […]

    Weissmann’s prosecution record includes overseeing the investigations into more than 30 people while running the Enron Task Force, including CEOs Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling. And while working in the U.S. attorney’s office in the eastern district of New York, he tried more than 25 cases involving members of the Genovese, Colombo and Gambino crime families.

    Former Obama DOJ spokeswoman Emily Pierce called Weissmann “an inspired choice” to help Mueller lead the Russia probe.

    “As a fraud and foreign bribery expert, he knows how to follow the money. Who knows what they will find, but if there is something to be found, he will find it,” she said. […]

  186. says

    Now, why a 25 year old person with limited experience or background was allowed to have access to the information in question is one discussion,

    People keep saying this, but despite her youth she has plenty of experience. She’s a veteran – was an Air Force linguist (she “speaks Pashto, Farsi and Dari”):

    Winner served in the Air Force from December 2010 to 2016. Her rank was Senior Airman and her last duty title was cryptologic language analyst, according to the Air Force. She provided support to missions and received the Air Force Commendation Medal in 2016, which is for members who have “distinguished themselves by meritorious achievement and service.” She “provided over 1,900 hours of enemy intelligence exploitation and assisted in geolocating 120 enemy combatants,” the award stated.

  187. blf says

    militantagnostic@263, According to the Grauniad (US officials scramble to limit Donald Trump’s diplomatic damage over Qatar tweets), the suspected / alleged “fake news” story is that the Qatar emir said things the Saudis (and hair furor) didn’t like. Qatar claims the Qatar websites with the story were “hacked”.

    However, as per @474(previous page), quoting Al Jazeera, “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.” Or in other words, Qatar’s hacking claims could be bogus, and the emir really did (again quoting Al Jazeera) “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.”

    (“Preview” clearly isn’t working, so this is being posted blind.)

  188. says

    “Iran attacks leave 12 dead at parliament and Khomeini mausoleum”:

    The assault on the parliament building appears to be over, after hours of intermittent, audible gunfire there. A suicide bomber died at the mausoleum.

    Iranian officials say they managed to foil a third attack.

    The so-called Islamic State group (IS) has claimed it carried out the attacks, which would be a first in Iran.

    IS later posted a video which showed what it claimed was footage from inside the parliament building.

    Iranian media reported that four attackers inside the parliament building had been killed by security forces.

    It is not clear whether the death toll of 12 includes the attackers, or whether the victims were killed at both incidents or solely at the parliament.

    About 40 people were injured in the two attacks, according to emergency services chief Pir Hossein Kolivand….

    The battle to drive ISIS out of Mosul advances, and the SDF have initiated the attack on Raqqa.

  189. blf says

    me@268: militantagnostic@263 ↔ SC@252…

    (No “Preview” working, so blind post.)

  190. quotetheunquote says

    @SC 269 – My first thought was, I used to work with some Iranian students and Iranian-Canadians, they must be devastated.

    But I must admit my second thought was, what is Hair Furor going to think of this – “Who’s our enemy now? IS or Iran? Or Syria? Or Qatar? Or…?”

    Then, I picture full-on head exploding, a al “Scanners.”

  191. says

    From Preet Bharara:

    Note to top federal employees: when @realDonaldTrump asks everyone else to leave the room, leave with them. Seriously. Just leave.

  192. says

    Warner is asking Rogers about his interactions with Trump re the Russia investigation. Rogers is just refusing to answer.

    Now he’s asking Coats about Trump asking him to downplay or intervene in the investigation. Coats is also refusing to answer – doesn’t “believe it’s appropriate” to talk about in a public session.

  193. says

    SC @272, Christopher Wray is a partner in a law firm the represents Rosneft, the Russian national oil company.

    Bobby Burchfield is also a partner in that firm. Burchfield is the “ethics advisor” who is supposedly in charge of making sure that Trump Organization deals do not present conflict-of-interest problems.

    There are 900 lawyers in the firm of King and Spalding, so I don’t know how much weight to give Wray and Burchfield’s own conflicts of interest, but both men work in the Washington, D.C. office.

  194. says

    Warner is speaking out for the public’s need to know – the “American public deserves to get the answers to these questions.” Now Coats is responding that he doesn’t feel this is the appropriate venue. He’s going with the “never been pressured, never felt pressured” answer. I’ve had it with the Coats/Rogers/Pompeo trio.

  195. says

    Lynna @ #280 – Interesting re Rosneft. Wray also represented Chris Christie in Bridgegate. (Given Trump’s history, I’m suspicious of anyone he would nominate.)

    From what I’m seeing online, it appears Trump tweeted about it before informing Grassley and others. I think there still hasn’t been any official statement about it.

  196. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    There is world environmental forum in China. The Chinese President met with Governor Jerry Brown in the Great Hall. Rick Perry, who was also there, wasn’t invited to meet with the Chinese President.

    California Gov. Jerry Brown accused Congress of “going back to some medieval period” as he brought his offensive against climate change to China on Wednesday.
    The Democrat’s visit came just days after President Donald Trump announced America’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. China warned Trump on Friday that the move was a major error.
    Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Brown at the Great Hall of the People, a privilege typically reserved for world leaders.
    Energy Secretary Rick Perry was also in the capital to attend the Clean Energy Ministerial, a global forum of environment and energy ministers focused on renewable energies. However, officials confirmed Perry did not meet with China’s president.
    Speaking to NBC News on Wednesday, Brown described Congress “as a crowd that doesn’t believe in science, doesn’t believe in birth control.”
    He added: “That is really going back to some medieval period. It’s really hard to believe.”
    Brown also accused Washington of “willful blindness” when it comes to global warming.

    The meeting was heavy on symbolism. The resistance continues.

  197. says

    Trump seems to have given North Korea an opportunity to seize the moral high ground (sort of):

    North Korea on Tuesday criticized President Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate change agreement.

    Pyongyang said in a statement that the decision represented “the height of egoism and moral vacuum seeking only their own well-being, even at the cost of the entire planet,” CNN reported.

    “The selfish act of the U.S. does not only have grave consequences for the international efforts to protect the environment but poses great danger to other areas as well,” a spokesman for the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, according to state news agency KCNA. […]


  198. says

    None of the four will even answer Wyden’s question about whether they took any notes or wrote any memos about their own or others’ interactions with Trump re the investigation. Not the content of any notes or memos – just whether or not they wrote any. Won’t answer.

  199. says

    Some district attorney’s have responded to Jeff Sessions’ decision to disband the National Commission on Forensic Science. Sessions seems to be generally anti-science, and this decision is also anti-justice.

    There’s a stack of file folders on District Attorney John Hummel’s desk that won’t stop staring at him. The folders contain the cases of defendants whose convictions were called into question when a state crime lab technician in Bend, Oregon, part of Hummel’s district, was caught tampering with evidence in 2015. The breach may have impacted more than 1,100 cases. Hummel’s office has been steadily reviewing them ever since—of the 500 cases that have been reviewed so far, 30 convictions have been vacated and those cases dismissed.

    For Hummel, this laborious work has made Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ April announcement that he would no longer support the National Commission on Forensic Science, or NCFS, feel personal. An independent commission established by Barack Obama in 2013, the NCFS was meant to bring together scientists, judges, crime lab experts, prosecutors, and defense attorneys to analyze and improve the field of forensic science, which encompasses the many ways science is deployed in criminal justice. The group was established partially in response to a scathing report from the National Academy of Sciences that highlighted the lack of standards for crime labs nationwide and was attempting to review and improve this and other forensic science shortcomings.

    “The [NCFS] was developing guidelines on how to retain evidence and on security procedures in crime labs,” Hummel says. “Those would’ve been nice to have.”

    Those anticipated guidelines couldn’t prevent the actions of one rogue crime lab analyst, but they could have provided a roadmap for how to mitigate the damage inflicted. […] Standards being developed by the NCFS would have attempted to prevent future crime lab scandals by helping state and local law enforcement adopt uniform rules to increase accuracy and reliability in their forensic analyses.

    […] Similar breaches have popped up in crime labs in Massachusetts, Florida, and, earlier this year, Texas […] But Session’s NCFS shutdown all but ensures that these labs across the country will continue operate using ad hoc procedures, questionable accreditation, and outdated methods. […]

    “Right now, the status quo is that we have scientifically illiterate prosecutors proffering scientific evidence to scientifically illiterate judges,” says Chris Fabricant, director of strategic litigation at the Innocence Project. “It’s a disaster.”

    […] One review of 300 exonerations, conducted by the Innocence Project, found that the improper use of forensic science contributed to roughly 46 percent of wrongful convictions. […]

    When announcing his decision not to renew the commission, Sessions said he would appoint a senior forensic adviser and opened a public comment period for feedback. He did not explain how he would replace all of the improvements and recommendations the NCFS was meant to deliver, and he has yet to actually name the new adviser. In the absence of a consistent federal investment in bettering a field that is riddled with bad science, local prosecutors like Hummel—and the defendants they lock up—are on their own.

    Slate link

  200. says

    Follow-up to SC @286.

    Admiral Mike Rogers:

    I am not going to discuss the specifics of any interaction or conversations I may or — if I could finish please — that I may not have had with the President of the United States. In the three plus years that I have been the director of the National Security Agency, to the best of my recollection, I have never been directed to do anything I believe to be illegal, immoral, unethical or inappropriate. And to the best of my recollection, during that same period of service, I do not recall feeling ever pressured to do so.

    That still does not answer the question, which was whether or not Trump asked him to intervene with the FBI in order to get the FBI to back off the investigation of Flynn. Why won’t Rogers answer?

    Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats:

    I do not feel it is appropriate for me in a public session to breach confidential conversations between the president and myself in a public session. In my time of service, which is interacting with the President of the United States or anybody in his administration, I have never been pressured, I’ve never felt pressure to intervene or interfere in any way with shaping intelligence in a political way or in relationship to an ongoing investigation.

    By limiting his comments to “shaping intelligence,” Coats didn’t really debunk the report in the Washington Post that said Trump asked Coats for help in intervening with Comey. It sounds like Coats and Rogers decided to bury the facts.

  201. says

    Heinrich is doing a good job cutting through their excuses for not answering the questions. Now he has them referring to the ongoing investigation as a fallback after their other excuses didn’t hold up. Now he’s doing the same with Rosenstein, who’s trying to tapdance out of a real answer. Rosenstein won’t even comment on his understanding of the scope of Sessions’ recusal – it’s “in the public record and I believe it speaks for itself.”

  202. says

    Wow, Angus King is taking it to them, demanding a solid legal justification for their refusal to answer Heinrich’s questions. “What you feel isn’t relevant.” “What is the legal basis for your refusal to testify to this committee?” They have none. He’s not satisfied with their canned response. Now Coats won’t commit to answering the questions in a closed session. They’re saying they need to talk to WH counsel about executive privilege.

    Now Warner is getting them to acknowledge that Mueller hasn’t waved them off. The questions “deserve answers, and at some point the American public deserves full answers.” He’s had it.

  203. says

    SC @292, Schiff is so good at getting straight to the point! Kudos to him.

    I think that the Democrats doing the questioning are going be criticized for badgering the witnesses, but it is the refusals to answer questions that necessitate the badgering.

  204. militantagnostic says

    quotetheunquote @273

    Who’s our enemy now? IS or Iran? Or Syria? Or Qatar? Or…?”

    I suspect Hair Furor’s answer to that will be “all of them” and he will attempt to ensure that they are.

  205. says

    Given what we’ve seen of Trump’s security practices, his claim that he always assumed he was being recorded while in Russia just as a private citizen is laughable. His denials make me even more suspicious that they have plenty on him.

  206. says

    From SC’s link in comment 298:

    […] the President said, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.”

    From TPM:

    […] Per the document, Comey’s sworn testimony will confirm published reports that the President privately asked him to swear “loyalty” to him and that Trump asked him to put an end to the FBI’s investigation into fired national security adviser Michael Flynn, calling him a “good guy.”

    Comey will also testify that he told the President on three separate occasions that he was not personally the target of the federal intelligence investigation—assurances Trump spoke about publicly. A key caveat, however, is that Comey told Trump he was reluctant to make that information public “because it would create a duty to correct, should that change,” per the statement.

    You can read Comey’s full statement at TPM.

  207. says

    More from Comey’s statement:

    […] A few moments later, the President said, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner. […]

    When the door by the grandfather clock closed, and we were alone, the President began by saying, “I want to talk about Mike Flynn.” Flynn had resigned the previous day. The President began by saying Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians, but he had to let him go because he had misled the Vice President. He added that he had other concerns about Flynn, which he did not then specify. […]

    The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, “He is a good guy and has been through a lot.” He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President. He then said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” I replied only that “he is a good guy.” (In fact, I had a positive experience dealing with Mike Flynn when he was a colleague as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the beginning of my term at FBI.) I did not say I would “let this go.” […]

    I spoke with Attorney General Sessions in person to pass along the President’s concerns about leaks. I took the opportunity to implore the Attorney General to prevent any future direct communication between the President and me. I told the AG that what had just happened – him being asked to leave while the FBI Director, who reports to the AG, remained behind – was inappropriate and should never happen. He did not reply. For the reasons discussed above, I did not mention that the President broached the FBI’s potential investigation of General Flynn. […]

    On the morning of March 30, the President called me at the FBI. He described the Russia investigation as “a cloud” that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country. He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia. He asked what we could do to “lift the cloud.” I responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could, and that there would be great benefit, if we didn’t find anything, to our having done the work well. He agreed, but then re-emphasized the problems this was causing him. […]

  208. says

    More on the Comey statement:

    The President began by asking me whether I wanted to stay on as FBI Director, which I found strange because he had already told me twice in earlier conversations that he hoped I would stay, and I had assured him that I intended to. He said that lots of people wanted my job and, given the abuse I had taken during the previous year, he would understand if I wanted to walk away.

    [The FBI chief said he interpreted the dinner and the thrust of the conversation as “an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship.”]

  209. says

    Trump’s approval rating continues to slump.

    […] Trump’s approval rating hit another low in Quinnipiac University’s poll, which found this week that 34 percent of voters approve of his job performance and 57 percent disapprove.

    Trump’s previous low in the Quinnipiac survey was a 35 percent positive and 57 percent negative rating, registered on April 4.

    The university’s most recent poll, released Wednesday and conducted from May 31 to June 6, also found that a large majority of respondents — 68 percent — believe that the president is “not level-headed” (29 percent say he is). Even among members of his own party, this holds true: 64 percent of Republicans say Trump is not level-headed, while 32 percent think he is.

    Majorities of respondents similarly told Quinnipiac that Trump is not honest; does not have good leadership skills; does not care about average Americans; and does not share their values. […]

    Politico link

  210. says

    Oh, my, this is an interesting interpretation of the refusal by several intel officials to answer questions at today’s hearing. The quoted text is from an article by Michelle Goldberg:

    […] To the senators’ mounting frustration, the intelligence officials repeatedly refused to answer their questions. Those refusals, however, tell us a lot. It appears they couldn’t defend Trump without committing perjury. Nor could they tell the truth without dramatically undermining Trump’s administration. So, in a series of increasingly contentious exchanges, they simply defied the lawmakers tasked with overseeing their agencies.

    Tuesday night, the Post reported that Coats told associates that Trump had asked him to intervene with then–FBI Director James Comey to get the bureau to back off its investigation of fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. (The Post had previously reported that Trump asked both Coats and Rogers to publicly deny that there was any evidence of collusion between the president’s campaign and Russia.) Grilled about these conversations with Trump, both men simply refused to answer, over and over again. […]

  211. says

    Benjamin Wittes (friend of Comey’s) – “Initial Comments on James Comey’s Written Testimony”:

    James Comey’s seven-page written statement, released by the Senate Intelligence Committee this afternoon in connection with Comey’s impending testimony tomorrow, draws no conclusions, makes no allegations, and indeed, expresses no opinions. It recounts, in spare and simple prose, a set of facts to which Comey is prepared to testify under oath tomorrow. Despite this sparseness, or maybe I should say because of it, it is the most shocking single document compiled about the official conduct of the public duties of any President since the release of the Watergate tapes.

    I will make three general observations based on this document alone.

    First, Comey is describing here conduct that a society committed to the rule of law simply cannot accept in a president…. It’s about whether we can trust the President—not the President in the abstract, but the particular embodiment of the presidency in the person of Donald J. Trump—to supervise the law enforcement apparatus of the United States in fashion consistent with his oath of office. I challenge anyone to read this document and come away with a confidently affirmative answer to that question.

    Second, we are about to see a full-court press against Comey. I don’t know what it will look like. But the attack instinct always kicks in when a presidency is under siege. And Trump has the attack instinct in spades even when he’s not under siege. It is important to remember what the stakes are here…. The stakes here are about whether what Comey is reporting in this document are true facts and, if so, what we need as a political society to do about the reality that we have a president who behaves this way and seeks to use the FBI in this fashion. It is critical, in other words, that people not change the subject or get distracted when others try to do so.

    Finally, it is also critical—though probably fruitless to say—that we eschew partisanship in the conversation. Tomorrow, this document will be the discussion text when Comey faces a committee that, warts and all, has handled the Russia matter to date in a respectable and honorably bipartisan fashion. It is not too much to ask that members put aside party and respond as patriots to the fact that the former FBI director will swear an oath that these facts are true—and was fired after these interactions allegedly took place by a man who then told Lester Holt that “when I decided to just do it [fire Comey], I said to myself … this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story,” and boasted to the Russians the day after dismissing Comey that “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

    The question they—and we—all face is simple: Do we care?

  212. says

    This nonsense has to stop. He knew exactly what he was doing. They tried to make a federal case over the fact of the Lynch-Clinton tarmac visit, the content of which was likely innocent and in any case was unknown to them. The idea that Trump, one of the most corrupt people on the planet (who during the campaign alone had to pay a fine for using his foundation, which has been shut down and is under investigation, to bribe a public official to drop an investigation into his fraudulent “university,” a case he had to settle for $25 million during the transition), doesn’t know when he’s acting corruptly* is just absurd.

    * (my new favorite adverb)

  213. tomh says

    @ 290
    Dan Coats has always been sleazy. He argued (successfully) on the floor of the Senate that parents had a Constitutional right to withhold medical care from their children.

    He also got the “Coats Amendment” passed, in response to the Accreditation for Graduate Medical Education adopting standards requiring obstetrics and gynecology residency programs provide abortion training. The Coats Amendment maintains the federal funding and legal status of medical institutions that do not offer abortion training or provide referrals for individuals seeking abortion training at another institution. It also prohibits discrimination against institutions and individuals who refuse to provide the training.

    He fits right in with this administration and will be an even better fit in the upcoming Pence theocracy.

  214. says

    Josh Marshall: “So who do we think counts as one of Trumps ‘satellite associates’?”

    Probably anyone, including Kushner if need be. In any event, this should send the message loud and clear to Trump’s associates that he would sell them out in a second if he was threatened.

  215. says

    Chris Hayes says “I think the institutional norms being transgressed here are *extremely* important but also probably quite abstract to lots (most?) voters.” I don’t think this is true – or if it is, it shouldn’t be. People in the US understand corruption, abuse of power, and obstruction. They can imagine if a town official sexually assaulted them, a corporation donating to local politicians was poisoning their water or endangering their children, the mayor was using her power to make policy to enrich herself,…and the people in power were privately pressuring the police or prosecutors to make the investigation go away. That’s not abstract.

  216. says

    “House Republicans Are Trying to Pass the Most Dangerous Wall Street Deregulation Bill Ever: The GOP is trying to undo the law Obama passed to prevent another 2008 financial crisis.”:

    …The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), takes aim at some of Dodd-Frank’s main achievements: It guts rules intended to protect mortgage borrowers and military veterans, and restrict predatory lenders. It also weakens the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s ability to oversee and enforce consumer protection laws against banks around the country—upending a mix of powers that have helped the CFPB recover nearly $12 billion for 29 million individuals since opening its doors in July 2011. The bill also weakens or outright cuts a number of bank regulations enacted through Dodd-Frank to keep risky investing behavior in check in order to avoid the economic devastation of another financial crisis or taxpayer-funded bailout….

  217. says

    @316 – They are down to 38% but their stance is that Trump was exonerated by the Comey statement because it verifies his claim that Comey told him 3 times he was not under investigation.

    Because they are stupid, they don’t see the subtext, which is that Comey was clear to point out that this only applied to foreign intelligence investigations and that they wouldn’t say that publicly because he’d have to do another emails song and dance to tell the American people that things had changed, and he wanted to avoid that.

    I explained that we had briefed the leadership of Congress on
    exactly which individuals we were investigating and that we had told those
    Congressional leaders that we were not personally investigating President Trump.
    I reminded him I had previously told him that. He repeatedly told me, “We need
    to get that fact out.” (I did not tell the President that the FBI and the Department
    of Justice had been reluctant to make public statements that we did not have an
    open case on President Trump for a number of reasons,

  218. says

    Wyden on Maddow just now… paraphrasing his answer when Rachel asked him if obstruction was legally provable… He said lawyers would undoubtedly pick at that question but his opinion is that if it “Walks like a Duck, and quacks like a duck, it just might ne… a duck.”

  219. says

    ughh, this was supposed to be last quoted sentence in my 318

    most importantly because it would create a duty to correct, should that change.),/blockquote>

  220. says

    Good piece by David Corn:

    …In any world not governed by the need to defend Trump at all costs, the Comey statement would be devastating in the eyes of all. Comey’s tale calls into question the president’s understanding and allegiance to the rule of law. It casts Trump as a liar and a scoundrel who engaged in action that might even be illegal. Republicans and Trump defenders cannot accept the true meanings of this text. To do so would be to acknowledge too much. They have to distort reality and embrace dishonesty to deny the statement’s significance and its newsworthiness, to dismiss it as nothing, or to cherry-pick the few lines that partially support Trump’s previous assertions. Consequently, they have to bare their worst to protect their president. Trump has forced them into an ugly act of self-abuse that cheapens them and abets a dangerous erosion of constitutional democracy.

  221. KG says

    Final opinion polls for the UK general election have a huge range of variation, from a 13% Tory lead to the first I’ve seen with a Labour lead (of 2.8%). These two are both run by organisations that have not run polls for this election before, but even among the others, there’s a range of Tory leads from 1% to 12%. So whatever the outcome, some pollsters are going to have substantial amounts of egg on their faces. FWIW, my hunch is that those showing a bigger lead are probably nearer the truth, and we’ll see a substantial Tory win. But I hope to be wrong. Remarkably, all the polls show both Tories and Labour with a larger vote-share than in 2015, mostly because the UKIP vote is forecast to fall sharply, while the LIberal Democrats do not seem to have recovered from their disastrous losses in 2015 (after they went into coalition with the Tories). The rise in the share of the two biggest parties suggests a reversal of a long-term trend – this share peaked at 97% in 1951, was lowest in 2010 at 65%, and rose slightly to 67% in 2015. All the latest polls show it at between 77% and 81%, so they are much closer on this than in the Tory/Labour split.

  222. says

    The Comey hearing is at 10 AM and will be on C-SPAN3 (presumably this one will also be shown in full on CNN and MSNBC – CNN has had a countdown clock running since like Monday).

  223. says

    Comey said a couple of times that his immediate felt need to document his interactions with Trump arose partially because he feared Trump might lie about them and “the nature of the person” he suspected he was dealing with. No one asked him to elaborate on what he meant by “the nature of” Trump that so disturbed him, unfortunately.

  224. says

    Jason Leopold at BuzzFeed submitted an expedited FOIA request to the FBI for Comey’s memos and other records of his interactions with Trump, and yesterday learned that it had been granted. The conversation during the hearing today seemed to suggest that Comey had no objection to the committee seeing the memos, and they appeared eager to get them. He also said they’re not classified. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing them fairly soon.

  225. says


    You’re probably thinking to yourself (or perhaps not) what is the former Ukip leader Nigel Farage doing today, now that he’s not standing for parliament? Well, the renowned anti-elitist public-educated former city broker is at the Global Investment Forum, sponsored by a Swiss banking group and global private equity boutique.


  226. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I am sick today, friends. Carry on.

    Like Rachael, take the time you need to heal.
    *back to planning my clean-up work during an upcoming heat wave…toooo much hot air from Washington wafting over Chiwaukee*

  227. KG says

    Rather oddly, the BBC’s headline on this poll was “Conservatives largest party – exit poll”. Given the context of all the polls up to now, that’s like headlining “Dog bites man”, when the man bit the dog first.

  228. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    KG #334, what are the chances of the Tories being able for form at governing coalition with the socialists? And vise-versa?

  229. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Dang, the coalitions should be WITHOUT, not WITH. *bad nerd!*

  230. KG says

    Nerd of Redhead,

    If by “the socialists” you mean Labour (only a small minority of their MPs deserve or, these days, would even claim that title), negligible. If the results were exactly as forecast, the Tories would need coalition partners with 12 seats for a majority. It’s possible the two northern Ireland Unionist parties would just about achieve that. If not, the LibDems would hold the balance of power, since neither the SNP, Plaid Cyrmu or the Greens would even consider a coalition with the Tories. Would the Lib Dems go into coalition with the Tories again? It was disastrous for them last time, but I think they would negotiate, however their likely price would be a second referendum on Brexit once the terms were settled, which I can’t see the Tories (or Labour) accepting. So most likely, there would be yet another election in the not too distant future.

    But my hunch is that the Tories will get an overall majority, although presumably a much smaller one than they expected.

  231. KG says

    Nerd of Redhead@338,

    Ah! That makes more sense, and although I didn’t see your #338 before sending my #339, you’ll see I answered the question you meant to ask anyway!

  232. blf says

    Steve Bell in the Grauniad, Donald Trump and the FBI (cartoon). Some readers’s comments:

    ● FBI — Fired Because Investigation

    ● Poor old El Trumpo. Thought he could be Presidente in the same way he has been a business man: grabbing inappropriate things, making threats, extorting ‘loyalty’, lying and covering up. […]

    ● Very good. When you read all this stuff you wonder who is going to make the movie & will it be as good as ”All the President’s Men”?
     He is going to have his place in US history just not the place he wanted.

    ● His only new best-friend in Europe is Tezza, the Marie Le Pen of Downing Street. [“Downing Street” means the UK PM, Theresa May (as of the moment).]
    Some replies:
      ● But without the charisma.
      ● FAKE NEWS! Farage has a crush on him too.

    (Posted blind due to the lack of working “Preview”.)

  233. KG says

    On further thought, I didn’t answer whether Labour might be able to form a coalition, and I’d forgotten that Sinn Fein don’t take their seats (4 last time)! On those precise figures, Labour would be short of an overall majority even with all plausible partners, and the Tories plus UUP and DUP might just scrape a majority of MPs actually taking their seats. But it would be a highly unstable position. Of course, it’s very unlikely the exit poll figures will be exactly right!

  234. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Ah! That makes more sense, and although I didn’t see your #338 before sending my #339, you’ll see I answered the question you meant to ask anyway!

    Yes, you did. Thanks.

  235. KG says

    Further to #334 – however, according to a psephologist, the swing is considerably less than expected according to the exit poll. Still, it is definitely a swing to Labour. And in the second seat declared (again, a safe Labour one), the Tories’ vote-share went up more than Labour’s.

  236. blf says

    Gianforte gives $50,000 to press group as charges loom after assault of Guardian reporter:

    Congressman-elect issues apology to Ben Jacobs over ‘unprofessional, unacceptable, unlawful’ actions as he faces criminal charges over the incident

    Greg Gianforte […] has issued a full and unequivocal apology to the reporter and agreed to donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

    The congressman-elect apologized to the reporter, Ben Jacobs, in a letter received late on Wednesday as part of an agreement that settles any potential civil claims.

    “My physical response to your legitimate question was unprofessional, unacceptable, and unlawful,” Gianforte wrote. “As both a candidate for office and a public official, I should be held to a high standard in my interactions with the press and the public. My treatment of you did not meet that standard.”

    Gianforte said the $50,000 donation to the CPJ, an independent not-for-profit organization that promotes press freedom and that protects the rights of journalists worldwide, was made “in the hope that perhaps some good can come of these events”. He added: “I made a mistake and humbly ask for your forgiveness.”

    Gianforte still faces criminal charges over the altercation. […]


    “Notwithstanding anyone’s statements to the contrary, you did not initiate any physical contact with me, and I had no right to assault you,” he wrote. “I am sorry for what I did and the unwanted notoriety this has created for you. I take full responsibility.”


    As part of the settlement, Jacobs […] signed a release foregoing any potential civil claim against Gianforte in consideration of the charitable donation.

    “I have accepted Mr Gianforte’s apology and his willingness to take responsibility for his actions and statements,” Jacobs said in a statement. “I hope the constructive resolution of this incident reinforces for all the importance of respecting the freedom of the press and the first amendment and encourages more civil and thoughtful discourse in our country.”

    A crowdfunding campaign to replace Jacobs’ broken glasses raised more than $7,500, which Jacobs requested be donated to the Committee to Protect Journalists as well. […]

    (Posted blind due to not-working “Preview”.)

  237. says

    Remarkably, all the polls show both Tories and Labour with a larger vote-share than in 2015, mostly because the UKIP vote is forecast to fall sharply,

    It looks like they’re getting creamed!

  238. says

    Jenny Chapman, who won in Darlington:

    I had no speech for this outcome. What a shock.

    What I need to say to the people of Darlington is: you have stepped up. You’ve turned out in bigger numbers than last time and you’ve shown the country that you believe in a future for Britain that is not the one that was put on offer to you by the Tory government.

    That you want something different. You want opportunities, you want fair pay, you want an NHS that’s secure, you want properly resourced education and schools. That is what they want. That is why I am here and what I came into politics to be part of and I am so, so proud of my town tonight.

  239. blf says

    Anti-Trump protester: ‘Is this my last free birthday?’:

    More than 200 anti-Trump protesters are facing felony charges that could land some in prison for 70 to 80 years.


    On January 21, most of the 230 protesters and bystanders arrested the day before were charged with felony rioting, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and a $25,000 fine.

    But on April 27, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia returned a superseding indictment which added additional charges for some 212 defendants, three of whom had not previously been charged.

    With new felony charges including urging to riot, conspiracy to riot and destruction of property, many of the defendants are facing up to 80 years in prison. Many other defendants, among them journalists, are facing more than 70 years.


    Speaking to Al Jazeera by email, Taylor[†] says the charges aimed at “stifling resistance”.

    “I was arrested when the police kettled the crowd,” Taylor says, explaining that many protesters and bystanders were disoriented by pepper spray and stun grenades.

    “The MPD closed off an entire city block and arrested everyone within that block. There was no order to disperse and no warning,” Taylor recalls.

    “It is no coincidence that this repression coincides with the first visible manifestation of resistance to Trump’s regime.”

    Taylor’s accusations that the police failed to give warnings were echoed in a report (PDF) published by the DC Mayor’s Office of Police Complaints.

    It concluded that “less than lethal weapons were used indiscriminately and without adequate warnings in certain instances”.

    Sam Menefee-Libey of the DC Legal Posse, an activist group that supports the defendants, describes the charges as “specious” and a “blatantly politicised” effort to deflect attention from the police’s “brutal force” on January 20.


      † “Taylor” is a pseudonym “due to fear of ‘harassment by the alt-right’ on social media, explaining that several defendants have had their names, addresses and places of employment posted online.”

    (Posted blind due to no working “Preview”.)

  240. KG says

    Latest BBC prediction: CON 322, LAB 261, SNP 32, LD 13, OTH 22. That’s pretty close to the exit poll, and would leave the Tories just short of an overall majority, but able to form a government with the support of the Unionists of northern Ireland. A very bad result, however, for Theresa May – and for the SNP.

  241. KG says

    It looks like they’re [UKIP] getting creamed! – SC@348

    All parties other than Labour and Tories are, outside northern Ireland (and possibly Plaid Cymru in Wales) – but UKIP worst of all in terms of vote-share (SNP look like losing the most seats).

    Vale of Clwyd, which is an amazing name. – SC@352

    Clwyd is pronounced “Cloo-id”.

  242. blf says

    [Vale of] Clwyd is pronounced “Cloo-id”.

    Can’t be. That’s too close to how it is spelled. The actual pronunciation is probably, tongue-in-cheek guessing here, more like “Yi-qu-ack-fe-DA”, with the Clwyd part of the name “GIR-lo”. </snark>

  243. KG says

    Welsh spelling is actually very phonetic, once you know the phonetic values of the letters! A “w” is always pronounced “oo”, and a “y” is always pronounced “i”!

  244. KG says

    And another updated projection – after 564 out of 650 seats declared: CON 316, LAB 265, SNP 34, LD 13, OTH 22.
    Others include 10 DUP seats, so CON+DUP would be an absolute majority.

  245. says

    I was thinking earlier that I’m a little bit mad at Jon Stewart for bowing out when he did, and that I miss Peter Jennings and Tim Russert… But I just watched Maddow, and I’m reminded that there is a bright star at an anchor desk.

  246. KG says

    The Tories cannot now get an absolute majority (setting aside the fact that 7 Sinn Fein MPs will not take their seats): they have 309, with only 16 seats left to declare.

    Northern Ireland is going to be polarised between 10 DUP and 7 Sinn Fein – the “moderate” UUP and SDLP have lost all their seats. There’s also a clear geographic division, with Sinn Fein holding all the seats on the border with the Republic. And Sinn Fein campaigned to remain in the EU, the DUP to leave. Meanwhile, the regional government is paralysed by a dispute between these two partes.

  247. KG says

    The sole Green MP, Caroline Lucas, has held Brighton Pavilion – with a considerably increased majority, over 15,000, and getting over half the total vote. Not a good night otherwise for the Green parties – squeezed like all the smaller parties outside northern Ireland, but worse than most because Corbyn drew back many who had switched to the Greens in 2015.

  248. A. Noyd says

    I practice my Japanese at the junior high school where I work by reading the principal’s newsletters and the other random things that show up in my inbox. The latter category can include things like fliers for culture festivals or info about a change in school policy.

    This week I got to practice my Japanese by reading about what to do in the event that North Korea starts lobbing ballistic missiles at Japan. Because concern is just that high right now.

  249. KG says

    Final opinion polls for the UK general election have a huge range of variation, from a 13% Tory lead to the first I’ve seen with a Labour lead (of 2.8%). These two are both run by organisations that have not run polls for this election before, but even among the others, there’s a range of Tory leads from 1% to 12%. So whatever the outcome, some pollsters are going to have substantial amounts of egg on their faces. FWIW, my hunch is that those showing a bigger lead are probably nearer the truth, and we’ll see a substantial Tory win. But I hope to be wrong. – me@323

    Well, I’ve seldom if ever been happier to be proved wrong! It seems that, contrary to my expectations, and those of many pollsters, young people (among whom Labour had a huge lead according to the polls) voted in large numbers.

    In contrast to the advance polls, the exit poll was amazingly accurate:

    Exit poll: CON 314, LAB 266, SNP 34, LD 14 Plaid Cymru 3 Green 1 Others (that means northern Ireland) 18

    Result (with a single seat still to come – second recount postponed to this evening to let the counters rest):
    CON 318/9, LAB 261/2, SNP 35, LD 12 Plaid Cymru 4 Green 1 Others (that means northern Ireland) 18

  250. says

    Full report re #355 – “Comey told senators Sessions may have met Russia’s ambassador a third time”:

    Former FBI Director James Comey told senators in a closed hearing this afternoon that Attorney General Jeff Sessions may have had a third interaction with Russia’s ambassador to the US, according to people familiar with the briefing.

    Comey explained that the possibility there could have been another encounter was not something he wanted to discuss in the earlier public hearing, according to a source familiar with the briefing.

    The information is based in part on Russian-to-Russian intercepts where the meeting was discussed, three sources familiar with the information tell CNN.

    But the sources said it is possible the ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, was exaggerating the extent of the encounter….

    (This concerns the possible April Mayflower Hotel meeting discussed @ #24 above.)

  251. KG says

    May is intent (*quack* *limp*) on staying in office (*limp* *quack*) with the support of the DUP – fundy Ulster Protestant bigots, basically – who she is now calling (*quack* *limp*) “our friends in the DUP”. Not an actual coalition, but the DUP will vote for her in a confidence motion. Of course, every vote for this motion (“This House has confidence in Her Majesty’s Government”) will be a lie, including May’s own. Nobody believes May will last long, although it’s possible a minority Tory administration will keep going, doing very little apart from trying to push Brexit to a conclusion, and handing out fiscal and political bribes to the DUP. The political bribes could threaten the peace process in northern Ireland, which depends on the UK government appearing to be neutral between Unionists and Nationalists – but hey, what does that signify when it’s a matter of keeping the Tories in office?

    I must admit I hadn’t paid much attention to the Tory manifesto but there are some interesting points I can’t now see them trying to push through. One is a repeal of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act – which was supposed to prevent the PM calling an election whenever they wished, but completely failed at its first test – I suppose in case a future opposition has the gumption not to simply agree to whatever date the PM wants. There are a number of other measures listed at the link which would be formulated to give the Tories an electoral advantage in future elections, and which they may also have to put on the back burner. But the really big one is promising to leave the EU single market and customs union as part of Brexit. It’s by no means obvious either the DUP. or all their own MPs, will support that.

    Corbyn is pretending he has some chance of forming a minority government. I’m not sure why – he has no chance at all of doing so – but in the light of his recent performance, maybe he knows what he’s doing in terms of political strategy.

  252. says

    Like Obamacare or not, decent people should be furious about this.

    Not a word of what Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, says here is hyperbolic or inaccurate.* The reason Senator Orrin Hatch is acting like he’s been caught here is because he has. What Republicans are attempting to do to the health care system is the legislative equivalent of a mugging. Just watch.

    * The only inaccurate aspects are that she keeps referring to the ACA as the AHCA and that she understates the extent to which Obama and the Democrats made its passage a public, deliberative, bipartisan process.

  253. says

    “Mueller Enlists Top Criminal Law Expert for Russia Probe”:

    Special counsel Robert Mueller has recruited the Justice Department’s top criminal law expert to help with his investigation of ties between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian officials.

    Deputy solicitor general Michael Dreeben, who has argued more than 100 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and oversees the Justice Department’s criminal appellate docket, will be assisting Mueller on a part-time basis, according to sources familiar with the arrangement.

    While helping Mueller, Dreeben will continue in his role in the solicitor general’s office, with other lawyers in the office pitching in to help him with upcoming criminal cases.

    The move signals that Mueller is seeking advice on the complexities that have arisen already in the investigations, including what constitutes obstruction of justice….

  254. says

    From SC’s link in comment 383:

    Trying to get DOJ to go after Comey –a material witness– over “leak” is yet more obstruction of Justice.

    I hadn’t thought of it that way, but that’s exactly what that move would be: more obstruction of Justice.

    From the start, I was focusing on the fact that Comey sharing his personal recollection of unclassified material with a friend was being twisted into a “leak” by Trump and his minions. That’s bad enough. I think Comey was probably ready for these kind of smear tactics, but the voters may not be.

    Surely the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General at the Department of Justice will refuse to go after Comey for such a “leak.” [sigh] But then, the AG and Deputy AG are the guys that backed Trump firing Comey, so who knows what else they would do?

    And Trump is both ignorant and a bully for tweeting that Comey is a “leaker.” Some Republicans are trying to pin previous links on Comey as well.

    Comey is not perfect, as he admitted, but Trump did lie about him … and Trump is lying now.

  255. says

    The RNC is using Comey’s testimony to raise funds for Trump’s campaign:

    James Comey stated under oath that President Trump was NOT under investigation by the FBI.

    So why has the Fake News Media spent so much time reporting on the so-called “Russia investigation”?

    [The plea for cash also describes Democrats as] a bunch of hypocrites inciting a WITCH HUNT to take down President Trump.

  256. blf says

    Here in France, Macron has proposed ending the (mostly-)absurd state of emergency (good!), but dog so by incorporating most of its provisions into law (bad!), France’s Macron ‘to end state of emergency’, but keep its anti-terror powers:

    President Emmanuel Macron’s government wants to end a 14-month ‘state of emergency’ in France, but at the same time integrate several of its exceptional anti-terrorism powers into common law, alarming judges and civil liberty groups.

    Warrant-less property searches and house arrests, two controversial measures currently used by French security officials under special state of emergency powers, could become ordinary policing practices under a new bill being sponsored by the country’s new government.

    The text was submitted for review to the Council of State, a body providing legal advice to France’s executive branch, on Wednesday, with excerpts published by leading French daily Le Monde. “Almost all of the state of emergency measures will become the law of the land,” the newspaper, which had seen a copy of the bill, wrote.


    The new bill would also normalise banning protest marches, shutting down places of worship suspected of sharing extremist views, forcing people under house arrest to give police access to their electronic devices and using electronic tagging for purposes of surveillance.

    Police could implement these measures without oversight of a judge, with authority transferred to the police prefecture and the interior ministry.

    “There is only one difference: these measures would now only apply to terrorism,” Radio France International wrote on Thursday. “But the very essence of the state of emergency remains the same, judicial authorities will be relegated, and must only be kept informed {of decisions}.”

    Judges and legal advocates immediately cried foul following Le Monde’s revelation on Thursday.

    “They tell us we’re ending the state of emergency, but they are actually making it eternal. It’s an intellectual scam,” Marie-Jane Ody, vice president of a prominent union representing judges, told French newspaper Le Figaro.

    “Imagine a fascist-like group rises to power. All the legal instruments would be in place to commit abuses,” Ody added.

    The League of Human Rights rejected the notion the proposed bill would only affect suspected terrorist plotters, saying the state of emergency has already been exploited by the previous French government, to curtail union members and activists.


    Last month Amnesty International accused the French government of exploiting the state of emergency to reject more than 150 petitions for public protests in recent months.


    The point about implementing something the le penazis, e.g., would happily use & abuse should they ever gain power is particularly salient. Imagine hair furor with the authority to ban protests & shut mosques, order warrantless searches & intrusive surveillance, &tc.

    (Posted blind due to still not-working “Preview”.)

  257. says

    New voter-restriction tactics have been put in place by Republican lawmakers in New Hampshire:

    New Hampshire residents who register to vote within 30 days of an election may soon find an unexpected presence at their door: state investigators and law enforcement officers demanding proof that they live in the state. And for that, they can probably thank Donald Trump.

    Republicans […] have been eager to pass a voter suppression measure since they seized control of the state legislature in November. […] Trump, for his part, asserted that both he and Ayotte would’ve carried the state if “thousands” of people had not been “brought in on buses” from Massachusetts to “illegally” vote in New Hampshire.

    […] New Hampshire’s SB3, which the legislature sent to Republican Gov. Chris Sununu last week, and which Sununu is expected to sign, marks the first concrete consequence of the intense, Trump-stoked voter fraud paranoia that followed the election. The president’s goading provocations have provided cover to New Hampshire Republicans, […]

    I wonder how much it is going to cost New Hampshire taxpayers to pay law enforcement officers to go house-to-house questioning newly-registered voters?

    I expect to see more consequences from Trump’s push to spread voter-fraud conspiracy theories.

    Non-news—an update on Lynna’s illness: seems to have been a 24-hour stomach bug. I’m mostly, but not quite recovered now.

  258. blf says

    me@390, dog so → doing so…

    (This fecking lack of working “Preview”, which seems to be FtB-sitewide, is frustrating me so much the mildly deranged penguin has put on her duck-proof suit of armour. Oh, and posted blind — guess why!)

  259. says

    I forgot to include a link for the quoted text in comment 391:
    Slate link

    The article is long and contains a lot more detail regarding the New Hampshire and other voter-restriction efforts by Republicans.

  260. blf says

    [Lynna is] mostly, but not quite recovered now.

    Translation: The feathers turned green and the mushrooms fell off, so she will be back to her normal state as soon the extra tail turns back into the second head.

    (The mildly deranged penguin is now yelling something inside her duck-proof suit; meanwhile, no working “Preview” means yet anther blind post…)

  261. blf says

    There’s a nice bit of snarking in this article, Non-Brits: here’s what you need to know about the British election:

    “Cameron gambled, lost. May gambled, lost,” tweeted Dutch MEP Sophia in ‘t Veld overnight. “Tory party beginning to look like a casino.”

    (Previous UK PM David Cameron is the eejit who called for the Brexit referendum for reasons mostly internal to his group of nutters, the torynasty party.)

    (Posted blind due to being viciously berated by a duck-proof penguin, deranged, mildly.)

  262. blf says

    Gloria Steinem: Trump has galvanised more activists than the Vietnam war:

    The presidency of Donald Trump has galvanised more political activists in the US today than the Vietnam war, according to Gloria Steinem.

    The longtime feminist activist and writer said Trump’s election was part of a “dangerous” nationalist, anti-immigration and anti-feminist backlash that is happening globally.

    Steinem, […] who has been fighting for equality since the late 1960s, said the “only good news, if there is good news” is that it had sparked a wave of activism on a scale she had never witnessed before.


    Steinem said that following the women’s marches across the US and internationally to protest against Trump’s inauguration in January this year, she was inundated with messages of support from all over the world.


    Analysis from the University of Denver has concluded that the march, on the 21 January, was likely to have been the largest single-day demonstration in recorded US history. Estimates of numbers of participants in the US alone vary between 3.2 and 5.2 million, which is 1%–1.6% of the US population. Campaigners marching in Washington and in the 652 other protests across the US were joined by more than 260 marches around the world, from Antarctica to Zimbabwe.

    The largest protests against the Vietnam war, the moratorium days, in 1969 and 1970, had up to 1 million participants in the US and millions worldwide.


    “Trump believes in nothing. The key to him is that he will lash out against any criticism, however small, and he will follow any praise wherever it goes. He has no idea what the facts are.

    “I do not underestimate the danger of having a crazy person at the levers of power. The only other good outcome I can think of is maybe people will {be less accepting of} the US as an intrusive presence in the world.”


    Broadly speaking, and from a physically remote vantage point, the high level of activism is also the sense I have.

    (Posted blind due a certain highly agitated duck-proof suit encased penguin still yelling something incomprehensible.)

  263. blf says

    Trump seeks to reopen cases of hundreds reprieved from deportation:

    Administration asks court to reopen cases of 1,329 undocumented immigrants who saw reprieve under Obama in evidence of White House crackdown


    Between 1 March and 31 May, prosecutors moved to reopen 1,329 cases, according to an analysis of data from the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR). The Obama administration filed 430 similar motions in the same period in 2016.

    Jennifer Elzea, a spokeswoman for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice), confirmed the agency was now filing motions to reopen cases where illegal immigrants had since been arrested for or convicted of a crime.

    It is not possible to tell from the EOIR data how many of the cases the Trump administration is seeking to reopen involve immigrants who committed crimes after their cases were closed. Attorneys said some of the cases were being reopened because immigrants had been arrested for serious crimes, but said they were also seeing cases involving people who had not committed crimes or who were cited for minor violations such as traffic tickets.

    “This is a sea change,” said the attorney David Leopold, former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “Before, if someone did something after the case was closed out that showed that person was a threat, then it would be reopened. Now they are opening cases just because they want to deport people.”


    Sally Joyner, an immigration attorney in Memphis, Tennessee, said one of her Central American clients, who crossed the border with her children in 2013, was allowed to stay in the US after the government filed a motion to close her case in December 2015. Since crossing the border, the woman has not been arrested or had trouble with law enforcement […].

    Nevertheless, on 29 March, Ice filed a two-page motion to reopen the case against the woman and her children. When Joyner queried Ice, an official said the agency had been notified that her client had a criminal history in El Salvador, according to documents seen by Reuters.

    The woman had been arrested for selling pumpkin seeds as an unauthorized street vendor. Government documents show US authorities knew about the arrest before her case was closed.

    Dana Marks, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said revisiting previously closed matters would add to a record backlog of 580,000 pending immigration cases.


    Pumpkin seed sellers are apparently as dangerous as taco trucks.

    (Posting blind due to a still incoherently yelling penguin, albeit having put on some Tri Yann I now can’t hear her anymore.)

  264. blf says

    Either Trump or Comey is lying. Who might it be?:

    To believe the president’s [sic] statement, we must conclude not only that Comey perjured himself but that he is a liar of exceptional premeditation


    [… T]he president’s [sic] construction of the meeting as expressed in a statement prepared by Marc Kasowitz […] and released just after the conclusion of Comey’s testimony […] claims that the president never told Mr Comey, ‘I need loyalty, I expect loyalty’ in form or substance. It further insists: The president never, in form or substance, directed or suggested that Mr Comey stop investigating anyone, including suggesting that that Mr Comey ‘let Flynn go.’

    In emphatically contradicting Comey’s sworn testimony, the president has placed front and center the question […]. Who is lying — Trump or Comey? What is clear is that the members of the Senate intelligence committee appear unanimous in their agreement that it must be Trump.

    Not one senator hazarded as much as a single question challenging Comey’s veracity […]

    […] To believe the president’s [sic] statement, we must conclude not only that Comey perjured himself on Thursday but that the former director is a liar of exceptional premeditation and forethought. We must conclude that Comey dashed out of a meeting with the president to fabricate a false contemporaneous account of that meeting which he then maliciously shared with other senior officials.

    We must additionally believe that Comey is not simply a liar but also a traitor, who has been conspiring to bring down the recently elected president [sic] of the United States. Bizarre as this sounds, it is precisely what the president’s statement claims.

    Gesturing to those who are actively attempting to undermine this administration with selective and illegal leaks of classified information and privileged communications, the statement indicts Comey as one of these leakers. The former director of the FBI has lied and leaked to destroy the president [sic]. Only missing are the references to the deep state.


    (Posted blind…)

  265. blf says

    Civilians killed as soldiers clash over Somalia aid:

    At least 14 killed in clashes after soldiers attempt to steal food sacks meant for drought-stricken refugees in Baidoa.


    The fighting broke out at a distribution site on Friday after a group of soldiers tried to steal food sacks meant for refugees and other soldiers guarding the aid stopped them, Colonel Isaq Hassan said.


    Somalia is one of four countries singled out by the UN in a $4.4bn aid appeal to avert catastrophic hunger and famine, along with Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen.

    The UN has said that together they make up the world’s largest humanitarian disaster in more than 70 years.


    The majority of those displaced in Baidoa are children and teens.


    (Blind post…)

  266. says

    Yes, this happened:

    REPORTER: [Comey] said those things under oath. Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of those events?

    TRUMP: 100 percent. I didn’t say…

    REPORTER: Under oath?

    TRUMP: I hardly know the man. I’m not going to say, “I want you to pledge allegiance.” Who would do that? Who would ask a man to pledge allegiance under oath? I mean think of it, I hardly know the man. It doesn’t make sense. No, I didn’t say that and I didn’t say the other.

    REPORTER: So if [Special Counsel] Robert Mueller wanted to speak with you about that, you would be willing to talk to him?

    TRUMP: I would be glad to tell him exactly what I just told you.

  267. says

    From Steve Benen:

    […] While we’re not generally accustomed to hearing prominent public figures talk openly about sharing behind-the-scenes information with the press, Comey’s acknowledgement yesterday that he shared a memo with a friend, who in turn shared it with a reporter, is not scandalous. After all, at the time, Comey was a private citizen, sharing an unclassified memo he wrote.

    Sharing highly sensitive, classified intelligence with Russia in a private meeting is problematic. Comey’s “leak” was not. [The Trump leak (see link above) was sharing intel with Russian guests and then compounding the leak by saying (paraphrasing), “I never said ‘Israel’ while he was in Israel, thus confirming further classified details.]

    Indeed, Kasowitz’s plan to go after Comey by way of the Justice Department’s Inspector General’s office is itself more troubling than Comey’s actions. First, the IG’s office isn’t equipped to launch investigations into private citizens. And second, as Richard Painter, the top ethics lawyer in the Bush/Cheney administration, noted this morning, trying to get the Justice Department to target a material witness – in this case, the former director of the FBI – only adds to the concerns about Team Trump trying to obstruct justice.

    Norm Eisen, the top ethics lawyer in the Obama administration, added that Kasowitz’s plan represents an “abuse of power” for which there may be “serious consequences.”

    I can appreciate Kasowitz’s broader strategy. Much of the legal controversy surrounding Trump – including whether he obstructed justice – relates to Comey and the conversations he had with the president. It stands to reason Trump’s outside counsel would take steps to undermine the former FBI director’s credibility.

    But whether Kasowitz realizes it or not, the only person whose credibility he’s hurting right now is his own.

  268. blf says

    Greg Gianforte to plead guilty for assaulting Guardian reporter:

    Montana Republican Greg Gianforte plans to plead guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge for “body-slamming” Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, according to Gallatin county attorney Marty Lambert.

    Lambert told the Associated Press that Gianforte will plead guilty when he appears in court for arraignment and sentencing on Monday. Misdemeanor assault carries a maximum penalty of a $500 fine or six month jail sentence.


    (The mildly deranged penguin is still enduck-proof suited, yelling, now being drowned out with Shaun Davey’s Granuaile, “Preview” isn’t, so yet another blind post.)

  269. says

    Steve Benen quoted @ #421:

    Norm Eisen, the top ethics lawyer in the Obama administration, added that Kasowitz’s plan represents an “abuse of power” for which there may be “serious consequences.”

    Correction: Eisen (quoted @ #407) said it’s an abuse of process.

  270. says

    “Trump Discovers Article 5 After Disastrous NATO Visit: Trump’s public performance in Brussels was a disaster. Behind closed doors, it was even worse.”:

    At long last, U.S. President Donald Trump endorsed NATO’s bedrock collective defense clause, Article 5, in a press conference Friday. “Absolutely, I’d be committed to Article 5,” he said Friday in response to a question from a journalist, speaking beside Romanian President Klaus Iohannis at the White House. It gives nervous NATO allies something they’ve yearned for since he came to office in January after disparaging the alliance and openly praising its top geopolitical foe, Russia.

    But it may not be enough to patch things over with his NATO allies after his visit last month to Brussels, where Trump gave a public tongue lashing that surprised NATO leaders and his national security team alike — because behind closed doors, things were even worse.

    After a public showing on May 25 in which Trump refused to endorse NATO’s collective defense clause and famously shoved the Montenegrin leader out of the way, leaders of the 29-member alliance retired to a closed-door dinner that multiple sources tell Foreign Policy left alliance leaders “appalled.”

    Trump had two versions of prepared remarks for the dinner, one that took a traditional tack and one prepared by the more NATO-skeptic advisors, Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon. “He dumped both of them and improvised,” one source briefed on the dinner told FP.

    During the dinner, Trump went off-script to criticize allies again for not spending enough on defense. (The United States is one of only five members that meets NATO members’ pledge to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense.)

    Several sources briefed extensively on the dinner say he said 2 percent wasn’t enough and allies should spend 3 percent of GDP on defense, and he even threatened to cut back U.S. defense spending and have Europeans dole out “back pay” to make up for their low defense spending if they didn’t pony up quickly enough. Two sources say Trump didn’t mention Russia once during the dinner.

    “Oh, it was like a total shitshow,” said one source, who spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren’t authorized to discuss the closed-door dinner.

    “The dinner was far worse than the speech,” said a former senior U.S. government official briefed on dinner. “It was a train wreck. It was awful.”…

  271. says

    I’m very pleased Lawrence O’Donnell’s contract was renewed.

    This said, virtually all of his guests are white men. That – and particularly his frequently hosting George Will – needs to change.

  272. says

  273. blf says

    Decoding Donald Trump’s foreign policy:

    US president’s [sic] engagement with the rest of the world a mix of America First, domestic pandering and ego.

    In the opening foreign policy acts of Donald Trump’s presidency [sic], he is defining American interests much more narrowly than past US leaders and is championing economic nationalism over international cooperation, drawing sharp and mocking criticisms both at home and abroad.


    “We have never really seen from a Republican leader [sic] in the modern era anybody as completely isolationist and anti-cooperation as Donald Trump,” said David Victor, professor of international relations at the University of California, San Diego.

    “There is no question that the Trump presidency [sic] is going to accelerate the American exit from its international leadership, institution-building role. That is a more dangerous world where it’s harder for any individual country to muster the incentives to go off and build effective international institutions. It’s a world that is going to be a whole lot less cooperative,” Victor told Al Jazeera.

    Analysts see a president [sic] who is deeply unpopular in the US. To remain in power, Trump needs to secure his right-wing political base. That means delivering on campaign promises. Trump’s chief political strategist in the White House, his campaign adviser Steve Bannon, is an ardent advocate for Trump’s America First approach. […]

    Add to that, Trump appears to have a highly narcissistic personality that drives him to invite constant ratification of the legitimacy of the election, credit and respect from the people around him. That makes it difficult for cabinet secretaries to tell him he’s wrong.

    “It’s troublesome. [… T]his is an unusual leader [sic]. He does have authoritarian instincts. This level of narcissism colours his behaviour and his choices,” said Jeffrey Gemin, a senior fellow The Atlantic Council and an expert on the Trans-Atlantic relationship.


    “None of Trump’s foreign policy moves seem to hook up much together other than he seems to be checking off some of his campaign promises,” said Richard Longworth, a distinguished fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and an expert on the Cold War, NATO and globalisation.


    Upon his return to Washington, Trump and his White House team organised a grandiose Rose Garden event to announce his decision to withdraw from the Paris accord.

    “The rest of the world is actually looking at this and wondering, you know, what’s leaked in the water supply at the White House,” Victor said.

    (“Preview” is now working — THANKS! — albeit the mildly deranged penguin is still encased in her duck-proof suit (THANKS!). And still yelling (no thanks). She’s now clearly yelling something about a can opener, no, excuse me, a tin suit opener, but I don’t think that was what she was yelling last night.)

  274. blf says

    A follow-up of sorts to @428, ‘Your new homeland’: France’s Macron launches website to woo US scientists (France24 edits in {curly braces}):

    French President Emmanuel Macron this week launched a website which aims to encourage US scientists and researchers frustrated with President [sic] Donald Trump’s position on climate change to move to France.

    The website “Make Our Planet Great Again” was a clear dig at Trump […], but also made good on an appeal Macron made back in February.

    The website said senior university faculty members, but also junior researchers and PhD candidates, were eligible to move to France to work on climate change, earth system science or energy transition projects, promising generous financing and help with moving to the country.

    It said senior researchers could apply for grants up €1.5 million, which would cover researchers’ salaries, as well as compensation for additional staff and work expenses. Junior researchers could apply for grants of up to €1 million.

    “There is no restriction on your husband / wife working in France,” the site reassured scientists, adding: “If you have children, note that French public schools are free, and the tuition fees of universities and grandes écoles {highly competitive French universities} are very low compared to the American system.”


    The Élysée Presidential palace announced the launch of the “Make Our Planet Great Again” website with a press release that was sent to French journalists in English, an unprecedented move by a French president.

    To date, there has not been any official reaction from French researchers, who have long complained about the lack of public funding for their work.

    I look forward to have a bière, as possible, with researchers who do move to France. The mildly deranged penguin — who will probably have gotten out of her duck-proof suit by then — looks forward to raiding your cheeseboard.

  275. says

    A moment of schadenfreude, courtesy of the Washington Post:

    The number of advertisers on the alt-right site has dropped 90 percent in recent months, from 242 in March to 26 in May, according to data from MediaRadar, a New York firm that tracks online advertising. Among those that continue to advertise on the site include a gentleman’s club in Northern Virginia, a golf resort near the coast of Spain and the conservative foundation Judicial Watch.

    Good. Less income for the “Alt Right” and for compatriots of Steve Bannon.

  276. says

    Trump’s statements about Qatar directly contradicted statements made just 90 minutes earlier by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

    Trump said:

    The nation of Qatar, unfortunately, has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level. We have to stop the funding of terrorism. […] I decided, along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson… that the time had come to call on Qatar to end its funding, they have to end that funding. And its extremist ideology, in terms of funding.

    Trump’s previous tweets on the same subject:

    During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!
    So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding…
    …extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!

    Rex Tillerson said:

    We call on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt to ease the blockade on Qatar. [The blockade is also] hindering U.S. military actions in the region and the campaign against ISIS.

    […] We’re seeing shortages of food [in Qatar], families are being forcibly separated, and children pulled out of school. We believe these are unintended consequences, especially during this holy month of Ramadan, but they can be addressed immediately.

    A response from the Qatari Ambassador to the U.S., Meshal Hamad AlThani:

    We appeal to the US administration to rely on their own sources and not on countries with political agendas

    The phrase “countries with political agendas” was most likely a reference to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has a history of funding extremists. By mentioning Qatar as a “funder of terrorism,” Trump adopted Saudi talking points.

  277. blf says

    Follow the money! Follow the money! Israel, Saudi, UAE team up in anti-Qatar lobbying move (Al Jazeera edits in {curly braces}):

    US legislation threatening Qatar for Hamas support is tied to donations from UAE, Saudi, and Israel lobbyists.

    US legislation threatening to sanction Qatar for its support of Palestinian terror was sponsored by 10 lawmakers who received more than $1m over the last 18 months from lobbyists and groups linked to Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

    The bill was introduced to the US House of Representatives on May 25, but the text wasn’t available until Friday morning [June 9 ?], hours after Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Egypt put 59 people and 12 institutions linked to Qatar on a terror list.


    Hamas has received significant financial and military support from Qatar, the Palestinian International Terrorism Support Prevention Act of 2017, also known as HR 2712, said. […]


    For Trita Parsi, author and founder of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a nonprofit that aims to strengthen the voice of US citizens of Iranian descent, the similarities between the US-allied Arab nations’ terror list and HR 2712 show growing cooperation between Gulf Arab states and Israel.

    “The coordination between hawkish pro-Israel groups and UAE and Saudi Arabia has been going on for quite some time,” Parsi told Al Jazeera. What is new, he continued, is pro-Israel groups such as the Foundation for Defense of Democracies “coming out with pro-Saudi {articles} and lobbying for them on Capitol Hill”.


    Israel’s influence on US policymakers is clear. HR 2712’s sponsors received donations totaling $1,009,796 from pro-Israel individuals and groups for the 2016 election cycle alone, according data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics, an independent research group tracking money in US politics and its effect on elections and public policy, and then compiled by Al Jazeera.

    “They’re not traditional pro-Saudi lawmakers. They’re in the pro-Likud camp,” Parsi said, referring to the party of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


    In contrast with the $1 million donated by pro-Israel entities in 2016, HR 2712’s sponsors received roughly $25,700 in donations by pro-Saudi and UAE lobbying groups over the last 18 months, according to filings with the US Department of Justice made public under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).


    FARA filings also document frequent emails and meetings between the 10 lawmakers and Saudi–UAE lobbyists, as well as calls to major media outlets concerning news coverage of major events.


    Israel has historically raised concerns about arms deals with Gulf Arab states, who last fought a war in 1973. But the Israeli leadership has “kept quiet” about the $110bn arms deal with Saudi Arabia inked by the Trump administration because “there was a shift from viewing the Saudis as a potential adversary”, Hartung said, because Iran is a common enemy.

    “In the old days, there was a pro-Israel block in Congress{…} that would have been very sceptical and possibly pushed for votes against arms sales to Saudi Arabia. That hasn’t happened in a long time,” he said.

    The geographic and corresponding congressional re-alignment will continue, Parsi predicted, and pressure on Qatar will remain.

    The small Gulf country “is a problem because it is independent and doesn’t share Saudi Arabia’s obsession with Iran”, he said.


    Whilst Al Jazeera (whose HQ is in Qatar, and who is financed by Qatar) is not one of the institutions on the Saudi &tc terror list (don’t known about HR 2712), one of the demands I’ve seen reported, albeit never in any detail, is that Qatar close Al Jazeera. That demand alone strongly hints at what is really going on: Not entirely alleged Qatar support for others so much as a mix of Saudi big penismanship, a desire to suppress the “Arab spring”, plus other assorted (own-)goals, including a reworked / abandoned Iran nuclear agreement and a distraction from other regional problems (e.g., the catastrophe in Yemen).

    For instance, see The blockade of Qatar is a move against the values of the Arab spring: “The pretext offered was to cut the funding of terrorist groups. Yet the most significant demand had nothing to do with this: it was to close down al-Jazeera”.

  278. says

    Trump got fact-checked in real time by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis:

    REPORTER: “Thank you. Mr. President, were there any discussion about the Visa Waiver Program for Romania? Is there a time frame for including our country in this program? Thank you.”

    TRUMP: “We didn’t discuss it –”

    IOHANNIS: “Yes –”

    TRUMP: “We didn’t discuss it. But there would be certainly — it would be something we will discuss. Mr. President.”

    IOHANNIS: “I mentioned this issue, and I also mentioned it during other meetings I had, because this is important for us, it’s important for Romanians who want to come to the United States. And you see more and more people come, President Trump, from Romania to the United States. Some come as tourists. Some come for business. And those who come for business should be encouraged.”

  279. says

    Theresa May’s top advisors quit.

    Theresa May’s chiefs of staff, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, resigned following the Conservative Party’s disappointing results in the U.K. general elections. […]


    blf @436, thanks for that background material on the blockade of Qatar. Very helpful.

  280. blf says

    An update on the human catastrophe in Yemen (also see @37, @418, and other comments), More than 100,000 cholera cases recorded in Yemen over past month, says WHO:

    A cholera outbreak of more than 100,000 cases has erupted in war-ravaged Yemen, killing nearly 800 people, in just over a month, the World Health Organization said Thursday.


    WHO has warned that a quarter of a million people could fall sick with cholera by the end of the year in Yemen, a country where two-thirds of the population are on the brink of famine.

    British charity Oxfam also voiced alarm Thursday at what it described as “a runaway cholera epidemic” in Yemen, pointing out that the disease is currently killing nearly one person every hour.


    Reining in the disease is particularly complicated in Yemen, where two years of devastating war between the Huthis and government forces backed by a Saudi-led Arab [sic†] military coalition has left more than half the country’s medical facilities out of service.

    Yemen’s conflict has killed more than 8,000 people and wounded around 45,000 since March 2015, according to the WHO.


      † The “Saudi-led Arab military coalition” also has involvement from the USA and UK (at least). As far as I am aware, there are no acknowledged(?) USAian or British ground troops in Yemen itself, excepting special forces raids. Various sorts of aerial support are also provided. Those two, and other non-Arabian, countries have also sold arms and munitions, including cluster bombs. The cluster bombs apparently have been used. Amnesty International(? Oxfam?) has objected to the Saudi-led force being called an Arab force, as it patently is not. Bad on France24!

  281. blf says

    Hair furor’s hated for and of Obama may have limits, such as when it impinges on his greedy rent-seeking. I say “may have limits” because it is DoJ lawyers, arguing on teh trum-prat’s behalf, who are making an argument using Obama as evidence allowing hair furor to do (what they claim is) the same thing. Whether or not hair furor understands or even knows about the lawyers’s argument, or would approve of using Obama in this manner, is unknown.

    Anyways, Trump defends foreign income: Obama sold books to universities abroad:

    Lawyers for president [sic] ask federal judge to dismiss ethics lawsuit arguing Trump’s business ownership violates constitution’s emoluments clause

    Donald Trump has argued that he is entitled to continue receiving income from foreign governments by noting that Barack Obama was allowed to sell copies of his books to overseas universities.

    “Many foreign public universities have President Obama’s books in their library collection,” attorneys for Trump said in a court filing, citing the catalogs of state-run universities in Canada, China and Australia.

    The comparison was drawn in an extraordinary motion filed in New York late on Friday by US justice department lawyers. They asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit brought against Trump by ethics campaigners, arguing that it would have “absurd consequences” such as blocking some sales of books such as Obama’s.

    Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (Crew) alleged in the lawsuit that by retaining ownership of his business and property empire, Trump is violating a clause in the US constitution that bars US officials from receiving “emoluments” from other governments.


    Crew’s lawsuit argues that Trump is breaching the emoluments clause by collecting revenues such as rent from the governments of Afghanistan, China, India, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for units in the president’s [sic] Trump Tower and Trump World Tower properties in New York City.


    The lawsuit alleges that Trump’s arrangements present a “grave threat to the United States and its citizens”, by “creating countless conflicts of interest, as well as unprecedented influence by foreign governments.”

    Through the justice department attorneys, Trump argued that the original constitutional ban against “emoluments” was intended to prevent direct rewards for actions taken in government by US officials, rather than payments for transactions involving outside business interests.


    The justice department attorneys also argued that Crew and its allies did not have grounds to sue Trump because they had not shown that they had directly been harmed by the Trump business arrangements, and that a president may not be sued in his official capacity — a contested notion.


    I note the reading of “emolument” as a “direct reward for the actions of a US government official” is a remarkably narrow interpretation. (And it looks a lot like bribe to me.) Although hair furor is stoooopid enough to still be caught by that, if accepted, it would let him entirely(?) off the hook. And would be difficult to prove, unless hair furor tweets (e.g.) — who the feck would ever say “Спасибо за все, мы предоставим вам больше денег”? (Generalisimo Google™ for: “Thanks for the whatever, we will lend you more money.”)

  282. blf says

    Merkel clearly does not like hair furor at all, Angela Merkel condemns ‘putting up walls’ during Mexico visit:

    Speaking in Mexico City alongside the Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, Merkel said history showed only when empires have gotten on well with their neighbors have migration pressures been resolved in a way that ensured stability.

    “Putting up walls and cutting oneself off will not solve the problem,” said Merkel […].

    The key was to improve living standards and opportunities in afflicted areas, she noted.


    […] Merkel and Peña Nieto together affirmed their commitment to free trade during the German leader’s visit to Latin America’s second-biggest economy. Peña Nieto said Mexico would ensure that foreign investment in his country remained protected in talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta).


  283. says

    I’m very disturbed by Alan Dershowitz and the fact that he’s being treated with the deference he is. People are saying he seems to be auditioning for a role with Trump, which might be true (and is disturbing in its own right). Regardless, his arguments about the Muslim ban* and Trump’s evident obstruction of justice present the presidency as essentially a dictatorship. This isn’t just mistaken but truly dangerous, and needs to be confronted far more energetically.

    * I earlier gave him partial benefit of the doubt on that because I often couldn’t tell if he was making an argument about the actual case or the way he expected rightwing judges to find, which are two entirely separate things. (It’s plausible that a majority of rightwing judges will rule in Trump’s favor – although so far they haven’t done so with the consistency he predicted – but their basis for doing so would be wrong.)

  284. blf says

    In the View of the Supreme Court, Alan Dershowitz Is Wrong About the Powers of the President:

    Alan Dershowitz, in a series of recent op-eds, has taken to arguing […] the whole issue of whether President Trump might have obstructed justice is a red herring. Even if the President ordered James Comey to shut down the Flynn investigation and had a corrupt intent for doing so, this would still not amount to the crime of obstruction of justice. The reason, according to Dershowitz, is that the Constitution gives the exclusive power to the President to control all federal law-enforcement investigations — and thus to shut any of them down for any reason the President sees fit. In other words, the President can never commit obstruction of justice by shutting down a criminal investigation or prosecution.

    But Dershowitz fails to take into account that the Supreme Court has decisively rejected this view. In Morrison v. Olson (1988), a 7–1 Supreme Court turned back constitutional challenges to Congress’ creation of the Act that gave us the office of the Independent Counsel — and in doing so, dismissed exactly the argument that Dershowitz now seeks to invoke.


    In Morrison, the [Ethics in Government] Act was challenged on the ground that it violated the separation of powers because it took unfettered investigative and prosecutorial control over these politically sensitive potential crimes out of the President’s hands. But in firmly rejecting that challenge, the Court held that the President’s constitutional powers were not violated by cabining his control over the investigation and prosecution of crimes involving himself and his top aides. The Act and the Court’s decision reflected the common sense understanding that the President has an inherent conflict of interest when he or his top aides are potential subjects of criminal investigation — and that nothing in the Constitution gives the President the power to completely control those investigations or shut them down.

    So the premise of my friend Alan Dershowitz’s argument is wrong: the President does not have unfettered constitutional power to decide whether to shut down criminal investigations of his top aides for any reason. As the Supreme Court concluded, “we simply do not see how” it is “so central to the functioning of the Executive Branch as to require as a matter of constitutional law that” the President be understood to have unlimited control over the investigation and prosecution of potential crimes involving himself or his top aides. […]

  285. says

    blf – Thank you for that. I should have known they’d have a thorough legal debunking: “Dershowitz wants to end all talk of possible obstruction of justice by arguing that the Constitution makes it impossible for any President ever to be guilty of such a crime—even if he acts with a corrupt intent to shut down a criminal investigation into the President or his top aides. But the Supreme Court has established that the Constitution is not so foolish as to reflect any such principle.”

    I don’t know that it gets at the real danger: “So the premise of my friend Alan Dershowitz’s argument is wrong: the President does not have unfettered constitutional power to decide whether to shut down criminal investigations of his top aides for any reason.” Quite! Hell fucking no a president doesn’t have that power. It’s not just a legal dispute with their friend/former professor/etc. for whom they otherwise have the utmost respect and so on. For Dershowitz to be on cable news day in and day out making an argument for autocracy is really dangerous. He’s not just on nonexistent legal ground – he’s spreading Schmittian propaganda under the guise of expert legal analysis in the service of a would-be tyrant.

  286. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 458.

    From the link:

    […] The US president said he did not want to come if there were large-scale protests and his remarks in effect put the visit on hold for some time. […]

    On hold for some time? How about forever. I don’t think Trump will ever be able to visit Britain without triggering wide scale protests.

  287. says

    SC @456, thanks for the links to Bahara’s interview clips. Those were very interesting. Bahara was particularly good at describing Trump’s attempts to build a personal relationship (inappropriately) with top law enforcement officials.

    SC @453 and 454, I am so appalled by Republican tactics when it comes to passing a health care bill in the Senate. No hearings. No public input. No clear idea is being given to the public about what is actually in the bill. We have a few indications from leaks, and a few broad strokes (like the tax cut for the rich), but a lot of the details are hidden. Mitch McConnell is keeping them hidden for a reason: it’s nearly all bad news, and the American public would protest nationwide over those details.

    Meanwhile, Trump continues to tell his followers that the development of the health care bill is going well, that Democrats are obstructing a great health care bill etc. Trump said he would make our heads spin.

  288. says

    All of the male Trump family members seem to be good at shooting themselves in the foot. Donald Junior is now also shooting his dad in the foot. Junior says that his dad did ask Comey about the investigation into Flynn. And Junior said that after Trump Senior had denied doing so in a Rose Garden press conference.

    Donald Trump Jr. on Saturday said that his father did speak to fired FBI Director James Comey about his preferred outcome for the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, though President Donald Trump flatly denied doing so.

    “When I hear the Flynn comments, you and I know both know my father for a long time. When he tells you to do something, guess what? There’s no ambiguity in it,” Trump Jr. told Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro. “There’s no ‘Hey, I’m hoping. You and I are friends. Hey, I hope this happens, but you’ve got to do your job.’ That’s what he told Comey.”

    On Friday, however, the President flatly denied making those remarks to Comey or pressuring him to drop the investigation into Flynn, implicitly or otherwise.

    “You said you hoped the Flynn investigation he could let go,” ABC News’ Jon Karl asked Trump during a press conference.

    “I didn’t say that,” Trump interrupted.

    “So he lied about that?” Karl asked, referring to Comey.

    “Well, I didn’t say that,” Trump said. “And I mean I will you tell you I didn’t say that.”

    But, he added, “There would be nothing wrong if I did say it, according to everybody that I’ve read today, but I did not say that.”

    Trump Jr. on Saturday claimed that “everything that went on in the Comey testimony was basically ridiculous.” […]


    From one of the reader’s comments below the Talking Points Memo article:

    I talked this over with my teenager who has become an expert in parsing my words. I asked him what the difference would be between me saying “Take out the trash” and “I hope you’ll take out the trash tonight”. He stated, without hesitation, that the second was more threatening because it implied consequences and past failures to remember trash night. He then said that, when I say “We need to mow the lawn this weekend”, he knows I’m saying that he needs to get that lawn mowed!

  289. says

    Trump continues to use Twitter to smear Comey.

    I believe the James Comey leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible. Totally illegal? Very ‘cowardly!’

    Trump has no proof that Comey leaked classified material. Trump has no proof that Comey shared additional non-classified material (in addition to his recollection memos). Trump is just posting wild accusations on Twitter.

    Most of rightwing media is pushing the same propaganda. They are working hard to brand Comey as a “leaker” and to blame all past leaks, especially those to the NY Times and Washington Post, on Comey. This is mind-boggling.

    And why does Trump put “cowardly” in scare quotes?

  290. says

    Follow-up to comment 462.

    “You and I are friends: ‘Hey, I hope this happens, but you’ve got to do your job.’ That’s what [my father] told Comey,” Trump Jr. said.

    […] Uday [Donald Jr.] Trump is not in government, but is instead holding on to his father’s businesses and being very careful not to mix Donald’s government duties with Donald’s business ties, but because Uday looks like an honest fellow let’s just assume he’s telling the truth and was indeed told the content of dad’s private administration meetings. That seems like something the appropriate House and Senate committees would want to follow up on. […]


    Did Trump Sr. tell Trump Jr. that he had spoken to Comey about the Flynn probe?

  291. blf says

    France24 is reporting (Macron’s party tops first round of France’s legislative elections): “President Emmanuel Macron’s party has topped round one of France’s legislative polls with 32.2% of the vote, ahead of conservatives (21.5%) and the far right (14%), according to an Ipsos estimate […]”, and “If [this] first-round trend is confirmed […], June 18’s second and final round, Macron’s party would be on course for a huge majority of between 380 and 430 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly.” That result — not sure about the numbers — is in-line with the pre-election polls: a majority for Macron supporters in Parliament.

    However, turnout was low, “Voter abstention reached a record high of 51.2 percent.”

    Locally, I can only recall ever seeing Macron campaigners, no-one(?) for any other party. They flooded the morning market a week ago, you couldn’t move without tripping over one. Nothing stuffed through the letterbox, however, by anyone, which is something of a first…

  292. says

    Bots are outnumbering humans when it comes to commenting on Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan rescind President Obama’s “net neutrality” rules. There were 2.6 million public comments, but many of them were fake.

    […] Net neutrality proponents barraged the FCC with messages arguing that the Obama era rules ensured equal and open access to the Internet. A blizzard of comments from opponents charged exactly the opposite: that the rules put the Web under government control, mainly to the benefit of big Silicon Valley companies like Google and Facebook.

    A lot of the messages sound very similar, which is not surprising given some high profile campaigns, including that by HBO talk host John Oliver, who encouraged his viewers to contact the FCC and comment on the “pro” side. Opponents of net neutrality launched their own messaging campaigns sending hundreds of thousands of their own comments to the commission. […]

    So we [the National Legal and Policy Center] conducted a forensic examination of the 2.6 million comments […] The findings were astounding. […]

    Over 100,000 examples of identical comments using language from an Electronic Frontier Foundation letter program were submitted from what appeared to be a fake email generator program using as many as ten different email domains. A spot check of dozens of the 100,000 comments also revealed that the submissions included fake physical addresses and maybe even fake names. […]


    Fake comments made by bots were made on both sides of the issue. This renders the public comment process meaningless.

    […] Thousands of other pro-net neutrality filers used what appear to be other people’s private email addresses. Based on our analysis, the email addresses appear in many cases to have either been culled from spam and hacker databases available on the open web, or from other publicly available files found on the open web such as PDF files – some not even in the U.S. In one case, an email address and name that appears to have been pulled from an Islamic hacker database on the public Web was associated with seven different individuals submitting comments.

    […] Sophisticated bots and automated comment platforms can create thousands and thousands of comments from senders who may or may not be real.

    […] While the public comment process can be important, it’s clear the process as it exists can be easily gamed by either side of any issue. […]

  293. says

    Ezra Klein analyzed the “bullshitter” approach that Trump takes to drowning out the truth:

    Donald Trump understands, better than any politician I’ve ever seen, that the question isn’t whether you’re winning the argument — it’s whether you’re dominating and driving the coverage of the argument. And that is his strategy in responding to former FBI Director James Comey’s searing testimony.

    Trump means to take back control of the storyline. But he doesn’t intend to win the argument, or even offer a persuasive counterargument or narrative of events. Instead, his strategy is to crowd out coverage of Comey’s arguments and force the media to cover bullshit. […]

    Donald Trump’s secret isn’t that he lies. It’s that he crowds out the truth.

  294. tomh says

    @ #467
    That link about how Trump tries to crowd out the truth is right on the money. Couldn’t be more accurate.

  295. KG says

    Some interesting news about the Manchester bombing:

    It remains unclear whether the Manchester bomber acted alone when preparing the device that killed 22 people, police have said.
    The head of counter-terrorism in the region said Salman Abedi was likely to have built the bomb alone at his flat.
    But it was “less clear” whether he had obtained and stored all the materials, or if others were “complicit”.
    However, all 22 people arrested in connection with the attack in May have now been released without charge.
    Detective Chief Superintendent Russ Jackson said the force now had a “deep understanding” of Abedi’s movements in the weeks leading up to the attack.
    This included how the chemicals to build the bomb were obtained and where he put the device together.

    This is quite standard in the UK: the great majority of people arrested in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist incident will be released without charge, and suspected networks and conspiracies tend to shrink to small groups or single operators.

  296. blf says

    KG@468 asks “What do you think Macron’s 400 assembly members will be like?”

    Not much of a clew. To me, Macron is still mostly a cipher. He’s had a mixed start, with some eye-catching foreign policies theater, but the one policy I know of he has proposed — to, in effect, make most of France’s state of emergency part of law (see @390) — is obviously ill-thought-out and paranoid.

    The Parliamentary candidates themselves are quite a mix, with a large number having no(?) elected experience before. They range from people like a Fields Medal winner to established politicians, with quite a collection of skills and experiences in-between. Efforts have, allegedly, been made to filter out people with questionable ethics, but one of his ministers is already facing a scandal, refusing to resign, blah blah blah.

    I suppose my cynical expectation is that with this broadly inexperience mob, things like making the state of emergency all but permanent are too likely to pass, that they will be easily to bribe and largely-clewless about covering-up (so, perhaps, many many scandals?), and conflicted about things like the labour laws: Something Macron wants to loosen, but which are heavily popular. (Disclaimer: I myself have benefited from those laws, with a negotiated tax-free termination-of-position agreement that was very generous.)

    On the other hand, compared to the thieving immoral lawyers(-mostly) we tend to get in Anglophonelands, a significant number of non–lawyers who, broadly, seem to be intelligent, enthusiastic / willing, and (presumably) also annoyed at past practices but who do not seem to be authoritarian-as-a-default-position, is not necessarily unreasonable.

    One thing I have no idea about, in general, is the environmentalist credentials. Macron is widely reported to be pro-business, but I don’t know where he or his supporters are, either stated or in-practice, on sustainability, human rights, and so on…

    A sufficiently large majority will, of course, in principle allow him to “ram through” measures, at least in the traditional model. But again — his people in Parliament have a lot on non-traditionalists annoyed at the traditional corruption &tc, so it’s unclear (to me) how successful he’d be if / when he tries to do that. I would not be too surprised if he has to negotiate with his own Parliamentarians, or perhaps more likely, various factions thereof.

    (As an aside, current estimates are the le penazis are going to remain insignificant. There is a second round of voting next(?) Sunday, and at the moment, Macron is trying to improve on the dreadful turnout. Locally, the Macron suppoter was first, but not by enough to avoid the second round. The local le penazi was third (with a disgusting c.20%), so my representative won’t be a fascist, although it still could be an authoritarian (who was second).)

  297. blf says

    Follow-up of sorts to @436, The five most bizarre decisions in Gulf–Qatar crisis:

    After Saudi Arabia and other GCC nations cut ties with Qatar, a series of surreal decisions were taken against it.
    Here are a few of the most prominent — and strangest — of these decrees.

    Breaking up families
    The Saudi-led bloc issued orders of forced removals against their own nationals, as well as Qatari nationals.

    Criminalising sympathy
    Sympathy for Qatar expressed by social media users across the GCC created a PR disaster for the countries who severed relations with their Gulf neighbour.

    To stem the flow of negative reactions Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain took steps to curb their citizens from expressing opinions that opposed their policies.

    The UAE Attorney General Hamad Saif al-Shamsi announced that any objections to the UAE’s strict measures against the government of Qatar or expression of sympathy with Qatar would be a crime punishable by a prison sentence of 3–15 years and a fine of no less than $136,000 (500,000AED), whether on a social media platform or via any written or spoken medium.

    Banning Al Jazeera and blocking websites
    The [Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage] stressed that all channels belonging to the Al Jazeera Media Network are to be removed from the list of satellite stations in “all hotel rooms and touristic facilities and furnished residential units{…} including the TV lists kept within”, in order to avoid punishments that included fines up to $27,000 (100,000 Saudi riyals) and a cancellation of the hotel’s licence.

    This general directive was sent to the owners and operators of tourist facilities, and it stressed that channels screened should be “compatible” with “official Saudi channels”.

    Charity organisations
    The [terror list] included 59 individuals, including Yusef al-Qaradawi, chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, as well as 12 bodies including Qatar Charity and Eid Charity.

    The UN responded to this statement by reiterating that they are bound only by the “terrorist designations” issued by its own agencies, not those issued by any other party.


    An official at the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs […] pointed out that the inclusion of a number of journalists on the list indicated that the purpose was to intimidate and to muzzle freedom of expression guaranteed by international accords.

    Indeed. For example, Rami G. Khouri (a “senior public policy fellow and professor of journalism at the American University of Beirut, an internationally syndicated columnist, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School”) writes, The Qatar–Gulf rift stems from fear:

    The UAE and Saudi leadership seem to have decided to make Qatar a scapegoat for their fears about regional changes.

    At the core of the week-old decision by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to strangulate their smaller neighbour Qatar with a medieval-style siege is a single critical question: what fears and demons drove the Saudi and Emirati leaders to take these drastic measures to bludgeon Qatar into changing its foreign and media policies and submitting itself totally to their demands?

    How can we explain this harsh response that strikes me, and many observers in the world, as exaggerated to the point of being hysterical? […]

    [… One factor is] the accumulated fears that Islamists across the region continue to gain strength among the public since the Arab uprisings of 2010–11, and thus represent a genuine, existential, and immediate threat to these ruling families [Saudi Arabia & UAE –blf] and their visions of their countries and the wider Gulf order.


    For the Emiratis and Saudis, virtually every element of Qatar’s foreign policy represents frightening visions of what they fear most — a regional order in which media openly discuss political issues that really matter to Arab citizens, working links with Islamists and other political groups that challenge prevailing Arab orders, close ties with Iran, and an independent streak that prompted Qatar to stray from the regional vision of the GCC that Saudi Arabia has tried to enforce for many decades.

    This was bad enough on its own; but it was exacerbated by three other factors [… including] the successful negotiations Western and global powers held with an apparently strong and regionally well-linked Iran.


    The UAE–Saudi leadership seem to have decided to make Qatar a scapegoat for their real fears, despite the paucity of credible evidence linking Qatar to schemes to destabilise its GCC neighbours. […]


    Professor Khouri also makes the point the current “leaders” in Saudi Arabia and UAE are fairly young and inherited their positions only recently. The Arab Spring is very much not a model of lifetime authoritarian and near-absolute rule, so its understandable why they would feel threatened.

  298. says

    Follow-up to comment 474.

    From Steve Benen:

    […] Tillerson, […] had invested considerable energy in trying to persuade Saudi Arabia and its allies to relax their blockade. He then looked pretty foolish less than an hour later when his boss sent the opposite signal at a White House press conference.

    In an apparent bid to make this appear less humiliating for the administration, a White House official later said Trump and Tillerson are on the “same page,” but they’re emphasizing different parts of the page.

    That’s hilariously unpersuasive.

    Putting aside for now the question of why Tillerson doesn’t just resign in frustration, who do you suppose speaks for U.S. foreign policy right now? Is it the Secretary of State, whom the president undercuts with confused public statements, or the president himself, who doesn’t seem to understand what he’s saying or what his administration ostensibly believes?

    If you were a foreign official – friend or foe – could you say with confidence what the American position is on any major foreign policy issue, and whether or not that position will be the same tomorrow?

    Postscript: Qatar, recognizing its growing political dilemma in D.C., has hired former Attorney General John Ashcroft to help oversee the country’s “crisis response” operation.

  299. blf says

    ‘This needs to stop’: Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs’ statement to court (“Full text read to Montana court calls for end to rancorous and vile discourse, and stressed the vital role of the free press”). It’s short, well-written, and concludes:

    [… This incident has] had national ramifications on our politics and our culture. While I have no doubt that actions like these were an aberration for Congressman-elect Gianforte personally, I worry that, in the context of our political debate, they have become increasingly common. In recent years, our discourse has grown increasingly rancorous and increasingly vile. This needs to stop.

    There will always be fundamental political disagreements in our society. However, these need not become personal and certainly should never become violent. I just hope this court’s decision can send a strong message about the necessity of civil discourse in our country, the important role of the free press and the need to help heal our political system.

  300. says

    Trump’s personal lawyer is as inept and unethical as Trump himself.

    […] Marc Kasowitz has advised White House staffers—who are not his clients—not to retain their own lawyers […]

    Kasowitz has also reportedly broken the long-standing protocol that presidents’ private attorneys operate through the White House Counsel’s office and don’t engage directly with other government employees whom they do not represent. These guidelines exist to make sure the staffers understand their rights and do not feel pressured to cooperate with their bosses’ private counsel. […]

    Kasowitz is tasked with defending Trump personally, a job that inevitably conflicts with what is best for the White House as an institution. […]

    Former White House counsel Robert Bauer warned that Kasowitz’s conversations “could be interpreted as an act of obstruction, a means of dissuading the witnesses from cooperating in the investigation.”

    Telling the staffers not to retain their own counsel is also to Kasowitz’s advantage, making it easier for him to interview them as he builds his defense for Trump without having to go through a pack of lawyers each time.

  301. says

    Trump convened his cabinet today. At the meeting he showered them with bullshit:

    At the first full Cabinet meeting of his administration Monday, President Donald Trump blamed Senate Democrats for slowing the nomination process for members of his administration, despite his own failure to nominate anyone for the vast majority of presidential appointments he has left to fill.

    “Due to a record long delay in confirmation, and the confirmation process, by the Senate Democrats, which I call the obstructionists — maybe they’ll change, but I doubt it for a while, but they are truly obstructionists — this is our first Cabinet meeting with the entire Cabinet present,” Trump said. “The confirmation process has been record-setting long, and I mean record-setting long, with some of the finest people in our country being delayed and delayed and delayed.”

    “But that’s — Much of that is over, and now we are going through, as you know, the regular process with people at other levels of government,” he added. “And that’s a very long process also, including ethics committee, which has become very difficult to deal with.” […]

    And according to the Washington Post’s count of hundreds of key nominations, produced in partnership with the non-profit group Partnership for Public Service, Trump is lagging significantly behind his four most recent predecessors in the nominations his administration has sent to the Senate for consideration. […]

    CNN Money reported June 7, citing the same Partnership for Public Service data, that Trump had nominated individuals to fill just 111 of more-than-1,100 positions requiring Senate approval. The publication reported that “[n]o president in modern history has fallen so far behind” in filling key positions.


  302. blf says

    Follow-up to @476, Greg Gianforte sentenced to community service for assaulting Guardian reporter:

    Congressman-elect Greg Gianforte was sentenced to community service, a $385 fine and 20 hours of sessions for anger management after pleading guilty to assaulting Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs on the eve of his election.


    While Monday’s proceedings bring a close to the criminal case, Gianforte could still face discipline in Congress. On 2 June, a coalition of press freedom organizations filed a complaint with congressional ethics officials asking that Gianforte be disciplined for the assault.

  303. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comments 381, 453, and 454.

    There will be no definitive CBO score anytime soon for the Senate’s version of the American Health Care Act (Obamacare repeal/big tax break for rich people). The bill, such as it is, will also not be posted for anyone to review.

    Those who were hoping to see the Senate GOP Obamacare repeal bill before it was sent over to the Congressional Budget Office shouldn’t hold their breath.

    Republican staffers are close to finishing a draft, perhaps even by Monday evening, Axios reported, but aren’t planing to release it once they complete it and send it to the CBO for a score. It’s unclear just at what point of the process between now and when the Senate votes on the legislation that the full text becomes public.

    Ongoing discussions around the draft, which could be tweaked to get consensus, was cited in the Axios report as being a reason it won’t be posted once it was done. […]

    It’s not uncommon for draft proposals to be sent to the CBO privately as part of the larger legislative efforts, as a way of providing feedback to members negotiating a bill. But Senate Republican also intend to bypass the committee process in their repeal effort, an extraordinary move, given the scope and the potential impact of their health care legislation. […]


    So, they are not making the text of the legislation public, they are skipping the committee process entirely, and they asking for a private CBO score on a draft version of the legislation.

    Getting a CBO score on a draft version is not too far from the norm, but the purpose of that score is to give committee members feedback on their work … uh, there’s a problem. There are no committee hearings. Dems on the committee will not be heard. No discussion. No consideration of whatever feedback they receive. And the score remains private?

  304. blf says

    Now the facists in Finland are stirring, Finnish coalition at risk after party elects far right leader:

    Finland’s prime minister, Juha Sipila, has moved to break up the country’s three-party coalition government after a junior partner, the nationalist True Finns party, elected an anti-immigration hardliner as its new leader.

    The True Finns, the second-biggest party in the coalition, had over the weekend picked MEP Jussi Halla-aho as its new leader, a move set to take the moderately nationalist party closer towards radical right-wing populism.


    Halla-aho, who argues Finland would be better off outside the European Union, was in 2012 fined €400 by the country’s supreme court for disturbing religious worship and ethnic agitation over comments on a blog that linked Islam to paedophilia and Somalis to theft.

    Halla-aho has proposed sanctions against organisations that rescue refugees and immigrants from the Mediterranean, saying it encourages movement from Africa to Europe.

    A September 2011 Facebook post in which Halla-aho wrote that Greece’s debt problems could not be solved without a military junta led to a temporary suspension from his party, then fronted by Timo Soini.


    Mikä pörröinen! (Generalisimo Google™ for “What a nutter!”)

  305. blf says

    Related to @440, ‘Unprecedented violations’: states sue Trump for not separating business ties:

    Attorneys general of Maryland and Washington say he violates the constitution by failing to separate his public responsibilities with his private interests
    The lawsuit, filed on Monday by DC attorney general Karl Racine and Maryland attorney general Brian Frosh […] in the US district court in Maryland, alleges that Trump has violated the emoluments clause of the US constitution by failing to relinquish ownership of his vast business holdings.


    The attorneys general cite as examples of Trump breaching the clause reports that foreign governments and government-related entities are staying and hosting events at the Trump international hotel in Washington, buying leases in Trump buildings at Trump Tower in Manhattan, and offering trademark deals and real estate permits.

    “We have a president putting his financial interest over the interests of the citizens of the country,” Racine said in a statement. “No one, including the president of the United States, is above the law and state attorneys general have the duty to enforce the law and act as the first line of defense against presidential wrongdoing. Republicans have refused to take action or even discuss these ongoing violations which is why we will take the lead, go to court and do what is necessary for our constituents and the constitution.”

    “Elected leaders must serve the people, and not their personal financial interests. That is the indispensable foundation of a democracy,” Frosh added in the statement. “We cannot treat a president’s ongoing violations of the Constitution and disregard for the rights of the American people as the new and acceptable status quo. The president, above all other elected officials, must have only the interests of Americans at the heart of every decision.”

    If a federal judge allows the case to proceed, Racine and Frosh said they will seek the disclosure of Trump’s personal tax returns to better understand the extent of the president’s foreign business interests.