1. says

    Follow-up to comment 399.

    Trump is tweeting again about Russian meddling. This tweet falls into Trump’s “it’s all Obama’s fault” category:

    Question: If all of the Russian meddling took place during the Obama Administration, right up to January 20th, why aren’t they the subject of the investigation? Why didn’t Obama do something about the meddling? Why aren’t Dem crimes under investigation? Ask Jeff Sessions!

    Trump posted the tweet twice because he misspelled Sessions’ name the first time.

    From Steve Benen:

    […] we could spend several paragraphs explaining to the confused president that there are no alleged “Dem crimes” to investigate. We could also explain that the Obama administration wanted to do more, but Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, blocked efforts to respond to Russia’s attack. We could even explain that Obama did do “something” – he imposed sanctions – which is a heckuva lot more than Trump’s done.

    […] isn’t the more pressing question why the president is pressuring the Justice Department to investigate his political adversaries? […]

    The United States is not, and cannot become, some banana republic in which corrupt leaders use the levers of power and the justice system as a political weapon to be wielded against domestic foes.

    […] Trump not only sees himself as an autocratic ruler with “absolute” control over federal law enforcement, he also envisions a system in which an attorney general’s principal responsibility should be to protect a president’s interests, instead of the public’s.

    It’s against this backdrop that Trump, just this morning, sought some kind of explanation for why Jeff Sessions isn’t launching an investigation into Democrats – as if this kind of presidential lobbying was somehow appropriate.

    It’s not.

  2. says

    Follow-up to comment 486.

    How widespread is the smear campaign against the Parkland, Florida students?

    […] If the attacks were limited to fringe, crackpot websites, they might be easier to overlook, but prominent figures in conservative media have gone on the offensive, criticizing the kids with lies and conspiracy theories, and the nonsense is spreading.

    In one instance yesterday, as Florida’s Republican-run state House was preparing to vote on a measure to ban assault weapons, a GOP aide told a local reporter that some of the high-school students lobbying for new gun restrictions are secretly actors who travel from city to city, trying to exploit tragedies. […]

    Doug Heye, a former House Republican leadership aide, said on Twitter this week, “Questioning the motivations of Parkland students/bizarre conspiracy theories should be beyond the pale. I may disagree with some of their policy goals, but the motivation of these incredibly well-spoken, poised kids is clear: their friends were shot.”

    The fact that so many other conservatives can’t adopt this sensible posture is a reminder of the kind of toxic indecency that exists among far-right extremists. […]


    As I noted in a previous comment, the tweet identifying one student as a tool of the FBI, and as having been paid by George Soros, that tweet has been retweeted more than 111,000 times … and the number is still rising.

    The role of Russian bots was also discussed earlier. Link

  3. says

    While the Florida state legislature was refusing to even debate a ban on assault weapons, the legislators did find time to declare porn a health hazard:

    The bill (HB 219), which would ban the sale and possession of semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines like the kind used by Nikolas Cruz, has been mired in a House subcommittee for months and has not been heard.

    Amid rising tensions at the Capitol, Democrats used a highly unusual procedure to try to move the proposal directly to the House floor for a debate and vote.

    Republicans voted it down, 71-36. Several survivors of the high school massacre, watching from the visitors’ gallery, were overcome with emotion, and the action set off a firestorm of controversy on social media.

    Tampa Bay Times link

  4. says

    The Trump administration is using junk health plans (insurance) to undermine Obamacare even more than they already have.

    […] senior HHS staff unveiled a draft rule this week that would expand the sale of cheap, skimpy, short-term health plans, they described it as a “lifeline” for the currently uninsured, and insisted the rule change won’t destabilize Obamacare’s individual market. [Bullshit]

    […] a lengthy series of administrative actions that have destabilized and chipped away at the Affordable Care Act, including repealing of the individual mandate, cutting the length of open enrollment in half and slashing funding for outreach and assistance, making it easier for states to cull their Medicaid enrollees, and cutting off CSR subsidies that offset the cost of insuring low-income individuals.

    […] health care experts and economists say the plans—which can charge people higher premiums if they have a pre-existing condition, reject them altogether, and refuse to cover basics like emergency room visits and prescriptions drugs—are mainly aimed at enticing people out of Obamacare’s individual market.

    “Rather than eliminate the ACA’s consumer protections, this is simply creating a parallel insurance market that lacks those protections,” Larry Levitt with the Kaiser Family Foundation told TPM. “This is a back door way of creating largely unregulated insurance plans that will siphon off healthy people.”

    […] According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 53 percent of uninsured people would qualify for significant financial assistance through either Medicaid or the individual market’s federal tax credits, and those free or nearly-free plans would offer them comprehensive coverage regardless of their health status. […]

    “In just the last few months, state insurance departments have been putting out fraud alerts because of the marketing of these products can be pretty deceptive,” she [Sabrina Corlette, a professor at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute] said, citing Indiana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa and Pennsylvania as just a few examples. “A lot of people buy them thinking they’re comprehensive insurance and will provide financial protection to them, only to find out to their dismay that they don’t cover very much at all. And because short-term policies are not required to disclose all of their exceptions and limits and caps, in some cases you don’t even know what you’re buying until after you pay your premiums.”


  5. says

    “Mueller asking if Manafort promised banker White House job in return for loans”:

    Federal investigators are probing whether former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort promised a Chicago banker a job in the Trump White House in return for $16 million in home loans, two people with direct knowledge of the matter told NBC News.

    Manafort received three separate loans in December 2016 and January 2017 from Federal Savings Bank for homes in New York City and the Hamptons.

    Stephen Calk, who was announced as a member of candidate Trump’s council of economic advisers in August 2016, is the president of Federal Savings Bank.

    Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team is now investigating whether there was a quid pro quo agreement between Manafort and Calk. Manafort left the Trump campaign in August 2016 after the millions he had earned working for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine drew media scrutiny. Calk did not receive a job in President Donald Trump’s cabinet.

    The sources say the three loans were questioned by other officials at the bank, and one source said that at least one of the bank employees who felt pressured into approving the deals is cooperating with investigators….

    If the story and the allegations are true, this would be interesting in that the agreement/loans would have been made long after Manafort ostensibly left the campaign, and indeed after the election. That would suggest some potential knowledge/involvement by Trump (only potential, because Manafort could have been lying about his relationship with Trump to get the loans, but all of the timing is suggestive).

  6. says

    Someone linked to this report from November 30, 2016, which seems relevant to the report @ #5:

    “Paul Manafort Is Back and Advising Donald Trump on Cabinet Picks”:

    …According to two sources with knowledge of the Trump presidential transition process, Manafort—whose formal association with the president-elect ended in August—is heavily involved with the staffing of the nascent administration.

    But now, a few months and an election night victory later, it seems Manafort is back, and in a position he surely finds more comfortable: one shrouded in almost total mystery.

    “When they’re picking a cabinet, unless he contacts me, I don’t bother him,” one former campaign official who worked closely with Manafort told The Daily Beast. “It’s a heady time for everyone.”

    “I think he’s weighing in on everything,” the former official said, “I think he still talks to Trump every day. I mean, Pence? That was all Manafort. Pence is on the phone with Manafort regularly.”

    Another Trump campaign source who worked alongside Manafort confirmed to The Daily Beast that he is heavily involved in selecting the incoming administration’s “personnel picks.”

    When The Daily Beast caught up with Manafort sometime later, he would neither confirm nor deny his presence on the Trump transition team.

    “I don’t want to get into that,” he said. “I’m here to talk about the campaign, I don’t want to talk about transition.”

    Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for Trump, later told The Daily Beast, “Paul Manafort has no association with the transition team or communication with the President-elect.”

  7. says

    Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, has waged a war against poor people for a long time. Walker’s latest attack will take food stamps away from poor people, and it will kick some poor people out of public housing.

    […] Gov. Scott Walker (R) pushed state lawmakers to double down on his previous tweaks to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other safety net systems.

    Taken together, the earlier changes and those passed Tuesday make Wisconsin a living experiment with very old conservative policy ideas. The changes are hard-hearted and soft-brained, a recipe for greater human misery masquerading as a plan to lift the destitute back toward dignity.

    One bill ups existing work requirements for food stamps. Another sets humiliating new conditions for eligibility to live in public housing. Others set aside money to pay private companies that contract with the state if those companies can realize further savings. […]


  8. says

    Republicans in the House of Congress have vowed to pair any new gun control (background check improvements) to a concealed-carry measure backed by the NRA. The concealed-carry measure allows gun owners with permits in one state to bring their weapon into any other state.

    Meanwhile, a clean background check bill does actually stand a chance of passing, if someone can convince Paul Ryan to bring it to the floor. The background check portion would enforce penalties for federal agencies that don’t follow reporting rules, and it would provide incentives to states that comply with rules regarding reporting to the federal database. (Baby steps.)

    The House Freedom Caucus is kicking up a fuss, saying that background-check legislation “would allow bureaucrats and administrators to take away an individual’s Second Amendment liberties, and something that fundamental you’ve got to have a court make that decision to give due process to American citizens.” They view the concealed-carry add-on as a sweetener that might make them more amenable to passing background checks. They are asking for too much.

    Concealed-carry permits are handed out like candy at Halloween by some states. Other states require proof of competence, and a more stringent background check. The concealed-carry measure proposed by far-right Republicans and by the NRA could result in a person who received a permit in a lax state taking a weapon legally to, for example, Times Square.

  9. says

    MSNBC is showing a Parkland-student-led protest outside the FL state capitol in Tallahassee. It’s remarkable and inspiring. A Pulse nightclub survivor is speaking now.

    There’s also an ongoing student protest at the WH and Supreme Court.

    CNN is hosting a town hall on gun reform including some of the Parkland students at 9 ET tonight.

  10. says

    The Trump administration is not yet done with attempts to take away public land, nor are they done when it comes to closing off avenues for public input on land management.

    The Department of the Interior, under Secretary Ryan Zinke, wants to stop the public from “interfering” with its ongoing efforts to hand control of America’s public lands over to commercial and industrial interests. According to a report finalized in September and leaked to the Washington Post last week, the department plans to eviscerate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and explore other ways of clamping down on public involvement.

    NEPA […] requires federal agencies like the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to study the environmental effects of their proposals before taking action. […]

    The agencies must also provide opportunities for public input, and then meaningfully respond to any input they receive. In short, NEPA requires a “look before you leap” approach to management. […]

    It looks like they may get their way. The Interior Department’s leaked recommendations for “streamlining” NEPA read like an industry wish list. The recommendations would permit — and in some cases require — BLM to rubber-stamp actions like oil and gas leasing, livestock grazing, logging, mining, and large-scale deforestation, all without considering environmental consequences or public opinion. […]

    Zinke’s plans to cut the public out of public lands include weakening the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA). […] Interior’s recommendations would amend FOIA to “limit the number of … requests from any one group” and require “more stringent justification for fee waivers.” Regional and community-based watchdog groups, many of which can’t afford to buy access to public records, depend on FOIA’s fee waiver provisions.

    EAJA, meanwhile, allows plaintiffs to recover the costs of litigation in cases where the government is found to have broken the law. Under Zinke’s plan, EAJA would be amended to allow the government to recover costs and fees from public-interest litigants. […]

    Together, the proposed changes to FOIA and EAJA would render public oversight of land management decisions prohibitively expensive, while hiding important planning information — including records of any deals with industry — from public view. […]


  11. says

    “Alt-right leaders can no longer spread disinformation on Medium”: “Medium has suspended the accounts of Mike Cernovich, Jack Posobiec, and Laura Loomer. …Links to any of the suspended accounts (or their published works) redirect to the dreary white suspension page, which reads ‘This page is unavailable’.”

    It notes: “By far the biggest change made by Medium is the addition of a section called ‘Related Content’, which reads ‘We do not allow posts or accounts that engage in on-platform, off-platform, or cross-platform campaigns of targeting, harassment, hate speech, violence, or disinformation’.”

  12. says

    Donald Trump Junior’s tour of India is designed to be corrupt, designed to mix politics and business.

    […] Indian newspapers have been running advertisements that promise homebuyers willing to pay a roughly $38,000 booking fee an opportunity to “join Mr. Donald Trump Jr. for a conversation and dinner.”

    Government ethics experts in the US are appalled by that prospect, and say that the arrangement encourages Indians — especially those with ties to India’s government — to use purchases of Trump-branded property as a way to gain favor with the Trump administration. […]

    Trump’s polarizing presidency has put a dent in his domestic businesses, it doesn’t seem to have damaged his reputation in India. In fact, the Trump brand seems to be chugging along quite nicely there. […]

    Experts say Junior is selling access to himself — and by proxy, to the president of the US — in exchange for buying his products. […]

    [Junior is] planning to deliver a speech on Indo-Pacific relations at an event in India on Friday. (It’s a serious affair — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be speaking at the same summit.) […]

    Trump Jr. is signaling to Indians that he’s in their country as a businessman and as a surrogate for the US government. If any wealthy Indians were on the fence about whether it was worth buying a condo just to talk to Trump Jr. about, say, trade policy, the fact that he’s delivering that speech should make it seem worthwhile. […]

    And since he is deliberately blurring the lines between his role as a businessman and as the son of the president, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to conclude that President Trump’s foreign policy could be for sale to the highest bidder. […]


  13. says


    The parents of first lady Melania Trump have become legal permanent residents of the United States and are close to obtaining their citizenship, according to people familiar with their status, but their attorney declined to say how or when the couple gained their green cards.

    Immigration experts said Viktor and Amalija Knavs very likely relied on a family reunification process that President Trump has derided as “chain migration” and proposed ending in such cases….

  14. says

    Spencer Hsu: “The new Manafort/Gates case charging document was filed under seal, according to the filing earlier today. There is no indication when prosecutors and/or court will move/grant unsealing. Can be quick, but not always. Bottom line, stay tuned, but no ETA.”

  15. says

    That’s right, Republicans, you should NOT raffle off AR-15 rifles at your fundraisers.

    Organizers of a fundraiser featuring Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers reversed course and pulled their plan to auction off an AR-15 rifle […]

    the Stevens County Republican Party removed mentions of the AR-15 and a plan to offer a Ruger 10-22 .22-caliber rifle as a door prize from the event’s website. […]

    The northeast Washington state event is set for March 24, the same day surviving students have planned a nationwide demonstration, including a march in Washington, D.C., calling for stricter gun laws. […]


  16. says

    Did you feel sorry for Keith Schiller when Trump fired him? Probably not. But, just in case, you should know that Schiller is being paid $15,000 per month by the The Republican National Committee.

    […] Just weeks after leaving the White House, […] the RNC hired Schiller’s private security firm, KS Global Group, to provide “security services.”

    […] Schiller is providing consulting services for site selection for the party’s 2020 convention. […]

    Schiller’s “site selection consulting” fees are paid out of the RNC’s convention fund, not its campaign fund, the report noted. The RNC has paid Schiller’s firm $75,000 since October, […]

    Schiller played a high-profile role in the administration, most notably when he hand-delivered former FBI Director James Comey’s termination letter to the Justice Department. […]

    Keith Schiller is Trump’s former body guard and director of Oval Office operations.

  17. says

    A bait and switch of trumpian proportions … and from Disney World no less:

    Unions representing tens of thousands of workers at Disney World filed a federal unfair labor complaint against the company Monday, alleging that it withheld $1,000 bonuses from unionized workers during contract negotiations to convince employees to take lower wages.

    In January, the Walt Disney Company announced it would provide 125,000 employees with a cash bonus of $1,000 for all full-time staff and part-time non-executive domestic employees, […]

    Eric Clinton, president of the local UNITE HERE, said in a Facebook video statement that the company is saying employees can have the bonus “if you agree to stay poor.”

    Angie McKinnon, financial secretary treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 737, said, in a statement posted on the union’s Facebook page, “Using the $1,000 bonus to force cast members to accept low wages amounts to extortion.” […]

    […] Madeline Johnson, an attractions Cast Member at Disney’s Animal Kingdom stated, “We’re not going to be tricked by a $1,000 bribe, especially when other Disney Cast Members are getting the $1,000 with no strings attached.”

    The Service Trades Council said Disney is refusing to deliver the employee bonuses until the union approves a new contract, and that, if the workers do not agree to the offer, the bonuses will expires on August 31, […]


  18. says

    Republican legislators at the state level seem deaf to the pleas from students from Parkland, Florida:

    […] In Arizona, Republicans blocked a Democratic effort to force debate over whether to ban bump stocks and other modifications to increase weapons’ rate of fire — and instead voted to debate an anti-porn bill.

    In Florida, just after the vote to not debate an assault rifle ban, legislators did debate a measure that declares pornography a threat to public health. […]

    Ten other gun control measures — including legislation requiring universal background checks for gun purchases and a bill to prohibit those convicted of domestic abuse charges from owning a weapon — have been bottled up in the Arizona House Judiciary and Public Safety Committee this year. None have received a hearing.

    Meanwhile, measures to loosen restrictions on guns have actually moved forward in some cases.

    A Florida legislator breathed new life into a proposal to end a ban on guns in schools. State Sen. Greg Steube (R) said he would bring the measure up for a hearing, […]

    One measure that has received a hearing in Arizona would loosen gun safety rules in foster homes. That bill, which has advanced out of a state House committee, would end gun safety requirements in homes of foster parents.

    In Wisconsin, where Democrats tried to force a vote on a measure requiring universal background checks for all gun purchases, Republicans used a legislative tactic to rewrite the bill to fund armed guards in schools […]

    In South Carolina, legislative leaders threw cold water on a Democratic proposal, which was introduced after the Parkland attack, to ban sales of AR-15 rifles to those under the age of 20.

    “No one wants to see loss of life, ever,” House Majority Leader Gary Simrill (R) told The State newspaper. “Restricting the rights of law-abiding citizens is not going to be the answer to the problem.”

    Instead, Simrill suggested allowing those with concealed weapon permits to carry their firearms in more locations. South Carolina legislators are also considering measures that would arm teachers. […]


  19. says

    Follow-up to comment 23.

    It has been pointed out that the Republican convention is three years away. In the meantime, Keith Schiller is being paid $15,000 a month to pick a location? That seems odd. By the time the convention rolls around, Schiller will have been paid $500,000.

    It has also been noted by Stephen Spaulding, former special counsel at the Federal Election Commission and now chief of strategy at the nonpartisan advocacy group Common Cause, that convention funds “are notorious for being operated as slush funds.”

    So what is going on here?

    There’s speculation that Schiller is being paid hush money. He is the man, after all, who arranged trysts between Trump and a porn star; and between Trump and a Playboy bunny. Schiller is also the man who disputed the account in the Steele dossier of Russian prostitutes joining Trump in a hotel room. And while Schiller disputed that, he inadvertently confirmed that a visit to Trump by multiple prostitutes had indeed been offered by his Russian hosts.

  20. says

    Trump’s “listening session” with Florida students and parents … so far:

    – A cleric of some kind said an overly-long and rambling prayer.

    – Mike Pence blathered.

    – Betsy DeVos blathered.

    – Trump bloviated.

    Some students offered practical suggestions. For example: only 32 states require active-shooter drills in schools. The point was made that all schools should have those drills, that they save lives. Some schools don’t have funds needed to hold the drills.

    More on this later.

  21. says

    Follow-up to comment 28.

    One parent suggested age restrictions on gun purchases:

    If he’s not old enough to buy a drink, to go and buy a beer, he should not be able to go and buy a gun at 18 years-old.

    That’s just common sense. We have to do common sense. Please, Mr. Trump, these are things we have to do.

    It’s not left and right, it’s not political, it’s a human issue. People are dying and we have to stop this.

    Trump replied that he did not have an objection to an age requirement of 21. Actually, Trump said he would “consider” raising the age requirement.

    I don’t trust Trump to stick to anything he says in that room full of grieving students and parents.

    I’m not sure an age requirement of 21 to purchase an assault rifle will help.

  22. says

    Trump is now bloviating about teachers and coaches carrying concealed weapons. He wants to train teachers to use defensive weapons.

    Trump also suggested creating “institutions” where mentally ill people could be taken.

    Trump made the point that airline pilots carry weapons.

  23. says

    One of the students at Trump’s listening session today said that he still doesn’t understand why he can go into a store and buy a weapon of war, an AR.

  24. says

    Writing for The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin pointed out that Trump-run beauty pageants were a scam. And the voting was rigged. That’s not the main point of the article, but it is a telling detail.

    The first-round results of the 2013 Miss Universe pageant seem to have come as a surprise to some of the competition’s judges, who thought that they would declare the finalists. The seven judges of the pageant’s preliminary round were charged with winnowing eighty-six contestants to fifteen finalists. Divided into two groups, they had brief conversations with each of the contestants, who then paraded onstage, first in bathing suits, then in evening gowns. The judges—including public-relations professionals, a modelling entrepreneur, and a fashion reporter—rated each woman on such qualities as “appearance” and “personality,” after which the ballots were whisked away. “They told us not to share how we voted with each other, but we did anyway,” one of the preliminary judges told me. When the finalists were announced, he said, the winners included several who hadn’t been selected. “I was shocked,” the judge told me. “I didn’t know what had happened. I felt ridiculous.” The contestants were not so naïve—they understood who was in charge. […]

    Adwoa Yamoah, who competed as Miss Canada in 2012, told me, “He made comments about every girl: ‘I’ve been to that country.’ ‘We’re building a Trump Tower there.’ It was clear the countries that he liked did well. He’d whisper to Paula about the girls, and she’d write it down. He basically told us he picked nine of the top fifteen.” Kerrie Baylis, who was Miss Jamaica in 2013, described a similar scene and added that, when the finalists were announced, “the list looked like the countries that Donald Trump did business with, or wanted to do business with.” Shi Lim, who competed that year as Miss Singapore, told me, “The finalists were picked by Trump. He was really in charge. We called it the Trump card.” […]

    the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow looks like a harbinger of the Trump campaign and Presidency, featuring some of the same themes and characters. Miss Universe represents a paradigmatic example of Trump’s business style in action—the exaggerations that teeter into lies, the willingness to embrace dubious partners, the hunger for glamour and recognition. Trump got away with this kind of behavior for decades, and he played by the same rules during his run for the Presidency. […]

  25. says

    The proposals that schools arm teachers or be patrolled by battalions of armed guards are asinine. They’re an insult to people seeking serious solutions. Reporters have to stop asking “Would this help?” No, it wouldn’t fucking help, it’s an intentional deflection from the discussion of effective approaches,* and it’s an insult to children and parents. It’s OK for responsible people to dismiss these lunatic notions.

    * As well as an attempt to expand both gun culture and gun sales.

  26. says

    This WSJ article provides a few additional details re #5 above. I think I missed this report about Calk last year:

    …Mr. Calk, who was a member of the Trump campaign’s economic advisory panel and overlapped with Mr. Manafort on the campaign, said last year the loans to Mr. Manafort were “absolutely not” related to his role in the campaign.

    Around the time his bank made the Manafort loans in late 2016 and early 2017—for several properties including a Brooklyn townhouse—Mr. Calk was seeking to become Mr. Trump’s Army secretary, according to three people briefed on the interactions, The Wall Street Journal reported last year.

    Mr. Calk was placing calls to the Pentagon and specifically to Army headquarters, asking for briefings to obtain information and prepare himself for a possible job, according to a person familiar with the inquiries. Mr. Calk’s overtures raised questions among military leaders as to how to respond, this person said….

  27. says

    “‘Hell on earth’: UN mulls Syria action as Eastern Ghouta deaths rise”:

    UN Security Council members may vote Thursday on a temporary ceasefire for Syria’s besieged Eastern Ghouta region, a day after the United Nations’ chief deplored the plight of the civilians trapped there as “hell on earth.”

    A draft resolution put forward by Sweden and Kuwait on Wednesday calls for a 30-day halt in the fighting in the rebel-held Damascus suburb, where intense shelling by Russian-backed Syrian regime forces has taken a heavy toll this week.

    If agreed, the ceasefire would allow for the delivery of critical supplies and the evacuation of the wounded.

    “I am deeply saddened by the terrible suffering of the civilian population in Eastern Ghouta: 400,000 people who live in hell on earth,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday.

    “My appeal for all those involved is for an immediate suspension of all war activities in Eastern Ghouta, allowing for humanitarian aid to reach all those in need, allowing for the evacuation of an estimated 700 people that need urgent treatment that cannot be provided there, and creating also the possibility for other civilians to be effectively treated in the site,” he said….

  28. says

    “Bernie blames Hillary for allowing Russian interference: The senator and his top political adviser also denied Mueller’s assertion that Russian actors backed his campaign.”:

    Bernie Sanders on Wednesday blamed Hillary Clinton for not doing more to stop the Russian attack on the last presidential election. Then his 2016 campaign manager, in an interview with POLITICO, said he’s seen no evidence to support special counsel Robert Mueller’s assertion in an indictment last week that the Russian operation had backed Sanders’ campaign.

    The remarks showed Sanders, running for a third term and currently considered a front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, deeply defensive in response to questions posed to him about what was laid out in the indictment. He attempted to thread a response that blasts Donald Trump for refusing to acknowledge that Russians helped his campaign — but then holds himself harmless for a nearly identical denial.

    In doing so, Sanders and his former campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, presented a series of self-serving statements that were not accurate, and that track with efforts by Trump and his supporters to undermine the credibility of the Mueller probe.

    “The real question to be asked is what was the Clinton campaign [doing about Russian interference]? They had more information about this than we did,” Sanders said in the interview with Vermont Public Radio.

    The Vermont senator was adamant that he did not benefit from Russian bots urging voters to support him. “I did not know that Russian bots were promoting my campaign. Russian bots were not promoting my campaign,” he said.

    Weaver, who is one of the senator’s closest aides, said repeatedly he wasn’t sure if he should believe the charges.

    “The factual underpinning of that in the indictment is what? Zero,” Weaver said. “I have not seen any evidence of support for Bernie Sanders.”

    Sanders repeatedly refused to say why he didn’t call out Russian involvement during the campaign. Clinton’s campaign regularly raised suspicions of Kremlin-backed activity during the home stretch of the race.

    Sanders has faced questions since Friday about why he has not more strongly condemned the Russian actions that benefited his campaign. On Wednesday, liberal writer Joan Walsh of The Nation tweeted in response to Sanders’ comments about Clinton: “Seriously, this could be the end of Sanders 2020. Someone who cares about him ought to tell him how badly he stepped in it today.”

    On Wednesday evening, Sanders took to Twitter with additional statements.

    “Mueller’s indictment provides further evidence that the Russian government interfered in 2016. It also shows that they tried to turn my supporters against Hillary Clinton in the primary and general election. I unequivocally condemn such interference,” he wrote.

    A Sanders spokesman declined to explain the senator’s apparent change of heart over the course of the day.

  29. says

    “Trump supporters, conservatives rage over Russian bot purge, #TwitterLockOut”:

    Conservative Twitter users raged against the social media company, lobbing accusations of left-wing bias and censorship after thousands of followers were wiped out in an overnight bot purge.

    The suspension of multiple accounts followed the indictment by special counsel Robert S. Mueller of Russian nationals for meddling in the U.S. election, including using fake accounts on Twitter to conduct “information warfare” against the United States.

    The hashtag #TwitterLockOut was trending in the U.S. on Wednesday morning as thousands of accounts, including those belonging to Michael Flynn Jr., son of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Infowars editor Paul Joseph Watson complained that hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of their followers had been shut down.

    “The twitter purge is real,” Fox News commentator Dan Bongino wrote. “I woke up and saw I lost 100 or so followers,” columnist Adriana Cohen tweeted.

    Twitter would not say how many accounts it purged.

    “As part of our ongoing work in safety, we identify suspicious account behaviors that indicate automated activity or violations of our policies around having multiple accounts, or abuse,” the company said in a statement.

    Twitter denied cracking down on conservative voices. “Twitter’s tools are apolitical, and we enforce our rules without political bias,” it said.

    An organization that tracks Kremlin-backed Twitter accounts — the Alliance for Securing Democracy — says such influence operations have remained active since the election, serving to amplify disputes bubbling on the Web. On Wednesday, #twitterlockout and #twitterpurge were the top and trending hashtags used by the accounts linked to Russian influence operations tracked by the Alliance’s Hamilton 68 project.

    In hearings last year, U.S. lawmakers criticized Twitter for not taking the Russian bot scourge seriously enough….

  30. says

    “GOP Refuses to Ask Twitter for Private Messages in Russia Probe”:

    Republicans on the House intelligence committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election have refused Democratic entreaties to subpoena Twitter for direct messages of Donald Trump associates, multiple sources familiar with the matter tell The Daily Beast.

    Sources would not share with The Daily Beast specifically whose DMs committee Democrats wanted to subpoena Twitter to acquire. But in hearing transcripts, Democrats have indicated they want DMs concerning Donald Trump Jr. and Trump consigliere Roger Stone—both of whom have been linked to WikiLeaks, which famously released hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 campaign.

    It’s the latest sign that the Republicans on the hyper-factionalized committee are willing to focus on anything but potential collusion between Donald Trump and the Kremlin in the 2016 election. Trump’s associates tend to share their boss’ love for Twitter and, like many users of the social network, have been known to use direct messaging for sensitive communications.

    And it comes as frustrated Democrats are accusing their Republican colleagues behind closed doors of intransigence that leaves them in a precarious position for any investigation: being asked to trust witnesses without the tools to verify their stories.

    Democrats are getting restless. They’ve urged in committee hearings dominated by Nunes’ accusations of surveillance malfeasance that the Republicans are blocking access to witness documentation, including travel records and communications logs. The DMs fall in that category….

  31. says

    Tamara Keith: “Today my kid’s preschool is having a regularly scheduled ‘hibernation drill’. We got a note from his teacher last night saying that the kids put 2 and 2 together and realized it was really an active shooter drill and then on their own connected it to Parkland. Ugh.”


  32. says

    Spencer Hsu: “The Rick Gates saga continues: Judge sets a sealed hearing for tomorrow to discuss his sealed response to his lawyers’ request to withdraw from the case. No visible movement on plea talks.”

    Sam Nunberg will be interviewed by someone on Mueller’s team today.

  33. says

    “Senior Republican Calls for E.P.A. Chief’s First-Class Travel Files”:

    The chairman of the House Oversight Committee — in a prominent instance of Republican scrutiny of the Environmental Protection Agency under Scott Pruitt — demanded on Wednesday that the E.P.A. chief turn over documents related to his first-class travel at taxpayer expense.

    Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, called on Mr. Pruitt to detail all his government travel since assuming leadership of the E.P.A. one year ago. He raised a particular concern over conflicting statements from Mr. Pruitt’s press office about whether the administrator had a waiver to fly first class at all times.

    Mr. Gowdy asked that Mr. Pruitt’s travel information be handed over by 5 p.m. on March 6….

  34. says

    Follow-up to comment 31.

    Trump’s attitude towards women shows up when he discusses the beauty pageants:

    […] From the beginning, Trump did little to conceal his attitude toward women. As he told Howard Stern in an interview, when he bought the pageant he found that it had strayed from its roots as a beauty contest. “They had a person who was extremely proud that a number of the women had become doctors,” Trump said. “And I wasn’t interested.”

    In 1997, during his first year as owner, Trump became embroiled in a conflict involving Alicia Machado, of Venezuela, who was the reigning Miss Universe at the time and had gained weight during her tenure. Trump went on a public crusade to shame her. Wearing a suit and tie, and trailed by cameras, he followed Machado into a gym to watch her work out. “This is somebody that likes to eat,” Trump told the reporters.

    The controversy resurfaced during the 2016 campaign, when Hillary Clinton, in the first Presidential debate, said, “He called this woman ‘Miss Piggy.’ Then he called her ‘Miss Housekeeping,’ because she was Latina.” After a pause, Clinton said, “Donald, she has a name: Her name is Alicia Machado.” […]

    Trump also boasted about ogling Miss Universe contestants during the events. “I’ll go backstage before a show and everyone’s getting dressed, and everything else, and you know, no men are anywhere, and I’m allowed to go in because I’m the owner of the pageant and therefore I’m inspecting it,” he told Stern. “You know, they’re standing there with no clothes.”

    Over the years, when asked about his management of the pageants, he has often replied with some version of the quip “The bathing suits got smaller and the heels got higher and the ratings went up.”

    The part about ratings isn’t true. As the book “Trump Revealed,” by Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher, noted, when Trump bought Miss Universe the viewership in the United States had declined from around thirty-five million in 1984 to twelve million in 1997. The numbers kept falling during Trump’s ownership, and the American audience for the 2013 pageant consisted of fewer than four million.

    Still, Trump recognized that the pageant was a useful vehicle for expanding his reach overseas, and no country so consistently kindled his ambitions as Russia. […]

  35. says

    SC @32:

    The proposals that schools arm teachers or be patrolled by battalions of armed guards are asinine. They’re an insult to people seeking serious solutions. Reporters have to stop asking “Would this help?” No, it wouldn’t fucking help, it’s an intentional deflection from the discussion of effective approaches,* and it’s an insult to children and parents. It’s OK for responsible people to dismiss these lunatic notions.

    I agree. And, I couldn’t help but notice that Trump has an unrealistic view of how effective an armed teacher or coach would be against a shooter with an AR-15 (and sometimes body armor as well). During the listening session yesterday, Trump said several times that an armed school official could have taken “one shot” and that would have ended the crisis. Trump said that the coach, instead of blocking bullets with his body, would have just shot at the shooter and that would have been that. Trump has a movie running in his head that does not match reality.

    The thought of gun battles inside a school … well that’s equally bonkers.

  36. says

    SC @35, quoting an article in Politico:

    “The real question to be asked is what was the Clinton campaign [doing about Russian interference]? They had more information about this than we did,” Sanders said in the interview with Vermont Public Radio.

    Oh, FFS! That sounds just like Trump. Moreover, it sounds like Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Huckabee Sanders who employ whataboutism all the time to blame someone else or to change the topic of the conversation.

    This disgusts me. Bernie Sanders should know better. He and his team should be better than this.

  37. says

    Zeke Miller: “When asked if he’s ready to take on the NRA on age limits: Trump says ‘I don’t think I’ll be going up against them. … They’re good people’.”

    He wants to (re-)open mental institutions to lock people up. Because he’s a disaster of a human being whose answer to every real or perceived problem is coercion and violence.

  38. says


    Since becoming Philly’s DA last month, Larry Krasner has ended cash bail for non-violent offenses, stopped charges for marijuana possession, launched lawsuit against Big Pharma over opioid epidemic, & created a “Conviction Integrity” unit to review both convictions & sentencing.

    Krasner’s office & Washington’s state Senate have both been delivering a stream of exciting reforms since the year began. Great model for what more wins by CJ reformers & progressive lawmakers should and could produce.

  39. says

    SC @57, Trump is still fulminating against gun-free zones right now. He has been on this subject for about twenty minutes.

    The idea that gun-free zones are bad, bad, bad is obviously stuck in Trump’s head. He’s not going to let this go. He is in the trumpian repetition mode now.

    He suggests giving teachers who carry a gun a bonus in their paycheck.

  40. says

    From Steve Benen’s and Rachel Maddow’s “pay attention to what Trump does, not what he says” analysis of gun control measures, or lack thereof:

    […] 1. “I will be strongly pushing Comprehensive Background Checks.” That sounds like a worthwhile reform, though it would be a rather dramatic reversal for Trump, who, as Rachel noted on last night’s show, has weakened the background check system.

    Indeed, the L.A. Times reported this week, Trump administration officials “have quietly chipped away at the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the federal system that stores consult to make sure buyers are eligible to purchase guns.” The piece added, “In his recently released budget for the coming fiscal year, Trump proposed slashing millions of dollars from the budget for the background check system.”

    2. “…with an emphasis on Mental Health.” Again, Trump is the one who, shortly after taking office, took steps to make it easier for the mentally impaired to buy guns. What’s more, as the Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell explained last week, Trump’s proposed budget calls for significant cuts that, if implemented, would limit access to mental-health services for many Americans.

    3. “Raise age to 21.” There seems to be a growing number of Republicans who can’t answer questions about why a young adult can buy an assault rifle, but not a beer. The NRA, however, has not yet signed off on the change.

    4. “…end sale of Bump Stocks.” If Trump is serious about this, he could endorse the pending legislation banning bump-stock modifications. So far, he hasn’t. […]

    What Trump tweeted this morning:

    I will be strongly pushing Comprehensive Background Checks with an emphasis on Mental Health. Raise age to 21 and end sale of Bump Stocks! Congress is in a mood to finally do something on this issue – I hope!

    Maddow’s segment on this issue is excellent. Included is this information: [Trump administration officials] have narrowed a few legal definitions to make it harder to classify would-be gun buyers as ineligible. […] The FBI used to consider people “fugitives from justice” if there were outstanding warrants for their arrest, but now they must also have fled across state lines to intentionally avoid prosecution to be disqualified. […] Trump officials also purged tens of thousands of law enforcement records from the background system. […] They narrowed the definitions of mentally ill. […]

    LA Times link

  41. tomh says

    [OT] For anyone using Chrome browser, there’s a nifty extension called “Follow the Money” that shows the total amount of NRA contributions the top twenty congresspersons have received, anytime their name appears in a news article. For instance, in a story mentioning Rubio, his name shows up as, Sen. Marco ($3,303,355 from the NRA) Rubio. For McCain you’ll see “John ($7,740,521 from the NRA) McCain,” and so on, whenever the name is mentioned. These are totals over their career.

  42. says

    More on Trump’s push to arm teachers:

    I never said “give teachers guns” like was stated on Fake News @CNN & @NBC. What I said was to look at the possibility of giving concealed guns to gun adept teachers with military or special training experience – only the best. 20% of teachers, a lot, would now be able to immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions. Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this. Far more assets at much less cost than guards. A “gun free” school is a magnet for bad people. ATTACKS WOULD END!

    History shows that a school shooting lasts, on average, 3 minutes. It takes police & first responders approximately 5 to 8 minutes to get to site of crime. Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly, before police arrive. GREAT DETERRENT!

    If a potential ‘sicko shooter’ knows that a school has a large number of very weapons talented teachers (and others) who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will NEVER attack that school. Cowards won’t go there…problem solved. Must be offensive, defense alone won’t work.

    Trump’s simplistic mind set, and his unfounded claim that, “attacks would end,” offend me. This is a serious, life-and-death issue, but the Clown in Chief is writing a grade-school essay in response.

    Steve Benen has these questions for Trump:

    […] 1. If gunmen are deranged, why does Trump believe they’ll make sensible decisions about committing mass murder based on reason and self-preservation?

    2. If gunmen intend to die anyway, why would they be deterred from attacking a school with armed personnel?

    3. Exactly what kind of training does the president envision for, say, armed elementary-school teachers who would apparently be responsible for neutralizing would-be assailants?

    4. Once more guns are brought into schools, how does Trump intend to deal with possibility of the firearms being accessed by children?

    5. How would Trump pay for all of this? A Washington Post analysis this morning noted that to train and equip 20% of the nation’s 3.6 million teachers would cost about $1 billion.

    Perhaps considering new restrictions on firearm access would be easier?

    The NRA has a proposal to answer question 3. They would train the teachers, and the government would pay them to do so. This would be an on-going thing, with refresher courses every six months, all paid for by the taxpayers. As to cost, Trump also proposes a bump in pay for teachers that carry guns.

  43. says

    People attending CPAC are spreading the falsehood that some of the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are “crisis actors.” Facebook still has a lot of that false news up on their site.

    Before getting to the hotel complex hosting the annual CPAC convention Thursday morning, 20-year-old Tabitha Jackson and 21-year-old Teresa Taborga-Urquiola spent part of the morning, like most days, on Facebook.

    Jackson said it was on the social network that she saw “pretty good evidence” and “proof” that at least one of the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who have become activists in the week since 17 of their classmates and teachers were killed, are paid crisis actors.

    “There was like pictures online of the different crisis actors in Sandy Hook and it was the same person in Parkland, or something like that,” said Jackson, a student at Towson University. “I honestly wouldn’t be surprised, with how much they try to push their anti-gun agenda, if they were to hire crisis actors.” […]

    When the doors to CPAC’s exhibit hall opened a few minutes later, the two students walked in and were immediately greeted with a familiar site: the Facebook logo, surrounded by the social network’s signature emojis.

    Facebook paid for a booth at the conservative conference for the second year in a row, Policy Communications Manager Nu Wexler told ThinkProgress as he set up the spacious, carpeted space alongside several other Facebook employees. On a counter, they set up stacks of information cards for attendees to learn about Facebook’s work on “election and government issues,” how to use Facebook Live, and safety tips for protecting your account. […]


  44. says

    Good news: some states are going around the Trump administration to create gun control initiatives based on a coalition of like-minded governors.

    Not counting on Washington to take action on gun laws, four Northeast Democratic governors on Thursday announced the formation of a state-based alliance to beef up gun controls. It’s modeled on the Climate Alliance formed by Democratic governors after President Donald Trump announced he’d withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

    Govs. Phil Murphy of New Jersey, Andrew Cuomo of New York, Dan Malloy of Connecticut and Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island said the initiative would share information on top of what’s in the federal background-check system, trace guns across state lines and create a regional consortium to share policy studies being done at universities and elsewhere.

    “This notion of a coalition of states, of like-minded states, that share best practices to me is a very smart interim step toward a national solution,” […]

    “Rather than wait for the federal government to come to its senses,” Cuomo said in a statement announcing the initative, the states are going “to take matters into our own hands.” New York has passed a series of gun laws since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.

    Raimondo added: “Kids in Florida and across the nation are taking action, and it’s not a surprise: We’ve forced them to lead because for years elected officials in Washington have refused to.” […]


  45. says


    Rep. Claudia Tenney, offering no evidence, told a New York radio host that many mass shooters are Democrats and that the media are overlooking the story.

    Tenney, a gun rights advocate, made the comments during a discussion Wednesday with WGDJ host Fred Dicker about the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting, which left 17 people dead.

    “Obviously, there’s a lot of politics in it. It’s interesting that so many of these people that commit the mass murders end up being Democrats,” Tenney said. “But the media doesn’t talk about that.”

    Tenney said she fears legal gun owners will be “targeted” following the shooting, even though she claimed their demographic had “the least amount of crimes than virtually any other demographic.” Dicker replied that “they tend to vote Republican” and “tend to be white.” Tenney laughed and agreed. […]


  46. says

    “State Department report will trim language on women’s rights, discrimination”:

    State Department officials have been ordered to pare back passages in a soon-to-be-released annual report on global human rights that traditionally discuss women’s reproductive rights and discrimination, according to five former and current department officials.

    The directive calls for stripping passages that describe societal views on family planning, including how much access women have to contraceptives and abortion.

    A broader section that chronicles racial, ethnic and sexual discrimination has also been ordered pared down, the current and former officials said.

    The move, believed to have been ordered by a top aide to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, reflects the Trump administration’s rightward turn from the Obama administration on family planning issues. It also appears to highlight the stated desire of Tillerson and President Donald Trump to make human rights a lower priority in U.S. foreign policy.

    The subsection is also expected to be renamed, changing from “Reproductive Rights” to “Coercion in Population Control.”

    The human rights bureau also has been directed to cut back a broader section in the various country reports generally called “discrimination, societal abuses and trafficking in persons.” Along with women’s reproductive rights, that section touches on topics such as anti-Semitism or pressures on the gay and lesbian community. It also includes discrimination that’s not necessarily government-sponsored….

    “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Will Remove ‘Nation of Immigrants’ From Mission Statement”:

    The lead U.S. agency tasked with granting citizenship to would-be Americans is making a major change to its mission statement, removing a passage that describes the United States as a nation of immigrants. In an email sent to staff members Thursday and shared with The Intercept, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director L. Francis Cissna announced the agency’s new mission statement….

  47. says

    So much for Trump’s promise to save the coal industry:

    […] Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported last week in its 2018 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook that by the end of last year, coal plant owners “had announced 12.5GW of planned retirements for 2018, foreshadowing the largest year for coal decommissioning since the 15GW of retirements in 2015.”

    […] there never was a “war on coal.” There’s been two big battles, though. The first is an economic battle in the marketplace, where low cost renewables, natural gas, and energy efficiency became so cheap that costly and inflexible coal (and nuclear) plants simply could not compete.

    Wind, solar power, and batteries have been coming down in price so fast that building new renewables is now cheaper than just running old coal plants.

    The second battle is for public health, fought by state and federal governments along with local activists and the Sierra Club, to reduce some of the most dangerous and toxic air pollutants, a lot of which come from coal plants. Call it a “war on air pollution” or a “war to save lives.”

    Even Trump’s own Environmental Protection Agency put out an analysis last year concluding that its effort to undo Obama’s Clean Power Plan could kill some 100,000 Americans over the next few decades.

    But it’s really economics that is driving the shift away from coal. And no many how many public health protections the Trump administration undoes, they can’t change the fact that existing coal plants are albatrosses. […]


  48. says

    From Steve Benen, quoted @ Lynna’s #63:

    What’s more, as the Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell explained last week, Trump’s proposed budget calls for significant cuts that, if implemented, would limit access to mental-health services for many Americans.

    Trump’s idea of emphasizing mental health in gun violence, like his responses to drug addiction and other public health crises, has nothing to do with what most people understand it to mean. He doesn’t see these as public health crises warranting compassionate, science-based public action. He doesn’t see collective despair rooted in rampaging capitalism, growing inequality and insecurity, and cruel austerity policy. He doesn’t see effects of childhood abuse and neglect or a culture of white male supremacy. His only tools are to stigmatize individuals (“sicko,” “psycho,” “savage,” “loser,” “weak”); violate human rights; implement punitive policies; forcibly exclude, detain, and institutionalize people; and further militarize society. When authoritarians like Trump and Sessions talk about emphasizing mental health in addressing societal problems, this is always what they have in mind.

  49. says

    “Ex-Trump Staffer Rick Gates Fires His Lawyer in Russia Probe”:

    Former Trump campaign official Rick Gates has fired his lawyer, The Daily Beast has learned. And, contrary to recent media reports, Gates is not about to make a deal with the special counsel Robert Mueller, according to sources familiar with the matter.

    CNN and The Los Angeles Times reported earlier this month that Gates was on the cusp of signing a plea deal with Special Counsel Bob Mueller’s team, and noted that Gates’ lawyer—Tom Green of Sidley Austin—is known for his work negotiating such pleas. If Gates had started cooperating with Mueller, it would certainly have been a boon to the prosecution.

    Instead, Gates—for the time being, at least—isn’t flipping. And Green is out, replaced with Barry Pollack, of Miller Chevalier, according to sources familiar with the matter. Neither Green nor Pollack immediately returned a request for comment….

  50. says

    They’re such crooks!


    P. 25: “When the document was first submitted to Lender B, a conspirator working at Lender B replied: “Looks Dr’d. Can’t someone just do a clean excel doc and pdf to me??” A subsequent version was submitted to the bank.”

    P. 26: “In addition, Lender D questioned MANAFORT about a $300,000 delinquency on his American Express card, which was more than 90 days past due.”

    Once again, what is it with these people and charging hundreds of thousands of dollars on credit cards?

  51. says

    SC @76, all too true.

    Trump waxed nostalgic for the time when we had lots of mental institutions where we could imprison mentally ill people.

  52. says

    What the hell?

    ABC – “Former Trump campaign aide Richard Gates has formally brought veteran Washington attorney Thomas Green into his case, according to an order of appearance filed late Thursday, a signal of potential movement in the Special Counsel case against him.”

    The opposite was reported in #78.

  53. says

    This is exhausting: “NEW: RICK GATES rejected several offers of a plea deal from special counsel, as talks continued over the past month. The talks broke down over the last few days — yet they were still negotiating as of Thursday.”

  54. says

    This at least seems pretty clear: “UPDATE: Asked to confirm that he is representing Rick Gates — and about the Daily Beast reporting that he was fired, Tom Green tells me, ‘It is ludicrous and I am representing him’.”

  55. says

    Lynna @ #75 – this was published today:

    “Black Lung Disease Comes Storming Back in Coal Country”:

    Federal investigators this month identified the largest cluster of advanced black lung cases ever officially recorded.

    More than 400 coal miners frequenting three clinics in southwestern Virginia between 2013 and 2017 were found to have complicated black lung disease, an extreme form characterized by dense masses of scar tissue in the lungs.

    The cluster, identified following an investigation by National Public Radio, adds to a growing body of evidence that a new black lung epidemic is emerging in central Appalachia, even as the Trump administration begins to review Obama-era coal dust limits.

    The severity of the disease among miners at the Virginia clinics “knocked us back on our heels,” said David J. Blackley, an epidemiologist at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, who led the research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It was equally troubling, he said, that nearly a quarter of the miners with complicated black lung disease had been on the job fewer than 20 years.

    Across the coal belt in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia, “there’s an unacceptably large number of younger miners who have end-stage disease and the only choice is to get a lung transplant or wait it out and die,” Dr. Blackley said.

    Black lung, a chronic disease caused by breathing in coal mine dust, declined precipitously between the early 1970s and late 1990s, following new health and safety rules put in place by the 1969 Coal Act. The legislation for the first time established airborne dust limits in coal mines and set up a health monitoring program for working miners, offering free chest x-rays every five years.

    But by 2000, black lung was on the rise again. An advanced form of the disease, rarely seen in the mid-1990s, made an especially dramatic comeback.

    To combat black lung disease, the Obama administration in 2014 issued a new coal dust rule. It lowered dust exposure limits for the first time in four decades, increased sampling frequency and required the use of real-time personal dust monitoring devices.

    The rule was challenged by coal industry groups as costly and overly burdensome. A federal appeals court upheld it in 2016.

    Last December, the Trump administration announced a retrospective review of the four-year-old regulation as part of a broader rule-cutting agenda, a move that alarmed mine safety advocates and medical experts….

  56. says

    Tom Steyer: “I am tired of watching stories go unheard by politicians who continue to drag their feet on laws to protect Americans. I am pledging $1 million dollars for a nationwide initiative to register high schoolers to vote ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.”

  57. KG says

    I’d probably rank Washington ahead of Lincoln, only because without Washington, there never would have been a USA or an office of the Presidency. But it’s close. – arids@465

    On those grounds, maybe the top place should go to Louis XVI. OK, so he wasn’t actually the POTUS – but nor was Washington when he played his smaller part in getting the USA started! And after Washington had been both driven out of New York and defeated while trying to defend Philadelphia, it was the news of Saratoga, in which Washington played no part, that brought the rebels the European (primarily French) assistance they needed.

  58. says

    “Former Trump aide Richard Gates poised to plead guilty, cooperate with special counsel, sources say”: “President Trump’s one-time campaign aide Richard Gates is expected to plead guilty in the special counsel’s criminal case against him, setting up the potential for Gates to become the latest well-informed Trump insider to assist in the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential contest, according to sources close to the matter. ”

    Sure, this is about the tenth such report over the past several weeks, but maybe the latest charges finally did it. And it is after all Friday.

  59. KG says

    Sanders, running for a third term and currently considered a front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 – Edward-Isaac Dovere, quoted by SC@35

    That strikes me as bizarre, quite independent (pun unintended, but I let it stand) of Sanders’ party affiliation, politics or performance. If he ran, and won, he would be 79 on starting his term. I don’t care how good your health is, that’s not an age to take on what is (or, given Trump’s behaviour, perhaps “should be”) one of the most physically and intellectually demanding jobs in the world.

  60. says

    Haberman now reporting it, too: “A former top adviser to Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign indicted by the special counsel was expected to plead guilty as soon as Friday afternoon, according to two people familiar with his plea agreement, a move that signals he is cooperating with the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.”

  61. says

    WaPo and NBC are now reporting a Gates plea, and ABC says they have a letter from Gates to his friends and family explaining his decision: “In the letter obtained by ABC News, Gates writes to family and friends ‘despite my initial desire to vigorously defend myself, I have had a change of heart’, Gates explained. ‘The reality of how long this legal process will likely take, the cost, and the circus-like atmosphere of an anticipated trial are too much. I will better serve my family moving forward by exiting this process’.”

  62. says

    Daniel Dale:

    Rick Gates is regularly described as Manafort’s right-hand-man or Manafort’s protege. He was also:

    – Deputy chair of Trump’s campaign
    – A Trump aide even after Manafort was ousted
    – Deputy chair of Trump’s inaugural committee
    – Co-founder of Trump-blessed America First nonprofit

  63. blf says

    The le penazis & similar here in France are going bonkers — well, more bonkers than their already way-over-the-top frothing-at-the-mouth usual — over the young lady selected to portray Joan of Arc (perhaps the French national hero / icon) at the annual festival in Orléans, French far right attack choice of mixed-race girl for Joan of Arc role:

    A French state prosecutor has opened an inquiry into incitement to racial hatred after the selection of a mixed-race teenager to play the folk heroine Joan of Arc in annual festivities in Orléans was met with racist abuse from far-right users of social media.

    Mathilde Edey Gamassou, 17[†], was chosen from 250 girls on Monday to play Joan in a spring festival marking the Catholic warrior saint’s breaking of the English siege of Orléans in 1429.

    Gamassou, whose father is from Benin and whose mother is Polish, is to ride a horse through the central city dressed in armour for the celebration, which dates back nearly six centuries.


    Joan of Arc was white, read one Twitter post. We are white and proud of being white, don’t change our history.

    Another comment, on the anti-Muslim site Resistance Republicaine, complained: Next year, Joan of Arc will be in a burqa.

    The local radio station France Bleu Orléans reported that two social media accounts were being investigated over incitement to racial hatred after they compared the teenager to a baboon and used a picture of bananas.

    The women’s equality minister, Marlene Schiappa, offered her support to the student.

    “The racist hatred of fascists has no place in the French republic,” she tweeted on Wednesday.

    Bénédicte Baranger, the president of the committee in charge of choosing a girl for the role, said she was saddened by some of the reactions.

    “This girl was chosen for who she is; an interesting person and a lively spirit,” Baranger said. “She responds to our four criteria: a resident of Orléans for 10 years, a student in an Orléans high school, and a Catholic who gives her time to others. She will deliver our French history to everyone, as have previous Joans before her.”

    The mayor of Orléans, Olivier Carré, also defended the teenager.

    “In 2018, as for 589 years, the people of Orléans will celebrate Joan of Arc played by a young woman who shows her courage, faith and vision,” he wrote on Twitter. “Mathilde has all these qualities.”

    Outside school, Gamassou is a student of opera at the prestigious Orléans Conservatory and is learning to fence.


    Meanwhile, in the States, überüfberfacist Marion Maréchal-Le Pen blathered at CPAC, France is no longer free: Marine Le Pen’s niece brings French far right to CPAC:

    Speaking to a crowd of conservative activists that booed every time she mentioned the European Union, Maréchal-Le Pen combined condemnation of the trans-national bloc with attacks on Muslim immigration and old fashioned social conservatism in an effort to link her political efforts against the domination of the liberals and the socialists with the election of Trump and the Brexit process in the United Kingdom.

    Maréchal-Le Pen claimed French sovereignty was under siege. France is no longer free today, she proclaimed. After 1500 years of existence, we now must fight for our independence. She also claimed that after 40 years of mass immigration, Islamist lobbies and political correctness, France was in the process of going from the eldest daughter of the Catholic Church to the little niece of Islam.

    She talked about a global conservative youth that wants to protect their children from eugenics, the elderly from euthanasia and humanity from transhumanism.


    […] Matt Schlapp, the head of the American Conservative Union that organizes CPAC, has insisted that Maréchal-Le Pen is a classical liberal, unlike her aunt [le penazi führer Marine Le Pen –blf] and others in the National Front.

    Schlapp is full of it. Maréchal-Le Pen is considered more extreme than her holocaust-denying grandfather Jean-Marie Le Pen (who founded the le penazis). He, in turn, is probably more extreme than the current le penazi führer, who still nonetheless a full-on nazi.

      † I normally redact the ages of people from excerpts, unless it seems directly relevant to the story. In this case, whilst perhaps not directly relevant, I decided to keep it in the excerpt to illustrate just how deranged the young lady’s racist attackers are.

  64. says

    SC @93, that’s so emblematic of the Trump administration. While miners are dying of black lung disease, they want to cut back on rules and regulations that protect miners.

    ““there’s an unacceptably large number of younger miners who have end-stage disease and the only choice is to get a lung transplant or wait it out and die,” Dr. Blackley said.

    Meanwhile, coal company bigwigs found the Obama-era regulations “burdensome.” Trump is on the side of the bigwigs.

  65. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    The mark of a good general officer is understanding the war one is fighting. Washington did that. He knew that if he could keep the Continental Army from disintegrating then France would have a very hard time resisting the opportunity to bloody the nose of George III. He was not a great military strategist, but he knew that without strong support from Parliament and facing a potentially costly conflict with France, Britain could not sustain a long conflict across the Atlantic. Arguably, we could just as well give the honor to Cornwallis, to whose military incompetence the American owed a great debt.
    Washington’s true greatness showed itself after the war when he declined power, disbanded his army and sent them on their way. No less than George III said he thought this make Washington one of the most remarkable men of his age.
    Washington saved the new Republic twice more–lending his prestige to the new Constitution and agreeing to become the first President and then by leaving that office and turning over its powers even though he entertained doubts about the man to whom he was handing the office.

    Mr. Lincoln was also a remarkable man–in part because he also understood his war and his role in it. Had he lived to handle the reconstruction, our history might have turned out differently, and he might have proved himself the equal of Washington. I would contend, though, that his time on the national and global stage was probably to brief for us to fully take his measure. It is also quite possible that he would have been impeached by the vindictive victors.

    Both were great men and from all the information we have good men, at least for their time.

  66. says

    From the New York Times report:

    Samantha Fuentes, who was shot in both legs during the Parkland assault, said she had felt no reassurance during a phone call from the president to her hospital room last week.

    “He said he heard that I was a big fan of his, and then he said, ‘I’m a big fan of yours too.’ I’m pretty sure he made that up,” she said in an interview after being discharged from the hospital. “Talking to the president, I’ve never been so unimpressed by a person in my life. He didn’t make me feel better in the slightest.”

    Ms. Fuentes, who was left with a piece of shrapnel lodged behind her right eye, said Mr. Trump had called the gunman a “sick puppy” and said “‘oh boy, oh boy, oh boy,’ like, seven times.”

    Trump called some of the victims of the shooting in Parkland, Florida. I wish Trump’s staff could have protected the victims from that call.

    And there’s this comment from a student who spoke during the “listening session” hosted by Trump at the White House:

    But another participant in the White House session, Samuel Zeif, an 18-year-old student at Stoneman Douglas High School who survived the shooting and spoke tearfully at the White House on Wednesday of the experience, said Mr. Trump had done little to comfort or console him.

    He said he had been particularly stung to see pictures of the notecard after it was over.

    “Everything I said was directly from the heart, and he had to write down ‘I hear you,’” Mr. Zeif said in an interview.

    From Steve Benen:

    As a candidate, the Republican, referring to himself in third person, said empathy would be “one of the strongest things about Trump.”

  67. says

    Here’s the Gates information. The specific crimes to which he’s pleading guilty are interesting. The false statements charge refers to lies he told a few weeks ago about a specific meeting in March of 2013 that included an unnamed member of congress at which Ukraine was discussed and after which Manafort and Gates wrote up a report for Yanukovych.

  68. says

    Whoa – Matthew Miller is suggesting that Gates lied about this during his proffer meeting. People are suggesting that the member of congress involved was likely Rohrabacher – a few days after the 2013 meeting, Manafort donated to Rohrabacher’s campaign.

  69. says

    Follow-up to comment 68.

    More companies are distancing themselves from the NRA:

    Car rental company Enterprise and First National Bank of Omaha have severed their relationship with the National Rifle Association.

    From Time magazine:

    The Wyndham and Best Western hotel companies similarly came under pressure to end their discount programs for NRA members in early 2013, right after the Sandy Hook school shooting that left 26 children and adults dead. Both hotel companies no longer offer such discounts and are not corporate partners with the NRA, as their social media teams said in replies to countless tweets lately.

    MetLife has also ended a relationship with the NRA, as has home-security company SimpliSafe. Link

    So good to see the NRA brand becoming toxic. If the NRA had stuck to teaching gun safety, they would have been okay.

  70. says

    From the Washington Post:

    […] The 1994 law included a ban on 18 specific models of assault weapons, as well as a ban on any firearms containing certain military-style features, like a bayonet mount, a flash suppressor or a folding stock. It also banned high-capacity magazines capable of holding more than 10 bullets. The bill allowed individuals already in possession of such weapons to keep them. It was also set to expire after 10 years’ time.

    “The original intent of the assault weapons ban was to reduce the carnage of mass shootings,” [Louis Klarevas, a researcher at the University of Massachusetts at Boston who wrote a 2016 book on mass shooting violence] said. “And on that front the data indicate that it worked.”

    Klarevas has compiled data on gun massacres involving six or more fatalities for the 50 years before 2016. His numbers show that gun massacres fell significantly during the time the assault weapons ban was in place, and skyrocketed after the ban lapsed in 2004.

    Note that Marco Rubio said, to an audience of relatives of Parkland victims no less, that the assault weapons ban of 1994 “failed.” That law did not fail.

    From Steve Benen:

    […] Rubio said any attempt to ban assault weapons would open the door too widely: “Once you start looking at how easy it is to get around it, you would literally have to ban every semiautomatic rifle that’s sold in America.” Much to the Republican senator’s chagrin, the crowd erupted in applause.

    Yesterday, he followed up by saying this idea may have received cheers, but it’s outside “the mainstream.” […] there’s ample evidence to suggest Rubio’s assessment is factually wrong.

  71. says

    At times, Trump’s language in his Conservative Political Action Conference speech was alarmingly violent:

    […] He suggested that if a teacher had a gun in Parkland, Florida last week, “the teacher would have shot the hell out of” the gunman “before he knew what happened.”

    Trump also doubled down on his claim that 10 to 20 percent of teachers are likely “gun adept” or have served in the military before becoming teachers and would likely be willing to carry a concealed weapon at school. He pointed to reports that the school resource officer at the high school in Florida stayed outside instead of entering the building when shots were fired […]

    “These teachers love their students and the students love their teachers in many cases,” he said. “And I would rather have somebody that loves their students and wants to protect their students than somebody standing outside that doesn’t know anybody and doesn’t know the students, and frankly, for whatever reason, decided not to go in even though he heard lots of shots being fired inside.” […]


    The “shot the hell out of” phrase was so bloodthirsty that even the CPAC audience was shocked. The applause was scattered, and some people simple did not respond.

    As for Trump’s comments referencing the school resource officer, I think he is looking for a convenient scapegoat. Trump wants to simplify the problem, ignore real issues, and then offer a simplified answer.

    As SC noted in comment 123, statistics do not support putting more security officers in schools anyway. The unintended consequences are bad, and the added safety factor is nil.

  72. says

    More trumpian nonsense from Trump’s speech at CPAC:

    Don’t be complacent. If they [Democrats] get in, they will repeal your tax cuts, they will put judges in that you wouldn’t believe. They’ll take away your Second Amendment, which we will never allow to happen. They’ll take away your Second Amendment. Remember that. They will take away those massive tax cuts, and they will take away your Second Amendment.

  73. says

    Instead of visiting with Trump in the White House, the NBA champs, the Golden State Warriors, will meet with local children in Washington D.C.

    […] “We’re not trying to divide and separate this country,” Curry said at the time of Trump’s tweet. “We’re trying to bring everybody together and speak about love and togetherness and equality. I think that was demonstrated in response to what happened this morning, which is a powerful thing for sure.” […]

    Head coach Steve Kerr left it up to the players to determine how they wanted to spend their time, and the players selected a venue in which local kids would join them. It will be closed off to the media, sources said.

    The players wanted the outing to be a personal, intimate experience.

    “It’s their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it’s up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans,” Kerr told ESPN. “I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they’re doing.”

    The tour will consist only of players, coaches and students, sources said. […]

    ESPN link

  74. says

    This happened in Minnesota: a third-grader fired an officer’s gun.

    Maplewood police said no one was hurt after a third-grader reached into a school liaison officer’s holster and fired the gun on Monday.

    The incident happened in the school gym at Harmony Learning Center in Maplewood, where the officer was “interacting with (third- and fourth-graders) and building relationships,” according to a police department release.

    The release says the officer was sitting on a bench, and a third-grader “reached over and placed his finger into the officer’s gun holster and pressed the trigger of the officer’s gun causing it to discharge though the bottom of the holster.”

    The round hit the floor, and no one was injured, the press release states. […]

    The police department release also said the officer was “unaware of the child touching his gun until the weapon was fired.”

    The holster is considered a level-3 security, the city added, and it has a trigger guard “that typically cannot be touched or fired in the holster, but the child’s small finger was able to reach inside.” […]


    Don’t arm teachers. Don’t put loaded weapons in schools.

  75. says

    One of the Parkland, Florida survivors, Cameron Kasky, has been receiving death threats on Facebook.

    At a town hall on Wednesday night, the survivors of the shooting in Parkland, Florida, made Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) squirm with a series of pointed questions about his support for the Second Amendment. One question that drew particularly loud cheers came from Cameron Kasky, when he asked Rubio, “Can you tell me right now that you will not accept a single donation from the NRA?”

    But while the crowd at the town hall may have forcefully backed Kasky, the 17-year-old has been subject to a different reception online, where he says he’s encountered vicious smears and death threats. […]

    From Cameron:

    Temporarily got off Facebook because there’s no character count so the death threats from the @NRA cultists are a bit more graphic than those on twitter. Will be back when I have the time for it. Busy getting my feelings hurt by fellow teenagers at Br**tb*rt.

    David Hogg has also been receiving death threats. Some of Hogg’s family members have also been threatened. From Lauren Hogg:

    Hey @FLOTUS you say that your mission as First Lady is to stop cyber bullying, well then, don’t you think it would have been smart to have a convo with your step-son @DonaldJTrumpJr before he liked a post about a false conspiracy theory which in turn put a target on my back

    From Luke Barnes:

    […] Part of the reason these conspiracy theories, and the death threats against survivors that accompany them, become so popular is because they manage to exploit the algorithms of major social media platforms that dictate what content is “trending.” YouTube, for instance, removed the video claiming that David Hogg was a crisis actor — but only after media backlash. Because its trending column is dictated by algorithms, no one was able to spot the problem early. Facebook has a similar problem, with content claiming that the Parkland students were lying being shared hundreds of thousands of times on its platform in the wake of the shooting.


  76. says

    Analysis of some more nonsense that Trump spouted at CPAC:

    Does Donald Trump have any idea what the Paris climate accord really does? Based on the president’s speech Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, it seems unlikely.

    In his longest remarks on the subject since announcing last June that he would withdraw the United States from the landmark agreement, Trump called the deal “totally disastrous,” “job-killing,” and “wealth-knocking out.” He didn’t dwell on the point of the accord, which is to avoid the worst-case-scenarios of climate change […]

    “They basically wanted to take our wealth away,” Trump said at CPAC. “They didn’t want us to use our wealth power.”

    In reality, the 2015 Paris agreement was a flexible deal in which countries around the world put forward voluntary, non-binding targets for curbing their domestic greenhouse gas emissions. Environmentalists pointed out that the deal didn’t go nearly far enough to avert dangerous climate change, but it was a start—and it still may be one, if the rest of the world stays the course in spite of Trump. […]


  77. says

    Also from CPAC news:

    Trump also attacked the “crooked media,” adding that “we had a crooked candidate, too.” Attendees responded by chanting, “Lock her up.” Trump followed up to say, “Boy, have they committed a lot of atrocities.” He did not specify which atrocities he was talking about.

  78. says

    More CPAX news:

    Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai received the “Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire” award at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday for his efforts to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality rules.

    NRA Second Vice President Carolyn Meadows told Pai his award, which is sponsored by the organization, is a “Kentucky handmade long gun” […]


  79. says

    Follow-up to comments 124 and 127 (blf).

    Hertz has also cut ties with the NRA.

    We have notified the NRA that we are ending the NRA’s rental car discount program with Hertz.

  80. KG says

    I agree that it’s to Washington’s credit that he didn’t try to become a dictator. But looked at in a wider context, the “American Revolution” was simply a falling-out among thieves.

    Both [Washington and Lincoln] were great men and from all the information we have good men, at least for their time.

    Yeah, yeah:

    Washington frequently utilized harsh punishment against the enslaved population, including whippings and the threat of particularly taxing work assignments. Perhaps most severely, Washington could sell a slave to a buyer in the West Indies, ensuring that the person would never see their family or friends at Mount Vernon again. Washington conducted such sales on several occasions.

    and interestingly:

    in April of 1781 during the American Revolution, seventeen members of the Mount Vernon enslaved population—fourteen men and three women—fled to the British warship HMS Savage anchored in the Potomac off the shore of the plantation.

    Simon Schama’s Rough Crossings is a fascinating account of the fates of slaves who escaped and fled to the British (who had promised them freedom, of course out of self-interest) during the war. Many died within a few years, but some ended up being taken to the British colony in Sierra Leone, where for a while they had a measure of self-government, and women were among their elected representatives.

  81. says

    A Democrat who is being outspent 17-1 in a Pennsylvania district is now close enough for a possible win.

    […] On its face, the March 13 special congressional election in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania should be a breeze for the GOP. The Cook Political Report rates the district R+11 […]

    The newly open seat was held by former Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) since 2003, who was so secure in his seat that he often failed to attract a Democratic challenger. Murphy suddenly resigned in October amid revelations that he had pressured a woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair to have an abortion. But even after he stepped down, national Democrats didn’t think they could compete in the special election, a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee operative told Vox.

    That was, until Democrat Conor Lamb came along.

    Lamb is a 33-year-old Marine and former assistant US attorney who prosecuted drug dealers in the midst of Pennsylvania’s deadly opioid crisis. New to politics, he has struck a decidedly independent tone […]

    Even if Lamb loses in March, he’ll have another opportunity to compete again in the fall in an 18th District that looks different (and more favorable to Democrats), given the new congressional map drawn up by Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court. But if he wins, it will be another sign that Democratic momentum is strong and barreling toward November.

    Lamb’s opponent is Pennsylvania state Rep. Rick Saccone, a Republican who has described himself as “Trump before Trump was Trump.” Trump is certainly popular in the district, which he won by 20 points in 2016 (Mitt Romney won it by 16 points in 2012). Saccone is a decidedly conservative Republican who is pro-life, pro-gun, anti-government spending, and — perhaps most importantly in this heavily unionized district — vehemently anti-union. […]

    accone’s former double-digit lead has diminished significantly. A recent Monmouth poll shows the Republican with a slight lead, hovering around 49 percent to 46 percent (models with lower turnout give Saccone a slightly larger lead). Given the steep odds, these numbers are extremely good for Lamb.

    “It’s enthusiasm I haven’t seen for a Democratic candidate for a long time,” said veteran Pennsylvania Democratic political consultant Mike Mikus, who lives in the 18th Congressional District. “I don’t think the national Republicans would be spending all this money if they thought it was a slam-dunk.” […]


  82. says

    Follow-up to comments 109 and 116 from SC.

    From Wonkette’s coverage of Rick Gates’ lies to the FBI:

    […] See, he told Mr. Mueller that Manafort and the Ukrainian lobbyist never did discuss Ukraine with no Member of Congress in March of 2013. NO SIR! But in fact they had discussed Ukraine, and Gates knew it because he helped write the report for their Russian-backed Ukrainian clients saying, “We just met with the Russia-lovingest fascist in the United States Congress. And he is PSYCHED for you guys to throw that Tymoshenko woman in jail and prop up that Yanukovych dude that Putin likes.” […]

    If you guessed that Gates was negotiating to avoid jail time and finally tapped out when Mueller dropped those indictments yesterday, you’re probably right. But let’s step back and take a guess at what’s going on behind the scenes here.

    On February 1, Gates’s lawyers moved to withdraw from the case, citing irreconcilable differences. They entered their motion about 10 minutes after Gates had his “Queen for a Day” with the FBI. That’s the proffer interview, where a witness lays all his cards on the table and says to the prosecutor, “What will you give me for this?”

    Now in normal circumstances, a witness can’t be prosecuted for what he says during the proffer. But he can lose that immunity if he lies. WHICH HE DID. Meaning that whatever he said during that interview might be used to prosecute him.

    And in normal circumstances, lawyers aren’t allowed to pull out in the middle of a case. But if, say, you know your client lied to the FBI, you have an ethical obligation to withdraw. And you have to balance that obligation with attorney-client privilege. Thus, the “noisy withdrawal,” where the attorney is allowed to breach the privilege and tell the judge in chambers that she needs to be excused from the case because her client has been less than wholly truthful. […]

    – Gates lied to the FBI on February 1 during plea negotiations.
    – His lawyers shit a brick and immediately moved to withdraw.
    – Because of the lie, Gates lost immunity from prosecution for whatever he said during plea negotiations.
    – Gates is a FUCKING FOOL. […]

  83. says

    “RNC started paying Trump campaign’s rent at Trump Tower after it stopped covering Trump’s legal bills for Russia probe”:

    Soon after the Republican National Committee came under pressure for paying legal bills for President Donald Trump and his eldest son in the special counsel’s Russia probe, it started covering expenses for the president’s re-election campaign.

    The RNC is using campaign funds to pay Trump’s company more than $37,000 a month in rent, and to pay thousands of dollars in monthly salary to Vice President Mike Pence’s nephew, John Pence, party officials confirmed this week. The rent pays for office space in the Trump Tower in New York for the staff of Trump’s re-election campaign. John Pence is the Trump campaign’s deputy executive director.

    Campaign finance experts who spoke to CNBC said this type of spending by a party committee on behalf of a campaign is highly unusual but legal, and it appears the RNC disclosed it correctly.

    “This is permissible and it’s being reported properly, but why they are doing it is a mystery,” said Brendan Fischer, senior counsel for the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. “One would think the RNC could be spending their money more effectively right now on the 2018 campaign, rather than spending it to pay Trump’s rent.”

    So far, the party has spent more than $290,000 to cover the Trump campaign’s expenses since September, the first month it paid the Trump Tower rent or Pence’s salary. Before then, both expenses had been paid directly by the Trump campaign.

    Then, in late September, the RNC abruptly began paying them both, and still does, according to financial disclosure forms released this week….

  84. says

    According to Dilanian on MSNBC, the new Manafort indictment concerns him using millions in hidden funds to pay off European politicians to lobby for Ukraine. I don’t have a link yet.

  85. says

    So do the European countries involved have their own versions of FARA which this group of politicians could have violated? Reasonable speculation that Schroeder is the former Chancellor alluded to, but I assume the others involved will soon be revealed.

  86. says

    Language from the IRA indictment (p. 5):

    Defendants, together with others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, knowingly and intentionally conspired to defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of State in administering federal requirements for disclosure of foreign involvement in certain domestic activities.

    Language from the Manafort indictment (p. 22):

    From in or about and between 2006 and 2017, both dates being approximate and inclusive, in the District of Columbia and elsewhere, the defendant PAUL J. MANAFORT, JR., together with others, including Gates, knowingly and intentionally conspired to defraud the United States by impeding, impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful government functions of a government agency, namely the Department of Justice and the Treasury…

  87. says

    A Russian oligarch that was indicted by Mueller is also organizing/leading (paying for?) a group of mercenaries that operate in Syria. With Assad’s approval, and with the Kremlin’s approval, Yevgeny Prigozhin also authorized an attack against U.S. soldiers in Syria. Looking for more coverage on this. Looks like the Washington Post may have the scoop. Will add more later.

  88. says

    “Top Justice Dept. official alerted White House 2 weeks ago to ongoing issues in Kushner’s security clearance”:

    A top Justice Department official alerted the White House two weeks ago that significant information requiring additional investigation would further delay the security clearance process of senior adviser Jared Kushner, according to three people familiar with the discussion.

    The Feb. 9 phone call from Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein to White House Counsel Donald McGahn came amid growing public scrutiny of a number of administration officials without final security clearances. Most prominent among them is Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, who has had access to some of the nation’s most sensitive material for the last year while waiting for his background investigation to be completed….

  89. says

    SC @152, Trump said today that Jared Kushner is “outstanding,” but then he went on to say that Kelly is the one who will make the decision when it comes to Kushner’s security clearance issues. Is this Trump washing his hands of Kushner?

  90. says

    Josh Marshall: “At the end of 2015, Manafort was desperate for money, pleading to save his marriage, owed millions to a mobbed up oligarch. He told family he was considering suicide. Six weeks later he was asking Tom Barrack to hook him up with Donald Trump.”

    A subscription (which I don’t have, but only because I’m poor) is required to read the article, but I didn’t even know this much.

  91. blf says

    Hate groups in US grow for third straight year: SPLC:

    The number of hate groups has grown by 20 percent since 2014, the Southern Poverty Law Center said in a new report.

    The number of hate groups operating in the United States grew by four percent in 2017, according to the [SPLC …].

    The SPLC identified 954 hate groups in the US last year, an increase from the 917 it had documented in 2016, the group said in a report released on Wednesday.


    According to the SPLC, 2017 was the third straight year to witness a rise in the number of hate groups. It was also the first year since 2009 that hate groups were documented in all 50 states.

    Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, laid much of the blame for last year’s increase on the administration of President [sic] Donald Trump, saying he has stoked the flames of white supremacy and anti-immigrant xenophobia.

    “President [sic] Trump in 2017 reflected what white supremacist groups want to see: a country where racism is sanctioned by the highest office, immigrants are given the boot and Muslims banned,” she said.


    Neo-Nazi groups, which the year before had numbered 99, saw the largest increase, growing by 22 percent and reaching 121 groups across the country.


    Anti-government groups grew from 623 in 2016 to 689 last year, the group explained, adding that 237 of those groups were armed militias.

    Anti-Muslim groups rose for the third year in a row.


    Meanwhile, KKK chapters declined drastically, decreasing from 130 in 2016 to 72 last year.

    Beirich attributed the decrease in KKK chapters to the growing appeal of the alt-right, a loosely knit coalition of white supremacists, white nationalists and neo-Nazis who advocate a white ethnostate.

    In a recent report, the SPLC documented 100 people killed or injured by affiliates of the alt-right throughout the last four years.


    The SPLC’s new report also included 51 anti-LGBT groups and two male supremacist organisations, a new category that was not included in the monitor’s previous reports.

    The male supremacist movement “misrepresents all women as genetically inferior, manipulative and stupid and reduces them to their reproductive or sexual function”, the SPLC said in its report.

    Beirich said these groups made it “glaringly apparent that it would be weird for us to leave them off of the list, given that they’re doing the exact same as these other organisations are doing to other populations”.

  92. says

    Lynna @ #153:

    SC @152, Trump said today that Jared Kushner is “outstanding,” but then he went on to say that Kelly is the one who will make the decision when it comes to Kushner’s security clearance issues. Is this Trump washing his hands of Kushner?

    And I believe Kelly’s own deadline was an hour and a half ago. This news appears to have been leaked to force Kelly’s hand – he said he didn’t see any reason Kushner’s “work” would be affected, but then Trump publicly removed himself from the equation, so how does Kelly allow Kushner to continue after this new report?

    My biggest fear is that Kushner has been accessing the most secret information in order to create an insurance policy for himself.

  93. blf says

    Possibly connected to @154, Paul Manafort has a mystery multimillion mortgage (May-2017):

    […] Paul Manafort mortgaged his Hamptons home for $3.5 million via a shell company just after departing [hair furor’s] campaign in August [2016], but the requisite government documents weren’t filed and there is no indication that the $36,750 in taxes owed on the mortgage was ever paid, per NBC News.

    […] The mortgage loan was made by a capital group that’s partially funded by Alexander Rovt, a Ukranian-American real-estate billionaire and Trump donor.


    NBC’s report, Feds Subpoena Records for $3.5M Mystery Mortgage on Manafort’s Home (link embedded in above excerpt) adds:

    […] A Manafort spokesperson said the $3.5 million loan, which was taken out through a shell company, was repaid in December [2016], but also said that paperwork showing the repayment was not filed until he was asked about the loan by NBC News.


    On August 19, 2016, Manafort left the Trump campaign amid media reports about his previous work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine, including allegations he received millions of dollars in payments.

    That same day, Manafort created a holding company called Summerbreeze LLC. Several weeks later, a document called a UCC filed with the state of New York shows that Summerbreeze took out a $3.5 million loan on Manafort’s home […]

    There is much more at NBC’s site.

    Whilst the above is after the hinted-at 2015 shenanigans, the speed with which it happened, apparent secrecy, and so on loosely suggests a possible connection.

  94. says

    OMG – Samantha Fuentes was just interviewed on CNN. She’s a child with shrapnel behind her eye, wearing a MSD Eagles sweatshirt. It’s almost spooky how composed and thoughtful these kids are.

  95. KG says

    Saccone is a decidedly conservative Republican who is pro-life, pro-gun – Vox, quoted by Lynna, OM@141, my emphasis

    How bizarre that even Vox doesn’t seem to realize you can’t possibly be both!

  96. KG says

    So do the European countries involved have their own versions of FARA which this group of politicians could have violated? – SC@148

    MPs in the UK complete an entry in the “Register of Interests”, and similar registers exist for the Scottish Parliament, Welsh and northern Irish Assemblies, and local councils. But my impression is that enforcement is very lax, particularly for “important” MPs and Councillors. The most effective Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards so far (the post is quite recent) was pushed out because she was too effective. I’ve no idea about most other European countries, but Italy, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Malta all have high levels of corruption.

  97. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    I am well aware of Washington’s complicated legacy, not just with respect to Slavery, but also with respect to relations with the native population. He was a complicated man. However, in his will, he did make provisions for the manumission of the slaves he could, and Martha followed through a year later. Interestingly, Jefferson never could free his slaves because he was too far in debt.

    Lincoln’s legacy is also complicated. At one point, he supported sending freed slaves back to Africa, although he did change his mind after discussions with Frederick Douglass and others..

    As PZ discussed in his latest article about Steven Pinker, it is a mistake to think that we can understand men who lived centuries ago through our own eyes. The lived in a different world. That some of those men stood out from their peers, however, is undeniable. That some of those men left the world better for their having lived in it is also undeniable.
    The US is notable in that it is one of the few places that was ever better off after a revolution than it was before it. Washington deserves a lot of the credit for having kept it from descending into madness of type seen in the French Revolution. One can recognize a man’s faults and still appreciate what was remarkable about him.

  98. says

    SC @156, Ivanka Trump also has an interim security clearance. She should not have access to classified material, but Trump seems to have just ignored that fact. He sent Ivanka to South Korea to brief officials there on the new sanctions against North Korea.

  99. says

    Scott Pruitt uses the bible to justify his support of corporate interests over protecting the environment.

    In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, a media outlet that also seems to double as a propaganda arm of the Trump administration, Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt said his Christian convictions led him to conclude that America should use gas and coal freely because natural resources exist purely for man’s benefit.

    “The biblical world view with respect to these issues is that we have a responsibility to manage and cultivate, harvest the natural resources that we’ve been blessed with to truly bless our fellow mankind,” Pruitt told CBN’s David Brody.

    Vox link

  100. says

    Another startling moment from CPAC:

    Ian Walters, the communications director of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is under fire for a remark he made Friday evening about former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele—saying he was elected as leader in 2009 “because he’s a black guy. That was the wrong thing to do.”

    Steele told MSNBC’s Joy Reid Saturday morning that he was just outside the ballroom where the speech took place and was “a little shocked, a little disappointed.”

    “I’m surprised that people still in the party feel this way and look at the contributions that anyone would make to the party through the prism of race,” Steele said. “It’s unfortunate, it’s stupid, it’s immature.”

    Steele said Walters did call him to apologize, but added: “That’s not acceptable, that’s not enough.”

    In a separate interview with the Observer, Steele of his tenure at the RNC, “My skin color has nothing to do with that.” He added that Walters should “look at my record and see what I did. I can’t believe an official of CPAC would go onstage in front of an audience and say something like that. I’ve been a strong supporter of CPAC for many years and I thought they raised them better than that here.” […]


  101. says

    About those rightwing dunderheads labeling the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School “crisis actors,” there’s a history of similar attempt to discredit students:

    Sixty-one years before teens at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., would survive a mass shooting only to be labeled “crisis actors,” the nine African American teens who braved racist crowds to enroll in Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas were also accused of being impostors.

    False rumors that the Little Rock Nine were paid protesters even forced the NAACP to issue a statement condemning the stories as “pure propaganda.” The students were not, in fact, “imported” from the North, said the NAACP’s Clarence A. Laws, but rather the children of local residents, including veterans.

    The same thing happened in the 1870s when African Americans again testified before Congress about the Ku Klux Klan.

    “Hundreds of black women and men played a remarkable role, coming forward to testify during the hearings,” Kansas University history professor Shawn Leigh Alexander wrote. “Democratic committee members attempted to discredit their testimony, equating the two-dollar-a-day allowance that witnesses received to bribery and accusing local Republicans of coaching them.” […]

    “It’s a theme that crops up throughout civil rights history,” said Kruse. “Back then, it was an assumption that African Americans in the South couldn’t possibly be upset. They must have been stirred up from the outside, either paid to do this or inspired to do this by propaganda. They couldn’t have come up with this on their own.

    “I think this is what we see in the Parkland case today,” he added. “There’s a belief that somehow these 17- or 18-year-olds who witnessed a school shooting … who saw their friends die, somehow could not have been motivated to respond to that on their own, that they would need some sort of outside direction for that protest to take shape.”

    Quoted text if from the Washington Post.

  102. says

    As you might expect, the Trump administration’s new tax law is full of glitches, mistakes, and unintended consequences.

    […] One inadvertently denies restaurants, retailers and others generous new write-offs for things like remodeling.

    Another would allow wealthy money managers to sidestep a crackdown on lucrative tax break that allows them pay lower taxes on some of their income […]. A third creates two different start dates for new rules that make it harder for businesses to shave their tax bills.

    There are dozens of other snafus, hitting everything from real estate investments to multinational corporations to farmers. […]

    “This is not normal,” said Marty Sullivan, chief economist at the nonpartisan Tax Analysts. “There’s always this kind of stuff, but the order of magnitude is entirely different.” […]

    Republicans would like to address the problems as soon as next month, as part of legislation needed to fund the government. But to do that, they’ll need assistance from Democrats, and it’s unclear they are in any mood to help. They were shut out of the process of writing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, […]

    “We’re not going to say to Republicans, ‘Oh tell us what you want to do,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who sits on the tax-writing Finance Committee. “We want to make the bill better, not just correct whatever technical fix is needed.”

    Democrats may also decide to wait, figuring a good showing in this fall’s midterm elections will only increase their leverage when it comes to demanding changes in the law.

    For now, Republicans say they are collecting examples of things that need to be corrected.

    “The Ways and Means Committee is on receive mode,” said Chairman Kevin Brady. “We expect to develop a punch list of provisions that need to be addressed either administratively or through changes in the code itself.”

    Some of the glitches are simple drafting errors. Others would have unintended consequences. Still others are things in the law that aren’t clear. […]

    Politico link

    Much more at the link.

  103. says

    Follow-up to comments 68 and 124.

    United and Delta airlines have also distanced themselves from the NRA.

    “United is notifying the NRA that we will no longer offer a discounted rate to their annual meeting and we are asking that the NRA remove our information from their website,” the airline tweeted Saturday morning.

    Delta Air Lines added: “Delta is reaching out to the NRA to let them know we will be ending their contract for discounted rates through our group travel program. We will be requesting that the NRA remove our information from their website.”

  104. says

    Sebastian Gorka thinks that the election of Trump as president proves that God exists. He said so at CPAC.

    “If you ever had a doubt that God exists, guess what?” Gorka said, “November the 8th is all the proof you need. Why? Because [Clinton] had it all, she had the media, she spent $1.4 billion on a seat, on a position, she thought was owed to her because of her gender and her last name, but she lost!”

    Gorka said that Trump “brought us back from the brink. We didn’t have two wheels over the edge of the cliff, we had three wheels over the edge of the cliff. If she had won, that was it—from the Supreme Court on down, that was it. We would have lost our republic.”

    Gorka thinks that God is also misogynistic. From Wonkette:

    Silly entitled women thinking they are “owed” a presidency. If they were supposed to be President, why would God have made all 44 previous Presidents men, huh? God only lets other countries have female leaders because he doesn’t like them as much! England can have all the LADY Prime Ministers it wants — but not his precious America!

  105. says

    Trump is in love with his arm-the-teachers concept. Here’s one of his tweets from today:

    Armed Educators (and trusted people who work within a school) love our students and will protect them. Very smart people. Must be firearms adept & have annual training. Should get yearly bonus. Shootings will not happen again – a big & very inexpensive deterrent. Up to States.

    I guess he thinks implementation would be “very inexpensive” because the states would pay for it.

    I don’t think Trump can even hear the pushback he is getting, like this:

    […] American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said her union’s position is firm, even among teachers who are gun owners: “Teachers don’t want to be armed, we want to teach. We don’t want to be, and would never have the expertise needed to be, sharp shooters; no amount of training can prepare an armed teacher to go up against an AR-15.”

    She had some practical questions, too:

    How would arming teachers even work? Would kindergarten teachers be carrying guns in holsters? Is every classroom now going to have a gun closet? Will it be locked? When you have seconds to act when you hear the code for an active shooter, is a teacher supposed to use those seconds getting her gun instead of getting her students to safety? Anyone who pushes arming teachers doesn’t understand teachers and doesn’t understand our schools. Adding more guns to schools may create an illusion of safety, but in reality it would make our classrooms less safe.

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