Comments

  1. says

    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded to Trump’s continuing pressure to renegotiate NAFTA.

    We aren’t going to take any old deal. Canada is willing to walk away from NAFTA if the United States proposes a bad deal. We won’t be pushed around. Canceling it would be extremely harmful and disruptive to people in the United States. We are going to keep negotiating in good faith. We are confident we are going to be able to get to the right deal for Canada, not just any deal.

    This reminds me of France’s Macron taking the lead in setting up a TPP-like trade arrangement with China and other countries that just left the United States out of the picture.

    Other world leaders are moving on, without Trump.

  2. says

    Republicans voted to repeal the individual mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act. That’s the portion that requires individuals to have health insurance. Republicans repealed it as part of their tax bill.

    Legislators at the state level see that the repeal will damage the health care markets in their states, and that the result of the repeal will be millions of people losing their health care insurance. Some state legislators are not standing idly by: they are passing state laws that require residents to purchase health insurance. Nine states are now considering such laws: Maryland, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.

    The individual mandate was a way to keep health insurance premiums low by spreading the cost out over a larger number of citizens. Without it, premiums go up for everyone, but they rise catastrophically for people who need insurance the most.

    From Connecticut state Representative Sean Scanlon:

    The federal government has just stalled. They don’t accomplish the basics, and that leaves states with a great opportunity to step up and craft policy.

    Less of an “opportunity,” and more of a desperate move to stave off disaster. But either way, this is just one example of states making moves to blunt some bad decisions that the Trump administration has backed.

  3. says

    This is a follow-up to comments in the previous chapter of this thread.

    From Wonkette, coverage of the Nunes memo:

    As we all know Devin Nunes’s big dumb bullshit memo of lies is bullshit, and also full of lies. This fact is corroborated by the Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee, by James Comey, and also by the Trump-appointed leadership of the FBI and the DOJ. We already picked some of the lies out, because it was so easy! But now that the Nunes memo has been wafting around Washington […], reporters are asking questions, people are leaking and saying “this is a bullshit right here,” […]

    Herein, we will highlight two such examples. Be clear that in no way are we saying these are ALL the bullshits in Devin Nunes’s memo. We are just saying here are two of them.

    Firstly, The Daily Beast reports on a line in the memo what says former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, […], testified in secret to Congress that there never would have been a FISA warrant on literal […] Russian intelligence asset Carter Page if it hadn’t been for the DODGY DOSSIER. This, to coin a phrase, is bullshit:

    Asked if that was a true representation, a source familiar with McCabe’s testimony responded: “100% not.”

    A senior Democratic House intelligence committee official agreed.

    “The Majority purposefully mischaracterizes both what is actually contained in the FISA applications and the testimony of former FBI Deputy McCabe before our committee in December 2017 – the Minority’s memo lays out the full facts,” the official said.

    […] Meanwhile, over at the RedState blog, yes RedState, the wingnut conservative blog, the blogger Patterico notices another bullshit, one that doesn’t even need leakers or sources, since it’s just a flat out lie about PUBLIC TESTIMONY James Comey gave to Congress. You see, the memo claims that Comey called the entire Steele Dossier “salacious and unverified” in testimony, but NUH UH JAMES COMEY DID NOT SAY THAT.

    In testimony to the Senate in June of 2017, Patterico explains that Comey made several claims about the dossier. In response to a question from GOP Senator Richard Burr about whether “criminal allegations” in the dossier had been confirmed, Comey actually said shhh be quiet, because he cannot talk about that in open session.

    Comey later answered questions from Senators Susan Collins and Tom Cotton that made clear that when he said “salacious and unverified,” he was referring to the [story that] Trump ALLEGEDLY in 2013 enjoyed a show in his suite at the Moscow Ritz Carlton, performed by the fanciest pee hookers in all of Russia, […]. That is what, according to Comey, was “salacious and unverified.” Not the whole dossier!

    But yet Devin Nunes’s dumb memo just makes up its own version of that story, either because Nunes and his staffers are stupid (yes) or because they are full of shit (also yes). […]

  4. says

    The Republican National Committee held their annual winter meeting yesterday. During that meeting they passed a resolution to support Trump’s desire to ban transgender people from serving in the military.

    Trump’s proposed ban has been slapped down by the courts, (by three federal courts), but his followers still think the ban is a good idea. Republicans at the meeting voted to approve language that describes transgender persons as having “a disqualifying psychological and physical” condition.

  5. says

    Under the Trump administration, deportations of undocumented immigrants have taken on a newly aggressive flavor. Here’s one example, and a nice slap down of ICE by a federal judge:

    A New Jersey federal judge temporary halted deportation proceedings against undocumented Indonesian Christians seeking legal status in the United States. Friday’s order came after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit following aggressive roundups of Indonesian Christians in New Jersey.

    The decision affects about 50 New Jersey residents who self-identified to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2009 as part of a program to get deportation protection and work authorization. Recently, immigration authority has been targeting this cohort. Last month, they detained two men named in the lawsuit, Roby Sanger and Gunawan Liem, after dropping their children off at school. This prompted Harry Pangemanan, another plaintiff in the suit, to seek sanctuary from deportation in a church. […]

    Since his arrival to the states, he’s been working through the church and organized more than 2,000 volunteers to rebuild roughly 200 homes after Superstorm Sandy hit. He told the Associated Press he wasn’t familiar with U.S. immigration law so didn’t know he could have sought asylum.

    “Nobody asked you, as long as you are a good man, you work hard and help your company, and you pay your taxes,” he said. “You’re working like everybody else, you don’t bother anybody. […]”

    As a result of the order, Pangemanan and three other undocumented immigrants seeking sanctuary at the Reformed Church of Highland Park — Harry Yohanes Tasik, Arthur Jemmy, and Silfia Tobing — can now return to their lives without risking deportation.

    A federal judge also recently demanded that Massachusetts halt the removal of 50 Indonesian Christians. The ACLU filed a lawsuit there as well.

    “These community members, our neighbors, are entitled to argue their case with the protections of due process, especially when the stakes are life-and-death,” said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha in a statement.

    The Massachusetts federal judge’s decision gives immigrants 90 days to fill out the necessary paperwork. The injunctions prevents ICE from deporting them until after the Board of Immigration Appeals rules on their respected cases.

    Think Progress link

  6. says

    It’s hard to issue a great rebuttal to the Nunes memo because a lot of the information is based on classified documents. Nevertheless, a top Democrat, Representative Jerrold Nadler, has issued a rebuttal.

    […]
    “Carter Page was, more likely than not, an agent of a foreign power. The Department of Justice thought so. A federal judge agreed. The consensus, supported by the facts, forms the basis of the warrant issued,” Nadler writes […]

    Nadler said Nunes “provides no credible basis whatsoever” for removing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and shows Republicans “are now part and parcel to an organized effort to obstruct” special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russian election meddling. […]

    The Hill Link

    NBC News link

    The NBC link provides more details.

  7. Hj Hornbeck says

    Thanks for that link, Lynna! I’ve written up my own summary of the Nunes memo, dumping in as much background info as I could find. Your addition was worthy of a hasty edit.

  8. says

    Hj @8, that’s a great summary. Good work.

    Donald Trump Junior had this to say about the Nunes memo:

    There is a little bit of sweet revenge in it for me and certainly probably the family in a sense that if they wouldn’t have done this, this stuff would be going on. This would be going on at the highest levels of government. They’d be continuing doing it to my father, trying to undermine his actions.

    Come to a conclusion already because you’ve been looking for two years, you’ve come up with nothing other than their own nefarious actions and their own collusions.

  9. Hj Hornbeck says

    The NYT published an editorial from a now-former FBI agent. This section jumped out at me:

    Furthermore, a congressional memo released on Friday accuses the F.B.I. and the Justice Department of abusing their surveillance powers to spy on a former Trump campaign adviser. But every statement of fact included in an affidavit for foreign intelligence collection must withstand the scrutiny of at least 10 people in the Department of Justice hierarchy before it is reviewed by an independent court.

    There is, however, a difference between oversight by those in charge of holding the F.B.I. accountable and criticism by politicians seeking partisan gain. Political operatives are weaponizing their disagreement with a particular investigation in a bid to undermine the credibility of the entire institution. “The system is rigged” is their slogan, and they are now politicizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act process used to collect critical intelligence about our adversaries.

    The assumption among confused and dismayed F.B.I. employees is that the attacks are meant to soften the blow should the investigation by Mr. Mueller, the special counsel, lead to additional charges. However, these kinds of attacks by powerful people go beyond mere criticism — they could destroy the institution. Although those critics’ revisionist supporters claim their ire is reserved for institutional leadership and not the rank and file, it is the F.B.I. agent on the street who will be most severely affected as public support for federal law enforcement is sacrificed for partisan gain.

  10. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Gowdy et al. are prudent to dissociate the memo from the Meuller investigation, because
    1) Given the closeness between Nunes and the WH, it will be pretty easy to prove the latter had a hand in at least proposing the memo.
    2) If the goal of the memo was to discredit Meuller, that is likely obstruction.

    For Rethugs smarter than an eggplant, the utility of the memo is that it may result in someone supervising Meuller who is more compliant than Rosenstein. For this to happen, IMHO, Rosenstein would have to resign rather than be fired, but once his family starts getting death threats, I suspect this is only a matter of time.

    Tronald Dumps handpicked successor will then step over Rosenstein’s corpse and rein things in. This would then lead to the interesting of how Meuller would react to his new bridle. Would he:
    1) Resign in protest?
    2) Attempt to operate within the new constraints?
    3) Openly or covertly defy his new masters?

    So, the weight of the Republic’s future may come down to two men. If they cave, democracy is done.

  11. says

    In one way, Trump and Nunes have already won. Republicans voters now distrust the FBI.

    In an exclusive poll conducted by SurveyMonkey, Axios reports that just 38 percent of Republicans now have a favorable opinion of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with 47 percent unfavorable, a hugely different point of view than held by Democrats and, to a lesser extent, independents. […]

    Link

    It’s true that some House Intelligence Republicans are telling Trump that the memo does not “vindicate” him, (like Trey Gowdy as noted above), however, too many Republicans are backing Trump up. Here’s what Gowdy said, which makes some sense, especially compared to his Trumpian compatriots:

    I actually don’t think it is has any impact on the Russia probe. And I was pretty integrally involved in the drafting of it.

    There is a Russia investigation without a dossier. So to the extent the memo deals with the dossier and the FISA process, the dossier has nothing to do with the meeting at Trump Tower. The dossier has nothing to do with an email sent by Cambridge Analytica.

    The dossier really has nothing to do with George Papadopoulos’ meeting in Great Britain. It also doesn’t have anything to do with obstruction of justice. So there’s going to be a Russia probe, even without a dossier.

    I am on record as saying I support [Special Counsel Robert] Mueller one hundred percent. You need an investigation into the Trump Tower and the Cambridge Analytica email, separate and apart from the dossier. So those are not connected issues to me. They may be for other Republicans, but they’re not for me. I say investigate everything Russia did, but admit that this was a really sloppy process.

    And here is Representative Chris Stewart, a Republican from Utah:

    I think it would be a mistake for anyone to suggest that the special counsel shouldn’t complete his work. I support his work, I want him to finish it. I hope he finishes it as quickly as possible. This memo has frankly nothing at all to do with a special counsel.

    Representative Will Hurd, a Republican from Texas, was interviewed by ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos:

    “I don’t believe this is an attack on Bob Mueller, I don’t believe this is an attack on the men and women in the FBI,” he said, adding later: “I want to stress, Bob Mueller should be allowed to turn over every rock, pursue every lead so that we can have trust in knowing what actually the Russians did or did not do.”

    “So you don’t agree with President Trump when he says this vindicates him in the entire Russia investigation?” Stephanopoulos asked.

    “I don’t,” Hurd said.

  12. says

    Another opponent of Putin has been murdered:

    Russian opposition activist Konstantin Sinitsyn has been found dead of head injuries in the entranceway to his St. Petersburg apartment building.

    St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly lawmaker Boris Vishnevsky posted the news on February 2, although the incident apparently happened on January 26.

    Vishnevsky said Sinitsyn died of trauma to the head and that police had detained one suspect.

    Radio Free Europe link

    This brings the total to 38 victims. Link

  13. says

    Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency transition team advisor, Steven Milloy, praised “heroic Joe McCarthy.” As usual, Trump surrounds himself with “all the best people.” Milloy is also a former Fox News columnist, climate science denier, and a former tobacco lobbyist.

    To begin at the beginning of Milloy’s latest flight into whacko land, we need to look at James Comey’s response to the Nunes memo, which apparently triggered Milloy. Comey wrote:

    All should appreciate the FBI speaking up. I wish more of our leaders would. But take heart: American history shows that, in the long run, weasels and liars never hold the field, so long as good people stand up. Not a lot of schools or streets named for Joe McCarthy.

    Milloy responded:

    There is no greater Left-wing invented slur than ‘McCarthyism.

    After thinking about it for awhile, Milloy apparently decided that Comey was also aiming a slur at Nixon, and Milloy then wrote this:

    Democrat dirty tricks were able to drive the heroic Joe McCarthy to an early grave. Democrat dirty tricks forced Nixon to resign.

    Commentators have noted that the entire Trump EPA is now led by people who deny scientific reality. For example, Scott Pruitt personally oversaw the removal from the agency’s website of all documents related to Obama’s Clean Power Plan, to curbing carbon emissions in general, to climate change and to climate science. Pruitt’s associate administrator, J.P. Freire, also participated in the purge of scientific information.

  14. says

    More depressing news in the Trumpian “all the best people” saga: Trump’s choice to lead the United Nation’s international migration assistance efforts is a climate science denier, a Muslim hater, and a Christians-only activist.

    […] Ken Isaacs, Trump’s nominee for the director general post at the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) — which spends nearly $1 billion to assist migrants around the world — has a history of making such disparaging and dangerous remarks on social media and radio appearances, according to the Washington Post. After Post reporters reached out to the State Department seeking comment, Isaacs’ Twitter account was made private and he apologized in a statement and pledged to “hold myself to the highest standards of humanity, human dignity and equality if chosen to lead IOM.” […]

    Among Isaacs’ dangerous remarks was a claim that the Muslim faith instructs its followers to commit violent acts; and that allowing Syrian refugees into the U.S. is “foolish and delusional.” He also wrote in 2015 that

    Christian Syrian refugees should be the first priority and that “If Islam is a religion of peace, let’s see 2 million Muslims in National Mall marching against jihad & stand for America! I haven’t seen it!”

    All the best people.

  15. says

    From Former CIA Director John Brennan speaking today:

    We don’t have access to the underlying information of the Nunes memo, which clearly indicates that he was being exceptionally partisan in this. I’ve had fights with the Dems over the years when I was in the Obama administration … but I never saw the Democrats do something like this that was so partisan, so reckless.

    The fact that Devin Nunes and Republicans denied the ability of the minority, the Democratic members of that committee, to put out its report is just appalling. I think it really underscores just how partisan Mr. Nunes has been. He has abused the office of the chairmanship … and I don’t say that lightly.

  16. says

    Russian bots and their American allies gamed social media to put a flawed intelligence document atop the political agenda. That should alarm us.”

    […] Russian trolls, she told a television interviewer, “have nothing to do with releasing the memo — that was a vote of the intelligence committee.” But her assertion is incorrect. The vote marked the culmination of a targeted, 11-day information operation that was amplified by computational propaganda techniques and aimed to change both public perceptions and the behavior of American lawmakers. […]

  17. says

    European Union leaders are not cutting Trump any slack. They don’t like his trade policies nor his bullying rhetoric.

    A top official for the European Union warned Sunday that the 28-member bloc would not hesitate to respond in kind if President Trump implemented tariffs on European exporters.

    “If European exporters have to pay tariffs, that will become a two-way street. Then U.S. exporters will have to pay tarrifs here,” EU budget commissioner Guenther Oettinger told Germany’s Welt am Sonntag newspaper, according to The Associated Press.

    Oettinger’s comments come after Trump said last week he would consider responding to the EU’s “very unfair” trade policies.

    “I’ve had a lot of problems with the European Union, and it may morph into something very big from that standpoint, from a trade standpoint,” Trump told Piers Morgan in an interview for ITV. […]

    Link

  18. says

    Donald Trump Junior said some more stupid stuff:

    The problem is rather than being reasonable and coming to the table, they [Democrats] forced themselves further and further and further left.

    I mean, they are left of commie right now, and that’s a real problem for them because I don’t think that’s where America was [during the 2016 election].

    [The polls are understating,] as they always do for Trump.

    Republicans are getting used to being able to win again. And that’s a big deal.

    “Left of commie.” Who is this guy? Does he live in the 1950s with his father?

  19. says

    Trump’s fiscal policies are having negative effects:

    The Treasury Department is on track to borrow nearly $1 trillion this fiscal year, almost double the amount the federal government borrowed last year, The Washington Post reported Saturday.

    The government is likely to borrow $955 billion during this fiscal year, which is the first full fiscal year under President Trump. The government last year borrowed $519 billion, the Post noted, adding that the increase was attributed primarily to the “fiscal outlook.”

    Link

  20. says

    Here is Trump’s latest grade-school-level bullying tantrum:

    Little Adam Schiff, who is desperate to run for higher office, is one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington, right up there with Comey, Warner, Brennan and Clapper! Adam leaves closed committee hearings to illegally leak confidential information. Must be stopped!

    Trump just accused House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff of a felony, and he did so without proof.

    The “must be stopped” part makes me think that Trump is trying to get Congress to halt the release of the Democratic memo to rebut the Nunes memo. And/or Trump is setting the public up to think that if he refuses to release the memo, (if he refuses to declassify it like he did the Nunes memo), that that will be a reasonable tactic.

    Knowing Trump, he is trying to get Congress to do his dirty work. If House Republicans refuse to release the Democratic Party memo, then Trump is off the hook. He doesn’t have to do anything. He doesn’t have to take the heat for silencing the opposition.

  21. says

    Oh, FFS. Trump is trying to turn a bumbling clown into a hero:

    Representative Devin Nunes, a man of tremendous courage and grit, may someday be recognized as a Great American Hero for what he has exposed and what he has had to endure!

  22. says

    Trump is, according to some reports, considering prosecuting Mueller instead of firing him. Trump’s go-to tactic of suing anyone with whom he disagrees makes these reports more believable. But, really, WTF?

    […] “I think he’s been convinced that firing Mueller would not only create a firestorm, it would play right into Mueller’s hands,” said another friend, “because it would give Mueller the moral high ground.”

    Instead, as is now becoming plain, the Trump strategy is to discredit the investigation and the FBI without officially removing the leadership. Trump is even talking to friends about the possibility of asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions to consider prosecuting Mueller and his team.

    “Here’s how it would work: ‘We’re sorry, Mr. Mueller, you won’t be able to run the federal grand jury today because he has to go testify to another federal grand jury,’” said one Trump adviser. […]

    NBC News link.

    There’s much more at the link, including Trump’s fears that Paul Manafort is going to “flip” and sell him out.

    Another comment from one of Trump’s friends:

    “He called to congratulate me on how brilliant and prescient I was to tell him to run for president,” said one friend, who asked not to be identified, laughing at the thought. “What he was really doing was flattering himself by flattering me. But for him, it was a long and very enjoyable monologue.”

    Regarding the idea of Trump prosecuting Mueller, Josh Marshall had this to say:

    In a sense, we’ve already heard this. A lot. The idea of creating another Special Counsel to investigate the Russia probe itself is just that. After all, Special Counsels investigate crimes. That’s the whole premise to this ‘second Special Counsel’ push, that the investigators have committed crimes and must be prosecuted. It’s the same thing. So I’m not sure we should feel that we’re relying on Fineman’s reporting [the NBC News link above]. We’ve heard this repeatedly. He’s just focusing our attention on what it actually means.

  23. says

    The Eagles won Super Bowl LII. Some of the players are saying they will boycott any visits to the White House:

    […] Several Eagles players have already said they intend to boycott the winning team’s traditional trip to the White House.

    No one on the Eagles sat or kneeled during the national anthem this season, but several players raised their fists in protest, including Malcolm Jenkins, Torrey Smith, and Rodney McLeod. Jenkins led the Players Coalition, which secured a commitment from the NFL to provide $89 million over seven years to groups fighting inequality. Last week Jenkins and Smith said they did not intend to go to the White House if they won the Super Bowl. […]

    New York Magazine link

    Trump is fanning the flames by issuing a White House press release that includes the phrase, “to proudly stand for the National Anthem.”
    https://twitter.com/JonLemire/status/960259009134678016

    From Eagles wide receiver James Torrey Smith:

    They call it the anthem protest. We’re not protesting the anthem. It’s a protest during the anthem.

    From Chris Long, Eagles defensive end:

    For me, being from Charlottesville, no one wants to see you sit idly by and watch that stuff [white-supremacist demonstrations] happen and not say anything. And I wish there was more categorical denial from some very important people in this country who have had the opportunity to strike it down but didn’t.

  24. says

    Follow-up to comment 21.

    Adam Schiff replied:

    Mr. President, I see you’ve had a busy morning of “Executive Time.” Instead of tweeting false smears, the American people would appreciate it if you turned off the TV and helped solve the funding crisis, protected Dreamers or…really anything else.

  25. says

    From LAWFARE: FBI Messages Show the Bureau’s Real Reaction to Trump Firing James Comey

    […] Trump and [Sarah Huckabee] Sanders were playing fast and loose with the truth. But we now have the documents to prove that decisively. Their disclosure was not a leak but an authorized action by the FBI, which released to us under the Freedom of Information Act more than 100 pages of leadership communications to staff dealing with the firing. This material tells a dramatic story about the FBI’s reaction to the Comey firing—but it is neither a story of gratitude to the president nor a story of an organization in turmoil relieved by a much-needed leadership transition.

    Within a few days of the firing, both current and former FBI officials began pushing back against the White House’s claims. Then-Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, testifying before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said that Comey “enjoyed broad support within the FBI” and that “the vast majority of employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey.”

    Here at Lawfare, Nora Ellingsen—who served as a counterterrorism analyst at the FBI for several years—talked with roughly 20 of her former colleagues. She characterized the opinion of Comey among the FBI’s rank and file as almost universally positive. “Nearly everyone loved him,” she wrote, and the “degree of consensus on this point … has been incredible.” She went on: “All of the people I talked to described having the same reaction when they heard that the director had been fired: complete shock, followed by deep sadness.”

    The president of the FBI Agents Association, Thomas O’Connor, called Comey’s firing a “gut punch.”

    Resolving the inconsistency between the White House statements and accounts from within the bureau seemed like a good job for the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). When the head of an agency is abruptly fired, managers have to inform their teams, and those messages can speak volumes about the mood at the agency. […]

    Much more at the link.

  26. says

    From Jon Chait:

    […] the collapse of the factual underpinnings beneath the conservatives’ claims left no impression on them whatsoever. […]

    Cultivating distrust in institutions that are designed to play a neutral, mediating role is one of the central functions of conservative politics. […]

    An institution that attempts to prove its good faith by opening itself to criticism and acknowledging failure will merely provide more grist for its bad-faith critics. On the other hand, if the institution closes itself off to introspection, it risks taking on the partisan qualities it was accused of having and becoming a mirror image of its critics. There is no way to refute bad-faith criticism. The mainstream news media has spent decades trying to disarm Republican attacks on its credibility. […]

    The Memo follows the Republican plan to destroy neutral authority.

  27. says

    As we discovered last week, when Nunes was asked by Representative Mike Quigley, a Democrat from Illinois, if he had collaborated with the White House to create the memo, Nunes refused to answer.

    We now know who the probable collaborator is: Michael Ellis.

    […] Michael Ellis is Senior Associate White House Counsel, Special Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Council Legal Advisor. He’s an intelligence officer in the Naval Reserve. Before he went to work at the White House Counsel’s office he served as Nunes’ General Counsel on the House Intelligence Committee.

    That’s a pretty good clue to who Nunes might be in contact with at the White House. But we don’t need to rely on that professional connection. Ellis and Nunes have already done something just like this at least once before.

    You’ll remember that in early 2017, Mike Flynn directed his protege Ezra Cohen-Watnick to start reviewing what counter-intelligence investigators were finding in the Russia probe. Flynn was one of the primary targets of that probe. So this was highly irregular and not at all legit. That ‘review’ continued after Flynn was fired. Cohen-Watnick eventually took his findings to Don McGahn at the White House Counsel’s office. McGahn told him to stop immediately. Rather than doing so, he went around the Counsel’s office by having Nunes come to the White House in the middle of the night to share their findings. He and a colleague in the Counsel’s office called Nunes late one night and asked him to come to the White House immediately.

    […] So who was that colleague in the Counsel’s Office he worked with on his ‘review’ and his work with Nunes? Michael Ellis. Nunes bizarrely referred to Cohen-Watnick and Ellis as “whistleblowers” and refused to divulge their identities. But they were finally identified in press reports.

    In other words, Ellis already did close to the exact same thing with his former boss Nunes. It’s a pattern of conduct if you will. […]

    Link

  28. says

    Trump gave a speech at a manufacturing plant in Ohio today. He said a lot of stupid stuff, but his claim that Democrats were “treasonous” because they didn’t applaud enough and didn’t give him any standing ovations during his SOTU speech … well that stupidity stood out:

    They [the Democrats] were like death. And un-American. And someone said “treasonous.” Eh, why not? Can we call that treason? Well, why not? They certainly don’t love our country very much.

    Sounds like North Korea, right? If you don’t applaud the Dear Leader vigorously enough, you are tried for treason.

  29. says

    Another lie from Devin Nunes:

    As far as we can tell, Papadopoulos had never even met with the president.

    There are photos of Papadopoulos meeting with Trump. Trump even posted a photo of himself meeting with “my national security team” on March 31, 2016. There’s Trump, Papadopoulos, Jeff Sessions, and others at a table.

    In interviews, Trump praised Papadopoulos as “an excellent guy.”

  30. says

    From Hillary Clinton:

    I think this is a watershed moment, and a powerful reminder of how important it is to make sure women have a place at any table where decisions are made.

    Advancing the rights, opportunities and full participation of women and girls is the great unfinished business of the 21st century. I intend to keep fighting to pursue this agenda and to remain on the front lines of democracy.

    She was speaking at Georgetown University, where she presented the Hillary Rodham Clinton Award for Advancing Women in Peace and Security.

  31. says

    Follow-up to comment 29.

    While Trump was bragging in Ohio, the stock market fell about 500 points just during his speech. The market has fluctuated wildly today, being down about 1,700 points and then rising to only about a 600 point drop. Overall, the trend was downward.

  32. says

    Link for comment 30

    In other, but related news: The Trump Show is addling our brains and blinding us to what matters.

    A dozen stories with real impact on people got ignored during the memo fracas. […]

    Friday evening I got around to reading the Wall Street Journal’s exhaustive review of FBI agent Peter Strzok’s text message exchanges with government lawyer Lisa Page, which concluded there was no anti-Trump bias or conspiracy there after all.

    […] There were a bunch of articles published recently about things happening in American politics that are making a real difference in actual people’s lives. […] Stories that, frankly, paint a frightening picture of the direction in which the country is heading.

    […] a huge number of stories about things that have a real, concrete impact on people’s lives came to light.

    […] Labor Department political appointees spiked an internal economic analysis of a new rule governing the handling of tips received by millions of workers in the food service industry. If the suppressed report is correct, the rule the Trump administration is promulgating could cost workers billions of dollars in lost income.

    The Centers for Disease Control reported that flu hospitalizations in the United States are taking place at a record pace […] Congress’s defunding of Community Health Centers is creating a crisis of health care access for 26 million Americans.

    In separate CDC news,[…] CDC efforts to halt new outbreaks of exotic infectious diseases abroad are headed for an 80 percent cut.

    […] the Department of Housing and Urban Development is considering new work requirements for recipients of public housing assistance, measures that would impose hardship on some of the most deprived people in the country.

    […] HUD [is considering] proposals to raise rents for public housing users.

    […] HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s son, who does not work at HUD, is nonetheless intimately involved in HUD business mostly in ways designed to benefit himself personally.

    Mick Mulvaney, who is still serving as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau while Trump fails to nominate anyone at all to fill the job on a permanent basis, stripped the CFPB’s fair lending office of enforcement powers.

    […] not only has the payday lending industry won a number of regulatory favors from the Trump administration, they’ll be repaying the president personally by holding their annual retreat at the Trump Doral Golf Club.

    We had two significant train derailments, even as Trump revealed his infrastructure “plan” to be essentially a giant magic asterisk. […]

    The non-memo news listed above received some coverage in mainstream media, but was, for the most part, drowned out by the memo farce.

    […] These stories, though somewhat less exciting than Trump’s Twitter beefs, also broadly implicate the common good and raise the basic question of whether or not Trump is good at his job, rather than casting him as a symbolic totem of America’s ongoing culture wars.

    […] politics is important primarily because of its real impact on real people’s real lives, and not as a reality show drama. Somehow we, as a country, need to find a way to remember that more consistently.

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

    Sounds like North Korea, right? If you don’t applaud the Dear Leader vigorously enough, you are tried for treason.

    Indeed. There’s a good reason that treason is the only crime defined in the constitution.

  34. says

    Update on the Dow Jones industrial average: it closed down 1,175 points.

    In breaking news, the New York Times is reporting that Trump’s lawyers have recommended that he refuse to be interviewed by Mueller. From The Hill’s reporting:

    Trump’s attorneys have advised him against the interview over concerns that he could be charged with lying to investigators in the investigation into Russian election meddling.

    Mueller could, presumably, subpoena Trump to testify before the Grand Jury. Trump could take the fifth amendment to avoid answering questions. If he refuses the subpoena, presumably the Supreme Court could enforce the subpoena.

    Refusing to answer questions would, supposedly, damage Trump politically.

    There’s some reporting that indicates that Trump’s lawyers are saying that Mueller doesn’t have standing to subpoena him. That’s not going to fly. There’s precedent.

    Also, Trump and his son have tried to claim an overly broad “executive privilege” to avoid questioning before — that also doesn’t fly. Specific questioning in a criminal investigation trumps executive privilege.

    There’s nothing in the Constitution that says you can’t subpoena the president.

  35. says

    Oh, this is bad news. The delusional bubble in which Trump supporters live is expanding.

    A majority of Republicans believe the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) are working to “delegitimize” President Trump through the Russia election-hacking investigations, according to a new poll released Monday.

    Nearly three out of four Republicans, or 73 percent, agreed that “members of the FBI and Department of Justice are working to delegitimize President Trump through politically motivated investigations,” the Reuters/Ipsos survey found.

    […] While a majority of Americans — 52 percent — believe Trump or someone linked to his campaign colluded with the Russians, the poll’s findings reveal the president’s influence among Republicans, who usually have highest levels of trust in U.S. law enforcement agencies.

    In comparison, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found in 2015 that nearly 84 percent of Republicans said they had a “favorable” view of the FBI. […]

    The Hill

  36. KG says

    Update on the Dow Jones industrial average: it closed down 1,175 points. – Lynna, OM@35

    No doubt Trump is taking full credit for this yuuuuuge fall!

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

    Trump evangelical adviser: Jesus himself gave us the flu shot

    A member of President Trump’s evangelical executive advisory board said Jesus himself gave us the flu shot, adding that his believers are redeemed … from the curse of flu.

    We don’t have a flu season and don’t receive it when somebody threatens you with everybody’s getting the flu, Gloria Copeland — who co-founded the Kenneth Copeland Ministries in Texas with her husband — said during a video clip posted online by Right Wing Watch, the Huffington Post reported.

    We’ve already had our shot: He bore our sicknesses and carried our diseases. That’s what we stand on. And by his stripes, we were healed.

  38. says

    The opioid addiction crisis in the USA kills about 175 people per day. Kellyanne Conway is now in charge of addressing the crisis. From Politico:

    White House counselor Kellyanne Conway has taken control of the opioids agenda, quietly freezing out drug policy professionals and relying instead on political staff to address a lethal crisis claiming about 175 lives a day. The main response so far has been to call for a border wall and to promise a “just say no” campaign.

    Trump is expected to propose massive cuts this month to the “drug czar” office, just as he attempted in last year’s budget before backing off. He hasn’t named a permanent director for the office, and the chief of staff was sacked in December. For months, the office’s top political appointee was a 24-year-old Trump campaign staffer with no relevant qualifications. Its senior leadership consists of a skeleton crew of three political appointees, down from nine a year ago.

    Remember last summer when Trump declared that the opioid crisis is a “national emergency” and then he failed to follow through properly on the emergency declaration? About eleven weeks later, in October, Trump issued a “directive.” Nothing has been done.

    I’m sure Kellyanne will solve everything … Not. This is a farce and a fiasco. For addicted people and their families, this is an ongoing tragedy. It never stops.

    Incompetence reigns:

    […] “It’s fair to say the ONDCP has pretty much been systematically excluded from key decisions about opioids and the strategy moving forward,” said a former Trump administration staffer, using shorthand for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which has steered federal drug policy since the Reagan years.

    The office’s acting director, Rich Baum, who had served in the office for decades before Trump tapped him as the temporary leader, has not been invited to Conway’s opioid cabinet meetings, according to his close associates. […] Two political appointees from Baum’s office, neither of whom are drug policy experts, attend on the office’s behalf […]

  39. says

    John McCain (Republican) and Chris Coons (Democrat) came up with a bipartisan compromise on immigration. Trump rejected it. Trump also rejected a framework for compromise that was offered by Chuck Schumer. Trump rejected other compromise, bipartisan deals as well.

    Here’s what Trump said:

    Any deal on DACA that does not include STRONG border security and the desperately needed WALL is a total waste of time. March 5th is rapidly approaching and the Dems seem not to care about DACA. Make a deal!

    The guy who seems not to care about DACA is Trump. He’s the one who blew it up and then imposed an arbitrary deadline for Congress to clean up his mess.

    Republicans, including Trump, are now offering the deceptive explanation that it is all the fault of the Democrats … and worse yet, that Democrats are playing politics with DACA. Trump said,

    We wanna make a deal. I think they [Democrats] want to use it for political purposes, for elections.

    Doug Heye, a former House GOP leadership aide, told Bloomberg Politics,

    They don’t want to cut a deal that makes Donald Trump the great deal-maker.

    So, Democrats team up with Republicans to offer many bipartisan deals, all of which are rejected. Democrats are willing to let Trump take credit for whatever deal is reached, (he will anyway). And yet, there’s this news reported on rightwing media that DACA recipients are going to be deported and it is all the Democrat’s fault.

    White is black. Up is down.

  40. Chris J says

    Here’s what Trump said:

    Any deal on DACA that does not include STRONG border security and the desperately needed WALL is a total waste of time. March 5th is rapidly approaching and the Dems seem not to care about DACA. Make a deal!

    Welp, if we needed yet another example of how Trump’s supposed “deal-making” genius works, here it is. Gain any position of power possible, and strong-arm your way into an ultimatum that “gives” something your side wants anyway while “getting” some huge concession. Literally just bullying.

    But it shoots any Republican efforts to paint this situation as Democratic intransigence in the foot. He just gave away the game by revealing that, like in the Obama years, it is still the Republicans making the absurd demands in return for the normal or popular bills.

  41. says

    Chris J @42, “[…] it is still the Republicans making the absurd demands in return for the normal or popular bills.” Yes, that’s it exactly.

    In a follow-up of sorts, let’s look at what Trump said today shutting down the government:

    You can say what you want. We are not getting support of the Democrats.

    I would shut it down over this issue [the border wall]. I can’t speak for everybody at the table but I will tell you, I would shut it down over this issue. If we don’t straighten out our border, we don’t have a country. Without borders we don’t have a country. So would I would shut it down over this issue? Yes.

    Trump’s shutdown threat does not match up well with what most Republican legislators in the House and Senate are saying, which is that they don’t want to shut down the government. Trump’s threat is also at odds with what White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said today:

    […] “It’s a fight we won last time, and it’s one we’re very confident that we would win again,” she continued. “But let me repeat: Our goal is to get a two-year budget deal and to also get a deal on immigration, which we have laid out.”

    “Isn’t the President encouraging a shutdown?” one reporter asked, referring to the President’s remarks.

    “The President’s encouraging people to do their jobs,” Sanders responded. “The President’s encouraging them to get a deal on the budget, as he’s laid out — a long-term budget deal that actually helps our military instead of doing these short-term deals. That’s what he’s advocated for all along, and the President is encouraging them to do their jobs and come to an agreement on immigration, particularly on the four places that he’s outlined that have to happen in any piece of legislation.”

    Asked if Trump would rather see a shutdown than a short-term spending deal, Sanders said, “we are not advocating for the shutdown.”

    “That’s the fault of the Democrats not being willing to do their jobs,” she continued. “The President wants a long-term deal and he wants a deal on immigration. And we hope that Democrats will come to the table and get those things done.”

    Link

  42. says

    Follow-up to comments 29 and 34.

    Senator Flake criticized Trump’s “treason” remarks:

    Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) on Tuesday took […] Trump to task for suggesting that Democrats in Congress were “un-American” and “treasonous” for not sufficiently clapping during his State of the Union address last week.

    White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley said Tuesday that the remark was “tongue in cheek.” In press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ words, “He was clearly joking.”

    Flake responded from the Senate Floor: “Treason is not a punchline, Mr. President.” […]

    Flake on Tuesday referenced the address he made upon announcing his retirement, saying, “I wish I could stand here today and say my words of last October have been proven wrong.”

    He continued, “that I had been unfair to inveigh against the daily sundering of our country, that I had been mistaken about the personal attacks, that I had exaggerated the threats against principles, freedoms and institutions, the flagrant disregard for truth and decency, the reckless provocations most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have been all been elected to serve.”

    “I wish I could say that I had been wrong, but I cannot,” he said. […]

    “None of us in Congress pledge loyalty or service to the President,” he said. “This is not a royal court. Our oath is to the Constitution and to the people.”

    […] “None of this behavior should ever be regarded as normal. We must never allow ourselves to lapse into thinking that this is just the way things are now. We will get through this period, and when we do, we will look back at the destruction of our discourse and attacks on our democratic values as nothing but a tragedy.”

    […] “And we must never shrink from opposing it,” he said, “for it is in the opposing this behavior that we defend our noms, our ideals and our values. It is in opposing this behavior that we stand for decency.” […]

    Link. Video is available at the link.

  43. says

    Oh, FFS. A member of team Trump is calling immigrants “lazy” … again.

    […] John Kelly also dismissed the idea of a short-term extension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program beyond March 5 to give the administration and Congress more time to work out compromise legislation.

    “What makes them act is pressure,” he said of Congress. […]

    “There are 690,000 official DACA registrants and the president sent over what amounts to be two and a half times that number, to 1.8 million,” Kelly said, per WaPo. “The difference between [690,000] and 1.8 million were the people that some would say were too afraid to sign up, others would say were too lazy to get off their asses, but they didn’t sign up.” […]

    Link

  44. says

    SpaceX tested its Falcon Heavy rocket today. The launch was successful.
    https://www.wired.com

    […] SpaceX fired off its long-in-development Falcon Heavy rocket from Kennedy Space Center. Tens of thousands of spectators made the pilgrimage from across the country to experience the immense heat and thunderous roar of the rocket’s 5 million pounds of thrust. Upon liftoff, at precisely 3:45 pm Eastern, the Falcon Heavy rocket took its place as the most powerful launch vehicle in the world.

    […] Flying atop the Falcon Heavy is SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s cherry-red Tesla Roadster, carrying a passenger—sort of. SpaceX revealed last weekend that a mannequin wearing the company’s new spacesuit would ride in the driver’s seat of the electric sports car. Nicknamed Starman, the dummy will listen to some tunes on its long and endless journey: David Bowie’s Space Oddity.

    Following the Roadster’s deployment to its preliminary orbit, the Falcon Heavy’s recycled side-boosters came flying back to Cape Canaveral for nearly simultaneous twin touchdowns in separate landing zones. The Falcon Heavy’s central core, meanwhile, was sent back toward SpaceX’s autonomous drone ship, Of Course I Still Love You. The live video feed of the ship cut out before the core approached; SpaceX has yet to confirm if the core successfully landed.[…]

  45. says

    An update on the Trump University settlement:

    A federal appeals court has upheld the $25 million settlement President Donald Trump agreed to in a bid to resolve long running lawsuits claiming fraud in his Trump University real estate seminar venture.

    The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals rejected a challenge brought by Florida bankruptcy lawyer Sherri Simpson, who said she wanted to take Trump to trial over the $19,000 she paid for classes and a mentorship program.

    Lawyers for Simpson said notices sent to thousands of Trump University participants earlier in the litigation promised the right to opt out of the class-action suits immediately or after any settlement was proposed, but the three-judge appeals court panel disagreed.

    From Steve Benen:

    […] After keeping a close eye on this case for a long while, I think it’s a shame to see the case end – because I’ve long believed this is one of the underappreciated controversies of Trump’s recent career.

    Indeed, as regular readers may recall, the upheld settlement agreement wasn’t supposed to happen at all – according to the president.

    During the 2016 presidential race, Trump boasted during a debate, “This is a case I could have settled very easily, but I don’t settle cases very easily when I’m right.” After boasting that the Better Business Bureau gave Trump University an “A” rating – a claim that turned out to be a brazen lie – Trump added, “Again, I don’t settle cases. I don’t do it because that’s why I don’t get sued very often, because I don’t settle, unlike a lot of other people.” (The assertion that he doesn’t “get sued very often” also turned out to be a demonstrable falsehood.)

    After the election Trump settled the case he said he’d never settle – shortly before he was supposed to take the stand in his own fraud case. […]

  46. says

    Trump has directed the Pentagon to prepare a military parade. (Shades of Red Square in Russia, or, again, of parades in North Korea. Do we all have to applaud?)

    From NBC News:

    At President Donald Trump’s urging, the Pentagon is looking at dates for a possible military parade in Washington that could take place in November, a spokesperson confirmed Tuesday.

    The Washington Post first reported Tuesday that Trump expressed his desire for a military parade at a Jan. 18 meeting between Trump and top generals, and his desire was heard as a presidential directive. The paper cited two officials briefed on the planning.

    A spokesman at the Pentagon confirmed Trump’s request and said that he has “given the directive to begin the planning so the planning has begun.”

    From the Washington Post:

    The location is still being discussed, though Trump has said he would like it to proceed along Pennsylvania Avenue, which links the Capitol and the White House. It would be the same route as Trump’s inaugural parade and pass by his family’s showpiece: Trump International Hotel.

    From Rachel Maddow:

    This is an unabashed, uncomplicated, undisguised display military prowess or national insecurity, depending on how you look at it.

    Commentators have noted that parading tanks on Pennsylvania Avenue will tear up the asphalt so badly that the entire avenue will have to be resurfaced. Overall estimates for the cost of such a parade are coming in at about $10 million. Though no doubt the Trump hotel in D.C. will make money.

  47. says

    Trump finally commented on the stock market going down recently. He commented in typically Trumpian fashion: he scolded the market.

    In the “old days,” when good news was reported, the Stock Market would go up. Today, when good news is reported, the Stock Market goes down. Big mistake, and we have so much good (great) news about the economy!

    In other, petty news, here’s video of Hair Furor’s hair looking spectacularly ridiculous:
    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/trump-video-hair-scalp-exposed

    http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/02/trumps-hair-illusion-came-undone-and-we-all-missed-it.html

    […] It was the worst hair day of what has been a bad hair life. And it may seem cheap and low to mock Trump’s absurd efforts to conceal his hair loss. But Trump is a man obsessed with image in ways that go beyond the normal human concern with looking presentable. Image is Trump’s moral code. He dismisses his political rivals for being short. He sees his succession of wives as visual testament to his own status. He selects his Cabinet on the basis of their looking the part. He conscripts the military as a prop to bathe himself in an aura of presidential grandeur. […]

    This hair-gone-wrong video was also picked up, with glee, by British newspapers. It’s like a “emperor has no clothes” moment.

  48. says

    Follow-up to comment 45.

    Far from realizing that he had uttered a racist trope, White House chief of staff John Kelly doubled down on suggesting that some DACA recipients are lazy.

    From CNN:

    Kelly was confronted by lawmakers in a closed-door meeting about comments he made Tuesday that some immigrants who didn’t apply for protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program were “too lazy.”

    Kelly reiterated his sentiment, according to people in the room, and did so with reporters after the meeting, as well, saying “some of them just should have probably gotten off the couch and signed up.”

    From Lawrence O’Donnell:

    That is exactly what some Americans said about John Kelly’s Irish relatives when they arrived in this country as immigrants. We can no longer be surprised when John Kelly opens his mouth and ugly prejudice and poison comes out.

  49. says

    Trump congratulated Elon Musk on the successful test of the Falcon Heavy rocket:

    Congratulations @ElonMusk and @SpaceX on the successful #FalconHeavy launch. This achievement, along with @NASA’s commercial and international partners, continues to show American ingenuity at its best!

    Elon Musk is an immigrant from South Africa. He stayed in the U.S. on an H1-B visa after he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and the Wharton School with degrees in physics and economics. In other words, Elon Musk is from one those countries identified by Trump as “shithole countries.”

    Trump’s latest immigration proposal adds new inspection requirements for H1-B visas, including many pages of background documentation that will slow down or curtail immigration.

    “It’s not unusual in the world of immigration to get a request for evidence, but this one is being sent to everyone who applies,” William Brah, director of the Venture Development Center at University of Massachusetts Boston, told The Boston Globe in December. “We’re not sure what the rationale is other than slowing down immigration.”

    Elon Musk became an American citizen in 2002. From Musk in January, 2017:

    The blanket entry ban on citizens from certain primarily Muslim countries is not the best way to address the country’s challenges.

    Many people negatively affected by this policy are strong supporters of the US. They’ve done right,not wrong & don’t deserve to be rejected.

    Musk was a member of Trump’s policy council and of the manufacturing council until he resigned in June, 2017. He resigned to protest Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.

  50. says

    Hmmm, this is interesting. The European Union will make trade deals with nations that have ratified the Paris climate agreement. That leaves the USA out of the picture.

    The European Union will no longer make trade deals with the United States if President Trump follows through on withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, according to a French official whose comments were endorsed by the European Commission.

    Addressing the French parliament on Thursday, French foreign affairs minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne drew a line in the sand.

    “One of our main demands is that any country who signs a trade agreement with EU should implement the Paris Agreement on the ground,” said Lemoyne. “No Paris Agreement, no trade agreement. The [United States] knows what to expect.”

    EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström tweeted support Lemoyne’s comments on Thursday.

    “Yes Paris deal reference needed in all EU trade agreement today,” she wrote. […]

    Think Progress link

  51. blf says

    Follow-up to @48, The Grauniad has an opinion column on possible responses to hair furor’s armoured penis waving, Trump’s desire for a military parade reveals him as a would-be despot:

    […] While progressives might complain about the banana republic militarism, while fiscal conservatives will worry about the huge cost of diverting all that kit to the capital and while the city itself frets about the damage 70-tonne tanks are liable to do to its roads, a large chunk of US society will want to rise to its feet and applaud.

    […]

    It means opponents will have to be canny. A counter-demonstration could easily be cast as unpatriotic, hostile to those in uniform, rather than to the commander-in-chief (who, of course, dodged military service himself, later claiming his battle to avoid contracting a sexually transmitted disease despite intense promiscuity was his personal Vietnam). […]

    If Trump wants to show his strength on the streets, the opposition can do the same. Perhaps it could organise an alternative parade, whose theme is mockery of the would-be [sic] despot. And given the neurotic insecurity we know propels this man, I have an idea for the central display. While the armoured cars rumble down Pennsylvania Avenue and fighter jets fly over the Washington Monument, the rival procession could feature a giant effigy of Donald J Trump — with tiny, tiny hands.

  52. says

    blf @54, The Grauniad does snark so well.

    David @51, I don’t think that any Trumpian display of ignorance married to arrogance will prompt his cabinet or Republicans in Congress to act.

    In other news, Fox News and various conspiracy-prone Republicans are pushing yet another fraudulent story claiming that President Obama and the FBI colluded to neuter the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s handling of emails.

    And, of course, Trump is already tweeting his ridiculous conclusions after he watches Fox News:

    NEW FBI TEXTS ARE BOMBSHELLS!

    From Senator Ron Johnson:

    On September 2, 2016, Page wrote about preparing talking points for Director Comey because “potus wants to know everything we’re doing.” This text raises additional questions about the type and extent of President Obama’s personal involvement in the Clinton email scandal and the FBI investigation of it.

    The entire story is a load of bullshit. The Fox News version of the story is a fraud.

    From Think Progress:

    It’s simply not a plausible interpretation of the September 2, 2016 text exchange that Obama was seeking a briefing on the Clinton email investigation.

    FBI Director James Comey closed the Clinton email investigation on July 5, 2016. It was not reopened until October. The same trove of text messages released Tuesday reveals that the FBI did not even become aware of additional emails on Anthony Weiner’s laptop until September 28, 2016.

    Fox News suggests the texts were referring to talking points regarding the Clinton email case. But those talking points, according to documents released by the Senate, were completed in June. That makes sense because they were prepared in advance of Comey’s announcement in July.

    So what was Obama interested in? Most likely, he wanted information about the counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia, which was active on September 2, 2016. Obama has publicly said that he confronted Putin about election interference a few days later at the Group of 20 meeting in China, telling the Russian leader to “cut it out.”

    “It has to be about the Russia probe,” former Department of Justice official Matthew Miller told ThinkProgress in reference to the September 2, 2016 texts.

    There was nothing inappropriate about Obama seeking a briefing on the Russia investigation. “Since the Russia investigation was a counterintelligence, not a criminal, investigation at that time, it was totally appropriate for Obama to be briefed,” Miller said. “The Department of Justice is allowed to brief and coordinate with the White House on national security matters, including terrorism and espionage.”

    Don’t hold your breath for Fox News to correct this false report. It will likely be presented to millions of viewers tonight on primetime television. But that does not make it true.

  53. says

    In Missouri, Democrats flipped a state legislature seat in a district that Trump won by 28 points in 2016. In other special election races in Missouri Republicans held seats, but by much narrower margins than expected in this ruby-red state.

    […] Over in House District 144, Democrats took a relatively narrow 53-47 loss in a district that Trump carried by 59 points. The other two GOP holds in Missouri also had large swings, with Democrats outperforming Hillary Clinton by 18 points in one race and by 25 points in another. […]

    Link

  54. says

    A response to Trump’s military parade plans from VoteVets:

    Trump just declared those who did not applaud him at the State of the Union “treasonous” and “un-American.”

    Now he wants the military to parade for him.

    This is not normal. This is not OK.

    For someone who just declared that it was “treasonous” to not applaud him, and for someone who has, in the past, admired the tactics of everyone from Saddam Hussein to Vladimir Putin, it is clear that a military parade isn’t about saluting the military — it is about making a display of the military saluting him.

    The military is not Donald Trump’s to use and abuse in this way. Our military is the best in the world — they are not to be reduced to stagecraft to prop up Donald Trump’s image. Any commander in chief who respects the traditions of the military would understand that.

    Unfortunately, we do not have a commander in chief right now, as much as we have a wannabe banana republic strongman.

    From Representative Jackie Speier:

    I was stunned by it, to be quite honest. … We have a Napoleon in the making here.

  55. says

    With help from Republican toadies in Congress, Trump is well on his way to adding another swamp creature to the Environmental Protection Agency.

    From the Washington Post:

    Republican senators used their majority to advance President Donald Trump’s nomination of a former coal-industry lobbyist to serve as the second-highest ranking official at the Environmental Protection Agency.

    The Environment and Public Works Committee voted along party lines 11-10 on Wednesday to send the nomination of Andrew Wheeler to the full Senate for a vote.

    From the New Republic:

    Wheeler is not just the figurative embodiment of the swamp, but the literal embodiment of it. The coal industry is responsible for 72 percent of toxic water contamination in the United States, making it the nation’s largest water polluter. That’s according to the agency where Wheeler is about to be second in command — the agency that is charged with protecting clean water. There’s no better person to represent how polluted Trump’s swamp has become.

  56. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    “We have a Napoleon in the making here.”

    Well, other than the fact that Napoleon actually was smart, was a self-made man and had a semblance of a clue about at least some things.

  57. blf says

    A follow-up of sorts to @59, EPA head Scott Pruitt says global warming may help humans flourish:

    EPA administrator says There are assumptions made that because the climate is warming that necessarily is a bad thing
    […]
    Pruitt, who has previously erred by denying that carbon dioxide is a key driver of climate change, has again caused consternation among scientists by suggesting that warming temperatures could benefit civilization.

    The EPA administrator said that humans are contributing to climate “to a certain degree, but added: We know humans have most flourished during times of warming trends. There are assumptions made that because the climate is warming that necessarily is a bad thing.

    Do we know what the ideal surface temperature should be in the year 2100 or year 2018? he told a TV station in Nevada. It’s fairly arrogant for us to think we know exactly what it should be in 2100.

    Pruitt said he wanted an honest, transparent debate about what we do know and what we don’t know, so the American people can be informed and make decisions on their own.

    Under Pruitt’s leadership, the EPA is mulling whether to stage a televised “red team blue team” debate between climate scientists and those who deny the established science that human activity is warming the planet.

    The idea of a debate, as well as flat-out lying, JAQing off (which is what Pruitt is doing here), and similar are all straight out of the creationist playbook.

    […]
    The EPA itself is unequivocal that warming temperatures, and resulting environmental changes, are a danger to human health via heatwaves, smoke from increased wildfires, worsening smog, extreme weather events, spread of diseases, water-borne illnesses and food insecurity.

    This array of health-related challenges has prompted the medical journal the Lancet to state that tackling climate change will be “the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century”.

    National security experts, including those at the Pentagon, have also warned that climate change is set to create a sprawling humanitarian challenge, as millions of people look to escape failing crops, inundated land, drought and conflict.

    […]

    Human civilization has, until now, developed in a relatively stable climate. Rising temperatures, of around 1C since the industrial revolution, are pushing humanity into an environment it has never previously experienced. The last time sea surface temperatures were as high as now was around 120,000 years ago, when sea levels were up to 9m higher than today’s average.

    “As the evidence becomes ever more compelling that climate change is real and human-caused, the forces of denial turn to other specious arguments, like it will be good for us,” said Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State University.

    “There is no consistency at all to their various arguments other than that we should continue to burn fossil fuels.”

    […]

    Dr Mann is spot-on.

    And, of course, a huge part of the problem is the rate is way too fast. AGW is possibly an extinction-level event, “a widespread and rapid decrease in the biodiversity on Earth”. More accurately, AGW is a very probably a contributor to the currently on-going Holocene extinction.

  58. blf says

    Tennessee sheriff taped saying I love this shit after ordering suspect’s killing:

    Oddie Shoupe is being sued for excessive force after telling deputies to shoot unarmed Michael Dial rather than risk damage to police cars

    A Tennessee sheriff is being sued for using excessive force after he was recorded boasting he had told officers to shoot a man rather than risk damaging police cars by ramming him off the road.

    They said ‘we’re ramming him,’ Sheriff Oddie Shoupe of White County said on tape in the aftermath of the killing of suspect Michael Dial. I said, ‘Don’t ram him, shoot him.’ Fuck that shit. Ain’t gonna tear up my cars.

    Shoupe arrived on the scene shortly after police had shot Dial at the conclusion of a low-speed chase, clearly upset he had missed the excitement.

    I love this shit, Shoupe said, apparently unaware that his comments were being picked up by another deputy’s body-worn camera. God, I tell you what, I thrive on it.

    If they don’t think I’ll give the damn order to kill that motherfucker they’re full of shit, he added, laughing. Take him out. I’m here on the damn wrong end of the county, he said.

    Shoupe’s comments have prompted a federal lawsuit from Dial’s widow, Robyn Dial, alleging the use of excessive force against her late husband, who was unarmed.

    “It was not only inappropriate but also unconscionable for Defendant Shoupe to give the order to use deadly force,” the filing states, calling his decision proof of a “malicious and sadistic mindset”. The suit also names the county, the city of Sparta and the two officers who fired their weapons.

    “The comments as seen on the video are extremely disturbing. I’m not sure how anybody can thrive on the taking of a life, let alone somebody in law enforcement,” Dial’s attorney David Weissman told the Guardian.

    […]

    Deputies tried using a PIT (Pursuit Intervention Technique) maneuver to slow Dial’s car, a common police tactic involving a police car nudging another vehicle to turn it sideways.

    But Shoupe radioed officers to tell them to stop attempting to do that, instead ordering them to shoot the driver.

    When a deputy had successfully nudged Dial off the road, Reserve Deputy Adam West, who was in pursuit in his own personal vehicle, fired three shots as the vehicle went down into a ditch. Dial died of a gunshot wound to the head.

    In June, the county district attorney declared the shooting justified.

    […]

    Tennessee’s News Channel 5 adds (Sheriff’s Disturbing Comments Caught On Body Cam):

    District Attorney Bryant Dunaway is standing by his ruling that the shooting was justified.

    He admitted he had not heard the sheriff’s comments on the body camera when he first made that ruling.

  59. blf says

    I had intended to except this in @61, but forgot, Scott Pruitt insincerely asked what’s Earth’s ideal temperature. Scientists answer (slightly reformatted and omits the text explaining each listed item):

    In short, from a practical standpoint, as little additional warming as possible

    In an interview with Reuters last week, Trump’s EPA administrator Scott Pruitt said, The climate is changing. That’s not the debate. The debate is how do we know what the ideal surface temperature is in 2100?

    Pruitt’s goal is to sow doubt on behalf of his oil industry allies in order to weaken and delay climate policies. Shifting the ‘debate’ toward ‘the ideal surface temperature’ achieves that goal by creating the perception that we don’t know what temperature we should aim for. […]

    ● Temperature isn’t the issue — temperature change is
    ● Civilization developed in a stable climate
    ● The Paris climate targets are appropriate
    ● Ideally, cut carbon pollution as quickly as possible

    […]
    Unfortunately, the Trump Administration is doing everything it can to delay and weaken efforts to cut carbon pollution. Pruitt isn’t interested in these scientific answers to his question; he’s interested in helping his fossil fuel industry benefactors. He’s one of Oreskes’ Merchants of Doubt, but his time in power will be as finite as Donald Trump’s.

    That Reuters interview is scary (see link embedded in above excerpt, Trump’s EPA aims to replace Obama-era climate, water regulations in 2018, 10-Jan-2018):

    […]
    Pruitt said among the EPA’s top priorities for 2018 will be to replace the Clean Power Plan, former President Barack Obama’s centerpiece climate change regulation which would have slashed carbon emissions from power plants. The EPA began the process of rescinding the regulation last year […]

    […]

    He said the agency was also planning to rewrite the Waters of the United States rule, another Obama-era regulation, this one defining which US waterways are protected under federal law. Pruitt and Trump have said the rule marked an overreach by including streams that are shallow, narrow, or sometimes completely dry — and was choking off energy development.

    Pruitt said that in both cases, former President Barack Obama had made the rules by executive order, and without Congress. We only have the authority that Congress gives us, Pruitt said.

    Pruitt’s plans to replace the Clean Power Plan have raised concerns by attorneys general of states like California and New York, who said in comments submitted to the EPA on Tuesday that the administrator should recuse himself because as Oklahoma attorney general he led legal challenges against it.

    […]

    Pruitt added that EPA also continuing its review of automobile fuel efficiency rules, and would be headed to California soon for more meetings with the California Air Resources Board to discuss them.

    California in 2011 agreed to adopt the federal vehicle emission rules through 2025, but has signaled it would opt out of the standards if they are weakened — a move that would complicate matters for automakers serving the huge California market.

    In the meantime, Pruitt said EPA is continuing to reduce the size of its staff, which fell to 14,162 employees as of Jan 3, the lowest it has been since 1988, under Ronald Reagan when the employment level was 14,400. The EPA employed about 15,000 when Obama left office.

    […]

    From memory, the dalekocracy and / or thugs in Congress is attempting to end California’s ability to impose additional vehicle emission-control requirements. (The above except says California can “opt-out” of the federal requirements, but I believe that is incorrect: California can add to the federal requirements, which it has done since the 1970s or so.)

  60. blf says

    US police spied on Muslims, African Americans: ACLU (Al Jazeera edits in {curly braces}):

    […]
    The Boston Police Department (BPD) used an online surveillance system, Geofeedia, from 2014 to 2016 to monitor online comments on topics including politics and religion, the ACLU of Massachusetts said on Wednesday.

    “The BPD treated ordinary citizens discussing ordinary affairs as justifiable targets of surveillance,” the group said in a statement.

    “What it did not do{…} was deter or help solve serious crimes.”

    The civil rights organisation said the BPD unfairly focused its surveillance on African Americans and Muslims by creating online alerts for the use of innocuous Arabic words and the hashtags #BlackLivesMatter and #MuslimLivesMatter.

    […]

    Based on documents obtained through a public records request, the ACLU report said police treated people as suspicious on the basis of their race, religion and ethnicity.

    “The records demonstrate the clear need for both transparency and procedural safeguards to ensure that this type of software is subject to public scrutiny and ongoing oversight before it is used again,” the group said.

    For its part, the BPD has accused the ACLU of reaching misguided conclusions.

    It said its surveillance programme helped police monitor events and demonstrations which had the potential to turn violent.

    Noticeably missing from this surveillance are nazis, white supremacists, and the BPD itself: Broadly, the sorts of people responsible for most terrorist offenses in the States. People protesting against those sorts of offenses are not, as far as I am aware, a historically- or logically-productive surveillance target.

    […]
    In early 2017, the BPD withdrew a $1.4m funding request for a new social media surveillance system following widespread opposition from civil rights groups.

    Plus #BlackLivesMatter, at least, started as a protest of the highly biased treatment of PoC by goon squads such as the BPD.

  61. blf says

    ‘It put an end to my childhood’: the hidden scandal of US child marriage:

    In half of US states, there is no legal minimum age for marriage; a 40-year-old man can, in theory, marry a five-year-old girl. But Florida may soon ban the practice for under-18s […]
    [… A]lmost 250,000 children were married [in the States] between 2000 and 2010, some of them as young as 10. “Almost all were girls married to adult men,” says Fraidy Reiss, the director of campaigning organisation Unchained at Last.

    In most US states, the minimum age for marriage is 18. However, in every state exceptions to this rule are possible, the most common being when parents approve and a judge gives their consent. In 25 states, there is no minimum marriage age when such an exception is made. But now [… Florida] is poised to pass a law that sets the minimum marriage age at 18 with very few exceptions […]

    […]

    Apart from Florida, there are five states in the process of passing laws to end child marriage. It has been a tough battle, says Reiss, whose organisation has been campaigning for laws to be changed all over the country for three years.

    “When I began, I thought it would be easy. I thought we would just explain the problem and legislators would jump up and change the law immediately. After all, the US state department considers child marriage a human rights abuse. But everywhere there are politicians who think it’s a bad idea to change the law. You wouldn’t believe how many legislators have told me that if a girl gets pregnant, she’s got to get married. One female Democrat politician asked me: Won’t you increase abortion rates if you end child marriage? That left me speechless.”

    Last year, 17-year-old Girl Scout Cassandra Levesque campaigned to change the New Hampshire law that allows girls as young as 13 to get married if their parents approve. “My local representative introduced a bill that raised the minimum age to 18. But a couple of male representatives persuaded the others to kill the bill and to prevent it from being discussed again for some years,” she says. “One of them said that a 17-year-old Girl Scout couldn’t have a say in these matters.”

    “So they think she’s old enough for marriage, but not old enough to talk about it,” says Reiss. “I think that reasoning is terrifying.”

    […]

    Reiss […] says it is “extremely ironic” that laws make exceptions when parents consent to a child marriage or when an underage girl is pregnant. “Because, in many cases, the pregnancy is the result of sexual abuse and the parents are forcing the girl to marry to prevent a scandal. So the law doesn’t protect the child at all. When an adult man has sex with an underage girl, this is considered statutory rape in many states. But when the perpetrator marries his victim, he can legally go on abusing her.”

    […]

    “We see the number of child marriages going down now, but it’s not going fast enough,” says Reiss. “It’s so difficult to help child brides escape. Our organisation risks being charged with kidnapping because they are under 18. This has already happened to us once. Also, there are very few shelters in the US that accept girls younger than 18. So when girls call us, we have to tell them the help we can provide is very limited. Most of the children who reach out to us for help have tried to kill themselves because they would rather be dead than forced into a marriage. That keeps me awake at night. Something has to change.”

    On 31 January […] the Florida senate unanimously passed the bill that will end child marriage in the state (although the bill was subsequently amended to allow pregnant 16- and 17-year-old girls to marry). […]

  62. says

    Hi, all!

    I’m back from the beach. Watched one rocket launch, but missed yesterday’s by mere hours. (Yes, I’m bitter. Also cold.)

    Thanks, everyone, for keeping the updates coming. I’ll just share a few recent articles from the past several days, with apologies in advance if any have already been posted/discussed:

    “Donald Trump’s Presidency Is the Libertarian Moment.”
    “With patience, and a lot of money, Kochs sow conservatism on campuses.”
    “Inside The World’s Most Radical Experiment in Women’s Rights.”
    “Bob Mueller’s Investigation Is Larger—and Further Along—Than You Think.”
    “Van Driver Convicted of Murder in London Mosque Attack”: “[Osborne’s partner Sarah Andrews] said Mr. Osborne then dived into the right-wing media sphere and ‘seemed brainwashed’ by that world. Devices seized by the police showed internet searches for a variety of such sites, including that of the English Defence League, a far-right anti-Muslim group.”

  63. says

    Two quick observations:

    1. Rob Portman is the latest in a string of men in Trump’s would-be regime about whom there’s credible evidence of personal violence against women – Trump, Bannon, Puzder, Wynn, Lewandowski, Porter,…
    2. The beginning of the Netflix special “Confidence Man” discussed how Trump in the 1980s would trade New York gossip/information with tabloid writers for attention and favorable coverage. It struck me that this could lend credibility to the claim in the early Steele memo that Trump was trading information about the activities of Russian oligarchs in the US for information/help from the Kremlin.

  64. says

    Brian Beutler – “Boycotting Republicans Isn’t Enough.”

    It occurs to me that the response Beutler advocates will be helped by the likely revelations that will follow Trump’s fall – of the true extent of the graft and cronyism, the conspiracies with foreign actors, the corruption of the Republican Party and rightwing organizations, the destruction from within of government agencies, the subversion of legal institutions, the sabotaging of democratic processes, the violations of human rights,… With every piece of information that becomes public the picture looks worse; we can only imagine what will come out when they’re no longer as able to cover their tracks.

  65. says

    “Rob Porter scandal: Everywhere but Fox News”: “The Trump administration is reeling over domestic violence allegations against a top White House aide, Rob Porter. But you might not know it if you watch Fox News, where the disturbing story has been largely, and conspicuously, absent.”

    It’s a short step to airbrushing people out of photos, or people just disappearing from view like happens with top Scientology officials.

  66. says

    Follow-up to SC @68 and 77.

    Welcome back, SC!

    As far as the domestic violence accusations associated with Rob Porter go, I wanted to add three things.

    1) Porter, as staff secretary, screened every document that made it to Trump’s desk. How does that not require a security clearance?

    2) Porter is dating Hope Hicks, the communications director who seems to be permanently attached to Trump’s side. Some reporters said that Hope Hicks helped to write the first two statements from Chief of Staff John Kelly. Those were the statements that were really over the top when it came to praising the “integrity,” “courage,” etc. of Porter. Kelly reportedly spent all day yesterday trying to convince Porter to stay.

    3) Some reports say that Porter helped Stephen Miller write Trump’s SOTU speech.

    Here is Kelly’s new statement, in which he finally, half-assedly acknowledged the spousal abuse by Porter:

    I was shocked by the new allegations released today against Rob Porter. There is no place for domestic violence in our society. I stand by my previous comments of the Rob Porter that I have come to know since becoming chief of staff, and believe every individual deserves the right to defend their reputation. I accepted his resignation earlier today, and will ensure a swift and orderly transition.

    From AXIOS:

    […] Be smart: The West Wing couldn’t have handled it worse, including over-the-top statements of support for Porter before all the facts had come out.

    The big question: Who in the West Wing knew about Porter’s past, uncovered months ago by the FBI while investigating Porter for a security clearance?

    Watch for: a glut of stories analyzing the M.O. and character of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, along with speculation about consequences for him. […]

  67. says

    Former President George W. Bush continues to look good when you compare him to Trump:

    […]
    There’s pretty clear evidence that the Russians meddled [in the U.S. election]. Whether they affected the outcome is another question.

    It’s problematic that a foreign nation is involved in our election system. Our democracy is only as good as people trust the results. […]

    He’s [Putin has] got a chip on his shoulder. The reason he does is because of the demise of the Soviet Union troubles him. Therefore, much of his moves (are) to regain Soviet hegemony.

    Putin is pushing, constantly pushing, probing weaknesses. That’s why NATO is very important. […]

    America’s their home [referring to DACA recipients]. They’ve [Congress critters] got to get it fixed.

    […] There are people willing to do jobs that Americans won’t do. Americans don’t want to pick cotton at 105 degrees (Fahrenheit), but there are people who want to put food on their family’s tables and are willing to do that. We ought to say thank you and welcome them. […] [That’s an unreasonably limited view of undocumented immigrants.]

    [Bush spoke Thursday at a summit in Abu Dhabi put on by the Milken Institute, an economic think tank based in California.]

    Link

  68. says

    About 11.8 million people enrolled in Obamacare in 2018.

    Call it the political equivalent of a death-defying escape: former President Barack Obama’s health care law pulled in nearly 11.8 million customers for 2018, despite the Republican campaign to erase it from the books.

    An Associated Press count found that nationwide enrollment was about 3 percent lower than last year. […]

    Sixteen states increased their enrollment from last year, […]

    Total enrollment remained remarkably stable despite Trump’s disdain for “Obamacare,” and multiple attempts by the Republican-led Congress to repeal it. The Trump administration also cut the sign-up window in half, slashed the ad budget, and suddenly stopped a major subsidy to insurers, which triggered a jump in premiums.

    “The Affordable Care Act and the landmark protections and affordable coverage it provides are here to stay,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

    “These results show that people recognize how important coverage is for their health and financial stability,” said Kristine Grow of America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry lobby.

    The Trump administration had no immediate reaction. Newly confirmed Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is a critic of the health law but has avoided directly antagonizing Democrats over it. The White House line remains that “Obamacare” should be repealed and replaced, but Republicans in Congress don’t have the votes.

    Still, nearly eight years after the ACA passed, the debate isn’t likely to go away. The outlook for next year is dicey. Starting in 2019, Congress has repealed the law’s unpopular requirement that most people carry health insurance or risk fines from the IRS. That’s expected to embolden some healthy people to go without coverage, which would raise premiums for those left behind. […]

    Link

  69. says

    It looks like Devin Nunes plans to build a wall of his own. He wants to wall off Republican aides and staffers from Democratic staffers. Some reports characterize this as Nunes’ plan to build a wall to keep reason and facts from infecting Republican aides.

    In a sign of increasing partisan hostilities, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee plan to construct a wall – a physical partition – separating Republican and Democratic staff members in the committee’s secure spaces, according to multiple committee sources. It’s expected to happen this spring.

    For now, some Republican committee members deny knowing anything about it, while strongly suggesting the division is the brainchild of the committee’s chairman, Devin Nunes, R-California.

    “I’m not part of that decision,” said Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas. “You’ve got to talk to Devin. I don’t know what they’re trying to do one way or the other.”

    “I swear to God I didn’t know that,” said Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Florida, when asked about the plan. While acknowledging a wall might not be constructive for the committee’s work, he said, “The level of trust and the level of everything down there is – it’s poison. It’s absolute poison down there.”

    CBS News link

  70. says

    I have some issues with this security report from the Estonian government, but it contains some interesting information and analysis, including the section on Russian influence operations (pp. 44-51) which discusses the targeting of young people and WWII-related propaganda (which I find fascinating in its apparent stupidity). From that section:

    A recent example of exploiting World War II themes in the Kremlin’s propaganda interests are the active history measures approved in April 2017 by the Putin-led Pobeda (Victory) committee, which in 2018 aims to spread the Kremlin’s view of WWII through conferences, exhibitions and veterans’ cooperation. The committee includes Alexander Bortnikov, director of FSB.

    Along with current decision-makers, potential future leaders are also groomed. To influence and recruit youths who are politically active and live in the West, so-called youth forums are organised. The culmination of youth forums in 2017 took place in October, when Russia held the 19th international youth and student festival in Sochi for tens of thousands of youths, including from the EU. The programmes in Sochi and at other similar events include tours and other attractive entertainment activities. The main emphasis in the programmes lies on lectures, however, where the participants are indoctrinated with the Kremlin’s vision of international relations and Russia’s “heroic history”, where Russia is in the role of the liberator and the main (if not the only) champion for peace. Ever-present is the notion that the fight against fascism has not ended in the Baltic states. The event in Sochi was the grandest, but smaller forums have taken place and will continue to be held in both Russia and European countries. They are always related to the Kremlin – specifically, the Presidential Administration – through embassies or NGOs that act as cover organisations. The Russian special services involved in organizing the forums gather comprehensive data on the unsuspecting youths and try to recruit activists who catch their attention.

    The efforts to recruit Western European and USian young people are particularly interesting in light of the growing dissatisfaction of young people in Russia and their anger at living in a stagnant system ruled by corrupt old men.

  71. says

    More information regarding the cartoon in comment 83:

    […] Published in the conservative newspaper’s opinion section, the cartoon depicts three men with weapons holding up a well-dressed white couple. In the cartoon, one man holds a gun in one hand and grabs the woman’s bag with the other. He wears a low-hanging pair of pants revealing his underwear. Another figure wears a vest with a skull on it and the phrase “MS 13,” referencing the deadly Salvadoran-American gang that first began in Los Angeles. The third figure wears a lit bomb belt and holds a bloody knife. A thought bubble extends from the well-dressed man who has his hands up. It says, “Now honey… I believe they prefer to be called ‘Dreamers’… or future Democrats.” […]

    Link

  72. says

    All the best people …

    Team Trump is trying to appoint to the Federal Bench a man who helped to write the Bush-era torture memos, and who questioned the impartiality of gay judges.

    The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on another round of potential federal judges this morning, as Republicans continue to move Trump’s nominees forward at a quick pace. Howard Nielson, nominated to be a United State District Court judge in Utah, is expected to draw special attention.

    […] In a January judiciary committee hearing, Nielson faced questions about a motion he once argued against a gay judge and his links to the George W. Bush “torture memos.”

    Nielson worked for the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel from 2003 to 2005 under Stephen Bradbury, one of the authors of a series of memos that helped provide legal underpinning for the CIA’s Bush-era interrogation programs. The exact nature of Neilson’s involvement in those memos was unclear at the time of his nomination, but in response to questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee, Nielson acknowledged he had been gave input on “enhanced interrogation techniques,” but explained that final decisions had been left to senior officials. […]

    Link

    More at the link.

  73. says

    Omarosa says we’re not going to be okay. I’m taking this with a grain of salt, since Omarosa is the woman who went from “The Apprentice” to the White House to “Big Brother.”

    Former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman offered a dire outlook of the U.S. under President Donald Trump while taping “Celebrity Big Brother,” tearfully cautioning that the country is “going to not be OK.” […]

    “I’d like to say it’s not my problem, but I can’t say that because it’s bad.”

    Asked if the U.S. would be “OK” going forward, Manigault Newman replied: “No, it’s going to not be OK.” […]

    “I was haunted by tweets every single day,” Manigault Newman said. “Like what is he going to tweet next?”

    Manigault Newman, whose White House stint was marked by combative exchanges with members of the media, said she urged Trump to tone down his rhetoric on Twitter but was overruled by other White House staffers.

    After moving into the “Big Brother” house last week, Manigault Newman said on Wednesday’s debut episode that the feuding in her new setting was not unlike the West Wing.

    “There’s a lot of people that want to stab me in the back, kind of similar to the White House,” she said. “The one thing that I learned from politics is you have to watch your back, and sometimes you have to watch your front, too.” […]

    Link

  74. says

    Not subtle. Not subtle at all. Fox News is … well, Fox news. This is from Fox News executive editor John Moody:

    “Unless it’s changed overnight, the motto of the Olympics, since 1894, has been ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger,’” Moody wrote in an op-ed on Fox News’ website. “It appears the U.S. Olympic Committee would like to change that to ‘Darker, Gayer, Different.’ If your goal is to win medals, that won’t work.”

  75. says

    Mark Warner: “Russian election interference is a threat not just to the United States, but to all Western democracies. @SenatorBurr and I are working with our British counterparts to combat this real and continuing threat.”

  76. says

    As Trump said, “the failing New York Times,” right? Wrong.

    The New York Times Company’s subscription revenues exceeded $1 billion in 2017 thanks in part to a strong growth in digital subscriptions.

    The 166-year-old company reported strong fourth-quarter earnings and revenues on Thursday that easily surpassed expectations.

    The Times reported an increase of 157,000 digital subscriptions in just the fourth quarter. The over $1 billion in subscription revenues accounted for 60 percent of total revenue in 2017.

    “2017 was a year marked by growth and innovation both in our groundbreaking journalism and in our thriving business,” said New York Times President and CEO Mark Thompson in the earnings announcement. “It is a clear sign that our subscription-first business model is proving to be an effective way to support our broad journalistic ambitions. […]

    Link

    Despite their many failings, (distressingly many failings), I am glad to see the NY Times thriving. Some of that success will help to reveal Trump for the dunderhead he is.

  77. says

    This press briefing by Raj Shah is something.

    Matthew Miller: “Shah refusing to ‘get into specifics’ of who knew what and when is such an obvious tell that the underlying facts are terrible for Kelly and the White House.” It’s completely obvious.

  78. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 88.

    British lawmakers grilled Silicon Valley social media giants […] over the presence of “fake news” and Russian influence on their platforms in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.

    The British parliament members asked Twitter, Facebook and YouTube representatives pointed questions during a special U.S. hearing over how hoax content disseminated from their websites may have swayed the 2016 British “Brexit” referendum on leaving the European Union.

    The tech representatives downplayed those concerns, citing internal data they said found that accounts linked to Russians did not heavily use their platforms in the same way that they did around the time of the U.S. elections.

    Nick Pickles, Twitter’s U.K. senior public policy manager, told the panel that the company had only found 49 accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency, a Russian “troll farm,” that were active during the Brexit referendum.

    These accounts tweeted 942 times, and these tweets received a cumulative 461 retweets and 637 likes. Pickles stressed that the numbers represented the IRA’s limited engagement and reach on its platform around the time of the Brexit vote, but did not provide deeper analytics. […]

    Link

  79. says

    Follow-up to comments 48, 54, and 58.

    An ex-Navy SEAL has publicly criticized Trump’s plans for a military parade.

    A retired Navy SEAL who was on the raid to kill Osama bin Laden has some harsh words about President Donald Trump’s military parade plan. […]

    Robert O’Neill — who says he’s the one who shot bin Laden and identifies as a conservative — tweeted his displeasure with Trump’s demand.

    “A military parade is third world bullshit,” O’Neill wrote. “We prepare. We deter. We fight. Stop this conversation.” […]

    Link

  80. says

    Yikes! More authoritarian bullshit coming down on us soon?

    […] “The prospect of ICE joining the Intelligence Community, if true, should sound alarm bells,” he said. “Such a move threatens to give an agency responsible for domestic immigration enforcement access to a vast pool of sensitive information collected by our spy agencies for foreign intelligence purposes. Those spying tools do not belong in the hands of ICE agents.” […]

    https://www.thedailybeast.com/ice-wants-to-be-an-intelligence-agency-under-trump

    Much more at the link. The article is by Betsy Woodruff, who is usually a very good source of insider information.

  81. says

    From Dahlia Lithwick:

    […] Until Wednesday, Rob Porter was the White House staff secretary. Long before Wednesday, many of the people to whom he reported knew he had physically abused and assaulted both of his wives. Colbie Holderness, Porter’s first wife, and Jennifer Willoughby, Porter’s second wife, both told the FBI their marriages had ended because of a pattern of physical and emotional abuse. According to their accounts, supported by photos, contemporaneous reporting to others, and a blog post written by Willoughby last April, Porter kicked these women, he punched and choked one of these women, he blackened one of these women’s eyes. He berated and insulted these women. Police were called.

    But Rob Porter is also white, and the son of a prominent academic and thinker. He went to Harvard and Oxford, and he had a high-ranking job in the Oval Office, and was reportedly pressing for a higher one. He was dating Hope Hicks, one of the president’s closest confidantes. So nobody did a thing about the allegations.

    Right up until Tuesday night, Chief of Staff John Kelly was praising Porter as “a man of true integrity and honor and I can’t say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante, and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.”

    Willoughby’s blog post detailing her abuse did not name Porter, but it did use her own name.
    It has been live since April 24, 2017. She wrote: “The first time he called me a ‘fucking bitch’ was on our honeymoon. (I found out years later he had kicked his first wife on theirs.)” Porter reportedly begged her to take it down because anyone who read it had to have known it was referencing Rob Porter, the guy at the White House. […] the police knew […] Both women reported the abuse to elders in their church and to counselors. […] both women told the FBI. […]

    Please stop saying that women don’t tell. These women told. […]

    Porter was not given full clearance. He was, however, given an interim security clearance. Senior staff in the White House knew why his clearance was snagged […] John Kelly, Donald Trump’s chief of staff and Porter’s boss, also knew of the 2010 protective order against Porter. Don McGahn, the White House counsel, also knew […] because in recent weeks a third woman, an ex-girlfriend of Porter’s who also works in the Trump administration, told him that Porter had abused her and his two ex-wives. […]

  82. says

    Conor Lamb is running in the upcoming Congressional special election for representative to the House from Pennsylvania district 18, (near Pittsburgh). Here is one of his ads that hits hard at Paul Ryan for wanting to cut “entitlements”: YouTube link.

  83. says

    Oh, FFS.

    […] According to a proposal obtained by the outlet, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is set to propose new rules allowing immigration officers to scrutinize and consider the use of certain taxpayer-funded benefits when weighing permanent residency applications. Non-U.S. citizens living in the United States pay taxes and are legally permitted to use many public services. But the new DHS rules would seek to measure that usage, holding any perceived reliance against applicants. […]

    Link

  84. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Lynna #96, I like it. Make Ryan the target that Pelosi is. I’m sure lots of folks in Ryan’s district aren’t aware he wants to cut their medicare, medicaid, and social security. Two of those will impact me, and millions of others.

  85. says

    Fox is disgusting and idiotic. The 2016 US Olympic squad was diverse, inspiring, and winning, and this included the gymnastics team which amazed even in the face of institutionally condoned trauma. The point is that the best, most passionate athletes have a chance to get around whatever prejudice and structural exclusion and roadblocks exist to rightfully compete.

  86. says

    Nerd @ 99, Paul Ryan’s proposed cuts to “entitlements” will also affect me. I am partially disabled, and like all of us, getting older. Ryan’s cuts would be a disaster.

    In other news, more “all the best people” news: Scott Garrett was nominated to head the Ex-Im Bank. That failed. So now Mr. Garrett has a senior role at the Securities and Exchange Commission.
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/former-lawmaker-who-was-rejected-as-ex-im-bank-chief-to-join-sec-1518049323

    Too incompetent and or unethical for one Trump administration job? No problem, Trump will just give you a different job.

  87. says

    SC @103, JFC. Worse than I thought.

    In other news, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is involved in yet another unethical enterprise. We remember him for stripping voters of their rights in Kansas, for writing laws to strip voters of their rights in Arizona (“driving while brown” laws), and for running Trump’s bogus Voter Fraud commission. Now we find out that he also sat on the board of a non-profit veterans’ group that received a lot of donations, but that did not properly distribute those donations. Making the board members rich, perhaps?

    […] The Better Business Bureau of St. Louis said Wednesday, in a report flagged by the paper, that the group, Veterans in Defense of Liberty, handed the vast majority of donations it collected right back over to professional fundraisers.

    “Fundraisers kept more than 94 percent of money raised for Veterans in Defense of Liberty in 2014 and 2015,” the group’s report said. “Veterans in Defense of Liberty, a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization, received $49,028 of $1.07 million raised in 2014 and 2015 according to the group’s IRS 990 reports.”[…]

    Link

  88. says

    Well, the government is shut down. It officially shut down … for the second time in three weeks. And it looks like the White House is disengaged. The lights are off in the White House residence.

    We’ll see if the Senators and Representatives manage to reopen the government later in the morning … or not. They are burning the midnight oil as they work on the problem.

    Rand Paul shut the government down to make a point about rising deficits.

    McConnell et. al. basically set up the situation in which a single Senator, using obscure Senate rules, could shut down the government. The situation: wait until the last fucking day to start trying to vote on the bipartisan agreement to keep the government open.

  89. says

    Follow-up to comment 108.

    The whole damned story:

    Sen. Rand Paul ignored bipartisan pleas by Senate leaders to not delay a Thursday vote on a massive government spending bill, with a deadline to keep the government open coming at midnight.

    Paul used a procedural move to stall the legislation […] from coming up for a vote. In a feisty speech from the Senate floor, he demanded a vote for an amendment he is pushing that would restore budget caps that the spending deal seeks to lift. […]

    Just before Paul objected to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) move to call a vote, the Majority leader as well as his Democratic counterpart pleaded with him to accept a vote on a procedural move, a budget point of order, instead. […]

    McConnell was seeking what’s known as “unanimous consent” to push up a vote on the bill to 6 p.m., a few hours before it the legislation had met the 30 hours of debate required for a vote. (It is typical for those 30-hour periods to be cut short using unanimous consent motions). It only takes one senator to block unanimous consent, an opportunity Paul took to take stand against the legislation.

    […] the Senate will be able to vote on advancing the spending legislation at 1 a.m., technically an hour after the previous funding bill has lapsed, […] The House would still need to vote on the spending bill after that before it was sent to President Trump for his signature.

    Paul’s gambit is just the latest of a series of twists that spending legislation has faced since the deal was unveiled. A group of House conservatives are opposed to the bill, citing similar concerns to Paul’s about growing the deficit. That means House Speaker Paul Ryan will likely need the votes of Democrats, who are mixed on supporting spending legislation that does not include a clear path for passing legislation to protect the DACA program for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/rand-paul-senate-vote-government-shutdown

    More at the link.

  90. says

    Trump in 2014:

    Fact – Obama does not read his intelligence briefings. Obama has missed 58% of his intelligence briefings

    Nope. Not facts at all. Not true.

    Facts: Trump skipped most of his intelligence briefings during the transition.

    Well, I get it when I need it… I don’t have to be told – you know, I’m, like, a smart person.

    Link

    From the Washington Post this morning:

    For much of the past year, President Trump has declined to participate in a practice followed by the past seven of his predecessors: He rarely if ever reads the President’s Daily Brief, a document that lays out the most pressing information collected by U.S. intelligence agencies from hot spots around the world.

    Trump has opted to rely on an oral briefing of select intelligence issues in the Oval Office rather than getting the full written document delivered to review separately each day, according to three people familiar with his briefings. […]

    Leon Panetta, a former CIA director and defense secretary for President Barack Obama, said Trump could miss important context and nuance if he is relying solely on an oral briefing. The arrangement also increases pressure on the president’s national security team, which cannot entirely replace a well-informed commander in chief, he said.

    “Something will be missed,” Panetta said. “If for some reason his instincts on what should be done are not backed up by the intelligence because he hasn’t taken the time to read that intel, it increases the risk that he will make a mistake.”

  91. says

    Follow-up to comment 85.

    From Dahlia Lithwick:

    The president’s slate of [judicial] nominees is, thus far, roughly 91 percent white and 81 percent male…. Most of Trump’s nominees are consistently some mix of anti-choice, anti-gay rights, anti-minority, and pro-business. Their average age skews younger than we have previously seen. Many are younger than 50 and may serve for decades.

    Link

    Much more at the link.

  92. says

    Trump’s latest conspiracy theory was tweeted out last night:

    Wow! -Senator Mark Warner got caught having extensive contact with a lobbyist for a Russian oligarch. Warner did not want a ‘paper trail’ on a ‘private’ meeting (in London) he requested with Steele of fraudulent Dossier fame. All tied into Crooked Hillary.

    Trump got that specious bit of rumor mongering from Fox News. He did not get it from his intelligence briefing.

    As I’m sure you expected, Trump’s conspiracy theory is completely wrongheaded:

    Fox’s “exclusive” Thursday report said Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, had “extensive contact last year” with lobbyist Adam Waldman to set up a meeting with Christopher Steele, the former British spy who wrote a dossier on then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. Waldman runs the Endeavor Group, a Washington lobbying firm that worked with a Russian oligarch named Oleg Deripaska in 2009 and 2010.

    Waldman offered last March to connect Warner with Steele to discuss the infamous dossier. The article states that “secrecy seemed very important to Warner” and that the senator “seemed particularly intent on connecting directly with Steele without anyone else on the Senate Intelligence Committee being in the loop – at least initially.”

    But as the Fox News story eventually acknowledges, Waldman informed the intelligence committee about the messages months ago, and the communication appears to fall in line with Warner’s duties on the intelligence committee.

    Senator Marco Rubio defended Warner. Senator Richard Burr criticized Trump for the release of “incomplete information.” And those two guys are Republicans.

    From Bloomberg Politics:

    It is not news that Mark Warner personally tried to contact Steele to interview him. Burr said at October press conference he and Warner had *each* personally sought to contact Steele for interviews without success, and hoped he would reconsider…. It’s also not surprising Warner would want to do so quietly. Nearly everything Senate Intel does is behind closed doors. They don’t announce who they are talking to or when. No transcripts. Few public hearings. Etc. Intel considers secrecy in investigation a feature, not a bug.

    Backstory: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had previously contacted what he thought was a Sean Hannity Twitter account to find “channels” for sharing anti-Warner propaganda. I can’t explain why Assange would identify a fake Sean Hannity account as the real thing, but I will say that incompetence is common in the conspiracy theory troops. Looks like Assange did eventually find a channel for his Warner nonsense.

  93. says

    Follow-up to comments 108 and 109.

    Update on the shutdown: It only lasted about five hours. What we have now is another C.R. (continuing resolution) that gives Congress critters until March 23 to work out the details associated with their two-year funding plan.

    Rachel Maddow called it a “remarkably stupid” shutdown.

    Trump signed the C.R. this morning. Trump’s view of this farce:

    Just signed Bill. Our Military will now be stronger than ever before. We love and need our Military and gave them everything — and more. First time this has happened in a long time. Also means JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!

    A very rough outline of some of the major components of the budget deal:

    $160 billion worth of increases for the military

    $128 billion for domestic programs

    $89 billion in disaster aid for Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico

    An increase in the government’s borrowing cap

    $7 billion for community health centers

    $6 billion to address the opioid crisis

    A four-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program

    $16 billion to renew tax breaks

    No solution for DACA recipients, though both Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have promised to address the DACA issue next. Ryan’s promise is troubling: “We will bring a solution to the floor, one the president will sign.” Oh, no. If a DACA solution depends on Trump’s pre-approval, this will be another kind of fuckery.

    More tweets from Trump that outline the hell to come:

    Without more Republicans in Congress, we were forced to increase spending on things we do not like or want in order to finally, after many years of depletion, take care of our Military. Sadly, we needed some Dem votes for passage. Must elect more Republicans in 2018 Election!

    Costs on non-military lines will never come down if we do not elect more Republicans in the 2018 Election, and beyond. This Bill is a BIG VICTORY for our Military, but much waste in order to get Dem votes. Fortunately, DACA not included in this Bill, negotiations to start now!

  94. says

    Mike Pence is exhibit A for cognitive dissonance:

    “I think any opportunity we have to celebrate the men and women of the armed forces of the United States is a great day,” Pence said, supporting Trump’s request to plan a military parade. “I heartily support the president’s call to celebrate our military.”

    But Pence continued, calling the North Korean parade “an ongoing provocation.”

    “Make no mistake about it, what we witnessed in Pyongyang, and we witnessed again yesterday, on the eve of the Olympics — what [South Korean] President Moon [Jae-in] said last night, he hopes will be an Olympics of peace — was once again an effort on the part of the regime in Pyongyang to display their ballistic missiles, to display a military that continues to make menacing threats across the region and across the wider world.

  95. says

    From The Hill:

    The Washington Post reports that McGahn knew about allegations from Porter’s two ex-wives of physical and emotional abuse at least a year ago, while Kelly knew as early as last fall and gave Porter a bigger role in controlling the flow of info to President Trump.

    McGahn initially learned of the allegations in January 2017 but saw Porter as a steadying force in the Trump administration and wanted him to remain on-staff, the Post reports.

    So, McGahn knew and Kelly knew, but who will Trump blame? Hope Hicks is starting to take all the incoming fire.

    In the meantime, the White House is floating a new target for the blame: Hope Hicks, current girlfriend of Rob Porter and top aide to Donald Trump. Yes, despite three extremely powerful men—Donald Trump, John Kelly and Donald McGahn—giving cover and clearance to Rob Porter, the administration seems intent on tossing a woman under the bus for their security lapse.

    https://twitter.com/joshtpm/status/961995144340869120

    He’s blaming Hope Hicks … “The president feels that Hope Hicks has allowed her romantic relationship with Porter to really cloud her judgment and her decision-making … that Hope Hicks put her own priorities above his and above the White House’s.”

    Video is available at the Twitter link above.

    As an aside, Rob Porter is a mormon.

  96. says

    Follow-up to comment 113.

    I outlined some of the spending increases in the continuing resolution, but I thought you might like to also have some total annual expenditures:

    Military spending total for fiscal year 2018: $700 billion

    Domestic spending total: $591 billion

  97. says

    Trump comments on Rob Porter:

    Well, we wish him well. He worked very hard.

    I found out about it very recently and I was surprised by it. But we certainly wish him well, obviously a tough time for him. He did a very good job when he was in the White House and we hope he has a wonderful, hopefully, he has a great career ahead of him.

    But it was very sad when we heard about it, and certainly he’s also very sad now.

    He says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent. So you’ll have to talk to him about that. But we absolutely wish him well.

  98. says

    Kelly seems to be directing the spin on the Porter news, directing the spin in ways that make him look better:

    White House chief of staff John Kelly has instructed senior staff to say that he took “immediate and direct action” after learning that the allegations of domestic abuse against staff secretary Rob Porter were credible, according to The Washington Post.

    Kelly reportedly told the senior staff to relay what he said on Friday to subordinate staff and that he cares about combatting domestic violence.

    Aides told the Post they are concerned that Kelly’s account is untrue, as it appears to contradict past statement on the matter from White House officials. […]

    Link

  99. says

    Follow-up to comment 112.

    Once again, Trump and Russian bots have teamed up to push a conspiracy theory:

    […] According to the Alliance for Securing Democracy’s Hamilton 68 Dashboard, which tracks such activity, automated accounts, or bots, that amplify Russian messaging efforts, as well as the accounts of real pro-Russian users, began tweeting about “Warner” and “Mark Warner” on Thursday night. On Friday afternoon, the words remained by far the most popular trending topic among the 600 accounts the group keeps an eye on.

    Russian bots and trolls monitored by the organization regularly push news stories that cast doubt on investigations into the Trump campaign’s suspected coordination with Russia or advance counter-narratives that appear aimed at distracting from the scandal. But Thursday night marked a particularly clear example of the president and Russian messengers aligning in their attempts to undermine the Trump-Russia investigation. […]

    Link

  100. says

    Follow-up to comments above – Mark Warner:

    Grateful to @MarcoRubio, @SenatorBurr and other Republican colleagues who are focused on getting to the truth, not cable news attacks trying to make a scandal out of our bipartisan investigation.

    The Senate Intelligence Committee will continue its bipartisan investigation, and we are going to follow the facts – wherever they lead – until we get to the truth.

  101. says

    The House Intel Committee has released the transcript of the session in which they voted to send Schiff’s memo to Trump for release. It’s extremely contentious – would be amusing if it didn’t reveal the extent to which Nunes and the Republicans have subverted the committee’s work. (OK, parts are still pretty amusing.) Schiff and Swalwell are impressive.

    Also, Feinstein has released her response to the Grassley-Graham criminal referral of Christopher Steele.

  102. says

    Excerpts from the House Intelligence Committee hearing, with commentary courtesy of Wonkette:

    GOP idiot Steve King says UH HUH the DODGY DOSSIER has been disproven, because Trump asshole lawyer Michael Cohen says he wasn’t in Prague meeting with Russian agents when the DODGY DOSSIER said he was. In response Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell is like “Cool story, bro. I fuckin’ DARE Y’ALL to subpoena his records, instead of just taking his word for it.”

    See link for screen grab of the hearing transcript.

    From the Wonkette rewritten version of the transcript:

    ADAM SCHIFF: Why are you fucking idiots talking about Michael Cohen anyway?

    GOP IDIOT STEVE KING: Dossier! Dodgy dossier!

    SCHIFF: But your stupid memo was about how the FISA court somehow improperly approved multiple FISA warrants against Carter Page The Literal Actual Russian Intelligence Asset, because dossier information was included amongst MULTITUDES OF OTHER INTELLIGENCE in that FISA application.

    KING: Dossier! Dodgy dossier!

    SCHIFF: Jesus Christ.

    KING: Reclaiming my time! reclaiming my time! Adam Schiff just made me look like A Idiot! That means I get my time back! Reclaiming my time!

    See the Wonkette link for a screen grab of the actual testimony, which is still funny.

    From the Wonkette rewritten version of a different part of the transcript:

    MIKE TURNER: Can I interrupt Eric Swalwell a lot?

    SWALWELL: Yeah, once I’m done talking about ALL THE FUCKING TRUMP-RUSSIA CONSPIRACIES we have solid evidence of, and about how the Republicans flat-out lied in their dumb memo.

    TURNER: Can I interrupt Eric Swalwell a whole bunch more?

    SWALWELL: Eat me.

    TURNER: I can’t eat you unless you let me interrupt you, with my mouth.

    SWALWELL: I’m still talking, asshole.

    TURNER: Will you stop talking if I interrupt you again?

    (This is a long one, but get ready, because Swalwell is very good here.)

    See link for screen grab of the hearing transcript.

    Much more at the link.

  103. says

    Follow-up to comment 115.

    From Wonkette, a closer look at the mormon angle of the Rob Porter scandal:

    […] Hatch [Senator Orrin Hatch], like Porter, like the women, is a Mormon. This is not insignificant. Forty-two percent of homicides in Utah are the result of domestic violence — much higher than the national average of 30 percent (which, holy crap, is also really bad).

    This has a lot to do with the way the Church of Latter Day Saints handles domestic violence and other forms of abuse, and has long been an issue for a lot of those within the church and those who have left. It often entails going to the Bishop or the elders and being told to handle it within the family, within the community, not go to the police, and to respect the man as head of the household. In a Mormon family, the father is not just the father, but also the “priest” and the religious leader of the house. To go against him is going against the church itself.

    Additionally, the church itself is very, very concerned about image in general, as good and wholesome and pure. […] Domestic violence isn’t just a bad thing for women, it hurts the church’s image if they go public.

    When Jennifer Willoughby sought help from the church concerning Porter’s abuse, she was not given help, but rather was told to consider his career:

    In her blog post, Willoughby wrote, “When I tried to get help, I was counseled to consider carefully how what I said might affect his career.” She told The Intercept that she had described Porter’s anger issues to a lay official in the Mormon church. She said the official had told her to think carefully about what she said publicly about Porter’s behavior. “Keep in mind, Rob has career ambitions,” she recalled the official saying. (The press office at the Mormon church’s headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, declined to comment for this story.) […]

  104. says

    SC @122, second link: Natasha Bertrand hit the nail on the head there.

    Feinstein says Graham/Grassley’s criminal referral of Steele “fails to explain any circumstances which would have required Mr. Steele to seek the FBI’s permission to speak to the press or to disclose if he had done so.”

  105. Hj Hornbeck says

    Strange move, this.

    President Trump blocked on Friday the release of a classified Democratic memo rebutting Republican claims that top federal law enforcement officials had abused their surveillance powers in spying on a former Trump campaign aide, raising the specter of a potential showdown with Congress.

    Donald F. McGahn II, the president’s lawyer, said in a letter to the House Intelligence Committee that the memorandum “contains numerous properly classified and especially sensitive passages.” He said the president would again consider the release of the memo to the public if the committee revised the memo to “mitigate the risks.”

    The Democrats can do an end-run around the president by getting a veto-proof majority of Congress to agree to its release. Since the House Intelligence Committee voted unanimously to make the Democrat memo public, that’s more likely than not. Unless the White House has an ace up their sleeve, they’ve just strengthened an obstruction of justice case.

  106. says

    Still can’t get over the fact that Trump is refusing to release the Democratic memo that refutes the Nunes memo. Trump thinks the Nunes memo “validates” his view that the Russian probe is a hoax and that Rosenstein should be fired. It does neither.

    The Democratic memo, written in part by Adam Schiff, is fact-based and logical … so, of course Trump will not release that.

  107. tomh says

    @ #120
    In spite of being a right-wing favorite of the Federalist Society, apparently Rachel Brand didn’t look forward to being Trump’s puppet after Rosenstein is fired and she took his place. She’d rather work at Walmart (which is where she is taking a job.)

  108. says

    Follow-up to comments 130 and 133.

    From Representative Ted Lieu:

    THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS. Both GOP & Dems voted to release Dem memo. I read it and am convinced [Donald Trump] is now intentionally hiding relevant information from the American people in order to mislead the public. An innocent person would not block the memo.

    From Representative Adam Schiff:

    We will be reviewing the recommended redactions from DOJ and FBI, which these agencies shared with the White House, and look forward to conferring with the agencies to determine how we can properly inform the American people about the misleading attack on law enforcement by the GOP and address any concerns over sources and methods.

    After ignoring urging of FBI & DOJ not to release misleading Nunes memo because it omits material facts, @POTUS now expresses concerns over sharing precisely those facts with public and seeks to send it back to the same Majority that produced the flawed Nunes memo to begin with.

    https://twitter.com/RepAdamSchiff/status/962140601130110977

    Full statement from Schiff is available at the link.

    Rightwing conspiracy theory has it that the Dems intentionally wrote a memo that required redaction so that Trump would not release it. WTF! Both the FBI and DOJ said the Nunes memo needed to be redacted and corrected, but that didn’t stop Trump from releasing it. And the Dems want the facts out there, so why would they write a memo they did not want to release? Rightwing conspiracy theories make my head hurt.

  109. says

    Follow-up to comments 130, 133 and 135.

    From Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer:

    The President’s double standard when it comes to transparency is appalling.

    The rationale for releasing the Nunes memo, transparency, vanishes when it could show information that’s harmful to him. Millions of Americans are asking one simple question: what is he hiding?

    From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi:

    This move by @realDonaldTrump confirms what we have all known for weeks — that his decision to release the #NunesMemo was a blatantly political move made without concern for national security. The hypocrisy is on full display. What does the President have to hide?

  110. says

    From Representative Terri Sewell:

    Republicans and Democrats on the Intelligence Committee voted UNANIMOUSLY to release this memo.

    [Donald Trump] is not interested in transparency, he is interested in protecting himself and derailing the Russia investigation.

  111. says

    From Jami Jaffer, a former lawyer for the Bush White House and clerk for Trump-appointed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch:

    The White House’s failure to declassify the House Intelligence Committee minority memo – particularly in the face of unanimous bipartisan vote by the committee – represents a massive strategic miscalculation.

    The decision to reject the committee’s request simply plays into the partisan narrative about the Nunes memo and deprives the American public of the benefit of both sides of highly politicized debate.

    Even worse, this unforced error undermines the President’s own ability to make the case about alleged failures in the intelligence collection process and, as such, is yet another example of this White House being its own worst enemy.

  112. says

    From Senator Richard Blumenthal:

    Refusal to release Democratic response to #NunesMemo – evidence of obstruction of justice by Donald Trump happening in real time.

    Trump’s refusal to release Democratic response to #NunesMemo makes a mockery of national security and common sense.

    This political ploy reveals the White House’s one-sided transparency. But the public sees through it – the #NunesMemo fell with a deafening thud.

  113. says

    From Representative Jamie Raskin:

    Time for all the Fox News-injected government transparency advocates and diehard Russian Trolls to recycle their “Release the Memo” propaganda!

  114. KG says

    yet another example of this White House being its own worst enemy.

    “Not while I’m alive ‘e ain’t!”

    -Attributed to British Labour politician Ernie Bevin, on being told another British Labour politiican (Stafford Cripps) was “his own worst enemy”.

  115. says

    “UK sold spyware to Honduras just before crackdown on election protesters”:

    The British government sanctioned sales of spy equipment to Honduras shortly before a disputed general election led to a violent crackdown on opposition protesters and activists in the Central American country.

    Telecommunications interception equipment worth at least £300,000, sophisticated spy technology which can be used to intercept, monitor and track emails, mobile phones, and online messaging services such as WhatsApp was sold to Honduras for use by its law enforcement agencies which have a dismal human rights track record of kidnap, torture and extrajudicial killings.

    The government also approved two open export licences between December 2016 and September 2017, according to the latest available information from the Department of International Trade (DIT).

    These open licences permit recurrent exports of a wide range of military and telecoms parts such as cables and software systems “sensitive to eavesdropping”, but the DIT is not obliged to reveal what, if anything, is sold.

    Amid massive daily street demonstrations, Hernández unleashed thousands of police, Swat teams, soldiers and military police to crack down on protesters.

    At least 40 people have been killed since the elections, and more than 2,000 detained, with many held under a controversial new terrorism law. High-profile activists say they have been harassed and intimidated by security forces.

    The 2008 British Export Control Act prohibits the sale of arms to countries where there is a clear risk that they will be used to repress their own people.

    Nevertheless, the government has sanctioned the sale of spyware to authoritarian states including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Turkey, Egypt and now Honduras, despite evidence of surveillance technology being used to target activists and opponents.

    “Before, during and after the 2017 presidential campaign, leaders of Alliance and their teams were subject to state espionage,” said spokesman Rodolfo Pastor. “The information published was often manipulated to create confusion, distrust or division within the opposition.”

    The Campaign Against Arms Trade called for the licences to be revoked and an investigation to determine whether UK equipment has been used to repress civilians. “The British government has serious questions to answer. It is totally irresponsible to sell surveillance equipment to authoritarian regimes like the one in Honduras.” said the group’s spokesman, Andrew Smith….

    From Vice – “The U.S. is propping up a dictatorship in Honduras.”

  116. says

    “Mainstream Media, Embrace Your Liberalism”:

    …Conservatives have used this same basic method for decades now, treating liberal bias in the mainstream media as a fact, and a conspiracy in and of itself. For just as long, mainstream media institutions have gone to great lengths to refute the right’s liberal-bias accusations, and make good faith efforts to appease their critics. It was arguably this self-defensive reflex that drove leading news outlets to generate a kind of equivalence between Donald Trump’s campaign promise to turn America into a racist kleptocracy, and Hillary Clinton’s email practices at the State Department. By noting that both candidates had question marks hanging over their heads, they could (they believed) preempt accusations of liberal bias from the right.

    The conciliatory approach has never worked, and because the accusations themselves are deployed in bad faith, it, importantly, can not work. The goal of movement conservatism is not to make media more representative of American politics at the margin, but to destroy journalism as a mediating institution altogether. What might work instead, though, would be for the targets of right wing criticism to embrace the liberal epithet (in a manner of speaking) and then treat the endless right-wing bleating about partisan bias as so much obnoxious noise.

    The job of the mainstream media isn’t to cast judgment on people with different value systems, but journalists can’t do their jobs well if they aren’t aware that the value systems of mainstream journalism and American conservatism are different and in conflict. It should be perfectly possible to apply the neutral rules of modern journalism to both American political parties while accepting that Democrats (and journalists and scientists) descend from the enlightenment tradition, while Republicans (and their allies in conservative media) descend from a different, illiberal tradition—and that this makes the parties behave in different ways.

    It is why the right has felt comfortable spending the past weeks fabricating whole-cloth conspiracy theories about the FBI and setting about to cajole and intimidate impartial journalists into taking the theories seriously—or at least into offering liars big platforms to spread disinformation. Journalists have spent decades responding to this kind of manipulation with varying levels of appeasement, hoping to escape the curse of the liberal epithet. They should try embracing their own particular kind of liberalism instead, and letting their bad faith critics scream into the void.

    And just as I read this, I saw that one of the guests on Alex Witt this hour was liar and CNN reject Kayleigh McEnany. We’re at the end of a week in which CNN and MSNBC featured commentator after commentator claiming that the budget deal was criticized in the House by the “fringes” – the “far Right” and the “far Left.” As if Nancy Pelosi demanding a fix for Dreamers, supported overwhelmingly by the US public and by a large majority of Republicans, is representing the far Left.

  117. says

    “Tracking Shows Russian Meddling Efforts Evolving Ahead Of 2018 Midterms”: “After more than half a year of tracking Russian influence on Twitter, the project’s staff members have seen deeper trends that reveal how the Russian government tries to get its own message out to more Americans. In addition to fanning controversies, Hamilton 68 noticed that the bots are trying to expand American exposure to Russian foreign policy propaganda, in part by slipping it into innocuous conversations.”

  118. says

    Follow-up to What a Maroon @39: Gloria Copeland’s megachurch in Texas was the center of a measles outbreak in 2013. The spread of the measles virus was attributed to “the church’s belief that congregants can forego vaccines because Jesus will protect them from illness.”

    And now she is preaching the same nonsense about the flu?! Incapable of learning, I guess. Which makes her a perfect fit for Trump’s evangelical advisory panel. She and her husband served on that panel in 2016.

  119. says

    Oh, FFS. Trump is still defending Rob Porter and others like him:

    Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?

    There is no litigation ongoing as far as I know, so there is no “Due Process” … with capitalization or not.

    I don’t know why Trump says “there is no recovery for someone falsely accused,” since he himself claims to have been falsely accused by more than a dozen women, and he was elected to the highest office in the land.

  120. consciousness razor says

    It should be perfectly possible to apply the neutral rules of modern journalism to both American political parties while accepting that Democrats (and journalists and scientists) descend from the enlightenment tradition, while Republicans (and their allies in conservative media) descend from a different, illiberal tradition—and that this makes the parties behave in different ways.

    I guess I sort of understand, and I definitely agree with the general thrust of the argument about journalists embracing their liberalism (if they have any). But it’s not so easy to make sense of statements like this. It’s not as if all journalists are actually liberals, enlightened, or whatever the fuck. That’s a fantasy invented by journalists, to make themselves feel better. So the phrase “allies in conservative media,” which presumably refers inter alia to people who are practicing journalism, just flatly contradicts the rest. Perhaps they’re doing journalism very badly, but that is nonetheless what they are up to. They’re also partly responsible for the bullshit that gets flung at other journalists who don’t feed the right wing beast all of the nasty treats it wants. But being bullshitters doesn’t somehow disqualify them from being journalists.

    There’s this weird assumption that, because of their job description which is supposed to make them objective observers outside of their own society (or the whole world or who knows what), journalists (and scientists) are thus something other than Democrats or Republicans or members of any other political party. They’re always a mysterious third group that has to be added separately, after we’ve accounted for nominal “liberals” and “conservatives.”

    I admire and respect good journalism, but the people doing it are still people. The fact that they may apply neutral (or not so neutral) rules, when communicating about subjects like politics, doesn’t put them in such a different position from any other person, who’s a citizen or a politician or a scientist or homeless or whatever. They’re glorified writers, which doesn’t give them a special status or expertise that others don’t have, although of course they should (like anybody else) have high professional standards and be motivated to first do no harm to the political climate which they are part of and help to create.

    That whole idea/attitude just needs to go away, of placing them on an “enlightenment” pedestal and treating them as a totally separate privileged class in a sacred institution, which definitionally (if it’s “real journalism”) never does anything wrong. I’ve never come across any groups of people who never do anything wrong, no matter what job they happen to have. And I’d say disposing of that myth ought to be easier now than ever, since information gathering is so much faster/easier and mass communication is so much more accessible to nearly everybody these days.

    Anyway, talking about them in this way, which probably seems natural to somebody trained as a journalist and maybe a little too proud of it, certainly won’t help to cut through bullshit about the liberal media who just don’t get what real America is like. They’re not that different, and owning up to the fact that there are Democratic journalists/scientists, who aren’t always neutral or objective, could start with simple things like not using phrases such as “Democrats (and journalists and scientists).” And you could try not talking about them as if they came from someplace else other than where the rest of us did. They’re not some kind of strange artifact that descends from a tradition — they’re just normal people who had parents and maybe got a decent education. Besides, one person’s venerable tradition is another’s cloistered ivory tower filled with ignorance, hypocrisy, corruption, etc. I don’t think either of those is usually very close to the truth, but people are going to think what they want to think. You could try to change their minds, but talking louder than everybody else isn’t so easy for journalists anymore, so probably recognizing that they don’t (and shouldn’t) have so much control over the conversation (about how people perceive them) will be an important part of the process.

  121. says

    Excerpts from the timeline showing what the White House knew, and when they knew it about Porter:

    […] January 2017
    Porter […] joined the White House as staff secretary. He controlled the flow of papers to Trump’s desk and became an increasingly crucial member of the White House staff.

    White House Counsel Don McGahn learned in January 2017 that Porter’s ex-wives were going to make damaging accusations against him, but he did not know specifics about the allegations at the time, […] McGahn did not ask Porter for more details about the accusations because Porter said they were false.

    The FBI interviewed both of Porter’s ex-wives […] Colbie Holderness, said that she provided the FBI a photo of a black eye she says Porter gave her, and his second wife, Jennie Willoughby, gave the FBI access to a protective order against Porter she obtained in 2010, according to the Washington Post.

    April 2017
    On April 24, 2017, Porter’s second wife, Jennie Willoughby, wrote an Instagram post alleging that her ex-husband was abusive to her […] Porter asked her several times over the past year to take the post down.

    June 2017
    The FBI sent a preliminary file on Porter, including the allegations of domestic abuse from his ex-wives, to the White House […] McGahn himself did not see the file at that time, […] Another lawyer in the White House may have reviewed the file […]

    September 2017
    Porter told McGahn that he had been interviewed by the FBI a second time in September […]. His ex-wives also both spoke to the FBI for a second time […]

    Willoughby told the Washington Post that she received a call from Porter on Sept. 21, asking her if she had used the word “violent” to describe his behavior in the relationship. […] Willoughby alerted the FBI the next day that Porter had called her […]

    McGahn learned that Porter’s security clearance was delayed by accusations of domestic violence […] it’s not clear what kind of details about the accusations McGahn knew at the time.

    Fall 2017
    […] Kelly learned that abuse allegations were holding up Porter’s security clearance last fall, but it’s not clear exactly when he learned this and how much detail he had […] Despite learning this, Kelly elevated Porter’s status in the White House and the aide went on to help draft Trump’s State of the Union address […]

    Late November 2017
    An ex-girlfriend of Porter’s called McGahn in November to tell him about the abuse allegations from Porter’s ex-wives […] McGahn passed the ex-girlfriend’s comments on to other officials in the White House […] this was the first time McGahn learned of the specific accusations, an account in conflict with the Washington Post’s reporting that McGahn knew the nature of the allegations in September.

    Early 2018
    Kelly learned “several weeks ago” that Porter had been denied a full security clearance because of the 2010 protective order […]

    Feb. 1, 2018
    […] White House communications director Hope Hicks was dating Porter […]

    Feb. 6, 2018
    […] Porter’s second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, told the Daily Mail that Porter was abusive toward her during their brief marriage […]

    White House officials defended Porter’s character and claimed to be shocked by the allegations.

    White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Porter was “someone of the highest integrity and exemplary character.”

    Kelly also defended Porter, and called him “a man of true integrity and honor.”

    […] Kelly believed Porter’s denials and privately urged him to stay in his job.

    Late Feb. 6, 2018
    Ryan Grimm, a reporter for The Intercept, tweeted that he had photos of Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, with a black eye,[…]

    Feb. 7, 2018
    […] The Intercept and the Daily Mail both published reports with Holderness’ account of abuse from Porter. Holderness claimed that Porter punched her on a vacation in 2005, and said that he hurt her physically in other ways previously, such as by choking her.

    […] Porter said he would resign, but continued to deny the allegations.

    […] In a new statement Wednesday night, Kelly continued to defend Porter, but claimed he “was shocked by the new allegations.”

    “There is no place for domestic violence in our society,” he said. “I stand by my previous comments of the Rob Porter that I have come to know since becoming Chief of Staff, and believe every individual deserves the right to defend their reputation. I accepted his resignation earlier today.”

    Two unnamed White House officials told the New York Times that Porter misled Kelly about the severity of the allegations against him, and suggested that his ex-wives were fabricating the abuse claims […]

    Feb. 8, 2018
    White House spokesperson Raj Shah did not deny that top administration officials knew about the allegations against Porter, but claimed Kelly only “became fully aware” of the accusations on Wednesday. […]

    White House communications director Hope Hicks helped draft Kelly’s supportive statement. […]

    Kelly embarked upon an apparent damage control strategy and told staff members in an email, “I want you to know that we all take matters of domestic violence seriously.”

    Feb. 9, 2018

    […] Kelly told staff members to communicate that he acted to terminate Porter within 40 minutes of learning that the allegations were credible. That claim would contradict both Kelly’s previous statements of support for Porter and the White House’s insistence that Porter resigned of his own accord.

    […] staffers expressed disbelief in Kelly’s latest account. […]

    Trump told reporters of the allegations against Porter, “We found out about it recently, and I was surprised by it, but we certainly wish him well.”

    […] Trump said. “He says he’s innocent. I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent.”

    As reporters were ushered out of the room, he added, “We absolutely wish him well.”

  122. says

    Trump’s infrastructure plan is in trouble:

    Gary Cohn, President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, ended a late January discussion with the president believing he’d finally convinced him that there’s no room in the federal budget for a massive infrastructure spending bill.

    Reluctantly, Trump agreed: States and private companies would have to shoulder most of the $1.5 trillion plan Trump had promised the American public.

    But then Trump waffled again, forcing Cohn’s deputy, D.J. Gribbin, who had been working on the plan, to delay its release, which had been tentatively timed around Trump’s Jan. 30 State of the Union address. […].

    NBC News link

    Trump wants his name on a bunch of public works, but he wants state and local governments, (and private enterprises that are guaranteed a return on their investment), to pay for it all.

    The Republican tax scam has sucked all the money out of the federal system. There’s no money left for an infrastructure investment.

  123. consciousness razor says

    It’s not as if all journalists are actually liberals, enlightened, or whatever the fuck. That’s a fantasy invented by journalists, to make themselves feel better.
    I should mention here that there are tons of moderate or conservative journalists who make the same bewildering claims about how liberal they supposedly are, on account of certain ideals they supposedly have, although they do little or nothing to actually support the left. So it’s not just a feel-good sort of myth, like Romans telling themselves about Romulus and Remus, etc., but also helps to distort how people think about the whole political spectrum. If you thought you were reading anything from radical leftists in the New York Times, let’s say, then you’re simply mistaken. Maybe a few op-eds here and there, sure, but some people don’t even seem to have a vague sense of what “liberalism” is. So this kind of talk about how journalists partake in a liberal tradition (liberal in the political sense) just muddies the waters even more, because few people could cite any examples of that actually happening in the type of journalism they encounter.

  124. says

    From Trump in June, 2016:

    Hillary Clinton surged the trade deficit with China 40% as
    Secretary of State, costing Americans millions of jobs.

    From Politico now:

    The U.S. trade deficit increased more than 12 percent in 2017, to $566 billion — its highest level since 2008, according to figures released on Tuesday by the Commerce Department.

    The trade deficit with China rose to a record $375 billion in 2017, and trade gaps with Mexico, Canada and Japan also increased.

    Link

    Trump has negotiated us into a larger trade deficit.

  125. says

    Follow-up to comment 153.

    From Hunter:

    […] Yes, he was bullshitting the whole time. The trade deficit is a function of the national and world economy; it is not necessarily catastrophic or even bad to begin with; it is not something that an idiot manchild can switch on or off—unless the idiot manchild bars trade entirely, which he has vaguely threatened from time to time. […]

    But for the record, not only has Trump not “solved” the problem, he has not so much as tried, and you can even make a solid case that he made it worse.

    The only practical short-term effect of this will be that Donald Trump will no longer be tweeting about it, which means he either will have to promise something else to the rubes (say, the bestest military parade ever) or spend that time, you know, doing his actual day job.

  126. says

    Trump tweeted today:

    The Democrats sent a very political and long response memo which they knew, because of sources and methods (and more), would have to be heavily redacted, whereupon they would blame the White House for lack of transparency,

    That’s the rightwing conspiracy theory that is being touted on Fox News.

    Adam Schiff responded:

    Mr. President, what you call “political” are actually called facts, and your concern for sources and methods would be more convincing if you hadn’t decided to release the GOP memo (“100%”) before reading it and over the objections of the FBI.

    Note that Trump thinks ten pages is “very long.”

  127. says

    Robert Reich points out that Trump’s tax cut scam is not raising workers’ wages:

    Trump’s promise that corporations will use his giant new tax cut to make new investments and raise workers’ wages is proving to be about as truthful as his promise to release his tax returns.

    The results are coming in, and guess what? Almost all the extra money is going into stock buybacks. Since the tax cut became law, buy-backs have surged to $88.6 billion. That’s more than double the amount of buybacks in the same period last year, […]

    Compare this to the paltry $2.5 billion of employee bonuses corporations say they’ll dispense in response to the tax law, and you see the bonuses for what they are — a small fig leaf to disguise the big buybacks.
    If anything, the current tumult in the stock market will fuel even more buybacks.

    Stock buybacks are corporate purchases of their own shares of stock. Corporations do this to artificially prop up their share prices.

    Buybacks are the corporate equivalent of steroids. They may make shareholders feel better than otherwise, but nothing really changes.

    Money spent on buybacks isn’t reinvested in new equipment, research, or factories. Buybacks don’t add jobs or raise wages. They don’t increase productivity. They don’t grow the American economy.

    Yet CEOs love buybacks because most CEO pay is now in shares of stock and stock options rather than cash. So when share prices go up, executives reap a bonanza […]

  128. says

    cr @ #149,

    You read the article very differently than I did.

    So the phrase “allies in conservative media,” which presumably refers inter alia to people who are practicing journalism, just flatly contradicts the rest. Perhaps they’re doing journalism very badly, but that is nonetheless what they are up to.

    I don’t think it contradicts the rest. The segment on the illiberal media project of Bannon and the like, the intentional propaganda and disinformation posing as news, is meant to underscore that the Right in the US simply doesn’t adhere to basic journalistic-epistemic standards – a concern for accuracy, facts, reason, truth (and the exposure of lies), fairness, transparency, public knowledge as the basis for real democratic participation,… Beutler wants journalists who do value these things to recognize that the rightwing media is acting in illiberal bad faith, both in their own “journalism” and in their criticisms of, say, CNN, MSNBC, and WaPo.

    It’s not about the reporters at these outfits being personally “objective” or “neutral”; it’s just asking them to embrace “liberal” journalistic standards in their actions and tell the bad-faith critics, propagandists, and liars on the Right to take a hike. It’s not “biased” to refuse McEnany or Breitbart propagandists a platform, and it’s not a rejection but an upholding of journalistic standards to present facts without couching them in “Democratic critics say…” both-sides blather. What Beutler’s saying is that the Right isn’t practicing journalism by any reasonable standard, and in fact many are quite open about their desire to destroy journalism to advance their illiberal goals, and that people in the media especially need to recognize that and act accordingly.

    (In case anyone’s interested, I defend the so-called Enlightenment public sphere in this post, and criticize the rhetoric of “Enlightenment values” in this one.)

  129. says

    This sounds like a step in the right direction:

    The maker of the painkiller OxyContin will stop actively marketing its opioid products to doctors.

    Purdue Pharmaceuticals announced that it would cut its sales staff by more than half and would stop sending sales representatives to doctors offices to discuss opioid products.

    “We have restructured and significantly reduced our commercial operation and will no longer be promoting opioids to prescribers,” the company said in a statement.

    Purdue also said it will start referring opioid-related requests and questions from prescribers to health-care professionals in its medical affairs department. […]

    Link

  130. says

    Follow-up to comment 148.

    From Jake Tapper:

    In point of fact, 2 ex-wives talking on the record to journalists and to the FBI and one ex-girlfriend on background, with a photo of a black eye and a police report, is not “a mere allegation.”

  131. says

    Robert Reich quoted in Lynna’s #156:

    Trump’s promise that corporations will use his giant new tax cut to make new investments and raise workers’ wages is proving to be about as truthful as his promise to release his tax returns.

    The results are coming in, and guess what? Almost all the extra money is going into stock buybacks. Since the tax cut became law, buy-backs have surged to $88.6 billion. That’s more than double the amount of buybacks in the same period last year, […]

    Compare this to the paltry $2.5 billion of employee bonuses corporations say they’ll dispense in response to the tax law, and you see the bonuses for what they are — a small fig leaf to disguise the big buybacks.

    If anything, the current tumult in the stock market will fuel even more buybacks.

    On top of this, and in my view more important, is the tragic acquiescence to neoliberal authoritarianism this reflects. Too many people are willing to surrender real and potential power as workers and citizens for meager and undoubtedly short-term handouts from companies and promises from politicians. I talked about how disturbing this was back at the time of the Carrier deal, in which the union was completely sidelined (and even attacked) and the workers have since, predictably, been screwed. Republicans are the ones doing everything they can to destroy the independent power of unions and workers’ movements and to block public efforts to raise wages and improve working conditions, even going so far as to pass laws prohibiting local minimum wages! Even if some workers were going to get a substantial long-term benefit, which they aren’t, it wouldn’t be close to worth trading their political power for, ffs. It’s so depressing.

  132. says

    Jennifer Rubin: “for the morally dense: This is why you don’t elect a president who abuses women — he will tolerate it in others, give cover to the abusers and demean women brave enough to come forward. Oh, and since abusers lie you’ll have someone dishonest to the core.”

  133. says

    Further to Lynna’s #157 – Jesse Lehrich:

    Trump on:

    – Porter: “Hope he has a wonderful career… says he’s innocent”

    – Lewandowski: “How do you know those bruises weren’t there before?”

    – Roy Moore: “He totally denies it”

    – Roger Ailes: “He helped those women”

    – Bill O’Reilly: “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong”

  134. says

    SC @166, a $116 copay would be too much for many people. Such a shame that a teacher can’t pay that for flu medicine. Shameful.

    In other news, Kellyanne Conway is defending Trump’s statements in reference to Rob Porter. You know this is not going to go well.

    The president believes, as he said the other day, you have to consider all sides. He has said this in the past about incidents that relate to him as well. At the same time, you have to look at the results. The result is that Rob Porter is no longer the staff secretary.

    Republican National Committee spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany also defended Trump:

    This is a president that’s hired women at record rates, he appreciates women, he’s empowered them throughout his administration.

  135. says

    From Senator Kirsten Gillibrand:

    The lives of survivors of sexual assault and domestic abuse are being shattered every day. If he [Trump] wants due process for the over dozen sexual assault allegations against him, let’s have Congressional hearings tomorrow. I would support that and my colleagues should too.

  136. says

    The courts in California are fighting back against some of the immigration policies and practices promoted by the Trump administration:

    A federal court judge in California ruled last Thursday that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department violated the constitutional rights of thousands of inmates that the agency detained for federal immigration authorities without probable cause, the latest in a series of legal blows to a strategy that forms the linchpin of the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration.

    U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. held the LA Sheriff’s Department liable for violating the Fourth Amendment rights of inmates the agency held without probable cause for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) through the use of detainers, requests to hold inmates for up to 48 hours past their release date so that ICE can take those individuals into custody. […]

    Link

  137. says

    Follow-up to comment 167.

    Here’s more of what Kellyanne Conway had to say in defense of Trump, suggesting that media coverage counts as “due process”:

    Those accusers [of Trump] have had their day on your network and elsewhere for a long time. They were trotted out again late last year.

  138. says

    Another propaganda move from Devin Nunes:

    Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House intelligence committee who loves to rail against the fake news of the mainstream media, has set up his own news site to propagate GOP-friendly stories. According to a Politico report, Nunes’ re-election campaign owns a site that looks and functions as a conservative news outlet—except for the fine print at the bottom: “Paid for by the Devin Nunes Campaign Committee.”

    From Politico:

    Resembling a local, conservative news site, “The California Republican” is classified on Facebook as a “media/news company” and claims to deliver “the best of US, California, and Central Valley news, sports, and analysis.”

    But the website is paid for by Nunes’ campaign committee, according to small print at the bottom of the site. Leading the home page this week: A photograph of Nunes over the headline: “Understanding the process behind #ReleaseTheMemo.”

    The story, like many others on carepublican.com, largely excerpts other publications, including both conservative and mainstream sources. Headlines include “CNN busted for peddling fake news AGAIN!,” “California’s budget future isn’t as good as it looks” and “Billions of dollars later, Democrats and the LA Times start to see the light on high-speed rail.” […]

    Link

    Facebook should flag Devin Nunes’ “The California Republican” as fake news.

    Reminds me of Breitbart, with less obviously racist postings.

    […] “The California Republican” also takes on the Russia investigation. A December 2017 headline read, “Mueller’s missteps began from the get-go. They’ve gotten worse.” The story, which has no author byline, cites a National Review article to claim that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe is biased. In January, the site published a piece titled “The Russians are everywhere… and nowhere,” which concludes that “seeing Russians around every corner has proved to be the downfall of credibility for many arm-chair pundits.” The story, again with no author, links to a story from the pro-Trump outlet The Federalist. […]

  139. says

    News from Ireland on the abortion issue:

    Irish opposition leader Micheál Martin said he changed his mind and is now in favor of liberalizing the country’s strict anti-abortion laws.

    “There were two things that changed my mind on the issue. The first was hearing evidence before Christmas from women who suffered from fatal fetal abnormalities while pregnant,” he told the Guardian in an interview on Sunday.

    “After hearing their experiences in the Oireachtas [Irish parliament] and what they had to go through traveling to England for terminations, I realized I could no longer countenance supporting the status quo,” he added.

    Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s Cabinet formally backed holding a referendum to repeal the eighth amendment to the Irish Republic’s constitution, which prohibits abortion, in late May. Health Minister Simon Harris is expected to start drafting legislation to present to the Cabinet in the early spring. […]

    Link

  140. says

    From Jennie Willoughby, ex-wife of Rob Porter:

    […] In a piece published in Time, Willoughby wrote about how it felt to watch Trump and other members of the White House come to Porter’s defense […]

    “I can’t say I was surprised. But when Donald Trump repeated twice that Rob declared his innocence, I was floored,” she wrote.

    “What was his intent in emphasizing that point? My friend turned to me and said, ‘The President of the United States just called you a liar.’ Yes. And so he did.”

    She also cited Trump’s tweet Saturday in which he said lives are being ruined by “a mere allegation” and questioned whether there was “such thing any longer as Due Process.”

    “There it is again. The words ‘mere allegation’ and ‘falsely accused’ meant to imply that I am a liar. That Colbie Holderness is a liar,” she wrote.

    “That the work Rob was doing in the White House was of higher value than our mental, emotional or physical wellbeing. That his professional contributions are worth more than the truth. That abuse is something to be questioned and doubted.”

    Willoughby went on to write in Time that the issue is deeper than Trump. Society as a whole, she said, has a “fear of addressing our worst secrets.”

    “If the most powerful people in the nation do not believe my story of abuse in the face of overwhelming evidence, then what hope do others have of being heard?” she wrote in her op-ed. […]

    “While I may understand President Trump and Gen. Kelly’s incredulity at such a counter-image of their golden boy, I do not condone their choice to support him,” she wrote.

    “In light of the President’s and the White House’s continued dismissal of me and Colbie, I want to assure you my truth has not been diminished,” she continued.

    “I own my story and now that I have been compelled to share it, I’m not willing to cover it up for anyone.” […]

  141. says

    Oh, FFS! There’s a conspiracy theory about the Rob Porter debacle. Sebastian Gorka and Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro fleshed it out:

    […] suggesting investigators may have delayed Porter’s security clearance to make sure red flags didn’t show up in time, in order to ensure the administration would have to find a way to deal with the scandal.

    “There may be a deliberate minefield put in place where they know somebody like this has skeletons in their closet and they slow-roll everything just to make things like this explode a few months later,” Gorka said, providing no evidence of his explosive claim. […]

    Link

    In other, related news:

    […] Axios is reporting that Porter is telling his associates that some senior White House officials encouraged him to “stay and fight” the domestic abuse allegations. Porter is also claiming he “never misrepresented anything” to Kelly, which is not what the chief of staff’s associates are saying.

    Pirro’s full-throated defense of Kelly came amid word that Pirro is under discussions with Trump about possibly cooperating on a book that would essentially be a counter to Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury. Trump has reportedly agreed to be interviewed for Pirro’s planned book that some in the West Wing are calling No Fire, No Fury.

  142. says

    Follow-up to comment 175.

    Joy Reid also covered the fact that Jeanine Pirro tried to blame President Obama for the Rob Porter scandal. Hilarious in part, troubling in part … thorough as usual.

    Joy Reid also did a better job of covering Kellyanne Conway’s ridiculous defense of Trump.

    The video is about 17 minutes long.

  143. says

    House Majority Whip Steve Scalise fails when it comes to history, and he fails to understand the concept of separation of church and state.

    Here’s what Scalise said:

    This was a nation founded with a deep belief in God. Our founding fathers talked about it when they were preparing to draft the Constitution. In fact, Thomas Jefferson — who was the author of the Constitution — if you go to the Jefferson Memorial right now, go read this inscription from Thomas Jefferson: “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”

    “You can’t separate church from state…. People would say, you know, when you’re voting on issues, how do you separate your faith from the way you vote? Faith is part of who you are.

    Excerpts from a debunking by Steve Benen of Scalise’s remarks:

    […] Thomas Jefferson didn’t write the Constitution. He was actually in France at the time the Constitution was crafted. Jefferson did write the Declaration of Independence a decade earlier, but that isn’t the same thing. (That’s not to say Jefferson was irrelevant – his Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom likely helped influence the drafting of the First Amendment – but to say Jefferson was the Constitution’s “author” is plainly wrong. That title largely belongs to James Madison, who, incidentally, also championed the separation of church and state.)

    We also know that while Jefferson’s approach to religion was complex […] his approach to religious liberty was straightforward: he was an ardent champion of church-state separation. […]

    You’ve heard of the “wall of separation” between church and state? The metaphor comes by way of a letter Jefferson wrote in 1802 to the Danbury (Conn.) Baptist Association, describing the purpose of the First Amendment. [snipped the letter]

    My friend and former colleague Rob Boston, a national expert on the issue, added this morning:

    Scalise’s argument fails because Jefferson was one of the strongest advocates of separation of church and state ever to occupy the White House…. As president, Jefferson refused to issue proclamations calling for official days of prayer and fasting. […]

    […] I’m not altogether sure Scalise even understands the constitutional principle with which he disagrees. The congressman noted in his remarks, for example, that when Americans vote, they’re inevitably influenced by their beliefs. That is, of course, true.

    But it’s not an argument against church-state separation. The point of the principle is to mandate government neutrality on religious issues, allowing people to pursue their own paths without interference from the state. It doesn’t preclude voters from being influenced by their own personal beliefs. […]

  144. says

    Follow-up to comment 172.

    Oh, dear. [tiny violins playing] Devin Nunes’ propaganda site “California Republican” is offline.

    After Politico reported on Sunday morning that Rep. Devin Nunes’ campaign runs its own “news website,” the site went offline, with a message […] claiming that the website was the victim of an “attack” on its servers. […]

    […] a website called the “California Republican,” which was billed as a news website, was paid for by Nunes’ campaign. A line at the bottom of the cached page reads, “Paid for by the Devin Nunes Campaign Committee.”

    Headlines from the site shared recently on its Facebook page include “Understanding the process behind #ReleaseTheMemo” and “Sacramento mandates push CA Dairies to pack up milk cartons and shutdown plant.” […]

    The website was registered by political consultant Alex Tavlian […] Tavlian told Politico that he did not manage the website […] Nunes’ office refused to comment on the website to Politico until the news organization “retracts its multitude of fake stories on Congressman Nunes.”

    Link

    WTF? Infighting at the propaganda mill?

  145. says

    From Josh Marshall:

    […] All of it starts to feed on itself. The President is defined by his predation. He attracts these people to him or they are the only options available and he in turn protects them. He’s staffed by the inexperienced, the incompetent and the reprobate. They are unable to hide his nature even when it would be in his interest to allow them to do so. The rush of crises and incapacity yields desperation and lying, in part because of the nature of the situation but even more because these behaviors are validated from the top. Did John Kelly start out as a liar? We don’t know. He seems to be one and a not terribly good one now. Porter’s exposure is like a brief but sustained flash of light amidst the moral darkness and squalor of Trump White House, briefly illuminating all the dreck and rot of the rough beast of Trumpism.

    Link

    Much more at the link.

  146. says

    We also know that while Jefferson’s approach to religion was complex […] his approach to religious liberty was straightforward: he was an ardent champion of church-state separation. […]

    To the extent that his political enemies frequently sought to portray him as an atheist.

  147. says

    Recent data confirm my claim at the end of #143 above:

    Among the key findings in the new Quinnipiac Poll:

    By an 81-14% margin, Americans want Dreamers to gain citizenship:…
    By approximately a 2:1 margin, the American public opposes a border wall – especially if Trump’s $25 billion price tag is attached:…
    As President Trump and allies seek to slash legal immigration levels, 78% of Americans are opposed:…
    The public overwhelmingly rejects the idea that undocumented immigrants take jobs from Americans or are prone to commit more crimes than Americans….

  148. says

    “Here’s what Year Two of Trump’s scam will look like”:

    To sum up: Here’s what all of this amounts to. The vow of big spending on infrastructure — which was central to the economic side of Trump’s populist nationalism — is likely to prove a scam.* Trump will keep embracing the GOP’s plutocratic and regressive fiscal priorities, threatening to worsen inequality over time. The implementation of Trump’s xenophobic and nativist blueprint will continue in all its cruelty wherever possible. And Trump will keep up the bread-and-circuses racial and gender-oriented provocation to drive GOP base voters to the polls, even at the risk — or perhaps with the deliberate end — of further enraging the nonwhite voters, women and college-educated whites who are already alienated by a year of the same.

    In other words, the Real Trumpism, Year Two.

    * Actually, Bannon’s bullshit aside, the version proposed during the 2016 campaign was a “cronyist privatization scheme.”

  149. blf says

    FashMaps website tracks neo-Nazis in the US (Al Jazeera edits in curly braces):

    A new anti-fascist website tracks the location and activities of people affiliated with Daily Stormer, one of the largest neo-Nazi websites in the United States.

    Launched on January 28, FashMaps is an activist-run initiative that seeks to inform local communities about the presence and gatherings of neo-Nazis in their area.

    […]

    According to Simon [a pseudonym –blf], a four-person team uses fake accounts to monitor Daily Stormer forum discussions and pin down when and where they plan to hold events, which they often refer to as book clubs and pool parties.

    […]

    At the time of its launch, FashMaps had around 700 pins signifying Daily Stormer meet-ups in cities and towns in almost every state across the US, and to a lesser degree, in Canada, the UK, Australia and Southeast Asia.

    […]

    […] Simon said that FashMaps does not post the locations of Daily Stormer meet-ups with the hopes of inspiring violence or harassment. All of the information Simon and his team publish is already publicly available.

    “Identities and other identifying information are not posted anywhere on our site,” he noted. “And, in reality, our map operates more like a ‘heat map’ than anything else{…} But we link to the source of our data as proof of our findings.”

    He added: “By showing people they have a growing problem in their community, it can move them to become more involved in both speaking out against fascism and educating others on the problem in their community.”

    […]

    Last month, the Anti Defamation League released a report that found 18 people were killed by white supremacists in 2017.

    Simon concluded: “If citizens remain silent, fascism will win.”

  150. says

    From SC’s link in comment 182:

    […] On Monday, June 5, accompanied by his personal security detail, Pruitt settled into his $1,641.43 first-class seat for a short flight from the District to New York City. His ticket cost more than six times that of the two media aides who came along and sat in coach, according to agency travel vouchers; the records do not show whether his security detail accompanied him at the front of the plane.

    In Manhattan, Pruitt made two brief television appearances praising the White House’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, stayed with staff at an upscale hotel near Times Square and returned to Washington the next day.

    That Wednesday, after traveling with Trump on Air Force One for an infrastructure event in Cincinnati, Pruitt and several staffers raced to New York on a military jet, at a cost of $36,068.50, to catch a plane to Rome. […]

  151. says

    These partisan pinheads will destroy the country.

    “11. You wrote that President Obama stressed that he was ‘not asking about, initiating or instructing anything from a law enforcement perspective’. Did President Obama ask about, initiate, or instruct anything from any other perspective relating to the FBI’s investigation?”

    Yes, you bozos, she says he asked about something from a national security perspective in the next fucking paragraph. It literally begins: “From a national security perspective, however,…”

  152. says

    Trump’s plans for spending money are not looking good for ordinary, not-rich people:

    […] the Trump administration’s Office of Management and Budget released their proposal for the fiscal year 2019 budget. Fiscal years are different from calendar years, so the proposal covers October 1, 2018, through September 30, 2019.

    The budget proposes nearly $700 billion in 10-year savings by “repealing and replacing” Obamacare, more than $200 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps), and $266 billion in cost reduction in Medicare, among many other program cuts. […]

    https://www.vox.com/2018/2/12/17003804/donald-trump-budget-2019-read-pdf-full-document

  153. says

    SC mentioned that Trump is touting his infrastructure plan this week. Here’a a good explanation from the Washington Post of what that plan scam actually is:

    In normal circumstances, the government decides it needs a new bridge, so it hires Joe’s Construction to build it. But the bridge still belongs to the government; we just have to pay maintenance costs. In the kind of “partnership” the Trump administration wants more of, the government decides it needs a new bridge, so it gives PriveCo Equity Partners a gigantic tax incentive to build the bridge, which the company now owns — and which will charge tolls on in perpetuity. Taxpayers could shell out nearly as much in tax incentives to the private company as we would have spent to just build the bridge, and then on top of that you’ll have to pay tolls to cross it — forever. As long as the bridge stands, people are paying extra so PriveCo Equity Partners can make a profit.

    Trump’s plan also includes selling Reagan National Airport and Dulles International airport to private companies.

    More analysis, from Wonkette:

    But wait! It gets worse! Not only is this an inefficient, grifty way to finance infrastructure (so you can see why Trump likes it), it’s also next to useless for any infrastructure project that won’t turn a profit. Toll roads or bridges are a pain in the ass (and remember, a waste of public money) but are at least economically feasible in large cities with lots of traffic. Not so the infrastructure in rural areas, which is falling apart but not all that attractive to investors, who have no financial interest in keeping open a bridge that’s absolutely vital to, say, several farming communities. Nobody’s going to get rich fixing the water system in Flint, Michigan (and god help the people there if anyone tried).

    There are just some things that government is generally more efficient at doing than private capital, and building/repairing schools and firehouses and water and sewer systems is one of them.

    Did we say it gets worse? Why, yes, it does indeed get worse: Beyond the inefficiencies and costs and the ignoring vital projects that won’t be funded, the Trump plan also seeks to “streamline” the process of getting projects underway by “cutting red tape,” because as we all know, regulations exist solely to get in the way of private capital. What kind of needless red tape does Trump’s infrastructure plan eliminate? Just some stupid environmental protections that no polluters like at all […]

  154. says

    SC @194, Pruitt is a better person than his aides. How can you tell? Pruitt knows how to live the lifestyle of the rich and famous by scamming all kinds of free stuff from the government. (The Trump administration = welfare for rich white guys with no ethical core.)

    Maybe Pruitt’s aides will leak all kinds of damning details to the press. That would be one way to get back at that narcissistic, arrogant asshat.

  155. says

    The Graham-Grassley letter seems rather sneaky in that, because the classified paragraph in Rice’s memo that in all likelihood discusses the Flynn intercepts or other evidence of collusion (and for all we know doesn’t even mention the Steele memos) is blacked out,* they can just deceptively refer to the Steele memos in their letter.

    * The reasons for classification are 1.4 c (“Intelligence activities (including special activities), intelligence sources or methods, or cryptology”) and 1.4 d (“Foreign relations or foreign activities of the United States, including confidential sources”).

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

    Evidently, refusing to shoot a black man is a fireable offense if you’re a cop.
    An officer was fired after he chose not to shoot a distraught suspect. Now he’s getting a $175,000 settlement

    A West Virginia city has agreed to pay a former police officer $175,000 to settle a wrongful-termination lawsuit after he was fired following his decision not to shoot a distraught suspect who was holding a gun.
    The lawsuit accused the Weirton Police Department of wrongfully terminating officer Stephen Mader after he chose not to shoot a 23-year-old man while responding to a domestic disturbance in 2016.
    “At the end of the day, I’m happy to put this chapter of my life to bed,” Mader said in a news release by the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia.
    “The events leading to my termination were unjustified and I’m pleased a joint resolution has been met. My hope is that no other person on either end of a police call has to go through this again.”

    The incident occurred May 6, 2016, when Mader responded to a domestic-disturbance call and found Ronald “R.J.” Williams Jr. with an unloaded handgun.

    Mader told CNN last year that Williams was “visibly choked up” and told Mader to shoot him. As a Marine veteran who served in Afghanistan, Mader told CNN that he concluded Williams wasn’t a threat and so he tried to de-escalate the situation.

    I’d just like to end the story there and report that Williams surrendered and got the help he needed. But no, no happy ending. There’s always another cop, after all.

    As Mader was trying to get Williams to drop his gun, two other Weirton police officers arrived. Mader told CNN that Williams raised his gun and was immediately shot and killed by one of the other officers. A state investigation found the officer’s actions were justified.
    On June 7, 2016, the Weirton Police Department fired Mader. The lawsuit, filed in May 2017, claims the department fired him because of “failure to meet probationary standards of an officer” and “apparent difficulties in critical incident reasoning.”

  157. says

    More startling details regarding Trump’s infrastructure plan:

    Right now, federally funded highways (that’s interstates and other routes) are financed on the basis of an 80-20 federal-state split, and federally funded mass transit projects usually get a 50-50 split. Trump’s proposal is to flip the 80-20 formula on its head and require that states and cities kick in at least $4 for every $1 in federal money they receive.

    That’s from Vox.

  158. says

    Another questionable aspect of the letter: Graham and Grassley suggest that the January 5th meeting “reportedly included a discussion of the Steele dossier and the FBI’s investigation of its claims,” with a footnote citing a January 12th CNN report (amusingly) and then suggesting “(the IC briefings of President Obama and then-President-Elect Trump included the Steele dossier).” But that report doesn’t appear to refer to the January 5th meeting but to a separate briefing: “The classified briefings last week were presented by four of the senior-most US intelligence chiefs — Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, and NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers.” Comey, Brennan, and Rogers weren’t present at the January 5th meeting the Rice memo is about. So the CNN article, as best as I can tell, doesn’t report what they claim it does. It’s a way for them to try to marginalize the information contained in the classified paragraph and try to make it sound like this was all about the Steele memos, even though we know it wasn’t.

  159. says

    WTF? Did Jeff Sessions really praise Sheriffs for upholding the “Anglo-American heritage” of policing in the USA? Yes, he did. Sessions was speaking at the National Sheriff’s Association meeting.

    The office of sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement. We must never erode this historic office.

    The explanation from Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior:

    Anglo-American law is another term for common law – which is the legal system that we use (as opposed to say, Napoleonic Code used in France) and is derived from the system of law that originated in England.

    Link

    The use of the word “heritage” has become a dog whistle to white supremacists.

  160. says

    An excerpt from Trump’s infrastructure speech, discussing the renovation of the Wollman Ice Rink in Central Park:

    And I said, “You know, I’d like to be able to have my daughter Ivanka — who is with us — I would like to be able to have her go ice skating sometime before she doesn’t want to ice skate.” And I got involved, and I did it in a few months and we did it for a tiny fraction, tiny fraction of the cost. It’s really no different with a roadway, it’s not different with a bridge or a tunnel or any of the things we’ll be fixing.

  161. says

    So in short, the Grassley-Graham letter:

    – plainly shows them to be helping Trump and Putin distract from and interfere with the Mueller investigation.
    – deceptively focuses on the Steele memos while presenting no evidence they had anything to do with, much less were a major aspect of, the discussions Rice memorialized in her memo; and like the Nunes memo exploits classification to do so.
    – blows right past Rice’s twice-repeated note that Obama made clear he wanted the FBI’s criminal investigation to be “by the book.”
    – asks a series of irrelevant questions on a fishing expedition, including one that’s answered in the paragraphs they themselves quote.
    – inadvertently calls attention to the serious national-security concerns the Obama administration had about the Trump team based on intelligence, and to the actions they took to protect national security, including recording information in memos sent to file (as Comey later did and others at the FBI/DoJ are probably doing now).
    – inadvertently reveals how little they themselves care about those national-security concerns.

  162. says

    Sen. Cardin:

    Six months ago, Congress passed #RussianSanctions with overwhelming bipartisan support – passing the Senate 98-2.

    @POTUS has yet to enforce a single one.

    That is unacceptable. I’ve written to Secretary of State Tillerson to ask why….

  163. says

    Very important – “Big Agriculture’s Brexiteers are pulling the wool over our eyes: Big Agriculture wants wholesale deregulation, New Zealand-style – and is buying influence and positive news coverage to skew the debate.”:

    …Just as global healthcare companies are desperate for access to the British market, so global agribusiness see Brexit as a rare opportunity to reshape farming policy to their advantage. It’s no surprise that they are buying positive coverage in our media and access to our ministers. What matters is how we respond.

    With most agricultural policy decided at a European level for a generation, and a media which has carefully ignored anything substantive the EU is doing, British citizens are ill equipped to debate the detail of farming policy. But the signs are that global agribusiness is sweeping into our politics, hoping to grab everything before we notice.

    It’s time to pay attention.

    (I have to note that I oppose animal agriculture on principle. That’s not the entirety of this issue, but it’s central.)

  164. KG says

    SC@211,

    Thanks very much for that link, SC. I’ve forwarded it to the Scottish Greens member leading a working group on our food and farming policy.

  165. says

    I won’t be able to watch it live, but the heads of the intelligence agencies are going to be testifying before Senate Intel this morning at 9:30 ET. C-SPAN says it will be on C-SPAN3.

    In related news, the Trump gang have been trying to blame the Porter and other security-clearance scandals on the FBI, which people who know how the process works have pointed out is nonsense and which I’m sure will go over well at the FBI.

    Update to several comments just above on the Grassley-Graham letter: Maddow last night – “Trump camp ties to Russia a transition quandary for Obama team” (also interesting – “Americans kept in dark about Russian intel chiefs’ visit to US”). (Maddow leaves out that Flynn called McFarland who was with the transition team at Mar-a-Lago and she conveyed their wishes/instructions about how to respond to Kislyak.)

  166. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 205.

    Rachel Maddow discussed the email from former National Security Advisor Susan Rice. Maddow prefaced the discussion with a timeline of events that President Obama’s administration was dealing with as they tried to communicate with Trump officials that were under investigation.

    The timeline includes more details in the story about Kislyak’s response to sanctions, followed by phone calls between Flynn and Kisylak; and followed by Putin saying, basically, “Oh, that’s okay, then. We won’t retaliate like we usually do.” After Kisylak was called into the State Department to be told about sanctions, he left furious. In his rage, the first person he called was Mike Flynn. The rest of the timeline is just as damning.

    The video is about twenty minutes long. We need to pay attention to the details here, in part because the rightwing is going to work hard to turn Rice’s email into pro-Trump, anti-Democrat propaganda (and even into pro-Russian propaganda). It’s a fascinating story when you hear it told well, with the timeline intact. “Your counterpart [Susan Rice’s counterpart] for the incoming administration is actively working to undermine the intent and effect of the present administration’s sanctions against Russia.”

    Maddow also made some good points about information we were receiving from our allies. (I guess this means that all of our allies were in cahoots with U.S. Intelligence agencies to make Trump look bad. /sarcasm)

  167. says

    Real life consequences of having a guy like Mick Mulvaney leading the consumer Financial Protection Bureau:

    […] CFPB officials spent years building a case against Golden Valley Lending, and if the litigation had been successful, thousands of Americans stood to get some of their money back. Mulvaney didn’t care.

    The report specifically highlighted a Michigan woman named Julie Bonenfant, who faced a financial crisis that led her to borrow $900 from Golden Valley Lending. She soon discovered that “her scheduled payments in less than 12 months will total $3,735, or more than four times what she borrowed.”

    Bonenfant told NPR, “To be honest I’m really mad, really pissed, because I actually voted for Trump. So knowing that his guy threw out this case that affects people like me, I feel kind of like stupid — just kind of like betrayed.” […]

    Payday lenders couldn’t be more pleased. The New York Times recently reported that in April, “hundreds of members of the payday lending industry will head to Florida for their annual retreat featuring golf and networking at a plush resort just outside Miami. The resort just happens to be the Trump National Doral Golf Club.”

    Link

  168. says

    OMG, what an obvious, blame-the-media fail from White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

    WELKER [NBC News’ Kristen Welker]: Can you guarantee that you are protecting classified information given that you have someone like Rob Porter who didn’t have a permanent security clearance to access classified information?

    SANDERS: I think we’re doing and taking every step we can to protect classified information. I mean, frankly, if you guys have such concern with classified information, there’s plenty of it that’s leaked out of the Hill, that’s leaked out of other communities well beyond the White House walls. If you guys have real concerns about leaking out classified information, look around this room. You guys are the ones that publish classified information and put national security at risk that doesn’t come from this White House.

    WELKER: Is this White House jeopardizing national security?

    SANDERS: We take every precaution possible to protect classified information and certainly to protect national security. It’s the president’s number-one priority, is protecting the citizens of this country. It’s why we spend every single day doing everything we can to do that. And I think if anyone is publishing or putting out, publicly, classified information, it’s members of the press, not the White House.

    https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/press-briefing-by-press-secretary-sarah-sanders-021218/

  169. says

    Follow-up to comment 216.

    This is also from yesterday’s press conference led by Sarah Huckabee Sanders:

    QUESTION: Tuesday night, when the initial story came out, the White House praises Rob Porter. Wednesday morning, photos come out. The White House stands by its statement. Wednesday afternoon, the White House continues to praise Rob Porter. And Chief of Staff John Kelly says he acted 40 minutes within knowing the allegations. Can you explain that?

    No, she could not explain that.

    The L.A. Times reported:

    Over and over again the past few days, various White House aides have buttonholed reporters to tell them — anonymously — that they think Kelly either lied to them or tried to get them to lie about what he knew when.

    The White House is being run incompetently. People working in the White House lie, and/or they are encouraged to lie. The present administration has no credibility left. The present administration has made a complete hash of handling classified material.

    These are the questions, still left unanswered, that Maddow highlighted: “How exactly did the former staff secretary get temporary clearance? From whom? Were the rules waived? Why? Was the president involved?”

  170. says

    SC @213: “I won’t be able to watch it live, but the heads of the intelligence agencies are going to be testifying before Senate Intel this morning […]”

    One part of the testimony included FBI Director Christopher Wray contradicting the White House about Porter’s background check.

    […] the FBI alerted the White House to the allegations of domestic violence made against former staff secretary Rob Porter by two ex-wives and an ex-girlfriend before those allegations were made public last week. The administration has said in its defense that Porter’s background check was incomplete at the time of his ouster, and that they wanted to allow the FBI to finish its investigation before passing judgement on Porter.

    But Wray’s account of the FBI’s communications with the Trump administration, told to the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday, seemed to differ from the White House’s.

    “What I can tell you is that the FBI submitted a partial report on the investigation in question in March, and then a completed background investigation in late July,” he said, noting that the FBI “followed the established protocol” with Porter.

    “Soon thereafter we received requests for follow-up inquiry and we did the follow-up and provided that information in November. And then we administratively closed the file in January,” he continued. “And then earlier this month we received some additional information and we passed that on as well.”

    White House spokesperson Raj Shah told “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday, describing the White House’s position, that Porter’s background check “had not been completed yet. It was still in the investigative process and had yet to be adjudicated. So prior to an adjudication, the White House is not going to step into the middle of a process and short circuit it.”

    Link

  171. says

    Another wrinkle in the Porter story: he was in “serious” talks with the Trump administration about a job promotion before he resigned last week.

    From CNN:

    Rob Porter was in serious discussions to be promoted when he abruptly resigned last week from the White House. He was being considered for several other positions, elevated policy roles across the administration, as well as the deputy chief of staff role.

  172. says

    FBI Director Christopher Wray replied to a question about the Nunes memo:

    I would just repeat what we said at the time, which is that we had then and continue to have now grave concerns about the accuracy of the memorandum because of omissions. We provided thousands of documents that were very sensitive and lots and lots of briefings, and it’s very hard for anybody to distill all that down to three and a half pages.

    Too nice by half, but still making the point that Nunes should not have written nor promoted that memo.

  173. says

    Colbie Holderness, Rob Porter’s first wife, spoke out in response to Kellyanne Conway saying that she did not think Hope Hicks was in any danger because she is dating Porter. Conway’s explanation claimed that Hicks is “strong,” and has “excellent instincts.”

    Holderness wrote:

    […] I beg to differ. Recognizing and surviving in an abusive relationship takes strength. The abuse can be terrifying, life-threatening and almost constant. Or it can ebb and flow, with no violence for long periods. It’s often the subtler forms of abuse that inflict serious, persistent damage while making it hard for the victim to see the situation clearly.

    Being strong — with excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts — does not inoculate a person against abuse. It doesn’t prevent her from entering into a relationship with an abuser. Abuse often doesn’t manifest itself early on — only later, when you’re in deep and behind closed doors. The really ugly side of Rob’s abuse only came out after we married, following three years of dating.

    The quoted text is from an op-ed that Holderness wrote for the Washington Post.

  174. says

    Follow-up to comment 218.

    From Matthew Miller:

    About the FBI’s interim report on Porter in March: those aren’t routine. Usually means the check has turned up something disqualifying that the FBI wants to elevate to decision makers immediately.

  175. says

    A closer look at one aspect of Trump’s proposed budget: he wants to further diminish/harm the National Park system:

    […] Trump’s budget recommends extreme staffing cuts of nearly 2,000 National Park Service rangers […].

    […] budget proposes a drastic 16 percent cut to the Department of the Interior, which houses the National Park Service, and a cut of seven percent to the park service itself. In 2016 the national parks received record visitation rates of nearly 331 million visits. Cuts to park staff could lead to a reduction in services to the public, closed facilities, and heavier workloads for remaining staff.

    “The budget proposal once again demonstrates that the administration is actively working to undermine our national parks and the environment on which they depend,” Josh Gardner, senior director of budget and appropriations at the National Parks Conservation Association, said in a statement.

    […] The plan retained a provision included in a leaked draft of the infrastructure plan that would make it easier for oil and gas pipelines to cross through national parks by changing the approval process for pipelines. Rather than requiring approval from Congress, pipeline projects that cross through land owned by the National Park Service would only require approval from the secretary of the interior.

    […] “The president’s infrastructure plan would facilitate the privatization of entire national parks, opening the door to an outright sell-off of America’s public lands,” said Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities. “At the same time, President Trump and Secretary Zinke want to cut the Interior Department to the bone, slashing the budget by 16 percent. It’s clear Secretary Zinke has no interest in managing our public lands for future generations, just an interest in being a rubber stamp for drilling and mining.”

    https://thinkprogress.org/national-parks-trump-infrastructure-budget-f0530e5fa7c4/

  176. says

    The state of Idaho currently ranks 49th when it comes to educating students and supporting teachers. As just one example, State legislators deleted climate science from the public school curriculum for two years in a row. Critics are fighting back.

    […] “We are here today not just for those students in classrooms across our state, but for tomorrow’s nurses, farmers, lawmakers, teachers, bankers, and citizens who deserve the very best science, and science education, not some watered down, censored version,” Dick Jordan, a retired high school science teacher, told legislators during a public hearing before the state’s House Education Committee in early February. “We can’t ignore science even when it makes us uncomfortable.”

    Now, one group is working to bring climate science to the students no matter what. On February 13, one week after lawmakers approved the climate science-less standards, every public high school in the state will begin receiving The Teacher-Friendly Guide to Climate Change — a resource that a group of former science teachers hope will help educators combat misinformation about climate change at a time when lawmakers seem intent on censoring climate science from schools.

    “As we look forward to the coming decades, the most important challenges that we as a society face are grounded in the very connected issues of climate, energy, water, and soil,” Don Duggan-Haas, director of teacher programs at the Paleontological Research Institution and an author of the book, told ThinkProgress. “If we don’t understand what we’re doing with, and to, those resources, then we are in serious trouble.” […]

    https://thinkprogress.org/teacher-friendly-book-climate-science-c3247f09bded/

  177. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 184.

    From Dan Lavoie:

    Look, I don’t think y’all are getting this.

    The Hannity Sperm Portrait nonsense was started THIS MORNING by racist 4Chan trolls, w/ the express purpose of “getting it in the news.”

    The post calls the Obamas “king and queen n****r.”

    Hannity was writing it up by early afternoon.

    https://twitter.com/djlavoie/status/963479826253406209

    From Adrenochrome Harvester:

    Another episode of the white-supremacist-to-Hannity pipeline of crazy shit.

    https://twitter.com/ClenchedFisk/status/963476779662036993

    From Matt Shuham:

    Fox News host Sean Hannity on Tuesday removed an article from his radio show’s website that claimed the official portrait of former President Barack Obama contained secret images of sperm.

    “Controversy surrounding Kehinde Wiley’s wildly non-traditional portrait of the Commander-in-Chief broke out within minutes of its unveiling,” the article, written by “Hannity staff” asserted, “with industry insiders claiming the artist secretly inserted his trademark technique -concealing images of sperm within his paintings.” […]

    Link

  178. says

    Koch brother groups are working diligently to stop family and medical leave

    This week marks the 25th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) passing with a newly inaugurated President Bill Clinton in office. It had been a long-term project of many, including former senator Chris Dodd. The FMLA was a big compromise for progressives but for employees who qualified for it, 12 weeks of sick leave were guaranteed. […]

    There were big problems with the FMLA as up to 40 percent of the workforce were not covered by it. […]

    when Texas’ Austin City Council thinks about passing an ordinance on Thursday requiring all businesses in the city to offer at least eight paid sick days a year, and numerous small businesses signed on to support the effort, there is still a lot of push back. Well-funded and powerful push back. […]

    State Rep. Paul Workman sent Fox 7 a statement saying in part: “Just as last session the State Legislature was successful in preempting the City of Austin’s ruinous ridesharing mandates and “linkage fees” scheme, so too will the State Legislature step in and protect job creators from the Austin Mayor and City Council’s employee-leave mandate on private-sector employers.” […]

    the champions of Main Street America got more money last year from a group backed by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch than any other single source.

    NFIB [National Federation of Independent Business] and its affiliated groups received $2.5 million from Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a conservative advocacy group with deep ties to the Koch empire. Of the five men that sit on the group’s board, four are current or former employees of Koch companies and one is a friend of Charles Koch’s.

    […] No state is as important to the Kochs’ bottom line as Texas. According to a report in the Houston Business Journal, “Texas has more Koch employees than any other state, 8,454, and there are 33,346 Texas jobs in total created by the Koch companies through direct, indirect and induced impacts.” […]

    The fight against humans’ well being is the Koch brand.

    Link

  179. says

    Excerpts from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ press conference today:

    The process was still ongoing when Rob Porter resigned.

    The White House Personnel Security Office, which is staffed by career officials, may have received information. But they had not completed their process and made a recommendation to the White House for adjudication.

    Sounds like a weak excuse to me. Or, it sounds like the White House Personnel Security Office was either not working, or was working at a snail’s pace, or was failing to find an answer that the Trump administration liked. It’s all a bit weird and fishy.

    FBI Director Christopher Wray’s testimony does not back up White House claims.

    The FBI bureau delivered a report on Porter’s issues in a background check summary in March 2017. That report went directly to the White House.

    Another, final report was sent to the White House in November.

    Wray said the FBI closed its file on Porter in January, even though the White House has said the background-check process for Porter’s security clearance was still ongoing. (See Sanders’ explanation above.)

  180. says

    The White House has not reached out to Porter’s ex-wives.

    […] Sanders again refused to answer whether Trump believes Holderness and Jennifer Willoughby, another ex-wife of Porter’s accusing him of assault.

    “The president takes all of these accusations very seriously. He believes in due process; above everything else he supports the victims of any type of violence and certainly would condemn any violence against anyone,” Sanders said when asked.

    In interviews with CNN on Tuesday, Holderness and Willoughby said the White House has yet to reach out to them.

    “I think how it makes me feel is not as important as the message it sends to others,” Holderness said. “Reaching out to Jennie and me would, in some small way, provide support for their assertion that that they take domestic violence seriously.”

    Link

  181. says

    Israeli police:

    PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s investigation on 2 different cases has been completed:

    In a case called “Case 1000”, the @IL_police’s position is that a sufficient evidentiary basis has been established to establish suspicions against PM, for the offense of accepting bribes, fraud & breach of trust with respect to his relationship W/ businessman Arnon Milchan

    As well as fraud & breach of trust with respect to his relationship W/ the Australian businessman, James Packer. Regarding Milchan, the Israel Police’s position is that a sufficient evidentiary basis has been established to establish suspicions of bribery.

    In a case called “Case 2000”, the @IL_police’s position is that a sufficient evidentiary basis has been established to establish suspicions against the PM, to commit offenses of bribery, fraud and breach of trust

    Against the publisher of Yedioth Ahronoth, Arnon (Noni) Mozes, the Israel Police’s position is that a sufficient evidentiary basis has been established to establish suspicions of a bribery offense

  182. says

    “Second federal judge blocks move to end DACA”:

    A second federal judge Tuesday has temporarily blocked the Trump administration from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

    Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York ruled that DACA participants and states are likely to succeed in their challenge that the way President Donald Trump terminated the Obama-era program was arbitrary and capricious.

    Trump last year announced his plan to end DACA, the policy that allowed undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children to stay in the country, effective March 5. That deadline has become central in the congressional debate over immigration, but Democrats and Republicans are nowhere near a breakthrough.

    Tuesday’s ruling, combined with a ruling from a California judge last month, means the program could end up going beyond the March 5 date.

    “Defendants indisputably can end the DACA program,” Garaufis wrote, referring to the Trump administration. “The question before the court is thus not whether defendants could end the DACA program, but whether they offered legally adequate reasons for doing so. Based on its review of the record before it, the court concludes that defendants have not done so.”

    The judge said that the decision to end the program was based in part on the “plainly incorrect factual premise” that the program was illegal….

  183. says

    Follow-up, of sorts, to SC’s comment 233.

    This is from Steve Benen:

    * The good news: “With the fate of hundreds of thousands of young, undocumented immigrants in the balance, the Senate on Monday began an open-ended debate on immigration — an exceedingly rare step that, in effect, will allow senators to attempt to build a bill from scratch on the Senate floor.”

    * The bad news: “That excitement quickly turned to frustration as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) confirmed Tuesday morning that he wants the entire debate — on the half-dozen-plus competing proposals put forward so far by lawmakers — to be over by the end of the week.”

    Alice Ollstein of Talking Points Memo also covered McConnell’s truncated schedule for the DACA debate.

  184. says

    Another bad idea from Hair Furor.

    The Trump administration wants to turn the International Space Station into a commercially run venture , NASA document shows.

    The Trump administration wants to turn the International Space Station into a kind of orbiting real estate venture run not by the government, but by private industry.

    The White House plans to stop funding the station after 2024, ending direct federal support of the orbiting laboratory. But it does not intend to abandon the orbiting laboratory altogether and is working on a transition plan that could turn the station over to the private sector, […]

    “The decision to end direct federal support for the ISS in 2025 does not imply that the platform itself will be deorbited at that time — it is possible that industry could continue to operate certain elements or capabilities of the ISS as part of a future commercial platform,” the document states. “NASA will expand international and commercial partnerships over the next seven years in order to ensure continued human access to and presence in low Earth orbit.”

    In its budget request, to be released Monday, the administration would request $150 million in fiscal year 2019, with more in additional years “to enable the development and maturation of commercial entities and capabilities which will ensure that commercial successors to the ISS — potentially including elements of the ISS — are operational when they are needed.” […]

    “The ISS is built for science and human exploration, it’s not built for profit seeking,” said Andrew Rush, the chief executive of Made In Space, a company that uses 3-D printing to manufacture objects on the space station.

    Frank Slazer, the vice president of space systems for the Aerospace Industries Association, said the plan also could prove sticky with the station’s international partners.

    “It will be very hard to turn ISS into a truly commercial outpost because of the international agreements that the United States is involved in,” he said. “It’s inherently always going to be an international construct that requires U.S. government involvement and multinational cooperation.” […]

  185. says

    This judge was a Trump supporter:

    Former Judge Tim Nolan agreed to spend 20 years in prison for human trafficking.

    He used drugs, threats of arrest and threats of eviction to force women and girls under the age of 18 into sex acts, according to the charges read in court by Judge Kathleen Lape.

    Nolan pleaded guilty to 21 counts dating back to 2004. In addition to human trafficking and attempted human trafficking, the charges included giving drugs and alcohol to minors.

    Under the plea agreement, Nolan will serve 20 years in prison and pay a $100,000 fine. He would be eligible for parole in four years, his attorney said. The judge will sentence him on March 29.

    The case has shocked the region. Nolan served as a district judge in the late 1970s and early 1980s and had become a well-known political figure. He campaigned locally for President Donald Trump, was vocal on many conservative/tea party issues, and was elected to the Campbell County School Board in 2016. […]

    Link

  186. says

    Follow-up to comment 235.

    The DACA debate is not going well.

    […] Because the Senate needs to unanimously agree to skip over the 30 hours of debate time designated after Monday night’s opening vote, the two sides either need to reach an agreement, or run out the clock until around midnight. When Republicans attempted to call a vote Tuesday on an amendment to cut funding to sanctuary cities, Democrats objected.

    “It does absolutely nothing to address DACA and absolutely nothing to address border security,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) vented to reporters. “We need to be focusing on making laws that deal with those two issues, not making a political point.” […]

    One of McConnell’s top aides, Don Stewart, pushed back, telling reporters that Democrats were holding up the process, and would be allowed votes on any bill of their choosing if they would only let Republicans begin debating the anti-sanctuary city amendment that has been filed. […]

    Link

    Bullshit. Republicans are trying to run out the clock by debating issues like sanctuary cities.

    Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), a member of that group, said Republicans will bear the responsibility if nothing can pass by the end of the week.

  187. says

    More re #182 and subsequent:

    CBS News has learned that @EPAScottPruitt flew business class on @emirates returning from Milan in June — one of the world’s most exclusive biz class cabins. Ticket cost at least $7k; trip’s flights cost over $43k bc of MilAir flight. More on @CBSEveningNews

    More: @EPAScottPruitt received a certificate that allowed him to fly on a non-U.S. carrier to arrive back in DC in time to attend the June 12 Cabinet meeting with @realDonaldTrump*

    * This might have been the meeting of grotesque obsequiousness.

  188. says

    Trump’s lawyer, Cohen, is claiming that he paid the $130,000 to porn start Stormy Daniels out of his own pocket.

    Trump’s personal lawyer told The New York Times on Tuesday he paid $130,000 out of his own pocket to an adult film star, Stormy Daniels, who claimed to have had an affair with President Trump.

    Michael Cohen, who previously served as an attorney for the Trump Organization and is now Trump’s personal lawyer, defended the payment to the newspaper [to the New York Times].

    “Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly,” Cohen told the Times in a statement, referring to Stephanie Clifford, who goes by the stage name Stormy Daniels.

    “The payment to Ms. Clifford was lawful, and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone.” […]

    The Hill link

    Not buying it.

  189. says

    Follow-up to comment 245.

    More from Michael Cohen:

    “I am Mr. Trump’s longtime special counsel and I have proudly served in that role for more than a decade. In a private transaction in 2016, I used my own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford,” Cohen said.

    He added: “Just because something isn’t true doesn’t mean that it can’t cause you harm or damage. I will always protect Mr. Trump.”

    “The complaint alleges that I somehow violated campaign finance laws by facilitating an excess, in-kind contribution,” Cohen said. “The allegations in the complaint are factually unsupported and without legal merit, and my counsel has submitted a response to the F.E.C.”

  190. says

    Follow-up to comments 245 and 247.

    The Republican National Committee is paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to the law firm that is defending Michael Cohen in the Russia probe. Yes, the lawyer got a lawyer. The RNC is paying? Cohen was not part of the Trump transition.

    Earlier, Cohen said he “facilitated” a payment to Stormy Daniels. Somebody is lying, perhaps by omission of facts, and perhaps by deliberate obfuscation.

  191. says

    Trump in half-lies, half-truth, all-self-aggrandizement mode:

    I do want to tell you, we just got this notice: General Motors in Korea announces the first step in necessary restructuring. They’re going to – GM Korea company announced today that it will cease production and close its Gunsan plant in May of 2018, and they’re going to move back to Detroit.

    You don’t hear these things, except for the fact that Trump became president. Believe me, you wouldn’t be hearing that. So they’re moving back from Korea to Detroit…. General Motors is coming back into Detroit. That is a really significant statement.

    The facts, as reported by Reuters:

    GM did not say that it plans to move production of vehicles to the United States from South Korea as part of its restructuring of operations there.

    “The announcement is related to our need to restructure our business in South Korea. Depending on the outcome of those restructuring efforts there could be broad global implications but as we said yesterday we need the full engagement of all stakeholders with a sense of urgency,” the automaker said in a statement after Trump’s comments.

    The White House did not immediately provide clarification on whether Trump had been told by GM that vehicle production would be moved from South Korea to Detroit.

    The Gunsan plant in South Korea has been struggling for some time.

  192. says

    Follow-up to comments 245, 247 and 248.

    Unanswered questions, summarized by Steve Benen:

    1. Did Trump reimburse Cohen the $130,000? The attorney’s statement last night said neither the president’s company nor his campaign reimbursed him. Cohen didn’t say anything about Trump’s personal finances.

    2. Was this a campaign-finance-law violation? If Trump’s team paid Stormy Daniels in order to bolster the Republican’s candidacy, this might very well be the kind of in-kind contribution that should have been reported to the FEC – but wasn’t.

    3. The N.D.A.? [Non-Disclosure Agreement] Cohen has now publicly confirmed the $130,000 payment. If the parties have agreed to a non-disclosure agreement, does the lawyer’s acknowledgement affect that agreement?

    4. According to Trump World, what was the point of this payment? The line from Trump World all along is that it never paid hush money to the porn star who alleges she had an affair with the president. Now that we know for certain the payment actually happened, what’s the new line that explains the purpose of the money? […]

  193. says

    Wow. Josh Marshall did a deep dive into the Trump-Cohen relationship. There are mob ties to Russians and Ukrainians. Cohen is inexplicably rich on his own. He bought an apartment building on the Upper East Side for $58 million, for example. Cohen funnels Russian and Ukranian money to Trump. Cohen is Felix Slater’s childhood friend.

    Read the article to get the full impact.

  194. says

    Trey Gowdy’s House Oversight Committee (not his committee, but he runs it), has opened an investigation into the Rob Porter case. My bet is that Gowdy and his Republican cohorts on the committee will look for a way to blame the FBI.

    In other, related news, speaking anonymously some White House sources are calling Kelly a “big fat liar.”

    An update to White House Counsel Don McGahn’s part in the Rob Porter story: He suggested to Rob Porter in November that he resign. After that suggestion, McGahn apparently did not follow up.

  195. says

    tomh @252, Yes. And the RNC is bleeding money to lawyers, while the Democrats are raising far more funds than the Republicans. It’s a tough time to be a Republican fundraiser. Republican head honchos recently showed up on Sheldon Adelson’s doorstep to beg for more money.

  196. says

    Rightwing doofuses are trying to smear Maxine Waters by sending out forged letters that claim she is trying to house 50,000 Somali refugees in public housing in California. That is just one example of the forged-letter campaign. All of the letters bear a copied version of Waters’ signature.

    The letters contain multiple errors and are fairly easily spotted as fakes. That hasn’t stopped elected Republican officials and Republican candidates for office from posting and distributing the letters, along with expressions of high dudgeon.

    https://thinkprogress.org/forged-letter-maxine-waters-50425afc394e/

  197. says

    Some insurance companies want to offer plans at the state level that skirt Obamacare laws. If they succeed in getting these plans approved by state legislators, it may kill Obamacare.

    Blue Cross of Idaho submitted five health plans to Idaho insurance regulators on Tuesday that do not comply with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) […] if the Trump administration allows the state to bypass the federal health law, other states could soon do the same.

    If approved, Blue Cross of Idaho will begin selling plans in March that charge people with pre-existing conditions and older residents significantly more than currently allowed under the ACA. The plans, called “Freedom Blue,” would also have an annual limit on coverage and wouldn’t cover maternity care. Idaho became the first state to allow insurance companies to sell “state-based plans” traditionally banned by the ACA in January, […]

    “HHS is committed to working with states to give them the flexibility to provide their citizens the best possible access to healthcare, within the bounds of the law,” [a Trump administration official said]. […]

    Blue’s non-compliant plans are trying to offer people a low-cost choice. But while these plans are cheaper, it’ll come at a cost to the state’s unhealthy population, especially those with pre-existing conditions.

    […] At the core of the ACA marketplace is a “three-legged stool” approach: insurers can’t deny or charge people more for health care, everyone needs to have insurance, and federal subsidies will make this coverage affordable. Congress repealed the mandate last year, effective 2019, but Idaho’s plan undermines the state exchange this year. […]

    “What Idaho is doing is creating a parallel insurance market that will siphon off healthy people with cheaper premiums,” said Kaiser Family Foundation’s Larry Levitt on Twitter. “That will inevitably lead to higher premiums in ACA-compliant plans.

    Legal experts believe health plans like Blue Cross of Idaho’s violate the current health law, and open themselves up to lawsuits. After Idaho’s announcement in January, ACA expert and University of Michigan law professor Nicholas Bagley called these plans “crazypants illegal“. […]

    If Blue Cross of Idaho’s plans are approved, other insurers in the state could also look to sell non-compliant ACA health plans. Other conservative states could also follow Idaho’s example and allow for similar plans. […]

    Link

  198. says

    News of a scientist fighting back against Scott Pruitt:

    On January 26, after serving as a scientific advisor to the Environmental Protection Agency for about two years, Robyn Wilson received her first note from EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt thanking her for her service—which was officially over. […]

    [Pruitt] implemented a new policy that barred scientists who hold EPA research grants from serving on any of the 23 scientific advisory boards—independent committees that study everything from air quality to environmental justice in order to provide up-to-date, unbiased research to direct EPA policy.

    Wilson, a behavioral decision scientist of 12 years, occupied a seat on the nearly 50-member Science Advisory Board. She was informed shortly after Pruitt’s policy change that she would have to choose between her own EPA grant, funding a study on Lake Erie farmers’ decisions around conservation and water quality, or serving on the board. Wilson chose her grant in November and was officially fired in January.

    The Science Advisory Board has been transformed by Pruitt from a committee stacked with some of the top environmental experts in the nation to a panel of many representatives from industries the EPA regulates. Pruitt has installed 16 new committee members, 14 of whom consult or work for the fossil fuel or chemical industries, […]

    Wilson is pushing back against the rule that cost her the board position. She joined a lawsuit brought by advocacy groups like Physicians for Social Responsibility and National Hispanic Medical Association and two other scientists that argues the directive violates federal ethics requirements. A month later, nonprofit science advocacy organization Union of Concerned Scientists also filed a complaint that says Pruitt’s new policy fails to explain the conflict posed by EPA grant funding, and states that “no such evidence exists” to back it up.[…]

    RW: It’s really just targeting these academic scientists and arguing that we don’t have the ability to give objective advice on issues that are important to the agency because we’re studying issues important to the agency. These people have been identified as having the most relevant and current knowledge about what’s going on, yet you’re not going to let them be on the board. […]

    This is an inappropriate action being taken by the federal government and the right thing to do is to push back on it […] My dean said, “Well, if we get any contacts from our state legislature or governmental affairs we’ll just tell them that for 150 years Ohio State has been serving the people of Ohio in making sure that our science is translated into actionable information that people can use to inform policy and make management decisions, and by mission, that’s what we do. Anything that prevents us from doing that is a threat to us.” […]

    MJ: What is the overall goal of the legal filing?

    RW: It’s to overturn the directive. I don’t have a personal goal of getting back on the board because by the time the lawsuit is over my first term would have ended, and I’m sure I won’t be invited back. I think I’ve shot myself on the foot on that one. It’s in defense of science. It’s the idea that the directive seems to be targeting scientists that are the most independent on the board. […]

    MJ: If the lawsuits prevail and you’re invited back, would you consider it? Do you think you and your colleagues might have any reservations returning to the boards under Pruitt?

    RW: I think people would go back—I would. This year has really mobilized people, especially in the environmental science realm. If we’re constantly going to be attacked, let’s find ways that we as citizens can be active.

    Link

  199. says

    Another White House official has resigned because he would not receive a permanent security clearance.

    […] George David Banks, who had served since February 2017 as special assistant to the president for international energy and environmental policy, told POLITICO that he was informed by the White House counsel’s office Tuesday that his application for a permanent clearance would not be granted over his past marijuana use. […]

    Link

    That makes three officials who have left in one week: Rob Porter, speechwriter David Sorensen, and now Banks.

    Last I heard, the turnover rate for the Trump administration’s first year was 34%. Maybe it has crept up.

  200. says

    From Wonkette;

    This is almost a nice time story, because while it’s about some heinous fuckery most foul involving Immigration and Customs Enforcement, it’s just plain old criming by a grifty ICE attorney, not some horrible official immigration policy turning America into an authoritarian hellhole people run away from to Canada. It’s almost a breath of fresh air to learn that the chief counsel for ICE in Seattle, Raphael A. Sanchez, has been charged with two felonies after allegedly stealing immigrants’ identities so he could then apply for credit cards in their names. […]

  201. David Marjanović says

    1. Did Trump reimburse Cohen the $130,000?

    That’s what I’d normally expect, indeed take for granted. But normal times are long over. Trump stiffs his creditors so often that I’m prepared to consider the possibility he’s doing it right now, too, and Cohen is being honest even though he never meant to…

  202. David Marjanović says

    Oh. Instead of closing the second blockquote tag, I opened a new one. Nice rendering, though.

  203. says

    David @261, yeah, I thought of that too. Cohen may have been promised reimbursement for the $130,000 and then never received it. I think must be such a toady to Trump for other reasons. Fellow money launderer?

    In other news, Mike Pence is blithely and stupidly repeating a long-since debunked claim about the Russian meddling in the election. Pence said:

    Vice President Mike Pence said it is the “accepted view” that despite efforts, the outcome of the 2016 presidential election was not impacted by foreign meddling.

    “Irrespective of efforts that were made in 2016 by foreign powers, it is the universal conclusion of our intelligence communities that none of those efforts had any impact on the outcome of the 2016 election,” Pence said at an event in downtown Washington on Wednesday.

    No, you doofus, that is not what the intelligence community said. Here’s what the intelligence community said:

    We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election. The US Intelligence Community is charged with monitoring and assessing the intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign actors; it does not analyze US political processes or US public opinion.

  204. says

    Whoops. In comment 262, I meant to refer to David’s comment 260.

    In other news, Trump reluctantly and petulantly said this today:

    I am totally opposed to domestic violence and everybody here knows that. I am totally opposed to domestic violence of any kind. Everyone knows that and it almost wouldn’t even have to be said. So now you hear it but you all know it.

  205. says

    Well, this should be interesting. Is Stormy Daniels now free to discuss her affair with Trump because Michael Cohen talked about the case publicly?

    Stormy Daniels, the pornography star whom President Donald Trump’s personal attorney acknowledged paying $130,000 just before Election Day, believes she is now free to discuss her alleged sexual encounter with Trump, her manager told The Associated Press Wednesday.

    Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, believes that Trump attorney Michael Cohen invalidated a non-disclosure agreement after two news stories were published Tuesday: One, in which Cohen told The New York Times that he made the six-figure payment with his personal funds, and another in the Daily Beast, which reported that Cohen was shopping a book proposal that would touch on Daniels’ story, said the manager, Gina Rodriguez.

    “Everything is off now, and Stormy is going to tell her story,” Rodriguez said. […]

    Link

  206. says

    The price for Trump’s vanity parade of military equipment could be as high as $30 million. Estimates range from $10 million to $30 million.

    […] “I’ve seen various different cost estimates of between $10 million and $30 million depending on the size of the parade, the scope of it, the length of it, those kind of things,” Mulvaney said.

    It’s not clear if $30 million includes the cost of road repairs, if Donald orders the military to drive tanks down Washington, DC streets, or if the nation’s capitol city will be expected to foot the bill for that bit themselves. And the parade is not included in the White House “budget” plan, so that money will have to be re-allocated from somewhere. […]

  207. says

    There’s been a school shooting in Broward County, Florida. It is the 19th school shooting in 2018, and we are still in the month of February.

    Police in Broward County, Florida responded to a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

    The Broward County Sheriff’s office said it was “working a developing incident regarding a report of active shooter.”

    Link

    About twenty people are believed to have been injured. Reports are preliminary. We don’t have details.

  208. says

    Yeah, it’s not news that Julian Assange was/is biased against Hillary Clinton, but these newly leaked Twitter messages prove his bias to be, well, venomous.

    […] The Intercept published direct messages between the official @wikileaks Twitter account, run by Assange, and about 10 of the organization’s top supporters […]

    “We believe it would be much better for GOP to win,” Assange wrote from the organization’s official account. “Dems+Media+liberals would then form a block to reign [sic] in their worst qualities. With Hillary in charge, GOP will be pushing for her worst qualities., dems+media+neoliberals will be mute.”

    “She’s a bright, well connected, sadistic sociopath,” he added.

    Assange went on in other messages to mention Clinton’s foreign policy record as a top reason for Wikileaks’ opposition to the Democratic Party during the election.

    “Hillary has the greater freedom to start wars than the GOP and has the will to do so,” he said.

    Another leaked message containing anti-Semitic undertones targeted an Associated Press reporter critical of Wikileaks over his Jewish ancestry.

    “He’s always ben a rat,” Assange posted in the Twitter group, referring to AP reporter Raphael Satter. “But he’s jewish and engaged with the ((()))) issue.”

    The Intercept’s report follows an admission from Donald Trump Jr., who worked on his father’s presidential campaign, back in November that he privately messaged with Wikileaks during the campaign.

    […] the correspondence continued until July 2017.

    Link

  209. says

    What the Teamster’s Union in NYC is doing to fight Trump’s ICE thugs:

    […] In 27 shops, business agents, supervisors and front-line workers are getting schooled on their rights under U.S. law — and when and how to challenge federal immigration agents who show up to search their work sites. […]

    NY Daily News link

  210. says

    So Rick Gates evidently filed something pro se yesterday. It’s mysterious, but this explanation – “Or he spent the very last of his money on Green so Green could help him with the plea deal, and now that the deal is done he’s just tidying up” – makes sense, especially given this report:

    HIGH DRAMA among the lawyers at Rick Gates/Manafort hearing this a.m.: Tom Green sauntered into the courtroom as public was exiting (first time we’ve seen him at court or with Gates).
    He whisked Gates away to chat privately—without Gates’ trial lawyers.

  211. says

    Oh no – CNN is saying their sources have told them that 16 people have been killed in the Florida shooting. They just showed the suspect being brought into the police station.

  212. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    SC#270 #271, Any reports of irresponsible gun ownership by the shooter or or their parents? It obviously happened, and severe (extended jail time) should result….

  213. militantagnostic says

    From Lynna’s Link @255

    Navarro – whose campaign adviser is Roger Stone, and who was recently forced to resign as local traffic commissioner following accusations of pepper-spraying a child – has still not taken down his tweet. “I wanted to know if it was real,” Navarro told ThinkProgress. “We wanted to verify the truth of this.

    Those two “best people” deserve each other.

  214. says

    Nerd:

    SC#270 #271, Any reports of irresponsible gun ownership by the shooter or or their parents? It obviously happened, and severe (extended jail time) should result….

    I haven’t seen anything yet. I’ve seen reports that the shooter is a former student who had been expelled, and that he had an AR-15. Florida has ridiculously lax gun laws.

  215. says

    I have read 12 school shootings so far this year, 17 shootings, and 19 shootings. I’m going to wait for this to shake out a bit and then try to track down a definitive number. Even the lowest number is too many.

    In this shooting, 17 people died. The former student who did the shooting had previously been expelled. At least one teacher said at the time that he dangerous.

  216. says

    SC @279, thanks. That looks like solid information.

    In other news, Trump is using the Department of Justice as his personal hit squad to beat up on CNN.

    In a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) sent last week, four top congressional Democrats laid out reams of evidence suggesting that President Trump is improperly using the proposed Time Warner-AT&T merger to pressure Time Warner-owned CNN for gentler coverage.

    “[W]e are deeply concerned by reports of inappropriate interference by the White House,” the Democrats wrote to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose department sued to block the deal in November. The Democrats also took Sessions to task for declining to say, during congressional testimony, whether DoJ communicated with the White House on the issue. […]

    Merely by picking the fight, Trump appears to be putting news organizations on notice that he’s willing to use the powers of the federal government to hurt them if they don’t play nice. […]

    Link

    Trump must be delighted to have taxpayer dollars to use in going after his enemies.

  217. says

    Ken Dilanian, in response to Pruitt’s saying he flies first class because of (anxieties over) “unpleasant interactions” – which he calls “security concerns” – with people in coach: “I once was on a flight to Boston sitting behind then-FBI Director Robert Mueller and his wife, presumably on a personal trip. In economy class.”

  218. says

    “CNN Exclusive: At least 100 White House officials served with ‘interim’ security clearances until November.”

    “This is why Kushner’s gargantuan debt matters.”

    How the hell is Kushner still there? Hundreds of millions (and counting) deep in debt,* under federal criminal/counter-intelligence investigation, shady meetings with Russian officials, family business under investigation in New York, lied on and repeatedly revised disclosure forms, called bridgegate “badass,” ignored warnings about interactions with a possible Chinese agent and Chinese officials,… And he’s totally fucking useless!

    * And I agree with Rubin – wtf is going on with their credit card debt? They seriously owed over $100,000 on a Visa card?

  219. says

    BREAKING: More than 130 political appointees working in white house didn’t have permanent security clearances as of November 2017, including Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and Don McGahn, according to internal documents obtained by NBC News.”

    McGahn?!

  220. says

    Rick Scott just spoke. “NRA on Florida’s governor (2014): ‘Rick Scott has an unmatched record of support for the Second Amendment in Florida…Rick has signed more pro-gun bills into law in one term than any other governor in Florida history’.” Now Pam Bondi, an AG Trump bribed via his bogus foundation not to investigate his fraudulent “university,” is speaking.

  221. says

    Jason Kander:

    The leadership of the @NRA has an agenda and it ain’t got a damn thing to do with gun rights. It’s 100% about gun sales. This Republican Congress is trading the lives of children for campaign contributions.

    We will win. This will not go on forever.

    At this point it’s also about a reactionary, white-supremacist political project.

  222. says

    This is a useful thread, but there’s a problem with: “The last 50 years redefined womanhood: women were taught they can be anything. No commensurate movement for men who are still generally locked into the same rigid, outdated model of masculinity and it’s killing us.” The women’s movement has long included, of necessity but also of desire, a redefinition of “manhood,” as a central element. (This has obviously been seen as threatening by a large number of men.) You don’t need to reinvent the wheel here – just join us.

  223. says

    SC @283, all that debt must make Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump desperate. Desperate people cut corners when it comes to ethics. And I noticed that the lines of credit on their credit cards increased a lot just recently. The situation, financially speaking, is getting worse.

  224. militantagnostic says

    SC @383

    How the hell is Kushner still there? … And he’s totally fucking useless!

    You answered your own question right there.

  225. David Marjanović says

    Silly me. Cohen only said he “facilitated the payment” with his “own personal funds”, and that “neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign” reimbursed him. That leaves a whole bunch of other options.

    Right under that link, we find:

    “We’re only six weeks into the new year, and the U.S. just suffered through the eighth school shooting of 2018 to result in death or serious injury. The latest, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in south Florida, was particularly horrific, leaving 17 people dead and between 20 and 50 more injured (depending on which report you believe).

    The customary Showing of Concern has officially begun:

    [tweet by Trump: "prayers and condolences" like after a natural disaster]
    [tweet by Rubio: "that terrible day you pray never comes" like after a natural disaster]
    [tweet by Nelson: prayer, spoke to undersheriff and FBI "to ensure they have averything they need" like after a natural disaster]

    Soon, these gentlemen and their colleagues will transition into the next stage of the process, the ritual Doing of Nothing, as we await school shooting #9. And #10, #11, and #12. Oh, and don’t expect Trump to mention that the shooter—Nikolas Cruz—was fond of repeating Donald-esque rhetoric, especially anti-Muslim rhetoric, and had numerous pictures on social media showing him in a MAGA hat.”

    “She’s a bright, well connected, sadistic sociopath,” he added.

    That’s… fascinating. Is he projecting?

    Trump is the imbecile the malign NRA spent tens of millions to get in office.

    But never fear! They were reimbursed by the Russian criminal-presidential complex – in advance!

    And he’s totally fucking useless!

    And we have to be glad about that! Imagine if he actually tried to Bring Peace to the Middle East™.

    men who are still generally locked into the same rigid, outdated model of masculinity

    In the US, and in Turkey. Not that much in between…

    “Ramaphosa Elected South African President After Zuma Quits.”

    At least!

  226. says

    “Trump’s Inaugural Committee Paid $26 Million to Firm of First Lady’s Adviser”:

    President Trump’s inaugural committee paid nearly $26 million to an event planning firm started by an adviser to the first lady, Melania Trump, while donating $5 million — less than expected — to charity, according to tax filings released on Thursday.

    The nonprofit group that oversaw Mr. Trump’s inauguration and surrounding events in January 2017, the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee, had been under pressure from liberal government watchdog groups to reveal how it spent the record $107 million it had raised from wealthy donors and corporations.

    Its chairman, Thomas J. Barrack Jr., a longtime friend of Mr. Trump, had pledged that the committee would be thrifty with its spending, and would donate leftover funds to charity.

    But the mandatory tax return it filed with the Internal Revenue Service indicates that the group’s charitable donations included only an already publicized $3 million for hurricane relief, plus a total of $1.75 million to groups involved in decorating and maintaining the White House and the vice president’s residence.

    The 116-page filing indicates that the overwhelming majority of the funds went toward expenses related to the inauguration, with the biggest share — nearly $51 million — split roughly evenly between two companies.

    One of the companies, WIS Media Partners of Marina del Rey, California, was created by a longtime friend of Mrs. Trump, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, according to a person familiar with the firm. Records show that the firm was created in December 2016, but otherwise there is very little information available about it….

    And, to add to the pile of evidence that Trump has, as Tony Schwartz put it, no redeeming qualities…“‘Who Needs a Controversy Over the Inauguration?’: Reince Priebus Opens Up About His Six Months of Magical Thinking.”

  227. says

    Maggie Haberman: “As former aides now speak out about bad the White House actually is on the inside, recall that some of these same people insisted on record our collective accurate reporting about the situation in the West Wing was false for much of 2[0]17.”

  228. says

    Trump Administration Moves To Preemptively Kill DACA’s Last Best Chance

    […] Republican and Democratic senators nailed down a difficult compromise on immigration that has been weeks in the making—a bill that provides a 12-year path to citizenship for young immigrants known as Dreamers, allocates the full $25 billion President Trump has demanded for the U.S.-Mexico border, bans the parents of DACA recipients from ever receiving citizenship, and bars legal permanent residents from sponsoring their adult, unmarried children. […]

    At 1 a.m., the Department of Homeland Security released a hyperbolic screed against bill, saying it “destroys the ability of the men and women from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to remove millions of illegal aliens. It would be the end of immigration enforcement in America and only serve to draw millions more illegal aliens with no way to remove them.” The lengthy press release added that the bill “ignores the lessons of 9/11 and significantly increases the risk of crime and terrorism”—though the bill has no provisions at all regarding the student, business and tourist visas used by the perpetrators of 9/11—and said the bill “would effectively make the United States a Sanctuary Nation where ignoring the rule of law is encouraged.”

    As Senate supporters of the compromise were working to whip up the 60 votes necessary to pass it Wednesday night, White House officials told the Washington Post they were doing the opposite—calling lawmakers and asking them to oppose it. In a sign the lobby effort may be working, two Republican senators who had participated in the bipartisan talks, Sens. James Lankford (R-OK) and Bob Corker (R-TN), announced Thursday they would oppose the compromise bill.

    At noon on Thursday, the White House issued a formal threat to veto the bill.

    “President Trump has shown a remarkable ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory,” fumed Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) Thursday morning about the White House veto threat. “Why? Because it isn’t 100 percent of what the president wants on immigration? That’s not how democracy works. You don’t get 100 percent of what you want in a democracy. Maybe in a dictatorship.” […]

    Link

    Comments from other Senators:

    “There are a lot of things in it I have been against, like the $25 billion for the wall,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI). “And I would have preferred the parents be protected. We have to find a way outside of this bill for the parents not to be deported. So, it’s going to be a huge compromise.”

    “We need to get certainty for these kids, even if we have to make some tough compromises,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) said after receiving a briefing about the new bill from Democratic leaders. “They said we’re going to have to vote our conscience, but they think this is the best that can be done in this short period of time.”

    Input from deal-destroying Trump:

    President Donald Trump on Wednesday urged senators to vote against any immigration proposal other than his own plan, courting a showdown with Republican and Democratic senators who oppose the White House’s desire to curb family-based migration and would like to cut a narrower deal. […]

    Mr. Trump’s stance amounted to a demand that the Senate significantly cut legal immigration as part of any legislation.

  229. says

    From 17-year-old junior at Stoneman Douglas High School, Cameron Kasky:

    Sitting in front of a computer now. Just now got home. Might be able to post some semi-clear thoughts. Today was awful. Today was a tragedy. Today, thousands of people within one square block felt pain and confusion.. had no idea what to do or what was happening. I was locked in a room with about 20 kids and a teacher (there were two other adults, but they were specialists for some special needs kids who also found shelter where we did.) Everybody was saying different things, everybody was spreading rumors… I heard at least three names dropped as to who the shooter was. We were all so distracted looking at our phones that we forgot somebody was shooting up our school as we spoke. So many people died. So, so many people died. Stoneman Douglas is an amazing school and I couldn’t be luckier to go there. We have seriously prepared for this type of event and on many occasions. Without our amazing faculty, there is a good chance many more would have been killed. I’m feeling my #EaglePride really hard right now; I only wish I could feel it under better circumstances.

    There are two less obvious awful things here. First of all, Rubio and Scott are about to send their thoughts and prayers. Those guys are garbage and if you voted for them, go to hell. You’re just as bad as they are.

    Another thing is the social media aspect. First of all, I saw a news station ask a kid to follow them over social media so they could ask him questions DURING the shooting. Hope they all accompany you Scott Rubio and Trump supporters in hell.

    Worse than that, I was shown video of people being shot. People bleeding. Dead bodies. All over snapchat. And everybody was seeing and sharing that. Taking a video and showing the police is heroic. Taking a video and sharing with the world? Go to hell with the rest of the people I’ve sent there in this post.

    On a positive note, those lost will never be forgotten and the entire community will come together and remember just how lucky we are to have what we have.

    Please don’t pray for me. Your prayers do nothing. Show me you care in the polls. Anyone who is reading this is luckier than many people today. Remember that.

    Thanks for reading

    https://www.facebook.com/cameron.kasky.5/posts/1993994157485089

    The account has been verified as authentic. Also, there are additions to the post above that were posted later. The kid was also interviewed by the Sun Sentinel.

  230. says

    Is Trump blaming the shooter’s classmates?

    So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!

    As has already been noted on the Evergreen Tweet thread, what are authorities supposed to do after they are notified? Existing laws don’t really support action. Existing counseling options are inadequate. As SC noted up-thread, State Attorney General Pam Bondi supported Florida laws to make it easier for teenagers to buy guns. The AR-15 the shooter used was purchased legally.

  231. says

    SC @305, so far we have this picture of the shooter:

    – other students say he abused his girlfriend
    – other students say he picked fights with his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend
    – the shooter supported Trump, wore a MAGA hat, and reposted some of Trump’s nonsense
    – the shooter was a member of a white supremacist group
    – the shooter was expelled from school for violence, but there was apparently no follow up after that
    – the shooter posted about previous school shootings in a seemingly admiring way
    – the shooter’s Spanish teacher said he was reluctant to speak Spanish

  232. says

    More from the AP:

    12:50 p.m.

    The leader of a white nationalist militia says Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz was a member of his group and participated in paramilitary drills in Tallahassee.

    Jordan Jereb told The Associated Press on Thursday that his group, the Republic of Florida, wants Florida to become its own white ethno-state. He said his group holds “spontaneous random demonstrations” and tries not to participate in the modern world.

    Jereb said he didn’t know Cruz personally and that “he acted on his own behalf of what he just did and he’s solely responsible for what he just did.”

    He also said he had “trouble with a girl” and he believed the timing of the attack, carried out on Valentine’s Day, wasn’t a coincidence.

    Nineteen-year-old Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder in the shooting.

  233. says

    Here’s an article about the Republic of Florida from 2015. Even if what this guy is claiming isn’t true, these are the groups being ignored while the DoJ focuses on “Black Identity Extremists” and animal/environmental activists.

    “I’m angry. I’m full of HATE,” Jereb wrote on Facebook last week. “I’m not gonna lie about it. If there were a few hundred clones of me this system would have quite a situation on its hands. That is really how I feel. Is feeling that way a crime? Maybe. But blacks feel the same way and nobody seems to get mad at them for it.”

    Days before that, barely a month after being released from jail on burglary charges, Jereb also professed his love for Molotov cocktails and shared a video that details an argument for when it’s okay to shoot a police officer.

  234. says

    Hallie Jackson – “Steve Bannon met with Mueller multiple times over the past week”:

    Steve Bannon, who served as President Donald Trump’s chief strategist, was interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller over multiple days this week, NBC News has learned from two sources familiar with the proceedings.

    Bannon spent a total of some 20 hours in conversations with the team led by Mueller,…

    Bannon appeared Thurday in closed door hearings before the House Intelligence Committee, but the session was brief. Bannon only answered 25 questions and refused to discuss events that took place after the 2016 presidential election, including the transition and his time inside the White House.

    Republican chairman Mike Conaway of Texas said after the hearing ended that he would consult with lawyers and House Speaker Paul Ryan about potentially holding Bannon in contempt of Congress.

  235. says

    Follow-up to #303 – “Russian toll in Syria battle was 300 killed and wounded: sources”:

    About 300 men working for a Kremlin-linked Russian private military firm were either killed or injured in Syria last week, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

    A Russian military doctor said around 100 had been killed, and a source who knows several of the fighters said the death toll was in excess of 80 men.

    The timing of the casualties coincided with a battle on Feb. 7 near the Syrian city of Deir al-Zor where, according to U.S. officials and associates of the fighters involved, U.S.-led coalition forces attacked forces aligned with Moscow’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

    Russian officials said five citizens may have been killed but they had no relation to Russia’s armed forces.

    The clashes show Moscow is more deeply involved in Syria militarily than it has said, and risks being drawn into direct confrontation with the United States in Syria.

    The casualties are the highest that Russia has suffered in a single battle since fierce clashes in Ukraine in 2014 claimed more than 100 fighters’ lives. Moscow denies sending soldiers and volunteers to Ukraine and has never confirmed that figure.

    Russian officials deny they deploy private military contractors in Syria, saying Moscow’s only military presence is a campaign of air strikes, a naval base, military instructors training Syrian forces, and limited numbers of special forces troops.

    But according to people familiar with the deployment, Russia is using large numbers of the contractors in Syria because that allows Moscow to put more boots on the ground without risking regular soldiers whose deaths have to be accounted for….

  236. says

    Russian bots are flooding Twitter with pro-gun support in the wake of the shooting in Parkland, Florida.

    WIRED link

    […] In the wake of Wednesday’s Parkland, Florida school shooting, which resulted in 17 deaths, troll and bot-tracking sites reported an immediate uptick in related tweets from political propaganda bots and Russia-linked Twitter accounts.

    Hamilton 68, a website created by Alliance for Securing Democracy, tracks Twitter activity from accounts it has identified to be linked to Russian influence campaigns. […]

    some accounts with large bot followings are already spreading misinformation about the shooter’s ties to far-left group Antifa, even though the Associated Press reported that he was a member of a local white nationalist group. […]

    Well, isn’t that helpful. Not.

    Example:

    The shooter was a registered Democrat and a member of Antifa.

    Why does this not shock me at all?

    Maybe because you have to be a total piece of shit to belong to either of those groups.

    Rot in hell, loser.

    The shooter was actually a member of a white supremacist group.
    https://www.thedailybeast.com/nikolas-cruz-trained-with-florida-white-supremacist-group-leader-says

  237. says

    Follow-up to comment 262.

    Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper also debunked Mike Pence’s claims.

    […] “I have great respect for Vice President Pence, but in this case, I must respectfully disagree,” Clapper told NPR. […]

    “The intelligence community has neither the authority nor the capability to make such a judgment as to whether there was or was not impact on the election,” Clapper said. “And we did not say that.”

    Clapper added that it was “absolutely” possible that foreign influence campaigns had swayed voters, even though authorities had not made a definitive ruling on the matter.

    “I will say now that I’m not in an official position that it stretches credulity, given the magnitude, scope and depth of the Russian efforts, that they didn’t have impact on individual voter decisions,” Clapper said. “But again, the intelligence community did not and could not gauge the impact on individual voter decisions.”

    Clapper said he and other intelligence officials had “made that point clear” to President Donald Trump and his transition staff when they briefed him last January before he took office.

    Link

    So, the point was made clear to Trump and to his transition staff, which was headed by Mike Pence. But, apparently, Pence and Trump can’t stop themselves from telling the same lie over and over.

  238. says

    For our “all the best people” file:

    One of Trump’s judicial nominees once called diversity a “code for relaxed standards,” […]

    Gordon Giampietro was nominated by Trump for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin […] said the “federal government crossed a constitutional divide when it claimed the authority to bar discriminations on the basis of race in private inns and restaurants” with the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    Giampietro commented on the post in March of 2014.

    “Absent slavery, there might have been a vibrant federalism that allowed for differences of opinion to exist side by side until the truth will out,” Giampietro wrote.

    “Absent slavery, there is no racial spoils system, no calls for diversity — which is code for relaxed standards (moral and intellectual) — and no eye-rolling when appeals are made to ‘states rights.’ In short, because we denied blacks the fundamental human right to freedom we sowed the seeds of our own loss of freedom.” […]

    Link

    Weirdness. And here are more excuses for bigotry from Giampietro:

    No one would disagree with the fact that children, all the social science research shows this, are best raised by a man and a woman.

    This is natural, this is the truth, and it’s irrefutable. And so I think it has to be articulated in a way which isn’t dismissive of those troubled relationships, but it is reaffirming of the truth of marriage.

  239. says

    Matt Pearce:

    “FYI: As far as I can tell, nobody has been able to 100% verify the ‘Republic of Florida’ leader’s claims that Nikolas Cruz was part of his white nationalist group.

    If it’s some kind of hoax, by Jereb or someone else, needless to say it is an enormously, *enormously* stupid one.”

  240. says

    “I will say now that I’m not in an official position that it stretches credulity, given the magnitude, scope and depth of the Russian efforts, that they didn’t have impact on individual voter decisions,” Clapper said.

    I’m glad one of them finally came out and said it.

  241. says

    From Susan Matthews:

    […] I don’t know whether Nikolas Cruz struggled with mental health problems, and I doubt the president does, either. But say Cruz does. Let’s think for just one moment how Donald Trump’s America has served him.

    […] Trump reversed a law that would have made it harder for people with mental illness to get guns. The law had been drafted following the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting that killed 20 children and eight adults (including the shooter and his mother). The president did not offer an explanation for his reversal.

    […] Trump crusaded for several iterations of new health care policy that would have obliterated mental health care access. His namesake bill, which did not pass, had provisions to roll back mandates that required Medicaid to cover mental health care. The Senate bill, which also did not pass, would have allowed private insurers to remove mental health care from the list of essential benefits they are required to pay for. This legislation dovetails with how Trump talks about mental health issues—he relies on platitudes about strength rather than taking it seriously as a medical issue, and he flattens issues of drug addiction into demonstrations of personal failure that he assumes could have been fixed if people had just a little more willpower. Given all of this, I have extremely limited faith in Trump’s ability to “tackle the difficult issue of mental health.”

    I find Trump’s comments hard to stomach for another reason, though. The most established association we find in people who commit this kind of violence is not mental illness. It is anger. […]

  242. says

    One of Trump’s judicial nominees once called diversity a “code for relaxed standards,” […]

    If nothing else, Trump and the dim, incompetent, corrupt, embarrassing white dudes with whom he’s surrounded himself have forever destroyed this myth, so that’s something.

  243. says

    From Ryan Koronowski:

    […] In 2013, a ThinkProgress analysis found that while in every state you need proof of ID to vote, in 39 states you can buy an assault rifle at gun shows or online without a background check and with no proof of ID. About 40 percent of gun purchases in the United States happen through this “gun show loophole.” Florida is one of those 39 states.

    Nikolas Cruz, aged 19, could not legally buy a drink, but he could legally purchase the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle used in the shooting. It’s the same type of gun used in massacres at Sandy Hook, Aurora, San Bernadino, and Las Vegas. Cruz bought this gun legally, according to Peter J. Forcelli, the special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Miami.

    It was easy for Cruz to buy a gun in Florida because Florida’s gun laws make it easy to buy guns.

    You don’t need a license or registration to own a gun. Assault weapons are unregulated. For rifles and shotguns, you do not need a permit to conceal carry (though handguns do require it). You can buy as many guns at one time as you want. A gun seller in Florida needs no license to sell guns in the state. […]

    Voting, however, is only getting harder, and it’s because Florida has made it harder to register to vote for years. The state even refused to extend the voter registration period while millions were fleeing Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Florida is one of just a few states that permanently bars felons from voting, although this year voters will vote on a constitutional amendment that would change this. For years, Floridians have endured reduced early voting hours, voter purges, and voter registration restrictions. Florida has no online voter registration in place, unlike most other states. […]

  244. says

    SC @326, that’s so depressing that I think I’ll pause before I comment on it.

    In other analysis on the school shooting in Florida, here is an excerpt from a piece by John Cassidy, writing for The New Yorker:

    […] Republicans bear the primary responsibility […] Ever since Sandy Hook, it is their craven subservience to the gun lobby that has prevented meaningful action, even as the carnage that Rubio referred to has continued.

    “Turn on your televisions right now and you are going to see scenes of children running for their lives,” Chris Murphy, the junior Democratic senator for Connecticut, said on the Senate floor on Wednesday afternoon. “Let me just note once again for my colleagues: this happens nowhere else other than the United States of America. This epidemic of mass slaughter, this scourge of school shooting after school shooting, it only happens here. Not because of coincidence, not because of bad luck, but as a consequence of our inaction. We are responsible for a level of mass atrocity that happens in this country with zero parallel anywhere else.”

    The key concept in that excellent peroration was responsibility. Even with the blood of defenseless children flowing along the corridors of schoolhouses, the U.S. government has abdicated its duty to protect. And that, it bears repeating ad nauseum, is a national disgrace.

  245. says

    “Russian opposition leader slams Instagram for caving in to the government”:

    U.S. tech giants were thrust into the middle of the battle for Russian Internet freedom on Thursday as Instagram apparently bowed to a court order to block access to posts that embarrassed an oligarch and a top government official.

    Russia’s telecommunications regulator also said it had ordered service providers to block the website of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, whose team dug up Instagram posts that showed metals magnate Oleg Deripaska and Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko socializing on a yacht in Norway.

    Navalny had posted a YouTube video showing the Instagram posts and presenting evidence that women aboard Deripaska’s yacht worked for an escort service, and it went viral in Russia last week. Deripaska successfully sued for the removal of the posts and Navalny’s video, claiming they violated his right to privacy, and this week the government started implementing the court order.

    On Thursday, telecom regulator Roskomnadzor said that it had ordered Navalny’s website blocked and that it was satisfied that the Instagram posts that Deripaska sought to remove were no longer available. Google, however, had not yet complied with the demand to take down Navalny’s video on its YouTube platform, the agency said.

    Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Facebook, which owns Instagram, issued a statement saying that governments may ask the company to restrict access to content they say violates their laws.

    “We review such requests carefully in light of local laws and where appropriate, we make it unavailable in the relevant country or territory,” a Facebook spokeswoman said.

    Navalny criticized Instagram on his Twitter account, which remained accessible….

    The expressed concern with privacy is a nice touch. In other Russia news, the Kremlin is being blamed for the NotPetya attack. All things considered, not a great day for Putin.

  246. says

    Bill Browder re #330: “After all the Russian fake news and videos that have been disseminated on Google, the company now is bowing to Putin pressure to block Navalny’s Deripaska/‘model’/Putin official video.”

    Seriously. As the WaPo story notes, they haven’t yet taken it down. You can watch it at the link @ #75 above.

  247. says

    “Ajit Pai Is Reportedly Being Investigated by the FCC’s Inspector General [UPDATED]”:

    During his short tenure as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai has made so many destructive and controversial decisions it’s hard to keep up. However, his decision to change broadcast TV ownership rules, clearing the way for a massive acquisition by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, has always been one of the shadiest. And it was apparently so shady that the FCC’s inspector general has opened an investigation into any wrongdoing.

    Numerous members of the administration are the subject of various investigations at the moment, including the EPA’s Scott Pruitt, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and his staff, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. And of course, many members of the White House including the president himself are subjects of Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling and obstruction of justice. Throw in the recent resignation of Staff Secretary Rob Porter, which has set off a firestorm of concern over the 130 political appointees who still haven’t managed to get a security clearance, and it’s quite apparent this administration has some staffing problems.

    We have no word on the status of the investigation of Chairman Pai, but in the short term, it could easily complicate the FTC’s review of the Sinclair deal. And wouldn’t that be a shame?

  248. says

    Update to #269! – “Exclusive: A top Trump campaign adviser close to plea deal with Mueller”:

    Former Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates is finalizing a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office, indicating he’s poised to cooperate in the investigation, according to sources familiar with the case.

    Gates has already spoken to Mueller’s team about his case and has been in plea negotiations for about a month. He’s had what criminal lawyers call a “Queen for a Day” interview, in which a defendant answers any questions from the prosecutors’ team, including about his own case and other potential criminal activity he witnessed.

    Gates’ cooperation could be another building block for Mueller in a possible case against President Donald Trump or key members of his team.

    Gates’ plea deal could be announced in the next few days, given that he’s asked a judge for an extension until Wednesday to discuss his in-flux legal representation….

  249. says

    NYT editorial – “The N.R.A. Can Be Beat: It’s time to vote the gun lobby out of office.”:

    …Though many Americans, and some elected officials, have taken a stand to stanch the epidemic of gun violence, the National Rifle Association and its congressional servants have been an unyielding obstacle to sensible reform.

    But the gun lobby’s stranglehold on our elected officials does not need to continue, if candidates stand up to the lobby and voters demand that they commit themselves to the sorts of changes that a vast majority of Americans want.

    With midterm elections coming up this fall, America has a chance to get that message across. Candidates must realize that reducing gun violence is a winning and moral issue. Aggressive turnout by voters who believe this can defeat the N.R.A. at the polls. Until then, the bloodshed will continue.

  250. says

    SC @339, Ronan Farrow and The New Yorker did a good job of laying out the ways in which a group of powerful men all worked together to pressure Karen McDougal into signing away her right to talk. Those men also took 45% of the money that was offered for silence.

    An especially icky detail: just like he did with Stormy Daniels, Trump told McDougal that she was a lot like his daughter Ivanka.

    That group of men also made multiple promises to McDougal of jobs, hosting events, etc., and then they broke those promises.

  251. says

    Follow-up to comments 41, 42 (Chris), 45, 50, 79, 233 (SC), 235, 240, 302, and 326 (SC).

    Trump is still brazenly lying:

    Cannot believe how BADLY DACA recipients have been treated by the Democrats…totally abandoned! Republicans are still working hard.

    From Steve Benen:

    […] Trump is the one who rescinded DACA protections for the Dreamers. At the risk of noting details that are already painfully obvious, if he didn’t want to see these immigrants “totally abandoned,” he wouldn’t have totally abandoned them.

    Trump is also the one who’s now rejected or walked away from six different bipartisan efforts to protect Dreamers from the president’s own policy.

    Indeed, it’s stunning just how far Democrats have been willing to go as this debate has unfolded. I, for example, have never seen much value in trading DACA for a border wall, largely because that’s a “compromise” in which Trump gets something he says he wants in exchange for something Trump says he wants. […]

    But as of yesterday, Democrats were willing to accept that deal anyway as part of the Rounds-King proposal that Republicans filibustered on the Senate floor. […] Trump and his team could’ve taken “yes” for an answer, but instead they worked as hard as they could to kill the measure.

    The president insisted upon an even-further-to-the-right proposal, which slashed legal immigration, and which struggled to get 39 votes yesterday in a Senate that has 51 Republican members. […]

    This isn’t complicated: if Trump wants to help Dreamers, he would. He could bring back DACA. He could extend his own arbitrary deadline. He could accept one of the many bipartisan offers he’s been presented with. But the president hasn’t done any of these things, and that’s almost certainly because he doesn’t want to.

    Instead of defending his position, Trump, whose rise to power was fueled in part by anti-immigration animus, is lying about it. […]

  252. says

    As part of the debate over gun control, the Washington Post reported:

    One reason the positions are so intractable is that no one really knows what works to prevent gun deaths. Gun-control research in the United States essentially came to a standstill in 1996. After 21 years, the science is stale.

    “In the area of what works to prevent shootings, we know almost nothing,” Mark Rosenberg, who, in the mid-1990s, led the CDC’s gun-violence research efforts, said shortly after the San Bernardino shooting in 2015.

    In 1996, the Republican-majority Congress threatened to strip funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention unless it stopped funding research into firearm injuries and deaths. The National Rifle Association accused the CDC of promoting gun control. As a result, the CDC stopped funding gun-control research — which had a chilling effect far beyond the agency, drying up money for almost all public health studies of the issue nationwide.

    The NRA blocked the collection of data … a lot of people still don’t realize that. It’s the NRA that also claims there is “no current scientific consensus about guns and violence.”

    We do have evidence that deaths by gun decline in states that pass stricter gun control laws, like Connecticut.

  253. says

    Breaking: Special counsel releases new indictment against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities accused of violating U.S. criminal laws in order to interfere with U.S. elections and political processes.”

  254. says

    The indictment is available at the link @ #345, and also on the Special Counsel site.

    A federal grand jury in the District of Columbia returned an indictment on Feb. 16, 2018, against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities accused of violating U.S. criminal laws in order to interfere with U.S. elections and political processes. The indictment charges all of the defendants with conspiracy to defraud the United States, three defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and five defendants with aggravated identity theft.

  255. says

    Pp. 2-3: “From in or around 2014 to the present, Defendants knowingly and intentionally conspired with each other (and with persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury) to defraud the United States…”

  256. says

    SC @345, 346, and 347: I can’t help but notice that it was not Congress or Trump who spurred these indictments. It was Robert Mueller. Is he the guy who is truly interested in protecting U.S. elections?

    The indictment also states that the 13 Russian nationals and 3 entities worked to support Donald Trump and to disparage Hillary Clinton.

    As an aside, it is interesting to see Russian bots supporting both sides of the gun control issue, (though weighted towards NRA-like views), in order to sow division and discontent. The result of increasing raged-filled division will be no new gun control laws.

  257. says

    I’m only about a quarter of the way through, but Mueller’s team has a lot of information about the actions, communications, and inner workings of these people and organizations.

  258. says

    Oh, FFS. I’ve lost count of how many times Jared Kushner filed changes to his financial disclosures. But, apparently, he still can’t get it right:

    Jared Kushner quietly filed an addendum to his personal financial disclosure adding even more previously undisclosed business interests in recent weeks — and may have even more to disclose, […]

    Kushner […] wrote a letter to White House Deputy Council Stefan Passantino dated Jan. 3, 2018 adding a number of additional business interests that had not previously been on his personal financial disclosure form.

    That letter, which has not been previously reported, corrects and adds new corporate positions and details of his companies’ structures that he legally was required to disclose, in a seeming attempt to square his filing with spouse Ivanka Trump’s as well as clean up some previously overlooked items. […]

    Top ethics experts say that while corrections and amendments happen from time to time, the number and scope of amendments Kushner has filed are highly unusual.

    “This is really out of the ordinary,” said Don Fox, a former acting director and general counsel of the Office of Government Ethics who served during the administrations of both President Obama and President George W. Bush. “It’s really uncommon you’d still be trying to get the form correct at this stage in the game and there’d have been as many amendments over such a protracted period of time that we have.”

    […] extensive business interests of Kushner and his family, including some troubled projects that reportedly have squeezed them financially and forced them to borrow heavily.

    The Internal Revenue Service and Justice Department have issued subpoenas to lenders and investors in real estate projects managed by Kushner’s family, Bloomberg reported Thursday, seeking information from people who lent money for Kushner Cos. projects in New York and New Jersey. According to Bloomberg, that likely stems from a separate investigation than the ongoing FBI probe into possible ties between Russia and Trump’s team.

    According to a separate recent update from Ivanka Trump, Kushner appears to have taken out millions more in loans in recent months, a sign that his business may be on the rocks. […]

    Even with Kushner’s latest updates, however, it appears as though his financial disclosure forms still may not fully be up to snuff under ethics law.

    The liberal group American Bridge combed through public records to identify Kushner holdings that he failed to report on his form, unearthing a handful more corporations that from publicly available information appear as though they should be disclosed. […]

    Link

    Looks like there’s more to come regarding this slow-motion implosion of the Kushner-Trump empire.

  259. says

    Follow-up to comments 339-342.

    The White House Response calls The New Yorker story “fake news,” but does not deny the affair. Say, what now?

    “This is an old story that is just more fake news. The President says he never had a relationship with McDougal,” the White House spokesperson is quoted as saying.

    From Maggie Haberman:

    The WH spokesperson here is unnamed but there’s been a shift in what people defending him say – it’s not “the president didn’t do XYZ,” it’s now “the president says he didn’t do XYZ.”

    https://twitter.com/maggieNYT/status/964472111208247297?

  260. says

    P. 17: “They engaged in operations primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump.”

  261. says

    P. 17: “Specialists were instructed to post content that focused on ‘politics in the USA’ and to ‘use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump – we support them)’.”

  262. says

    Maggie Haberman:

    See No. 46 in this indictment – big aspect of the Russian meddling was encouraging voting for a third party candidate, such as Stein. Trump campaign advisers also talked up Stein frequently.

    Promoting Stein was a big part of the Manafort campaign strategy in late spring/early summer.

  263. says

    From Steve Benen, regarding the Trump-McDougal sexual affair:

    […] Trump’s personal history isn’t especially interesting. His adulterous affairs are not new. The fact that he pursued women, while married, who worked in adult entertainment is probably a matter best left to Trump, his family, and his conscience.

    What does interest me, however, in Ronan Farrow’s New Yorker piece is the process Trump World had in place: “[McDougal’s] account provides a detailed look at how Trump and his allies used clandestine hotel-room meetings, payoffs, and complex legal agreements to keep affairs – sometimes multiple affairs he carried out simultaneously – out of the press.”

    And to me, that’s the important part. When we have a president, accused of a variety of serious misdeeds, who has a history of using “clandestine hotel-room meetings, payoffs, and complex legal agreements,” it matters more than his sordid romances.

  264. says

    Josh Dawsey: “Press was invited to get on Air Force One, then rushed off and hurried back inside as Melania Trump’s motorcade pulled up. Some screaming from a White House press aide. No pictures allowed of first lady’s arrival.”

  265. says

    I so wish journalists would stop repeating the line about how Trump doesn’t “accept” the reality of Russian interference (or any reasons for this provided by his hangers-on, like that he refuses to “accept” it because it would delegitimize his election). They don’t have to assume or suggest that he’s conspired with the Kremlin, but parroting his rhetoric closes off this possibility. It’s very annoying. Just say he refuses to acknowledge it.

  266. says

    John Brennan just tweeted: “DOJ statement and indictments reveal the extent and motivations of Russian interference in 2016 election. Claims of a ‘hoax’ in tatters. My take: Implausible that Russian actions did not influence the views and votes of at least some Americans.”

  267. says

    Wow.

    (I’m still amused about how a “US person,” responding to questions from the Russians posing as USians about their pro-Trump campaign, told them they should focus on purple states like CO, VA, and FL, and then so many of their emails to Trump supporters explicitly talked about how they were focusing on purple states. It’s funny to imagine them typing it with a Russian accent.)

  268. says

    From Representative Ted Lieu:

    Dear @realDonaldTrump: The DOJ indicted 13 Russian nationals at the Internet Research Agency for violating federal criminal law to help your campaign and hurt other campaigns.

    Still think this Russia thing is a hoax and a witch hunt? Because a lot of witches just got indicted.

    From Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz:

    This is a VERY well done hoax.

    From Representative Elijah Cummings:

    This is what President Trump and his allies have repeatedly called a “hoax” and “fake news.” This is what they tried to cover up. This is what we might never have known if President Trump had been successful in shutting down this investigation.

    From Representative Hakeem Jeffries:

    The more we learn about 2016 election the more ILLEGITIMATE it becomes. America deserves to know whether we have a FAKE President in the Oval Office.

  269. says

    More lies from the Trump administration:

    […] The indictment, which targets 13 Russian nationals and three Russian groups, details Russians’ alleged attempts to promote President Trump’s campaign while seeking to undermine his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

    “All of these efforts were about sowing confusion in the electoral process and undermining the next president, not about supporting one candidate over the other,” Shah [White House spokesman Raj Shah] asserted during an appearance on Fox News. […]

  270. Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?! says

    From Lynna @370:

    All of these efforts were about sowing confusion in the electoral process and undermining the next president, not about supporting one candidate over the other

    Take the next logical step. Please. Take the next fucking step. The Russians want to make us doubt democracy. They want us to doubt our political process. They want discord. They want confusion. They want doubt thrown on our domestic and foreign intelligence agencies. They want economic and social disruption in the US. And, in Donald Trump, they got it. In seven no trump. Redoubled.

    I don’t think the Russians cared if Trump won the election or not. Had he lost the electoral college and not just the popular vote, it would still have been chaos. This may go down in history as the greatest foreign intelligence operation in the history of the world.

  271. says

    “Exclusive: Group chat messages show school shooter obsessed with race, violence and guns”:

    In a private Instagram group chat, confessed school shooter Nikolas Cruz repeatedly espoused racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic views and displayed an obsession with violence and guns.

    Racism was a constant theme in the chat group, which was called “Murica (American flag emoji) (eagle emoji) great” — a name it was given by Cruz.

    The hatred he and others in the group espoused met little resistance from its active members. In one part of the group chat, Cruz wrote that he hated, “jews, ni**ers, immigrants.”

    He talked about killing Mexicans, keeping black people in chains and cutting their necks. The statements were not made in jest.
    There are hundreds of racist messages, racist memes and racist Instagram videos posted in the group.

    One member even joked about Cruz’s particular venomousness, saying that although he hated black people, too, he didn’t “to a point I wanna kill the (sic) like nick.”

    Cruz said he hated black people simply because they were black; Cruz hated Jews because he believed they wanted to destroy the world.

    After one member expressed hatred for gay people, Cruz agreed, saying, “Shoot them in the back of head.”

    White women drew Cruz’s hatred as well, specifically those in interracial relationships, whom he referred to repeatedly as traitors.

    There are no indications in the group chat that any member, including Cruz, is or was part of a white nationalist or white supremacist group.

    In a public post on his Instagram page, Cruz showed what he called an “arsenal” on a bed — seven guns and body armor. Another post on the page is a view down the barrel of a gun with a holographic sight out a window onto the street.
    His AR-15 and other guns were a frequent topic of conversation in the group chat.

    When it was payday, Cruz let the group know where the money was going to be spent.

    “Guys I got paid 330. I am buying body armor,” he wrote.

    Cruz did purchase the body armor, according to receipts he posted in the chat — with a $30 discount and free shipping.

    Then he asked the group whether it was legal to wear body armor to school.

    “School shooters,” he replied, when someone asked why he wanted to know.

    In his first message to the chat group, Cruz bragged about writing a letter to President Donald Trump — and receiving a response. CNN reached out to the White House for comment about any correspondence to and from Cruz but has not heard back.

    In two instances, Cruz also discussed killing small animals.

    He posted a photo on his Instagram account of a disemboweled frog, saying he had killed it because one had killed his dog. In the Instagram chat, he describes killing a number of birds with his gun.

    “He seemed nice but also had some mental issues,” one member told CNN. “All (I know) is that he likes guns and really hates liberals.”

  272. says

    “Special Counsel Prosecutors Say They’ve Found New Evidence Of Criminal Activity By Paul Manafort”:

    Special counsel prosecutors say they have uncovered new evidence of alleged criminal activity by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, according to a newly unsealed court filing Friday evening.

    Lawyers from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office wrote that they had learned new information about Manafort since the judge first ruled on a bail package that would allow him to leave home confinement, and were opposing Manafort’s bid to modify those terms of release.

    “That criminal conduct includes a series of bank frauds and bank fraud conspiracies,” prosecutors wrote, including criminal conduct related to the mortgage on one of the properties that Manafort said he would agree to forfeit if he failed to show up to court.

    Bank fraud was not part of the indictment returned by a federal grand jury against Manafort and his longtime associate and former senior Trump campaign official Rick Gates in late October. As of Friday evening, no new charges had been filed against Manafort or Gates on the public docket. Prosecutors wrote in the redacted document made public on Friday that they were prepared to present the new evidence they had found at a future bail hearing for Manafort….

    This is an interesting detail. Joyce Vance suggested to Rachel Maddow last night that it looks like Mueller is moving toward requesting the revocation of Manafort’s bail.

  273. says

    More re #s 303 and 313 above – “Putin’s Shadow Army Suffers a Setback in Syria”:

    …According to investigations in the Russian press, as many as two thousand or three thousand Russian contractors are involved in military operations in Syria. Most of them are linked to a structure called Wagner, a company that has apparent ties to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a onetime St. Petersburg restaurateur who became close to Vladimir Putin in the early aughts. Prigozhin ended up with lucrative contracts to supply food to the Russian Army and has taken to overseeing the sorts of enterprises that the Kremlin finds useful but doesn’t want to manage itself. On Friday, the special counsel, Robert Mueller, indicted Prigozhin and twelve other Russian nationals for allegedly interfering in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. He is widely linked to a so-called troll factory in St. Petersburg, where hundreds of people are paid to sit and create fake social-media accounts to foster discontent and confusion in political discussions online. Wagner was named by its commander, a former Russian special-forces officer named Dmitry Utkin, who is a fan of the German composer. In 2016, Utkin was photographed at a Kremlin ceremony in which Putin handed out awards for military valor.

    Many of the Wagner mercenaries previously fought with pro-Russia rebel groups in eastern Ukraine; their motives run from financial necessity to a kind of ultra-patriotic enthusiasm….

    So far, Russia’s campaign in Syria has given Putin a seemingly cost-free propaganda boost, but, with the Russian losses at Deir Ezzor coming a month before Putin is up for reëlection, things may get trickier to manage….

    The Kremlin fears, perhaps rightly, that it cannot sell a costly military engagement to the Russian people—it wants geopolitical leverage abroad and a patriotic boost at home without any echoes of the doomed Soviet war in Afghanistan or more recent campaigns in Chechnya….

    Much more at the link.

  274. KG says

    If Mueller is right, it’s interesting that the Russian agents were supporting Sanders as well as Trump, and opposing Cruz and Rubio as well as Clinton. That reads more like an attempt to produce a weak President (they may have thought Sanders personally weak, but in any case weak because his own party wouldn’t support him), than an attempt to get Trump elected – the polls indicated that Sanders would beat Trump easily, although of course we can’t know they were right, or even to prevent Clinton being elected – polls suggested Cruz had a better chance of beating Clinton than Trump did.

  275. says

    If Mueller is right, it’s interesting that the Russian agents were supporting Sanders as well as Trump, and opposing Cruz and Rubio as well as Clinton. That reads more like an attempt to produce a weak President (they may have thought Sanders personally weak, but in any case weak because his own party wouldn’t support him), than an attempt to get Trump elected – the polls indicated that Sanders would beat Trump easily, although of course we can’t know they were right, or even to prevent Clinton being elected – polls suggested Cruz had a better chance of beating Clinton than Trump did.

    I don’t believe the polls suggesting Sanders (who lost easily to Clinton) would beat Trump were reflective of reality. The Republicans weren’t using oppo against Sanders because it helped them against Clinton to promote alternatives to her, to divide the Left, and to diffuse Democratic energy; also, a common thread in books and articles I read about Trump supporters was their antipathy toward socialism. After it was clear she would receive the nomination and after she did, they could exploit continuing tensions to bash her more by posing as disgruntled Sanders supporters (ahem). I doubt they thought Sanders had a great chance of becoming the nominee – they supported him, or pretended to, in order to propagandize against Clinton and draw support and energy away from her candidacy.

  276. says

    Sen. Merkley:

    Let’s review:

    1. Trump manufactures DACA crisis
    2. Trump claims he wants a bipartisan deal to solve it
    3. Senators reach bipartisan deal
    4. Trump sabotages the deal, and with it, the futures of 1.8 million Dreamers.

    …5. Trump uses government funds to jet down to his private club for a long weekend. Sabotage is tiring.

  277. says

    SC @381:

    I doubt they thought Sanders had a great chance of becoming the nominee – they supported him, or pretended to, in order to propagandize against Clinton and draw support and energy away from her candidacy.

    Exactly. And it worked. This is so obvious that I’m having trouble getting my head around all the Trump supporters using the Russian propaganda for Sanders as proof that Russia really was just sowing discontent and not really supporting Trump. It takes a lot of self-delusion to get there.

    From Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the subject of Mueller’s indictments:

    I have no response. You can publish anything, and we see those indictments multiplying, the statements multiplying. Until we see the facts, everything else is just blabber — I’m sorry for this expression.

    From Andrei Kutskikh, the presidential envoy for international information security, told Russian state news agency RIA Novosti:

    There are no official claims, there are no proofs for this. That’s why they are just children’s statements.

  278. says

    From David Remnick, writing for The New Yorker:

    The President of the United States wakes each day, it seems, to another nightmarish crisis and addresses it as if in a state of frenzied denial. When faced with the hideous reality of yet another gun massacre, this time in Parkland, Florida, he dares not mention guns. (The N.R.A., which spent thirty-one million dollars to help get him elected, would not approve.) When faced with the testimonies of two women accusing his aide Rob Porter of beating them, he applauds the man’s fine work, wishes him a great career, and, only after days of delay, woodenly declares himself “totally opposed” to domestic violence.

    For well over a year, Donald Trump has dodged the subject of Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential charges of collusion and obstruction of justice. It’s all “phony,” a “hoax,” “fake news,” a “witch hunt.” Last year, during a multilateral summit in Vietnam, Trump met briefly with Vladimir Putin and then told reporters that he had asked the Russian President about election meddling. Not to worry, he told reporters: “Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that.’ And I believe, I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it.” […]

    Mueller’s indictment is in synch with the findings of the intelligence community—a collection of immense bureaucracies that Trump and his supporters have routinely denounced as a conspiratorial and establishmentarian “deep state” intent on undermining his Presidency. Trump has repeatedly expressed his fury with leaders of the C.I.A., the F.B.I., and the Justice Department, a toxic dynamic that seems, by now, more a constant state of affairs than a matter of fleeting temper. […]

    “This is a direct rebuke of the President’s ‘witch hunt’ narrative, that it was all invented from the start,” Jake Sullivan, one of Clinton’s closest policy and campaign advisers, told me. “These are meticulous criminal indictments showing that there was a campaign of interference to support Trump and to hurt Hillary. This also establishes a predicate crime, a criminal conspiracy—and that means that, if there were U.S. persons, or U.S. persons connected to Trump, involved, then they will be criminally exposed. What Mueller has done is to establish a criminal conspiracy. And, if Americans were party to this, they could be charged.” […]

    “There can be collusion without Putin’s direction,” Sestanovich said. Say a Trump surrogate gets a call from sketchy Russian hackers. “Does he turn them down? No. So a lot of this can go on without it being a whole comprehensive Putin strategy. But once you have ‘Putin’s chef’ involved, I am suddenly thinking, Wow. I don’t think the chef has his own foreign policy.”

    Stephen Sestanovich was a foreign-policy official and Russian expert in both the Reagan and Clinton Administrations

  279. says

    Joy Reid’s coverage of the Trump’s administration plans to replace half of SNAP benefits “with boxes of pre-selected non-perishable food items, and zero fresh food […] less healthy and more humiliating for the poor.”

    I was struck by the fact that Trump’s budget office is ignoring the fact that they would have to package and ship 16 million boxes per month. As far as cost goes, they are only pointing out that the government could buy in bulk at wholesale prices, while food stamp recipients must buy at retail cost.

    I don’t think Really Big Government has thought this through. They are also closing post offices in some rural areas, so delivery will be a problem. The shipping costs will be enormous. No fresh food will be shipped, it will all be stuff with a long shelf life.

    The logistics of packing and shipping that many boxes sounds like a job for Amazon, not for the Trump administration. The current SNAP program is a government-private partnership. You would think that Republicans would love that. It has been shown that food stamp money is spent locally and promotes the economy.

    How will Really Big Government know if they are shipping foods to people who may be allergic to some of the ingredients. They already plan to ship peanut butter.

    Trying to save money on the backs of the poor, while reducing the ability of the poor to make their own choices.

    Some food suppliers would make big bucks off this plan. The Trump administration would probably also count the value of the box of food at retail cost, (even though they bought wholesale), and would subtract that from money food stamp recipients receives. The dollars-per-person cost is already low:

    SNAP benefits cost $70.9 billion in fiscal year 2016 and supplied roughly 44.2 million Americans (14% of the population) with an average of $125.51 for each person per month in food assistance.

    That’s about $1.40 per person per meal. About 71 percent of the households receiving SNAP benefits are households with children. There are also elderly and disabled people, as well as veterans.

  280. says

    Follow-up to comment 383.

    From former Ambassador Sergei Kislyak:

    I’m not sure that I can trust American law enforcement to be the most precise and truthful source of information about what Russians do.

    I have never done anything of this sort. None in my embassy did. So whatever allegations are being mounted against us are simply fantasies that are being used for political reasons inside the United States in the fight between different sides of the political divide.

  281. says

    Team Trump, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, are all on the same page. They talk about compassion and safety, etc., but their actions are the opposite of their words:

    […] Funds targeted for reduction or elimination in […] Trump’s FY’19 budget request, which was released two days before the tragedy at a high school in Parkland, Florida, have helped pay for counselors in schools and violence prevention programs. In fact, the funding levels sought by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos would “completely abdicate responsibility” for school safety, violence prevention, and recovery, according to a report released Friday by the Center for American Progress (CAP).

    Immediately after Wednesday’s mass shooting, DeVos called on Congress to hold hearings on school safety but did not seek to mobilize the Department of Education’s resources to support students, families, and educators affected by the violence, the CAP report said. […]

    In the meantime, the Broward County (FL) Public Schools system is providing counseling for anyone who needs support in the wake of the mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

    In his budget request, Trump is seeking to cut $25 million, or 36 percent, from the Education Department’s funding for school safety activities. The department has called for the complete elimination of the Project School Emergency Response to Violence (Project SERV) and Project Prevent Grant programs. […]

    Think Progress link.

    See also: https://twitter.com/scottsargrad/status/964596400662204417

  282. says

    As expected, after Mueller indicted 13 Russians, Trump criticized the media for not pointing out how the indictments exonerate him and his campaign. The indictments do not exonerate him or his campaign, but never mind, let’s see what Hair Self-Absorbed Furor has to say:

    Funny how the Fake News Media doesn’t want to say that the Russian group was formed in 2014, long before my run for President. Maybe they knew I was going to run even though I didn’t know!

    The Russians were preparing ahead of time to meddle in the campaign. Preparing ahead of time to run a huge intelligence operation against the U.S. — something you wouldn’t understand, Hair Furor.

    Also, the Russian campaign could be described as an anti-Hillary campaign, so whether Hair Furor entered the fray or not, the campaign would be set up to serve Russia’s interests. Also, the Russian campaign switched to be more pro-Trump as it progressed. Russian meddling adjusted to the circumstances.

    By early to mid-2016, the U.S. concluded that the Russians were “supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaging Hillary Clinton” — something Trump has repeatedly refused to acknowledge.

    White House trumpian boot lickers are backing Trump up:

    “There are two groups that have created chaos more than the Russians and that’s the Democrats and the mainstream media. [They] continued to push this lie on the American people for more than a year, and frankly Americans should be outraged by that,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said Saturday on Fox News.

    Some of the backlash to Hogan Gidley’s comments:

    From Ashley Parker:

    This is patently false — and my guess is Hogan knows as much.

    From Ben White:

    Repulsive and false.

    From Zeke Miller:

    A reminder the DAG said yesterday Russia was engaged in “information warfare” against the US (and NSA echoed today). This is either an embarrassing misstatement by a White House official or a stunningly unsupported charge against fellow citizens.

    From Chris Cillizza:

    This is unreal. Patently false.
    2 things can be true:

    1. Russia actively sought to meddle in the 2016 election to help Trump and hurt Clinton.

    2. Trump’s victory is totally valid.

    I don’t understand why the president of the United States can’t grasp that.

    From Andrew Kaczynski:

    Gonna go on a limb and say the Russians hacking the DNC, John Podesta, other Democratic organizations, and Colin Powell + funding pro-Trump Twitter trolls caused more chaos.

    From Josh Schwerin, who thought that Gidley’s remarks defended Russians in the report:

    The US taxpayers are now financing Russia’s legal defense.

  283. says

    Just what we don’t need in the Trump administration, another billionaire who has been accused of demeaning women:

    Trump

    Trump’s pick for ambassador to the Bahamas, billionaire Doug Manchester, faced multiple complaints of inappropriate behavior from female employees at the San Diego Union-Tribune during his time as its owner, a new report reveals.

    While Manchester has not faced allegations of sexual assault or harassment, more than a dozen current and former female employees told The Washington Post that the wealthy real estate developer made them uncomfortable at work.

    After purchasing the newspaper in 2011, Manchester influenced the office culture in a way women said made the paper feel like a “boys club.” Manchester frequently gave hugs to young women at the paper and complimented them on their looks.

    The chief executive under Manchester, John Lynch, defended Manchester, describing the newspaper owner as “bigger-than-life” friendly and saying he “hugs everybody.”

    One woman even received a small financial settlement for her complaints of unwanted hugs from Manchester, and for unwanted texts from Lynch, which he has dismissed as opportunism. […]

    The Hill link

  284. says

    SC @396, there are now at least three school-walkout days proposed. Organizers should get their act together and go with just one day, and that way they’ll be more effective. Maybe one favorite day will win out here and the others will organize around that?

    I totally support this idea. Effective and peaceful protest.

    “March For Our Lives” is being organized by the survivors of the Stoneman Douglas High Schoo shooting. They propose a walkout on March 24th.

    On March 24th, you are going to be seeing students in every single major city marching, and we have our lives on the line here. And at the end of the day that is going to be what’s bringing us to victory, and to making some sort of right out of this tragedy.

    This is about us begging for our lives. This isn’t about the GOP. This isn’t about the Democrats. This is about us creating a badge of shame for any politicians who are accepting money from the NRA and using us as collateral.

  285. says

    Trump rolled the FBI investigation of Russian meddling in the U.S. election into a tweet meant to show disrespect to the FBI for failing to stop the shooting in Florida:

    Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign – there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!

    I’d like to see Trump spout that drivel to an audience of Parkland, Florida students. They would definitely call BS.

    Trump also dissed his national security advisor, H.R. McMaster fro comment McMaster made at the Munich Security Conference yesterday, (McMaster said that Mueller’s latest indictments provided “incontrovertible” evidence of Russian interference). Trump tweeted:

    General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems. Remember the Dirty Dossier, Uranium, Speeches, Emails and the Podesta Company!

    Trump attacked President Obama this morning, (again, in reference to statements made at the meeting in Munich, this time by his buddy Netanyahu):

    Never gotten over the fact that Obama was able to send $1.7 Billion Dollars in CASH to Iran and nobody in Congress, the FBI or Justice called for an investigation!

    That action by Obama was/is entirely defensible. See https://www.vox.com/2016/9/7/12830688/us-iran-cash-payment-ransom

    the Wall Street Journal story is actually describing a payment that President Obama announced back in January. The news here is that the payment had already been delivered — which is to say this is a story about details of timing and how the cash was delivered.

    And, as Solomon and Lee write, the payment was the result of an agreed settlement to a 35-year case in international court. It had nothing to do, as Royce says, with any “ransom” payment with Iran.

    Once you understand these facts, you’ll understand that this isn’t actually a story about a scandalous Obama administration payment to Iran. It’s a story about the way Washington’s debate over Iran is fundamentally broken.

    In very simple terms, this payment is the first installment of a refund for US weapons that Iran purchased but that America never delivered. It starts in 1979, the year of the Iranian Revolution. […]

    Much more at the link. Much more than Trump will ever read, much more than Trump is capable of understanding.

  286. says

    Trump also attacked Adam Schiff this morning:

    Finally, Liddle’ Adam Schiff, the leakin’ monster of no control, is now blaming the Obama Administration for Russian meddling in the 2016 Election. He is finally right about something. Obama was President, knew of the threat, and did nothing. Thank you Adam!

    I never said Russia did not meddle in the election, I said “it may be Russia, or China or another country or group, or it may be a 400 pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer.” The Russian “hoax” was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia – it never did!

    Now that Adam Schiff is starting to blame President Obama for Russian meddling in the election, he is probably doing so as yet another excuse that the Democrats, lead by their fearless leader, Crooked Hillary Clinton, lost the 2016 election. But wasn’t I a great candidate?

    Great Pollster John McLaughlin now has the GOP up in the Generic Congressional Ballot. Big gain over last 4 weeks. I guess people are loving the big Tax Cuts given them by the Republicans, the Cuts the Dems want to take away. We need more Republicans!

    OMFG! Maybe we would all be better off if Trump did go golfing today. The reporting around Trump not golfing today is that the optics would be bad since he is so close to Parkland, Florida.

    Schiff has always said that he thought the Obama administration should have done more to stop Russian interference. At the same time, he has never blamed Obama for the interference, and he has always acknowledged the tough position Obama was in. It was not that Obama “did nothing,” it was that perhaps he should or could have done more.

  287. says

    Former Representative David Jolly, a Republican from Florida who used to have the NRA’s support, has turned against the NRA. Jolly has some advice for voters:

    Republicans will never do anything on gun control. If this is the issue that defines your ideology as a voter, there are two things that I would suggest tonight. First, flip the house. Flip the house. Republicans are not going to do a single thing after this shooting we saw today.

    Ohio Governor John Kasich said today:

    I think the Congress is totally dysfunctional. I’ve never seen anything like it…They just can’t seem to get anything done. [Kasich went on to say that he favored expanding background check laws to cover private gun sales; banning bump stocks; and outlawing assault weapons like the AR-15] Common sense guns laws make sense.

    Meanwhile in news that includes Trump’s flurry of stupid tweets this morning (see comments 398 and 399), we have this shining example:

    If it was the GOAL of Russia to create discord, disruption and chaos within the U.S. then, with all of the Committee Hearings, Investigations and Party hatred, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They are laughing their asses off in Moscow. Get smart America!

  288. says

    From Jordan Fabian:

    […] The president has not criticized Russia for its election-meddling scheme, opting to focus on the ways he believes Mueller’s indictment exonerates his campaign from colluding with the Kremlin.

    “We’re losing sight of what we’re going to do about the threat posed by Russians,” former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Sunday on CNN. “[Trump] never talks about that.” […]

    He tweeted a dozen times over the past two days about the Russia investigation, and just once about the shooting victims. […]

    Trump has stayed away from the golf course while he’s been in Florida, even though the weather in Palm Beach has been warm and sunny, in what aides said is an effort to respect the 17 people who were killed in the shooting. […]

    Late Saturday night, Trump accused the FBI of missing “all of the many signals” about the alleged Parkland gunman because “they are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.” […]

    “It’s one thing for Trump’s cheerleaders on @FoxNews to take this ugly cheap shot against the FBI, but for the President to blame the FL shooting on their Russia investigation is disgusting,” tweeted former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) “Mr President, have you no shame? Wait. I know that answer.”

    Others pointed out that while the FBI has admitted it missed a tip about the shooter, the offices responsible are not tied to the Russia probe. […]

  289. says

    Trump’s budget proposal hobbles gun background checks:

    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Sunday called a White House budget proposal to reduce funding for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) “downright dangerous” in the wake of recent mass shootings.

    “While we are in dire need of an even stronger background check system in this country, like one that closes the Gun Show Loophole, the White House’s proposal would hurt one of the only firewalls we have in place to stop dangerous people from legally purchasing guns,” Schumer said in a statement.

    Schumer said the recently released White House budget proposal for fiscal year 2019 calls for a $12 million funding cut to NICS. The proposed cuts would specifically affect a program that provides states and local communities with resources to ensure they can access accurate records, Schumer’s office said. […]

    Link

  290. says

    Follow-up to comment 399.

    From Matt Shuham:

    […] Trump is incorrect in saying “I never said Russia did not meddle in the election.” At times he has specified that his campaign did not collude with Russia. But he has also frequently tossed nuance aside and called the entire Mueller investigation a “witch hunt,” or declared that “Russia is fake news.” […]

  291. says

    From Kyle Griffin:

    Trump has tweeted a dozen times about Russia since the Mueller indictment.

    He still has not indicated any plans to punish Russia for the actions laid out in the indictment (like imposing the sanctions Congress passed in 2017).

    https://twitter.com/kylegriffin1/status/965215621423214593

    The Senate approved the sanctions bill 98-2; and the House approved the bill 419-3.

    Why is Trump refusing to impose sanctions against Russia?

  292. says

    From Al Hoffman Jr., a Republican donor who lives in Florida:

    For how many years now have we been doing this — having these experiences of terrorism, mass killings — and how many years has it been that nothing’s been done? It’s the end of the road for me.

    I will not write another check unless they all support a ban on assault weapons. Enough is enough!

    NY Times link

  293. says

    Yes, Gates is going to testify against Manafort:

    Richard Gates, a former campaign adviser for President Trump, has agreed to testify against his former associate Paul Manafort as part of a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.

    The former adviser and Manafort business associate is reportedly nearing a deal with Mueller’s team and will plead guilty to fraud charges in the next few days, according to the Times.

    Gates and Manafort were both indicted in Mueller’s probe in October and pleaded not guilty to the charges. […]

    Link

  294. KG says

    SC@381,
    The mention of Rubio suggests that at least some of the messages referred to were from fairly early on, when it was not obvious Clinton would defeat Sanders (Rubio suspended his campaign on 15th March, at which point Sanders was definitely still in with a chance). As I said, we can’t know whether the polls suggesting Sanders would easily have beaten Trump reflected reality – but we can’t know they didn’t either, and nor could the Russians. While I think it’s likely Trump was their first choice, I also think it likely they would not have been staking everything on him winning. It’s highly plausible they would have preferred Sanders to Clinton (or any other remotely plausible Democratic candidate, or most of the Republican candidates) as President, for the reason I gave – even if he won, he could not, unlike Clinton, have counted on support from the Democratic establishment, making political deadlock or turmoil likely.

    Lynna, OM@383,

    This is so obvious that I’m having trouble getting my head around all the Trump supporters using the Russian propaganda for Sanders as proof that Russia really was just sowing discontent and not really supporting Trump.

    The two aims are not in the least incompatible. And the explicit exclusion of Sanders from those to be attacked does raise questions about whether getting Trump elected was the sole Russian aim. (It shouldn’t need saying, but in view of what you say, perhaps I do need to confirm that I’m not a Trump supporter!)

  295. says

    The WH announced wasn’t golfing earlier to honor the dead kids in Parkland. Then he dropped in on parties at Mar-a-Lago; watched TV; and sent off more than a dozen disgusting, mendacious, obstructionist public statements. Today, while funerals proceed for some of the kids murdered at Stoneman Douglas and students have organized a “lie-in” at the White House, Trump is…golfing.

  296. says

    So much for Trump blaming Russian interference in the 2016 election on President Obama:

    Former Vice President Joe Biden says he and President Barack Obama decided not to speak out publicly on Russian interference during the 2016 campaign after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to sign a bipartisan statement condemning the Kremlin’s role.

    Speaking on Tuesday at the Council on Foreign Relations, Biden said the Obama administration sought a united front to dispel concerns that going public with such accusations would be seen as an effort to undermine the legitimacy of the election.

    However, McConnell “wanted no part of having a bipartisan commitment, […]

    At that point, Biden added, he felt that “the die had been cast” and that “this was all about the political play.”[…]

    “Had we known what we knew three weeks later, we may have done something more,” Biden added.

    McConnell’s office disputed Biden’s account, as reported by Politico, “pointing to a letter signed by all four congressional leaders in September 2016 and sent to the president of the National Association of State Election Directors, urging cybersecurity precautions in light of reports of attempted hacking.”

    “That missive, however, did not address Russia specifically, or the larger topic of influence beyond voting systems,” Politico writes. […]

    NPR link

  297. says

    The mention of Rubio suggests that at least some of the messages referred to were from fairly early on, when it was not obvious Clinton would defeat Sanders (Rubio suspended his campaign on 15th March, at which point Sanders was definitely still in with a chance). As I said, we can’t know whether the polls suggesting Sanders would easily have beaten Trump reflected reality – but we can’t know they didn’t either, and nor could the Russians. While I think it’s likely Trump was their first choice, I also think it likely they would not have been staking everything on him winning. It’s highly plausible they would have preferred Sanders to Clinton (or any other remotely plausible Democratic candidate, or most of the Republican candidates) as President, for the reason I gave – even if he won, he could not, unlike Clinton, have counted on support from the Democratic establishment, making political deadlock or turmoil likely.

    Oh, I definitely think he would have vastly preferred Sanders to Clinton. But I believe his primary motives were to hurt Clinton and help Trump, which meant supporting her rivals and attacking his. I’m not sure about the distinction you make between “an attempt to produce a weak President (they may have thought Sanders personally weak, but in any case weak because his own party wouldn’t support him)” and “an attempt to get Trump elected.” Trump was (and remains) ideally weak and subservient, and openly damaging to the alliance holding Putin in check. I continue to think their support for Sanders was primarily aimed at hurting Clinton and helping Trump, and that they expected Clinton to be the nominee, but it’s interesting to imagine what their plan was for if Sanders had secured the nomination. I suspect they would have continued to overwhelmingly support Trump and to sow tension on the Left. They’ve certainly backed leftwing groups and candidates in Europe, but my firm sense is that they knew exactly what they would be getting with Trump, the Republicans, and the Religious Right (and Stein, but she never had a real chance of winning).

  298. says

    Interesting interview with someone who worked at the IRA, on domestic information warfare – “A former Russian troll speaks: ‘It was like being in Orwell’s world’.”

    “How Unwitting Americans Encountered Russian Operatives Online”:

    …The Heart of Texas group had more success with a Houston rally to “Stop the Islamization of Texas,” which provoked an angry confrontation in May 2016. United Muslims of America, another Russian creation, called its own rally to “Save Islamic Knowledge” for the same time and place, outside the Islamic Da’wah Center.

    A dozen people who turned out for the first event, some carrying rifles, Confederate flags and a banner saying “White Lives Matter,” faced off across a street with a far larger crowd of counterprotesters. The police kept the crowds apart, and there was no trouble at the event, which was caught on video.

    Later, on social media, some puzzled participants complained that no one from Heart of Texas, which had about 250,000 likes on Facebook, had shown up for the group’s own rally….

    This is nothing less than an overt attempt by the Kremlin to incite violence in the US.

    This always makes me laugh (a little):

    They were politically active Americans scattered around the country, dedicating their spare time to the 2016 presidential campaign or various causes. And the seeming fellow activists who called them to rallies via Facebook, or joined in the free-for-all on Twitter, appeared unremarkable.

    Except that their English sometimes seemed a little odd.

    Having read student papers at expensive colleges and universities, I can honestly say that, while there are some tells I look for, it would take more than someone’s English seeming a little odd to arouse notice. By this criterion, Chuck Grassley’s twitter feed would raise suspicions.

  299. says

    Breaking News: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court just issued a new congressional map for the 2018 election. Map comes after one in place was struck down as an unconstitutional gerrymander and lawmakers and governor failed to agree on a new plan.”

  300. says

    From Rachel Maddow:

    What this indictment actually shows, if anything, was that this foreign operation wasn’t some practical joke. This wasn’t a crank call. This wasn’t a lark.

    This was a Russian intelligence operation. This was a Russian intelligence at its most ambitious. This was expensive. In the indictment today, they say that the budget for this was more than a million dollars a month.

    It was expensive. It was extensive. It was well thought out. It was run by professionals and it was effective.

  301. says

    Members of the American Political Science Association’s Presidents and Executive Politics section, (170 scholars) ranked U.S. Presidents from best to worst.

    The top ten:
    1. Lincoln
    2. Washington
    3. F.D. Roosevelt
    4. T. Roosevelt
    5. Jefferson
    6. Truman
    7. Eisenhower
    8. Obama
    9. Reagan
    10. L.B. Johnson

    The bottom, or worst ten:
    35. Taylor
    36. Hoover
    37. Tyler
    38. Fillmore
    39. Harding
    40. A. Johnson
    41. Pierce
    42. W.H. Harrison
    43. Buchanan
    44. Trump

    And it’s not just Democrats who think Trump belongs in the worst category. Trump ranks #44 among Democratic scholars, #43 among independents, and #40 among Republican scholars.

    Maybe Trump should rage-tweet at the scholars. That’ll shut them up. Not.

    One can argue with the list, but most arguments still leave Trump is the bad category. Trump is a loser.

  302. says

    Update on Trump’s vanity parade of military hardware and personnel: the Pentagon needs donations.

    The Pentagon is considering soliciting donations to fund the President’s requested military parade, which could cost between $3 million and $50 million, according to preliminary estimates from a defense official […]

    Defense officials are also concerned about the lack of available troops to attend a parade […] A large-scale parade would require weeks of planning and the transportation of equipment, like tanks, to Washington, D.C. days ahead of time in order to prepare […]

    The Army has prepared five different parade options for President Trump to consider: “small, medium, heavy, hybrid and a multimedia display,” […]

    The small or medium option would include troops that are stationed in Washington, D.C. in ceremonial units and equipment that’s located nearby in Maryland and Virginia. The heavy option would require bringing in active duty troops, […]

    Link

    Military personnel are overwhelmingly against the parade. Some military personnel have suggested that Trump just wants to experience people saluting him. Trump seems to think that displaying military might is a proxy for displaying his own awesomeness.

  303. says

    What we hear from Russian leaders is that Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russians is a joke. (See comments 383 and 387.) However, ex-workers from the Russian troll farm think the indictment is pretty much spot on:

    […] several people who worked at the same St. Petersburg “troll factory” say they think the criminal charges are well-founded.

    Marat Mindiyarov, a former commenter at the innocuously named Internet Research Agency, says the organization’s Facebook department hired people with excellent English skills to sway U.S. public opinion through an elaborate social media campaign.

    His own experience at the agency makes him trust the U.S. indictment, Mindiyarov told The Associated Press. “I believe that that’s how it was and that it was them,” he said.

    The federal indictment issued Friday names a businessman linked to President Vladimir Putin and a dozen other Russians. It alleges that Yevgeny Prigozhin — a wealthy restaurateur dubbed “Putin’s chef,” paid for the internet operation that created fictitious social media accounts and used them to spread tendentious messages.

    […] Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Monday that while the indictment focuses on “Russian nationals,” it gives “no indication that the Russian government was involved in this in any way.” Peskov reasserted that Moscow did not interfere in the U.S. election. […]

    “These were people with excellent language skills, interpreters, university graduates,” [Mindiyarov] said, “It’s very hard to tell it’s a foreigner writing because they master the language wonderfully.”

    Another former worker at the St. Petersburg workshop, Lyudmila Savchuk, also described it as an efficient venture that churned out posts around the clock. […]

    “The most important principle of the work is to have an account like a real person,” Savchuk said. “They create real characters, choosing a gender, a name, a place of living and an occupation. Therefore, it’s hard to tell that the account was made for the propaganda. […]

    the Internet Research Agency purchased online advertisements using identities stolen from Americans and staged political rallies while posing as American political activists, the indictment alleges. The agency also paid people in the U.S. to promote or ridicule the candidates, the document states.

    While the U.S. indictment mentioned 13 people, many more must have been involved in the effort, according to Savchuk. Russian media reports said the troll farm employed hundreds of bloggers and commentators working in shifts.

    “Here they laugh about the news that 13 people could influence the elections in the U.S., but there were many more people doing that,” she said. “These technologies are unbelievably effective.” […]

    Link

  304. says

    Sickening comments from a White House official about the shooting in Parkland, Florida, as told to the Washington Post:

    For everyone, it was a distraction or a reprieve,” said one White House official, speaking anonymously to reflect internal conversations. “A lot of people here felt like it was a reprieve from seven or eight days of just getting pummeled.”

    The official likened the brief political calm to the aftermath of the October 2017 gun massacre in Las Vegas that left 58 dead and hundreds more injured. That tragedy united White House aides and the country in their shared mourning for the victims and their families.

    “But as we all know, sadly, when the coverage dies down a little bit, we’ll be back through the chaos,” the official said.

  305. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Lynna#421. I wish Congress would assert itself, and say no public monies can be spent on the parade, nor can the armed forces accept donations for such a parade. Trump wants a parade, he will have to go to the appropriate military base for those assets he wishes to review..

  306. says

    “Exclusive: Mueller’s interest in Kushner grows to include foreign financing efforts”:

    pecial counsel Robert Mueller’s interest in Jared Kushner has expanded beyond his contacts with Russia and now includes his efforts to secure financing for his company from foreign investors during the presidential transition, according to people familiar with the inquiry.

    This is the first indication that Mueller is exploring Kushner’s discussions with potential non-Russian foreign investors, including in China.

    US officials briefed on the probe had told CNN in May that points of focus related to Kushner, the White House senior adviser and son-in-law of President Donald Trump, included the Trump campaign’s 2016 data analytics operation, his relationship with former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Kushner’s own contacts with Russians….

  307. tomh says

    @ #420
    Interesting list. I can’t imagine what they think Reagan accomplished to place him so high. As for Eisenhower, just the fact that he accommodated Joe McCarthy for so long, simply for the sake of Republican unity, would drop him near the bottom for me.

  308. says

    “Netanyahu in deeper peril as more Israeli officials are arrested on corruption charges”:

    Less than one week after Israeli police recommended that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted on several corruption charges, a new legal minefield has opened up beneath his feet.

    Seven Israelis were arrested on Sunday in what the police call “Case 4000,” a new investigation in which members of Netanyahu’s innermost circle are suspected of intervening with regulators to help the Bezeq group, an Israeli communications giant then run by a close friend of the prime minister, in exchange for favorable coverage of Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, on a news portal owned by the company.

    Though Netanayhu has not been named as a suspect in the case, numerous Israeli news outlets reported on Sunday that he is expected to be questioned “under caution,” a term used for suspects in criminal cases.

    …Three polls published before the weekend show many Israelis believe the police version of events rather than that of Netanyahu, who claims he is the victim of a political witch hunt.

    “Netanyahu will keep meeting other leaders, he’ll keep on acting as if everything is normal as long as he can,” Meir Sheetrit, a former minister from Netanyahu’s political party, Likud, said in an interview. “But we know what direction this is going in: political defeat.”

    “This is untenable in the long term,” Sheetrit added. “Netanyahu and the Likud are disconnected from the people, floating along in a world in which their corruption doesn’t matter. But it will, and this won’t take long to come.”

  309. says

    More re #428. Conclusion: “Potentially Case 4000 could be much more damaging to Netanyahu than cases 1000/2000 on which police already recommended indicting him for bribery, as there are masses of open evidence of favors going both ways between him and Alovich. Many Bezeq execs and Walla journos testifying.”

    Another of Kushner’s suspect relationships, incidentally.

  310. says

    Evidently I’m one of about 3 people who liked Fergie’s rendition of the national anthem. (Oddly, I had exactly the same response as someone responding here – that it sounded like Marilyn Monroe. Still not sure why.)

  311. tomh says

    A slight ray of sunshine, From the NYT on the new congressional map just released by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. “Democrats couldn’t have asked for much more from the new map. It’s arguably even better for them than the maps they proposed themselves… Based on recent election results, the new congressional map comes very close to achieving partisan balance.”

  312. says

    tomh @427, I wouldn’t have ranked Reagan that high either. But in general, the list is good: the good guys are ranked high and the bad guys are ranked low. Trump achieved his lower-than-low ranking after only one year in office. Chris Hayes joked that, yes Trump is really awful, but that also the scholars apparently saw a lot of potential in Trump.

  313. consciousness razor says

    Evidently I’m one of about 3 people who liked Fergie’s rendition of the national anthem.

    I didn’t really love it, but no outrage here. I’ll count myself as #3. ;)

    Her voice was fine (not great, just acceptable), but the background music they piped in was awful. I have a feeling it was just recorded from a sequencer/sampler — hard to tell, really — but even if there were human performers, the arrangement felt lifeless and timid, especially when set against her vocals. It needed more notes, more dynamics and texture, more drum hits (preferably at less predictable times), more cowbell perhaps…. Alright, I’m starting to get a little outraged, but I’ll try to remind myself that I’ve heard much worse and that it’s probably going to be okay. I’ll report back in, once I’ve fully recovered.

  314. says

    Nerd @425, I agree. You said it well.

    In other news, Trump just endorsed Romney in that Utah Senate Race.

    .@MittRomney has announced he is running for the Senate from the wonderful State of Utah. He will make a great Senator and worthy successor to @OrrinHatch, and has my full support and endorsement!

    In other, other news, Shepard Smith, a Fox News Host, criticized Trump for the recent tweet storm:

    The president spent the weekend defending himself, misrepresenting the truth and attacking others from his phone in Florida.

    He did not attack Vladimir Putin or Russia, nor did he express concern that the Russians attacked the United States. Nor did he pledge in any way to put measures in place to stop future attacks.

    In reference to Trump claiming that he “never said Russia did not meddle in the election,” Shepard Smith said:

    But the reality is the president has questioned the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election over, and over, and over again. The president’s spokespersons have been on television denouncing the meddling, the president has not. Not once, not on camera, not on Twitter, not anywhere.

    It’s so odd to hear truth coming from Fox News. Rare, but welcome.

    Shep Smith’s occasional truth-telling will be swamped in the torrent of propaganda that Fox News will soon stream via a subscription service called “Fox Nation.” [horror, shudder]

    […] focus on right-leaning commentary and feature hours of original daily programming, including new anchors, fresh commentators and original shows. The digital product will also have some cameos from current Fox New stars including Sean Hannity, according to the Times. […]

    The cost of a subscription to view the web-only television programming is still being discussed, according to the Times, though a cable package will not be needed in order to subscribe.

    “Fox Nation is designed to appeal to the Fox superfan,” John Finley, who oversees program development and production for Fox News, told the Times. “These are the folks who watch Fox News every night for hours at a time, the dedicated audience that really wants more of what we have to offer.”

    Fox News is diving into the digital space after experiencing its highest-rated year in 2017, thanks in part to one of its biggest fans — President Trump — being elected to the Oval Office. […]

    Link

    An audience that “really wants more” rightwing propaganda? A “Fox Nation”? More fodder for super-superfan Trump? [The horror, the horror.]

  315. says

    tomh @434, that good news may be temporary. We’ll see. Sounds like the court did the right thing with the new map. Republican legislators in Pennsylvania are allergic to the right thing.

    Republican lawmakers are expected to quickly challenge it in federal court, arguing legislatures and governors, not courts, have the constitutional responsibility to draw congressional maps.

  316. says

    Oh, FFS. More threats of war with North Korea, this time from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson:

    “We’re not using a carrot to convince them to talk,” Tillerson said of North Korea. “We’re using large sticks. And that is what they need to understand.”

    “I’m going to use all the time available to me. Our diplomatic efforts will continue until that first bomb drops,” Tillerson said. “We don’t know precisely how much time is left on the clock.”

  317. says

    If Trump takes heating assistance away from poor people, their government boxes of food (proposed replacement for SNAP funds) will freeze. Not a problem, I guess, if the poor people also freeze to death.

    From the Associated Press:

    The Trump administration is once again calling for the complete elimination of a heating assistance program that helps to keep the homes of low-income families warm. […]

    The administration is using the same arguments from a year ago when it tried to abolish the program, saying it’s rife with fraud and that no one would be left freezing if the program goes away.

    “These arguments are very misleading and wrong,” said Mark Wolfe, director of the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association in Washington, D.C.

    The program, known as LIHEAP — Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program — helps families pay their heating bills primarily in the form of a grant that’s sent directly to utility companies or heating fuel vendors.

    https://apnews.com/3218910423c3415ba4dba6a6a5b25dbb/Trump-once-again-wants-to-cut-energy-assistance-to-the-poor

    LIHEAP helps six million poor households. Climate change is likely to result in more extreme weather events during the winter. So, you’ve got a some colder stretches of weather … and Trump wants to eliminate 90% of the funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

  318. says

    Some of the students who survived the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are turning out to be compelling advocates for gun control. How will the rightwing react? The rightwing will target the students with smear campaigns.

    […] David Hogg, a senior at the school, was one of the first to appear on national television and demand action. “We’re children. You guys are the adults. You need to take some action and play a role. Work together. Come over your politics and get something done,” Hogg said, looking directly into the camera.

    Hogg is now being targeted by Gateway Pundit, a far-right blog that has press credentials from the Trump White House. A post published on Monday by the site’s White House correspondent, Lucian Wintrich, features Hogg’s photo with the word “EXPOSED” stamped in red.

    Wintrich says Hogg and other students throw up some “red flags.” The first “red flag” is that Hogg’s father is a retired FBI agent. (Hogg freely admitted this on national television.) The insinuation is that Hogg’s father, who does not even work for the FBI, has tasked his son with talking about gun control to take the heat off the agency.

    Wintrich also uses an edited YouTube video of Hogg having some difficulty answering questions for a taped interview as evidence that Hogg is “heavily coached on lines and is merely reciting a script.” There is no evidence, in the video or elsewhere in the article, supporting this claim.

    Wintrich then drops all pretenses and fully embraces the conspiracy:

    “Why would the child of an FBI agent be used as a pawn for anti-Trump rhetoric and anti-gun legislation? Because the FBI is only looking to curb YOUR Constitutional rights and INCREASE their power. We’ve seen similar moves by them many times over. This is just another disgusting example of it.” […]

    Think Progress link

    And … there’s more of that utter garbage from the rightwing, including claims that “Student School Massacre Survivors and CBS Reporter Party Like Rock Stars.” No evidence of parties is offered. There are some photos of those brave students smiling. See, they are not crying constantly. That’s a crime.

    Gab, the social network that caters to white nationalists; and Reddit forums for Trump supporters, are also repeating the posts that attempt to smear the students.

    How long will it be before Limbaugh, Alex Jones and Fox News pick it up?

  319. KG says

    I’m not sure about the distinction you make between “an attempt to produce a weak President (they may have thought Sanders personally weak, but in any case weak because his own party wouldn’t support him)” and “an attempt to get Trump elected.” Trump was (and remains) ideally weak and subservient, and openly damaging to the alliance holding Putin in check. I continue to think their support for Sanders was primarily aimed at hurting Clinton and helping Trump, and that they expected Clinton to be the nominee, but it’s interesting to imagine what their plan was for if Sanders had secured the nomination. I suspect they would have continued to overwhelmingly support Trump and to sow tension on the Left. They’ve certainly backed leftwing groups and candidates in Europe, but my firm sense is that they knew exactly what they would be getting with Trump, the Republicans, and the Religious Right (and Stein, but she never had a real chance of winning). – SC@412

    I agree with most of this – with one exception (if I’m interpreting you correctly), there’s no more than a difference of emphasis between us, if that. I agree that Trump was Putin’s preferred candidate (and I think that in Europe as well, he prefers the nationalist-populist or outright fascist right, and backs left candidates or parties mostly when he sees an opportunity to divide the antifascist political forces). The likely exception is your reference to “the alliance holding Putin in check”. If you mean NATO, I don’t think it is holding Putin in check, because I don’t think the threat from him is military – Russian tanks are not going to roll over central or western Europe. Putin is a corrupt despot, but he’s not a fool (unlike Trump, I need hardly say). Russia (in the form of the USSR) already tried occupying and exploiting eastern Europe, from 1945-1989 – and look how that turned out: a smaller, weaker Russian Empire than at any time in the past few centuries. Putin’s territorial expansionism has been limited to small pieces of Georgia (the inhabitants of which are mostly non-Georgian minorities who may prefer Russian to Georgian overlordship), Crimea (strategically vital, historically Russian more than Ukrainian, and with a majority Russian-speaking population), and a slice of eastern Ukraine (again, mostly Russian-speaking). He could easily overrun Ukraine as a whole, and while this would hugely raise tensions, it would not lead to nuclear war or NATO intervention – but he hasn’t. The same is true of most of the other ex-USSR states. Russia lacks the administrative capacity to run central (let alone western) Europe, and depends economically on selling huge quantities of gas to the west for foreign exchange. What Putin wants, as demonstrated by the methods he is using, is a Russia ideologically and politically dominant in Europe, and recognised as an equal by the USA. His support in Russia depends to a large extent on hurt national pride, and the feeling of being beleaguered and isolated – which the eastward expansion of NATO (and the EU) did much to reinforce. NATO’s primary purpose, now as throughout its existence, is preserving American global hegemony – a purpose I am not inclined to support.

    Since the threat from Putin is political interference and the appeal of reactionary ideology rather than military force, the response needs to be primarily political and ideological. That doesn’t make it easy for the left. The appeal of nationalist-populist ideologies (outright fascism is still limited in appeal to a small minority) is an outcome of the decades-long predominance of neoliberalism, with its “free market” ideology and huge increases in economic inequality (combined, or at least compatible, with elements of social liberalism). Neoliberalism sucked in the traditional parties of the “centre-left” – the Democrats in the USA, social-democratic parties in Europe – all of which have offered nothing but a diluted version of neoliberalism, and so had no coherent response to the financial crisis of 2007 onwards. The actual left has to choose between trying to recapture these parties or building alternatives, and meanwhile between supporting them against the far right, or attacking their continued commitment to neoliberalism – and the correct answer will vary from country to country and from one situation to another. The first alternative risks leaving people only a choice between the right and the far right – with the far right likely to thrive when the next economic downturn hits; the second risks dividing the opposition to the far right, and helping Putin and his allies. And all the while, the world gets nearer the cliff-edge of environmental catastrophe.

  320. says

    “Netanyahu Faces New Accusations: Did His Adviser Try to Bribe a Judge?”:

    The mushrooming corruption scandal plaguing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel turned in a surprising new direction on Tuesday, with an allegation that one of his closest advisers had sought to bribe a judge into dropping a criminal investigation involving the prime minister’s wife.

    The new allegations significantly raise the level of political and legal peril he faces, suggesting that Mr. Netanyahu or his camp could be exposed to obstruction of justice charges.

    According to the police and Israeli news reports, Nir Hefetz, a top adviser to the prime minister, passed a message to a former judge, Hila Gerstel, through an intermediary in late 2015: Would she drop the case against Sara Netanyahu in exchange for being named attorney general?

    The case was not dropped, and Judge Gerstel, who was Israel’s commissioner for prosecutorial oversight, did not become attorney general. Avichai Mandelblit, who did get the job, announced in September that he intended to indict Sara Netanyahu on fraud charges, accusing her of misusing some $100,000 through her management of the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem….

    I agree with Josh Marshall – this is a bizarrely slow-moving chain of events.

  321. says

    BREAKING New plea scheduled in Mueller probe. Alex Van der Zwaan set to plead guilty this afternoon in false statements.”

    According to the responses, he’s “the son-in-law of a Russian oligarch with direct ties to Putin.”

  322. says

    CNN is saying Van der Zwaan is a lawyer who allegedly lied about his interactions with Rick Gates, so I have no idea whether the son-in-law claim is true at all.

    Does suggest Gates is cooperating, I would think.

  323. says

    NEW: @SkaddenArps distancing itself from indicted lawyer who worked on Ukraine corruption report commissioned by MANAFORT. Skadden statement: ‘The firm terminated its employment of Alex van der Zwaan in 2017 & has been cooperating with authorities in connection with this matter’.”

  324. says

    “Eastern Ghouta is another Srebrenica, we are looking away again”:

    …As in Bosnia, nobody attempted to protect the civilian population when a regime offensive began there in December after negotiations failed. The airstrikes and bombardments now taking a terrible toll are carried out with impunity by Syrian forces and their Russian backers.

    The UN has almost begged the pro-Assad coalition, which includes Iranian-led militias, to agree to an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. Its appeals have been ignored. Relief agencies’ pleas for access have also gone unanswered.

    The attention of the big powers – the US and Russia – and regional actors such as Turkey, is focused instead on a grand strategic game played over the corpses of half a million Syrians. Their eyes are on future control of a country in effect partitioned into zones of influence….

  325. says

    From the Washington Post, an article about U.S. policymakers traveling to other countries to tell allies to ignore Trump’s unhinged messages on Twitter:

    […] Amid global anxiety about President Trump’s approach to world affairs, U.S. officials had a message for a gathering of Europe’s foreign policy elite this weekend: Pay no attention to the man tweeting behind the curtain.

    U.S. lawmakers — both Democrats and Republicans — and top national security officials in the Trump administration offered the same advice publicly and privately, often clashing with Trump’s Twitter stream: The United States remains staunchly committed to its European allies, is furious with the Kremlin about election interference and isn’t contemplating a preemptive strike on North Korea to halt its nuclear program. […]

    I think that last bit is a reference to Rex Tillerson’s threats as well. See comment 439.

    From Steve Benen:

    […] The article quoted one diplomat who wondered aloud whether policymakers like White House National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, and others like him to adhere largely to traditional U.S. foreign policy positions “were falling into the same trap as Germany’s elite during Hitler’s rise, when they continued to serve in government in the name of protecting their nation.” […]

    New York’s Jon Chait added in August, “It is humiliating for the world’s greatest superpower to disregard its president as a weird old man who wanders in front of microphones spouting off unpredictably and without consequence.” […]

  326. says

    Follow-up to comments 434, 448, and 442.

    Trump weighed in on the new map of congressional districts for Pennsylvania:

    Hope Republicans in the Great State of Pennsylvania challenge the new “pushed” Congressional Map, all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary. Your Original was correct! Don’t let the Dems take elections away from you so that they can raise taxes & waste money!

    Well, at least Trump does recognize that the congressional districts, as drawn by the Republicans, was a partisan exercise. Being Trump, he advised Republicans to challenge the new map in a partisan manner. It’s all battles in Trump’s mind. Not democracy, nor voting rights, just battles to be won or lost.

  327. says

    Trump is making sure that the story of him assaulting women stays in the news. Trump tweeted:

    A woman I don’t know and, to the best of my knowledge, never met, is on the FRONT PAGE of the Fake News Washington Post saying I kissed her (for two minutes yet) in the lobby of Trump Tower 12 years ago. Never happened! Who would do this in a public space with live security cameras running. Another False Accusation.

    “Why doesn’t @washingtonpost report the story of the women taking money to make up stories about me? One had her home mortgage paid off. Only @FoxNews so reported…doesn’t fit the Mainstream Media narrative.

    From Steve Benen, at look at what parts of Trump’s screed (above) are false:

    To the extent that reality matters, Rachel Crooks doesn’t claim Trump assaulted her in a first-floor lobby; she alleges the incident was on the 24th floor. It’s right there in the article the president is complaining about without having read.

    What’s more, there’s literally no evidence of Crooks taking money to make up anything.

    Backstory, from the Washington Post:

    Crooks, 35, had been publicly reliving this story for much of the past two years, ever since she first described it in an email to the New York Times several months before the 2016 election. “I don’t know if people will really care about this or if this will matter at all,” she had written then, and after Donald Trump’s election she had repeated her story at the Women’s March, on the “Today” show and at a news conference organized by women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred. Crooks had spoken to people dressed in #MeToo sweatshirts and to her rural neighbors whose yards were decorated with Trump signs.

    In early February, she launched a campaign to become a Democratic state representative in Ohio, in part so she could share her story more widely with voters across the state. And yet, after dozens of retellings, she still wasn’t sure: Did people really care? Did it matter at all?

    Sarah Huckabee Sanders returns to hold a press briefing today after a many-days absence. I’m sure she can explain Trump’s tweet about Rachel Crooks.

  328. says

    Crooks also told several people contemporaneously (same day, IIRC). She’s responded to Trump’s tweets:

    Please, by all means, share the footage from the hallway outside the 24th floor residential elevator bank on the morning of January 11, 2006. Let’s clear this up for everyone. It’s liars like you in politics that have prompted me to run for office myself.

  329. says

    It’s entirely tangential, but I would bet money Trump didn’t write the tweets about Crooks – “(for two minutes yet),” “Only @FoxNews so reported.” Strange language for most USians, particularly his team, and pretty much impossible for him.