Comments

  1. says

    Quoted @ Lynna’s #460 of the previous iteration:

    NEW: Trump called EPA chief Scott Pruitt last night and said keep your head up, keep fighting, we’ve got your back.

    He reassured him, I’m told.

    Chief Kelly called this morning to reinforce the president’s message.

    Tomorrow’s tweet: “I’m Happy to appoint Chromium-6 as EPA Administrator. I know he’ll do a tremendous job. Thank you Scott Pruitt for your Hard Work.”

  2. Hj Hornbeck says

    Huh, here’s an interesting rumour. A senior reporter is suggesting Mueller’s team want to release an interm report in June or July about Trump’s behavior, possibly relating to obstruction, then carry on with the collusion part of the investigation. This might also be a negotiating tactic to get Trump to the table.

  3. says

    Yesterday, H.R. McMaster gave his last official speech as White House National Security Advisor. In that speech we can see why Trump got rid of him. McMaster is a realist who wants to get tougher on Russia. That is, to my mind, why Trump fired him.

    […] H.R. McMaster offered harsh words for Russia and said that the U.S. and the rest of the international community have not been tough enough on Russia.

    “We have failed to impose sufficient costs,” he said in a speech at the Atlantic Council.

    He warned that Russia “has used old and new forms of aggression to undermine our open societies.” McMaster offered the examples of the use of a nerve agent to poison a former spy in Britain, allegedly carried out by Russia, and cyber attacks on the U.S. […]

    Link

  4. says

    Yet another “infrastructure week” has withered on the vine. This time, another White House advisor quit as a result.

    President Trump’s top infrastructure advisor, DJ Gribbin, is leaving the White House

    The White House’s top infrastructure advisor is leaving the administration as […] Trump’s plans to inject funding to repair the nation’s roads and bridges will most likely have to wait until after the midterm elections.

    The White House said DJ Gribbin, who formulated the Trump plan released in February, is leaving to pursue other opportunities. […]

    Gribbin is the latest departure in a wave of exits — some forced and others voluntary — that have the White House on edge.

    Trump conceded last week that his plan would probably “have to wait until after the election.”

    From Steve Benen:

    It’s hard to blame Gribbin for exiting. He worked for months to craft the president’s infrastructure plan, which landed with a loud thud. It was designed to pass the Republican-led Congress, but the woeful blueprint faced swift resistance from lawmakers, and Trump admitted last week that the White House plan is effectively dead, at least for the rest of this year. […]

    And at that point, there really wasn’t much more for Gribbin to do.

    Of course, there’s a larger context to this. CBS’s Stephen Colbert recently joked, “The busiest person at the White House is whoever has to update the office contact list.” […]

  5. says

    From Alice Ollstein:

    Dating back to his mid-1990s reign in the House of Representatives, and continuing through his failed presidential runs and unsuccessful audition to be Donald Trump’s vice president, Newt Gingrich has led a crusade for rolling back protections for federal workers and eliminating entire agencies. Today, he is pushing from the outside for that same agenda — both as a contributor to Fox News, the President’s favorite source of information, and in private communications with the administration urging officials to conduct a “cleaning” and fire career civil servants suspected of disloyalty.

    Whistleblowers report that retaliation against nonpartisan federal workers is on the rise under the Trump administration, with career staffers being pushed out of many different government agencies. As investigations into these purges heat up, and as efforts on Capitol Hill to pass bills making it easier to fire career civil servants intensify, Gingrich is emerging as a key player to watch in the months to come. […]

    Much more at the link, including specific examples of people not loyal to Trump being purged.

  6. says

    “Trump instructs military to begin planning for withdrawal from Syria”:

    President Trump has instructed military leaders to prepare to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, but has not set a date for them to do so, according to a senior administration official.

    In a meeting with top national security officials Tuesday, Trump stressed that U.S. troops can be involved in current training tasks for local forces to ensure security in areas liberated from the Islamic State, the official said.

    But the president said that the U.S. mission would not extend beyond the destruction of the Islamic State, and that he expects other countries, particularly wealthy Arab states in the region, to pick up the task of paying for reconstruction of stabilized areas, including sending their own troops, if necessary.

    Trump on Tuesday had repeated his desire to quickly “get out” of Syria, even as his top commander for the Middle East outlined the need for an ongoing military presence there.

    Many military officials were taken aback by Trump’s stated intent, first mentioned last week, to withdraw from Syria. In a speech ostensibly devoted to his domestic infrastructure plans, Trump told a rally in Ohio on Thursday that U.S. forces would “be coming out of Syria, like, very soon.”

    On Tuesday, speaking at the U.S. Institute of Peace, Gen. Joseph L. Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, said, “A lot of very good military progress has been made over the last couple of years, but the hard part, I think, is in front of us.” Upcoming efforts, he said, include the military’s role in “stabilizing [Syria], consolidating gains” and “addressing long-term issues of reconstruction” after the defeat of the Islamic State….

    A gift to Putin, Assad, Erdoğan, ISIS, and Iran. A catastrophe for the Kurds. Lynna linked to a segment about the Kurds’ fight against ISIS. Engel presents a sanitized history of US involvement, but the interviews with Gen. Braga and with the Kurdish field commander Kobrani and Gen. Maslum Abdi talking about how they’ve been betrayed are important to watch.

  7. says

    Hj Hornbeck @ #6, this is the source:

    “Mueller told Trump’s attorneys the president remains under investigation but is not currently a criminal target”:

    Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III informed President Trump’s attorneys last month that he is continuing to investigate the president but does not consider him a criminal target at this point, according to three people familiar with the discussions.

    In private negotiations in early March about a possible presidential interview, Mueller described Trump as a subject of his investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Prosecutors view someone as a subject when that person has engaged in conduct that is under investigation but there is not sufficient evidence to bring charges.

    Mueller reiterated the need to interview Trump — both to understand whether he had any corrupt intent to thwart the Russia investigation and to complete this portion of his probe, the people said.

    Mueller’s description of the president’s status has sparked friction within Trump’s inner circle as his advisers have debated his legal standing. The president and some of his allies seized on the special counsel’s words as an assurance that Trump’s risk of criminal jeopardy is low. Other advisers, however, noted that subjects of investigations can easily become indicted targets — and expressed concern that the special prosecutor was baiting Trump into an interview that could put the president in legal peril.

    Mueller’s investigators have indicated to the president’s legal team that they are considering writing reports on their findings in stages — with the first report focused on the obstruction issue, according to two people briefed on the discussions.

    Under special counsel regulations, Mueller is required to report his conclusions confidentially to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who has the authority to decide whether to release the information publicly.

    “They’ve said they want to write a report on this — to answer the public’s questions — and they need the president’s interview as the last step,” one person familiar with the discussions said of Mueller’s team.

    If Mueller finds Trump engaged in criminal conduct, he could detail it in a report, experts argue, and let Congress to decide whether to launch impeachment proceedings based on Mueller’s findings.

    “The president’s personal risk is primarily on the impeachment front,” Whittington said. “Even if there are not things that lead to indictment, there may be matters that warrant an impeachment investigation and proceedings.”

    Some of Trump’s advisers have warned White House aides that they fear Mueller could issue a blistering report about the president’s actions….

  8. says

    “YouTube shooter’s father says she was angry at company”:

    The night before Nasim Aghdam opened fire in a courtyard at YouTube’s headquarters Tuesday afternoon, Mountain View police found the San Diego woman sleeping in her car.

    She had been reported missing by her family in Southern California, and her father Ismail Aghdam told police she might be going to YouTube because she “hated” the company. Police called the family at 2 a.m. Tuesday to say she’d been found and that everything was “under control,” her father said.

    But hours later, his daughter was dead of a self-inflicted gunshot after shooting three people and causing an afternoon of terror at YouTube’s headquarters.

    In an interview Tuesday night with the Bay Area News Group, Ismail Aghdam said his 38-year-old daughter told her family a couple of weeks ago that YouTube had been censoring her videos and stopped paying her for her content. “She was angry,” he said in an interview from his Riverside County home.

    Ismail Aghdam said his daughter was a vegan activist and animal lover….

    She told her family that YouTube had stopped paying her for the content she posted to the site, Ismail Aghdam said. YouTubers can receive payment for advertisements accompanying their videos, but the company “de-monetizes” some channels for various reasons, meaning ads don’t run with them.

    Aghdam was prolific on social media, posting videos and photos on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube. Her YouTube channel included strange workout video clips, graphic animal abuse videos and vegan cooking tutorials. But recent posts show evidence of her growing frustration.

    The family came to California from Iran in 1996, Shahran said. He said Nasim had been living recently with her grandmother in San Diego. “She was always complaining that YouTube ruined her life,” he said.

    He said she was missing since Saturday and not answering her cell phone. When he learned his sister was in Mountain View, he Googled the city and found out it was near YouTube headquarters.

    He said he called the Mountain View police, who found her and reported back that she was fine, and they would keep an eye on her….

  9. says

    As you already know if watched Rachel Maddow’s show last night, Cecile Richards is retiring as the CEO of Planned Parenthood. Richards has a new book out, “Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding The Courage To Lead.” Here is an excerpt from a review of the chapter in the book that describes a meeting with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump:

    “The main issue, he [Jared] explained, was abortion,” Richards writes. “If Planned Parenthood wanted to keep our federal funding, we would have to stop providing abortions. He described his ideal outcome: a national headline reading ‘Planned Parenthood Discontinues Abortion Services.’”

    According to Make Trouble, Kushner said that if Richards agreed to the plan then funding could increase, but he urged them to “move fast.”

    “If it wasn’t crystal clear before, it was now. Jared and Ivanka were there for one reason: to deliver a political win,” she writes. “In their eyes, if they could stop Planned Parenthood from providing abortions, it would confirm their reputation as savvy dealmakers. It was surreal, essentially being asked to barter away women’s rights for more money. It takes a lot to get [Richard’s husband] Kirk mad, but it looked like his head was about to explode.”

    Richards explained that there was “no way” Kushner’s proposal would work and that they’d continue to fight for funding.

    “Honestly, it felt almost like a bribe,” Richards remembers […]

    Since the meeting, Richards and Ivanka Trump have clashed publicly — mainly because of Ivanka Trump’s decision to remain silent about Republican attempts to defund Planned Parenthood.

    “At the time, [Ivanka] sounded like she was sympathetic, but I will tell you this White House has been worse for women than any administration I’ve seen in my lifetime,” Richards told PEOPLE in July 2017 about her meeting with Ivanka Trump. “It’s been very, very disappointing.”

    Link

  10. says

    Update on Trump’s trade war: the stock market opened 500 points down today. China announced new tit-for-tat tariffs, then they trolled Trump masterfully by referencing the World Trade Organization:

    The fears of U.S. farmers came true on Wednesday, after China’s Ministry of Commerce slammed the United States with retaliatory tariffs targeting a number of products, including soybeans.

    Beijing’s decision to impose steep 25 percent tariffs on 106 U.S. goods, impacting $50 billion in U.S. exports, comes one day after the Trump administration announced plans to target $50 billion in Chinese imports across a range of products.

    “As the Chinese saying goes, it is only polite to reciprocate. The Chinese side will resort to the WTO dispute settlement mechanism and take corresponding measures of equal scale and strength against U.S. products in accordance with Chinese law,” a Ministry of Commerce statement read. “We hope that the U.S. side, with sense and long-term picture in mind, refrain from going further down the wrong path.”

    The targeted items include aircraft, automobiles, and chemical products, but the inclusion of soybeans is perhaps most disconcerting to U.S. farmers, many of whom have lobbied the Trump administration in an effort to convince the president to step back from further aggressive trade moves.

    A bitter stalemate in North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiations has already hit farmers hard, as Mexico has shifted its efforts towards Brazil and other areas. Those same farmers are worried aggressive U.S. tariffs targeting countries like China might worsen the problem: soybeans are the leading U.S. agricultural import to China, meaning any action targeting the product could be devastating. […]

    Link

    Much more at the link.

    Trump continued to repeat one of his favorite lies: he says the trade imbalance with China is $500 billion. Velshi and Ruhle on MSNBC have debunked that claim many times. They have now decided that Trump is not mistaken or ill-informed, he is just lying. Here is a fact-check from another source.

  11. says

    “Wearing Black? Feds Say You May Be an Anarchist, Newly Released Documents Show”:

    Counterprotesters at white supremacist rallies risk being characterized as “anarchist extremists,” even if they have nothing to do with the movement, Department of Homeland Security documents show.

    A September 2016 DHS report describes law enforcement action during clashes between white supremacists and antifascists (commonly known as “antifa”). The report, obtained by the government transparency nonprofit Property of the People and shared with The Daily Beast, reveals how the Obama DHS profiled leftist protesters. Just months after the report’s release, the Trump Justice Department would use similar, overbroad profiles to prosecute hundreds of people who protested at President Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony.

    The DHS report highlights “two violent clashes in 2016 in Sacramento and Anaheim between anarchist extremists and lawfully protesting white supremacists at legally permitted rallies.”

    The report uses those cases to describe how law enforcement might target future “anarchist extremists” who protest at white supremacist rallies. But the agency’s description of “anarchist extremists” is dubious and suggests the DHS might be conflating multiple distinct social movements.

    The report’s guide to “symbols often associated with anti-racist anarchist extremists” includes an “A” in a circle (a popular anarchist symbol), but also images associated with the broader leftist movement….*

    The report also includes a list of “potential indicators of planned violence” that law enforcement can use to “justify increased suspicion” of counterprotesters. The list includes things like carrying knives, but also innocuous activity like wearing dark clothing or bandanas, scouting a marching route in advance, and carpooling to a demonstration—actions that could apply to a wide swath of protesters.

    At some of the clashes described in the DHS report, counterprotesters suffered the brunt of the arrests, largely because the white supremacist rallies were classified as “legally permitted rallies.”

    One clash at a KKK rally in February 2016 in Anaheim, California, saw seven people arrested, whom the DHS describes as anarchist extremists. The report describes the counterprotesters as violent, and the white supremacists as acting in self-defense.

    White supremacists at the 2016 Anaheim rally also appeared to stab counterprotesters, although the DHS report uses the passive voice to describe the attacks.

    “Two other anarchist extremists were stabbed with a knife and an unidentified weapon,” the report reads, making it unclear whether a KKK member was behind the attack….

    In Russia, anarchists are reportedly being tortured.

    * And even if someone is correctly identified as an anarchist, that’s no basis for seeing them as violent. It’s a political philosophy and broad social movement. This is in contrast to the reasonable expectation that members of white supremacist organizations are violent, which the authors of the report suspiciously go out of their way to refuse to recognize.

  12. says

    Good news from Alaska:

    According to preliminary tallies from the city’s first mail-in election, voters in Anchorage, Alaska appear to have defeated Proposition 1, a controversial measure which would have licensed and mandated discrimination against transgender people. […]

    Anchorage’s Prop 1 initiative was designed to dismantle a set of LGBTQ protections passed by the Anchorage Assembly in 2015, carving out an exception that would ban transgender people from using bathrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity.

    In response to Prop 1, LGBTQ advocates tackled the bathroom myths head-on, running ads that specifically countered their opponents’ fear-mongering. […].

    Link

  13. KG says

    The British government (and specifically, Boris “buffoonish bigot” johnson) appears to have considerably over-egged the pudding in its claims about the Salisbury nerve agent attack. A senior representative of Porton Down, the UK’s chemical and biological weapons research establishment, says all it did was identify the agent, and indicate that it was “military grade”, probably produced by a “state actor” (I don’t know precisely what “military grade” means here). It did not, contrary to Johnson’s claim in an interview, identify Russia as the source. It also appears (the BBC has not reported this but it appears in what seems to be a reputable site, run by Wiley) that Iranian chemists have made samples of “Novichok” agents. (They did not do this clandestinely – they reported their findings to the OPCW so the chemicals could be added to its database.)

    It is still overwhelmingly likely that Russia was the culprit; and the British government may have evidence it has not revealed to the public – but overstating the case was at best, foolish.

  14. says

    From Wonkette, comments about the report that Mueller describes Trump as a “subject” of his investigation, and not as a “target.”:

    […] And Trump is reportedly relieved over this, and it makes him want to do an interview with Mueller more! He is so excited to find out he, the sitting president of the United States, is a subject of the largest, most wide-ranging national security investigation in American history! As Rachel Maddow joked last night, maybe it is just because Trump loves being the subject of things. Wonkette would add that it’s important to remember that Trump is WEAPONS GRADE STUPID, and that he probably has no idea what this really means. (Hint: For one thing, it definitely doesn’t mean he’s just a witness! And subjects very frequently suddenly become targets! So …)

    If you’ll remember, recently dearly departed lead Trump Russia lawyer John Dowd was very “HOT STOVE! HOT STOVE!” about Trump doing an interview. Lead White House Russia lawyer Ty Cobb, who is still around, actually wants Trump to do it, though it seems like he’s more considering the political ramifications of Trump refusing, as opposed to being an idiot like Trump who thinks the interview will make things better. […]

    […] the fact that Mueller is preparing a report is also significant because, according to a Trump source, Mueller wants “to answer the public’s questions.” The first step for that would be for Mueller’s team to present its report to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the investigation. […]

  15. says

    “Judge Appears Skeptical Of Manafort’s Civil Lawsuit Against DOJ, Mueller”:

    A federal judge on Wednesday appeared skeptical of a civil lawsuit filed by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort alleging that the Justice Department and Special Counsel Robert Mueller exceeded their authority in prosecuting him as part of the sprawling Russia probe.

    Over the course of Jackson’s tough questioning of Manafort attorney Kevin Downing, Downing seemed to narrow what he was seeking with the lawsuit, which had already been whittled down since the initial complaint was filed.

    “I don’t really understand what’s left to your case,” Jackson said during a hearing on motions related to the civil case, including DOJ’s request that the lawsuit be dismissed.

    The Justice Department, which was represented by career attorneys (though members of Mueller’s team were present in the courtroom), argued that a civil lawsuit is not the appropriate place to bring issues with Mueller’s investigation that instead could be brought in the criminal cases against Manafort….

  16. KG says

    Further to #20. I just listened to the BBC Radio 4 news bulletin. It reported a spat between Corbyn and Johnson in a “He said, he said” fashion, but there’s absolutely no doubt Corbyn is correct in saying evidence of Russian involvement was exaggerated by Johnson; he claimed in the most emphatic terms, in an interview with German TV, that Porton Down was certain the nerve agent came from Russia. This was simply a lie, and Corbyn seems to have been pretty restrained in calling it a “slight exaggeration”. Liam Fox, incidentally, has repeated the lie just today. The news bulletin also included the sentence “There have been reports that Iran has made [Novichok agents – I don’t remember the exact phrase used]. That’s a neat way of misleading people without actually lying. The obvious interpretation, given Iran’s image in the west, is that this was done clandestinely, and leaked, which is not the case; and the BBC must know this, and have known it for some time.

  17. says

    Minor clarification to two comments above:

    In #11, I didn’t mean to suggest that the article itself mentioned the June/July timeline. During interviews about the article, one of its authors, Robert Costa, said he had learned of that timeline from sources. Not sure why he and Leonnig didn’t put that detail in the article itself.

    In #19, I suggested that Sater was done testifying because he was seen leaving the Senate, but apparently they were just breaking for lunch and he returned for more questioning. I assume he’s still there.

  18. militantagnostic says

    SC @23
    The Chinese are targeting Trump voters with these tariffs. Unlike Hair Furor, they are not stupid.

  19. says

    Popehat explainer on target/subject/witness:

    …Colloquially, most federal prosecutors and defense attorneys would probably describe it this way: calling someone a target means “we’re planning on indicting you if we can.” Calling someone a subject means “we’re developing evidence about what you did and if we find support for it we may indict you.” The distinction has some legal significance — under the provision linked above, prosecutors aren’t allowed to subpoena a target into the grand jury without warning them that they are a target, for instance. But the practical differences are murky.

    …The client [designated a subject] can still become a target at any time. Talking to the government may well provide the information they need to make that decision. Furthermore, talking to the government often generates its own new crimes, as we’ve seen again and again in Mueller’s investigation as defendants have been charged (and in several cases pleaded guilty) to lying to the government. The situation is still one of intense danger, and no experienced defense attorney is relieved to hear their client is “only a subject.”

    The analogy I sometimes use with clients is this: if you’re a target, you’re walking across an open field and a sniper is shooting at you from a tower. If you’re a subject, you’re walking across an open field and a sniper is shooting, but not shooting at you at this particular moment. How much safer do you feel?

    …Calling Trump a subject is completely consistent with continuing to pursue evidence that would move Trump into the target column. It doesn’t reduce Trump’s exposure at all. It doesn’t change the dilemmas his godforsaken criminal defense lawyers face. It doesn’t reduce the manifest dangers of him making a statement to Mueller. It doesn’t stop the process or the process stories or the steady rolling-up of Trump associates for various crimes and foolishness.

    In this post-factual and obstinately legally illiterate world, though, the distinction will be used for propaganda. Don’t fall for it.

  20. says

    KG @ #20:

    It is still overwhelmingly likely that Russia was the culprit; and the British government may have evidence it has not revealed to the public – but overstating the case was at best, foolish.

    I kind of think they must. Not because I trust them in any way, but because whatever they showed allied governments thoroughly convinced them that the Kremlin was responsible, to the extent that they came out and stated it publicly. It’s possible they lied to them, but that would be monumentally stupid. Given that Johnson’s an idiot, it also seems possible he was confused about what information they had from where.

  21. says

    Earlier in the day, Kudlow insisted to reporters that the tariffs on China may not even go into effect and were instead a tool to begin negotiations.”

    It’s also totally unclear what their intentions are with regard to the US military presence in Syria. Trump believes he can say whatever he needs to in order to assuage his base or deflect from a scandal in the moment and none of it will have real consequences or ever have to be put into action. He’s just a bullshitter.

  22. says

    SC @25, that is a great report. The summary of Trump’s show of bluster is factually correct, and we also get the flavor of the encounter between Trump and reporters.

    I had noticed at the time Trump’s weird insistence that the President of Lithuania praise him in front of reporters … only to cut her off in mid-sentence after she said what he wanted her to say.

    […] Trump instructed one of his guests, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, to praise him on camera, just as he said she had done privately in the Oval Office. She obliged, saying changes to NATO would not be possible without the United States and that its “vital voice and vital leadership” are important.

    Trump pressed her: “And has Donald Trump made a difference on NATO?”

    Those in the room laughed, as she confirmed he has made a difference. As she continued to speak, Trump cut her off. […]

  23. says

    From Matt Yglesias:

    […] [Trump maintains that] trade deficits are per se bad, reducing them induces prosperity mechanically, and so there is no downside to a trade war with a country with whom the United States runs a large trade deficit.

    One big question hanging over Trump even since the campaign has been whether this is something he really believes and is prepared to act on as president, since it happens to be totally wrong. […] perpetually making policy on the basis of a total misunderstanding of the issue is potentially quite dangerous.

    Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and trade adviser Peter Navarro were the co-authors of an important policy paper the Trump campaign put out during the election season that mostly focused on trade issues.

    Unfortunately, the paper’s discussion of trade was incredibly shoddy. George Mason University’s Scott Sumner describes it as “a complete mess,” which, if anything, is too kind. When Adam Davidson profiled Navarro for the New Yorker, he wrote that even when he asked Navarro to help him out, he couldn’t find a single other economist who fully agreed with him on trade and China. Which is about what you would expect, since the Ross-Navarro trade policy analysis is based on a mistake that would get you flunked out of an AP economics class. […]

    [Trump] is appealing to the idea that arbitrary restrictions on the sale of foreign-made goods will mechanically boost the American economy. There is no empirical or theoretical basis for this view, which is why no president of either party has ever attempted to make it the centerpiece of his national economic strategy. It’s just wrong. It’s the kind of thing you might come up with if you were a wealthy landlord and reality television personality who ran for president on a whim without learning anything about issues or public policy.

    Link

    The simple sanity check:

    […] Here’s a quick way to tell that something has gone wrong with the Ross-Navarro argument. Last year, the United States imported $180 billion worth of petroleum products — oil and such.

    According to Ross and Navarro, if the United States made it illegal to import oil, thus wiping $180 billion off the trade deficit, our GDP would rise by $180 billion. With labor constituting 44 percent of GDP, that would mean about $80 billion worth of higher wages for American workers. So why doesn’t Congress take this simple, easy step to boost growth and create jobs?

    Well, because it’s ridiculous.

    What would actually happen is that gasoline would become much more expensive, consumers would need to cut back spending on non-gasoline items, businesses would face a higher cost structure, and the overall economy would slow down with inflation-adjusted incomes falling. Modeling the precise impact of a total shutdown of oil imports is hard (hence the computer models). But we know from experience that the directional impact of sharp disruptions in the supply of imported oil, and it’s not at all what Ross and Navarro say it would be. […]

    Some GDP education:

    […] If America’s net exports grow because America becomes a fashionable tourist destination and sales of Boeing airplanes surge, then that will boost the economy. But if America’s net exports grow because new Trump-imposed taxes cause the price of imported goods to surge, then the economy is going to shrink.

    It is reasonably common for people to make the kind of mistake that Ross and Navarro are making here, which is why professors generally make it a point of emphasis when introducing the GDP concept to students. Why a credentialed economist would do it in a policy paper for a presidential candidate is another matter. […]

  24. says

    Both Jeff Sessions and Trump over-simplified the “caravan” of asylum-seekers from Honduras. And then Sessions compounded the error by praising Trump:

    Earlier this week, media outlets reported that a so-called ‘migrant caravan’ was making its way through Mexico with the intent of illegally crossing the southern border of the United States. The President was clear that this caravan needed to be stopped before it arrived at our southern border, and his efforts now appear to be successful.

    That’s some nice ass-kissing there, Jeff. But you furthered a narrative that is propaganda.

    First of all that caravan occurs annually. It it not something new. It is not an emergency. It is not an “army,” as some rightwing media outlets claimed. And Trump is not responsible for the caravan temporarily stopping in Mexico.

    […]The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the caravan’s troubles were more logistical, noting that the group had remained “stalled” on a soccer field in Oaxaca “for days.”

    “If you are looking for a plan, there isn’t one,” Irineo Mujica, the director of Pueblo Sin Fronteras, told the Post, adding: “Our job with the caravan ends in Mexico City.”

    Mujica told BuzzFeed Tuesday that migrants with valid asylum claims would continue north toward the U.S. border after the caravan had reached Mexico City. The outlet noted that Mexican immigration officials had announced Monday that the caravan would be disbanded by Wednesday. […]

    Link

    Nevermind all the relevant details and nuances, Trump has scared the bejeezus out of his supporters, and today Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielson confirmed that Trump will send National Guard troops to fortify the border.

  25. says

    “Exclusive: Mueller’s team questioning Russian oligarchs”:

    Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has taken the unusual step of questioning Russian oligarchs who traveled into the US, stopping at least one and searching his electronic devices when his private jet landed at a New York area airport, according to multiple sources familiar with the inquiry.

    A second Russian oligarch was stopped during a recent trip to the US, although it is not clear if he was searched, according to a person briefed on the matter.

    Mueller’s team has also made an informal voluntary document and interview request to a third Russian oligarch who has not traveled to the US recently.

    The situations have one thing in common: Investigators are asking whether wealthy Russians illegally funneled cash donations directly or indirectly into Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and inauguration.

    Investigators’ interest in Russian oligarchs has not been previously reported. It reveals that Mueller’s team has intensified its focus into the potential flow of money from Russia into the US election as part of its wide-ranging investigation into whether the Trump team colluded with Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

    One area under scrutiny, sources say, is investments Russians made in companies or think tanks that have political action committees that donated to the campaign.

    Another theory Mueller’s office is pursuing, sources said, is whether wealthy Russians used straw donors — Americans with citizenship — as a vessel through which they could pump money into the campaign and inauguration fund.

    The encounters with Russian oligarchs at American airports are another sign of the aggressive tactics Mueller’s investigators are using to approach witnesses or people they are interested in speaking with….

  26. says

    O’Reilly desperately wanted to keep his sexual harassment settlements secret. Now we know why.

    Here are just some of the extraordinary provisions in the settlements:

    […] The 2004 settlement reached with former O’Reilly Factor producer Andrea Mackris, for example, states that Mackris and her attorneys are required to turn over or destroy any and all material documenting O’Reilly’s behavior. Should any material wind up publicly disclosed — even by a third party unbound by the terms of the settlement — Mackris and her attorneys were required to publicly disavow them as forgeries. […]

    The settlement also reveals that Fox News hired private investigators — including failed New York City mayoral candidate and Fox News commentator Bo Dietl — to collect information about Mackris and her attorneys. The document stipulates that Fox News would permanently delete or destroy all material collected by their hired detectives prior to the execution of the settlement. […]

    Incredibly, during the negotiations of the terms of their settlement, one of Mackris’s attorneys abruptly switched sides, joining O’Reilly’s legal team. Part of Mackris’ settlement provides that her attorney will provide legal advice on sexual harassment issues to O’Reilly. Mackris’ current attorney describes the arrangement as a “profoundly unethical conflict.” […]

  27. says

    NRATV suggests YouTube brought shooting on itself with censorship of gun videos
    Blaming the victim.

    […] “And, you know, I have talked about this before, YouTube making these changes where they’re going from being a platform for videos to being a publisher of videos,” Holton [Host Chuck Holton] replied. “Meaning that they are starting to censor content here and there, whatever, actually opens them up to liability and it opens them up to a lot of hatred from people around the world.”

    The hosts were linking the shooting to new YouTube restrictions on gun videos hosted on the platform, a move gun rights activists called “worrisome.” […]

    Link

  28. says

    “Neo-Nazi Website Daily Stormer Might Have to Reveal Its Funding in Libel Lawsuit”:

    Prominent neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer might have to reveal its funding, thanks to a new court filing in a lawsuit against the website’s founder, Andrew Anglin.

    Anglin is currently on the run from two lawsuits. One of those lawsuits, by radio host and Daily Beast contributor Dean Obeidallah, accuses Anglin of defamation after The Daily Stormer accused Obeidallah of orchestrating a bombing at a 2017 Ariana Grande concert in England. In a new filing in the case, Obeidallah asked a judge to let him enter a discovery process for Moonbase Holdings, LLC, a shell company The Daily Stormer used to make its financial transactions look more legitimate.

    If granted, the discovery process could reveal who funded Anglin’s hate site.

    Anglin, who claims to be in Cambodia, has not responded to Obeidallah’s initial complaint, the Southern Poverty Law Center first reported. As a result, a clerk of court ruled declared Anglin to be in default, allowing Obeidallah to seek damages in Anglin’s absence. In his new filing, Obeidallah asks to investigate Moonbase Holdings before pursuing specific damages….

  29. says

    From the editorial board of USA Today:

    Far more than previous presidents, Donald Trump has taken to picking on individual companies.

    Trump has frequently taken aim at CNN parent company Time Warner, and his Justice Department is challenging its proposed merger with AT&T.

    And lately he has grown fixated with Amazon, claiming several times this week, as he has before, that it pays too little in taxes and gets too good a deal from the U.S. Postal Service.

    Any other administration would see the AT&T-Time Warner merger as unobjectionable. And any other administration would see Amazon for what it is, a phenomenally innovative and disruptive business that generally plays by the rules, pays its taxes, and provides something of a lifeline for a troubled postal service.

    For Trump, however, soundness of arguments seems to count less than his personal animosities. His distaste for CNN prompts him to oppose anything that might benefit Time Warner. And he thinks his Amazon outbursts will rattle the cage of its CEO, Jeff Bezos, who bought The Washington Post in 2013.

    […] Trump’s actions go further as they are so petty, so personal — and so contrary to Republican orthodoxy that politicians, particularly presidents, shouldn’t be picking corporate winners and losers.

    His arguments — particularly those related to Amazon — do not hold water. The company has minimized its federal income tax bill by putting growth above profits. It collects and pays state sales taxes on its own products, and will do so on request for third-party vendors that account for about half of its business.

    The U.S. Postal Service argument is even further off-base. It is losing money largely because of the decline in traditional first-class mail and its huge pension obligations. But its package delivery service, including what comes from Amazon, is profitable and growing.

    […]Trump adds an argument generally made by liberals: that Amazon is taking jobs away from its competitors.

    That’s obviously true. But government did not stop industrial giants of the 19th and early 20th centuries on the grounds that they were hurting craft guilds. It did not thwart cars to protect the horse-and-buggy industry, air travel to protect a passenger rail, or online sites to protect traditional travel agents. And it should not coddle Amazon’s competitors.

    Those competitors, by the way, are more likely to be big retail chains and manufacturers rather than the mom-and-pop shops depicted by Trump. In fact, the big chains did in the small retailers.

    If Trump wanted to do something useful, he would press Congress to pass long-stalled measures to put the Postal Service on a sounder financial footing […]

  30. says

    “Trump administration to impose fresh sanctions against Russia”:

    The United States is expected to impose additional sanctions on Russia by Friday, according to U.S. officials.

    The sanctions are economic and designed to target oligarchs with ties to President Vladimir Putin, the officials said. The final number of officials facing punitive action remains fluid, the U.S. officials said, but is expected to include at least a half a dozen people under sanctions powers given to the president by Congress.

    In recent weeks, Trump’s national security advisers have pushed for more sanctions after a series of alleged moves by Russia, including the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy in England, interference in the U.S. 2016 elections and a cyberattack described as the most destructive and costly in history.

    In recent days, the Trump administration has contemplated additional actions to publicly condemn Russian aggression. Last Friday, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman Jr., told administration officials that he wanted to hold a news conference in Moscow about Russia’s expulsion of U.S. diplomats from the country, according to officials familiar with the matter.

    Ultimately, the administration chose not to hold the news conference for reasons that remain unclear, but Huntsman did appear in a YouTube video explaining Washington’s decision….

    This is the latest of several such stories, and it seems with each one the deadline gets closer. I strongly suspect the sources are officials who think that having the plan known to the public will put pressure on Trump to impose the sanctions.

  31. says

    This is what happens when a disturbed fool and charlatan becomes president – “Trump’s easy campaign promises run into the difficulties of reality”:

    …The challenge for Trump of trying to deliver on rosy promises is not a new one. Until winning the White House, Trump’s greatest successes have come in arenas like marketing, entertainment and the presidential campaign, where image is the primary product and big boasts can make the sale. Billy Bush, the former Access Hollywood host, who spent years interviewing Trump about his reality show, The Apprentice, recently recalled confronting Trump over his serial misrepresentations of that show’s ratings.

    “He said, ‘Billy, look, you just tell them and they believe it. That’s it,’” Bush recalled on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.”

    The unilateral power of bold assertion, regardless of facts or nuance, has been a central theme of Trump’s presidency. While politicians typically overpromise during the campaign, Trump distinguished himself with the scale and scope of his vows. “I will give you everything,” he said at a campaign event in North Dakota in May of 2016. “I’m the only one.”…

  32. says

    “Witness in Mueller Inquiry Who Advises U.A.E. Ruler Also Has Ties to Russia”:

    A witness who is cooperating in the special counsel investigation, George Nader, has connections to both the Persian Gulf states and Russia and may have information that links two important strands of the inquiry together, interviews and records show.

    Mr. Nader’s ties to the United Arab Emirates are well documented — he is an adviser to its leader — but the extent of his links to Russia have not been previously disclosed.

    Mr. Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman, has a catalog of international connections that paved the way for numerous meetings with White House officials that have drawn the attention of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. For example, Mr. Nader used his longstanding ties to Kirill Dmitriev, the manager of a state-run Russian investment fund, to help set up a meeting in the Seychelles between Mr. Dmitriev and a Trump adviser days before Donald J. Trump took office.

    Separately, investigators have asked witnesses about a meeting Mr. Nader attended in 2017 at the office of a New York hedge fund manager, where he was joined by Jared Kushner and Stephen K. Bannon, who at the time were both senior advisers to Mr. Trump.

    The investigative trail even led Mr. Mueller’s team to stop an Australian entrepreneur with ties to the U.A.E. after he landed at a Washington-area airport, according to people briefed on the matter. The investigators questioned the entrepreneur about Mr. Nader, including Mr. Nader’s relationship with Russia and his contacts with Mr. Trump’s advisers, as well as the movement of money from the U.A.E. into the United States….

  33. says

    NYT* says that the unidentified Russian oligarch who was questioned by Mueller arrived in NY ‘about 4 weeks ago’. 5 weeks ago, Deripaska, Vekselberg, and Abramovich all had their private jets in NY area.”**

    * (article linked @ #45 above)

    ** I don’t know how trustworthy this report is. I’m also annoyed that I’m increasingly able to identify fucking oligarchs’ jets’ tail letters – “M-KATE. Hm. What’s Rybolovlev doing here?”

  34. says

    “Oklahoma governor compares striking teachers to a ‘a teenage kid that wants a better car’”:

    Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) is under siege after she compared striking teachers converging on the state Capitol to rally for education funding to “a teenage kid that wants a better car.”

    Her comments, in response to a question from CBS correspondent Omar Villafranca, came amid a teacher walkout that has closed schools across Oklahoma for hundreds of thousands of students. Teachers began rallying at the Capitol on Monday and have returned each day since. Wednesday, the building was so packed that state troopers shut entrances.

    The governor also told Villafranca she was skeptical the teacher walkout was a homegrown movement, saying she suspected outside groups, including Antifa — short for anti-fascist — were involved.

    Adjusted for inflation, Oklahoma schools have lost about 30 percent of their funding over the past decade. The state’s teachers are among the worst paid in the nation and about 20 percent of the Oklahoma’s school districts have moved to four-day school weeks because they can no longer afford to keep the lights on for five. Schools have been unable to purchase textbooks or make repairs — many students have to share tattered textbooks that are missing pages….

    This is the Republican Party.

  35. says

    “EPA ethics official says he didn’t have all the facts on Pruitt’s lease”:

    The Environmental Protection Agency’s top ethics watchdog clarified his earlier analysis of whether Administrator Scott Pruitt’s rental arrangement broke the federal gift rule, saying he didn’t have all the facts when evaluating the lease, according to a memo provided to CNN.

    The official also made clear that he didn’t evaluate whether Pruitt had violated other ethics rules, according to the memo obtained by the Campaign Legal Center and shared with CNN.

    Last week, Designated Agency Ethics Official Kevin Minoli determined that Pruitt’s rental was within federal ethics regulations regarding gifts, which despite being issued after the fact seemed to clear Pruitt of wrongdoing. His conclusion was based on the assumption that Pruitt followed the lease terms as written.

    The new document makes clear that the old opinion doesn’t cover facts that were excluded from the legal contract between Pruitt and the landlord.

    Minoli’s clarification came after Walter Shaub, the former head of the Office of Government Ethics who now runs the Campaign Legal Center’s government ethics program, sent the agency watchdog a series of questions.

    “If it turns out Pruitt’s daughter was staying in the other room, that’s not covered by the ethics opinion because it’s outside the scope of the lease,” Shaub said. “It would raise a factual question as to whether the landlord knew and permitted his use of the second room, which would be a gift.”

    In addition, Minoli says he didn’t consider whether Pruitt may have violated the impartiality rule. That regulation, Shaub said, would prohibit Pruitt from meeting with anyone from the landlord’s lobbying firm.

  36. says

    “EXCLUSIVE: Robert Mercer backed a secretive group that worked with Facebook, Google to target anti-Muslim ads at swing voters”:

    As the final weeks of the 2016 elections ticked down, voters in swing states like Nevada and North Carolina began seeing eerie promotional travel ads as they scrolled through their Facebook feeds or clicked through Google sites.

    In one, a woman with a French accent cheerfully welcomes visitors to the “Islamic State of France,” where “under Sharia law, you can enjoy everything the Islamic State of France has to offer, as long as you follow the rules.”

    If it wasn’t already clear that the ad was meant to stoke viewers’ fears of imminent Muslim conquest, the video is interspersed with violent imagery. Three missiles are seen flying through the sky as the video opens. Blindfolded men are shown kneeling with guns pointed at their heads, and children are shown training with weapons “to defend the caliphate.”

    This is one of three mock travel ads.

    Another, for the “Islamic State of Germany,” invited visitors to “celebrate the arranged marriages of future jihadi soldiers” at a pork- and alcohol-free Oktoberfest.

    And just to bring it all home, days before the election, the group made an “Islamic States of America“ travel promo, where Syrian refugees have overtaken America. In the ad, the iconic Hollywood sign reads “Allahu Akbar,” and the Statue of Liberty wears a burka and holds a star and crescent. In the video, the 9/11 Memorial in New York City is celebrated as an Islamic victory.

    Most Americans have never heard of the far-right neoconservative nonprofit that ran the ads. It has no employees and no volunteers, and it’s run out of the offices of a Washington, D.C. law firm. More importantly, most voters never saw the ads.

    And that was by design.

    The group, a social welfare organization called Secure America Now, worked hand in hand with Facebook and Google to target their message at voters in swing states who were most likely to be receptive to them.

    And new tax documents obtained by OpenSecrets show that the money fueling the group came mostly from just three donors, including the secretive multimillionaire donor Robert Mercer.

    Neither the IRS nor the FEC are likely to look into SAN’s activities any time soon, if at all, so the group will continue to play a role in public life.

    A recent New York Times report detailing internal emails between top Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy and a political adviser to leaders in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia noted that Broidy referenced SAN as “one of the groups I am working with” to push the Trump administration to fill key positions with individuals favorable to those Persian Gulf leaders.

    Videos of the ads at the link. I’d like to know more about their production.

  37. says

    “Pruitt’s troubles deepen”: “The Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general is investigating Administrator Scott Pruitt’s $50-a-night condo lease — a development accompanied by the departure of one of his top aides, the erosion of one of his key defenses, a troubled Fox News interview and growing concern in the White House about his cascade of ethical problems.”

    Added to the pile of IG investigations into Pruitt.

  38. says

    New from Luke Harding – “Former Trump aide approved ‘black ops’ to help Ukraine president”:

    Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort authorised a secret media operation on behalf of Ukraine’s former president, featuring “black ops”, “placed” articles in the Wall Street Journal and US websites, and anonymous briefings against Hillary Clinton.

    The project was designed to boost the reputation of Ukraine’s then leader, Viktor Yanukovych. It was part of a multimillion-dollar lobbying effort carried out by Manafort on behalf of Yanukovych’s embattled government, emails and documents reveal.

    The strategies included:

    Proposing to rewrite Wikipedia entries to smear a key opponent of the then Ukrainian president.

    Setting up a fake “thinktank” in Vienna to disseminate viewpoints supporting Yanukovych.

    A social media blitz “aimed at targeted audiences in Europe and the US”.

    Briefing journalists from the rightwing website Breitbart to attack Clinton, when she was US secretary of state.

    Manafort’s Ukraine strategy anticipates later efforts by the Kremlin and its troll factory to use Twitter and Facebook to discredit Clinton and to help Trump win the 2016 US election. The material seen by the Guardian dates from 2011 to 2013.

    In 2011 Manafort approved a clandestine strategy to discredit Tymoshenko abroad. Alan Friedman, a former Wall Street Journal and Financial Times reporter, based in Italy, masterminded this project. Friedman has previously been accused of concealing his work as a paid lobbyist.

    Also involved were Rick Gates, Manafort’s then deputy, and Konstantin Kilimnik, another senior Manafort associate who the FBI believes has links to Russian military intelligence.

    In July 2011 Friedman sent Manafort a confidential six-page document, titled: Ukraine – A Digital Roadmap. It laid out a plan to “deconstruct” Tymoshenko, online and via videos, articles and social media. Yanukovych deferred to Manafort, who gave the project the go-ahead, sources in Ukraine’s former government say.

    Friedman’s proposed operation was ambitious….

    Asked if he had registered with the US Department of Justice, Friedman said he never worked as a lobbyist for Ukraine. He added: “I never registered as a foreign agent because I never was one.

    “I was a communications guy, doing PR media strategy work in Europe for a client, like dozens of London PR companies that work for a variety of governments.”

    The documents show Friedman reported directly to Kiev. In spring 2012 he told the foreign minister, Kostyantyn Gryshchenko, he had “generated dozens of positive op-eds/interviews/articles for print and TV” and “disseminated positive news stories” to nearly 2,000 publications.

    Key to this strategy was a fake thinktank, the “Center for the Studyof Former Soviet Socialist Republics (CXSSR)”, set up with Manafort’s backing. Friedman used it to publish dozens of positive stories about Yanukovych, many of them authored by a “Matthew Lina”.

    Lina’s comment pieces criticising Tymoshenko and Obama’s state department ran on the conservative US website RedState. Friedman told Manafort his editorial team ghostwrote an article by Yanukovych published by the Wall Street Journal.

    Emails seen by the Guardian show a regular pattern of interaction between Manafort, Friedman, Gates, Kilimnik, and Ukrainian officials….

    Manafort’s media operation included attacks on Clinton. In October 2012 Gates emailed Manafort and Friedman, flagging a piece written by the journalist Ben Shapiro. The Breitbart article criticised Clinton for her public support of Tymoshenko, who had recently made an electoral pact with the far-right Svoboda party.

    The article cited a Jewish “leader” who accused Clinton anonymously of creating a “neo-Nazi Frankenstein”. Gates wrote: “Gentlemen – Here is the first part of a series of articles that will be coming as we continue to build this effort. Alan, you get full credit for the Frankenstein comment.”*

    The alleged use of offshore accounts** is likely to interest the FBI….

    Much more, including the documents, at the link.

    * Seems like being paid by a foreign regime to attack the sitting Secretary of State makes you a very special kind of foreign agent.

    ** In the Seychelles, because of course.

  39. blf says

    A reminder about @52 and teh secure america now nazis, Back in Oct-2017, the Grauniad and Bloomberg News reported on them and their ad agency (Harris Media) being deliberately helped by both Generalissimo Google and Farcebork: See @469 and it’s follow-up, @471 in an older edition of this series of poopyhead threads. Judging by the excerpts quoted back then (I haven’t revisited the original articles) the connection to Robert Mercer, or indeed any donors, was not(?) then known. Farcebork also worked directly with the German nazis (AfD), who also used Harris Media.

    A bit of admittedly quick searching reinforces the suspicion the use of Harris Media by these racists is not a entirely coincidental. They were involved with hair furor’s campaign; the CEO (Vincent Harris) claims to have worked for / with Paul Rand, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ted Cruz, and so on; they also created ads for the election in Kenya apparently based on Cambridge Analytica’s input; and presumably more…

    (The main reason I remembered this older report was that hilarious & absurd Islamic State of France video.)

  40. says

    Follow-up to comment 37.

    A more definitive comment from Caitlin MacNeal about some of the illegal provisions in the O’Reilly settlement agreements:

    […] The agreements signed by Mackris and Diamond required the women to hand over all recordings and documents related to their case against O’Reilly and if the agreements were breached, the women would have to return all payments from O’Reilly to him and forfeit any future payments. Their settlements also barred them from helping other victims of O’Reilly who might take legal action against him.

    As the lawyer representing the three women wrote in a filing accompanying the settlements, Mackris’ agreement “requires Ms. Mackris to lie — even in legal proceedings or under oath — if any evidence becomes public by calling the evidence ‘counterfeit’ or ‘forgeries.’” The agreement also barred Mackris from using the agreement or any information about her experience with O’Reilly in any legal proceedings, and required her to notify O’Reilly of any subpoena she receives and allow him to challenge the subpoena before responding. […]

  41. says

    Michael Cohen even bullies other lawyers:

    […] The attorney, Keith Davidson revealed to CNN that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen encouraged him recently to talk to the media about his knowledge of the agreements, arguing that Daniels and McDougal waived attorney-client privilege when they spoke about their stories.

    “He suggested that it would be appropriate for me to go out into the media and spill my guts,” Davidson told CNN.

    Davidson said that after consulting with his ethics lawyer, he determined that it would not be appropriate for him to discuss the agreements in public.

    Davidson also defended his legal representation of McDougal and Daniels. McDougal, who sold the rights to her story about Trump to the publisher of the National Enquirer, said she felt poorly represented by Davidson in the agreements. She accused him of secretly working with Cohen while hashing out the agreement in her lawsuit against American Media, Inc. seeking to be released from her agreement. Daniels has sued Trump seeking to be released from her hush agreement, arguing that the agreement is invalid because Trump never signed it.

    “I read each of the ladies’ complaints and pleadings,” Davidson told CNN. “The recitation of the facts that are contained within those pleadings I do not agree with, and I look forward to an opportunity in an appropriate forum to discuss them.” […]

    Link

  42. says

    A shortage of farm workers in resulting in crops rotting in the fields in California:

    […] The vast majority of California’s farm workers are foreign born, with many coming from Mexico. However, the PEW Research Center reports more Mexicans are leaving the U.S. than coming here.

    To make the jobs more attractive, farmers are offering salaries above minimum wage, along with paid time off and 401(k) plans, but even that’s not proving enough.

    Vegetable prices may be going up soon, as a shortage of migrant workers is resulting in lost crops in California.

    Farmers say they’re having trouble hiring enough people to work during harvest season, causing some crops to rot before they can be picked. Already, the situation has triggered losses of more than $13 million in two California counties alone, […]

    http://fortune.com/2017/08/08/immigration-worker-shortage-rotting-crops/

  43. says

    From former CIA Director John Brennan:

    I served 6 Presidents, 3 Rs & 3Ds. I directly supported Clinton, Bush 43, and Obama. While I didn’t agree with all their policy choices, I admired and respected all of them, as they put country above their personal interests. Not so with you, as your self adoration is disgraceful.

  44. says

    Tillerson’s legacy: more moola for lobbyists disguised as consultants:

    It was one of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s core goals: radically reshaping the State Department to make it leaner, cheaper and modernized to the standards of a former private-sector CEO.

    Now that Tillerson has been fired, the vaunted “Redesign” initiative he launched faces an uncertain future, but at least one clear legacy: around $12 million spent just for private consultants who in some cases charged the State Department more than $300 an hour. […]

  45. blf says

    USDA secretary accused of siding with industry over science in new report:

    A Union of Concerned Scientists report said Sonny Perdue was ‘sidelining science’ and called for congressional scrutiny of the agency

    Donald Trump’s agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue, has been criticized for rolling back school nutrition standards, attempting to upend the food stamps program, rejecting World Health Organization guidelines on antibiotics in agriculture and ending a pesticide ban, in a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) advocacy group.

    Perdue spent his first year in office “sidelining science and favoring industry”, the report claims, calling for greater congressional scrutiny of the agency.

    “Those kinds of things are the end result of a secretary of agriculture who is more interested in rewarding industry and agriculture than in protecting the public health,” said Karen Perry Stillerman, a senior analyst at UCS and the report’s author.

    […]

    [… T]he USDA surprised antibiotic resistance campaigners when it said World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines against using medically important antibiotics in agriculture were not in alignment with US policy and are not supported by sound science. There is widespread scientific agreement that the magnitude of antibiotic use in agriculture is problematic.

    […]

    Perdue has sought, and received, ethics waivers to hire lobbyists for top positions at the USDA. The director of food policy for the corn syrup industry’s lobbying body, Kailee Tkacz of the Corn Refiners Association, for instance, was hired in July 2017. She received a White House ethics waiver for the position because she had lobbied Congress on the same issues just three months earlier.

    […]

    All teh bestest peoples !

    Disclaimer: Many yonks ago when I lived in the States I was regular donor to the UCS.

  46. says

    Trump has been throwing lavish dinner parties for his cronies, all on the taxpayer’s dime. All presidents host dinner parties, but Trump’s modus operandi has steered this tradition into the area of corruption and self-promotion.

    […] The president is known for his after-hours cellphone calls and his late-night cable news habit, but several times a month, he invites New York real estate pals and businessmen, conservative leaders, prominent TV journalists, former campaign aides, and lawmakers to private dinners inside the White House residence — gatherings never made public on the official White House schedule. […]

    The parties, which have recently ramped up, afford Trump the chance to do something he loves — play host […]

    Patriots owner Bob Kraft, news magnate Rupert Murdoch and conservative media figures Chris Ruddy and Matt Drudge have been. So has Trump’s longtime New York real-estate developer friend Richard LeFrak. He’s also welcomed musician Kid Rock and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin — who posted photographs on social media of herself posing in the White House — and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon […]

    TV personalities such as Sean Hannity or former Fox News executive Bill Shine dine alongside Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, favored Cabinet secretaries like Steven Mnuchin and Wilbur Ross, or senior staff like Kellyanne Conway. Last month, Trump had steaks with former campaign staffers Corey Lewandowski, Brad Parscale and David Bossie. […]

    […] “Some presidents surround themselves with people who reinforce the worst sides of their characters, while some have people who calm them down or challenge them.”

    The dinners give Trump the opportunity to be in charge, steer the conservation and show off the historic place he now calls home — with its trappings of valets, Marine guards and historic artifacts. Plus, the dinners are free of the interruptions that can happen in the Oval Office, […]

    he’ll give visitors a tour of the Lincoln Bedroom or show off the copy of the Gettysburg Address […]. Often, he’ll say to guests: “Have you ever seen luxury like this?” as he guides them through, said the administration official.

    […] The gatherings usually kick off at 6:30 p.m., followed by a brisk meal — always Trump favorites like salads, steaks, chicken or salmon, followed by dessert like strawberry shortcake or slices of chocolate cake. Trump likes to solicit the opinion of fellow diners, tout what he sees as his accomplishments, strategize for the midterms, or sell fellow diners on legislation such as the tax bill.

    Before people go, Trump is always happy to sign a book or a copy of the calligraphic menus produced for every dinner, giving visitors a souvenir for their behind-the-scenes visit. […]

  47. says

    Sarah Huckabee Sanders said:

    If that congressman’s so concerned, maybe he ought to show up and actually support legislation that would fix these problems instead of blaming the president that’s actually doing something about it.

    “I will gladly work with the president when his ideas aren’t stupid and detrimental to the United States,” Gallego [Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona] said Thursday. “Unfortunately this is what this plan is.” [The last sentence is a reference to the plan to have the departments of Defense and Homeland Security dispatch troops to the U.S. border with Mexico.]

  48. says

    Shenanigans intended to negate the spending authorized in the recent bill that Trump signed are drawing a lot criticism:

    Democrats are lashing out at the notion that […] Trump and GOP leaders may seek to eliminate some of the funding increases in the enormous 2018 spending package adopted less than two weeks ago.

    […] the $1.3 trillion omnibus bill provides a huge bump in both defense and domestic spending, adding hundreds of billions of dollars to federal deficits. In response, Trump and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) are reportedly in talks to tap an obscure provision of a decades-old budget law to prune some of the spending increases from the package.

    Democrats, who supported the omnibus only after receiving funds for their domestic priorities, said any GOP effort to make after-the-fact changes would be a major betrayal. […]

    “It’s a bill that was signed into law with Democratic and Republican votes and with the signature of the president. And they apparently didn’t like the way it played in the media afterwards, so now they’re going to try to call for a do-over,” […]

    Signed by Trump late last month, the omnibus package provided a $143 billion increase over previous spending caps — $80 billion for defense and $63 billion for non-defense domestic programs. […]

    […] part of a 1974 law, the Congressional Budget and Impound Control Act, allows the administration to propose a revocation of certain funds. Congress would then have 45 days to either consider the proposed rescissions or ignore them.[…]

    Mariel Saez, a spokeswoman for House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), said the Republicans are pursuing a “political stunt to appease their base just weeks after they touted the bill as an important compromise.”

    Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) characterized the [shenanigans] as “the height of chutzpah.”

    “You just voted to add $1.5 trillion, at least — maybe $2 trillion — to the debt with the tax-cut bill, and now sanctimoniously you come back saying, ‘We’ve got to rein in the debt?’” […] “We’re all high school graduates here. We can kind of see that for what it is,” [said Rep. Gerry Connolly. […]

    Link

  49. says

    I hate PACER.

    Here’s what someone quoted from the new order: “Given that the deadline for defendants’ notices of any objections they may have to the government’s motion to unseal certain transcripts 222 has passed, if defendants do not file notice by April 9, 2018, the Court will rule on the motion without input from defendants.”

    The transcripts in question are from discussions of Manafort’s motion to modify the conditions of his bail and some other subjects on February 14th. They were sealed at the government’s request, but Mueller now says the reason for keeping them under seal is now moot and there’s a public interest in unsealing. I don’t know why Manafort didn’t object by the deadline. The motion to unseal is here – scroll down to #222.

    In any case, he needs to flip already.

  50. says

    SC @67, I think Manfort’s failure to flip (so far) can only be explained two ways:
    1. He expects Trump to pardon him, (and doesn’t understand that a pardon is not likely, and that even if it were likely, Manafort could still be prosecuted under some state laws).
    2. If he flips, the Russians will assassinate him.

  51. says

    Florida Governor Rick Scott deserved a rebuke:

    A federal judge on Wednesday rejected Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R)’s attempts to avoid creating a new system to allow for ex-felons to regain their voting rights. In a sharply worded order, the judge claimed that the governor is engaging in a “fit of histrionics.”

    The court previously ruled in February that Florida’s process for restoring voting rights to people with felony convictions is unconstitutional, largely because it gives the state’s clemency board “unfettered discretion” to choose who can have their rights restored and when. Under that system, Florida required all ex-felons to wait five years, then petition Scott and the three Cabinet members who sit on the board for clemency. […]

    This court does not play games,” Walker [Judge Mark E. Walker] wrote, explaining that Scott falls “woefully short” of his burden to convince the court that it should stay its own ruling.

    “Instead, defendants embark on a fit of histrionics […]” he wrote.

    At another point in the order, the judge wrote that Scott’s claim that he is suffering irreparable harm by the stay is “disingenuous.”

    “Defendants stamp their feet and wail that 30 days is ‘not [a] reasonably calculated” time to create a constitutional system of executive clemency,” the judge wrote. “But drafting new rules need not be complicated or time-consuming.” […]

    Link

  52. says

    Some Republicans are pushing back against Trump’s trade tariffs:

    Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) ripped the Trump administration’s trade dispute with China on Wednesday, saying real people should not be used as collateral damage.

    “These are real people, real families. You don’t use them as a playing card,” Roberts, who serves as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee told The Kansas City Star. “I think that’s the most upsetting thing that has happened.” […]

    “It’s very disconcerting,” Roberts told the publication. “We do have a little time to round up the farm posse and get our message across.”

    Roberts is not the only Republican to express concern and criticism over the tariffs.

    Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Ia.) said on Wednesday that agriculture industry workers should not have to bear the brunt of China’s retaliation against U.S. tariffs.

    “The United States should take action to defend its interests when any foreign nation isn’t playing by the rules or refuses to police itself. But farmers and ranchers shouldn’t be expected to bear the brunt of retaliation for the entire country,” Grassley said in a statement. […]

    Link

  53. says

    Some attorneys general are suing Scott Pruitt. Good.

    Fifteen attorneys general and the city of Chicago filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Administrator Scott Pruitt on Thursday for not controlling methane emissions.

    New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement that the group is fighting back against the Trump administration for “ignoring its legal duty to control emissions of methane — and extremely potent greenhouse gas — from existing oil and gas operations.”

    They also charge Pruitt with violating the Clean Air Act by “unreasonably delaying” its mandatory obligation through the act to control methane emissions.

    The EPA’s refusal to control methane pollution is illegal, Schneiderman said in a statement. […]

    Link

    Schneiderman again. That guy is a hero.

  54. says

    SC @72, thanks.

    In other news, I looked at my Facebook news feed and there’s no link nor any other notice alerting me to data harvesting by third party apps. I think that may be true because a couple of years ago I went through the arduous process of setting up privacy settings that precluded harvesting. It took me a couple of hours to figure it out, and I had to ask for help and advice from my tech-savvy son. If Facebook makes that process easier, it is a step in the right direction.

  55. says

    OK sure – “Scott Pruitt asked to use sirens in D.C. traffic and was told no for non-emergency”:

    Several weeks after taking the helm of the Environmental Protection Agency, Administrator Scott Pruitt was running late and stuck in Washington, D.C., traffic. Sources tell CBS News that he wanted to use his vehicle’s lights and sirens to get to his official appointment, but the lead agent in charge of his security detail advised him that sirens were to be used only in emergencies.

    Less than two weeks later that agent was removed from Pruitt’s detail, reassigned to a new job within the EPA.

    Special Agent Eric Weese, a 16-year veteran of the EPA, was replaced by Pasquale “Nino” Perotta. Perrotta now leads Pruitt’s unprecedented 24-hour Protective Service Detail, which determined that Pruitt needed to fly in first class because of “specific, ongoing threats associated with the Administrator’s air travel.”…

    Recently…two Democratic senators wrote a letter to the EPA asking, “Under what circumstances did the prior Special Agent in Charge leave?”

    Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Tom Carper also said in the letter that they want to know why Perrotta and one of his business partners received an EPA security contract. Perrotta, they noted, citing the Associated Press, runs a side business called the Sequoia Security Group. His business partner, Edwin Steinmetz, who runs another security company, was awarded a $3,000 contract to sweep Pruitt’s office for bugs. “Two other contracts,” both under the $3,500 threshold for public reporting, “were given for the purchase of biometric locks.”…

  56. says

    Oh, FFS! Really, Hair Furor?

    President Donald Trump veered sharply off topic at a West Virginia roundtable on tax reform Thursday, instead painting a gruesome picture of conditions at the border.

    “Women are being raped at levels we’ve never seen before,” he told the crowd.

    That statement was followed by his standard immigration talking points about “weak laws,” “catch and release” policies, and sanctuary cities. […]

    Link

    Video available at the link.

  57. blf says

    The Chinese are targeting Trump voters with these tariffs. Unlike Hair Furor, they are not stupid.

    How many hair furorian voters will make, or believe there is, a connection between hair furor’s tariffs lies & stupid claims, and the consequences? The EU arguably does this a bit better, carefully targeting (supposedly-)highly influential politicians: “[… W]hat matters most to Brussels is the political cost sanctions would have for the Trump administration. The products the EU has single[d] out would putatively affect US States led by politicians with strong leverage over Trump.”

    That makes me wonder if carefully targeting hair furor’s not-officially-in-the-“government” cronies / enablers (e.g., the Koch brothers, Robert Mercer, Peter Thiel, and so on) would be effective? Don’t target hair furor (or his family) directly — he’s too stupid and is liable to act in an even more insane manner — or his cronies in-the-“government” (he’ll readily abandon them, blame them, and so on), but the people who may be able to shove him in another direction. Of course, the problem there is it does not seem very likely any of the directions they might be inclined to shove him towards is beneficial to anyone besides themselves.

  58. blf says

    Women are being raped at levels we’ve never seen before, [hair furor] told the crowd.

    I was unaware any of grabber bone spurs’s golf games / resorts were near that border — does he take secret flights there or are the victims taken to meet him?

  59. says

    Follow-up to SC @78, yes he is. Furthermore, the immigrants traveling in “caravans” are traveling in groups precisely to avoid some of the violence (like rape) that is often perpetrated agains asylum seekers as they take that long trek to the southern border of the USA.

    Trump was also insinuating … again … that undocumented immigrants who do make it across the border are rapists.

    “Scum” might be too nice a word for Trump. He is a hate-monger.

  60. says

    blf @80, EU leaders should just send Trump delicious pastries on a daily basis. That might be the most effective lobbying effort.

    blf @81, I was thinking along the same lines, but couldn’t bring myself to make the joke. The irony of Trump claiming that immigrants abuse women is rich.

  61. says

    The city of San Francisco is suing Jeff Sessions. Good.

    The city of San Francisco filed a lawsuit against Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday after he repealed civil rights memos designed to protect minorities and the disabled.

    The lawsuit targets six of the 25 different legal memos that Sessions rescinded in December […]

    City Attorney Dennis Herrera accused the Trump administration of “trying to gut protections for the poor, people of color and people with disabilities under the guise of regulatory reform.”

    The lawsuit alleges that Sessions’s Department of Justice failed to seek public comment before rescinding the documents and did not provide reasoning for its decision.

    Sessions rolled back the dozens of legal guidance documents last year that dated back to the 1990s that were deemed “unnecessary, inconsistent with existing law, or otherwise improper.” […]

    One such document instructed state and local governments on how to accommodate disabled employees and helped them integrate into the workplace […]

    The guidance protected them from discrimination and complied with the Supreme Court decision on the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    Another document provided careful guidance about how hazardous it was for local governments to slap juveniles with fines they would not be able to pay back.

    Link

  62. says

    Of all the stupid, unethical stunts that Pruitt has pulled, this one is kind of funny.

    A security agent was removed from Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt’s detail shortly after he told the EPA chief he couldn’t use his vehicle’s lights and sirens to cut through Washington, D.C., traffic, CBS News reported Thursday.

    Pruitt had reportedly made the request to use the vehicle’s lights and sirens when he was stuck in traffic on his way to an official appointment just weeks after he was confirmed to lead the EPA.

    However, special agent Eric Weese, who was leading Pruitt’s security detail, told Pruitt that the sirens could only be used in an emergency, CBS reported.

    Less than two weeks later Weese, a 16-year veteran of the agency, was removed from Pruitt’s detail and reassigned within the EPA.

    He was replaced by Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta, who has been behind controversial decisions like Pruitt needing to fly on first class for security reasons. […]

    Link

  63. blf says

    EU leaders should just send Trump delicious pastries on a daily basis. That might be the most effective lobbying effort.

    He’d be afraid they were trying to poison him. As a reminder, supposedly, the reason he apparently eats a lot of scarf-and-barf is due to fear of being poisoned (Donald Trump eats McDonald’s for fear of being poisoned? That says it all, Jan-2018). Since he is also supposedly terrified of sharks (Trump is ‘obsessed’ and ‘terrified’ of sharks — but his fears are excessive, also Jan-2018), I’d be inclined to snark him with any delicious pastries by making them shark-shaped…

  64. says

    These Messages Show Julian Assange Talked About Seeking Hacked Files From Guccifer 2.0. DMs tie Assange to a Russia-linked hacker — and raise new questions about his Seth Rich conspiracy theory.”: “The messages between Assange and Best, a freelance national security journalist and online archivist, are the starkest proof yet that Assange knew a likely Russian government hacker had the Democrat leaks he wanted. And they reveal the deliberate bad faith with which Assange fed the groundless claims that Rich was his source, even as he knew the documents’ origin.”

  65. says

    blf @86, Ah! You are right. I had forgotten about Trump’s fear of being poisoned.

    In other news, Team Trump comes up with yet another way to screw the poor:

    FCC chairman Ajit Pai is proposing to scale down the Lifeline program, which offers subsidies for internet and phone service to low-income Americans. The plan would effectively cut affordable internet access through the program for 8 million people, about 70 percent of the Lifeline’s recipients. This reduction would be particularly devastating for Puerto Rico, where about 500,000 people, or 17 percent of the population, have relied on the Lifeline program since Hurricane Maria.

    Last week, 11 Democratic senators, including California Sen. Kamala Harris and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, sent a letter to the FCC asking the commission to reconsider the cut backs. “The Lifeline Program is essential for millions of Americans who rely on subsidized internet access to find jobs, schedule doctor’s appointments, complete their school assignments, interface with the government, and remain connected in a digital economy,” the letter reads, in part. “The program helps Americans—including disproportionate numbers of families with children, veterans and people of color—survive.” A group of 68 House members sent a similar letter.

    Under the current program, people at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines are eligible to buy a discounted internet and phone subscription for $9.25 per month. The Reagan administration introduced Lifeline in 1985 to subsidize phone service, and it was expanded in 2016 to include internet. Pai’s revisions to the program would prevent smaller companies known as resellers, which don’t have their own infrastructure, from buying network capacity from big telecom providers and then selling it back to low-income consumers at cheaper rates. A majority of Lifeline recipients purchase their internet access from resellers.

    “Removing resellers from the program is going to significantly undermine the reach and usefulness of the program,” Eric Null, policy counsel at New America’s Open Technology Institute, told Slate. “If the proposal goes through, those folks need to either be transitioned to a new Lifeline provider or would lose their access completely.” […]

    Link

  66. says

    Trump claimed that one of his favorite conspiracy theories is not a conspiracy theory:

    During a roundtable event in West Virginia purportedly about tax cuts […], Trump claimed that “millions and millions” of illegal votes are routinely cast in American elections.

    “In many places, like California, the same person votes many times,” Trump said. “They always like to say, ‘Oh, that’s a conspiracy theory.’ Not a conspiracy theory, folks. Millions and millions of people.”

    That bit of public stupidity, along with the comment about immigrants raping women, makes this a banner day for Trump. Hair Furor hit new lows. His handlers must wish they could ground him permanently.

    Debunking for the conspiracy theory:

    […] The conspiracy theory doesn’t withstand the least bit of scrutiny. During a recent federal trial, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) […] struggled to defend a law requiring documentary proof of citizenship from residents that he argued is necessary because of the threat of non-citizens casting ballots.

    During testimony, expert witnesses who Kobach has previously relied upon to corroborate his claims couldn’t cite a single instance in which illegal votes swung an election […]

    Before it was embraced by Trump, the claim that millions of illegal votes were cast during the 2016 election was popularized by InfoWars, a site that has spread conspiracy theories about mass shootings and pedophilia rings. InfoWars sourced the claim to a “report” on VoteFraud.org that made baseless claims about “more than three million votes cast by non-citizens” without providing any evidence in support.

    Last summer, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway was pressed about Trump’s voter fraud lie during a CNN interview. She defended the president by saying he “doesn’t think he’s lying about those issues, and you know it” — as if the mere fact that Trump believes the conspiracy theory is true makes it true.

    Link

  67. says

    Many questions, no answers about Trump’s plan to guard the southern border with military personnel:

    The Pentagon on Thursday had few details to provide […]

    Officials would not say whether Trump’s newly signed proclamation late Wednesday would be paid for with Defense Department dollars […] Details were also scarce as to how the Pentagon will support the plan, which is intended to address a “surge of illegal activity” along the border, according to administration officials.

    Chief spokeswoman Dana White could not say when or how many troops would be deployed, did not have cost estimates for the endeavor and didn’t say whether state or federal dollars would be used.

    Instead, she told reporters that the Pentagon is establishing a new Border Security Support Cell, led by Kenneth Rapuano, the assistant secretary of Defense for homeland defense and global security. […]

    She added that the National Guard’s efforts at the border will “act in support of border patrol agents who are performing law enforcement duties,” and will include aviation, engineering, surveillance, communications and vehicle maintenance.

    White could not say whether guardsmen would be armed or if they will perform patrols with border security agents, adding that the new support cell will help answer such questions. […]

    Link

  68. says

    Follow-up to comment 89.

    The ACLU responded to Trump:

    Once again @realDonaldTrump is claiming — without proof — that millions of people vote illegally in our elections.

    The real conspiracy is elected officials peddling lies in order to delegitimize our democracy and justify restrictions on the right to vote.

  69. says

    Keeping it classy, Mike Huckabee joked about Hillary Clinton:

    […] “Some people can’t let go … it’s just that simple,” Huckabee said of Clinton on Fox News’s “Outnumbered” […]

    “But having Hillary Clinton come in and campaign for you, if you are a Democrat candidate, is like having Jeffrey Dahmer do the ribbon cutting at a restaurant opening,” said Huckabee, […]

    Link

  70. blf says

    And right on cue, an update to @86, Here’s some pastries to snark(? shark?) hair furor with, From Aleppo to Paris, pastry chef Myriam Sabet marries French and Levantine flavours (don’t click on the link if you are already hungry (unless you like gnawing on your computer’s screen)):

    The Maison Aleph pastry shop, in Paris, stands as a reminder that Aleppo’s identity stretches well beyond Syria’s civil war. At the crossroads between France and the Levant, Myriam Sabet hopes to revive her hometown’s golden age with her pâtisserie.

    Aleppo… Wait, not THAT Aleppo. The Aleppo on offer at 20, rue de la Verrerie, in the French capital’s Marais area, evokes the Silk Road, the “Thousand and One Nights” heady with jasmine, Samarkand and delicate crystallised rose petals. Myriam Sabet was born and raised in that Aleppo and it is to that city that she pays tribute with Maison Aleph. The name refers to the first letter of the alphabet in Arabic and Hebrew, “but resonates, too, with Aleppo”.

    […]

    Bitter orange, thick-rinded citron, “the conspicuousness of rose”, pistachio, orange blossom… Sabet’s shopfront is a window on the garden of her childhood. Peek inside and one is transported within her sweetest memories. To the Sunday meal where the family and the in-laws pit their culinary talents up against each other. To the balconies where apricots, red cheeks blushing with sweetness, turn to jam over days under the sun. To bread spread thick with halva, a snack on the road to school, or the cherry and almond ice creams.

    […]

    “I couldn’t find an oriental pâtisserie in Paris that suited me and I could not conceive of my friends having that image of oriental pastry and finding it good. It made me want to introduce people to the flavours as they should be,” she says between streams of customers, from the local businessman to the Japanese tourist and the young schoolboy digging for change at the bottom of his book bag for Maison Aleph’s latest creation: an Easter egg dressed in praline, almond and hazelnut, with a hint of orange blossom, set into a nest of angel hair.

    […]

    Everything here is about flavour and sharing emotions. “I do neither French nor Levantine pâtisserie,” she says. As such, French chocolate shares the spotlight with pomegranate; the butter is clarified according to oriental tradition but with butter that comes certified from Poitou-Charentes, in France. Fresh fruit, which isn’t used in Levantine pastry, nests inside the angel hair, or kadaïf, representative of Middle Eastern desserts.

    […]

    Unfortunately, Maison Aleph is in Paris, which means taking the TGV, which is currently something of a hassle due to the strikes, so I’ll just have to settle for gnawing on the screen…

  71. tomh says

    @ #90

    My favorite governor, Kate Brown of Oregon, had this to say about Trump’s plan for the border:

    “If @realDonaldTrump asks me to deploy Oregon Guard troops to the Mexico border, I’ll say no,” tweeted Democratic Gov Brown. “As Commander of Oregon’s Guard, I’m deeply troubled by Trump’s plan to militarize our border.”

    She added: “There’s been no outreach by the President or federal officials, and I have no intention of allowing Oregon’s guard troops to be used to distract from his troubles in Washington.”

  72. says

    “Lewandowski to Democrats: I’m not answering your ‘f—ing’ questions”:

    Corey Lewandowski had a blunt message for Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee: He wasn’t going to answer their “fucking” questions.

    Lewandowski, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, was the final witness in the yearlong House investigation that descended into vitriol and back-biting — ultimately resulting in two separate partisan reports that will leave the American public no closer to learning how the Russians interfered in the 2016 elections.

    But Lewandowski, who agreed to come back to the committee a second time in March after initially refusing to answer questions about topics occurring once he left the campaign in June 2016, was in no mood to give Democrats anything they wanted, saying he would only answer “relevant” questions.

    And, according to four sources with direct knowledge of the situation, the Trump confidante repeatedly swore at Democratic lawmakers to make the point he wasn’t going to talk further.

    I’m not answering your “fucking” question, Lewandowski shouted at one point.

    Democrats, including Rep. Jackie Speier, fired back at Lewandowski, who was not moved, multiple sources said.

    Democrats said that Lewandowski wouldn’t discuss the firing of FBI Director James Comey, the White House response to revelations that Donald Trump Jr. met with Russians in Trump Tower in June 2016 and his conversations with the President, among other topics.

    Republicans sided with Lewandowski, saying he had spent hours before the panel answering questions pertinent to the inquiry….

    This is revolting. A witness before a congressional committee testifying on a serious matter responds to their colleagues’ questions like this, and they side with him? This is the respect they have for their own institution? Not a single one of them deserves to be there. How shameful and pathetic.

  73. says

    blf @93, OMG, sooo delicious. My goodness. If I ever need to be bribed, go to Paris and get the goodies.

    In other news, Ari Melber’s interviews with Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, and with other lawyers tonight, was just awesome. Everyone was agog at the cavalier way that Trump just blew up the contract he supposedly had with Stormy Daniels, and thereby blowing up the arbitration clause as well.

    http://www.msnbc.com/the-beat-with-ari-melber/watch/porn-star-s-lawyer-trump-denying-payment-a-gift-that-will-backfire-1203780163684

  74. says

    Follow-up to comment 96.

    Trump on Thursday asserted he was unaware that his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels in 2016 for her to keep quiet about an alleged affair she’d had years earlier with Trump.

    Asked if he knew about the payment while traveling on Air Force One, Trump said “no,” according to pool reporter Rebecca Ballhaus of the Wall Street Journal.

    A reporter asked why Cohen made the payment.

    “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen,” Trump said. “Michael is my attorney. You’ll have to ask Michael.”

    Do you know where the money came from? a reporter asked.

    “No, I don’t know,” Trump said.

    Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, responded with a statement to TPM within minutes of the breaking news.

    “Our case just got that much better,” he said. “And we very much look forward to testing the truthfulness of Mr. Trump’s feigned lack of knowledge concerning the $130k payment as he stated on Air Force One. As history teaches us, it is one thing to deceive the press and quite another to do so under oath.”

    Ballhaus later reported: “Trump ignored a question on whether he ever set up a fund of money that Cohen could draw from.”

    Link

    From Josh Marshall:

    Stormy Daniels’ lawyer makes the obvious point. This would seem to strengthen Daniels’ case since it makes it even harder to see how President Trump was a party to the agreement. More significantly, there’s a non-trivial chance that President Trump will eventually have to answer this question under oath.

  75. says

    More details that support the fact that Pruitt has no ethical core:

    EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was either lying or ignorant when he claimed that his former landlord’s lobbyist husband doesn’t have any clients with business before the EPA.

    That’s according to the Daily Beast. The website looked into lobbying records and determined that yes, powerful energy lobbyist Steven Hart — a friend of Pruitt’s from Oklahoma — has clients with business before Pruitt’s agency. Hart is chairman and CEO if Williams & Jensen, one of the most prominent lobbying firms in the country. His wife, Vicki Hart, is a health care lobbyist and Pruitt’s former landlord.

    Steven Hart was part of a four-member team at Williams & Jensen to represent glass bottle manufacturer Owens-Illinois as an EPA lobbyist, according to the the Daily Beast report. Owens-Illinois’ joint venture with MillerCoors, Rocky Mountain Bottle Company, announced a settlement with the EPA, DOJ and state of Colorado in June 2017, while Pruitt was living in the townhouse.

    Contrary to Pruitt’s claims, according to the Daily Beast, Hart also represents Cheniere Energy, the liquid natural gas exporter that Pruitt championed during a December trip to Morocco.

    Hart has more energy clients, according to the Daily Beast, including Black & Decker subsidiary Stanley Oil and Gas; and Smithfield Foods, which burns animal waste to create energy.

    The report also listed others of Hart’s clients regulated in part by the EPA: Coca-Cola, United Airlines and, until recently, a trade group representing Chrysler, Ford Motor Company and General Motors.

    Link

  76. says

    Trade war update: Trump called for additional tariffs, totaling $100 billion, on China.

    […] “In light of China’s unfair retaliation, I have instructed the USTR to consider whether $100 billion of additional tariffs would be appropriate,” Trump said in a statement issued by the White House. […]

    Trump’s decision could undercut ongoing efforts by U.S. and Chinese officials to calm tensions and prevent a full-blown trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

    Just hours before the announcement, new Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow tried to downplay fears that the conflict could hurt the U.S. economy.

    “Technically, both countries have just proposed tariffs. Nothing’s been enacted,” he told reporters at the White House. “I think that’s an important point. Nothing around the corner. There’s going to be a big discussion about it.” […]

    Link

  77. says

    Follow-up to comment 99.

    Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, responded to Trump’s new tariff announcement:

    Hopefully the President is just blowing off steam again but, if he’s even half-serious, this is nuts. China is guilty of many things, but the President has no actual plan to win right now.

    He’s threatening to light American agriculture on fire. Let’s absolutely take on Chinese bad behavior, but with a plan that punishes them instead of us. This is the dumbest possible way to do this.

  78. says

    More follow-up to comment 99.

    […] Dow Jones Industrial Average futures plummeted, indicating the market would open more than 350 points down on Friday as a result of the news. […]

    Link

  79. says

    Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto publicly rebuked Trump:

    President Trump: If you wish to reach agreements with Mexico, we stand ready, as we have proved until now, always willing to engage in a dialogue, acting in earnestness, in good faith and in a constructive spirit. If your recent statements are the result of frustration due to domestic policy issues, [due] to your laws or to your Congress, it is to them that you should turn to, not to Mexicans.

    We will not allow negative rhetoric to define our actions. We will act only in the best interest of Mexicans […]

    Washington Post link

  80. says

    Follow-up to comment 98.

    Pruitt fell behind on payments for his $50-a-night condo rental. Link

    As Lawrence O’Donnell pointed out this evening, Pruitt may never have paid at all. There are no canceled checks, no proof that he paid anything.

  81. says

    US sanctions seven Russian oligarchs (including Oleg Deripaska, who has ties to Manafort and Putin), 12 companies connected to them, 17 senior Kremlin officials, a Russian weapons trading company and a Russian bank.”

    Oligarchs sanctioned: Oleg Deripaska, Viktor Vekselberg, Andrei Skoch, Igor Rotenberg, Kirill Shamalov, Suleiman Kerimov, and Vladimir Bogdanov.”

  82. blf says

    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (yes, the famous basketball player, and also a 2016 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom) has been writing a monthly(?) column in the Grauniad since late last year, mostly on the intersection of political / cultural and sporting matters in the States. His latest column is scathing, The NFL’s plan to protect America from witches:

    The NFL’s cheerleader problem shows exactly what’s wrong with the league’s management: They insist on being the self-appointed guardians of America’s mythological vision of itself

    Witches, man. Just when you thought we were safe from their malignant influence on America’s virtue, the NFL has proven we are still in real danger from their dark powers. It is fortunate for our country’s moral fiber that the NFL has kept current in their reading, channeling Heinrich Kramer’s 1487 tome, Malleus Maleficarum (“The Hammer of Witches”), which was the go-to DIY text in many countries for conducting witch trials and public executions. As a result, an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 witches were put to death, about 80% of which were females. Why so many women? Kramer explains that it’s because a woman is more carnal than man, as is clear in connection with many filthy carnal acts. He believed that the sexual desire men felt when looking at a woman who was not their wife was due to the vixen casting magic spells to tempt them. As punishment, these sexual sirens must be, if not beheaded, drowned, or hanged, at least fired from their cheerleading jobs.

    Bailey Davis, the 22-year-old former New Orleans Saints cheerleader, was recently fired for violating team social media rules by posting an Instagram photo of herself in one-piece lingerie that shows as much skin as a one-piece swimsuit in a Nordstrom’s ad, and a lot less than their cheerleading outfits. She has since filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for gender discrimination. When she spoke to a representative from the Saints’ human resources department, he complained that in her photo she had a dirty face (clear proof she was casting her spell compelling virtuous men to filthy carnal acts) and that he’d never allow his granddaughters to post something like that.

    Grandpa’s pompous Lord Tyrion Lannister[] response encapsulates exactly what’s wrong with NFL management: They insist on being the self-appointed guardians of America’s mythological vision of itself. […]

    […]

    In their Pleasantville fantasy, athletes still Shut up and dribble (or, in their case, “Shut up and tackle”). That’s because the majority of those athletes who speak up or kneel down in the real world are people of color calling attention to profound life-and-death inequities across the country, daily humiliating and life-threatening inequities that most these owners never have to face and therefore have no personal stake in. Attempts to silence players who refuse to accept their assigned roles fits right in with owners’ smarmy manipulation of the women cheerleaders through discriminatory Jane Crow “laws”.

    The country would be outraged if a team’s rules stated that if a black player was eating at a restaurant and a white player walked in, the black player would have to leave the restaurant. Yet, those are the rules for Saints’ cheerleaders, who must leave a restaurant they are eating at if a Saints player arrives. […]

    […]

    These highly trained and skilled women are being told that the NFL just wants to protect them from sexual predators, particularly NFL players. Like the grumpy grandpa in human resources who wouldn’t “allow” his granddaughters to post photos he doesn’t approve of, the NFL wants to be their (creepy? pimpy?) daddy. These are adult women who should be permitted to make their own decisions about who they contact and who they don’t, especially since the players have no such restrictions. A cheerleader poses in modest lingerie and she’s fired; a player knocks out his wife on video and is suspended for two games. Boys will be boys, but girls must be what the NFL tells them to be.

    For necessary movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp to thrive, Americans have to recognize that how we treat females in high-profile entertainment contributes to the detrimental perception that walls them in and diminishes their contribution to society. Less pay communicates less value. Forcing rules that treat them like children demeans their intellect. Yet, the NFL doesn’t mind exploiting the sensual attributes of these women for financial gain. […]

      † A number of readers in the comments have suggested Mr Abdul-Jabbar mean Tywin Lannister, not Tyrion. Both are fictional characters in some soft p0rn TV show, which is perhaps the more relevant point? As Mr Abdul-Jabbar says, the creepy NFL is all but pimping the woman, not unlike the exploitation in a t&a TV fantasy.

  83. says

    Here’s the Treasury press release.

    Sanctioned officials: Andrey Akimov, Mikhail Fradkov, Sergey Fursenko, Oleg Govorun, Alexey Dyumin, Vladimir Kolokoltsev, Konstantin Kosachev, Andrey Kostin, Alexey Miller, Nikolai Patrushev, Vladislav Reznik, Evgeniy Shkolov, >b>Alexander Torshin, Vladimir Ustinov, Timur Valiulin, Alexander Zharov, and Viktor Zolotov.

  84. blf says

    Al Jazeera has a set of articles, collectively Trump & the UAE: Connecting the dots, which includes (but is perhaps not limited to, and not listed in any particular order):

    ● Kushner conundrum: Mixing business and politics: “Jared Kushner supported the blockade of Qatar shortly after Qatari officials declined to invest in his holdings.”

    ● Kirill Dmitriev’s ties to Putin and the UAE: “Dmitriev, head of Russia’s sovereign investment fund, has met with the UAE’s crown prince and Trump’s Erik Prince.”

    ● Banished Bannon and the Mueller investigation: “Stephen Bannon, former Trump adviser, has adopted UAE talking points since leaving the White House.”

    From the collective link (slightly edited for formatting reasons (not marked)):

    Al Jazeera investigates the connections between the Trump administration, the UAE and Russia.
    […]
    Of all the connections between the major players being investigated by the Mueller probe, George Nader, the reported adviser of Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, serves a central role.

    Furthermore, US businessmen with extensive ties to the UAE are known to have had access to the Trump White House.

    […]
    Major Players
    • George Nader, the former adviser to UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and convicted paedophile.

    • Stephen Bannon, former senior adviser to President Donald Trump.

    • Elliott Broidy, US businessman, associate of Nader and pro-Israel philanthropist.

    • Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser with working relationships with UAE officials.

    • Erik Prince, billionaire founder of mercenary firm Blackwater with close ties to Bannon, the UAE and Russia.

    • Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia’s $10bn sovereign investment fund who met Prince at a January 2017 gathering in the Seychelles on the recommendation of UAE officials.

    […]

    There are also copies of supporting documents at the collective link.

  85. says

    “Mueller probe tracking down Trump business partners, with Cohen a focus of queries”:

    Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators this week questioned an associate of the Trump Organization who was involved in overseas deals with President Donald Trump’s company in recent years.

    Armed with subpoenas compelling electronic records and sworn testimony, Mueller’s team showed up unannounced at the home of the business associate, who was a party to multiple transactions connected to Trump’s effort to expand his brand abroad, according to persons familiar with the proceedings.

    Investigators were particularly interested in interactions involving Michael D. Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney and a former Trump Organization employee. Among other things, Cohen was involved in business deals secured or sought by the Trump Organization in Georgia, Kazakhstan and Russia.

    The move to question business associates of the president adds a significant new element to the Mueller investigation, which began by probing whether the Trump campaign and Russia colluded in an effort to get Trump elected but has branched far beyond that….

    This last is such a stupid trope, which somehow appears in about half of these reports about what Mueller is investigating. It’s ridiculous to suggest that Trump’s business dealings with Russians and in Russia and related regions are “far beyond” Mueller’s original mandate. In fact, Steele was tasked with investigating Trump’s years of attempts to build in Russia and almost immediately stumbled into the election attack and allegations of financial and political conspiracy.

  86. says

    Maddow on Scott Pruitt last night. She doesn’t mention my personal favorite – his security detail busting down the door of his sweet-deal lobbyist condo rental on a Wednesday afternoon because they believed he was unconscious, with the cost of replacing the door paid by the EPA – but she’s the only one I’ve seen focusing on the Icahn connection.

  87. says

    “What’s Driving Trump’s Attacks on Amazon? It’s Personal”:

    Early in President Donald Trump’s term, when White House officials heard him complain vociferously about Amazon.com Inc. they arranged private briefings in the Oval Office to make sure that he would talk knowledgeably about the company.

    Gary Cohn, his top economic adviser, and other officials gave PowerPoint presentations and briefing papers they believed debunked his concerns that Amazon was dodging taxes and exploiting the U.S. Postal Service.

    It made little difference. Mr. Trump persisted in attacks that ran counter to the material they had showed him.

    “It’s not the narrative he wants,” one person familiar with the matter said of the White House briefings. “He clearly didn’t find it persuasive because he keeps saying it’s untrue.”

    In the past week, the president has turned what were sporadic and often private criticisms into a sustained volley of tweets against the company, often causing stock market fluctuations.

    Fueling Mr. Trump’s ire is not so much Amazon, the online giant that is revamping the retail industry, but the company’s Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, people close to the White House say.

    Mr. Trump sees Mr. Bezos’s hand in newspaper coverage he dislikes and is lashing out at Amazon as a proxy, these people said.

    Mr. Trump’s most recent statements prompted White House aides to go back to him this week to tell him his Amazon critique might be “missing the point,” a White House official said. In response, Mr. Trump has been “digging in,” this person said….

    Batshit.

  88. says

    “Britain Pinpoints Secretive Russian Facility That Made Deadly Nerve Agent”: “Britain says it has identified the secretive Russian facility where it believes the deadly Novichok nerve agent, used in the attempted murders of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, was made. The facility is named as Shikhany, which is around 800 kilometers southeast of Moscow, and British intelligence believes it’s been used over the past decade to test whether the Novichok nerve agents could be used in assassinations abroad, according to a report.”

  89. says

    SC @116, Velshi and Ruhle also focused on the Icahn connection. It’s a follow-the-money thing, of course. Pruitt is, effectively, putting millions in Icahn’s pocket while simultaneously degrading the environment in which we live (degradation which disproportionately affects poor and low-income people). No wonder Trump hasn’t fired Pruitt yet.

  90. blf says

    Batshit.

    I presume bat guano is a good fertilizer, and the Colonel did help Group Captain Mandrake, risking the wrath of the Coca-Cola company. Neither hair furor nor his delusions & lies are worthy of such comparisons, excepting the Coca-Cola company.

  91. says

    Trump’s tweet from this morning:

    Do you believe that the Fake News Media is pushing hard on a story that I am going to replace A.G. Jeff Sessions with EPA Chief Scott Pruitt, who is doing a great job but is TOTALLY under siege? Do people really believe this stuff? So much of the media is dishonest and corrupt!

    If we go by past experience, this outburst from Trump indicates that Pruitt will soon be fired.

    Think about Mike Flynn, for example.

  92. says

    Vladimir Kara-Murza – “In Russia, a democratically elected mayor finally succumbs to Putinism”:

    For a government that claims to be popular, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime is strikingly afraid of elections. On the national level it has tamed them with a series of administrative obstacles and the removal of opponents. On the regional level it has created a system that essentially allows incumbent governors to hand-pick their challengers. And on the municipal level it has decided to do away with alternate candidates altogether.

    Directly elected mayors were once the norm in Russian cities. Today they are fast approaching extinction. As of last week, only eight of Russia’s regional capitals — less than a 10th — still allowed citizens to elect their mayors. As of this week, the number is down to seven.

    The latest casualty in the Kremlin’s campaign is Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-largest city of roughly 1.5 million. On Tuesday, the regional legislature abolished direct elections for the city’s mayor, replacing them with a bureaucratic appointment procedure. The discussion in committee took all of 15 minutes; the law was passed in three readings on one day; and no one bothered with providing even a formal justification, except that doing away with elections would save taxpayer money.

    No justification was necessary, because the real reason behind the move is well known. In 2013, voters in Yekaterinburg elected Yevgeny Roizman, a charismatic opposition politician, as mayor over the candidate from Putin’s United Russia party. Roizman, a poet and historian, has a reputation of a maverick who often challenges powers-that-be….

    On the eve of the law’s passage, thousands gathered on the streets of Yekaterinburg to protest the abolition of elections. It was the city’s largest demonstration in years….

    In recent years, the Kremlin has suffered a number of high-profile defeats in mayoral elections across the country. In Yaroslavl, Petrozavodsk and Togliatti, to name a few, opposition challengers prevailed over government-backed candidates. The winners have been arrested, removed from office or, in the best case, allowed to complete their term – but in all those cities, direct mayoral elections were later abolished. For a government that claims to be popular, the Kremlin is indeed remarkably afraid of allowing Russian citizens to choose their leaders. Perhaps it is time more people began to ask why.

  93. says

    SC @108, The National Rifle Association is not going to like the sanctions placed on their lifetime member Aleksandr Torshin.

    Torshin, deputy governor of the state-owned central bank, is reportedly under FBI investigation for illegally funneling donations to the NRA to support Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

    I wonder if the NRA will make another public statement. Earlier, they claimed they had received a donation of less than $1,000 from Torshin.

  94. blf says

    Trump to reportedly meet evangelical leaders to discuss Stormy Daniels:

    […]
    Evangelical leaders are planning a meeting with Donald Trump in June following continuing developments in the scandal over his alleged affair with pornographic actor Stormy Daniels, it was reported on Friday.

    Four anonymous sources told radio network NPR that the meeting was intended to address concerns about how the midterms might be affected both by the president’s divisive leadership style and his alleged sex scandals.

    […]

    Early polling suggests Daniels’ claim she had an affair with Trump before he was president has not had a substantial impact on white evangelicals’ attitudes towards Trump.

    A CBS News poll held from 8 to 11 March found 70% of white evangelicals approve of Trump’s job performance. This poll was taken before Daniels detailed her sexual encounter with the president on the television news program 60 Minutes.

    This poll looks exclusively at white evangelicals, omitting an increasingly powerful and diverse bloc within the community.

    Evangelicals are becoming more diverse, fueled largely by an increase in young Latino members. This has led to an increasing political divide in the bloc, as these younger, non-white members are more often Democrats or independents.

    […]

    Ralph Reed, chairman of the conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition told NPR he does not expect the affair allegations to substantially reduce evangelical support for Trump in the midterms.

    “If these folks don’t turn out in record numbers in 2018,” Reed said. “It’s gonna be a long night for Republicans.”

    The NPR story, ‘Concerned’ Evangelicals Plan To Meet With Trump As Sex Scandals Swirl (link embedded in above excerpt) notes the proposed 19 June meeting will be at his eyesore in DC — hair furor the grifter tries to profit off everything:

    [… The meeting] also could raise questions about the ethics of holding such events, organized through the White House, at Trump’s hotel just a few blocks from the White House.

    That prospect did not seem to concern the evangelical leaders involved with booking the event.

    “That doesn’t even cross our mind,” said one person with knowledge of the planning […]

  95. says

    “Cambridge Analytica helped Philippines’ brutal authoritarian leader win election”:

    Strategic Communications Laboratories, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, previously boasted on its website on it how re-branded Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte into a “strong, no-nonsense man of action” during the country’s 2016 election.

    In an archived version of its website, first obtained by the South China Morning Post, SCL talks about how it helped fashion Duterte into an election-winning candidate. The brief doesn’t refer to the candidate by name, but it does point to the former mayor of Davao City — Duterte’s previous role.

    “SCL’s research showed that many groups within the electorate were more likely to be swayed by qualities such as toughness and decisiveness,” the website read. “SCL used the cross-cutting issue of crime to rebrand the client as a strong, no-nonsense man of action, who would appeal to the true value of the voters.”

    …Duterte has taken his “man of action” relabeling quite seriously. He’s instituted a brutal drug war which has resulted in the deaths of 12,000 people and is being investigated for running a death squad during his time as mayor of Davao. Duterte has also decided to withdraw the Philippines from the International Criminal Court, which is in the preliminary stages of investigating human rights abuses in the country.

    What a startling rebranding success for SCL.

  96. says

    SC @127, yeah, I agree. I really dislike the fact that rightwingers have turned Nancy Pelosi into an exemplar of evil, (like they did to Hillary Clinton), and that now they are telling Pelosi to shut up, and/or they are using her as a symbol of evil liberalism that is handy for short-handing their vote-Republican issues. And now we see some moderates and Democrats on the same bandwagon. Dawsey should know better.

    The idea is that if Pelosi rightfully calls for Pruitt to resign, then rightwingers will automatically jump to Pruitt’s defense because they have been trained to think of everything Pelosi says as wrong or evil. (Pavlovian response?] We should resist such over-simplification, and we should resist the use of women in power as symbols of evil.`

    In other news, some new details about Scott Pruitt’s ridiculous waste of taxpayer monies and about Pruitt’s corrupt ways of doing business stuck with me. He is also an entitled asshat. Take, for example, the use of sirens and flashing red lights when he wants his motorcade to whisk him through D.C. traffic so he can get to dinner on time. Take, for example, Pruitt spending $70,000 for two bulletproof desks.

    Even though Pruitt has a security staff of at least 30, costing $2 million a year. And even though he’s installed a second security system inside the EPA’s security system. And even though he’s cut off an entire floor of the building where anyone entering has to be escorted by a member of his private army, he demanded a bulletproof desk … but at least this is one thing he didn’t get.

    Link

    Pruitt certainly has an overly inflated sense of his own importance.

  97. says

    From the Associated Press:

    Trump recently told one confidant that he was “tired of being told no” by Kelly and has instead chosen to simply not tell Kelly things at all, according to a person who was not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations and spoke on condition of anonymity.

    In Trump’s West Wing, once the rumors begin that an aide’s exit is forthcoming, the “stink” on that staffer never leaves, according to one of the nearly dozen White House aides, former administration officials and outside advisers who spoke to The Associated Press under the same conditions.

  98. says

    From the White House to Hollywood, Mohamed bin Salaman [Saudi crown prince] rode a crest of positive press as bodies continue to pile up in Yemen.

    Link

    Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman (known as MBS) has had what can only be considered a spectacularly successful visit to the United States — especially after a President Donald Trump approved a $1.3 billion artillery deal on Thursday.

    As the Associated Press reported on Friday, that’s only part of the arms package MBS has secured on his two week visit. He has also secured another $1 billion arms deal last month — comprised mostly of missiles.

    In theory, U.S. lawmakers have a month to block the latest deal. But given that they voted to table a resolution that would have stopped U.S. support of Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Yemen — which have killed thousands, including children, and are the subject of a U.N. human rights investigation — this seems unlikely.

    While in the United States for his two-week trip, MBS met with President Donald Trump, of course, and discussed Iran, a country whose influence they are both trying to temper — MBS with threats against Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Trump with added sanctions and promises to pull the United States out the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.

    He had coffee at a Manhattan Starbucks with business tycoon and former New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, rubbed shoulders with higher ups a Harvard and MIT in Massachusetts, and has been schmoozing Hollywood, making deals with Cirque du Soleil as well as AMC Cinemas. […]

    More at the link, including reports of glad-handing with Silicon Valley executives.

  99. says

    Update on Puerto Rico: 238 schools are being closed.

    […] Bowing to what Keleher called the “fiscal reality” of the island’s situation, the education secretary indicated Puerto Rico will work to shift funding towards repairing those schools remaining open.

    “We know it’s a difficult and painful process. For this reason, we’ve done it in the most sensible way taking in consideration all the elements that could impact the daily lives of some families and the school communities in general,” she said.

    A number of educators slammed the decision and criticized the government. […]

    Link

  100. says

    Business as usual for Team Trump:

    National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow appears to have been blindsided by President Donald Trump’s threat to impose an additional $100 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports.

    Asked by reporters Friday when he first learned of the president’s decision to instruct his top trade official to consider the new tariffs, Kudlow took a lengthy pause before responding: “Last evening.” The White House statement announcing the move went out shortly after 6:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Thursday. […]

    No planning. No discussion. No strategy. Not even a heads-up.

  101. says

    This is incredible work by Rukmini Callimachi – “The ISIS Files: We unearthed thousands of internal documents that help explain how the Islamic State stayed in power so long.”:

    …The disheveled fighters who burst out of the desert more than three years ago founded a state that was acknowledged by no one except themselves. And yet for nearly three years, the Islamic State controlled a stretch of land that at one point was the size of Britain, with a population estimated at 12 million people. At its peak, it included a 100-mile coastline in Libya, a section of Nigeria’s lawless forests and a city in the Philippines, as well as colonies in at least 13 other countries. By far the largest city under their rule was Mosul.

    Nearly all of that territory has now been lost, but what the militants left behind helps answer the troubling question of their longevity: How did a group whose spectacles of violence galvanized the world against it hold onto so much land for so long?

    Part of the answer can be found in more than 15,000 pages of internal Islamic State documents I recovered during five trips to Iraq over more than a year.

    The documents were pulled from the drawers of the desks behind which the militants once sat, from the shelves of their police stations, from the floors of their courts, from the lockers of their training camps and from the homes of their emirs, including this record detailing the jailing of a 14-year-old boy for goofing around during prayer.

    The New York Times worked with outside experts to verify their authenticity, and a team of journalists spent 15 months translating and analyzing them page by page.

    Individually, each piece of paper documents a single, routine interaction: A land transfer between neighbors. The sale of a ton of wheat. A fine for improper dress.

    But taken together, the documents in the trove reveal the inner workings of a complex system of government. They show that the group, if only for a finite amount of time, realized its dream: to establish its own state, a theocracy they considered a caliphate, run according to their strict interpretation of Islam.

    The world knows the Islamic State for its brutality, but the militants did not rule by the sword alone. They wielded power through two complementary tools: brutality and bureaucracy.

    ISIS built a state of administrative efficiency that collected taxes and picked up the garbage. It ran a marriage office that oversaw medical examinations to ensure that couples could have children. It issued birth certificates — printed on Islamic State stationery — to babies born under the caliphate’s black flag. It even ran its own D.M.V.

    The documents and interviews with dozens of people who lived under their rule show that the group at times offered better services and proved itself more capable than the government it had replaced.

    They also suggest that the militants learned from mistakes the United States made in 2003 after it invaded Iraq, including the decision to purge members of Saddam Hussein’s ruling party from their positions and bar them from future employment. That decree succeeded in erasing the Baathist state, but also gutted the country’s civil institutions, creating the power vacuum that groups like ISIS rushed to fill.

    A little more than a decade later, after seizing huge tracts of Iraq and Syria, the militants tried a different tactic. They built their state on the back of the one that existed before, absorbing the administrative know-how of its hundreds of government cadres. An examination of how the group governed reveals a pattern of collaboration between the militants and the civilians under their yoke.

    One of the keys to their success was their diversified revenue stream. The group drew its income from so many strands of the economy that airstrikes alone were not enough to cripple it.

    Ledgers, receipt books and monthly budgets describe how the militants monetized every inch of territory they conquered, taxing every bushel of wheat, every liter of sheep’s milk and every watermelon sold at markets they controlled. From agriculture alone, they reaped hundreds of millions of dollars. Contrary to popular perception, the group was self-financed, not dependent on external donors.

    More surprisingly, the documents provide further evidence that the tax revenue the Islamic State earned far outstripped income from oil sales. It was daily commerce and agriculture — not petroleum — that powered the economy of the caliphate.

    While the militants’ state eventually crumbled, its blueprint remains for others to use.

    In Mosul, what had been called the Directorate of Agriculture was renamed Diwan al-Zera’a, which can be translated as the Ministry of Agriculture. The term “diwan” harks back to the seventh-century rule of one of the earliest caliphs.

    ISIS printed new letterhead that showed it had branded at least 14 administrative offices with “diwan,” renaming familiar ones like education and health. Then it opened diwans for things that people had not heard of: something called the hisba, which they soon learned was the feared morality police; another diwan for the pillaging of antiquities; yet another dedicated to “war spoils.”*…

    Much more like the Nazis than I’d ever realized. You have to read the stories of some of the people involved and see some of the documents at the link to get the full sense of it.

    * This was dedicated to confiscating the land and goods of people who had fled: “‘Confiscation’, the manual says, will be applied to the property of every single ‘Shia, apostate, Christian, Nusayri and Yazidi based on a lawful order issued directly by the Ministry of the Judiciary’.” The property was then bureaucratically redistributed to the families of ISIS fighters and Sunnis.

  102. says

    Coverage of Trump’s speech in West Virginia yesterday, from Wonkette:

    Have we mentioned that the president is FUCKBONKERS INSANE? Yesterday he gave an absolutely batcrap crazy speech in West Virginia. He had some tax words written up, but he tossed them aside because, you know, that shit’s just boring. […]

    Trump was in Sulphur Springs to talk about tax reform. But instead, he blessed the crowd with some freestyle ranting and a report on all the fun facts he learned from the rabid weasels that live in his head. […]

    But it’s wonderful to be back in West Virginia. It was a very special place during the election for me. It was not even close. Was it? Huh?

    Nope. You fooled ’em real good!

    And we won — I think we won here by 42 points or something. Some incredible number. Forty-two points.

    A lot of things have happened with your coal and a lot of other things that you’re doing in West Virginia. But they’ve all happened for the positive.

    And actually, you’re one of the most successful, now — percentage-wise, you’re one of the most successful in the nation. And I could not say that during the election. Right? Before we got elected, it was not doing so well. And a lot of factors, but we got it going. And I’m very proud of it because you are very, very special people. That I can tell you.

    People are still leaving the state and the poverty rate is 18%, but West Virginia did pick up 1,345 coal jobs in 2017. So, most successful in the nation! Done and done!

    And once we get WALL, the opioid crisis will be all fixed. See, that’s why Trump is cutting Medicare and Medicaid, since we won’t need drug treatment once Mexico coughs up the cash to built that monstrosity.

    Snipped Trump’s blathering on about the wall, the National guard, no choice, etc.

    You know, we’ve gone into towns in Long Island where we’ve taken MS-13 and we’ve actually liberated towns. This is our country, right? I grew up in Long Island, right short of Long Island. And these are great towns; I know every one of them. And they were taken over by thugs, by — you know, they talk about guns; they didn’t want to use guns. They use knives because it’s much more painful, where they cut people up, because a bullet is too quick. They want to inflict pain on students, on young women, young girls walking home. And their parents never see them again. They’re cut up.

    And remember my opening remarks at Trump Tower, when I opened. Everybody said, “Oh, he was so tough,” and I used the word “rape.” And yesterday, it came out where, this journey coming up, women are raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before. They don’t want to mention that. […]

    You have to see, there are some scenes of — the ICE people, they’re fantastic and they’re tough. And, by the way, that’s the only thing that these thugs understand. They don’t understand, “Oh, isn’t he an intelligent young man, isn’t he wonderful. He studied so hard in school.” They don’t — they only want tough. That’s all they understand.

    And these ICE guys are so much tougher than them, and they’re grabbing them by the necks and throwing them into the paddy wagons. And the town — the people are clapping and screaming. […]

    And I just want to congratulate the state of West Virginia because I am so proud of you. You were with me from day one. From day one. I mean, it was — (applause) — no, you were with me from day one. There was never like, “Oh, gee, maybe it’s going to be close.” […]

  103. says

    Lynna:

    We should resist such over-simplification, and we should resist the use of women in power as symbols of evil.

    Exactly. And if we don’t, it’ll just be Elizabeth Warren next, or Kamala Harris, or Kirsten Gillibrand, or, or or,… (and still Clinton and Pelosi besides).

  104. says

    Natasha Bertrand: “Three Russians sanctioned today—Deripaska, Vekselberg, Torshin—have popped up in the Trump-Russia probe. Two of the Russian government officials sanctioned, Konstantin Kosachev and Oleg Govorun, were named in the Steele dossier.”

    She provides the relevant segments of the Steele memos. Steele’s sources told him Govorun was involved with contacts with Michael Cohen.

  105. blf says

    Follow-up to @415(previous page) — President Macron annoyed some French by using Franglias in a twittering — Pauline Bock, writing in the Grauniad, points out there is an issue with the particular Anglais term he used, « La démocratie est le système le plus bottom up de la terre », namely, you have to be fairly fluent in the English (or business-speak) to understand it, Macron’s bottom-up language is upside down to most French people (all emphasis in the original):

    […]
    From “basket” and “chewing gum” to “blockbusters” and “bestsellers”, English words are common in my language. The film industry regularly “translates” English film titles using another English phrase, usually more transparent, to look “cool” (for instance, Silver Linings Playbook became Happiness Therapy).

    But to many French people, “bottom up” is more confusing: was Macron making a risqué joke? Was it “bottoms up” (or “cul sec” in French)? His words, coming only days after he had launched a grand plan to promote the French language, were heavily criticised. […]

    [… B]ottom up would never come up in a casual chat: it crosses the fine line between English words familiar from pop culture and those derived from management jargon, like brainstorming or updater.

    [… T]o criticise Macron’s words, French people had to understand them first. Sure, to entrepreneurs and millennials it makes sense. But what about French people who don’t need English for work, or are simply older than the typical start-upper?

    I asked my family — teachers living in rural eastern France — if they understood the president. My father, 60, whose English is good because he regularly writes letters for Amnesty International, was the only one who immediately got it. My mother, 54, was confused. “Bottom up?!” she said. “I don’t know.” She goes to weekly English classes, but prepositions are tricky for beginners and expressions combining them with other words even more so. My grandfather, 86, struggled too: “‘Bottom’ is like the foot of a tree,” he said, “and ‘up’ is when it grows?” With context, and five minutes, he understood — but in a speech, he wouldn’t have done.
    […]

    She has a point. Whilst I cannot vouch specifically for “bottom up” being a confusing expression / idiom, the general problem comes up all the time. My own favourite example was told to me by my German teacher: An exchange student from Germany was living with some friends in the States. There were going to go visit someplace, and were running a bit late. The exchange student was upstairs, so the person on ground floor yells, “Hurry up, come down!” Nothing happens for a few moments, then a small pleading voice responds, “What you want me do, go up or come down?”

    And then there was the time I tried to explain what “minimum maximum” meant (in a technical standard)…

  106. says

    From the Associated Press:

    […] Mulvaney [Office of Management and Budget Director, and interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Mick Mulvaney] has hired at least eight political appointees since he took over the bureau in late November. Four of them are making $259,500 a year and one is making $239,595. That is more than the salaries of members of Congress, cabinet secretaries, and nearly all federal judges apart from those who sit on the Supreme Court. […]

    Mulvaney, as Trump’s budget director, has long railed against government spending. One of his first directives as acting CFPB director was to announce he needed zero dollars in funding to run the agency, pledging to spend down the bureau’s surplus fund this quarter before requiring more money from the Fed — the CFPB is funded by the Fed and not through the traditional congressional budget process.

    In his Jan. 17 letter to the Fed, Mulvaney said he was asking for zero dollars because of the need to be “responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars.” But that tight-fisted approach apparently was not used with his staff’s salaries. Further, it appears that at least two people that Mulvaney hired for his office are for positions that did not exist under the previous administration, at an additional taxpayer cost of $259,500 per employee. […]

    From Joan McCarter:

    […] Kirsten Mork, Mulvaney’s chief of staff, was getting paid $167,300 working for Rep. Jeb Hensarling on the House Financial Services Committee. Now she’s making $259,500 as chief of staff of the CFPB. The AP article doesn’t explain how she can be paid nearly $10,000 over the Fed’s pay cap. But she’s getting the maximum pay for overseeing an agency that is now doing basically nothing.

    Actually, it is doing something. It is proactively working to protect Wall Street, payday lenders and whoever else is profiting from shady lending practices. It is working proactively to screw consumers.

    Mulvaney put a stop to investigations that looked likely to return $60 million to defrauded customers. Those were payday lending cases. Just one example of him protecting people who profit from scam-like lending practices.
    Link

  107. says

    Law enforcement officials in Wisconsin are reluctant to call a white supremacist a white supremacist. Sheesh.

    Homemade bomb-making material in various stages of preparation and white supremacist literature were found in a Beaver Dam man’s apartment following last month’s destructive blast, […]

    The March 5 explosion at the Village Glen Apartments, on the 100 block of Knaup Drive, killed Benjamin Morrow. His body was found in front of an electric kitchen stove, beneath a deep layer of building material that fell on him during the blast, […]

    In the unsealed court records, [Kevin Heimerl, a state crime investigator] described the scene in the apartment as a “homemade explosive laboratory,” with instructions found on the manufacture of homemade explosives.

    The search warrant records indicate that Morrow may have had interest in white supremacy.

    “Within his bedroom, literature has been found concerning white supremacy groups,” Heimerl stated in justifying search efforts of Morrow’s lap top computer and electronic devices.

    Link

    Giving white supremacists the benefit of the doubt.

  108. says

    No, Eric Prince, that was not an accidental or coincidental meeting with that Russian oligarch in the Seychelles:

    Special Counsel Robert Mueller has obtained evidence that calls into question Congressional testimony given by Trump supporter and Blackwater founder Erik Prince last year, when he described a meeting in Seychelles with a Russian financier close to Vladimir Putin as a casual chance encounter “over a beer,” […]

    Documents obtained by Mueller suggest that before and after Prince met Nader in New York a week before the trip to the Seychelles, Nader shared information with Prince about Dmitriev, sources familiar with the investigation told ABC News, which appears to be inconsistent with Prince’s sworn testimony before a U.S. House of Representatives investigative panel.

    “I didn’t fly there to meet any Russian guy,” Prince told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in November. He testified that he travelled to the Seychelles for a meeting with United Arab Emirates officials about possible business opportunities, and they introduced him – unexpectedly – to Dmitriev. […]

    Prince told the House Intelligence Committee that his meeting with Dmitriev was a chance encounter “down in the bar” at the suggestion of “one of the brothers” of the United Arab Emirates’ leader Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed al-Nayhan.

    “At the end, one of the entourage says, ‘Hey, by the way, there’s this Russian guy that we’ve dealt with in the past. […]

    Sources say Nader — who worked at the time for the Emirati leader, known as “MBZ” – tells a different story. According to multiple sources, the U.A.E., an important U.S. ally increasingly eager to be seen as a global powerbroker, wanted to bring a Russian close to the Kremlin together with someone Nader believed was a trusted confidant of members of the incoming administration.

    […] Nader met with Prince at New York’s Pierre Hotel a week before the Jan. 11, 2017 meeting in the Seychelles, and later sent Prince biographical information about Dmitriev, which, according to those sources, noted that Dmitriev had been appointed by Putin to oversee the state-run sovereign wealth fund.

    Nader says he then facilitated and personally attended the meetings, including one between Prince and Dmitriev, at a resort owned by MBZ off the coast of East Africa, the sources told ABC News. One of the primary goals of the meeting, Nader told investigators, was to discuss foreign policy and to establish a line of communication between the Russian government and the incoming Trump administration, sources told ABC News.

    Nader — who Prince said in a 2010 lawsuit deposition had once represented his military contractor business in Iraq — was not mentioned in Prince’s congressional testimony despite Prince being asked by lawmakers who was present. Prince said only that Dmitriev’s wife was there but she left after a few minutes while they discussed terrorism and oil prices. […]

    Link

  109. says

    “Mueller has evidence that Trump supporter’s meeting with Putin ally may not have been a chance encounter: Sources”:

    Special Counsel Robert Mueller has obtained evidence that calls into question Congressional testimony given by Trump supporter and Blackwater founder Erik Prince last year, when he described a meeting in Seychelles with a Russian financier close to Vladimir Putin as a casual chance encounter “over a beer,” sources told ABC News.
    Interested in Russia Investigation?

    Well-connected Lebanese-American businessman George Nader, a key witness given limited immunity by Mueller, has been interviewed seven times by prosecutors on a wide range of subjects. He told investigators that he set up a meeting in the Seychelles between Prince and Russian sovereign wealth fund CEO Kirill Dmitriev, mere days before Trump was inaugurated, sources familiar with the investigation said this week.

    …Documents obtained by Mueller suggest that before and after Prince met Nader in New York a week before the trip to the Seychelles, Nader shared information with Prince about Dmitriev, sources familiar with the investigation told ABC News, which appears to be inconsistent with Prince’s sworn testimony before a U.S. House of Representatives investigative panel.

    “I didn’t fly there to meet any Russian guy,” Prince told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in November. He testified that he travelled to the Seychelles for a meeting with United Arab Emirates officials about possible business opportunities, and they introduced him – unexpectedly – to Dmitriev.

    Sources say Nader — who worked at the time for the Emirati leader, known as “MBZ” – tells a different story. According to multiple sources, the U.A.E., an important U.S. ally increasingly eager to be seen as a global powerbroker, wanted to bring a Russian close to the Kremlin together with someone Nader believed was a trusted confidant of members of the incoming administration.

    Sources tell ABC News Nader met with Prince at New York’s Pierre Hotel a week before the Jan. 11, 2017 meeting in the Seychelles, and later sent Prince biographical information about Dmitriev, which, according to those sources, noted that Dmitriev had been appointed by Putin to oversee the state-run sovereign wealth fund.

    Nader says he then facilitated and personally attended the meetings, including one between Prince and Dmitriev, at a resort owned by MBZ off the coast of East Africa, the sources told ABC News. One of the primary goals of the meeting, Nader told investigators, was to discuss foreign policy and to establish a line of communication between the Russian government and the incoming Trump administration, sources told ABC News.

    Nader — who Prince said in a 2010 lawsuit deposition had once represented his military contractor business in Iraq — was not mentioned in Prince’s congressional testimony despite Prince being asked by lawmakers who was present. Prince said only that Dmitriev’s wife was there but she left after a few minutes while they discussed terrorism and oil prices….

  110. says

    From the Daily Mail:

    Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman bragged of receiving classified US intelligence from Jared Kushner and using it as part of a purge of ‘corrupt’ princes and businessmen […]

    The de facto ruler of the Middle East’s largest economy is currently on a US tour which has seen him meet President Donald Trump in the White House, hold talks with a string of the country’s richest and most influential people and book the entire Four Seasons in Beverly Hills for himself and his entourage.

    Sources have told DailyMail.com that the prince – known by his initials MBS – has been boasting about his close relationship with the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, and the intelligence which he has told his circle Kushner passed to him.

    “EXCLUSIVE: Saudi crown prince bragged that Jared Kushner gave him CIA intelligence about other Saudis saying ‘here are your enemies’ days before ‘corruption crackdown’ which led to torture and death”

    I have heard, and read, this news before, but it bears repeating.

  111. blf says

    Apparently, some goofball in Saudi Arabia has proposed literally turning Qatar into an island (Qatar is a peninsula whose only land border is with Saudi Arabia (c.60km)). Unsurprisingly, this has caused hoots of laughter, Twitter mocks Saudi plans to turn Qatar into an ‘island’ (slightly edited for format (not marked)):

    […]
    Twitter users in the Middle East have mocked a Saudi plan to develop a maritime channel along the Saudi-Qatari border, saying it will never see the light of day.

    Saudi newspaper Sabq reported on Thursday that the project, which is still awaiting official approval, involves the construction of a maritime channel between the Saudi regions of Salwa and Khawr Al-Udayd.

    Sabq said the waterway will be 60km in length, 200 metres wide and between 15–20 metres deep, enabling it to receive “container and passenger ships”.

    The newspaper said that a 1km stretch of land north of the canal, bordering Qatar, would become a “military zone”, permanently ending land trade between the two Gulf countries.

    It said the initial cost of the project would be SR2.8bn ($750m), adding that it could be completed within 12 months.

    […]

    Hundreds of social media users have taken to Twitter to […] lay scorn at the announcement, with the Arabic hashtag #SalwaMaritimeChannel being the number-one trending topic in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

    […]
    • “The final approval of such project would be in Washington, Riyadh can only play with photos and hashtags.”

    • (translation) “Normally when two countries dispute they go to war, but if Saudi Arabia is upset it will just change your place on the map.”

    • One user wrote that Saudi Arabia had a long history of failed projects, including the doomed Hail economic city, its failed plan to build nuclear reactors, and the world’s largest park in Riyadh.

    […]

  112. says

    SC @146, well we do routinely find ourselves flagging the same news as important. :-)

    In other news, Trump’s lawyers are trying to discredit the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, Michael Avenatti, by saying that he spends too much time on TV. That’s good for a laugh.

  113. says

    Oh, FFS. That’s right, South Carolina Republicans, it is a totally good idea to secede over gun rights. /sarcasm

    Bonkers.

    A group of Republican state legislators in South Carolina introduced a measure Thursday that would allow the state to secede from the United States if the federal government began to seize legally purchased firearms in the state.

    The bill, which was referred to the state House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, would allow South Carolina lawmakers to debate whether to secede from the United States if the federal government were to violate the Second Amendment.

    It states that “the general assembly shall convene to consider whether to secede from the United States based upon the federal government’s unconstitutional violation of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution if the federal government confiscates legally purchased firearms in this state.” […]

    Link

    Also, there is no factual basis at this point in time for the idea that the Feds are going to seize your guns.

  114. says

    More scam-like behavior from Republicans, as detailed by Wonkette:

    […] Wonkette has had no end of fun tracking the campaign-money shenanigans of US Rep. Duncan “Rabbit Transit” Hunter […] a member of the “bros caucus” who’s been investigated for all sorts of fun, grifty expenditures of campaign funds on personal use, including, yes, spending $600 on an airline ticket for a pet bunny rabbit, but also blowing money from a campaign credit card on video games, private school tuition, and dental work, among other stuff. So we were ready to have another laugh at Hunter when we half-read a story description about a GOP Representative named Duncan who was in hot Ethics Committee water for misusing PAC money on “personal expenses, including gifts, travel, club memberships and private events such as bridal lunches and baby showers.” Gosh darn it, Duncan, you scamp! Excepting it turns out this Duncan is a whole ‘nother guy, congressman John J. Duncan from the Great State of Tennessee:

    Duncan might have broken House rules and federal law if he misused political funds, the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent ethics monitor, said in a detailed 57-page report.

    “If Rep. Duncan converted campaign funds from Duncan for Congress or the Road to Victory PAC to personal use, or Rep. Duncan’s campaign committee or leadership PAC expended funds that were not attributable to bona fide campaign or political purposes, then Rep. Duncan may have violated House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law,” the OCE said.

    In a convenient bit of timing, the Tennessee Duncan, who’s been in Congress since 1988 somehow, had already announced he wouldn’t be seeking another term in the House. And wow, do his attorneys have a creative defense for all that spending: You see, any possible wrongdoing occurred without his knowledge, so he “cannot be held responsible.” What’s more, in a 37-page letter to the Ethics Committee, the lawyers offered the truly novel excuse that

    Duncan’s all-encompassing approach to politics meant that virtually all of the expenses cited by OCE had a “campaign nexus.”

    “They are not traveling to political events, throwing parties or purchasing club memberships to enrich themselves or live a more lavish life,” David P. Goch and Heidi K. Abegg wrote of Duncan and his family.

    You see, he just works so hard for the people of Tennessee that every breath he takes is, in its exhalations of necrotic tissue and sadness, a campaign activity. Rep. Duncan ingests campaign money and poops inspiring campaign rhetoric, man. He loves America so much we wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up cheating on his wife like Newt Gingrich did. […]

    Much more at the link, including $136,666 spent at bars and liquor stores.

  115. blf says

    Follow-up to @148, One thing that bothered me about Al Jazeera’s report of the proposed canal to physically separate Saudi Arabia from Qatar is the lack of detail as to Saudi Arabia claims for why someone wants to do this, and just who that someone is. Forbes fills in some of the missing details, Saudi Arabia Eyes Up Canal Border Idea, Turning Qatar From A Peninsula Into An Island:

    According to a report on the Sabq website […] a consortium of nine local firms is involved in the proposed project, which has yet to receive official approval.

    The commercial rationale is to develop tourism resorts along the new waterway, with plans for at least five hotels. Ports will also be constructed and a free trade zone set up.

    However, it remains to be seen how much demand there will be for all this. The area is thinly populated and far away from any major industrial centres. And assuming the border with Qatar remains closed, one main target market for any commercial or tourism activity will be shut off. It would also make little sense for shipping traffic from further north or south to divert into the narrow channel and away from the Gulf itself.

    […]

    Indeed. You don’t need to study the map for very long to realise Forbes’ points: There’s nothing there, and the Qatar peninsula is not an navigational problem per se.

    The “Saudi Gazette”, an English-language newspaper in Saudi Arabia (and therefore of very questionable reliability — indeed, it’s Ye Pfffft! of All Knowledge entry is entirely vacuous), adds to the absurdity, Mega marine canal project along Saudi-Qatari border on cards :

    […]
    The drawn up plan includes excavating a marine canal from Khor Salwa to Khor Al-Udayd such that it becomes an undisrupted extension of the Saudi eastern coast. The only disruption to this extension of the Saudi eastern coast is the 60-km long land border with Qatar. This hinders trade exchange. There are plans to develop tourism in the vital region, as it is the center for linking the Arab Gulf countries.

    This location was chosen due to the importance of the area and its vitality […]

    […]

    The project also aims to build resorts along the new coast. They will be in the form of separate units guaranteeing private beaches for each resort. […]

    And it goes on and on, increasingly trylng to justify the proposal on patently absurd grounds. (At one point it does admit there is basically no potable water in the area — very probably true — making most of the alleged benefits even more dubious.) But then the cat escapes the bag:

    The canal will be along the borders with Qatar. It will nullify all the land borders, and it will be purely Saudi territories for a length of 1 km from the official border with the State of Qatar. This will make the terrestrial area adjacent to Qatar a military zone for protection and monitoring.

    […]

    A Generalissimo Google translation of the original Sabq article suggests the Saudi Gazette version is essentially just a translation.

  116. says

    “Given that the Special Counsel has chosen to allege a sprawling (and non-Russia related) conspiracy going back over twelve years, it is incumbent upon him to identify these individuals so that the defense may adequately explore this before trial.”

    Not quite as adept at or convincing when slipping things into these motions as Mueller’s team.

  117. blf says

    me@154, Sorry, accidentally clicked Post. In addition to correcting the it’s → its Tpyos offering, I meant to add: Nobody tell hair furor about this goofy idea. He’ll not only claim credit for it, but insist a bigger longer version along the States-Canadian border is needed, and the obvious problems of mountain ranges, and it freezing over, are FAKE News!

  118. says

    CNN is reporting that a Trump campaign advisor, Joseph Schmitz, offered emails he got from the dark web that he claimed were Hillary Clinton’s to the FBI and congressional committee during the campaign. The FBI thought they were fakes.

  119. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    All In with Chris Hayes has an interview the Tim Cook, CEO of Apple.
    Did an upgrade of OSX “High Sierra” this morning, and privacy notification pop-ups occurred during the process. Should be an interesting interview.

  120. says

    “EXCLUSIVE: Facebook suspends Canadian tech firm AggregateIQ over data scandal”:

    Facebook says it has suspended Canadian political consultancy AggregateIQ from its platform, after reports emerged alleging its involvement in a global controversy over misuse of personal social media information for political ends.

    Victoria, B.C.-based AggregateIQ has been linked with Cambridge Analytica, the political campaigning firm at the centre of a data scandal, according to documents obtained by The Guardian in the United Kingdom. The Canadian firm has also been targeted by federal and British Columbia investigations into whether the company broke privacy laws or used unauthorized data.

    “In light of recent reports that AggregateIQ may be affiliated with SCL and may, as a result, have improperly received (Facebook) user data, we have added them to the list of entities we have suspended from our platform while we investigate,” said a Facebook spokesperson in a statement sent to National Observer.

    AggregateIQ has also been linked to the campaign in the U.K. to leave the European Union, and the firm was used to sidestep Brexit campaign spending limits, according to CBC News, citing a whistleblower and documents.

    Britain’s Electoral Commission has revealed that the Vote Leave campaign paid AggregateIQ $4.6-million for political work, a substantial amount of the campaign’s budget, the Globe and Mail reported last December.

    The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia has been probing AggregateIQ since last year over its connection with Brexit. On Thursday, it launched joint investigations with Canada’s federal privacy commissioner into both AggregateIQ and Facebook.*

    On Friday, Facebook endorsed U.S. legislation that would regulate political ads, and rolled out new policies limiting political ads to only those advertisers who can confirm their identity and location.**

    These ads will now be labeled as “political ad” in its top left corner and include “paid for by” information, the company said in a post on its website by two company executives, Rob Goldman and Alex Himel. The social media firm plans on releasing a “public, searchable political ads archive” in June of these ads….

    Cadwalladr: “This really is massive. AIQ is right at the very heart of Brexit. It was used by four different campaigns: Vote Leave, BeLeave, Veterans for Britain & the DUP.”

    * I didn’t know this!
    ** Which they’d fought for years at great cost.

  121. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Dang, watched the Tim Cook interview. One CEO who I could vote for for. I don’t see that happening. Sigh.

  122. says

    “U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman pulls out loaded gun in constituent meeting to make point about safety”:

    A South Carolina Republican congressman is not backing down from critics after he pulled out his own personal — and loaded — .38-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun during a meeting with constituents Friday.

    U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill, told The Post and Courier he pulled out the weapon and placed it on a table for several minutes in attempt to make a point that guns are only dangerous in the hands of criminals.

    “I’m not going to be a Gabby Giffords,” Norman said afterward, referring to the former Arizona Democratic congresswoman who was shot outside a Tucson-area grocery store during a constituent gathering in 2011.

    Norman was speaking to constituents about gun violence during a public meeting at the Rock Hill Diner. The act drew immediate criticism from Democrats and others.

    The incident happened at one of the many “coffee with constituents” meetings the freshman lawmaker hosts around South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District.

    Far from regretting the decision, Norman said he plans to do it more often at constituent meetings moving forward. He contested the notion that anyone was frightened at the sight of the gun, saying nobody reacted strongly or tried to leave the meeting.

    “I’m tired of these liberals jumping on the guns themselves as if they are the cause of the problem,” Norman said. “Guns are not the problem.”…

  123. says

    This part of Manafort’s slapdash motion makes me laugh:

    The lawyers claim that their argument is “bolstered” by the fact that “Mr. Manafort appears on the agreement as the only person with authorized access to the storage unit,” though that appears to be a misreading of the agreement. The lease has a line for listing the “Occupant’s Authorized Access Persons” — meaning people authorized by the occupant to access the unit. By the terms of the lease, the occupant was the “former low-level employee”; Manafort’s was the only name listed as an authorized access person by the occupant.

    So their argument is that the sole person listed on the lease as the occupant of the unit, and who apparently had a key to the unit, didn’t have authorized access to the unit. OK.

  124. says

    This tweet provides the labels from some of the boxes taken from Manafort’s storage unit (I believe the number is mistaken – they only took 9 boxes out of the 21 in the unit). The box for “MPI” purportedly contains a file on “Jules Nasso,” which appears to be a reference to this guy:

    2001: Paul Cohen and Julius Nasso launch Manhattan Pictures International, a New York-based motion picture distribution and production company. Manafort is part of the team behind the new company. Nasso is arrested in 2002 by federal agents, and pleads guilty in 2003 for using Gambino family mob enforcers to extort money from the actor Steven Seagal. He spends more than a year in prison.

    Nasso was friendly with Trump. In a story in the New York Post from December 1999, Nasso says he asked Trump’s opinion of Abe Hirschfeld before deciding to do business with him on the film The Prince of Central Park.

    “I checked him out with Donald Trump. Donald said he was a nice guy,” Nasso told the paper.*

    Julius Nasso has an uncle who is also named Julius Nasso. The elder Nasso owned the Julius Nasso Concrete Company, which, in 1975, entered into a joint venture with the S&A Concrete Company, owned by Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno, boss of the Genovese crime family, and Paul Castellano, boss of the Gambino family. Cohn was Salerno’s lawyer. At the time, most of Manhattan’s major development projects had mob involvement, Trump’s included. S&A Concrete “supplied building material to the Trump Plaza on Manhattan’s East Side.”

    The whole Slate timeline is interesting. Contains this quote about Roger Stone from the Weekly Standard in 2007:

    Around the time he became northeast chairman of Reagan’s 1980 campaign, [Stone] had another awakening when he started working with the notorious lawyer Roy Cohn, former McCarthy henchman and also a Reagan supporter. “I’m still kind of a neophyte,” Stone admits, “still kind of thinking everything’s on the level. ‘Cause the truth is, nothing’s on the level.” At a 1979 meeting at Cohn’s Manhattan townhouse, he was introduced to major mobster and Cohn client Fat Tony Salerno. “Roy says to Tony, ‘You know, Tony, everything’s fixed. Everything can be handled.’ Tony says, ‘Roy, the Supreme Court’ Roy says, ‘Cost a few more dollars.’ ” Stone loved Cohn: “He didn’t give a s— what people thought, as long as he was able to wield power. He worked the gossip columnists in this city like an organ.

    * A few years later, “nice guy” Abe Hirschfeld did two years in prison for plotting to murder his business partner. He had tried to get Trump to run for president in 1987.

  125. says

    SC @164, I did enjoy that. :-)

    The writing is good. The organization of the material is great. I really appreciate it when a writer can present a meaningful introduction, followed by details that are well-organized and presented clearly. Readers feel like they are on solid ground, making their way with helpful signposts along the way.

    I was not familiar with the experts, nor many of the concepts, you presented. Nevertheless, I felt comfortable with the material. Enlightenment without a lot of pain, (excerpt for the inevitable sadness one feels when the circumstances of an authoritarian childhood are elucidated).

    Your writing on the subject makes it clear that there really is no intellectual/logical reason for hating, say, Jews for example … but there may be a visceral need to express that hate. Trump relies on his gut or on his intuition, as he often tells us, but his gut is twisted.

  126. says

    From Malcom Nance:

    WTAF? @DHS accepting proposal to become, to be the KGB. Must bids meet minimal Stasi or Saddam’s Hussein standards? Or is McCarthy Ok?

    That’s in response to the Department of Homeland Security’s plans to compile a database of journalists and media influencers to monitor sentiment broadcasted to the public.

    One wonders if this thread will be monitored. Will PZ be monitored?

    Forbes link

  127. says

    Update on the violence along the Gaza border:

    On Saturday, Palestinians buried the 29th person killed by Israeli border forces in about a week. Journalist Yaser Murtaja, a cameraman for Palestinian Ain Media, was wearing a blue flak jacket marked with “PRESS” in capital letters when he was shot, Reuters reports.

    […] things turned bloody almost immediately last week, when Israeli sharpshooters took aim at anyone approaching the border fence.

    Israel maintains that many of those killed and wounded are members of Hamas, an armed, political group designated as a terrorist organization by the West. Hamas denies this claim.

    Photographer Ashraf Abu Amra told Reuters he was next to Murtaja when he was shot:

    “We were filming as youths torched tires. We were about 250 meters from the fence. Israeli forces opened fire and injuries began. Yaser and I ran to film when suddenly Yaser fell to the ground. I screamed to him ‘Yaser are you alright?’. He didn’t respond and there was blood on the ground underneath him. I knew it was a bad injury and people carried him away.”

    Murtaja, 30, died in hospital. […]

    Think Progress link

  128. says

    Good news: a federal judge has ruled that Massachusetts’ assault weapons ban does not violate second amendment rights.

    […] In his ruling, U.S. District Judge William Young said that the firearms and large magazines banned by the state in 1998 are “not within the scope of the personal right to ‘bear Arms’ under the Second Amendment.”

    “Other states are equally free to leave them unregulated and available to their law-abiding citizens,” Young added. “These policy matters are simply not of constitutional moment. Americans are not afraid of bumptious, raucous, and robust debate about these matters. We call it democracy.”

    Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D) was sued by the Gun Owners’ Action League of Massachusetts, an affiliate of the National Rifle Association, after Healey broadened the definition of which guns would be included in the assault weapons ban first instituted in 1998.

    Healey responded to the judge’s decision via Facebook on Friday writing, “strong gun laws save lives, and we will not be intimidated by the gun lobby in our efforts to end the sale of assault weapons and protect our communities and schools.” […]

    Link

  129. says

    Lynna @ #170, thanks! Much appreciated.

    Your writing on the subject makes it clear that there really is no intellectual/logical reason for hating, say, Jews for example … but there may be a visceral need to express that hate.

    That’s exactly right. It’s violent, destructive emotions seeking a target or targets. In principle, the targets “chosen” are interchangeable and the result of culture and biography.

  130. says

    NBC is saying Trump tweeted that the fire is now out (don’t know if that can be trusted). They’re also saying one serious injury has been reported. It’s a residential unit, but I don’t know yet whose.

  131. says

    Per @Tom_Winter A senior New York City law enforcement official says the civilian who was hurt in the fire at Trump Tower has died.”

    FDNY had tweeted earlier: “We found fire on the 50th floor of the building. The apartment was entirely on fire. Members pushed in heroically, they were knocking down the fire and found one occupant of the apartment who is in critical condition.”

    Trump is busy tweeting his support for Scott Pruitt.

  132. says

    This is quite a moment for historical films. In the previous iteration, I linked to an article about the discovery and restoration of the lost 1924 silent film The City without Jews. Now I see documentary footage of the 1952 Slánský show trial, which the Stalinists had intended to use in a propaganda film (!), has been found and is being restored. This quote from the chief executive of the Czech National Film Archive itself warrants preservation:

    “The priority is to make the footage safe,” Bragant said. “But it will be even safer once it’s publicly available, because we also need to make the knowledge safe. We still have not learned enough from the 20th century. The more people learn about it and the horror of the show trials, the safer we will be.

  133. says

    SC @185, that is seriously what I thought: the EPA would have no record of threats against Scott Pruitt. Glad a journalist took the time to prove that with a FOIA request. Pruitt, however, is paranoid and feels like he needs 20 security people … no matter what.

    The security detail bolsters Pruitt’s self-description of himself as “a very important person.” Sheesh.

    Wasting my tax money.

  134. says

    SC @182

    The residential floors of Trump Tower don’t have sprinklers.

    According to Joy Reid’s discussion this morning, Trump fought the new laws that required sprinklers in the 1990s. He only relented when older buildings, including his Trump Tower, were grandfathered in. Those older buildings were not required to add sprinkler systems.

    I’ll also bet that there were “major renovations” made to residential floors in Trump tower, in which case the installation of sprinklers would have been required. Trump, of course, would have made renovations without following the law about the sprinklers.

    Maybe the relatives of the man who died in the fire will sue Trump. I noticed that Trump did not even mention the man who died in his tweets about the fire.

  135. says

    Ted Nugent is promoting the idea of shooting liberals, members of the media, and other people:

    TED NUGENT (NRA BOARD MEMBER): Don’t ask why. Just know that evil, dishonesty, and scam artists have always been around and that right now they’re liberal, they’re Democrat, they’re RINOs, they’re Hollywood, they’re fake news, they’re media, they’re academia, and they’re half of our government, at least. So come to that realization. There are rabid coyotes running around. You don’t wait till you see one to go get your gun. Keep your gun handy, and every time you see one, you shoot one.

  136. says

    Follow-up to SC @176.

    Via Twitter, Trump responded to the chemical attack in Syria:

    Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price…

    …to pay. Open area immediately for medical help and verification. Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!

    Trump went on to blame Obama.

    This is the first time Trump has mentioned Putin on Twitter in a negative context, so maybe that’s a step in the right direction. I think it is more likely that Trump just took personal offense to chemical weapons being used again after his highly-promoted bombing of an airbase in Syria last April. That attack did not have much consequence. The airbase was reopened within about two days. The Russians were warned before that attack. Trump thought he had proved to the world that Assad wouldn’t use chemical weapons while Trump was commander in chief in the USA.

    Trump doesn’t really have a plan here. Just days ago, he was calling for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops in Syria. His advisors had to work hard to talk him out of that.

    Now we have the all-too-frequent picture of Trump saying one thing on Twitter, “Big price to pay,” while his advisors are saying something more nuanced. Today, we heard from Tom Bossert:

    […] Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert defended the withdrawal of troops from Syria, and maintained that there needs to be greater “regional partnerships” to fix the conflict there.

    “American troops aren’t going to fix the six or seven different ongoing conflicts and wars going on in the Middle East at this stage, or in Syria at this stage,” Bossert said on ABC’s This Week. “We need regional partnerships increased and we need U.S. presence decreased.”

    Still, Bossert said that Trump’s security team was viewing images of the attack all night and that nothing would be taken “off the table” when it comes to Syria. […]

    Link

  137. says

    More details regarding the fire in Trump Tower:

    […] The New York Times reported that Trump was among the city’s developers who lobbied against a 1999 sprinkler ordinance proposed in response to two major fires in New York high-rises that together killed seven people, including three firefighters. The bill required that buildings containing four or more apartments install sprinklers in every common hallway and in each unit. Trump, the Times reported, called city officials in New York to argue that the sprinkler systems were too expensive—costing up to $4 per square foot and potentially thousands per apartment.

    After the bill’s passage, Trump reversed course, saying he had come to support the law because sprinklers make tenants feel safer, and boasting that he would be spending $3 million to install sprinklers in units at Trump World Tower, a 72-story high-rise Trump had begun constructing just before the law’s passage. But Trump’s change of heart came only after the legislation was revised to include a grandfathering provision that allowed pre-1999 buildings to forgo the sprinkler requirements unless they underwent a major renovation.

    At a Saturday press conference, the New York fire department’s commissioner Daniel Nigro, said that when Trump’s family is at Trump tower, extra fire protection is maintained. […]

    […] resident, Dennis Shields, told the Times that “You could smell the smoke and you could hear things falling like through the vents. It just smelled like sulfur.” Shields also said that although there were no orders to evacuate, he received a personal text message from Trump attorney Michael Cohen, whom Shields grew up with. “He said, ‘You better get out ASAP.’ That’s how I knew to get out,” Shields recalled. “Otherwise I’d still be in there.” […]

    Link

  138. says

    From the Guardian liveblog – Shaun Walker on Orbán’s campaign against migrants and refugees:

    I arrived in Budapest a month ago, and while Viktor Orbán has been spewing far-right rhetoric for several years, as an outsider coming in, the concentration and intensity of the anti-migration message has been shocking.

    Orbán speaks in terms that in most countries would be the preserve of extreme right-wing fringe parties, telling Hungarians that “tens of millions” of migrants from Africa and the Middle East are waiting to kick down Hungary’s door, and warning that they will bring terror, crime and rape with them.

    He has accused the Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros of hatching a plan to destroy Hungary by flooding it with migrants, and Budapest has been plastered with posters decrying Soros for the past year. The most prominent of these shows a grinning Soros with all the opposition politicians, accusing them of being in league in a plot to cut down Orbán’s anti-migrant fence that runs along the country’s southern border.

    Shortly before the election, a new poster appeared, this one not even officially a Fidesz campaign poster but simply part of a publicly funded “government information” campaign. It shows the same photograph used in UKIP’s controversial “breaking point” poster and is embossed with one simple word: STOP.

    Fed a diet of scare stories about migrants by the government-friendly media, many Hungarians support Orbán on migration. But the Fidesz campaign has revolved almost exclusively around the topic. Orbán has hammered home the dangers of migration in almost every speech. It remains to be seen whether a one-issue campaign is enough to win an election. If it is, the big question is where Fidesz goes from there during the next four years, having already ramped up the rhetoric to fever pitch.

    The voting is still not completed – polls closed at 7 PM local time, but anyone in line then can vote and there were long lines. They won’t release any results until all the votes are in, which should be fairly soon I think.

  139. says

    “Facebook suspends another data analytics firm after CNBC discovers it was using tactics like Cambridge Analytica”:

    Facebook is suspending a data analytics firm called CubeYou from the platform after CNBC notified the company that CubeYou was collecting information about users through quizzes.

    CubeYou misleadingly labeled its quizzes “for non-profit academic research,” then shared user information with marketers. The scenario is eerily similar to how Cambridge Analytica received unauthorized access to data from as many as 87 million Facebook user accounts to target political marketing.

    Like Cambridge Analytica, the company sold data that had been collected by researchers working with the Psychometrics Lab at Cambridge University.*

    The CubeYou discovery suggests that collecting data from quizzes and using it for marketing purposes was far from an isolated incident. Moreover, the fact that CubeYou was able to mislabel the purpose of the quizzes — and that Facebook did nothing to stop it until CNBC pointed out the problem — suggests the platform has little control over this activity….

    * Honestly, this is starting to sound like the Paul Manafort of academic centers.

  140. says

    Fuck – Shaun Walker: “The first results are finally out and it looks terrible for the opposition and a resounding win for Fidesz. The complicated electoral system means it’s hard to tell how many seats in parliament Fidesz will win but it looks like they will certainly have a majority and may even get the 2/3 constitutional majority. A resounding win for Orban after a day of quiet optimism among some of the opposition.”

  141. says

    With Fidesz expected to get a supermajority, this article gives a sense of what can be expected:

    …Orbán’s first government term after 2010 was characterized by a conscious but careful dismantling of liberal constitutionalism, based mostly on defraud of international partners by “creative compliance,” implementing cosmetic changes in the laws criticized by the European Union, but always keeping their substance. In his next term, Orbán took a more radical approach, leading to measures like the “CEU law” and the “NGO law” in 2017 that resembled legislation in straightforwardly authoritarian regimes. His rhetoric also became more authoritarian. Most recently, speaking on the Hungarian national holiday on March 15, Orbán threatened his opponents: “We are calm and good-humored people, but we are neither blind nor gullible. After the election we will of course get even with them, in moral, political and legal sense.”

    The previous elections in 2014 were labeled “free but not fair.” According to the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the main European election observation body, Fidesz “enjoyed an undue advantage because of restrictive campaign regulations, biased media coverage and campaign activities that blurred the separation between political party and the State”. Since then, the situation has gotten worse in all these fields. Given the uninterrupted authoritarianization process as well as Orbán’s outspoken threat toward his adversaries, it is fair to argue that Sunday’s elections will be the last somehow free ones in Hungary if he can keep power in his grip. Expecting any kind of self-moderation of Orbán, an idea often entertained by conservative politicians of the European People’s Party, is wishful thinking lacking any critical reflection on the experiences of the past eight years. If Orbán wins again, the illiberal state of Hungary will soon turn out to be authoritarian….

  142. says

    Lili Bayer (Politico): “Here at opposition activists’ tent some are crying, some drinking, most just staring at the results. Occasional cheers for opposition candidates who did manage to win individual districts.”

  143. KG says

    As SC says, the Hungarian elections are a disaster – the biggest win yet for the far right, and for Putin, in Europe. It’s worth noting that Fidesz got a 2/3 majority in Parliament with less than half the votes, due to changes in electoral law which successfully prevented coordination between opposition parties. But the second party is Jobbik – which had (at least cosmetically) shifted from its far right position after Fidesz in effect stole its clothes, but which no-one with a principled opposition to racism could have voted for. Orban has ridden both xenophobic nationalism and economic growth – the latter very much dependent on EU membership, despite Orban’s open contempt for EU attempts to limit his authoritarianism and racism – to a position where he is in effect dictator of Hungary. This could be a bigger threat to the EU and to attempts to stand up to Putin than Brexit, as other potential dictators see the success of Orban, and the EU’s failure to rein him in.

  144. says

    “Trump Organization pressures Varela.”

    The Trump organization is sending letters to the president of Panama and other political officials threatening “damage to Panama” if they don’t intervene in the hotel dispute, which experts on international law are calling “an abuse.” The US embassy in Panama wouldn’t comment except to say that “matters related to the Trump Organization are sent directly to the White House” (!).

  145. tomh says

    More Fun in the Trump White House.

    BBC reports that for the first time in at least 100 years, the US Cabinet has a bible study group. Trump’s Cabinet has a weekly Bible study group, led by former professional basketball player-turned-pastor, Ralph Drollinger. While not all Cabinet members attend each week, the group has ten “sponsors”. Members of the group include Vice-President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

    According to BBC: President Trump is not a member of Drollinger’s group – but he does get Drollinger’s eight-page print-outs most weeks.
    “He writes me back notes on my bible studies,” says Drollinger.
    “He’s got this leaky Sharpie felt-tip pen that he writes all capital letters with. ‘Way to go Ralph, really like this study, keep it up.’ Stuff like that.”

  146. says

    Governors balking at Trump’s plan to send National Guard troops to the border:

    Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, also a Republican, on Friday became one of the latest leaders to oppose the plan. His spokeswoman, Mary-Sarah Kinner, said in an email that Sandoval does not believe the mission would be “an appropriate use” of the Nevada National Guard.

    Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, has said she would deny Trump’s request.

    LA Times link

    Governor Jerry Brown of California has not yet responded. Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico sounded sort of supportive of Trump’s plan, but has not yet deployed any National Guard troops.

  147. says

    About those tariffs Trump said:

    I’m not saying there won’t be a little pain, but the market has gone up 40 percent, 42 percent so we might lose a little bit of it. But we’re going to have a much stronger country when we’re finished.

    So we may take a hit and you know what, ultimately we’re going to be much stronger for it.

    Trump lied about how much the market has gone up. This is from Steve Benen:

    At the risk of sounding picky, the market has not gone up 40% or 42%. Since Trump’s inauguration, as of late last week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen about 20%. That’s not bad, of course, but (a) Trump shouldn’t double the market’s performance just because he feels like it; and (b) market growth under this president ranks Trump below H.W. Bush, Clinton, Obama, Reagan, and FDR at comparable periods in their presidencies.

    The more relevant point, however, is Trump’s belief that he’ll cause “a little pain” for the American economy now, taking a “hit” in the short-term, but the steps he’s taking will pay off for us in the long-term. […]

    Team Trump is just making stuff up as they go along, and there is no meaningful strategy beyond bumper-sticker rhetoric and chest-thumping.

    The L.A Times’ Michael Hiltzik had a good piece along these lines the other day, noting that Trump “hasn’t articulated a coherent trade policy, and to the extent he has mentioned any principles, the steps he has taken won’t serve them.” He quoted Nicholas R. Lardy, a China trade expert at the Peterson Institute, saying, “The question that can’t be answered is, what does the Trump administration want?”

    I’m not saying “a little pain” in pursuit of a worthwhile goal is necessarily a bad idea. I am saying that the Trump White House doesn’t seem to have a meaningful plan, raising the very real possibility that Americans will feel the Trump-imposed “pain” for no reason.

  148. says

    Good news:

    Maryland became the 12th state to enact automatic voter registration on Thursday after Republican Gov. Larry Hogan declined to veto a bill that had passed the Democratic-controlled Legislature. Maryland has half a million unregistered voters, according to a 2017 report by the department of legislative services. […]

    Under the bill, eligible voters will automatically be registered when they obtain or renew a driver’s license at the Department of Motor Vehicles or interact with other agencies such as the state’s health insurance exchange and local departments of social services, unless they opt out. The new law takes effect in July 2019 and could register 400,000 new voters, according to a report by Demos.

    Mother Jones link

    Other states with automatic voter registration: Oregon, California, Alaska, Colorado, Illinois, Georgia, West Virginia, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

    New Jersey will likely approve automatic voter registration soon. Nevada voters may approve a similar measure via a statewide ballot this fall.

    Automatic voter registration is the norm in many other democracies. NY Times link

    […] Turnout is dismal [in] the United States, one of very few democracies that places the burden of registration on the voter. Does it seem normal to have to register to vote? It isn’t. In nearly every other advanced democracy, citizens are automatically registered.

    And nearly every other democracy holds elections on weekends, or makes Election Day a holiday. (In some countries, people dress up to go vote!) Voting on a workday isn’t usually a burden for old people, or people powerful enough to set their own hours. For wage workers, however, it’s daunting. […]

  149. says

    Steve Benen’s summary of Congress critters who have resigned from Congress for various reasons:

    […] one member has stepped down for health reasons (Mississippi’s Thad Cochran), one member resigned to seek a statewide office (California’s Xavier Becerra), four members gave up their seats to serve in the Trump administration (Georgia’s Tom Prie, South Carolina’s Mick Mulvaney, Kansas’ Mike Pompeo, and Montana’s Ryan Zinke), five resigned under a cloud of scandal (Arizona’s Trent Franks, Michigan’s John Conyers, Pennsylvania’s Tim Murphy, Minnesota’s Al Franken, and Texas’ Blake Farenthold), and two stepped down because they didn’t feel like being in Congress anymore (Ohio’s Pat Tiberi and Utah’s Jason Chaffetz).

    A recent FiveThirtyEight analysis noted, “If that feels like a lot, that’s because it is; it’s the most people who have resigned from Congress through this point in the session in at least 117 years.” […]

  150. says

    Another rightwing doofus is comparing the survivors of the the Parkland, Florida shooting to Nazis:

    […] “The Nazis took everyone’s guns away too,” he wrote on March 24. “A lot of similarities with these kids.” Earlier, on Feb. 25, he shared a lengthy, convoluted post asserting that the mass shooting was a false flag conspiracy involving the county sheriff, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz (D-FL), the FBI, and the CIA’s “Project MKUltra mind control techniques.”

    “Did any students die by friendly fire? Was Cruz a lone gunman or not a gunman at all?” read the post, which also includes references to the Pizzagate and QAnon conspiracies. […]

    That bit of hate-mongering nonsense comes from a high-ranking official at the Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation, Kevin Sabo. Sabo was promoted to acting chief of the Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs at the Bureau of Reclamation after Trump was sworn in in 2017.

    Some background:

    […] Both leading up to and since Trump’s election, Sabo frequently shared posts from right-wing sources, including articles defending President Trump’s comments about “shithole countries” and calling President Obama an “anti-Semite.” On Inauguration Day, he wrote of the protesters: “The kids are being paid by the Democrats to riot. In this administration, it’s the only work they can get.” When a driver plowed into a crowd in New York City last October, killing several people, Sabo wrote: “I’m willing to bet it was not those pesky Lutherans again!”

    […] The Bureau of Reclamation’s public affairs office said Friday that the agency has “no comment on the personal views expressed on his Facebook page.”

    “Civil servants are guaranteed First Amendment rights to communicate their own views on their own time on their own social media sites, even if some would find those views disagreeable or the primary sources erroneous,” said public affairs chief Dan DuBray.

    And, of course we see abuse of an ex-girlfriend in Sabo’s past:

    […] his career took a downturn in 2000, when he was convicted of “attempted malicious wounding” for cutting the brakes on his ex-girlfriend’s car, causing her to crash. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Because of the felony, Sabo was disbarred in DC in 2003. He petitioned to be readmitted to the bar in DC in 2011 and was denied — in part because he pleaded guilty to another criminal charge in 2009 that involved taking items from a Home Depot without paying for them and attempting to return them. The charge was “larceny by false pretenses,” and was dismissed after Sabo paid a fine and completed community service hours.

    The District of Columbia Court of Appeals overruled the Bar and reinstated him in 2012. “We are persuaded by Mr. Sabo’s testimony that he is a changed man,” the judges wrote, in a split 2-1 decision. […]

    Link

    All the best people.

  151. says

    Follow-up to tomh @205.

    […] Drollinger and his wife run a thing called Capitol Ministries, the entire purpose of which is to dispatch pastors to state capitols in order to have them lead Bible studies with politicians. There are no female pastors in this program, because — according to Drollinger — Jesus is not cool with ladies leading Bible studies.

    Each class is led by a local pastor, but none is led by a woman. Why not?

    “There’s no [Biblical] prohibition of female leadership in commerce, there’s no prohibition of female leadership in the state, and there’s no prohibition of female leadership over children,” says Drollinger. “But there is a prohibition of female leadership in marriage, and female leadership in the church. And those are clear in scripture… it doesn’t mean, in an egalitarian sense, that a woman is of lesser importance. It’s just that they have different roles.”

    Wow! That sure is convenient for men! “See, honey? Jesus says I get the remote. It doesn’t mean you’re of lesser importance, it just means I get to be in charge of everything. You are important in that, without you, there would be no one to unquestioningly do what I say! And what fun would that be?”

    Drollinger, who claims he is not a Christian Nationalist, has some other interesting beliefs as well, like how God feels really adamantly that same-sex marriage is a bad thing and mentioned it like a thousand times in the Bible […], and also how God invented free market capitalism.

    On same-sex marriage, he writes: “Homosexuality and same-sex ceremonies are illegitimate in God’s eyes. […]”

    On capitalism, he writes: “The right to personal property, also known as free enterprise or capitalism, is the governmental economic system supported by scripture. Scripture does not support communism.”

    Now, I may be just a simple country atheist with a Catholic extended family […], but aren’t nuns communists? Like, literal communists who live in communes, collectively share their wealth, and reject the trappings of capitalism? Is Drollinger suggesting that god hates NUNS? Also, if God loves capitalism so much, why didn’t Jesus sell all the fishes and wine instead of just handing them out to people — like a commie? […]

    Wonkette link

  152. says

    John Oliverexposes the truth behind crisis pregnancy centers by opening his own.

    Scroll down for the video. It is about 21 minutes long, and Oliver covers the subject well.

    […] The shady organizations, which essentially pose as resourceful clinics but are actually “the exact opposite,” actively attempt to misinform and steer women away from getting an abortion. Many of the organizations are religiously affiliated and are eligible to receive federal funding.

    To prove just how deceptive CPCs can be, one staffer said that the “best client you’ll get is one that thinks they are walking into an abortion clinic.” […]

    A woman’s access to a CPC is also far easier than access to an abortion clinic, as Oliver noted that there are 2,700 CPCs across the nation and only 1,700 abortion clinics.

    Oliver explained that CPCs “often have the trappings” of a health care facility, offering services like free ultrasounds. “But often, they’re not performing them so much for medical reasons, as for emotional manipulation,” […]

    To close his segment, Oliver warned that the dangers of these tactics must be more widely known and that women should not be “coerced” into making decisions based off a guilt trip or faulty advice that could impact the rest of their lives.

    “Right now, it is way too easy for a religious organization to disguise its true nature, establish a CPC and provide women with dangerously poor information about one of their most important health choices,” he explained.

    To prove his point further, Oliver actually opened his own van-operated CPC named, “Our Lady of Choosing Choice.”

    “This is all perfectly legal and there is absolutely nothing stopping us from parking outside an abortion clinic tonight and haranguing people in the morning,” he said. “And frankly, there really f**king should be.” […]

  153. says

    AP has also seen the letter @ #204:

    …On Monday, Panama’s foreign secretary Isabel de Saint Malo said her office had also been copied on the letter.

    “It is a letter that urges Panama’s executive branch to interfere in an issue clearly of the judicial branch,” de Saint Malo said. “I don’t believe the executive branch has a position to take while the issue is in the judicial process.”

    The letter raises questions about the president’s family business matter-of-factly requesting another president’s help in a private business matter by invoking a treaty signed by the U.S. and Panama. It says that lawyers representing the Trump Organization are aware of “the separation of powers of the State,” but essentially asks Panama’s president to intervene in the judicial process.

    Analyst I. Roberto Eisenmann, a founder of La Prensa, said the letter does not make sense juridically.

    “President Trump and the family Trump Organization are using the presidency of the United States improperly for their personal business,” Eisenmann said. “It is something somewhat embarrassing to see a president of the United States in that situation.”

    The letter was copied to Panamanian cabinet officials, as well as presidents of the Supreme Court and National Assembly, among others….

  154. KG says

    SC@212,

    Unfortunately, the EU probably lacks the power to act officially against Orban. There is no provision for expelling a member state, and even imposing fines requires the unanimous support of all the other states, while Orban can count on the equally far right and racist regime in Poland, and probably on the Czech Republic as well. What could be done unofficially I don’t know, although Hungary is certainly economically dependent on its membership, as is Poland.

  155. says

    Trump attempts to gaslight farmers:

    “But if we do a deal with China, if, during the course of a negotiation they want to hit the farmers because they think that hits me, I wouldn’t say that’s nice. But I tell you, our farmers are great patriots,” Trump said.

    “These are great patriots. They understand that they’re doing this for the country,” Trump said. “And we’ll make it up to them. And in the end, they’re going to be much stronger than they are right now.”

    He added that farmers have been “trending downward over an eight-year period” and said that, because of his actions on NAFTA and China, “farmers will be better off than they ever were.”

    The Hill link

  156. says

    SC @216, glad to see a strong response from Panama to the Trump Organization.

    As for the election in Hungary, (covered by several comments up-thread), that is such bad news that I find myself turning away as if the news will disappear if I don’t look at it. I agree with Howard Dean (see SC’s comment 212), but am concerned that the EU does not have an appropriate channel to deal with the situation (see KG’s comment 217).

  157. says

    The top ethics official in the federal government has written to the EPA about the issues with Pruitt, asking them to take “appropriate actions to address any violations”:

    …“The success of our government depends on maintaining the trust of the people we serve,” said David J. Apol, acting director of the Office of Government Ethics, in the letter sent Monday morning to the E.P.A. “The American public needs to have confidence that ethics violations, as well as the appearance of ethics violations, are investigated and appropriately addressed.”

    Most disturbing, Mr. Apol said, were the reports in The Times that agency staff may have been punished after raising concerns about Mr. Pruitt’s actions.

    “If true, it is hard to imagine any action that could more effectively undermine an agency’s integrity than punishing or marginalizing employees who strive to ensure compliance with the laws and regulations that safeguard that integrity,” the letter says.

    The Office of Government Ethics does not have the power to punish Mr. Pruitt or to demand that he respond to the letter. But as the chief ethics officer for the executive branch of the federal government, Mr. Apol’s point of view has clout and he can ask that President Trump take action to punish a federal official who has violated federal rules.

  158. says

    “Kremlin aide: Russia’s centuries-long romance with West over”:

    President Vladimir Putin’s adviser says Russia has abandoned its centuries-long aspirations of integrating into the West and is bracing for a new era of “geopolitical loneliness.”

    Vladislav Surkov wrote in an article for Russia in Global Affairs magazine released Monday that “Russia’s epic journey toward the West” is over, marking an end to its “vain attempts to become part of Western civilization” spanning four centuries….

    I’m reading Timothy Snyder’s The Road to Unfreedom (better than I’d expected), and a) it’s clear this abandonment happened long ago; b) the ideas of the so-called philosophers who’ve influenced Putin’s “Eurasianism” are so fucking crazy I’m actually shaken.

  159. says

    “Hungary election: OSCE monitors deliver damning verdict”:

    International observers have delivered a damning verdict on the parliamentary election in Hungary, complaining of “intimidating and xenophobic rhetoric, media bias and opaque campaign financing”.

    The vote on Sunday delivered an overwhelming victory for Viktor Orbán, who will now serve a third consecutive term as prime minister. Orbán and his Fidesz party campaigned almost exclusively on a programme of keeping migrants out of the country.

    “Rhetoric was quite hostile and xenophobic and that’s a fact which we find regrettable in an electoral context,” said Douglas Wake, the head of the monitoring mission for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), at a briefing in Budapest on Monday.

    The observers found that the hostile campaign “limited space for substantive debate and diminished voters’ ability to make an informed choice”. They also noted that public television “clearly favoured the ruling coalition”.

    It is an unusually strong rebuke for elections in an EU country, but given the size of Orbán’s victory and his previous imperviousness to outside criticism, is unlikely to have much effect inside Hungary.

    The OSCE’s preliminary report also strongly criticised the use of public funds for so-called “government information campaigns”. The electoral process was “characterised by a pervasive overlap between state and ruling party resources, undermining contestants’ ability to compete on an equal basis”, it said.

    Despite the strong criticism from the election monitors, a number of European politicians lined up to congratulate Orbán, including a number of far-right leaders such as Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders.

    Britain’s foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, tweeted: “Congratulations to Fidesz and Viktor Orbán on winning the elections in Hungary. We look forward to working with our Hungarian friends to further develop our close partnership.”

    A spokesman said the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, would write to congratulate Orbán on his clear victory and call him to discuss “issues of common interest”.

    He said: “The EU is a union of democracies and values. President Juncker and the commission think that the defence of these values and its principles is a common endeavour of all member states, without exception.”

    There is little sign that any words of reproach will have an effect on Orbán, particularly after winning such a convincing mandate….

  160. says

    “An Internal Email Contradicts Scott Pruitt’s Account of Controversial Raises”:

    An email that suggests Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt personally signed off on a controversial pay raise for a favored aide last month is roiling the agency.

    In the last few days, top staffers became aware of an email exchange between one of two aides who received such a raise and the agency’s human resources division. In mid-March, Sarah Greenwalt, senior counsel to the administrator, wrote to HR in an attempt to confirm that her pay raise of $56,765 was being processed. Greenwalt “definitively stated that Pruitt approves and was supportive of her getting a raise,” according to an administration official who has seen the email chain.

    A second administration official confirmed the exchange. The email “essentially says, ‘The administrator said that I should get this raise,’” the official told me. Both spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss the private correspondence. A request for comment sent to an EPA spokesman was not immediately returned.

    The email began floating around the agency’s top ranks after the EPA’s Inspector General expanded its inquiry into Pruitt’s hiring practices to include the raises, according to the two administration officials….

    After the interview, top aides, including Pruitt’s chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, began corralling files that appeared to contradict Pruitt’s statements. Both administration officials described it as a way of “getting ahead” of the IG’s investigation. Greenwalt’s email, however, has proved the most troubling, according to the two administration officials. “It’s an ‘oh, shit’ moment that they’re trying to figure out before the IG finds the email,” said one. “Because it’ll be damn near impossible to have Sarah explain her way out of it.”…

    Nick Confessore: “I guess the IG knows about it now.”

    This is all so ridiculously inept that I almost suspect they’re punking the reporters.

  161. says

    “F.B.I. Raids Office of Trump’s Longtime Lawyer Michael Cohen”:

    The F.B.I. on Monday raided the office of President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, seizing records related to several topics including payments to a pornographic-film actress.

    Federal prosecutors in Manhattan obtained the search warrant after receiving a referral from the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, according to Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, who called the search “completely inappropriate and unnecessary.” The search does not appear to be directly related to Mr. Mueller’s investigation, but likely resulted from information he had uncovered and gave to prosecutors in New York.

    “Today the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York executed a series of search warrants and seized the privileged communications between my client, Michael Cohen, and his clients,” said Stephen Ryan, his lawyer. “I have been advised by federal prosecutors that the New York action is, in part, a referral by the Office of Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.”

    The payments to Ms. Clifford are only one of many topics being investigated, according to a person briefed on the search. The F.B.I. also seized emails, tax documents and business records, the person said.

    The seized records include communications between Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen, which would likely require a special team of agents to review because conversations between lawyers and clients are protected from scrutiny in most instances.

  162. says

    SC @227, sounds like Mueller’s office turned up evidence of crimes and then referred the information to the Manhattan office of the FBI for action. Cohen, as Trump’s hired thug, looks to be in serious trouble.

  163. says

    Lies from Sarah Huckabee Sanders, told in a cover-her-ass way by putting the onus for the lie on Trump:

    The President still strongly feels that there was a large amount of voter fraud and [he] attempted to do a thorough review of it, but a lot of the states didn’t want to cooperate and participate.

  164. says

    Russia’s official view of the chemical attacks in Syria is, well, trumpian:

    […] In a statement, the Russian foreign ministry called claims of a chemical-weapons attack a “hoax” designed to protect “terrorists.”

    It said, “We have warned of such dangerous provocations many times before. The purpose of these false conjectures, which are without any basis, is to shield the terrorists and the irreconcilable radical opposition, which reject a political settlement while trying to justify possible military strikes from outside.” […]

    New Yorker link

    I wonder if Trump will use this propaganda from Russia, along with blaming Obama for the entire situation, to preclude any action on the part of the U.S.?

  165. says

    Andy Wright:

    THREAD: Back of the envelope thoughts on the FBI raid of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s office:

    This was a referral by Mueller to the FBI & US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, suggesting this is NOT part of Mueller’s investigation but rather Mueller obtained evidence relevant to potential crimes outside his scope.

    That suggests that there is a second federal criminal investigation focusing on Michael Cohen based in NY under traditional (non-Special Counsel) structures.

    An FBI of a lawyer’s office raises lots of sticky issues related to attorney-client privilege and litigation work product, however, one of the exceptions to the attorney-client privilege is the crime/fraud exception.

    The crime/fraud exception applies where there is evidence the attorney’s assistance was obtained in the furtherance of that crime or fraud in ongoing or future-contemplated criminal conduct….

  166. says

    From Ivanka Trump:

    We need to promote healthy lifestyles for America’s youth. In a recent survey, 9.5 million U.S. children reported that they did NOT once participate in any of over 100 sports or activities listed.

    From Mark Hertling, retired soldier and former member of President Obama’s Council on Fitness, Sport, and Nutrition:

    Ummm…there’s this thing called the President’s Council on Fitness, Sport, and Nutrition. Been around 60 years. Used to have 25 appointees…I was one of them. @MichelleObama helped & generated momentum in this area. No one is on the Council now. @FitnessGov. Check it out.

  167. says

    St. Louis-based talk show host Jamie Allman threatened David Hogg:

    I’ve been hanging out getting ready to ram a hot poker up David Hogg’s ass tomorrow. Busy working. Preparing.

    At least three of Allman’s advertiser/sponsors hastily departed. Twitter acted against Allman for violating the site’s rules.

    Allman’s television show airs on KDNL, St. Louis’s ABC affiliate owned by far-right media conglomerate Sinclair Broadcast Group. It is unclear if any more retribution against Allman will be forthcoming.

  168. says

    southpaw: “It’s my understanding that government doesn’t raid the offices of any lawyer lightly. The layers of bureaucratic approval that a raid of THE SITTING PRESIDENT’S LAWYER must have gone through simply boggles my mind.”

  169. says

    Popehat already has a post up about the raid:

    …Recently I’ve been listening to the Podcast “Slow Burn,” about Watergate.* There’s a fascinating theme throughout it: when you’re living a historical event, how do you know? How can you tell when a development is a Big Deal?

    This is a big deal. It’s very early on, but here’s some things we can already tell….

    * Once again, can’t recommend it more highly.

  170. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I think I can almost hear the shrieks from the MSNBC evening show producers for late breaking, but not surprising, news about Michael Cohen. But, it’s a day that ends in “y”, so redoing plans at the last minute is expected.

  171. tomh says

    @ #243
    One can only hope. From FDIC Law, Regulation, Related Acts:
    8000 – Miscellaneous Statutes and Regulations

    § 1344. Bank fraud.
    Whoever knowingly executes, or attempts to execute, a scheme or artifice–
    (1) to defraud a financial institution; or
    (2) to obtain any of the moneys, funds, credits, assets, securities or other property owned by, or under the custody or control of, a financial institution, by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises;
    shall be fined not more than $1,000,000 or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or both.

  172. says

    Helpful thread by Asha Rangappa. Ends with: “7. Finally, not enough people are talking about the reality that even if Mueller is fired, THE INVESTIGATIONS THAT HAVE BEGUN WILL NOT GO AWAY. Once there is a factual@predicate to open them, they *will* be investigated – by Mueller or someone else – until they reach resolution.”

  173. says

    SC @244:

    Josh Marshall: “Enraged President Makes First Comments on Cohen.”
    Said the opposite of everything that’s true.

    Oh, yeah. Lie after lie from the “enraged president,” but I was more struck by how incoherent, ill-informed and just plain stupid Trump was.

    Trump conflated the investigation by Mueller with the raid on Cohen. A referral from Mueller may have played a part in the raid, but the warrant itself and the kick-in-the-door raid is a separate event, run by a different Attorney General, (Southern District of New York), and it was aimed squarely at a different person, at Cohen. For all we know, the investigation of crimes committed by Cohen could have been going on for months, quite apart from Mueller.

    It was weird to see Trump’s mental disabilities on display and that he took the whole thing as a personal affront to him and not to Cohen. And, of course Trump had to ramble on and on about Hillary Clinton’s supposed crimes, about how Jeff Sessions wasn’t protecting him, etc. … and he did all this in front of many general there to discuss the situation in Syria.

    Trump was completely unhinged.

    Some of the worst from Trump:

    “it’s a disgraceful situation.”

    “I have this witch hunt constantly going on.”

    “It’s an attack on on our country…what we all stand for.”

    Also, Trump called the special counsel “the most conflicted group of people I have ever seen.”

    WTF?

  174. says

    Trump conflated the investigation by Mueller with the raid on Cohen. A referral from Mueller may have played a part in the raid, but the warrant itself and the kick-in-the-door raid is a separate event, run by a different Attorney General, (Southern District of New York),…

    It’s actually a US Attorney, Geoffrey S. Berman. Trump appointed him after he fired Preet Bharara. He was confirmed in January. He was a Giuliani law partner, and Trump personally interviewed him, so you can imagine the extent of the evidence here.

  175. says

    WaPo now (same article as @ #243): “Michael Cohen, the longtime attorney of President Trump, is under federal investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations, according to a person with knowledge of the case.”

  176. says

    This: “The FBI’s NY field office was reportedly the source of the internal pressure on Comey/McCabe to go after the Clinton Foundation at the height of 2016. It is not an office that is biased against Trump, to say the least.”

  177. says

    “Mueller Investigating Ukrainian’s $150,000 Payment for a Trump Appearance”:

    The special counsel is investigating a payment made to President Trump’s foundation by a Ukrainian steel magnate for a talk during the campaign, according to three people briefed on the matter, as part of a broader examination of streams of foreign money to Mr. Trump and his associates in the years leading up to the election.

    Investigators subpoenaed the Trump Organization this year for an array of records about business with foreign nationals. In response, the company handed over documents about a $150,000 donation that the Ukrainian billionaire, Victor Pinchuk, made in September 2015 to the Donald J. Trump Foundation in exchange for a 20-minute appearance by Mr. Trump that month through a video link to a conference in Kiev.

    Michael D. Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer whose office and hotel room were raided on Monday in an apparently unrelated case, solicited the donation….

    The payment from Mr. Pinchuk “is curious because it comes during a campaign and is from a foreigner and looks like an effort to buy influence,” said Marcus S. Owens, a former head of the Internal Revenue Service division that oversees tax-exempt organizations. He called the donation “an unusual amount of money for such a short speech.”

    Mr. Trump did not raise the prospect of any payment. But the next day, Mr. Cohen called Mr. Schoen to solicit the $150,000 as an honorarium, the person briefed on the matter said. Mr. Schoen, who had gotten to know Mr. Cohen by running into him in the green room at Fox News, dealt with him and not Mr. Trump directly, according to another person briefed on the exchange.*

    The Kiev talk received little attention, with the scant coverage focused on the awkward nature of Mr. Trump’s delivery….

    Mr. Trump used the appearance to criticize President Barack Obama amid deteriorating relations between the United States and Russia over its incursions into Ukraine, which had begun a year earlier….

    * No skid marks.

  178. says

    Geoffrey Berman, the US Atty who signed off on the Michael Cohen search warrants, is:
    * A Republican
    * A @realdonaldtrump appointee
    * A max individual donor to Trump’s ’16 general election campaign
    * A former Rudy Giuliani law partner”

  179. says

    SC @256, thanks for the additional information.

    SC @259, Yeah, Michael Cohen, National Deputy Finance Chair for the Republican National Committee, is a problem of such magnitude that even Trump cult members can recognize it. Bet they do more than just erase him from the website.

    SC@263, It could not have escaped anyone’s notice that during his rant in front of the generals today, Trump made a point of mentioning that most of Mueller’s team are “Democrats.” Trump has ranted about that before. (Mueller is a Republican, and the argument is nonsense anyway. Law enforcement officers prosecute people without reference to their political preference … almost all the time. NY FBI office getting their jollies trying to prosecute Hillary Clinton may be an exception.)

    The supposed “Democrat” slant of Mueller’s probe is part of Trump’s basis for the “most conflicted people ever” claim. Now his own, Republican appointee in NY is involved in the raids on Cohen’s office and homes. Geoffrey Berman’s participation delivers a shot of schadenfreude to today’s drama. Schadenfreude for us, much pain for Trump, (which prompted much aggrieved whining).

  180. says

    Speaking of South America, congress in Argentina today is holding public hearings on the legalization of abortion. Streamed live here. The man who’s speaking now made an excellent point – (paraphrasing) “Some people attribute metaphysical properties to fetuses, but they shouldn’t be able to impose those ideas on people who don’t share their beliefs.”

  181. says

    “Pompeo asks Clinton for advice as he preps for confirmation battle”:

    As a sharply partisan Republican member of Congress, CIA Director Mike Pompeo tormented former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over her response to the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, which Pompeo called “morally reprehensible.” He also once liked a tweet that branded her successor, John Kerry, a “traitor.”

    But now that Pompeo faces a tough confirmation process to become secretary of state himself, he has reached out to Clinton and Kerry, as well as every other living occupant of the office, to ask for guidance. Clinton, for one, has been willing to help.

    “These were lengthy calls seeking advice” from the former secretaries, a person familiar with Pompeo’s prep work told POLITICO. “He understands the gravity of the challenge before him.”

    During their talk, Clinton advised Pompeo to stem the flight of career diplomats who quit under Tillerson, according to a person familiar with the call.

    But standing between Pompeo and Foggy Bottom are dozens of hostile Democratic senators, and at least one Republican — raising questions about his ability to win majority approval from the Foreign Relations Committee, which is divided 11-10 in favor of Republicans….

  182. says

    “Rod Rosenstein Personally Approved F.B.I. Raid on Trump Lawyer, Officials Say”:

    Rod J. Rosenstein, the veteran Republican prosecutor handpicked by President Trump to serve as deputy attorney general, personally signed off on Monday’s F.B.I. decision to raid the office of Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s personal attorney and longtime confidant, three government officials said.

    The early-morning searches enraged Mr. Trump, associates said, setting off an angry public tirade Monday evening that continued in private at the White House as the president fumed about whether he should fire Mr. Rosenstein. The episode has deeply unsettled White House aides, Justice Department officials and lawmakers from both parties, who believe the president may use it as a pretext to purge the team leading the investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 election.

    Searching a lawyer’s files is among the most sensitive moves federal prosecutors can make as they pursue a criminal investigation. Mr. Rosenstein’s personal involvement in the decision signals that the evidence seen by law enforcement officials was significant enough to persuade the Justice Department’s second-in-command that such an aggressive move was necessary.

    Mr. Trump’s advisers have spent the last 24 hours trying to convince the president not to make an impulsive decision that could put the president in more legal jeopardy and ignite a controversy that could consume his presidency, several people close to Mr. Trump said….

    Much more at the link.

    Whoa: “SCOOP: ABC News has learned Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, is recused from the Michael Cohen investigation. He had no role in raid of Cohen’s office. Another recusal that will make @realDonaldTrump unhappy.”

  183. says

    The effects of the Republican tax cuts … just as bad as we thought they were:

    […] The modern Republican Party has pioneered a completely novel theory: Governments should balance their budgets when run by Democrats, and run extremely large deficits when run by Republicans.

    The new projections by the Congressional Budget Office, the first federal budget analysis to be released since the Trump tax cuts were passed into law, shows how fully the Republican government has operationalized its theory. CBO now estimates the 2018 deficit will be $242 billion higher than it had estimated last June, before the tax cuts. And the tax cut is the major reason: “Accounting for most of that difference is a $194 billion reduction in projected revenues, mainly because the 2017 tax act is expected to reduce collections of individual and corporate income taxes.”

    The deficit is expected to grow to more than 5 percent of gross domestic product. That would make sense if the country was spending to counteract a serious but temporary emergency, like a recession or perhaps a major war. There is no such emergency, though.

    What’s more, as CBO explains, its figures very likely underestimate the size of the deficit. CBO is required to calculate the effects of the laws as written. That scenario is fanciful. CBO assumes deep cuts to discretionary spending will take place. Discretionary spending is a catch-all category of spending programs that aren’t automatically doled out. It includes defense, infrastructure, medical research, and many other things — most of what government does other than writing checks to retirees and the poor. Neither party actually wants to implement deep cuts to these programs, which is why they agreed once again a few weeks ago to disregard the cuts and maintain those programs. […]

    if realistic assumptions are made, then the fiscal picture would grow even worse: The deficit would consume 6.3 percent of the economy from 2023 to 2028, and rise to 7.1 percent of GDP by 2028. If your deficit is growing at two to three times the rate of the economy, you are running into a dangerous situation, which could become a crisis if an expensive event takes place. […]

    New York Magazine link

  184. says

    One year ago this week:

    Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and RNC Finance Chairman Steve Wynn announced additional members of the RNC’s Finance leadership team:

    “I am delighted to announce the addition of these longtime friends of the Party and supporters of this administration to our Finance leadership team,” said Chairwoman McDaniel. “Elliott Broidy, Michael Cohen, and Louis DeJoy will serve as National Deputy Finance Chairmen….”

    It’s almost laughable. Here is a summary from Steve Benen:

    […] Steve Wynn […] was forced to resign from his RNC post earlier this year following sexual misconduct allegations. […]

    Elliott Broidy, meanwhile, has become quite a controversial figure in his own right. As Rachel noted on the show two weeks ago, Broidy is at the center of multiple, ongoing controversies, including allegations that he pitched himself, shortly before Trump’s inauguration last year, as someone who could help Russian companies get off the U.S. sanctions list for a fee.

    And then there’s Michael Cohen, whose office and hotel room were raided by the FBI yesterday, and who’s at the center of multiple Trump-related scandals. By some accounts, Cohen is under investigation for, among other things, possible bank fraud. […]

  185. tomh says

    @ 285
    I don’t see how Rosenstein can survive this story. Trump just won’t stand for it.

  186. says

    From Zachary Roth:

    […] Every time Trump questions the integrity of Mueller’s probe, he’s dangerously undermining the rule of law — a crucial pillar of democracy. And Monday’s comments — which came in response to news that the FBI had raided the offices of his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen — were particularly chilling in how closely they echoed the tactics of quasi-authoritarian leaders looking to weaken independent sources of authority. That sounds alarmist, but it’s increasingly hard to overlook. […]

    “They broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys — a good man.”
    By saying the FBI “broke in” to Cohen’s office, Trump is painting a picture, not for the first time, of a lawless, out-of-control investigation. In fact, Monday’s raid could not have been carried out without prosecutors going through a lengthy process involving sign-off from Justice Department brass and the Trump-appointed acting US attorney for Manhattan. […]

    “It’s an attack on our country, in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for.”
    The claim that the people investigating Trump’s administration are attacking America conflates Trump’s interest with the country’s, so that anyone who poses problems for Trump is acting unpatriotically. […]

    “This is the most biased group of people. These people have the biggest conflicts of interest I’ve ever seen. Democrats all — or just about all — either Democrats or a couple of Republicans that worked for President Obama…”
    Trump is laying the groundwork to undermine Mueller’s findings by painting the probe as an effort to bring down Trump for political reasons. (In fact, of course, both Mueller and his boss Rod Rosenstein are Republicans.) In doing so, he’s dangerously weakening public trust in the very idea of apolitical law enforcement. […]

    “The stock market dropped a lot today as soon as they heard the noise of this nonsense that’s going on. It dropped a lot.”
    The Russia investigation is now a threat to America’s economy and the broader well-being of the country.

    [Asked why he doesn’t fire Mueller] “Well, I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on. We’ll see what happens. But I think it’s really a sad situation when you look at what happened. And many people have said, ‘You should fire him.’”
    Trump is deliberately dangling the possibility that he could fire Mueller. Simply by not ruling that idea out when asked, he hopes to exert a chilling effect on Mueller’s investigation. Whether or not that’s happening — and there’s no evidence from Mueller’s behavior that it is — that’s the goal.

    More at the link.

  187. says

    “State And Local Republican Officials Have Been Bashing Muslims. We Counted.”:

    A state lawmaker in Oklahoma refused to meet with Muslim constituents unless they replied to a questionnaire asking if they beat their wives. A Nebraska state senator suggested that any Muslim wanting to enter the United States be forced to eat pork first. And a Rhode Island legislator advocated herding Syrian refugees into a camp, writing in an email that Muslims seek “to murder, rape, and decapitate anyone who is a non-Muslim.”

    Those are among dozens of examples of state and local Republican politicians and officials publicly attacking Islam in 49 states since 2015, typically with impunity, according to a BuzzFeed News analysis. Some elected officials shared hate-filled social media posts urging violence against Muslims, while others used subtler, loaded language to smear Islam as they opposed mosque-building projects or wrote bills aimed at what they portrayed as the threat of Sharia.

    The anti-Muslim rhetoric in virtually every state reflects the general coarsening of political speech in the anything-goes era of President Donald Trump, who’s lashed out at Mexicans, Muslims, African Americans, women, and other targets. Still, the jabs at Islam are set apart by their sheer ugliness as well as by companion efforts aimed at restricting Muslim civil liberties and immigration. Muslim groups worry that politicians’ unchecked vilification of a religion followed by more than 3.3 million Americans opens the door for even bigger blows than the travel ban.

    Muslims have no reason to believe the White House will take the lead in addressing the inflammatory language, which in some cases amounts to hate speech. Trump, who’s also disparaged Islam, last month nominated CIA director Mike Pompeo for secretary of state despite his long history of bashing Islam and associating with anti-Muslim bigots.

    Trump then picked an even more rabid anti-Islam figure as his new national security adviser: John Bolton, former UN ambassador and chair of the Gatestone Institute, a nonprofit that hypes the threat of Islam through debunked stories about “Muslim mass-rape gangs” and attempts to create an “an Islamist Colony” in the United Kingdom….

  188. says

    From Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniel’s lawyer:

    He’s [Michael Cohen’s] going to be expected to be the fall guy, the scapegoat. I don’t think he’s going to hold up. I think, when push comes to shove, he’s going to fold like a cheap deck of cards.

    We have substantial reason to believe that when Michael Cohen opened the bank accounts at First Republic Bank for the purposes of wiring this money, that he was not truthful and honest with the bank as to the purpose of those accounts and what they were designed to be used for. […]

    More from Avenatti, responding to Trump’s tweet claiming that “attorney-client privilege is dead”:

    I use the attorney-client privilege. I know the attorney-client privilege. The attorney-client privilege is a friend of mine. And the attorney-client privilege is not dead. What is dead is using the privilege to hide illegal acts. And that has been dead for a long time.

  189. says

    “Sinclair TV chairman to Trump: ‘We are here to deliver your message'”:

    The chairman of Sinclair Broadcast Group met Donald Trump at the White House during a visit to pitch a potentially lucrative new product to administration officials, the Guardian has learned.

    David D Smith, whose company has been criticised for making its anchors read a script echoing Trump’s attacks on the media, said he briefed officials last year on a system that would enable authorities to broadcast direct to any American’s phone.

    “I just wanted them to be aware of the technology,” Smith said in an interview. He also recalled an earlier meeting with Trump during the 2016 election campaign, where he told the future president: “We are here to deliver your message.”

    Smith did not respond to follow-up questions on whether Sinclair’s proposed purchase of Tribune Media was discussed with Trump or other officials. The White House did not respond to questions and requests for comment….

    What a liar this guy is.

  190. says

    Actual real news on Fox … amazing:

    […] The best explanation, remarkably, came from Andrew Napolitano, a Fox News legal analyst. Napolitano explained that, under normal circumstances, communications between Trump and his attorney are privileged. But this privilege does not apply if there is “a serious allegation of illegal activity, by the lawyer with the client,” he said.

    “There must be some evidence presented to a federal judge here in New York City sufficient to persuade that judge to sign a search warrant to permit the FBI in broad daylight to raid an attorney’s office, particularly when that attorney has one client and it happens to be the president of the United States,” Napolitano told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto.

    “That evidence would have to be such as to persuade a neutral observer, the federal judge, that it is more likely than not, that among these seized documents is evidence of crimes by Mr. Cohen or Mr. Cohen and the president,” he continued. […]

    Link

    In other news, and in response to SC @294: Arrrrgggghhh! That gives me the shudders and the shivers. The very idea of Sinclair broadcasting directly to my phone is the stuff of nightmares.

    In other, but related news: Mark Zuckerberg is in his forties. He is married and has two children. He is a billionaire who runs a huge company. People should stop giving him a “he’s young” or “he’s immature” excuse for invading or allowing others to invade our privacy. I want to share personal news with friends and family on Facebook, not with Russians and not with Trump supporters.

  191. says

    Oh, FFS. Cohen is redefining lies as “hyperbole” and “just politics.” That sounds very trumpian, and I don’t think it will play well in a court of law:

    [Michael Cohen claimed] he was simply being “hyperbolic” when he suggested adult film actress Stormy Daniels was lying about an affair she claimed to have had with President Trump. […]

    In February, responding to reports of the payment, Cohen insisted that he had only paid Daniels the $130,000 to prevent her from smearing Trump’s image in the days leading up to the election.

    “Just because something isn’t true doesn’t mean that it can’t cause you hurt or damage,” Cohen said at the time. “I will always protect Mr. Trump.”

    Daniels’ defamation suit claims that this statement constituted an attack on her character and defamed her because it implied that she had made up the affair.

    In Monday’s filing, however […] Cohen’s lawyers pushed back, arguing that the statement was not defamatory because Cohen was just playing politics. His lawyers cited an earlier case from 2001, Rosenaur v. Scherer, in which a local political candidate sued his opponent for claiming in a “heated exchange at a shopping center” and in various campaign literature that the plaintiff was a “thief.” The court eventually ruled in the defendant’s favor, arguing that he had only used “loose figurative language and  hyperbole” and had not insinuated that the plaintiff “actually had a criminal past.” […]

    “Pursuant to the foregoing authorities, the statement by Mr. Cohen is not defamatory as a matter of law, but rather is hyperbole.”

    The filing was made in an effort to get the court to dismiss the defamation claim. […]

    Link

    Much more at the link.

  192. says

    Wilbur Ross is associated with a Russian oligarch who has been sanctioned:

    Last week, the Trump administration slapped sanctions on a small group of Russian oligarchs as punishment for what Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called Moscow’s “malign activity around the globe,” […] One of the oligarchs on the list was Viktor Vekselberg, who was identified as the founder and chairman of the Renova Group,[…] But one intriguing bit of information was left out of the Treasury Department’s description of Vekselberg: he was recently a business associate of Wilbur Ross, President Trump’s commerce secretary.

    Ross and Vekselberg were each a major investor in a Cyprus bank that had been linked to dirty Russian money—a connection that Ross tried to downplay when he faced confirmation before the US Senate last year.

    In 2013, amid a financial crisis in Cyprus, the country’s largest financial institution, the Bank of Cyprus, collapsed and was bailed out. Billions of dollars in deposits were held by wealthy Russians, with presumably a good chunk of these funds deposited to evade notice or taxes. As part of the bank’s rescue, much of its holdings were converted into shares of the bank, giving Russian plutocrats majority ownership of a European bank—a notion that unnerved European financial powers.

    In swooped Ross, the billionaire investor whose specialty was snatching up troubled ventures. He led a 1 billion euro buyout of the Bank of Cyprus in 2014, and his group became the leading investor in the institution. On the heels of that deal, Vekselberg’s Renova Group entered the picture and became the bank’s second-largest shareholder. […]

    Ross was collaborating directly with Vekselberg to profit from the revival and reorganization of the Bank of Cyprus, and this included proposing to place Vekselberg’s associates in key leadership roles of the bank. This was not an unusual move, given Vekselberg’s large holdings in the institution. But Ross’ relationship with the oligarch went far beyond a one-time, hour-long meeting. A good follow-up question for the senators would be why Ross had indicated he had little to do with Vekselberg. […]

    Link

    All the best people. More details are available at the link, including the fact that Ross is not the only connection Vekselberg has to Trump World.

  193. says

    Follow-up to comment 299.

    “A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!” Trump wrote on Twitter Tuesday morning. He also added: “Attorney-client privilege is dead!”

    A GOP operative close to the White House told POLITICO: “The all caps tweet, that’s the primal scream. That’s the war cry.”

    “He’s losing his shit,” the operative added. “We’re at a different level now.”

    Politico link

  194. says

    Follow-up to comment 236.

    Jamie Allman has “resigned” after threatening David Hogg.

    […] “We have accepted Mr. Allman’s resignation, and his [TV] show has been canceled,” Sinclair spokesperson Ronn Torossian told the Post. […]

    Even Sinclair Broadcasting can be pressured into doing the right thing.

    In related news, this bullshit is from Dinesh D’Souza:

    How interesting to hear students who can’t support themselves for one day giving us lectures about American social policy.

  195. says

    From Wonkette:

    […] Don’t be surprised if Trump decides to vent some of his anger by choosing the most destructive option against Syria. And possibly a cruise missile strike on the Special Counsel’s office.

    […] You know what isn’t a break-in? A legal search, with a warrant signed by a judge and authorized by the US Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, that’s what. It’s actually a fairly complicated process, not just a bunch of goons knocking down the door — especially if the warrant involves searching an attorney’s office. There are rules for that and everything, as Kellyanne Conway’s husband, George, helpfully reminded the president!

    And let’s not forget: The US Attorney in this case is Geoffrey Berman,a Trump administration appointee. Update/Correction: turns out that Berman was recused, and we know nothing about this deputy US attorney who signed off on the raid, Karl M. Deepstate. […]

  196. says

    I have an answer to my question @ #250:

    The person who asked that question is Jon Decker, a White House correspondent with Fox News Radio who also serves as the secretary of the White House Correspondents’ Association.

    The headline says “Trump mouthed ‘thank you’ for question about firing Mueller,” but oddly there’s nothing about that in the article.

  197. says

    Taxis! From Josh Marshall:

    We’ve been telling you for years that Michael Cohen’s business history couldn’t survive first contact with serious investigative scrutiny.

    He’s been tied his entire life to emigres from Russia and Ukraine; he’s been their business partners, and they’ve been the source of rivers of money from that part of the world which Cohen has used to make himself a very wealthy man. A number of them have reputed ties to organized crime. Taxis, real estate, casino cruise boats. These are all businesses that require large amounts of cash to operate. They’re all good ways to channel cash into the United States. With Cohen taxis have always been the biggest red flag in our reporting.

    For years, Cohen was a big operator in the NYC taxi business, a business which involves the ownership of one or more of the finite number of medallions that allows you to drive a taxi. These used to be worth more than a $1 million apiece. They’ve dropped considerably with the rise of Uber. We’ve been waiting for a year for attention to turn to Cohen’s taxi business and his business partners, especially Simon Garber, a taxi magnate who has or has had major taxi holdings in cities ranging from New York to Chicago to New Orleans to Moscow. Allegra Kirkland’s July 2017 article goes into various aspects of Cohen’s businesses, including some details on the taxi business.

    More to come.

  198. says

    A request for documents was sent to the Trump Organization for Stormy-Daniels-related material:

    Federal prosecutors are seeking Trump Organization records related to an $130,000 payment that President Trump’s private attorney made to a porn star who has claimed to have had an affair with Trump in 2006, the Wall Street Journal reported.

    The request was related to raids conducted on attorney Michael Cohen’s home, office and a hotel room he was using Monday. The search warrants sought information on the payments, the New York Times and others reported. […]

    Link

  199. Oggie. says

    “A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!”

    Tell you what, President Trump. When you have been tortured, repeatedly, for weeks, then you can claim this is a witch hunt.

    When you have been forced to undergo repeated physical full body exams to look for familiar feeding teats, then you can claim this is a witch hunt.

    When you have been chased out of your home, out of your hut in the forest where you have been hiding from witch hunters, and hunted through forest and field by men on horses following hunting dogs, you can claim this is a witch hunt.

    When you have been kept incommunicado for weeks on end, on starvation rations, until you are willing to say anything, sign anything, repeat anything for a taste of coarse brown bread, you can claim this is a witch hunt.

    When you have been subjected to trials by ordeal in which surviving the trial just proves you have made a pact with the devil, you can claim this is a witch hunt.

    When a red hot poker creates third degree burns on your hand, you are placed back into a cell with no sanitary facilities, given no medical attention, so that, when the wound is (quelle surprise!) infected, you are declared a witch because god didn’t keep your wound pure, you can claim this is a witch hunt.

    When you are raped, repeatedly, by men of the cloth in order to show that you are a wonton slut who uses her femininity to enslave weak men, you can claim this is a witch hunt.

    Until then, President Trump, this will continue to be what it is: a professional investigation into potential crimes committed by you and the rest of the Tang Dynasty. Which may include actual treason, with a foreign power, to undermine the government of the United States of America.

  200. says

    Laura Ingraham returned to TV … and then she was so obnoxious that she lost another advertiser, Slimfast. Her bullying of David Hogg caused a mass exodus of advertisers before her unplanned spring break. She didn’t learn anything from that previous feedback, apparently.

    […] Ingraham returned to her show, The Ingraham Angle, Monday after a week-long hiatus. […]

    Now that Ingraham is back is on television, she is showing little to no remorse.

    She started off her Monday show with an extended monologue about the perils of “squelching” free speech.
    “The left’s propaganda shaped a new generation of young adults, who then parroted all that malarkey about the ‘patriarchy,’ and then they came up with their own new phrases like ‘micro-aggressions’ and ‘safe spaces’ and ‘white privilege,’” Ingraham said. “Today, left-wing activists use these terms as bludgeons to intimidate those who disagree with them from entering the dialogue at all.”

    “Their efforts are Stalinist, pure and simple,” she added. “Their objective is a total transformation of American society, not through rational discourse and open debate, but through personal demonization and silencing.”

    As it turns out, over a dozen advertisers didn’t like being associated with a TV host who harangued a kid for not getting into college, and are still continuing to drop her show.

    Slimfast has become the 21st advertiser to dump @IngrahamAngle after she calls David Hogg and fellow boycotters “Stalinist.”

    […]

    Data shows that Fox News, not advertisers, are hurting the most from the Laura Ingraham boycott.

    Link

    Schadenfreude moment.

  201. says

    WTF?

    […] Trump believes he has the power to fire Robert Mueller as special counsel leading the Russia probe, the White House said [today]

    “He certainly believes that he has the power to do so,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

    “I know a number of individuals in the legal community, and including at the Department of Justice say he has the power to do so.”

    “We’ve been advised that the president certainly has the power to make that decision. I can’t go anything beyond that.”

    That stance is rejected by many legal experts, who say Trump does not have the power to fire Mueller directly. Under Justice Department regulations, that authority falls to the department official in charge of the investigation — in this case, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. […]

    The Hill link

  202. says

    Another lawsuit against team Trump:

    A civil rights organization and a watchdog group are suing the Trump administration for allegedly issuing a misleading report on terrorism the president ordered as part of his second travel ban.

    In the 26-page complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Muslim Advocates and Democracy Forward Foundation allege the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) violated the Information Quality Act in reporting that three out of four individuals convicted of international terrorism and terrorism-related offenses between September 11, 2001, and December 31, 2016, were foreign-born.

    The law requires information disseminated to the public by federal agencies, including by DHS and DOJ, be of requisite quality, objectivity, utility and integrity.

    But the groups argue the information in the report is biased, misleading and incomplete.

    “The government’s own studies show that native born citizens commit significant numbers of terrorist attacks in the United States, and indeed are responsible for the overwhelming majority of terrorism fatalities since 2002,” the groups said in the complaint.

    “An April 2017 Government Accountability Office report concluded that ‘of the 85 violent extremist incidents that resulted in death since September 12, 2001, far right wing violent extremist groups were responsible for 62 (73 percent) while radical Islamist violent extremists were responsible for 23 (27 percent).”

    But the groups said the report excludes all terrorism-related offenses that occurred in the United States that were planned and executed by individuals without international connections.

    The groups argue DOJ’s terrorism report has been used to justify President Trump’s travel ban on immigrants from six majority-Muslim countries and perpetuate the ongoing stigmatization of immigrants and Muslims by the administration. […]

    Link

    It’s a shame that a lawsuit has to filed in order to keep federal agencies honest during the Trump regime.

  203. says

    Threats from Russian are a complicating factor if the U.S. plans to respond to chemical-weapons attacks in Syria:

    A top Russian lawmaker warned on Tuesday that Moscow could respond with military force to a potential U.S. strike on Syria in the wake of a deadly chemical weapon attack.

    Vladimir Shamanov, the chairman of the defense affairs committee in the State Duma, said in televised remarks that Russia would consider “all political, diplomatic and military measures” against the U.S. in the event of a strike in Syria.

    “The politics of double standards have hit rock bottom,” Shamanov said, according to the Russian state-run TASS news agency. “And here the United Russia party conscientiously states that all political, diplomatic and military measures if necessary will be taken. No illegal action will remain unanswered.” […]

    Shamanov denied on Tuesday that the Syrian government used chemical weapons and asserted that a U.S. strike in Syria would amount to a violation of the country’s sovereignty.

    “We won’t let the Americans hammer nails on someone else’s anvil,” he said, according to TASS. […]

    Link

  204. says

    Avenatti: “Due to the FBI raids of Mr. Cohen’s office/home and a subsequent request we received this morning to delay the release of the forensic sketch of the thug that threatened Ms. Clifford to “leave Trump alone”, we will not be releasing the sketch or reward details today. Timing TBD.”

  205. says

    That stance is rejected by many legal experts, who say Trump does not have the power to fire Mueller directly. Under Justice Department regulations, that authority falls to the department official in charge of the investigation — in this case, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. […]

    And only for cause, which Rosenstein has said publicly on more than one occasion doesn’t exist.

  206. says

    “European Commission raids Murdoch’s Fox offices in London”:

    The British offices of the Murdoch entertainment empire 21st Century Fox have been raided by investigators from the European Commission, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.

    It is understood that competition watchdogs gained access to the company’s offices in Hammersmith, west London, early today to seize documents and computer records.

    The precise nature of the confidential investigation, which is believed to be in its early stages, is unclear. The building is home to Fox Networks, the company’s channels business.

    The European Commission has powers to raid businesses suspected of abusing their dominance of a market or being involved in a price fixing cartel….

  207. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Rachael Maddow appears to have the contemporaneous hand-written notes written by Dana Beonte after Comey had a conversation with Trump and relayed the talk to Boente before Comey was fired. The notes were originally classified as secret, but have been unclassified. Scoop!

  208. says

    Paul Ryan announced that he’s not running for re-election. Republican Rep. Dennis Ross (FL) just announced his retirement.

    Comey’s interview with George Stephanopoulos ahead of his book release has been filmed and will air on Sunday.

    Devin Nunes is threatening to hold in contempt and “impeach” Rosenstein and Wray. Cohen-Watnick is going to work at the DoJ as a national security advisor to Sessions, so that’s swell.

    Zuckerberg is testifying before a House committee today. They couldn’t do worse than the Senate did yesterday.

    Stormy Daniels is reportedly working with federal investigators.

  209. says

    Trump is tweeting bullshit, in barely discernible English, about the NYT article @ #262 above. Earlier, he did a video birthday message for Emin Agalarov. I wonder if that was paid for, or if any of is other public statements about Russia or US foreign policy were…

  210. says

    Follow-up to Nerd @321, that was was a great segment on The Maddow Show. Bottom line: yes, Dana Boente’s notes confirm, sometimes word-for-word, Comey’s description of his conversation with Trump.

    In other news, it looks like Trump may be tweeting his way into a war with Russia over Syria … that or he plans to kill Russian leaders by making them beat their heads against their desks as they read Trump’s contradictory pronouncements:

    Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!

    Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War. There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?

    Russia have five batteries of anti-missile systems in Syria. U.S. planes and missiles will have to take those out before they can inflict real damage on Assad’s forces/equipment. Russian soldiers man those batteries.

  211. says

    SC mentioned Ezra Cohen-Watnick in comment 323. In case anyone has forgotten, here is some background information on the 31-year-old Cohen-Watnick:

    […] During his time at the NSC as the senior director for intelligence programs, Cohen-Watnick was a source of controversy. His ascent to the NSC, after just a few years at the Defense Intelligence Agency, surprised outside observers. His name emerged in the strange episode involving House Intel Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, who made bombastic allegations of improper “unmasking” of Trump associates by the Obama administration, though what role Cohen-Watnick played in the controversy remains in dispute.

    Cohen-Watnick left the NSC several months into the tenure of then-National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster in August 2017. […]

    Link

    Many thought Cohen-Watnick, a Micheal Flynn supporter, continued to do Flynn’s work after Flynn was fired. There is no way that Cohen-Watnick should be “national security advisor” to anyone, let alone Jeff Sessions.

  212. says

    Trump slaps poor people (metaphorically) … again:

    President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday that aims to add and strengthen work requirements for public assistance and other welfare programs.

    The order, signed in private, promotes “common-sense reforms” that policy adviser Andrew Bremberg said would reduce dependence on government programs. […]

    Trump has long accused beneficiaries of abusing government assistance programs and has claimed many who have no intention of working make more in benefits than those with jobs.

    “I know people that work three jobs and they live next to somebody who doesn’t work at all. And the person who is not working at all and has no intention of working at all is making more money and doing better than the person that’s working his and her ass off,” Trump said in November. During the campaign, he pledged that, under a Trump administration, families “trapped in welfare” would be “provided with jobs and opportunity.”

    Most people who use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, who are able to hold jobs do work, but they don’t earn enough to pay for food and cover other expenses. According to 2015 data from the Department of Agriculture, 44 percent of the total households using the SNAP program had someone in the family earning money. […]

    Link

  213. says

    Trump seemed to casually, unthinkingly admit to obstruction of justice in his 4:47 AM tweet today:

    [I am] doing things that nobody thought possible, despite the never ending and corrupt Russia Investigation, which takes tremendous time and focus. No Collusion or Obstruction (other than I fight back), so now they do the Unthinkable, and RAID a lawyers office for information! BAD!

    No, “fighting back” is not a get-out-of-jail-free card for obstruction of justice.

    From Aaron Rupar:

    […] The president’s extraordinary Twitter admission comes a day after responded to news of the Cohen raid by expressing deep confusion about attorney-client privilege. In a tweet, Trump proclaimed that “Attorney–client privilege is dead!” — apparently oblivious to the existence of the “crime-fraud exception,” which means communications between you and your attorney about future criminal acts are not protected. […]

    Link

  214. Chris J says

    Lynna@328:

    There’s such a disconnect between word and action with that shit. They say they want to free people from the cycle of poverty, but all they’re really doing is reducing assistance and making it harder to qualify. Hey geniuses, if these folks could get a job in order to qualify for those increased standards, they would likely do so already! Requiring people to work more does not create jobs or opportunities, and it doesn’t reduce dependence on welfare. It just cuts that welfare off with no alternatives.

    If welfare was a ladder trying to allow people to climb out of a poverty cycle they are currently in, then they claim they want to offer a rope instead but they’re really just cutting down the ladder.

  215. says

    Yikes. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is moving further to the right. He may be pulled there by his wife.

    […] It appears that as Ginni Thomas’ connections to semi-reputable conservative groups fade, she has embraced the fringe. Meanwhile, her husband may be undergoing a similar, though much subtler, transformation. In November, Clarence Thomas granted an interview to Laura Ingraham, his former law clerk, for her Fox News show Ingraham Angle. Many court-watchers, myself included, were surprised by the justice’s willingness to appear alongside the notorious propagandist, their court connection notwithstanding: Clarence makes few public appearances, grants fewer one-on-one interviews, and almost never does TV. It was especially startling when he took up Ingraham’s offer to bash political correctness, telling her, “I think we’re getting quite comfortable in our society limiting ideas and exposure to ideas.” […]

    Then, in February, the justice issued his Trumpiest opinion yet, condemning his colleagues for refusing to review a lower court’s decision affirming the constitutionality of California’s “cooling-off” period for gun purchases. (These waiting periods have been shown to save lives.) He assailed the court for having “more favored rights” than the Second Amendment, overturning laws restricting abortion, free speech, and personal privacy while ignoring gun restrictions. He also rebuked the lower court for protecting the free expression of nude dancers and the marriage rights of same-sex couples. His dissent was an embarrassing, discursive tirade that might as well have been ghostwritten by Dana Loesch; no other justice joined it. […]

    To be sure, Clarence has not gone nearly as far as his Ginni in embracing fringy Trumpist dogma. But it’s clear that both Thomases have been invigorated by Trump’s presidency, seizing upon this unhinged political moment to promote their agendas with renewed zeal and a diminishing concern for optics. Yes, Clarence and Ginni lead separate lives. But on the major questions of the day, they appear almost perfectly aligned with each other—and the White House.

    Link

    Much more at the link.

  216. says

    Chris J @330:

    […] they’re really just cutting down the ladder.

    Such an apt metaphor. I might steal that.

    About Paul Ryan not running for reelection: Paul “Mr. Responsible Balanced Budgets Guy” Ryan Created a Trillion-Dollar Deficit and Then Quit

    From Jennifer Rubin:

    […] One can hardly imagine a more obvious signal that Ryan fears the prospect, if not of losing his own seat, than of losing the majority and hence his speakership. In the past, speakers — understanding the demoralizing impact that premature white-flag-waving would have on their troops — had the good sense to wait until after the election to announce that they would exit the leadership of their party. Ryan’s move has several consequences.

    First, Democrats (who were heavily spending to defeat Ryan) can declare victory in that race and save the money it would have taken to knock out a sitting speaker. Get ready for Democrats’ taunts that Ryan lacked the courage to stand before the voters with a record like his.

    Second, this is a flashing light to donors and candidates on both sides. For Republican money-men, the message is: Don’t throw away cash trying to save the House. (One wonders whether Ryan, previously a strong fundraiser, will still be able to get donors to open their wallets when he’s abandoning ship.) For Democrats, it will be further encouragement to add to the record number of candidates and to get on board for a Democratic sweep. In a wave year with the GOP leaderless, why not throw your hat into the ring?

    Third, this will be seen in some quarters as a sign that Ryan cannot bear defending the president from potential impeachment. It has been a chore to act as Trump’s lead apologist, ignoring Trump’s outbursts and justifying his zigzags. Trump is now going down a protectionist road that Ryan deeply opposes. As much as this is a sign of no confidence in his House majority, it is effectively an admission: “I can’t take it anymore!” Imagine how much more stressful it will be if and when the special counsel returns a report that makes the case for impeachment. […]

    More at the link.

  217. says

    Oh, FFS. Arizona House passes bill requiring women to provide reason for abortion:

    […] The bill, passed on party lines Monday, would require women to fill out an extensive questionnaire about their reasons to obtain the abortion […]

    Those questions include whether the woman is seeking an elective procedure for economic reasons or do not want a child, if the pregnancy could harm their health or the fetus’s health or if the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest.

    The questionnaire doesn’t require the women to provide their identify, but does ask for their race, age, educational background and marital statues, as well as information on other pregnancies and abortions. […]

    GOP state Rep. Eddie Farnsworth said the measure was about “getting information,” but refused to allow questions to be added about access to sex education and affordable health care. […]

    State Rep. Athena Salman (D) voted against the bill, saying that “it’s none of the government’s business why a woman is getting an abortion.”

    And Jodi Liggett, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, told Bustle that the bill is “about making the abortion experience as shaming and degrading as possible for people, to thereby discourage them from following through with their decision.”

    Link

  218. says

    Team Trump finds another way to deprive immigrants of their rights:

    In the New Cruelty’s latest fresh new look for spring, the Justice Department announced it will “temporarily” suspend a program that allows people facing deportation by ICE to get legal help. For a perfectly legitimate reason: DOJ needs to audit the program to make sure it’s cost-effective.

    Yes, that’s the same Department of Justice that’s demanding a citizenship question on the Census so DOJ can better comply with the Voting Rights Act, which is a huge priority for this administration. Don’t believe a goddamn thing these people say.

    DOJ contacted the nonprofit Vera Institute of Justice to advise them of the freeze, starting this month, of Vera’s Legal Orientation Program, which held information sessions last year for about 53,000 immigrants in over a dozen states. DOJ will also be conducting an “evaluation” of the Vera Institute’s “help desk” program, which provides legal tips — but not actual representation — to immigrants who aren’t in detention but are facing deportation proceedings in in Miami, New York, Chicago, San Antonio, and Los Angeles immigration courts.[…]

    An immigration court official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the audit has not been formally announced, said the review will examine the cost-effectiveness of the federally funded programs and whether they duplicate efforts within the court system. He noted, for example, that immigration judges are already required to inform immigrants of their rights before a hearing, including their right to find a lawyer at their own expense.

    Well, gosh, if judges say “you can get a lawyer, oops too late, get on the bus NOW!” then what’s the point of letting some nonprofit group educate people before they’re disappeared back to face gang violence in El Salvador? And unlike criminal courts, immigration courts provide no right to a state-paid attorney, since deportation is a civil matter. […]

    “This is a blatant attempt by the administration to strip detained immigrants of even the pretense of due-process rights,” said Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director of the National Immigrant Justice Center, one of the organizations that offers the legal services with Vera.

    In a statement, the Vera Institute said a 2012 study by the Justice Department concluded that the program was “a cost-effective and efficient way to promote due process” that saved the government nearly $18 million over one year. […]

    Link

  219. says

    A new detail to add to what we already know the FBI was looking for when they raided Michael Cohen’s home, hotel room, and office: they were also looking for records related to the “Access Hollywood” tape. This was probably just another aspect of the search for evidence that Cohen was the “fixer” who worked to bury or suppress information about Trump that might have been damaging to his campaign for president.

    NY Times link

  220. says

    All the best people.

    As Senate Republicans continue their work pushing federal judicial nominees forward, one in particular is drawing special attention this week: Wendy Vitter, […] Trump’s nominee for a district court in eastern Louisiana. She will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning, and will likely face questions about her history of anti-abortion advocacy and about speaking at pro-life events that she failed to disclose on her Senate questionnaire, a form that nominees are required to submit as part of the confirmation process.

    Her background has alarmed some reproductive rights advocates—especially Planned Parenthood, which took out a five-figure national ad campaign on Facebook and Twitter condemning the nominee. “Vitter’s record of opposing women’s health and rights is far outside the mainstream,” said Dana Singiser, Planned Parenthood’s vice president of public policy and government affairs, in a statement. “By promoting fake science and misinformation as fact, [she] has proven that she doesn’t have the judgment needed for a lifetime seat on the federal bench.” […]

    Vitter praised states with restrictive abortion laws. “Last year, Texas led the nation in some very pro-life, restrictive laws led by a very strong governor,” Vitter said at an “Abortion Hurts Women’s Health” panel. “They are making great strides in making it very difficult to get abortions in Texas.”

    At the same event, Vitter encouraged attendees to take seriously the views of another anti-abortion advocate, Angela Lanfranchi, who spoke to the audience about how “contraceptives cause cancer.” Vitter also promoted Lanfranchi’s brochures that claimed taking birth control increases women’s chances of dying a violent death.

    “Go to Dr. Angela’s website…download [the brochure], and at your next physical, you walk into your pro-life doctor and say, ‘Have you thought about putting these facts or this brochure in your waiting room?’” Vitter asked the audience.

    Link

    Much more at the link.

  221. says

    More relatively reasonable people are beating a hasty retreat from the horror that is John Bolton:

    The White House’s deputy national security adviser for strategy has resigned, the third senior National Security Council official to announce exit plans since John Bolton took the helm […]

    Nadia Schadlow said she is stepping down from the NSC effective April 27, saying she would “help with the transition” of Bolton, who started Monday as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser. […]

    […] Tom Bossert, the homeland security adviser and a leading voice on counterterrorism and cybersecurity efforts in the Trump administration, announced his resignation on Tuesday.

    Over the weekend, the agency’s spokesperson, Michael Anton, announced plans to leave the administration.

    The departures create a leadership vacuum atop the NSC beside Bolton, whose hawkish foreign-policy views have caused concern among some officials. […]

    Link

  222. says

    A handy summary from Steve Benen:

    Total # of House retirements: 57 (38 Republicans and 19 Democrats, including John Conyers and Louise Slaughter)
    Total # of House retirements with members running for higher office: 21 of the 57 (13 Republicans and 8 Democrats)
    Total # of House retirements with members leaving elected office altogether: 36 of the 57 (25 Republicans and 11 Dems including Conyers and Slaughter)
    Total # of Senate retirements: 5 (4 Republicans and 1 Democrat, including Al Franken and Thad Cochran)

    House Republicans retiring from elected office (25):
    California 39: Ed Royce
    California 49: Darrell Issa
    Florida 15: Dennis Ross
    Florida 17: Tom Rooney
    Florida 27: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
    Kansas 2: Lynn Jenkins
    Michigan 11: Dave Trott
    Mississippi 3: Gregg Harper
    New Jersey 2: Frank LoBiondo
    New Jersey 11: Rodney Frelinghuysen
    Pennsylvania 15: Charlie Dent
    Pennsylvania 9: Bill Shuster
    Pennsylvania 7: Pat Meehan
    Pennsylvania 8: Ryan Costello
    South Carolina 4: Trey Gowdy
    Tennessee 2: Jimmy Duncan
    Texas 2: Ted Poe
    Texas 3: Sam Johnson
    Texas 5: Jeb Hensarling
    Texas 21: Lamar Smith
    Texas 6: Joe Barton
    Texas 27: Blake Farenthold
    Virginia 6: Bob Goodlatte
    Washington 8: Dave Reichert
    Wisconsin 1: Paul Ryan

    House Republicans retiring to seek higher office (13):
    Arizona 2: Martha McSally (running for Senate)
    Florida 6: Ron DeSantis (running for governor)
    Idaho 1: Raúl Labrador (running for governor)
    Indiana 4: Todd Rokita (running for Senate)
    Indiana 6: Luke Messer (running for Senate)
    New Mexico 2: Steve Pearce (running for governor)
    North Dakota AL: Kevin Cramer (running for Senate)
    Ohio 16: Jim Renacci (running for governor)
    Pennsylvania 11: Lou Barletta (running for Senate)
    South Dakota at-large: Kristi Noem (running for governor)
    Tennessee 6: Diane Black (running for governor)
    Tennessee 7: Marsha Blackburn (running for Senate)
    West Virginia 3: Evan Jenkins (running for Senate)

    House Republicans who’ve already resigned before the midterms (5), not including those who’ve joined the Trump cabinet:
    Arizona 8: Trent Franks
    Ohio 12: Pat Tiberi
    Pennsylvania 18: Tim Murphy
    Utah 3: Jason Chaffetz
    Texas 27: Blake Farenthold

    House Republicans awaiting Senate confirmation votes for executive branch (1):
    Oklahoma 1: Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator nominee

    House Democrats retiring and leaving politics (10):
    Connecticut 5: Elizabeth Esty
    Illinois 4: Luis Gutierrez
    Massachusetts 3: Niki Tsongas
    Michigan 9: Sandy Levin
    Minnesota 8: Rick Nolan
    Nevada 4: Ruben Kihuen
    New Hampshire 1: Rep. Carol Shea-Porter
    New York 25: Louis Slaughter (who passed away in March)
    Pennsylvania 1: Bob Brady
    Texas 26: Gene Green

    House Democrats retiring to seek higher office (8):
    Arizona 9: Kyrsten Sinema (running for Senate)
    Colorado 2: Jared Polis (running for governor)
    Hawaii 1: Colleen Hanabusa (running for governor)
    Maryland 6: John Delaney (running for president)
    New Mexico 1: Michelle Lujan Grisham (running for governor)
    Minnesota 1: Tim Walz (running for governor)
    Nevada 3: Jacky Rosen (running for Senate)
    Texas 16: Beto O’Rourke (running for Senate)

    House Democrats who’ve already resigned before the midterms (1):
    Michigan 13: John Conyers // D+33

    Senate Republicans retiring or resigning (4):
    Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)
    Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)
    Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)
    Thad Cochran (R-Miss.)

    Senate Democrats retiring or resigning (1):
    Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.)

  223. says

    Well, that’s odd:

    Former House Speaker John Boehner says his stance on a popular substance has shifted — and it’s not merlot.

    The former Republican congressional leader — and famed wine-drinker — announced Wednesday he is joining the board of Acreage Holdings, a firm that cultivates, processes and dispenses marijuana in 11 U.S. states.

    The move marks a significant shift for the former lawmaker, who told Bloomberg 2011 that he was “unalterably opposed” to marijuana legalization but now says his views on the drug have “evolved.” […]

    Link

  224. tomh says

    Nobody’s view ever changes, or says “I was wrong before,” it always evolves, as if it’s a natural process.

  225. says

    Rachel Maddow presented Steve Bannon’s new plan to hobble the Mueller probe and save Trump. The plan includes firing Rosenstein, refusing to cooperate with Mueller, etc.

    This is the same Bannon who told the author of “Fire and Fury” that Trump’s firing of Comey was perhaps the worst political mistake in modern U.S. political history. I think Bannon just want to be back in the White House and/or into Trump’s good graces.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/bannon-pitches-white-house-on-plan-to-cripple-mueller-probe-and-protect-trump/2018/04/11/1ec5b1b2-3d9f-11e8-a7d1-e4efec6389f0_story.html

    Stephen K. Bannon, who was ousted as White House chief strategist last summer but has remained in touch with some members of President Trump’s circle, is pitching a plan to West Wing aides and congressional allies to cripple the federal probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to four people familiar with the discussions.

    The first step, these people say, would be for Trump to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who oversees the work of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and in recent days signed off on a search warrant of Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

    Bannon is also recommending the White House cease its cooperation with Mueller, reversing the policy of Trump’s legal team to provide information to the special counsel’s team and to allow staff members to sit for interviews.

    And he is telling associates inside and outside the administration that the president should create a new legal battleground to protect himself from the investigation by asserting executive privilege — and arguing that Mueller’s interviews with White House officials over the past year should now be null and void.

    “The president wasn’t fully briefed by his lawyers on the implications” of not invoking executive privilege, Bannon told The Washington Post in an interview Wednesday. “It was a strategic mistake to turn over everything without due process, and executive privilege should be exerted immediately and retroactively.” […]

    Much more at the link. The scoop is from Robert Costa.

  226. says

    Follow-up to comment 341.

    More from Robert Costa’s story about Steve Bannon:

    […] Bannon and his allies sense that Trump simply needs a nudge to fire Rosenstein, according to the people familiar with Bannon’s discussions. They said Trump has recently told friends and aides that he is willing to engage in political warfare in the coming months to stop his presidency from being consumed by the investigation.

    Bannon’s conversations, including a meeting Tuesday night between the former strategist and Trump confidants, have so far remained through back channels.

    The 64-year-old strategist has huddled in recent days — at his Capitol Hill townhouse, a Washington hotel and over the phone — with a handful of White House aides, GOP lawmakers and conservative media figures who speak frequently with Trump, according to people involved, who spoke to The Post on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

    Bannon’s standing within Trump’s orbit is tenuous. In January, lawyers for Trump accused Bannon of breaking a confidentiality agreement by making critical comments about Trump and his family in “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” by Michael Wolff. […]

  227. says

    Trump promoted a Sean Hannity show in which Hannity unwittingly incriminated Trump while simultaneously spewing conspiracy theories about the “deep state crime family” to which Mueller supposedly belongs. This much unhinged nastiness being broadcast as news is what the president of the U.S. advises people to watch.

    At 8:48 p.m. on Wednesday, President Trump asked his 51 million Twitter followers to tune in to Sean Hannity’s Fox News broadcast, promising it’d be a “big show.”

    Hannity, who recently dined with Trump at his private resort in Florida and is regular communication with the president, began the show by attacking former FBI director James Comey — the subject of an ABC interview set to air Sunday.

    Hannity seemed unaware that the logic he was using to attack Comey could be viewed as very incriminating for Trump.

    Alluding to an ABC teaser of its interview with Comey where Trump is compared to a mob boss, Hannity said, “Really? Mob boss. Let’s think about this, of all the people, the former head of the federal bureau of investigation, the person responsible for taking down actual criminal gangs — shouldn’t James Comey know better than to make an outrageous comparison like that?”

    Hannity then began to smear Comey for his alleged involvement in “the Clinton crime family” and “the Mueller crime family.” Special Counsel Robert Mueller — a Republican and former FBI director who was appointed by Republican president George W. Bush — came under fire for failed prosecutions from nearly two decades ago. […]

    From Aaron Rupar:

    Hannity is attacking Comey for failed prosecutions from nearly two decades ago. It’s total desperation.

    More details from Hannity’s show:

    By the end, Hannity was linking his attacks on Comey, Clinton, and Mueller under the single heading of “DEEP STATE CRIME FAMILY.”

    Hannity’s monologue was followed by a panel discussion with two lawyers Trump has relationships with — Alan Dershowitz and Joseph diGenova. The three teamed up to attack Mueller, with diGenova going as far as to say that “what Bob Mueller is doing and has done is destroying the Department of Justice, and for Jeff Sessions to sit there like a bump on a log and do nothing about it is disgraceful.”

    Dershowitz, echoing a Trump talking point, went on to accuse Sessions of “wrongful conduct” by not informing Trump that he might have to recuse himself from investigations of the Trump campaign for contacts with Russia before taking the job as attorney general. […]

    Trump is using Hannity as a mouthpiece […]

    Link

  228. says

    Senators are questioning Mike Pompeo as part of a confirmation hearing for Pompeo to become Secretary of State. Here are some highlights:

    – Pompeo supports Trump’s plan to “fix” the Iran nuclear deal (and nobody knows what this really means). Some Republican senators suggested that a fix should include clawing back some of the money Iran received as part of the deal. (That’s just bonkers.)
    – Pompeo says he would not resign if Trump fires Rosenstein.
    – Pompeo refused several times to characterize or describe conversations he had with Trump.

    From the Washington Post:

    […] In his opening statement, Pompeo stressed that he would commit to reinvigorating the State Department, where morale and staffing flagged under Tillerson. Pompeo pledged to be a “good platoon leader,” fill vacancies and “empower” the diplomatic corps. […]

    Senators who have recently met with Pompeo said he appears to be preparing for the job and “doing his homework,” as one aide put it — including contacting eight former secretaries of state in advance of his hearing. But many Democrats on the panel said they are concerned he might be missing a critical attribute for the job: a willingness to stand up to Trump when the situation requires it. […]

    Pompeo [used] the hearing to modify his hawkish reputation, [he said he prefers diplomacy over war, and he said that in several different ways]. […]

    Pompeo already has built a reservoir of goodwill at the department. He has attended briefings and reached out to former diplomats to ask what works and what doesn’t. In contrast, Tillerson did not even speak with his immediate predecessor, John F. Kerry, before he arrived on the job.

    “I obviously have disagreements with him, on climate change or on the Iran nuclear deal,” Burns said. “But I do think he has leadership qualities. If he gets through, he has the potential to rebuild the State Department. […]

  229. says

    House Republicans are voting to make deficits unconstitutional.

    Republicans were unfazed by the deficit impact of their $1.5 trillion tax cut when they passed it. Now they are trying to make deficits unconstitutional.

    […] balanced budget amendments are something of a white whale on the right. And many conservatives believe it is the only way to actually enact spending cuts.

    There’s no question the United States is in a lot of debt, but Democrats are quick to point out the irony of Republicans pushing a balanced budget amendment now: On Monday, the Congressional Budget Office — the independent official body that measures the impact of legislation — reported that deficit spending will increase by $11.7 trillion over the next 10 years, $1.58 trillion of which is because of the Republican tax cuts and the omnibus spending bill.

    For decades, Republicans have campaigned on cutting federal spending and reducing the national debt. […] Republicans, now in control of both chambers of Congress and the White House, have done just the opposite.

    The bill the House plans to vote on this Thursday would be one of the first steps in amending the US Constitution to bar the government from spending more than it brings in in federal revenue. Changing the Constitution requires approval from two-thirds of the House and Senate and then it must be passed by two-thirds of state legislatures. Republicans currently hold 32 of 50 state legislatures.

    This is all very unlikely to happen. But Republicans are pushing it anyway. It reveals a deeply unpopular partisan agenda to make deep cuts to everything from food stamps to health care. […]

    Much more at the link.

  230. says

    From Wonkette:

    [Trump is] a petty, mean-spirited, two-bit grifter whose wealth has always depended on cheating and bullying people.

    Take for example this ProPublica story about the Trump Organization’s nationwide efforts to avoid paying property tax on golf courses and high-rise buildings that Trump says are worth bejillions on his federal financial disclosure forms. When the local property tax assessment comes, the various Trump companies that own them sue, insisting that their real value is much, much lower, so Trump should pay far less than the assessed taxes. How much less? How about “none,” does “none” work for you? […]

    since Trump became “president,” his companies have launched nine lawsuits over property taxes against local tax assessments all over the country. […] like Trump’s lawsuit against Palm Beach County over the taxes on Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida. The county appraised the golf course at $20 million, and billed Trump for $398,315. Trump’s people sent a wire transfer for $296,595.01 and said that’s all you get we will see you in court! The tax Trump wants to pay reflects a valuation of about $15 million.
    The punchline, of course, is that in Trump’s financial disclosures for 2016 and 2017 financial disclosures, the Jupiter golf club is valued at “over $50 million.” He is, after all a real billionaire, except when he has to pay taxes. […]

    This isn’t just Trump lawyers playing cute and helping the boss hold onto a little more of his money, […] It has serious consequences for the towns and cities unfortunate enough to have Trump properties to deal with, […] When municipalities decide to fight a property tax appeal instead of settling, that puts schools and roads and parks at risk:

    Trump National Golf Club LLC, the subsidiary that owns the club, has filed lawsuits over property taxes each year since 2015. If the town loses, they’ll have to refund Trump National the difference between what it claimed was owed and the Trump Organization’s number — roughly $439,960 from 2015 alone. That will come out of school budgets and municipal funds. Briarcliff Schools, the district the course falls in, has put aside $2.8 million of their annual $51.4 million budget for future tax refunds. The town and a number of other municipal offices have set aside funds as well.

    And then there’s Chicago, where the gleaming Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago rises 92 incredibly tacky stories above prime riverfront real estate. The Trump Organization has reduced its tax bills on that sucker by over $14 million since it went up in 2008, and has sued to claw back even more property tax money since 2001. There are five open lawsuits involving the Chicago tower at the moment; if Trump wins them all, Cook County, the city, and Chicago Public Schools would have to pay back a total of $3 million — and about half of that would come from the schools budget. […]

  231. says

    Yet another, convoluted tale of Team Trump using the National Enquirer to bury news it does not like: The National Enquirer, a Trump Rumor, and Another Secret Payment to Buy Silence: How the media organization protected the Presidential candidate early in his campaign. By Ronan Farrow.

    Excerpts below, much more at the link:

    Late in 2015, a former Trump Tower doorman named Dino Sajudin met with a reporter from American Media, Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, at a McDonald’s in Pennsylvania. A few weeks earlier, Sajudin had signed a contract with A.M.I., agreeing to become a source and to accept thirty thousand dollars for exclusive rights to information he had been told: that Donald Trump, […] may have fathered a child with a former employee in the late nineteen-eighties. […] six current and former A.M.I. employees, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared legal retaliation by the company, said that Sajudin had told A.M.I. the names of the alleged mistress and child. Reporters at A.M.I. had spent weeks investigating the allegations, and Sajudin had passed a lie-detector test, during which he testified that high-level Trump employees, including Trump’s head of security, Matthew Calamari, had told him the story.

    The New Yorker has uncovered no evidence that Trump fathered the child. […]

    Shortly after the company paid Sajudin, the chairman and C.E.O. of A.M.I., David Pecker, who has spoken publicly about his friendship with Trump, ordered the A.M.I. reporters to stop investigating, the sources told me. One of the employees involved said, “There’s no question it was done as a favor to continue to protect Trump from these potential secrets. That’s black-and-white.” […]

    Two of the former A.M.I. employees said they believed that Cohen was in close contact with A.M.I. executives while the company’s reporters were looking into Sajudin’s story, as Cohen had been during other investigations related to Trump. “Cohen was kept up to date on a regular basis,” one source said. […] On Monday, F.B.I. agents raided Cohen’s hotel and office. The Times reported that the agents were looking for records related to the payments to McDougal and Clifford, as well as correspondence between Cohen, Pecker, and Dylan Howard, A.M.I.’s chief content officer. […]

    Although many of the A.M.I. sources I spoke with expressed skepticism about Sajudin’s claims, all six agreed that A.M.I. made a concerted effort to shut down the story. Several said that they believed the coverup, rather than the story itself, was of public importance. One told me that, after the polygraph came back positive, “the decision was made at a high level to pay this source those funds and to put this thing to rest without an investigation taking place.” A.M.I.’s decision was unusual even in the context of the company’s other efforts to purchase stories in order to bury them, a practice known as “catch and kill.” Another source, who believed that A.M.I. suppressed the story to help Trump, said of Sajudin, “It’s unheard of to give a guy who calls A.M.I.’s tip line big bucks for information he is passing on secondhand. We didn’t pay thousands of dollars for non-stories, let alone tens of thousands. It was a highly curious and questionable situation.”

    A.M.I. later attempted to prevent other outlets from reporting on the story or the company’s payout. […]

    The Radar Online piece quoted Howard saying, “When we realized we would be unable to publish, and other media outlets approached the source about his tale, we released Sajudin from the exclusivity clause that had accompanied his $30,000 payment, freeing him to tell his story to whomever he wanted.” Two A.M.I. employees told me that they’d never seen such a release during their time at the company. […]

    On the surface, it seems surprising that A.M.I. would pay a substantial sum of money for an unverified story. The National Enquirer’s circulation numbers suggest that the payouts to Sajudin and McDougal came at a time of declining circulation for the publication.

    Two A.M.I. sources said they believed that the catch-and-kill operations had cemented a partnership between Pecker and Trump, and that people close to the President had subsequently introduced Pecker to potential sources of funding for A.M.I. […]

    According to the Times, last July Pecker visited the Oval Office and dined at the White House with a French businessman known for brokering deals with Saudi Arabia. Two months later, the businessman and Pecker met with the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. […]

    Oh, yes, of course there is a follow-the-money connection that may lead to Mohammed bin Salman.

  232. says

    Follow-up to comment 347.

    From Stephen Braga, a white-collar-criminal-defense professor at the University of Virginia’s law school:

    Now with this third event it looks more and more like there’s a pattern developing. That may be one of the things that the F.B.I. was trying to find evidence of with the search warrant. The pattern seems to be “We use third-party intermediaries to pay off individuals with adverse information that may harm the President.” That is just a shade away from what the special counsel will be looking for in terms of intent on the obstruction-of-justice investigation.

  233. says

    More discord and trouble for Team Trump is coming down the pike:

    White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly called […] Trump “dishonorable” in a call with former FBI Director James Comey shortly after his firing, the Daily Beast reported. In Comey’s upcoming memoir, the former FBI Director reportedly writes that his firing by Trump made Kelly “sick.”

    When Kelly called Comey moments after he learned that Comey had been fired from television reports, […] Kelly was emotional and said that he intended to quit because of it. According to two unnamed sources who read Comey’s upcoming memoir, Comey persuaded Kelly to stay in his role as Secretary of Homeland Security because Trump desperately needed people of character to guide and advise him.

    […] Comey’s account may inflame already tense relations between Trump and Kelly, which reportedly have worsened in recent weeks. […]

    Comey’s memoir, “A Higher Loyalty,” is slated for release on Tuesday.

    Link

  234. says

    Is it possible?

    […] Trump has asked top administration officials to look into rejoining talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, from which the U.S. withdrew last year.

    Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse says Trump said during a White House meeting with Midwest governors and lawmakers that he had “deputized” U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer and economic adviser Larry Kudlow to look into the U.S. rejoining the TPP. It would be aimed at opening U.S. farmers to more overseas markets. […]

    Link

  235. says

    More proof, as if we needed it, that arming teachers is not a good idea:

    Science teacher Sean Simpson –- who was at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when 17 people were killed in a mass shooting – told deputies he accidentally left the gun in a stall at the bathroom at the Deerfield Beach Pier during a visit to the beach Sunday. While going back to retrieve it, he heard a gunshot and once back inside the bathroom, saw 69-year-old Joseph Spataro holding the gun. Simpson then snatched the gun out of Spataro’s hands, deputies reported.

    Simpson, 43, was arrested and charged with failing to safely store a firearm, a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 60 days in jail. He posted a $250 cash bond. […]

    Link

  236. says

    The OPCW issued a report saying it has confirmed the UK’s identification of the nerve agent used in the attack on the Skripals, and that the toxin was of “high purity.” (Yulia Skripal issued a public statement yesterday saying she’s not interested in Russian consular help and that no one, including her cousin Viktoria, speaks for her or her father.)

    US officials are confirming to press that blood and urine samples from victims of the recent attack in Syria show that chlorine and a nerve toxin were used, and that the attack can be attributed to the Assad regime.

  237. says

    Some analysis of Paul Ryan’s career, and how he got it wrong:

    […] He is two decades younger than John Boehner, his predecessor as Speaker of the House; three decades younger than Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the opposition caucus; and a decade younger than Barack Obama, his ideological foil. […]

    in his rise over the past ten years, in his efforts to order the angry chaos of the Tea Party movement into something like a regular political coalition, he always gave the impression of having the benefit of time. No longer. […]

    Ryan began insisting to the public that this new regime was headed not toward serial, incandescent feuds but toward tax reform, Obamacare repeal, and entitlement reform—that the order was regular, that the Republican Party was not materially changed.

    Ryan was wrong. The idea that Ryan so often advertised during the 2012 Presidential campaign (when he was the Vice-Presidential nominee)—that the free market is an anti-poverty program—has disappeared from his party, and been replaced by the instinct to punch down. The deficits he said that he was in Washington to limit have, under his watch, ballooned.[…] The ease with which Trump claimed the Party (recent polls have put the President’s approval rating among Republicans at almost thirty points higher than Ryan’s) showed how badly Ryan had misjudged things; it now seems clear that the Tea Party was an expressive movement, not an ideological one. […]

    The country will be better off now that Ryan has less influence. The major accomplishment he claimed on Wednesday morning was the tax bill that he and his colleagues passed last year, a piece of legislation loaded with giveaways to corporations and the wealthy, and which will only escalate the country’s profound inequalities. […]

    Ryan was adept at finding euphemisms for his party’s aims, even as many members of his caucus devoted themselves to making a cult of victimized white men. They now find themselves under pressure—facing protests and electoral challenges—from coalitions organized largely by high-achieving women. […]

    New Yorker link

  238. says

    More re #s 323 and 327 above:

    Cohen-Watnick (whose wife, IIRC, has done PR work for Putin) was hired by the DoJ because Trump personally ordered it. (My guess as to the “Trump confidant” who put this in motion would be Safra Catz – she’s the CEO at Oracle where C-W has been working and had dinner with Trump several days ago. I don’t know exactly what C-W is up to, but it’s something.)

    This is a good article calling on Ryan to remove Nunes as chair of HPSCI. I knew he had been on Trump’s transition team, but didn’t know his responsibilities:

    During the weeks before Trump took office, Chris Christie was removed as head of the transition team and with him, former Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers, a respected ex-chair of HPSCI who ran the committee in a serious, bipartisan fashion. In came Nunes, who helped select national security appointees and set up the administration’s national security agenda. Unlike many who serve on transition teams, however, Nunes didn’t enter the administration, but returned to HPSCI to run the committee and conduct oversight over the national security foundations that he had laid.

    I have to wonder if Cohen-Watnick was among his picks.

  239. says

    Follow-up to comment 350.

    […] The point is that Trump has zero idea what TPP even was when he decided to peremptorily pull out of the agreement. It may have been bad for the US or good. But his decision was based on ignorance and impulse. Because there was nothing behind it in the first place, an about-face is completely possible.

    For the record, I’m with Sasse: Trump “likes to blue-sky a lot.” That is to say, he was just spouting off and it probably means nothing. But it’s just one more example of the toll of a militantly ignorant President.

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/the-president-is-a-fool

  240. says

    SC @355:

    Cohen-Watnick (whose wife, IIRC, has done PR work for Putin) was hired by the DoJ because Trump personally ordered it.

    So that’s how that doofus ended up with a job at the DoJ.

    In other news, for what it is worth (nothing?), here’s a tweet from Trump expressing confidence in Ty Cobb:

    I have agreed with the historically cooperative, disciplined approach that we have engaged in with Robert Mueller (Unlike the Clintons!). I have full confidence in Ty Cobb, my Special Counsel, and have been fully advised throughout each phase of this process.

    Sounds like a tweet written by Ty Cobb, with one parenthetical addition, “(Unlike the Clintons)”, from Trump.

  241. says

    SC @357, I see three organized smear campaigns going on. One is against Mueller, one against Comey, and one against Rosenstein.

    BTW, if Jacqueline Alemany is correct, and if it can be proven, then that is yet another instance of Trump trying to obstruct justice.

  242. says

    The battle plan against Comey, obtained by CNN, calls for branding the nation’s former top law enforcement official as “Lyin’ Comey” through a website, digital advertising and talking points to be sent to Republicans across the country before his memoir is released next week. The White House signed off on the plan, which is being overseen by the Republican National Committee.

    CNN link

  243. says

    From Trump:

    Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all! In any event, the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our “Thank you America?”

    From Mike Flynn Junior:

    Agree or disagree but would it surprise ANYONE if our own govt (deep state) was behind these chemical attacks just to bait Trump in war w Russia?

    [head/desk]

  244. tomh says

    @ 360
    All the idiots will do is increase sales. Right now it’s #1 on Amazon best sellers, with a release date of April 17.

  245. says

    I wonder if Mike Pompeo knows about this:

    The White House is aiming to send rescission requests to Congress early next month that would seek to claw-back spending from the recently-passed $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill.

    “We have a very long list of pots of money that are on the table but still narrowing it down for the final product. We probably won’t send the package up to the Hill until early-May at the earliest,” a White House official told The Hill.

    Cuts to the State Department are a “big target,” the source said.

    “Obviously, State Department programs will be a big target just like they were in our two previous budgets,” the White House official said. […]

    Link

  246. says

    Update on Puerto Rico:

    Approximately 700,000 Americans in Puerto Rico were without power on Thursday after a line repaired by a controversial Montana contractor failed, San Juan’s mayor says.

    San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz tweeted Thursday that a power line repaired by Montana contracting firm Whitefish Energy had failed, causing outages for hundreds of thousands of the island’s nearly 2 million inhabitants. […]

    Link

  247. says

    From Wonkette, regarding “More ICE Fuckery And Evil”:

    Today’s Incandescent Rage-inducing Immigration and Customs Enforcement story comes to us courtesy of ProPublica and the Philadelphia Inkwire, and details the highly aggressive approach to scooping up undocumented immigrants taken by ICE’s Philadelphia office, which covers Pennsylvania as well as Delaware and West Virginia. While ICE offices everywhere have been “unleashed” by the Trump administration to go after every last undocumented migrant they can find, because really, they’re all potential murderers who must be deported, the Philadelphia Enforcement and Removal Operations, or ERO, has gone after non-criminal immigrants with a vengeance. It’s the New Cruelty “on steroids,” as one now-retired ICE lawyer put it.

    It’s a long read, but an absolutely vital document of the meaner, more viciously racist nation we’re becoming. Here’s the report’s summary of what distinguishes the Philadelphia region from other ICE-Stasi operations:

    Reporters found that ICE officers under the jurisdiction of the Philadelphia regional office:

    Routinely swept up immigrants they encountered by chance when they set out to arrest somebody else, with what they called “collateral” arrests becoming the mainstay of their crackdown.

    Informally expanded their definition of “criminal alien” to include immigrants who got traffic tickets or committed minor infractions like loitering.

    Revived cases that they previously disregarded, using addresses in their database to pick up immigrants they had once deemed harmless, sometimes sending carloads of armed officers to arrest them.

    Took advantage of state and local officials’ willingness to conduct their own informal immigration investigations, call ICE and detain immigrants for hours until federal agents arrived — despite the questionable legality of these practices.

    Occasionally stepped over the legal line themselves, according to interviews, sworn affidavits, and court filings, by trespassing, conducting warrantless searches, engaging in racial profiling, fabricating evidence, and even soliciting a bribe.

    In a statement, agency officials said: “ICE and its employees have been given the honor of a special public trust. In keeping with this trust, ICE’s enforcement activities are conducted with integrity and professionalism.’’ They added: “ICE conducts targeted immigration enforcement in compliance with federal law and agency policy.”

    […]

  248. says

    Quoted in Lynna’s #328 above:

    Trump has long accused beneficiaries of abusing government assistance programs and has claimed many who have no intention of working make more in benefits than those with jobs.

    Dude works like four hours a day max. Spends the vast majority of his waking hours watching TV, rage-tweeting, golfing, and watching golf (was watching the Masters in the hours after the chemical attack in Syria).

  249. says

    This week in 1940:

    For a week now, Polish prisoners-of-war in the Soviet Union have been taken to 5 secret NKVD prisons to be murdered- 1000-2000 per night. Bodies are buried in mass graves in nearby Katyn forest.

    At Kalinin prison, an NKVD guard talks to a waiting Polish prisoner (who has no idea of his fate): “How old are you?” “18” he replies.

    “How long were you in the Polish army?” “6 months.” Conversation ends. This boy, like the others, has been taken to a soundproof cell & shot.

  250. says

    NEW: Trump doorman Dino Sajudin releases statement: ‘I was instructed not to criticize President Trump’s former housekeeper due to a prior relationship she had with President Trump which produced a child’.”

    There’s no reason to think this story is necessarily true; in any case, I imagine we’ll know the identity of the woman fairly soon.

  251. says

    NBC is reporting that talks about a Trump interview with Mueller have broken down (Rosenstein was at the WH earlier today), and that the timetable for Mueller’s report on the obstruction investigation has accelerated.

  252. says

    NBC story – “Trump, Mueller teams prepare to move forward without presidential interview”:

    Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office and President Donald Trump’s legal team are now proceeding with strategies that presume a presidential interview will likely not take place as part of the Russia investigation, after months of talks between the two sides collapsed earlier this week, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.

    On Monday Trump’s lawyers were discussing a possible interview with Mueller’s team and had begun to hash out the final sticking points, including the timing, scope and length, according to people familiar with the discussions….

    But the prospects for a presidential interview dramatically dimmed once the FBI raided the home, office and hotel room of Trump’s long-time personal lawyer, Michael Cohen on Monday, these people said….

    Prior to Monday’s raid, Mueller’s team had been aiming to finalize a report on its findings on whether the president has tried to obstruct justice in the Russia investigation in the coming months, as early as May or as late as July, three sources said. That timeline hinged in part on reaching a decision on a presidential interview, these people said. One person familiar with the investigation described a decision on an interview as one of the last steps Mueller was seeking to take before closing his investigation into obstruction.

    Now, according to two sources, Mueller’s team may be able to close the obstruction probe more quickly as they will not need to prepare for the interview or follow up on what the president says.

    Three sources familiar with the investigation said the findings Mueller has collected on Trump’s attempts to obstruct justice include: His intent for firing former FBI Director James Comey; his role in the crafting of a misleading public statement on the nature of a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his son and Russians; Trump’s dangling of pardons before grand jury witnesses who might testify against him; and pressuring Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia investigation….

  253. says

    CNN – “White House is prepping an effort to undermine Rosenstein”:

    The White House is preparing talking points designed to undermine Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s credibility, according to sources familiar with the plan.

    The plan calls on President Donald Trump’s allies to cast Rosenstein as too conflicted to fairly oversee the Russia investigation.

    The talking points are still in their preliminary form, and not yet finalized, people familiar with their preparation said. The White House and the Justice Department declined to comment.

    Already, a number of Trump’s associates have called for Rosenstein’s firing in appearances on television and in public remarks over the past few days, but not all of them did so at the request of the White House.*

    One area of conflict the White House wants its surrogates to highlight: Rosenstein’s role as a key witness to the Comey firing, sources said. Rosenstein wrote the memo justifying Comey’s dismissal. It centered on his conduct in investigating Hillary Clinton’s use of private email.

    The White House is also hoping Trump’s defenders will paint Rosenstein and Comey as close colleagues and argue that Rosenstein is approving an ever-expanding investigation against Trump and his associates as retribution.

    “It’s payback for the President firing one of his best friends,” a source said.

    A source close to Rosenstein noted, however, that the two men are not friends….

    * “not all of them” – LOL.

  254. says

    “FBI raid sought Trump lawyer’s communications with bank that loaned him money against his taxi business”:

    A federal investigation into what role President Trump’s personal attorney played in facilitating payments to two women who alleged affairs with Trump is also examining the lawyer’s interactions with a bank that gave him loans against his taxi business.

    When they raided the office of Trump lawyer Michael D. Cohen on Monday, FBI agents sought his communications with New York-based Sterling National Bank about taxi medallions owned by Cohen, according to a person familiar with the search warrant.

    The request indicates that prosecutors may have interest in specific financial transactions that Cohen undertook while using his taxi business as collateral….

  255. says

    Re #349 above – Josh Campbell: “FWIW, I haven’t read the book, but I coordinated the call between Kelly & Comey and sat next to the fired director as they spoke. Any indication the call did not involve Mr. Kelly discussing departure or commenting negatively about the White House does not square with reality.”

  256. says

    “In new book, Comey says Trump ‘untethered to truth’”:

    Former FBI Director James Comey blasts President Donald Trump as unethical and “untethered to truth” and calls his leadership of the country “ego driven and about personal loyalty” in a forthcoming book.

    Comey reveals new details about his interactions with Trump and his own decision-making in handling the Hillary Clinton email investigation before the 2016 election. He casts Trump as a mafia boss-like figure who sought to blur the line between law enforcement and politics and tried to pressure him regarding his investigation into Russian election interference.

    The book adheres closely to Comey’s public testimony and written statements about his contacts with the president during the early days of the administration and his growing concern about the president’s integrity. It also includes strikingly personal jabs at Trump that appear likely to irritate the president.

    Comey…writes extensively about his first meeting with Trump after his election. Others in the meeting included Vice President Mike Pence, Trump’s first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Michael Flynn, who would become national security adviser, and incoming press secretary, Sean Spicer. Comey was also joined by NSA Director Mike Rogers, CIA Director John Brennan and DNI Director James Clapper.

    After Clapper briefed the team on the intelligence community’s findings of Russian election interference, Comey said he was taken aback by what the Trump team didn’t ask.

    “They were about to lead a country that had been attacked by a foreign adversary, yet they had no questions about what the future Russian threat might be,” Comey writes. Instead, he writes, they launched into a strategy session about how to “spin what we’d just told them” for the public.

  257. says

    Lynna @ #347:

    Oh, yes, of course there is a follow-the-money connection that may lead to Mohammed bin Salman.

    This seems like an important and underreported aspect of the story.

  258. says

    “Trump’s allies worry that federal investigators may have seized recordings made by his attorney”:

    President Trump’s personal attorney Michael D. Cohen sometimes taped conversations with associates, according to three people familiar with his practice, and allies of the president are worried that the recordings were seized by federal investigators in a raid of Cohen’s office and residences this week.

    Cohen, who served for a decade as a lawyer at the Trump Organization and is a close confidant of Trump, was known to store the conversations using digital files and then replay them for colleagues, according to people who have interacted with him.

    “We heard he had some proclivity to make tapes,” said one Trump adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. “Now we are wondering, who did he tape? Did he store those someplace where they were actually seized? . . . Did they find his recordings?”

    It is unknown whether Cohen taped conversations between himself and Trump. But two people familiar with Cohen’s practices said he recorded both business and political conversations. One associate said Trump knew of Cohen’s practice because the attorney would often play him recordings Cohen had made of his conversations with other top Trump advisers.

    “It was his standard practice to do it,” this person said.

    Legal experts said Cohen’s taped conversations would be viewed by prosecutors as highly valuable.

    Cohen wanted his business calls on tape so he could use them later as leverage, one person said. He frequently noted that under New York law, only one party had to consent to the taping of a conversation, this person added.

    During the 2016 race, Cohen — who did not have a formal role on the campaign — had a reputation among campaign staff as someone to avoid, in part because he was believed to be secretly taping conversations.

    In one instance, Cohen played a recording of a conversation he had with someone else to a Trump campaign official to demonstrate that he was in a position to challenge that person’s veracity if necessary, an associate recalled.

    Cohen indicated that he had something to use against the person he had taped, the associate said….

  259. Hj Hornbeck says

    Wow, I never expected this.

    “We’ve learned moments ago, within the last two hours, that Michael Cohen will be filing a motion tomorrow in our case, an emergency motion to stay — or temporarily stop — our case,” Michael Avenatti, adult film star Stephanie Clifford’s attorney, told MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace.

    “The grounds for that motion are going to be that it is his intention to plead the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination if our case goes forward, in light of potential criminal jeopardy that he finds himself in,” Avenatti continued. “So this is a stunning development.”

    And sure enough, that filing has been made.

  260. says

    Here’s the ABC report – “President Trump poised to pardon Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, sources say”:

    President Donald Trump is poised to pardon Scooter J. Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, according to sources familiar with the president’s thinking.

    The president has already signed off on the pardon, which is something he has been considering for several months, sources told ABC News.

    Libby was convicted in 2007 of lying to the FBI and obstruction of justice in the investigation into the leak of the identity of Valerie Plame, a former covert CIA operative. Then-President George Bush commuted Libby’s 30-month sentence, sparing him prison time, but didn’t pardon him.

    Many conservatives have been urging a pardon for Libby, including attorneys Joe diGenova and his wife, Victoria Toensing.

  261. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Rachael Maddow is reporting that ABC News is reporting a presidential pardon of Scooter Libby (a Dick Cheney aide) convicted of lying to the FBI and obstruction of justice (Shrub just commuted his sentence).

  262. says

    […] Late this afternoon we learned that the White House is circulating talking points for administration allies to undermine Rosenstein. There are two arguments. First is the one I mentioned yesterday: Rosenstein can’t oversee the Russia probe because he helped Trump fire James Comey. They then add the second, rather contradictory argument, that Rosenstein is a close friend of Comey and is using the Mueller probe to retaliate against the President for firing Comey. Knowledgable sources say that the Rosenstein/Comey relationship isn’t even true. But you can see how these two arguments don’t exactly hold together regardless. […]

    Link

    Related news?

    The FBI general counsel is Dana Boente, a former US attorney in Virginia who served as acting AG after Sally Yates was fired, as acting DAG before Rosenstein was confirmed, and as acting head of DOJ’s Natl Security Division

    DOJ has confirmed that DAG Rod Rosenstein and FBI general counsel Dana Boente were at the White House today, spox says they were meeting on issues re: production of records to Congress [from Zoe Tillman]

  263. militantagnostic says

    A couple of days ago I saw a bald eagle* and a raven in the ditch eating the well scavenged remains of a road killed deer. I now interpret this “omen” as:
    The eagle represents Mueller
    The raven represents Avenatti
    The deer carcass represents Cohen

    *They look huge when they are on the ground.

  264. militantagnostic says

    Lynna @347

    Oh, yes, of course there is a follow-the-money connection that may lead to Mohammed bin Salman.

    I expect it doesn’t matter if anyone actually buys that magazine length advertisement. AMI has already received their payoff for their services to Trump via Mohammed bin Salman.

  265. says

    Trump seems to be doing what he can to hurt Amazon via a sneak attack …maybe:

    […] Trump announced Thursday he is forming a task force to look at the viability and operations of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) on the heels of his tweets accusing Amazon of hurting the organization.

    Trump said in an executive order that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin would chair the panel, which will assess how the Postal Service is affected by the package delivery market and declining use of mail as well as examine its business model and role in the U.S. economy.

    “The USPS is on an unstable financial path and must be restructured to prevent a taxpayer-funded bailout,” the president said in the executive order released by the White House.

    Trump’s order directs Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ office to advise the task force on the issue of commercial monopolies in the delivery sector.

    The task force is expected to deliver recommendations within 120 days on how to reform the USPS “without shifting additional costs to taxpayers,” according to the executive order.

    The formation of the panel follows a string of tweets Trump fired off over the course of several days earlier this month accusing Amazon of costing the Postal Service “billions.”

    When fact-checkers argued that was not the case, Trump doubled down on his attacks, repeating that the Postal Service was losing “a fortune” because of Amazon. […]

    Link

    Might just be a way to start a move toward privatizing the post office.

  266. says

    Avenatti:

    In last 18 mos, Mr. Cohen negotiated yet another hush NDA, this time on behalf of a prominent GOP donor who had a relationship with a LA woman, impregnated her and then made sure she had an abortion. The deal provided for multiple payments across many months. #basta

    And to be clear, the GOP donor is also LA based.

  267. says

    “Pence’s office advertises meeting with Peruvian president who resigned 3 weeks ago amid scandal”:

    As Vice President Pence prepared to head to Peru on Friday for the Summit of the Americas, his office advertised several events on his itinerary, including “a banquet hosted by President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski of Peru.”

    One problem: Kuczynski resigned more than three weeks ago after becoming ensnared in a corruption scandal involving Latin America’s largest construction firm.

    Earlier Friday morning, Pence’s office issued “updated” guidance for his trip. It now includes “a banquet hosted by President Martín Vizcarra of Peru.”…

  268. says

    James Comey: ‘I honestly never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but I don’t know whether the current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013. It’s possible, but I don’t know’.”

  269. says

    “Lawyers for Trump’s Personal Attorney Set for Friday Court Appearance”:

    A federal judge in Manhattan has scheduled arguments on Friday over the contentious search warrant carried out earlier this week at the office and hotel room of President Trump’s personal attorney, Michael D. Cohen.

    It will be the first public hearing related to the F.B.I. raid that has roiled the White House. It was not immediately clear on Friday what specific issues the court hearing would address….

  270. says

    The UK National Security Advisor has written to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg detailing more of the evidence in the attack on the Skripals, including that the Kremlin had a program researching and training agents in means of delivering the toxin including application on door handles.

    “We therefore continue to judge that only Russia has the technical means, operational experience and motive for the attack on the Skripals and that it is highly likely that the Russian state was responsible. There is no plausible alternative explanation.*”

    * They’re quite attached to this phrasing.

  271. says

    “Los Angeles Wins Suit Against DOJ Over Immigration Policy”:

    The U.S. Justice Department can’t make cooperation with federal immigration policies a consideration in awarding grants to local law enforcement agencies for community-oriented policing, a federal judge said.

    The ruling in a lawsuit Los Angeles brought against U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions marks a new setback in President Donald Trump’s efforts to crack down on sanctuary cities where police forces have refused to get involved in enforcing immigration law.

    U.S. District Judge Manuel Real agreed in a ruling Wednesday with the city’s argument that the Justice Department had abused its power by awarding bonus points to grant applicants that commit to cooperating with federal immigration authorities and policies. The grant program was created to help local police departments hire officers for community-oriented policing, or COPS….

  272. KG says

    It was a strategic mistake to turn over everything without due process, and executive privilege should be exerted immediately and retroactively. – Steve Bannon, quoted by robert Costa, quoted by Lynna, OM@341

    Has Bannon (or trump) somehow got hold of Obama’s time machine?

  273. says

    Trump’s tweets from this morning indicate that he did watch some of the coverage of Comey’s new book:

    James Comey is a proven LEAKER & LIAR. Virtually everyone in Washington thought he should be fired for the terrible job he did-until he was, in fact, fired. He leaked CLASSIFIED information, for which he should be prosecuted. He lied to Congress under OATH.

    He is a weak and untruthful slime ball who was, as time has proven, a terrible Director of the FBI. His handling of the Crooked Hillary Clinton case, and the events surrounding it, will go down as one of the worst ‘botch jobs’ of history. It was my great honor to fire James Comey!

  274. says

    From Steve Benen:

    At around 2 p.m. yesterday, Donald Trump insisted he’s “draining the swamp,” even if it may not look like it.” At around 4 p.m., we were reminded why “it may not look like” the president is honoring his commitment. Mother Jones reported:

    The fossil fuel industry now has yet another ally at the Environmental Protection Agency – one who would almost certainly take over as head of the agency if Scott Pruitt is forced to resign. In a 53-45 vote on Thursday, the Senate confirmed Andrew Wheeler – a coal lobbyist who once worked for DC’s most notorious climate change denier – for the EPA’s second-most powerful position. […]

    As deputy administrator – a powerful, if somewhat low-profile position – Wheeler will be responsible for implementing Pruitt’s vision. Wheeler is likely to have a hand in making appointments, overseeing operations, and working with regional and state agencies.

    […] we’ve seen a staggering number of tough-to-defend moves, but Wheeler is especially egregious.

    […] For the last several years, Wheeler was a lobbyist for, among others, Murray Energy, one of the nation’s largest coal companies and fierce opponent of environmental safeguards. (Murray Energy’s CEO, Bob Murray, has also been a generous Donald Trump donor.)

    In addition to his background as a lobbyist for polluters, Wheeler also served as chief counsel for Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), one of the nation’s preeminent climate deniers.

    It’s against this backdrop that Donald Trump thought it’d be a good idea to put Wheeler in a position to help lead the Environmental Protection Agency – a decision literally every Senate Republican on the floor yesterday, in addition to three red-state Democrats, endorsed yesterday. […]

    The New Republic’s Emily Atkin recently explained, “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.” […]

    All the best people.

  275. says

    John Brennan responding to Trump’s tweets quoted by Lynna @ #401: “Your kakistocracy is collapsing after its lamentable journey. As the greatest Nation history has known, we have the opportunity to emerge from this nightmare stronger & more committed to ensuring a better life for all Americans, including those you have so tragically deceived.”

  276. says

    Mick Mulvaney earns his Privileged Asshat stripes; and Elizabeth Warren takes him to school:

    “While I have to be here by statute, I don’t think I have to answer your questions,” Mulvaney told the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. “If you take a look at the actual statute that requires me to be here, it says that I ‘shall appear’ before the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs of the Senate. And I’m here and I’m happy to do it.” […]

    Link

    […] “Here’s what you don’t get, Mr. Mulvaney—this isn’t about me,” she said. “You’re hurting real people to score cheap political points.”

    Warren pointed to a scammed soldier’s father sitting in the audience at the hearing. If Mulvaney had “gotten what [he] wanted” and eliminated the bureau — as he voted repeatedly to do while a member of the House — the man’s son would still be getting exploited, she said.

    She then ticked through successful CFPB cases one by one, asking Mulvaney each time where the money the bureau had recouped would be today if the agency didn’t exist. She swatted away his attempts to say other regulators with jurisdiction might have brought the same action.

    “Oh I see, they could have brought the actions — that’s the same agencies that didn’t bring those actions before the crash of 2008 and that didn’t bring this particular case,” Warren said of a CFPB case against Citigroup.

    “Let’s not kid ourselves — let’s not pretend like you hope that some other agency would do that work, Mr. Mulvaney,” Warren added. “I have a list of 11 bills that you supported during your time in Congress that would have made it harder for states and other federal agencies to protect consumers and to hold cheaters accountable.”

    Link

  277. says

    “Suspected White Supremacist Died Building ISIS-Style Bombs”:

    Benjamin Morrow was found dead with white supremacist literature and the ingredients for a notorious bomb known as the “Mother of Satan.”

    Morrow, 28, died in an explosion in the kitchen of his Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, apartment on March 5. His home was filled with bomb-making substances so volatile that firefighters chose to destroy the 16-unit apartment block in a controlled blaze, rather than let Morrow’s neighbors continue to live in the building. A search warrant unsealed last week revealed that Morrow kept white supremacist literature in his home. Investigators’ application for a second warrant suggests that Morrow had plans, announcing that he was clearing out a rented storage locker just hours before his death.

    Kevin Heimerl of the Wisconsin Department of Justice called Morrow’s apartment a “homemade explosives laboratory.”…

    Beaver Dam police said the white supremacist literature didn’t necessarily mean Morrow was a white supremacist.

    “It does cause me some concern but I want to make very clear just because Mr. Morrow was in the possession of this material, does not categorize in any particular light,” Lt. Terrence Gebhardt told CBS 58. “He could have been an individual that was doing research.”

    But state investigators suggested the opposite….

    Members of Morrow’s church community have pushed back on the idea that Morrow built the bombs in his bedroom and kitchen, for which investigators found handwritten instructions.

    “I’d love to defend Ben because he has been described as a bomb maker and he’s not a bomb maker,” Rev. Jerry Marsden, the pastor who conducted Morrow’s funeral told the Associated Press. “He wasn’t a recluse as some have said he is. He was far from that.”

    In an obituary, Morrow’s family described him as a religious man, who grew up homeschooled and later studied pre-pharmacy, math, and chemistry at Pensacola Christian College in Florida. The search warrant revealed Morrow had a Bible among his white supremacist literature and bomb-making material….

  278. says

    Avenatti also tweeted last night: “A considerable amount of electronic data has been obtained by federal law enforcement in connection with the investigation of Mr. Cohen. Some might describe it as a ‘mountain of evidence’. And I’m not just talking about a few days ago on Monday … #basta”

    I have to think this is true.

  279. says

    Trump is proven, again, to be wrong about transgender people serving in the military:

    During congressional testimony Thursday, the Army’s top officials explained that they have no knowledge of the unit cohesion concerns expressed in a report justifying President Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military.

    Army Secretary Mark Esper and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley both said as much under questioning from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). Esper, who said back in February that soldiers aren’t concerned about transgender service, reiterated, “Nothing has percolated up to my level.” When Gillibrand asked Milley if transgender troops have caused any issues with unit cohesion, he confirmed, “No. Not at all.”

    “We have a finite number,” Milley said of the currently serving trans soldiers. “We know who they are, and it is monitored very closely because we’re concerned about that and want to make sure that they are in fact treated with dignity and respect and have precisely zero reports of issues of cohesion, discipline, moral and all sorts of things.”

    […] this directly contradicts concerns raised in a recently released Defense Department report justifying a ban on accepting transgender service members. Allowing transgender people who have ever been diagnosed with gender dysphoria “could undermine readiness, disrupt unit cohesion, and impose an unreasonable burden on the military that is not conducive to military effectiveness and lethality,” the report stated. […]

    Both Mattis and Milley were questioned about who was part of the panel that recommended the ban, and both spoke vaguely about representatives from across the armed services. Milley promised he would produce a report with the names of the experts who were consulted. Neither referenced a working group Vice President Pence separately impaneled, including members of anti-LGBTQ hate groups, whose recommendations seemingly overruled what the military panel originally proposed. […]

    Link

    “Unit cohesion” is probably the vaguest term that Team Trump could come up with to justify a ban on transgender troops. And now even that lie has been called out by people who know what they are talking about.

    More at the link, including information that shows Defense Secretary James Mattis trying to walk a narrow line that makes him sound like he supports Trump’s decision.

  280. says

    From David Corn:

    […] Trump was two weeks away from being sworn in as president. He was just informed that the US national security establishment had confirmed its assessment that Vladimir Putin had covertly attacked American democracy and that this assault was designed to affect the results of the election. And Trump responded with no interest in any aspect of this unprecedented intervention other than its political implications—for him. In front of the leaders of the intelligence community—two of whom would continue to work for him—Trump did not even bother to feign concern. He went straight to what mattered most: What does this mean for me?

    The president-to-be was engaging in a profound dereliction of duty. His No. 1 job is to defend the United States from foreign attack. And he didn’t give a damn. He was kicking off his presidency with an action—or inaction—that could be seen as a betrayal of the nation he was supposed to serve.

    As Isikoff and I point out, after this meeting, Trump tweeted, “Intelligence stated very strongly there was absolutely no evidence that hacking affected the election results.” This was not true. The report did not say that. And Clapper, according to Comey, had explicitly spelled this out for Trump. Still, Trump lied—and Priebus and Spicer went along.

    This anecdote from Comey’s book certainly raises a question of Trump’s fitness for office. It also presents what might be an uncomfortable question for Comey, Brennan, Clapper, and Rogers. They saw an incoming president demonstrate he was unable—or unwilling—to meet his primary obligation. They did not share this with the rest of us. (Rogers still works for Trump, but he is expected to retire soon.)

    Comey’s portrayal of Trump as vain, erratic, ignorant, and dismissive of the important norms of government and law enforcement is not a surprise. Nor is Trump’s private reaction to the intelligence community’s report on the Russian attack. But this particular moment reveals a fundamental flaw of his presidency: Trump does not—and perhaps cannot—truly care about the well-being of the country he leads. It’s good that Comey is telling the public now. But there are others who have witnessed this sort of Trump conduct—Admiral Rogers?—who ought to let their fellow Americans know. That would truly be serving a higher loyalty.

  281. says

    I knew it as soon as Avenatti highlighted the fact that the donor was from LA – “Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen Negotiated $1.6 Million Settlement for Top Republican Fundraiser”:

    President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer negotiated a deal in late 2017 to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model who said she was impregnated by a top Republican fundraiser, according to people familiar with the matter.

    Michael Cohen, whose office, home and hotel room were raided by federal agents this week, arranged the payments to the woman on behalf of Elliott Broidy, a deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee with ties to Mr. Trump, the people familiar with the matter said. Mr. Broidy, a Los Angeles-based venture capitalist, works on the Republican committee with Mr. Cohen, who is also a national deputy finance chairman.

    The deal, which hasn’t previously been reported, prohibits the Los Angeles woman from disclosing her alleged relationship with Mr. Broidy in exchange for $1.6 million to be paid to her over two years in quarterly installments, these people said. The first payment was due Dec. 1, according to one of the people.

    “I acknowledge I had a consensual relationship with a Playboy Playmate,” Mr. Broidy said in a statement provided by a spokesman. “At the end of our relationship, this woman shared with me that she was pregnant. She alone decided that she did not want to continue with the pregnancy and I offered to help her financially during this difficult period.”

    Mr. Cohen didn’t respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for the woman’s lawyer, Keith Davidson, said he couldn’t confirm or deny the existence of the agreement….

    More at the link.

  282. says

    From Wonkette:

    One of the more daunting aspects of the Trump presidency has been the near-normalization of completely bizarre conspiracy theories. He’s a birther and an anti-vaxxer himself. He said Alex Jones had an “amazing reputation.” During his presidency, not only have we had to deal with Pizzagate shit, but also the Seth Rich bullshit, and now all this QAnon nonsense. […]

    One of the leading cranks these days, particularly on the QAnon front, is Liz Crokin, a former gossip columnist who was the source of Roseanne Barr’s strange tweets about how Trump is breaking up all of the sex-trafficking rings. […]

    You may also remember her from the time she accused Chrissy Teigen and John Legend of being in cahoots with a child pedophile ring based on Teigen tweeting pictures of their daughter dressed up as a hot dog, a pineapple and Alice In Wonderland along with a pizza emoji — which Crokin claimed were all secret pedophile codes.

    Specifically, Crokin believes all of Hollywood and all the “Liberal Elites” are involved in Satanic pedophile rings. Apparently, part of the reason we all do this is because we are super into a drug called adrenochrome, which we can only get by scaring children and then harvesting their adrenal glands.

    Of course, adrenochrome is created in a lab by oxidizing epinephrine, not by harvesting it from children. While there were some tests on it back in the ’60s to see if it had any psychedelic properties, it is not currently considered to have any. It’s hard to tell where this all started, but there was a fake drug also called adrenochrome mentioned in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and it may stem from that.

    This is all part of the general QAnon/FollowTheWhiteRabbit/TheStorm/Pizzagate/Pedogate conspiracy theory. If you are not familiar with it, people think that Donald Trump has deployed someone in his administration with Q Level clearance to send secret coded messages to them… on 4chan. These messages often deal with Trump’s war against the “Deep State” and, apparently, his ongoing battles against child sex traffickers.

    While there are a lot of theories about who this Q person is […], Crokin shared a post on Sunday suggesting that it was none other than JOHN F. KENNEDY JR. Who, as you may know, is quite dead. […]

    Much more at the link, unfortunately.

    60,000 followers on Twitter

  283. says

    southpaw: “And since this fellow (Broidy) is also all tangled up in the Mueller probe via George Nader and his UAE friends, this provides a plausible explanation for the referral of Cohen from the Special Counsel to the USAO SDNY.”

    (Broidy’s also tangled up in the Malaysia 1mdb case. A judge recently through out his case claiming that Qatar and a lobbyist for Qatar hacked and exposed his communications.)

  284. says

    Trump used to have a fairly large merchandising empire. Before he started campaigning for president, he made money from 19 companies that used his name. Only two of those companies still use Trump’s name.

    Would you buy Trump deodorant, ties, steaks, underwear, furniture, urine tests, chandeliers, mattresses, etc.?

    About the two companies left out of the original 19:

    […] One is a Panamanian company selling Trump bed linens and home goods. The other is a Turkish company selling Trump furniture.

    Of the rest, some Trump partners quit in reaction to campaign-trail rhetoric on immigrants and Muslims. Others said their licensing agreements had expired. Others said nothing beyond confirming that they’d stopped working with Trump. Their last Trump goods are now being sold off, often at a discount: One cologne is marked down from $42 to $9.99 for an ounce.

    “Success by Trump,” the website says. And below that: “Clearance.” […]

    Washington Post link. Much more at the link.

  285. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 413.

    Kellyanne Conway said this morning that Scooter Libby was “the victim of a special counsel gone amok.”

    As Steve Benen noted, “Scooter Libby actually is a convicted leaker and liar – who’s apparently poised to receive a pardon from Trump.” This situation is rich with irony since Trump has accused Comey of being a liar and leaker … over and over again. Maybe Trump is preparing to pardon Comey from trumpian accusations? (Not a very good joke.)

  286. says

    What’s going on in court this morning:

    In a courtroom in Manhattan Friday, lawyers representing Michael Cohen told a federal judge that they were seeking the opportunity to review the records seized in multiple FBI raids before prosecutors have the chance to, raising concerns about attorney-client privilege. […]

    Link. Not how it works, I think.

  287. says

    OMG this article – “A Brief History of Michael Cohen’s Criminal Ties”:

    …In the 1990s, there was an informal group of federal and local law enforcement agents investigating the Russian Mafiya in New York that called themselves “Red Star.” They shared information they learned from informants. It was well known among the members of Red Star that Cohen’s father-in-law was funneling money into Trump ventures. Several sources have told me that Cohen was one of several attorneys who helped money launderers purchase apartments in a development in Sunny Isles Beach, a seaside Florida town just north of Miami. This was an informal arrangement passed word-of-mouth: “We have heard from Russian sources that … in Florida, Cohen and other lawyers acted as a conduit for money.”

    A year after Trump World Tower opened in 2002, Trump had agreed to let Miami father-and-son developers Gil and Michael Dezer use his name on what ultimately became six Sunny Isles Beach condominium towers, which drew in new moneyed Russians all too eager to pay millions. “Russians love the Trump brand,” said Gil Dezer, who added that Russians and Russian-Americans bought some 200 of the 2,000 or so units in Trump buildings he built. A seventh Trump-branded hotel tower built up Sunny Isles into what ostensibly has become a South Florida Brighton Beach.

    An investigation by Reuters found that at least 63 individuals with Russian passports or addresses have bought at least $98.4 million worth of property in the seven Trump-branded luxury towers. And that was a conservative estimate. At least 703 – or about one-third – of the 2044 units were owned by limited liability companies, or LLCs, which could conceal the property’s true owner. Executives from Gazprom and other Russian natural resource giants also owned units in Trump’s Sunny Isles towers. In an observation that several people I spoke with echoed, Kenneth McCallion, a former prosecutor who tracked the flows of Russian criminal money into Trump’s properties, told me, “Trump’s genius – or evil genius – was, instead of Russian criminal money being passive, incidental income, it became a central part of his business plan.” McCallion continued, “It’s not called ‘Little Moscow’ for nothing. The street signs are in Russian. But his towers there were built specifically for the Russian middle-class criminal.”…

    Much more at the link. (I think I can understand why something about Cohen’s father-in-law was redacted in the Steele memos.)

  288. says

    From Steve Benen, we get more details on Trump’s use/misuse of the presidential pardon power:

    […] Last month, also late on a Friday afternoon, Trump pardoned Kristian Saucier, a Navy submariner, who’d taken photos inside the engine room of a nuclear attack submarine. After becoming a cause celebre of sorts on Fox News, Saucier appeared on “Fox & Friends,” complained about Hillary Clinton, asked for a presidential pardon, and received one less than a week later.

    The politics of this wasn’t subtle: Trump still wants people to believe Hillary Clinton is some kind of criminal, so he pardoned someone convicted of mishandling classified information. In this White House, the presidential pardon authority is now an instrument of political messaging. […]

  289. says

    Calm in the middle of the Trump tantrums:

    Unnamed sources told NBC News that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is aware that he may soon be fired and is content in that knowledge, asserting in private conversations that he feels confident that he did his job with integrity.

    He reportedly added that he feels sure that history will look on him kindly for firing former FBI Director James Comey last May, saying that there are details about what happened in the run up to Comey’s dismissal that are still not widely known.

    The same unnamed sources told NBC that Rosenstein’s current demeanor is at odds with his mood at other times in his tenure when he was wracked with anxiety and distress. They reportedly said that these emotions were especially intense after the Comey firing and when President Donald Trump was fuming over Rosenstein’s decision to appoint Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

    Various outlets reported this week that the White House is preparing talking points in the event that Trump fires Rosenstein, and Trump alleged in a tweet on Thursday that Rosenstein had conflicts of interest. […]

    Link

    Other reports say that Rosenstein says, “Here I stand.”

    […] In those conversations, he has repeated the phrase, “Here I stand,” a reference to Martin Luther’s famous quote, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” Coincidentally, former FBI Director James Comey, whom Rosenstein fired, repeated the same phrase to President George W. Bush in a conversation that has been widely reported and that Comey describes in his forthcoming book. […]

    Link

  290. says

    Lynna @ #416, prosecutors have released the response to Cohen’s request. A few highlights:

    “These searches were carried out as part of an ongoing grand jury investigation being conducted by the USAO-SDNY and the FBI.”

    “Although Cohen is an attorney, he also has several other business interests and sources of income. The searches are the result of a months-long investigation into Cohen, and seek evidence of crimes, many of which have nothing to do with his work as an attorney, but rather relate to Cohen’s own business dealings.”

    “Nevertheless, because Cohen holds himself out as a practicing attorney,…”

    “the USAO-SDNY has already obtained search warrants – covert until this point – on multiple different email accounts maintained by Cohen, and has conducted a privilege review of the materials obtained pursuant to those warrants. The results of that review, as resported by the USAO’s Filter Team, indicate that Cohen is in fact performing little to no legal work, and that
    zero emails were exchanged with President Trump.”

    The redacted parts are of course intriguing.

  291. blf says

    Secret rightwing strategy to discredit teacher strikes (Grauniad edits in {curly braces}):

    ● Manual provides ‘dos and don’ts’ for how to smear the strikes
    ● Top of the list: teacher strikes hurt kids and low-income families

    A nationwide network of rightwing thinktanks [sic] is launching a PR counteroffensive against the teachers’ strikes that are sweeping the country, circulating a messaging guide for anti-union activists that portrays the walkouts as harmful to low-income parents and their children.

    The new rightwing strategy to discredit the strikes that have erupted in protest against cuts in education funding and poor teacher pay is contained in a three-page document obtained by the Guardian. Titled How to talk about teacher strikes, it provides a dos and don’ts manual for how to smear the strikers.

    Top of the list of talking points is the claim that teacher strikes hurt kids and low-income families. It advises anti-union campaigners to argue that it’s unfortunate that teachers are protesting low wages by punishing other low-wage parents and their children.

    The messaging guide is the brainchild of the State Policy Network (SPN), an alliance of 66 rightwing ideas factories that span every state in the nation. SPN uses its $80m war chest — funded by billionaire super-donors such as the Koch brothers and the Walton Family Foundation that flows from the Walmart fortune — to coordinate conservative strategy across the country.

    Another financial backer of SPN is the billionaire DeVos family of the Amway empire. Betsy DeVos is the current education secretary in the Trump administration.

    SPN’s previous campaigns have included a plan to defund and defang public sector unions. Now it is turning its firepower on the striking teachers.

    […]

    The SPN document urges its followers to attack the walkouts stealthily, rather than criticising them directly. A head-on assault on teachers for their long summer vacations would sound tone-deaf when there are dozens of videos and social media posts going viral from teachers about their second jobs {and} having to rely on food pantries, it says.

    The guide, written by SPN senior policy advisers, is revealingly candid about the difficult position that conservatives find themselves in within states that have aggressively cut taxes at the same time as slashing education budgets. For those of you who are in states where you’ve cut taxes recently, that is sure to be a theme in coverage. That is obviously a challenging message to counter.

    Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, told the Guardian: “It’s fascinating that even Koch-funded conservatives recognize that there’s huge public support for public education and for treating teachers with respect.” She denounced SPN’s guide as a “piece of propaganda — the conservative strategy is to defund schools and delegitimize the voice of teachers”.

    […]

    Full PDF of the propaganda at the link.

  292. says

    It sounds like Cohen and the Trump Org have basically refused to hand over anything voluntarily, claiming it’s all privileged. Also, prosecutors have asked Cohen’s lawyers for a list of his clients and attorneys, which they haven’t provided.

  293. says

    From Democratic Representative Adam Schiff:

    On the day the President wrongly attacks Comey for being a “leaker and liar” he considers pardoning a convicted leaker and liar, Scooter Libby. This is the President’s way of sending a message to those implicated in the Russia investigation: You have my back and I‘ll have yours.

  294. blf says

    Ire of dogs: Satirical pooch brings Paris university blockade to life on Twitter:

    April in Paris. Chestnuts in blossom. And placards in protest all over town. A half-century after the May 1968 uprisings, French student unrest is a seasonal classic so ancestral in its rituals as to border on farce. Enter Guevara, the sit-in dog.

    Or rather, the faux Paris dog trapped in a blockaded university. Against his will. With gluten-free kibble. Tweeting for help. To 25,000 followers.

    It all began on April 5, ten days into Paris student activists’ blockade of the University of Paris 1’s Tolbiac campus. […]

    The self-styled Free Commune of Tolbiac occupying that campus, with numbers sometimes in the hundreds, has since March 26 been spending the night in amphitheatres, relying on supporters for provisions and voting in general assemblies […]

    [… U]nhappy with “classic media” coverage of its cause, the group released a so-called self-conference on Facebook — a sort of press conference without press or questions. The video featured three activists in colourful homemade masks and a white-bellied ginger dog, all seated — on chairs! — behind a makeshift table with microphones. The canine-assisted mise en scène was a transparent ploy to go viral. And it worked. The video garnered half a million views on Facebook in less than a week. [there’s a hilarious picture at the link –blf]

    […]

    The next morning, a Twitter-user purporting to be the very same Tolbiac dog, dispatched a first plaintive missive: “Help.”

    [translation] “My name is Guevara (not my choice). I have been held against my will for the past week by people wearing disguises at an ugly uni,” he tweeted four minutes later. “SOS. It reeks of pot here.”

    […]

    “I bark because I’m hungry. Margot interrupts me: ‘That is such guy behaviour’. Julie tells her she is humansplaining. Margot cries.”

    A vote designates a girl to go to the store and buy Guevara some kibble. But when the biscuit-buyer Maya asks for “vegan and gluten free” dog food, the grocer promptly calls the police.

    The parody account’s musings are cutting satire, but not devoid of affection.

    “Myrtille is playing the best of Bob Marley on her iPhone X for the fifth time,” Guevara writes, calling on French animal protection services to take action.

    […]

    Whether or not he is actually a dog, as the famous cartoon adage suggests, may never be known.

    The France24 writer clearly had fun with this story.

  295. Chris J says

    SC@433:

    Man, I would have thought that “McCabe was totally controlled by Comey – McCabe is Comey!!” was the worthy quote in there. I mean… that’s covfefe levels of bizarre.

  296. says

    “DOJ Alumni Statement Regarding Rod Rosenstein, Robert Mueller, and the Rule of Law”:

    We, the undersigned, are proud alumni of the United States Department of Justice. We served this institution out of a commitment to the founding American principles that our democratic republic depends upon the rule of law, that the law must be applied equally, and that no one is above the law. Many of us served with Robert Mueller and Rod Rosenstein. Those of us who served with these men know them to be dedicated public servants committed to these principles. All of us served with thousands of their peers at the Department, who also swear an oath to serve, defend, and protect the United States, the Constitution and the American people. We know that there are thousands of public servants at the Department today who serve these principles and all of us.

    We are therefore deeply disturbed by the attacks that have been levied against the good men and women of the Department. Not only is it an insult to their public service, but any attempt to corrupt or undermine the even-handed application of the rule of law threatens the foundation of our Republic. We know the people who serve at the Department will bravely weather these attacks and continue to uphold their oaths by doing only what the law dictates. But it is up to the rest of us, and especially our elected representatives, to come to their defense and oppose any attempt by the President or others to improperly interfere in the Department’s work, including by firing either Mr. Mueller, Mr. Rosenstein or other Department leadership or officials for the purpose of interfering in their investigations. Should the President take such a step, we call on Congress to swiftly and forcefully respond to protect the founding principles of our Republic and the rule of law.

  297. says

    “Trump Called Michael Cohen as Their Lawyers Went to Court Over Seized Trump Documents”:

    President Trump phoned his longtime confidant, Michael D. Cohen, to “check in” on Friday as lawyers for the two men went to court to block the Justice Department from reading seized documents related to Mr. Cohen’s decade of work for Mr. Trump, according to two people familiar with the call.

    It is not clear what else they discussed in a call that came days after a series of F.B.I. raids. Depending on what was said, the call could be problematic for both men, as defense lawyers often advise their clients not to talk to each other during investigations. Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen still were trying to determine what exactly was seized.

    The raids were even broader than have been previously reported. Prosecutors said the raids were part of a monthslong investigation into Mr. Cohen. In addition to searching Mr. Cohen’s office and hotel room, prosecutors also obtained warrants to seize material from his cellphones, tablet, laptop and a safe deposit box, according to people briefed on the warrants.

    “The searches are the result of a monthslong investigation into Cohen, and seek evidence of crimes, many of which have nothing to do with his work as an attorney, but rather relate to Cohen’s own business dealings,” federal prosecutors wrote in court papers filed on Friday.

    The court papers also disclosed that prosecutors — before the raids on Monday — had already obtained secret search warrants for several of Mr. Cohen’s email accounts as part of what they said was a grand jury investigation….

  298. says

    Chris J @ #434:

    Man, I would have thought that ‘McCabe was totally controlled by Comey – McCabe is Comey!!’ was the worthy quote in there. I mean… that’s covfefe levels of bizarre.

    The whole thing is surreal and horrifying. Calling the FBI a “den of thieves and lowlifes” is right up there as well.

  299. says

    Follow-up to comment 390.

    Trump’s executive order creating a task force to audit the U.S. Postal Service’s finances reminds me of his Voter Fraud Commission. He just assigned a bunch of people to find evidence of his bonkers claims about Amazon.

    In other news, and in reference to SC’s comment 432: Sarah Huckabee Sanders lectured the press to try to get them to take Comey off the air and to give more time to extolling the awesomeness of Trump, which, she claimed, is what the American people want. It is her own obsessed and incompetent boss, Hair Furor, who helps to keep Comey in the news by tweeting about Comey as a “slime ball” etc.

    Sanders was fired up today. She usually affects calmness even when she doesn’t feel it. Today, she was ripping into Comey like she hadn’t had a meal in a long time and she was going to chew that slime ball up. (Can you chew a slime ball? She looked like that was what she was doing.) It was disconcerting to see.

    I do note that now Republicans have a hate-object equal to Hillary Clinton. They have Comey … and that is keeping their blood racing.

  300. says

    “EXCLUSIVE: Rosenstein consulted with ethics adviser at DOJ on Russia probe”:

    Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein continues to oversee special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation after consulting with a career ethics adviser at the Justice Department about his ability to oversee the Russia probe, a source familiar with the matter tells CNN.

    For nearly a year, legal experts and journalists have questioned why Rosenstein has not stepped aside from overseeing Mueller’s investigation given that he was part of the dramatic firing of FBI Director James Comey. That fact has more recently served as ammunition to attack Rosenstein’s credibility by allies of President Donald Trump.

    But CNN has now learned that Rosenstein has consulted with the ethics adviser over the course of the investigation on whether he needs to recuse himself, and he has followed that individual’s advice — a fact which has not been previously reported and offers a more fulsome explanation for how he has continued to oversee Mueller’s work….

    Those close to the President say leveraging the recusal as a way to undermine Rosenstein is a newfound approach for the White House team. Until recently, Trump’s allies have not wanted to draw attention to the issue and thereby risk acknowledging that the President is under investigation for obstructing justice.

    But after the FBI raid on the President’s longtime attorney, Michael Cohen, the White House and Trump’s outside allies have been increasingly engaged in finding ways to undermine Rosenstein.

    But legal experts say the fact that Rosenstein consulted with an ethics adviser adds more legitimacy to his decision to stay on….

  301. says

    More details in connection with the contretemps in court this morning over material seized during the raids on Cohen’s office, home and hotel room:

    […] Prosectors also brought up a claim the Trump Organization has made to them after the raids that “each and every communication by, between or amongst Mr. Cohen and the Trump Organization and each of its officers, directors and employees, to be subject to and protected by the attorney- client privilege and/or the work-product privilege.”

    “In the face of inaccurate and/or overbroad claims of privilege, the USAO-SDNY would be seriously prejudiced if it were not able, through a Filter Team, to evaluate the validity of such claims,” the prosectors said. […]

    Link

    Overbroad claims of lawyer/client privilege reminds me of the overly broad claims of “executive privilege” made by Trump supporters who testified in front of Congressional committees. Who could forget Donald Junior claiming “executive privilege” for conversations with his father, including those over the phone, if “a lawyer was in the room.”

  302. says

    Sarah Huckabee Sanders said:

    The American people see right through the blatant lies of a self-admitted leaker. This is nothing more than a poorly executed PR stunt by Comey to desperately rehabilitate his tattered reputation and enrich his own bank account by peddling a book that belongs in the bargain bin of the fiction section.

    Instead of being remembered as a dedicated servant in the pursuit of justice like so many of his other colleagues at the FBI, Comey will be forever known as a disgraced partisan hack that broke his sacred trust with the President of the United States, the dedicated agents of the FBI, and the American people he vowed to faithfully serve. One of the President’s greatest achievements will go down as firing Director James Comey.

    The “self-admitted leaker” bit refers to team Trump’s opinion about Comey saying that he gave his memos to a friend. There is some debate about to whom those memos belong, and about classifying the memos Comey wrote to himself as “leaked” if he gave them to a friend.

  303. says

    “A Former Russian Spy Worked On A Trump Moscow Deal While Trump Was Running For President”:

    A former Russian spy helped Donald Trump’s business team seek financing for a Trump-branded tower in the heart of Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

    This connection between Trump and Russian intelligence — made public here for the first time — is known to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team and raises fresh questions about the president’s connections to the Kremlin. The former agent, who had served in Russia’s military intelligence arm known as the GRU and later worked as an arms dealer, negotiated for financing from a Russian state-owned bank that was under US sanctions at the time.

    But there is a twist: The former Russian spy also helped pass intelligence to the United States government on key national security matters, including al-Qaeda’s weapons caches and North Korea’s attempts to develop nuclear weapons. BuzzFeed News is not naming the the Russian agent because two US intelligence officials said that doing so would endanger his life.

    Sater hoped to push the [Moscow Trump tower] deal forward by attending the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum with Cohen in June 2016. Considered the most important economic gathering in Russia, the forum is regularly attended by business executives and top politicians, including President Vladimir Putin. The former Russian intelligence officer helped arrange an invitation to the conference for both Sater and Cohen, the sources said.

    But neither Cohen nor Sater attended. Sources said Cohen canceled at the last minute and put the Moscow deal on hold until after the Republican National Convention. After Trump won the presidential election, the Trump Organization announced it would no longer be working on international deals, and Sater stopped working on the project.

    Again, Sater was the link. Sater first met the former intelligence officer in 1997 in Moscow, and the officer in turn introduced him to Milton Blaine, an American arms dealer who held contracts with the US Defense Intelligence Agency. Blaine, who died last year, recruited Sater to work as a confidential source for the US government. Code-named the Quarterback, Sater served for decades as a source for US law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and he continues to do so.

    Information that the former Russian spy passed to Sater included details about Russian military technology, the satellite phone numbers of Osama bin Laden, the locations of al-Qaeda weapons depots and training camps, and photographs of a North Korean military official purchasing nuclear materials….

  304. says

    Fox has learned that articles of impeachment have been drafted for Rosenstein..though not filed. It is not clear which lawmaker drafted the articles…or if they would go anywhere in cmte or on the flr”

    Shut this dangerous nonsense the fuck down, Ryan.

  305. says

    Lynna @ #441:

    Overbroad claims of lawyer/client privilege reminds me of the overly broad claims of “executive privilege” made by Trump supporters who testified in front of Congressional committees. Who could forget Donald Junior claiming “executive privilege” for conversations with his father, including those over the phone, if “a lawyer was in the room.”

    I’ve read several people saying that if Trump personally didn’t email with Cohen, it’s strange that he’s so worried, which is odd. We’ve seen the slightest hints of emails between Ivanka and Don Jr. about the Trump SoHo (from the investigation Cy Vance suspiciously shut down after a donation from Kasowitz), and they basically admitted to a conspiracy to commit fraud. Imagine all of Cohen’s communications related to Russia and Russians, organized crime, Russian organized crime, money flows, Trump real estate projects, payoffs/threats to women, local and global bribes, Trump U., Trump campaign and RNC finance, the situation in Panama,… And there’s always worse with this crew. It’s worse than we know.

  306. says

    ! – “Sources: Mueller has evidence Cohen was in Prague in 2016, confirming part of dossier”:

    The Justice Department special counsel has evidence that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and confidant, Michael Cohen, secretly made a late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

    Confirmation of the trip would lend credence to a retired British spy’s report that Cohen strategized there with a powerful Kremlin figure about Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

    It would also be one of the most significant developments thus far in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of whether the Trump campaign and the Kremlin worked together to help Trump win the White House. Undercutting Trump’s repeated pronouncements that “there is no evidence of collusion,” it also could ratchet up the stakes if the president tries, as he has intimated he might for months, to order Mueller’s firing.

    Cohen has vehemently denied for months that he ever has been in Prague or colluded with Russia during the campaign. Neither he nor his lawyer responded to requests for comment for this story.

    It’s unclear whether Mueller’s investigators also have evidence that Cohen actually met with a prominent Russian – purportedly Konstantin Kosachev, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin — in the Czech capital. Kosachev, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of a body of the Russian legislature, the Federation Council, also has denied visiting Prague during 2016. Earlier this month, Kosachev was among 24 high-profile Russians hit with stiff U.S. sanctions in retaliation for Russia’s meddling.

    But investigators have traced evidence that Cohen entered the Czech Republic through Germany, apparently during August or early September of 2016 as the ex-spy reported, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is confidential….

    Knowledge that Cohen may indeed have traveled to Prague during the campaign could heighten Trump’s risk of being prosecuted for obstruction of justice if news reports are accurate that he is considering firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller investigation, or Mueller….

  307. says

    Erin Burr just interviewed Valerie Plame.* It’s a multifaceted story, but one overlooked facet is that it’s a story of a woman who was endangered and whose career was destroyed to protect corrupt men, who ultimately acted with impunity.

    * This detail from her biography is so interesting:

    Valerie Elise Plame was born on August 13, 1963, on Elmendorf Air Force Base, in Anchorage, Alaska, to Diane (née McClintock) and Samuel Plame III. Plame’s paternal grandfather was Jewish, the son of a rabbi who emigrated from Ukraine; the original family surname was “Plamevotski”. The rest of Plame’s family was Protestant (the religion in which Plame was raised); she was unaware of her grandfather having been Jewish until she was an adult.

    “Plame” sounds so generic, I never would have thought it came from “Plamevotski,” which is a wonderful name.