Discuss: Political Madness All the Time


Lynna is your curator. How are you all holding up, America?

(Previous thread)

Comments

  1. says

    Follow-up to comment 244 in the previous chapter of this thread.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions, then the star of President Trump’s early Cabinet, was assembling his staff and picked Sarah Isgur Flores as his top spokeswoman.

    There was just one problem: She had criticized Trump, repeatedly, during the 2016 Republican primaries. Flores’s prospects for a Justice Department job stalled, and Trump’s advisers knew there was only one way Sessions would be able to hire her: If she kowtowed to Trump.

    So she paid her respects to the president in the Oval Office — a cordial visit during which she told the president she was on board with his agenda and would be honored to serve him, according to several people with knowledge of the meeting.

    The early 2017 episode, which has not previously been reported, underscores the extent to which Trump demands loyalty in vetting administration officials — even well-qualified Republicans like Flores seeking jobs on the personal staffs of Cabinet secretaries, who historically have had considerable leeway to do their own hiring. […]

    Washington Post link

    ‘Ready, shoot, aim’: President Trump’s loyalty tests cause hiring headaches. Lots more at the link, including this:

    Credentialed candidates have had to prove loyalty to the president, with many still being blocked for previous anti-Trump statements. Hundreds of national security officials, for example, were nixed from consideration because they spoke out against Trump during the campaign. But for longtime Trump loyalists, their fidelity to the president is often sufficient, obscuring what in a more traditional administration would be red flags. […]

  2. says

    OMG this presentation. He just literally pulled back curtains. He said they’ve shared this with other countries , and “will share” it with the IAEA. He’s talking about documents about a past program that seems to have ended years ago. But did anyone think they didn’t have a nuclear program?

  3. says

    This seems to be the consensus so far: “In November 2011, the IAEA released a detailed report on Iranian weaponization activities. I’m not hearing much new from #Netanyahu that isn’t in there.”

    Of course, the fact that he chose to go this route rather than first sharing the information with the IAEA and the countries involved in the deal makes me highly suspicious. Same with the cheap theatrics. Also, much of what he claimed were reasons to leave the deal could equally be seen as reasons to stay in the deal.

  4. says

    This seems to be the consensus so far:…

    Here’s a short thread on the subject:

    #Netanyahu redux: The Iran archive appears to confirm what the IAEA and western intelligence already knew,

    Israel appears to have “come across” an astonishing trove of intelligence. It doubtless contains new *details* about Iran’s nuclear weapon program.

    However, the IAEA and western intelligence agencies had long known about this program. He’s a flow chart produced by the IAEA in **2011** showing how the organization of Iran’s nuclear weapon program changed over time. Note project AMAD. [diagram]

    So, when Iranian officials claim–as they often do–that Iran has [no] nuclear weapons program, they were lying. But, we knew that already, The JCPOA was designed on that basis.

    Now, I certainly don’t want to whitewash Iran here. Lying to the IAEA is a serious issue; retaining documents relevant to the development of nuclear weapons doubly so.

    Israel’s decision to give this information to the IAEA is welcome,. The IAEA should investigate its veracity and, if it appears authentic, pursue the issue with Iran.

    Clearly, the IAEA cannot and should not grant Iran the co-called broader conclusion (i.e. verify the absence of undeclared nuclear material) until all leads relating to these documents have been fully chased down.

  5. says

    SC @7, this was a propaganda presentation by Netanyahu … mostly propaganda anyway. He presented lots of photos and illustrations to make his old information look new and shocking.

    Yes, there may be details in Netanyahu’s presentation that require investigation by the IAEA, but so far I see nothing that demands an end to the Iran nuclear deal.

    I do, however, see a concerted effort by Netanyahu, Trump, Bolton, etc. to justify an attack on Iran.

  6. says

    Wonkette, quoted @ Lynna’s #499 in the previous iteration: “Oh, the noble denizens of the Beltway coming forward to prove they can transcend political lines to stand up for every human’s God-given right to never have her eye shadow referred to as ‘smoky’, because everybody knows it’s sexist to make jokes about a person’s constant lying by referencing makeup.”

    PSA (just for anyone who doesn’t know this already): Wolf talked about SHS burning the facts and using the ashes to create a “perfect smoky eye.” A smoky eye is a thing – an effect created, intentionally, using dark eye shadow. The next line, “Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies,” was a reference to a long-lasting Maybelline ad campaign which featured the jingle “Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s Maybelline.”

  7. says

    Lynna @ #9 – Oh, absolutely. This part especially: “Also, it is clear that if he had a smoking gun, he’d have been able to blow a large hole in Iran’s credibility and standing in the world. He could have pushed the @iaeaorg to pursue a few of the clues and come up with hard evidence.”

    If he had the goods, he wouldn’t need the embarrassing theatrics and end-run around other countries and international bodies.

  8. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 13.

    More details:

    […] She and her lawyer released a composite sketch of the man Daniels claims threatened her to stay quiet about Trump in 2011. Trump said that the sketch depicted a “nonexistent man” and claimed that the release of the image was a “con job,” retweeting a message arguing that the sketch looked similar to Daniels’ husband.

    “In making the statement, Mr. Trump used his national and international audience of millions of people to make a false factual statement to denigrate and attack Ms. Clifford,” Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, wrote in the complaint. “Mr. Trump knew that his false, disparaging statement would be read by people around the world, as well as widely reported, and that Ms. Clifford would be subjected to threats of violence, economic harm, and reputational damage as a result.”

    Daniels’ lawyer argued that Trump either knew his tweet was false or acted recklessly without knowing the truth and that Trump’s tweet caused Daniels to suffer damages including “harm to her reputation, emotional harm, exposure to contempt, ridicule, and shame, and physical threats of violence to her person and life.” […]

  9. says

    “Documents show ties between university, conservative donors”:

    Newly released documents show Virginia’s largest public university granted the conservative Charles Koch Foundation a say in the hiring and firing of professors in exchange for millions of dollars in donations.

    The documents’ release follows years of denials from George Mason University that the donations inhibit academic freedom.

    The school’s relationship with the foundation has received increased scrutiny since 2016 when Mason renamed its law school for conservative jurist Antonin Scalia.

  10. says

    “Conservative Businessman” Brian Kemp is running for governor of Georgia. I hope this ad results in him losing votes. In the ad, Kemp threatens a teenager with a gun:

    Kemp: I’m Brian Kemp. This is Jake—young man interested in one of my daughters.

    Jake: Yes, sir.

    Kemp: Jake asked why I was running for governor, I said one?

    Jake: Cap government spending.

    Kemp: Two?

    Jake: Take a chainsaw to regulations.

    Kemp: Three?

    Jake: Make Georgia number one for small businesses.

    Kemp: And two things if you gonna date one of my daughters?

    Jake: Respect.

    Kemp: And?

    Jake: A healthy respect for the Second Amendment…sir.

    [Kemp snaps the double barrel shotgun shut, pointing it at Jake]

    Kemp: We’re gonna get along just fine.

    https://www.underthegeorgiasun.com/2018/04/29/brian-kemp-gets-out-his-gun-in-new-campaign-ad/

    A few comments from 11Alive viewers:

    “Brian Kemp Governor commercial is very disturbing.”

    “Stop airing the Brian Kemp for Governor ad. It is disgusting that he is holding a shotgun.”

    “Throughout the ad, he is pointing the gun at the young man. Made me and my family very uncomfortable.”

    “I am a conservative who believes in the 2nd amendment but this commercial makes me want to vote for the other side.”

    “Please stop airing this disturbing commercial.”

    “Just saw Brian Kemp’s newest campaign ad three times in a row. STOP SHOWING IT!

    “We are gun owners and we are outraged.”

    “Holy cow, are we in the Wild West and propagating a gun culture?”

  11. says

    Ah, yes, this is Hair Furor’s style all right: Trump defends calling African nations ‘s**thole countries’ while standing next to Nigerian leader.

    […] Buhari diplomatically dodged the question, saying, “I’m very careful with what the press says about other than myself, um, I’m not sure about the validity of whether that allegation [that Trump called African nations “s**thole countries”] was true or not, so the best thing for me is to keep quiet.”

    But Trump jumped in, saying “we didn’t discuss it,” and then indicated that if the two heads of state had, he wouldn’t have felt compelled to apologize for anything.

    “We didn’t discuss it, and you do have some countries that are in very bad shape and very tough places to live in,” Trump said. “But we didn’t discuss it because the president knows me and he knows where I’m coming from, and I appreciate that.” […]

  12. says

    As usual, Trump doesn’t think he said or did anything wrong:

    […] Trump said Monday that “there’s nothing to apologize for” when asked if he would disavow his past incendiary comments on a Muslim ban in order to salvage his broader travel ban policy.

    The Supreme Court heard oral arguments regarding a challenge to Trump’s travel ban last week, with the justices seemingly split on the controversial policy’s constitutionality. At one point during the hearing, Chief Justice John Roberts asked if a public disavowal by Trump of his campaign rhetoric demanding a ban on all Muslims entering the U.S. would alleviate concerns about the travel ban’s constitutionality, prompting the attorney challenging the ban to say that it would.

    The president, addressing reporters at a press conference Monday, disagreed.

    “There’s no reason to apologize. Our immigration laws in this country are a total disaster. They’re laughed at all over the world, they’re laughed at for their stupidity. And we have to have strong immigration laws,” Trump said, standing alongside Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. “So I think if I apologize, wouldn’t make ten cents worth of difference to them. There’s nothing to apologize for.” […]

    Link

  13. says

    About the caravan of immigrants that has reached the southern border of the USA:

    […] To human rights advocates, it’s become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy: The fear of harsh treatment that motivated caravan members to band together for safety has attracted even harsher treatment, which will likely continue for future asylum seekers even after this caravan has passed through. […]

    For several years now, Central Americans have made up the biggest share of people crossing the US’s southern border, often to seek asylum from gang violence in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. […]

    Trump started tweeting angrily about the caravan, alternately attacking Mexico for not cracking down to stop it and imploring the Mexican government to do just that. Trump’s fixation with the caravan may have played a role in his decision to deploy National Guard troops to the US-Mexico border […] and has renewed an effort from his administration to expand detention, family separation, and prosecution for asylum seekers presenting themselves at the border. […]

    […] this was always the plan: to present themselves to border agents and seek asylum, as hundreds of thousands of Central Americans have done in recent years. […]

    On Sunday, the remnants of the caravan arrived at San Ysidro. Organizers selected 50 of the “most vulnerable” travelers — people, mostly families, whose asylum claims were most sympathetic and legally viable. They attempted to present themselves to Customs and Border Protection agents at the line that marked the border itself.

    They weren’t allowed to. CBP agents claimed that the San Ysidro facility was already full of asylum seekers whose cases were being processed, and didn’t have room for more. […] (There’s been some skepticism about whether the administration is telling the truth about being at capacity, but the San Ysidro facility really doesn’t have much space, so it’s plausible.)

    The caravan group slept under the walkway to the port of entry building on Sunday night. On Monday, they waited to try again. […]

    The administration didn’t say outright that caravan members who presented themselves at the border would have their “credible fear” claims denied and be prevented from filing asylum applications. That would have been blatantly illegal. But the implication of the statements was that the caravan would face elevated scrutiny at best — and, at worst, that the Trump administration really had prejudged the caravan members. […]

    Link

    Good images at the link.

  14. says

    Emma González shows that she is not having it when Kanye West tries to associate himself with her:

    […] the Chicago rapper posted a photo of Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting survivor and student activist from the #NeverAgain movement Emma González. Describing her as “my hero,” Kanye posted a picture of himself, with his hair shaved down to a buzz cut like González’s, with the caption: “inspired by Emma.”

    But the feeling was not mutual.

    Less than 20 minutes later, González revealed that her own hero was not Kanye, instead posting a photo of James Shaw Jr., 29, the man who de-armed a gunman who opened fire in a Waffle House in Tennessee on April 22. Shaw was unarmed yet was able to stop the violence. González’s caption mirrored Kanye’s completely, minus the reciprocal endorsement.

    […] González, along with her peers in the gun control movement, have been critical of lawmakers who refuse to enact sensible gun safety laws and who financially benefit from the NRA lobby. […]

    Kanye’s endorsement of González also highlights one of the most frustrating parts of his Twitter presence since his return to social media from his almost year-long hiatus: gross contradiction.

    Right-wing media has fervently attacked Parkland survivors and activists since the school shooting. Highlighting Trump, black conservative Candace Owens and González isn’t “free thinking” as Kanye says, but evidence of an inconsistency in values and no clear understanding of the people and ideologies front and center in politics right now.

    Singer, friend and collaborator of Kanye’s, John Legend pointed out this hypocrisy with a tweet of his own. […]

    Link

    Photos available at the link.

  15. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Rachael Maddow had to throw out her planned show again, as breaking news from the New York Times with the questions that allegedly Mueller wants to ask of the Trump. I’ll post links later, maybe in the morning if the links don’t appear in the next hour. Yes, I want to hear the real answers to the questions.

  16. says

    This guy:

    “Exclusive: Pence’s doctor alerted WH aides about Ronny Jackson concerns last fall”:

    Vice President Mike Pence’s physician privately raised alarms within the White House last fall that President Donald Trump’s doctor may have violated federal privacy protections for a key patient — Pence’s wife, Karen — and intimidated the vice president’s doctor during angry confrontations over the episode.

    The previously unreported incident is the first sign that serious concerns about Ronny Jackson’s conduct had reached the highest levels of the White House as far back as September — months before White House aides furiously defended Jackson’s professionalism, insisted he had been thoroughly vetted and argued allegations of misconduct amounted to unsubstantiated rumors.

    The episode — detailed in three memos by Pence’s physician — is also the first documentation that has surfaced involving a specific allegation of medical misconduct by Jackson. It adds to a series of significant allegations leveled by unidentified current and former colleagues, including that he casually dispensed prescription drugs.

    According to copies of internal documents obtained by CNN, Pence’s doctor accused Jackson of overstepping his authority and inappropriately intervening in a medical situation involving the second lady as well as potentially violating federal privacy rights by briefing White House staff and disclosing details to other medical providers — but not appropriately consulting with the vice president’s physician.

    The vice president’s physician later wrote in a memo of feeling intimidated by an irate Jackson during a confrontation over the physician’s concerns. The physician informed White House officials of being treated unprofessionally, describing a pattern of behavior from Jackson that made the physician “uncomfortable” and even consider resigning from the position.

    After Mrs. Pence’s physician briefed her about the episode, she “also expressed concerns over the potential breach of privacy of her medical condition,” the memo said. Karen Pence asked her physician to direct the vice president’s top aide, Nick Ayers, to inform White House chief of staff John Kelly about the matter. Subsequent memos from Pence’s doctor suggested Kelly was aware of the episode.

    In one of two tense encounters described in the memos, Jackson made the vice president’s doctor feel uncomfortable with his “accusatory” tone, “unprofessionalism” and “intimidating” and “aggressive” behavior during their private meetings. Jackson told the doctor to “let the issue go” and to “let things go … if I am to succeed in my career,” the physician wrote….

  17. says

    Follow-up to comments 7, 9, 11 and others.

    Chris Hayes did a great job of covering sraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s giant Power-Point-like presentation to push Trump to kill the Iran nuclear deal. Netanyahu’s presentation also sounded and looked like a push to go to war against Iran.

    Team Trump took the bait all too well. The White House had to come back and do clean up after a counterfactual statement was issued based on Netanyahu’s presentation.

    From Steve Benen:

    Donald Trump’s White House has developed an unfortunate reputation for making careless mistakes, especially in writing. The president’s recent statement on Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month misspelled “assault” three times, including two different misspellings in the same sentence. In another instance, the White House issued a “fact sheet” that said the United States has two defense secretaries and Australia has a president. […]

    But some mistakes are more important than others. Last night, for example, the White House made an extraordinary claim in an official written statement on behalf of Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders about Iran and nuclear weapons.

    “The United States is aware of the information just released by Israel and continues to examine it carefully. This information provides new and compelling details about Iran’s efforts to develop missile-deliverable nuclear weapons. These facts are consistent with what the United States has long known: Iran has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program that it has tried and failed to hide from the world and from its own people….”

    The White House used the same language in a message posted to Twitter, telling the world that Iran “has” a nuclear weapons program.

    Not to put too fine a point on this, but the specific wording of the White House’s statements was the kind of language that could signal a war — which is why it was important that Team Trump soon after clarified that Iran “had” a nuclear weapons program and the original statements featured a “clerical error.”

    NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell asked, “How does a statement of this import, putting the White House at odds with the entire U.S. intelligence community, get sent out so carelessly? And why did they correct it on the website but not issue a new statement?” […]

    Even if we put aside serious questions about Netanyahu’s credibility, his remarks were difficult to take seriously. The fact that Iran had a nuclear weapons program isn’t exactly breaking news: it’s why the international nuclear agreement with Iran was struck in the first place. The whole point was to halt the program, which it did.

    In fact, Slate’s Fred Kaplan made a compelling case that the Israeli prime minister’s presentation accidentally made the case for keeping the Iran deal in place.

    With this in mind, the “has”/”had” error wasn’t the only important mistake in the White House’s statement. Team Trump also said Netanyahu provided “new and compelling” information, when in reality, the prime minister’s information was old and mundane. Ned Price, the former spokesperson for the CIA, explained yesterday, “What Netanyahu disclosed today was news to the United States … more than a decade ago.”

    Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) added that the Israeli leader’s speech provided “nothing new.”

    All of which raises the underlying question anew: why does Trump’s White House seem so eager to mislead?

  18. blf says

    Total BS: John Kelly forced to deny report he called Trump an idiot:

    […]
    John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, has been forced to deny a report that he called Donald Trump an “idiot”.

    In a rapid response statement issued on Monday, Kelly dismissed the claim, broadcast by NBC News, as total BS.

    The denial was quicker and more direct than that offered by the then secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, when he allegedly described the US president as a “fucking moron” and then ducked questions about it. […]

    The NBC News report quoted officials as saying Kelly portrays himself as fighting a lonely battle to curb Trump’s erratic impulses and stave off disaster. “He has referred to Trump as ‘an idiot’ multiple times to underscore his point, according to four officials who say they’ve witnessed the comments.”

    Kelly issued a denial via the White House, saying that he and the president have an incredibly candid and strong relationship [but see @263(previous page) –blf]. He added: He always knows where I stand and he and I both know this story is total BS.

    Kelly insisted that the report is another pathetic attempt to smear people close to President Trump and distract from the administration’s many successes.

    But NBC News stood by its story. Stephanie Ruhle, a journalist on the network, responded via Twitter: “As one of the people who worked on the story, I can tell you, it is WELL sourced. As for smearing the President, those on your team recount stories of you (not us) undermining his credibility.”

    According to NBC News, Kelly used the “idiot” term during closed-door meetings with other White House officials while negotiating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) programme, which Trump tried to end last year.

    “He doesn’t even understand what Daca is. He’s an idiot,” Kelly said in one meeting, two officials who said they were present told the network. We’ve got to save him from himself.

    […]

    Trump appeared to respond to the report on Monday night, renewing his attack on the media in a tweet that said: The Fake News is going crazy making up false stories and using only unnamed sources (who don’t exist). They are totally unhinged, and the great success of this Administration is making them do and say things that even they can’t believe they are saying. Truly bad people!

    […

    Because of the unhinged tone, such as the smear and many successes nonsense, I’m calling bullshite on Kelly’s denial (and hence typesetting it in eejit quotes).

    Redacted from the above excerpt is some support for the suspicion in @263(previous page) about hair furor’s use of his personal and presumably unsecured mobile, “A report by the Washington Post, based on interviews with 16 administration officials, outside advisers and presidential confidants, said Kelly no longer listened in on many of the president’s calls, even with foreign leaders […]”. That is not quite saying the same thing, but it is suggestive.

  19. says

    Follow-up to comments 21, 22, 23 and 24.

    Trump’s response to the release of the questions from the Mueller team:

    So disgraceful that the questions concerning the Russian Witch Hunt were ‘leaked’ to the media. No questions on Collusion. Oh, I see…you have a made up, phony crime, Collusion, that never existed, and an investigation begun with illegally leaked classified information. Nice!

    Apparently, Trump didn’t read all of the questions.

    As Rachel Maddow noted on her show, (links in Nerd’s comment 24), this question does address collusion: “What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?”

    From the New York Times:

    This is one of the most intriguing questions on the list. It is not clear whether Mr. Mueller knows something new, but there is no publicly available information linking Mr. Manafort, the former campaign chairman, to such outreach. So his inclusion here is significant. Mr. Manafort’s longtime colleague, Rick Gates, is cooperating with Mr. Mueller

    Furthermore, other questions are also related to collusion. Trump claims Mueller has ‘no questions on collusion’ despite list with 13 questions about collusion.

    Here are the collusion questions:

    — When did you become aware of the Trump Tower meeting?

    — What involvement did you have in the communication strategy, including the release of Donald Trump Jr.’s emails?

    — During a 2013 trip to Russia, what communication and relationships did you have with the Agalarovs and Russian government officials?

    — What communication did you have with Michael D. Cohen, Felix Sater and others, including foreign nationals, about Russian real estate developments during the campaign?

    — What discussions did you have during the campaign regarding any meeting with Mr. Putin? Did you discuss it with others?

    — What discussions did you have during the campaign regarding Russian sanctions?

    — What involvement did you have concerning platform changes regarding arming Ukraine?

    — During the campaign, what did you know about Russian hacking, use of social media or other acts aimed at the campaign?

    — What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?

    — What did you know about communication between Roger Stone, his associates, Julian Assange or WikiLeaks?

    — What did you know during the transition about an attempt to establish back-channel communication to Russia, and Jared Kushner’s efforts?

    — What do you know about a 2017 meeting in Seychelles involving Erik Prince?

    — What do you know about a Ukrainian peace proposal provided to Mr. Cohen in 2017?

  20. says

    “Kelly thinks he’s saving U.S. from disaster, calls Trump ‘idiot,’ say White House staffers”:

    White House chief of staff John Kelly has eroded morale in the West Wing in recent months with comments to aides that include insulting the president’s intelligence and casting himself as the savior of the country, according to eight current and former White House officials.

    The officials said Kelly portrays himself to Trump administration aides as the lone bulwark against catastrophe, curbing the erratic urges of a president who has a questionable grasp on policy issues and the functions of government. He has referred to Trump as “an idiot” multiple times to underscore his point, according to four officials who say they’ve witnessed the comments.

    Kelly called the allegations “total BS.”

    Officials said Kelly’s public image as a retired four-star general instilling discipline on a chaotic White House and an impulsive president belies what they describe as the undisciplined and indiscreet approach he’s employed as chief of staff….

    “He says stuff you can’t believe,” said one senior White House official. “He’ll say it and you think, ‘That is not what you should be saying.'”

    Current and former White House officials said Kelly has at times made remarks that have rattled female staffers. Kelly has told aides multiple times that women are more emotional than men, including at least once in front of the president, four current and former officials said.

    And during a firestorm in February over accusations of domestic abuse against then-White House staff secretary Rob Porter, Kelly wondered aloud how much more Porter would have to endure before his honor could be restored, according to three officials who were present for the comments. He also questioned why Porter’s ex-wives wouldn’t just move on based on the information he said he had about his marriages, the officials said.

    The White House spokespeople said they haven’t seen Kelly have a negative effect on the morale of women staffers. If anything, they said during meetings Kelly is the “bigger gentleman” who steps in when aides use foul language to note “a lady is present” and similarly says he shouldn’t use foul language in front of a lady if he’s used an expletive.* The spokespeople, who would not speak for the record, said it’s possible Kelly may have said women are more emotional than men, with one of them agreeing that “generally speaking, women are more emotional than men.”

    [Kelly] has also pushed back against the president on some foreign policy and military issues, current and former White House officials said.

    In one heated exchange between the two men before February’s Winter Olympics in South Korea, Kelly strongly — and successfully — dissuaded Trump from ordering the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula, according to two officials.

    For Kelly, the exchange underscored the reasoning behind one of his common refrains, which multiple officials described as some version of “I’m the one saving the country.”

    Kelly has made similar comments to lawmakers, at times making fun of what he sees as Trump’s lack of knowledge about policy and government, current and former officials said.

    “He doesn’t even understand what DACA is. He’s an idiot,” Kelly said in one meeting, according to two officials who were present. “We’ve got to save him from himself.”

    After the talks on a bipartisan deal fell apart, a collapse Kelly helped orchestrate with some conservative Republicans, he told aides in his office: “If it weren’t for me the president was going to agree to some hasty deal,” according to two officials who were present at the time….

    * We could have had the first woman president and instead we have this bullshit.

  21. says

    John McCain is retiring:

    Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) revealed that he will not seek reelection in an excerpt from his book published Monday, according to a Tuesday CNN report.

    “This is my last term. If I hadn’t admitted that to myself before this summer, a stage 4 cancer diagnosis acts as ungentle persuasion,” he said. “I’m freer than colleagues who will face the voters again. I can speak my mind without fearing the consequences much. And I can vote my conscience without worry.”

    Link

  22. says

    Let’s go back to the 1950s with team Trump:

    The White House spokespeople said they haven’t seen Kelly have a negative effect on the morale of women staffers. If anything, they said during meetings Kelly is the “bigger gentleman” who steps in when aides use foul language to note “a lady is present” and similarly says he shouldn’t use foul language in front of a lady if he’s used an expletive. The spokespeople, who would not speak for the record, said it’s possible Kelly may have said women are more emotional than men, with one of them agreeing that “generally speaking, women are more emotional than men.”

    NBC News link

  23. says

    EPA deputy chief of staff Kevin Chmielewski says that Pruitt lied to Congress about firing EPA workers who questioned his extravagant spending.

    A whistleblower from the Environmental Protection Agency says that Administrator Scott Pruitt was “bold-faced” lying when he told members of Congress that no EPA employees were retaliated against for raising concerns about his spending decisions. […]

    Chmielewski said chief of staff Ryan Jackson called him into his office and said: “Hey — Administrator Pruitt either wants me to fire you or put you in an office so that he doesn’t have to see you again,” Chmielewski told ABC News adding that “And in addition to that, he wants to put Millan (Hupp) in your spot, as your title and your pay grade.” […]

    The EPA declined to comment in response to questions about Chmielewski’s allegations against Pruitt and his staff. ABC News obtained a personnel form filled out by an EPA HR officials that says he resigned on March 17.

    The form is not signed by Chmielewski, who says he was actually forced to leave a month before that date. […]

    In an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Kyra Phillips, former deputy chief of staff Kevin Chmielewski said he was “100 percent” forced out after raising concerns about Pruitt’s spending on first-class travel. […]

    In two separate hearings Thursday, Pruitt presented to lawmakers a “threat assessment” that he said came from Inspector General Arthur Elkins detailing various death threats against him. …

    “The memo that he read from was not from Inspector General Elkins. It was an internal memo from Assistant IG for Investigations Patrick Sullivan,” OIG spokeswoman Kentia Elbaum said in a statement.

    ABC News link

    Washington Post link

    Daily Kos link

    The text in quotes above is a collation of excerpts from the three links above.

  24. says

    MSNBC is reporting that Harold Bornstein (that wild doctor who wrote the letter about Trump’s health during the campaign) is saying that Keith Schiller and Trump’s lawyer (I don’t know which one) raided his office and took Trump’s medical files after reports surfaced a few months ago that Trump took Propecia. He says they even took a picture of him with Trump down from the wall.

  25. blf says

    Follow-up to @170(previous page) and the cartoon @229(also previous page), on the UK “government” & nasty party’s attempts to emulate the thugs in the States and deliberately disenfranchise legal voters, Government claim of voter fraud surge misleading, says watchdog:

    […]
    The official statistics watchdog has condemned one of the government’s main arguments in favour of trialling compulsory voter ID, saying a claim that incidents of voter fraud had more than doubled in two years was misleading.

    The UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) made the comments after a voter complained about the claim, first made by the Cabinet Office, and then repeated by the five local boroughs testing voter ID on Thursday [&helip;].

    The Cabinet Office said the trial for English voters was deemed necessary after reports of alleged electoral fraud through voter impersonation more than doubled between 2014 and 2016, citing Electoral Commission data.

    The voter complained that not only was the dataset tiny — a rise from 21 cases in 2014 to 44 in 2016 — but that the Cabinet Office failed to mention that the number of allegations then fell by more than a third in 2017, to 28.

    Heh. I hadn’t realised the nasty party were cherry-picking the data. Good on the complaint for pointing out that statistical manipulation.

    They also pointed out that in 2016, a year that included the EU referendum, more than twice as many votes were cast than in 2014, meaning the rise in cases was even more statistically meaningless.

    […]

    In an email passed by the voter to the Electoral Reform Society (ERS), [UKSA] wrote: “We have reviewed the evidence presented in your email and we would tend to agree that the presentation of electoral fraud statistics in the letter is misleading. […]”

    The verdict from the UKSA, the official body tasked with ensuring government departments use statistics accurately and honestly, is another rebuff for a project which has been condemned for targeting an extremely rare problem while potentially disenfranchising vulnerable groups such as older people and the homeless, who might not have the necessary ID.

    It has also emerged that none of the five trial areas have recorded any cases of voter impersonation in recent years, with one expert characterising the scheme as “a solution in search of a problem”.

    […]

  26. says

    Here’s the Bornstein story (sorry – it was in February 2017, not this February) – “Trump doc says Trump bodyguard, lawyer ‘raided’ his office, took medical files”:

    In February 2017, a top White House aide who was Trump’s longtime personal bodyguard, along with the top lawyer at the Trump Organization and a third man, showed up at the office of Trump’s New York doctor without notice and took all the president’s medical records.

    The incident, which Dr. Harold Bornstein described as a “raid,” took place two days after Bornstein told a newspaper that he had prescribed a hair growth medicine for the president for years.

    In an exclusive interview in his Park Avenue office, Bornstein told NBC News that he felt “raped, frightened and sad” when Keith Schiller and another “large man” came to his office to collect the president’s records on the morning of Feb. 3, 2017. At the time, Schiller, who had long worked as Trump’s bodyguard, was serving as director of Oval Office operations at the White House.

    A framed 8×10 photo of Bornstein and Trump that had been hanging on the wall in the waiting room now lies flat under a stack of papers on the top shelf of Bornstein’s bookshelf. Bornstein said the men asked him to take it off the wall.

    Bornstein said he was not given a form authorizing the release of the records and signed by the president —known as a HIPAA release — which is a violation of patient privacy law. A person familiar with the matter said there was a letter to Bornstein from then-White House doctor Ronny Jackson, but didn’t know if there was a release form attached.

    Bornstein said the original and only copy of Trump’s charts, including lab reports under Trump’s name as well as under the pseudonyms his office used for Trump, were taken.

    Another man, Trump Organization Chief Legal Officer Alan Garten, joined Schiller’s team at Bornstein’s office,…

    Bornstein said that Trump cut ties with him after he told the New York Times that Trump takes Propecia, a drug for enlarged prostates that is often prescribed to stimulate hair growth in men. Bornstein told the Times that he prescribed Trump drugs for rosacea and cholesterol as well.

    After the story ran on February 1, 2017, Bornstein said Graff called him and said, “So you wanted to be the White House doctor? Forget it, you’re out.’ ”

    Two days after the story ran, the men came to his office.

    Bornstein said he is speaking out now after seeing reports that Ronny Jackson, who has allegedly been called “the candy man” for loosely prescribing pain medications as White House doctor, will not return to his post after being considered to run the Veterans Administration.

    “This is like a celebration for me,” he said….

  27. says

    “Manafort Claims Deep State Leakers’ ‘Elaborate Hoax’ Boosted Mueller Probe”:

    Former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort claimed in a court filing Monday evening that government leakers sought to boost Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and influence the grand juries that ultimately brought indictments against Manafort.

    The court document, filed in the case against Manafort brought in Virginia, zeroed in on news stories detailing investigations into Manafort’s communications with Russian intel operatives. Manafort said the government has not turned over any evidence in its discovery process of such communications, leading Manafort to suggest that the leaks were an “elaborate hoax” to sway the grand jury….

    I haven’t read the filing (available at the link) yet, but this doesn’t seem to make sense. The fact that Mueller’s team hasn’t provided these communications (and I would somewhat beg to differ here, given Kilimnik’s background) in support of these specific indictments doesn’t mean the evidence doesn’t exist. Many of us fully expect that they have much more on Manafort, including these communications, which will lead to future – or has already led to sealed – indictments. The argument that these news stories would have swayed the grand jury isn’t very convincing when the grand jury undoubtedly had a vast amount of documentary and other evidence for these specific crimes. It’s contradictory to keep accusing officials of leaking while at the same time declaring the content of the alleged leaks to be a hoax. The example they offer to provide supposed evidence that the information had to have come from US officials – the reports about Gates’s plea deal despite his lawyer’s refusal to comment – doesn’t rule out all of the people in the offices of the his various and changing lawyers. It’s strange and apparently desperate claim.

  28. says

    Re #36: “This is the behavior of a cartel boss not a democratically elected public servant and I suspect the number of stories like this people in the White House are keeping secret is substantial.”

  29. says

    “The Professor At The Center Of The Trump-Russia Probe Was In Moscow Just Weeks Before Court Documents Were Unsealed”:

    Joseph Mifsud, the enigmatic Maltese professor at the center of the Russia-Trump probe, was in Moscow just weeks before special counsel Robert Mueller unsealed court documents alleging that Mifsud had told a Trump campaign adviser that Russia had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, BuzzFeed News has learned.

    The trip, which hasn’t been previously reported, is the last time Mifsud is known to have been in Russia.

    Three weeks after his Russia trip, Mifsud was identified as the unnamed “overseas professor” who allegedly told foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos in April 2016 that Russia had thousands of emails from the Democrats. That was weeks before the Democrats themselves were aware that their computer systems had been hacked.

    Mifsud was last seen in public on Oct. 31, 2017, in Rome. His current whereabouts are unknown.

    The precise nature of Mifsud’s place, if any, in Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US election remains unclear and unexplained.

    Still, the new information on Mifsud’s travels indicates that even after he’d been questioned by the FBI, and as US investigators were about to make his role public, he remained in contact with Russian government circles.

    The Maltese professor was formally invited to Moscow by the Russian Council of International Affairs (RIAC), a think tank close to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to a visa dated Oct. 4, 2017.

    In Moscow, Mifsud participated in a seminar about security challenges in Yemen organized by RIAC and Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies.

    Two sources at RIAC told BuzzFeed News that Mifsud was a member of the official delegation of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz, who was in Russia on an official visit to Russian President Vladimir Putin on the same dates.

    During his stay in Moscow, Mifsud met with at least one other individual referenced in the Mueller documents.

    According to the documents, Mifsud introduced Papadopolous to a “Russian national connected to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs” over email in April 2016. Media reports have suggested that the unnamed Russian national is Ivan Timofeev, RIAC’s director of programs….

    Where is he? Malta? Russia? FBI custody?

  30. says

    An update on Trump’s lies, from the Washington Post: In 466 days, President Trump has made 3,001 false or misleading claims.

    At the link there’s a database you can search. You can also filter the lies by topic and by source.

    Thank you, Washington Post.

    Here’s a very recent misleading statement from April 30th:

    In a modern world, in this world, there’s more human trafficking and slavery than at any time in the history of this world. It’s hard to believe.

    And here is the debunking of that misleading statement from Trump:

    Though human trafficking is a major issue in some regions of the world, experts and available evidence indicate trafficking for sexual exploitation is not a serious problem in the United States. A recent study funded by the Justice Department concluded the total number of juveniles in the sex trade in the United States was about 9,000 to 10,000. Trump says it is worse than ever before, but the statistics are guesstimates that should be viewed with skepticism.

    Trump has repeated this particular false claim ten times … so far.

    More details are available at the link. The organization of this material is excellent. You can view a brief summary or delve into the details. Your choice.

  31. says

    There are good reasons to question the viability of Stormy Daniels’ defamation suit against Trump. But @PaulCallan’s suggestion that she can’t be defamed because she’s an adult actress is not one of them.”

    I heard Avenatti talking about this on CNN this morning and didn’t know to whom he was referring. A CNN analyst actually suggested that Daniels couldn’t be defamed because she’s an adult film star. Trump accused her of falsely accusing someone of a crime as part of a con on the American people (see #13 above). Her work has zero to do with that claim. Avenatti’s right – it’s totally outrageous. What a misogynistic culture we have.

  32. says

    An update on Trump’s haphazard trade wars:

    […] the president’s economic, diplomatic, and national security advisers all told him new tariffs on steel and aluminum were a bad idea. Trump announced the policy anyway — without any internal review by government lawyers or his own staff. Key officials throughout the government, including Congress, weren’t consulted or notified in advance.

    […] Trump seemed to blurt out the specific size of the tariffs to reporters, almost as an afterthought, […]

    the implementation of the president’s policy is every bit as haphazard as the policy was formulated.

    […] many of our key trading partners and longtime allies had no idea what Trump intended to do with regards to imposing these tariffs. […]

    All of which led to last night, when Trump punted.

    The Trump administration said on Monday that it would delay a decision to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on the European Union, Canada and Mexico for another 30 days, giving key allies a reprieve as the White House tries to extract concessions from trading partners who have resisted those demands.

    The extension reflects concerns by the Trump administration of a swift retaliation on American products by European Union nations, and will also give the Trump administration more breathing room to work on a separate trade battle with China.

    There’s reason to believe Trump doesn’t really want to implement his own tariffs policy. Rather, it’s part of an apparent bluff: he wants to use the threat of tariffs to force our allies to make him happy with concessions in other areas. […]

    The result, however, is a mess. The president bragged two months ago that “trade wars are good and easy to win.” It’s hopefully dawned on him by now how wrong he was.

    […] in Europe, they were annoyed when the tariffs were first announced, so Trump backed off and gave them a reprieve. Last night, he did it again, but the EU is still annoyed, insisting the looming threat of tariffs that may or may not be implemented is creating “market uncertainty” that is “already affecting business decisions.” […]

    From Vox:

    Trump had already suggested that Mexico and Canada would be temporarily exempt from tariffs set to go into effect on March 23, as the three countries work through NAFTA renegotiations. Then, as that tariff deadline loomed in March, the Trump administration extended the implementation deadline to May 1 not just for Canada and Mexico but for all the European Union countries, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, and South Korea, to facilitate possible negotiations.

    Now the Trump administration has pushed back that deadline once again, to June 1 for Canada, Mexico, and the European Union. The New York Times reports that Australia, Argentina, and Brazil have reached “initial agreements” with the administration that will let them at least temporarily avoid tariffs. As for South Korea, the Wall Street Journal reports that the administration has finalized a deal that will allow it to avoid tariffs altogether.

    From Steve Benen:

    No one has the foggiest idea what might happen next […]

  33. says

    Dead? Did the Russians kill him?

    It’s certainly possible. The whole timeline is strange. What was he doing giving an interview with La Reppublica?

  34. blf says

    Criticism mounts over witnesses in trial of anti-Trump protesters (Al Jazeera edits in {curly braces}):

    […]
    On Friday, US Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff filed a motion naming Christina Williams, an analyst with the FBI, as an expert witness in the upcoming trial of six defendants on June 4.

    The six defendants are part of a group that includes 59 people facing hefty charges over their alleged involvement in protests against US President [sic] Donald Trump’s inauguration.

    The court filing explains that Williams’ expertise derives from her history of FBI work, including in counter-terrorism.

    Much of her testimony will be largely based on her reading of four popular books, including Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, a recent bestseller authored by historian Mark Bray, the filing explains.

    Her testimony will deal with the use of black bloc, a tactic in which demonstrators dress in all black and conceal their identities with hoodies, ski masks, sunglasses or scarves.

    In the context of the black bloc tactic, ‘direct action’ often refers to violent direct action because the purpose of the black bloc is to achieve anonymity within the group, Friday’s court filing (PDF) reads.

    Wearing all black, the filing continues, creat{es} an environment in which it is difficult for law enforcement to stop and/or to arrest individual perpetrators of violence and destruction.

    “It is really quite absurd,” author Bray told Al Jazeera by telephone.

    “It is interesting how history has become a sort of focal point of this case{…} I think it’s very much indicative of a lack of concrete evidence and the kind of whimsical nature of the prosecution,” he added.

    Bray, who is also a historian of political radicalism and one of the organisers of protest movement Occupy Wall Street, said the government’s case was “largely” based on the notion that if one wears black or covers their face at a protest, they “necessarily intend to commit criminal acts”.

    But that’s “not what the history says, and that’s not what the book says,” he concluded.

    […]

    In November 2017, the prosecution sparked widespread criticism when it introduced into evidence a video by Project Veritas, a far-right group known notorious for its dubious ethical practices while carrying out doing undercover research activities.

    The following month, a jury found the first batch of six defendants not guilty on all charges, which included both felonies and misdemeanours.

    […]

    Sam Menefee-Libey, an activist with the DC Legal Posse, said the latest choice of Williams as an expert witness is further evidence of the government’s “overreach”.

    “It’s yet another instalment in the ongoing saga of the prosecution’s general disregard for the professed standards of the criminal justice system,” Menefee-Libey told Al Jazeera.

    “If they think that someone can read widely available books about organising and use those books to prosecute people engaged in political activity, that sets a scary precedent.”

  35. says

    “In the context of the black bloc tactic, ‘direct action’ often refers to violent direct action because the purpose of the black bloc is to achieve anonymity within the group,” Friday’s court filing (PDF) reads.

    That doesn’t even make sense as a sentence.

  36. blf says

    On the 25th (this month) Ireland will be voting on whether or not to repeal the Irish consitution’s eight amendment, which heavily restricts abortion. Needless to say, lots of people are frothing, for instance, Anti-abortion group targets hospitals with extreme imagery:

    Irish Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform linked to US organisation

    An anti-abortion group that uses extreme imagery as a deliberate shock tactic has targeted Dublin’s three maternity hospitals with banner-style pictures of dismembered foetuses.

    One hospital, the Rotunda, called the gardaí. A senior nurse from another, the National Maternity Hospital (NMH), remonstrated with members of the group, telling them: “Go away. You are disgusting.”

    The group calls itself the Irish Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (ICBR) with an address [… in] Co Tipperary.

    […]

    On Monday evening, ICBR activists stood outside the Rotunda, the NMH, and also the Coombe Women’s Hospital, holding large-scale colour banners with bloodied images on them purporting to show aborted feotuses at various stages of gestation.

    The activists have body cameras apparently filming anyone who approaches them and they do not engage in debate.

    […]

    The ICBR is part of a network of like-named organisations in several countries, all apparently related to a US pro-life organisation, the Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CBR), which is based in Forest Lake, California and is run by Gregg Cunningham, a Pennsylvania republican and lawyer.

    Mr Cunningham was in Ireland in January helping Irish CBR push back proabortion forces in their demands to legalize abortion according to CBR. Material on the CBR website indicates a theological, scripture-based opposition to abortion.

    […]

    On its website, ICBR says it uses shocking images deliberately.

    We understand that seeing images of what abortion looks like is extremely distressing but feeling distressed about it is an appropriate response, it says, before going on to add it is definitely not our aim to upset women who have been through the trauma of abortion.

    Dublin maternity hospitals fear, however, that upset and distress is the end result of their activity.

    […]

    A spokeswoman for the Rotunda said, in the interests of staff and patients, the hospital had written to anti-abortion and pro-repeal groups requesting that during the referendum campaign, they did not put up “graphic and distasteful postering”.

    “Some groups respected the hospital’s wishes and removed posters, for which hospital management is grateful,” the Rotunda said in a statement.

    “It is now very disappointing that the hospital was the target of quite a graphic and distressing protest. This protest has caused a lot of upset and distress for patients, many of whom attend the hospital for a number of different reasons and not just for the happy occasion of giving birth to a new baby.”

    […]

    Separately, Save the 8th spokesman John McGuirk has asked those pro-life supporters who have been posing with graphic billboards outside maternity hospitals in Dublin and at The Irish Times to stop.

    “These are people who in many cases are not Irish and they should not be doing that and we’d encourage them to stop,” he said on Tuesday.

    “That has no place in the campaign. Those people do not represent our campaign. They do not represent any other campaign. We don’t even believe they’re Irish and we wish they’d go home,” he said.

    […]

    Related, albeit not directly about the upcoming Irish referendum, in England (at least), Abortion clinic buffer zones being considered by more councils (Grauniad edits in {curly braces}):

    […]
    Eight councils in England are considering setting up abortion clinic buffer zones after pro-choice groups said the number of “intimidating” protests was on the rise.

    […]

    Campaigners say the protests amount to harassment and intimidation, although anti-abortion groups deny this. Pro-choice groups say Britain is increasingly influenced by US-style tactics of pavement counselling, in which women are waylaid as they enter clinics.

    On Monday [23 April?], in response to protests, Ealing council in west London became the first local authority to apply a public spaces protection order (PSPO) for the area around a Marie Stopes clinic to protect women from distress and intimidation.

    Campaigners, MPs and councillors say a safe zone is necessary after women entering the clinic were called murderers and shown photographs of foetuses. The plan was unanimously approved […].

    […]

    [… O]n the first day of the official safe zone, just a few individuals were present, standing about 100 yards away — the closest they can be — from the clinic on a small patch of grass.

    One of those who remained, Ed, said the PSPO would not stop him from attending vigils. I am here to defy when required, he said, describing the order as a violation of human rights. [oh good grief! –blf]

    […]

    [A public affairs and advocacy manager at British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), Rachael] Clarke said American influence had increased the size, frequency and persistence of abortion clinic protests.

    “The four large groups are the Good Counsel Network, who have personally said that they use the US tactics of pavement counselling, which means approaching and attempting to waylay women as they enter clinics; Abort67, whose parent organisation is the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform [bingo! –blf], which is run by an ex-Republican politician who has come over to train their activists{…} This spread of tactics is deeply worrying,” she said.

    […]

    (My mouse battery seems to have been waylaid, so it’s going into the recharger and I’m off to dinner.)

  37. says

    “Robert Mueller Likely Knows How This All Ends”:

    …5. Mueller likely already knows how this story ends. Add up the four above points and it seems clear that Mueller might actually be relatively close to wrapping up the investigation. Given that the FBI raid on Michael Cohen’s office, stemming from an investigation by federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York, was sure to provoke a reaction from President Trump—the investigative equivalent of kicking a hornet’s nest—it seems likely that Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who approved the raid, understood that one or both of them might be fired by the president in its wake. It seems likely that before they took such a provocative step on the case that they could see their way through to the investigation’s end.

    Of note: Mark Warner, in the interview here, said that not only can he not put a date on the end of the Senate Intel investigation but that they have more open lines of inquiry now than they did 8 or 9 months ago. He also said they have a plan in place for the event that Mueller or Rosenstein is fired.

  38. says

    This part of the article @ #52 above is misleading: “And Dreeban’s work has paid obvious dividends: After reviewing the evidence in Manafort’s effort to dismiss the charges against him and Mueller’s highly detailed 282-page rebuttal, Judge Amy Berman Jackson told Manafort’s lawyers, ‘I don’t really understand what is left of your case’.” This is from her order in the civil case, which was decided on different grounds. The criminal challenge is still pending (though highly unlikely to go Manafort’s way).

  39. says

    Oh, FFS. Here’s yet another look behind the curtain at Team Trump. To read this article by Jonathan Blitzer is to despair. The article actually begins in the Obama administration, with a shocking look at Jeff Sessions before he became Attorney General.

    In the fall of 2015, when Jeff Sessions […] was still a senator from Alabama, he attended a meeting at which officials from different government agencies discussed how many refugees they planned to admit in the coming year. It was an annual gathering, mandated by the Refugee Act of 1980, and Sessions had been invited as a member of the Senate subcommittee on immigration. Roughly twenty other people were in attendance, including representatives from the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Health and Human Services.

    The Obama Administration had proposed accepting eighty-five thousand refugees, and the matter was set to go to Congress for a final consultation that was typically pro forma. Sessions, however, had an objection. “We are a Christian nation,” he said, according to several people who were present. “We should only be accepting Christian refugees.” A Justice Department spokesperson denied this, telling me that the comment “doesn’t sound anything like him,” but, a few weeks after the meeting, Sessions expressed a similar sentiment on the floor of the Senate. “Bringing in a large, unassimilated flow of migrants from the Muslim world creates the conditions possible for radicalization and extremism to take hold,” he said. […]

    Since Trump took office, the number of Muslim refugees who have been admitted to the United States has fallen by ninety-one per cent. […] Last fall, the Administration slashed the refugee cap to its lowest level in more than three decades—forty-five thousand. At the current pace, the government is expected to resettle fewer than half that number. Between October, 2017, and late January, 2018, only thirty-four Syrian refugees and eighty-one Iraqis were granted entry to the U.S. (During an equivalent period the previous year, those numbers were each about four thousand seven hundred.) […]

    The Trump Administration hasn’t simply curtailed the numbers; it has made a show of doing so. […]

    when the Administration lowered the refugee cap, some of the strongest objections came from the Department of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and members of the intelligence community. One way that the U.S. military strengthens international alliances is by helping to address humanitarian needs in and around crisis zones. That means honoring agreements to protect foreigners who have risked their lives to support American troops, in places like Iraq. There is currently a backlog of fifty-eight thousand Iraqis who have helped U.S. ground forces in some fashion and remain at risk of being targeted as a result.. […]

    New Yorker link

    Much more at the link.

  40. says

    Kaitlan Collins:

    Wow. Rod Rosenstein just now to @LauraAJarrett: “I can tell you that there have been people who have been making threats privately and publicly against me for quite some time and I think they should understand by now the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted.”

    This was in response to a question about the articles of impeachment that House Freedom Caucus members have reportedly drafted.

  41. says

    “All the best people.” Pence is hanging out with some of the worst people … again.

    Today Vice President Mike Pence, who has been doing his level best to dodge being seen as the sort of extremist who would partner with Donald J. Trump to unwind American civil rights and public norms, is appearing at a fundraiser for America First Policies, a pro-Trump “nonprofit” whose most prominent voice was recently outed by reporters as a loudmouth with a history of “racist, sexist, anti-Muslim and anti-gay remarks,” and as a far-right radio host.

    Link

    From CNN:

    Higbie said on his radio show in 2013 and 2014 that “the black race” has “a lax of morality” and that black women “think that breeding is a form of employment.” Higbie also said, “I believe wholeheartedly, wholeheartedly, that the black race as a whole, not totally, is lazier than the white race, period.” […]

    On Twitter Sunday, Higbie said he stood by comments he had made that 75% of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder were faking it. He later deleted that tweet and wrote instead, “I deleted my post on #veterans and #PTSD not because I backed away from it but b/c it is hard to articulate the depth of the issue in 200 or so characters.”

    More background info that shows Pence knows what he is doing. This is not ignorance on his part:

    The vice president can’t claim he doesn’t know ex-Navy SEAL Carl Higbie’s history perfectly well; Higbie resigned from his Trump-appointed administration post last January due to these very revelations. Nonetheless, Pence and the Trump administration continue to embrace him, and Pence continues to fundraise for Higbie’s group. […]

    Because if there’s anything we’ve learned from Mike Pence, the Holiest man in the White House, is that he knows nothin’ about nothin’, when the chips are down. He has had his head in a sack for the entire duration of the administration, […]

    And tonight, he’ll be raising funds for one of those far-right figures. Again. As he has, repeatedly. It’s enough to make a person wonder what kind of person Mike Pence really is.

  42. says

    In today’s EPA news:

    Scott Pruitt’s head of security resigned last night, just before his interview tomorrow with the House Oversight Committee.”

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Head of EPA announces two top aides leaving agency amid ethics investigations.”

    WaPo: “Lobbyist helped arrange Scott Pruitt’s $100,000 trip to Morocco”:

    A controversial trip to Morocco by Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt last December was partly arranged by a longtime friend and lobbyist, who accompanied Pruitt and his entourage at multiple stops and served as an informal liaison at both official and social events during the visit.

    Richard Smotkin, a former Comcast lobbyist who has known the EPA administrator for years, worked for months with Pruitt’s aides to hammer out logistics, according to four individuals familiar with those preparations. In April, Smotkin won a $40,000-a-month contract, retroactive to Jan. 1, with the Moroccan government to promote the kingdom’s cultural and economic interests. He recently registered as a foreign agent representing that government.

    The four-day journey has drawn scrutiny from lawmakers and the EPA inspector general, who is investigating its high costs and whether it adhered to the agency’s mission to “protect human health and the environment.”

    Information obtained by The Washington Post shows the visit’s cost exceeded $100,000, more than twice what has been previously reported — including $16,217 for Pruitt’s Delta airfare and $494 for him to spend one night at a luxury hotel in Paris. He was accompanied by eight staffers and his round-the-clock security detail.

    Smotkin’s role in arranging the whirlwind visit was highly unusual, ethics experts say, and raises many questions. Federal laws prohibit public officials from using government resources to financially benefit friends, relatives or other people with whom they have personal connections….

  43. says

    It’s strange how some people are reading this Bornstein story. Schiller is a thug, and he had other people, including the Trump Org. lawyer, with him when he showed up unannounced at Bornstein’s office. He was also working for the White House. Obviously Bornstein felt intimidated at the time and afterwards.

    When Martha Mitchell told reporter Helen Thomas about the involvement of Nixon’s re-election committee in the Watergate break-in, one of his thugs ripped the phone out of the wall, beat her up, and had her forcibly tranquilized and detained, after which she was smeared in the press. Naturally, that thug came to be *checks notes* the current ambassador to the Czech Republic.

  44. says

    Breaking: President Trump dictated 2015 letter his doctor wrote declaring him the “healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency” says letter’s author Dr. Harold Bornstein. ‘He dictated that whole letter. I didn’t write that letter’, Bornstein told CNN’s @MarquardtA”

  45. says

    Natasha Bertrand: “Can you *imagine* what the right’s reaction would be if it came out that Obama or Clinton had, during an election, dictated a letter about their health to their personal doctor who then released it knowing it was at best incomplete or, at worst, false. Can. you. imagine.”

    Sam Stein: “For real, the public does have some right to know the health of their presidential candidates before voting on them. It’s no small matter. And Trump deprived voters of that right. It’s pretty astonishing.”

  46. says

    “Trump Lawyers Said to Lack Security Clearance Amid Mueller Talks”:

    Donald Trump’s current team of lawyers lacks the security clearances needed to discuss sensitive issues related to a possible presidential interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, according to two people familiar with the matter.

    Trump’s former lead lawyer John Dowd had been the only member of the president’s personal legal team with a security clearance, the people said. When Dowd quit in March over disagreements with Trump on legal strategy, Jay Sekulow became the lead lawyer on the investigation and is still waiting for his clearance.*

    Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer handling requests from Mueller, has a security clearance. But Cobb’s role is to represent the office of the presidency, not Trump personally, and he hasn’t been directly involved in discussions with Mueller about an interview….

    * Is Sekulow’s “nonprofit” still under investigation in North Carolina and New York?

  47. says

    Luke Harding – “Founder of pro-Brexit think​tank has link with Russian intelligence, says MP”:

    A Conservative MP has claimed that a billionaire who founded an influential pro-Brexit thinktank has “a link with Russian intelligence”.

    In a speech made in the Commons under parliamentary privilege, Bob Seely alleged that Christopher Chandler had been an “object of interest” to French intelligence. Chandler, who founded the Legatum thinktank, rejected the claim as “complete nonsense”.

    Seely said that he and four other MPs had seen documents from Monaco’s security department. These “brief, terse, factual files” related to “national security and money laundering” and included information supplied by the DST intelligence agency, France’s equivalent of MI5.

    The MP said senior French intelligence sources plus their British and American counterparts had “authenticated” their content. He added: “The documents indicated a link – a noted individual in this country – with Russian intelligence.”

    The files dated from 2005 and covered a period from the mid-1990s, he said. They concerned “Christopher Chandler and his brother”, the MP said, adding that he was convinced the files were genuine.

    He told the Commons: “According to the French intelligence services, as recorded by their colleagues in Monaco … Mr Chandler is described as having been ‘an object of interest’ to the DST since 2002 on suspicion of working for Russian intelligence services.”

    Monaco intelligence division had marked Chandler’s file with an S, to indicate “counter-espionage”, he added….

    More at the link.

  48. says

    “Teachers unions say notorious Project Veritas targeting them—including in NM”:

    …Bernstein could only speculate as to why Project Veritas would include an Albuquerque union in its latest string of sting attempts. But she believes it is part of a wider attempt to discredit unions.

    “In the grand scheme of things, this is a point in our country’s history where people with a lot of money are trying to get rid of unions that represent people who are working and don’t have much money,” she said.

    Bernstein said she felt “very victimized.”

    “[When] you hear about people who do things for the wrong reason and you say, ‘Wow, that’s evil,’” she said. “But when evil visits you and then gets on you, it really brings it to light what’s happening right now in this country to take down unions.”

    Full story and context at the link.

  49. says

    “Ukraine, Seeking U.S. Missiles, Halted Cooperation With Mueller Investigation”:

    In the United States, Paul J. Manafort is facing prosecution on charges of money laundering and financial fraud stemming from his decade of work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.

    But in Ukraine, where officials are wary of offending President Trump, not so much. There, four meandering cases that involve Mr. Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, have been effectively frozen by Ukraine’s chief prosecutor.

    The cases are just too sensitive for a government deeply reliant on United States financial and military aid, and keenly aware of Mr. Trump’s distaste for the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into possible collusion between Russia and his campaign, some lawmakers say.

    The decision to halt the investigations by an anticorruption prosecutor was handed down at a delicate moment for Ukraine, as the Trump administration was finalizing plans to sell the country sophisticated anti-tank missiles, called Javelins.

    The State Department issued an export license for the missiles on Dec. 22, and on March 2 the Pentagon announced final approval for the sale of 210 Javelins and 35 launching units. The order to halt investigations into Mr. Manafort came in early April.

    In another move seeming to hinder Mr. Mueller’s investigation, Ukrainian law enforcement allowed a potential witness to possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to leave for Russia, putting him out of reach for questioning.

    The special counsel’s office has identified the man, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, Mr. Manafort’s former office manager in Kiev, as tied to a Russian intelligence agency. Mr. Kilimnik was also under investigation in Ukraine over espionage, but no charges were filed before he left the country, sometime after June. During the 2016 campaign, Mr. Kilimnik met twice with Mr. Manafort. In December, a court filing in the United States said Mr. Kilimnik was “currently based in Russia.”

    David Sakvarelidze, a former deputy prosecutor general who is now in the political opposition, said he did not believe that the general prosecutor had coordinated with anybody in the United States on the decision to suspend the investigations in Ukraine, or that there had been a quid pro quo for the missile sale.

    Ukrainian politicians, he said, concluded on their own that any help prosecuting Mr. Manafort could bring down Mr. Trump’s wrath….

    Much more at the link. Distressing.

  50. says

    “Mueller raised possibility of presidential subpoena in meeting with Trump’s legal team”:

    In a tense meeting in early March with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, President Trump’s lawyers insisted he had no obligation to talk with federal investigators probing Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

    But Mueller responded that he had another option if Trump declined: He could issue a subpoena for the president to appear before a grand jury, according to four people familiar with the encounter.

    Mueller’s warning — the first time he is known to have mentioned a possible subpoena to Trump’s legal team — spurred a sharp retort from John Dowd, then the president’s lead lawyer.

    “This isn’t some game,” Dowd said, according to two people with knowledge of his comments. “You are screwing with the work of the president of the United States.”

    The flare-up set in motion weeks of turmoil among Trump’s attorneys as they debated how to deal with the special counsel’s request for an interview, a dispute that ultimately led to Dowd’s resignation.

    In the wake of the testy March 5 meeting, Mueller’s team agreed to provide the president’s lawyers with more specific information about the subjects that prosecutors wished to discuss with the president. With those details in hand, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow compiled a list of 49 questions that the team believed the president would be asked, according to three of the four people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly….

    For his part, Trump fumed when he saw the breadth of the questions that emerged out of the talks with Mueller’s team, according to two White House officials.

    The president and several advisers now plan to point to the list as evidence that Mueller has strayed beyond his mandate and is overreaching, they said.

    “He wants to hammer that,” according to a person who spoke to Trump on Monday.*

    Trump’s anger over the Cohen raids spilled into nearly every conversation in the days that followed and continues to be a sore point for the president. One confidant said Trump seems to “talk about it 20 times a day.” Other associates said they often stay silent, in person or on the phone, as he vents about the Cohen matter, knowing there is little they can say….

    * He’s at it already today.

  51. says

    SC @73, I like Rosenstein’s laugh.

    To all of the reporting up-thread about Dr. Harold Bornstein, I’ll just add that Sarah Huckabee Sanders described the whole send-your-bodyguard-to-steal-medical-records episode as “standard operating procedure.”

    Q: Why did Keith Schiller, who was a White House employee at the time, go and take medical records from the president’s personal doctor last year?

    SANDERS: As is standard operating procedure for a new president, the White House Medical Unit took possession of the president’s medical records.

  52. says

    Mike Pence went to Arizona yesterday to make a speech at an America First Policies meeting. While he was there, Pence said this:

    I just found out as I was walking through the door that we’re also going to be joined today by another favorite: a great friend of this president, a tireless champion of strong borders and the rule of law who spent a lifetime in law enforcement, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, I’m honored to have you here.

    From Steve Benen:

    […] In case anyone’s forgotten – indeed, in case the vice president has forgotten – Joe Arpaio was accused of flagrant civil rights violations, and when a court ordered him to stop, the Arizonan ignored the instructions. Arpaio was ultimately found guilty of criminal contempt – before Donald Trump abused his pardon power and shielded Arpaio from being held accountable.

    The former sheriff is now a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate.

    Pence may like Arpaio, and may even agree with his right-wing vision and racist conspiracy theories, but to praise Arpaio for being a “tireless champion” of “the rule of law” suggests the vice president defines the phrase in disheartening ways. […]

  53. says

    This op-ed by Chris Hayes gets to the heart of the “law and order” issue, and neatly reveals Team Trump’s twisted view of “law and order”:

    […] If all that matters when it comes to “law and order” is who is a friend and who is an enemy, and if friends are white and enemies are black or Latino or in the wrong party, then the rhetoric around crime and punishment stops being about justice and is merely about power and corruption.

    And this is what “law and order” means: the preservation of a certain social order, not the rule of law. It shouldn’t have taken this long to see what has always been staring us in the face. After all, the last president to focus so intensely on law and order, Richard Nixon, the man who helped usher in mass incarceration, was also the most infamous criminal to occupy the Oval Office. The history of the United States is the story of a struggle between the desire to establish certain universal rights and the countervailing desire to preserve a particular social order.

    We are now witnessing a president who wholly embraces the latter. America can have that kind of social order, or it can have justice for all. But it can’t have both.

    New York Times link

  54. says

    In reference to the last link in SC’s comment 74, here is the Joe Digenova rant from which Trump was quoting:

    The questions are an intrusion into the president’s Article II powers under the Constitution to fire any executive branch employee. To ask questions, as Mr. Mueller apparently proposes to do, about what the President was thinking when he fired Comey or Flynn or anybody else is an outrageous, sophomoric, juvenile intrusion into the president’s unfettered power to fire anyone in the executive branch.

  55. says

    Oh, FFS. It looks like Kansas taxpayers are going to pay Kris Kobach’s legal fees.

    Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) will use taxpayer money to pay the costs associated with being held in contempt by a federal court for failing to register eligible voters.

    […] state lawmakers abandoned an effort during negotiations over the state budget to force Kobach to pay for the contempt order with his own money, rather than state funds. […]

    Last month, a Kansas federal judge found that Kobach, a candidate for Kansas governor this year, acted “disingenuously” and failed to follow the court’s previous order requiring him to register voters who had not shown documentary proof of citizenship. The American Civil Liberties Union claimed in court that the requirement was unlawful and disenfranchised eligible voters. […]

    The contempt order came after an eight-day trial in which Kobach’s effort to defend his documentary proof of citizenship law turned into a comedy of errors. Throughout the trial, Judge Robinson repeatedly chastised Kobach and his team of lawyers for violating basic rules of evidence and civil procedure. Instead of being represented by the state attorney general, Kobach chose to defend his law himself. […]

    Judge Robinson has not yet issued a final ruling in the litigation. When she does, taxpayers could be on the hook for even more fines against Kobach.

    Link

  56. says

    NEW: DOJ has just confirmed, in the context of ongoing FOIA litigation, that the FBI did not locate any records memorializing investigations into unauthorized leaks to Rudy Giuliani during the 2016 campaign.

    So I don’t know what happened to the directive issued by @Comey but…”

    Side question: does that include the IG investigation?

  57. says

    SANDERS: As is standard operating procedure for a new president, the White House Medical Unit took possession of the president’s medical records.

    Not only is this an insultingly ludicrous claim, but it draws more attention to the fact that Ronny Jackson was embroiled in this fiasco.

  58. says

    Racist woman loves guns and is a National Rifle Association board member.

    In a hagiographic video series titled “Armed and Fabulous” on the National Rifle Association website, the gun group touts Sandy Froman, a current board member and past president, noting that “her illustrious career has established her as not just part of the American gun culture but as an integral thread in the fabric of firearms history.”

    The video, one of several sponsored by Smith & Wesson highlighting “NRA Women,” celebrates Froman’s career as a lawyer, her hobby of making chainmaille jewelry, and her years of advocating gun ownership for women. She once declared, “I love guns—never met one I didn’t like.”

    The video plays up what seems to be an anomaly, quoting Froman saying, “I am often asked how a Jewish woman, a native of San Francisco, and a graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law became president of the NRA.” But the video leaves out an intriguing piece of her past: When she was at those prestigious schools, she helped controversial Stanford University professor William Shockley, a Nobel Prize winning physicist, as he promoted his theory that blacks were genetically inferior to whites.

    […] In a September 1973 conversation, Froman and Shockley discussed the possibility of Shockley debating his ideas on black genetic inferiority at Harvard […] the debate never took place at Harvard, after faculty members and the Harvard Black Students Association protested. […]

    When a Mother Jones reporter informed her of the tape recordings of her talks with Shockley and read her quotes from these conversations indicating she had done more than merely type his papers, she remarked, “I have no recollection of any of this. It’s just too long ago.” She then ended the interview, […]

    Link

  59. says

    So, Kanye West went to the TMZ newsroom to talk about Trump. While he was there, Kanye said this:

    When you hear about slavery for 400 years, for 400 years? That’s sound like a choice. You were there for 400 years, and it’s all of y’all? We’re mentally in prison.

    From Edwin Rios:

    […] In the last week, Kanye has drawn praise from conservatives—and the president himself—for the rapper’s support for commentators like Candace Owens and for doubling down in his praise of Trump.

    When Kanye asked the newsroom whether he was thinking freely, TMZ employee Van Lathan stood up and gave the rapper the real talk he needed.

    “I actually don’t think you are thinking anything,” he said, adding: “While you are making music and being an artist and living the life that you’ve earned by being a genius, the rest of us in society have to deal with these threats to our lives. We have to deal with the marginalization that has come from the 400 years of slavery that you said for our people was a choice.” Kanye rolled up to the employee and said, “bro, I’m sorry I hurt you,” as the clip trails off. […]Link

  60. says

    Mike Pompeo had been on TV talking about regime change (sort of) in North Korea. Pompeo said, “I’m sure the North Korean people would love to see him go.” I don’t think talking openly about deposing Kim Jong-un will help will it comes to negotiating peace, or negotiating an end to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

    Link

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday he still believes what he said last July, when he told a security forum that he was sure the North Korean people “would love to see [Kim Jong-un] go.” […]

    Towards the end of the interview, Pompeo was asked about a comment he made at the Aspen Security Forum last summer, when the question of “regime change” came up.

    “As for the regime,” Pompeo told the event in Colorado, “I am hopeful we will find a way to separate that regime from this [nuclear and ballistic missile] system.

    “The North Korean people I’m sure are lovely people and would love to see him go as well,” he added. “As you might know, they don’t live a very good life there.” […]

  61. says

    Another threat from Trump:

    A Rigged System – They don’t want to turn over Documents to Congress. What are they afraid of? Why so much redacting? Why such unequal “justice?” At some point I will have no choice but to use the powers granted to the Presidency and get involved!

    Trump is threatening the Justice Department. His comments indicate that he bought into the propaganda being pushed by the House Freedom Caucus, (the group that recently drafted articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.)

    From Jordan Fabian:

    […] a series of charges against Rosenstein, including that he broke federal law by refusing to comply with a congressional subpoena for records related to FBI surveillance during the 2016 election and has slow-walked materials to lawmakers investigating possible misconduct at the department.

    Republicans have accused the FBI of improperly surveilling Trump associates during the election, including campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page. Federal officials have said the surveillance warrant was properly approved by Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

    Rosenstein fired back at the latest threats during a Tuesday speech, joking that Republicans in Congress “can’t even resist leaking their own drafts.”

    “I just don’t have anything to say about documents like that that nobody has the courage to put their name on and they leak in that way,” he added.

    “There have been people who have been making threats privately and publicly against me for quite some time, and I think they should understand by now the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted,” Rosenstein said. […]

  62. says

    What did the Korean leaders talk about on those park benches? Trump, mainly.

    What exactly were the two Korean leaders talking about for that half-hour they spent sitting on park benches in the sunshine during their summit last Friday?

    Well, we don’t exactly know, but thanks to some South Korean lip-readers and some news-hungry media outlets, we have some clues.

    It seems that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in spent a fair bit of time talking about President Trump and about nuclear weapons.

    The Japanese television channel NTV got a South Korean lip-reading expert to analyze the conversation that Moon and Kim had as they walked along a blue footbridge and sat at the end of it. Cameras were filming from too far away to pick up any words. […]

  63. says

    From Josh Marshall:

    […] I remain highly interested in yesterday’s story about Dr. Harold Bornstein and what he describes as a “raid” at his medical practice in early February of last year. […] I suspect will have more consequential legal fall-out. I[…] But here are some key points for now.

    […] Yes, Trump should have signed a written release. But in practice, Trump as the notional victim of a privacy violation would have to make a claim. (In theory maybe not; in practice, almost certainly.) That’s not going to happen. After all, these were his own henchman doing the bad act.

    […] Regardless of HIPAA, the original medical records are unquestionably Dr. Bornstein’s property. As a patient, you have rights to get copies of your medical records. You have a sort of ownership right to the information contained in those records. You have various privacy rights controlling the distribution of those records. But the original records themselves belong to the clinician, i.e., Dr. Bornstein. Indeed, the clinician has certain affirmative responsibilities to maintain those records for a period of time […] under New York State law.

    […] They [Trump’s henchmen] took the records without permission and actually managed the encounter like a raid – shoving their way into the office, pushing a patient out of the way, etc. A quote from the CNN story: “They barged through the back door, terrified the secretary, pushed aside the patient.”

    […] The one running this encounter was Keith Schiller, the President’s longtime bodyguard. Schiller had a reputation for doing lots of unsavory things for the President. But during this incident, he was a government employee. He’d been given the job of “Director of Oval Office Operations” at the White House […] That status puts his actions in a different light, possibly with different legal implications. Alan Garten, a Trump Organization attorney was also there. So was an unidentified “large man”. Who was he? Another government employee? Trump Organization muscle?

    […] Bornstein claims discussing that [telling the NY Times about Trumpt using Propecia] was no big deal. That’s wrong. It may seem trivial. But it’s a medically prescribed drug. Whether or not Bornstein formally broke HIPAA regs, certainly he fell short of his ethical responsibilities to his patient.

    […] It seems at least worth asking whether Schiller et al. were trying to take possession of documents because they no longer trusted Bornstein.

    The big story here is that the President sent a government employee, in some sense under cover of the law, at least carrying the force of the state behind him, to seize a private citizens property. That’s a big deal, considerably bigger than a small-time theft. It even brings into play issues that were raised in the Articles of Impeachment drawn up in the House of Representatives against President Nixon. […]

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/prime-beta/the-bornstein-case-strikes-me-as-a-really-big-deal

  64. Pierce R. Butler says

    A quibble: The “CNN” link in Lynna, OM’s # 60 actually goes (as the phrasing in the second quoted passage strongly indicates) to dailykos.com.

    That said, I must add that this thread, and Lynna, OM’s parts in it, absolutely excel as a news venue.

  65. says

    Thanks, Pierce @90. Sorry for the incorrect link. I’ve made that mistake before: read a CNN article, but post the link for a different source. Sigh.

    In other news, with Ty Cobb retiring, it looks like Trump’s legal team will be even more aggressive when it comes to NOT cooperating with the Mueller investigation. I sense a court battle coming up over subpoena power, over the extent of executive privilege, etc.

  66. says

    From SC’s link in comment 71:

    David Sakvarelidze, a former deputy prosecutor general who is now in the political opposition, said he did not believe that the general prosecutor had coordinated with anybody in the United States on the decision to suspend the investigations in Ukraine, or that there had been a quid pro quo for the missile sale.

    Ukrainian politicians, he said, concluded on their own that any help prosecuting Mr. Manafort could bring down Mr. Trump’s wrath….

    Josh Marshall thought that the Ukrainian officials ending their cooperation with Muller, (and suspending investigations of Manafort), looked suspicious.

    […] The precise nature of Ukraine’s cooperation to date is murky. In January a Ukrainian prosecutor sent Mueller’s office a formal offer of cooperation to which he apparently didn’t receive a reply. This was a couple months before the kibosh got put on all Manafort related matters. Likely more important than formal cooperation is halting all their own investigations. What’s striking is that members of the Ukraine government are quite open about their motivations. A Ukrainian parliamentarian who is an ally of the President Poroshenko told the Times: “In every possible way, we will avoid irritating the top American officials. We shouldn’t spoil relations with the administration.” Another member of Parliament told the Times, “Everybody is afraid of this case.”

    No one in the article says the administration demanded or suggested an explicit quid pro quo. But I’m not sure one was necessary. The Ukraine government could see as easily as anyone else can that anyone seen to be assisting Robert Mueller becomes President Trump’s enemy. And they are in desperate need of his being a friend. Weapons sales are critical. But they need the U.S. to at least keep some counter-pressure on Russia against the proxy war it is fighting in the eastern part of the country.

    We are usually in the habit – for good reason – of not assuming things we don’t know (an explicit quid pro quo). That is especially the case when the facts on offer don’t require it. As I said, if you were the Ukraine government, stuck with a deep dependence on President Trump, would you be cooperating with Mueller?

    This is yet another example where Trump’s consistent attacks on the rule of law in the U.S. yield tangible benefits on numerous fronts. At a minimum, these threats have communicated to the Ukraine government that they should not provide any assistance to Mueller’s probe if they want any support from the President of the United States

    […] everything we’ve learned about Trump and his associates militates against a cautious assumption: much more likely that the President or those working on his behalf did tell Ukraine to shut down their Manafort probes. He always exceeds our good faith assumptions about the scope of his dishonesty and corruption.

    Is this true about the Ukraine decision specifically? I have no idea. Likely? Probably so. If not, he told them all they needed to know on Twitter.

  67. says

    Bad news: it looks like anti-abortion forces in Iowa have won a major battle.

    Republican lawmakers with control of the Iowa statehouse fast-tracked a bill early Wednesday that would ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually around six weeks of pregnancy, sending what could be the nation’s most restrictive abortion legislation to the governor. […]

    The measure was passed with nearly back-to-back chamber votes along party lines, culminating in approval in the Senate chamber shortly after 2 a.m. The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, who is anti-abortion but hasn’t said publicly if she will sign it into law. Her press secretary, Brenna Smith, indicated in an email the Republican was open to signing it.

    “Governor Reynolds is 100 percent pro-life and will never stop fighting for the unborn,” Smith said. […]

    NBC News link

    The Iowa bill does include exceptions for maternal health, rape, and incest; however, those exceptions won’t be enough to shield the bill from being found unconstitutional.

    […] If passed, the legislation could face challenges claiming it violates U.S. Supreme Court rulings, including Roe v. Wade. Some Republicans say they want the bill to abolish the landmark 1973 ruling that says women have a right to terminate pregnancies until a fetus is viable.

    “I would love for the United States Supreme Court to look at this bill and have this as a vehicle to overturn Roe v. Wade,” said Sen. Jake Chapman, a Republican from Adel. […]

    Man oh man, we certainly do not need to see a second appointee to the Supreme Court from the Trump administration.

  68. says

    Not sad to see Cambridge Analytica shutting down, but I am suspicious. How meaningful is the shutdown? Is this just preparation for starting a new business that does basically the same kind of thing, (misuse private data for political purposes), under a different name?

    […] According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, both Cambridge Analytica and its British affiliate, SCL Group, are to close.

    The shutdown is because of a loss of clients and also legal fees related to the investigation into its use of Facebook data. […]

    Politico link

  69. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Welcome to Oxbridge Analytica. We’ve changed the name, but the creepy invasion of privacy and crappy politics are the same!

  70. says

    Lynna @ #86:

    Trump is threatening the Justice Department. His comments indicate that he bought into the propaganda being pushed by the House Freedom Caucus, (the group that recently drafted articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.)

    I think they’re working together with Trump and Fox in a coordinated way (Trump’s very stupid, but he’s crafty and devious when it comes to self-advancement and self-protection).

    In related news, 18 of the pathetic House nitwits just nominated him for a Nobel prize. (I suspect he had plants in the crowd start the “No-bel!” chants at the rally last weekend.)

  71. says

    Jim Acosta:

    Source familiar with Cobb’s departure says WH lawyer had been clashing with Trump in recent weeks: “Ty was uncomfortable with the Mueller tweets…” and was not going to be “part of a mud slinging campaign.” Cobb made it clear to POTUS, legal team he “can’t go down that path.”

  72. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @What a Maroon #98:

    With apologies to SC, surely [ this ] is the tweet of the day.

    (Fixed the link)

  73. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    * The link was missing “https:” at the beginning (just two slashes) and ended with a slanty double quote.
     
    When the thread is viewed normally (going to the article), the link works. The destination gets mangled in the comments feed, however.
     
    Hm… okay, that likely only affected me.
     
    My feed-reading chrome extension got confused by the missing protocol. Leading with two slashes normally implies, “just use whatever protocol you’re at currently.” Extensions have a special “chrome-extension:” protocol instead of “https:”. Weirdly, it replaced the hostname with “freethoughtblogs” instead of twitter!

  74. says

    “Michael Caputo says ‘it’s clear’ Mueller investigators focused on Russia collusion”:

    After being interviewed by special counsel investigators on Wednesday, former aide to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign Michael Caputo told CNN that Robert Mueller’s team is “focused on Russia collusion.”

    “It’s clear they are still really focused on Russia collusion,” Caputo said, adding, “They know more about the Trump campaign than anyone who ever worked there.”

    Caputo, who advised the Trump campaign on communications in 2016, has long insisted he has no information about collusion between Trump’s team and Russia. He spoke with Senate intelligence investigators on Tuesday for their Russia probe and outlined the differences between Congress’ inquiries and the special counsel’s.

    “The Senate and the House are net fishing,” Caputo said. “The special counsel is spearfishing. They know what they are aiming at and are deadly accurate.”

    Caputo lived and worked in Russia in the 1990s and later did business with Russian companies, including Gazprom, the Kremlin-controlled energy giant. As a Republican consultant, Caputo worked with Trump adviser Roger Stone and Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman. He denies any wrongdoing regarding Russia. Caputo is a longtime ally of Stone’s, a close associate of Trump who has come under scrutiny in the Russian investigation because of Stone’s contacts with WikiLeaks during the campaign….

    Caputo, up until virtually the moment when Gates pleaded, insisted it was not happening and would never happen.

    Anyone involved in the Trump campaign who doesn’t hear this at this point is a fool.

  75. Hj Hornbeck says

    The chaser, from Robert Costa:

    Giuliani tells me he just spoke w / POTUS. Tonight by phone. President “very pleased,” Giuliani says. He says they discussed his revelation of the reimbursements long in advance. Does not expect to be fired. Insists his remarks on FNC were approved by Trump. Story TK.

  76. says

    “Trump Assails Justice Dept., Siding With House Conservatives in Dispute”:

    …Distrust between Mr. Rosenstein and Congress has been building over months. In recent weeks, he has made significant gestures to release documents demanded by prominent congressmen, only to be threatened with impeachment by lawmakers from the far-right.

    Officials at the department believe that the conservatives have now gone too far with document requests related to continuing investigations that the lawmakers clearly do not support, including the inquiry led by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into Russia’s election interference. A former federal law enforcement official familiar with the department’s views said that Mr. Rosenstein and top F.B.I. officials have come to suspect that some lawmakers were using their oversight authority to gain intelligence about that investigation so that it could be shared with the White House.

    Mr. Rosenstein, aware of the threats against him, has taken unusual steps to try to meet the demands,…

    Those efforts have placated powerful Republican committee chairmen.

    After Representative Devin Nunes of California, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, threatened last month to hold Mr. Rosenstein in contempt of Congress or proceed with impeachment, Mr. Rosenstein gave him access to an almost completely unredacted F.B.I. memo on the opening of the Russia investigation and won his thanks.

    He reached an agreement last week with the two Republicans who run the committees that conduct oversight of the Justice Department, Representatives Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia and Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, to satisfy the last of their demands for documents related to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails and other decisions related to the Russia case.

    But those compromises may have only emboldened Mr. Trump’s fiercest allies, including Mr. Meadows, the chairman of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus, and Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, a former chairman of the caucus. In an unusual show of defiance, both men have insisted that the agreement with the chairmen of the House Judiciary and House Oversight committees is not good enough and that they need access to an unredacted version of an August 2017 memo outlining the scope of Mr. Mueller’s investigation.

    Mr. Rosenstein, who has already given the Republican lawmakers access to hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, has made clear in recent days that he does not intend to go further.

    On Monday, the Justice Department wrote to Mr. Meadows and Mr. Jordan to deny them access to the document about the scope of the Russia inquiry, citing department policy against sharing information on a continuing investigation.

    And on Tuesday, Mr. Rosenstein, reacting to reports that Mr. Meadows had drafted articles of impeachment to use against him if needed, pushed back hard….

  77. blf says

    US teacher of the year stages silent protest as Trump awards prize:

    Mandy Manning, who works with refugees and immigrants, wears Women’s March and trans equality pins at White House

    A teacher who leads a classroom for teenage refugees staged a silent protest by wearing several overtly political badges while receiving an award from Donald Trump at the White House.

    Mandy Manning works at the Newcomer Center at Joel E Ferris High School in Spokane, Washington, which specialises in English language development for new refugees and immigrant students.

    […]

    Manning wore six badges on her black dress. [… T]hey included one with a poster for the Women’s March that followed Trump’s inauguration, one that said “Trans Equality Now” and one in the shape of an apple with a rainbow.

    The badges also represented the teacher of the year programme, National Education Association and Peace Corps, where she began her teaching career.

    Handing her the clear glass, apple-shaped award on a podium, Trump did not appear to notice the badges. […]

    Congratulations to Ms Manning for her achievements. And also congratulations on protesting hair furor and teh dalekocracy.

    Yonks ago I did a similar protest. This was when ronaddled raygun’s “star wars” was actually being taken seriously by some. I attended a computer security conference, which I predicted from location and details of the subject matter would be crawling with military-types and spooks. So I wore a variety of tee-shirts (don’t militarize space, landsat not lasers, and on so, plus badges (military intelligence is an oxymoron, &tc)) — all from Greenpeace, as I now recall. I definitely got some frowns from people, including several uniformed military-types.

  78. blf says

    Not sad to see Cambridge Analytica shutting down, but I am suspicious. How meaningful is the shutdown? Is this just preparation for starting a new business that does basically the same kind of thing […]

    Bingo! From the Grauniad, Cambridge Analytica closing after Facebook data harvesting scandal:

    […]
    Although Cambridge Analytica might be dead, the team behind it has already set up a mysterious new company called Emerdata. According to Companies House data, [the suspended CEO of Cambridge Analytica] Alexander Nix is listed as a director along with other executives from SCL Group.[] The daughters of the billionaire Robert Mercer are also listed as directors.

    Damian Collins, chair of the British parliamentary committee looking into data breaches, expressed concern that Cambridge Analytica’s closure might hinder the investigation into the firm.

    […]

    According to the cited Business Insider article, The power players behind Cambridge Analytica have set up a mysterious new data company (link embedded in above excerpt):

    ● The power players behind Cambridge Analytica have set up a new company — and the daughters of Donald Trump-supporting billionaire Robert Mercer have just joined as directors.
    ● Rebekah and Jennifer Mercer joined Emerdata on March 16, but it is shrouded in mystery.
    ● Alexander Nix, the suspended CEO of Cambridge Analytica, is also a director[
    ], as well as other executives from parent firm SCL Group.
    ● Emerdata also lists Johnson Chun Shun Ko, a Chinese executive from Frontier Services Group, the military firm chaired by prominent Trump supporter Erik Prince [
    Blackwater & brother of US education secretary Betsy DeVos].
    […]

    According to public filings at Britain’s Companies House, Emerdata was incorporated in August 2017 […]

    […]

    It isn’t clear what Emerdata does, though the company is listed under “data processing, hosting, and related activities.” It shares an address in Canary Wharf with Cambridge Analytica’s parent, SCL Group.

    […]

    The Register adds Cambridge Analytica dismantled for good? Nope: It just changed its name to Emerdata:

    […]
    Though Cambridge Analytica said it is pulling the plug in the US and UK, there is already some indication that the outfit — which has a non-trivial organizational structure — is more or less just going to rebrand under a different banner.

    […]

    For instance, Dr Alexander Taylor was appointed a director of Emerdata on March 28. That’s Cambridge Analytica’s acting CEO and data wizard Dr Alexander Taylor. Julian Wheatland is an Emerdata director who is also a director within the SCL network of organizations.

    […]

    Emerdata was founded in mid-2017, but has been rather active since Cambridge Analytica hit the headlines earlier this year, including official filings as recent as yesterday [1-May-2018].

    So, it seems the shutdown may be less a business catastrophe than a marketing exercise.

    Caution: There is a company in Texas called EmerData, who very clearly have nothing to do with Cambridge Analytica, SCL, and so on: They are involved in building emergency/fire safety planning and similar, and have been in business since the 1980s.

      † According to Companies House data (see embedded link in The Register’s article (last excerpt above)), Alexander Nix resigned on 28 March.

  79. says

    Re #113, phrasing a tweet about the possible (!) release of USian hostages as a (failed) dig at Obama and closing with “Stay tuned!” is a beautiful touch, conveying real compassion for the hostages and their families and a true appreciation of the seriousness of the matter.

  80. says

    So if I’m recalling correctly, from what I’ve seen of the various interviews Giuliani has done over the past several hours, he’s:

    – admitted that Trump reimbursed Cohen for the payment to Daniels (I was confused about Hannity’s remark about a payment being funneled through a law firm, which Giuliani repeated, but it appears that Hannity was referring to Perkins Coie’s payment to Fusion GPS who paid Steele – that’s where he was trying to steer the interview, and didn’t know Giuliani was going to use it to try to get ahead of information that’s coming out of Cohen’s seized files)
    – admitted that the payment was campaign-related: “Imagine if this had come out on October 15th…,” “Cohen made it go away. He did his job.”
    – couldn’t answer a question about when Trump knew about the payment
    – alluded to other reimbursements to Cohen for “probably a few other situations that might have been campaign expenses”
    – said Trump fired Comey because Comey wouldn’t publicly say that Trump wasn’t under investigation, which is evidence of corrupt intent
    – couldn’t answer a question about why Cohen said he wasn’t reimbursed
    – suggested that Kushner could be investigated because men are “disposable,” but that everyone would turn against Mueller if he investigated Ivanka because she’s a “fine woman”

  81. says

    Follow-up to SC @117.

    Avenatti said this morning that he used to have a lot of respect for Giuliani (9/11 days, etc.), but that now Giuliani is past his prime. So is Trump. Together they are making quite a mess.

    Trump added to the mess at 4:46 AM today:

    Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA. These agreements are…..

    …very common among celebrities and people of wealth. In this case it is in full force and effect and will be used in Arbitration for damages against Ms. Clifford (Daniels). The agreement was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair,……

    …despite already having signed a detailed letter admitting that there was no affair. Prior to its violation by Ms. Clifford and her attorney, this was a private agreement. Money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll in this transaction.

    Avenatti noted that the above tweets were written by a lawyer who is not very smart.

  82. says

    MSNBC is reporting that the FBI tapped Cohen’s phone(s) weeks before they executed the search warrant. The tap picked up a call between Cohen and the White House.

  83. says

    Here’s the NBC story – “Feds tapped Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s phones”:

    Federal investigators have wiretapped the phone lines of Michael Cohen, the longtime personal lawyer for President Donald Trump who is under investigation for a payment he made to an adult film star who alleged she had an affair with Trump, according to two people with knowledge of the legal proceedings involving Cohen.

    It is not clear how long the wiretap has been authorized, but NBC News has learned it was in place in the weeks leading up to the raids on Cohen’s offices, hotel room, and home in early April, according to one person with direct knowledge.

    At least one phone call between a phone line associated with Cohen and the White House was intercepted, the person said.

    After the raid, members of Trump’s legal team advised the president not to speak to Cohen, according to a person familiar with the discussion.

    Two sources close to Trump’s newest attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, say he learned that days after the raid the president had made a call to Cohen, and told Trump never to call again out of concern the call was being recorded by prosecutors.

    Giuliani is also described as having warned Trump that Cohen is likely to flip on him, something Trump pushed back on, telling Giuliani that he has known Cohen for years and expects him to be loyal, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the conversations.

    The Cohen investigation is being led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan and the FBI. Investigators are looking into the $130,000 transaction between Cohen and adult film star Stormy Daniels, also known as Stephanie Clifford, who allegedly had an affair with Trump more than a decade ago, and a reported payment of $150,000 from American Media Inc., publishers of the National Enquirer, to a second woman who allegedly had an affair with Trump, Playboy model Karen McDougal.

    Investigators are also seeking information about the 2005″Access Hollywood” tape in which Donald Trump was heard making vulgar boasts about women….

  84. says

    “Special counsel Robert Mueller focusing sharply on links between Trump confidant Roger Stone and former campaign official Rick Gates, sources say”:

    Special counsel Robert Mueller is focusing intensely on alleged interactions between former top Trump campaign official Rick Gates and political operative Roger Stone, one of President Donald Trump’s closest confidants, according to sources with direct knowledge of the matter.

    Stone, a longtime advisor to Trump, is apparently one of the top subjects of the Mueller investigation into potential collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign, sources told CNBC on condition of anonymity.

    The questions have been largely about what was discussed at meetings, including dinners, between Stone and Gates, before and during the campaign, said the sources, who have knowledge of the substance of the recent interviews….

  85. says

    Preet Bharara: “Wiretaps are difficult to get. Applications require multiple layers of review, including by career lawyers in Washington, plus approval by a district court judge (not magistrate). Also they signify proof of an ongoing crime. And you don’t tap a President’s attorney lightly.”

  86. says

    From text quoted in SC’s comment 109:

    In recent weeks, he [Rosenstein] has made significant gestures to release documents demanded by prominent congressmen, only to be threatened with impeachment by lawmakers from the far-right.

    Right. This is an important point. No matter how much Rosenstein cooperates with requests from Congress, those Freedom Causus doofuses will continue to go after him. They’ll just find yet another way to impugn Rosenstein’s character/judgement and to push for his ouster. That’s their goal. It doesn’t have to make factual sense.

    In addition, I’ll reiterate the point that Rosenstein complying with earlier requests to release documents related to an ongoing investigation was decried as setting an unfortunate precedent, and/or it was criticized as just wrong.

  87. says

    “‘I was going to get this over with’: Inside Giuliani’s explosive Stormy Daniels revelation”:

    He may have had a strategy, but Rudolph W. Giuliani hatched it almost entirely in secret.

    The White House counsel had no idea. Neither did the White House chief of staff, nor the White House press secretary, nor the new White House lawyer overseeing its handling of the Russia investigation.

    They watched, agog, as Giuliani, the president’s recently installed personal attorney, freestyled on live television Wednesday night about the president’s legal troubles and unveiled an explosive new fact: that Trump reimbursed his longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, for the $130,000 paid to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels to ensure her silence about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump.

    Giuliani’s attempt to defuse a ticking time bomb exposed Trump’s failure to divulge the full story about the Daniels hush money by contradictory public statements from him and White House spokesmen. One month ago, Trump told reporters that he did not know about the payment to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, or where Cohen got the money to make it.

    Aides and advisers to the president — who were scrambling Thursday morning to manage the fallout of Giuliani’s interview with Sean Hannity, a Trump-friendly Fox News Channel host — expressed a mixture of exasperation and horror. One White House official texted a reporter a string of emoji characters in response, including a tiny container of popcorn.

    A second White House official, who like most others interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic, said of the president, “His story is obviously not consistent anymore.”

    Giuliani said in an interview with The Washington Post that he discussed the issue with Trump a few days ago and they agreed that he would reveal details about the reimbursement.

    “He was well aware that at some point when I saw the opportunity, I was going to get this over with,” Giuliani said.

    Neither White House counsel Donald McGahn nor Emmet Flood, the White House attorney recently hired to handle the Russia investigation, knew that Trump had reimbursed Cohen before Giuliani revealed it on television Wednesday night, according to a person familiar with their knowledge.

    McGahn and Flood also were not informed in advance of Giuliani’s plan to disclose the repayment information in his Fox interview, nor were other senior aides in the White House. The communications and press staff run by press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not book Giuliani’s appearance on Hannity’s show and were not involved in helping him strategize his talking points.

    Asked about White House officials being caught off guard by his disclosure, Giuliani told CNN on Thursday, “They were. There was no way they wouldn’t be. The president is my client. I don’t talk to them.”…

  88. says

    “Mueller Seeks 70 Blank Subpoenas in Manafort Case”:

    Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Thursday filed a request for 70 blank subpoenas in the Virginia court presiding over one of two criminal proceedings involving former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

    The two-page filing doesn’t offer much in the way of details, but each subpeona orders the recipient to appear at the federal courthouse in Alexandria on July 10 at 10 a.m. to testify in trial of Manafort on charges stemming from Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election….

  89. says

    blf @112, thanks for the additional information. Sometimes I wish my suspicions about rightwing dunderheads were not so easily and quickly confirmed. I don’t have even a shred left of confidence in their purported good intentions, nor in their integrity. Must they always prove me right by doing the next terrible thing? (Rhetorical question.)

    And the Mercer tie-in! JFC.

  90. says

    “House chaplain rescinds resignation after furor over his ouster by Ryan”:

    The Rev. Patrick J. Conroy, the House chaplain who announced his resignation under pressure last month, informed Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) Thursday that he wanted to rescind his offer and remain in his position at least through the end of this year.

    In a two-page letter, Conroy informed Ryan that he gave in to pressure from the speaker’s staff when he agreed in mid-April to resign, believing that Ryan had the power to fire him, but the chaplain now believes he was pressured into the resignation for lack of cause.

    “I have never been disciplined, nor reprimanded, nor have I ever heard a complaint about my ministry during my time as House chaplain,” Conroy wrote Thursday.

    Ryan’s aides were still waiting to fully read the letter and said the office would comment later Thursday.

  91. says

    SC @129, that is one great essay. It gets right to the point. Makes sense.

    I noticed that in interviews with Michael Avenatti this morning, other panel members pushed back on Avenatti’s insistence that the Cohen raid spells big trouble for Trump. The analysis to which you linked points at least part of the potential legal jeopardy right back at Trump.

  92. says

    A summary of sorts from Steve Benen:

    […] Giuliani was talking to Sean Hannity about the $130,000 hush-money payment that Michael Cohen, the president’s personal attorney, made to porn star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election. As part of his explanation about what transpired at the time, Giuliani added:

    “The settlement payment, which is a very regular thing for lawyers to do. The question there was, the only possible violation there would be: Was it a campaign-finance violation? Which usually results in a fine, by the way, not this big stormtroopers coming in and breaking down his apartment and breaking down his office.”

    […] it’s extremely unlikely that the FBI raided Michael Cohen’s home and office over a campaign-finance violation. Indeed, the fact that the raid happened at all suggests Trump’s lawyer is in serious legal jeopardy […]

    But putting that aside, since when do Republicans refer to federal law enforcement officials as “stormtroopers”?

    In fact, it’s been a difficult week in GOP politics for law enforcement. For example, the president yesterday renewed his threats to politicize the Justice Department. The day before, Vice President Mike Pence celebrated a convicted criminal as “a tireless champion” of “the rule of law.” The day before that, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein defended the Justice Department against what he sees as “extortion” efforts from congressional Republicans.

    […] Trump, who’s been railing against federal law enforcement for months, delivered a manic rant on national television, condemning “the corruption at the top of the FBI.”

    […]Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who oversees the Senate committee on domestic security, recently appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and made clear he’s not especially pleased with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. “My concern with Special Counsel Mueller is he’s so close to the FBI,” the Republican lawmaker argued before complaining about the FBI’s examination of Hillary Clinton’s emails. […]

    Jon Chait noted today, in response to Giuliani’s “stormtroopers” line, “[T]he casualness with which the line was uttered and received does indicate something important about the way Republican thinking about law enforcement has evolved. The party’s respect for the rule of law is disintegrating before our eyes, and in its place is forming a Trumpian conviction that the law must be an instrument of reactionary power.” […]

    The conventional wisdom has long been that law enforcement tends to be conservative and looks to the GOP as allies. It’s probably time to rethink those assumptions, because the traditional ties between Republican politics and law enforcement appear to be fraying in ways that would’ve been hard to predict in the recent past.

  93. says

    “Another Top EPA Official Is Leaving, Sources Say”:

    A third top EPA official is leaving the agency amid intensifying scrutiny of Administrator Scott Pruitt’s travel, spending and condo rental.

    Associate Administrator Liz Bowman, the top public affairs official at the Environmental Protection Agency, is leaving to become a spokeswoman for Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican from Iowa.

    Bowman’s departure follows two others just this week: the exit of Albert “Kell” Kelly, the top EPA adviser on Superfund cleanups, and former Secret Service agent Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta, who led Pruitt’s security detail. Longtime Pruitt ally Samantha Dravis announced her resignation last month.

    The exodus comes amid steep criticism of Pruitt — including calls by at least 170 Democratic lawmakers and four Republicans for his ouster. There are at least 10 formal investigations into Pruitt,…

    As the associate administrator for public affairs, Bowman has been on the front lines of the EPA’s sometimes rocky relations with the news media, and at times she delivered sharp critiques of reporters covering the agency. Bowman also was tasked with making strategic communications decisions and coordinating EPA responses to the deluge of damaging revelations against Pruitt that began in late March.

    Bowman is one of several political appointees who arrived at the EPA from the American Chemistry Council, a trade group representing Dow Chemical Co., BASF SE and Monsanto Co….

  94. says

    More stupid stuff said by Rudi Giuliani:

    I know the President is heartbroken over this. It isn’t that he’s angry, he’s heartbroken. He never expected this from Jeff [Sessions]. The two of them can redeem themselves, Sessions and Rosenstein: They should order the investigation over.

    I believe that Attorney General Sessions, my good friend, and Rosenstein, who I don’t know, I believe they should come in the interest of justice, and end this investigation. There’s been too much government misconduct. […]

    I am waiting for the attorney general to step in, in his role as defender of justice, and put these people under investigation.

    He [Trump] is going to say to me, “Isn’t there an attorney-client privilege?” And I am going to tell him, “No, the Department of Justice seems to want to trample all over the Constitution of the United States.”

    http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/386110-exclusive-giuliani-calls-for-sessions-to-step-in-on-cohen

  95. says

    Oh, FFS – MSNBC is now saying that investigators were monitoring Cohen’s calls rather than tapping them. IOW, they could see who he was calling and receiving calls from, not hear the actual content of the calls. Still have to get a warrant, but this is very different.

  96. says

    Ryan has now released a statement saying he’s accepted Conroy’s resignation retraction and Conroy will stay on. That could mean we won’t learn more about the backstory.

  97. says

    Well, well, well. We wondered at the time why that “Jade Helm” conspiracy theory flamed up so quickly.

    As the Texas Tribune first reported, former CIA chief Michael Hayden appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe podcast on Thursday, where he revealed that Twitter bot accounts run out of Russia amplified messages about Jade Helm conspiracies.

    “There was an exercise in Texas, called Jade Helm 15, that Russian bots and the American alt-right media convinced most, many Texans, was an Obama plan to round up political dissidents,” Hayden said.

    The former CIA head added that Abbott’s decision to send the Texas State Guard to monitor the American military showed operatives in Russia just how successful this type of online messaging could be. “At that point, I’m figuring the Russians are saying: We can go big-time,” Hayden said. “They made the decision: We’re going to play in [2016] the electoral process.” […]

    Think Progress link

    More at the link.

  98. blf says

    IMPORTANT: For anyone with a twittering account — CHANGE YOUR PASSPHRASE (on ALL services where you use that same(-ish) passphrase), Twitter urges all users to change their password after bug discovered:

    […]
    Twitter has urged its 336 million users to change their passwords after the company discovered a bug that stored passwords in plain text in an internal system.

    The company said it had fixed the problem and had seen no indication of breach or misuse, but it suggested users consider changing their password on Twitter and on all services where they have used the same password “as a precaution”.

    […]

    Companies with good security practices typically store user passwords in a form that cannot be read. In Twitter’s case, passwords are masked through a process called hashing, which replaces the actual password with a random set of numbers and letters that are stored in the company’s system.

    That is misleading. Robust security typically stores passphrases in a non-reversible “salted” hashed† form, and applies stringent restrictions on when & how the hashed passphrases can be accessed.

    I have personally used precisely this sort of bug — the storage of unhashed unencrypted passphrases — to “break into” systems more than once (in every case, as an internal demonstration of the flaw). Hacking the corporate VP / CTO’s account is extremely effective in getting things fixed quickly! Based on that experience, it is vastly more serious than twittering implies. Their general advice is good: Change the passphrase on ALL accounts (not just twittering) which have a (similar) passphrase.

      † “Non-reversibly hashed” basically means transforming the passphrase into a value which is impractical to un-transform back into the original; and “salted” is a trick which results in (near-)identical passphrases being transformed into different values (hence un-transforming one value is very unlikely to yield more than that one account’s passphrase).

  99. blf says

    Loosely related to @35(& previous), In the 3 May UK local elections, Local election officials wrongly turn away EU citizens in Tower Hamlets:

    […]
    EU citizens have been wrongly told they could not vote in England’s local elections, raising fears about future training of public service officials in relation to European nationals’ post-Brexit rights.

    Romain Sauron, a French national, said he turned up to vote at the Mile End ward in the London borough of Tower Hamlets to find a “G” alongside his name.

    The officials at the polling station told him this marked him out as an EU citizen and meant he could not vote.

    “They were quite difficult. I have been here for 13 years and always voted, but I had to haggle with them for about 10 minutes. They checked their leaflet and told me: No, you can’t vote. I suspect they didn’t read it properly and their training was very poor. They then made a phone call to someone and after 10 minutes they said ‘that’s fine, you can vote’,” Sauron said.

    […]

    Another EU citizen, also voting in Tower Hamlets, had a similar experience. Dragos Serban, a Romanian who has lived in the UK for eight years, said: “I made my way to my designated polling station and as expected they asked for my name and address.

    “On their checklist, the letter G was next to my name and I was shown a leaflet which said that G means ‘certain EU citizens cannot vote’.

    “I was then asked to wait a few minutes while they made a call to double check my eligibility to vote. When they came back, they said that the leaflet was in regards to the general election and does not apply to today’s local one. Once that has been cleared up, they were happy to cross my name off their checklist and was allowed to proceed with the vote.”

    […]

    On social media, many EU citizens expressed sadness that this year may be the last time they will be able to vote in the country in which they live.

    […]

    Another EU citizen, in the country for 34 years, wrote that after Thursday’s elections he felt “devalued” and a “commodity” who just earns and pays taxes.

    “My foreign name will become a wall, my badge of difference, a reason for someone to say, You have no right to be here.”

    […]

    British citizens in Europe will also lose the right to vote in local elections and European elections and some, who have been out of the country for more than 15 years, will not be allowed to vote in British general elections either.

  100. tomh says

    Trump people throw around the legal term “perjury trap” in a totally bogus way. It began with Ty Cobb, who warned of a “perjury trap,” but continues, for instance, Rep. Peter King, on 5/1, “The president’s lawyers, if he’s going to testify, have to get more assurances that this is going to be a real questioning and not a perjury trap.” Giuliani on 5/2, “What they’re really trying to do is trap him into perjury.” There are others, but “perjury trap” has a specific legal meaning. Here is a clear explanation:
    http://www.newsweek.com/mueller-setting-trump-perjury-trap-793946

  101. militantagnostic says

    The Saudi propaganda magazine, The New Kingdom was not in the magazine section in either of the Shoppers Drug Marts I was in yesterday. Given the number of copies remaining and the condition of the front copy in the Cochrane store last week, I doubt they sold out. I wonder how many copies they actually sold in North America.

  102. says

    Kristen Welker:

    Giuliani says he learned about Trump’s payments from Michael Cohen’s lawyers and after being told about documents that show proof of the payment.

    Just spoke to Giuliani who says he revealed POTUS’ payments “to get out in front of the Special Counsel, Southern District (of New York) because at some point they would realize this information and leak it. ”

    Giuliani said he made @realDonaldTrump aware of paperwork that showed payments were actually reimbursements for Stormy. Trump replied: ‘Oh my goodness, I guess that’s what it was for,’” Giuliani said.

    This is obviously the most abject nonsense and lies. But I’m struck by their apparent belief that this can be an ongoing strategy. It’s the same approach they’ve taken to the Mueller investigation, coming up with admissions and wildly implausible rationales as they become aware that information about what they did will soon become public. It’s not like there was a one-time revelation around which they can spin a story going forward; the amount of evidence against them will only increase. The Mueller investigation rolls on, and there’s undoubtedly much more to come. The SDNY Cohen investigation is just beginning to go through the evidence seized from Cohen last month, and had already been surveilling him for months prior. Just as the evidence of reimbursements to Cohen has blown away their previous story, future evidence will demolish their current lies.

  103. says

    Re #126 above – evidently it was two copies each of 35 subpoenas, and this number isn’t unusual. So no big story, except for the reminder that one of Manafort’s trials is set to begin in July.

  104. says

    “Sam Clovis is leaving USDA”: “Sam Clovis, the former Trump campaign aide who had been serving as USDA’s liaison to the White House, is leaving the Agriculture Department and will return home to Iowa, a USDA official confirmed Thursday evening….”

    Love this line: “Clovis drew fire for his skepticism of climate science, past comments on issues like race and gender, and what critics on the left said was his lack of scientific credentials that are legally required for the [USDA undersecretary] position, which would also have had him serve as the department’s chief scientist.” Whether he had the required scientific credentials or not is a question of fact, Politico. He did not. I hate this “what critics on the left said was…,” “what her critics have claimed is…,” “what many Democrats view as…” when the truth of the claim in question isn’t a matter of political opinion and can be ascertained by the journalist. (They do the reverse as well, talking about “what many Republicans regard as…” even when their claims can be shown to be false.)

  105. says

    Willie Geist, who’s been especially frisky of late: “NEWS: In a conversation last night with @DonnyDeustch [sic], Trump attorney Michael Cohen says ‘Rudy Giuliani doesn’t know what he’s talking about’ regarding the President’s repayment of the Stormy Daniels hush money.”

  106. says

    “Revealed: UK’s push to strengthen anti-Russia alliance”:

    The UK will use a series of international summits this year to call for a comprehensive strategy to combat Russian disinformation and urge a rethink over traditional diplomatic dialogue with Moscow, following the Kremlin’s aggressive campaign of denials over the use of chemical weapons in the UK and Syria.

    British diplomats plan to use four major summits this year – the G7, the G20, Nato and the European Union – to try to deepen the alliance against Russia hastily built by the Foreign Office after the poisoning of the former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury in March.

    “The foreign secretary regards Russia’s response to Douma and Salisbury as a turning point and thinks there is international support to do more,” a Whitehall official said. “The areas the UK are most likely to pursue are countering Russian disinformation and finding a mechanism to enforce accountability for the use of chemical weapons.”

    Former Foreign Office officials admit that an institutional reluctance to call out Russia once permeated British diplomatic thinking, but say that after the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, that attitude is evaporating.

    A cross-party alliance in parliament has developed which sees the question of Russian corruption no longer through the prism of finance, but instead as a security and foreign policy threat,* requiring fresh sanctions even if this causes short-term economic damage to the UK.

    Ministers want to pursue a broad Russian containment strategy at the coming summits covering cybersecurity, Nato’s military posture, sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s oligarchs and a more comprehensive approach to Russian disinformation.

    In making its case to foreign ministries, the UK is arguing that Russian denials over Salisbury and Douma reveal a state uninterested in cooperating to reach a common understanding of the truth, but instead using both episodes to try systematically to divide western electorates and sow doubt.

    Alicia Kearns, who ran the Foreign Office’s strategic counter-terrorism communications in Syria and Iraq, argues that Russia is seen as nearly unique in its willingness to conceal the truth.

    “When we are dealing with most malign states or even terror groups, an element of truth is expected to increase the efficacy of their disinformation, but with Russia there is no commitment, or adherence, to the truth,” she told the Guardian….

    Russia’s critics say in case after case – the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in 2014, the role of official Russian forces inside Ukraine, the murder of the former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko on UK soil, the Syrian government’s repeated use of chemical weapons, the covert disruption in the western Balkans and repeated cyber-attacks – the west finds itself arguing with Russia not just about ideology, or interests, but Moscow’s simple denial, or questioning, of what the western governments perceive as unchallengeable facts.*…

    * Come on, Guardian.
    ** This seems to me completely correct.

  107. says

    “Ranks of Notorious Hate Group Include Active-Duty Military”:

    …Of the many white supremacist organizations that have sprung up in the past few years, Atomwaffen is among the more extreme, espousing the overthrow of the U.S. government through acts of political violence and guerrilla warfare.

    Journalists with ProPublica and FRONTLINE gained insight into Atomwaffen’s ideology, aims and membership after obtaining seven months of messages from a confidential chat room used by the group’s members. The chat logs, as well as interviews with a former member, reveal Atomwaffen has attracted a mixture of young men — fans of fringe heavy metal music, a private investigator, firearms aficionados — living in more than 20 states.

    But a number are current or former members of the U.S. military. ProPublica and FRONTLINE have identified three Atomwaffen members or associates who are currently employed by the Army or Navy. Another three served in the armed forces in the past. Pistolis, who remains an active-duty Marine, left Atomwaffen in a dispute late in 2017 and joined up with another white supremacist group. Reporters made the identifications through dozens of interviews, a range of social media and other online posts, and a review of the 250,000 confidential messages obtained earlier this year….

    Much more at the link.

  108. says

    “Nobel prize in literature 2018 cancelled after sexual assault scandal”:

    The Swedish Academy announced on Friday morning that there would be no Nobel laureate for literature selected in 2018, as it attempts to come to terms with controversy over its links to a man accused of sexual assault.

    For the first time since 1949, the secretive jury that hands out the world’s most prestigious literary award will not unveil a winner this autumn, instead revealing two winners in 2019. The decision, announced at 9am Swedish time following a meeting on Thursday, comes after a string of sexual assault allegations made against the French photographer Jean-Claude Arnault, the husband of academy member and poet Katarina Frostenson.

    The Swedish Academy said that it took the decision “in view of the currently diminished academy and the reduced public confidence in the academy”.

    “The active members of the Swedish Academy are of course fully aware that the present crisis of confidence places high demands on a long-term and robust work for change. We find it necessary to commit time to recovering public confidence in the academy before the next laureate can be announced. This is out of respect for previous and future literature laureates, the Nobel Foundation, and the general public,” said Anders Olsson, interim permanent secretary of the academy.

    The Nobel Foundation now expects the academy to “put all its efforts” into restoring its credibility, Heldin added, calling on the remaining members to show “greater openness towards the outside world” in the future.

    Now I really want to know why there was no award in 1935.

  109. blf says

    In Ozland, Climate sceptic group IPA suggested as co-host of Australian visit by Trump’s environment chief [Pruitt]:

    […]
    The climate sceptic thinktank [sic] the Institute of Public Affairs was mooted as a co-host of an Australian visit by […] Scott Pruitt, which may have included discussion with local officials on whether environmental deals should be changed or cancelled.

    Emails released to the US environment group the Sierra Club under freedom of information laws show that Matthew Freedman, a Washington consultant who describes himself as “a close personal friend” of the Australian environment minister, Josh Frydenberg, played a central role in organising Pruitt’s proposed August trip before it was cancelled when Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas gulf coast.

    In the US, the emails are of interest as evidence that Pruitt relied on business figures and lobbyists to plan and justify his overseas travel. […]

    From an Australian perspective, they give insight into Pruitt’s proposed agenda and schedule. They discuss focusing on promoting innovation deregulation, federal-state relations and how to counter potential disagreements with Australian officials about climate change. […]

    [… Freedman] said an initial step should be to get a better sense of any US–Australian environmental agreements and whether they should be changed or updated or cancelled and replaced with others. […]

    The documents include an email from the executive director of the Institute of Public Affairs, John Roskam, in which he proposes a two-hour roundtable for Pruitt with IPA-affiliated researchers who disagree with the scientific consensus on climate change. They included a James Cook University geophysicist, Prof Peter Ridd and the IPA senior fellow Jennifer Marohasy, who has accused the Bureau of Meteorology of corrupting the temperature record and whom Roskam described as Australia’s authority on temperature and climate variability.

    All of these people are excellent and I know Scott and his team would learn a great deal from a discussion with them, he wrote to Freedman.

    Roskam also recommended Pruitt meet Maurice Newman, a former chair of [former Ozland PM] Tony Abbott’s business advisory council who has described global warming as a delusion […]

    […]

    Roskam said Freedman, the US embassy in Canberra and the US consulate in Melbourne had approached the IPA about Pruitt’s potential visit. He said the organisation had welcomed the chance to work closely with the world’s leading advocate for cutting environmental red tape.

    […]

    Playing one of teh besterist peoples like a fiddle.

  110. says

    “Arizona teachers’ walkout ends with new education funding”:

    It took six days, but Arizona teachers are ending their walkout after the governor signed an education funding bill into law.

    In marathon legislative negotiations that lasted overnight, both the House and Senate passed the bill before it went to Gov. Doug Ducey on Thursday morning.

    The measure, dubbed the “#20×2020” plan, gives a 20% boost in teacher pay over the next three years — including 10% in school year 2018, the governor’s office said.

    The new law also increases funding for support staff, new textbooks, upgraded technology and infrastructure, which will help make up for recession-era cuts….

    Congratulations! Teachers are leading the way.

  111. militantagnostic says

    SC @148

    (Giuliani said he made @realDonaldTrump aware of paperwork that showed payments were actually reimbursements for Stormy. Trump replied: ‘Oh my goodness, I guess that’s what it was for,’” Giuliani said.) This is obviously the most abject nonsense and lies.

    .

    To be fair, Trump has probably made so many payouts and bribes through Cohen that it is unreasonable to expect him to remember what any particular payment to Cohen was for.

  112. says

    This week in 1940:

    Soviet officer Vasily Blokhin, the NKVD’s chief executioner, has been decorated with the Order of the Red Banner for personally shooting over 7000 Polish prisoners-of-war this month.

    Blokhin performs the killings at Kalinin prison, one of five NKVD execution centres (including Katyn). Over 20,000 Poles have been shot since April 4, all at night, their bodies buried in mass graves.

    Blokhin wears a butcher’s apron & long leather gloves to keep his NKVD uniform clean. Using German Walther Model 2 pistols, he has shot 250 men/night- making him the most prolific executioner in history.

  113. says

    “Judge Grills Prosecutors On Relevance Of Manafort Case To Russia Probe”: “The federal judge overseeing the indictment of Paul Manafort in the Eastern District of Virginia on Friday quizzed the attorneys representing special counsel Robert Mueller on how the charges they brought against Manafort were linked to their core investigation into Russian election interference and any potential collusion with members of the Trump campaign….”

    More: “BREAKING: From #Manafort motion hearing – judge is apprehensive about keeping indictment, saying he wants completely unredacted versions of Rosenstein’s orders assigning special counsel Mueller before he can make any further decisions. Two weeks given to US attorneys to provide.

    Also judge skeptical of specific ties between Russia and Manafort, saying that without seeing the orders by deputy AG Rosenstein, it’s hard to say if SPC abused power/overreached. Full story with more information up shortly. Stay tuned.”

    I had assumed the judges saw the unredacted versions.

  114. blf says

    Islamophobia prompts Muslims to engage in US democracy (Al Jazeera edits in {curly braces}):

    Anti-Muslim measures have backfired, causing the US Muslim population to protest and run for office in higher numbers.

    American Muslims reported a higher number of incidents of discrimination this past year than any other religious group, but growing Islamophobia has pushed them to become more politically engaged, according to Muslim leaders, pollsters and activists.

    […]

    [The third annual poll] of approximately 2,500 Americans from different faiths [published this week by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), a think-tank based in Washington DC, and Michigan,] debunked some of the most incendiary and widely believed tropes about American Muslims, such as their responsibility for most “terrorist” attacks in the US — the majority of which are carried out by white supremacists.

    One of the ways of pushing back against Islamophobia, US Muslims have found, is becoming more politically active and engage in electoral politics to change what they see as a biased shift in their country.

    “The bright side of all of this is that over the past several years Muslims have climbed steadily in the percentage that report being registered to vote,” said Dalia Mogahed, ISPU’s director of research and former adviser on Muslim affairs during the Barack Obama administration.

    “While things have gotten a lot harder, the response in many cases is greater engagement, not isolation{…} Muslims are less satisfied with the direction of the country but they are more politically engaged.”

    The poll found that almost 75 percent of Muslims said they were registered to vote, an increase of seven percentage points over last year’s numbers. That reflects a steady increase, as the last tally itself was eight percentage points higher than the 2016 mark, the report said.

    More than 90 American Muslims, nearly all of them Democrats, are running for public office across the country this year, an unprecedented number that marks an exceptional rise for a diverse group that typically has been underrepresented in American politics.

    […]

    [… T]he struggles of running while Muslim are evident in the smear campaigns, outright hostility and even death threats that some candidates are subjected to. A case in point is the gubernatorial race in Michigan where physician Abdul El-Sayed has proudly displayed his religion in campaign ads.

    Last week, El-Sayed was the subject of a smear campaign by a Republican contender who claimed he had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and accused him of plotting to engage in civilisation jihad.

    Regina Mustafa, a Democrat from Rochester, Minnesota, withdrew from a congressional race in October after she received death threats and hate mail. Zainab Baloch, who ran for a seat at the city council of Raleigh, North Carolina, had a swastika, an ethnic slur and Trump sprayed on a campaign sign of hers.

    […]

    Often accused of having an innate propensity for violence, Muslims are more likely to reject violence than the general public, the ISPU survey found.

    It also showed that Muslim Americans are, in fact, devoted citizens: despite feeling stigmatised, most identify strongly with America and express pride and happiness in their faith identity.

    These stereotypes, the report said, may have been fed by the US media’s depiction of Muslims as more prone to violence. “Someone perceived to be Muslim and accused of a terror plot will receive seven and half times the media coverage as someone not perceived to be Muslim,” the report said.

    It also cited a 2017 Georgia State University study, which took into account target type, fatalities and whether or not the perpetrator was arrested, and discovered that attacks by Muslims received 357 percent “more coverage than other attacks”.

    […]

    Trump has narrowed the people with whom he interacts, noted [professor of religion, international affairs and Islamic studies at Georgetown University John] Esposito, who also directs Georgetown’s Bridge Initiative, a multiyear research project on Islamophobia that collaborated with the ISPU on the study.

    “Look at the sea of people {around Trump}: the first national security adviser, {Michael} Flynn, the current adviser, {John} Bolton, {Mike} Pompeo{…} Jeff Sessions {and others},” Esposito said, referring to some of the president’s past and more recent appointees, who have been accused of bigotry and espousing anti-Muslim sentiment.

    [… T]hese anti-Muslim views permeating in Washington, the ISPU study found, are backfiring, pushing more Muslims into public life. In states like Maryland, where [Democratic candidate for state delegate Hamza] Khan is running, more Muslims are becoming engaged, with partial thanks to the Trump administration.

    “We’re seeing Muslims taking a more active role in politics this year, particularly in Maryland — which I think has the largest number of Muslims running right now,” Khan said.

    “The Trump administration has just done a fantastic job at galvanising everyday Americans to care about democracy mostly because they are horrified of what happens when you don’t pay attention.”

  115. says

    “Behind Erik Prince’s China venture”:

    Beijing’s International Security Defense College, which boasts of becoming “the largest private security training school in China,” sits behind a 45-foot-high exterior wall and a barricade. Inside the compound, trainers with police and military experience teach classes on tackling detainees, handling hostage situations and thwarting terrorist attacks.

    The school is overseen by Frontier Services Group, a Hong Kong-based company founded by Erik Prince, a former Navy SEAL who created Blackwater, a security firm that played a major and controversial role in the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    In November, Frontier graduated its first class of “overseas security specialists,” who were given “strict, strenuous and systematic” training to manage security in “high risk environments, warzones and operations across the globe,” according to a Frontier promotional statement. Prince delivered the commencement address by video link.

    The school’s promotional materials boast that Frontier has trained more than 5,000 Chinese military personnel, 200 plainclothes police officers, 500 SWAT specialists, 200 railway police officers and 300 overseas military police officers. A slogan painted on the school’s wall reads, “Training ground for warriors.”

    Some members of Congress, military officials and people who do similar security work say that Prince’s role as chairman of Frontier puts him in the unsettling position of advancing the strategic agenda of the United States’ largest rival.

    “He cloaks himself in the American flag when he’s seeking a U.S. contract, but he is the hood ornament of the new era of the military industrial complex and a set of mercenaries who work for countries, oligarchs and random billionaires,” said Sean McFate, a former military contractor who wrote a book about private armies, “The Modern Mercenary.” “The Pentagon and national security establishment view Erik as a pariah.”

    Prince had allied himself with a well-connected Hong Kong entrepreneur, Johnson Ko, whom Forbes magazine ranked in 2016 as Hong Kong’s 49th-richest resident and whose digital TV set-top box business was a dominant player in the Chinese market.*

    At dozens of meetings in Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai, Prince pressed Ko’s company to acquire Frontier Services Group, the associate said. Five days after Prince’s memoir was published in 2013, the two men signed a deal that, according to the associate, netted Prince $3.5 million along with hundreds of millions of shares in the new Frontier Services Group.

    Prince became chairman of Frontier, which would now be run by an executive team including Americans — its chief executive, Gregg Smith, a former Marine who had advised Prince on the Blackwater sale in 2010 — and Chinese managers from CITIC Group, formerly the China International Trust Investment Corp., a state-owned Chinese enterprise that held 20 percent of Frontier. (CITIC Group had been a major shareholder in Ko’s earlier venture, DVN, which became Frontier.)

    CITIC “is just one step removed from the Chinese government, ”said Nicholas Bequelin, East Asia director of Amnesty International. “State-owned enterprises are led by people with key positions in the Communist Party.”…

    But although Prince is valuable as a symbol of American expertise in security, “among our partners, he’s not the one that matters,” said Xin Yang, founder and president of Frontier’s Beijing security training school. “The Chinese are gradually taking more control” of the company. CITIC is now playing a larger role as Frontier’s dominant shareholder, Xin said, and “Prince’s share is decreasing. The Chinese are in charge, so it won’t matter.”…

    * As mentioned @ #112 above and in earlier iterations, Ko is also listed as a director of Emerdata.

  116. says

    SC @156, and the farce continues. BTW, who does Trump think he is when he lectures others to “learn before you speak”?

    From text quoted by SC in comment 152:

    “When we are dealing with most malign states or even terror groups, an element of truth is expected to increase the efficacy of their disinformation, but with Russia there is no commitment, or adherence, to the truth,” she told the Guardian….

    Yep. True. Now substitute “Trump” for “Russia” in that sentence.

  117. says

    SC @156, (second link), Trump continues to claim that Mueller having Democrats on his investigative team makes the process unfair. That’s not true. I wish people would push back harder on that point.

    Trump also points out that Mueller worked for Obama for eight years. Yes he did. And before that he worked for Bush. Mueller is a Republican.

    The party affiliation of investigators should not be a big deal here. Whether or not investigators are doing their job and doing it well is the main issue.

    Trump’s claim that the stories he and his cohorts are telling about the Stormy Daniels affair have not changed … well, that claim is just laugh-out-loud ridiculous.

  118. says

    Here’s the CNN report on the hearing this morning – “Judge in Manafort case says Mueller’s aim is to hurt Trump”:

    A federal judge expressed deep skepticism Friday in the bank fraud case brought by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, at one point saying he believes that Mueller’s motivation is to oust President Donald Trump from office.

    “You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud,” District Judge T.S. Ellis said to prosecutor Michael Dreeben, at times losing his temper. Ellis said prosecutors were interested in Manafort because of his potential to provide material that would lead to Trump’s “prosecution or impeachment,” Ellis said.

    “That’s what you’re really interested in,” said Ellis, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan.

    He repeated his suspicion several times in the hour-long court hearing.

    “We don’t want anyone in this country with unfettered power. It’s unlikely you’re going to persuade me the special prosecutor has power to do anything he or she wants,” Ellis told Dreeben. “The American people feel pretty strongly that no one has unfettered power.”

    At one point, Ellis posed a hypothetical question, speaking as if he were the prosecutor, about why Mueller’s office referred a criminal investigation about Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen to New York authorities and kept the Manafort case in Virginia.

    They weren’t interested in it because it didn’t “further our core effort to get Trump,” Ellis said, mimicking a prosecutor in the case.

    Mueller’s prosecutors will have to turn over a full, unredacted version of the August 2 memo that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein used to describe the criminal allegations Mueller’s team could investigate, Ellis ordered….

    Asha Rangappa: “What a bizarre commentary from a judge. Unless there is something legally amiss in the indictment, speculating re motives of the SC is beyond the judge’s purview (and also seems to suggest that there is a connection bw Manafort’s criminal bank fraud and Trump).”

    Susan Simpson: “As a defense attorney, I am confused but extremely enthusiastic about this new standard requiring prosecutors to prove that their motivations in prosecuting a defendant are untainted by motivations related to another case.”

  119. says

    Oh, FFS. Trump is still indulging in a “Space Force” fantasy. Here is what he said when he presented the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy to the U.S. Military Academy’s Black Knights football team for its victories over Navy and Air Force:

    You will be part of the five proud branches of the United States Armed Forces — Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and the Coast Guard. And we’re actually thinking of a sixth, and that would be the Space Force. Does that make sense? The Space Force, general. You probably haven’t even heard that. I’m just telling you now. This is perhaps — because we’re getting very big in space, both militarily and for other reasons, and we are seriously thinking of the Space Force.

    From the Washington Post:

    The Outer Space Treaty, which the United States signed in 1967, bars states from testing weapons and establishing military bases on the moon and other celestial bodies. It also prohibits the placement of weapons of mass destruction in orbit around Earth.

    The latest budget plan to come out of Trump’s White House cuts investments in NASA.

    From commenter Zora Renee:

    We just need to have the “space” between his ears filled, preferably with actual, logical, thought! That right there, would be priceless.

  120. says

    SC @167, that is such bad news! District Judge T.S. Ellis sounds like Trump, like the most recent iteration of Giuiliani, like Devin Nunes, and like Sean Hannity.

    I can’t help but notice Judge Ellis’ obsessive tendency to repeat, and then to repeat again the worst of his conspiracy-theory ideas.

    Also, and this is ironic, a lot of Trump supporters, including Giuiliani and Victoria Toensing, have made the point that no one has the right to inquire about Trump’s state of mind when he fired Comey. And now Judge T.S. Ellis is not just inquiring about the state of mind of the prosecutors in the Manafort case, he has gone a step further and has actually assigned an intent, a state of mind, and a motive to the prosecutors.

  121. blf says

    Project Fantasy? German exam question debates Brexit reality:

    Students of English tasked with discussing differences between UK’s hopes and consequences
    […]
    As part of their school-leaving exam, students of English in the southern German state of Baden-Württemberg were last week asked to elaborate the differences between the hopes connected to the British referendum, and the reality of Brexit since.

    In the written part of the Abitur test — the certificate of general qualification for university entrance […] — about 31,000 students were handed a drawing by the Indian cartoonist Paresh Nath, originally published in the United Arab Emirates’ English-language newspaper the Khaleej Times in April 2016.

    One of the cartoon’s panels, captioned Project Fantasy, shows a man with a bowler hat and a union flag soaring towards the skies in a UFO. The second panel, entitled The Realities, has the same man on an island encircled by four sharks, symbolising “chaos”, “trade issues”, “economic uncertainties” and “job confusion”.

    […]

    A spokesperson for the Baden-Württemberg ministry of education, which designs and distributes the centralised written part of the exam, said the assessment was designed to test students’ knowledge of recent sociopolitical issues.

    […]

    It would be “interesting” — appalling, probably — to read the answers from the various British “government” ministers to the question.

    There is an image of Mr Nath’s cartoon at the link.

  122. says

    Ken Dilanian: “In fact, a courthouse observer told me that this judge is often hardest in court on the side he rules in favor of.”

    Carrie Johnson: “Guys. Let me tell you something: Sometimes a judge likes to bat around the government, like a cat with a toy. And then, he rules in their favor.”

    So I guess we’ll see.

  123. says

    Trump trying to take down the church-state wall:

    […] Trump in a Rose Garden ceremony Thursday announced an executive order he said would expand government grants to and partnerships with religiously-affiliated groups through a new faith-based office — a move described by one of his top faith advisers as aimed at changing the culture to produce fewer discussions about church-state barriers with “all of these arbitrary concerns as to what is appropriate.”

    Trump has shrunk the infrastructure built by presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the latter having created offices across most agencies with staff including dozens of people at the State Department. Under Trump many of those staffs have grown smaller, and director positions have been left unfilled. However, he has expanded greatly the access to the White House of conservative Christians — evangelicals, in particular, but also Catholics who feel alarmed by the growing legal tension between gay rights and conservative religious rights.

    The specific responsibilities for the new office, called the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative, were not made clear in the executive order. But Johnnie Moore, spokesman for the president’s evangelical advisory group — his only faith advisory group with regular access — said the initiative included an order to every department “to work on faith-based partnerships.” That, Moore said, “represents a widespread expansion of a program that has historically done very effective work and now can do even greater work.” […]

    Washington Post link

    More at the link. I did not bother to post the bit where Trump brags about people saying “Merry Christmas” thanks to him. JFC.

  124. says

    Follow-up to comment 174.

    Analysis from Steve Benen:

    […] For decades, religious social-service organizations have competed for government contracts — receiving funds to run soup kitchens and shelters, for example — but safeguards were put in place. Groups that accepted public money, for example, couldn’t proselytize to those receiving benefits.

    When one of the president’s advisers says the Trump administration intends to ignore “arbitrary concerns as to what is appropriate,” it sounds an awful lot like the White House might look for ways around those legal safeguards. […]

  125. says

    A few weeks ago, people at the WH were saying that Pruitt was on thin ice and if one more story broke that would be it for him.

    In the latest news:

    “Another EPA political aide to depart amid Pruitt controversies”: “…Sources close to EPA expect more political appointees to join the exodus soon….”

    “Influential outsiders have played a key role in Scott Pruitt’s foreign travel”: “After taking office last year, Pruitt drew up a list of at least a dozen countries he hoped to visit and urged aides to help him find official reasons to travel, according to four people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal agency deliberations. Pruitt then enlisted well-connected friends and political allies to help make the trips happen.”

    Chris Hayes’s Thing 1, Thing 2: “Scott Pruitt and the Swamp Olympics.”

  126. blf says

    (Cross-posted from poopyhed’s recent Political ad goin’ viral! thread…)

    (1) West Virginia Coal Baron Won’t Stop Saying China People in His Senate Ad:

    Republican West Virginia Senate candidate Don Blankenship’s latest political ad has stirred controversy for its use of terms like China people and references to Sen Mitch McConnell as cocaine Mitch and his China family.

    […]

    He’s defended his use of the phrase China people to news outlets saying the term was not racist.

    There’s no mention of race. I’ve never used a race word, Blankenship said in an interview where he added races are Negro, white Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian.

    In an explanation Blankenship gave for the ad on his campaign website, the candidate says that McConnell’s father-in-law founded and owns a large Chinese shipping company and claimed he has given McConnell and his wife millions of dollars. As for the cocaine Mitch reference, Blankenship is referencing an article from the Nation that claims that McConnell’s in-law’s company was found with drugs on one of its ships.

    However, the shipping company is actually American and based in New York, the Washington Post notes. James S C Chao, McConnell’s father-in-law and owner of the Foremost Group (the shipping company in question), is Chinese. The Post also notes that there’s no record of the McConnell getting millions from his in-laws and no charges were filed for any drugs allegedly found on board a ship.

    (2) This kook has a distinct problem with the truth. For instance, other ads, The GOP Candidate Testing the Limits of Trumpism:

    The ad that tells you all you need to know about Don Blankenship’s renegade US Senate campaign has the distinct amateur look and sound of the kind of furniture-outlet promotion you’ll invariably stumble across if you watch enough local news. But it gets a job done: Over the course of one clumsy minute, the spot neatly traces Blankenship’s path from infamous villain clawing to reclaim scraps of his reputation to semi-viable GOP candidate.

    First, the clip, which is set entirely within a kitchen: Did you know Don Blankenship’s trial was not about the mine explosion? a woman asks a man, apparently feeling no need to provide any context. Everyone in West Virginia knows the story of 2010’s Upper Big Branch Mine disaster that killed 29 miners, setting off a saga that landed Blankenship — the mining company’s CEO, and perhaps the state’s most-hated man at the time — in jail for a year. Six seconds into the video, it’s already clear to viewers that they’ll be treated to part of Blankenship’s preferred, and rarely supported, version of the story — in which he’s a victim of Democratic overreach, despite having eventually been found guilty of a misdemeanor conspiracy to willfully violate mine-safety standards.

    “Really? You sure?” the man responds, perplexed. Oh, yeah, the Obama judge wouldn’t even let Don mention the explosion, and the Obama prosecutors knew Don had nothing to do with the explosion, the woman insists, prompting her interlocutor to ask the obvious question: “Then what was the trial about?” Looking disappointed, she explains, Mostly about a letter Don didn’t even write. That information is just too much for the man to take. He explodes with an incredulous, “Obama prosecutors tried to put Blankenship in prison for life for a letter he didn’t even write?!”

    The video continues in this vein — complete with a flashing line of text reading Blankenship Innocent at one point — before tying a bow on itself. West Virginians knew that Obama was against them and coal. Now they understand what happened when Don fought back, intones the man, newly earnest and now thoroughly convinced. […]

    The ad organically captures how Blankenship’s longtime personal-reputation rehab project has morphed into a full-fledged political campaign. Not quite explicit in the ad, but known to many West Virginians, is that Blankenship blames Democratic senator Joe Manchin, the governor at the time of the explosion, as much as he blames Obama for the conspiracy against him — and that’s exactly whose US Senate seat he wants in November. But even more than other recent Trumpist candidates with a disregard for political convention and the basic rules of factual representation (see Alabama’s Roy Moore), Blankenship is now testing the outer edges of Republican voters’ openness to a right-wing, bombastic populist whose past would be disqualifying under the old rules. Blankenship’s rise to electoral threat status has been packed with lessons about just what kind of figure can attract a following in today’s Republican Party, and what the party Establishment can do to effectively set the limits of personal celebrity, conspiracy theorizing, and anti–status quo rage even in the heart of Trump country.

    Democrats and Establishment Republicans in Washington alike regard the self-funding coal executive as an unhinged figure whose thirst for revenge against Manchin could, if he prevails in the GOP primary, almost certainly hand the most conservative Democrat in DC another term in the Senate. […]

    Blankenship — whose time in prison was punishment for the latest in a long line of violations, including accusations of poisoning drinking water and forcing employees to underreport their injuries — had been trying to salvage his brand for years. In 2014, he posted a 51-minute video to YouTube offering his own explanation for the explosion (which clashes with official reports). In October of 2016, while incarcerated, he had 250,000 copies of a 67-page pamphlet called An American Political Prisoner printed and distributed, laying further groundwork for his contention that he’s a victim of Obama administration judicial warfare.

    […]

    He’s run ads claiming, against the available evidence, that the explosion was Obama administration regulators’ fault. And even the bio section of his campaign website begins: Over the past 30 years, I have been threatened with death several times: had urine thrown on me: had eleven bullet holes shot into my office: had two cars smashed with ball bats and clubs while I was in them: been continually lied about: been the subject of several false books: been branded with multiple derogatory names: been sued numerous times: been slandered on national television many times: been subjected to continued ridicule by newspapers: been falsely accused of causing the Upper Big Branch (UBB) tragedy: been falsely arrested: endured a trial where I faced 30 years in prison for made up charges, and been put in federal prison for a misdemeanor.

    […] Recently, Blankenship started to turn his sights more directly to the man he believes holds nearly as much responsibility as Obama. While Manchin has almost entirely ignored his candidacy in public, Blankenship has paid for ads comparing the disaster to Benghazi and calling it Obama’s deadliest cover-up. The campaign is titled, Does Senator Joe Manchin Have Blood on His Hands?

    His focus on Manchin is second only to his fixation on the Republican leadership, a hypercharged version of the line pushed by GOP agitators in primaries all over the country.

    “Blankenship was a drain the swamp guy before Trump, frankly. He might be the most anti-Establishment candidate in any race anywhere,” said [West Virginia’s most influential radio host, Hoppy] Kercheval.

    [… Some] recent McConnell agitations: He’s compared the leader to Russians because of his involvement in a race outside of his jurisdiction […].

    […]

    After the New York Times reported that Blankenship’s primary residence is outside of Las Vegas, noted his onetime interest in Chinese citizenship, and pointed out that he has yet to file a required financial disclosure, his response stuck to the tried-and-true line of Trump-style media-bashing: The reporter is clearly a communist propagandist with no American values, whatsoever. Much of what he says is filled with outright lies and nearly all of the rest is simply misrepresentation, Blankenship said in a statement. It would be too kind to call his article fake news. It is communist propaganda.

    […]

    (Clearly one of teh bestingerist evers people, he’d make a superb addition to teh hair furor dalekocracy — whether in the Senate or appointed to some position (doesn’t matter which one, he’s clearly qualified for all of them).)

  127. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 173.

    From David Kurtz:

    […] 1. Federal judges are often cranky! Don’t read too much into U.S. District Judge T. S. Ellis III’s reported disposition toward Mueller’s team.

    2. Harsh treatment by the judge in a motion hearing doesn’t necessarily signal which way the judge is going to rule. Sometimes a judge will give a particularly hard time to the side he or she has already decided to rule in favor of.

    3. I’d still be surprised if Manafort wins dismissal, but Manafort does have the thread of an argument here. The timing of the Aug. 2, 2017 memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to Special Counsel Robert Mueller is fishy. It suggests they were anticipating an argument over the scope of Mueller’s authority, but it came nearly three months after his appointment. The memo also came after investigators under Mueller’s direction had raided Manafort. That doesn’t settle the argument, but it gives Manafort a leg to stand on.

    4. The judge asked why Mueller didn’t hand off the Manafort case to line prosecutors the way he did the Michael Cohen case in New York City. It’s a good question – I’m curious, too, about what prompted the decision to do so in the Cohen case, and how that fits with the parts of the probe Mueller is holding on to – but I don’t think that question is determinative of the motion to dismiss.

    5. Ellis seems eager to see what else is in the redacted Aug. 2 memo. The only part made public involves Mueller’s authority to investigate Manafort; all his other authorizations we’re blanked out. I’d be eager to see the unredacted memo, too! But again it doesn’t strike me as terribly relevant to the motion to dismiss. […]

  128. says

    blf @177, it still amazes me that people like Blankenship are still talking about “communists.” My grandmother, now long dead, used to see “communists” everywhere.

  129. says

    From French President Emmanuel Macron (in a new interview with Der Spiegel):

    That [abandoning the Iran’s nuclear deal] would mean opening Pandora’s box, it could mean war. I don’t believe that Donald Trump wants war.

    My view — I don’t know what your president will decide — is that he will get rid of this deal on his own, for domestic reasons.

    [Such a move] can work in the short term but it’s very insane in the medium to long term.

    Yep. Macron just called one of Trump’s ideas “insane.”

  130. says

    Oh, FFS! And JFC as well. Trump is appointing Dr. Oz to be a health advisor.

    If you’ve wondered whatever happened to the snake oil–peddling celebrity physician Dr. Oz, and whether he’s still going strong, look no further than this news nugget today: […] Trump just announced he’ll appoint Oz to his Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition. […]

    Trump did this presumably not only because he has a penchant for celebrity and showmanship, both of which Dr. Oz has in droves. He did this because, despite Oz’s years of misuses and abuses of science, his years of misleading the public on health, Oz remains “America’s doctor.”

    As I wrote after Oz gave the candidate Trump a surreal, made-for-TV physical exam in 2016, the men have something in common: They are the personification of bullshitting to the public, of getting away with bullshitting to the public, and of profiting from it.

    Oz is still selling magazines. He’s still selling books. He’s nearly a decade into his highly popular TV show. And now he’s been validated once again — by the highest office in the land. That should make us uneasy.

    Oz has a long history of drawing from pseudoscience to mislead the public.

    […] Once a gifted researcher and cardiothoracic surgeon, after a few years on TV he went rogue, trumpeting everything from homeopathy to bogus diet supplements and discredited research about GMOs. […]

    Oz hosted vaccine deniers as well.

  131. says

    U.S. Withholding Funding From Rescue Group That Saves Thousands of Syrian Lives

    The White Helmets, the volunteer rescue organization in Syria, has not received any of their regular funding from the U.S. in recent weeks, putting their future activities in jeopardy, according to reporting by CBS News.

    The group, formally known as Syrian Civil Defense, has saved tens of thousands of lives and has received widespread praise, including from Trump’s State Department. The volunteers were the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary in 2016. They are also a frequent target of conspiracy theorists and pro-Assad media outlets who accuse them of staging attacks and having links to terrorists.

    […] Trump froze more than $200 million for recovery efforts in Syria in March as part of his push to withdraw the U.S. from the conflict and “let the other people take care of it now.” At a donor’s conference in Brussels in late April, the U.S. pledged zero dollars for humanitarian efforts in the country. […]

    Yeah that sounds like Trump. (shudder)

  132. says

    Lynna @ #182 – Oz was involved in Trump’s health propaganda tour as well! After Bornstein’s letter failed to convince people of its claims, Trump (allegedly) had some tests done and went on Oz’s show for Oz to read out the results, making a spectacle of a serious subject. I imagine Oz has some information Trump doesn’t want to see get out.

  133. says

    “Exclusive: Nunes demands Justice Department records. Then he doesn’t read them.”:

    House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes was livid.

    For months, he had been demanding a fully uncensored version of a highly sensitive document from the Justice Department explaining how the Russia investigation began in 2016, but he wasn’t getting it.

    As the standoff escalated, Nunes began warning Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — the man in charge of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation — that he could face contempt of Congress, or even worse.
    “We’re not going to just hold in contempt,” Nunes said to Fox News last month. “We will have a plan to hold in contempt and to impeach.”

    Nunes had already been offered time to review a copy of the electronic communication formally authorizing the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, but he had publicly demanded to see what was behind certain blacked out lines.

    Facing the growing pressure, and outrage from President Donald Trump, Rosenstein finally relented in early April — and granted Nunes and Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina access to the document with only minimal redactions to protect the name of a foreign country and agent, along with all members of the House Intelligence Committee.

    But when the pair arrived at the Justice Department to review the electronic communication, officials were caught off-guard by his next move. Nunes — sitting with a copy of the document in an unopened folder directly in front of him — opted not to read it, according to four sources with knowledge of the situation.

    Gowdy, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, reviewed a copy and since then nearly a dozen other lawmakers have gone to the Justice Department to read the document, sources say.

    As Nunes has moved aggressively to publicly sow doubt about the Russia investigation, the moment marked at least the second time that he has demanded sensitive documents from the Justice Department, only to choose not to read them — allowing his staff or Gowdy to pore through the materials instead….

    After being briefed on the documents about the start of the Russia probe, Nunes began to raise major alarms, telling Fox News there was no basis to launch the investigation in the first place, saying there were “major problems” with the investigation.

    Yet Gowdy has not gone nearly so far.

    Indeed, unlike Nunes, Gowdy has defended the Mueller investigation amid criticism within his own party.

    Several Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee say the electronic communication shows the documentation for the start of the Russia investigation was unfounded.

    “It’s a fair question: What evidence did you have to start this investigation?” said Rep. Chris Stewart, a Utah Republican who sits on the committee. “Well, the answer isn’t very good.”

    King, who also sits on the panel, said that it showed the start of the investigation was “baseless.”

    “To me, there was no real basis for the investigation to begin in the first place,” King said. The FBI was “using a backdoor process to rely on data, which did not rise to any intelligence level. Rumors, rather than intelligence.”

    King said at the time that he hadn’t yet read the document, but had been briefed by Nunes’ staff.

  134. blf says

    Why is Trump surrounded by cocky, unqualified and kooky men?:

    […]
    In the case of Donald J Trump, the company he keeps is surprisingly consistent: a singular type with a shared set of character traits. They are, to a man, cocky, unqualified and kooky. You might call this the CUK theory of the Trump presidency, in honor of one of their archetypes: Steve Bannon.

    All the president’s men — at least, the CUKs — are a constant presence, in spite of the huge turnover among them. There was Bannon, now there’s Bolton. There was Scaramucci, now there’s Giuliani. It matters not. Trump cycles through his CUKs happily and frequently because he needs to keep one or more close through all his volatility.

    Let’s start with Bannon: the man who believed he was reshaping global politics. Never mind all that help from Russia and Facebook, Bannon was riding the crest of a wave of his own making. Nobody had discovered white male resentment before: not Richard Nixon, not Pat Buchanan […]

    Bannon thinks he’s so good at this stuff that he was considering running for president himself in 2020. He also told Vanity Fair that getting fired from the White House was an upgrade: inside the West Wing he had influence, but outside he had real power. Cocky? Check.

    How unqualified was Bannon at his purported job of chief political strategist? Exhibit A is Roy Moore in Alabama […]

    […]

    Where does John Bolton, the latest in a long line of Trump’s national security advisers, sit on the CUK scale? If Bannon is a perfect ten, Bolton is a nine.

    People who worked with him in the Bush administration say he’s arrogant, when they’re trying to be diplomatic — a quality that Bolton lacks entirely. Bolton even maintains his arrogance about his biggest, most obvious disaster: his cheerleading for the invasion of Iraq. When Tucker Carlson, of Fox News fame, asked him if the war in Iraq had empowered his great enemies in Iran, Bolton said: No, because I think your analysis is simple-minded, frankly.

    Calling the supremely cocky Tucker Carlson simple-minded is a power play in the league of cocky politics.

    This takes us directly to his obvious lack of qualifications to manage national security for the world’s greatest military force. In addition to his colossal errors of judgment about Iraq, he is a hothead and a disastrously bad manager. He isn’t even on the same page as his boss about talking to North Korea, having spent a career trashing them as serial liars and conmen.

    Which brings us to his kookiness. This is a national security adviser who recently advocated for a pre-emptive strike against North Korea. This is a former UN ambassador who believed the top ten floors of the UN could be demolished with no impact on the organization. He only drops a point on the CUK scale because of the lack of occultist influence.[]

    Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci is an epic example of the president’s favorite man. Cocky doesn’t come close to the extravagant strutting and preening of a man who claimed everyone else was obsessed with their own penis. The Mooch was so unqualified for the job of White House communications director that he lasted ten or perhaps 11 days in office. That’s in a West Wing where the only qualification for a job is a pulse and never-ending praise for the boss.

    […]

    So to our latest member of the gang: Rudy Giuliani. According to the otherwise friendly New York Post, it was Rudy’s arrogance that killed his 2008 presidential campaign. For some reason, early state voters found it a turnoff. This is a man who endorsed Trump at the Republican convention by saying the next president would carry the Giuliani torch: What I did for New York City, Donald Trump will do for America.

    If anyone had any doubts about Rudy’s qualifications to be the latest in a long line of Trump’s lawyers, this week was truly special. In a couple of Fox News interviews, Giuliani contradicted the previous official story about Trump’s lawyer paying hush money to the actress known as Stormy Daniels. Along the way, he exposed his new client to additional legal risk and managed to refocus the world’s attention on the president and a porn star on the National Day of Prayer. Pure genius.

    […]

    Curious minds might wonder why this president chooses to surround himself with so many men who are cocky, unqualified and kooky. For someone so modest, so well-versed in world affairs, and so cogent, it seems so obviously out of character.

      † Redacted from the above excerpt is Bannon “was inspired by a French occultist and Italian racialist to assert that Western civilization was locked in a new dark age as part of an existential battle with Islam.” This is referring to “René Guénon, an early-20th-​­century French occultist and metaphysician who was raised a Roman Catholic, practiced Freemasonry, and later became a Sufi Muslim who observed the Sharia” (Inside the Secret, Strange Origins of Steve Bannon’s Nationalist Fantasia, July-2017):

    […]
    Guénon, like Bannon, was drawn to a sweeping, apocalyptic view of history that identified two events as marking the beginning of the spiritual decline of the West: the destruction of the Knights Templar in 1312 and the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Also like Bannon, Guénon was fascinated by the Hindu concept of cyclical time and believed that the West was passing through the fourth and final era, known as the Kali Yuga, a 6,000-​­year “dark age” when tradition is wholly forgotten.

    Guénon thought that the way to bring about spiritual enlightenment was to convert small groups of elites who would go forth and spread his philosophy. Bannon, in fact, emulated this model at Breitbart News by establishing bureaus in Texas, London, and (to influence the Catholic Church) Rome. […]

    It’s an interesting article, and goes into much more than just Guénon’s writing’s influence on Bannon. One tidbit I found interesting, “Bannon thought restoration lay in a rising political generation still some years off: figures such as […] Marion Maréchal‑Le Pen, niece of Marine, whose politics he approvingly described as practically French medieval, adding: She’s the future of France. Marion is often considered more extreme than teh len penazi founder, her grandfather Jean-Marie.

  135. blf says

    As a reminder how evilly deluded Pence is, a tidbit from Trump praises NRA as a great organization that loves this country:

    […]
    Pence also blamed the media for distorting the gun debate by focusing too much on a few villains rather than the many heroes who use their guns to prevent violence.

    Start telling the whole story to the American people about firearms in this country, Pence said, to sustained applause. We should be a nation that recognizes the people who save lives much more that the people who take them.

    He reassured NRA members that they were one of the most potent forces for good in the United States of America.

  136. says

    Avenatti told Lawrence O’Donnell last night that there are extensive communications related to the timing of the payment to Daniels, specifically insisting that it had to be prior to the election. He suggested that he knows this because he’s her subsequent counsel and so received her file from Davidson (who’s also cooperating – according to Avenatti, not especially voluntarily – with the SDNY investigation).

  137. blf says

    Follow-up to @112 (Emerdata (formerly Cambridge Analytica)), the BBC notes Emerdata created a subsidiary in early-March, Firecrest Technologies, Cambridge Analytica: Will data scandal firm return from the dead?, to do “Business and domestic software development”. They also note the New York Times reports (Cambridge Analytica to File for Bankruptcy After Misuse of Facebook Data):

    […]
    Cambridge and SCL officials privately raised the possibility that Emerdata could be used for a Blackwater-style rebranding of Cambridge Analytica and the SCL Group, according two people with knowledge of the companies, who asked for anonymity to describe confidential conversations. One plan under consideration was to sell off the combined company’s data and intellectual property.

    An executive and a part owner of SCL Group, Nigel Oakes, has publicly described Emerdata as a way of rolling up the two companies under one new banner. […]

  138. says

    SC @185. Right. Trump has found himself another lackey who is willing to lie.

    blf @191, sickening. I hope the survivors of the massacre in Parkland, Florida take both Pence and Trump to task … again.

    blf @189, so true. All the Trump supporters in (and out) of the White House are cocky. It takes a certain amount of cockiness to succeed as a politician, but Trump’s posse goes beyond the pale — deeply self-deluded is a good description.

  139. says

    Follow-up to comments 167 and 170.

    […] Trump has a new hero.

    Just a few hours after U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis grilled Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team on how the indictment brought against Paul Manafort in Virginia is relevant to the Russia probe, Trump tried to use Ellis’ comments from the hearing to support his claim that the Russia probe is a “witch hunt.”

    On the stage at the National Rifle Association convention in Dallas, Trump read headlines from news stories on Friday’s hearing on Manafort’s motion to dismiss the federal grand jury indictment against him in Virginia. He quoted the Wall Street Journal‘s headline, “Judge Questions Mueller’s Authority to Prosecute Manafort,” and the headline run by CNN, “Judge in Manafort case says Mueller’s aim is to hurt Trump.”

    “You believe that? This is what we’re up — it is called the witch hunt,” Trump said.

    He then started to read the first few lines from the Wall Street Journal’s story, making several interjections to praise Manafort, downplay Manafort’s role in the 2016 campaign, and call the judge a “very special” and “respected person.”

    Trump noted that the judge asked prosecutors how the charges brought against Manafort — which stem from his work in Ukraine before the 2016 election — were relevant to the core of the Russia probe and that the judge hypothesized that prosecutors only went after Manafort to secure his cooperation for other parts of the probe.

    “I’ve been saying that for a long time. It’s a witch hunt,” Trump said.

    “We’re all fighting,” the President added. “It’s a disgrace.”

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/trump-judge-ellis-manafort

  140. says

    From the New York Times (Peter Baker is the writer):

    As of last week, the American public had been told that President Trump’s doctor had certified he would be “the healthiest individual ever elected.” That the president was happy with his legal team and would not hire a new lawyer. That he did not know about the $130,000 payment to a former pornographic film actress who claimed to have had an affair with him.

    As of this week, it turns out that the statement about his health was not actually from the doctor but had been dictated by Mr. Trump himself. That the president has split with the leaders of his legal team and hired the same new lawyer he had denied recruiting. And that Mr. Trump himself had financed the $130,000 payment intended to buy the silence of the actress known as Stormy Daniels.

    Yes, Trump lies … a lot. He is also a bullshitter who is fairly adept at muddying the waters to obscure his lies.

  141. says

    One of Trump’s lies that he renewed today:

    98% of mass public shootings have occurred in places where guns are banned.

    That’s not true. It is a statistic made up by the National Rifle Association.

    http://www.politifact.com/florida/statements/2017/feb/21/richard-corcoran/do-most-mass-shootings-happen-gun-free-zones/

    […] Everytown for Gun Safety found that among 133 mass shootings between January 2009 and July 2015, 70 percent took place in private homes while 13 percent took place in “gun-free zones,” where carrying of concealed guns were prohibited. Another 17 percent took place in public areas where the carrying of firearms are allowed. […]

    In Klarevas’ book Rampage Nation, he said that Lott has used too loose a concept of gun-free zones.

    Klarevas disagrees with gun advocates who define a “gun-free zone” as simply an area that bans private citizens from carrying a gun.

    For example, Lott characterized Fort Hood and Washington Navy Yard, military sites attacked by gunmen, as gun-free despite the presence of armed security.

    “There’s an obvious logical problem with such a conceptualization: How can a place be a gun-free zone if guns are present?” Klarevas writes. “The implication is that rampage shooters are only deterred by armed civilians, not by armed guards and cops. But that’s an absurd suggestion.” […]

    The two also disagree on how to characterize whether guns were allowed at certain locations. Lott says that the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon was in a gun-free zone and points to a school policy that bans possession of firearms “except as expressly authorized by law or college regulations.”

    Umpqua Community College spokeswoman Anne Marie Levis previously told PolitiFact Florida the school’s gun-free policy didn’t apply to students with a valid permit. “UCC was never designated as a ‘gun-free zone’ by any signage or policy,” she said. “Umpqua Community College does comply with state law by allowing students with concealed carry licenses to bring firearms on campus.” […]

  142. says

    Update to #153 – “Marines Open Investigation into Active Duty White Supremacist”:

    The U.S. Marine Corps said it has opened a criminal investigation into the activities of Lance Corporal Vasillios Pistolis, 19, identified as a violent white supremacist in a recent report by ProPublica and FRONTLINE.

    This is the second time Pistolis has drawn scrutiny from NCIS. He told ProPublica and FRONTLINE he’d been questioned about his extremist activities several months ago by NCIS investigators, but the investigation was apparently dropped. Military sources confirmed the existence of an earlier inquiry regarding Pistolis.

    Responding to new reporting on the link between Atomwaffen and the armed forces, Rep. Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat, urged Defense Secretary James Mattis to investigate Pistolis and his fellow neo-Nazis. Ellison also requested that the Department of Defense provide information to Congress about the military’s efforts to discipline white supremacists in the ranks and screen out racial extremists during the enlistment process.

    Ellison is asking the Defense Department to respond to his request for information by May 21.

  143. says

    Another excerpt from Trump’s speech to the NRA in Dallas today:

    These countries send up their worst. Remember in my opening speech, I got criticized for it. Remember? Well, guess what. They’re not sending their finest. That I can tell you.

    We’re getting some real beauties in here. But we’re taking MS-13 horrible killer gang members. We’re getting them out because our guys are much tougher … there is not even a little bit of a contest. And that’s the only language they understand. That’s the only language they understand. These are savage killers.

    What can be simpler or more accurately stated? The Mexican government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.

  144. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Whew, Rachael Maddow in her opening monologue is on fire, re the Deputy Attorney General and his stance about keeping investigations confidential. A former AG Robert Jackson plays a part.
    Links when available, or in the morning more likely. We old folks tend to go to bed early.

  145. says

    “U.S. Probes Cohen Over Cash He Built Up During Campaign”:

    Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, gained access to as much as $774,000 through two financial transactions during the 2016 presidential campaign as he sought to fix problems for his boss, public records show.

    Those transactions could factor into a broad investigation of Mr. Cohen’s business affairs being conducted by Manhattan federal prosecutors and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who are examining whether Mr. Cohen violated any laws in his efforts to raise cash and conceal negative information about Mr. Trump, according to people familiar with the matter. Those include transactions tied to his credit line and his ownership of real estate and taxi medallions, the people said.

    In February 2016, as Mr. Trump’s fortunes as a presidential candidate rose, Mr. Cohen nearly doubled the amount he could use on a bank credit line tied to his Manhattan apartment, increasing his ability to borrow by $245,000, according to real-estate records.

    Three months earlier, he gained potential access to another $529,000, through a new mortgage that he and his wife cosigned on a condominium owned by her parents at Trump World Tower, a Trump building in New York, separate real-estate records show.

    Mr. Cohen, who has described himself as Mr. Trump’s fixer, has said he used his home-equity line of credit to make a $130,000 payment to former adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford—known professionally as Stormy Daniels—in exchange for her agreeing less than two weeks before the presidential election to stay silent about an alleged sexual encounter with Mr. Trump.

    Mr. Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani said this week that Mr. Cohen resolved other problems similarly for Mr. Trump, although he didn’t specify what they were or the source of funds that were used.

    As part of a broad effort to determine how Mr. Cohen got access to cash and what he did with it, federal prosecutors and the FBI are examining whether Mr. Cohen committed bank fraud by making false statements inflating the value of his assets to obtain loans or by misstating the intended purpose of the loans, these people said.

    Investigators also are examining whether he violated federal election law by making unreported campaign contributions exceeding the federal limit of $5,400 to Mr. Trump in that election cycle, as well as possible other crimes stemming from his payments to cover up problems, the people said.

    Mr. Cohen’s near-doubling of his credit line in February 2016, as Mr. Trump’s chances seemed to be improving, “could become an incredibly important date in a case of this type,” Mr. Little said….

    The nine-month gap between the time Mr. Cohen obtained his new credit line and the payment to Ms. Clifford could work against him, said Adam Schuman, a former federal prosecutor in Brooklyn.

    “If he didn’t anticipate using these funds to assist with these types of third-party payments, then why did he still have the funds to pay Stormy Daniels if they were intended for some earlier, innocuous purpose?” Mr. Schuman said….

  146. says

    “Trump Is Said to Know of Stormy Daniels Payment Months Before He Denied It”:

    President Trump knew about a six-figure payment that Michael D. Cohen, his personal lawyer, made to a pornographic film actress several months before he denied any knowledge of it to reporters aboard Air Force One in April, according to two people familiar with the arrangement.

    It was not immediately clear when Mr. Trump learned of the payment, which Mr. Cohen made in October 2016, at a time when news media outlets were poised to pay her for her story about an alleged affair with Mr. Trump in 2006. But three people close to the matter said that Mr. Trump knew that Mr. Cohen had succeeded in keeping the allegations from becoming public at the time the president denied it.

    Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, has known since last year the details of how Mr. Cohen was being reimbursed, which was mainly through payments of $35,000 per month from the trust that contains the president’s personal fortune, according to two people with knowledge of the arrangement.

    One person close to the Trump Organization said people with the company were aware that Mr. Cohen was still doing “legal work” for the president in 2017, but another person familiar with the situation said that Mr. Weisselberg did not know that Mr. Cohen had paid Ms. Clifford when the retainer agreement was struck and when the payments went through.

    Mr. Weisselberg’s knowledge of the retainer agreement could draw Mr. Trump’s company deeper into the federal investigation of Mr. Cohen’s activities, increasing the president’s legal exposure in a wide-ranging case involving the lawyer often described as the president’s “fixer” in New York City.

    Any involvement by the Trump Organization would further complicate the legal picture, given that American election law is strictest of all when it comes to corporate involvement with political campaigns. Businesses are not allowed to donate directly to campaigns or to coordinate with them.

    Ms. Clifford’s lawyer, Michael J. Avenatti, has been arguing for months that Mr. Trump’s company was more involved in the arrangement than Mr. Cohen had been letting on.

    In an interview, Mr. Avenatti said that any indication that still more executives at the Trump Organization knew about the effort to reimburse Mr. Cohen for the payment to Ms. Clifford could lead to further investigation of the Trump family business.

    “There’s no question it opens up another avenue of inquiry into the depths of the involvement of the Trump Organization,” he said.

  147. blf says

    Hair furor is deluded, again (again), Donald Trump says London hospital is like war zone because of knife crime:

    […]
    Donald Trump on Friday fuelled fears of a knife crime epidemic in London by comparing a hospital in the city to a war zone, with blood all over the floors.

    The US president [sic], addressing the [NRA] convention in Dallas, made the inflammatory comments two months before he is due to make his first visit to the UK.

    Using a familiar conservative argument to defend gun ownership, Trump asked sarcastically whether vans, trucks and cars, which have been used by terrorists, should be banned. Then he turned to knives.

    I recently read a story that in London, which has unbelievably tough gun laws, a once very prestigious hospital, right in the middle, is like a war zone for horrible stabbing wounds, he said. Yes, that’s right, they don’t have guns, they have knives and instead there’s blood all over the floors of this hospital. They say it’s as bad as a military war zone hospital.

    Trump stabbed the air several times with an imaginary knife and muttered: Knives, knives, knives.

    At which point, I am tempted to wish, he was shot from a distance.

    […]
    It was not immediately clear which “story” Trump had read about London, but a strong contender is a Mail Online article published last month. Its headline said: “Surgeon says he is regularly treating children in school uniform for gun and knife wounds in London hospital which is ‘like Afghan war zone’.”

    The article quoted a BBC Radio 4 interview with Martin Griffiths, a lead trauma surgeon at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, where it said a record 702 stabbing victims were treated in 2017. “Griffiths said colleagues who served in the military likened their work at the London hospital to being back at Camp Bastion, the British forces base in war-torn Afghanistan,” Mail Online reported.

    […]

    It is true the UK (and I believe London especially) has seen an uptick in knife assaults over the last year(?) or so. Whether this is a statistical anomaly or something else is still being worked out, with everybody (or so it seems) jumping in with their favourite conspiracy theories and bugbears.

    Related, London currently has about the same murder rate as New York City, which is eye-catching but misleading: It’s the rate (murders per capita) not total, NYC has c.150% more murders total than London, and NYC’s rate has been falling for years (How does London’s spate of killings compare with other cities?). London’s rate, however, has zoomed up quite noticeably this partial year (2018 to-date), after holding rather steady for some years (see chart at the “compare” link): 55 total at the time the article was written (early-April), compare to full-year total of 116 last year (2017, “excluding the deaths in the Westminster, London Bridge and Finsbury Park terrorist attacks”).

  148. blf says

    Oh for fecks sake, They don’t belong: police called on Native American teens on college tour (Grauniad edits in {curly braces}):

    […]
    Two teenage brothers had traveled from New Mexico for the tour at Colorado State University (CSU) on Monday when a parent called the authorities on them, saying they were quiet and creepy and really stand out. The call prompted university police to question them, causing the young men to miss the rest of the tour, campus officials said.

    “They were shocked. They were trying to figure out what they did wrong,” said Lorraine Kahneratokwas Gray, whose sons Kanewakeron Thomas Gray, 19[], and Skanahwati Lloyd Gray, 17[], were on the tour. Video released by police showed the officers pulling them aside and asking them what was in their pockets while commanding them to keep their “hands out”.

    “It could have ended so much more tragically. When he reached into his pocket, what if the cop thinks he has a gun and shoots him?” the mother told the Guardian by phone.

    […]

    The 911 caller, who has not been named, told a dispatcher that the students’ behavior is just really odd, according to audio released on Friday. They’re definitely not a part of the tour.

    The woman further said the black clothing they were wearing was suspicious, that they appeared to be Hispanic and that one was from Mexico. She later added: They just really stand out{…} They’re just creepy kids{…} It actually made me feel sick. The mother, who left the tour to call police, said another man on the tour also believed they don’t belong.

    The woman claimed that the teens weren’t answering her questions about why they were there and were lying the whole time.

    There does seem to have been a lot of lying, but not by the two people the liar reported to the goons.

    […]
    “This incident is sad and frustrating from nearly every angle, particularly the experience of two students who were here to see if this was a good fit for them as an institution,” administrators wrote, adding that they would refund travel expenses and were “reviewing how such an incident can be avoided or handled differently in the future”.

    Lloyd, a high school senior set to graduate this month, and Thomas, a first-year at a public college in New Mexico, were both musicians and were particularly interested in moving to Denver due to its music scene, their mother said.

    […]

    The family, originally from the Mohawk nation of Akwesasne in New York, has long been involved in activism, Lorraine said, adding: “This just makes our fight even stronger. It’s personal now.”

      † I usually redact individual’s ages unless they seem relevant, which appears to be the case here: These First Nations people are young musicians looking to further their education, traveling on their own. They were profiled / harassed simply for not conforming to some bigot’s idea of how people should look, and (or so the lying bigot claims) not answering a lying bigot’s presumably pushy and insulting questions.

  149. blf says

    Fecking lying deluded hair furor, Trump tells NRA a civilian gunman could have stopped Paris attack:

    In a speech before cheering members of the National Rifle Association on Friday, President Donald Trump blamed the scale of the 2015 Paris terror attacks on France’s strict gun control laws and called again for the arming of school teachers.

    Trump called France’s gun laws the toughest gun laws in the world,[] and said that they prevented victims of the deadly 2015 attacks from fighting the terrorists.

    They took their time and gunned them down one by one, Trump said of the terrorists, using his hand to pantomime the shooting: Boom. Come over here. Boom. Come over here. Boom.

    […]

    But if one employee or just one patron had a gun — or if one person in this room had been there with a gun, aimed at the opposite direction — the terrorists would have fled or been shot, and it would have been a whole different story, he said.

    Ignoring the disastrous consequences of a scared individual firing in / across a darkened room full of screaming panicking people, and also that the attackers took hostages, hair furor is clearly just rambling about the Bataclan theater. That same night, there was also — in the same area, at the same-ish times, in a clearly coordinated fashion — at least one bombing and other shootings.

    […]
    Gabrielle Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who was shot outside a grocery store during a constituent gathering in 2011, said Trump had “allowed his presidency to be hijacked by gun lobbyists and campaign dollars.” She said Trump had “ignored the pleas of young people demanding safer gun laws.”

      † Excepting authoritarian countries, it is Japan (as I recall) which is often considered to have “the” strictest gun control laws. France’s laws are strict, but as the comparison chart at Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge makes clear, Japan’s are more restrictive than France.

    (And it goes without saying I vastly prefer living with those strict gun control laws, despite the funny language and cheeses and vin and and and… well, Ok, the cheeses and vin and even the “and” are fine. Excellent, even. Unfortunately, the police are armed (unarmed police — trained to deescalate — being a point in favour of Ireland and Great Britain).)

  150. says

    “Russian police arrest opposition leader Alexei Navalny”:

    Russia’s opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been detained by police at a demonstration against President Vladimir Putin in central Moscow.

    Thousands of demonstrators denouncing Putin’s upcoming inauguration into a fourth term gathered on Saturday in the capital’s Pushkin Square.

    Video showed police carrying a struggling Navalny, who is Putin’s most prominent opponent, out of the square by the legs and arms.

    The unauthorised protest was part of nationwide demonstrations taking place under the slogan: “He is not our tsar.” Police made arrests at demonstrations in some other cities, but there was no overall figure immediately available.

    Navalny has called for nationwide rallies to protest against Putin’s inauguration on 7 May to a fourth presidential term….

  151. blf says

    Follow-up of sorts to @163, Palestinian-Mexican American politician running for US Congress:

    […]
    A candidate for the US Congress in the state of California is hoping to become its first Latino-Arab American member by capturing a district that has voted Republican for the past 30 years.

    Ammar Campa-Najjar, a […] former field campaign director for President Barack Obama, White House staffer and a labour department official, said he wants to bring positive change to California’s demographically changing 50th district.

    […]

    He has been endorsed by the California Democratic Party to stand against the Republican incumbent, Duncan D Hunter.

    […]

    He told Al Jazeera he is proud of being the son of a hard-working Mexican mother, who struggled to raise him and his brother, and a Palestinian father who strived to make peace between Palestinians and Israelis in the 1990s.

    An Israeli newspaper reported that Campa-Najjar’s grandfather was a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization and was assassinated by an Israeli hit squad in 1973 after being accused of being a terrorist by Israel. Israel considered all members of the PLO to be terrorists before it recognised it as a legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and made the Oslo peace agreement with it in 1993.

    […]

    “The local Jewish community in the San Diego area came out and publicly defended me as an American who has nothing to do with the past,” he said. “The Middle Eastern community in the area also rallied around me and supported my campaign for Congress.”

    The district is about 35 percent Latino and 15 percent of Middle Eastern descent.

    […]

    He said he also opposes Trump’s travel ban because it is based on Islamophobia, not on legitimate national security and legal concerns.

    “The Trump travel ban is both unconstitutional and immoral because of its basis in Islamophobia. Despite the administration’s changing the letter of the law, it’s the spirit of the law and original intent to ban all Muslims that makes it a violation of constitutional law.”

    […]

    The US should focus on rebuilding its infrastructure and battered communities instead of waging wars abroad, Campa-Najjar said.

    As someone who opposes Trump’s plan to build a wall on the Mexican border, he urged the president [sic …] to reconsider his plans, arguing about 40 percent of illegal immigration in the US actually comes from people who overstayed their visas.

    […]

    On healthcare, he said he supports fixing the Affordable Care Act […] as it has provided millions of uninsured Americans needed health insurance, including 46,000 residents in his district.

    “Congress must fix Obamacare, not undermine it,” he said.

    […]

    Hunter, Campa-Najjar’s rival, is currently embroiled in a Department of Justice investigation of allegations he used tens of thousands of dollars from his campaign for personal use.

    Hunter’s lawyers said in a statement to the extent any mistakes were made they were strictly inadvertent and unintentional.

    From the LA Times article, FBI is investigating San Diego-area Rep Duncan Hunter for possible campaign finance violations (March-2017, link embedded in above excerpt):

    […]
    According to an ethics report released along with the [House Ethics Committee] disclosure, Hunter “may have converted tens of thousands of dollars of campaign funds from his congressional campaign committee to personal use to pay for family travel, flights, utilities, healthcare, school uniforms and tuition, jewelry, groceries and other goods, services, and expenses.”

    Federal election officials and the San Diego Union-Tribune have repeatedly raised questions over the last year about unusual spending by Hunter’s campaign, including flying the family rabbit on a plane and payments to nail salons, his children’s private school and a Phoenix resort, among others.

    […] Hunter has reimbursed his campaign some $62,000 in payments for things like oral surgery, a family trip to Italy and Disneyland gift shop purchases […].

    […]

    Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics [CREW] in Washington, the group that filed the original ethics complaint against Hunter, said in a statement that “Hunter has shown a blatant disregard for the rules” and that his group will closely follow the investigation.

    […]

    Bookbinder called Hunter’s situation “the most egregious congressional spending scandal” since former Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) was indicted last fall for theft of government funds, fraud, making false statements and filing false tax returns, charges that stemmed from using House and campaign funds to support a lavish lifestyle. […]

    I cannot find any updates on Ducan D Hunter† at the CREW site. Politico reports, Republicans flock to take out scandal-plagued Duncan Hunter (Feb-2018, Politico edits in {curly braces}):

    […]
    Sensing that the five-term congressman is mortally wounded by a federal investigation into alleged misuse of campaign money and a recent POLITICO report about his freewheeling Washington lifestyle, Republicans in Hunter’s San Diego-area district are lining up to challenge him.

    […]

    Hunter’s challengers could be hobbled by California’s so-called jungle primary system, in which the top two candidates from either party proceed to the general election. That means a crowded primary would almost certainly help the well-known Hunter, whose father represented the district for decades before him.

    At the same time, several Democratic challengers have outraised Hunter and enjoy a fundraising edge on the recently declared GOP hopefuls. The primary is on June 5, giving Republicans ample time to raise money.

    […]

    […] A San Diego grand jury has been hearing testimony from his former staffers and subpoenaed his family members to determine whether hundreds of thousands of dollars from Hunter’s campaign account were spent improperly on his family and friends.

    The inquiry has also touched on Hunter’s relationships with several women in Washington, including one who worked as an intern in his office. Hunter is married.

    The congressman has also developed a reputation for heavy drinking, including on the job.

    […]

    Hunter has denied wrongdoing in the FBI probe, pointing to his wife, who managed his campaign and had the campaign credit card.

    There was wrong campaign spending; it was not done by me, Hunter told a local TV station last week. I have trust in the justice system — despite what’s going on with Donald Trump and [special counsel Robert] Mueller and anti-Republican {… pro-}Democratic forces in the Department of Justice.

    Mrs Hunter is presumably none-too-pleased about being thrown under the bus. (And, redacted from the previously-excerpted LA Times article, he also threw his son under the bus, blaming him for “using campaign funds to pay for video games on 68 occasions”.) Charming family man. I didn’t do it! I they didn’t do it! He did it! And she did it!

    The earlier Politico report, From Fallujah to FBI investigation: The undoing of Duncan Hunter (link embedded in above-Politico excerpt):

    […]
    Three people with knowledge of the probe told POLITICO that Hunter’s wife, Margaret, who acted as his campaign manager, is at the center of the FBI inquiry. Many of the alleged campaign charges in question — including tuition payments for their children’s schooling and dozens of restaurant meals where no donor appeared to be present — were made by Margaret Hunter, those people said.

    But Hunter is also under intense scrutiny by the FBI and federal prosecutors. Federal agents have questioned his former staffers about whether thousands of dollars spent at Washington restaurants were legitimate campaign expenditures. They’ve also inquired about his relationships with several women in Washington, including one who worked in his office.

    “He’s enjoyed his time in Washington — probably a little too much,” said one House Republican lawmaker who has known Hunter for years but wants him to retire in order to protect the seat. “His wife supposedly had the campaign credit card, but that’s not an excuse. You can’t just blame your wife.”

    […]

    In interviews with lawmakers and congressional aides who have closely associated with Hunter, a picture emerges of a promising young lawmaker who appears to have lost his way. Hunter has developed a reputation on Capitol Hill for drinking heavily and carousing, according to multiple lawmakers and staffers who have witnessed his behavior over the past several years.

    Former staffers to Hunter said he and his lawmaker friends — dubbed the “bros caucus” by his aides — would regularly go to the Capitol Hill Club, a Republican hangout, to drink beer, sometimes during the day. Congressional aides have recounted to POLITICO at least two stories of recent official meetings where lawmakers questioned whether Hunter was intoxicated.

    In one December huddle between Republicans on the Armed Services Committee and GOP leaders, Hunter raised his voice at Speaker Paul Ryan […], accusing the Republican leader of undercutting the military with an irresponsible funding strategy. According to people who were present or heard about it afterward, members noticed his bloodshot eyes and speech and questioned whether Hunter was under the influence.

    One Republican lawmaker said in an interview that he spoke to Hunter about his drinking habits and urged him to get evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder. Former aides to Hunter said other lawmakers approached Hunter on the same grounds.

    […]

    Hunter has run up huge legal bills as he tries to avoid a criminal indictment. FEC records show his campaign paid more than $535,000 last year to at least a half-dozen law firms to represent him and his staff in both Washington and California. Lawmakers are allowed to use campaign contributions to cover legal expenses.

    The negative publicity surrounding the criminal investigation also has had an effect on Hunter’s fundraising. In the last quarter of 2017, Hunter spent nearly $179,000 on legal fees, while raising less than a third of that total, roughly $51,000.

    […]

    Whether or not Campa-Najjar has a reasonable chance is unclear. Hunter has powerful friends, both in Congress and his district, including his still-popular father, so it’s also unclear if he’ll be ejected (and hopefully get the help he seems to need).

    Apropos of nothing, my own family used to live in the area when I was much younger, albeit not within the (current) boundaries of the now-50th district.

      † Not to be confused with his father, Duncan (Lee) Hunter, another California congresscritter (apparently now retired). The 50th district (formerly the 52nd district) represented by the son used to be part(? much?) of the district represented by the father.

    (Apologies, this comment seems to have gotten a bit away from me. I had intended it to only be the Al Jazeera excerpt about Campa-Najjar, but a quick check on Hunter led down a rabbit-hole…)

  152. blf says

    Trigger Warning: Rape, torture, and the exceptionally vile murder of a teenage girl.

     

     

     

    Another horrific case in India, Indian police arrest 14 after teenage girl raped and burned to death:

    […]
    Indian police have arrested 14 people suspected of kidnapping, raping and burning to death a teenage girl, the latest in a series of violent crimes against women in India […].

    District magistrate Jitendera Singh said the suspects abducted the girl from Chatra, a village in eastern Jharkhand state, while she was attending a wedding ceremony on Thursday. Some of them allegedly raped her before letting her go home.

    The village council leaders fined the suspects 50,000 rupees (£569 [c.$750]) the next day. Singh said the suspects beat up the girl’s relatives for complaining about them and burned her to death after finding her at home alone on Friday.

    […]

    (Some reports are that some of the rapists, after being convicted by the village council, refused to pay and instead barged into the girl’s house, beat up her relatives, and then set the house on fire with the girl still inside. The police are now maintaining a special presence in the village, in part because not all the rapists — including two of those alleged to have started the fire — are yet in custody, a manhunt is currently underway.)

     

     

  153. blf says

    UK regulator orders Cambridge Analytica to release data on US voter:

    In landmark cross-border decision, Information Commissioner’s Office gives company 30 days to comply with David Carroll’s request

    Cambridge Analytica has been ordered to hand over all the data and personal information it has on an American voter, including details of where it got the data and what it did with it, or face a criminal prosecution.

    The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) served the enforcement notice to the company on Friday in a landmark legal decision that opens the way for up to 240 million other American voters to request their data back from the firm under British data protection laws.

    The test case was taken to the ICO by David Carroll, an associate professor at Parsons School of Design in New York. As a US citizen [sic (I presume “US resident” is meant) –blf], he had no means of obtaining this information under US law, but in January 2016 he discovered Cambridge Analytica had processed US voter data in the UK and that this gave him rights under British laws. Cambridge Analytica had refused to accept this and told the ICO that Carroll was no more entitled to make a so-called “subject access request” under the UK Data Protection Act than a member of the Taliban sitting in a cave in the remotest corner of Afghanistan.

    The ICO did not accept this as a valid legal argument and has now told SCL Elections, which acted as the data controller for Cambridge Analytica, that it has 30 days to comply or appeal. Cambridge Analytica and its affiliates announced this week that they had gone into liquidation, but the ICO has made it clear that it cannot avoid its responsibilities under UK law and states that “failure to comply with this enforcement notice is a criminal offence”.

    […]

    [Carroll] said the ICO’s letter was “pretty extraordinary” and “proved what we’ve been saying for a long time: this is not a normal company. To have the audacity to say that American voters are no different than jihadis hiding in a cave is pretty shocking”. He said that it was the fact that it was a British company that had processed US voters’ data in the UK in an act of “digital colonialism” that had originally inspired him to ask the company for his data back.

    He went public in an interview with the Observer last year after Cambridge Analytica sent him a profile they had created about him but no information about how they created it: “They had given me scores for different issues but I had no idea what they’d based this on.”

    Carroll is also pursuing his right to his data through the British courts, with his case due to be heard in the high court in the next few months.

    Ravi Naik, a human rights lawyer with Irvine Thanvi Natas, the British solicitor who is leading the case, said the decision “totally vindicates David’s long battle to try and reclaim his data”. He added: “The company put him through such a torturous process over what should have been a very simple subject access request. It was always astonishing to us that Cambridge Analytica and SCL took such a combative approach when the law is crystal clear. Data flows across borders, so the law follows.”

    The covering letter from the ICO says that if Cambridge Analytica has difficulties complying, it should hand over passwords for the servers seized during its raid on the company’s office — something that raises questions also about what it has managed to retrieve from the servers so far.

    Paul-Olivier Dehaye, a data expert who helped Carroll with his request, said […] “Cambridge Analytica has been able to evade journalists’ questions and mislead both parliament and Congress, but now if they don’t answer these questions, it shows they’re criminally liable. And there’s also the potential that the truth could be even more incriminating.”

    […]

    Carroll, who has studied the modern “adtech” industry for his professional work, said that he didn’t expect to find his data had been harvested from Facebook “since I’ve always been pretty paranoid about my privacy settings”, but that he expected to find a whole host of other companies implicated. “I think we’re going to find that this goes way beyond Facebook and that all sorts of things are being inferred about us and then used for political purposes.”

    […]

    Congratulations to Dr Carroll and his legal bagels†!

    Also, I hope the covering letter’s demand for passwords is better-worded than the Grauniad’s article indicates. I could hand over some “server passwords” (which itself is ambiguous) with only a few qualms, knowing all that does is remove one of multiple barriers to accessing the critical data. I would be worried about “incidentals” (history and logs, for instance) that might not be as well protected as the critical data. What the ICO should be asking for is something similar to non-destructive full access to all bytes whereever they reside in the server’s storage. That would include account, database, and whatever passphrases, but also cryptographic keys and so on. (A cryptographic key could be considered a passphrase, but often isn’t, as it usually isn’t ever input — and frequently is never even seen — by a human. A legal bagel could exploit the distinction.)

      † I obviously intended “legal beagles”, but the Tpyos offering is so much more amusing!

  154. blf says

    A follow-up to @112, @164, @193, and @215… There doesn’t appear to be anything new per se in this Grauniad analysis, but it does seem to tie together what sources have been reporting / speculating, Cambridge Analytica is dead — but its obscure network is alive and well. The except below is mostly information not previously excerpted:

    The company’s executives have formed a web of linked companies, suggesting its work will continue
    […]
    Cambridge Analytica and SCL have at least 18 active companies, branches, and affiliates with similar names, based in the UK and the US. The complex relationship among these companies makes it very difficult to understand how revenues, employment, and data are shared. It almost seems as though the business structure was created to make it impossible to track decision-making and funding.

    On Wednesday afternoon Cambridge Analytica issued a press release stating: SCL Elections Ltd., as well as certain of its and Cambridge Analytica LLC’s UK affiliates (collectively, the ‘Company’ or ‘Cambridge Analytica’) filed applications to commence insolvency proceedings in the UK[] It also stated that parallel bankruptcy proceedings will soon be commenced on behalf of Cambridge Analytica LLC and certain of the Company’s US affiliates in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.[]

    It is notable that Cambridge Analytica’s press release does not mention SCL Group Limited, SCL Social Ltd, or SCL Insight Ltd. Is it closing only some affiliates and leaving others open?

    [… O]n 16 March, a few days before the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower story broke, two more directors joined Emerdata, Jennifer and Rebekah Mercer.

    There has been much reporting on how Robert and Rebekah Mercer have funded US political action committees (Pacs) that have paid Cambridge Analytica, but there had been little public evidence showing a current legal or business connection from the Mercers to Cambridge Analytica.

    […]

    The beleaguered [former Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander] Nix is still listed as an active director and shareholder of SCL Group and many of the related companies. Wednesday’s news is big, but it is not clear yet what it means, and whether SCL, Cambridge Analytica, Emerdata and the same executives who ran these companies during the Brexit campaign and US election will re-emerge in a new entity to continue their work.

      † I put Cambridge Analytica’s statement in eejit quotes because, as a whistleblower observed in one of the previously-excerpted articles (paraphasing from memory), “Cambridge Analytica’s business is disinformation.” Like hair furor, I presume Cambridge Analytica, et al., is lying / misleading unless there is independent verifiable evidence.

  155. blf says

    In the UK, Public asked for view on behaviour code for working in parliament:

    […]
    The public are to be asked for their views on a behaviour code for those working in parliament drawn up after allegations of bullying and harassment, the group leading the process has said.

    Oh, that’s easy: Following the principle “The only person ever to enter parliament with the intention of improving it was Guy Fawkes”, only people carrying viable explosives and detonators are allowed in the building. This does not include MPs, who despite appearing to be people, frequently act more like slugs, hawks, annoyed rattlesnakes, orcs, and balrogs. Like the cave trolls their behaviour resembles, MPs should be chained down before the explosives-bearing public improves the place. (Apologies to all slugs, hawks, snakes, orcs, balrogs, and cave trolls.)

    The cross-party group led by the leader of the Commons, Andrea Leadsom, drafted a report including an initial version of the code, containing seven principles including respecting everyone working at parliament, challenging unacceptable behaviour and seeking a supportive culture.

    The public will be invited to have their say on the proposals this month, with the final version in place later this year.

    […]

    Leadsom said the aim was “to fundamentally change the culture of Westminster”, adding: “Bringing a centuries-old institution into the modern era would take a great deal of perseverance — and persuasion.”

  156. blf says

    Lawsuits present challenge for neo-Nazi Daily Stormer site:

    Daily Stormer’s growing legal challenges come at a time of isolation and internal disarray in the US far right.

    A slew of lawsuits has compounded problems for the Daily Stormer […]

    Along with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, former American University (AU) student Taylor Dumpson filed a federal lawsuit against Andrew Anglin, the Daily Stormer’s publisher, for allegedly launching a storm of hate and threats online.

    The 71-page lawsuit is the third high-profile suit against Anglin to be filed since April 2017, when Montana-based realtor Tanya Gersh and the [SPLC] took Anglin to court for sparking a flurry of online hate.

    Dumpson’s suit accuses Anglin of coordinating a “troll storm” of racist hate that left Dumpson “fearing for her safety” at a time when far-right hate incidents were soaring on university campuses across the US.

    […]

    In May 2017, unknown assailants hanged bananas and nooses with racist messages on AU’s campus the day after Dumpson’s inauguration as the first black female president of the student government.

    She received a barrage of hateful messages following Anglin’s publication of an article on the Daily Stormer mocking Dumpson’s concerns after the incident.

    No one feels safe around bananas, Anglin wrote sarcastically [sic]. Some racists have taken to calling this African Queen ‘Dumpy Dumpson.’

    The messages she received after Anglin’s post included claims that black people should move to Africa, images of people performing Nazi salutes and other racist content.

    The lawsuit demands monetary compensation and asks the court to mandate that Anglin attend “anti-racism and anti-sexism training”.

    […]

    In August 2017, Muslim-American comedian and writer Dean Obeidallah filed a lawsuit against Anglin for falsely describing him as the mastermind of a deadly bombing in the United Kingdom.

    […]

    On Thursday, alt-right leader Richard Spencer’s website was pulled by GoDaddy [Daily Stormer’s original hosting service] less than two weeks after the Lawyers’ Committee wrote a letter to the web-hosting service asking it to remove the website.

    […]

    Jared Holt, a researcher for the Right-Wing Watch website, explained […] “Although the lawsuits have begun to disarm many prominent extremists, they do not erase the far-right audience, which will seek new leaders in the absence of people like Spencer and Anglin.”

    Both Dean Obeidallah and his lawsuit are new to me — and his Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge entry doesn’t seem to mention the lawsuit! From Frobes, Dean Obeidallah Is Suing The Daily Stormer Over Claim He Planned Manchester Bombing (August-2017):

    […] American comedian and SiriusXM radio host Dean Obeidallah announced he’s filed a civil suit in Ohio federal court against The Daily Stormer, a popular white supremacist and neo-Nazi blog, over its allegations that he facilitated the bombing of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, UK. The suit, which names Daily Stormer publisher Andrew Anglin and others as defendants, also argues that Anglin fabricated evidence for use on the Daily Stormer to suggest Obeidallah had confessed to the fatal bombing, and encouraged violence and harassment toward Obeidallah from its readers.

    According to the suit, a June 1 Daily Stormer article claimed that Obeidallah masterminded the May 2017 attack and included carefully doctored images from Obeidallah’s Twitter account which seemed to show the comedian confessing to his involvement and saying he hoped the injured survivors would die in hospital, among other things. In a press tele-conference today, Obeidallah said he has received numerous threats of violence and death as a result of the article, which also encouraged readers to confront the comedian and provided a widget linking to Obeidallah’s Twitter account, potentially for the sake of tracking the comedian’s activities and movements.

    […]

    Obeidallah said he hopes the suit will serve to highlight and push back against perceived [sic!!!] attempts by the Daily Stormer to silence voices that disagree with the site’s own views through the use of intimidation and fabricated information. He pointed out that the June 1 article followed his own publication of a Daily Beast article that criticized President [sic] Donald Trump’s failure to recognize recent attacks by white supremacists in New York, Portland, and the UK as acts of terrorism — acts that were carried out by known readers of the Daily Stormer, Obeidallah said.

    […]

  157. says

    David Rothkopf:

    A brief note to my Republican friends (and other supporters of the president): Keep your eye on the penny. It is about to drop. I’m reminded of a story when, back in 2001, my company had the 7th largest company in America as a client.

    It was an innovative, high-flying energy company, ull of people who seemed to have figured out the future. Then, rumors started to fly about problems with the company and some mysterious practices there. We tried to help our clients think these through. But the stories got worse.

    I would speak regularly to a very senior guy there. Finally, one day, I called him and said, “Look, you have to get in front of this. If you did something wrong admit it and that will give you the credibility you need to deny the other stuff, the unfair accusations.”

    There was a long pause on the other end of the line. Then, the guy said, in a very quiet voice, “Look…here’s the problem: We did it. We did it all.” It was clear his focus had shifted. He realized he was personally in trouble. He realized the company was going down.

    The company of course, was Enron. The rest is history. But I’ll never forget that moment when the penny dropped and it became clear, something very very bad was happening at this place & that these guys were in way over their heads. That’s happening now throughout the West Wing.

    It is starting on Capitol Hill. The people who realize what’s happening may be able to save themselves, move to the right side of this story. Do some good. Those who continue to deny will only become collateral damage. Trump is the Enron of presidents.

    He did it. He did it all. He did more than we know.

    The penny is dropping. How you respond will define your careers, for some it may define whether you even have careers in the future. Or freedom. Or reputations. Time to wake up.

  158. blf says

    More on @209, where I commented, “Ignoring the disastrous consequences of a scared individual firing in / across a darkened room full of screaming panicking people, and also that the attackers took hostages, hair furor is clearly just rambling about the Bataclan theater. That same night, there was also — in the same area, at the same-ish times, in a clearly coordinated fashion — at least one bombing and other shootings.”

    The LA Times reminds me “One of the Bataclan gunmen died when he detonated the bombs on his vests. A second gunman’s bomb vest exploded after he was struck by a police officer’s bullet” (Trump: Fewer would have died in Paris terrorist attacks if victims had been armed). And:

    France’s rate of gun violence has been historically low, with its highest rate in 20 years being 4.89 gun deaths per 100,000 people in 1998, according to the gun statistics website GunPolicy.org. The United States’ rate of gun violence has consistently been at least 10 in the same period, and now stands at 11.9 per 100,000.

    The cited GunPolicy.org (Armed violence and gun laws, country by country) says that, for France (2016 figures unless noted):

    ● 10,000,000 private guns (over 7,200,000 of which are illegal); a rate of almost 15 per 100 people.
       ○ US: 270,000,0001–310,000,000 (of which illegal is not stated (also, year unclear: 2012 ?)), a rate of over 101 per 100 people (world № 1 with perhaps more guns than people!).

    ● 1,750 deaths due to guns (2013, any reason); a rate of 2.65 per 100,000 people.
       ○ US: 38,658 (any reason); a rate of almost 12 per 100,000.

    And this is in a country where wild cheeses roam the streets, the WMD known as French rap “music” can be heard, legless frogs travel by miniature amphibious wheelchair, and church bells fly off to Italy for Easter, bombing the countryside when they return with chocolate eggs.

  159. says

    From quoted text in blf’s comment 216:

    It almost seems as though the business structure was created to make it impossible to track decision-making and funding.

    You think? It doesn’t “almost seem as though,” it is so. Standard operating procedure for Mercer-funded propaganda machines.

    Also standard operating procedure for Russian oligarchs, for the mafia, for Paul Manafort ….

  160. blf says

    More on @207, Trump’s knife crime comments are ridiculous, says London surgeon:

    [… Hair furor] appeared to be referring to reported comments from Martin Griffiths, a lead trauma surgeon at the Royal London hospital […].

    Prof Karim Brohi, another surgeon at the hospital and the director of London’s major trauma system, said knife violence was a serious issue for London.

    “We are proud of the excellent trauma care we provide and of our violence reduction programmes,” he said in a statement on Saturday. “The Royal London hospital has cut the number of our young patients returning after further knife attacks from 45% to 1%.

    “There is more we can all do to combat this violence, but to suggest guns are part of the solution is ridiculous. Gunshot wounds are at least twice as lethal as knife injuries and more difficult to repair. We are proud of our world-leading service and to serve the people of London.”

    In response to comments on Twitter, Griffiths wrote:

    Happy to invite Mr Trump to my (prestigious) hospital to meet with our mayor and police commissioner to discuss our successes in violence reduction in London @SadiqKhan @metpoliceuk @NHSBartsHealth #WindrushAwards

    […]

    Charlie Falconer, a former justice secretary, said: “Trump makes Londoners dislike him more, and the US dislike London more. Mutual dislike is not good as the UK leaves the EU. Trump gives the impression he couldn’t give a fig”:

    4.88 per 100000 murdered in US per annum, 0.92 per 100000 in UK. Implication UK has similar murder rate to US except knives not guns obviously false. Trump lies on everything, but lots of people in US now believe London a knife-armed war zone.

    The shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, is quoted as twittering “Hardly see how violent crime in London justifies the licensing of guns in the US. […]” I presume she miswrote, and meant “… justifies not licensing of guns …” ?

  161. says

    blf @207, I see your point in this comment, but please refrain from adding asides like, “At which point, I am tempted to wish, he was shot from a distance.”

    In this thread, we don’t wish physical harm on anyone. No matter how oblique (or humorous) the reference to physical harm, it is not acceptable.

    Thanks.

  162. says

    Nerd @206, that Maddow monologue was one of her best. She deftly highlighted Rosenstein’s intelligence, his ability to put things into historical context, and his newly public defense of the separation of powers.

  163. says

    This is good news, and it sounds like pushback against some of the unethical goings-on in Congress:

    […] This week, Democratic Reps. Jared Huffman (CA), Jamie Raskin (MD), Jerry McNerney (CA), and Dan Kildee (MI) announced the formation of a new caucus, known as the Congressional Freethought Caucus, to safeguard the interests of nontheists in government, and to promote policies based, in their view, on reason and science.

    A press statement emailed to journalists said, “The mission of the caucus is to promote public policy based on reason and science, to protect the secular character of our government, and to champion the value of freedom of thought worldwide.”

    According to the statement, the caucus will actively work to “protect the secular character of our government”; promote science-bred public policy; counter discrimination against atheists, agnostics, and humanists; and provide a “forum for Members of Congress to discuss their moral frameworks, ethical values, and personal religious journeys.”

    Vox link

  164. says

    Yes, Trump is getting worse.

    This is from the Washington Post:

    In the 466 days since he took the oath of office, President Trump has made 3,001 false or misleading claims, according to The Fact Checker’s database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president. […]

    When we first started this project for the president’s first 100 days, he averaged 4.9 claims a day. Slowly, the average number of claims has been creeping up.

    Indeed, since we last updated this tally two months ago, the president has averaged about 9 claims a day. […]

  165. says

    Corruption, conflicts of interest, and possible bribes from foreign entities … just another day in Trumpworld.

    Call it impeccable timing: A federal judge in January tossed a lawsuit claiming Donald Trump was in violation of a constitutional ban against using the presidency for financial gain from foreign governments. Less than a month later, Qatar shelled out a cool $6.5 million for new digs in the Trump World Tower in Manhattan.

    The January 17 real estate transaction focuses new attention on what the aforementioned lawsuit sought to prevent: violations of the constitution’s emoluments clause. […]

    Qatari officials purchased the pricey condominium for the purpose of housing their diplomatic staff. In an email to the Guardian, the Qatari mission to the United Nations insisted that the property was “purchased due to its location, nothing more.” Trump World Tower is mere steps away from the United Nations’ Manhattan headquarters.

    […] As one might imagine, the condo purchase, coming so soon on the heels of that ruling, has rankled ethics watchdogs anew. […]

    Link

  166. blf says

    Lynna@223, That aside should have been better worded. For instance, “At which point, some rifle experts in the room gave an unexpected demonstration of the distance at which a gun is effective, also hinting at why you should never shoot — or fart — inside a crowded threatre. Whilst the Secret Service was not amused, no-one was actually harmed (they used fart guns), which the delusional hair furor then used to justify how important it was for everyone to carry machine guns. The attendees, now crowded around the exits, nodded sheepishly, adjusted their MAGA hats, and took some more soma.”

      ─────────────────────────

    Teachers to protest at Kentucky Derby, a symbol of state’s inequality (Grauniad edits in {curly braces}):

    […]
    Teachers’ union activists in a state that saw a dramatic strike last month plan to protest at the running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday.

    After last month’s Kentucky teachers’ strike, the state Republican majority chose to take control of the heavily black Jefferson county public school system, based in the Louisville area. Governor Matt Bevin said it was because of concerns about finances. Union leaders say Bevin is punishing teachers for striking.

    “That sure looks like pure retribution to us,” said National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen García. “Here you have Kentucky lawmakers angry that those upstart teachers demanded that something better is done for school funding and their students.”

    […]

    At the 170,000-seat, 147-acre Churchill Downs complex, some seats cost as much as $6,000. But the course sits in a relatively poor Latino neighborhood, known as the Backside, where residents have frequently protested. Immigrants train horses for millionaires; hundreds of horse stable workers earn as a little as $400 a week and a place to sleep.

    This year’s protest will see teachers target Bevin. He has supported a neighborhood schools bill, which would largely defund bussing programs and emphasise schools that draw students from nearby neighborhoods instead of the whole area. Critics say this is re-segregation by stealth.

    With control over Jefferson county schools firmly in the hands of a panel of state education commissioners appointed by the governor, activists say Bevin will likely get his opportunity to smash a school busing program that has won national praise.

    “The governor has had it for Louisville since he was elected because we did not vote for him,” said Scott. “His ego has gotten the best of him. He has had it out for Louisville, and part of the way in which you attack Louisville is through its school system, which educates 101,000 students and is most diverse body of students {in the state}. That diversity scares and threatens the governor because that’s not something he’s comfortable with and respects or values.”

    Activists also worry that the Republican administration could threaten Jefferson county’s sanctuary schools program, which allows migrant children to attend regardless of the state of their documentation. Bevin claims he is taking over the school system because of financial mismanagement he blames on the locally elected school board’s relationship with teachers’ unions.

    This is political, Bevin told the Louisville Courier-Journal. And it’s about power. And it’s about money. And it’s about union dues. And it’s about who gets to elect — and if people don’t think the teachers’ union has elected the school board in Jefferson county they haven’t been paying attention.

    Activists say that if Bevin was serious about helping fund Louisville schools, he would start by eliminating tax breaks for horse racing and bourbon industries. […]

    The precise value of tax breaks to bourbon and horses is unclear, but an analysis provided by Scott’s office showed that it deprives the state of tens of millions of dollars a year.

    “It’s a shame,” said African American teachers’ union activist Tia Kurtisnger-Edison. “The Churchill Downs is a corporation, the bourbon industry is full of corporations, and they have an obligation to make wealth trickle down. We haven’t seen that.”

    I presume they are snarking the discredited “trickle down” economic hypothesis.

      ─────────────────────────

    Rather annoyingly, my mouse has just gone on strike, and is making it difficult to copy-and-paste text. I noticed when I recharged the battery a few days ago it was rather dirty inside, so perhaps just a good cleaning will fix the problem. If not, the mildly deranged penguin will give it a good talking-to, which means I’ll have to find an older / backup mouse — and a computer-mouse physiologist, to be consulted after I find & and coax out the cheese-scarred mousey.

  167. says

    From Cameron Kasky, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who commented on Trump’s speech at the NRA convention in Dallas:

    He’s a professional liar who will say anything to appease whatever crowd he’s at. If he’s in front of families, he might say something in support of common-sense gun reform, but then when he’s at the NRA, he’ll say something to get a big cheer.

    “Professional liar” … that’s a good description.

  168. says

    About that Dallas restaurant that was targeted by the NRA for a boycott:

    A restaurant in Dallas received a series of threats after it posted a message supportive of gun-control measures on its receipts during the National Rifle Association’s annual Leadership Forum.

    Joe Groves, the owner of Ellen’s Restaurant, said that the establishment received calls threatening to “shoot the place up,” and another by a person suggesting that they would set it ablaze. […]

    The threats apparently came in response to the NRA telling its members to “steer clear” of the restaurant, because it had printed a message on the bottom of its receipts saying that a portion of the week’s proceeds would be donated to gun-control advocacy groups.

    “A portion of this week’s proceeds will be donated to organizations dedicated to implementing reasonable and effective gun regulations that protect citizens’ 2nd Amendment rights and also help reduce needless gun violence,” the message reads. “Welcome to Dallas!” […]

    The message on the receipts was picked up by the NRA, who tweeted it out to its 665,000 followers, igniting outrage among the group’s members. […]

    Link

  169. says

    Some of the Parkland students created a video tribute to the 17 people who were killed in the shooting in February.

    […] The video is for a song called “Shine” composed by two of the students was released in March. The video for “Shine” was filmed entirely within the Parkland school where the shooting took place on February 14. […]

    All proceeds from downloads and views of the video will go to Shine MSD, a non-profit group set up by families from the high school to “support programs that provide healing through the arts.”

    The song was written by two students from the Stoneman Douglas drama club, Sawyer Garrity and Andrea Peña, a few days after the shooting took place and was released on iTunes on March 16. […]

    Video available at the link.

  170. says

    Follow-up to blf’s comment 208.

    Colorado State University is inviting two Native American teenagers back to the school after they were pulled from a campus tour when one student’s mother called the police.

    The university on Friday also offered to refund the travel costs incurred by the two men when they traveled to the school last week from their home in New Mexico, […]

    “Two young men, through no fault of their own, wound up frightened and humiliated because another campus visitor was concerned about their clothes and overall demeanor, which appears to have simply been shyness. The very idea that someone — anyone — might ‘look’ like they don’t belong on a CSU Admissions tour is anathema,” school president Tony Frank wrote in an email to students and staff on Friday.

    Link

    Sounds like a good response from Colorado State University.

  171. says

    From Charles Bethea, writing for The New Yorker, a more comprehensive look at Trump’s reactions to issues surrounding gun control:

    […] The White House held a “listening session” with students from the school and their families. The Parkland parent Cary Gruber went with his son Justin, a sophomore. “Trump said he’s his own man and he doesn’t need the N.R.A.’s money,” Gruber told me earlier this week. “He stood in front of all the other congressmen and talked about changing the age and all that,” Gruber added. “It was incredible. He seemed to be showing his strength to change some things.” At a televised White House meeting on gun legislation, in early March, Trump said, to the members of Congress gathered, “Some of you people are petrified of the N.R.A. You can’t be petrified.” He repeatedly referenced a “comprehensive bill” addressing gun regulation.

    “Then, the day after he met with the N.R.A. behind closed doors, everything changed,” Gruber said. “It had just been a charade for TV. It’s very disheartening, how controlling their money is.” Before the convention began, I spoke to two other Parkland parents who said they were “very angry” about Trump’s appearance in Dallas. Michele Barrack, whose daughter Samara is a freshman, told me, “He won’t do anything to help us.” Remembering Trump’s comments to other Parkland parents, she said, “He met us after the shooting and lied to our faces.” […]

    Much more at the link.

  172. KG says

    Results from Thursday’s local council elections in England. IIRC, about 1/4 of the English local councils are contested each year – certainly, the councils contested this time were last contested in 2014. No contests were held in other parts of the UK. Overall, there was not much change, but there was an interesting overall pattern (and I haven’t seen this commented on anywhere): the more pro-Brexit a party is, the worse it did, in proportional terms. Thus UKIP lost almost all its seats, the Tories made a net loss (despite gaining quite a few UKIP seats and some from Labour), Labour made a modest gain, the LibDems and Greens did proportionately best – although their totals are still much lower than the Tories and Labour.

  173. says

    The report on #234 – “APNewsBreak: Mueller team questions Trump friend Tom Barrack”:

    Investigators working for special counsel Robert Mueller have interviewed one of President Donald Trump’s closest friends and confidants, California real estate investor Tom Barrack, The Associated Press has learned.

    The specific topics covered in questions from Mueller’s team were not immediately clear.

    One of the people who spoke to AP said the questioning focused entirely on two officials from Trump’s campaign who have been indicted by Mueller: Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and Manafort’s onetime deputy, Rick Gates. Gates agreed to plead guilty to federal conspiracy and false-statement charges in February and began cooperating with investigators.

    A second person with knowledge of the Barrack interview said the questioning was broader, including financial matters about the campaign, the transition and Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.

    Barrack has rare access and insight into Trump going back decades, since their days developing real estate. Barrack played an integral role in the 2016 campaign as a top fundraiser at a time when many other Republicans were shunning the upstart candidate. Barrack later directed Trump’s inauguration.

    Barrack, a wealthy real estate investor with close ties to several Mideast leaders, met Trump in 1988 when he negotiated the sale of The Plaza Hotel in New York to Trump….

  174. says

    Wow – “Revealed: Trump team hired spy firm for ‘dirty ops’ on Iran arms deal”:

    Aides to Donald Trump, the US president, hired an Israeli private intelligence agency to orchestrate a “dirty ops” campaign against key individuals from the Obama administration who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal, the Observer can reveal.

    People in the Trump camp contacted private investigators in May last year to “get dirt” on Ben Rhodes, who had been one of Barack Obama’s top national security advisers, and Colin Kahl, deputy assistant to Obama, as part of an elaborate attempt to discredit the deal.

    The extraordinary revelations come days before Trump’s 12 May deadline to either scrap or continue to abide by the international deal limiting Iran’s nuclear programme.

    Jack Straw, who as foreign secretary was involved in earlier efforts to restrict Iranian weapons, said: “These are extraordinary and appalling allegations but which also illustrate a high level of desperation by Trump and [the Israeli prime minister] Benjamin Netanyahu, not so much to discredit the deal but to undermine those around it.”

    One former high-ranking British diplomat with wide experience of negotiating international peace agreements, requesting anonymity, said: “It’s bloody outrageous to do this. The whole point of negotiations is to not play dirty tricks like this.”

    Sources said that officials linked to Trump’s team contacted investigators days after Trump visited Tel Aviv a year ago, his first foreign tour as US president….

    According to incendiary documents seen by the Observer, investigators contracted by the private intelligence agency were told to dig into the personal lives and political careers of Rhodes, a former deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, and Kahl, a national security adviser to the former vice-president Joe Biden. Among other things they were looking at personal relationships, any involvement with Iran-friendly lobbyists, and if they had benefited personally or politically from the peace deal.

    Investigators were also apparently told to contact prominent Iranian Americans as well as pro-deal journalists – from the New York Times, MSNBC television, the Atlantic, Vox website and Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper among others – who had frequent contact with Rhodes and Kahl in an attempt to establish whether they had violated any protocols by sharing sensitive intelligence….

    Although sources have confirmed that contact and an initial plan of attack was provided to private investigators by representatives of Trump, it is not clear how much work was actually undertaken, for how long or what became of any material unearthed.

    Neither is it known if the black ops constituted only a strand of a wider Trump-Netanyahu collaboration to undermine the deal or if investigators targeted other individuals such as John Kerry, the lead American signatory to the deal….

  175. says

    “As the ‘King of Debt,’ Trump borrowed to build his empire. Then he began spending hundreds of millions in cash.”:

    In the nine years before he ran for president, Donald Trump’s company spent more than $400 million in cash on new properties — including 14 transactions paid for in full, without borrowing from banks — during a buying binge that defied real estate industry practices and Trump’s own history as the self-described “King of Debt.”

    Trump’s vast outlay of cash, tracked through public records and totaled publicly here for the first time, provides a new window into the president’s private company, which discloses few details about its finances.

    It shows that Trump had access to far more cash than previously known, despite his string of commercial bankruptcies and the Great Recession’s hammering of the real estate industry.

    Why did the “King of Debt,” as he has called himself in interviews, turn away from that strategy, defying the real estate wisdom that it’s unwise to risk so much of one’s own money in a few projects?

    And how did Trump — who had money tied up in golf courses and buildings — raise enough liquid assets to go on this cash buying spree?

    The cash purchases began with a $12.6 million estate in Scotland in 2006. In the next two years, he snapped up two homes in Beverly Hills. Then five golf clubs along the East Coast. And a winery in Virginia.

    The biggest cash binge came last, in the year before Trump announced his run for president. In 2014, he paid a combined $79.7 million for large golf courses in Scotland and Ireland. Since then, those clubs have lost money while Trump renovated them, requiring him to pump in $164 million in cash to keep them running.

    Trump’s lavish spending came at a time when his business was leaning largely on one major financial institution for its new loans — Deutsche Bank, which provided $295 million in financing for big projects in Miami and Washington.

    Trump himself embraced that philosophy — extolling the virtues of borrowing big, even more enthusiastically than other real estate executives. Until, suddenly, he didn’t….

    The series of non-money-laundering explanations they go with are such rank bullshit:

    …Eric Trump, a son of the president who helps manage the company, told The Washington Post that none of the cash used to purchase the 14 properties came from outside investors or from selling off major Trump Organization assets.

    Instead, Eric Trump said, the firm’s existing businesses — commercial buildings in New York, licensing deals for Trump-branded hotels and clothes — produced so much cash that the Trumps could tap that flow for spending money.

    Eric Trump said his father wasn’t forced to turn to a cash-heavy strategy. Trump could have borrowed more if he wanted, he said. But he had soured on borrowing in general, Eric Trump said, after contending with unpaid debts in the early 1990s.

    “Those lessons undoubtedly shaped his business approach and the conservative nature of how we conduct business today,” Eric Trump said.

    “Even his closest senior advisers in NYC were surprised” that Trump paid cash, recounted Neil Hobday, a British developer who worked on the Aberdeen project with Trump.

    Why did he do it?

    Hobday said it was a personal connection: Trump’s mother was born in Scotland.

    “He was, I believe, ‘mystically’ connected and hooked to this project. All my conversations with him were almost on an emotional rather than hard business level,” Hobday wrote in an email to The Post.

    But Trump soon began to buy other properties in cash, in places far from his mother’s homeland….

  176. blf says

    This is the backup mouse, with the original blf attached. The other mouse is having its brains cleaned, which seems to mean removing vast amounts of elderly annoyed cheeses.

    Lynna@232, Thanks for the follow-up to @208. I’m very happy to hear CSU invited the two young men back, in part because they essentially missed the tour, and because it simply seems amongst the best possible responses to what happened (all this in addition to refunding their costs, as also mentioned in @208). I concur, this, along with their statements and promised actions, does seem like a very good response. The obvious missing thing is tolerance / anti-bias training for the bigot who lied and created the mess (ignoring the practical difficulties).

  177. says

    Trump’s tweets, quoted by Lynna @ #119:

    The agreement was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair,…

    Not only does this seem defamatory, but the similar remarks of some of the Trumpers on TV, like Jack Kingston, suggest that this attempt to smear Daniels with the claim that she tried to extort or blackmail Trump appears possibly to be a coordinated effort.

  178. says

    Dershowitz, liar. That this story is unfounded has been called to his attention more than once, and he won’t stop telling it.

    In an April 8 interview with John Catsimatidis on his New York radio show, Mr. Dershowitz asserted that Mr. Mueller was “the guy who kept four innocent people in prison for many years in order to protect the cover of Whitey Bulger as an F.B.I. informer.” Mr. Mueller, he said, was “right at the center of it.”

    But no copy of that letter has ever been produced, and Mr. Dershowitz now says in a statement that several days after making his remarks on the Catsimatidis show, The Boston Globe “revealed for the first time to my knowledge that no such letter has been found. I never repeated the allegation after that.”

  179. blf says

    Like dynamite fishing in a barrel full of caviar, First Dog on the Moon tenderizes a Ozland MP, Can Coalition MP Bechamel Foreclaws really live on $40 a day? (cartoon): “Do the agistment fees for Terrine’s polo pony, Captain Thrusty, count?”

    For a bit on context (Strong case to boost Newstart but politicians are up to their old games), all amounts in Australian dollars (A$40 per day is A$280 per 7-day week):

    The maximum Newstart payment is currently $272.90 a week for a single unemployed person without children. For singles with a dependent child or children it’s $295.20. Just to plot another point in a mental graph, the national minimum wage is currently $694.90 a week.

    Newstart is Ozland’s unemployment benefit. Some Ozland MPs claim A$40 per day is sufficient, and they could live on that amount, Quiz: how much do you know about surviving on Newstart?: “Liberal MP Julia Banks this week said she could survive on $40 per day — take the quiz to find out if you think it’s feasible”.

  180. says

    This is an unbearably tragic story.

    Parents, if you have a queer child, hug them and tell them you love them. Do this every day. Tell them they are beautiful and have worth, no matter what anyone else might tell them. Be their armor against hate.

    Parents, please do this regardless. Even if your child is greatly privileged by all traditional measures, that does not make them automatically feel loved or valued. And if they don’t, they’ll suffer deeply and might hate and abuse themselves and others.

  181. says

    Here’s Giuliani’s full interview this morning with George Stephanopoulos (who did a very good job).*

    Good lord. Avenatti sums it up: “I would urge the public to watch Mr. Giuliani’s full interview on @ThisWeekABC. An unmitigated disaster. This is what happens when you can’t keep your lies straight.” I have to say it seems to border on legal malpractice. He doesn’t know the relevant law or the facts, or he’s lying about them, and it’s just total arrogant incompetence.

    * The few subjects on which Stephanopoulos doesn’t call out his false claims include his misrepresentation of Judge Ellis’ comments and questions on Friday (transcript @ #239 above).

  182. says

    Incredible. After reading the Guardian report @ #238 above (which I haven’t yet seen confirmed by other outlets), Colin Kahl’s wife reminded him of a suspicious episode last year which he described on Twitter. Laura Rozen and others thought the MO used by those approaching Kahl’s wife sounded similar to that used by the Israeli firm Black Cube when they were working for Harvey Weinstein. She’s since confirmed with Kahl that it was the “same fake firm name” – Reuben Capital Partners – “used to approach his wife that Black Cube used to try to suppress Harvey Weinstein stories.”

  183. says

    People have been pointing out that the tactics described in #249 sound similar to this operation ahead of the Hungarian elections, which targeted Soros-linked NGOs. I haven’t finished the article yet, but I noticed that the UK address of the fake Reuben Capital Partners (48 Warwick St, London, W1B 5AW) is virtually the same as that of the fake firm used in the Hungarian operation, Orion Venture Capital (46 Warwick St, London, W1B 5AW).

    These are clearly the same people.

  184. says

    48 Warwick St, at least, appears to be a large office space to let (available now). I don’t know if Black Cube actually rented it for their operations or just used the address because it was harder to check.

  185. says

    In his testimony before Parliament in March, Christopher Wylie claimed that Back Cube had been hired by Cambridge Analytica in at least one election:

    Wylie wasn’t done. He also accused C.A. of employing Black Cube, an Israeli private-intelligence firm, to hack the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, and get access to his medical records and private e-mails. (C.A. denied the allegation, as did Black Cube, a firm that Harvey Weinstein hired to dig up dirt on his accusers. In separate statements, the two firms said that they had never worked with each other.)

  186. says

    OK, I’ve finished the BuzzFeed story about the pro-Orbán operation* in the Hungarian election campaign (linked @ #250), which the evidence leads me to believe was carried out by Black Cube. It notes that a site connected to the so-called sting operation was linked to a network of PR sites celebrating Russian oligarch, legislator, and Putin ally Suleyman Kerimov.

    There is no evidence to suggest that the Russian billionaire is connected to the operation targeting NGOs. However, the fact that several websites used to help boost his online reputation operation share an owner or an agency with one fake company website used in a sting suggests that it is highly likely that both efforts were undertaken by the same people or entity.

    The Kerimov reputation-rehabilitation sites appeared after Kerimov was arrested in France for tax evasion. He was sanctioned in the US last month:

    Suleiman Kerimov is being designated for being an official of the Government of the Russian Federation. Kerimov is a member of the Russian Federation Council. On November 20, 2017, Kerimov was detained in France and held for two days. He is alleged to have brought hundreds of millions of euros into France – transporting as much as 20 million euros at a time in suitcases, in addition to conducting more conventional funds transfers – without reporting the money to French tax authorities. Kerimov allegedly launders the funds through the purchase of villas. Kerimov was also accused of failing to pay 400 million euros in taxes related to villas.

    From a report on his arrest last November:

    The Kremlin said earlier that it would spare no effort to defend the rights of Kerimov, a 51-year-old billionaire who was arrested Monday night in the French Riviera resort city of Nice.

    Shares in Polyus, Russia’s biggest gold producer which is controlled by Kerimov’s family, fell on the news of his detention.

    “We will do everything in our power to protect his lawful interests,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with reporters. “Intensive work is now being undertaken by the foreign ministry.”

    * Of which Orbán and his party made full use, just like Trump did of the anti-Clinton operation. There are a number of similarities.

  187. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 248.

    From Giuliani’s interview:

    We don’t have to comply with a subpoena. He’s [Trump’s] the president of the United States. We can assert the same privileges other presidents have. […]

    The special counsel seems to think Comey is Moses. I happen to think Comey is Judas. […]

  188. says

    SC @241, Preet Bahara has the best dry humor ever. Love that.

    SC @238, Team Trump never makes a move based on facts and on good policy. Instead, they hire questionable firms to find dirt on anyone or any agreement they oppose. They have no good, defensible ideas. From your quoted text:

    Jack Straw, who as foreign secretary was involved in earlier efforts to restrict Iranian weapons, said: “These are extraordinary and appalling allegations but which also illustrate a high level of desperation by Trump and [the Israeli prime minister] Benjamin Netanyahu, not so much to discredit the deal but to undermine those around it.”

    Another thought about the Giuliani interview: in that interview Giuliani said that some of his statement are “rumors.” WTF? How can a former prosecutor operate that way?

  189. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 240.

    This is from Josh Marshall:

    […] Note that year, 2006. That’s the same year when Michael Cohen came to work for the Trump Organization and, as I’ve noted many times, Cohen was brought into the Trump Organization as a conduit for money from Russia and Ukraine.

    […] But there’s good reason to think these two things are related, that the shift toward cash purchases coincided with Trump’s increasingly heavy reliance on post-Soviet cash and that Cohen was an important part of that transition. […]

    In 2014, a golf journalist named James Dodson was persuaded to play a round of golf with Donald Trump, Eric Trump and Greg Norman at the Trump National Golf Club Charlotte. He discussed the outing in May 2017 with WBUR in Boston. According to Dodson, he was astonished that Trump was on such a buying and investment spree in golf courses since banks weren’t touching golf courses and resorts in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

    Eric Trump had a ready answer: we have all the money we want from Russia. […]

    Eric Trump later denied this account. But his denial isn’t terribly persuasive since his brother said much the same thing only a few years earlier. And the Russia explanation is backed up by a mountain of reporting about the Trump’s finances.

    […] one basis of the piece [The Washington Post article] is the very different rules about disclosures for businesses in the United Kingdom which allow us to know much more about Trump’s Scottish and Irish resorts than we know about ones in the US. In terms of Eric Trump’s claim that none of this spending comes from outside investors, well … that could simply be a lie. We have only his say-so to go on. But it can also come from sales of lots of apartment units at choice prices, indeed the Post alludes to this as a potential source of the money. […]

  190. says

    More about the Black Cube operative – Stella Penn Pechanec – linked to the operation to get dirt on Weinstein’s victims and the alleged operation to get dirt on former Obama aides involved with the JCPOA.

    * And the Hungarian “sting” operation against the NGOs! I haven’t seen anyone on Twitter point out the addresses discussed @ #250 above, but it’s important because it clearly links that operation, which was likely funded by the Kremlin, to the same Black Cube people. The address described by Farrow in the passage in Rozen’s recent tweet sounds like the same address used in the two other operations. They’re all connected through Black Cube.

  191. says

    “Nunes, in spat with Justice Department, threatens Sessions with contempt over Russia materials”:

    House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes warned Sunday that he plans to urge lawmakers “this week” to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt of Congress for failing to hand over classified materials related to the Russia investigation.

    But the Justice Department informed Nunes three days ago — on the deadline for responding to a subpoena from Nunes’ committee — that providing the information on a “specific individual” could pose grave implications for national security, according to a letter obtained by CNN.

    “Disclosure of responsive information to such requests can risk severe consequences, including potential loss of human lives, damage to relationships with valued international partners, compromise of ongoing criminal investigations, and interference with intelligence activities,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd, who heads the Justice Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs.

    It was not immediately clear why Nunes has targeted Sessions. A source familiar with the matter said that the request falls squarely within Sessions’ recusal from all materials related to the Russia investigation. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has been fielding the document requests in his place.

    Nunes has not described precisely what information he’s seeking, but he said Sunday on “Fox and Friends” that it’s “very important.”

    Despite not reading the documents, Nunes’ past threats, with the backing of the White House and House Speaker Paul Ryan, have resulted in the Justice Department making a significant amount of classified materials related to the Russia investigation available to lawmakers,…

    This time, the Justice Department appears to have the backing of the White House in resisting Nunes’ request — at least for now.

    Boyd’s letter makes clear that the Justice Department determined after consulting with the White House, FBI and Office of the Director of National Intelligence that it was “not in a position to provide information responsive to your request regarding a specific individual.”

  192. blf says

    Related to the UK’s Windrush scandal, or more accurately, to the (now-PM) Theresa May’s hostile environment policy towards immigrants (which is widely-seen, except by the “government”, as being the one of the primary causes of the scandal), At least 1,000 highly skilled migrants wrongly face deportation, experts reveal:

    […]
    At least 1,000 highly skilled migrants seeking indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in the UK are wrongly facing deportation under a section of the Immigration Act designed in part to tackle terrorists and individuals judged to be a threat to national security, MPs and experts have said.

    [… A] range of MPs and immigration experts have criticised the [home office’s] use of the controversial section 322(5) of the act, with two saying the crisis-hit department is truly wicked and abusing its power.

    Experts say the highly skilled workers — including teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers and IT professionals — are being refused ILR after being accused of lying in their applications either for making minor and legal amendments to their tax records, or having discrepancies in declared income.

    In one case, the applicant’s tax returns were scrutinised by three different appeal courts who had found no evidence of any irregularities. The same figures are nevertheless used as the basis for a 322(5) refusal because of basic tax errors allegedly made by the Home Office itself.

    […]

    “Ten members of our group have taken the Home Office to the first tier tribunal over their use of 322(5) in the past six months. Nine of these won their cases, with the appeal judges ruling the government’s use of section 322(5) was wrong,” said [an organiser for the Highly Skilled Migrants support group, Aditi] Bhardwaj.

    “At best, this suggests that the Home Office is recklessly incompetent in its use of 322(5). At worst, however, the section is being applied by the Home Office so often and being overturned so frequently when challenged at the highest level, that I question whether there is a blanket policy which the Home Office is using internally, which no one is aware about.”

    […]

    Cases include a former Ministry of Defence mechanical engineer who is now destitute, a former NHS manager currently £30,000 in debt, thanks to Home Office costs and legal fees, who spends her nights fully dressed, sitting in her front room with a suitcase in case enforcement teams arrive to deport her, and a scientist working on the development of anti-cancer drugs who is now unable to work, rent or access the NHS.

    […]

    “The way that the 322(5) rules are being applied is similarly malevolent [as in the Windrush scandal cases], and I urge the government to get their house in order before any more lives are needlessly ruined,” [said Alison Thewliss MP].

    Thewliss is helping a number of her highly skilled constituents facing deportation under paragraph 322(5). “It is clear that people are being unfairly targeted using this paragraph of the immigration rules,” she said. “It is a truly wicked way to treat people that have lived here for so long, obeyed the law, and contributed a great deal.”

    The Home Office claims the discrepancies in an ILR applicant’s tax returns are evidence that the applicant has deliberately provided false information, giving it the right to trigger its discretionary powers of paragraph 322(5) of the Immigration Act, a section designed to tackle criminals and those judged to be a threat to national security.

    The controversial paragraph comes with devastating conditions. Migrants immediately become ineligible for any other UK visa. Many are given just 14 days to leave the UK, while others are allowed to stay and fight their cases but not to work.

    In addition, people deported under the terrorism-associated paragraph will have that permanently marked on their passports, making it highly unlikely they will ever get a visa to visit or work anywhere else in the world.

    The Home Office’s own internal guidance to caseworkers specifies that section 322(5) should only be triggered in cases involving “criminality, a threat to national security, war crimes or travel bans”.

    […]

    “Tax error rectification is not illegal or unlawful anywhere in the world, and not even in the UK Financial Act 2007,” said Bhardwaj.

    Paul Garlick, a former Queen’s Counsel who specialises in extradition and human rights law, and was a part-time judge at the crown court in London said: “The decisions of the Home Office are beyond belief and deplorable.

    “The system is crippled by not having enough people to do the work while those who are there, don’t understand the basics,” he added.

    “They genuinely have no idea of the difference between tax years and accounting years, or what is a legitimately deductible expense.”

    […]

    Afzal Khan MP, the shadow minister for immigration, said […] “Going after NHS doctors, lawyers, teachers and engineers on the basis of tax errors is another example of the misguided injustice of the Home Office.”

    Malini Skandachanmugarasan, senior solicitor and head of appeals and human rights at Laura Devine Solicitors in London, said the Home Office is “abusing” the powers granted to them under section 322(5) by “wrongly applying it to those not accused of any crime”.

    “They are increasingly applying it to highly skilled migrants who have been in the UK for many years, creating or building up businesses here while contributing to our economy by paying high taxes and creating jobs for settled, British workers,” she said.

    […]

    Mark Symes, one of the country’s leading barristers specialising in immigration law […], said: “In the last couple of years, the refusal of the Home Office has become near-automatic for any applicant who declares higher earnings on their immigration applications than they subsequently […] declare to the HMRC [UK’s “IRS” –blf].

    “The Home Office think this shows deliberate misuse of the immigration system: that these individuals have either downplayed their income for tax reasons or overstated their income for immigration purposes.”

    “But small businesses may have up and downs on their incomes, and the tax year rarely equates perfectly to the immigration application year,” he said.

    “In any case, it is not unusual for businesspeople to have to correct their tax returns but the Home Office treats any amendments almost as an admission of guilt,” added Symes […].

    A Home Office spokesperson said it refuses applications in these circumstances only where the evidence shows applicants have deliberately provided false information to the government.

    […]

    Hair furor invented a war using knives in London. What perhaps should have used — and wouldn’t have had invent — was a “war” on immigrants using petty paperwork issues in all of the UK.

  193. says

    blf @264:

    Hair furor invented a war using knives in London. What perhaps should have used — and wouldn’t have had invent — was a “war” on immigrants using petty paperwork issues in all of the UK.

    Nicely put. That sums up the situation.

    In other news, Turkey is issuing threats:

    Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said his country would retaliate if the U.S. ceases its weapons sales to Ankara […]

    The House of Representatives recently released details of a $717 billion annual defense policy bill that, among other measures, would temporarily stop weapons sales to Turkey. […]

    “If the United States imposes sanctions on us or takes such a step, Turkey will absolutely retaliate,” Cavusoglu said. “What needs to be done is the U.S. needs to let go of this.”

    His comments come amid increased tension between the two countries over the war in Syria, where the U.S. backs forces that Turkey sees as a threat, as well as accusations of human rights violations carried out by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. […]

    Turkey plans to buy more than 100 jets from Lockheed Martin and is also in talks with Washington to purchase Patriot missiles, according to Reuters.

    NATO countries recently criticized Turkey for purchasing weapons from Russia that are incompatible with the NATO systems. […]

    Link.

  194. blf says

    Also in the UK, Thousands of far-right protesters march in London in support of free speech (I put “free speech” in eejit quotes because these are freeze peach loons with quite bizarre ideas about free speach):

    […]
    Thousands marched through London under the banner of free speech on Sunday after Tommy Robinson, a former leader of the far-right English Defence League, was permanently banned from Twitter.

    Protesters flying national flags and holding placards decrying limits to free expression rallied at Whitehall after marching through central London from Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park, a location seen as emblematic of free speech that has been the scene of several recent far-right rallies.

    Robinson called for the demonstration last week in response to Twitter’s decision to ban him for “hateful conduct” after he posted a message saying: Islam promotes killing people.

    He and several prominent rightwing figures addressed the 2,000–3,000 attendees. Robinson told the crowd: We couldn’t have done this three years ago, we couldn’t have done this four years ago. We are now mainstream.

    Other speakers included the leader of Ukip, Gerard Batten, the Vice magazine co-founder Gavin McInnes, the YouTube personality Sargon of Akkad, Anne Marie Waters of the political party For Britain and the former Breitbart senior editor Milo Yiannopoulos.

    A catalogue of loons, albeit not the full set.

    […]
    It’s to protest against all the censorship that’s going on, political correctness, cultural Marxism and attacks on the white, Christian culture, not just in this country but across Europe, [one of the loony protestors said].

    […]

    In his rally speech, Robinson said: The people of this country have been silenced for 20–30 years with the tag of racists. They have managed to silence people so that they are too scared to speak up when they see things that are wrong.

    They now realise that that tag is dead: no one cares anymore with being labelled racists.

    That garbage about being happy to be called a racist is very similar to the absurdity Bannon tried at the recent le penazi convention here in France.

    […]
    Carl Benjamin, whose alias is Sargon of Akkad, said the protest was against totalitarianism, identity politics and Islamism, which is really the same thing.

    Those protesting against them were only in favour of ‘curated speech’, Benjamin added.

    […]

    As one of the counter-protestors noted, perhaps worryingly, the loons outnumbered the sensible (by perhaps as much as a factor of ten?!).

  195. blf says

    in that interview Giuliani said that some of his statement are “rumors.” WTF? How can a former prosecutor operate that way?

    Same way district attorneys (prosecutors) refuse to bring charges against policegoons for shooting people, or “cook” the presentation to the grand jury so there won’t be an indictment of the goons, or run for (re-)election based on the number of prosecutions (except of goons), or…

  196. says

    Black Cube has issued a statement about the allegations. Colin Kahl: “To say that the least, Black Cube’s dodge is not credible. And lots more will be coming out on Black Cube’s role in all of this very soon.”

  197. says

    “The fake news Russians hear at home”:

    … Though the styles are very different, the vast majority of media is owned by the state or state-linked companies, and the stories are often remarkably alike. On television, which is where most Russians get their news, much of what they see about the West is overwhelmingly dark and negative.

    A recent survey of the three main Russian television channels produced some stark analysis of what Russians are hearing about Europe. Researchers examined newscasts and political talk shows from summer 2014 to December 2017. They found that negative news about Europe appeared on the three channels an average 18 times per day. The percentage of negative to positive news about European countries is 85 percent to 15 percent; for some European countries the ratio is even more skewed. France — perhaps because its most recent presidential election featured Marine Le Pen, a clearly pro-Russian candidate who lost to a pro-European one — was depicted negatively most often.

    Most of the stories, ranging from big news events to local murders to sheer inventions (“the German government is taking children away from their families and giving them to gay couples”) fit into a particular set of narratives. Daily life in Europe is depicted as frightening and chaotic; Europeans are weak, with declining morality and no common values; terrorism keeps people paralyzed with fear; the refugee crisis is getting worse all the time; sanctions on Russia have backfired and are now undermining the European economy and destroying the welfare state. Russia, in the version of the world depicted here, does not need a welfare state, since its citizens are so much hardier.

    This research echoes earlier studies…that also noted how often the European Union is shown by Russian media as aggressive and interventionist,…

    The uses of this kind of coverage aren’t hard to guess. Clearly, it is not in the Russian state’s interest for the Russian nation to admire Europe, not for its democracy or its rule of law, and certainly not for its high standards of living…. If Europe is crazy, twisted, dangerous and dying, then surely Russians are better off under their corrupt authoritarian system.

    There could be a more sinister purpose to this relentless bad news as well, particularly as it echoes equally harsh coverage of the United States and Ukraine. If Russia were expecting or planning some kind of conflict with Europe — diplomatic, economic, political, even military — this is exactly the strategy Russian leaders would use:…

  198. blf says

    Relatively recently, the nazi “government” in Poland passed a law against claiming Poland had any involvement in the holocaust (Poland Just Passed a Holocaust Bill That Is Causing Outrage. Here’s What You Need to Know). Perhaps unsurprisingly, Poland’s Holocaust law triggers tide of abuse against Auschwitz museum:

    Staff say they have suffered a campaign of disinformation and hate from Polish nationalists
    […]
    The campaign of disinformation and abuse at the hands of Polish nationalists has raised concerns about pressure being exerted on official guides at the site in southern Poland, after the home of one foreign guide was attacked and supporters of a convicted antisemite filmed themselves repeatedly hectoring their guide during a visit to the camp last month.

    Conceived in part as a means to prevent facilities established by Poland’s German occupiers from being described as “Polish death camps”, the legislation, which criminalises the false attribution to the Polish state or nation of complicity in the crimes committed by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust, prompted a furious reaction […] amid concerns it could be used to restrict open discussion of Poland’s wartime history.

    This in turn provoked an angry backlash from nationalist and pro-government media in Poland, many of whom accused the museum […] of deliberately downplaying the fate of the approximately 74,000 Polish prisoners who perished in the camp, by focusing exclusively on its Jewish victims.

    I did not go to Auschwitz when I visited Kraków some yonks ago, but I seriously doubt the museum focuses exclusively on the Jewish victims. For example, from their site, Categories of prisoners:

    […]
    Poles in Auschwitz
    After the liquidation of the Polish state and its institutions, the fundamental goal of German policy in occupied Poland was the exploitation of material and labor resources, and the removal of the local Polish population and ethnic minorities. This was done through expulsion and systematic extermination. The Polish lands were to be completely germanized, through German settlement in the depopulated area.

    The first transport of Poles, 728 political prisoners, deported by Germans from Tarnów prison, reached the Auschwitz camp on June 14, 1940. This is why the Polish Parliament instituted June 14 the National Remembrance Day of the Victims of German Nazi Concentration Camps and Extermination Camps.
    […]

    As an aside, Kraków was then, and I presume still is, a neat place to visit. There’s fairly good train connections to both Bratislava and Praha (and, I presume, elsewhere in Poland). Anyways, back to the Grauniad:

    Last month, the brother of the museum’s director published an emotional message on Facebook decrying the “50 days of incessant hatred” directed at his brother, Piotr Cywiński. “For 12 long years he’s worked in one of the most terrible places in the world, in an office with a view of gallows and a crematorium,” he wrote. “Dozens of articles on dodgy websites, hundreds of Twitter accounts, thousands of similar tweets, profanities, memes, threats, slanders, denunciations. It’s enough to make you sick.”

    […]

    The museum has become increasingly assertive in its rebuttals, regularly intervening in discussions on Twitter and publishing a long list of false claims that have been made about the museum, ranging from the issue of Polish flags to the accusation that former Polish prisoners were not invited to a ceremony in January to commemorate the camp’s liberation.

    In February, an open letter to Poland’s minister of culture was published on a rightwing Polish news website in which the author alleged that the police were called after he challenged a guide who, he claimed, had refused to acknowledge that any of the SS guards at Auschwitz had been German. An internal investigation concluded that the entire incident had been fabricated.

    […]

    A key claim of the campaign against the museum is that it has been training the site’s official guides to promote foreign narratives that are considered by many nationalists and government supporters to be inherently hostile to the Polish point of view.

    In February, the official responsible for schools in the region in which Auschwitz is located argued that only Poles should be allowed to work as guides at the site, and that they should be licensed by Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance, a state body widely seen as a tool used by the government to impose its preferred historical narratives.

    […]

    Critics note that a tacit political alliance between radical rightwing circles and Poland’s nationalist-minded government has complicated matters for the museum, which is answerable to Poland’s ministry of culture.

    […]

    A number of museum directors in Poland have lost their jobs or been subjected to pressure from rightwing websites and ruling party politicians in recent years. Last year the director of a new second world war museum in the Baltic city of Gdansk was removed from his position after a lengthy and bitter legal battle, and Poland’s minister of culture recently publicly questioned the position of the director of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, whose tenure is up for renewal next year.

    But Władysław T Bartoszewski, a historian and expert in Polish-Jewish relations whose father was a prisoner in Auschwitz and later served as chairman of the International Auschwitz Council, said it was extremely unlikely that the government would countenance an attempt to remove Cywiński.

    […]

    Whilst the article does mention that some of the guides at the museum feel the administration has downplayed, or is in denial about, some of the threats &tc which have been directed at them, it does seem the museum is responding to the problem.

  199. blf says

    Will Trump ever stop treating his presidency [sic] as a reality-TV show?:

    The climax of the president’s [sic] starring role could turn out to be impeachment
    […]
    As with many aspects of his life, Donald Trump treats big foreign-policy decisions as if they were part of a reality-TV show, keeping his audience in suspense before revealing the big climax. Take his tweet this week about a trio of Americans being detained by North Korea. As everybody is aware, the past Administration has long been asking for three hostages to be released from a North Korean Labor camp, but to no avail. Stay tuned! On Thursday morning Rudy Giuliani — […] who is not supposed to be party to national-security decisions — breezily told Fox News’s morning chatshow that the hostages would be released by the end of the day. It didn’t happen.

    Similarly, Mr Trump has left the world wondering about his next moves on Iran […]. During press conferences at the White House the leaders of France and Germany, which are two of the countries that cosigned the deal, were forced to concede after their one-on-one meetings that they did not know if the president [sic] would withdraw.

    As Trump toys with the idea of pulling out of the Iran agreement and meeting his former [sic] foe Kim Jong-un, myriad issues present themselves. So far there is little indication of what the US wants from the meeting with the North Korean dictator. […]

    Again, Trump’s eye for theatrics is to the forefront of the decision-making process: he said last week that he wanted the summit to be held in the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea, as he liked the message it would send.

    Perhaps not, Suzanne Lynch (the authour), that seems like a bad analysis there. As previously noted in this series of poopyhead threads, the DMZ’s “peace village” is about the only place on the planet where both publicity-minded lying authoritarians could meet without one or the other being seen as losing face or having an advantage. I’d suggest that if hair furor’s concern was strictly theatrics (and I don’t doubt that that is one of his primary concerns), the meeting would be in Pyongyang (I am the only presidential to dare go to N.Korea!) or Washington DC or the UN (I can order Kim about!).

    [… A] central paradox of the meeting is that the US president [sic] is boasting about his peace-building credentials with a nuclear power even as he mulls pulling out of the Iran deal, a deal that Germany, France and the UK have been trying to persuade him is the best way to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

    […]

    That the president [sic] can hold such diametrically opposed positions, threatening to withdraw from one nuclear deal while initiating another, is a measure of how much Trump’s decisions are based on what delivers the best headlines and resonates with his base, rather than on any considered thinking.

    Trump may think [sic] that the possibility of bringing peace to North Korea […] may guarantee his place in history, whatever the finding of the Mueller investigation. But he would do well to remember the lessons learned by one of his predecessors. Richard Nixon may have made history when he visited China in 1972, but it was his impeachment, after the Watergate scandal, that defined his legacy. Trump may go to Korea, but in Washington the year-long investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election will continue. Ultimately, impeachment could be the legacy of the 45th president of the United States.

    On the other hand, Nixon did get an opera, Nixon in China. Interestingly, according to the cited Ye Pfffft! of All Knowledge article:

    In 1983, theater and opera director Peter Sellars proposed to American composer John Adams that he write an opera about Nixon’s 1972 visit to China. Sellars was intrigued by Nixon’s decision to make the visit, seeing it as both “a ridiculously cynical election ploy … and a historical breakthrough”.

    Mr Sellars’ quote about tricky dicky’s visit does sound a lot like how hair furor is presenting his supposedly-upcoming visit.

  200. says

    Update to #269:

    Ronan Farrow, “Israeli Operatives Who Aided Harvey Weinstein Collected Information on Former Obama Administration Officials.”

    Informative thread by Colin Kahl about how this operation coincided with people in the WH singling out him and Rhodes specifically.

    There’s still no clarity about who hired or paid for the Black Cube operation. Seems like it could have been Adelson or Catz or someone paying and working with Bannon, Kushner(?), Harvey, Cohen-Watnick, or the like.

    Farrow doesn’t talk about the Hungarian operation, unfortunately. I hope BuzzFeed will have more about it.

  201. says

    “Republicans Make Moves To Crush Gerrymandering Reform”:

    With anti-gerrymandering efforts heading to the ballot box, Republicans in some states are mobilizing to protect their ability to continue rigging election maps.

    In late April, a Republican group backed by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce sued to keep a popular redistricting reform measure off the state’s November ballot. Arizona’s GOP-controlled legislature last week narrowly failed to pass a bill that would have given the party much more control over the map-drawing process. And Pennsylvania Republicans, who recently mulled impeaching a group of state judges who struck down their gerrymander, this week gutted reform legislation.

    More anti-reform efforts could be on the horizon. In Missouri, a reform measure just qualified for the ballot, and the signature-gathering deadline is drawing near in Utah.

  202. says

    Gina Haspel, in a weekend meeting, discussed withdrawing her nomination for CIA director ahead of Senate confirmation hearings this week, an idea rejected by Trump’s camp.

    Naturally, Trump thought this was a perfect moment to…celebrate Haspel’s role in torture and allude to plans for more of the same:

    My highly respected nominee for CIA Director, Gina Haspel, has come under fire because she was too tough on Terrorists. Think of that, in these very dangerous times, we have the most qualified person, a woman, who Democrats want OUT because she is too tough on terror. Win Gina!

    (I’m tired of TV pundits talking about how people shouldn’t look at Haspel’s actions from the perspective of 2018 morality; torture was illegal for a long time before W.’s presidency.)

  203. says

    “‘Trump’s going to be forced to resign’: Stormy Daniels’ lawyer predicts a fall”:

    Will a porn star help to bring down a president? Stormy Daniels’ lawyer thinks so.

    “Ultimately, he is going to be forced to resign,” said Michael Avenatti, the attorney for the adult film actor who says she had an affair with Donald Trump and was paid by Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, to keep it quiet.

    “I don’t know how he will ultimately spin his departure, but I firmly believe there is going to be too much evidence of wrongdoing by him and those around him for him to be able to survive the balance of his term.”

    Avenatti spoke to the Guardian in New York on Friday. He is convinced Trump will not be impeached but will find himself unable to stay in his job before his term ends in January 2021.

    “We have only scratched the surface in this case,” Avenatti said. “Not only do I think that, I know that. There is going to be a significant amount of evidence that’s going to come to light, and when that evidence is presented, and when the American people learn of it, they are going to be disgusted by the conduct of Mr Trump and Mr Cohen, and that serious consequences will result.”…

  204. says

    SC @278: “House Democrats Plan to Release 3,000 Russian-Linked Facebook Ads.”

    I really admire the fact that Adam Schiff never gives up. This is a good idea … and it shows Schiff and other Democrats playing a better PR game.

  205. says

    Wow.

    [By the way, I recommend reading the hearing transcript @ #239. I was very impressed with Dreeben, who calmly persisted and managed to get his points across in the face of interruptions, admonishments, accusations, and occasional loopiness (surprisingly non-tangential loopiness, if that makes sense, but loopiness nonetheless).]

  206. blf says

    Film hailing Saudi progress on women’s rights branded ‘dreadful propaganda’:

    […]
    A film intended to celebrate progress on women’s rights in Saudi Arabia has been condemned by experts and rights groups as a “dreadful piece of propaganda” that will serve only to reinforce the existing culture of discrimination in the country.

    Launched by the Saudi-based organisation Alwaleed Philanthropies, one of the world’s largest private philanthropic foundations, the film aims to highlight reforms in the deeply conservative state, where women can now attend sports events and will soon be able to drive cars.

    It shows a woman being encouraged by a man to drive a car, as well as a woman in traditional Abaya being urged by a man to take a wingsuit flight […].

    But the tone of the footage — which shows men urging women to follow their dreams and culminates with the tag line: Next to every great woman, a man believing in her — has been criticised as patronising and discriminatory.

    Dr Madawi al-Rasheed, a visiting professor at the London School of Economics’ Middle East Centre, questioned the commercial value of the film and branded it a “dreadful piece of propaganda” that showed only women dependent on men.

    […]

    The UN committee on the elimination of discrimination against women said the state should enforce a recent order that would entitle all women to obtain a passport, travel or study abroad, choose their residency, and access healthcare “without having to seek their guardian’s consent”.

    Suad Abu-Dayyeh, the Middle East and North African consultant for Equality Now, said: “This film is not accurate, it is not fair and it is not just. Of course, we should recognise the role of men in supporting women’s rights. But it should not be the core of the film.”

    […]

    Sama Awaida, director of the women’s study centre in Palestine, said the film was sending out the wrong message.

    “I don’t understand how it can be about women’s empowerment,” said Awaida. “Women’s empowerment is a long struggle, but it is about empowering women to be independent of men, not dependent on men.”

    The film is unlikely to have mentioned the real problem — cooties.

  207. says

    Trump’s anti-Mueller Twitter tirade from this morning:

    The Russia Witch Hunt is rapidly losing credibility. House Intelligence Committee found No Collusion, Coordination or anything else with Russia. So now the Probe says OK, what else is there? How about Obstruction for a made up, phony crime.There is no O, it’s called Fighting Back

    The 13 Angry Democrats in charge of the Russian Witch Hunt are starting to find out that there is a Court System in place that actually protects people from injustice…and just wait ‘till the Courts get to see your unrevealed Conflicts of Interest!

    Lisa Page, who may hold the record for the most Emails in the shortest period of time (to her Lover, Peter S), and attorney Baker, are out at the FBI as part of the Probers getting caught? Why is Peter S still there? What a total mess. Our Country has to get back to Business!

    Is this Phony Witch Hunt going to go on even longer so it wrongfully impacts the Mid-Term Elections, which is what the Democrats always intended? Republicans better get tough and smart before it is too late!

  208. says

    Sounds fun – “Pro-Kremlin Cossack troops to ‘ensure public safety’ at World Cup”:

    Pro-Kremlin Cossack fighters – like the ones who used leather whips to attack protesters at an opposition rally in Moscow at the weekend – are to patrol the streets of the Russian capital at the World Cup, according to reports.

    The fighters, in traditional Cossack fur hats, joined forces with police and the National Guard security force to crack down on Saturday’s protest ahead of Vladimir Putin’s inauguration for a fourth presidential term on Monday.

    “We’ll do over anyone who makes trouble against Putin,” an unnamed Cossack was reported as saying by the Meduza news website. Cossacks also used sticks to lash out at protesters who had gathered at Moscow’s Pushkin Square.

    More than 300 Cossacks are also due to work alongside police in Rostov-on-Don, the southern Russian city that will host four World Cup group matches and a round-of-16 game.

    The Kremlin has in recent years encouraged a revival of the Cossacks, the descendants of the fiery Tsarist-era horsemen who once guarded Russia’s southern borders.

    Cossacks have acted as an auxiliary police force in some cities, undertaking street patrols on the lookout for illegal immigrants. They have also taken part in raids on art galleries and theatres deemed to have displayed “blasphemous” material. Cossack paramilitary groups have fought alongside Russian-led separatists in eastern Ukraine.

    They have also targeted Kremlin critics. In 2016, a group of Cossacks attacked Navalny and his supporters in Anapa, a city in southern Russia. Members of Pussy Riot, the anti-Kremlin performance art group, were set on by Cossacks ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. No charges were brought against the assailants in either case.

    Hundreds of members of the Kremlin-backed Molodaya Gvardiya youth movement also helped police make arrests at Saturday’s rally in Moscow, while activists from the pro-Putin National Liberation Movement were involved in scuffles with protesters.

  209. says

    From Wonkette’s coverage of Rudy Giuliani’s fantastic plastic media tour:

    If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell. And if you’re too stupid to do any of those things, send in Rudy Giuliani. –Carl Sandburg, more or less

    Last week, Mayor 911 Brokebrain went on television to tell the world that his client Donald Trump is definitely guilty of one million crimes.

    Donald Trump was just smart enough to tell the press gaggle to ignore his damn fool lawyer. “Virtually everything that’s been said has been said incorrectly.”

    But not smart enough to keep Rudy from diving in front of the camera this weekend for several more batshit crazy media appearances. […]

    Giuliani went on to insist that he has no idea what his client got up to with Stormy Daniels. […] “I have been in the case for two weeks, virtually one day in comparison to other people. So, I am not an expert on the facts yet. I am getting there. But I am an expert on the law, and particularly the campaign finance law, I have lived under it running for president.” […]

    Giuliani had refined this theory by Sunday morning, telling ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that Trump can’t possibly testify before the grand jury because what if evil James Comey is lying, and then Donald Trump tells the truth LIKE ALWAYS but winds up in jail? “The special counsel so far seems to think that Comey is Moses. And I happen to think Comey is Judas.”

    Yes, in Rudy’s version of the story, Donald Trump is Jesus.

    And speaking of bullshit, are we still sticking with the story that Trump only just found out that he was paying Cohen back for the money he advanced to shut up Stormy Daniels?

    GIULIANI: Those are the facts that we’re still working on. And that — you know, may be in a little bit of dispute. This is more rumor than it is anything else. But…

    STEPHANOPOULOS: But that’s what you said. You said that to BuzzFeed.

    GIULIANI: But here’s the — but here’s the — well, yes, I mean that — that’s one of the possibilities and one of the rumors. The reality is…

    STEPHANOPOULOS: You stated it as fact.

    GIULIANI: Well, maybe I did. But I — right now, I’m at the point where I’m learning, and I can only — I can’t prove that. I can just say it’s rumor. I can prove it’s rumor, but I can’t prove it’s fact. Yet. Maybe we will.

    STEPHANOPOULOS: But — but you’ve said as — it — you’ve said as a matter of fact on Hannity and BuzzFeed, you talked to the Washington Post about it.

    GIULIANI: I don’t know — I don’t know how you separate fact and opinion. […]

    Then, noted campaign finance law expert Rudolph Giuliani cited rulings from the “Campaign Finance Commission,” which does not care “if a man buys a suit, if a woman buys a dress” to wear on the campaign. In fact, the Campaign Finance Commission doesn’t care if you donate twenty kilos of black tar heroin to a politician, because the Campaign Finance Commission DOES NOT EXIST. Perhaps he means the Federal Election Commission (FEC). It’s a common mistake made by election law experts all the time. (No, it isn’t.) […]

    “I’ll give you the conclusion: We all feel pretty good that we’ve got everything kind of straightened out and we’re setting the agenda. […] Everybody’s reacting to us now, and I feel good about that because that’s what I came in to do.”

    You can tell you’re winning by how loud they’re laughing at your attorney. That is just true.

  210. says

    SC @287, just you wait, Trump is going to say the wants/needs his own Cossacks.

    Or maybe he just needs to make the white supremacists in Charlottesville into an official Presidential Protection Force.

    In other news, more bad news on the healthcare front … courtesy of Trump:

    Two of Virginia’s ObamaCare insurers are requesting significant premium hikes for 2019, according to initial filings released Friday.

    Both Cigna and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield cited policies advocated by the Trump administration, including the repeal of ObamaCare’s individual mandate, as part of its justifications for the increases. […]

    The Hill link

    From Steve Benen:

    […] Trump took deliberate steps he knew would make health care coverage more expensive for millions of American consumers, and as a consequence, health care coverage is becoming more expensive for millions of American consumers.

    Chet Burrell, the CEO of CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, conceded last week to the Washington Post that he fears the system is “materially worse” under Trump. He added, “Continuing actions on the part of the administration to systematically undermine the market and make it almost impossible to carry out the mission.” […]

    Before anyone suggests this is the natural result of an effective ACA model, it’s important to understand how wrong that argument is. Chet Burrell went on to say, “Did Obamacare work? Did the people who needed the coverage get it? Hell, yes.” […]

  211. blf says

    ‘It’s all about vested interests’: untangling conspiracy, conservatism and climate scepticism:

    Study across 24 countries suggests the fossil fuel industry has reshaped conservative political values in the US and Australia

    If you reckon the 11 September terrorist attacks might have been an inside job or there is a nefarious new world order doing whatever it is the illuminati do, what are you likely to think about the causes of climate change?

    Academics have suggested that people who tend to accept conspiracy theories also underplay or reject the science showing humans are causing rapid and dangerous climate change.

    But a new study that tested this idea across 24 different countries found the link between so-called “conspiratorial ideation” and “climate scepticism” only really holds in the US.

    University of Queensland psychology professor Matthew Hornsey and colleagues surveyed 5,300 people to test the link between climate “scepticism” and acceptance of four internationally propagated conspiracy theories around the assassination of President Kennedy, the 11 September terrorist attacks, the death of Princess Diana and the existence of a new world order.

    Only in the US did the correlation fall outside the margin of error. This is perhaps not surprising, given the booming online conspiracy culture in the Trumpocene, with even would-be presidential science advisers hanging around with conspiracy theorists.

    The study also tried to tease out the links between the rejection of human-caused climate change and the ideologies that people hold.

    […] Hornsey’s study finds that “there is nothing inherent to conspiratorial ideation or conservative ideologies that predisposes people to reject climate science”.

    Instead, it suggests vested interests have managed to reshape the conservative identity with “ignorance-building strategies” in two countries — the US and Australia.

    I love the term “ignorance-building strategies” !

    The rest of the article is an interview with Prof Hornsey, concluding:

    What do you think it would take for the US and Australia to break the apparent link between conservative ideology and climate “scepticism”?

    As the negative consequences of climate change become more severe and more immediate, I think the ideological element will fade away (although by then it’s likely to be too late, sadly). The other option is to use what I call “jiujitsu” persuasion techniques; to talk about climate mitigation in a way that aligns with people’s underlying ideologies rather than competing with them. There’s already evidence that if you frame climate change mitigation as something that’s sympathetic to free markets, or as a patriotic act designed to maintain energy security, or as a chance to generate green jobs, then conservatives are less likely to resist the science.

    The paper is published at Nature Climate Change, but is behind a paywall, Relationships among conspiratorial beliefs, conservatism and climate scepticism across nations:

    Abstract
    Studies showing that scepticism about anthropogenic climate change is shaped, in part, by conspiratorial and conservative ideologies are based on data primarily collected in the United States. Thus, it may be that the ideological nature of climate change beliefs reflects something distinctive about the United States rather than being an international phenomenon. Here we find that positive correlations between climate scepticism and indices of ideology were stronger and more consistent in the United States than in the other 24 nations tested. This suggests that there is a political culture in the United States that offers particularly strong encouragement for citizens to appraise climate science through the lens of their worldviews. Furthermore, the weak relationships between ideology and climate scepticism in the majority of nations suggest that there is little inherent to conspiratorial ideation or conservative ideologies that predisposes people to reject climate science, a finding that has encouraging implications for climate mitigation efforts globally.

  212. says

    “‘Smoke and Mirrors’: Emails Detail Pruitt’s Drive for Secrecy at the E.P.A.”:

    …Details from the breakfast, and dozens of other official appearances from Mr. Pruitt’s scandal-plagued first year at the E.P.A., have until now been hidden from public view as a result of an extraordinary effort by Mr. Pruitt and his aides to block disclosure of the bulk of his daily schedule.

    But a Freedom of Information lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club, the environmental group, has resulted in the release of 10,703 pages of documents that detail Mr. Pruitt’s plans for travel and appearances nationwide. The documents offer visibility for the first time not only into many of his appearances but into the agency’s pursuit of secrecy as well.

    The emails — concerning events like a closed-door speech to power plant owners in Missouri, a secret visit to Toyota’s auto plant in Texas and a town-hall style speech to farmers in Iowa where organizers clamped down on questions — show the E.P.A.’s chief concern was about controlling who would be in the room with Mr. Pruitt and what could be said.

    The E.P.A. did not respond to requests for comment. In the past, E.P.A. officials have said that Mr. Pruitt has faced an unprecedented number of death threats, which account for the size of his security force and the agency’s refusal to release his daily schedule.

    However, the documents provide new indications — supported by interviews with current and former aides to Mr. Pruitt at the E.P.A. — that the concern with secrecy is less about security than a desire by Mr. Pruitt to avoid criticism from detractors or even unexpected questions from allies.

    All politicians are attuned to image-building, of course, and employ staffs whose job is to control the environments in which they appear. Mr. Pruitt, though, has carried the practice to an extreme.

    Breaking with all of his predecessors at the E.P.A. for the last 25 years, as well as other members of President Trump’s cabinet, he does not release a list of public speaking events and he discloses most official trips only after they are over. Mr. Pruitt doesn’t hold news conferences, and in one episode, journalists who learned of an event were ejected from the premises after an E.P.A. official threatened to call the police.

    The E.P.A. also declined to make public a copy of Mr. Pruitt’s detailed calendar until it was sued by The New York Times and other organizations.

    More recently, the agency moved to require that any documents related to Mr. Pruitt that are gathered as a result of Freedom of Information requests be provided to his political aides 48 hours in advance for an “awareness review” before they are made public, “to insure that leadership is aware of public disclosures,” a June email said.

    …A driving concern among E.P.A. officials, the emails show, is to separate potential guests into two camps: “friendly” and “unfriendly.” Events can be reorganized at the last minute if there are concerns that people who are considered unfriendly might show up….

    More at the link.

  213. KG says

    There’s already evidence that if you frame climate change mitigation as something that’s sympathetic to free markets, or as a patriotic act designed to maintain energy security… then conservatives are less likely to resist the science. – Prof. Matthew Hornsey quoted by blf@290

    So, Hornsey’s saying you have to lie to them, because they just won’t accept reality.

  214. blf says

    Follow-up to @50, Sneaky tricks are being used before the May 25 referendum in Ireland on repealing the constitution’s eight amendment, which heavily restricts abortion, The poisonous online campaign to defeat the abortion referendum:

    […] It was clear a big, and expensive, online advertising campaign was being rolled out. Around the same time people noticed adverts on Facebook linking to a website called Undecided8, which purported to be an unbiased website for facts.

    At this point Gavin Sheridan picked up on what was happening. Sheridan is the founder of a legal-data start-up, Vizlegal, and formerly innovation director at Storyful. He was tweeting about his investigation. “Back when I was writing and warning about this last year: this is what I meant,” he tweeted at one point. “We have no idea who’s doing what, with what money, with what motivations, from where. And now buttons are being pushed somewhere […].”

    So what was happening? Sheridan identified Fuzati, a Texas-based “Catholic marketing and technology firm”, as a company working with Protect the 8th. Fuzati were in Dublin on April 23rd; they shared a photograph on Facebook of people in a nicely appointed room. We are here in Dublin with ProtectThe8th this morning. Pray for us! […].

    The Undecided8 website was built, and the Facebook and YouTube advertisements rolled out, to identify undecided voters. This kind of campaign would not have worked on Facebook if its architects, the No campaign, had said they were behind it. It was designed to engage undecided voters by claiming to deliver information rather than opinion. Yes or No? Unsure? Here are some unbiased facts to consider before you vote, one Undecided8 Facebook ad read. At least eight advertisements of this nature appeared on the social-media platform.

    […]

    The website used Leadpages, a service that tracks people who click into a site. […] So when countless Irish undecided voters clicked on these ads on Facebook, bringing them to the Undecided8 website, their data was captured. Undecided8 then knew who had visited, and could send them strong No messages in the run-up to the referendum, in an attempt to sway their position. This is a type of campaigning that those calling for regulation of online political advertising warned us about.

    It is very unusual in Ireland, and it has ramifications for campaigning, voter behaviour and even the outcome of a referendum.

    [… T]wo types of referendum campaign are under way. One is in full view: the posters and debates and daily media reports. The other is in the shadows online, where Ireland has dawdled on regulation and where it is impossible to quantify the impact of the type of advertising, used by Undecided8.

    […]

  215. says

    From text quoted by blf in comment 290:

    vested interests have managed to reshape the conservative identity with “ignorance-building strategies” in two countries — the US and Australia.

    Well written. Yes, “ignorance-building strategies” have changed conservatism in the USA. This is an effing disaster for democracy. Bad, bad, bad.

  216. says

    SC @295, the Kurd proving, not for the first time, that are quite good at governing.

    In other news, this is a follow-up to comments 249, 251, 252, 254, 262, 269, and especially 275. The previous comments are from SC, who has been following the evolving news regarding Black Cube.

    From Emmanuelle Elbaz-Phelps:

    He insisted “there is no connection to Trump or the #IranNuclearDeal” but he didn’t deny #BlackCube was hired by a private company and even told me the client is “somebody that profits from the sanctions on Iran”.
    Question : who is the client and how they connect to Trump?

    https://twitter.com/manuelbaz/status/993540588015366144

  217. says

    Robert Mackey at The Intercept is now talking about Black Cube and the Hungarian operation, which is great.

    Last month, Black Cube vehemently denied that it was the Israeli private intelligence firm Hungarian intelligence sources blamed for an elaborate smear campaign targeting Hungarian rights activists and groups that receive funding from George Soros. However, there was little doubt that at least some of the operatives who carried out that attack on critics of Hungary’s prime minister were Israelis, since both of the men whose voices were recorded spoke with English with Israeli accents.

    But he’s not noticing the addresses I pointed to @ #250, which is annoying. :)

  218. says

    Lynna @ #301, their explanation changes by the hour, and the latest sounds very much like a cover story to lead journalists off the trail. The funniest part is that almost every time they get caught they start off by saying their policy is to neither confirm nor deny their involvement/clients, followed – sometimes in the same statement – by confirming or denying their involvement/clients and funneling generally false information to journalists.

  219. says

    More from the Guardian on Black Cube. They’re reporting BC’s denial/story, but don’t appear to be backing off their original report that this was political and involved Trump aides.

    “Iran deal: prominent backer says he was warned of Trump bid to discredit him”:

    A prominent Iranian-American supporter of the Iran nuclear deal says he was warned by US intelligence during the presidential transition that his communications would be targeted by the Trump camp in a bid to discredit him.

    The new details from the behind-the-scenes struggle over the 2015 deal have emerged as it reaches a critical point. Donald Trump said on Monday that he would announce on Tuesday his decision on whether to continue to abide by the agreement, which is enshrined in a 2015 UN security council resolution, or potentially violate it by reintroducing sanctions on Iran.

    Trita Parsi, the president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), was also the target more recently of an Israeli private security company, Black Cube, aimed at gathering personal information about the deal’s advocates among senior figures from the Obama administration.

    The Guardian has obtained the transcript of an interview with Parsi conducted last summer by an operative working for Black Cube posing as a journalist, probing him for any ways Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl – top foreign advisers to Barack Obama and his vice-president, Joe Biden – might have benefited from the 2015 agreement, in which Iran received sanctions relief in return for accepting strict curbs on its nuclear programme.

    “I thought it was strange that he was pushing this financial angle, which I hadn’t heard before,” Parsi recalled.

    However some months before the telephone interview, between Trump’s election victory in November and his inauguration in January, Parsi says he received an extraordinary warning.

    “Someone in US intelligence, through an intermediary, told us that we would be targeted by the Trump crowd, in order to discredit us as a way of discrediting the JCPOA,” Parsi said, adding that the warning had come with an encouragement to be careful about his means of communication.

    Israeli media quoted Black Cube sources on Monday as saying that its work was related to a dispute between shipping companies, but did not explain how that mission led the firm to attempt to spy on the Rhodes and Kahl families.

    The fate of the JCPOA has been the subject of intense interest from the world’s intelligence agencies since negotiations began in 2013. Daryl Kimball, the head of the Washington-based Arms Control Association (ACA), which has been an enthusiastic supporter of the deal, said the group’s computer systems were targeted by a series of untraceable denial of service attacks beginning on 6 June 2016, the day Rhodes spoke at the ACA annual general meeting.

    In November 2017, the Washington offices of another prominent pro-JCPOA advocacy group were burgled. According to officials from the organisation, who did not want it to be named, it was a sophisticated break-in in which the whole building’s closed-circuit TV and alarms were disabled. The thieves went to offices at the back on the organisation’s suite and took only two computers used by senior officials, ignoring many other expensive electronics including a new computer, still in its box, which was lying close to the entrance.

    “If these are operations that are sanctioned by someone in the White House to dig up possible dirt on the president’s enemies, this is Nixonian,” Kimball said. “These sort of dirty tricks are unacceptable.”

  220. says

    Maggie Haberman: “Schneiderman was a prominent voice against Trump, and was also moving to take on his son, Eric, over his charitable foundation. Trump allies have been messaging describing Schneiderman allegations as a win for him.”

    southpaw: “If we uphold the rule of law, these investigations of apparent misconduct in Trump world will continue after Schneiderman rightfully resigns. One of the benefits of a rule-based system is there are no indispensable men.”

    Exactly. This is the side of Haberman, the obtuse version of “objectivity,” that bothers me.

  221. says

    “As headlines swirl, Trump grows frustrated with Giuliani”:

    Trump has begun questioning whether Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, should be sidelined from television interviews, according to two people familiar with the president’s thinking but not authorized to speak publicly about private discussions.

    Trump also expressed annoyance that Giuliani’s theatrics have breathed new life into the Daniels story and extended its lifespan. It’s a concern shared by Trump allies who think Giuliani is only generating more legal and political trouble for the White House.

    Giuliani is plainly catastrophically incompetent. But he and Trump obviously planned this appearance to try to get ahead of information that will be revealed from the Cohen case. And much more will come out. They still don’t have a story, and they can’t have a story, because they’ve been lying. And much more will come out, regardless of what Giuliani says on TV.

    Additionally, Trump has grown agitated in recent days by cable news replays of Giuliani’s Wednesday interview with Sean Hannity, in which he first said that Trump knew about the payment but claimed it wouldn’t be a campaign violation. A clearly surprised Hannity then asked, “Because they funneled it through the law firm?”

    To which Giuliani responded, “Funneled it through the law firm, and the president repaid him.”

    Trump snapped at both men in recent days, chiding Hannity for using the word “funneled,” which he believes had illegal connotations, according to the people. As for Giuliani, the president has not yet signaled to him to stop appearing on television, but told a confidant recently that perhaps his new lawyer should “be benched” at least temporarily, if he can’t improve his performance.

    This is hilarious. It’s obvious from the transcript (linked @ #115 above) that Hannity was talking about Perkins Coie and the payments to Fusion GPS when he said “funneled.” He even tried to clarify:

    …HANNITY: As we continue with President Trump’s attorney, former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani, I want to clarify something. Because I was asking you about Perkins Coie and you said that the money was not campaign money — “I’m giving you a fact now that you don’t know, it’s not campaign money, no campaign violation.” And I said, “Because they funneled through a law firm.”

    I think we were talking about two different things there. I want to make sure.

    GIULIANI: I was talking about the $130,000 payment —

    HANNITY: Right.

    But these portions aren’t shown in any of the replays, and Giuliani is such a dotard that he just repeated Hannity’s words, and Trump is such a moron that he thinks his payments are what Hannity was talking about. Now, I’m amused that Trump and Giuliani just see Hannity as a tool and thought nothing of blindsiding him with this, and that Trump is now in his confusion turning his anger on Hannity despite Hannity’s best efforts at lickspittling, but…

    Avenatti: “Our resolve doubled tonight. It has never been higher. #basta”

  222. says

    My guess is that if Schneiderman was doing the amount of drinking and pill-taking and attempting to control his girlfriends’ lives suggested in the article, much of the work was already being done by others in the AG’s office. It’s always seemed far too much work for one person to be in charge of in any event.

  223. says

    They’re reporting BC’s denial/story, but don’t appear to be backing off their original report that this was political and involved Trump aides.

    Julian Borger from the Guardian told PBS NewsHour last night that “our sourcing who are close to this private security firm said it was clear that, when the tasking for this went out, that the ultimate customer was the Trump team, the Trump camp.”

    (Looks like maybe Taiwanese shipping company is the new Elliott Broidy.)

  224. says

    NY AG press secretary: “This morning, I’m grateful to work with the best colleagues in the business – including Barbara Underwood, who will be acting NY AG. She’s argued 20 cases before SCOTUS, clerked for Thurgood Marshall, & much more. The work continues.”

    You can read her bio @ #308 above.

  225. says

    “Pruitt fast-tracked California cleanup after Hugh Hewitt brokered meeting”:

    EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt placed a polluted California area on his personal priority list of Superfund sites targeted for “immediate and intense” action after conservative radio and television host Hugh Hewitt brokered a meeting between him and lawyers for the water district that was seeking federal help to clean up the polluted Orange County site.

    The previously unreported meeting, which was documented in emails released by EPA under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the Sierra Club, showed Pruitt’s staff reacting quickly to the request last September by Hewitt, who has been one of Pruitt’s staunchest defenders amid a raft of ethics controversies around his expensive travel, security team spending and a cheap Washington condo rental from a lobbyist.

    Hewitt, a resident of Orange County whose son James works in EPA’s press office, emailed Pruitt in September to set up a meeting between the administrator and the law firm Larson O’Brien, which employs Hewitt and represents the Orange County Water District….

    Pruitt’s aides responded within minutes and quickly confirmed an Oct. 18 meeting for the lawyers and a project director.

    Six weeks after that meeting, on Dec. 8, the Orange County North Basin site appeared on Pruitt’s list of 21 contaminated areas to address. A month later, Pruitt proposed listing the site on EPA’s National Priorities List, a move that could make it eligible for long-term federal cleanup funding from the federal government if the responsible polluters cannot be identified and forced to pay for its remediation.

    Since then, Hewitt has been a robust defender of Pruitt, dismissing his recent controversies as “nonsense scandals” on MSNBC in early April and saying his detractors were “just trying to stop the deregulation effort.”

    EPA never disclosed the meeting with Hewitt’s contacts. It was listed on Pruitt’s public calendar as a staff briefing. But on his private Outlook schedule, which the agency has released in response to lawsuits, it appeared as an “Orange County Superfund Site” meeting with Kelly and two other staffers….

  226. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comments 305 and 315.

    Trump actually has until the 12th to either renew or pull out of the Iran nuclear deal. I wonder if he moved the announcement up to 2:00 PM today in order to get ahead of the unfolding Black Cube story.

    More damning details of the pro-Trump forces and Black Cube collaboration are bound to come out, but now it will be too late to save the Iran nuclear deal.

  227. says

    Today is election day in four states: West Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio and Indiana. Two primary races for governor are being decided in Ohio. The Senate primary in West Virginia is of particular interest because Republican Don Blankenship is running. Blankenship may well win the Republican primary even though he is a convicted felon who was held responsible for not adhering to mine safety rules in one of his coal mines, a dereliction that resulted in the deaths of 29 men.

    In other election news, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is considering running for governor of Alabama.

    All the best people.

  228. says

    It looks to me like Melania Trump’s staff, or the White House staff in general, have not served Melania well … again:

    On Monday, Melania Trump formally announced the launch of an anti-cyberbullying initiative. As part of that initiative, the White House released a booklet that, in the words of Melania’s signed introduction, is intended to “help kids act thoughtfully and kindly” online. And, as BuzzFeed News’ Ryan Mac points out, it appears that the booklet was almost completely copied from a document released by the Federal Trade Commission in 2014.

    Melania Trump Cyberbullying Booklet Appears to Be Copied From FTC Document Released During Obama Administration

  229. says

    While Melania was holding her press conference that encouraged everyone to help children live good, safe and healthy lives, her husband’s team was preparing to send requests to Congress that would negatively affect the wellbeing of children:

    […] Trump is sending a plan to Congress that calls for stripping more than $15 billion in previously approved spending, with the hope that it will temper conservative angst over ballooning budget deficits.

    Almost half of the proposed cuts would come from two accounts within the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that White House officials said expired last year or are not expected to be drawn upon. An additional $800 million in cuts would come from money created by the Affordable Care Act in 2010 to test innovative payment and service delivery models.

    Those are just a handful of the more than 30 programs the White House is proposing to Congress for “rescission,” a process of culling back money that was previously authorized. Once the White House sends the request to Congress, lawmakers have 45 days to vote on the plan or a scaled-back version of it through a simple majority vote. […]

    Washington Post link

    From Steve Benen:

    […] Trump is looking for a do-over on the budget agreement Congress already passed and the president already signed. Vocal elements on the far-right hated the bipartisan budget deal – which, among other things, significantly increased government spending […]

    […] Team Trump came up with: a “rescission” package that aims to cut $15 billion in spending that’s already been authorized. (It’s made possible under something called the Impoundment Control Act of 1974, which rarely comes up in day-to-day conversation.) […]

    Several Senate Republicans warned the White House a month ago not to even try this move, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) explained a few weeks ago that the president “can’t make an agreement one month and say, ‘OK, we really didn’t mean it,’ and come back the next month.” The GOP leader added, “He was involved in the negotiation and signed the bill.”

    […] the president is signaling to everyone that even after he makes a deal, and accepts the terms of the agreement, he’s prone to come back soon after and try to alter the deal.

    […] “My attitude is, your word is your bond,” House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) said last month when the White House first floated the possibility that this might happen.

    Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the new chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, added that Republicans should “keep our word” and “keep our agreements.”

    Democrats won’t be able to filibuster the rescission vote, but I’m skeptical Trump’s move will have 51 votes in the chamber.

  230. says

    The official announcement hasn’t been made yet, but the NYT is reporting that Trump will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal:

    […] Trump told French President Emmanuel Macron that he is going to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, the New York Times reported Tuesday morning.

    It was widely expected that Trump would pull out of the nuclear deal, which he has called the “worst” deal the U.S. has ever agreed to and has spent the past several days tweeting criticism of former Secretary of State John Kerry, who brokered the deal.

    […] Trump will announce Tuesday afternoon that the U.S. will renew all of its former sanctions against Iran, which were waived as part of the 2015 deal. Trump plans to levy new economic sanctions against the country as well, according to the Times. […]

    Link

    Trump tweeted this bit of vindictive bull pucky this morning:

    John Kerry can’t get over the fact that he had his chance and blew it! Stay away from negotiations John, you are hurting your country!

  231. says

    From Josh Marshall, on the Black Cube story:

    […] Black Cube has tried to argue that it wasn’t hired by aides or associates of President Trump but rather by a corporate entity, apparently one with financial interests in scuttling the Iran Deal. Fine. […] that’s not at all implausible. It’s actually probable.

    What does not seem likely is that a company with purely financial interests is behind this. For an individual company, even a large one, to try to scuttle an international deal which has buy-in from all the world’s great powers is a highly, highly speculative investment. If it tried to bet on something like that, going after the personal lives of two mid-level foreign policy staffers from the previous administration simply makes no sense. There really has to have been a strong political or geopolitical motive behind this in addition to whatever the commercial interest is.

    […] There was one suggestion that the payor was a shipping company based in Taiwan. Maybe. But who really has an interest in keeping sanctions on Iran? Mainly people who sell oil, especially people who sell it because they get it out of their own ground. An international oil company is just as likely to support the Iran deal because they want in on the new business. Allowing Iran to freely sell oil and use the international banking system increases supply and drives down prices. If you want high oil prices sanctions are a good thing.

    The people who have the strongest geopolitical reasons to oppose the Iran deal are Iran’s geopolitical rivals in the Gulf and in Israel. Put financial and geopolitical motives together and it points you pretty clearly to some player in the Gulf states.

    […] There’s Jared Kushner’s pal, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. There are the rulers of the United Arab Emirates, who are also deep in with the Trump administration. There’s a lot of money flying between the Gulf and the Trumps.

    It could, of course, be a coincidence but the original Guardian story says the operation began in May of last year. Trump visited Saudi Arabia and Israel from May 20th to May 23rd of last year. The Guardian says the Trump associates contacted Black Cube “days after” Trump visited Israel.

    This is of course speculation. Perhaps the “commercial entity” line isn’t just a diversion but a pure fabrication. But assuming there’s some reality to that claim, we can reliably assume certain key points: this wasn’t a commercial entity with a purely commercial motive. […] If it was a business entity with some commercial motive, it almost certainly combined commercial and political motives […] Given the timing, the larger geopolitical context, it makes sense that we’ll find Trump associates in the mix too.

    For previous discussions on the Black Cube issue, see comments 249, 251, 252, 254, 262, 269, 275, 301, 303, 305, and 320.

  232. says

    More on Black Cube:

    […] Targeting these two men [Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl] seems overwhelmingly more likely to be about domestic U.S. politics because both men remain prominent supporters of the deal on social media and both men, but especially Rhodes is a bugaboo in right-wing media circles. Both have also been accused of working with people still inside the government to leak information damaging to the Trump administration or its policy goals. I have no idea whether that is true or not. But if those suspicions drove someone to hire Black Cube to dig up on dirt on these guys, again, that’s almost certainly going to be about U.S. domestic politics, partisan politics, rather than some commercial entity with purely financial motives.

    As the Times points out, without explicitly drawing the implication, Sebastian Gorka, the European renegade turned arch-Trumper, seems like a logical candidate either as the guy who hired Black Cube or more likely one who was a recipient of the dirt.

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/the-mystery-deepens-2

    Colin Kahl mentioned Sebastian Gorka during an interview with Rachel Maddow.

    Gorka may have been just a guy that provided a way for laundered money to go from one source to another.

  233. Oggie. says

    So, let me see if I have this straight:

    Donald Trump is trumpeting the possibility of the beginnings of talks with North Korea to end the PRK’s nuclear weapons programme, de-militarize the nuclear research programme, disassemble and/or render inert all existing nuclear weapons, and, in return, we, the United States, will ease sanctions.

    At the same time, Donald Trump is set to tear up an agreement with Iran which has, quite effectively, ended Iran’s nuclear weapons programme, de-militarized the nuclear research programme, and will, for the foreseeable future, prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

    So. Seriously. Why in the name of the seven pluperfect levels of purple hell should North Korea want to enter into an agreement with Trump (or any other US President)? How does Trump not see the inherent contradictions here? And why do the news outlets point this out when they cover the Iranian nuclear deal? Has no one thought that the two issues may, in some small way (well, really big way), the two are linked?

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

    Well, on the bright side, I guess there’s no chance that Il Douchebag gets the Nobel Peace Prize now.

  235. says

    This is one of the stupidest actions I’ve ever seen.

    – Trump has never spelled out exactly what he thought was wrong with the deal. He doesn’t know, he doesn’t understand it, he just repeats a few dim talking points. All of his remarks about it have been based on hostility and aggression toward Obama’s accomplishments.
    – Allies, the IAEA, US military and intelligence agencies, and the State Department have consistently, to the present, stated that Iran has fully complied with the terms of the deal. Pompeo recently testified to this in congress.
    – This decision isolates the US from allies, angers them, and dramatically reduces any leadership the US could claim.
    – The US public supported remaining in the deal vs. leaving it by 63% to 29%.
    – It makes it clear that the US can’t be trusted – as Oggie notes, just as the US goes into negotiations with NK.
    – As with the ACA, the Paris Accords, and other Obama achievements Trump has sought to destroy, he’s been lying about a having a “better deal” all along and has no path to replacing the deal and no aptitude or desire for putting in the work even if it were possible, which it isn’t.
    – The US already has massive sunk costs that it can’t recover.
    – This opens the door to Iran’s immediately restarting its nuclear program, as opposed to several years from now during which time new deals could have been struck. The US now has no access to monitor the situation.
    – This heightens the risk of conflict both between the US and Iran and within the Middle East.
    – This will empower hardliners in Iran and beyond.

    That said, on the pro side: …no idea.

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

    SC @ 329,
    It also increases the likelihood that other countries in the region (specifically, Saudi Arabia and Turkey) will seek to develop their own nuclear weapons.

  237. says

    SC @330, May, Merkel, and Macron are trying to clean up Trump’s mess.

    On the Iran deal, Trump started with the answer and worked backwards

    There was an amusing moment in the Oval Office two weeks ago, with Donald Trump sitting alongside French President Emmanuel Macron, when a reporter asked the American leader whether he’d consider honoring the international nuclear agreement with Iran.

    “It was a terrible deal,” Trump said. “It should have never, ever been made. We could have made a good deal or a reasonable deal. The Iran deal is a terrible deal. We paid $150 billion. We gave $1.8 billion in cash. That’s actual cash, barrels of cash. It’s insane. It’s ridiculous. It should have never been made.”

    As part of the same answer, he added, “We’ll see…. We will be talking about it.”

    I laughed, not just because Trump had no idea what he was talking about, but also because of the juxtaposition between the different parts of the answer. It’d be like asking someone if they wanted to join you at a restaurant and hearing your friend reply, “It’s a terrible place. I’ve always hated it. The food is awful; the service is ridiculous; and the prices are insulting. I don’t understand how such a pathetic establishment keeps its doors open.”

    Your friend then adds, “We’ll see,” as if he or she still has an open mind.

    When it comes to the fate of the Iran deal, which the president appears to know very little about, he hasn’t exactly been subtle about his intentions. […]

  238. says

    Regarding the progressives who encourage the victims of men who are powerful and publicly leftwing but who privately assault, abuse, or harass women – I wonder if it’s ever occurred to them that – in addition to all of the other, obvious, reasons these men shouldn’t hold power – they endanger investigations, legal cases, and policy fights because they’re highly vulnerable to blackmail.

  239. says

    Sorry – Regarding the progressives who encourage the victims of men who are powerful and publicly leftwing but who privately assault, abuse, or harass women…to keep silent

    Lost track of my sentence.

  240. says

    I couldn’t help but notice that Trump mentioned Netanyahu’s misleading giant Power-Point presentation on Iran.

    […] Trump cited Netanyahu’s presentation in his speech, saying it provided conclusive evidence of Iran’s history of pursuing nuclear weapons. [Yes, all old news, old news that the deal was designed to slow down or halt. Doofuses!]

    Bolton also disputed that Iran has been in compliance with the deal, a conclusion previously backed by senior U.S. officials.

    “I think there are plenty of cases where we’re simply incapable of saying whether they’re in compliance or not,” he told reporters. “You cannot say that Iran is in compliance unless you are 100 percent certain that the [International Atomic Energy Agency] and our intelligence is infallible.”

    [cough] Bullshit.

    Supporters of the deal say the United States withdrawing gives Iran an excuse to restart its nuclear program, effectively killing the pact. Macron has warned the end of the deal “could mean war” with the country.
    But experts have said Iran is likely to stay in the deal even without the United States if it can continue getting benefits from the accord by being able to do business with European companies.

    In a sign that Iran is not ready to walk away from the deal, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday ahead of Trump’s announcement that Iran wants to keep “working with the world and constructive engagement with the world.”

    After Trump’s speech, Rouhani confirmed Iran would continue in the deal without the United States. He also slammed Trump’s decision, saying the United States “never adhered to its commitments.”

    “We can clearly see which country is not respecting the international commitments,” Rouhani said during a televised speech in Tehran. […]

    [Trump said,] “Iran’s leaders will naturally say that they refuse to negotiate a new deal, they refuse, and that’s fine. I’d probably say the same thing if I was in their position. But the fact is they are going to want to make a new and lasting deal, one that benefits all of Iran and the Iranian people. When they do, I am ready, willing, and able.”

    The Hill link

    I wonder if Hair Furor realizes that he just weakened his negotiating position.

  241. says

    From John Kerry:

    Today’s announcement weakens our security, breaks America’s word, isolates us from our European allies, puts Israel at greater risk, empowers Iran’s hardliners, and reduces our global leverage to address Tehran’s misbehavior while damaging the ability of future administrations to make international agreements.

    Instead of building unprecedented nonproliferation verification measures, this decision risks throwing them away and dragging the world to the brink we faced a few years ago.

  242. says

    Trump reveals his willful ignorance … again:

    After publicly signing a memorandum to violate the Iran nuclear deal by reinstating the “highest levels” of U.S. sanctions against the country, President Trump was asked a very basic question by a reporter who was in attendance at the White House for the ceremony.

    “Mr. President, how does this America safer?” she said. “How does this make American safer?”

    Trump gathered his thoughts for a moment, then just restated the question in the form of an assertion.

    “This will make America much safer,” he said, before getting up for the table on which he signed the memorandum.

    Think Progress link

    Video of the shameful moment is available at the link.

  243. says

    A summary of what Trump just did when he violated the Iran nuclear deal:

    […] The United States is violating the deal by refusing to extend sanctions waivers in the absence of any transgression on Iran’s part (the IAEA has repeatedly affirmed Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA). Iran, which maintains its nuclear program is a peaceful one, will thus have grounds to complain to the Joint Commission set up to adjudicate issues with the deal.

    What happens next, said Mckeon, could take days or weeks to figure out, but it’s unlikely that the deal would survive without the U.S. being a party to it. He added that the administration’s understanding of the agreement is “flawed” and that the idea that it’s actually giving Iran a pathway to a nuclear weapon is “just fundamentally false.” […]

    Link

  244. says

    More signs of trouble for Michael Cohen:

    Michael Cohen, the longtime Trump fixer at the center of multiple presidential scandals, just mortgaged his multi-million-dollar condo in the swanky Trump Park Avenue building on the Upper East Side of Manhattan as part of a $9 million loan deal related to his troubled taxicab business.

    Cohen’s new loan comes as he faces assorted problems. Three weeks ago, his home and office were raided by federal agents seeking information about several matters. Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s latest lead lawyer, has made a series of public remarks about the Stormy Daniels scandal that have hardly helped Cohen, who negotiated the $130,000 hush-money deal with the porn star. A lengthy New York Times investigation published over the weekend detailed Cohen’s history of curious business endeavors. And Vanity Fair reports that Cohen feels increasingly isolated and is losing weight. […]

    Link

  245. says

    Responses from Democrats to Trump’s violation of the Iran deal:

    “With this decision President Trump is risking U.S. national security, recklessly upending foundational partnerships with key U.S. allies in Europe and gambling with Israel’s security,” Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement. […]

    Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), also a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, ripped Trump’s decision, accusing him of basing the move on “political expediency,” while ultimately undermining long-term security interests. […] “This decision needlessly discards our only effective means of curtailing Iran’s nuclear capabilities and emboldens hardliners in Iran to resume nuclear weapons activity,” Shaheen said. […]

    “@realDonaldTrump’s decision to abdicate American leadership during a critical moment in our effort to advance a denuclearization agreement with North Korea is particularly senseless, disturbing & dangerous,” Pelosi tweeted.

    Another member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), declared that Trump’s vision of an “America first” foreign policy had degraded into “America alone,” and accused the president of creating a “new global nuclear crisis.”

    “President Trump has set us on a dangerous road where war becomes more likely, especially as his advisers beat the drums for regime change, which should never be a goal of U.S policy,” Kaine said in a statement. […]

    Link

  246. says

    From Obama’s statement:

    Without the JCPOA, the United States could eventually be left with a losing choice between a nuclear-armed Iran or another war in the Middle East. […]

    If the constraints on Iran’s nuclear program under the JCPOA are lost, we could be hastening the day when we are faced with the choice between living with that threat, or going to war to prevent it […]

    Because of these facts, I believe that the decision to put the JCPOA at risk without any Iranian violation of the deal is a serious mistake.

  247. says

    From Fred Kaplan:

    […] With his decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, President Trump has committed his most irresponsible act in foreign policy to date.

    The move—which Trump took against the urgings of European heads of state, Israeli security officials, dozens of current and former diplomats, his own secretary of defense, and even the conservative chairman of the House Armed Services Committee—can only be attributed to one or more of three motives: a misunderstanding of the deal’s terms, a need to torpedo yet another one of President Obama’s accomplishments, or a desire to weaken or destroy the government of Iran.

    All three.

    Trump claimed in his televised speech today that Iran is cheating on the deal, but his own intelligence directors have said there is no evidence of this claim whatsoever. The International Atomic Energy Agency has certified Iran’s compliance 10 times since the deal was signed. Secretary of Defense James Mattis testified to a Senate committee last month that, after reading the 140-page agreement three times, he was struck by how “robust” the deal’s verification provisions were.

    It’s also the case that the most influential backers of Trump’s decision—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, national security adviser John Bolton, and the Sunni Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia—are fervent advocates of regime change in Iran, by force if necessary.

    From early on in his presidential campaign, Trump promised to kill the accord, which he has repeatedly called “the worst deal” ever “drawn up by anybody.” Here is where ignorance enters the picture. As evidence of his charge, Trump used to claim that the deal required us to pay Iran $100 billion—when, in fact, it merely required us to return Iranian assets that we’d frozen. (Also the $100 billion is a rough estimate of assets frozen not just by the U.S. but worldwide.) Far from a bad deal, this seemed like a fair trade: We had frozen their assets as punishment for their illegal nuclear program; therefore, in exchange for dismantling the program, we would unfreeze the assets. […]

  248. says

    Follow-up to comment 344.

    Also from Fred Kaplan:

    […] Trump has wrecked one of the most successful arms-control deals in modern history, destroyed any possible leverage to negotiate a new one, further disrupted unity with our allies, further damaged U.S. credibility, strengthened hard-line factions in Iran, exacerbated instability in the Middle East, and possibly boosted the chance of war—which some of Trump’s abettors desire. Quite the deal-maker.

  249. Oggie. says

    “@realDonaldTrump’s decision to abdicate American leadership during a critical moment in our effort to advance a denuclearization agreement with North Korea is particularly senseless, disturbing & dangerous,” Pelosi tweeted.

    Okay. That is good news. Political leaders (who are not kissing Trumpass) are seeing the connection.

  250. says

    Oh, FFS.

    Ginni Thomas is at it again. On Saturday, the conservative activist and lobbyist—and spouse of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas—shared a meme on her Facebook page accusing Democrats of engaging in “a silent coup, not just against Trump, but also against the very premises of our constitutional republic.”

    The meme, which came from the Citizens [sic] Mandate, featured an image of George Soros, the liberal donor often at the center of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about malign “globalist” machinations. Americans, the meme declared, “will decide if they want to reward those who are engaged in [the] silent coup” at the ballot box in November.

    Ginni has long been on the far-right fringe of the conservative movement, but in recent months, she’s escalated her rhetoric against perceived political enemies. She has alleged that President Barack Obama “rigged” (unsuccessfully) the 2016 election for Hillary Clinton and that Robert Mueller is “going to fabricate whatever fake scandals [are] needed to take down Trump.” But by sharing this “coup” language, Thomas has taken an aggressive new stance—one that yet again creates thorny ethical issues for her husband. […]

    Link

    I am particularly troubled by Ginni Thomas’ claim that Robert Mueller is “going to fabricate whatever fake scandals [are] needed to take down Trump.” Although he garbled the presentation, I think Rudi Giuliani said basically the same thing.

  251. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 347.

    Donald Junior is taking a page out of Daddy Trump’s playbook: he is using rightwing press to smear his estranged wife. This is ugly. An excerpt from SC’s link:

    […] Donald Trump Jr. and his wife Vanessa Trump announced they were divorcing. […]

    For decades Donald Trump used The New York Post as a press tool to pump up his brand and attack enemies. […] And now – surprise, surprise! – The Post appears to be in the lead with dramatic dirt on Trump’s estranged wife – specifically, that in high school she dated and had a years-long relationship with a member of the Latin Kings, a notoriously violent Latino street gang […]

    As a narrow factual matter, the claim appears to be true. Vanessa Haydon (her maiden name) met Valentin Rivera when she was fifteen. She was from an extremely wealthy New York City family and frequented all the society haunts that go with that. But for five years she carried on a relationship with Rivera as he became more and more deeply involved in the Latin Kings gang and had various run-ins with the law. […]

    Here’s a flavor of the reporting …

    At Dwight — where Rivera could frequently be seen at the school gates waiting to pick her up — he gave her a dangerous mystique. Asked what appealed to Vanessa about the gang lifestyle, Rivera said, “Maybe it was the attention she was getting. From her classmates,” he said, “from everybody.” […]

    This is “news” about a 15-year-old girl. I am not impressed.

    […] The relationship ended in 1998 when the Post of all places published a story that Vanessa was dating Leonardo DiCaprio. Yes, that Leonardo DiCaprio. Needless to say, that was 20 years ago. For three of the five years in question, Vanessa Trump was a minor. She has been married to Donald Trump Jr. for years and they have five children. […]

    This is the latest in a string of attack pieces the Post has written about Vanessa Trump. It is almost certainly the case that these stories are being pitched to the Post as part of the Trump’s divorce strategy, either as payback or to make her seem like a bad mother or just to leverage the settlement. […]

  252. says

    Follow-up to comment 343.

    Another excerpt from Obama’s statement:

    […] Debates in our country should be informed by facts, especially debates that have proven to be divisive. […]

    In a dangerous world, America must be able to rely in part on strong, principled diplomacy to secure our country. We have been safer in the years since we achieved the JCPOA, thanks in part to the work of our diplomats, many members of Congress, and our allies. Going forward, I hope that Americans continue to speak out in support of the kind of strong, principled, fact-based, and unifying leadership that can best secure our country and uphold our responsibilities around the globe.

  253. says

    As evidence of his charge, Trump used to claim that the deal required us to pay Iran $100 billion—when, in fact, it merely required us to return Iranian assets that we’d frozen. (Also the $100 billion is a rough estimate of assets frozen not just by the U.S. but worldwide.)

    Oh – this reminds me… I remember commenting about Trump’s obsession with the fact that the assets were returned in the form of cash, even though it was completely out in the open. Over and over, he would emphasize it, wide-eyed and trying for the greatest insinuation – “In cash!” Now, with even more information about how his family, their organization, and his associates did business in cash, what was behind his response and public statements seems more clear. Cash deals are how we crooks and money-launderers do business, so surely there must be something shady about this cash arrangement, too.

  254. says

    (Just saw a couple of seconds of Trump reading his remarks this afternoon. He was doing that strange slurring/snorting/sniffing thing again.)

    Further to #s 311 and 333/334 above, a thorough piece from TPM:

    “‘Nothing Changes’: NY AG Will Remain Check On Trump Without Schneiderman”:

    Monday night saw the spectacular implosion of New York Democratic Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s career over allegations that he physically assaulted women. So what will become of the inquiries into the President’s associates and administration initiated by this self-proclaimed champion of the anti-Trump resistance?

    Not a whole lot, legal experts tell TPM.

    In the immediate term, solicitor general Barbara Underwood will become acting attorney general. Underwood and the large team of career prosecutors below her will continue to carry out the work in which the office was already engaged. State lawmakers are expected to appoint a replacement before the September Democratic primary, but that replacement is likely to be a Democrat, given the party’s majority in the legislature.

    “Absolutely nothing changes,” James Tierney, former director of the National State Attorney General Program and lecturer at Harvard University, told TPM.

    “He’s got a great staff,” Tierney continued. “Nothing is going to change. There’s no legal difference.”

    Underwood put out a statement to the same effect, promising that “our work continues without interruption.”

    Whoever becomes attorney general in November is likely to be a Democrat, and, given the prominence of the New York office on the national stage, is likely to be a highly visible opponent of Trump’s words, actions and policies.

    Schneiderman may have been a particularly scrappy and energetic legal opponent of this White House, or, as Tierney put it, may have “shamelessly self-aggrandized himself.”

    But as long as the party in power stays the same, the individual officeholder matters less than the institution.

  255. says

    From p. 3 of Avenatti’s summary (emphasis added):

    Mr. Cohen has previously claimed that the source of funds from the $130,000 payment was a home equity line of credit advance conducted on October 26, 2016. This has yet to be confirmed. However, as detailed below, within approximately 75 days of the payment to Ms. Clifford, Mr. Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian Oligarch with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, caused substantial funds to be deposited into the bank account from which Mr. Cohen made the payment. It appears that these funds may have replenished the account following the payment to Ms. Clifford.

  256. says

    Natasha Bertrand: “Michael Cohen’s attorney, Steve Ryan, won’t discuss the $500,000 Michael Avenatti says Cohen received from Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg in 2017. ‘I understand the shorthand you’re using, but it wasn’t a payment’, Ryan says before hanging up.”

  257. Hj Hornbeck says

    Ditto The Daily Beast. Looks like Russian oligarchs with ties to Putin, and under sanction by the US government, were paying off Cohen (and likely Trump) well after the election.

    Any other day, that would be the top scandal in the news.

  258. says

    SC @353, 355, 357, and Hj @358, It’s as if Cohen actually worked for Putin, with Vekselberg just being the conduit for the money.

  259. says

    BREAKING: @ATT confirms payments to Cohen LLC

    Full Stmt: ‘Essential Consulting was one of several firms we engaged in early 2017 to provide insights into understanding the new administration. They did no legal or lobbying work for us, and the contract ended in December 2017’.”

  260. Hj Hornbeck says

    Cohen worked for a lot of people, apparently.

    BREAKING: @ATT confirms payments to Cohen LLC >> Full Stmt: “Essential Consulting was one of several firms we engaged in early 2017 to provide insights into understanding the new administration. They did no legal or lobbying work for us, and the contract ended in December 2017”

    Interesting news, in light of Trump’s opposition to the AT&T/Time Warner merger.

  261. Hj Hornbeck says

    Oh well, at least I have NOVARTIS:

    Spokesman for NOVARTIS does not dispute Avenatti’s assertion that it paid Cohen. Says: “Any agreements with Essential Consultants were entered before our current CEO taking office in February of this year and have expired.”

  262. says

    NYT – “Firm Tied to Russian Oligarch Made Payments to Michael Cohen”:

    A shell company that Michael D. Cohen used to pay hush money to a pornographic film actress received payments totaling more than $1 million from an American company linked to a Russian oligarch and several corporations with business before the Trump administration, according to documents and interviews.

    Financial records reviewed by The New York Times show that Mr. Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer and longtime fixer, used the shell company, Essential Consultants L.L.C., for an array of business activities that went far beyond what was publicly known. Transactions totaling at least $4.4 million flowed through Essential Consultants starting shortly before Mr. Trump was elected president and continuing to this January, the records show.

    Among the previously unreported transactions were payments last year totaling about $500,000 from Columbus Nova, an investment firm in New York whose biggest client is a company controlled by Viktor Vekselberg, the Russian oligarch. A lawyer for Columbus Nova, in a statement Tuesday, described the money as a consulting fee that had nothing to do with Mr. Vekselberg.

    Other transactions described in the financial records range from hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments by Fortune 500 firms with business before the Trump administration, to small amounts related to unexplained activities in foreign countries.

    The Times’s review of financial records confirmed much of what was in Mr. Avenatti’s report. In addition, a review of emails and interviews shed additional light on Mr. Cohen’s dealings with the company connected to Mr. Vekselberg, who was stopped and questioned at an airport earlier this year by investigators for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel examining Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election….

  263. says

    SC @370, could that be part of Trump’s appeal, that people know he is a crook (or con artist) and they are liking the “honest crook” persona? They are preferring obvious con artists over politicians pretending to be ethical?

  264. says

    SC @370, could that be part of Trump’s appeal, that people know he is a crook (or con artist) and they are liking the “honest crook” persona?

    But Blankenship’s crookedness caused the deaths of the guy’s family members!

    Blankenship lost, fortunately – came in third in the Republican primary.

  265. quotetheunquote says

    @Lynna, #337-

    “This will make America much safer,”

    That’s what he came with, after “gathering his thoughts for a moment”?!

    This is bad (but not unexpected) – the President (sic) of the most heavily-armed country in history really has no clue as to what he is doing. And I don’t mean that in any sort of grand, strategic sense, I mean it in the most basic, moment-to-moment sense – somebody (like his NSA) probably briefed him about what to say about why the Iran deal was bad, and he simply forgot it all, a minute later. I suspect a large percentage of his motivation for this is simply “Obama=bad” and that’s about as far as (what passes for) his thought process goes.
    I am coming to believe that he’s not being obtuse, he’s just genuinely ignorant. He is actually worse than Ronald Reagan at his most clueless, and that is a VERY low bar to get under.

    I take some solace from the fact that almost nobody in the international community is playing along. Yesterday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined the chorus denouncing Trump’s decision.

  266. says

    “Risk to intelligence source who aided Russia investigation at center of latest showdown between Nunes and Justice Dept.”:

    Last Wednesday, senior FBI and national intelligence officials relayed an urgent message to the White House: Information being sought by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes could endanger a top-secret intelligence source.

    Top White House officials, with the assent of President Trump, agreed to back the decision to withhold the information. They were persuaded that turning over Justice Department documents could risk lives by potentially exposing the source, a U.S. citizen who has provided intelligence to the CIA and FBI, according to multiple people familiar with the discussion and the person’s role.

    The showdown marked a rare moment of alignment between the Justice Department and Trump, who has relentlessly criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other top Justice officials for the probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

    But it is unclear whether Trump was alerted to a key fact — that information developed by the intelligence source had been provided to the Mueller investigation.

    The debate over the risk to the source is now at the center of a pitched battle between House Republicans and the Justice Department.

    Several administration officials said they fear Trump may reverse course and support Nunes’s argument.

    “Disclosure of responsive information to such requests can risk severe consequences including potential loss of human lives, damage to relationships with valued international partners, compromise of ongoing criminal investigations, and interference with intelligence activities,” Boyd wrote.

    Nunes told reporters Monday that the Justice Department’s stance was “awfully suspicious,” suggesting that the White House did not share the department’s concerns.

    “The word that comes to me is obfuscation,” he said.*

    On Tuesday, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R.-Wis.) said he had not discussed the matter with Nunes but added that he expected congressional subpoenas to be enforced.

    “We expect the administration to comply with our document requests,” Ryan said….

    * Trump is behind this, pulling Nunes’ and Ryan’s strings.

  267. says

    “Oversight chairman agrees to subpoena DOJ after census hearing no-show”:

    House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chair Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) is moving to subpoena the Department of Justice after the head of the Civil Rights Division skipped a hearing on the 2020 census.

    John Gore, the political appointee reportedly behind the push to reinstate the controversial citizenship question, was invited to appear before the committee on May 8. Democrats called for Gowdy to subpoena DOJ in advance of the hearing. When Gore didn’t show, the chairman agreed to issue a subpoena for him to appear before the committee May 18.

    “He was invited by Congress… but he isn’t here, which is disappointing to say the least,” said Gowdy. “Most of my questions were actually for the witness who did not come,” he said, adding, “he’s coming to talk at some point or another whether he wants to or not… You have a guarantee from me.”

    The Justice Department declined to comment on Gore’s no-show….

  268. says

    Avenatti:

    Priceless = Watching all of the companies that sent money to the LLC slush fund come up with different alleged reasons for hiring Mr. Cohen – “accounting advice,” “real estate consulting,” “insight,” etc. Who knew Mr. Cohen was such a brilliant renaissance man? #nonsense #basta

    The WSJ article summarizes the various explanations.

  269. says

    Another soundbite from Trump’s speech announcing the U.S. is withdrawing from the Iran nuclear agreement:

    Today’s action sends a critical message: The United States no longer makes empty threats. When I make promises, I keep them.

    Perhaps Hair Furor didn’t realize he was breaking a promise made by the U.S.?

    From Steve Benen:

    […] It was also curious to hear Trump denounce empty threats, given how regularly he bluffs badly. Indeed, it was last summer when the president promised to rain “fire and fury” onto North Korea if Pyongyang continued to threaten the United States. In response, Kim Jong-un continued to threaten the United States, at which point Trump did nothing – except eventually praise Kim and give the dictator much of what he wants.

    While we’re at it, the idea that Trump keeps his promises is itself rather amusing. After all, this is a president who promised not to cut taxes on the wealthy and not to endorse cuts to Medicaid and Social Security. He also promised Dreamers they could “breathe easy,” right before he cut them off at the knees, while also promising families he’d repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with a plan that achieved universal coverage with higher quality and at a lower price.

    Or put another way, this guy breaks his promises nearly as often as he brazenly lies. […]

    And then there is this niggling point: Trump didn’t always promise to end the Iran nuclear deal in campaign speeches and interviews. Sometimes he did, and sometimes he didn’t. This is from a “Meet the Press” interview in August of 2015:

    I’m really good at looking at a contract and finding things within a contract that even if they’re bad … I would police that contract so tough that they don’t have a chance. As bad as the contract is, I will be so tough on that contract.

    That’s a promise to enforce the Iran nuclear deal.

  270. says

    Trump’s tweet this morning:

    The Fake News is working overtime. Just reported that, despite the tremendous success we are having with the economy & all things else, 91% of the Network News about me is negative (Fake). Why do we work so hard in working with the media when it is corrupt? Take away credentials?

    The 91% claim comes from Media Research Center, a mercer-funded organization, so you can’t trust that. And who decides what is “negative”? That aside, Trump just equated news that is critical of him with “fake.” He has done that before, but not quite so brazenly.

  271. says

    From the New York Times’ editorial board:

    So far, again and again, he [Trump] has shown himself to be adept at destroying agreements — a relatively easy task for a president — and utterly lacking in the policy depth or strategic vision and patience to create new ones.

  272. Hj Hornbeck says

    Whoop, I never did summarize last night’s primaries in West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and North Carolina. I’ll defer to Nate Silver:

    In West Virginia, Patrick Morrisey, the state’s attorney general, won the U.S. Senate primary over U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins and Don Blankenship, the Trumpian former coal mining executive who was convicted on a charge related to the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster and recently spent a year in jail. The most important headline is that Morrisey has the potential to give incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin a tough race considering West Virginia’s increasingly Republican lean in national races. […]

    In Ohio, Democrat Richard Cordray and Republican Mike DeWine easily won their respective primaries, with the establishment-backed Cordray beating former presidential candidate and U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich by a considerably wider margin than polls predicted. […]

    In Indiana, businessman and former state Rep. Mike Braun easily won the U.S. Senate primary over two U.S. representatives, Todd Rokita and Luke Messer. … Braun might make it ever-so-slightly harder for Republicans to knock off incumbent Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, who was unopposed — but if there are major red flags in Braun’s general election candidacy, they haven’t been discovered yet. […]

    Perhaps the worst news for Republicans came in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, where incumbent U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger was defeated by challenger Mark Harris. That will push the district, which was already expected to be competitive, further into toss-up status.

  273. says

    This is good news when it comes to ending gerrymandered voting district maps in Ohio:

    A bipartisan ballot measure for fairer, more competitive congressional maps in Ohio passed with sweeping support on Tuesday.

    Around 75 percent of Ohioans voted for Issue 1, compared to 25 percent who voted against it, according to the Associated Press.

    The measure will keep control of the map-drawing process in the hands of the legislature, but impose new rules requiring 50 percent support from members of both the Democratic and Republican parties for the maps to be enacted. If they fail, a seven-member commission composed of the governor, auditor, secretary of state and lawmakers from the two major political parties will assume control of the process.

    […] All together, backers say, these requirements will lead to results that better reflect the will of voters rather than what most benefits the party in power. […]

    Link

  274. says

    Was $200,000 from AT&T enough to buy off Trump and Ajit Pai on net neutrality repeal?

    […] The payments began in early 2017 and ended just as soon as Pai’s FCC repealed net neutrality. Yeah, definitely fishy. And what did AT&T do the minute repeal was done?

    The body isn’t even cold yet, but AT&T is wasting no time in rolling out new “features” that fly in the face of net neutrality. The company has expanded its “sponsored data” program to prepaid wireless customers, offering content companies the option to “sponsor” their data so that it doesn’t count against users’ caps.

    This, in case you’re wondering, is what you find under the definition of “paid fast lanes” in the net neutrality false promises hall of fame.

    So is $200,000 enough to buy off Pai? Did he get his cut? This is something Congress really should be exploring. In the meantime, they can redeem themselves just a little bit by doing what the vast majority of the voting public wants: save net neutrality.

    BGR Business link for additional information.

  275. says

    NBC News: In a new statement (their third) Novartis says they paid $1.2 million to Michael Cohen, had one meeting with him and determined he would be ‘unable to provide the services that Novartis had anticipated related to US healthcare policy matters’.”

    We’re Novartis, and this is our level of honesty and transparency. Please enjoy our drugs.

  276. says

    “Treasury inspector general launches probe into possible leak of Michael Cohen’s banking records”:

    The Treasury Department’s inspector general is investigating whether confidential banking information related to a company controlled by President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen may have been leaked, a spokesman said.

    Rich Delmar, counsel to the inspector general, said that in response to media reports the office is “inquiring into allegations” that Suspicious Activity Reports on Cohen’s banking transactions were “improperly disseminated.”…

  277. tomh says

    @ #393
    Of course they are. Because in the Trump regime, a lead about a crime is much more important than the crime itself.

  278. says

    “Trump’s lawyer pitched himself as a fixer to Novartis and got paid $1.2 million”:

    The curious relationship between one of the world’s biggest drug makers and President Trump’s personal lawyer began early last year when Michael Cohen, a longtime fixer for the president, reached out to Novartis’s then-chief executive officer Joe Jimenez, promising help gaining access to Trump and influential officials in the new administration, according to an employee inside Novartis familiar with the matter.

    Jimenez took the call and then instructed his team to reach a deal with Cohen. A one-year contract worth $1.2 million was signed with Cohen in February 2017….

    “He reached out to us,” the Novartis employee said, providing STAT with the company’s version of events as it scrambles to contain the fallout from being entangled in the investigations surrounding Trump and his inner circle, including Cohen. “…Cohen promised access to not just Trump, but also the circle around him. It was almost as if we were hiring him as a lobbyist.”

    The employee could not explain why Novartis would have agreed to a deal with a lawyer with no background in health care and without deep Washington ties. The extent to which Novartis conducted any due diligence into Cohen or his track record as a Trump insider and Washington player is uncertain.

    In March 2017, a group of Novartis employees, mostly from the government affairs and lobbying teams, met with Cohen in New York to discuss specific issues and strategies. But the meeting was a disappointment, the insider explained,…

    …Rather than attempt to cancel the contract, the company allowed it to lapse early in 2018 and not run the risk of ticking off the president. “It might have caused anger,” this person said.

    As the contract expiration date neared earlier this year, Cohen then approached Vasant Narasimhan, who by then had succeeded Jimenez as Novartis chief executive, according to the employee. Narasimhan declined to renew the arrangement and the contract lapsed….

    Just babes in the woods.

  279. says

    The latest Novartis story reminds me of the fourth or fifth rationale from Jr. about the June ’16 meeting with Veselnitskaya and crew – “Of course we were interested in pay for play – everybody does it – but were disappointed with what Cohen could offer.”

  280. says

    As expected:

    Saudi Arabia said Wednesday that it would seek to acquire a nuclear weapon if regional rival Iran does the same in the wake of President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

    The Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Wednesday that the country would do “everything we can” to build a nuclear bomb in that situation.

    Wednesday’s comments echo ones from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman comments in March, when he told “60 Minutes” that Saudi Arabia “does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb,” but added that “if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.” […]

    The Hill link

  281. says

    […] Trump’s reasons for leaving the Iran nuclear deal

    […] We reviewed six of Trump’s claims from his May 8 speech announcing the decision to withdraw from the deal. […]

    “In fact, the deal allowed Iran to continue enriching uranium and — over time — reach the brink of a nuclear breakout. …

    “The agreement was so poorly negotiated that even if Iran fully complies, the regime can still be on the verge of a nuclear breakout in just a short period of time. The deal’s sunset provisions are totally unacceptable. …

    “If we do nothing, we know exactly what will happen. In just a short period of time, the world’s leading state sponsor of terror will be on the cusp of acquiring the world’s most dangerous weapons.” […]

    The JCPOA’s prohibition on Iran’s building nuclear weapons does not sunset, and other international agreements to which Iran has committed itself also prohibit the development of such weapons. […]

    Trump is alluding to the fact that the JCPOA gradually lifts restrictions on the types of nuclear activities and the level of uranium enrichment Iran may conduct. These and other provisions sunset over 10, 15, 20 or 25 years.

    The president argues that easing these restrictions over time would open the door to Iran’s attaining nuclear weapons capability, rendering the JCPOA ultimately ineffective. But supporters of the Iran deal dispute that and say the JCPOA at least buys time, subjecting Iran to strong constraints on its nuclear activities for 10 to 25 years. Without the JCPOA, Iran could hasten its development of nuclear weapons on an even shorter timeline than the one Trump found unsatisfactory, they say. […]

    Moreover, Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has committed itself to ratifying the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Additional Protocol in 2023. The former restricts Iran from ever developing nuclear weapons, and the latter grants international inspectors wide access to monitor nuclear-related activities within Iran’s borders.

    The quoted text is from an article by Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly, who write for the Washington Post. More at the link.

  282. says

    In the White House Cabinet Room this morning:

    Q: Do you deserve the Nobel prize, do you think?

    TRUMP: Everyone thinks so, but I would never say it.

  283. says

    “Special Counsel Mueller’s Team Questioned Blackwater Founder Erik Prince”:

    Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team has spoken with Blackwater founder Erik Prince, two sources familiar with the matter tell The Daily Beast. It was not immediately clear what questions Mueller’s team had or what information Prince shared with the special counsel.

    Prince attended a now-controversial meeting with the head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund in the Seychelles Islands on Jan. 11, 2017—just over a week before Inauguration Day. The Washington Post reported that Mueller is interested in potential efforts at the Seychelles meeting to set up a backchannel between the Trump administration and the Kremlin….

  284. blf says

    White House won’t rule out banning press for negative coverage:

    Press secretary declines to back down from Trump’s threat to strip reporters of credentials if he doesn’t like what they write
    […]
    The US president [sic] first tweeted the threat on Wednesday, claiming that despite the tremendous success we are having with the economy & all things else, most news about him is negative (Fake).

    Trump added: Why do we work so hard in working with the media when it is corrupt? Take away credentials?

    It was the latest broadside in Trump’s long-running feud with the media, which he has previously condemned as the enemy of the people.

    There was swift backlash from the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA). Its president, Margaret Talev, said: “[… J]ust because the president does not like news coverage does not make it fake.

    “A free press must be able to report on the good, the bad, the momentous and the mundane, without fear or favour. And a president preventing a free and independent press from covering the workings of our republic would be an unconscionable assault on the first amendment.”

    At Wednesday’s media briefing, the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, defended the concept of a free press, but declined to explicitly rule out stripping reporters of their credentials if Trump does not like what they write.

    We’re very committed to a free press and I think we demonstrate that every single day, not only by me being up here and taking your questions as I’m doing right now, she said.

    […]

    As mentioned in the excerpted article, when Wacko House banned several reporters (including from the Grauniad, New York Times & CNN) last year, several others (including (from memory) the WSJ) said that if they’d known, they would not have attended. If hair horror and his daleks go through with a ban, it will be instructive who, if any, actually boycotts in protest.

  285. blf says

    As mentioned in several comments previously in this series of poopyhead threads, Italian prosecutors have been trying to claim Medhanie Berhe is the people-smuggler Medhanie Mered. This is despite a long string of evidence indicating otherwise, which has just been added to, People-smuggler’s son’s DNA boosts case that Italian prosecutors have wrong man:

    Test on Medhanie Yehdego Mered’s son bolsters view that Medhanie Tesfamariam Berhe is wrongly detained

    DNA from the three-year-old son of one of the world’s most wanted people-smugglers shows the man who has spent nearly two years in an Italian jail awaiting trial for his crimes is a victim of mistaken identity, lawyers have said.

    […]

    Berhe’s defence lawyer, Michele Calantropo, flew last month to Sweden, where Tesfu lives with her son — who is listed in the Swedish population registry as Raei Yehdego Mered, and is believed by authorities to be Mered’s first child.

    “We took a sample of saliva from the trafficker’s wife and son and crossed it with that of the detained man,” Calantropo said. “The result leaves no room for doubt: the man in prison is not the father of the child, and consequently is not the trafficker Mered.”

    The DNA evidence reinforces the results of an earlier test on Berhe’s mother, Meaza Zerai Weldai […], who travelled to Palermo from the Eritrean capital, Asmara, last October. Analysis showed she was the mother of the detained man.

    […]

    A recent documentary by the Swedish public broadcaster SVT in collaboration with Guardian reporters revealed the trafficker known as “the General” is currently living in Uganda, spending his substantial earnings in nightclubs.

    Despite now overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Italian prosecutors continue to insist the man captured in Khartoum is the real smuggler — despite not being able to find a single witness to testify against him.

    […]

  286. says

    McCain’s statement on Gina Haspel’s nomination:

    Today, Gina Haspel testified before the Senate and to the country about her qualifications to lead the CIA. This occasion provided an opportunity to provide details about her experience in the CIA, explain her involvement in the so-called enhanced interrogation program during the Bush Administration, and account for the mistakes the country made in torturing detainees held in U.S. custody after the September 11th attacks. Unfortunately, the testimony the American people heard from Ms. Haspel today failed to address these concerns.

    Like many Americans, I understand the urgency that drove the decision to resort to so-called enhanced interrogation methods after our country was attacked. I know that those who used enhanced interrogation methods and those who approved them wanted to protect Americans from harm. I appreciate their dilemma and the strain of their duty. But as I have argued many times, the methods we employ to keep our nation safe must be as right and just as the values we aspire to live up to and promote in the world.

    I believe Gina Haspel is a patriot who loves our country and has devoted her professional life to its service and defense. However, Ms. Haspel’s role in overseeing the use of torture by Americans is disturbing. Her refusal to acknowledge torture’s immorality is disqualifying. I believe the Senate should exercise its duty of advice and consent and reject this nomination.

  287. blf says

    Like many Americans, I understand the urgency that drove the decision to resort to so-called enhanced interrogation methods after our country was attacked. I know that those who used enhanced interrogation methods and those who approved them wanted to protect Americans from harm. I appreciate their dilemma and the strain of their duty.

    Rewritten for truth: Like other loons, I support the incompetents who torture people because they(the loons & incompetents) do not understand why the people they are torturing object to having their weddings blown up. I hallucinate the torture convinced the tortured blowing up people’s weddings is an important & effective way of ensuring my paymaster, the oil companies, can continue to do destroy the planet. I applaud the pain and distress the torturers caused, and encourage them to increase and expand their efforts until the oil companies face no resistance at all. And until — most importantly — my bribes increase.

    Fecking tool (this applies to both McCain & Haspel). McCain does get it broadly correct in the very last of his @409 quote, but that does not mean it he actually gets it.)

  288. says

    “Malaysia Election Is Up in the Air as King Delays Swearing-In”:

    Malaysia’s political future was cast into doubt on Thursday, after a historic victory for an opposition bloc led by the country’s 92-year-old former prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, instead was delayed when the country’s ceremonial monarch would not immediately swear him in.

    The reason for the delay was uncertain. Analysts said there were standing questions over whether Mr. Mahathir’s coalition was properly registered, but it was unclear whether that was the holdup. Opposition figures worried that the defeated prime minister, Najib Razak, had influenced the king in order to buy time to work a deal.

    The official result of the parliamentary elections on Wednesday was a clear majority for Mr. Mahathir’s coalition. It appeared Malaysia would see its first transfer of power to the opposition since its independence from Britain in 1957.

    But the entrenched government of Mr. Najib had appeared for much of the day to be holding out hope that Malaysia’s monarch might refrain from asking Mr. Mahathir to form a government.

    Mr. Mahathir, in a national address on Thursday morning, declared that it was time for Malaysia to honor “the rule of law,” and said that the king should put him in office by 5 p.m.

    But by 6:30 p.m., no announcement from the palace was in sight. Some news organizations said the palace had decided not to conduct any ceremony on Thursday, but that could not be confirmed.

    The official election result was a clear rejection of Mr. Najib’s coalition, led by his party the United Malays National Organization, which after six decades in power had come to represent corruption and the arbitrary use of authority to maintain power.

    As the leader of an improbably broad opposition coalition, united primarily by outrage over the towering list of corruption accusations against Mr. Najib, Mr. Mahathir has promised to rebuild government institutions and fight corruption. He has also vowed to lead a more inclusive government beyond the country’s ethnic Malay Muslim majority that Mr. Najib catered to.

    Supporters hope that Mr. Mahathir has shed his old autocratic ways and will embrace democracy and human rights, and fulfill his vow to seek a full pardon for the imprisoned former opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, and cede power to him if that happens.

    Mr. Mahathir has also said he would clear the way for criminal prosecution of Mr. Najib, who is accused of taking $731 million in government funds.

    More broadly, Mr. Najib has been embroiled in a scandal involving billions of dollars that disappeared from a government investment fund that he once headed, 1Malaysia Development Berhad….

    Here’s Maddow’s piece about the Broidy/Trump connection to Najib Razak and the 1MDB scandal.

  289. says

    Avenatti: “On April 9, the FBI raided Mr. Cohen’s home, office and hotel room. Within 48 hours, Mr. Cohen sent the below email to Mr. Davidson. Why? They had no ongoing legal matter at the time. Was it part of an attempt by Mr. Cohen to obstruct justice or worse? #basta”

    The email reads: “I lost all my contacts as I had to get a new phone. Please send me all your contact info. Also, why did Anthony back out on ABC to do the story? Let me know how you want to communicate”

  290. says

    Expect a lot more ads in the run-up to the midterm elections:

    Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has cut a $30 million check to the House GOP-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund, a massive cash infusion that top Republicans hope will alter the party’s electoral outlook six months before Election Day.

    The long-sought donation was sealed last week when, according to two senior Republicans, House Speaker Paul Ryan flew to Las Vegas to meet with the billionaire at his Venetian Hotel.

    Politico link

    From Steve Benen:

    […] It would be illegal for the Republican leader to request an eight-figure contribution to an allied super PAC, so according to Politico’s reporting, after Ryan helped make the case for GOP control of the chamber, the House Speaker left the room when it came to make the specific appeal. That task was left to former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), who now chairs the Republican Jewish Coalition.

    And it now appears that effort paid off: the billionaire casino magnate is writing a $30 million check. That’s not only an enormous contribution from one individual for one cycle targeting one chamber, it’s also triple the amount Adelson donated to the Congressional Leadership Fund in the last election cycle.

    […] House Republicans have new hope that they can buy their way to a prolonged majority, thanks to the generosity of the party’s billionaire megadonors.

    It’s worth emphasizing that, to a very real degree, Adelson is giving to those who’ve given to him. By one recent count, his business received a $670 million income-tax break from the Republican tax plan. […]

  291. says

    Why the heck did Trump lie about raises for the military?

    Here’s what Trump said yesterday:

    We just approved $700 billion for our military. So we’re going to be having the best equipment ever known. And next year, $716 billion. So I wanted to let you know.

    And, by the way, I know you don’t care about this, but that also includes raises for our military. First time in 10 years.” […]

    I am proud of it. And I guess there will be others, too. Would you like one sooner, or do you want to wait another 10 years?

    People serving in the military received raises in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017… and, as Steve Benen put it, “every other year of the Obama era. And the Bush era. And the Clinton era.”

    Leo Shane of the Military Times said:

    The military has gotten a raise every year since the start of the all-volunteer military.

    From Steve Benen:

    […] Cadet Bone Spurs really does seem to consider himself some kind of unique champion of military.

    He’s not, but there’s no reason to think he’ll stop repeating bogus claims like these anytime soon.

    Some commenters have noted that Russian trolls and bots are backing up Trump’s bogus claim.

  292. says

    Good news: three Americans were freed from North Korean labor camps. Kim Hak-song, Kim Dong-chul and Kim Sang-duk, who is also known as Tony Kim, were flown back to the United States.

    Trump met the three men at the airport and here is an excerpt from what he said:

    So I want to thank you all. It’s very early in the morning. I think you probably broke the all-time, in history, television rating for three o’clock in the morning — that I would say.

    That highly inappropriate comment is in the official White House transcript.

  293. says

    Follow-up to comment 420.

    This morning, Trump followed up his inappropriate comments about ratings with this:

    We want to thank Kim Jong-un, who really was excellent to these three incredible people.

    WTF? Kim Jong-un put them in labor camps.

    Eleven American hostages were released from North Korea during the Obama administration. President Obama never mentioned TV ratings as part of negotiating their freedom. Nor did Obama praise Kim Jong-un for taking excellent