Discuss: Political Madness All the Time

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

(Previous thread)


  1. says

    Apologies to SC, see comment 495, I didn’t see your earlier posting.

    In other news, Josh Marshall posted a thoughtful analysis of the Trump administration’s latest moves in their anti-immigrant activities:

    The Trump administration is making some remarkable arguments in the on-going child/family separation cases, making it seem like they actually want to slow roll their way into making the separations permanent.

    As Alice Ollstein explains, the government says it needs more time to determine whether the “putative parents” (i.e., people saying they want their kids back) are in fact real parents (people with a true custodial relationship to the children in question) and further whether are fit parents. […]

    This is a frustrating and ghastly story because, like many Trump administration sagas, it can be difficult to disentangle the malevolence, incompetence and simple indifference. To some degree, if you separate hundreds or thousands of families and don’t keep good records of who belonged to who, it legitimately will be a complex process getting everyone back together. […]

    But it also seems clear that the government is holding out the specter that substantial numbers of these “putative parents” may be human smugglers or unrelated criminals when there is really no evidence that’s the case. It is, as the judges sometimes put it, something that shocks the conscience that, having first separated these families, the government would now make itself the judge of the parents’ fitness to be parents. […]

    The same applies to asking to be let off the hook about parents who’ve already been deported. I don’t doubt that there are cases where it actually will be difficult to reunify … say, an impoverished mother in Guatemala who is hiding from her abusive husband with two children who’ve been transported from Texas to Ohio. But who’s fault is that? It goes without saying that that is going to make unification a real challenge and create a real risk the family will never be reunited. That was obvious going in. But they did it anyway. Certainly the government has a deep, affirmative responsibility to do everything it can to bring these parents and children back together.

  2. says

    “[…] democracy’s decline is gaining momentum: One-third of the world’s population lives in a backsliding democracy.”

    […] Experts lowered their estimates of democracy in the United States because they began to be skeptical that the U.S. Congress will rein in executive overreach. Similarly, experts lost faith that the opposition party can contribute to overseeing, investigating or otherwise checking the majority party. The U.S. executive branch was assessed as showing less respect for the Constitution and compliance with the judiciary, two indicators that the judicial branch can restrain the executive.

    For all four indicators, the score for the United States declined. The downward trend in the United States is much worse than in other countries. In terms of government compliance with decisions of the Supreme Court, the United States used to rank among the top countries of the world — but has now declined to No. 48. […]

    Authors Anna Luhrmann and Matthew Wilson wrote a report that was summarized in the Washington Post. The report details the “declining democracies,” which, for the first time, includes the United States. Sounds about right.

  3. says

    From Stephanie Griffith, another view of the failed talks in North Korea:

    On his first trip to Pyongyang following what was billed by the Trump administration as a triumphant summit last month with Kim Jong Un, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sounded fairly upbeat, saying “progress” had been made in talks to get North Korea to give up its nuclear arsenal.

    North Korea apparently didn’t get the memo.

    The Associated Press reported that, mere hours after Pompeo departed North Korea following two days of talks, Pyongyang issued a scathing statement Saturday calling the talks “regrettable” and “extremely worrisome.” […]

    “What the US is requesting is the cancerous demands from previous administrations that blocked all dialogue processes,” the statement read, urging the United States to come up with “constructive measures to help build confidence.”

    The AP report added that North Korean officials said talks were now in a “dangerous phase that might rattle our willingness for denuclearization that had been firm.”

    Not even a month ago, Trump was tweeting that the North Korea nuclear problem was all but solved, and that Americans could finally rest easy thanks to his breakthrough in talks with Kim. […]

    See comment 499 in the previous chapter of this thread for analysis from the Washington Post.

  4. says

    For those who may have missed it, here is a link to comment 494 in the previous chapter of this thread.

    The previous discussion centers around the Trump administration’s plan to claim that placing separated migrant children in foster care is equivalent to reuniting them with their families.

    See also comment 1 above.

  5. says

    Follow-up to comment 4.

    From Governor Jay Inslee:

    My office recently learned the shocking revelation from @HHSGov that reunification could mean placing a separated child with ANY long-term sponsor — regardless of whether it’s their parents, other family in the US, family back in their home country or in long-term foster care.

  6. says

    Oh, FFS.

    Pro-Trump groups planned a “Speak English Please!” rally for noon today in NYC.

    […] This rally is a celebration of freedom of speech and the beautiful and complex English language,” the event’s Facebook description reads. “Attacks on our language are one way that America is being stripped of its greatness. Therefore, promoting proficiency in English is one way to Make America Great Again!”

    The demonstration, which is scheduled for noon on Saturday, bills itself as a peaceful celebration. A Facebook graphic publicizing the event, however, shows a MAGA-hat wearing Trump supporter with the barrel of gun forced into his mouth. […]


    […]the peaceful veneer of the rally obscures some more extreme ties of the organizers, who have a history of brawling and agitation at public events.

    The event has been organized by three groups; The Modern Patriots by Jovi Val, Boston Free Speech and Resist Marxism (also Boston-based).

    The Modern Patriots Facebook page largely consists of Val posting videos and photos of himself “triggering” liberals by wearing his MAGA hat and waving his Trump flag around New York. But he also has connections to the far-right Proud Boys as well as conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer. […]

  7. says

    Trump is continuing his efforts to sabotage Obamacare, (what’s left of Obamacare after his previous efforts):

    The Trump administration is freezing a critical Affordable Care Act (ACA) insurance payment program that discourages insurers from cherry picking healthier enrollees by compensating them for sicker ones.

    The move could rattle insurance companies at the very moment when they’re deciding whether to continue selling ACA plans and setting premiums for 2019. […]

    The suspension of some payouts under the program, known as risk adjustment, could come in the wake of a recent decision by a federal judge in New Mexico, who ruled that part of its implementation was flawed and hadn’t been adequately justified by federal regulators, people familiar with the plans said.

    “We were disappointed by the court’s recent ruling. As a result of this litigation, billions of dollars in risk adjustment payments and collections are now on hold,” said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma in a statement released on Saturday. “CMS has asked the court to reconsider its ruling, and hopes for a prompt resolution that allows CMS to prevent more adverse impacts on Americans who receive their insurance in the individual and small group markets.” […]

    Think Progress link

    Much more at the link, including responses from insurers and experts.

  8. says

    Scott Pruitt gave the finger to every human being on the planet before he left his job as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt left under a cloud of ethical and criminal investigations, but before we got rid of him, he decided to leave us with a cloud of diesel pollution from trucks.

    […] Pruitt quietly gifted a pollution loophole to diesel freight truck manufacturers who had lobbied the administration to allow them to continue making trucks relying on old engines with fewer environmental safeguards. […]

    As the New York Times reports, during the last few hours of Pruitt’s tenure as one of the shortest-serving EPA administrators in history, the agency moved to allow some heavy-duty tractor-trailers to continue evading pollution standards.

    The loophole in question is regarding so-called “gliders,” or heavy-duty trucks whose bodies have been built around older engines and transmissions to cut down manufacturing costs. These old engines typically don’t adhere to modern emissions standards designed to protect the air from pollutants, including particulates that can raise the risk of asthma and lung cancer.

    The Obama administration took several approaches to address gliders, sometimes called “super polluters” because they result in so much more air pollution compared to modern trucks. One Obama-era rule required gliders to meet the same emissions standards as freight trucks with new engines. After noticing an uptick in gliders manufactured by companies hoping to evade regulations, Obama’s EPA also imposed an annual 300-unit cap on new gliders per each trucking company.

    The EPA on Friday moved to end enforcement of the 300-unit cap on gliders, ceasing the government’s attempt to limit the number of these super polluters in production. EPA officials confirmed to the New York Times that the agency will not enforce the cap through the end of 2019. Though the limit technically took effect in January, truck manufacturers will be allowed to sidestep it — and agency officials will contact them to explain they are permitted to do so. […]


  9. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    MAGA motherfuckers: “Therefore, promoting proficiency in English is one way to Make America Great Again!”

    Blinks eyes… Uh, dudes, have you read the transcripts of President Shitbiscuit’s latest word salad?

  10. blf says

    Despite the “governor” and other thugs threatening the protestors, Thousands shut down Chicago highway with gun control march:

    Thousands of Chicago protesters shut down a major highway on Saturday to oppose gun violence and call for stronger gun laws.

    After an hour-long standstill, police announced they were shutting down all northbound lanes of the Dan Ryan Expressway to allow protesters to march on the road.

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city’s police superintendent had voiced support for the protest, which was led by the Rev Michael Pfleger […].

    Illinois state police have jurisdiction over the interstate, and had threatened to arrest anyone who stepped on to the entry ramp.

    But protesters were allowed on to several lanes of highway on Saturday as corrections department buses waited alongside. Protestors chanted “shut it down.”

    Pfleger, the Rev Jesse Jackson and Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson were walking side-by-side among them.


    Shortly before the march began, Illinois’s governor, Bruce Rauner, said that Pfleger and other organizers had agreed to limit their demonstration to the highway shoulder, without taking over the road. In a tweet, Pfleger called the assertion a “LIE” and said the protest would go on as planned.

    Later in the day, Rauner called the shutdown unacceptable. The Republican said in a tweet Saturday that he was disappointed in Emanuel, and called on him to take swift and decisive action to put an end to this kind of chaos.

    Emanuel responded in a tweet: “It was a peaceful protest. Delete your account.”

    Kudos to the Mayor for telling the “governor” to go feck himself, albeit he should have added “And resign.”

    “If Governor Rauner and Mayor Rahm Emanuel can meet in secret to decide to give Amazon a billion dollars,” referring to officials’ attempts to lure the company to Chicago, “they can meet and decide to do something about not only gun violence but inequality,” said attorney Eric Martin White [one of the protestors].


    Last year more than 3,000 people were shot in Chicago, more than 600 of them fatally.

    I had some Generalisimo Google-fu problems finding comparative statistics for France, but apparently in 2016, there were less than 800 murders (in total) in all of mainland France (not all, of course, shootings) — only slightly more in country of c.66m than just the deaths-by-shooting (presumably not all murders) in one city of c.2.6m people.

    Pfleger has pointed out that the highways are periodically closed for presidential visits and other reasons. Jackson was quoted in the Chicago Tribune saying, “Stopping traffic is less damaging than the shooting and the killing and the jailing.”


  11. blf says

    Not exactly political — probably more a case of ineptitude, or inflexible rules improperly applied — Outcry as Japanese makers of ‘exceptional’ wine told to quit France:

    French winemakers and wine lovers are up in arms after a Japanese couple who earned rave reviews for their very first vintage have been threatened with deportation.

    More than 42,000 have already signed a petition blasting the “crazy, foolish and shameful decision”, with wine and restaurant critics joining the outcry.

    Rie and Hirofumi Shoji’s “exceptional” red wine, Pedres Blanques (White Rocks), made from grenache grapes near Banyuls-sur-Mer in the French Catalan region of Roussillon, in southern France, became an instant hit after their first harvest last year.

    It has already made the cellars of Can Roca, often described as the world’s best restaurant, just across the Spanish border in Girona, and top Paris eateries have also been vying to stock up on the natural wine.

    The Shojis harvest their grapes by hand, growing them organically and without adding anything to the wine. Their first year of production completely sold out, with 10,000 bottles quickly snapped up and the price surging from 12 euros ($14) to 26 euros.

    But immigration officials said the couple could not stay in France because they were not earning enough and their business was not viable.

    Some searching suggests the c.26€ price is retail — which, whilst not silly-expensive, is not inexpensive by French standards — and is now so hard to get sales are typically(?) limited to a single bottle only. Not bad at all for the first production of a not viable vineyard.

    They sunk 100,000 euros of their savings and took out a 50,000 euro loan to buy their vineyards on difficult terrain where the Pyrenees mountains plunge into the Mediterranean.

    But when they tried to change their status on their papers from “employees” to “farmers” officials told them they would have to leave the country because they earned less than 2,000 euros a month.


    Renowned local winemaker Alain Castex is among several who have leapt to the Shojis’ defence, praising Pedres Blanques as “an extraordinary wine”.

    “They are really passionate people with very high ethical standards and they have been a magnificent success” […].

    Jean L’Héritier, the organiser of a wine fair in Perpignan, the capital of the Roussillon region, said it would be a “huge loss for everyone if the Shojis had to leave. The quality of their grapes, and the typically Japanese perfectionism of their winemaking” had impressed their peers […].

    Callers to local radio stations raged at the officials as “moronic”, and Twitter users also described the decision as “criminal”. Green MEP Yannick Jadot called the decision “absurd” and urged his supporters to sign the petition to save the Shojis.


    “The average income in the area (from winemaking) even with subsidies is less than 1,000 euros a month,” [their lawyer Jean Codognès] noted, adding that the Shojis hadn’t received any state aid because of their nationality.


    Apropos of nothing, the photograph illustrating the article is not unlike the local scenes in the area where I live. I would have to travel a few kilometres to get to the closest (that I know of) vineyard with a view overlooking the Mediterranean, but not all that far. Excepting the climb up steeeeeeeep hills, it’d be an easy bicycle ride.

  12. says

    From the Montana Standard, we have a story about four priests campaigning for Trump:

    The attendance of four Roman Catholic priests from Montana at President Donald Trump’s political rally in Great Falls Thursday has created a social media firestorm and apparently incurred the displeasure of the priests’ superiors in the church.

    The four, who were seated near the front of the rally, wore their clerical garb, carried “Make America Great Again” signs, and wore VIP badges. They clapped for Trump as he doubled down on his oft-repeated slur of Sen. Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas,” mocked the #MeToo movement, and questioned the meaning of former Republican President George H.W. Bush’s “Thousand Points of Light” slogan.

    Two of the priests, Father Garrett Nelson and Father Ryan Erlenbush, serve in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Great Falls-Billings. The other two, Father Kevin Christofferson and Father Christopher Lebsock, serve in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena. […]

    “While they are free to support a political candidate — and I believe they were there in support of Matt Rosendale, who is running for the Senate seat from Montana — they should not have been attired in clerical garb and seated in such a prominent location. I myself had been invited to attend the rally but declined. It has been my experience that people can be manipulated and used unwittingly. I judge that it was an imprudent decision on their parts to allow themselves to be used in such a way though I suspect they had not thought of this. In Christ, Bishop Warfel.” […]

    As pictures of the priests at the rally circulated on social media Friday, several people posted wording from Catholic Church guidelines regarding priests’ participation in politics. […]

    From the IRS:

    Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes. […]

    Commentary about the inappropriateness of clergymen joining political campaigns, along with a prompt to file a complaint with the IRS:

    […] Now all of this is their right as individuals, and even in their collars, they certainly were allowed to show up and listen. But not cover themselves in Trump Pence buttons and carry MAGA signs! This constitutes partisan campaigning, strictly forbidden for a church or other 501 c 3 non-profit to maintain its non-taxable status.

    So gitchyer complaint filed here! Link; or go directly to the form cued up right here: Link to PDF form.

    […] Now, if yer an IRS agent and you can tell me I’m wrong about this, please tell me and I’ll withdraw this post. If I don’t hear from ya, this Form 13909 beauty is on its WAY, baby. […]

  13. says

    Oh, FFS. The Trump administration is against breastfeeding. WTF?

    These days, the United States is on the outside looking in when it comes to global consensus on many things: Climate change, the Iran deal, and breastfeeding.

    Yes, you read that correctly. Breastfeeding.

    This spring at the World Health Assembly, the United States fought a resolution to encourage breast-feeding, according to a new report by the New York Times. The resolution, which was based on decades of scientific research, encouraged countries to limit false or deceptive advertising of breast milk substitutes, and called on governments to publicly support breastfeeding. […]

    the United States stepped in and took the side of infant formula manufacturers.

    At first, the U.S. delegation tried to just water down the language in the resolution, but when that didn’t work, they began to threaten and bully countries who were supporting the resolution.

    […] what occurred was “tantamount to blackmail, with the U.S. holding the world hostage and trying to overturn nearly 40 years of consensus on best way to protect infant and young child health.”

    […] “The Americans were blunt: If Ecuador refused to drop the resolution, Washington would unleash punishing trade measures and withdraw crucial military aid. The Ecuadorean government quickly acquiesced. […]

    Health advocates scrambled to find another sponsor for the resolution, but at least a dozen countries, most of them poor nations in Africa and Latin America, backed off, citing fears of retaliation, according to officials from Uruguay, Mexico and the United States.”

    […] it was Russia that decided to introduce the measure. Interestingly enough, the United States did not threaten Russia like it did Ecuador. The resolution ended up passing, though the U.S. did succeed in getting the language altered slightly. […]


  14. says

    Rudy Giuliani said some more stupid stuff today as he pretended to be a lawyer defending Trump, (see comment 493 in the previous chapter of this thread for some of the wildly inaccurate stupid stuff, Giuliani said earlier):

    The Russia investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller is “the most corrupt investigation I have ever seen,” […] Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani told ABC News on Sunday morning. […]

    “We can’t find an incriminating anything, and we need a basis for this investigation, particularly since we now know it was started from biased — by biased,” origins, Giuliani argued on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. Trump’s attorney suggested that testimony from former FBI Director James Comey, who has said Trump asked him to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, “is hardly worth anything” and that Mueller’s team is stacked with “very, very severe partisans.”

    Of Mueller specifically, Giuliani told NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “I do not think he’s corrupt” but that “he’s surrounded by biased people. Almost exclusively.” […]


  15. says

    From Wonkette, an analysis of Darla Shine’s racism, etc. Darla Shine is Bill Shine’s wife.

    […] Let’s talk about Darla Shine, the Marabel Morgan-esque wife of Bill Shine, the former Fox News co-president who has just joined the Trump administration as its new communications chief.

    Bill, as you may recall, got shitcanned from Fox News last year due to his enabling of Roger Ailes’ happy hands.

    Darla is a stay-at-home mom with a poorly written blog called “Darla Shine’s Happy Housewives Club” — which so far seems to just be a bunch of pictures of pin-up girls dressed as housewives, recipes for salad and a poorly written rant about the Real Housewives. She also claims on this blog that stay-at-home-moms are “the most disrespected” people in America, which does not seem to be a true statement by any stretch of the imagination.

    However, her 1950s fetish goes beyond the Sexxxy Donna Reed costumes and love of the patriarchy, as she is also a super wacky racist. Oh, and she’s an anti-vaxxer, and sometimes combines the racism and the anti-vaxxer stuff in rather unusual and unexpected ways.

    [From Darla Shine tweets]: “1 out of 10 black boys has autism!”
    “There are the black celerities, sports stars, musicians, why ren’t [sic] they speaking out tonight against blacks targeting & murdering cops?” […]
    “I have never said the N word out loud and my white children have never either. Blacks stop using the N word!” […]

  16. says

    Stupid, bullying ideas from Trump, (delivered via Twitter, of course):

    Twitter is getting rid of fake accounts at a record pace. Will that include the Failing New York Times and propaganda machine for Amazon, the Washington Post, who constantly quote anonymous sources that, in my opinion, don’t exist – They will both be out of business in 7 years!

  17. says

    A Russian-backed offensive in Syria makes a mockery of Trump:

    A humanitarian disaster is unfolding in southern Syria, where hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing heavy fighting and finding borders locked tight. More than three hundred thousand civilians are on the move—some on tractors, some on foot—trying to escape a Russian-backed Syrian army offensive aimed at reconquering the city of Dara’a and the surrounding area, where the rebellion against the regime of Bashar al-Assad began seven years ago.

    The refugees are fleeing Dara’a in two waves: to the east, toward the nearby Jordanian border, and to the west, toward Israel. Both borders are closed […] Israel has accepted almost no Syrian refugees since the war began. […]

    As a result, this latest wave of displaced Syrians, who number three hundred and twenty-five thousand, are withering in the sun; most have neither shelter nor food nor water. Daytime temperatures are nearing a hundred degrees. Women on the run are giving birth; children are dying not just from dehydration brought on by diarrhea but from scorpion bites. […]

    The rebellion began in 2011, following the castration and murder, by Assad’s goons, of a thirteen-year-old boy named Ali Hamza al-Khateeb, who had been detained for spraying anti-government graffiti. […] since 2011, at least four hundred thousand Syrians have died, and roughly half of all Syrians have fled their homes. […] Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah rushed into the vacuum and saved Assad. […]

    Last July, President Trump and President Vladimir Putin of Russia agreed to a ceasefire in Dara’a and its environs. (King Abdullah of Jordan signed on, too.) They called it a “de-escalation zone.” At the time, the agreement was held out as a sign of how the United States and Russia could work together. […]

    A ceasefire in Dara’a, the meddlesome southern province, fit Assad’s needs at the time perfectly. “The Syrians wanted the agreement to buy time,” Jennifer Cafarella, a Syria analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, in Washington, told me.

    […] When the offensive began, two weeks ago, Russian officials, unleashing waves of air strikes, said they had decided to help the Syrian army crush “terrorists.” There was no mention of the “de-escalation zone” that Trump and Putin had agreed to a year ago. […]

    There’s hardly been a peep out the Trump White House. The “de-escalation zone” was inaction disguised as action […]

    New Yorker link

  18. KG says

    David Davis, the lazy and ignorant “Brexit Secretary”, has resigned, citing his disagreement with the approach to negotiations with the EU agreed to by the cabinet (including Davis) on Friday. He has made noises indicating that he doesn’t want others to resign, likes May, wouldn’t stand for the leadership… but we’ll see. Of the other most senior hard Brexiteers, Michael Gove has been vocal in support of May and was tipped to replace Davis (he’s currently Environment Secretary), but the job has gone to a nonentity by the name of Dominic Raab, who apparently campaigned for Brexit during the referendum. I take this as a sign that May herself intends to run the negotiations (if she survives). Boris Johnson has said nothing in public yet, although he’s widely reported to have described the position he signed up to as “polishing a turd” during the cabinet’s awayday. Hilariously, there was a reference on BBC Radio 4’s “Today” to Johnson having to consider “his principles” in deciding what to do. I don’t know anyone who seriously thinks Boris Johnson has any principles unless “The welfare of Boris Johnson” counts as one. He’s presumably kept quiet in order to see how things develop, but his problem now is that whether he goes or stays, he’ll appear to be following someone else (Davis or Gove). He could still make a bold move and put himself at the head of an anti-May rebellion, since Davis has not done so, but my hunch is that he lacks the courage to take that risk. Even if Johnson stays, and despite Davis’s expressed loyalty to May, the latter’s move is bound to embolden the Brexit hardliners within the paliamentary party. It would take 48 of them (15% of the total) to trigger a leadership contest. Again, my hunch is that not enough would take the risk of bringing down the government, but it’s no more than a hunch. Jacob Rees-Mogg, our very own theocratic wingnut (Catholic variety, admittedly mild by American standards), has demanded that May abandon the position agreed by the cabinet last Friday, and other Brexit ultras have said it would be worse than no deal.

    May has invited senior members of opposition parties to a briefing on her plan – presumably hoping they will support her against the hardliners if the plan is voted on in the Commons. I doubt this will work – why would they pull her chestnuts out of the fire?

  19. says

    KG @19 and 20: Are UK cabinet members trying to match the high turnover in the Trump administration? This all looks a bit whacky, as if the administration is a clown car.

    In other news, after he returned from the Republicans-only trip to Moscow to praise Putin, Senator Ron Johnson is pushing the idea of getting rid of sanctions against Russia.

    From the Washington Examiner:

    President Trump and U.S. lawmakers should consider revising sanctions targeting Russia so they focus more on Russian oligarchs, a senior Republican lawmaker suggested after participating in a congressional delegation visit to Moscow.

    “You do something and nobody ever sits back and analyzes, ‘Well, is it working?'” Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., told the Washington Examiner. “And I think you’d be hard-pressed to say that sanctions against Russia are really working all that well.”

    Senator Johnson is displaying his ignorance, as Steve Benen noted:

    [Johnson] suggested a different approach, in which U.S. sanctions were targeted against Russian oligarchs and members of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. (At the risk of sounding picky, I should probably note that we’ve already done that. Perhaps Johnson wants more along these lines?)

    In the same Examiner interview, the senator said foreign interference in American elections “is not the greatest threat to our democracy” and has been blown “way out of proportion.”

    So let me get this straight: a group of Republicans went to Russia, where they were reluctant to accuse Putin’s government of much of anything, and where one of the leading GOP senators denied that Russia is even an adversary.

    Upon returning home, another leading Senate Republican questioned the value of existing sanctions against Russia and suggested the most serious attack against the United States since 9/11 has been blown “way out of proportion.”

    Ron Johnson went on to say, “When ruthless, strong people perceive weakness, they pounce. Russia wants to reconstitute, basically, its sphere of influence that they had in the Soviet Union. So, you understand that, and if you don’t want to let that happen, you’ve got to push back with strength and resolve … but that doesn’t mean that we have to be enemies.”

    Sure, senator, tell us some more about the dangers of showing weakness.

    Russian state television mocked the U.S. congressional delegation of eight Republicans “for appearing to put a weak foot forward.”

  20. says

    Paul Krugman discussed Trump’s tariffs. Trump does not know what he is doing.

    […] Trump’s tariffs are badly designed even from the point of view of someone who shares his crude mercantilist view of trade. In fact, the structure of his tariffs so far is designed to inflict maximum damage on the U.S. economy, for minimal gain. Foreign retaliation, by contrast, is far more sophisticated: unlike Trump, the Chinese and other targets of his trade wrath seem to have a clear idea of what they’re trying to accomplish. […]

    Is there a strategy here? It’s hard to see one. There’s certainly no hint that the tariffs were designed to pressure China into accepting U.S. demands, since nobody can even figure out what, exactly, Trump wants from China in the first place.

    China’s retaliation looks very different. It doesn’t completely eschew tariffs on intermediate goods, but it’s mostly on final goods. And it’s also driven by a clear political strategy of hurting Trump voters; the Chinese, unlike the Trumpies, know what they’re trying to accomplish […]

    New York Times link

    From the Washington Post, (writer, Catherine Rampell):

    China knows what it wants out of these bilateral negotiations; the White House plainly does not. Trump officials have offered shifting and at times contradictory demands and objectives, further complicated by administration infighting, public turf wars, reversals, retractions and clumsy errors. In short: Over here on Team USA, it’s been amateur hour.

    From Daniel Price, a former trade official in the Bush/Cheney administration:

    There is no apparent plan. The administration has given no indication what the off-ramp is or what their objectives are.

  21. KG says

    BTW, I don’t know if the new nerve-agent poisoning in the UK has received any coverage across the pond. One of the unfortunate couple has died. The working hypothesis is that they accidentally handled a discarded container left over from the assassination attempt on the Skripals.

  22. says

    Trump continues to blather on and on about how other NATO members owe the U.S. money. No, they don’t. Josh Marshall delved into a good explanation:

    As we move toward the NATO Summit and the Putin-Trump summit, I thought it made sense to review some of the details behind the President’s demands that NATO member countries pay up and stop doing what he regards as freeloading on the US taxpayer dime. Most people have a general sense that Trump doesn’t seem to grasp how an alliance works, that it’s not meant to function as a protection racket. But the actual details are both sillier and more significant than it may seem on the surface. […]

    The actual NATO budget is quite small – a $1.4 billion military budget and a $250 million civilian budget. The US pays a relatively modest part of that total, about 22%. The percentage is based on a formula which includes the size of each member state’s economy. This mainly goes to pay for the NATO headquarters in Belgium and the quite thin military infrastructure which coordinates and integrates the various member country militaries which make up the alliance. That’s it. The whole thing is budgeted at less than $2 billion. The percentage the US pays is reasonable, relative to the size of the US economy and no one is in arrears.

    The vastly greater amount is the combined military budgets of all the member countries combined, which was $921 billion in 2017. The great majority of that is made up of the US military budget. In 2017 the US military budget was $610 billion. The coming fiscal year puts it at $700 billion. […] the US also spends much more on a per capita basis. […]

    In 2014, at US urging, NATO set a target that member states should get to a minimum of 2% of GDP on military spending by 2024. Almost all of them have increased spending in GDP terms. But few are at 2% yet and it’s an open question how many will get there by 2024.

    […] none of the players in this debate are proposing any reductions to US defense spending. Indeed, President Trump is overseeing and frequently brags about a dramatic increase in US military spending.

    […] more immediate issue is that an allied military, for it to be really useful as a military partner, has to have a certain level of readiness, modern and interoperable weaponry and so forth. In other words, it’s not just a matter of your spending X on your military. A member state has to meet some threshold level of being a modern military force for it to be useful for the US military to work with at all. […] And Trump is not the first US President to push for this. Bush and Obama did too.

    As you can see, though, there is no sense here that the Europeans ‘owe’ the US any money. That’s absurd on a purely factual level. But it’s absurd at a more specific, substantive level as well. How this could make a certain sense is if the US were looking at its $700 billion annual Pentagon budget and saying, “We don’t want to spend that much money anymore. We want to drop down to $350 billion a year. To make that possible we need you European countries to pick the shortfall.” If the NATO partners refused or were laggard in upping spending they still wouldn’t owe us money. But we would have a strong argument that their miserliness was forcing the US to spend hundred of billions a year it didn’t want to spend.

    But as you can see, that’s precisely what we’re not doing. We’re actually at the beginning of a new military buildup […]

    Trump, at a very basic level, doesn’t understand how the US military or the US military budget works. The changes Trump is demanding in European military spending are ones that cannot have any impact on US military spending because he wants to spend well over the current rates that interlock with current NATO member state spending levels. […]

    The more obvious conclusion is that, for whatever reasons, President Trump is hostile to the very concept of our primary alliances in Europe and Northeast Asia, in which we do pay substantial sums to be the guarantor of security in those regions. He simply hasn’t reconciled that with his braggadocious clamoring for higher military spending which, whether he knows it or not, assume those continuing commitments.

  23. says

    KG, I was just going to post about Sturgess’ death. Hardly anything happening over there is getting significant coverage here. Should be, but isn’t.

    “Revealed: Leave.EU campaign met Russian officials as many as 11 times”:

    Arron Banks’ Leave.EU campaign team met with Russian embassy officials as many as 11 times in the run-up to the EU referendum and in the two months beyond, documents seen by the Observer suggest – seven more times than Banks has admitted. The same documents suggest the Russian embassy extended a further four invitations to Brexit’s biggest funder, but it is not known if they were accepted.

    It is the third time the number of such meetings has been revised upwards. For two years, Banks insisted his only contact with the Russian government consisted of one “boozy lunch” with the Russian ambassador.

    After the Observer revealed a month ago that he had had multiple meetings at which he had been offered lucrative business deals, Banks told a parliamentary inquiry into fake news he had had “two or three” meetings.

    Last week, when pressed by the New York Times, he admitted a fourth meeting. But the Observer has seen evidence that suggests there were at least seven more. When questioned about this, Banks offered no response.

    The Observer has seen details, and the Sunday Times published an email given to it by Banks, suggesting possible deals were presented at the fourth of these meetings, on 17 November 2015, the same day that the Leave.EU group – which he helped fund – officially launched its campaign.

    The document suggests Banks messaged Siman Povarenkin, the oligarch introduced to him by the ambassador, saying: “I’ve chatted to Jim Mellon who is my partner in the bank and we are both interested in looking at how we could help. Jim has extensive interests in commodities.” Banks goes on to say that another business partner will be in touch “to start discussions. I’m very bullish on gold so keen to have a look”. As a postscript, he adds that “Jim knows the ambassador as well!”

    The New York Times reported last week that Charlemagne Capital, a fund management company founded and part-owned by Mellon, bought a multi-million pound stake in Alrosa, Russia’s largest diamond mining company, with the deal taking place just days after the referendum in June 2016.

    Alrosa, a state-owned firm, is now headed by the son of one of Vladimir Putin’s closest advisers, Sergei Ivanov,…

    The Alrosa sale was the first and biggest Russian initial public offering for many years, but others followed, including 19.5% of Rosneft, the state-owned oil firm, less than a month after Donald Trump won the US presidential election.

  24. says

    I heard about Sturgess’ death on MSNBC this morning. Coverage in the USA is light to non-existent.

    In other news, per some of KG’s comments up-thread, three British ministers have resigned in less than 24 hours. Prime Minister Theresa May’s government may be falling apart. Think Progress link

  25. says

    Just flipped on the television for a few minutes and Andrea Mitchell was talking about Sturgess and the Johnson resignation. Neither she nor the MSNBC correspondent, Kelly Cobiella, provided any substantial context, though (I don’t think Russia was even mentioned in the Novichok report, despite Cobiella talking about how they want to bring the perpetrators to justice – actually claimed they had no suspects). If I didn’t have background on the Johnson resignation from other sources, I would have no idea what the report was even about. It’s very frustrating because events in the US and UK are connected, and knowledge of what’s happening there is crucial to understanding what’s happening here.

  26. says

    Follow-up to comment 15.

    Chris Christie, Giuliani & Dershowitz hit legal stupid trifecta—satire and political commentary from Wonkette:

    […] Welcome back to another Sunday Roundup just ahead of the exciting Season Finale of The Apprentice: Supreme Court! Monday at 9pm/EST! But before we know who will be the deciding vote in all the future “5 to 4” Supreme Court decisions to dismantle democracy, let’s make fun of the amazingly idiotic and hypocritical things on ABC’s This Week with George Sarcophagus. […]

    CHRISTIE: Now, I’m not ready to buy into this — that this is the most profound moment in the court since 1968. Anthony Kennedy, if you look at his voting record in the main, if you — if you don’t look at —
    SARCOPHAGUS: Conservative.
    CHRISTIE: — at Roe and — and at —
    SARCOPHAGUS: Gay rights.
    CHRISTIE: — gay rights, Anthony Kennedy —
    GASPARD: Two — two historic —
    CHRISTIE: But guess what? You know, on most other things — OK. I understand your point. Except that those issues are much more important to some as opposed to others.

    Well, of course if you ignore two of the most historic decisions Kennedy was a part of, really nothing changes. But it seems like a mighty big omission, especially since that is the reason for the Supreme Court fight that will occur. It’s like saying “I’m monogamous, except for those two times I cheated on you.” Or as this famous Orson Welles quote says: “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” […]

    GIULIANI: […] the reason for the — for the extension are the extraordinary things that happened that we didn’t expect. It began before I started with the Cohen — with the Cohen thing. It took a while to unravel all that. Then the — the Horowitz report is devastating. I mean, it’s 500-and-plus pages — there are more things in that that you have to review than you can imagine. And it cast a taint over the entire investigation. It was started — Mueller hired originally as his chief investigator a man that has some kind of vicious bias against Donald Trump. Out of all the FBI agents, how you could select that guy is beyond —
    SARCOPHAGUS: Well as soon as he found about the texts, he fired him.
    GIULIANI: Yes, but other people had to find it out. He didn’t find it out. He didn’t vet him properly. Nor — nor has he vetted the people he has with him right now. He’s got very, very severe partisans working on an investigation that should be done by people who are politically neutral.

    So first let’s marvel at the fact you have someone representing Donald Trump making a case for others’ failure to “vet their employees.” But then let’s move quickly on to the case he’s making about people who have different political views being unable to conduct a criminal investigation when they should be “politically neutral.” Amazing this neutrality didn’t apply to the seven Benghazi investigations led by Republicans in the Congress or the Whitewater/Monica Lewinsky/Ken Starr investigation full of sanctimonious men of “moral character” like Senator Henry Hyde, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, Newt Gingrich and Senator Larry Craig. Seems like Giuliani, like the rest of the GOP, is projecting once again. […]

    SARCOPHAGUS: And Alan, let me begin with you. It’s an interesting mixed message there from Rudy Giuliani. Nothing to worry about from Robert Mueller, yet the scorched earth against his team continues.
    DERSHOWITZ: Yes, because there is something to worry about, obviously. In the end, if the president sits down with Mueller, he may be walking into a perjury trap. If he is unwilling to sit down, he may be subpoenaed, then probably they’ll be a year or so of litigation. But in the end, probably he’ll have to appear in front of a grand jury. His great vulnerability is a perjury trap, a perjury rap, because as I argue in my book, you need to commit a crime to be impeached. And if he’s committed previous crimes — there’s no evidence of that — that won’t work. But if he commits the crime of perjury, he’s in Clinton-land.

    So in this one moment Dershowitz both clarifies why Trump will avoid Mueller at all costs and the true reason Giuliani makes all these excuses: Trump is a lying sack of shit who cannot tell the truth about anything, anytime. So essentially as soon as you put him under oath, he will instantly perjure himself because that is his nature. He can’t help it. […]

  27. says

    Sounds about par for the course. Trump treats another employee badly:

    […] Trump’s former personal driver has sued the Trump Organization for more than 3,000 hours of unpaid overtime, alleging that Trump never paid him for extra hours of work and only raised his salary two times in 15 years.

    […] former driver, Noel Cintron, filed the suit in the Manhattan Supreme Court on Monday for 3,300 hours worth of unpaid overtime work in the past six years. The statute of limitations bars him from suing for uncompensated work beyond that time period. Cintron, a registered Republican, worked as Trump’s personal driver for more than 25 years, according to Bloomberg.

    In the suit, Cintron claims his workday started at 7 a.m. and only ended when Trump, his family or his associates were finished using his services, according to Bloomberg. Cintron said he often worked 55 hours a week, but was only ever paid his established salary of $62,700 in 2003, $68,000 in 2006 and $75,000 in 2010, a raise that also required him to forgo his health insurance.

    According to Bloomberg, the complaint describes Trump’s mistreatment of Cintron as “an utterly callous display of unwarranted privilege and entitlement and without even a minimal sense of noblesse oblige.”


  28. says

    Lanny Davis, now representing Michael Cohen, tweeted this morning: “Did @rudygiuliani really say on Sunday shows that @michaelcohen212 should cooperate with prosecutors and tell the truth? Seriously? Is that Trump and Giuliani definition of ‘truth’? Trump/Giuliani next to the word ‘truth’ = oxymoron. Stay tuned. #thetruthmatters”

    Emily Jane Fox, the journalist with probably the most knowledge of Cohen’s state of mind and intentions, was pretty clear this morning that his loyalty has shifted far away from Trump, and that everyone around him supported this. If his plan is to cooperate with investigators, though, he should already be doing it. (I actually think that if he’s reasoning, as he seems to be, that he can use a spin doctor like Davis to create a new public image for himself as patriotic truth-teller, he could well be right.)

  29. says

    Johnson’s full resignation letter. The claim that these assholes would ever govern in the interests of the British people is ludicrous in any circumstance, but it’s especially rich coming within weeks of the exposure of the head Leavers’ covert meetings and backroom deals with representatives of the Kremlin and their personal profiteering off of the Brexit vote.

  30. says

    Great piece – “Will Trump Be Meeting With His Counterpart — Or His Handler? A plausible theory of mind-boggling collusion.”:

    …Suppose we are currently making the same mistake we made at the outset of this drama — suppose the dark crevices of the Russia scandal run not just a little deeper but a lot deeper. If that’s true, we are in the midst of a scandal unprecedented in American history, a subversion of the integrity of the presidency. It would mean the Cold War that Americans had long considered won has dissolved into the bizarre spectacle of Reagan’s party’s abetting the hijacking of American government by a former KGB agent. It would mean that when Special Counsel Robert Mueller closes in on the president and his inner circle, possibly beginning this summer, Trump may not merely rail on Twitter but provoke a constitutional crisis.

    And it would mean the Russia scandal began far earlier than conventionally understood and ended later — indeed, is still happening. As Trump arranges to meet face-to-face and privately with Vladimir Putin later this month, the collusion between the two men metastasizing from a dark accusation into an open alliance, it would be dangerous not to consider the possibility that the summit is less a negotiation between two heads of state than a meeting between a Russian-intelligence asset and his handler….

  31. says

    The Trump gang are now saying they won’t meet the deadline (tomorrow) for reuniting children under age 5 with the parents from whom they were taken, and in fact have made very little progress toward this end. Rep. Joaquin Castro:

    If the Trump administration fails to reunite every parent and child by July 10 deadline (as ordered by the court), the judge should appoint a special master to take over the reunification process. This is a grave human rights abuse by @realdonaldtrump administration.

    Also, if the deadline to reunite the children and parents is missed, @HHSGov and/or @SecNielsen should be held in contempt of court.

  32. says

    The Onion – “Picky Refugee Just Expects To Be Reunited With Exact Same Family As Before”:

    Expressing frustration with the migrant child’s sense of entitlement, ICE authorities confirmed Monday that picky Honduran refugee Blanca Diaz just expected to be reunited with the exact same family she had before. “We’re already letting you go, and now you think you deserve special treatment and will just be automatically paired with whichever parents you want? Jesus, there’s just no pleasing some people,” said ICE agent Patrick Buecker of the 5-year-old girl…

  33. says

    NYT: Trump commiserated with Mr. Putin over Trump administration officials whom the Russian president said had tried to prevent the call from happening… ‘Those are stupid people; you shouldn’t listen to them’, Mr. Trump told Mr. Putin, the person said.”

    I recently read Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery, which is easily one of the most important books I’ll read this year. One of a large number of things that occurred to me while reading was that the behavior of many people who currently work in the (so-called) administration is explicable as the response of people accustomed to abusive relationships. Trump has been abusive in his personal and business relationships and remains so now. He employs all of the strategies: capricious moods, refusal to allow people any security in the relationship, private tirades berating and belittling people, public humiliation, destroying people’s confidence, undermining and sabotaging their efforts, isolating them from outside friends and allies, playing some against others, demanding silence and concealment, pushing them to participate in his abusive actions so they sink into self-loathing, requiring them to justify and defend his violence to others,… People wonder why many of them would stay and continue to subject themselves to this treatment, but it’s more understandable if they’ve been in abusive relationships (and cultures) before, especially in childhood, as many (Pence, for example) demonstrably have.

    You’d think this latest revelation (and many previous ones) would show them his contempt for them and cause them to rethink, but most aren’t responding rationally to events; they’re repeating patterns.

  34. says

    “Judge rejects Trump request to alter agreement on release of immigrant kids”:

    A federal judge has turned down President Donald Trump’s request to alter a decades-old legal settlement to allow long-term detention of children who entered the U.S. illegally with their parents.

    Los Angeles-based U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee dismissed as “tortured” the Trump administrations legal argument to get out from under the so-called Flores consent decree agreed to back in 1997, dictating that children in immigration detention not be held more than 20 days….

  35. says

    I think we’re done here – “Glenn Greenwald Tells Russians Liberals Are Blaming Them As Excuse for Clinton”:

    In his recent appearance at a panel on “fake news” in Moscow, the Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald described his bold iconoclastic policy of speaking truth to power, and then proceeded to repeat an absurd lie told by the leader of the American government. In Greenwald’s telling, the notion that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election came about as a desperate way for media elites to explain why their preferred candidate, Hillary Clinton, did not prevail.

    “The American political system needed an explanation about why something like that could happen, and why they got it so wrong,” began Greenwald. “One of the explanations about why it happened was the favorite tactic of governments, which was to say, it wasn’t anything wrong with our country, it was this other foreign country over there that was to blame. And that’s a major reason why fingers continue to be pointed at the Russian government.”

    Greenwald was very clear about his belief that the whole theory of Russian involvement was a postelection exercise in blame-shifting: “Excuses were needed, villains were required, people needed to point fingers at someone other than themselves for this very shocking event, and that’s why there became this obsession with the Russian government.”

    In his panel commentary, Greenwald proceeded to insist that the silly habit of blaming Russia for things it didn’t do is spreading to Britain….

  36. says

    This is true. I also feel the need to point out that probably no contemporary authoritarian regime has singled out LGBT people as targets of hate and persecution more than Putin’s. Their whole ideology is a ludicrous psychosexual political fantasy that encourages the cruelest policies and acts of violence toward LGBT people and the LGBT community. Greenwald is a gay man going on a Russian propaganda network to attack…liberals. That’s his priority. In this moment.

  37. says

    “Iranians outraged by Instagram dancer’s forced confession”:

    After the Iranian authorities arrested Instagram dancer Maedeh Hojabri and forced her to confess to violating “moral norms” on state television, Iranians have begun posting their own dancing videos to show support.

    The teenage Hojabri was among a number of Instagram users who were arrested and forced to confess. In the confession video, she says she did not work with any “team” or receive any type of training but made the videos mostly for her followers on Instagram. She had over 600,000 followers before her arrest. Immediately afterward, her videos of her dancing solo to Iranian and Western music, presumably in her own bedroom, went viral on social media.

    The arrest — or perhaps the forced confession on Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) in which the girl, face blurred but visibly crying — struck a nerve among Iranian social media users, who began posting their own personal videos dancing in solidarity. Men and women of all ages posted their videos with the hashtag that can loosely be translated as “Let’s dance.”

    Others criticized the Iranian judiciary over its priorities….

  38. says

    “Israeli, Saudi, and Emirati Officials Privately Pushed for Trump to Strike a “Grand Bargain” with Putin”:

    During a private meeting shortly before the November, 2016, election, Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, floated to a longtime American interlocutor what sounded, at the time, like an unlikely grand bargain. The Emirati leader told the American that Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, might be interested in resolving the conflict in Syria in exchange for the lifting of sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

    Current and former U.S. officials said that bin Zayed, known as M.B.Z., was not the only leader in the region who favored rapprochement between the former Cold War adversaries. While America’s closest allies in Europe viewed with a sense of dread Trump’s interest in partnering with Putin, three countries that enjoyed unparallelled influence with the incoming Administration—Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the U.A.E.—privately embraced the goal. Officials from the three countries have repeatedly encouraged their American counterparts to consider ending the Ukraine-related sanctions in return for Putin’s help in removing Iranian forces from Syria.

    Experts say that such a deal would be unworkable, even if Trump were interested. They say Putin has neither the interest nor the ability to pressure Iranian forces to leave Syria. Administration officials have said that Syria and Ukraine will be among the topics that Trump and Putin will discuss at their summit in Helsinki on July 16th….

    The timing, however, could not have been worse politically, current and former U.S. officials said. In addition to the looming Mueller investigation, members of Congress were pushing at the time to expand sanctions against Russia, not reduce them. Trump told aides that he was frustrated that he could not make progress because of political opposition in Washington. The Americans who heard the Israeli, Emirati, and Saudi pitches in late 2016 and early 2017 assumed that the idea was dead. But ahead of the Helsinki summit, Trump started making statements that suggested he could be open to making a deal with Putin after all….

  39. says

    Zoe Tillman:

    Michael Flynn hearing just ended — Flynn wanted to get things moving on presentencing so when the govt is ready for sentencing (it’s been delayed while he’s cooperating), they can set a date sooner. Judge was reticent to make more work for probation, but struck a compromise…

    … Judge said at the next status date of 8/24, if the parties are ready for sentencing, he’ll look for a date 60 days out, instead of the usual 90 days. Flynn’s lawyer — who said Flynn is “eager” to be done — and the special counsel office lawyer said they were fine with that

    That was all they discussed. Judge Emmet Sullivan said he just wanted to talk to the parties and get to know them a bit before sentencing, since he wasn’t the judge who handled Flynn’s plea hearing. It was a very short hearing, Flynn said little

    Flynn didn’t say anything to reporters on his way out of the courthouse, he quickly got into a black SUV as a few protesters shouted “lock him up”

    Hearing lasted all of 10 minutes.

  40. says

    SC @35, thanks for that summary. You posted the most cogent analysis of Boris Johnson’s departure that I’ve read so far.

    SC @37, Chris Hayes aired a good segment on this issue last night.

    New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait lays out the most extreme possibility of Trump-Russia collusion: that Trump has been a Russian intelligence asset since 1987.

    The video is about six minutes long. This makes sense to me.

    Thanks for providing the link to Jonathan Chait’s article. Repeating the link to the article in New York Magazine. More excerpts below:

    […] The media has treated the notion that Russia has personally compromised the president of the United States as something close to a kook theory. A minority of analysts, mostly but not exclusively on the right, have promoted aggressively exculpatory interpretations of the known facts, in which every suspicious piece of evidence turns out to have a surprisingly innocent explanation. And it is possible, though unlikely, that every trail between Trump Tower and the Kremlin extends no farther than its point of current visibility. […]

    The first intimations that Trump might harbor a dark secret originated among America’s European allies, which, being situated closer to Russia, have had more experience fending off its nefarious encroachments. […]

    In congressional testimony on Russian election interference last year, Brennan hinted that some Americans might have betrayed their country. “Individuals who go along a treasonous path,” he warned, “do not even realize they’re along that path until it gets to be a bit too late.” In an interview this year, he put it more bluntly: “I think [Trump] is afraid of the president of Russia. The Russians may have something on him personally that they could always roll out and make his life more difficult.” […]

    It is often said that Donald Trump has had the same nationalistic, zero-sum worldview forever. But that isn’t exactly true. Yes, his racism and mendacity have been evident since his youth, but those who have traced the evolution of his hypernationalism all settle on one year in particular: 1987. Trump “came onto the political stage in 1987 with a full-page ad in the New York Times attacking the Japanese for relying on the United States to defend it militarily,” reported Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. […]. “1987 is Trump’s breakout year. There are only a couple of examples of him commenting on world politics before then.”

    What changed that year? One possible explanation is that Trump published The Art of the Deal, which sped up his transformation from an aggressive, publicity-seeking New York developer to a national symbol of capitalism. But the timing for this account does not line up perfectly — the book came out on November 1, and Trump had begun opining loudly on trade and international politics two months earlier. The other important event from that year is that Trump visited Moscow. […]

  41. says

    In secret recording, GOP candidate made candid comments about party primaries

    Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle , who is running for governor in Georgia, was talking to Clay Tippins:

    Cagle can be heard candidly discussing the GOP primary’s sharp turn to the right, saying the five-man race came down to “who had the biggest gun, who had the biggest truck and who could be the craziest.” […]

    “The issues you talk about are the issues I care about as well. The problem is in a primary – and you and I are just talking off the record, frank – they don’t give a (expletive) about those things, OK. In the general election, they care about it, OK. But they don’t care about it in a primary.” Cagle says in the newly released snippet.


  42. says

    What Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, said:

    “Mr. President, thank you. Throughout this process, I’ve witnessed firsthand your appreciation for the vital role of the American judiciary.

    “No president has ever consulted more widely, or talked with more people from more backgrounds, to seek input about a Supreme Court nomination.”

    Kavanaugh was no doubt saying what team Trump wanted him to say, but he was wrong.

    […] praise was almost certainly wrong. Conservative interest groups presented Trump with a list of jurists deemed acceptable by the right, and the president chose from his menu of pre-selected options.

    Let’s not pretend Trump carefully and thoughtfully scrutinized the possible nominees’ rulings and academic work. The Washington Post reported two weeks ago that the president asked aides about prospective nominees’ academic writing — not because he cared to read any of the published pieces, but because Trump simply wanted to know if the work exists. […]

    in American history, there have been over 160 Supreme Court nominees. According to Kavanaugh, before Trump, “No president has ever consulted more widely, or talked with more people from more backgrounds, to seek input about a Supreme Court nomination.”

    There’s simply no way Kavanaugh can speak to this with any authority. For him to state such a claim as fact is hard to take seriously.

    I imagine the White House’s allies will say the judge was simply being polite, saying nice things about the president who, moments earlier, announced plans to reward him with one of the nine most important jobs in American jurisprudence, and there’s no need to take it too seriously.

    Perhaps. Alternatively, when a Supreme Court nominee uses pro-Trump hyperbole better left to the president’s press secretary, he’s signaling a deference that should give us pause.


  43. KG says

    So, May appears not to be in immediate danger of a leadership challenge, although two vice-chairs (out of nine) of the Conservative Party have just resigned. The lack of a challenge now, when there are certainly many disgruntled MPs, and they surely can’t believe May will resile from the plan agreed at Chequers as they are demanding (to do so would be such an abject surrender to the Ultras that the last shreds of her authority would vanish), is probably due to the details of the rules for challenging a party leader. Only 15% of the party’s MPs are needed, which would be 48, but there is then a simple Yes/No vote of confidence in the leader among all Tory MPs, and if more than half of those voting vote “Yes”, the leader can’t be challenged again for a year. (If “No” gets a majority, the leader is out, and a full leadership contest is held, which the old leader cannot take part in.) So the ultras need to choose the best time to strike, and to have an agreed candidate ready, to ensure an Ultra is one of the two who gets through to the final round, where the party membership as a whole votes. My guess is that they will now wait for the EU negotiators to demand changes to May’s plan – which I think they are bound to do, as it attempts to cherry-pick from the “four freedoms” of the Single Market (movement of goods, services, capital and people) – or even beyond this, for negotiations to break down, or May to make significant further concessions. The Ultras will then say May’s plan is dead, she has lost credibility so should now resign or be forced out, there’s no point in further negotiations, and the UK should issue an ultimatum to the EU: agree terms acceptable to us, or we’ll leave without a deal.

    In related news, the SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has made clear they won’t back May’s plan – the minimum compromise she is prepared to make is a super-soft Brexit in which the UK remains in both the Customs Union and the Single Market – a BrINO.

  44. says

    Daniel Dale: “Twice this past month, Trump has added ‘firefighters’ to the usual list of people he says he’s standing up for, along with ICE and the military. Steven Hammond was convicted of setting a 2006 fire that jeopardized the lives of four federal firefighters he knew were nearby.”

  45. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comments 59 and 67.

    From Steve Benen:

    […] according to prosecutors, the Hammonds’ fires were used “to cover up illegal deer poaching,” and when the fires burned out of control, they placed firefighters “who had to be airlifted out of the area in grave danger.”

    According to the former U.S. Attorney in Oregon, the case followed years of alleged “permit violations and unauthorized fires” from the Hammonds, for which “they never accepted responsibility.”

    Nevertheless, in a press statement, the White House said, “The Hammonds are devoted family men, respected contributors to their local community, and have widespread support from their neighbors, local law enforcement, and farmers and ranchers across the West. Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency.” […]

  46. says

    Follow-up to comments 59, 67 and 71.

    From Josh Marshall:

    […] To put it mildly, pardoning these men as upstanding symbols of American virtue shows a pretty clear indifference to law breaking and the safety of federal law enforcement agents if you’re a certain kind of person and if your crime is tied to right wing political extremism. […]

    Trump’s kinda criminals

  47. says

    Also from Josh Marshall:

    Here’s a tweet from the US President, en route to Europe for the NATO summit.

    Many countries in NATO, which we are expected to defend, are not only short of their current commitment of 2% (which is low), but are also delinquent for many years in payments that have not been made. Will they reimburse the U.S.?

    This is a straight up lie. None of the NATO member states are behind on any payments to NATO. The entire NATO unified budget is under $2 billion. The US pays 21% of that total.

  48. says

    Update on Jim Jordan’s unsustainable claim of innocence and/or ignorance when it came to wrestlers at Ohio State University being sexually molested:

    Another Ohio State University wrestler has accused Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) of knowing about alleged sexual abuse by the team’s doctor and told CNN that Jordan “snickered” when the athlete told him about an incident with Dr. Richard Strauss.

    The latest wrestler to come forward, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told CNN that Jordan was a “phony” for denying that he knew about the alleged abuse when he was an assistant coach for the wrestling team.

    “I remember coming up and saying, ‘Strauss held my balls longer than normal.’ He just snickered,” the wrestler said.

    The former athlete said he remembered approaching Jordan and a group of wrestlers and saying “something to the effect of ‘his hands are cold as shit; he checked out every hair on my ball,’” the wrestler told CNN, adding that Jordan walked away and said, “I have nothing to do with this.”

    The athlete who spoke with CNN — who also voted for Jordan when he first ran for office — is the eighth former wrestler to come forward alleging that Jordan was aware of Strauss’ abuse. Jordan has denied all the allegations and has called the scandal a conveniently timed political attack.

    “He’s sitting here and directly lying,” the wrestler said, adding that he supports fellow OSU wrestler Mike DiSabato, who has been public about his assertions of abuse and Jordan’s knowledge of the incidents.

    A former White House ethics chief has submitted a request to the Office of Congressional Ethics to probe Jordan’s knowledge of the alleged abuse. […]


  49. says

    More news re Trump the Predator:

    A few days before President Trump heads to the U.K. to meet the queen and the prime minister, a BBC investigative program has revealed fresh allegations of sexually inappropriate actions by Trump during the 1980s and 1990s, comparing him to a “predator” at parties with girls as young as 14.

    The report featured Monday on the BBC Panorama investigative documentary series, entitled “Trump: Is the president a sex pest?” included testimony from two women who said they encountered Trump at parties during his time as a real estate magnate and operator of beauty pageants. […]

    Trump was like a “predator” toward teens at parties in ’80s and ’90s, says BBC report

  50. says

    More news showing the negative consequences of Trump’s immigration policies:

    Shortly after reaching the United States and turning himself over to Border Patrol, Alonzo, a 16-year-old immigrant from El Salvador, was invited to speak with a psychologist at the Bristow, Virginia, shelter where he was detained. She asked him to talk about his life back home, and he told her how his brother had been involved in a gang and was wanted for murder. His parents had urged Alonzo to flee his home country because they worried he’d fall prey to the same gang.

    Within hours of talking to the psychologist, Alonzo, whose real name has been withheld for privacy reasons, was transferred to the nearby Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center. This made the teen’s situation even grimmer: Shenandoah is one of three juvenile detention centers in the United States where the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) sends unaccompanied minors who are believed to require higher security.

    Last month, Virginia’s governor ordered an investigation of Shenandoah after children claimed guards had broken their bones and strapped them to chairs with bags over their heads. Immigrant kids detained there say they have been beaten while handcuffed and isolated for long periods in solitary confinement.

    “They treat us like criminals,” Alonzo explained in a recent court filing. He believes the psychologist mistakenly recommended his transfer because she thought he was in a gang. “[She] misunderstood me, and wrongly thought that I had killed someone,” he said. […]

    The Feds Are Locking Up Immigrant Kids—Who Have Committed No Crimes—In Juvie

  51. says

    “GOP Senators Tell Contradictory Stories About Moscow Trip”:

    A top Republican senator shocked his colleagues when he suggested, after returning from a trip to Moscow with fellow GOP lawmakers, that U.S. sanctions targeting Russia were not working and the Kremlin’s election interference was really no big deal.

    Now, the senators who joined him for the series of meetings with senior Russian officials are sharply disputing not only Sen. Ron Johnson’s (R-WI) conclusions—but also his account of what went on behind closed doors in Moscow.

    “I think the sanctions are hurting them badly both in terms of their pocketbooks and in terms of their status in the world,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), who joined the congressional delegation last week, said in an interview. “I don’t want to over-state this, but these were very tense meetings.”

    In public, the American lawmakers directly appealed to Russia for a better relationship. But in private, according to the senators who attended the meetings, they confronted their Russian counterparts over a host of issues, most notably Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election….

    More at the link. I don’t think they were prepared for the wall of outrage and criticism they hit when they returned.

  52. says

    Alan Gomez:

    U.S. District Judge Dana Sabrow tells @realDonaldTrump admin that he will not extend deadlines he established to reunite separated families. “These are firm deadlines. They’re not aspirational goals.”

    Judge Sabraw tells @ACLU attorney to submit a proposal for possible punishment against government if it fails to meet deadline to reunite 63 children under age 5 with their parents by today. That will be decided during next court hearing on Friday.

  53. says

    Lynna, thanks for the link to the Chris Hayes segment @ #60. I wasn’t watching the shows last night because I expected it all to be about the Supreme Court, and watching if even most was would have been bad for my health, so I would have missed it otherwise.

  54. says

    omfg. The House of Representatives has introduced a bill called the ‘Unmasking Antifa Act of 2018’, which carries a potential 15-year prison sentence for anyone caught engaging in behaviors typically associated with anti-fascist activists.”

  55. says

    On CNN, @RajShah45 does not deny that a deal was made between outgoing Justice Anthony Kennedy & Trump about Kavanaugh being Kennedy’s replacement if he retired.”

    (Video at the link.)

  56. says

    “Trump’s Office of Refugee Resettlement Is Budgeting for a Surge in Child Separations”:

    The Office of Refugee Resettlement is preparing for the possibility of another surge in family separations. Internal documents obtained by Slate show that ORR has modeled a scenario in which the Trump administration’s border policies could require the detention of thousands more immigrant children.

    In the documents obtained by Slate, ORR officials describe the budget implications of a potential surge in immigrant minors over the next three months. The ORR’s budgeting exercise is premised on the possibility that the agency could need as many as 25,400 beds for immigrant minors by the end of the calendar year. The documents do not indicate that ORR officials have specific knowledge that family separations will increase but do show that the agency is preparing for the possibility.

    To help cover these potential costs, the documents say, HHS will seek supplemental appropriations from Congress. The documents also indicate that HHS plans to pay for child separation by reallocating money from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, which, according to its website, “provides a comprehensive system of care that includes primary medical care and essential support services for people living with HIV who are uninsured or underinsured.” Per the documents, the process of transferring those HIV/AIDS funds has already begun.

    In addition, HHS plans to reallocate $79 million from programs for refugee resettlement, a move that could imperil social services, medical assistance, and English language instructions for refugees in the U.S., as well as programs for torture survivors.

    ORR’s budgeting exercise does not account for a federal court decision ordering the administration to reunify separated parents and children within 30 days, or within 14 days if those children are younger than 5 years old. Azar has stated publicly that he will attempt to comply with these deadlines.

    The documents do, however, take into account the executive order that Trump signed on June 20 that purports to end family separation—and reveal that ORR does not seem to be operating on the assumption that the separation policy has truly ended. The budgeting exercise assumes that Trump’s order created a 20-day pause on family separations and that referrals would increase after that 20-day period—that is, after July 10—to 325 immigrant children per day for four weeks. If that estimate is correct, that means an additional 9,100 immigrant children would be detained and housed by the U.S. government in the four weeks beginning Tuesday….

  57. blf says

    Congratulations, France!
    (Sorry, blf. :))

    My plan to avoid the semifinal worked fairly well — I went up the coast several kilometres to nice restaurant and had a long leisurely dinner (albeit more expensive than I’d intended as I couldn’t resist a bottle of an excellent, and pricey, local wine). However, I overlooked that if France won the walk back would be along the esplanade / beaches, where an amazing amount of noise would be made. It was. For hours. There were even fireworks.

    My nightmare now is France will “play” England and win. That would be über-über-noisy, not only because of the win, but because of who they won against.† Not to mention there’s quite a lot of England supporters locally (yacht crews and similar). And it’s a Sunday so the escape options (for the day) on public transit will be limited. At least it’s not also Bastille Day, which is the day before (Saturday).

      † Everyone wants to beat England, in any sport, ranging from tiddlywinks to cricket, with exceptions like brexit and colossal ineptitude. Even England wants to beat England. Which is my hypothesis for why English national teams tend towards ludicrous: At any given time, part of the team is playing against the another part of the team, whilst most of the team are playing other different sports with the coaches playing at conducting an orchestra.

  58. says

    “Starting Off With A Bang: Trump Accuses Germany Of Being In Russia’s Pocket”:

    In a combative start to his NATO visit, President Donald Trump asserted Wednesday that a pipeline project has made Germany “totally controlled” by and “captive to Russia” and blasted NATO allies’ defense spending, opening what was expected to be a fraught summit with a list of grievances involving American allies.

    Trump, in a testy exchange with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, took issue with the U.S. protecting Germany when the European nation is making deals with Russia.

    “I have to say, I think it’s very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia where we’re supposed to be guarding against Russia,” Trump said during a breakfast with Stoltenberg, his first event since arriving in Brussels. “We’re supposed to protect you against Russia but they’re paying billions of dollars to Russia and I think that’s very inappropriate.”

    The dramatic exchange set the tone for what was already expected to be a tense day of meetings with leaders of the military alliance. Trump is expected to continue hammering jittery NATO allies about their military spending during the summit meeting, which comes amid increasingly frayed relations between the “America first” president and the United States’ closest traditional allies….

    So of course CNN had a chyron for about half an hour reading: “Trump: Germany is totally controlled by Russia.” Not only is he an ignorant buffoon, not only is he unfit in every way for this role, not only are his claims ludicrous and false, not only is he using these ludicrous and false claims as a pretext to sabotaging the alliance in Putin’s interests, but he’s very obviously projecting.

  59. says

    Speaking of projecting…

    “Dazed projected statements onto Parliament about the state of the UK”:

    …For a new project, #AddressTheNation, we took issues that matter most to our readers and projected them into the skyline of London — specifically, onto the Houses of Parliament, the Ministry of Justice, The Royal Courts of Justice, and Nelson’s Column. Across nine projections, we addressed everything from Theresa May’s crumbling Brexit plans to street-level abuse of trans people at London Pride.

    For the action, Dazed teamed up with a New York activist group called The Illuminator, who travel the world projecting righteous messages onto high-visibility corporate buildings….

    Pictures at the link.

  60. says

    “Why is the BBC downplaying the Facebook Brexit scandal?”:

    …A story such as Brexit is paralysingly difficult for the BBC, just as Donald Trump has tied much of the established, studiedly impartial US media up in knots. If there are problems, it wants there to be problems on both sides, equally. (For that reason, the fact that the information commissioner is also fining Emma’s Diary, a website aimed at new mothers, for selling the personal data of 1 million people to Labour, may lead to an increase in BBC coverage.) It’s hard for it to report allegations that the Brexit case in the referendum was pushed dishonestly, just as it’s hard for it to report that the Brexit case is unravelling now.

    But the BBC needs to put aside those fears and report the facts as they stand, facts which are becoming ever clearer. That, surely, is its primary duty.

  61. says

    “Greece, Russia to expel diplomats in Macedonia tussle ahead of NATO summit”:*

    Russia and Greece were poised on Wednesday to expel two of each other’s diplomats in a rare dispute that Greek media said had been prompted by the issue of Macedonia, which expects this week to be formally invited to join the NATO alliance.

    Athens will expel the two Russian diplomats and ban entry to two others on suspicion that they tried to undermine an accord clinched between Greece and neighboring Macedonia last month, the Greek daily Kathimerini reported, citing diplomatic sources.

    That deal – whereby Macedonia will become formally known as the Northern Republic of Macedonia – will unlock a formal invitation from NATO for the tiny ex-Yugoslav republic to join the bloc, a move strongly opposed by Moscow.

    Russia’s foreign ministry said it would respond in kind to the expulsions, Interfax news agency reported.

    Greece and Russia share the Orthodox Christian religion and have traditionally had warm ties. Greece did not join most other NATO allies in March in withdrawing diplomats from Moscow over the poisoning of a former Russian spy in England….

    Greece accused the Russian diplomats of activities inconsistent with their status, including illegal activities against national security, Kathimerini reported, adding that these had included attempts at bribery.**

    “(This is) an amazing and highly significant development given close ties between Athens and Moscow,” said James Ker-Lindsay, senior visiting fellow at the London School of Economics. “It is a clear warning not to abuse friendship. Extraordinary!” he tweeted….

    * Stupid headline.
    ** Interesting.

  62. says

    Trump’s criticism set off immediate anxiety in Germany. Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung headlined its story: ‘It is not only bad, it is catastrophic’.”

    Merkel: ‘I’ve experienced myself a part of Germany controlled by the Soviet Union, and I’m very happy today that we are united in freedom as the Federal Republic of Germany and can thus say that we can determine our own policies and make our own decisions and that’s very good’.”

    #Russia’s state TV is acting aghast at Trump questioning the Nordstream pipeline. For days, they’ve been praising him for economic successes and business savvy, but today he is being called ‘the red-haired clown’ and ‘a bull in a china shop’ (an elephant in Russian expression).”

  63. says

    Trump connected his criticism of the Germany-Russia pipeline to NATO. But my conversations with Republicans over the past week suggest it’s more connected to possible reassessment of sanctions on Russia.”

    My guess is that there was an idea to use this in conversations as a wedge to open up the revisitation of sanctions, but Trump screwed it up by making absurd public claims about it in the NATO context (while openly suggesting that Putin tries to make use of economic leverage over foreign leaders).

  64. says

    7th Cir.: State’s decision to block a transgender woman from taking hormones or dressing as a female while on parole could violate the Eighth Am. Punishment ‘cannot extend to the deprivation of the medical treatment she requires for her serious gender dysphoria’.”

  65. says

    SC @103, that description, which Julia Ioffe repeated, fits quite well the video I saw this morning of the “working breakfast” at the NATO summit. Trump was rude, ignorant and aggressive toward other NATO members. Trump doesn’t even understand how NATO works. He kept saying that other countries owed money to the USA and that other countries had not paid their bills for decades. None of that is true. (See comment 26.)

    Good to see NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg adding some humor to the commentary. :-) “‘some nice fruit salad, paid for by the United States.” (See SC’s comment 100.) Some more details from that breakfast:

    […] At a breakfast with Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general, Trump went on to say that “many countries owe us a tremendous amount of money,” adding, “They’re delinquent, as far as I’m concerned.”

    […] Trump [spoke] with great conviction about a key area of U.S. foreign policy, despite the fact that — by his own admission [during the campaign] — he had no idea what he was talking about. […] the American president still doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    In reality, Germany is neither “a captive” of Russia nor “controlled by” Russia. The fact that the two countries have an energy agreement really isn’t all that interesting – trade with Russia has been common for generations, even during the Cold War – and for Trump to use this as an excuse to lash out publicly at an ally is ridiculous, even for him.

    If the projecting American president were interested in seeing a leader who actually appears to be unduly influenced by Moscow, I’d be happy to hand him a mirror.

    […] Trump still doesn’t understand how NATO funding works. This has been fact-checked many times, but in case the White House needs a refresher:

    NATO has a budget to cover shared costs and some equipment that is used in joint operations, and all 29 member countries contribute to it according to their gross national income. None of the allies has failed to pay its contribution.

    Mr. Trump’s complaint is that, while NATO has agreed that each member country should spend at least 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense, most of them do not. But none has failed to comply with that agreement, because the 2 percent figure is a target to be reached by 2024.

    According to NATO, all member countries have significantly raised military spending since 2014, and eight of them are expected to meet the goal in 2018.

    Actions by the U.S. Senate to “reaffirm the ironclad US commitment under Article 5 to the collective defense of the alliance” won’t make up for Trump’s wrecking-ball strategy against NATO members. (See SC’s comment 86.)

  66. says

    David Corn – “While America Sleeps: Trump’s Treachery and the Russia Scandal”:

    …Much of the nation has become nonplussed about Moscow’s attack on America and numb toward Trump’s treachery. As Michael Isikoff and I noted in our recent book, Russian Roulette: Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump, Trump and his crew during the 2016 campaign aided and abetted the Russian plot by trying to collude with the Russians, by trying to set up a back channel with the Kremlin, and by denying over and over that Moscow was intervening in the election—even after Trump had been informed by US intelligence that Russia was behind the hack-and-dump operation and after the US government publicly declared Moscow was the culprit. All these Trump actions—public and private—conveyed a signal to Putin: Trump had no objection to the Russian operation. In Moscow, this could have been read as encouragement. As I explained a year ago, whether or not Trump or any of his lieutenants directly colluded with the Russian operation, there is no question that Trump and his aides in 2016 actively assisted Putin’s plot by repeatedly asserting no such attack was underway. These denials, which mirrored Moscow’s denials, clouded the picture and made a focused and bipartisan response to Putin’s scheme much more difficult. This foundational element of the Trump-Russia scandal—Trump facilitated the attack by adopting Putin’s line—has not sufficiently shaped the national debate.

    Nor has the seriousness of the Russian assault been fully absorbed. This intervention orchestrated by a foreign adversary changed the course of American history by helping Trump attain the White House. Yet it is too often referred to as “meddling”—not as an act of information warfare that was part of Putin’s long-term strategic plan to weaken the West….

    Putin’s interference…has not generated universal or sustained outrage. Trump and Fox Newsers act as if it never happened. Eight Republican senators spent July 4 in Moscow and met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who has dismissed any talk of Russian intervention in the 2016 election as “claptrap.” The trip was cast as an effort to improve US-Russian relations. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), one of the members of the Moscow delegation, said the United States and Russia did not “necessarily need to be adversaries.” The point, he remarked, was to “strive for a better relationship” and not “accuse Russia of this or that or so forth.” It seemed he was willing—even eager—to put aside Putin’s attack.

    Leading congressional Democrats—besides Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and other Ds on the House intelligence panel—have generally not raised a steady fuss about Trump and Russia. They have not strived to make the momentous facts of the Trump scandal a driving narrative of the ongoing political debate. They have not clearly, loudly, and continuously pointed out the indisputable: Trump has provided comfort to an enemy….

    So as Trump prepares (yeah, right) for his sit-down with Putin—which is expected to include a private one-on-one with no aides present—much of the nation has lost sight of the big story. With Trump’s repeated cries of “witch hunt” and his lapdog Republicans slavishly concocting false narratives to cover for the boss, they have managed to convince Trump’s tribalized Fox-fed followers there is nothing to see here. And for many others, the scandal is not presented or viewed as the original sin and paramount controversy of the scandal-ridden Trump presidency.

    It may be ineffective or counterproductive to shout out each day, “Where’s the outrage?” Yet the public record remains: Trump and Putin have jointly worked to disappear perhaps the greatest crime ever committed against American democracy and their respective complicity in this villainy. And it is crucial for the Republic that they not succeed.

  67. says


    The same day the federal government missed a court-imposed deadline to reunite roughly 84 children under the age of 5 with their families — after being forcibly separated from them at the U.S.-Mexico border — Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar appeared on CNN to defend how his agency has handled the recent immigration crisis. […]

    Speaking to the conditions in which the children are being held, he added, “It is one of the great acts of American generosity and charity, what we are doing for these unaccompanied kids.”

    Azar appeared to be using an incorrect term for children forcibly removed from their families at the border; typically, the term “unaccompanied” refers to those children who arrive at the border alone or without a parent or guardian present. […]

    As The Daily Beast reported Tuesday, HHS has done the bare minimum to help reunite families, making the parents responsible for their own reunification. According to the outlet, U.S. officials recently told four immigrant women that they must pay for their own DNA tests in order to be reunited with their children, to prove they are, indeed, related. The tests are conducted by a private contractor on behalf of HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, which oversees the care and housing of immigrant children. […]

    Think Progress link

  68. says

    “Jim Jordan’s Slow Bleed”:

    …Jordan is the founder of the so-called House Freedom Caucus, the far-right House GOP pressure group which has been most aggressive in supporting Donald Trump. Mark Meadows who now chairs the group has been steadfast in defending Jordan over the past week and has pressed fellow Freedom Caucus members to do the same. The political contours of the situation only fully became clear to me Tuesday evening when I saw this article from the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call: ‘House Republicans Trust Jim Jordan Did Not Ignore Ohio State Sex Abuse Accusations: Colleagues come to Ohio Republican’s defense, calling him honest, honorable and trustworthy‘

    It’s a remarkable article. It starts with testimonials from Kevin McCarthy (“a good and honest man. I believe Jim when he says if faced with charges of abuse, he absolutely would have acted.”) and Steve Scalise (“I have always known Jim Jordan to be honest, and I’m confident he would stand up for his athletes, just like he’s always stood up for what’s right.”) Then there’s Mark Meadows “I have always known Jim Jordan to be a man of the utmost character, honor, and integrity. As the independent investigation is concluded, I’m confident people will learn the truth and it will confirm all he has said about the situation. I’m proud to stand by Jim Jordan and support him 100%.”

    The article then builds a tempo with first defenders, more defenders, new defenders all coming forward with increasingly Manchurian Candidate-like testimonials. Rep. Doug Collins: “I trust Jim. Jim says it’s nothing.” Rep. Tom Massie: “I support Jim Jordan. He has tremendous integrity. I have faith in the American people and I believe most recognize a baseless smear campaign they see it. And no, I’m not even a member of the Freedom Caucus.” Rep. Paul Gosar: “These are mere political statements intended to smear a good man.” Rep. Louie Gohmert: “These former wrestlers were adults at the time they claim they were sexually abused [and] waited over 20 years to make these allegations with the willing and very expensive assistance of Perkins Coie, a Washington, DC-based dirty tricks law firm.”*

    On and on and on.

    Later in the evening, The Washington Post reported that an unknown funder has retained the conservative PR firm Shirley & Bannister Public Affairs to mount a crisis communications press campaign on Jordan’s behalf. There’s also a website, registered Monday afternoon: standwithjimjordan.com.

    Then the Freedom Caucus announced as a group it’s absolute support for Jordan, “a man of integrity” who they support “100 percent”.

    Perhaps other stories will push Jordan’s from the front pages. Possibly the accounts of the nine separate accusers will somehow, improbably, be shown to be false. Far, far more likely is what now appears obvious: Jordan is lying. His accusers, all of whom tell similar stories, are telling the truth and their number will increase. Richard Strauss and the broader coterie of abusers who seem to have hived around the program are the truly bad actors. Jordan’s apparent wrongdoing was contributory and secondary. But he’s compounded it now, deepened his attachment to this dark chapter, by repeatedly lying about it. He could have made a different decision a week ago. But he didn’t. Now his colleagues, whipped by the powers in the ‘Freedom Caucus’, have bought into his deception and made it their own. None of them have any past complicity in this story. But looking at the facts and certainly seeing that their colleague is lying they have all insisted that he is definitely telling the truth while his accusers are liars.

    It will only get worse. The investigations will continue. More information will emerge. Jordan’s lies will become more preposterous. And all of his colleagues, having knowingly vouched for his lies, will be along with him for the ride. Though the specific facts are different, it all bears a striking similarity to the events of 12 years ago: power so seemingly unchallengeable that it fears no backlash and no consequences.

    * How do they always manage to be even worse than I expect them to be?

  69. blf says

    How do they always manage to be even worse than I expect them to be?

    Due to the Alternative Facts version of the First Law of Holes: Dig faster and deeper !

  70. blf says

    In Ireland, Bill banning Israeli settlement goods passes in Seanad (Seanad Éireann is the Irish Senate):

    The Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018, a private members Bill proposed by Independent Senator Frances Black, will make it an offence to purchase goods and services from Israeli settlements which have been condemned by Ireland and the EU as illegal.


    “We are simply saying that, if we are sure that certain goods have been produced as a result of war crimes, we should not be trading in them,” said Ms Black. “How can we condemn the settlements as illegal, as theft of land and resources, but happily trade in the proceeds of this crime?”

    The Israeli embassy in Dublin condemned the Bill, describing it as a populist, dangerous and extremist anti-Israel boycott initiative” that would hurt the chances of dialogue between Israel and Palestine.

    It will have a negative impact on the diplomatic process in the Middle East, claimed a statement from the Israeli embassy. The absurdity in the Seanad Éireann initiative is that it will harm the livelihoods of many Palestinians who work in the Israeli industrial zones affected by the boycott.

    I remind these current-day apartheidists the then-government of S.Africa was saying similar things about the boycott. The ANC, in contrast, requested people to boycott despite the economic hardship it would cause, pointing out there were far more critical issues at stake, including they had very very few other ways to make their case.

    The Bill was first tabled in the Seanad in January 2018 but was delayed until June after Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered that Ireland’s Ambassador to Israel be summoned to account for the proposed law.

    Al Jazeera adds, Irish senate backs law banning trade with Israeli settlements:

    Saeb Erekat, senior leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organistion, called the move by Ireland’s upper house, Senead, “historic” and urge other countries to do the same.

    “Today the Irish Senate has sent a clear message to the international community and particularly to the rest of the European Union: the mere talking about the two-state solution is not enough without taking concrete measures,” Erekat said in a statement.

    An earlier opinion column observed, An Irish bill on Israeli settlement goods could make history:

    [… The bill’s] opponents have labelled it as “radical” and claimed that it harms free trade, the bill actually enforces compliance with both international and Irish law.

    Israeli settlements in both the occupied West Bank and the Golan Heights are illegal and constitute a war crime under both the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and International Humanitarian Law (IHL), which prohibit occupying states from transferring their own civilian population into occupied territory.

    Passing the bill would simply mean that Ireland is moving to modify its domestic legislation to comply with its third-state obligations under IHL.

    Currently, the country is importing a variety of products […] clearly labelled as products from illegal Israeli settlements under the new EU labelling regulations issued in 2015 — ie, they cannot be labelled “Made in Israel”. This allows Irish — and EU consumers in general — to make an informed choice when shopping.


    No Israeli government has ever shown interest in halting settlement expansion and in fact, each one has openly funded it. It is also government policy to offer Israeli settlers incentives such as cheaper housing, affordable mortgages and tax cuts.

    Today, this expansionist policy has resulted in approximately 750,000 settlers living in the West Bank, many of them earning a living in various industries producing goods for export to the EU.


    From the EU’s Fact Sheet (PDF) on the settlement labeling:

    [… I]indication of origin becomes mandatory when the omission of that information would mislead the consumer as to the true origin of the productor when such omission causes or is likely to cause the average consumer to take a transactional decision that he would not have taken otherwise. […]

    The EU legislation on indication of originis very clear: “Made in Israel” used for the products coming from Israeli settlements would misleadthe consumer and therefore is inconsistent with existing EU legislation. […]

    For products from West Bank or the Golan Heights that originate from settlements, an indication limited to ‘product from Golan Heights’ or ‘product from West Bank’ would not be acceptable. In such cases the expression ‘Israeli settlement’ or equivalent needs to be added […]

    For products from Palestine that do not originate from settlements, an indication of origin could be ‘product from Palestine’ or ‘product from West Bank (Palestinian product)’. […]

    I have no idea if the States has any such requirement, but seriously doubt it.

  71. says

    Pushback against comments made by Trump at the NATO summit:

    Former CIA Director John Brennan on Wednesday blasted President Trump after he hammered allies about their contributions to NATO at the group’s annual summit.

    “It is in the interest of America’s security if NATO leaders push back against the reckless behavior of Donald Trump, who is dangerously naive & grossly ignorant of how the world works,” Brennan said on Twitter.

    “History inevitably will regard Trump as one of the most disastrous figures of the 21st century,” the former CIA official continued. […]


    Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and John Kerry also issued statements deploring Trump’s remarks at the NATO summit. Elizabeth Warren added this comment:

    America is strongest when we work together with our allies – including the 28 NATO members who share our democratic values. Undermining NATO is a gift to Putin that @realDonaldTrump seems all too happy to give.

  72. says

    Debunking the “catch and release” myth:

    […] Trump and other top administration officials have spent months railing against the release of immigrant families as a recipe for widespread lawlessness. They claim that once a family is released from immigration, they’ll simply abscond into the US, skipping their appointed court dates, to live as unauthorized immigrants. The administration makes it seem like this is a deliberate strategy — a known end-run around existing immigration law that takes advantages of extra protections afforded to children, families, and asylum-seekers.

    But a new study, compiled by a pair of legal advocacy groups, shows that isn’t the case, and that the administration doesn’t have to choose between separating immigrant families (or detaining them indefinitely) and making sure they show up to court. The administration has identified a real problem, but misunderstands, or misrepresents, the cause.

    The study confirms that families who cross into the US without papers often miss their court dates, but offers suggestive qualitative evidence — collected from families who were contacted by attorneys and notified that they’d missed their court dates — that many families aren’t deliberately absconding at all.

    They’re trying to stay in the system. It’s just that the system makes it too hard for them, then punishes them with an order of deportation when they fail. The people whom the Trump administration is painting as lawless “absconders” are often just lost, confused, and overwhelmed families in a strange land, working as hard as they can to be allowed to stay here but faced with legal and bureaucratic obstacles that make missing a court date an understandable outcome.

    […] bureaucratic obstacles are the real heart of the problem. […]

    In fiscal year 2016 […] slightly more than a quarter of all cases decided in immigration courts ended with an order of deportation issued because the defendant hadn’t shown up to court (known as an in absentia order).

    There aren’t separate in absentia statistics just for asylum-seekers caught entering the US. But statistics suggest that relatively few of the people who say they’re seeking asylum when they’re caught by a Border Patrol agent end up seeing the process of applying for asylum through to the end.

    Less than 40 percent of people who pass the initial screening interview for asylum submit a written asylum application, which is a necessary step in the process even though they’ve passed the interview and gotten assigned a court hearing. […]

    […] data collected by CLINIC and ASAP suggests that families aren’t skipping out because they know their asylum cases are doomed. On the contrary, they end up dooming their asylum cases by missing their court dates.

    […] people with attorneys were more likely to figure out how to make their court dates, and those without lawyers were at risk of getting swallowed up by the system. […]

    If someone moves while their case is pending, they are “expected to update their address with up to five different entities—the immigration court, USCIS, ICE OCC, ICE ERO, and ISAP—using three different mediums—Form EOIR-33, Form AR-11, and oral or written notice.” That’s a lot of paperwork for someone without an attorney, especially someone whose English skills or general literacy may not be great. And immigrants may not even know they have to go through all that.

    In one case […] a parent changed her address with ICE, but ICE didn’t tell her that she had to update it separately with the immigration court. So she missed the notice of her hearing date, and then missed the hearing. Another parent was told after she moved that she had a hearing in July 2016, only to discover too late that she’d missed a hearing she didn’t know about in August 2015.

    […] a mother was forced to move out of an abusive household in California but was unable to get the immigration judge to move her hearing to her new home in Virginia […]


  73. says

    Whoops. Manafort bragged about VIP treatment he was getting in jail, and he bragged that he had found a way to send emails. He did all that and more on monitored phone calls.

    A court document filed by special counsel Robert Mueller Wednesday provides new details about the relatively cushy conditions Paul Manafort is facing in jail, and includes alleged comments Manafort made on monitored phone calls that undermine his lawyers’ request that his trial in Virginia be delayed. […]

    Manafort had discussions on monitored phone calls about the “VIP” treatment he was receiving in jail, about the workaround he figured out to circumvent the jail’s ban on inmates sending emails, […] according to Mueller. […]

    Manafort had argued in filings last week that the move by the judge in the D.C. case to put in him jail while he awaits trial — after allegations he engaged in witness tampering — had severely impeded his preparation for the trial in Virginia, which is slated to begin later this month. His filings included the claim that he was being held in solitary confinement 23 hours a day — prompting his supporters and conservative journalists to suggest he was being treated unfairly.

    Mueller, on Tuesday, alleged that last week’s delay request was the first time Manafort raised any concerns but how his detention was affecting his ongoing trial prep. The special counsel pointed to a number of details about his current detention — many of those details mentioned by Manafort himself on monitored phone calls — that suggested that the jail was going out of its away to facilitate his trial prep. […]

    The living unit has a personal telephone that Manafort can “use over twelve hours a day to speak with his attorneys,” according to Mueller, and while each phone call is limited to 15 minutes, he can immediately reconnect with his attorneys once each 15 minute session is over.

    “Manafort has had successive phone call sessions with his attorneys that have lasted
    over forty minutes,” Mueller said, and over the last three weeks, Manafort has had “100 phone calls with his attorneys, and another 200 calls with other persons.” […]


    Manafort has a “living unit” in jail. His living space is larger than that of other inmates, and boasts its own bathroom and shower. He’s got a personal telephone, and he is not required to wear a prison uniform.

  74. says

    Update re some of the harassment that Stoneman Douglas Hight School students are enduring while they tour the USA speaking for common sense gun law reforms, and encouraging voter registration efforts before the 2018 midterm election:

    […] The Utah Gun Exchange, which describes itself as a “patriot marketplace,” is taunting these teens and their supporters by following them around in an armored vehicle that has a giant replica machine gun, a replica that is complete with a propane-powered mechanism to create realistic-sounding machine gun fire. […]

    Can you imagine traumatizing mass shooting survivors in this way? Well, buckle up because after police stops in New York and Chicago, Bryan Melchior, co-owner of the Utah Gun Exchange, claims that he’s the real victim here. From the Salt Lake Tribune:

    […]“The hostile environment created toward gun advocates in the Northeast is not unlike the hostile environments a black man would have experienced in the South hundreds of years ago,” he said Tuesday.

    The company posted a video of an interaction between dozens of New York City police officers and attorneys who said the replica Browning machine gun violated a city ordinance around fake guns. While the gun had a pride flag attached to its barrel, it didn’t have other markings that are required to distinguish between real guns from fakes, police said in the video. […]

    Driving around New York City with a realistic-sounding replica machine gun, a city that has suffered the worst terrorist attack on American soil in history, a city that remains a top terrorist target. And he’s the victim. […]

    This isn’t the first time the Utah Gun Exchange has taunted teens and families seeking gun law reforms. During the March for Our Lives protest in Salt Lake City this spring, they turned out with their guns. […]

    Utah Gun Exchange co-owner Sam Robinson [spoke] directly to conspiracy nut job Alex Jones, telling Jones the Utah Gun Exchange was “answering the call” put out by Jones to counter the movement to reform gun laws.

    […] Trump reportedly personally called [Alex Jones] in the week after the November 2016 election to thank him for his support […]

    The Parkland mass shooting survivors deserve better. […]


  75. blf says

    Al Jazeera is not the only media company based in Qatar, so is beIN Sports (which, according to Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge, is “a spinoff of Al Jazeera”). beIN has the rights to the on-going soccer championship throughout MENA (Middle East and North Africa).

    There is a pirate operation based in Saudi Arabia, beoutQ, which appears to be stealing beIN’s signal and doing its own MENA-wide broadcast, probably in collusion with the Saudi-owned Arabsat satellite operator. That is, a Saudi pirate, using a Saudi satellite, is hijacking an Al Jazeera-connected Qatari broadcast.

    Saudi Arabia and others are attempting to close down Al Jazeera and take control of Qatar’s foreign policy. Hence, it is widely presumed the beoutQ pirate is part of the Saudi attack on Qatar and Al Jazeera. (Both Al Jazeera and beIN are blocked in Saudi Arabia as part of the attack on Qatar.)

    With that background, FIFA to take legal action as beoutQ piracy row widens:

    Football’s governing body ‘engages counsel’, as more sports federations join criticism of illegal broadcasts in MENA.

    FIFA is set to take legal action against a pirate company beoutQ for illegally broadcasting World Cup matches in the Middle East, as other sports federations have joined a chorus of calls for the piracy operation’s closure.

    Football’s governing body said in a statement on Wednesday that it had “engaged counsel to take legal action in Saudi Arabia” […]


    “The case of beoutQ is especially troubling due to the unparalleled sophistication and the extensive period of time over which the commercial-scale theft has been allowed to continue,” the statement added. [Quote from a different statement from the tennis governing bodies –blf]


    Tariq Panja, a global sports reporter for The New York Times, says FIFA will face a lot of difficulty finding legal representation inside Saudi Arabia.

    “It’s quite bizarre in a way — if you can’t get a lawyer, if you can’t take legal action to the court, you are not going to get a decision and this has been going on now for the better part of a year,” he told Al Jazeera.

    Panja added that beoutQ’s operation is “very sophisticated” and “extremely complicated”, costing “millions of dollars”.


    So, at least at the point-of-“origin”, Saudi Arabia, the presumably well-funded pirate beoutQ is apparently lawsuit-proof. How convenient.

  76. says

    “Stormy Daniels arrested in Ohio strip club ‘setup’: lawyer”:

    Stormy Daniels, the porn star who says she had an affair with President Donald Trump, was arrested in a strip club on Wednesday in what her lawyer said was a setup.

    Daniels, real name Stephanie Clifford, was arrested in a Columbus, Ohio, club for allowing a customer to touch her while on stage, lawyer Michael Avenatti said on Twitter, adding that the touching was of “a non-sexual manner”.

    Avenatti said Daniels was performing her act on Wednesday, one “she has performed across the nation at nearly a hundred strip clubs” and was arrested during what he said was a sting operation.

    “This was a setup & politically motivated. It reeks of desperation. We will fight all bogus charges,” Avenatti said on Twitter.

    Ohio law says that strip club patrons and nude or semi-nude employees are not allowed to touch each other.

    Avenatti said he expected his client to be released on bail and that she would be charged with a misdemeanor.

    “We will vehemently contest all charges,” he said.

  77. says

    “FBI agent: My work has never been tainted by political bias”:

    An FBI agent whose anti-Trump text messages fueled suspicions of partisan bias will tell lawmakers Thursday that his work has never been tainted by politics and that the intense scrutiny he is facing represents “just another victory notch in Putin’s belt,” according to prepared remarks obtained by The Associated Press.

    Peter Strzok, who helped lead FBI investigations into Hillary Clinton’s email use and potential coordination between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign, was testifying publicly for the first time since being removed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team following the discovery of the derogatory text messages last year.

    He will say in his opening statement that he has never allowed personal opinions to infect his work, that he knew information during the campaign that had the potential to damage Trump but never contemplated leaking it and that the focus on him by Congress is misguided and plays into “our enemies’ campaign to tear America apart.”…

    Strzok’s public testimony will be today at 10 ET on C-SPAN3. Democrats continue to call for the transcript of his long interview in closed session to be released, and have now made public some of the questions Republicans asked him.

    Lisa Page’s lawyer issued a strong statement about her committee appearance. The way the Republicans are abusing their oversight/investigative powers is a travesty.

  78. says

    Josh Marshall – “Jordan’s Boss, The Head Coach, Admits He Knew”:

    One of the curious dimensions of the evolving Jim Jordan story is that the defenses of Jordan often become close to indistinguishable from the accusations against him. The first instance was that interlude in Jordan’s interview with Fox News’s Bret Baier in which he switched from adamant denials to making a distinction between formal accusations and “conversations in a locker room.” When Baier asked what “locker room” talk he’d heard, Jordan shifted back and insisted he hadn’t heard any. Now there’s another instance of this, an admission that essentially demolishes Jordan’s denials. The head coach Jordan worked for, Russ Hellickson, admits he knew Dr. Strauss was acting inappropriately with wrestlers on his team and confronted him about it.

    What seems clear is that Hellickson is trying to make his defense of Jordan square with what he admitted on tape before he knew Jordan would deny everything. It’s an impossible position. His contradictory claims simply don’t add up. At best, Hellickson’s cobbled together explanation amounts to a version of the one Jordan tentatively floated in his interview with Bret Baier: that “conversations in a locker room” are far different from formal accusations. The simple fact is that Hellickson knew there was a problem enough to confront Strauss for lingering in the showers with the student wrestlers and feeling up wrestlers during weigh-ins. That speaks for itself. He knew enough, by his own account, to repeatedly raise the matter with University administrators.

    Nine wrestlers have come forward to say Jordan knew about the abuse. Two of them say they told him directly of specific instances in which Strauss has touched them inappropriately. Hellickson is basically trapped – because of what he said on the video before he realized Jordan would deny everything – into conceding that he knew about Strauss’s behavior and knew it was serious enough to confront him and bring his concerns to administrators. Given Hellickson’s admissions, Jordan’s claim that he was simply in the dark are absurd on their face.

    More at the link. I have two quick things to add. First, even if people were to accept Jordan’s claim that he knew nothing (purely for the sake of argument – it’s patently false), it wouldn’t be much of a defense. The abuse went on for a long time and everyone else was aware of it, so his remaining blissfully ignorant throughout the period in which he was responsible for these kids would show him to be thoroughly neglectful in their care. Second, what he apparently did is far worse than just turning a blind eye to the abuse or doing little to stop it. According to more than one wrestler, when he was confronted with the information his response showed that his concern wasn’t at all with the students he was coaching but with himself and his future political career – his primary interest was in keeping himself and his name out of it, and remains so now.

  79. says

    Trump gave a typically idiotic press conference today before leaving the NATO summit. This stands out:

    Trump leaves open whether he will recognize Crimea, says Russia has invested a lot there and Russian takeover happened on “Obama’s watch” “What will happen with Crimea at this point on I can’t tell you.”

  80. says

    Elijah Cummings is great – he’s reading Gowdy’s and Goodlatte’s earlier statements calling for and promising noninterference with the Mueller investigation, and pointing out that they’re now actively interfering after Mueller’s indictments and guilty pleas.

    Awesome – people behind him are holding up large pictures of the men who’ve already pleaded guilty with the word “GUILTY” written across them in red. Republicans just tried to object, another Democrat called on them to cite the rule that prohibits it, and Goodlatte said he can continue. He’s now describing each guilty plea in detail.

  81. says

    OMG Trey Gowdy is an embarrassment. This hearing is an embarrassment. The FBI has told Strzok he can’t answer questions related to an ongoing investigation, and Goodlatte is demanding he answer the question under threat of a criminal charge. Nadler is now reading the DoJ official policy. This is fucking ridiculous and obscene.

  82. says

    Holy shit – Strzok is letting loose. The context of the “we’ll stop it” text was Trump’s attacks on the Khan family and he couldn’t believe the American people would elect someone who demonstrated that behavior as president.

    He’s still going. This is a righteous rant.

    Got applause!

  83. blf says

    If England had shown the spunk the Dems are in this hearing yesterday they would have won.

    I understand they did — in the first half, then retired, job done. I would wait to see if the dummies do their usual, which perhaps isn’t all that different: Think scoring a point or two early on is entirely sufficient, and not bother to bring any whack-a-thug mallets.

  84. says

    I understand they did — in the first half, then retired, job done. I would wait to see if the dummies do their usual, which perhaps isn’t all that different: Think scoring a point or two early on is entirely sufficient, and not bother to bring any whack-a-thug mallets.

    Yes, it’s sadly possible. I do think Strzok’s angry response to Gowdy was a significant moment. England actually lost intensity almost immediately after they scored, which was less than 5 minutes in. It is hard to keep up the intensity when you’re in the lead, although France did it against Belgium the other day, and England wasn’t able to get it back even after Croatia had tied it, for some reason. (Still, they have a lot to be proud of – I don’t mean to detract from their overall performance.)

  85. says

    Breaking: North Korean delegation did not show up at planned meeting with U.S. at Demilitarized Zone Thursday to discuss repatriating remains of Americans killed in Korean War. There was no call or explanation, @eliselabottcnn reports.”

  86. blf says

    Ireland seems to be on a roll, Ireland becomes world’s first country to divest from fossil fuels (Grauniad edits in {curly braces}):

    Bill passed by parliament means more than €300m shares in coal, oil, peat and gas will be sold ‘as soon as practicable’

    The Republic of Ireland will become the world’s first country to sell off its investments in fossil fuel companies, after a bill was passed with all-party support in the lower house of parliament.

    The state’s €8bn national investment fund will be required to sell all investments in coal, oil, gas and peat “as soon as is practicable”, which is expected to mean within five years. Norway’s huge $1tn sovereign wealth fund has only partially divested from fossil fuels, targeting some coal companies, and is still considering its oil and gas holdings.


    Éamonn Meehan, executive director of international development charity Trócaire, said: “Today the Oireachtas {Irish parliament} has sent a powerful signal to the international community about the need to speed up the phase-out of fossil fuels.”


    Gerry Liston at Global Legal Action Network, who drafted the bill, said: “Governments will not meet their obligations under the Paris agreement on climate change if they continue to financially sustain the fossil fuel industry. Countries the world over must now urgently follow Ireland’s lead and divest from fossil fuels.”

    I’d add that, in addition to divesting, end the subsidies. I don’t know if Ireland, specifically, has any fossil fuel subsidies or tax breaks (the only possible exception I can think of is agricultural diesel), but world-wide they are massive, “6.5% of global GDP goes to subsidizing dirty fossil fuels”, Fossil fuel subsidies are a staggering $5 tn per year (August-2017). And, of course, teh dalekocracy lies about it, Rex Tillerson Denies Oil & Gas Subsidies Exist, While Company Profits From Them (Feburary-2017; emboldening in the original):

    Today Rex Tillerson, under oath, denied the existence of fossil fuel subsidies. This is dangerously incorrect. In fact, the Oil & Gas Industry receives more than $17 Billion in Subsidies per year, and according to our new analysis ExxonMobil likely gets as much as $1 billion of that.


    The industry’s long-time argument is that liability loopholes and sweetheart tax breaks like the Intangible Drilling Costs [IDC] are not a form of special treatment for the oil and gas industry. In reality, the IDC is specifically designed to make drilling, survey work, clearing ground, workers’ wages, drilling supplies — basically anything you need to produce oil and gas (aka ExxonMobil’s products) — less expensive for oil and gas companies. It’s worth roughly $2.5 billion to US oil and gas producers each year. It’s also been around for more than a century, and even though Congress has already agreed to phase out tax credits for wind and solar by 2020, they have not agreed on any plans to sunset oil and gas handouts. That sure seems like special treatment.


    [… A] recent study by the Stockholm Environment Institute and EarthTrack [PDF?†] found that oil production subsidies will be responsible for almost half of the remaining oil production in the United States. Burning the oil that subsidies make possible will release more than 8 billion tonnes of climate pollution, equivalent to building 100 coal-fired power plants and running them for 23 years.

    And when government giveaways don’t drive new extraction, subsidies simply become extra profits that companies like ExxonMobil can use to fund even more climate denial through lobbying, misinformation, and campaign contributions.


    Tillerson’s denial that fossil fuels are subsidised happened during his confirmation hearings.

      † This link (in the original) looks like it should go to a PDF of the unnamed study, but the link is borked; for some reason, it goes to the Stockholm Environment Institute’s home page instead. I did not bother to track down a useful link to the study.

  87. says

    Ken Dilanian: “We are now treated to the spectacle of Republican members of Congress threatening an FBI agent unless he answers questions about a pending, secret criminal and counterintelligence investigation. America, 2018.”

  88. blf says

    How Trump’s Nato summit meltdown unfolded:

    The US president turned up late for Nato meeting, with an agenda that would stun many
    The agenda for Thursday seemed, on the surface, to offer little reason for further confrontation with Trump: a routine discussion of moves by Georgia and Ukraine to join Nato and of Nato involvement in Afghanistan.

    It began on time, at 8.45am. Theresa May, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and other leaders were there. But Trump was missing.

    Seldom keen on such detailed discussions, the US president turned up late and came with a different agenda.

    Ignoring the discussion about Georgia and Afghanistan, Trump charged forward, saying his predecessors in the White House had pushed for an increase by Europeans on defence spending and he was not going to put up with it. Dispensing with the usual diplomatic niceties, he pointed at Merkel, whom he dislikes on a personal level as well as over their policy differences, and said: You, Angela.

    The most stunning comment came from a source reported by Reuters: “He said they must raise spending by January 2019 or the United States would go it alone.”

    This was greeted with shocked silence. It had seemed unthinkable: a US president threatening to pull out of a military alliance that the US has regarded as a cornerstone of its military strategy for 69 years.

    No one appears to be disputing the words. What is being disputed is the interpretation. Reuters reported Trump as having threatened to quit Nato but then rescinded this. Macron insisted this had not been Trump’s meaning.

    But just as alarming was the apparent ultimatum. European leaders who have so far failed to reach Nato’s 2% defence spending target are talking about achieving this years from now, not by January.

    Responding to the rising sense of panic in the room, the Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, called an emergency meeting. […]

    [… Eventually the meeting] broke up, without Stoltenberg or any of the other European leaders offering a single concession.


    Trump, soon after leaving Brussels, tweeted a short video of the highlights of the Nato summit, which suggested a parallel universe in which the meeting had been a total success: flags, motor cavalcades, greeting Stoltenberg, sitting in amiable discussion with other leaders and standing together for the group picture, and a final wave at the press conference.

    There were no rants about defence spending. In short, it had been a triumph. Attached to the video, he wrote: “Thank you @Nato2018!”

    The article does not contain any suggestion for what prompted hair furor into making the 4% or we go home and play with our toys threat. Did Putin issue an order to his employee via Fox or something ?

  89. says

    Cicilline is saying he’s going to release the transcript of Strzok’s closed hearing this afternoon. Asks if there’s anything in the committee’s rules preventing him from doing so. Goodlatte can’t come up with anything, other than he says it can’t.

  90. says

    Update to #119 – Michael Avenatti: “I am pleased to report that the charges against my client @stormydaniels have been dismissed in their entirety (below motion was just granted). I want to thank Joe Gibson & his colleagues at the prosecutors ofc for their professionalism starting with our first call early this am.”

    Correction to #141 – the pictures were held up behind Cummings, not Nadler.

  91. blf says

    The Grauniad’s snark machine leaps about, I, Donald Trump, look forward to not meeting anyone in Britain, England:

    ‘British people like me a lot. The police build barriers to stop me getting mobbed’

    I’d like to start by thanking myself bigly for finding the time to talk to you at this press conference. As many of you will know, the president of the United States of America is a very busy man. Possibly the busiest man in the world. And no president has ever been busier than me. I am the busiest. So I’m sure you’d like to join me in thanking me for making time in my schedule for you.

    When I said yesterday Nato was a waste of space and I couldn’t wait to leave, that was fake news. I don’t know why the media always choose to report me accurately but they do. I’m telling you now that Nato is a great place. One of the very best places I’ve ever visited. I like it a lot. A lotly a lot. I’ve got a lot of properties in Nato. More properties than any other person in the world. You should come and stay in them some time. You really should. And the Natians are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. The very nicest.

    [… W]e got there in the end, with the Natians agreeing to pay what they had already agreed to pay. No one bargains tougher than me. No one.

    So Nato is now a lot safer and a lot stronger than when I arrived here a couple of days ago. It was amazing to see the spirit in the room. And I guess that’s down to me. Everyone here in Natoland has personally thanked me. That’s a fact. A factly fact. Each Natian has made a point of coming up to me to say thank you. They thanked me a lot for being a very stable genius.


    My next stop is Britain, England. I’m going to a lot of pretty hotspots on this European trip. But that’s what the president does. He goes to hotspots. And I make no bones about it, hotspots don’t get hotter than Blenheim Palace and Windsor Castle. There’s a lot of very bad people in those places. Worse even than Afghanistanistan.

    But America makes the best weapons in the world. We really do. The very best. No one makes better weapons than America. You should buy some of them. We’ve got planes that can do incredible things. Things you wouldn’t believe. Just like in the cartoons. Have you watched Fox News? So I can look after myself if the environment gets too hostile. I’m not worried. Nothing worries me. I sleep very well at night. Better than any other president. I take my memory foam mattress everywhere. Helps with my dementia. Not that I have it.


    What’s that about heartbreak? Oh, you said hard Brexit. I thought you said heartbreak. I’ve had heartbreak. Though not so much recently. I guess Brexit means Brexit though I haven’t really given it much thought. Then no one in Britain, Europe, has either. Just make sure you’ve got enough cages for the kids and it’ll be fine.

    So yeah, I reckon the first two days of my UK trip are going to be a bit dull. Just lunch and a few castles. But then I get to go up to my golf course in Turnberry, Scotland, England. I’ve got a lot of golf courses. No president has ever had more golf courses.

    [… Vladimir Putin]’s a great guy. A lot of people misunderstand him. He’s a competitor not an enemy. We get on really well and I’m telling you he can’t wait to hear what I’ve got to say about you Natians.

    Thanks so much for my time. It was your pleasure.

    Some of the readers’s comments:

    ● “As Louis Armstong sang ‘Houston the turd has landed'” [I think this is in reference to hair furor, who has now invaded the UK, rather than the excerpted John Crace column –blf]

    ● “Hi Queen so my grandfather was German and my mother was Scottish so we’ve got a lot in common we might even be related. Okay I told everyone that I was Swedish well your family changed their name when being German wasn’t that popular so we’ve even more in common, well after meeting Merkel I might go back to being Swedish.”

    ● “Aye John you’ve hit the nail again.
    Pity it wasn’t Trumps head but never mind.
    Strange how you a satirist spots that Trump actually spent his Nato time on a very crude sales mission for US made arms. […]”

    ● “Not many people know this but not even Reagan won the state of Scotland in 1984. Not only did I win it by a bigly landslide, but I turned the country into a golf course as well. People said, you can’t do that to the English people of Scotland. […]”

    ● “Orange Don must have been seriously confused when he found himself up against the United Natians.”

    ● “Dear Mr Crace. You need to do a bit more than just cut and paste his NATO speech. Try harder.”
      I assume this was a typical British “well done” compliment, but another reader’s comment claimed “Virtually verbatim from his news conference today. A must-watch. [… Said] generalities about topics he knows nothing about. It makes for hilarious — and frightening — watching.” I doubt the “virtually verbatim”, Mr Crace’s snark is too well-written and coherent, with too many words, Britishisms, and so on, to be “verbatim”, albeit it is clearly patterned / pastiche of hair furor’s (lack of) “style”.

    ● “‘I’ve got a lot of golf courses. No president has ever had more golf courses.’ If Trump ever actually said this, it would be the first completely accurate thing he ever said.”

    ● “Such a pity this speech won’t be reported by the fake news media”.

    ● “The people in the UK are even more excited about Trump than the citizens of Nambia. Can’t wait for our strong and stable government to meet the very stable genius. It will be the most stable meeting in history.” [strong and stable was the tories (UK thugs) motto during the last election, when they threw away their majority and “had” to align with the “D”UP –blf]

    ● “I’m surprised you didn’t cover the fact that he’s going to meet his mother in Windsor Castle. didn’t you know that he’s royalty as well. American royalty you know, the best royalty in the world, they don’t come any more royal than King Trump!”

    ● “The British people like me so much they flew a giant balloon of my image over their capital the day i was there”.

    ● “[…] Did I tell you I build tall buildings? They are taller than other buildings. Everyone wants to own one.”

    ● “Stanstead [where hair furor’s invasion started] isn’t just London’s third airport, handy for package holidays and cheap flights to Europe. Its the airport where planes that have potential problems like hijackers are diverted so that they can be dealt with by law enforcement without disrupting normal flight operations.
    Pretty much says it all.”

    To-date, whilst there are many comments, there are almost no (probably-)genuine pro-hair furor comments.

  92. says

    Rep. Cicilline: “Republican hypocrisy is ridiculous today. GOP has until 5pm to tell me why I can’t release Peter Strzok’s closed-door transcript. If they don’t, @RepRaskin and I are going to send to DOJ to scrub for sensitive info and then release it when it’s ready.”

  93. blf says

    More Steve Bell, from several days ago, Donald Trump loves a parade (cartoon). It’s hard to see in this cartoon, except, perhaps the eyes-in-the-flag in the last panel, but Mr Bell has taken to depicting hair furor’s Russian handler as wrapped in a USAian national flag.

  94. says

    Strzok says his text about how ‘destabilizing’ a Trump presidency might be was in response to a Trump speech in which he questioned the US commitment to the NATO alliance.”

    Which made it a perfect text for Republicans to keep quoting today.

  95. says

    The Democrats are actually laughing at Goodlatte at this point. Nadler and others keep asking him to cite the rules by which he’s making his decisions, and he can’t because he has no idea what he’s doing. Cicilline asked “Are you making it up as you go along?” Jordan and Gowdy are now thoroughly beclowned.

  96. says

    Rep. William Lacy Clay (I don’t really know who he is) just told the Republicans that they put defending Trump before their responsibility to defend the country. “You should all be ashamed of yourselves.”

  97. says

    Good. Connolly is reading calls for Trump to step aside from the candidacy and saying he’s unfit for the presidency. To Strzok: “You wrote that, right?” Strzok: “No, sir.” Connolly: “Oh, right – that was Republican _____ of _______.” Perfect.

    “So it sounds like when you were writing these emails, you had a lot of company on the Republican side of the aisle.” Not an unusual or isolated opinion.

    “I thank you, and I’m so sorry for the treatment you’ve received here today.”

  98. says

    Some details related to the growing fiasco of the Trump/North Korean negotiations:

    […] as far as Trump is concerned, he’s already delivered a major breakthrough: the president has said “thousands” of American parents who lost loved ones during the Korean War have asked him to bring home the remains of fallen troops, and Trump insists he’s doing exactly that.

    “They have already done 200 people, which is so great,” the president boasted at a recent rally in Nevada.

    That wasn’t entirely true. The State Department conceded soon after that we “have not yet physically received” the remains, though there was a meeting today to discuss the issue. How’d that go?

    North Korean officials did not show up on Thursday for a meeting with Americans at the inter-Korean border to discuss the return of remains of United States soldiers killed in the Korean War, officials said. […]

    Though American military officials went to Panmunjom for the meeting on Thursday, their North Korean counterparts did not, according to a United States defense official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. A South Korean government official, who also asked for anonymity, confirmed that the North Koreans had not shown up at Panmunjom.

    So let’s recap what we’ve seen since Trump’s summit with Kim Jong-un. First, U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that North Korea has recently increased its production of fuel for nuclear weapons at multiple secret sites. Second, formal talks between the countries went nowhere, culminating in North Korea’s foreign ministry accusing the Trump administration of making “unilateral and gangster-like” demands.

    And third, North Koreans were a no-show at a meeting to discuss the return of American soldiers’ remains. […]


  99. says

    More details from the Strzok hearing … a moment in which Louie Gohmert accuses Strzok of lying:

    Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) accused FBI agent Peter Strzok of being liar in a verbal attack during a Thursday hearing, which escalated when Gohmert compared Strzok’s “smirk” in the hearing to “how many times did you look so innocent into your wife’s eye and lie to her.”

    Strzok was testifying in front of the House Oversight and Judiciary committees, where Republicans peppered him with questions about anti-Donald Trump texts he sent to another FBI official, with whom he was having an affair.

    Gohmert’s tirade prompted shouting from Democrats who accused the lawmaker of “intolerable harassment of a witness. “

    “You need your medication!” one lawmaker shouted.

    Scroll down to view the video Here

  100. says

    WTF? worse and worse.

    Detained people seeking asylum and protection in the United States are being held within at least one Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund site, exposing them to toxic sludge and other hazardous waste.

    U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) acknowledged that as of the end of June, up to 1,495 detainees were being kept at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington […]

    The detention facility, which essentially serves as a prison, is located within a Superfund site — the designation given to areas contaminated by hazardous waste and selected by the EPA for cleanup due to the danger they pose to both human health and the environment.

    The facility is located within the Tideflats, an industrial district within Tacoma. For years, fossil fuel development polluted the soil around the area, prompting the EPA to take action almost 30 years ago. The area is still heavily polluted and has been deemed unfit for residents. […]


  101. says

    OMFG, Trump is such an embarrassment that reporters are now openly laughing at him while he is still in the room:

    […] Trump struck a victorious tone after a tense NATO summit in Brussels, claiming in an unplanned news conference that he had convinced European allies to boost defense spending beyond previous targets.

    “Everyone has agreed to substantially up their commitment,” Trump said on Thursday. “They’re going to up it at levels that they’ve never thought of before.”

    That would be news, however, to French President Emmanuel Macron.

    Shortly after Trump’s wide-ranging press conference concluded, Macron told reporters that NATO members never agreed to increase military spending commitments above the previously established goal of 2 percent of each country’s gross domestic product. (On Wednesday, Trump surprised alliance members by demanding they increase contributions to 4 percent immediately.)

    “It confirms the goal of 2 percent by 2024,” Macron said. “That’s all.”

    He also contradicted news reports that Trump threatened to pull the US out of the alliance, reports Trump refused to directly deny during on Thursday. “President Trump never at any moment, either in public or in private, threatened to withdraw from NATO,” Macron said.

    Despite the contradictions, European leaders are likely welcoming the optimism about NATO that Trump displayed during his press conference. “I believe in NATO,” Trump said. “I think NATO is a very important, probably the greatest ever done.”

    When asked if he would be tweeting differently about the alliance once he left Brussels, Trump said no. “Other people that do that. I’m very consistent. I’m a very stable genius.” The comment prompted laughter from reporters in the room.


  102. blf says

    “[…] I’m so sorry for the treatment you’ve received here today — Connolly to Strzok (@154).

    I admit to following more and more the French practice of rarely apologising for other people’s behaviour (especially people whom I can’t really “control”), or when I’m obviously a victim or not at fault. I would have said something like “The treatment you received today from across the aisle was deplorable, and I do hope and request each and every one of the people across the aisle apologize to you, as publicly as they have bellowed.” I presume that is not quite in accordance with established conventions, so the actual phrasing uttered by an experienced politician could very probably differ, but hopefully the semantics would not be diluted.

    The mildly deranged penguin would have buried teh thugs in live snarling hungry peas — certainly before the hearing, and very probably before the election. Probably starting with tricky dicky’s election. To the House in 1946.

  103. says

    Jeffries: “This hearing is a joke. It’s a fraud.” Calls it a kangaroo court.

    Ha – I was just about to express my surprise that an actual woman Republican was going to speak…and then she ceded her time to Gowdy.

  104. blf says

    More on the Korean war dead fiasco (see @155 and others), Trump touts great progress after North Korea skips repatriation of war dead talks:

    President [sic] tweeted a very nice note from North Korean leader just hours after officials failed to show up at the planned meeting
    In the letter Trump released on Thursday, Kim repeatedly referred to the US president as Your Excellency but makes no mention of North Korea’s missiles or nuclear program.

    I firmly believe that the strong will, sincere efforts and unique approach of myself and Your Excellency Mr President aimed at opening up a new future between the DPRK and the US will surely come to fruition, the North Korean leader wrote.

    Skillfully playing an narcissistic incompetent.

    Following the North Koreans’ no-show at Thursday’s meeting, the US state department said the two delegations had agreed to meet on 15 July.

    In another apparent setback, the US accused Pyongyang of violating sanctions on refined oil products and ordered the United Nations security council to immediately halt all related deliveries to North Korea.

    Sanctions imposed by the UN in December placed a cap on refined oil exports to North Korea at 500,000 barrels annually. A confidential US report presented to the UN security council, however, estimated the delivery of at least 759,793 barrels of oil products to North Korea between 1 January and 30 May.

    Doubts over the prospect of a breakthrough were further exacerbated following Mike Pompeo’s overnight visit to Pyongyang last week, during which a promised meeting with Kim failed to materialize. Although the secretary of state insisted progress continued to be made, North Korea accused the US of making gangster-like[] demands.


    The South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, also downplayed the North Koreans’ antics, stating it was all part of Pyongyang’s “strategy” toward extracting more concessions from the United States.


      † I have no idea to what extent that quote is the usual over-the-top N.Korean hyperbole, and to what extent it is a plausible interpretation of what they understood. Since N.Korea is as reliable as hair furor and teh dalekocracy, I decided to set it as a eejit quote.

  105. says

    Good – Krishnamoorthi asked about concerns about a visceral hatred of Clinton in the FBI field office and leaks about the Weiner laptop. He confirms that Comey had those concerns, and several people had concerns about leaks to Giuliani based on his public comments.

  106. says

    jesus. fbi tells strzok he can now answer jordan question and now jordan does not seem interested.”

    The FBI, amusingly, is texting during the hearing updating Strzok that he’s now allowed to answer one or another question. Jordan couldn’t care less about the answers – he wants to insinuate and smear in the shadows of the questions Strzok can’t answer. Strzok has several times hinted not only that his answers would/will be disappointing for Jordan’s political agenda but that Jordan already knows this. Which is all the more believable after the outright despicable lies Jordan’s told this week about the sexual abuse of wrestlers he coached.

  107. blf says

    British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (Ali G, Borat Sagdiyev, …) apparently has a new show starting this upcoming weekend-ish, “Who is America?”, for which he interviewed various loons disguised as (new?) character(s?). A few days ago, Sarah Palin whined she’d been duped (Evil, exploitative and sick: Sarah Palin says Sacha Baron Cohen duped her). He has now replied, Sacha Baron Cohen hits back at Sarah Palin as Roy Moore admits being duped:

    A character of Sacha Baron Cohen’s has responded to Sarah Palin’s claim that she was exploited, calling it “FAKE NEWS”.


    In response, Cohen has posted a letter on Twitter as a new, previously unrevealed character, Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr, PhD, who runs the site Truthbrary.org.

    Palin had claimed Cohen disguised himself as a disabled US veteran during the interview before she walked out.

    “I did NOT say I was a War Vet,” the letter reads. “I was in the service — not military, but United Parcel and I only fought for my country once — when I shot a Mexican who came onto my property.”

    The full letter is at the site (link embedded in above excerpt), and is hilarious. (It’s also an image, hence no excerpts.)

    The site Truthbrary.net [sic] features a variety of articles including titles such as Why Do Liberals Despise The West? and Hibernating Alien Discovered Inside Secret Chamber In The Great Pyramid.

    The disgraced US Senate candidate Roy Moore has also released a statement revealing that he too was convinced to appear on the show, saying that he was embarrassed and humiliated by Cohen.


    Who Is America? begins on Showtime in the US on Sunday and on Channel 4 in the UK on Monday.

    The Grauniad suggests the new show could be a corker, Will Sacha Baron Cohen’s undercover series be the TV event of the year?:

    Shot in secrecy, the satirist’s new show Who Is America? sees him take aim at Trump and the US political elite. It looks set to be something truly special

    It is, by all accounts, a startling clip. A vaguely recognisable offscreen voice asks “Is it possible to sign my waterboard kit?” Then Dick Cheney — the real Dick Cheney — replies with a chirpy “Sure!”. After scrawling his name on a beaten-up bottle, he gleefully declares “That’s the first time I’ve ever signed a waterboard!” Ladies and gentlemen, Sacha Baron Cohen is back.

    Baron Cohen’s new series, Who is America?, feels like an ambush. Announced just this week, it premieres in the UK and the US less than a week from now. Very little is known about Who is America? and that’s possibly for good reason. […] The secrecy, you imagine, is likely due to the high-profile targets and the viciousness with which they are going to be taken down.

    If Who is America? can go after Dick Cheney […] then the sky is practically the limit. In a tweet, rightwing commentator Matt Drudge warned that Sarah Palin, Howard Dean, Bernie Sanders and Ted Koppel were among those who had joined Cheney in falling prey to Baron Cohen. However, don’t expect the elephant in the room to go unignored either.

    The first anybody knew about the series was when Baron Cohen posted a video addressed to Donald Trump on Independence Day. Baron Cohen’s Twitter bio is the following Trump quote: “They should have pummelled him (Baron Cohen) to the ground. It would have been great.” All signs suggest that Trump is squarely in Baron Cohen’s crosshairs, and it’s personal. Even if it ends up misfiring, Who is America? is going to be must-watch television.


  108. says

    Sen. Brian Schatz: “If you are somehow still undecided about who should run the legislative branch next year please turn on the TV right now and watch what is very likely the most unprofessional, unethical, chaotic, dishonest and dishonorable hearing conducted in decades.”

  109. blf says

    From Trump: soft Brexit will ‘kill’ UK’s chances of US trade deal:

    […] Trump’s remarks in an interview with the Sun threatened to dramatically undermine her attempts to placate furious Tory leavers by winning US support for her softer Brexit plan […].

    In his interview, which breaks all normal diplomatic conventions by criticising his host, Trump warned: If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal.

    He claimed the prime minister ignored his advice on Brexit negotiations. I would have done it much differently. I actually told Theresa May how to do it, but she didn’t listen to me, he said.

    If hair furor is telling the truth — which, since this is hair furor, needs verifiable independent confirmation — then ignoring his advice, whatever it was, is one of the very very few things teh maybot has done which is (very probably) sensible.

    Teh maybot’s “plan” — which is only a vague outline of a treaty — will probably also get a cold reception from the EU, UK’s latest Brexit plans likely to cross EU red lines, Barnier hints (Grauniad edits in {curly braces}):

    EU chief negotiator gives veiled warning of conflict to come as UK white paper is published
    EU diplomats had already warned that the white paper proposals would probably not be good enough, while a source who had seen an earlier draft described the UK approach as “cake”, a reference to the former foreign secretary Boris Johnson’s one-liner about being “pro having {cake} and pro eating it”, meaning that it could not be accepted.

    The UK proposal to create a single market in goods is likely to meet resistance in the face of the EU’s longstanding demand that there can be no-cherry picking of its internal market, nor division of its “four freedoms” — goods, services, people and capital. “If we allow this flexibility on the single market, the whole building might crumble,” one EU source told the Guardian.

    The British proposals on customs, which are complex and untested, are also likely to run into trouble in Brussels. As part of an attempt to avoid a hard border on Ireland, the UK is proposing to apply EU tariffs to EU goods passing through the UK, while having the freedom to set different tariffs on goods entering the UK.

    Teh maybot and über-brexitters continue to seem to not understand the EU won’t agree to free trade without free movement (of people). From memory, the deal with Switzerland (which is not in the EU) is the closest they’ve come to agreeing to that, but there’s now a consistent line (paraphrasing from memory) “There will be no more Switzerlands”.

  110. blf says

    Massachusetts continues to approve torturing developmentally challenged children, Massachusetts allows school to continue with electric shocks:

    Trigger Warning: The treatment described is extremely — and I mean EXTREMELY, as in Josef Mengele / Khmer Rouge / gulag type extreme — brutal.




    The only US facility using shocks on children with learning disabilities has fought off another legal challenge

    In 2012, video of electric shock conditioning used inside the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center was released to the public for the first time. It showed 18-year-old Andre McCollins being restrained face down, shouting for help from the people around him. His calls go unanswered, and he is given repeated shocks which cause him to scream in pain.

    The footage appears to show McCollins being tortured. The Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) is not a rogue interrogation facility in a failed state, however, but a facility for children and adults with learning disabilities in Massachusetts.

    Last week the facility won another legal challenge, which will allow it to continue to use shock treatment on its students.

    A lawsuit had been brought by the Massachusetts governor’s office, which first sued to stop the practice in 2013. But Judge Katherine Fields of the Bristol county probate and family court ruled that the state had failed to demonstrate that the procedure “does not conform to the accepted standard of care for treating individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities”.

    The school remains the only facility in the US that is allowed to use electric shocks on children for behavioral purposes.

    The center, founded in 1971 as the Behavior Research Institute, serves “emotionally disturbed” individuals and those with learning disabilities. Since its inception it has used an unusual form of treatment — the graduated electronic decelerator, or GED, an electric shock device, developed by the center’s founder, Matthew Israel.

    The device is not used in what we might call “electroshock therapy” — where small shocks are passed through the brain under anesthesia. Rather, the GED is used as a variation of “aversive conditioning”, in which negative stimulation is applied to a patient when he or she performs an unwanted action. The patient is awake, and feeling pain is the point of the shock.

    The GED, when activated, outputs an electric shock that is distributed to the patient’s skin for up to two seconds. Students wear a backpack containing the shocking device, with electrodes constantly affixed to their skin. Staff are able to shock students at any point during the day. Previous attendees at JRC have spoken of up to five electrodes being attached to their bodies. One, Jen Msumba, who blogs about her time at the facility, said electrodes were applied under their fingers or the bottom of their feet to increase the pain.


    [… A]t JRC, students claim it is being used non-contingently for a wide range of unwanted behaviors. According to a case brought by McCollins, shocks were administered for crimes as minor as not taking your coat off, or for screaming during previous shocks. A 2006 report by the New York state education department found children were shocked for “nagging, swearing, and failing to maintain a neat appearance”.


    The practice has drawn overwhelming backlash from clinical psychologists, state officials and civil liberty groups like the ACLU, which protest the cruelty and inhumane nature of shock therapy. In 2012, New York magazine ran an exposé featuring the case of McCollins, a former patient of JRC who spent six hours undergoing 31 shocks and was left in a catatonic state for a month afterwards. It was McCollins who appeared in the footage that was released to the public as part of a lawsuit filed against the center by Andre’s mother, Cheryl McCollins, who compared the GED to a form of torture.


    As the article points out, probably everyone has had some form of aversive conditioning — e.g., touching a hot stove — and it can be an appropriate treatment when applied carefully for some conditions. But what is described is never appropriate, is not being carefully done, and is used indiscriminately.

    (FSMdamnit, this is the second time in about as many weeks a story has me too upset to continue. From memory, the recent previous occurrence was police in Brazil deliberately randomly strafing — literally strafing with a helicopter-mounted machine gun — slums.)

  111. says

    Goodlatte now NOT letting Peter Strzok respond if members use their five minutes to make speeches and not ask him any direct questions. After Biggs attacks him for five minutes, Strzok asks if he can respond, and Goodlatte says: ‘No, you may not’.”

    One dimwit just told him he’s praying for Strzok and his family, because he thinks Strzok is enjoying this and that his great sin is hubris. Strzok wasn’t allowed to respond.

  112. blf says

    This one got a laugh… There’s a short article about the site of “Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr, PhD” (an apparently new character played by British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (see @168)), Truthbrary.org, noting “just how closely it resembles established sites like Infowars and Breitbart”, Sacha Baron Cohen has made his own Infowars. Anyways, at the end of the article, after listing some actual headlines on those sites, which are ALL IN CAPITAL LETTERS IN TEH USUALLE STYLE, writer Arwa Mahdawi adds “Sorry for all the shouting, but rightwing websites, as you may have noticed, are very fond of untrammeled capitalism.”

  113. blf says

    In the Gruaniad’s live blog of hair furor’s “Britain, England” (see @145) invasion is this (09:52 mark):

    It is unusual for an American president to be quite this reliant on helicopter travel when visiting London. It is faintly reminiscent of how prime ministers has to travel around by helicopter when visiting a country like Afghanistan to protect them from the hostile local population …

  114. KG says

    I have to admit I haven’t read Trump’s interview in the Scum, which is a Murdoch rag, but the reported contents are truly hilarious: May invited this purulent arsehole for an official visit, laid down the red carpet for him, and should not have been surprised that he promptly dumped an enormous, stinking turd on it – a turd which her acolytes are now busily polishing. One of them, “Sir” Alan Duncan, a political has-been once tipped for higher things, appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today, insisting that they do not view Trump’s overt interference in UK politics and bad-mouthing of May as rude! Not that I think Trump’s praise for Boris Johnson will do the latter any good – the best thing about Trump’s comments is that they damage both sides in the Tory row over Brexit.

    The Scum “journalist” who interviewed Trump, one Tom Newton-Dunn, is quoted by the BBC as saying:

    He’s really quite stung by the criticism he’s been getting. He knew all about the baby blimp. I think it hurt him.

    Kudos to those who thought it up, and to Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, for permitting it to be flown! I’ll be going to Glasgow later today for what is likely to be the biggest anti-Trump protest in Scotland (although of course the London marches will be bigger), and will be stewarding at an anti-Trump march in Edinburgh tomorrow, while my wife will be playing in a marching band.

  115. says

    Cadwalladr: “Polite reminder. Trump & Brexit are not 2 different things. They are the same thing. Same companies. Same data. Same Facebook. Same Russians. Same Cambridge Analytica. Same Robert Mercer. Same Steve Bannon. Same Breitbart. Same Alexander Nix. Same Donald Trump. Same Nigel Farage.”

  116. says

    I’ll be going to Glasgow later today for what is likely to be the biggest anti-Trump protest in Scotland (although of course the London marches will be bigger), and will be stewarding at an anti-Trump march in Edinburgh tomorrow, while my wife will be playing in a marching band.

    Yay! I can’t wait for the news broadcasts from the protests.

  117. says

    “Trump Officials Slash Grants That Help Consumers Get Obamacare”:

    The Trump administration announced on Tuesday that it was slashing grants to nonprofit organizations that help people obtain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, the latest step in an escalating attack on the law that threatens to destabilize its insurance markets.

    The cuts are the second round in two years. The government will provide $10 million this fall, down from $36 million last autumn and $63 million in late 2016 — a total reduction of more than 80 percent.

    The announcement on Tuesday, by Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, came three days after the administration suspended a program that stabilizes health insurance markets by paying billions of dollars to insurers that enroll large numbers of unhealthy people under the Affordable Care Act. Insurers said the freeze would cause turmoil in insurance markets and drive up premiums.

    The administration is not only cutting grants to navigators, but fundamentally changing their mission. They will, for the first time, help people enroll in health insurance plans that do not comply with the consumer protection standards and other requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

    Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the senior Democrat on the Finance Committee, expressed outrage at the administration’s effort to redefine the purpose of the navigator program.

    “This move amounts to federally-funded fraud — paying groups to sell unsuspecting Americans on junk plans,” Mr. Wyden said.

    Having failed to persuade Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the president is now engaged in a “sabotage crusade” to wreck the law, Mr. Wyden said….

  118. says

    “Jared Kushner lacks security clearance level to review some of the nation’s most sensitive intelligence in White House role”:

    Jared Kushner, a senior White House adviser and President Trump’s son-in-law, lacks the security clearance level required to review some of the government’s most sensitive secrets, according to two people familiar with his access.

    For the first year of the Trump administration, Kushner had nearly blanket access to highly classified intelligence, even as he held an interim security clearance and awaited the completion of his background investigation.

    But when White House security officials granted him a permanent clearance in late May, he was granted only “top secret” status — a level that does not allow him to see some of the country’s most closely guarded intelligence, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss security issues.

    Kushner has not yet been approved to review “sensitive compartmented information,” better known as SCI. The Central Intelligence Agency determines who can access this information, which primarily involves U.S. intelligence sources and surveillance methods, they said.

    That has blocked Kushner at times from seeing some parts of the President’s Daily Brief, a highly classified summary of world events that sometimes describes intelligence programs and operatives, the people said.

    Kushner’s lack of SCI access suggests that the CIA has not signed off on his receiving that level of intelligence, security experts said. The White House security office has authority to independently grant a “top secret” clearance after reviewing a staffer’s FBI background investigation.

    The reasons for the constraints on Kushner’s intelligence access are unclear, including whether they are related to the ongoing special counsel investigation, which has examined his interactions with foreign officials.

    In May, Kushner’s supporters pointed to his ability to gain a permanent high-level security clearance as a sign that he faces no legal jeopardy from the probe led by Mueller….

    I was suspicious of the announcement back in May. Everything coming from them is bullshit and spin.

  119. says

    “White House Orders Broader Access to Files About F.B.I. Informant”:

    The White House has rebuffed concerns among American intelligence and law enforcement officials and ordered that more lawmakers be given access to classified information about an informant the F.B.I. used in 2016 to investigate possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to two American officials with knowledge of the decision.

    Both the director of national intelligence and the director of the F.B.I. tried to keep the classified documents tightly restricted, fearing that a broader dissemination of operational reports and other sensitive material could lead to more leaks of detailed information about the role of the confidential F.B.I. informant.

    Some American officials believe, in fact, the reason the White House made the decision was to provide political ammunition to President Trump’s Republican allies who have argued — without any evidence — that the F.B.I. investigation was opened in July 2016 as an effort to keep Mr. Trump from becoming president.

    The F.B.I. files about the informant will now be available to all members of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, instead of to just a group of congressional leaders known as the Gang of Eight. It is unclear whether Mr. Trump or a lower-level White House official authorized the move.

    Democrats have argued that the true aim of the Republicans is to undermine the Russia investigation — which in May 2017 was taken over by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III — and that Republicans want access to F.B.I. files to gain information they can use against the inquiry.

    In a letter to Mr. Coats on Thursday, Democratic members of the Gang of Eight protested the release of the documents, saying that it “contravenes your representation to us and our colleagues that this information would not be shared outside that group.”

    “We believe your decision could put sources and methods at risk,” they added….

  120. says

    Jeff Zeleny:

    First question from @bbclaurak about how he treated May in interview, blasting her Brexit policy: “I didn’t criticize the prime minister.” Then, @realDonaldTrump takes next step of calling The Sun “fake news.” The Murdoch-owned Sun that is….

    He talked about how they combat “fake news” by recording interviews. WTF? The audio clips played this morning on TV were what he was quoted saying by the interviewer.

  121. says

    Trump: ‘I think [immigration] has been very bad for Europe. I think it’s changing the culture I think it’s a very negative thing..You had better watch yourselves, it’s a sad situation’.

    May: ‘The UK has a proud history of welcoming people..overall immigration has been good’.”

  122. says

    “Trump lost millions at golf courses in Scotland. U.S. voters weren’t told that.”:

    President Donald Trump’s pair of golf resorts in Scotland have steadily lost money, with losses calculated at $23 million the last year his company reported figures to United Kingdom officials.

    U.S. voters may not know that.

    That’s because Trump told U.S. officials that Trump Turnberry earned $15 million and Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeen earned $3.8 million in what he describes as “golf-related revenue” for roughly the same period of time.

    Trump, who is expected to visit his Turnberry property this weekend while on a week-long trip to Europe, appears to have masked some of his company’s problems in Scotland on his personal financial disclosure required of U.S. government officials, according to several experts who reviewed the document.

    “If there’s one thing we know for certain about Donald Trump’s financial disclosures and lack of disclosures, it’s that denying Americans a full picture of his financial situation is a top priority,” said Robert Weissman, president of the watchdog group Public Citizen….

  123. says

    New information from David Corn casts doubt on the suggestion that Broidy was covering for Trump:

    …As it happens, I have been looking into other (non-sexual) affairs of Broidy—involving his business deals—and have come across information that undercuts Campos’ supposin’….

    …I was introduced to another person with a particular insight on Broidy’s actions: a private investigator. In 2016, this P.I., who has requested he not be named, was hired to trail Broidy and surveil the businessman. His customer was a Broidy associate to whom Broidy owed money. The investigator spent several months on this case, looking to document Broidy’s lifestyle and his spending patterns. He tells me that his big discovery was that Broidy was mostly a homebody, who spent much of his time either at his office or his house.

    But there was one other address that Broidy visited regularly: an apartment building in Beverly Hills. He seemed to have a girlfriend there. The P.I. says he never got the name of the apparent gal pal. But he shared with me the address of the building. (For the obvious reason, I am not going to disclose it.) I was able to find the names of various tenants. That list included Shera Bechard, the playmate in the Broidy case.

    This may not conclusively disprove the Campos hypothesis. But it does appear that Broidy had a pre-existing relationship with Bechard over a year before the $1.6 million settlement was reached….

    The WSJ reporter covering the story and Yashar Ali have both been saying the speculation was wrong for a while. Looks like they were correct.

  124. says

    ProPublica: “BREAKING: Remember that audio we published of 6-year-old Alison Jimena Valencia Madrid begging a border agent to call her aunt after they separated her from her mother? Here’s video of that little girl being reunited with her mother this morning, after a month and two days….”

  125. says

    @CNN: Prosecutors from Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel’s Office and the Justice Department’s National Security Division visited the courtroom of a federal magistrate judge in DC at 11:30 a.m. to return a grand jury indictment, according to an itinerary posted outside courtroom.”

  126. says

    Julia Davis: “From what I’m hearing on Russian state TV, I can surmise that Putin will blame not only Obama, but also Hillary Clinton for the deterioration of U.S.-Russia relations, #Crimea, etc. to create a real bonding experience with Trump. Trump will eat it up. The writing is on the wall.”

  127. says

    Rosenstein talking about their use of a third organization as a pass-through which isn’t named in the indictment (obviously Wikileaks). He’s talking about more hacking, too – including of a state election board and a company that makes software or computers for elections.

    11-count indictment.

  128. says

    Rosenstein just said he briefed Trump on this earlier in the week. Trump said this morning that his ability to have a better relationship with Russia is made difficult by the “rigged witch hunt.”

  129. says


    BREAKING: A bottle discovered by police in the home of Novichok victim Charlie Rowley has been identified as the source of the nerve agent, police said. It is not clear yet where the bottle was found, or if it is the same batch of nerve agent that poisoned the Skripals.”

  130. says

    Holy shit – “On or about August 15, 2016, the Conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, received a request for stolen documents from a candidate for the U.S. Congress. The Conspirators responded using the Guccifer 2.0 persona and sent the candidate stolen documents related to the candidate’s opponent.”

  131. says

    Guesses about who the congressional candidate was include DeSantis, Gaetz, Nunes, and Rohrabacher. DeSantis and Gaetz were among those attacking Strzok in yesterday’s farce of a hearing.

  132. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 229.

    From Steve Benen:

    [The timing] raises the awkward possibility that when the president told reporters he believed his meeting with Putin would be “easier” than the NATO summit and his visit to the United Kingdom, Trump was already aware of the pending criminal charges against 12 Russian intelligence officers accused of attacking an American election. […]

    And that’s in addition to Trump calling the investigation a “witch hunt” again this morning, as SC noted.


    […] On pages 7 and 8, the indictment notes that on July 27, 2016, the alleged attackers targeted “for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third-party provider and used by [Hillary] Clinton’s personal office. At or around the same time, they also targeted 76 email addresses at the domain for the Clinton campaign.” This stands out for one reason: it was on July 27, 2016, that Donald Trump publicly urged Russia to help his candidacy. […]

  133. says

    The Pentagon is in damage-control mode after Trump’s clueless, bullying statements at the NATO summit:

    Hours after President Donald Trump departed NATO headquarters Thursday, U.S. military leaders embarked on a full-scale “damage control” operation with calls to their counterparts across Europe to reassure them that America will abide by its defense commitments in the region.

    The outreach, directed by the Pentagon leadership, came after Trump threatened to reassess those commitments during a gathering with NATO allies in Brussels, according to multiple current and former diplomatic and military officials familiar with the calls.

    The overall message from senior military officials in a series of phone calls to members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has been that U.S. military bases in their countries will remain open and American troop levels in the region will not be reduced. […]


  134. says

    Reactions to Rod Rosenstein’s announcement of the new indictments against Russian hackers.

    From Chuck Schumer:

    These indictments are further proof of what everyone but the president seems to understand: President Putin is an adversary who interfered in our elections to help President Trump win.

    President Trump should cancel his meeting with Vladimir Putin until Russia takes demonstrable and transparent steps to prove that they won’t interfere in future elections. Glad-handing with Vladimir Putin on the heels of these indictments would be an insult to our democracy.

    From Nancy Pelosi:

    [Trump] must demand and secure a real, concrete and comprehensive agreement that the Russians will cease their ongoing attacks on our democracy.

    From former Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta:

    […] I think at the heart of all this is that crimes were committed against individual Americans, including myself, but also that crimes were committed against the American democracy. And I think that Donald Trump likes to describe this as a witch hunt—well we just found some witches, and they were indicted.

    This is something people knew had happened all along, that underlying all of this, crimes were committed and that’s why the Mueller investigation has been so important and why it needs to be continued in an unfettered manner […]

  135. says

    From John Cassidy, writing for The New Yorker:

    […] Senator Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey, [said] “President Trump has told us what he wants to do. He wants to roll back individual rights, he wants to roll back women’s rights, he wants to roll back workers’ rights, he wants to roll back civil rights.”

    […] Even if the ailing John McCain, of Arizona, is unable to vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination, Republicans will still have a two-vote advantage in the Senate, when the tie-breaking vote of Vice-President Mike Pence is taken into account. On Tuesday, Susan Collins, of Maine, one of the few G.O.P. senators whom Democrats had been hopeful of picking off, released a statement that lauded Kavanaugh’s credentials. Another Democratic target, Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, also indicated that she was comfortable with Trump’s choice.

    If all forty-nine Democrats and independents in the Senate vote against Kavanaugh as a bloc, he could still be confirmed. But even if it’s a hopeless gesture, it is vitally important that Democrats, their supporters, and anybody else who harbors a sense of fairness and history register a strong protest in the coming weeks and months.

    […] According to one academic analysis, Kavanaugh would be the second most conservative Justice on the Court—to the right even of Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s previous appointee, and pretty close to Clarence Thomas.

    But there is even more at stake than preventing another rightward lurch on the high court. As Kavanaugh prepares to make his way to the Capitol, and, most probably, to a lifetime appointment in the old courthouse behind it, we are witnessing the dénouement of an outrageous power grab by a radicalized political party, its wealthy backers, and a rogue President. It is essential to remember this wider context.

    By now, the broad outlines of how the John M. Olin Foundation and other right-wing groups spent decades nurturing a conservative legal movement to wrest control of the nation’s courts is well known, or should be. […] Ultimately, however, the conservative takeover hinged on ruthless power politics: the G.O.P. exploiting its unearned advantage in the Electoral College, the U.S. Senate, and the Supreme Court itself […]

    Democrats, Independents, and anybody else who cares about the functioning of American democracy have good reason to be sore. There is no majority of voters out there clamoring for a ban on abortion, restrictions on collective bargaining, roadblocks to legal claims against big companies, or the purging from the electoral rolls of voters who skip a couple of elections. […]

    By slowly fashioning a ruling conservative bloc on the Supreme Court, the Republican Party has carefully exploited the biases and shortcomings of the political system. Ultimately, that is what makes the prospect of Kavanaugh’s ascension so objectionable. It wouldn’t just cement in place a reactionary and unrepresentative majority. It would be the latest act in an anti-democratic (small “d”) heist.

  136. says

    Michael Cohen, some Russians, and the drugmaker Novartis:

    […] Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, maintained a far more extensive relationship with drugmaker Novartis than previously disclosed — including pitching the company on an opportunity that would benefit a Russian-linked investment firm — according to a report issued Friday by Senate Democrats.

    Dozens of emails and other documents obtained by the Democrats showed that Cohen worked with Novartis for six months longer than the company said in May, a period during which he pitched executives on investing in a pharmaceutical company backed by investment firm Columbus Nova. The firm is linked to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, who was sanctioned last month over Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election.

    Novartis, in turn, sought to influence the Trump administration’s effort to lower drug prices, sending a list of policy ideas that Cohen promised then-Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez he would pass along to administration officials, according to emails obtained by the Democrats. Many of the ideas Novartis provided to Cohen ended up in a Trump blueprint to address drug pricing.

    “The sweetheart deals and backdoor promises documented in this report are a snapshot of Cohen’s multi-million dollar side hustle as influence-in-chief,” said Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, one of the lead lawmakers in the investigation.

    The report, which was compiled by Democrats from the Senate Finance and HELP committees, comes after federal investigators working for special counsel Robert Mueller questioned Novartis and other companies about their relationships with Cohen. […]


    In other news, and as a follow-up to SC’s comment 194:

    Trump sounds drugged in the Sun interview clips I’ve heard.

    Trump did sound even more out of it than usual. It was strange to listen to that recording.

    […] His comments, damaging to the Prime Minister, come as he delivers his most brutally honest verdict yet on Britain in which he also:
    – Accused EU leaders of destroying its culture and identity by allowing in millions of migrants
    – Tore into London Mayor Sadiq Khan for not standing up to terrorists
    – Blamed Khan for spiralling crime in the capital
    – Insisted former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson would make “a great Prime Minister”
    – Denied once branding Theresa May a “bossy schoolteacher”
    – Maintained he would keep ties with Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin despite the Salisbury Novichok poisonings
    – Demanded Britain and other Nato countries spend more on defence
    – Spoke of his sadness at feeling unwelcome in the capital by anti-Trump protesters
    – Claimed millions of Brits backed his policies
    – Told of his pride at taking wife Melania to meet the Queen […]

  137. says

    An excerpt from Trump’s interview with the Sun, with him speaking about immigration:

    I think it’s been very bad for Europe. I think Europe is a place I know very well and I think what has happened is very tough. It’s a very tough situation. You see the same terror attacks that I do. We see them a lot. We just left some incredible young men and women at Sandhurst and they were showing us cells and they were showing us things that, frankly, 20 years ago nobody even thought about, probably, a lot more recently than that. I just think it’s changing the culture. I think it’s a negative thing for Europe. I think it’s very negative.

    I think having Germany — and I have a great relationship with Angela Merkel, great relationship with Germany — but I think that’s very much hurt Germany. I think it’s very much hurt other parts of Europe. I know it’s politically not necessarily correct to say that but I’ll say it and I’ll say it loud. And I think they better watch themselves because you are changing culture, you are changing a lot of things, you’re changing security. Look at what’s happening. I mean you take a look. Look at what’s happening to different countries that never had difficulty, never had problems: It’s a very sad situation, it’s very unfortunate but I do not think it’s good for Europe and I don’t think it’s good for our country.

    We’re, as you know, far superior to anything that’s happened before, but we have very bad immigration laws and we’re — I mean, we’re doing incredibly well considering the fact that we virtually don’t have immigration laws, we have laws that are so bad I don’t even call them laws, I call them — it’s just like you walk across the border, you walk across the border, you put one foot on the land and now you’re tied up in a lawsuit for five years. It’s the craziest thing anyone has seen. So I would make that recommendation to Europe. I’ve made it very loud and clear, I made it yesterday, 29 countries total and that’s the way I feel.

    What Prime Minister Theresa May said:

    The UK has a proud history of welcoming people who are fleeing persecution to our country. We have a proud history of welcoming people who want to come to our country to contribute to our economy and contribute to our society and over the years overall immigration has been good for the UK. It’s brought people with different backgrounds, different outlooks here to the UK and has — and we’ve seen them contributing to our society and economy. What is important is that we have control of our borders. What is important is that we have a set of rules that enables us to determine who comes into our country and that is what as a government we have been doing and will continue to do in the future.

    Trump is afraid, very afraid of immigrants. He seems to be especially afraid of little brown children.

  138. says

    Schiff asks DOJ IG to look into whether Erik Prince got leaked internal info about Clinton email probe and discovery of Weiner laptop. He cites excerpts of Prince transcript (below)- and also cites comments by Nunes and Giuliani to suggest they too may have had inside info”

  139. says

    From Josh Marshall:

    […] one of Guccifer’s go to publications continued to be The New York Observer, Kushner’s newspaper. I remember quite clearly that in early September 2016 I saw an article in The Observer that trumpeted new “exclusive” documents from Guccifer 2.0. The author, Michael Sainato, reached out to Gufficer 2.0 directly asking what he could give him. By this point the fact that all these hacked DNC and Clinton documents were coming out of a Russian intelligence operation was widely understood. There were definitely still skeptics. But it was widely known, especially the identity of Guccifer 2.0.

    Setting aside whether it was appropriate for Trump’s son-in-law’s publication to be publishing this stuff, I was stunned that they’d do it purely for optics reasons. I wrote about it in this September 6th 2016 post.

    I reached to a person closely associated with The Observer just after seeing the article and basically said, “WTF? How can this be happening?”

    The reply I got was that it was the work of a freelancer who wrote the piece and basically the paper wasn’t really involved. (That is, to be clear, not how freelancing works.) The freelancer was Michael Sainato who wrote numerous Guccifer 2.0 pieces for The Observer and appears to have continued writing regularly for them up until November of last year.

    […] The Clinton campaign went ballistic about it. But basically no one cared or paid much attention. […]

    The Observer wasn’t the only outlet either. Here’s a Glenn Greenwald article from October 9th based on documents received directly from Guccifer 2.0. […]

    SC, Glenn Greenwald again! (In reference to comment 46.)

    The point is that this was known months before the articles I’m referencing were written. It was an open secret. Lots of people worked with “him.” [with Guccifer 2.0.] And Kushner’s paper was near the top of the list.


  140. says

    As Trump Visits His Scottish Golf Course, a Mystery Remains

    His 2006 acquisition of a property near Aberdeen kicked off a string of curious all-cash purchases. The longish article is worth reading.

    It looks to me like the Russians may have given Trump the money, in cash, to buy golf courses in Scotland. Trump does not seem to paying the Russian “investors,” (as Eric Trump called them in 2013), back.

    As Bloomberg reported, he has poured $200 million into the ventures and has yet to see a dime of profit.

  141. says

    SC, Glenn Greenwald again! (In reference to comment 46.)

    Ha – I just read this tweet from him: “In most cases, it’s so basic that unproven allegations by a prosecutor in an indictment shouldn’t be accepted as true one need not even point it out. In this case, pointing it out will be seen as blasphemy. Everyone should want to see the evidence on which the claims are based:”

    He’s so egotistical and unwilling to admit error that he’ll keep denying reality. Putz.

  142. says

    Another one of Trump’s boasts proves to be twisted, wrong, and scarily narcissistic :

    […] Referring to himself in third person, the president wrote on Twitter, “New Poll says Trump, at over 90%, is the most popular Republican in history of the Party. Wow!”

    In his interview with The Sun, the British tabloid, Trump repeated the claim, and this time, added Abraham Lincoln to the mix:

    “You know, a poll just came out that I am the most popular person in the history of the Republican Party – 92 per cent. Beating Lincoln. I beat our Honest Abe.”

    Right off the bat, the obvious problem is that Lincoln was president before telephones were invented and there were no polls in the 1860s. […] Lincoln, unlike Trump, managed to receive more votes than his principal opponent. […]

    But even if we put these pesky details aside, Trump is still wrong.

    Historian Kevin Kruse noted last night that in the months following 9/11, George W. Bush’s support among Republican was consistently well above 92%, even reaching 99% in January 2002.

    All of which is to say, Trump’s latest boast is wrong in every possible way. If recent history is any guide, he will nevertheless incorporate the bogus claim into his future campaign rallies, media appearances, and tweets, expecting everyone to simply play along.


    Another whopper that Trump told The Sun: he said that since he took office he has “doubled and tripled the GDP” of the USA. It takes about twenty years for the GDP of the USA to double.

  143. says

    I’m not alone. Dave Weigel: “I keep thinking of the family of Seth Rich, who have spent two years watching kooks and useful idiots accuse their murdered son of leaking these emails. Imagine how that feels.”

  144. says

    “House conservatives prep push to impeach Rosenstein”:

    House conservatives are preparing a new push to oust Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, according to three conservative Capitol Hill sources — putting the finishing touches on an impeachment filing even as Rosenstein announced the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers for interfering in the 2016 election.

    House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, in fact, had the impeachment document on the floor of the House at the very moment that Rosenstein spoke to reporters and TV cameras Friday.

    Conservative GOP lawmakers have been plotting to remove Rosenstein for weeks, accusing him of slow-walking their probe of FBI agents they’ve accused of bias against President Donald Trump.

    Democrats contend Republicans’ fixation on Rosenstein is really an effort to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller, who reports to Rosenstein and has been making inroads in his investigation of the Russian election interference plot. Mueller’s probe has entangled members of Trump’s inner circle and Trump has increasingly assailed it as a politically motivated “witch hunt” as it’s presented greater danger to him and his allies.

    Conservative sources say they could file the impeachment document as soon as Monday, as Meadows and Freedom Caucus founder Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) look to build Republican support in the House. One source cautioned, however, that the timing was still fluid….

  145. says

    RNC statement on today’s indictment.

    It’s amazing to me that as this continues to build and more evidence comes to light, they keep hanging onto this claim that there’s nothing about collusion or obstruction.

    Of obstruction, there’s already extensive public evidence. Mueller is also still investigating: Roger Stone; Carter Page (FISA warrant granted and renewed three times); Vekselberg and other oligarchs; the Seychelles meeting; the NRA and NRA associates; Michael Cohen; Erik Prince; Joel Zamel; the Religious Right (?); the congressional candidate described in today’s indictment; Kushner’s various meetings; Trump’s business history; the involvement of MBZ and MBS (and probably Netanyahu); Cambridge Analytica; Nigel Farage (and surely the other Brexiteers whose Russian links are increasingly coming to light); Assange/WikiLeaks. And those are just the ones I can rattle off the top of my head. There are multiple cooperators that we already know about (Flynn, Papadopoulos, Gates, Nader), and likely many others we don’t. It’s insane to think this won’t lead to future indictments, especially of US people.

  146. says

    Oliver Darcy:

    In light of the Mueller indictments, I called @newtgingrich to see if he would like to apologize to the Seth Rich family for peddling the conspiracy theory that Rich was killed for supposedly leaking the DNC docs to Wikileaks.

    “No. Goodbye!” Gingrich told me before hanging up.

    I also reached out to Fox News PR earlier today to see, in light of the Mueller indictments, whether @seanhannity is still conducting his investigation into Seth Rich. No reply.

  147. says

    Good thread by Thomas Rid: “Today’s Netyksho et al indictment of a dozen GRU officers for interference in the US election is historically unprecedented in scope, detail, & likely impact—and I say this as I am finalizing a history of disinformation, ACTIVE MEASURES (out next year @fsgbooks). A few thoughts—…”

    The level of detail is ridiculous.

  148. says

    “Will Trump Side With Mueller or Putin on Russian Hackers?”:

    …In his presser on Friday announcing Mueller’s new charges, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein mentioned he had briefed Trump days earlier about what was coming. Rosenstein declined to elaborate when asked about the tenor of his conversation with a president who has repeatedly mocked and flirted with firing him.

    Five people, in and out of the administration, who regularly speak to Trump told the Daily Beast that they had not heard him raise any alarm or outrage over the Russian president or Russian hackers in recent days. Two of those people noted that Trump has, however, talked repeatedly about his upcoming meeting with Putin and complained about both Rosenstein — who he sees as a covert liberal trying to undermine his presidency — and journalists badgering him on “Russia, Russia, Russia.”…

  149. says

    “Trump’s ambassador lobbied Britain on behalf of jailed right-wing activist Tommy Robinson”:

    Sam Brownback, the U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, complained to the British ambassador in Washington D.C. about the treatment of an English right-wing activist who is in jail for disrupting a trial, according to three sources familiar with the discussion.

    Brownback raised the case of the activist known as Tommy Robinson in a June meeting with Sir Kim Darroch, Britain’s Ambassador to the United States, according to a British official and two sources close to the organizers of a pro-Robinson demonstration planned for London on Saturday.

    Robinson was arrested in late May outside a courthouse in Leeds, England, while making video recordings about a trial related to child molestation and jailed for 13 months for violating English law limiting publicity during criminal trials.

    Brownback raised the jailing of Robinson during a meeting with Darroch that covered a range of “religious freedom issues”, the British official confirmed earlier this week.

    Brownback told Darroch that if Britain did not treat Robinson more sympathetically, the Trump administration might be compelled to criticize Britain’s handling of the case, according to the two sources in contact with organizers of the planned pro-Robinson demonstration.

    Reuters was unable to determine why the top U.S. official responsible for defending religious freedom would try to intervene with the British government on behalf of an activist who has expressed ant[i]-Islamic views.

    Last week, the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia group, said it was sponsoring and organizing a “Free Tommy Robinson” demonstration in London near the British Parliament on Saturday in collaboration with British and European groups.

    The event was expected to merge with a demonstration in support of U.S. President Donald Trump, who appointed Brownback, according to the British newspaper The Independent.

    British police said they were imposing restrictions on the event to “prevent serious disruptions” after protesters at a previous event made Nazi salutes and threw bottles at officers.

    A spokesman for Hope Not Hate, a British anti-racism group, said, “In the week President Trump comes to the UK, his hand-picked diplomat allying himself with a far-right convicted fraudster perhaps shouldn’t be too much of a shock.”

  150. says

    Good explainer from Lawfare: “Russia Indictment 2.0: What to Make of Mueller’s Hacking Indictment.”

    “In other words, stay tuned. This indictment represents a tightening of the ring in the story of criminal prosecution for the 2016 election hacking. The government has now alleged that the social media manipulations by Russian actors constituted a criminal conspiracy. It has alleged as well that the hacking of Democratic Party and Clinton campaign emails were crimes conducted by officers of the Russian state. The question remains: Who, if anyone, helped?”

  151. says

    I’m listening to “Lovett or Leave It” from the other night, and he just played Strzok’s speech (see #s 129 and 134 above). Said he wanted to play the clip in full because a Crooked Media staffer said to him “All I learned from this hearing was why Lisa Page wanted to sleep with Peter Strzok.” I’m still giggling.

  152. says

    Another “oh no” moment from Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s record:

    […] Kavanaugh believes that the “wall of separation” metaphor, invoked by Thomas Jefferson and long used to explain the protections guaranteed to us in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, “was wrong as a matter of law and history.”

    Just what we don’t need, a Supreme Court justice who does not respect the separation of church and state. Yikes.

    […] The separation of church and state is the linchpin of religious freedom. We can’t afford to have a Supreme Court that would undermine it. […]

    […] according to The Washington Post, conservatives were looking for a nominee “willing to shield religious objectors from progressive policies or soften the boundaries between church and state.” They want a justice who will allow religion to be used to undermine antidiscrimination laws that protect LGBTQ people and to obstruct women’s access to health care, including birth control. […]

    Kavanaugh would likely grant religious exemptions to businesses and nonprofit organizations even where the exemption could cause real harm to other people. In his dissenting opinion in Priests for Life v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Kavanaugh argued that employers can cite religious beliefs to obstruct their employees’ access to contraception. […]

    Kavanaugh is critical of five decades of Supreme Court rulings that prohibit public schools from sponsoring prayer. As an attorney, Kavanaugh wrote a friend-of-the-court brief in Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, defending a public school that broadcast student-delivered prayers at its football games. Kavanaugh implied that practices “deeply rooted in our history and tradition” should be permitted even if they “favor or promote religion over non-religion.” The Supreme Court disagreed with Kavanaugh. […]

    […] in a 2017 speech, Kavanaugh argued against long-standing precedent prohibiting the use of public funds for religious activities. If the Supreme Court were to adopt Kavanaugh’s views on public funding of religion, that would upend the bedrock constitutional principle that we each get to decide for ourselves whether and how our money goes to support religion. […]


  153. says

    Follow-up to comments 212 and 266.

    […] That’s right. Trump is so proud of how he snubbed CNN, that he watched CNN to see how CNN would cover his snubbing CNN, and now he’s complaining that CNN isn’t giving enough attention to his CNN snub. So … he may have to watch CNN to see how they cover this snub! And ooh, their ratings are so bad.

    Take that, CNN. And remember, bullying is just not satisfying unless someone cries. Donald is waiting.


    Trump’s tweet:

    So funny! I just checked out Fake News CNN, for the first time in a long time (they are dying in the ratings), to see if they covered my takedown yesterday of Jim Acosta (actually a nice guy). They didn’t! But they did say I already lost in my meeting with Putin. Fake News……

  154. tomh says

  155. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 274.

    Here is that thread reformatted as an article:


    The indictments of the 12 Russian military officers who engaged in a coordinated attack on the United States to try to make their preferred candidate our president are a vital reminder that the Mueller investigation cannot and must not be seen as a political issue.

    The fact that Friday we also heard from our Director of National Intelligence, a conservative GOP former senator from Indiana, that the cyber offensive of which the GRU, Russian military intelligence, attacks were part is ongoing and that “we are at a critical point” in which “the warning signs are there” is also salient.

    It is not an accident that both these strong statements were made as the U.S. president prepared for his ill-considered and unnecessary private meeting with Vladimir Putin — the man who certainly approved, oversaw and continues to oversee these attacks.

    It is clear that the intelligence and law enforcement communities of the United States — adhering to the principles of patriotism enumerated by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein yesterday — felt that a message needed to be sent to the Russians that we were on to them.

    Typically, such a message would be delivered by the president in such a meeting but this president has proven to be the staunchest defender of Putin and the most active advocate of covering up or denying these attacks. He did it again this week even while knowing of the indictments. […]

    This is an extraordinary moment. It is without equal not only in American history but in modern history. A hostile foreign power intervened in our election to help elect a man president who has since actively served their interests and has defended them at every turn.

    Trump may deny collusion. But given that this the attack continues, denying it is collusion, distracting from it is collusion, obstructing the investigation of it is collusion — because all these things enable it to go on.

    That the president is abetted in his aid for the Russians — again, in the midst of this ongoing attack — by the leadership of the Republican Party makes the situation all the more extraordinary and dangerous. As they seek to undermine the investigation, they serve Russia as directly […]

    That is strong language. But consider this: If we updated our definitions of war to include cyberwar, then aiding a foreign power engaged in such a war against us would certainly meet the Constitutional definition: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”

    When only semantics protect our president and our ruling party from the harsh sentences treason demands, we need to recognize the severity of the situation. But more importantly, we need to recognize one of the most important implications of yesterday: that while we who watch or chat on cable news have lost the plot here, while GOP makes it about personal attacks on FBI officers, while the President makes it about him, while many of us make it about partisan politics, Robert Mueller and Rod Rosenstein have kept their eye on the ball. […]

  156. says

    Follow-up to comments 212, 226 and 272.

    Oh, FFS.

    White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Saturday that the White House decided to cancel an interview between CNN and national security adviser John Bolton after a CNN reporter “disrespected” President Trump earlier this week.

    No disrespect was shown. Trump is a thin-skinned baby, with a few adult-sized delusions for good measure.

    CNN’s “State of the Union” host Jake Tapper on Saturday tweeted that the White House intervened and canceled a scheduled interview with Bolton who “remains fully prepared to do the interview” on Sunday.

    “Actually a @CNN reporter disrespected @POTUS & PM May during their press conference,” Sanders tweeted in response. “Instead of rewarding bad behavior, we decided to reprioritize the TV appearances for administration officials.” […]

    Sanders was referring to Trump’s refusal to take questions from the network on Friday during an international press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

    Trump lashed out at the network after CNN reporter Jim Acosta tried to ask him a question.

    “CNN is fake news. I don’t take questions from CNN,” Trump responded.

    “Let’s go to a real network,” he added, giving a question to Fox News’s John Roberts.

    “Well we’re a real network too, sir,” Acosta responded. […]


    Sarah Huckabee Sanders takes entirely too much pleasure in punishing journalists.

  157. says

    Follow-up to comment 275. The quoted text in comment 275 paints a pretty good picture of how bad the cyberwar, (in which Russia is the attacker), is going so far for the USA. Team Trump does not seem to have a full grasp of the situation.

    Team Trump is also taking a new tact: they claim that ongoing Russian interference is no big deal, and that interference levels in the midterms will be low to non-existent. Do not believe Kirtsjen Nielsen, the toadying and/or delusional mouthpiece for Trump.

    Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirtsjen Nielsen said Saturday that her agency has not seen levels of Russian interference targeting U.S. midterm elections close to the levels reported during the 2016 presidential election.

    Time reported that Nielsen made the remarks at a convention of state secretaries of state in Philadelphia, which usually focuses on voter registration and election security issues.

    Oh, that’s just great. Mislead the state secretaries of state so that they will be complacent. That makes them easier marks for the Russians. And it is also a good excuse for the federal government to refuse to put much emphasis on election security, not to mention an excuse not to spend any federal dollars on election security.

    Nielsen’s statements can’t be trusted, but even if she is right in terms of a reduced level of meddling by the Russians, that doesn’t mean we should relax. My bet is that the Russians will meddle more as the midterm elections draw near; and, more importantly, that the Russians will use some experimental meddling in the midterms to gear up for meddling to a huge extent in the 2020 presidential election.

    Nielsen added that some level of Russian interference is still present and urged state officials to remain vigilant as some officials have noticed “persistent Russian efforts using social media, sympathetic spokespeople and other fronts to sow discord and divisiveness amongst the American people, though not necessarily focused on specific politicians or political campaigns,” according to Time.

    That’s okay then… it’s just social media etc. And, she wants you to believe, it is not actual Russians actually hacking into your voter registration databases and systems. It’s not actual Russians trying to swing the election again. Right. Couldn’t be that. Sheesh. More balderdash.

    Nielsen’s remarks Saturday followed similar comments from Christopher Krebs, the agency’s top cybersecurity official, who said this week that his office has not noticed “anything that rises to the level of 2016–directed, focused, robust campaign.” […]


    The Department of Homeland Security has offered “remote cyber hygiene scans” to state officials. Most state officials do not seem to feel any urgency, and the feds are not insisting on measures that would really get rid of any vulnerabilities.

  158. says

    Josh Marshall – “Israel Pushed Heavily for Trump to Meet with Putin”

    …Europeans fear, apparently correctly, that the idea is to trade Russian assistance with Iran for regularizing Russia’s gains in Ukraine and ending sanctions.

    Whether such deals are possible, for the ‘why is this summit happening’ question, there’s one clear answer: the de facto alliance of Israel, UAE and Saudi Arabia have been pushing for it heavily….

  159. says

    John Weaver:

    This needs to be said: Russian interference & the probable conspiracy DID IMPACT the 2016 election. Anyone who says otherwise is ignorant or lying. Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million. Barely won key states to win the EC.

    Russian attack & sophisticated actions tied Clinton campaign into knots as right wing & many in mainstream media breathlessly used these emails stolen by Russia (& actually very little news in these emails). Gave Trump talking points & threw him lifeline on more than 1 occasion.

    There is anecdotal evidence some voters inclined to support HRC either didn’t vote, were pushed to Stein (yet to be investigated) or in some cases threw up their hands & voted Trump. How many? We’ll never know, but the election deserves an asterisk for sure.

    I believe Russia’s activity had much Western sophistication & precise targeting, which leads one to believe a bigger conspiracy. We’ll see. But Putin did have his thumb on the scale & Trump knows it. So does everyone else.

  160. says

    “HHS Plans to Delete 20 Years of Critical Medical Guidelines Next Week”:

    The Trump Administration is planning to eliminate a vast trove of medical guidelines that for nearly 20 years has been a critical resource for doctors, researchers and others in the medical community.

    Maintained by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality [AHRQ], part of the Department of Health and Human Services, the database is known as the National Guideline Clearinghouse [NGC], and it’s scheduled to “go dark,” in the words of an official there, on July 16.

    Medical guidelines like those compiled by AHRQ aren’t something laypeople spend much time thinking about, but experts like Valerie King, a professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Director of Research at the Center for Evidence-based Policy at Oregon Health & Science University, said the NGC is perhaps the most important repository of evidence-based research available.

    “Guideline.gov was our go-to source, and there is nothing else like it in the world,” King said, referring to the URL at which the database is hosted, which the agency says receives about 200,000 visitors per month. “It is a singular resource,” King added.

    AHRQ said it’s looking for a partner that can carry on the work of NGC, but that effort hasn’t panned out yet.

    Not even an archived version of the site will remain, according to an official at AHRQ….

    Nix has been helping coordinate an effort to get some outside stakeholder to take over the site’s operations. She said she’s still hopeful, and even days before the site’s scheduled demise, AHRQ spokesperson Hunt told the Daily Beast that the search continued….

  161. says

    “Fearing Ugly Surprises, Trump Aides Want Syria Off the Agenda at Putin Summit”:

    Aides to President Trump are trying to keep the conflict in Syria off the agenda when Trump meets with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, a senior administration official told The Daily Beast.

    That’s an increasingly unlikely proposition. In London on Friday, Trump told reporters that he plans to bring up Syria with Putin when they meet one-on-one on Monday – supposedly without aides, unmediated.

    What frightens some U.S. officials, Syrian activists, and many Middle East analysts is that Trump, who muses that “hopefully, someday, maybe [Putin will] be a friend,” will finally accede to Russia’s insistence on the U.S. leaving Syria — something Trump recently expressed an eagerness to do.

    That would leave Russia’s client, the blood-soaked Bashar Assad, without any remaining obstacle to a final victory in perhaps the most pitiless conflict thus far seen in the young 21st century.

    According to the senior administration official, who was not cleared to discuss internal deliberations with a reporter, no actual deal is on the table, nor is the U.S. foreign policy apparatus preparing one. But that doesn’t mean Trump, who considers himself the only relevant person in the U.S. foreign policy apparatus, won’t go along with Putin’s wishes.

    Keeping Trump from acquiescing to a Putin-engineered Assad victory means the U.S. won’t be leaving its Kurdish allies to their fate, whatever that ends up being, and it nominally keeps pressure on ISIS — although no one within the administration or the military has defined a point at which the U.S. war against ISIS can be said to end.

    “I think the president really wants to give Syria away,” said Daniel Serwer, an MEI scholar and director of conflict management at Johns Hopkins-SAIS. “He’s already cut off the insurgents in the south, he’s said he wants to leave the east, I don’t think he’s at all inclined to stay in Syria.”

    Serwer predicted that would end international efforts to reach a peace agreement.

    “There’ll be no U.N. political settlement if the U.S. pulls out. This will be an Assad victory with Russia and Iran enjoying whatever fruits there are,” Serwer told The Daily Beast.

    That said, Russia and Iran could find themselves managing a “quagmire,” he said….

  162. says

    “This Is Why Oversight Matters (And It Won’t Be Good for Novartis)”:

    It got overwhelmed by news of the new Special Counsel indictments on Friday. But a group of Senate Democrats released a report late on Thursday (or early Friday) which shows why Congressional oversight is so important and what might be in store for next year. Most coverage of the report focused on the fact that Novartis gave Trump fixer Michael Cohen policy recommendations that ended up included in official administration policy. But that’s not the most important finding.

    After the news broke, Novartis put out a statement the gist of which was that they signed up Cohen, eager to find access to the Trump administration. But on their first meeting with Cohen in March 2017 they realized he knew nothing about health care policy or Novartis and wasn’t going to be able to help them. So they cut off contact.

    It turns out this was totally false.

    …As the evidence in the report shows clearly, Cohen and the CEO had extensive communications lasting at least until September 2017, covering the kinds of questions and favors the contract would lead you to expect. Notably, Jimenez eagerly agreed to go to bat when Cohen asked for assistance getting Novartis to invest in a speculative drug start-up that appears to have been controlled by another of his clients, Columbus Nova, the US-based investment vehicle for Viktor Vekselberg, the influential Russian oligarch. (There was also discussion of how to fight lawsuits against the manufacturers of opioids.)

    I have little doubt there are numerous examples of this. Indeed, the entirety of the Trump administration is built on them. Not just corruption or sleazy behavior but numerous cases in which we only know the barest outline of what is happening because no one is demanding answers…. The Congress has almost entirely abdicated that authority and responsibility under President Trump. But that could change in 2019.

  163. blf says

    Judging by the noise outside, the French team have just won whatever it is their playing. Gads. This will be a fecking noisy night, albeit locally, due to the esplanade being closed to traffic, there won’t be nearby honking horns to add to all the shouting, scream, horns, firecrackers (lots are going off at the moment), and quite possibly, fireworks. Even the dogs are yipping !

  164. says

    Idrees Ahmad:

    This is insane. Ebay founder [Pierre Omidyar] has been paying Glenn Greenwald up to $518,000 per annum to blog about a mythical “deep state” that has been colluding with Hillary Clinton to undermine America’s “elected president” Trump for resisting WW3 and “regime change” in Syria.

    Hey @democracynow: how about you ask Greenwald about his Brazilian mansion, his insane salary, and the gender pay gap at @theintercept next time you host him for his rambling conspiracy-theorising?

    Note that according to First Look’s IRS filings, it appears Greenwald is receiving 3 times the salary his Intercept co-founder Laura Poitras is. Which is outrageous, considering that Greenwald’s career was made by the Snowden story, which was Poitras’s scoop, not Greenwald’s.

  165. blf says

    Bastille Day yesterday, World Cup victory today — what a weekend!

    Yeah. I’m giving out and (trying to) have some beers — perhaps not too wise as I had some vin with a late lunch, albeit it does sound like there’s a good sound system nearby. Whether or I not survive may not be apparent until next day / month / year / decade…

  166. says

    From text quoted by SC in comment 282: “I think the president really wants to give Syria away,” […]

    Yes, that’s what I said earlier when the idea of a one-on-one meeting with Putin was arranged. I really think that Trump is going to give Syria to Russia.

  167. says

    Carole Cadwalladr – “Elizabeth Denham: ‘Data crimes are real crimes’”:

    …There is an overlap between what the special counsel is doing in the US and what Denham is doing in the UK, and what became clear last week is that there is a zone of convergence between the two. As Mueller continues to disentangle the web of relationships at the heart of the Trump campaign and laid out a detailed picture last week of the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton by Russian intelligence officers – including crucially, the theft of the campaign’s data analytics – Denham has been quietly carrying out a narrower but in some ways just as forensic investigation in almost as much secrecy.

    There is even, the Observer has learned, an ongoing channel of communication between them. A source familiar with the FBI investigation revealed that the commissioner and her deputy spent last week with law enforcement agencies in the US including the FBI. And Denham’s deputy, James Dipple-Johnstone,* confirmed to the Observer that “some of the systems linked to the investigation were accessed from IP addresses that resolve to Russia and other areas of the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States]”.

    It was a recent discovery, he said, but an explosive one, potential evidence of a direct link between the company at the heart of the Trump campaign – and files holding information of 220 million US voters – and the Russian government’s disinformation campaign.

    From Mueller’s most recent indictments, it is clear that the data trail must be coming soon: the chain of evidence that is required to understand how the Russian government’s influence operation targeted American voters. And here is the clue and where it is believed Denham comes in – what data it was based on.

    This being Britain, however, there is no special counsel, no crack FBI agents. Instead, the whole thing is being conducted by civil servants from an office block in Wilmslow, Cheshire. But Denham – who arrived from Canada two years ago, taking a pay cut to do so – is the person who’s leading a charge to transform what was a somewhat dusty regulator dealing in a niche topic into something of an armed militia at the frontline of an assault on our rights, including our democratic ones. Data is power and it is power concentrated in huge companies and her view is that “regulators need to have individuals’ backs. We have to protect people because how else can individuals act against some of these large, large companies?” It’s why, she says, “this investigation is so important on so many levels. We still rely on journalists, on civil society, on whistleblowers bringing evidence forward, but as a regulator we need to act on it.”…

    More at the link.

    * :)

  168. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 263, which focuses on Sam Brownback.

    Steve Bannon has been touring Europe and Britain … keeping things classy as ever. Bannon’s main goal seems to be to spread white nationalism and Trump’s brand of populism.

    Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon on Sunday called the founder and former leader of a violent far-right British group “the backbone of this country,” after a heated radio interview.

    Bannon was talking about Tommy Robinson – whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – the founder of the English Defense League, an anti-Islam group known for street violence.

    Robinson was jailed in May after allegedly breaching the peace, and subsequently pleaded guilty to contempt of court, […]

    Since then, Robinson’s become something of a cause célèbre for the American far-right, including President Donald Trump’s son. Reuters reported Friday that former Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, now serving as the U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, complained about Robinson to Britain’s ambassador to the United Sates in a recent meeting.

    Brownback, in Reuters’ words, “told [British Ambassador to the United States Sir Kim] Darroch that if Britain did not treat Robinson more sympathetically, the Trump administration might be compelled to criticize Britain’s handling of the case.”

    According to Theo Usherwood, the political editor of Leading Britain’s Conversation, Bannon told him after the end of an interview: “Fuck you. Don’t you fucking say you’re calling me out. You fucking liberal elite. Tommy Robinson is the backbone of this country.” […]


  169. says

    Sigh. During the presidential debates Hillary Clinton was so right, so perfectly right:

    DONALD TRUMP: Now we can talk about Putin. I don’t know Putin. He said nice things about me. If we got along well, that would be good. If Russia and the United States got along well and went after ISIS, that would be good.

    He has no respect for her. He has no respect for our president. And I’ll tell you what: We’re in very serious trouble, because we have a country with tremendous numbers of nuclear warheads — 1,800, by the way — where they expanded and we didn’t, 1,800 nuclear warheads. And she’s playing chicken. Look, Putin…

    CHRIS WALLACE: Wait, but…

    TRUMP: … from everything I see, has no respect for this person.

    HILLARY CLINTON: Well, that’s because he’d rather have a puppet as president of the United States.

    TRUMP: No puppet! No puppet!

    CLINTON: And it’s pretty clear …

    TRUMP: You’re the puppet!

    CLINTON: It’s pretty clear you won’t admit …

    TRUMP: No, you’re the puppet.

    CLINTON: … that the Russians have engaged in cyberattacks against the United States of America, that you encouraged espionage against our people, that you are willing to spout the Putin line, sign up for his wish list, break up NATO, do whatever he wants to do, and that you continue to get help from him, because he has a very clear favorite in this race.

    So I think that this is such an unprecedented situation. We’ve never had a foreign government trying to interfere in our election. We have 17 — 17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military, who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyberattacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin and they are designed to influence our election. I find that deeply disturbing.

    WALLACE: Secretary Clinton…

    CLINTON: And I think it’s time you take a stand …

    TRUMP: She has no idea whether it’s Russia, China, or anybody else.

    CLINTON: I am not quoting myself.

    TRUMP: She has no idea.

    CLINTON: I am quoting 17 …

    TRUMP: Hillary, you have no idea.

    CLINTON: … 17 intelligence — do you doubt 17 military and civilian …

    TRUMP: And our country has no idea.

    CLINTON: … agencies.

    TRUMP: Yeah, I doubt it. I doubt it.

    CLINTON: Well, he’d rather believe Vladimir Putin than the military and civilian intelligence professionals who are sworn to protect us. I find that just absolutely … […]

  170. says

    Follow-up to comments 275 and 277.

    An EXCLUSIVE from Think Progress: Former Fox News reporter warns that Trump team is ‘still colluding’ with the Russians. Carl Cameron: Trump “is enabling the biggest cyberattack in U.S. history.”

    Former Fox News Channel chief political correspondent Carl Cameron has a warning for America: “The Trump team were colluding with the Russians in 2016 – and they are still colluding.” […]

    This is exactly what Cameron had explained to ThinkProgress’s Joe Romm in a series of exclusive interviews months ago […]

    “Roger Stone’s success,” as Cameron had put it to ThinkProgress, “was having the connections and creating the opportunities for [Russian intelligence officer] Guccifer2.0 and other Russian groups to really start taking advantage of social media and pounding these negative memes that Hillary’s a crook, etc.”

    Cameron not only covered the Trump campaign for Fox News, he has followed Trump and Stone for years. After working in New Hampshire radio and TV starting in 1985, Cameron was one of Fox News’ original hires. He has covered every presidential campaign for them starting in 1996.

    In the weeks since the June 5 post, Cameron has told ThinkProgress that the cyberattack isn’t over, warning “the exact same type of Russian cyberattacks on the United States are ongoing.”

    Indeed, McClatchy reported last month that “a new Russian influence operation has surfaced that mirrors” the 2016 cyberattack effort to help elect Trump. Just last week, HuffingtonPost reported that “Russian bots appear to be fueling a wave of criticism targeting Democrats” using the hashtag #WalkAway.

    We are still at war with the Russians. Or rather, the Russians are asymmetrically at war with us while the President and his allies dismiss the findings of his own Justice Department and intelligence agencies. […]

    Cameron’s bottom line: “We need a Cabinet-level effort to coordinate an aggressive response to these attacks—not a White House who dismisses and ignores this grave threat to the very heart of our democracy.”

  171. says

    Trump: “Congratulations to France, who played extraordinary soccer, on winning the 2018 World Cup. Additionally, congratulations to President Putin and Russia for putting on a truly great World Cup Tournament — one of the best ever!”

  172. says

    Trump’s latest stupid move was to call the European Union a “foe.” Yeah, that’s right, Trump said that publicly. Link

    […] “Who is your biggest competitor?” CBS’ Jeff Glor asked Trump at his Scotland golf resort. “Your biggest foe globally right now?”

    When asked a question like that, the average world leader would start at the top, with the most important foe given top priority. Trump’s answer shocked the world.

    “Well, I think we have a lot of foes. I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade,” he said. “Now, you wouldn’t think of the European Union, but they’re a foe. Russia is foe in certain respects. China is a foe economically, certainly they are a foe. But that doesn’t mean they are bad. It doesn’t mean anything. It means that they are competitive.” […]

    To Trump, EU’s tariffs (some of which target areas of political importance to Republicans) are a more potent threat than Russia annexing a territory of its neighbor, waging a war with the rest of Ukraine, actively meddling in American democratic processes, jailing journalists, being implicated in the assassinations of critics on foreign soil, and human right violations.

    As the president began to steer the conversation back to what he considers his administration’s successes, Glor responded, “a lot of people might be surprised to hear you list the EU as a foe before Russia and China.” The president replied: “Look, EU is very difficult,” but then insisted that he loves the countries of the European Union because his parents “were born in EU sectors.”

    “I respect the leaders of those countries,” he continued. “But, in a trade sense, they’ve really taken advantage of us and many of those countries are in NATO and they weren’t paying their bills.” Trump then attacked Germany for its pipeline deal with Russia. […]

    From EU President Donald Tusk:

    America and the EU are best friends. Whoever says we are foes is spreading fake news.

  173. says

    Have you been wondering what Trump’s advice to UK prime minister Theresa May was? I thought maybe Trump hadn’t really given her any advice and that he was making an empty boast. But no, apparently he advised May to “sue them” as a way to deal with Brexit. From a description of Trump’s mansplaining:

    […] First came his explosive interview with The Sun, in which he revealed that he’s been helpfully offering May all his business-savvy tips on how she should negotiate with the European Union on the UK’s departure from that international trading body. Naturally, the woman “didn’t listen to me,” and “she wrecked it,” Trump told The Sun. The interview, in which Trump criticized May’s handling of the delicate Brexit negotiations, prompted a diplomatic crisis which Trump later tried to defuse by dubbing his own interview “fake news.” (The paper posted the interview audio, rebuking Trump’s claims.)

    Later, at a joint press conference Friday, Trump admitted that he’d given May some Brexit negotiating advice that May found too “brutal.” On Sunday, the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show followed up with May, and asked her in an interview for more specifics on the “brutal” advice Trump had given her.

    “He told me I should sue the EU. Not go into negotiation, sue them,” May said, looking bemused.

    Trump’s negotiating advice to May is in keeping with his own history of suing as a negotiating tactic in his business dealings. […]

    While filing lawsuits against weaker parties might have worked for Trump as a businessman, it’s hard to see how such a strategy might work for May with the powerhouse EU, or even where such a lawsuit might be filed, which might explain the prime minister’s amusement during her TV interview. She told the BBC she would not be taking Trump’s advice for handling the EU. “Actually, no, we’re going into negotiations with them,” she said with a laugh.


  174. says

    Trump’s take on the fact that the Russians hacked the DNC servers and email accounts:

    The DNC should be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be hacked. They had bad defenses, and they were able to be hacked. I heard they were trying to hack the Republicans, too. But, and this may be wrong, but they had much stronger defenses.

    I heard that they were trying, or people were trying, to hack into the RNC, too. The Republican National Committee. But we had much better defenses. I’ve been told that by a number of people. We had much better defenses, so they couldn’t.

    This was during the Obama administration. They were doing whatever it was during the Obama administration. […]

    The quotes above are from a CBS News interview with Jeff Glor.

  175. says

    Meanwhile, newspapers and other media outlets in Finland are trolling Trump with billboards like this one: “Mr. President, welcome to the land of free press.”

    As we welcome the presidents to the summit in Helsinki, we @hsfi want to remind them of the importance of free press. 300 billboards on the routes from the airport to the summit are filled with news headlines regarding presidents’ attitude towards the pressfreedom. #HELSINKI2018


  176. says

    “U.K. Poisoning Inquiry Turns to Russian Agency in Mueller Indictments”:

    The same Russian military intelligence service now accused of disrupting the 2016 presidential election in America may also be responsible for the nerve agent attack in Britain against a former Russian spy — an audacious poisoning that led to a geopolitical confrontation this spring between Moscow and the West.

    British investigators believe the March 4 attack on the former spy, Sergei V. Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia, was most probably carried out by current or former agents of the service, known as the G.R.U., who were sent to his home in southern England, according to one British official, one American official and one former American official familiar with the inquiry, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence.

    British officials are now closing in on identifying the individuals they believe carried out the operation, said the former American official. At the same time, investigators have not ruled out the possibility that another Russian intelligence agency, or a privatized spinoff, could be responsible….

    Much more at the link. Very interesting article.

  177. KG says

    A brief report on the Scottish demos against Trump that I attended.

    Glasgow held a static rally in central George Square, Friday 17.00-20.00, maybe 2-3000 people attending. a mix of speakers and music: speakers from political parties (SNP, Labour, Green), women’s organizations (Rape Crisis, an Irish organization of which I didn’t get the name), Trades Unions, other groups. The rector* of Glasgow University, Aamer Anwar, a human rights lawyer, probably got most applause (I couldn’t hear most of his speech, as the PA was not powerful enough). Some witty placards: here’s
    one side of the Scottish Greens’ one (unfortunately they were poorly made – two separate sheets of hardboard weakly stapled around a thin cane – and fell apart, but I took one of this side to Edinburgh next day and got about a dozen requests for photos).

    Glaswegians tend to think Glasgow is where it all happens – indeed, that it’s the centre of the universe – but the Edinburgh march on Saturday from 12.00 was considerably larger, the Guardian estimating 10,000. Speeches from politicians at the start, outside the Scottish Parliament (SNP, Labour, Green and this time LibDem), and from many of the same people as at Glasgow at the end, where there was a “Carnival of Resistance” with stalls of many groups in The Meadows, a large, flattish green space on the south side of the city. The “Trump Baby” balloon was present, flying petulantly above the crowds. It will now be making a world tour – and we can be certain it will produce as many coherent sentences, far more international cooperation and goodwill, and far fewer lies than the original!

    A Greenpeace paraglider who intruded on the “no-fly zone” around Trump at Turnberry with a dangling message “Trump well below par” (which is actually a clumsy slogan – a golfer wants to be well below par) has now been arrested and charged – I’m not sure what with.

    *The rector is elected by the students, and has no administrative authority. Anwar defeated Milo Whatsisname in a landslide.

  178. lumipuna says

    I attended the main anti-Trump/Putin protest in Helsinki yesterday, about 1500 marchers plus hundreds of tourists taking photos. On another location, some 60 people gathered to celebrate Trump’s arrival. Probably the biggest crowd is right now out watching the passing motorcades, out of general excitement.

    The summit was supposed to begin an hour ago but the presidents are only now arriving to the location, competing on who can make the other wait. That used to Putin’s trademark move.

    Expect a looong handshake.

  179. says

    Rex Huppke: “Please do not tweet the #TreasonSummit hashtag as it might become a top trending topic and embarrass our president while he is engaging in treason at the summit, which is a #TreasonSummit. #TreasonSummit”

  180. says

    “On Russian state TV, Putin has already won the summit with Trump”:

    President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet in Helsinki on Monday morning, but before the weekend even started, the Kremlin-controlled state media had already declared an easy victory.

    The fact that this top-level tête-à-tête is set to take place provides confirmation that Putin’s Russia was able to end the country’s isolation without giving an inch. The summit was preceded by the recent visit from eight Republican lawmakers, most of whom celebrated the Fourth of July in Moscow….

    …On Russian state television, criticism of Putin is unheard of, and mildly dissenting views are allowed mostly so they can be mocked…. Putin is always portrayed as a masterful chess player whose every move is pure genius. State TV is already providing a preview of Putin’s likely strategy: flatter Trump’s ego and bond over common enemies, blaming past U.S.-Russia tensions on the U.S. “deep state,” the news media and, most of all, President Barack Obama and Trump’s former rival, Hillary Clinton.

    …The state media reveals that Putin’s Russia expects everything, in exchange for nothing. Based on Trump’s statements, they predict the impending recognition of the Russian occupation of Crimea and “the creeping removal of sanctions.” They also believe that Trump will withdraw his stated objections to the Nord-Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany.

    Officially, Russia admits nothing about interfering in the 2016 U.S. elections, but Kremlin-controlled state media is not as reserved in its messages designed for internal consumption. Russian state TV hosts brazenly assert, “Trump is ours,” and joke that the U.S. lawmakers traveled to Russia “to make deals with our hackers, so they can rig the midterms in favor of Trump’s team.” They gleefully anticipate that Putin will run circles around “political neophyte” Trump, “educating” him about world events from the Russian perspective.

    …Since Fox News is known to echo Trump’s point of view, Russian state TV has taken to airing the network’s clips complaining about special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s “witch hunt” investigation. Between Fox News and Trump’s own revealing tweets, Putin undoubtedly knows which buttons to push for a maximum advantage.

    The key common “enemies” named by Russian state TV are Democrats, “the deep state” and the U.S. media….

    …Putin will certainly seize the opportunity to solidify that dismissive mind-set in addressing any questions about the latest set of indictments.

    But to Putin-friendly Russian media, there’s no real need to worry about the indictments or whatever discussion Trump plans to have with Putin about hacking. The Kremlin, state TV says, sees the summit as Trump’s explicit attempt to normalize relations with Russia, wiping the slate clean as to any outstanding issues.

    After all, state media argue, if Crimea or election interference were important enough, the summit wouldn’t even be happening.

  181. says

    “‘Fox & Friends’ host: ‘I don’t understand’ Trump tweet blaming US for bad Russia relations”:

    “Fox & Friends” host Brian Kilmeade on Monday questioned why President Trump would send a tweet blaming the U.S. for poor relations with Russia before his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    “I like the president’s tweets,” Kilmeade said. “I understand what he’s trying to do with the [European Union] and NATO.”

    “But what I don’t understand is this tweet,” Kilmeade continued, referencing Trump’s tweet that said the United States’ relationship with Russia has never been worse “thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!”

    “It’s really not our foolishness and stupidity. They might not like the things we’re doing — but would you really say foolishness and stupidity is a correct characterization?” Kilmeade asked….

  182. says

    “Trump administration files World Trade Organization complaint against Canada’s retaliatory tariffs”:

    U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has filed a World Trade Organization challenge against the retaliatory tariffs Canada has imposed in response to Trump’s own tariffs on steel and aluminum.

    Canada and other countries have previously filed WTO challenges against the U.S. tariffs. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has called those tariffs illegal.

    The argument from the Trump administration, announced Monday, is that Trump’s tariffs are legal but the retaliation is not.

    The U.S. has filed separate WTO disputes against the retaliatory tariffs imposed by Canada, China, the European Union, Mexico and Turkey, the statement said….

  183. says

    Natasha Bertrand:

    Unreal. Asked whether he would hold Russia accountable for literally anything, Trump DOES NOT MENTION GEORGIA, MH-17, CRIMEA, UKRAINE, OR ELECTION INTERFERENCE. Says the US and Russia have “both” been “foolish,” we’ve “both made mistakes.” Then discusses his election victory.

  184. says

    Daniel Dale:

    If I’m getting this straight, this seems to be the Putin idea Trump called “interesting”: Putin will question his own officers to see if they should be extradited, and also Trump will question U.S. officials who have intefered with Russian affairs, with Russian officials present.

    In related news, #TreasonSummit has now surpassed 500K tweets.

  185. says

    Katy Tur: “Trump, standing next to Putin, outright refuses to blame Russia (at all) for election interference. He again says it was an excuse for why the democrats didn’t win. Mueller indicted 12 Russian intel officers on FRIDAY!”

    (BTW, MSNBC – please work on your chyrons.)

  186. says


    Holy cow. Asked DIRECTLY by @JonLemire whether he would denounce Russian interference and ask him to never do it again, Trump starts talking about the DNC server. “I don’t see any reason why it would be [Russia], I really want to see the server.”

  187. says

    Shane Harris:

    History will note this moment: Asked who do you believe, Russia or your own intelligence agencies, Trump asks, “where’s the [DNC] server.” “I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia who hacked the DNC. “What happened to the server?” “What happened to the [Clinton] emails.”

  188. says

    John Brennan:

    Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???

  189. says

    From the Washington Post:

    […] Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed Monday that the two leaders discussed Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, although the Russian leader denied that his government tried to sabotage the election and Trump offered little pushback to the autocrat’s claims.

    […] Trump said his message regarding the Russian interference “was a message best delivered in person” during the meeting, during which the two leaders “spent a great deal of time” discussing the Kremlin’s interference. Putin insisted publicly that the “Russian state has never interfered and is not going to interfere in internal American affairs,” and Trump declined to dispute his assertions, instead saying Putin “has an interesting idea” about the issue of interference.

    “There was no collusion,” Trump said at a joint news conference with Putin. “I didn’t know the president. There was nobody to collude with. There was no collusion with the campaign.”

    Trump said that he holds “both countries responsible” for the frayed relations between the two nations and attacked special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation, calling it a “disaster for our country.”

    Putin later confirmed that he did want Trump to win in 2016, “because he talked about normalizing relations” between Russia and the United States.

    […] Trump said he and Putin discussed their disagreements “at length.” He added: “Our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed, as of about four hours ago.” […]

    Putin again denied any involvement by the Russian state and said any evidence of interference can be analyzed through a joint working group on cybersecurity.

    Putin said later in response to a question that U.S. investigators possibly could come to Russia to participate in the questioning of suspects after a dozen Russian intelligence officers were indicted in the United States on charges of election interference.

    In response to questions, Trump said that both countries were to blame for the deterioration of relations. “I do feel that we have both made some mistakes,” he said. He added that “there was no collusion” between his campaign and Russia, and he lamented that the special counsel’s investigation into the matter has had an impact on U.S.-Russian relations. […]

    More at the link.

    It was totally inappropriate to do so, but Trump even dissed Peter Strzok while standing next to Putin.

  190. says

    From Josh Marshall:

    […] Trump’s press conference with President Putin was relatively normal by the extremely abnormal standards of the Trump Presidency – until the end. Then, when asked about who he believed, Russia or US intelligence, Trump went on a tirade against the FBI, lashing out about the DNC server, Hillary’s emails and more. Later, Putin provided a non-denial denial about a pee tape and Trump concluded with a final attack against Peter Strzok and the Mueller “witch hunt.”

    Video clips at the link.

  191. says

    More details from the #treasonsummit:

    Trump said in a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday that special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election “is a disaster for our country.”

    “I think it’s kept us apart,” Trump continued. “It’s kept us separated. There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it.”

    He’d been asked about a tweet of his from earlier in the day that the Mueller probe was to blame for the strained tensions between the United States and Russia — notably leaving out Russia’s alleged election meddling.

    “Do you hold Russia at all accountable for anything in particular?” Reuters’ Jeff Mason had asked.

    Trump added: “People are being brought out to the fore. So far, that I know, virtually none of it related to the campaign. And they’re going to have to try really hard to find somebody that did relate to the campaign.”

    Trump said he’d run a “clean campaign.”

    “We won that race,” he said. “It’s a shame that there could even be a little bit of a cloud over it. People know that. People understand it.”

    He said the “main thing” — “we discussed this also,” he noted, referring to Putin — “is zero collusion.”

    “It has had a negative impact upon the relationship of the two largest nuclear powers in the world,” he concluded. “We have 90 percent of nuclear power between the two countries. It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous what’s going on with the probe.”


  192. says

    Dale: “It’ll get lost in the rest of the madness, but worth repeating that Trump is making a completely false smear of an American individual. His Justice Department has explained at length that Imran Awan didn’t do anything wrong with regard to servers:…”

    Link to WaPo at the link. The DoJ publicly cleared him of this like last week.

  193. says

    CNN host Anderson Cooper: “You just watched “one of the most disgraceful” performances by a sitting U.S. president during a press conference with Russia that I have ever seen.”

  194. says

    From Republican Sen. Ben Sasse:

    This is bizarre and flat-out wrong. […]

    The United States is not to blame. America wants a good relationship with the Russian people but Vladimir Putin and his thugs are responsible for Soviet-style aggression.

    When the President plays these moral equivalence games, he gives Putin a propaganda win he desperately needs.

  195. says

    From Former Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele:

    “My people came to me…they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this, I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

    That’s how a press conference sounds when an Asset stands next to his Handler.

  196. says

    Here is Putin’s non-denial denial when he was asked, “Does the Russian government have any compromising material on Donald Trump or his family?”

    I did hear these rumors that we allegedly collected compromising material on Mr. Trump when he was visiting Moscow. Now, distinguished colleague, let me tell you this, when President Trump visited Moscow back then I didn’t even know that he was in Moscow. I treat President Trump with utmost respect, but back then, when he was a private individual, a businessman, nobody informed me that he was in Moscow.

    But let’s take St. Petersburg economic forum, for instance. There were over 500 American businessmen, high-ranking, high-level ones. I don’t even remember the last names of each and every one of them. Look, do you think that we tried to collect compromising material on each and every single one of them? Well, it’s difficult to imagine, and utter nonsense of a bigger scale than this. Well, please, just disregard these issues and don’t think about this anymore.

  197. says

    From Washington Post Deputy editorial page editor Ruth Marcus:

    Everyone who works for Trump: quit now. Save your souls. Save your honor. Save your reputation. Russia attacked our democracy. He doesn’t care, won’t defend our country.

    I know this sounds extreme. It doesn’t feel like my usual approach to things. But extreme times, extreme measures. Maybe mass resignations of the (alleged) grownups would rouse a supine Congress, alarm even some Trump voters.

    Think about it. You are a Republican who loves your country. Or you are a foreign policy or intelligence professional. What do you do in the face of Trump’s craven capitulation to an adversary. It is a hard choice but one that Trump is making easier/forcing, every day.

    What is the impact & message of your continued presence? Are you mitigating Trump’s excesses, or enabling/covering for them? Jon Huntsman? Gina Haspell? Dan Coats? Gulp, James Mattis? How explain your continued service, to yourself now or down the road, to your children?

  198. says

    From Charles Blow, writing for the New York Times:

    […] Put aside whatever suspicions you may have about whether Donald Trump will be directly implicated in the Russia investigation.

    Trump is right now, before our eyes and those of the world, committing an unbelievable and unforgivable crime against this country. It is his failure to defend. […]

    This is an incredible, unprecedented moment. America is being betrayed by its own president. America is under attack and its president absolutely refuses to defend it.

    Simply put, Trump is a traitor and may well be treasonous.


  199. says

    From Republican Senator Jeff Flake:

    I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression. This is shameful.

  200. says

    From Guy Benson, a Fox News contributor:

    Appalling moral equivalence & equivocation — rooted in an embarrassing, juvenile, insecure, consuming obsession over his own legitimacy. Easily one of his worst days as president. And again, juxtapose that performance with how he just treated our European & North American allies.

  201. says

    What Trump said about Peter Strzok during the press conference with Putin:

    And if anybody watched Peter Strzok testify over the last couple of days, and I was in Brussels watching it, it was a disgrace to the FBI. It was a disgrace to our country. And you would say that was a total witch hunt. Thank you very much, everybody.

    Analysis from Andrew Prokop:

    Strzok is the FBI agent involved in the Trump-Russia investigation who was removed from the probe after it emerged that he’d extensively texted to his co-worker and lover about his disdain for Trump. But while his recent testimony was indeed a circus, no one was able to point to anything specific Strzok actually did to help Clinton win or hurt Trump. And he’s been gone from the Mueller probe for nearly a year now.

    Overall, the takeaway is clear. Trump couldn’t care less about Russian hacking attempts to interfere with the election. He views Mueller, the Justice Department, and Democrats as his true enemies. And he’s willing to viciously attack them even while standing onstage with the Russian president.

  202. says

    I didn’t realize Abby Huntsman (see #358) is also US ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman’s daughter. John Weaver, who’s worked as Jon Huntsman’s political strategist, tweeted: “@JonHuntsman Resign, if you have any honor.”

  203. says

    From Trump, in response to a question about Russian interference in the U.S. election:

    President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. And what he did, is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators, with respect to the 12 people. I think that’s an incredible offer. Okay? Thank you.

    The entire Trump reply, so that you have the context in all of its yellow-bellied and bonkers and ill-informed madness:

    So let me just say we have two thoughts. We have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server. Why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? I’ve been wondering that. I’ve been asking that for months and months and tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know, where is the server, and what is the server saying? With that being said, all I can do is ask the question, my people came to me, [director of national intelligence] Dan Coats came to me, and some others, they said, they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server, but I have—I have confidence in both parties. I really believe that this will probably go on for a while, but I don’t think it can go on without finding out what happened to the server. What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC. Where are those servers? They’re missing. Where are they? What happened to Hillary Clinton’s e-mails? 33,000 e-mails gone, just gone. I think in Russia they wouldn’t be gone so easily. I think it’s a disgrace we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 e-mails. So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. And what he did, is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators, with respect to the 12 people. I think that’s an incredible offer. Okay? Thank you.

  204. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 347.

    More detail concerning Imran Awan, the “Pakistani gentleman” to whom Trump referred at the press conference:

    Federal authorities investigated a Pakistani immigrant named Imran Awan, who performed IT work for Democratic congresswoman and former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, for potential involvement in fraud involving congressional computer systems; conspiracy theorists have suggested he therefore might have been involved in the DNC hack.

    Awan, however, was ultimately only convicted of fraud involving a loan application—and in a filing related to his case, prosecutors from Trump’s own DOJ noted specifically that they had found no evidence that Awan “illegally removed House data from the House network or from House Members’ offices, stole the House Democratic Caucus Server, stole or destroyed House information technology equipment, or improperly accessed or transferred government information, including classified or sensitive information.”


    In other words, Awan was cleared of the offense that Trump continues to trumpet.

  205. Hj Hornbeck says

    Alas, there’s good reason to think Republicans will happily support their treasonous President.

    What is the red line for a contemporary GOP increasingly built around a personality cult? I put that question to a dozen Republicans in the House and Senate, a mix from across the ideological spectrum and from every region of the country. The conversations revealed a lot about the Trump GOP, but the red line, with respect to Trump’s behavior generally, or his conduct specific to the Mueller probe, was vanishingly thin and difficult to detect. And every time you think you see it—pee tape, porn-star liaison, erratic diplomacy, threats to fire Mueller—it keeps moving. As Republican senator Jeff Flake of Arizona put it, “I don’t know that there is one.” […]

    Earlier this year, [Senator Lindsay] Graham made the case that if Trump fired Mueller, “it would be the end of President Trump’s presidency.” I asked if he still believed that about Mueller. He let out a deep sigh. “He’s done such a number on this guy, I don’t know,” he said, referring to Trump’s attacks on Mueller’s credibility.

    Leonard Lance, a congressman from New Jersey, was one Republican, albeit a moderate, who volunteered a red line: “Personal collusion by Trump with the Russians during the campaign.” But if Republicans keep the House and the Senate this fall, Trump will have a political fortress protecting him in Washington. That prospect has led a few anti-Trump Republicans, like Steve Schmidt, who ran John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008, to openly support a Democratic takeover of Congress. In their minds, there is no red line for the GOP. I came to the same conclusion after my hours of interviews.

  206. says

    Pete Buttigieg: “Today, friends of mine are risking their lives to serve the US Intelligence Community, as I once did. For the US president to say they are no more credible than the hostile foreign dictator standing next to him is a national security disaster. He must resign.”

  207. Hj Hornbeck says

    Sure enough, the replies from Paul Ryan and Trent Gowdy are textbook examples of evasion. They stand by the US intelligence agencies, but neither of them criticise Trump and Gowdy in particular seems to think Trump is merely ignorant or insecure about his election victory. No action is proposed.

  208. says

    McCain’s statement:

    “Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake.

    “President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin. He and Putin seemed to be speaking from the same script as the president made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press, and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world.

    “It is tempting to describe the press conference as a pathetic rout – as an illustration of the perils of under-preparation and inexperience. But these were not the errant tweets of a novice politician. These were the deliberate choices of a president who seems determined to realize his delusions of a warm relationship with Putin’s regime without any regard for the true nature of his rule, his violent disregard for the sovereignty of his neighbors, his complicity in the slaughter of the Syrian people, his violation of international treaties, and his assault on democratic institutions throughout the world.

    “Coming close on the heels of President Trump’s bombastic and erratic conduct towards our closest friends and allies in Brussels and Britain, today’s press conference marks a recent low point in the history of the American Presidency. That the president was attended in Helsinki by a team of competent and patriotic advisors makes his blunders and capitulations all the more painful and inexplicable.

    “No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant. Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are—a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad. American presidents must be the champions of that cause if it is to succeed. Americans are waiting and hoping for President Trump to embrace that sacred responsibility. One can only hope they are not waiting totally in vain.”

  209. Hj Hornbeck says

    Perfect timing:

    BREAKING / NBC News: DOJ announces the arrest of Russian National Mariia Butina, age 29, for “infiltrating organizations having influence in American politics, for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation.”

    She was arrested yesterday.

    One of those organisations is the NRA.

  210. says

    Chuck Schumer is making a public statement. “A single ominous question now hangs over the White House: what could possibly cause President Trump to put the interests of Russia over those of the United States? Millions of Americans will continue to wonder if the only possible explanation for this dangerous behavior is the possibility that President Putin holds damaging information over President Trump.”

    He was “appalled” by the press conference – was “downright shameful.” Trump has attacked NATO/allies, meddled in UK politics.

    When it comes to election interference, Trump has managed to point the finger at almost everyone except the real culprit. “It’s inexplicable. Or maybe it’s not…” Instead of confronting Putin, he sided with Putin’s denial over the unanimous conclusion of the US intelligence community. Took the word of the KGB over that of the CIA.

    “The question now looms: what if anything will congress do in response to this awful trip? Where are our Republican colleagues?” “Now is the time for our Republican colleagues to join us, bipartisan, and stand up. If we wait much longer, our global alliances will fracture, the institutions that America created in the wake of WWII will crumble, our allies will consider abandoning us, possibly for China and others, and Putin’s Russia will emerge stronger for it. That’s what he wants; that’s what President Trump inexplicably is helping him do.”

    Republicans can take steps right now to push back. “Talk is not enough. We need action – bipartisan, strong action.” Calling on them to do four things: ratchet up sanctions; demand that the national security team that accompanied Trump to the summit to come before congress and testify; end their attacks on the FBI/DoJ/Mueller (need to finish work, Trump should be interviewed); demand that Trump insist that the 12 Russians named in the indictment be sent to the US to stand trial. For the sake of the country, he’s pleading with McConnell and Ryan to do these four things.

    “What the president has done is an insult to all Americans.”

  211. says

    Judge Rips Govt’s ‘Unacceptable’ Arguments On Family Separations

    […] U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw […] has held off on holding the [Trump] administration in contempt even when it blew the reunification deadline for dozens of children younger than 5 years old.

    But at a status hearing in San Diego on Monday in the American Civil Liberties Union’s class action lawsuit on the reunifications, Sabraw had had enough.

    Sabraw granted the ACLU a temporary stay blocking the government from swiftly deporting the reunited families while he mulls an injunction. When Justice Department attorney Sarah Fabian complained the move might delay the upcoming reunifications, because ICE has a limited amount of space to hold families and they were counting on that space to be freed up with deportations, he cut her off.

    That’s not an option. That just shouldn’t be happening,” he said tersely. “If space is an issue, the government can make space.”

    Sabraw also issued a long, stern scolding from the bench reminding the Trump administration that it “improperly separated parent and child” in the first place and now has the ability and responsibility to bring them back together both quickly and safely, two mandates that he said are not mutually exclusive. […]

    Sabraw said […] “Most individual parents in the class are parents without criminal history or any indication of lack of fitness or danger, so the process that ought to be in place is one of de-selection. It should assume the government has improperly separated parent and child and just be looking for red flags, because child welfare is still a paramount consideration.”

    For the thousands of families yet to be reunited, Sabraw has ordered the Trump administration to only subject parents and children to a DNA test where there is a suspicion grounded in evidence that they are not actually related.

    To stick with the vetting steps for unaccompanied minors, Sabraw emphasized, “does not comport with fundamental due process rights. It’s inviting a process of delay at the expense of children and parents.” […]


    More at the link.

  212. says

    Putin Said He Didn’t Know Trump Was In Moscow In 2013. Plenty Of Reporting Says Otherwise.

    In another aspect of this news, Trey Gowdy released a statement:

    Russia is not our friend. Russia attempted to undermine the fundamentals of our democracy, impugn the reliability of the 2016 election, and sow the seeds of discord among Americans. Our intelligence community, including the current one, concluded this, as did the Majority House Intelligence Committee report, as did our fellow Americans who served on grand juries which returned true bills on two separate occasions.

    I am confident former CIA Director and current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, DNI Dan Coats, Ambassador Nikki Haley, FBI Director Chris Wray, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and others will be able to communicate to the President it is possible to conclude Russia interfered with our election in 2016 without delegitimizing his electoral success.

    Desperate hope from Gowdy … a hope that will not be realized. Trump won’t change.

  213. says

    A remarkable statement from Germany’s foreign minister: “We can no longer completely rely on the White House”.

    Trump endorses Putin’s plan to allow Kremlin to interrogate U.S. officials who work with Mueller
    What could possibly go wrong?

    “What he did is an incredible offer — he offered to have the people work on the case, come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 people,” Trump said. “I think thats an incredible offer.”

    Much more at the link.

  214. says

    This is Trump’s pushback against the mounting criticism of his joint press conference with Putin:

    In a tweet sent aboard Air Force One, Trump reiterated his confidence in his intelligence officials, hours after he refused to say if he believes the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

    “As I said today and many times before, ‘I have GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people,'” Trump tweeted while traveling back to Washington, D.C.

    “However, I also recognize that in order to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past – as the world’s two largest nuclear powers, we must get along!” he continued.

  215. says

    From Russian media, some reactions to the Trump/Putin press conference:

    Donald Trump thanked Russia for its help in eradicating Islamic State in Syria, and says that the two countries’ armies cooperate well, despite operating side-by-side in the crowded battlefield in the country.
    “Russia and US are competitors in oil and gas exports, but there is room for cooperation in regulating the energy market,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin during the Helsinki press conference with US President Donald Trump.
    The US president pledged to work together with Putin on areas of shared interest, including the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the eradication of radical Islamic terrorism, with Trump stating ‘I’m sure we’ll be meeting again in the future, often.
    Moscow was ready to participate in a joint investigation with the US of any such allegations, however, if any real evidence was presented, the Russian leader said. Such work could be conducted by a joint Russian-US cybersecurity group, the idea of which was floated by Putin during his last meeting with Trump in Hamburg.

  216. says

    Adam Schiff:

    Mariia Butina, a Russian national, has been charged with acting as a surreptitious Russian agent and establishing a secret back channel with the GOP through the NRA.

    More likely to come on this; no wonder GOP members of HPSCI refused our request to bring her and others in.

  217. says

    JUST IN: Sen. Warner says Trump violated oath of office.

    ‘For the President of the United States to stand next to Vladimir Putin…and side with Putin over America’s military and intelligence leaders is a breach of his duty to defend our country against its adversaries’.”

  218. says

    As interested as I am in who the NRA-connected people are who helped Butina set up the backchannel, I’m even more interested in who the “key [Republican] leaders” were with whom Butina and U.S. Person 1 set up this “VERY private line of communication” with the Kremlin (affidavit, p. 11). Seems pretty important. Who attended these “friendship and dialogue” dinners in DC in 2016?

    (Noteworthy that these newest charges, like the previous ones, pertain to “Conspiracy to Commit Offense or to Defraud United States.”)

  219. Hj Hornbeck says

    Sahil Kapur: Tom Cotton releases a statement on the Trump-Putin summit that doesn’t mention Trump. Telling that one of the Senate’s most outspoken GOP foreign policy hawks won’t go there.

    Party of Trump.

  220. says

    From Masha Gessen, writing for The New Yorker:

    The Trump-Putin summit, a meeting without an agenda, is the latest example of the ultimate innovation of the Trump Presidency: the deliberately empty gesture. […]

    The deliberately empty gesture is the ultimate innovation of the Trump Presidency. Beginning with his transition-era announcement of saving American jobs at a Carrier plant—an accomplishment of no consequence for the country as a whole and little, if any, consequence for many Carrier employees—Trump has trafficked in hollow symbols. Each gesture is designed to affirm his image as a dealmaker, even though the deals are devoid of substance at best and costly at worst. In this context, the Trump-Putin summit, a meeting without an agenda, appears entirely logical.

    For his part, Putin has spent nearly two decades hollowing out Russian politics, media, and public language. His system rests on rituals devoid of content: elections in which voters have no meaningful choice, court and administrative procedures whose outcomes are preordained, and media that speak with a single, vacant voice. For the last several weeks, these media have been trumpeting the looming summit.

    Kremlin-dominated media—which is to say, nearly all media—have published pieces aimed at discouraging overly enthusiastic summit expectations. Although Trump has suggested that he is open to recognizing the Russian occupation of Crimea, Russian analysts have warned compatriots against expecting that Helsinki would lead to the recognition of Russian expansion or to the lifting of sanctions against Russia. For Putin, the summit itself is a triumph—filling it with content would be unnecessary and possibly even undesirable. […]

  221. says

    Clipped from an October 5, 2016, Twitter DM exchange, in which Butina seeks counsel (affidavit, p. 12):

    Butina to Torshin: “Time will tell. We made our bet. I am following our game. I will be connecting the people from the prayer breakfast to this group….” (presumably the friendship & dialogue dinner group)

    Torshin to Butina: “This is hard to teach. Patience + cold blood + faith in yourself. And everything will definitely turn out.”

  222. says

    Richard Engel: “Coming up on @NBCNightlyNews. for Putin today was a moment, maybe the moment, when Russia reemerged as a superpower.”

    This is true in the same sense that 2014 was the moment when Russia reemerged as an Olympic competitor.

  223. says

    More in the affidavit about how Butina and Torshin discussed how their mission had to be <underground,” “quiet,” “secret” (the reference to “private clubs” is intriguing…)

  224. says

    Jeff Sharlet: “When I published THE FAMILY, about the organizers of the National Prayer Breakfast, ‘respectable’ pundits scoffed at the idea that it was used as a backdoor to American power.”

    Butina was corresponding and meeting with at least one organizer.

  225. says

    Ken Vogel: “We tried to fact-check PUTIN’s claim that @BillBrowder’s associates donated $400M in un-taxed Russian $ to @HillaryClinton’s campaign, but it was so completely without evidence that there were no pants to light on fire, so I hereby deem it ‘WITHOUT PANTS’.”

  226. says

    Steve Schmidt: “No American President has ever disgraced himself, the Presidency and the United State[s] like Trump did today. The video will endure as a monument to stupidity, arrogance and idiocy throughout the ages. Trump beclowned himself and made the world much more dangerous. What a fool.”

  227. says

    A few thoughts on the Butina charge:

    Reading the affidavit, I was struck by how closely Torshin’s/Butina’s aims and tactics resemble the Nazi aims and tactics for which the FARA was originally passed.

    I’m surprised more people aren’t making the connection between the two big stories today – the demand that Republicans act coming up against the evidence that “key Republican leaders” were involved with and possibly compromised by Russian agents.

    It’s clear that there’s so much more to come. The US people involved (those who aren’t already cooperating) have to be fearful and desperate right now.

  228. says

    Neera Tanden: “The number of people waking up to the possibility that Putin has something over Trump….gotta say, why was your head in the sand for two years?”

    Here’s what perplexes and annoys me about the reluctance to even consider this possibility, including amongst intelligence professionals: The US has for decades bribed, cajoled, manipulated, and coerced foreign leaders into doing its bidding. With some significant exceptions (to which I’ve given much thought), they’re generally realistic about this. Trump is one of those people. That’s his tribe – the insatiably greedy, corrupt, power-hungry, authoritarian, insecure, compromised, unscrupulous would-be puppet dictators. Only a stupid adherence to US exceptionalism prevents the recognition of this fact.

  229. says

    About that interview with Sean Hannity:

    The President gave an interview to Sean Hannity, apparently just after he concluded today’s joint press conference. The interview just aired on Hannity’s 9 PM show. […]

    A lot of the discussion was a rehash of things we’ve been hearing for weeks or months. But though he didn’t say it directly, the clear import of his account is that a primary or perhaps the primary topic of their conversation was Robert Mueller’s investigation. Trump repeated that President Putin confirmed that there was no collusion. More notably, he said that in their private conversation Putin repeatedly lamented that the Mueller probe had driven the two countries apart and prevented them from doing great things for the world.


    Video available at the link.

    So Trump’s bemoaning, (at the press conference), that the Mueller probe had “kept us apart” was actually repetition of what Putin had said to him during the private meeting.

  230. says

    Internet people seem generally agreed that U.S. Person 1 is Paul Erickson (who’s in my list @ #381 above). Another suggestion for U.S. Person 2:

    It remains unclear who unnamed U.S. PERSON 2 is, but descriptions match those of conservative activist George O’Neill Jr.—yet another link in the ties between Russia and the U.S. Religious Right.

  231. says

    Here’s the Electoral Commission’s report on the Leave campaign. In short, they broke laws, but the EC – like the FEC in the US – lacks meaningful enforcement powers. They can only levy small fines and refer matters to the police (in this case it appears young, lower-level people are being scapegoated).

    Carole Cadwalladr: “There has to be a wider criminal investigation. Labour has to press for this. The Electoral Commission by its own admission is not equipped for this. It is electoral fraud on a massive, never-before-seen scale that our laws & our democracy not equipped to deal with.”

    David Lammy: “By cheating on spending rules #VoteLeave broke the law. But the Referendum was advisory, so the courts likely cannot intervene. So, it is up to Parliament to decide if the result is void. We need a vote in this House.” (Video clip at the link.)

  232. says

    Today is the fourth anniversary of the shooting down of MH17.

    From the other day – “Russia must ‘account for role’ in shooting down MH17, says G7”:

    …The statement by the G7 ministers came on the eve of a summit between US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, but also just before the anniversary of the 17 July 2014 air disaster which killed all 298 crew and passengers when the airliner was shot down.

    G7 ministers said a joint investigation into the crash had yielded “compelling, significant and deeply disturbing” findings on Russia’s involvement.

    “We are united in our support of Australia and the Netherlands as they call on Russia to account for its role in this incident and to cooperate fully with the process to establish the truth and achieve justice for the victims of MH17 and their next of kin,” the statement said.

    Joined by the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini, the G7 ministers called on Russia to “immediately engage with Australia and the Netherlands in good faith to explain and to address all relevant questions regarding any potential breaches of international law”.

    The Dutch government and Australia have said they may move towards submitting the complex dossier to an international judge or organisation….

  233. says

    From the Washington Post:

    Administration officials had hoped that maybe, just maybe, Monday’s summit between President Trump and Russian President Vladmir Putin would end differently — without a freewheeling 46-minute news conference in which Trump attacked his own FBI on foreign soil and warmly praised archrival Russia.

    Ahead of the meeting, staffers provided Trump with some 100 pages of briefing materials aimed at laying out a tough posture toward Putin, but the president ignored most of it, according to one person familiar with the discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose internal deliberations. Trump’s remarks were “very much counter to the plan,” the person said. […]

    The president spent much of the weekend “growling,” in the words of one White House official, over the Justice Department’s indictment Friday of 12 Russian intelligence officials for interfering in the 2016 election. He fretted that the release of the indictments just before the meeting could hurt him politically, the official said. […]

    One of Trump’s most vocal defenders was Vice President Pence, who has cemented his relationship with the president through unflinching loyalty.

    In a speech to Commerce Department employees Monday afternoon, Pence offered a rosy review of what he described as Trump’s “historic trip” abroad.

    “The truth is, over the last week, the world saw once again that President Donald Trump stands without apology as leader of the free world,” Pence said. “. . . What the world saw, what the American people saw, is that President Donald Trump will always put the prosperity and security of America first.”

  234. says

    From the Washington Post’s editorial board:

    In Helsinki, Mr. Trump again insisted “there was no collusion” with Russia. Yet in refusing to acknowledge the plain facts about Russia’s behavior, while trashing his own country’s justice system, Mr. Trump in fact was openly colluding with the criminal leader of a hostile power.

  235. says

    In the clips of the Hannity interview I’ve seen, Trump looks and sounds like a fool. I don’t just mean the content of his words, which were almost unimaginably foolish, but his whole manner. He was like how an actor would portray a character described as “a US president who’s a fool,” but even a bit over the top for that.

    And his eyes were bloodshot.

  236. says

    What happens after Trump kills a trade agreement like the Trans-Pacific Partnership? The rest of the world “just moves on without us.”

    The European Union and Japan signed a landmark deal on Tuesday that will eliminate nearly all tariffs on products they trade.

    The ambitious pact signed in Tokyo runs counter to President Donald Trump’s moves to hike tariffs on imports from many U.S. trading partners. It covers a third of the global economy and markets of more than 600 million people. […] The leaders did not mention Trump by name, but they did little to mask what was on their minds — highlighting how Europe and Japan have been pushed closer by Trump’s actions. […]

    CNBC link

  237. says

    Analysis of President Obama’s speech in Johannesburg:

    […] While not directly mentioning his successor, President Donald Trump, Obama’s speech in South Africa countered many of Trump’s policies, rallying people to keep alive the ideas that Mandela worked for including democracy, diversity and good education for all.

    Obama opened by describing today’s times as “strange and uncertain,” adding that “each day’s news cycle is bringing more head-spinning and disturbing headlines.”

    These days “we see much of the world threatening to return to a more dangerous, more brutal, way of doing business,” Obama said.

    His words were met with cheers by a crowd of about 14,000 people gathered at a cricket stadium in Johannesburg for the speech, which was streamed online.

    “Just by standing on the stage honoring Nelson Mandela, Obama is delivering an eloquent rebuke to Trump,” said John Stremlau, professor of international relations at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, who called the timing auspicious as the commitments that defined Mandela’s life are “under assault” in the U.S. and elsewhere. […]

    Talking Points Memo link

  238. blf says

    How [traitor don]’s wildlife board is rebranding trophy hunting as good for animals (Grauniad edits in {curly braces}):

    As hunters hold immense clout in the [traitor don] administration and most of the council’s members are advocates of the sport, critics worry the board will protect their hobby, not the animals

    [… I]n 2017 [traitor don] formed an advisory board to steer US policy on the [big-game trophy hunting].

    But rather than conservation scientists and wildlife advocates, it is composed of advocates for the hunting of elephants, giraffes and other threatened, charismatic species. And observers say that since [traitor don] took office, court rulings and administrative decisions have in fact made it easier for hunters to import the body parts of lions, elephants and other animals killed in Africa.

    Members of [traitor don]’s advisory board, called the International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC), argue that the sport, in which wealthy hunters pay tens of thousands of dollars to shoot endangered megafauna, is a laudable method of conservation abroad.


    Trophy hunters hold immense clout in the [traitor don] administration. The president’s [sic] sons, Donald Jr and Eric, frequently hunt in Africa. And the hunting advisory council operates under the auspices of the interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, who received $10,000 from the Safari Club during his 2016 congressional campaign. The lopsided composition of the council has critics worried its decisions will protect their chosen pastime, not the animals.


    The US cannot ban its residents from hunting in another nation, but it does regulate the importation of trophies — the body parts of animals killed abroad. Hunters seeking to import the remains of species protected under the Endangered Species Act must provide proof that killing an individual animal broadly enhances the species’ odds of survival.


    Sport hunting’s contribution to species preservation is far from clearcut […]. Researchers tend to agree that a robust hunting industry successfully prevents native grassland from being converted to agriculture, and that it generates important revenue for communities without a viable ecotourism industry. But meeting the bar for imports — by proving that hunting improves a species’ chance of survival — is much more complex. “It has to be a net positive for conservation,” said Scott Creel, a conservation biologist at Montana State University, “and that’s where there is some debate.”


    There’s evidence that sport hunters weed out desirable genetic traits by killing the largest and strongest animals. [… C]laims that legal hunters deter poachers may be spurious — researchers have found that ending the legal trade of ivory is the best way to go.

    Creel’s own research into Zambia’s lion population showed that trophy hunting policy can have a widespread effect on the health of a species. “Our data showed that {lions} appeared to be overhunted,” he said. “The Zambian government implemented a three-year trophy hunting ban, and we immediately saw a response — the population shifted from declining to growing, male survival improved, and more cubs were being raised.”


  239. says

    From Paul Ryan:

    We just conducted a year-long investigation into Russia’s interference in our elections. They did interfere in our elections, it’s really clear. There should be no doubt about that. It’s also clear that it didn’t have a material effect on our elections.

    [I disagree with that last sentence. It is not clear at all, and as investigations continue it looks more and more like the Russian interference did have a material effect.]

    [snipped Ryan’s blather about “tough sanctions” that Congress passed.]

    I understand the desire, and the need, to have good relations. That’s perfectly reasonable. But Russia is a menacing government that does not share our interests, and it does not share our values.