1. says

    After 500 comments in the previous chapter of this thread, the thread is ready to roll over.

    To help readers, here are some links back to previous discussions.
    SC provides excerpts from Cohen’s guilty plea.
    Lynna follows up on SC’s posts with additional details that includes Trump’s reaction to Cohen’s guilty plea.
    More background details that add context to the story about Cohen’s guilty plea today.

  2. says

    More canceled meetings between Trump and other G-20 attendees … WTF is going on?

    Trump already canceled his planned meeting with Putin. He canceled that meeting via Twitter.

    Now he is canceling meetings with leaders of Turkey and of South Korea.

    Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to make all of these cancelations sound routine, but they are anything but.

    White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says President Donald Trump will speak informally with the leaders of Turkey and South Korea at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina rather than in formal meetings.

    Trump will talk informally with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the G-20 summit.

    Sanders spoke to reporters traveling with the president on Air Force One. She did not say why the meetings have been downgraded.

    Shortly after leaving the White House for the summit, Trump tweeted that he had canceled his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, citing Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian vessels.

    Sanders says Trump made the decision to cancel while aboard Air Force One and after speaking with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House national security adviser John Bolton.

    Talking Points Memo link.

    From readers comments:

    Baby Trump is throwing another tantrum because his criminal enterprise is being exposed, again.
    Yup, he’s melting down over today’s news.

    It may have finally sunk in that Mueller’s got him. And that Don Jr. is going to be indicted sooner than later.
    He is losing it. The advisors do not want him talking to anyone for longer than necessary. He must be in very bad shape on AF1. Like melting down into a puddle of orange goo.
    This is France all over again, except he’s staying locked in his room out of anger instead of fear of the rain

  3. says

    From Mark Sumner, a discussion that summarizes the greatly changed Trump-Russia situation: “Cohen lied. Manafort lied. Corsi lied. And the bottom is falling out for Donald Trump.”

    Michael Cohen appeared in federal court on Thursday morning to plead guilty to lying to Congress […] [He testified that] Donald Trump continued his attempts to make a real estate deal in Russia even while he was publicly denying that any such deal was in the works. […] his testimony is just one event in a list of jaw-dropping events related to the Trump-Russia investigation. […]

    Last week, Donald Trump finally submitted long-delayed written responses to questions sent his way by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. This week, Mueller’s team was back in court not just with Cohen, but to accuse Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort of continuing to lie to investigators, putting him in breach of a plea deal. And Trump associate Jerome Corsi has been engaged in a public legal meltdown unprecedented since … Trump associate Sam Nunberg engaged in a public legal meltdown.

    Based on the testimony of Cohen, he previously lied to protect Trump from scrutiny on real estate deals with Moscow, deals that continued after Trump was running for president, after he was nominated, and even after he was elected. This contradicts not just testimony Cohen previously made to Congress, but statements that Trump made over, and over, and over during the campaign. […]

    While Cohen has admitted to his lies, Paul Manafort has dug in. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the lies that shattered Manafort’s plea deal were related to his business dealings with Russia and his activities in the Ukraine. […]

    Michael Cohen’s appearance in court wouldn’t be just a coincidence of timing. It would be a trap slamming shut. […]

    More at the link.

  4. says

    Trump’s ignorance has consequences:

    […] Trump was apparently unaware that a provision in his biggest legislative accomplishment encourages corporations to offshore jobs.

    Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) spoke with Trump Wednesday night about the closure of at least five General Motors plants, including one assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio, and filled him in on how the GOP tax bill is partly to blame.

    “I reached him last night, he said he wanted to help, I said the first thing you could do is you could take away that tax provision in his tax bill that gives a company a 50 percent off coupon on their taxes,” Brown told CNN’s New Day Thursday. “If you’re producing in Lordstown you pay a 21 percent tax rate, if you move to Mexico you pay a 10.5 percent tax rate, and I told the president to get rid of that tax break that encourages jobs to move overseas.”

    The president apparently did not know that was in the tax bill.

    It’s difficult to believe that Trump didn’t know a significant result of the GOP tax bill would be a worsening of offshore tax dodging — especially when his own Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said it would. A report in April suggested corporations may be incentivized under the legislation to offshore “tangible assets” like factories and offices, and yes, jobs. […]

    Think Progress link

    More at the link, including an explanation of GILTI (Global Intangible Low Taxed Income).

  5. says

    Trump opened his mouth, spoke to reporters, and basically confirmed that, yes, he was doing business with Russia while he was running for President:

    Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor and current MSNBC analyst, said Thursday that President Donald Trump’s immediate reaction to Michael Cohen’s guilty plea Thursday indicates “the President knows that Michael Cohen just told the truth.”

    Cohen Thursday morning pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about efforts to pursue a Trump property in Moscow in 2016, during Trump’s bid for the presidency.

    Trump’s immediate reaction was to assert: “When I’m running for President, that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to do business.”

    “That is an important and very damaging statement to the President,” Kirschner said.

    “The President told the American people all along I was doing no business with Russia,” he continued, adding later: “The President knows that Michael Cohen just told the truth about what the President was up to, so the President had to shift gears, again expose himself as having lied to the American people previously when he said he did no business with Russia.”


  6. says

    So the Senate was supposed to vote on Thomas Farr today, but they postponed it till next week, revealing that they didn’t have the votes. Now that’s confirmed:

    Sen. Tim Scott cites the DOJ memo — a major get by @seungminkim and the rest of the WaPo team — on Farr’s involvement in “ballot security” efforts by the Helms campaign in announcing his nomination-sinking opposition to Farr.

    (I take back calling Scott an asshole for his cloture vote yesterday on the previous iteration. :))

  7. says

    Nicolle Wallace’s 4 PM show was very interesting. I only caught the second half, but she suggested that her sources confirmed that Whitaker isn’t actually in charge of the Mueller investigation. Also, one of the guests was Donny Deutsch, who’s very good friends with Michael Cohen, who was very insistent that Trump is completely owned by the Russians. Couldn’t get money from “legitimate” banks, took and laundered Russian money, and is now controlled by them. The only way Deutsch could have this level of certainty is if he learned it from Cohen, and Cohen would know. And, Emily Jane Fox, who wrote a book about the Trump children, suggested that she can’t imagine Cohen didn’t involve them in all of this.

  8. says

    “The Trump Organization Planned To Give Vladimir Putin The $50 Million Penthouse In Trump Tower Moscow”:

    President Donald Trump’s company planned to give a $50 million penthouse at Trump Tower Moscow to Russian President Vladimir Putin as the company negotiated the luxury real estate development during the 2016 campaign, according to four people, one of them the originator of the plan.

    Two US law enforcement officials told BuzzFeed News that Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer at the time, discussed the idea with a representative of Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary.

    The revelation that representatives of the Trump Organization planned to forge direct financial links with the leader of a hostile nation at the height of the campaign raises fresh questions about President Trump’s relationship with the Kremlin. The plan never went anywhere because the tower deal ultimately fizzled, and it is not clear whether Trump knew of the intention to give away the penthouse. But Cohen said in court documents that he regularly briefed Trump and his family on the Moscow negotiations.

    …Sater told BuzzFeed News today that he and Cohen thought giving the Trump Tower’s most luxurious apartment, a $50 million penthouse, to Putin would entice other wealthy buyers to purchase their own. “In Russia, the oligarchs would bend over backwards to live in the same building as Vladimir Putin,” Sater told BuzzFeed News. “My idea was to give a $50 million penthouse to Putin and charge $250 million more for the rest of the units. All the oligarchs would line up to live in the same building as Putin.” A second source confirmed the plan.

    Two FBI agents with direct knowledge of the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations told BuzzFeed News earlier this year that Cohen was in frequent contact with foreign individuals about the real estate venture — and that some of these individuals had knowledge of or played a role in 2016 election meddling. The identity of those individuals remains unknown….

  9. says


    Looks like Don Jr is in hot water:

    WSJ now reporting: “Investigators obtained emails about the project from late 2015 and January 2016…in which Mr. Cohen communicated with or copied Mr. Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and his daughter, Ivanka Trump”

  10. says

    Source: Trump headed to the G20 in a ‘terrible mood’, ‘spooked and completely distracted’. Has downgraded some bilateral meetings that he didn’t want to do in the first place, feeling ‘there’s nothing in them for him’.”

    Unfit does not even begin to cover it.

  11. says

    Adam Schiff: “Last year, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov claimed Cohen’s outreach on the Trump Tower Moscow deal received no response. As Cohen’s plea demonstrates, they lied. They helped Trump by providing false corroboration. This is a counterintelligence nightmare.”

  12. says

    From Josh Marshall, “They all lied. They’re all guilty.”

    […] Over the course of these thirty months of cover-ups, every player in the Trump/Russia story has lied about their role in the conspiracy. And not hedging and spinning fibs but straight up lies about the core nature of their involvement, their overt acts. Most – though here what we know is a bit more tentative – seem to have lied under oath, whether to congressional committees or a grand jury. Not a single one of them told a story that wasn’t eventually contradicted and disproved. Not a single one.

    Who? Well, let’s see. Donald Trump, Jr., Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos, Donald Trump, Jerome Corsi, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Carter Page, Jared Kushner. These are ones who lied, the ones we can state definitively. I’m not including the marginal players, folks like Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan. I’m not including those who just never spoke at all – at least not in public.

    We can now see documentation and confessions that outline some of what has always seemed probable. During the campaign – for roughly the first year of the campaign! – Donald Trump was actively trying to strike business deals in Russia with the help of Vladimir Putin’s government and working closely with members of the Russian intelligence services. Felix Sater was working with all these people. Trump’s deal-maker and Russian money channel handler, Michael Cohen, literally reached out to Putin’s press office and spoke to a member of the staff to enlist the Russian government’s assistance. This was while Trump was already the clear frontrunner for the nomination.

    As this was happening, Putin’s intelligence services were stealing emails and documents from various arms of the Democratic party. They were mounting various information operations within the United States. As this was happening a bankrupt and desperate political fixer who’d been working for a Putin loyalist for a decade showed up wanting to work for the campaign for free. That’s Paul Manafort, a longtime business partner of Roger Stone, another member of the conspiracy. […]

    Trump has been at war with the Russia investigation from the get-go for an obvious and totally logical reason: the depth of his personal involvement in and knowledge of the conspiracy amounts to a devastating indictment of him and his presidency. […]

  13. says

    Former FBI Director James Comey is suing to block a house subpoena that asks for testimony behind closed doors.

    […] Comey has filed a legal challenge in federal court in Washington, D.C., seeking to quash a subpoena served to him by House Republicans.

    In the filing, Comey argues that he is willing to testify publicly, but that he is being asked to testify behind closed doors where he fears his testimony will be distorted through selective leaking. […]

    The former FBI director argues that committee members would leak his testimony for political gain, writing that he “should not be coerced into a participating in an improper and partisan effort to undermine the legitimacy of an institution that he served for the better part of four years.”

    To that end, Comey cites a 1957 McCarthy-era Supreme Court case – Watkins v. United States – leaning on a portion of the decision in that case which states that while “[t]he public is of course entitled to be informed concerning the workings of government, [t]hat cannot be inflated into a general power to expose.”

    The Watkins case held that congressional investigations don’t have unlimited authority to expose people’s private lives. It came about after a union official was subpoenaed for his knowledge of supposed members of the Communist Party.

    From there, Comey goes on to list others who have been subpoenaed for secret testimony before the committee and whose statements – Comey alleges – were later leaked.

    Those include former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, former senior FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok, former McCabe attorney Lisa Page, FBI intelligence analyst Jonathan Moffa, DOJ lawyer Bruce Ohr, and former FBI general counsel James Baker.

    Comey concludes by referencing Trump’s repeated accusations against him of leaking and reported threat of prosecution.

    “On numerous occasions, Mr. Comey has been falsely accused of leaking classified information,” his attorneys write, adding a footnote citing a November New York Times report saying that “President Trump told White House counsel that he wanted to prosecute Mr. Comey, for among other things, leaking classified information. […]


  14. says

    From Michelle Goldberg:

    […] we now know that Trump lied to the American people about at least one part of his business relationship with Russia, a geopolitical foe that interfered in our election process on his behalf.

    In a Jan. 11, 2017, news conference, Trump said that the “closest I came to Russia” was in selling a Palm Beach mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008. While we’re just learning precisely how dishonest this was, Putin has known it all along. That means that throughout Trump’s campaign and presidency, Putin has had the power to plunge him into political crisis.

    “If the Russians are aware that senior American officials are publicly stating things that are not true, it’s a counterintelligence nightmare,” Adam Schiff, the California Democrat in line to take over the House Intelligence Committee, told me.

    As he points out, this issue contributed to former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s downfall. Flynn, you might remember, appeared to have lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. This alarmed Sally Yates, then the acting attorney general, because the Russians would have known that Flynn was deceiving Pence, and could have used that knowledge against him. “Logic would tell you that you don’t want the national security adviser to be in a position where the Russians have leverage over him,” Yates told the Senate last year.

    The same, said Schiff, “is true in spades for the president of the United States.”

    Speaking to reporters before flying to Argentina on Thursday, Trump justified his pursuit of a Moscow project this way: “There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have won, in which case I would have gotten back into the business, and why should I lose lots of opportunities?” This could be read as a confession of motive. In the 2016 campaign, Russia wanted to humiliate Hillary Clinton and delegitimize America’s election. Trump wanted help building his brand.

    New York Times link

    More at the link.

  15. KG says

    The House of Commons vote on May’s Brexit deal is now scheduled for 11 December, after several days of debate. It has been confirmed that amendments will be allowed – there were rumours the government would try to prevent this, it’s now being said they hope to show that no alternative to May’s deal has a majority in the Commons, but it may be that the Speaker – who has considerable control over procedure, is supposed to be non-partisan, and is a known Remainer – told them to get stuffed. Labour is putting forward the following amendment, that the House:


    blockquote>1) declines to approve the negotiated withdrawal agreement and the framework for the future relationship because it fails to provide for a permanent UK-EU customs union and strong single market deal and would therefore lead to increased barriers to trade in goods and services, would not protect workers’ rights and environmental standards, allows for the diminution of the United Kingdom’s internal and external security and is likely to lead to the implementation of a backstop provision in Northern Ireland that is neither politically nor economically sustainable;

    2) declines to approve the United Kingdom’s leaving the European Union without a withdrawal agreement;

    3) and therefore resolves to pursue every option that prevents the United Kingdom’s either leaving the European Union without a withdrawal agreement or leaving on the basis of the negotiated withdrawal agreement laid before the House.



    It will be interesting to see if other opposition parties back this. I’d be very surprised if it passes – some Labour Brexiteers will break ranks and oppose it but I doubt if any Tories will want to be seen supporting it, and I doubt the “D”UP will, despite the reference to northern Ireland which looks designed to appeal to them.

    On the weekend before the vote, I’m going to London for the inaugural conference of “Another Europe is Possible”, which is campaigning for a People’s Vote and remainin g in the EU to reform it from a left position, and a counter-demonstration to one called by neofascist media celebrity and convicted violent fraudster Steven Yaxley-Lennon (“Tommy Robinson”) on the theme of “Brexit Betrayal”, presumably meaning that May’s deal does not actually set up detention camps for Muslims, foreigners, black people, etc.

  16. KG says

    Furth Brexit stuff. The following is from an email newsletter I get from Alyn smith, an SNP MEP:

    We are close to establishing that MPs at Westminster should not be forced into an entirely false choice between two bad options: no deal or her “deal”.
    On Tuesday Jo Maugham QC, Andy Wightman MSP, Ross Greer MSP, Catherine Stihler MEP, David Martin MEP, Joanna Cherry MP and I finally saw our case on the revocability of Article 50 heard by the European Court of Justice. You can read more about the case here… and here…
    That this case made it to Luxembourg in the teeth of vigorous and sustained opposition from the UK Government was a big win for us. Nobody in any of the submissions from the UK Government or the EU denies that Article 50 is open to revocation which means the UK can reverse Brexit. All that remains are technical questions about what that process will involve.
    The ruling, when it arrives, will give us clarity from the highest court in the business, and a roadmap out of the daft place we all find ourselves in. It will give MEPs, MPs and MSPs the confidence to approve or reject Mrs May’s disastrous deal with all the facts available.
    The ECJ understands the need for haste and therefore the Advocate General will give their verdict on the first day of the debates on the deal in the House of Commons. Nine times out of ten the court agree with the Advocate General and hopefully we won’t have to wait too long for their final ruling.

    Meanwhile, May has refused to rule out putting effectively the same question to the Commons again if they reject her deal as expected on 11th. She’d have to make some change or other according to the Commons procedural rules – I guess it would be up to the Speaker to rule on whether it was allowable. There are also rumours the Commons would be forced to sit over Christmas – she threatens, in other words, to keep them in after school if they are disobedient. (Private Eye has a regular spoof column, supposedly written by her in the role of Headmistress of St Theresa’s Independent State Grammar School for Girls (and Boys), incorporating the William III Orange Academy.)

  17. says

    In the previous iteration, I posted a calendar of some upcoming political events. Here’s an updated version:

    Beginning today (November 30): G20 in Argentina
    Today at 2 PM ET: hearing on Comey’s motion to quash his congressional subpoena (see #17 above); he’s also asking for a stay until the court rules on the motion
    Manafort’s sentencing scheduling hearing was this morning. I think the sentencing is next week, but I’m not sure about the date.

    December 2: Andalusian regional election

    December 4: Georgia Secretary of State runoff election (still time to donate to Barrow)

    December 8: Another Europe is Possible inaugural conference, London (see #19 above)

    December 11: vote in Parliament on Brexit deal (see #19 above)

    December 12: Cohen sentencing

    December 18: (delayed) Flynn sentencing

    December 19: (delayed) Butina status conference

    (Rick Gates’s sentencing has been pushed forward into next year as he continues to cooperate with several investigations.)

  18. says

    Trump’s laughable morning tweet:

    Oh, I get it! I am a very good developer, happily living my life, when I see our Country going in the wrong direction (to put it mildly). Against all odds, I decide to run for President & continue to run my business-very legal & very cool, talked about it on the campaign trail.

    Lightly looked at doing a building somewhere in Russia. Put up zero money, zero guarantees and didn’t do the project. Witch Hunt!


    I’m sure this wasn’t intended to be funny, but c’mon. While running for president, Trump and top members of his team invested considerable time and energy into a real-estate project in Moscow, which would’ve been one of the biggest deals of Trump’s career, and which included direct talks with Kremlin officials, even as Vladimir Putin was running a military intelligence operation to help put Trump in office. Trump and top members of his team would later lie about all of this.

    The Republican president, however, would like us to believe he “lightly looked at doing a building somewhere.”

    […] I was also struck by Trump’s insistence that he “put up zero money” for the project, as if this is a detail that makes him look better. It doesn’t.

    When then-candidate Trump, months into his campaign, signed a letter of intent to pursue the Moscow project, the deal was supposed to be financed by a Russian bank called VTB.

    As Rachel explained on the show last night, “It is a very large bank in Russia. It is state-run. It is also sanctioned by the government, so Americans aren’t allowed to do business with it.”

    Trump sees this and boasts he “put up zero money,” but that only serves as a reminder of the entity that did put up the money. Why the president would want to renew interest in this detail is unclear.


    I expect the “lightly looked” phrase to spawn all kinds of memes on social media.

  19. says

    Former CIA Director John Brennan’s response to Trump’s laughable morning tweet (see comment 24):

    The iceberg of lies, deceit, corruption, & criminality is steadily but surely surfacing, despite the efforts of many in high places to keep it submerged. How large is the iceberg & who will be found clinging to it? The wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine.

  20. says

    House Democrats unveil their first bill in the majority: a sweeping anti-corruption proposal

    Democrats will take up voting rights, campaign finance reform, and a lobbying crackdown — all in their first bill of the year.

    […] The issue is being spearheaded by Rep. John Sarbanes (MD), a longtime advocate of campaign finance reform who has long disavowed corporate PAC money. Sarbanes and other House Democrats have been working with progressive heavy hitters in the Senate including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA), whose own wide-ranging anti-corruption Senate bill was recently introduced in the house by Sarbanes and progressive Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA). […]

    There are three main planks the bill covers […]

    Campaign finance
    Public financing of campaigns, powered by small donations. […] the federal government would provide a voluntary 6-1 match for candidates for president and Congress, […]

    Passing the DISCLOSE Act, […] This would require Super PACs and “dark money” political organizations to make their donors public.

    Passing the Honest Ads Act, […] which would require Facebook and Twitter to disclose the source of money for political ads on their platforms, and share how much money was spent.

    Requiring the president to disclose his or her tax returns.

    Stopping members of Congress from using taxpayer money to settle sexual harassment cases or buy first-class plane tickets.

    Giving the Office of Government Ethics the power to do more oversight and enforcement and put in stricter lobbying registration requirements.

    Create a new ethical code for the US Supreme Court, ensuring all branches of government are impacted by the new law.

    Voting rights
    Creating new national automatic voter registration that asks voters to opt out, rather than opt in, […]

    Restoring the Voting Rights Act,[…]

    Ending partisan gerrymandering in federal elections and prohibiting voter roll purging.

    Beefing up elections security, including requiring the Director of National Intelligence to do regular checks on foreign threats. […]

  21. says

    The idea of Trump doing anything “lightly” brings to mind images from the “Dance of the Hours” sequence in FANTASIA. Hello Muddah…

  22. says

    Followup to SC’s comment 10.

    It seems likely that Cohen offered the $50 million bribe to Putin while he was talking to a Russian whose phone conversations were probably being recorded. Putin probably has that recorded conversation. Kompromat.

    The $50 million bribe did not have to actually be paid for the offer to be a crime.

    Where corrupt intent is present, the FCPA prohibits paying, offering, or promising to pay money or anything of value (or authorizing the payment or offer). By focusing on intent, the FCPA does not require that a corrupt act succeed in its purpose. Nor must the foreign official actually solicit, accept, or receive the corrupt payment for the bribe payor to be liable. For example, in one case, a specialty chemical company promised Iraqi government officials approximately $850,000 in bribes for an upcoming contract. Although the company did not, in the end, make the payment (the scheme was thwarted by the U.S. government’s investigation), the company still violated the FCPA and was held accountable.

    Fun fact: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein just gave a speech at the American Conference Institute’s 35th International Conference on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Rosenstein’s speech was on enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

  23. says

    I have relatives in Alaska. They are all okay. Due to the magnitude 7.0 earthquake, the 900-mile-long Trans Alaska Pipeline has been temporarily shut down. Officials are checking the pipeline for damage, with no oil spills reported so far.

    The tsunami warning has been rescinded.

  24. says

    Another chapter for the “Racist Republicans” file:

    More than 140 national, state, and local organizations are calling on Republican House leadership to censure Iowa Congress member Steve King, as well as block him from any leadership posts in the next Congress, for yet another racist remark calling Mexican immigrants “dirt,” which he continued to deny until the media outlet reporting his remark provided audio proof.

    “We ask that before the end of this Congress you bring before the House a censure resolution and, upon passage, require Rep. King to stand in the well of the House chamber to receive the official condemnation of the body,” the groups write in a letter to outgoing Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and incoming Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

    While expulsion from the House—because that’s what the chamber’s leading white supremacist really deserves—requires a two-thirds vote of those present and voting, censure requires a simple majority vote that, let’s be honest, a fuck as spineless as Paul Ryan, even with all that P90X, won’t have the guts to do before he leaves office (but we’d certainly love to be proven wrong!). […]

    Daily Kos link

  25. says

    About Manafort blowing up his plea deal with Mueller by lying, and about how that might affect some Russian oligarchs:

    […] there were others beyond Trump and his fans who may have had cause for welcoming the end of Manafort’s agreement with Mueller—namely, two oligarchs with whom Manafort has done or talked business.

    When Manafort first cut his deal to tell all to Mueller’s squad in return for a lesser sentence, federal prosecutors, according to a Manafort associate, expressed interest in what he could share with them not just about the Trump campaign and related matters but about a pair of oligarchs who have been investigated or sanctioned by US agencies: Russian Oleg Deripaska and Ukrainian Dmytro Firtash. And when Rick Gates, Manafort’s former business partner who was deputy campaign manager for the Trump presidential effort, arranged his cooperation agreement with Mueller’s office, he, too, was questioned about these two men. […]

    Deripaska, an aluminum magnate who has been cited as a close ally of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, does not face any public criminal charges in the United States, but he was sanctioned in April by the Treasury Department and accused of using his businesses as an arm of the Russian state. He and Manafort go way back. In the mid-2000s, according to the AP, Manafort did secret work for Deripaska that he told the oligarch would benefit Russian leader Vladimir Putin. The news service last year reported that Manafort “proposed in a confidential strategy plan…that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government.” In 2006, Manafort signed a $10 million annual contract for the project. […]

    For years prior to that contract with Manafort, Deripaska had been of interest to US officials. In the 1990s, he was denied entry to the United States because US officials were concerned he was connected to organized crime—an allegation Deripaska denied. Eventually, Deripaska won a visa for travel to the United States, but that was revoked in 2006 by the State Department, according to the Wall Street Journal, “after officials from the Justice Department concluded that Mr. Deripaska wasn’t being candid with them about his past business dealings.” […]

    Mother Jones link

    Much more at the link.

  26. says

    “How Devin Nunes Helped Robert Mueller”

    The House Intelligence Committee chair may have unintentionally assisted the special counsel in building cases against Trump associates.

    […] Until very recently, lying before the House Intelligence Committee during its Russia investigation has seemed, even by generally lax congressional standards, likely to be nonconsequential. Far from considering the referral of even the most mendacious of witnesses for potential prosecution, the committee’s Republican majority has refused even to give Mueller transcripts of its interviews. The GOP majority thereby all but ensured that prosecutions for false statements simply could not be brought, at least in the absence of voluntary admissions like Cohen’s.

    Yet that will soon change. Incoming Democratic House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff has made it clear that one of the first items on the new majority’s agenda next year will be to forward those transcripts to the special counsel. Those transcripts will likely be accompanied by expressions of concern regarding the veracity of the testimony of several witnesses, […]

    The irony of this new situation is that, as Susan Hennessey has observed, outgoing House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, Rep. Mike Conaway (who purportedly led the Russia inquiry after Nunes’ quasi-recusal), lead interrogator Trey Gowdy, and the other GOP members of the committee may, wholly unintentionally, prove to have been devastatingly effective questioners in the service of future false-statement prosecutions.

    […], the GOP appears to have all but openly encouraged its witnesses to deny any and all potential wrongdoing, regardless of the plausibility of their denials. Thus, the GOP members and their staffs appear to have been singularly uninterested in testing the veracity of witnesses’ testimony or even inquiring into elemental questions, such as whether Donald Trump Jr. called his father regarding his Trump Tower meeting with representatives of the Russian government, or whether Amway heir Erik Prince lied regarding yet another Trump Tower meeting, this one including Don Jr. and, among others, representatives of two Gulf states.

    As a result, some witnesses affiliated with Trump and his campaign may have been lulled into thinking they could lie with particular impunity. It is therefore possible, if not likely, that a fairly substantial number of witnesses, including possibly the president’s eldest son, will soon find themselves facing the unusual prospect of being criminally charged for lying before a House panel that all but welcomed their dishonesty. […]

    Slate link

  27. says

    Trump claimed, at multiple events, that he had/has no business deals in Russia. One example:

    I tweeted out that I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we’ve stayed away. And I have no loans with Russia… I thought that was important to put out. I certified that. So I have no deals, I have no loans and I have no dealings. We could make deals in Russia very easily if we wanted to, I just don’t want to because I think that would be a conflict. So I have no loans, no dealings, and no current pending deals.

    Aaron Rupar added this morning, “One question Trump has not yet answered … is why, if his dealings with Russia were ‘very legal & very cool,’ he and other Trump Organization officials spent more than two years trying to keep them quiet.” Vox link

    The Washington Post published an article on the familiarity of this dynamic:

    […] We’ve seen this pattern repeatedly with Trump: An allegation. A denial or cover-up. New evidence. Rationalization. […]

    There’s an advantage to this tactic for Trump: He gets to pillory the media coming and going. His political rhetoric is largely built on the assumption that most Americans lack long-term political memory, so he will decry the effort as fake news, evidence of the media trying to gin up trouble for him. Once the allegations are undeniably shown to be true, he plays off the activities as entirely normal and the attention paid to them by the media as evidence of the media’s hostility to him. […]

  28. says

    Yeah, about damned time.

    After a day of pressure from members of Congress, the Department of Veterans Affairs reversed course on Thursday and announced that it would pay veterans the full amount of benefits they are due under the Forever GI Bill.

    On Wednesday, NBC News reported that VA officials privately told congressional staffers that they would not retroactively pay veterans whose checks were less than they were owed because of VA’s ongoing computer problems.

    Members of Congress from both parties sharply criticized VA for this potential policy during a hearing on Thursday, and late in the afternoon, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie issued a statement saying that the student veterans would get their full monthly housing stipends in accordance with the Forever GI Bill. […]

    NBC News link

  29. tomh says

    Sentencing Memorandum submitted on behalf of Michael Cohen Nov 30.

    It amounts to a lengthy (33pp) plea to the court to “impose a sentence of time-served and restitution to the IRS.” He details his extensive cooperation, which is still ongoing, and tries to show his crimes are not as serious as others who received light sentences. It includes some quotes from Trump, claiming that in spite “of this raw, full-bore attack by the most powerful person in the United States, Michael, formerly a confidante and adviser to Mr. Trump, resolved to cooperate.” What a guy.

    My favorite line:

    Michael’s decision to cooperate and take full responsibility for his own conduct well reflects his personal resolve, notwithstanding past errors, to re-point his internal compass true north toward a productive, ethical and thoroughly law abiding life.

    He’s headed true north!

  30. KG says

    Brexit update:
    1) Opposition parties are planning to start House of Commons proceedings for “Contempt of Parliament” if the Government refuses to publish in full the legal advice it has received on May’s deal. The Government argues that by convention, such advice remains confidential, but since the “D”UP are supporting the move, if the Speaker allows a debate and vote, the Government could lose. I don’t know what would happen if it still refused to publish the advice.
    2) However, the “D”UP says it would have no reason to back a no-confidence vote against the Government, which Labour is planning to bring if May’s deal is voted down on 11th. If the “D”UP actually voted with the Government on this, the Government would win. If they abstained, it would be very close. That’s assuming Tory and Labour dissidents both vote with their party, as is likely in the case of a no-confidence motion. (But could some of the Labour pro-Brexit right – there’s also a Labour pro-Brexit left – actually decide to defect to the Tories? Could some Tories actually decide to put country above party and self-interest? I know, I know, wildly implausible, but things are looking increasingly weird around here!)
    3) Calls for a new referendum are increasing. Science minister Sam Gyimah has resigned to support the campaign for one. It’s not clear what would happen if the Commons votes for one, but the Government refuses to bring forward the necessary legislation, or ask for a delay of Brexit to allow it. We could be looking at a full-scale constitutional crisis, as well as a possible off-the-cliff-edge Brexit. It increasingly appears that May intends to cling to power whatever the outcome of the vote on her deal, or a vote for a new referendum, and keep bringing it back in the hope of forcing MPs to choose it rather than the cliff-edge.

  31. says

    Trump seems to be coming up with excuses NOT to shut down the government over a lack of funding for his precious wall. Maybe even his dim bulb of a brain casts enough light for him to see that shutting down the government, (right before Christmas too), over wall funding is a very bad idea.

    […] Trump and congressional leadership are considering a short-term funding bill in order to avoid a government shutdown due to the lack of congressional support for funding Trump’s long-sought border wall, according to multiple reports.

    “Several” unnamed people briefed on talks told The Washington Post that congressional negotiators and the Trump administration are “discussing” a one-week funding measure.

    And “multiple Republican sources” told Politico that Republican congressional leaders are considering funding the government “for a week or two,” and are leaning “toward one week” of funding.

    As it stands, Congress must fund the government by Friday. Trump has demanded $5 billion for his border wall and said in November that “this would be a very good time to do a shutdown” over border wall funding.

    Trump is scheduled to meet with Democratic congressional leaders Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Tuesday, Politico noted. Former President George H.W. Bush’s funeral is scheduled for Wednesday at the Washington National Cathedral.

    Trump told reporters on Air Force One Friday night: “If they [lawmakers] come, which they have, to talk about an extension because of President Bush’s passing, I would absolutely consider it and probably give it.”

    TPM link

    Trump is using and reusing the death of President Bush as an excuse for inaction. He used the same excuse to skip a press conference at the G20 meeting.

  32. says

    Assured That He Can Release Transcript, Comey Agrees To Closed-Door Testimony

    […] “Mr. Comey appreciates the Court’s attention to the above-captioned matter, but has now reached an acceptable accommodation with U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary for voluntary testimony,” Comey’s lawyers wrote in a court filing Sunday. […]

    From Comey himself:

    Grateful for a fair hearing from judge. Hard to protect my rights without being in contempt, which I don’t believe in. So will sit in the dark, but Republicans agree I’m free to talk when done and transcript released in 24 hours. This is the closest I can get to public testimony.

  33. says

    Michael Cohen, more details from Josh Marshall:

    […] the Moscow deal negotiations lasted much longer than admitted, Cohen kept the President in the loop on all his activities (hardly surprising). But the sentencing memorandum goes into more and different detail.Cohen claims he discussed details of a potential trip to Russia with Trump in the summer of 2016, as part of the effort to secure the Moscow Trump Tower deal. Cohen says he worked closely with and remained in regular contact with White House lawyers and the President’s personal lawyers as he plotted to deceive Congress about the the same deal a year later.

    Also notable is the breadth of Cohen’s cooperation. He appears to be providing information to the SDNY about another unnamed investigation, to the New York Attorney General’s Office in its lawsuit against the Trump Foundation as well as his cooperation with the Special Counsel’s Office. In other words, Cohen seems to be hitting every thread in the web of investigations, lawsuits and court cases surrounding the President.

    […] after a March 2018 visit to Mar-a-Lago, Cohen believed Trump would pardon him if he stayed mum and kept with the cover story. Trump was at Mar-a-Lago at the time in question, though it’s left unstated whether the two met or spent time together. A few weeks later other unnamed people close to the President passed on the same message, that if Cohen stayed loyal he’d get a pardon.

    […] the pretty clear suggestion is that Trump took affirmative steps, quite likely in his own words, to give Cohen that message. There are strong legal arguments that this can be an element of an obstruction of justice charge.

    Cohen faces Trump with an array of legal entanglements and seems able to to disprove a lot of Trump lies.

  34. says

    Riots in France:

    More than 400 protesters were arrested in Paris in the third consecutive weekend of clashes, the worst violence to hit the French capital in 50 years.

    The unrest, the worst of President Emmanunel Macron’s administration, prompted the French leader to assemble his ministers Sunday for an emergency meeting.

    […] widespread societal disenchantment with the declining standard of living in France.

    […] thousands of protesters took part in the demonstrations, overwhelming police, who responded with tear gas, water canons and stun grenades.

    […] The masked demonstrators torched cars and hurled projectiles during demonstrations against fuel tax hikes. More than 100 people were injured in the violence, news reports said. […]

    Think Progress link

  35. says

    Pope Francis said some stupid stuff:

    Pope Francis tells Catholics in a new book that he worries that homosexuality has become so “fashionable,” that it could “influence the life of the church.” […]

    “The issue of homosexuality is a very serious issue that must be adequately discerned from the beginning with the candidates,” [with candidates for the priesthood] Francis says in his book, The Strength of a Vocation, which was released in Italy on Saturday.

    “In our societies it even seems that homosexuality is fashionable and that mentality, in some way, also influences the life of the church,” he says, according to the Guardian.

    People had high hopes that Pope Francis would make the church more inclusive. He once said “Who am I to judge?” when asked about allowing gay men to become priests in 2013.

    The pontiff has made other pro-LGBTQ statements in the past, including a sweeping apology for wrongs the church has perpetrated against the community.

    However, he also has made a number of homophobic and transphobic statements such as calling the rise of transgender rights “ideological colonization.” […]

    Think Progress link

    The Catholic Church seems to be trying to reestablish it’s reputation as a hard-hearted, dying institution.

  36. says

    Hate crimes in Utah:

    Utah state laws are preventing prosecutors from charging a man who attacked members of a Latino family at a Salt Lake City tire shop after yelling “I hate Mexicans” with a hate crime, […]

    Alan Dale Covington, 50, was arrested after he allegedly attacked Jose Lopez and his 18-year-old son Luis Gustavo Lopez at the family’s tire shop on Tuesday, with a metal pipe, according to the Salt Lake City Tribune.

    The attack left Luis Gustavo in an intensive care unit with a shattered cheekbone and eye socket and collapsed sinus and has had a titanium plate implanted on the right side of his face,[…] His father, Luis, escaped the attack with eight stitches on his arm and a bruised back.

    The family did not know Covington, who allegedly yelled “I hate Mexicans!” and “I’m here to kill a Mexican!” at the tire shop before the attack,[…]

    He was charged with two counts of aggravated assault and other weapons and drug charges, […] however not with hate crimes, which levy harsher penalties.

    Utah’s hate crime laws, which have been around for more than a quarter-century, are considered essentially toothless and have never yielded a conviction because they do not include a list of protected groups. The laws also apply only to misdemeanor crimes, according to the Salt Lake City Tribune. Attempts to strengthen the statute have died in the state legislature for three straight years without a hearing.

    Members of the Lopez family say that they blame the attack in part on rhetoric spouted by President Trump, who famously described Mexicans entering the United States as “rapists” and criminals. […]

    Think Progress link

  37. says

    19 of 20 World Leaders Just Pledged to Fight Climate Change. Trump Was the Lone Holdout.

    “The United States reiterates its decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.”

    It is telling that on two of the most contentious topics at the Buenos Aires Group of 20 meeting, the United States eventually joined 19 other world leaders on trade, but when it comes to climate change, President Donald Trump remained firmly alone in his belief that it is a hoax. […]

  38. says

    Trump spouted plenty of bluster and baseless boasts related to the G-20 meeting:

    […] Trump said his trade agreement with China was “one of the largest deals ever made.” He dubbed his new accord with Canada and Mexico the “most significant, modern and balanced trade agreement in history.” And he insisted that the world leaders he’s lambasted on the world stage had become great friends.

    As he crisscrossed Buenos Aires, posing for photos with dignitaries and boasting about his accomplishments, Trump left behind a trail of exaggerations meant to paper over the fractious first half of his term and rebrand himself as a globe-trotting statesman.

    It’s the Art of the G-20, by Donald Trump. The 45th president is writing his own rulebook on how to claim credit and respect on an international stage where many leaders have looked down on him for years. But just as his famous 1987 book counseled, Trump’s global deal-making was as much about style as substance, with grandiose talk the most important ingredient of all.

    The president arrived back in Washington on Sunday feeling triumphant, believing his latest international trip to be a resounding success. […]

    “It’s an incredible deal,” he told reporters of his agreement with China to temporarily pause new tariffs. “It goes down, certainly — if it happens, it goes down as one of the largest deals ever made.” […]

    […] behind the veneer is a more complicated reality. His deal with President Xi Jinping of China was effectively an agreement to continue trying to agree. The president’s critics argue that the new North American trade agreement is little more than NAFTA 1.1. And behind all the smiles, many world leaders still have a strong distaste for Trump. […]

    Foreign officials have learned to remain calm, focus on areas of agreement and, most important, find ways to get on Trump’s good side.

    There was perhaps no better example of the flattery factor than Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s praise of Republicans’ performance in the recent elections, despite the fact that the GOP lost the House.

    “I’d like to congratulate you on your historic victory in the midterm election in the United States,” he said. […]

    Politico link

  39. says

    Trump’s latest Twitter tantrum raises awkward legal questions

    Here is the Twitter tantrum:

    Michael Cohen asks judge for no Prison Time. You mean he can do all of the TERRIBLE, unrelated to Trump, things having to do with fraud, big loans, Taxis, etc., and not serve a long prison term? He makes up stories to get a GREAT & ALREADY reduced deal for himself, and get his wife and father-in-law (who has the money?) off Scott Free. He lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence.

    “‘I will never testify against Trump.” This statement was recently made by Roger Stone, essentially stating that he will not be forced by a rogue and out of control prosecutor to make up lies and stories about ‘President Trump.’ Nice to know that some people still have ‘guts!’

    Bob Mueller (who is a much different man than people think) and his out of control band of Angry Democrats, don’t want the truth, they only want lies. The truth is very bad for their mission!

    Analysis from Steve Benen:

    […] My first thought after seeing tweets like these was that the president may have seen something that upset him on “Fox & Friends,” but Media Matters’ Matthew Gertz noted, “You can tell these aren’t tweets about Fox & Friends because Fox & Friends did not mention Michael Cohen today.” […]

    Putting aside the president’s odd grammatical errors – maybe someday, he’ll learn how quotation marks work – there are some substantive issues to consider in the wake of his little rant.

    […] Trump sounds less like a president and more like Tony Saprano. Last week, Trump argued that those who cooperate with federal investigators (Michael Cohen) are “weak,” while those who don’t (Paul Manafort) may be deserving of a pardon. Today’s tantrum dovetails nicely with this same mob-boss posture.

    […] a president is responsible under the Constitution for executing the nation’s laws – and inserting himself in Cohen’s legal proceedings, while they’re ongoing, is a very bad idea.

    […] the idea that Cohen’s misdeeds were “unrelated to Trump” is hilariously wrong. Indeed, when Cohen acknowledged making illegal payoffs to Stormy Daniels, Donald Trump was an unindicted co-conspirator in Cohen’s guilty plea. Unless the president is unclear on the meaning of “unrelated,” he must realize how brazenly he’s lying.

    But even if we put all of that aside, there’s the larger question of whether Trump’s Twitter tantrum is itself legally dubious – because it fits into a larger pattern in which the president sends not-so-subtle signals to possible witnesses that those who stand by him are worthy of praise, while those who betray him should “serve a full and complete sentence.”

    This is of particular interest this morning with relation to Roger Stone, who appears to be an important figure in the special counsel’s investigation, and whom Trump appears to be encouraging to show “guts” in the face of Mueller’s questions.

    George Conway implied this morning that the president’s tweets constitute witness tampering. Neal Katyal, a former acting solicitor general, agreed.

  40. says

    Michigan Republicans scramble to rig the game before they lose power.

    From the Detroit Free Press:

    As Democratic candidates prepare to take three statewide offices on Jan. 1 – governor, attorney general and secretary of state – Republican lawmakers introduced bills Thursday to challenge their authority.

    State Rep. Robert VerHeulen, R-Walker, introduced a bill that would allow the state House of Representatives and Senate to intervene in any legal proceedings involving the state, which has traditionally been the purview of the state attorney general or the governor’s office.

    In addition, state Sen. David Robertson, R-Grand Blanc, introduced a bill that would shift oversight of campaign finance law from the secretary of state to a six-person commission appointed by the governor. The panel members would be nominated by the state Republican and Democratic parties. […]


    Analysis from Steve Benen:

    […] And that’s really just the start. The GOP-led state legislature – where Republicans rule thanks to one of the nation’s most egregiously gerrymandered maps – immediately got to work “substantially” scaling back minimum wage and paid-sick-leave laws approved by Michigan voters.

    The Detroit Free Press’ Brian Dickerson called this what it is: a partisan “smash-and-grab.”

    The question is whether outgoing Gov. Rick Snyder (R), who declined to endorse his party’s far-right candidate in the race to succeed him, intends to go along with these Republican schemes. As Dickerson put it, the retiring two-term governor “must decide whether he wishes to be remembered as the conservative accountant who brought order to Michigan’s fiscal house or the GOP apparatchik who enabled his party’s 11th-hour smash-and-grab.” […]

  41. says

    Lawsuit says Israeli firm that helped Saudi Arabia spy on Jamal Khashoggi broke international laws

    A lawsuit filed on Sunday in Tel Aviv on behalf of a Saudi Arabian activist living in Canada aims to hold an Israeli software company with government ties accountable for the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

    The lawsuit claims that by selling its Pegasus software to oppressive governments, NSO Group is breaking international laws. The suit was filed on behalf of Montreal-based activist Omar Abdulaziz, who was in touch with Khashoggi.

    “The hacking of my phone played a major role in what happened to Jamal, I am really sorry to say. The guilt is killing me,” said Abdulaziz, whose WhatsApp messages with Khashoggi were hacked.

    In one set of messages, the men were discussing the possibility of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (also known as MBS) pardoning the activists who successfully pushed for women to have the right to drive in Saudi Arabia. Khashoggi wrote:

    “Arrests are unjustified and do not serve him (logic says), but tyranny has no logic, but he loves force, oppression and needs to show them off. He is like a beast ‘pac man’ the more victims he eats, the more he wants. I will not be surprised that the oppression will reach even those who are cheering him, then others and others and so on. God knows”

    And MBS probably knew all about these messages, thanks to NSO’s software. He denies having anything to do with Khashoggi’s murder and dismemberment at the hands of a 15-member Saudi kill squad, which ambushed the journalist at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul this fall. […]

  42. says

    Followup to comment 51.

    Wonkette weighed in on Trump’s Twitter tantrum.

    LOVE THE SMELL OF OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE IN THE MORNING! President Fuckbonkers passed a therapeutic Executive Time scream tweeting abuse at Michael Cohen and praising Roger Stone for refusing to testify to the grand jury. How long before he starts straight up tweeting out pardons? […]

    Did someone finally tell him that, once he leaves office, he can be prosecuted for all the obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and perjury he committed as president? Because that Tweet right there [see comment 51 for the tweet] would be prime facie witness tampering. As in, that is a crime ON ITS FACE. […]

    From Neal Katyal:

    George [George Conway, Kellyanne’s husband] is right. This is genuinely looking like witness tampering. DOJ (at least with a nonfake AG) prosecutes cases like these all the time. The fact it’s done out in the open is no defense. Trump is genuinely melting down, and no good lawyer can represent him under these circs

    More from Wonkette:

    […] Law nerds may note that the Justice Department is also furiously backpedaling on Trump’s dump tweets as well. Several media organizations have filed suit to get access to the unredacted Carter Page FISA documents, reasoning that the president’s constant tweeting about them and ordering their declassification as he did in September (right after Manafort flipped, coincidentally) means that they are no longer classified. […]

    Which forces the DOJ into the awkward position of having to assert that Commander Dumbass doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about.

    The President’s quotation of media reporting cannot be assumed to be his confirmation of the media reporting based on government information, and it is not evidence of government misconduct in this case. See James Madison Project, 302 F. Supp. 3d at 34 (“the President’s statements may very well be based on media reports or his own personal knowledge, or could simply be viewed as political statements intended to counter media accounts about the Russia investigation, rather than assertions of pure fact.”

    […] In sum, the Justice Department argues that Donald Trump is a giant fucking idiot who is totally full of shit, so nothing he says can have any legal effect, criminal, civil, or otherwise. AND THEY’RE HALF RIGHT ABOUT THAT.

  43. KG says

    Update to #55. Apparently, the vote will be on whether to refer the matter to the Standards Committee. But I still don’t know what that might mean in practice!

  44. says

    Oh, I wonder what will come of this?

    Central Intelligence Agency Director Gina Haspel will brief Senate leaders Tuesday morning on what the spy agency knows about Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death at the hands of Saudi operatives, people familiar with the matter said. […]

    Wall Street Journal link

  45. says

    Trump was defeated in the courts … again.

    A federal judge in New York on Friday barred the Justice Department from withholding law-enforcement grants from states and cities that don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities. […]

    Wall Street Journal link

    This has to do with so-called “sanctuary” cities.

  46. says

    All the best people.

    Trump supporter, Republican fund-raiser, and former finance vice chairman of Trump’s 2016 campaign and inauguration committee, Elliott Broidy is back in the news.

    Broidy is accused by federal prosecutors of laundering millions of dollars in an effort to help the Malaysian financier Jho Low. Mr. Low looted the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad fund (1MDB).

    Low’s money was transferred to a law firm that Broidy’s wife owned.

    Mr. Broidy also owns a defense contracting firm. Broidy is one of many Trump associates being scrutinized by Mueller, mainly for questionable dealings with foreign governments.

    At another level of scamming, conning and breaking the law:

    […] Mr. Broidy had also drawn unwanted attention because of the criminal investigation of Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, which led to the revelation in April that Mr. Cohen had arranged a $1.6 million hush agreement with a former Playboy model who became pregnant during an affair with Mr. Broidy. That led to Mr. Broidy’s resignation as deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee.

    NY Times link</a

  47. says

    Discovery … that legal term must haunt Trump. He hides and/or lies about so much that having anyone “discover” the truth must be the stuff of nightmares.

    The attorneys general of the District of Columbia and Maryland said Monday that they are moving forward with subpoenas for records in their case accusing President Donald Trump of profiting off the presidency.

    U.S. District Court Judge Peter J. Messitte approved the legal discovery schedule in an order Monday. Such information would likely provide the first clear picture of the finances of Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel.

    Trump’s Justice Department lawyers filed a notice to the court Friday that appeared to challenge the Maryland judge’s decision to allow the case to move forward. The president’s notice that he may seek a writ of mandamus — to have the appeal heard by a higher court — is considered an “extraordinary remedy” that’s hard to prove and partly rests on showing Messitte’s decisions to be clearly wrong. […]

    “We’ve got the discovery ready to go,” said Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh. “Their objective at this point is just to keep the doors shut, they don’t want any of this information out in public and they don’t want our case to move forward. So they’re going to be be obstructing as much as they can.” […]

    A clue as to what entities may receive subpoenas may can be found in preservation subpoenas filed more than a year ago with 23 Trump-related entities, including The Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust, The Trump Organization, the Mar-a-Lago Club Inc. and entities related to his D.C. hotel and its management, among others. […]

    TPM link

  48. KG says

    The Advocate-General for the European Court of Justice says
    the UK should have the right to unilaterally cancel Brexit. This is not a final decision, but it is unusual for the full court to reject the Advocate-General’s recommendation. The UK government and the European Council (that’s the grouping of EU governments) both argued against it. The UK government said it was “hypothetical” as it did not intend to cancel Brexit, so the ECJ should refuse to rule, and also that the politicians bringing the case (from the SNP, Labour and the Scottish Greens) intended to use the result to “pressure” the UK Parliament (clarifying the legal position on what options are open is apparently putting illegitimate “pressure” on our poor MPs). The European Council argued that a right to unilaterally withdraw would allow states to invoke Article 50 in an attempt to get better terms, knowing they could withdraw it. This seems to me far-fetched: the withdrawal process has given the UK government huge political problems, and any government trying such a tactic would risk a response of “OK then, fuck off”, leaving them with the option of leaving when in fact they did not want to, or an ignominious climb-down. I suspect it was really a move to support May – the EU governments definitely prefer the deal they have struck with her to no deal – and because while they still don’t want Brexit, they would like to have the whip-hand over any UK government that wanted to cancel it.

    Today the debate I referred to @55 is due to happen. Apparently if the Government loses it will be an embarrassment but nothing more. The Attorney-General might possibly be suspended from the House, but that’s very unlikely before the key vote due next Tuesday. This seems to show that the Government can give the House of Commons a two-fingered salute (I think you’d say in the US just “give them the finger”), and get away with it. Which once again makes a nonsense of the claim that Brexit is about Parliamentary sovereignty. But as long as she does not lose a vote of confidence, this looks as though she could ignore a vote in Parliament for a referendum, or cancellation of Brexit, or instructing the government to renegotiate the deal or ask for a delay (which we know does have to be agreed by all the 27). My hunch is that May, at least, intends to do just that, and keep bringing her deal back for another vote, so we could well have a game of “chicken” running up to Brexit day between May’s supporters on one side and a coalition of Remainers plus Corbynites (i.e. those around Corbyn whose sole aim is to get Corbyn into power) on the other – with the Tory Ultras and the “D”UP happy to jump off the cliff, and so hoping neither side gives way.

  49. says

    KG @61, thanks for keeping us updated concerning all the Brexit back-and-forth.

    The Advocate-General for the European Court of Justice says the UK should have the right to unilaterally cancel Brexit. This is not a final decision, but it is unusual for the full court to reject the Advocate-General’s recommendation. […]

    That sounds like an OMG moment.

    Meanwhile, all the back-and-forth is making me seasick.

  50. says

    Calendar update (see #23 above):

    (The Andalusian elections…didn’t go well.)

    Today: Flynn sentencing memo (will be public, as confirmed by Mueller’s office)
    Today: Georgia Secretary of State runoff election
    Today: Haspel briefs Senate leaders (see #50 above)
    Today: civil trial in Palm Beach in which some of Epstein’s victims are expected to testify against him (see #471 on the previous iteration and Maddow’s reporting from last night here and here)

    December 7: Cohen sentencing memo
    December 7: Manafort sentencing memo (will be public, as confirmed by Mueller’s office)
    December 7: Comey testifies in House Judiciary Committee (see #43 above)

    December 8: Another Europe is Possible inaugural conference, London (see #19 above)

    December 11: vote in Parliament on Brexit deal (see #19 above)

    December 12: Cohen sentencing

    December 18: (delayed) Flynn sentencing

    December 19: (delayed) Butina status conference

    (Rick Gates’s sentencing has been pushed forward into next year as he continues to cooperate with several investigations. Manafort’s sentencing will be in March.)

  51. says

    Trump has consistently and repeatedly bragged about how much money he spends on the military. Now he says that much spending is “crazy.” WTF?

    […] Trump on Monday said that the U.S., China and Russia would “at some time in the future” begin talks to end what he described as an uncontrollable arms race, and declared U.S. defense spending “crazy!”

    The statement marks a dramatic reversal for the president, who has championed increased spending on the military and in August signed a colossal defense spending bill. […]

    CNBC link

    Trump’s tweet:

    I am certain that, at some time in the future, President Xi and I, together with President Putin of Russia, will start talking about a meaningful halt to what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race. The U.S. spent 716 Billion Dollars this year. Crazy!

    Some of Trump’s previous boasts:

    “most significant investment in our military and our war fighters in modern history”
    “no choice but to fund our military because we have to have by far the strongest military in the world”

  52. says

    About that joint defense agreement Jerome Corsi claims he has with Trump:

    Noted conspiracy monger Jerome Corsi claims to continue to be in cahoots with […] Trump, offering a new, potentially dubious account of a non-written joint defense agreement with the president’s legal team.

    But according to legal experts, any joint defense agreement not put down to paper would be highly problematic at best and, in the words of one former federal prosecutor, “malpractice” at worst.

    Since going public last week with a draft plea agreement from special counsel Robert Mueller, Corsi has claimed that Trump attorney Jay Sekulow took care to make sure that a joint defense agreement between the two parties was never put down to paper, and remained oral. […]

    “Zelinsky [Aaron Zelinsky, a prosecutor on Mueller’s team] got word that we had this agreement with Jay Sekulow,” he said, recounting a supposed phone call between Zelinsky and his attorney, David Gray.

    “I said wait a minute, call Zelinsky, but I don’t want Zelinsky misled – I want Zelinsky to understand that we’re acting as if we had this formal agreement in place, but we don’t, we are acting as if that were in place,” Corsi said.

    Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani confirmed the existence of the agreement last week, but didn’t specify whether it was committed to paper.

    […] Corsi suggested that his coordination with the White House continues. He said that he had directed his new attorney Larry Klayman (who once called for a coup against Obama) to give a copy of a so-called “complaint” against Mueller to Trump’s legal team in advance. […]


  53. says

    Michael Isikoff – “Mueller preparing endgame for Russia investigation”:

    Special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors have told defense lawyers in recent weeks that they are “tying up loose ends” in their investigation, providing the clearest clues yet that the long-running probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election may be coming to its climax, potentially in the next few weeks, according to multiple sources close to the matter.

    The new information about the state of Mueller’s investigation comes during a pivotal week when the special counsel’s prosecutors are planning to file memos about three of their most high profile defendants — former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

    A Flynn sentencing memo is due Tuesday, and memos about Manafort and Cohen are slated for Friday. All three documents are expected to yield significant new details on what cooperation the three of them provided to the Russia investigation.

    There has been much speculation that Mueller might file his memo in Manafort’s case under seal in order to prevent public disclosure of the additional crimes his office believes Manafort committed when he allegedly lied to prosecutors and broke a plea deal after agreeing to cooperate.

    But Peter Carr, spokesman for the special counsel, confirmed to Yahoo News on Monday that the Manafort memo “will be public,” although he added there could be some portions that are redacted or filed as a sealed addendum. The Manafort memo has been requested by the federal judge in his case so that prosecutors could, for the first time, spell out what matters they believe Manafort has lied to them about.

    The fact that Mueller is planning a public filing about Manafort suggests he may no longer feel the need to withhold information about his case in order to bring additional indictments against others. That would be consistent with messages his prosecutors have given defense lawyers in recent weeks indicating that they are in the endgame of their investigation….

    More at the link.

  54. says

    Mueller Finishing Probe, To File Memos On Flynn, Cohen, Manafort This Week

    Special Counsel Robert Mueller is wrapping up his investigation, planning to release at least partially public memos on Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort this week, according to a Monday Yahoo News report.

    Though there was some speculation that the Manafort memo specifically would be filed under seal, to keep quiet the additional crimes he committed by lying to prosecutors, Mueller’s office confirmed that it would be largely public, signaling that the investigation has reached a stage where it is unnecessary to hold back information for further indictments.

    Per Yahoo News, this impression was further solidified when Mueller gave congressional investigators the go ahead to issue subpoenas to people of interest, which may indicate that Mueller’s team has already talked to everyone of note.

    One unnamed source, however, reportedly told Yahoo News that Mueller’s team still asked congressional investigators to steer clear of some witnesses.

    Yeah, so maybe Mueller is entering the home stretch … and maybe he isn’t.

    And, as a reader noted:

    For precision’s sake: what the report references is the obstruction elements. There is no unequivocal statement that other aspects–conspiracy, #RICO, money-laundering, human trafficking, etc–are likewise being “wrapped up.”

    Also, note the probable source of the leak:

    WASHINGTON — Special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors have told defense lawyers in recent weeks that they are “tying up loose ends” in their investigation, providing the clearest clues yet that the long-running probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election may be coming to its climax, potentially in the next few weeks, according to multiple sources close to the matter.

    So, with incredible astuteness, we may deduce that the “defense lawyers” are the leakers, and they are in all likelihood also the “multiple sources” who pop up at the end. Ah, the art of validation! Not one word about the interests of the anonymous leakers, who (as usual) are presumed to be more honest, disinterested, and reliable than anyone in the world of the onymous (now there’s a word we need).

  55. says

    “‘This is not democracy’: Republicans try to shrink power of incoming Democrats”:

    A month after the midterm elections on 6 November, several states continue to be convulsed by bitter partisan fighting in which Republicans are being accused of flagrantly undemocratic attempts to steal victory from the clutches of their Democratic rivals.

    The most intense battle is playing out in Wisconsin, where Republican lawmakers are attempting a power grab that would strip key functions from the state’s incoming Democratic governor and attorney general. Opponents are denouncing the move, which sparked protests on Monday, as a blatantly undemocratic negation of the November election results.

    Similarly contentious efforts are afoot in Michigan, where Democrats regained three important statewide positions in November – that of governor, attorney general and secretary of state. Instead of accepting the will of voters, Republican lawmakers are now seeking to reduce the control of those post-holders over campaign finance and legal proceedings involving the state before the Democratic victors take office.

    Elsewhere, Georgia continues to be racked with disputes over claims of Republican voter suppression before Tuesday’s runoff election for the key post of secretary of state, while North Carolina is grappling with allegations of voter fraud in a close congressional race that remains unresolved.

    The audacious effort to defy the will of voters [in Wisconsin] is a direct repeat of the playbook first adopted by Republicans in North Carolina two years ago. In the wake of the 2016 elections, in which the Democrat Roy Cooper unseated the Republican governor Pat McCrory, GOP leaders staged a special session in which they pared down the governor’s executive powers three weeks before Cooper took office.

    This November, Republicans in North Carolina tried further to water down the governor’s powers with two constitutional amendments that would have limited his control over appointments to the state judiciary and board of elections. The amendments failed at the ballot box, but had they passed one commentator for the Raleigh News & Observer noted they would have reduced the role to that of “a potted plant”….

    Much more at the link.

  56. says

    Kind of fun to see Trey Gowdy receiving some serious shade from Comey’s lawyer:

    David Kelley, former FBI Director James Comey’s lawyer, took a moment during an interview with MSNBC’s Ari Melber Monday to dunk on Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who spearheaded the infamous Benghazi congressional investigation.

    “What’s really interesting, you have Congressman Gowdy, who spent several years trying to get an investigation, spent tens of millions on Benghazi and came up with nothing,” Kelley said. “And in a fraction of that time, Bob Mueller has come up with upwards of 30 indictments. So that’s an interesting dynamic to these hearings.”

    Comey is due to appear before the House Judiciary Committee, on which Gowdy sits, this week to answer questions about the FBI’s actions in 2016, specifically about Hillary Clinton’s emails. […]

    Video available at the link.

  57. says

    Terrible news – “Central European U Forced Out of Hungary”:

    Central European University announced today that it has been forced out of Hungary and will move its U.S.-accredited academic programs from Budapest to Vienna in September 2019.

    CEU says the Hungarian government refuses to ratify an agreement that would allow it to continue to operate its campus in Budapest under the terms of an April 2017 law on foreign branch campuses. The law was widely seen as a targeted attack by Hungary’s increasingly illiberal government on CEU and its founder and honorary board chairman, the liberal financier George Soros.

    The institution previously said it would move out of Hungary if the Hungarian government did not ratify an agreement that would let it continue to offer U.S. degree programs in Budapest by Dec. 1, a deadline that passed Saturday.

    “Basically this is a dark day for freedom in Hungary,” said Michal Ignatieff, the president and rector of CEU. “And it’s a dark day for academic freedom.”…

  58. says

    Norm Eisen, yesterday: “BREAKING: the court has ordered discovery to begin in the Maryland & DC #emoluments case led by @BrianFrosh & @AGKarlRacine & cocounseled by @CREWcrew @deepakguptalaw & @CohenMilstein. Here we go!”

  59. says

    Julia Davis:

    Apparently, Putin wasn’t satisfied with his little #G20Summit2018 chat, because today #Russia’s state media is still roasting Trump: he is “clumsy,” “morose,” “defensive,” “brought dissonance to the #G20Summit,” “wasn’t prepared for a meeting with Putin,” “had nothing to say.”

    #Russia’s state TV drags out “Fire & Fury,” massages it on various TV programs as an accurate portrayal of Trump, who “understands very little about politics.” Participants reiterate there was no reason for Putin to meet with Trump at #G20, because “his power is very limited.”

    Also, “Disoriented Trump wanders off G-20 stage saying ‘Get me out of here’ on hot mic.”

  60. says

    “Exclusive: Emails of top NRCC officials stolen in major 2018 hack”:

    The House GOP campaign arm suffered a major hack during the 2018 election, exposing thousands of sensitive emails to an outside intruder, according to three senior party officials.

    The email accounts of four senior aides at the National Republican Congressional Committee were surveilled for several months, the party officials said. The intrusion was detected in April by an NRCC vendor, who alerted the committee and its cybersecurity contractor. An internal investigation was initiated and the FBI was alerted to the attack, said the officials, who requested anonymity to discuss the incident.

    However, senior House Republicans — including Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) — were not informed of the hack until POLITICO contacted the NRCC on Monday with questions about the episode. Rank-and-file House Republicans were not told, either.

    Party officials would not say when the hack began or who was behind it, although they privately believe it was a foreign agent due to the nature of the attack….

    More at the link.

  61. says

    SC: “Disoriented Trump wanders off G-20 stage saying ‘Get me out of here’ on hot mic.”

    (magic wand sound effects)
    His command is our wish.

  62. says

    Followup to comment 68.

    Shady North Carolina election just got even shadier: Republican candidate knew suspected vote-rigger

    Mark Harris reportedly even recommended his campaign’s “independent contractor” to other politicians.

    Fear-mongering about non-existent voter fraud has become a staple of conservatism — and not just by […] Trump, the world’s most prominent promoter of baseless conspiracy theories. […]

    But something seems a little fishy about Republican candidate Mark Harris’ narrow lead over Democrat Dan McCready in North Carolina’s 9th congressional district.

    On Friday, the state’s Board of Elections decided it would not certify the results, citing an investigation into possible election fraud over voting irregularities and allegations of ballot tampering.

    […] Popular Information’s Judd Legum — who founded ThinkProgress — obtained even more evidence of potential improprieties.

    See the link for screenshots of Legum’s Twitter feed documenting the fraud.

    More details:

    […] Legum explained why the emergence of Leslie McCrae Dowless, who was an “independent contractor” for Harris’ campaign, is bad news for Republicans:

    …Leslie McCrae Dowless, the man at the center of the controversy…has previously been convicted of felony fraud. In 2016, McCrae Dowless admitted to running an operation where he paid people for each absentee ballot they were able to collect. The operating allegedly involved paying “people to obtain absentee ballots, fill them out, and cast their votes on someone else’s behalf,” according to an exposé on This American Life.

    Now the Charlotte Observer reports that Harris, a pastor who wishes anti-sodomy laws still existed, knew Dowless and recommended the “convicted felon who faced jail time for fraud and perjury” to other politicians.

    Dowless has reportedly “been paid by at least nine candidates, all for get-out-the-vote work.”

    North Carolina’s Board of Elections will hold a hearing later this month on evidence of suspected voter fraud during the race in the state’s 9th congressional district that stretches from Charlotte to rural central Carolina. […]

  63. says

    Followup to comment 49.

    Trump sent the Dow off a cliff. The Dow lost more than 500 points after Trump added to the confusion over the U.S.-China trade deal.

    First, the Dow shot up over news that Trump might be calling off, or at least reducing, the trade war with China. Then Trump tweeted this:

    President Xi and I want this deal to happen, and it probably will, but if not remember, I am a Tariff man. When people or countries come in to raid the great wealth of our Nation, I want them to pay for the privilege of doing so. It will always be the best way to max out our economic power.

    So, now the Dow is falling off a cliff again.

    Some background information:

    [Trump] said China had committed to buying large amounts of U.S. agricultural products and completely removing all tariffs on U.S. automobiles, a huge shift from its current 40 percent penalty. Chinese officials, meanwhile, did not confirm any of these details. They wouldn’t even acknowledge that there was a 90-day deadline under which they were operating.

    In the past 24 hours, there were signs that White House officials were beginning to backpedal from some of their initial optimism. In his Twitter posts on Tuesday, Trump said they might need an extension if the 90-day timeline didn’t prove sufficient.

    Meanwhile, White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said there wasn’t an actual agreement for China to remove auto tariffs, but that he expected China to eventually do it as a measure of good faith.

    He also said that China’s vice premier, Liu He, had told him there would be changes made “immediately” to show the Chinese were serious about a new agreement. But Kudlow acknowledged Tuesday that so far they haven’t seen any evidence of concrete steps being taken.[…]

    Washington Post link

    Dear American taxpayer, dear soybean farmer, dear auto manufacturer, dear American consumer: you have been conned again by Trump, the “Tariff man.”

  64. KG says

    May’s government suffered two significant defeats on the first day of debate running up to the key vote on her deal on 11th. First, the Government was found “in contempt of Parliament” for refusing to publish the legal advice it received from the Attorney General. This is unprecedented in modern politics (possibly in any UK politics). The Government has now agreed to publish. Second, an amendment to the “business motion” put down by a Tory, Dominic Grieve, will give the Commons a better chance to influence what happens if May’s deal is rejected – details at the link.

  65. says

    Followup to comment 57.

    Lots of Congress critters are coming out of the briefing with Central Intelligence Agency Director Gina Haspel saying that it is obvious that the Saudi Crown Prince orchestrated and was complicit in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

    “A jury would convict him in thirty minutes.”

  66. says

    Followup to comments 57 and 80.

    More on comments from Senators as they emerged from a briefing with CIA Director Gina Haspel.

    […] “There’s not a smoking gun, there’s a smoking saw,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said, referencing Trump administration comments that there is no “smoking gun” linking the crown prince to the order to kill Khashoggi.

    “You have to be willfully blind not to come to the conclusion that this was orchestrated and organized by people under the command of MBS and that he was intricately involved in the demise of Mr. Khashoggi,” Graham added, using the crown prince’s initials.

    Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), meanwhile, said there was “zero question” Prince Mohammed murdered Khashoggi.

    “I have zero question in my mind that the crown prince directed the murder and was kept apprised of the situation all the way through, I have zero question in my mind,” said Corker, who is retiring in January.

    Haspel briefed senators who lead national security-related committees roughly a week after Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo similarly failed to stall Senate action with a briefing on U.S.-Saudi relations and the Yemen civil war. […]

    “I am now more convinced than I was before, and I was pretty convinced, that in fact the United States must have a strong response to both the war in Yemen, as well as the killing of United States permanent resident and journalist in Jamal Khashoggi,” Menendez said. “And I hope the Sen. Graham and my legislation, which would set a real set of consequences… would be a very strong answer to what is happening.”

    The Hill link

  67. says

    Trump buried a wildly anti-LGBTQ provision in the new North American trade deal.

    And the erasure of transgender people continues.

    The Trump administration seems to have edited out LGBTQ protections in the new North American trade agreement with Canada and Mexico (known as the USMCA). The change, an apparent gesture to a group of the most anti-LGBTQ members of Congress, ensures the administration’s own anti-LGBTQ efforts can continue without undermining the agreement.

    Originally, the drafted trade agreement called on all three countries to establish “policies that protect workers against employment discrimination on the basis of sex, including with regard to pregnancy, sexual harassment, sexual orientation, gender identity.”

    In the final version, however, a new footnote was added that significantly undermines the United States’ obligation to uphold these protections. It states:

    The United States’ existing federal agency policies regarding the hiring of federal workers are sufficient to fulfill the obligations set forth in this Article. The Article thus requires no additional action on the part of the United States, including any amendments to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, in order for the United States to be in compliance with the obligations set forth in this Article.

    This is a reference to a pair of Executive Orders President Obama implemented protecting both federal employees and the employees of federal contractors from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. […]

    The footnote basically ensures that the United States is not held responsible to protect LGBTQ workers to the same degree as Canada and Mexico. […]

    More at the link.

  68. says

    Team Trump is threatening to leave another nuclear treaty:

    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday gave Russia a 60-day deadline to correct alleged violations of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty or he said the U.S. would quit the accord.

    Speaking at a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, where he attended a meeting of the alliance’s foreign ministers, Pompeo said the U.S. had found Russia in “material breach” of the 1987 treaty, under which Washington and Moscow agreed to eliminate all nuclear missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

    European countries have been the primary beneficiaries of the INF treaty given the range of weapons that it abolished, and EU leaders have been particularly unsettled by U.S. President Donald Trump’s threats to withdraw from the accord, rather than continue to press Russia for compliance. […]

    “Russia’s actions gravely undermine American national security and that of our allies and partners,” Pompeo said. “It makes no sense for the United States to remain in a treaty that constrains our ability to respond to Russia’s violations. Russia has reversed the trajectory of diminishing nuclear risk in Europe.” In addition to the alleged Russian violations, which the Kremlin has denied, Pompeo said the treaty had also given enormous strategic advantage to other adversaries who are not party to it, including China and Iran.

    “While Russia is responsible for the demise of the treaty, many other states including China, North Korea and Iran are not parties to the INF treaty,” Pompeo said. “This leaves them free to build all the intermediate-range missiles that they would like. There is no reason the United States should continue to cede this crucial military advantage to revisionist powers like China. In particular, when these weapons are being used to threaten and coerce the United States and its allies in Asia.” […]

    NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, speaking at his own news conference on Tuesday, said the allies were united in concluding the Russia had breached the accord by developing a new ground-launched weapons system.

    “All allies have concluded that Russia has developed and fielded a new ground-launched cruise missile system, the SSC-8, also known as the 9M729,” Stoltenberg said. “Allies agree that this missile system violates the INF treaty and poses significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security. And they agree that Russia is therefore in material breach of its obligations under the INF treaty. The treaty has been a pillar of Euro-Atlantic security for more than 30 years.” […]

    Politico link

    It sounds like Russia truly is the bad guy here. However, I think the U.S.A. should join with EU leaders to push Russia toward compliance. Threatening to withdraw from the treaty sounds like one of Trump’s overly simplistic, bullying tactics.

    I’m also concerned about Pompeo’s remarks mentioning intermediate-range missiles in China. Dude, that is not a good reason to withdraw from the treaty with Russia.

  69. says

    Trump is still trying to use the U.S. Postal Service as a proxy for him in a fight with Amazon, or more accurately, a fight with Jeff Bezos, owner of The Washington Post:

    The Trump administration on Tuesday released a report that recommends the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) enact reforms that could raise shipping rates for certain packages, a move that could inflame tensions with Amazon and other online retailers.

    The administration’s USPS task force says the changes are needed to bring in more revenue for the cash-strapped Postal Service, which reported $3.9 billion in losses in fiscal year 2018. […]

    The report recommends that the USPS divide its mail and package shipments into essential and commercial service categories. Many e-commerce shipments would fall into the latter category, which would not be protected by existing price caps and thus be subject to rate increases.

    […] “all companies” dealing in e-commerce, “including Amazon,” would “be impacted by those suggested reforms.”

    The proposed changes were the result of a process Trump initiated in April, when he assembled the task force and called for a report after accusing Amazon of using the USPS as its “delivery boy” with a shipping deal he said was too favorable for the company.

    Trump’s focus on the agreement appears to stem from his animosity toward Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post. […]

    The report […] called on the Postal Service to restructure pre-payments of employee retirement and health benefits, which business groups say is the main driver of its fiscal woes. But it stopped short of endorsing bipartisan legislation that would end the pre-payments altogether, saying that doing so would place too much of a burden on taxpayers. […]

    The Hill link

  70. KG says

    It sounds like Russia truly is the bad guy here. However, I think the U.S.A. should join with EU leaders to push Russia toward compliance. Threatening to withdraw from the treaty sounds like one of Trump’s overly simplistic, bullying tactics.

    I’m also concerned about Pompeo’s remarks mentioning intermediate-range missiles in China. Dude, that is not a good reason to withdraw from the treaty with Russia. – Lynna, OM@84

    I strongly suspect collusion between Russia and the US (which means Putin and Trump) on this. At the least, Trump, and the hawks he has surrounded himself with, are delighted to have an excuse to withdraw from the treaty.

  71. says

    More white supremacists in Texas:

    A tea party activist who helped the Texas Republican Party draft its 2018 platform proudly declared himself a “WHITE NATIONALIST” last week.

    “Damn Right, I’m a WHITE NATIONALIST and very Proud of it,” Ray Meyers wrote on Facebook last Tuesday, in response to someone else’s post that accused President Donald Trump of being a white nationalist.

    […] Meyers’ connections in the Republican Party: He is the founder and chairman of the Kaufman County Tea Party, was on the Ted Cruz presidential campaign’s “Texas Leadership Team” and served as a delegate for Cruz at the Republican National Convention in 2016. […]

    “I am Anglo and I’m very proud of it, just like black people and brown people are proud of their race. I am a patriot. I am very proud of my country,” he said. “And white nationalist, all that means is America first. That’s exactly what that means. That’s where the president’s at. That’s where I’m at and that’s where every solid patriotic American is. It doesn’t have anything to do with race or anything else.” […]

    Merrill Perlman wrote in the Columbia Journalism Review last year: “Adding an adjective to indicate what ‘their’ nation is can turn ‘nationalism’ into a polarizing term. A ‘white nationalist’ generally wants a nation of white people. Whether that means creating a separate nation of just white people or pushing those who are not white out of their current nation depends on which branch of ‘white nationalism’ is talking.”

    And the Southern Poverty Law Center defines white nationalist groups as those that believe “white identity should be the organizing principle of the countries that make up Western civilization.”

    TPM link

    So, yeah. It does have something to do with race.

  72. says

    Say, what now?

    Trump has failed many times to justify his precious wall on the southern border. He defends it, but he can’t do so with actual facts. He has now turned to another favorite Trump tactic: he is pulling magic numbers out of his …

    Could somebody please explain to the Democrats (we need their votes) that our Country losses 250 Billion Dollars a year on illegal immigration, not including the terrible drug flow. Top Border Security, including a Wall, is $25 Billion. Pays for itself in two months. Get it done!

    Analysis from Ryan Koronowski:

    […] On Monday, Trump tweeted that “we would save Billions of Dollars if the Democrats would give us the votes to build the Wall.” The basis for this claim appeared to be that the wall would shut down undocumented border crossings (it wouldn’t) and halt the flow of illegal drugs into the country (it wouldn’t do that either) thus eliminating unspecified costs to the U.S. economy, saving billions. […]

    Leaving aside the fact that this wall would both fail to prevent people from crossing the border as well as not account for the 11 million people currently in the United States without documents, Trump ignores the economic hit the country would take if unauthorized immigrants were somehow taken out of the U.S. economy.

    As it happens, unauthorized immigrants contribute billions to the U.S. economy, and their disappearance would create dire economic problems for many industries.

    Even assuming Trump’s faulty math is correct, this implication that some amount of money “saved” would then make its way into the U.S. Treasury, thus zeroing out federal outlays for wall construction, is spurious.

    Trump is not likely to get any congressional funding for his border wall, even after two years of Republican control (which will end on January 3). On the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly claimed that he would make sure the cost of the wall’s construction would be covered by Mexico, a cloudcuckooland idea that should never have been seriously countenanced. And so we’re left with Trump’s new reasoning, in which he doesn’t have to get Mexico to pay for the wall because it won’t cost anything. It will.

    Think Progress link

  73. says

    Asylum seekers don’t think they can survive for months in Mexico. Trump wants to force them to.

    Faced with waiting in Tijuana until March, families from the caravan are getting desperate enough to scale the border fence.

    […] The caravan members are responding to the US government’s refusal to let in people who try to cross into the US legally to seek asylum. Under a policy the Trump administration has had in place in Tijuana and across the border for months, they’re being told to wait — with no official appointment or line, at the mercy of overstretched shelters and local Mexican officials who are ambivalent about their presence.

    Faced with a wait that could last until February or March — and no firm guarantee that they’ll get in at all — it’s not surprising that caravan members are taking matters into their own hands.

    The caravan and its thousands of members are caught in a vise. For the past several months, the Trump administration has attempted to deter asylum seekers from crossing the US between ports of entry — even though it’s totally legal to seek asylum in the US even if you’ve crossed illegally to do it. But even as it’s done that, it‘s restricted access to ports of entry for asylum seekers seeking to come legally.

    […] its only plan to deal with the problem is to force them to remain in Mexico even longer — in the very conditions they’re seeking to escape.

    Even before the caravan showed up in Tijuana three weeks ago, about 3,000 asylum seekers were waiting there to be allowed to enter the US legally. The wait was already six weeks or longer. With the several thousand caravan migrants added to the queue, asylum seekers are now being told it could be February or March before they’re allowed to enter legally.

    […] Until 2016, people who came to a port of entry and presented themselves for asylum were processed when they arrived. […]

    The policy, known as “metering,” has been in place in Tijuana since late spring. Since then, the number of asylum seekers trying to get into the US — many of them families, and many from Central America — has increased substantially. But the number actually allowed in at ports of entry has stayed flat. Instead, the bottleneck has built up in cities along the Mexican side of the border. […]

    More at the link.

  74. says

    Trump’s ‘Deport Everyone’ Policy Nabs Philadelphia-Born Citizen, But It’s OK, He’s Black (This is an article from Wonkette’s Doktor Zoom.)

    The Trump administration’s efforts to deport all the nasty horrible criming foreigners just keeps scoring wins! Along with all the undocumented moms and dads scooped up while dropping the kids off at school (total threats to the nation), the New Cruelty makes the occasional error, like targeting US citizens for deportation, which is quite the regrettable oopsie, but is really just the sort of thing that will happen from time to time. […]

    Still, troublemakers like the American Civil Liberties Union seem to think people have “rights,” and now the ACLU is suing a county sheriff’s office in Florida for having held a Philadelphia-born US citizen, Peter S. Brown, for three weeks while refusing to even check his repeated offers to prove his citizenship. After all, Immigration and Customs Enforcement had asked the Monroe County Sheriff”s Office to hold “Peter Brown” for deportation to Jamaica, and that was that. […]

    Back in April, Brown, who lives in Key West, turned himself in to the Monroe Sheriff’s department on a parole violation because he’d tested positive for weed on a pee test. (See, already a dangerous criminal!) He expected he’d spend a few nights in jail at most, but instead, because Monroe County is one of 17 Florida sheriffs’ departments that signed up to share information and hold immigration suspects for ICE, he ended up being mistaken for the wrong guy and scheduled for deportation, and nothing Brown could do would convince his jailers to even look at the proof he was a citizen — although, as it turns out, the jail’s own records listed Brown’s place of birth as “Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.”

    Brown tells his story in this video posted by the ACLU: [video available at the link].

    The lawsuit seeks damages for Brown’s treatment, which included not only being falsely held for three weeks while the county ignored — and jailers made fun of — his attempts to show he’s a citizen, but also taunting him about his certain deportation to a Jamaican prison. You know, just the sort of good-natured ribbing some good ol’ Florida deputies would do to a gay man who feared being sent to one of the most homophobic countries in the Western Hemisphere. […]

  75. says

    Speculating on Trump’s “disorder”:

    […] Raw Story spoke with Yale psychiatry professor Bandy X. Lee on why the president’s supporters show such undying devotion to a man who’s repeatedly reneged on promises and whose tumultuous first term has been filled with shake-ups. (Lee speaks for herself, not for Yale).

    Raw Story: In your opinion, what are the emotions driving Donald Trump’s base?

    Bandy X. Lee: The sense of grandiose omnipotence that he displays seems especially appealing to his emotionally-needy followers. No matter what the world says, he fights back against criticism, continues to lie in the face of truth, and above all is still president. What matters is that he is winning, not whether he is honest or law-abiding. This may seem puzzling to the rest of us, but when you are overcome with feelings of powerlessness, this type of cartoonish, exaggerated force is often more important than true ability. This is the more primitive morality, as we call it, of “might makes right,” which in normal development you grow out of by age five. […]

    Much more at the ink, including:

    How does Donald Trump mirror and communicate with his base?

    He also has to scapegoat groups in order to distract from his billionaire cabinet, tax breaks for the rich, and trade wars that hurt his base the most, and so his demonizing of other helpless groups will only increase with time.

    The appeal of “strongman-type” personalities.

  76. says

    Rep. Mark Pocan – “‘No Labels’ Needs A Warning Label”:

    …Look, I get it. No Labels is slick, and I got duped. But no other current or newly elected member of Congress should fall for its shtick. No Labels is a centrist, corporate organization working against Democrats with dark, anonymous money to advance power for special interests. Period.

    So newly elected members, learn from my mistakes. Run. Fast. No Labels needs a label: “Warning: Wolf in sheep’s clothing inside. Join at your own risk.”

  77. says


    2016 primary: Dowless works for Todd Johnson (R), who wins Bladen mail-in absentees 221-4-1 (!) over Harris (R) & Pittenger (R).

    2018 primary: Dowless works for Harris (R), who wins Bladen mail-in absentees 437-17 (!) over Pittenger (R).

    A blatantly obvious absentee mill. #NC09

    The ’16 GOP primary, ’18 GOP primary & ’18 general elections in #NC09 were all decided by fewer than 1,000 votes. In all three cases, Dowless’s absentee ballot scheme was hidden in plain sight – in the election results. Amazing anyone thought they could get away with it forever.

  78. says

    More Than 400 Former DOJ Officials Call For Whitaker To Be Replaced

    Hundreds of former Justice Department officials signed onto a statement published Tuesday by the group Protect Democracy calling for Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker to be replaced in that role by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein or another Senate-confirmed official.

    “Mr. Whitaker has not been confirmed by the Senate, his qualifications to be the nation’s chief law enforcement officer have not been publicly reviewed, and he has not been fully vetted for any potential conflicts of interest,” the statement reads. “While we know that there are thousands of dedicated public servants now at the Department who will do their utmost to protect its mission and reputation, it falls to all of us to ensure that the Department’s role in maintaining the rule of law is not undermined or tainted.”


  79. says

    Republican Chris Stewart, a Representative from Utah who also serves on the House Intelligence committee, made this incredibly unethical argument for maintaining a close relationship with Saudi Arabia:

    We have to have a relationship with some players that we don’t agree with. Journalists disappear all over the country. Twenty journalists have been killed in Mexico. You don’t think it’s happened in Turkey and China? Of course it does, and yet we have to have a relationship with these individuals— or with these countries.

    Oh, yeah, the old “everybody kills journalists” excuse. So, you know, no big deal if journalist Jamal Khashoggi was dismembered with a bone saw by the Saudis.

  80. says

    NEW: Mueller’s office says former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn “has assisted with several ongoing investigations, including its probe of coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.”

    Some can’t be revealed because investigations are ongoing.

  81. says

    Mueller on Flynn: ‘Given the defendant’s substantial assistance and other considerations set forth below, a sentence at the low end of the guideline range—including a sentence that does not impose a term of incarceration—is appropriate and warranted’.”

  82. says

    Flynn has cooperated extensively and provided significant information, according to the memo. His son has been suggesting for a year that when the truth came out everyone would know that things weren’t as they looked. I wonder if he’s truly deluded or if something else is going on. Seems like the former.

  83. says

    “Feds Target Butina’s GOP Boyfriend as Foreign Agent”:

    Paul Erickson, a longtime Republican politico whose Russian girlfriend is in jail on charges she acted as a covert foreign agent, has been informed that he may face similar accusations. The Daily Beast reviewed a “target letter” that federal investigators sent Erickson’s lawyer, which said they are considering bringing charges against him under Section 951 of the U.S. code—the law barring people from secretly acting as agents of foreign governments.

    The letter also said the government may bring a conspiracy charge against Erickson, who is the boyfriend of accused foreign agent Maria Butina. The letter, which was sent in September by investigators working out of the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, does not accuse Erickson of any crimes or guarantee that he will face charges.

    If prosecutors bring the charges named in the letter, Erickson would be the first American embroiled in the 2016 Russia investigation charged under a statute that Justice Department lawyers describe as “espionage-lite.”

    “Charging an American under 951 in the context of the Russia investigation is especially serious because that statute is generally reserved for espionage-like cases, such as intelligence-gathering on behalf of a foreign government,” said Ryan Goodman, a former Defense Department attorney who now teaches at the New York University School of Law.

    “Essentially what it would say is that an American was acting to advance the interests of a foreign power, contrary to the interests of the United States of America,” said Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor….

  84. says

    From former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade:

    I think there are a couple of things that are disclosed even in the heavily redacted form that we see. Number one, the fact that they met 19 times. That is a huge number of meetings, and suggests that Michael Flynn has shared an awful lot of information with the special counsel.

    The other thing you [Rachel Maddow] pointed out, by going through the redactions in the addendum, it looks like there’s not just one, but three separate investigations that Michael Flynn has cooperated about, the special counsel investigation. And then one that’s partly redacted but says criminal investigation. And a third that’s completely redacted.

    And if you say criminal investigation, is that in contrast with something else that’s in that third investigation? Is it not criminal? Is it something else? Is it a civil investigation? Or is it a counter intelligence investigation?

  85. says

    “Paul Ryan Silent On GOP Power Grab In Wisconsin”:

    The extraordinary proposals aimed at reducing the power of incoming Gov. Tony Evers and other Democrats in Wisconsin was met with silence this week by one of the state’s top officials: House Speaker Paul Ryan (R).

    The measures, which were passed by the Republican-controlled state Legislature on Tuesday, would cut early voting in the state, give Republicans full control of a state economic development agency, block the governor’s ability to write regulations and allow the Legislature to hire its own lawyers to file lawsuits on behalf of the state. Current Gov. Scott Walker, who narrowly lost re-election to Evers last month, is expected to sign the package into law.

    Evers called the move unprecedented and accused Republicans of subverting the will of the electorate.

    “Power-hungry politicians rushed through sweeping changes to our laws to expand their own power and override the will of the people of Wisconsin who asked for change on November 6th,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

    Ryan has not commented publicly on the matter. Asked whether the speaker supports the Wisconsin GOP’s lame-duck proposals, a spokesman for Ryan told HuffPost in an email on Tuesday, “I don’t have anything for you.”

    In a eulogy for George H.W. Bush, who died last week, Ryan credited the former president for the graceful way in which he handed over the reins to Bill Clinton, who succeeded him as president after one term.

    “He was the first president to teach me that in a democracy, sometimes you fall short and that how you handle that — that is just as important as how you win,” Ryan said Monday at an event at the U.S. Capitol….

    (Incidentally, Bush won with the help of Lee Atwater and Roger Ailes.)

  86. says

    Trump is gleefully and openly encouraging China to execute fentanyl dealers.

    One of the very exciting things to come out of my meeting with President Xi of China is his promise to me to criminalize the sale of deadly Fentanyl coming into the United States. It will now be considered a “controlled substance.” This could be a game changer on what is considered to be the worst and most dangerous, addictive and deadly substance of them all. Last year over 77,000 people died from Fentanyl. If China cracks down on this “horror drug,” using the Death Penalty for distributors and pushers, the results will be incredible!

    Commentary from Think Progress:

    This totally ignores human rights, and the fact that executing dealers does not stop drug cartels. […]

    It’s worth noting that the United States does not use the death penalty for drug traffickers, and that the policy of funding the “war on drugs” in countries that do execute traffickers and dealers is as ineffective as it is inhumane.

    China has executed drug offenders, although fentanyl — a synthetic opioid — was not on the country’s list of controlled substances until now. China already leads the world in the number of executions, but it’s tough to know how many are killed on drug offenses.

    Iran, which is also one of the world’s leading executioners, tends to publicize drug-related executions via state media. An estimated 205 of the roughly 507 put to death in Iran in 2017 (according to numbers gathered by Amnesty International) were killed on drug charges, but after pressure from European partners funding its anti-trafficking measures, Iran early this year passed a law easing the parameters for offenses that result in capital punishment. There had been movement among Iran’s lawmakers to change the law for some time, as officials realized that killing people was not solving anything.

    There are no reliable numbers for how many people China has executed — nor how many it has put to death for drug offenses — but according to Amnesty International, “thousands of executions … were believed to have been carried out in China” in 2017.

    Despite that, its own state media reports that parts of the country are “plagued with rampant drug production and trafficking.”

    With his tweet, President Trump, who has also mused that executing drug traffickers in the United States might be a good idea, is also promoting executions in a justice system that seldom grants appeals or opportunities for reform. […]

    They are often poor, desperate and incredibly disposable. Sending them to the gallows is not going to slow the roll of any kingpin, nor will it actually solve the root problems of addiction.

    More at the link.

  87. tomh says

    @ #109
    This is the take on the Flynn memo from Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes on lawfare.
    A Flynntriguing Sentencing Memorandum

    …Flynn’s cooperation with federal authorities has been diverse and extensive. The document says he has met 19 times with the Special Counsel’s Office and other components. His cooperation appears to involve not merely the Russia probe but also other matters as well. Putting this point together with the absence of complaints about Flynn’s behavior, the affirmative statement that he has given substantial assistance, and the recommendation that he get as little as no jail time, the only conclusion is that Mueller has gotten everything he needs from Flynn.

    …because the addendum to the sentencing memo is mostly redacted, one is left reading tea leaves in the document’s redactions. Some of these are reasonably legible. It seems that Flynn is cooperating in at least three ongoing investigations: a criminal investigation about which all details are redacted; Mueller’s investigation into “any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald J. Trump”; and at least one additional investigation about which all information is redacted.

    … it appears likely from the length of the redaction bar that the first criminal investigation is not a matter being conducted by the special counsel’s office—though, of course, it’s impossible to know for certain. Notably, however, the addendum does state that Flynn has “participated in 19 interviews with the SCO [Special Counsel’s Office] or attorneys from other Department of Justice [“DOJ”] offices,” which would be consistent with significant cooperation in a matter not under Mueller’s jurisdiction In the second memo — properly an addendum, not “supplemental” (apologies) — important to note that this is referring to a criminal investigation that would appear to be ongoing and conducted by an entity other than Mueller’s office.

    Although it technically doesn’t tell us in the unredacted part that it is not elsewhere, the earlier note that Flynn had interviews with non-SCO folks at DOJ, as well as the spacing of the redacted material in the heading (see below) pretty much makes it clear it is not SCO.

    Then there’s the meat-and-potatoes Russia investigation. The addendum describes Flynn’s cooperation here in two buckets: one regarding contacts between “individuals in the Presidential Transition Team and Russia,” and a second category that is entirely redacted. As to the first category, the addendum doesn’t provide any information that wasn’t already publicly known, but Mueller didn’t need to redact that portion because it dealt with matters related to the substance of Flynn’s plea itself; the question is what’s lurking behind that second set of redaction marks.

    Most mysteriously, there appears to be at least one more matter in which Flynn is cooperating about which the document makes public nothing at all. This is likely spelled out in a shorter redacted section under the addendum’s description of Flynn’s cooperation in the Russia matter, taking up just five lines of text.

    Fourth, there’s been a lot of talk recently about the investigation winding down. Every few months, the president’s lawyers suggest wistfully that Mueller’s work might be nearing its end. More seriously, Michael Isikoff recently reported that “Mueller’s prosecutors have told defense lawyers in recent weeks that they are ‘tying up loose ends’ in their investigation” and have spoken with most of the people they need to in their inquiry into obstruction of justice.”

    That may be true in some sense, but it doesn’t mean that things will be drawing to a close in the immediate term. Mueller still has one public active grand jury case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and, according to Politico, one sealed case as well. He’s negotiating with at least one possible defendant and apparently gearing up to bring some additional charges. And the recent Michael Cohen plea deal suggests that the loose ends being tied up may be numerous. The Flynn memo, too, suggests that there’s a lot left to unravel.

    More at the link.

  88. tomh says

    The SC building is closed today for the Bush extravaganza, so the oral argument scheduled for today in Gamble v US is put off until tomorrow. That’s the case challenging the “separate sovereigns” doctrine, allowing dual prosecutions by states and feds, which, if overturned, could have relevance to Trump’s pardons.

  89. says

    The DCMS Committee has published a selection of Facebook emails.

    Guardian – “Facebook discussed cashing in on user data, emails suggest”:

    Facebook staff in 2012 discussed selling access to user data to major advertisers, before ultimately deciding to restrict such access two years later, according to a tranche of internal emails released by the UK parliament.

    The internal emails were obtained by the Commons digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS) committee last month after they had been disclosed, under seal, by Facebook as part of a lawsuit against it by the American software developer, Six4Three.

    The emails are a selection, often with little or no context or continuity, showing Facebook staff, including the chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, discussing whether to trade access to user data for revenue, valuable trademarks or simple cash payments. The emails also cast new light on a number of other controversial practices at the social network:

    In 2015, the company began “continuously uploading” call and text logs from Android phones, giving it a valuable window into the communications habits of its users. The company knew it was “a pretty high-risk thing to do from a PR perspective”, and discussed ways to do it without requiring users to actively opt in. One staff member warned that the change could result in “enterprising journalists … writing stories about ‘Facebook uses new Android update to pry into your private life in ever more terrifying ways – reading your call logs, tracking you in businesses with beacons, etc.’”

    Since 2013, the company has used a VPN app it acquired, named Onavo, to harvest information about app usage on iPhones. By funnelling all internet usage on those phones through Facebook’s servers, it could be forewarned about popular apps, and take pre-emptive action against possible competition. The company used this information in 2013 to show that WhatsApp was more popular on mobile than Facebook Messenger; it acquired the company a year later.

    In 2013, when Twitter launched its mobile video app Vine, Facebook immediately shut down access to the company’s Find Friends API, frustrating Vine’s ability to grow the way Facebook’s own Instagram had – by piggybacking on to a wider social network. The move was personally approved by Zuckerberg.

    Even though it clamped down on apps accessing user data in 2015, Facebook offered continued access to that data to a small number of large companies, including Netflix, Lyft and Airbnb.

    On Tuesday, the day before the emails were released, Facebook reversed the policy under which it had banned Vine from its platform. “As part of our ongoing review we have decided that we will remove this out-of-date policy so that our platform remains as open as possible. We think this is the right thing to do as platforms and technology develop and grow,” the company said.

  90. tomh says

    With all the (hollow) praise being heaped on Bush, this article in the WaPo is worth considering.
    How George H.W. Bush enabled the rise of the religious right

    Conservatives were suspicious of Bush, especially on abortion, considering that,

    Bush’s questionable history included having written the foreword to a 1973 book advocating the benefits of family planning in developing countries. As a congressman from 1967 to 1971, Bush’s enthusiastic support for federal funding for Planned Parenthood and other family planning groups was so well-known it had garnered him the nickname “Rubbers.”

    But as the religious right became entrenched in the GOP during Reagan’s tenure, he realized he would have to shift his views. Evidently, it was easy for him.

    To do this, he would need to clear up his position on abortion, the biggest stumbling block for religious conservatives given his inconsistent record. And Bush took decisive steps to do so. After a meeting with the National Right to Life Committee to plan the group’s involvement in Reagan’s 1984 reelection campaign, the vice president suddenly announced he opposed federal funding for abortion except to protect a mother’s life, backed a constitutional amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade and supported a human life amendment that would outlaw abortion with a few exceptions — which he told the NRLC he would continue to consider…His choice of the conservative evangelical Dan Quayle as his vice president and his nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court were both intended to appease religious conservatives.

    They never fully trusted him, but he laid the groundwork for their complete takeover of the party, (finalized by his son, ironically.)
    More at the link.

  91. says

    Gun control proposal from the Democrats:

    House Democrats plan to prioritize a bill that will require a background check for every gun sale,[…] The legislation represents an aggressive shift in strategy by Democrats and their gun reform allies, who in previous years had tended to pursue more modest background check bills that would have exempted large numbers of gun purchases.

    Federal law currently only requires licensed firearm retailers, such as gun stores or hunting shops, to run the would-be buyer through the FBI’s National Instant Background Check System. This means any firearms purchased outside those venues—on the internet or from a private dealer at a gun show, for instance—can be sold without taking that step. […]

    It will require a background check for every gun sale or transfer, regardless of who’s doing the selling or transferring. The move has been in the works since before the election, when Thompson [Representative Mike Thompson from California] met with outside gun reform allies like the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety, the Center for American Progress, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and Giffords to talk about what they might push for if Democrats won the House.

    To take such a hard line with no track record of legislative success could be a risky move, but gun control advocates point to the 2018 midterms as proof the political calculus on guns has shifted. A record 97 percent of people polled voiced support for universal background checks in the wake of the February shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and many Democratic congressional candidates successfully flipped red seats while running on platforms calling for stricter gun regulations. Earlier this week, 46 incoming House Democrats wrote a letter to Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the likely speaker, calling for gun reform to be among the first priorities Democrats address in January. […]

    Mother Jones link

  92. says

    From Wonkette’s coverage of George H.W. Bush’s funeral:

    […] we’ve been on Twitter to make sure we don’t miss the good parts, and we can tell you For Official that there is one (1) good part, and it is the part where Donald and Melania Trump walk to their pews and sit down. Can you believe it? Those trash-ass people sitting in a row of actual presidents and first ladies? THE NERVE.

    Trump is presumably sitting there and grimacing about everybody saying nice things about George H.W. Bush, as people come together in their bipartisan, American way, to say goodbye to a president who was pretty crap but we guess was a pretty nice guy to his friends and family. Trump is probably taking everything as a personal insult, because since Trump has no good qualities, every compliment delivered to another person, even if that person is just a dead body at the front of the room, seems like a personal slight. Hell, he’s probably offended nobody is talking about him. (Directly. They’re not talking about him directly.) […]

    Trump, though? He’s sitting on a row of DEMOCRAT DEEP STATE PREZNITS. To his left are the Obamas, then the Clintons, and then the Carters.

    Shall we watch a video of the row of presidents and first ladies chit-chatting and making jokes and giving each other mints, then abruptly stopping to give side-eye to the bloody human carbuncle who’s come to crash their party? Shall we watch as Barack Obama is completely fucking gracious to Melania Trump, like he always is? (She likes him. They’ve been funeral buddies before.) Shall we watch Michelle just cold judging everything that’s going on, up until the exact second it is time for her to smile and say hello to Donald Trump? Shall we watch Hillary Clinton sit there like GENERAL STONEFACE JACKSON, studiously looking in front of her so as not to lose her sense of decorum at an inopportune moment […] Shall we notice how the Clintons literally do not greet Donald Trump? […]

  93. says

    The Democratic Party margin of victory, an update:

    […] a month later, the electoral landscape looks even worse for the GOP. The number of Democratic pickups in the U.S. House reached 40 — on the very high end of what most observers considered possible in this cycle — and as the Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman noted last night, the Democrats’ lead in the national popular vote now stands at 8.6%.

    That’s the largest margin either party has seen in any midterm cycle in more than 30 years. [A chart is available at the link.]

    Also note, in raw popular vote totals, House Democrats recently crossed the 60 million-vote threshold, which means the party received roughly the same number of votes in this year’s midterms as John McCain did in his 2008 presidential election and Mitt Romney did in his 2012 bid. […]

    Maddow Blog link

  94. says

    Well, yeah, Sean Hannity, that is awful. You shouldn’t have said that, but then you are one of Trump’s lackeys.

    Fox News’ Sean Hannity, one of the president’s closest allies, told his radio audience that he believes talking to the FBI is a bad idea. From Media Matters’ transcript:

    “If you’re like me, and you were — grew up to revere an FBI agent, and the FBI comes to your house, and maybe some crime took place in the neighborhood, and maybe you have a little bit of information, but you don’t quite fully recall everything, but you’re pretty sure you do — the advice I have to give you now is, ‘Don’t talk to the FBI.’ How awful is that?”

    “I don’t think anything of what we’re hearing is true, because it just — none of it makes sense, but they get to jump the gun, because they want this all to — they want everybody to believe Donald Trump was colluding with the Russians.” […]

    [Trump] published a tweet on Friday encouraging the public to tune in to Hannity – something Trump has done many times before.

    Hannity is so closely aligned with this president that the Fox host literally took the stage at a Trump campaign rally last month. Earlier this year, New York’s Olivia Nuzzi reported that Trump and Hannity talk on the phone nearly every night. “On some days,” the article added, “they speak multiple times, with one calling the other to inform him of the latest developments.”

    With this in mind, when Hannity advises, “Don’t talk to the FBI,” I wonder how many will perceive it as advice reflecting the president’s wishes?

    Maddow Blog link, where most of the text is written by Steve Benen.

  95. says

    Emoluments, an update on Saudi money flowing to Trump:

    […] This week, we learned that a federal lawsuit is advancing challenging the president’s alleged “Emolument Clause” violations, in which Trump profits from foreign money. There are multiple lawsuits testing his practice, but the case filed by the Maryland and D.C. attorneys general has moved to the discovery phase, and subpoenas were issued on Tuesday.

    The Justice Department continues to insist that the case has no merit. It’s against this backdrop that the Washington Post published a new report overnight on the money Trump’s D.C. hotel received thanks to a Saudi Arabian lobbying campaign.

    Lobbyists representing the Saudi government reserved blocks of rooms at President Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel within a month of Trump’s election in 2016 — paying for an estimated 500 nights at the luxury hotel in just three months, according to organizers of the trips and documents obtained by The Washington Post.

    At the time, these lobbyists were reserving large numbers of D.C.-area hotel rooms as part of an unorthodox campaign that offered U.S. military veterans a free trip to Washington — then sent them to Capitol Hill to lobby against a law the Saudis opposed, according to veterans and organizers.

    At issue was proposed legislation called the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, which Saudi officials were vehemently against. Ostensibly as part of their opposition, Saudi Arabia hired lobbyists and booked rooms at Trump’s hotel for U.S. veterans who were encouraged to pressure members of Congress on the legislation. Some of those veterans apparently didn’t realize what foreign country was footing the bill.

    As the Post’s report makes clear, the original plan was to put up the veterans in a different D.C.-area hotel, but after Election Day, the lobbyists “switched most of their business to the Trump International Hotel.” […]

    Also from the Washington Post article:

    [Veterans] said they weren’t given detailed briefings about how the law ought to be amended, or policy briefings to leave behind for legislators to study.

    The timing also was odd. They returned five times in January and February, when the issue was largely dormant and Washington was distracted by a new president’s inauguration. They were sent, again and again, for dead-end meetings with legislators who had made up their minds.

    “The fourth time I saw Grassley’s guy, he was like, ‘Hey, what [else] is going on?’ We didn’t even talk about the bill,” said Robert Suesakul, an Army veteran from Iowa, about his fourth visit to the office of Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa). It had been clear after the first trip that Grassley wasn’t interested in amending the bill. “It didn’t make sense hitting these guys a fourth time.”


    So, yes, the Saudis used a thinly-veiled lobbying effort to pour money into Trump’s coffers. No wonder Trump bends the knee to the Saudi Crown Prince.

  96. says

    Fox News hosts are heatedly discussing the “war on Christmas.”

    […] “Friends don’t let friends mess with baby Jesus!” exclaimed Bongino at the end of the bizarre segment. […]

    The Trump administration has been putting real children in cages along the southern border, separating those children from their parents. But Fox News hosts have been working hard to justify that inhuman policy.

    The hosts are, however, extremely upset that a doll depicting the baby Jesus was displayed in a cage as part of a nativity display in Massachusetts.

    Think Progress link

  97. says

    Followup, in a way, to comment 122.

    The Trump administration has separated 81 children from their parents since June 20, when President Trump signed an executive order ending his administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy at the U.S.-Mexico border, a report by the Associated Press revealed this week.

    Immigration officials have continued the policy despite the order and a federal judge’s ruling.

    A recent investigation by ProPublica discovered at least 16 separation cases that occurred after June 20, but the report from the Associated Press found that the number was much higher.

    According to the AP:

    From June 21, the day after President Donald Trump’s order, through Tuesday, 76 adults were separated from the children, according to the data. Of those, 51 were criminally prosecuted — 31 with criminal histories and 20 for other, unspecified reasons, according to the government data. Nine were hospitalized, 10 had gang affiliations and four had extraditable warrants, according to the immigration data.

    Two other adults were separated due to “prior immigration violations and orders of removal,” the outlet wrote.

    […] federal immigration officials are continuing these separations by exploiting a legal loophole. U.S. federal judge Dana Sabraw — who ruled this summer that the government was responsible for reuniting all separated migrant families — made exceptions in his decision for cases where the parent had a criminal history or if the child’s safety was at risk.

    Immigration advocates are now concerned that law enforcement officials are finding any justification they can to separate families in the absence of a zero-tolerance policy. […]

  98. says

    Trump blames Mueller for his low ratings:

    Without the phony Russia Witch Hunt, and with all that we have accomplished in the last almost two years (Tax & Regulation Cuts, Judge’s, Military, Vets, etc.) my approval rating would be at 75% rather than the 50% just reported by Rasmussen. It’s called Presidential Harassment!

    Trump’s average approval rating in respected polls is 43.3 percent. The methodology of the Rasmussen polls has been frequently criticized. Rasmussen is seen as a Republican pollster that works to make Republicans and Republican policy look good.

    Trump is deluded about the cause of his low poll ratings. He is generally disliked, domestically and internationally. He lies. He blames everyone but himself for his failures. He remains willfully ignorant on most issues. That’s why his poll numbers are low.

    The fact that Mueller’s investigation has indicted so many Trump cronies, (and Russians), probably does play a part in Trump’s poll numbers. That’s not harassment, that’s justice.

    Somebody on Fox News should tell Trump that the Rasmussen polls are unreliable. Maybe then Trump would stop using their results.

  99. says

    Government shutdown avoided… for now.

    The House passed a two-week measure to keep the government funded and stave off a partial shutdown by unanimous consent on Thursday.

    The vote essentially punts a divisive debate on funding for President Trump’s border wall to the next two weeks.

    The Senate is expected to pass the measure later in the day, just ahead of the Dec. 7 deadline.

    Trump is demanding that Congress include at least $5 billion in funding for the wall in legislation to fund the rest of the government through the next fiscal year.

    Democrats have only agreed to $1.6 billion in funding for border security […]

    Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are slated to meet with Trump to discuss spending levels next week. […]

    The Hill link

  100. says

    Wonkette’s coverage of the Saudi bribes (see comment 121):

    It’s good to have friends in dry places. Like if your hotel in New York is having a bad quarter, sometimes your buddy Mohammed from the desert will sweep in and book a whole block of rooms for his underlings — MBS isn’t staying at a Trump garbage palace, LOL — and KA-CHING, you’re in the black for the first time in ages.

    But you can’t have the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince here all the time. The guy does have a tendency to wild out with the bone saw, and then you wind up with the liberal media crawling all over you. Sometimes you need a more sustaining boost to the bottom line without all the publicity that comes from having a murderous despot in residence. Never fear, because Mohammed has a plan to bring the mountain to you! […]

    Wonkette’s article goes on to quote The Washington Post’s report, which was written by David Fahrenthold. (Some excerpts are presented in comment 121.)

    More from Wonkette:

    […] In 2016, Congress overrode Obama to pass the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), allowing Americans to sue foreign governments who sponsor terrorists. And the Saudis have one or fifteen reasons to fear that they might wind up getting sued in US courts for letting guys like Osama bin Laden recruit in their kingdom. So they came up with A PLAN. […]

    SUBTLE. Saudi lobbyists put up groups of veterans, handed them talking points that said American troops would be endangered by allowing victims of terrorism to sue the Saudi government, and dispatched them in waves to convince Congress to kill the law. And they did it badly. […]

    Worse still, the veterans didn’t even grok that they were a prop for a foreign government until one of the organizers got wasted at a reception and toasted the real host, saying, “Thank you, Saudi prince!” But if the veterans didn’t know who was picking up the tab, they were about the only ones in DC in the dark. […] “Are you the veterans that are getting bribed?” […]

  101. says

    The USA deported him. Now he is dead.

    On the day he pleaded for his life in federal immigration court, Santos Chirino lifted his shirt and showed his scars.

    Judge Thomas Snow watched the middle-aged construction worker on a big-screen television in Arlington, Va., 170 miles away from the immigration jail where Chirino was being held.

    In a shaky voice, Chirino described the MS-13 gang attack that had nearly killed him, his decision to testify against the assailants in a Northern Virginia courtroom and the threats that came next. His brother’s windshield, smashed. Strangers snapping their photos at a restaurant. A gang member who said they were waiting for him in Honduras.

    “I’m sure they are going to kill me,” Chirino, a married father of two teenagers, told the judge.

    It was 2016, the last year of the Obama administration, and Chirino was seeking special permission to remain in the United States. His fate lay with Snow, one of hundreds of administrative judges working for the U.S. Justice Department’s clogged immigration courts.

    Their task has become more urgent, and more difficult, under President Trump as the number of asylum requests has soared and the administration tries to clear the backlog and close what the president calls legal loopholes. […]

    Snow believed Chirino was afraid to return to Honduras. But the judge ruled that he could not stay in the United States.

    Nearly a year after he was deported, his 18-year-old daughter and 19-year-old son arrived in the Arlington immigration court for their own asylum hearing. They were accompanied by their father’s lawyer, Benjamin Osorio.

    “Your honor, this is a difficult case,” Osorio told Judge John Bryant, asking to speed the process. “I represented their father, Santos Chirino Cruz. . . . I lost the case in this courtroom . . . . He was murdered in April.” […]

    Chirino’s daughter and son, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of concern for their safety, are among 750,000 immigrants facing deportation in the U.S. immigration courts. A growing number, like Chirino and his family, say they would be in grave danger back home.

    A decade ago, 1 in 100 border crossers was seeking asylum or humanitarian relief, according to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute. Now it’s 1 in 3. […]

    Judges say they must handle “death-penalty” cases in a traffic court setting, with inadequate budgets and grueling caseloads. Most records aren’t public, most defendants don’t speak English and many don’t have lawyers to represent them. Cases often involve complex tales of rape, torture and murder. […]

    The Trump administration has imposed production quotas and ordered judges to close cases more quickly. They also must enforce a stricter view on who deserves protection in the United States.

    Under federal immigration law, fear isn’t enough to keep someone from being deported. Asylum applicants must prove they are a target based on their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group, which for years has included being a victim of gang or domestic violence. […]

    The government doesn’t track what happens after asylum seekers and other immigrants are ordered deported. But Columbia University’s Global Migration Project recently tracked more than 60 people killed or harmed after being deported.

    Judges’ powers are limited, immigration lawyers say, by outdated asylum laws that were designed to protect people from repressive governments rather than gangs or other threats. […] If migrants don’t meet the strict definition of an asylee, judges must send them back to dangerous situations.

    “It can be depressing. We’ve had judges quit because of that . . . or they just couldn’t stand it anymore,” Burman said. “You have to fit into a strict category, and if you don’t fit into a category, then you can’t get asylum, even if your life is in danger.” […]

    Washington Post link

  102. says

    All the best people in West Virginia.

    West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice appointed Jill Upson, chairwoman of a PAC called Black Americans for the President’s Agenda, to head West Virginia’s Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs just months after her organization ran a racist ad about Democrats lynching black men.

    […] Upson will be in charge of, among other things, identifying and proposing rewrites for policies that harm minorities.

    The ad, which ran in late October for Rep. French Hill (R-AK), featured two seemingly black women discussing the likelihood that white Democrats would start lynching black men as part of the #MeToo movement. […]

    TPM link

  103. says

    All the best people in Virginia:

    A conservative pastor, who was the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor of Virginia in 2013 and lost a Republican primary bid for Senate in May, made bigoted claims on his radio show this week, arguing that Muslims should not be allowed to serve in Congress.

    Suggesting it was “just beyond the pale” that a Muslim could be elected, Bishop E.W. Jackson argued that America is a “Judeo-Christian country” and said the “floor of Congress” will now “look like an Islamic republic.”

    “We are a nation rooted and grounded in Christianity and that’s that. And anybody that doesn’t like that, go live somewhere else,” he said. “It’s very simple. Just go live somewhere else. Don’t try to change our country into some sort of Islamic republic or try to base our country on Sharia law.”

    “The fact that we’re electing these people to Congress and electing them to office is just beyond the pale,” he continued. “Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe in the freedom of religion, I believe in the First Amendment, but I’ll tell you what, I’m not voting for a Muslim to serve in any office. Me, personally, I’m not doing it. … The threat to humanity is not merely radical Islam, the threat to humanity is Islam, period.” […]

    TPM link

  104. says

    Suspected neo-Nazis arrested in Britain on terror charges

    They are accused of having ties to the U.S. group neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen

    British police have arrested three alleged neo-Nazis on suspicion of terror offenses. It is understood that the suspects are believed to be part of Sonnenkrieg Division, which has links to a violent U.S. neo-Nazi group responsible for the murder of five people.

    Police arrested a 17-year-old from London, an 18-year-old from Portsmouth and a 21-year-old from Bath. The operation was led by the North East Counter Terrorism Unit, and a spokesperson said they were part of an “ongoing investigation into extreme right-wing activity.” […]

    The suspects were chatting online with senior members of neo-Nazi organizations in the USA.

    The USA is exporting hate.

  105. says

    Remember when Trump said he’d fix the trade deficit? It just rose again.

    He promised he would negotiate, “fair trade, smart trade, I even like to say brilliant trade.”

    As a candidate, Donald Trump promised “brilliant trade” policies that would drop the national trade deficit “like you’ve never seen before.”

    Two years after he was elected, despite his singular focus on trade, America is importing more goods, while exporting less, than it ever has.

    The federal government announced Thursday that America’s trade deficit hit $55.5 billion in October, rising almost a billion dollars from September. This is a ten-year high. […]

  106. says

    Is Julian Assange finally being booted out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London?

    […] It’s last call for crazy cat ladies at the Ecuadorian embassy. AP reports that the Brits have agreed not to extradite His Stinkiness to the US without explicit guarantees that the death penalty was off the table. So it’s time for Assange to take his litterbox and GTFO.

    Ecuador’s president has ramped up pressure on Julian Assange to leave his country’s embassy in London, saying that Britain had provided sufficient guarantees that the WikiLeaks founder won’t be extradited to face the death penalty abroad.

    Lenin Moreno’s comments in a radio interview Thursday suggest that months of quiet diplomacy between the U.K. and Ecuador to resolve Assange’s situation is bearing fruit at a time when questions are swirling about the former Australian hacker’s legal fate in the U.S.

    “The road is clear for Mr. Assange to take the decision to leave,” Moreno said, referring to written assurances he said he had received from Britain.

    […] You know how it is when a relationship has run its course and those things that used to seem cute start to lose their charm. Like it’s adorable in the beginning when your man is comfortable with his own musk. […]

    “It seems he doesn’t wash properly,” the source, who has visited Assange at the embassy, told The Times.

    But eventually his table manners start to seem less adorable and more like the outward manifestation of deep-seated mental illness.

    One of Assange’s closest aides, Daniel Domscheit-Berg noted: “Julian ate everything with his hands and he always wiped his fingers on his pants. I have never seen pants as greasy as his in my whole life.”

    And pretty soon you’re blasting Third Eye Blind and sighing that someone really needs to start kicking in for food and rent. And also, TAKE A FUCKING SHOWER, DUDE.

    Assange has reportedly given away his cat rather than comply with an embassy directive to clean up after it, so now he’s crying alone in his litterbox. And the Ecuadorians periodically cut his internet access when he tweets embarrassing shit. […]

    Moreno didn’t say he would force Assange out, but said the activist’s legal team is considering its next steps.
    As a leaked filing revealed last week, Julian Assange probably does face secret charges in a US court. And there’s a legitimate argument to be had over whether Assange is a journalist deserving of First Amendment protection, or just a chaos monkey. Our theory is that he long ago lost the ability to hack anything more complicated than a gumball machine, and in 2016 functioned solely as a front for Russian hackers, with no actual knowledge or control of the information and its release. […]

  107. says

    EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned in the summer after a big pile of corruption charges sank his chances of remaining in the office … even in a Trump administration.

    Pruitt is still in trouble:

    Pruitt set up the fund [legal defense fund] as he battled with ethics allegations that eventually led to his resignation from EPA. The report, also known as his termination report, covers Pruitt’s finances for the 2018 calendar year up to his departure from the agency in early July.

    Included on the report is a note from Justina Fugh, a senior EPA ethics official, saying Pruitt did not seek ethics advice from EPA before accepting the contribution from Hendricks. In addition, “EPA ethics officials did not know of this contribution — believed to be in cash — until they received the termination report.” […]

    Diane Hendricks gave $50,000 to Pruitt’s fund. She is a Republican donor, and she worked on Trump’s campaign for president as an economic advisor.

    As for the donation, “believed to be in cash” is a red flag. Bags of unreported money?

  108. says

    Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been out of office for nine months. Here is some of what Tillerson is saying now:

    Tillerson said the two [he and Trump] had starkly different styles and did not share a common value system.

    “So often, the president would say here’s what I want to do and here’s how I want to do it and I would have to say to him, Mr. President I understand what you want to do but you can’t do it that way. It violates the law,” Tillerson said. […]

    “What was challenging for me coming from the disciplined, highly process-oriented Exxon Mobil corporation was to go to work for a man who is pretty undisciplined, doesn’t like to read, doesn’t read briefing reports, doesn’t like to get into the details of a lot of things, but rather just kind of says, ‘This is what I believe.’”

    Tillerson added, “I don’t want that to come across as a criticism of him.”

  109. says

    PZ posted about Trump nominating another Fox News personality to fill an important post. Link

    We know Donald Trump despises the UN, so I’m interpreting this as an act of spite: he’s appointing to the post of UN Ambassador one of those interchangeable blonde Fox News talking heads, Heather Nauert. She’s not a diplomat, she’s had no real training from the State Department (she has been a spokesman), and she seems to be prone to gaffes. But we all also know what Trump considers “qualifications”. […]

    From Steve Benen, writing for The Maddow Blog:

    […] Trump on Friday said that he was nominating State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert to be his next United Nations ambassador.

    “Heather Nauert will be nominated for the ambassador to the United Nations,” he told reporters. She replaces Nikki Haley, who is set to leave the post at the end of the year.

    If Nauert seems familiar, it’s not just because of her State Department briefings. It was, after all, just last year when Nauert was a Fox News personality, using her “Fox and Friends” platform to, among other things, endorse Ivanka Trump’s branded merchandise.

    Soon after, Nauert became the chief spokesperson for the State Department – because if there’s one thing this president values, it’s a team with television experience.

    Earlier this year, the Associated Press reported that Nauert felt “sidelined” and was prepared to quit, before the White House promoted her to a position with “responsibilities far beyond the regular news conferences she held in the briefing room.”

    Now, evidently, Trump is prepared to promote her again to one of the nation’s highest profile diplomatic posts, despite Nauert’s total lack of relevant experience in diplomacy.

    As she departs the State Department, Nauert leaves behind a fairly brief record that has not always been smooth. In June, for example, she pointed to the D-Day invasion as evidence of the longstanding relationship between the United States and Germany.

    The United Nations ambassador is a Senate-confirmed position. Haley was confirmed on a 96-4 vote last year; I suspect Nauert won’t enjoy nearly that much support.

  110. says

    A Mother Jones article on another questionable Trump nominee: Trump Picks William Barr, Defender of Presidential Power, as Attorney General

    Barr held the position under President George H. W. Bush and was skeptical of independent counsels investigating the president.

    All the best people.

    […] If confirmed, Barr would oversee Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, and he will face tough questions about the investigation during his confirmation hearing. When Barr was nominated for this same position in 1991, at the age of 41, he was already a known advocate for presidential power—a trait that Trump also sought out in Supreme Court appointee Brett Kavanaugh.

    The announcement ends speculation that Trump would allow acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to hold the position for an extended period of time.

    Barr […] testified that he “‘entertained doubts’ about whether the post-Watergate independent counsel statute violated the Constitution by impinging on the president’s power,” according to a 1991 Washington Post report. But he added that he accepted the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding it. […]

    More from the Washington Post:

    […] After he became deputy attorney general in May 1990, Barr advised Bush that he had the legal authority to wage war against Iraq without obtaining Congress’s consent. At the same time, however, he encouraged the president to seek a congressional resolution of support, saying it would put Bush in a stronger position, according to “The Commanders,” a book by Washington Post assistant managing editor Bob Woodward.

    Barr is also on record as having said that Roe v. Wade was “wrongly decided.”

  111. says

    Another questionable appointment from Trump: The Senate GOP Just Confirmed a Trump Aide with No Relevant Experience to Lead America’s Financial Industry Watchdog

    […] the Senate confirmed Kathy Kraninger, a White House budget official with no consumer finance experience, as the new director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the watchdog agency created in the wake of the financial crisis to regulate certain financial institutions. Kraninger, who was confirmed on a razor thin, 50-49 vote along party lines, will lead the bureau for the next five years, beyond the end of Trump’s current term.

    Kraninger’s confirmation will delight the financial industry and policy groups who have long maligned the CFPB as unfriendly to business and championed her as a qualified candidate to lead it, despite her lack of background in consumer finance or banking—the main realms regulated by the bureau. These groups have indicated that they see Kraninger as likely to continue the legacy of Mick Mulvaney, the current White House budget chief who’s also been serving as interim CFPB head, part time.

    A long-time CFPB foe who once co-sponsored a House proposal to shut down the bureau, Mulvaney has spent his year at the helm diluting a number of tools aimed at robust supervision of the financial industry. […]

    All the best people, or, as PZ wrote, “the death of expertise continues.”

  112. says

    A new leader has been elected to replace Angela Merkel as leader of the CDU.

    Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was elected to take over from Angela Merkel as leader of Germany’s Christian Democrats on Friday, putting her in pole position to become the country’s next chancellor and Europe’s most powerful politician.

    At a party congress in Hamburg, Kramp-Karrenbauer, the current party secretary-general, won 517 votes, defeating Friedrich Merz, who received 482 votes, in a run-off ballot. Health Minister Jens Spahn was eliminated in a first round of voting. A total of 1,001 delegates at the congress were eligible to vote in the election.

    Merkel announced in October she would stand down as leader of the Christian Democratic Union after 18 years in charge. She said she intends to see out her current term as chancellor, due to run until 2021, but will not stand again for the post. […]

    Kramp-Karrenbauer was widely seen as her favorite and the one most likely to continue her centrist policies. Merz and Spahn had campaigned for the party to shift to the right. Such a course would have made cooperation with Merkel more difficult and could have led to her stepping down as chancellor sooner rather than later.

    Kramp-Karrenbauer, 56, is a former premier of the regional state of Saarland who is relatively new to the national political stage. She gave up the Saarland premiership to become CDU secretary-general at Merkel’s request in February. […]

    Politico, Europe link

  113. says

    Democrats plan to focus on measures to combat climate change.

    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer plans to push measures to combat climate change through infrastructure legislation […]

    With Democrats set to take control of the House next year, Schumer believes the party will be in a better position to hammer through sustainable infrastructure legislation, which has long been a Democratic priority. […]

    “In the 116th Congress, however, Democrats will have an extraordinary opportunity to force action on climate change,” Schumer wrote. “Not only will House Democrats have the power to propose, debate and pass progressive legislation on the subject, but Senate Democrats will have substantial leverage as well. For any legislation to pass the Senate, 60 votes are required.”

    The Senate minority leader wrote that he intends to send Trump a letter outlining Democrats’ objectives with new infrastructure legislation, including an emphasis on renewable energy and weather-resilient infrastructure. The senator noted that these proposals were already part of an unsuccessful $1 trillion infrastructure proposal Senate Democrats offered last year.

    But Schumer’s op-ed went further, adding more priorities including tax credits for clean energy production and storage, as well as investment in public lands. […]

    Politico link

  114. says

    Special Counsel Robert Mueller will file new court documents today related to the Russia investigation, including some details about Paul Manafort’s “crimes and lies.”

    Perhaps as a result of these planned filings, Trump posted his usual flurry of bonkers tweets:

    Robert Mueller and Leakin’ Lyin’ James Comey are Best Friends, just one of many Mueller Conflicts of Interest. And bye the way, wasn’t the woman in charge of prosecuting Jerome Corsi (who I do not know) in charge of “legal” at the corrupt Clinton Foundation? A total Witch Hunt…

    ….Will Robert Mueller’s big time conflicts of interest be listed at the top of his Republicans only Report. Will Andrew Weissman’s horrible and vicious prosecutorial past be listed in the Report. He wrongly destroyed people’s lives, took down great companies, only to be……..

    …..overturned, 9-0, in the United States Supreme Court. Doing same thing to people now. Will all of the substantial & many contributions made by the 17 Angry Democrats to the Campaign of Crooked Hillary be listed in top of Report. Will the people that worked for the Clinton….

    ….Foundation be listed at the top of the Report? Will the scathing document written about Lyin’ James Comey, by the man in charge of the case, Rod Rosenstein (who also signed the FISA Warrant), be a big part of the Report? Isn’t Rod therefore totally conflicted? Will all of….

    …the lying and leaking by the people doing the Report, & also Bruce Ohr (and his lovely wife Molly), Comey, Brennan, Clapper, & all of the many fired people of the FBI, be listed in the Report? Will the corruption within the DNC & Clinton Campaign be exposed?..And so much more!

    […] We will be doing a major Counter Report to the Mueller Report. This should never again be allowed to happen to a future President of the United States!

    It has been incorrectly reported that Rudy Giuliani and others will not be doing a counter to the Mueller Report. That is Fake News. Already 87 pages done, but obviously cannot complete until we see the final Witch Hunt Report.

    That’s so much bullshit, and repetitive bullshit at that, that I am tempted to just ignore it.

    It’s probably not worth the effort to debunk that hot mess from Trump, but, nevertheless, here are some facts from The Washington Post:

    […] Comey and Mueller, both veterans of the Justice Department, have known each other for more than a decade and have said they respect one another, but associates of both men say they are not personal friends and did not socialize outside work functions. Both men were registered Republicans for most of their adult lives. […]

    Weissmann’s career stretches back decades, during which he pursued mobsters, Enron executives and white-collar criminals. During that time, he earned a reputation as an aggressive prosecutor, one particularity effective at flipping witnesses to provide evidence against others.[…]

    Corsi provided research during the 2016 campaign to Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to Trump. For months, Mueller’s team has been scrutinizing Stone’s activities […]

    “Wasn’t the woman in charge of prosecuting Jerome Corsi (who I do not know) in charge of ‘legal’ at the corrupt Clinton Foundation?” Trump wrote, referring to the charitable foundation that was led by his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, and members of her family.

    The “woman” referenced by Trump is Jeannie Rhee, who, while in private practice, was among the lawyers who represented the Clinton Foundation in a lawsuit brought by Larry Klayman. Klayman is a lawyer now representing Corsi […]

  115. says

    An update from Steve Benen re the Trump campaign indulging in campaign-finance violations:

    Mother Jones reported yesterday that in the 2016 cycle, the NRA and Donald Trump’s campaign allegedly violated campaign-finance law by coordinating their advertising campaigns. The article quoted Larry Noble, a former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission, saying, “This is very strong evidence, if not proof, of illegal coordination.”

    Concerning Nancy Pelosi:

    Nancy Pelosi took another step toward the House Speaker’s gavel this morning when Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) announced his support for her. Lynch recently put his name on a letter, signed by 16 House Dems, opposing Pelosi’s bid.

  116. militantagnostic says

    Klayman is a lawyer now representing Corsi

    He was added to The Encyclopedia of American Loons in May 2011 and has done nothing but confirms that he deserves to be in there since.

  117. says

    Followup to comment 136.

    […] Barr won’t be considered by the Senate until the new year, when the Republican majority will grow from 51 members to 53. Given this arithmetic, Barr, who was confirmed easily in 1991, has reason to be optimistic about his chances. […]

    Barr’s public profile has been modest of late, though he does speak out from time to time. Just two weeks into the Trump presidency, for example, Barr wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post defending the president’s decision to fire acting Attorney General Sally Yates.

    Three months later, he wrote another op-ed for the same newspaper, defending Trump’s ouster of FBI Director James Comey.

    All the while, Barr has been a critic of Hillary Clinton, explicitly calling for additional federal investigations into the former secretary of state as recently as late last year.

    Is it any wonder the president likes this guy?

    We also know Barr has an expansive view of executive powers, helped establish contemporary norms on mass incarceration, and during his previous tenure in the AG’s office, pushed for blanket pardons for everyone in the Reagan administration caught up in the Iran-Contra scandal. (George H.W. Bush took the advice and made the pardons on Christmas Eve 1992, a month after losing his re-election bid, when he hoped the public wouldn’t notice.)

    Sasha Samberg-Champion, who worked in the Justice Department’s civil rights division in the Obama era, had a compelling Twitter thread yesterday, explaining that Barr “is one of the few plausible candidates for AG who is, if anything, even worse than Sessions on criminal justice reform.” […]


  118. says

    militant agnostic @142, Ha! Thanks for that additional information.

    In other news, while rumors of John Kelly’s ouster as Chief of Staff have surfaced anew, CNN is reporting that Kelly was questioned about obstruction of justice by Robert Mueller’s team.

    […] the questions narrowly focused on President Trump’s possible obstruction issues that Mueller is said to be investigating. Kelly’s interview is noteworthy in that he joined the White House relatively late — in July 2017 — compared to other prominent witnesses in Mueller’s probe who were in Trump’s inner circle during the campaign, the transition, or the early days of the administration.

    The special counsel’s team questioned Kelly specifically on an episode involving Trump after the New York Times reported that last year Trump sought to fire Mueller — a report that allegedly drew Trump’s ire at then-White House counsel Don McGahn, who didn’t publicly deny it.

    The White House at first resisted Mueller’s request to question Kelly, CNN reported, a departure from an initial posture geared toward cooperation with Mueller. […]

  119. says

    Say, what now? Why?

    A White House official says the Trump administration is downgrading the U.S. diplomatic post at the United Nations to a non-Cabinet position.

    President Donald Trump on Friday announced that he had chosen State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

    If confirmed, the former Fox News Channel reporter who has little foreign policy experience would replace Nikki Haley, a former South Carolina governor who said she was stepping down at the end of the year.

    While Nauert will be a leading administration voice on Trump’s foreign policy, a White House official told The Associated Press that her post would be a non-Cabinet position. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the change.


    Some history:

    The Ambassadorship continued to hold this status through the Ford, Carter, and Reagan administrations but was removed from cabinet rank by George H. W. Bush, who had previously held the position himself. It was restored under the Clinton administration. It was not a cabinet-level position under the George W. Bush administration (from 2001 to 2009), but was once again elevated under the Obama administration, and retained as such by the Trump administration.

    Okay, so this downgrading move is not that unusual, but I’m always suspicious when it comes to any Trump decision, and to the timing of any of Trump’s decisions.

  120. says

    Followup to comment 145.

    Ah, maybe this is why. A reader asked this question:

    Does demoting the position to non-Cabinet status mean that the nominee can avoid the scrutiny of the Senate confirmation process?

  121. says

    Former KKK leader David Duke congratulated the Spanish far-right leaders on their election win.

    David Duke, the former leader of Ku Klux Klan and one of America’s most virulent racists, congratulated the Spanish far right party Vox on its weekend election victory, the latest evidence that the global far right is uniting.

    Vox, which has called for the expulsion of all illegal immigrants and the end of regional autonomy in Spain, won 12 seats on Sunday in the regional elections for Andalucia. While that makes it only the fifth most popular party in Andalucia, Vox was also the party that gained the most votes. Its inclusion in the Andalucian parliament is the first time since the death of strongman Francisco Franco in 1975 that a far right party has won political power in Spain. […]

    In response, David Duke tweeted out his congratulations to Vox for the victory. “VOX triumphs in Andalusia! 12 seats and the end of the socialist regime #EspañaViva makes it history and shows that change is possible,” he tweeted earlier this week. The Reconquista begins in the Andalusian lands and will be extended in the rest of Spain #AndalucíaPorEspaña.”

    Duke was not the only far right figure to congratulate Vox. The Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders also tweeted his praise, while the French far right leader Marine Le Pen tweeted that it was an “extremely significant moment for a young and dynamic movement.” […]

    In July meanwhile, Trump’s ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, told Breitbart he wanted to “empower conservatives” across Europe, calling Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who has formed a far-right government in his country, a “rock star.” Rep. Steve King has also made frequent trips to Austria.

    “[The far-right] actively seek to overcome ideological and geographic differences for the sake of expanding their influence, reach and impact,” a report from the Institute of Strategic Dialogue warned last year. […]

    Think Progress link

    One more example of hate groups in the USA supporting far-right hate-mongers abroad.

  122. says

    Excerpts from Wonkette’s coverage of the undocumented woman who works at one of Trump’s golf properties:

    With all of Donald Trump’s xenophobic racist huffing and puffing about border walls and Mexican rapists and marauding caravans, would you have ever imagined that he employed undocumented workers at his trash palaces? (Yes. One million times yes.)

    The New York Times published a hell of a story today, in which Victorina Morales, a housekeeper at Trump’s Bedminster resort in New Jersey, and who is undocumented, is speaking out even though she knows full well she will probably lose her job and maybe even get deported for doing so. (NYT notes that Morales has applied for asylum, so Trump maybe will put her in a baby jail.) […]

    Ms. Morales said she has been hurt by Mr. Trump’s public comments since he became president, including equating Latin American immigrants with violent criminals. It was that, she said, along with abusive comments from a supervisor at work about her intelligence and immigration status, that made her feel that she could no longer keep silent.

    “We are tired of the abuse, the insults, the way he talks about us when he knows that we are here helping him make money,” she said. “We sweat it out to attend to his every need and have to put up with his humiliation.”

    […] This is a tragic story that has funny parts, so we will try to tell you some of both. Morales is from Guatemala, and she’s worked at Bedminster since 2013. The Times reports that she’s so damn good at her job that the White House Communications Agency gave her a special certificate recognizing her service.

    She came to America illegally in 1999, and her former coworker Sandra Diaz did too. They say that if you walked around Bedminster saying “PAPERS PLEASE” you wouldn’t get very many papers, at least not real ones.

    Morales has worked up close and personal with Trump, including while he has been president, dusting the sconces and whatnot while he beaches his svelte body on the furniture and plays on Twitter. She says one time, before he was president, he dusted part of a window for her because she was too short to reach it. After he was done, he was even nice to her:

    Mr. Trump then asked Ms. Morales her name and where she was from, she recalled. “I said, ‘I am from Guatemala.’ He said, ‘Guatemalans are hard-working people.'” The president then reached into his pocket and handed her a $50 bill.

    […] Another time, he pulled a super creeper move and made her watch while he rubbed his tiny stub finger through an area she had already cleaned. Satisfied, he gave her a big tip that time too. Fuckin’ weirdo.

    […] She said she washed and ironed Mr. Trump’s white boxers, golf shirts and khaki trousers, as well as his sheets and towels.

    […] Mr. Trump had an outburst over some orange stains on the collar of his white golf shirt, which Ms. Diaz described as stubborn remnants of his makeup, which she had difficulty removing. […]

    How did Ms. Morales get hired in the first place? She used fake papers. And when Trump became president and everybody was like “Uh oh, better start pretending like we’ve been doing this by the book the whole entire time” and employees were encouraged to get real papers? They bought updated fake papers. Why? According to Ms. Morales, that’s what her supervisor told her to do.

    […] Morales and former Bedminster employee Diaz are speaking out because they and other immigrant employees of Trump’s property are horrified by how Trump speaks of them, and how they feel he’s encouraging others to do the same. Morales mentions another supervisor who “frequently made remarks about the employees’ vulnerable legal status when critiquing their work, she said, sometimes calling them ‘stupid illegal immigrants’ with less intelligence than a dog.” […]

    And say your thoughts ‘n’ prayers for Ms. Morales, that the president of the United States doesn’t deport this lovely woman who’s served him so well for so many years, just because he’s mad everybody knows about his Makeup […]

    Diaz has legal residency now, so she’s probably cool […]

  123. says

    Former FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Judiciary Committee, behind closed doors, today.

    Representative Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York and the ranking member on the Committee, had this to say:

    It’s a waste of time to start with. The entire purpose of this investigation is to cast aspersion on the real investigation, which is Mueller. There’s no evidence whatsoever of bias at the FBI or any of this other nonsense they’re [Republicans are] talking about.

    The transcript should be released soon, per a previous agreement between Comey and the Republican leaders of the Committee. (See comment 43.)

  124. tomh says

    @ #146
    Well, it’s still an ambassador position, so I don’t think so. The Appointments Clause in the Constitution species all ambassadors for senate approval. Besides, there are anywhere from 1200-1500 positions that require Senate approval, including plenty of assistants and deputies and administrators and positions hardly anyone has ever heard of. Does the Senate really need to confirm all 15 members of the National Council on Disability? I don’t see how they could skip the UN Ambassador.

  125. says

    Trump just tweeted: “Mike Pompeo is doing a great job, I am very proud of him. His predecessor, Rex Tillerson, didn’t have the mental capacity needed. He was dumb as a rock and I couldn’t get rid of him fast enough. He was lazy as hell. Now it is a whole new ballgame, great spirit at State!”

  126. says

    tomh, thank you. Good point.

    SC @152, that Trump tweet hits a new low (or high?) for online bullying. Why did Trump hire Tillerson in the first place? Could a man who ran Exxon really be “dumb as a rock”? Is Trump’s entire tweet another example of projection? Trump is dumb, willfully ignorant, and lazy.

  127. says

    Matthew Miller: “One of the biggest open questions is not about Mueller, but SDNY. They’ve concluded the president committed a crime, and they have hard evidence to prove it. What do they do with that? They can’t just drop it.”

    The language they use to talk about the election payoffs is extremely telling.

  128. says

    Mueller’s office says Manafort remained in contact with a ‘senior’ Trump administration official though February 2018, well after he was indicted, and lied about it. They confirmed his contacts with administration officials by search his electronic documents.”

    Full passage at the link.

  129. says

    “Wild theories and empty seats at CPAC-style conference for the MAGA set”:

    …At the first-ever American Priority Conference on Friday morning, Anthony Scaramucci — who served a brief stint as the Trump White House’s communications director — addressed a married couple from Virginia, telling them that the author of the fantastical Internet conspiracy theory QAnon has “been dead accurate about so many things,” adding: “When you find out who he is, you’re not going to believe it.”

    American Priority, which brings together an impressive roster of right-wing social media agitators and Trump world notables at a Washington, D.C., hotel, was envisioned as a Trumpist answer to CPAC. In reality, the three-day conference, which convened on Thursday, has been rife with conspiracy theorists, logistical snafus and empty seats.

    It may also be the future of Republican politics.

    On Monday, intellectual dark web philosopher Stefan Molyneux, who often sounds off on race and IQ, tweeted a sort of white identity origin myth, writing, “My ancestors were driven out of Africa and struggled to survive winter and hunger. … Now the Africans say we are ‘privileged’ & thieves.”

    This weekend, Molyneux shares a spot on the conference agenda with Scaramucci as well as former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, former deputy campaign manager David Bossie and Katrina Pierson, a senior adviser to Trump’s reelection campaign.

    The invitation of figures such as Molyneux was not an organizational oversight so much as it was part of the conference’s intended goal of defying pressure to expel fringe elements from pro-Trump politics. “It’s a reflection of the real movement,” Alexander said. “Damn the media optics.”

    Despite the convergence of several figures with large, devoted social media followings — including Molyneux, Loomer, right-wing agitator Mike Cernovich and dirty trickster Roger Stone — attendance at this weekend’s conference was sparse.

    Despite the mishaps, participants expressed hope that American Priority would hit its stride in future years.

    And they were looking forward to Saturday, when former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos is scheduled to show up for an interview, fresh off his release from prison on Friday after serving 12 days for lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

  130. says

    “Revealed: the hidden global network behind Tommy Robinson”:

    The British far-right activist Tommy Robinson is receiving financial, political and moral support from a broad array of non-British groups and individuals, including US thinktanks, rightwing Australians and Russian trolls, a Guardian investigation has discovered.

    Robinson, an anti-Islam campaigner who is leading a “Brexit betrayal” march in London on Sunday, has received funding from a US tech billionaire and a thinktank based in Philadelphia.

    Two other US thinktanks, part-funded by some of the biggest names in rightwing funding, have published a succession of articles in support of Robinson, who has become a cause célèbre among the American far right since he was jailed in May for two months.

    His imprisonment on contempt of court charges prompted a vigorous international Twitter campaign, with 2.2m tweets being posted using the hashtag #freetommy between May and October.

    An analysis conducted for the Guardian by the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue found that more than 40% of the tweets came from the US, 30% from the UK and other significant volumes from Canada, the Netherlands and nine other countries.

    A separate study of about 600 Twitter accounts, believed to be directly tied to the Russian government or closely aligned with its propaganda, found significant numbers had tweeted prolifically in Robinson’s defence.

    On Facebook, Robinson has more than 1 million followers from at least a dozen countries outside the UK, including the US, Australia, Sweden and Norway.

    Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, has been using Facebook donation tools designed for charities to raise funds for his activism for several months.

    He says he has raised several hundred thousand pounds via online donations, some of which were solicited via the Facebook donate button. Robinson has said he plans to use the money to launch a European version of the rightwing conspiracy website Infowars, and to sue the British government over his prison treatment.

    But the tool is meant for charities alone. When the Guardian alerted Facebook to this, the social media company switched off the function within hours.

    The support from prominent and well-financed groups undermines Robinson’s self-styled image of a far-right populist underdog whose anti-Islam agenda is being silenced by the British establishment….

  131. says

    Trump announced today that John Kelly will be leaving at the end of the year. Nick Ayers may replace him as Chief of Staff.

    It looks to me like Trump is trying to get John Kelly to resign so that he won’t have to fire him. Also, Nick Ayers, Vice President Pence’s chief of staff, is a political operative who may be put in place more as an effort to gear up for a 2020 presidential run for Trump, and not so much as a real chief of staff.

  132. says

    From Michael Avenatti:

    .@realDonaldTrump should be indicted for committing the two felonies designed to get him elected. Now. No court has ever ruled that the POTUS cannot be indicted and there is nothing in the constitution that states as much. It is time for the SCOTUS to decide the issue.

    The two felonies to which Avenatti refers are both campaign finance violations (I think), connected to campaign finance violations to which Michael Cohen already pleaded guilty, and in which Trump played a part. The latest court filing says that Trump directed Cohen to make the two illegal payments. Cohen “acted in coordination with and at the direction of” Trump. Trump denied that today when he responded to questions from reporters. Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said that Cohen is a liar.

    I agree that Trump should be indicted.

  133. says

    From Josh Marshall:

    I want to focus your attention on a very important detail in yesterday’s Special Counsel’s Office sentencing memo for Michael Cohen. […] The memorandum states that “If the [Moscow building] project was completed, the [Trump Organization] could have received hundreds of millions of dollars from Russian sources in licensing fees and other revenues.”

    That’s a lot of money. It’s also a big range. It could mean anything from $200 million to over a billion dollars. But let’s be conservative and say it means something in the $300 to $400 million range. That’s a lot of money. But it’s even more than is apparent on first glance. Even if you assume a low end estimate this is like an order of magnitude or two more money than Trump had gotten for major building projects for the last couple decades. […]

    In 2016, Trump got $1 million in licensing fees from his Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto.

    For his building in Vancouver for 16 months between January 2016 and April 2017 he received “more than $5 million.”

    For a Trump Tower in Baku, Azerbajian, the Trump Org got $2.5 million in 2014.

    Trump was paid $1 million for a licensing deal in the country of Georgia in 2011. […]

    I could go on. But these are representative examples. […] Trump’s various building projects abroad are dramatically less lucrative than this Moscow project was apparently supposed to be. […]

    Now, one question might be this. The SCO investigators don’t flesh out what that number is based on, what evidence they’re using. […] prosecutors aren’t supposed to spitball in these documents. These are all factual claims to the court. They are all supposed to have factual, documented support, even if it’s not detailed in the memo itself. […] I think this number is here for a reason.

    […] “Cohen explained financial aspects of the deal that would have made it highly lucrative for the Company and himself.” […]

    The relevant point is this. We know Trump was involved in lots of building deals around the world. But it looks like this one was a potentially vastly larger payday than any of them, maybe far more than all of them combined. That is important to figure into the equation when we’re trying to understand what he would be willing do to make the deal happen. From the rest of the story we can see he was and still is willing to do quite a lot.

    In replying to questions from reporters today, Trump downplayed the Trump Tower Moscow deal by saying that it was just something he decided not to do because he was focused on running for president. That’s probably not true, or not the whole truth. At the very least, that statement is a big change from repeatedly claiming that he had no ongoing deals in Russia, and no contacts with Russia.

  134. says

    From former FBI director James Comey:

    The president’s attacks on the Justice Department broadly and the FBI are something that, no matter what political party you’re in, you should find deeply troubling and continue to speak out about it, not become numb to attacks on the rule of law.

  135. says

    From Trump’s tweets today:

    The Paris Agreement isn’t working out so well for Paris. Protests and riots all over France. People do not want to pay large sums of money, much to third world countries (that are questionably run), in order to maybe protect the environment. Chanting “We Want Trump!” Love France.

    Fact check from the Associated Press:

    Neither Associated Press journalists covering protests in the city nor any French television networks have shown evidence that supporters were chanting any slogans in support of Trump. The protests that began as a revolt against a gas tax increase have turned increasingly violent and France imposed exceptional security measures Saturday to prevent a repeat of rioting a week ago.

    One video posted on social media showed a clownish guy on top of a bus saying “We want Trump” sarcastically. There was no chanting of that slogan, nor any slogan even near that by the crowds in Paris. By focusing on climate change and the Paris agreement, Trump’s tweet missed the point.

    What Trump said on Thursday at a Hanukkah event:

    We quickly moved the American embassy to Jerusalem and we got it built.

    Fact check:

    Nothing’s been built yet. The Trump administration designated an existing U.S. consular facility in Jerusalem for the U.S. Embassy, retrofitting some offices and holding a big dedication ceremony in May. The U.S. has yet to identify a permanent site for the new embassy, a process that is expected to take years. The State Department has estimated that constructing a new embassy would cost more than $500 million.

  136. says

    From Adam Davidson, writing for The New Yorker:

    […] These documents make clearer than ever before the case against President Trump. The special counsel’s seven-page memorandum, along with court documents from Cohen’s guilty plea last week, lay out a straightforward time line.

    In September, 2015, Trump approved Cohen’s plan to reach out to the Russian government. That November, Cohen “spoke with a Russian national who claimed to be a ‘trusted person’ in the Russian Federation who could offer the campaign ‘political synergy’ and ‘synergy on a government level.’ ” Cohen’s contact “repeatedly proposed” a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, suggesting that it would have a “phenomenal” effect on Trump’s efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, which Mueller’s filing calls the “Moscow Project.”

    The memo notes that Cohen did not pursue the meeting, “in part because he was working on the Moscow Project with a different individual who Cohen understood to have his own connections to the Russian government.” That December, Cohen—with Trump’s knowledge and approval—began working with Felix Sater, a longtime Trump associate with Russia connections, on the Trump Tower Moscow proposal. In the following months, Cohen spoke with a Kremlin adviser. Cohen and Sater ultimately did discuss a meeting between Putin and Trump. (The meeting did not occur.) Mueller, in his memo, makes certain that readers know that Cohen was not acting on his own but “continued to work on the project and discuss it with Individual-1”—Trump—“well into the campaign.”

    […] Mueller notes that Cohen’s effort to engage Russia with Trump’s knowledge and consent “occurred at a time of sustained efforts by the Russian government to interfere with the U.S. presidential election.” […] If Cohen’s information is core to the Mueller investigation, it is reasonable to conclude that Mueller does, indeed, believe he can prove that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

    However—perhaps maddeningly for people who have been waiting for clarity on Mueller’s investigation—he does not, in the sentencing memo, lay out the details of possible collusion. But the document tells another damning story: Cohen repeatedly lied about his work, on behalf of Trump, to make money and develop political ties with the Kremlin. His lies were “a deliberate effort” intended “to set the tone and shape the course of the hearings in an effort to stymie the inquiries.”

    Once again, Cohen was not on his own, deciding to lie for his own purposes. He was in regular contact with unspecified people in the White House. Cohen provided the special counsel’s office with “relevant and useful information concerning his contacts with persons connected to the White House during the 2017-2018 time period,” which “has been credible and consistent with other evidence obtained in the SCO’s ongoing investigation.” […]

  137. tomh says

    I don’t know if it’s really Mueller’s motivation, but it looks to me like he’s protecting the investigation with these court filings. In case his final report gets buried (there’s no requirement that the DOJ has to make it public) or quashed by the AG, he’s actually laying out all the facts in these memos. It has to be like a drip, drip water torture for Trump.

  138. says

    Followup to comment 181.

    In the transcript there are also pages and pages of Republican Chairman Trey Gowdy questioning Comey about Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, the two FBI agents who exchanged texts about various presidential candidates in 2016, with most of those texts being derogatory. Gowdy delighted in reading the most insulting of those text messages over and over. He had already done that in previous interviews of Comey. So had his fellow Republicans on the committee.

    Repetitive and stupid. Glad I didn’t have to watch that.

    Gowdy insisted on calling Clinton’s purported mishandling of emails as n “Espionage Act” with the capital letters.

  139. says

    More anti-semitism in Pittsburgh:

    Authorities are investigating the dissemination of anti-Semitic pamphlets in Pittsburgh neighborhoods, including the one in which a gunman killed 11 people in a synagogue in October.

    A spokesman said police and the city department of public safety “are taking this matter very seriously and will follow every investigative avenue.”

    Police said Sunday morning the material was found in neighborhoods including Squirrel Hill, where a gunman entered the Tree of Life synagogue on Oct. 27 and killed 11 people in the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history. A man who authorities said raged against Jews during and after the shooting has pleaded not guilty to numerous murder and hate crime charges.

    Police said “such hate-filled material” will not be tolerated in the city by residents, city officials or law enforcement.

    Text if from the Associated Press.

  140. says

    From House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff:

    There’s a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office, the Justice Department may indict him, that he may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time.

    We have been discussing the issue of pardons the President may offer to people or dangle in front of people. The bigger pardon question may come down the road, as the next president has to determine whether to pardon Donald Trump.

  141. says

    From an interview with incoming House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler:

    […] CNN’s Jake Tapper asked whether, if accusations recently filed in the Southern District of New York are true, they would be considered impeachable for Trump.

    “They would be impeachable offenses,” Nadler responded. “Whether they are important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question. But certainly they’d be impeachable offenses, because even though they were committed before the President became President, they were committed in the service of fraudulently obtaining the office.” […]

    Tapper pressed, asking what the difference was between an impeachable offense and an impeachable offense “important enough to actually begin proceedings of impeachment?”

    “It’s not necessarily a difference, it’s simply two different considerations,” Nadler said. “You don’t necessarily launch an impeachment against the President because he committed an impeachable offense.”

    “There are several things you have to look at: One, were there impeachable offenses committed? How many, et cetera? And secondly, how important were they? Do they rise to the gravity where you should undertake an impeachment?”

    TPM link

  142. says

    From Trump’s morning rant on Twitter:

    On 245 occasions, former FBI Director James Comey told House investigators he didn’t know, didn’t recall, or couldn’t remember things when asked. Opened investigations on 4 Americans (not 2) – didn’t know who signed off and didn’t know Christopher Steele. All lies!

    Leakin’ James Comey must have set a record for who lied the most to Congress in one day. His Friday testimony was so untruthful! This whole deal is a Rigged Fraud headed up by dishonest people who would do anything so that I could not become President. They are now exposed!

    Yeah, no. Comey did not tell any lies as far as we can tell.

    As for the number of “I don’t know,” or similar replies from Comey: Trump always inflates numbers. It’s his thing, but even if he is right, the number cite is misleading.

    For one thing, Trey Gowdy and other Republicans repeatedly asked Comey questions about events that occurred after he left the FBI; about events over which he had no supervisory position even when he was at the FBI; and they repeatedly asked him to weigh in on the thought processes of various people, even though Comey had no access to those thought processes. The Republicans on the committee set up the conditions for those “I don’t know” or “I don’t recall” answers.

    Here is just one excerpt that contains multiple examples of that kind of questioning from Republican committee members:

    Mr. Gowdy. February of 2016, Lisa Page wrote: Trump simply cannot be President. February of 2016, Peter Strzok wrote: Trump’s abysmal, hoping people will just dump him. February of 2016, Lisa Page wrote: She might be our next President. The last thing you need us going in there loaded for bear. March 2016, Lisa Page wrote: Trump is a loathsome human. March of 2016, Strzok wrote: Trump’s an idiot. March of 2016, Strzok wrote: Hillary should win 100 million to zero.

    Do you recall whether the Democrat primary was still ongoing in March of 2016?

    Mr. Comey. I’m not in a position to answer — you gave a long preamble to that about things that I don’t know from my own knowledge. So I’m going to exclude that part of your preamble and just answer the question at the end. Do I know whether the Democratic primary was ongoing in March of 2016? I think so, yes.

    Mr. Gowdy. Well, let me back up, in fairness to you, and ask whether or not you’ve had a chance to read any of the text exchanges between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page?

    Mr. Comey. I’ve seen some of them in the open source, in the media, obviously, since I was fired as Director.

    Mr. Gowdy. Did you read any of them in preparation for today?

    Mr. Comey. No, I did not.

    Mr. Gowdy. So, if you are correct that the Democratic primary was still open in March of 2016, I read that as Special Agent Peter Strzok commenting that she should win the primary 100 million to zero. And I guess an alternative reading of that would be that he already had her as the nominee and she should win the general 100 million to zero. Is there another reading other than those two, winning the primary or winning the general?

    Mr. Comey. I’m not in a position to interpret their text exchanges, so I can’t answer that.

    Mr. Gowdy. In the course of human history, has anyone won an election 100 million to zero, to your knowledge?

    Mr. Comey. In the United States?

    Mr. Gowdy. Anywhere.

    Mr. Comey. I don’t mean to be facetious. I can’t speak to Stalin’s reelection or Mao Tse-tung reelection campaigns. In —

    Mr. Gowdy. 100 million to zero is a lot.

    Mr. Comey. Sure. I’m not trying to be facetious, but I remember as a student the vote in Soviet Russia was 99.9 percent to —

    Mr. Gowdy. We are going to get to Russia in a little bit. We’ll get to Russia in a little bit.

    Mr. Comey. So in the — I can answer your question, Mr. Gowdy. In the United States, I’m not aware of any such lopsided vote.

    Mr. Gowdy. So, in March of 2016, Peter Strzok is investigating Secretary Clinton — we’ll use your phrase — for the alleged mishandling of classified information. And at least according to this text, he has her winning the primary and/or the general election. Is that fair?

    Mr. Comey. I can’t answer that because I don’t know the text or what the intention was. So I’m just not the witness to answer that. […]

  143. says

    This is, sort of, a confirmation of bias against Hillary Clinton in the New York field office of the FBI during the 2016 campaign. Many regular readers of this thread will remember that.

    Former FBI Director James Comey testified to the House Oversight and Judiciary committees Friday that he was concerned in late 2016 “that there appeared to be in the media a number of stories that might have been based on communications reporters or nonreporters like Rudy Giuliani were having with people in the [FBI’s] New York field office.”

    No FBI bias against Trump. Yes, some anti-Hillary bias in the New York office.

  144. says

    From Hunter, writing for Daily Kos:

    […] Who among us can keep straight whether it is legal or illegal to, after having paid hush money to a porn actress to keep her quiet about an affair on the eve of your presidential election, elaborately structure reimbursement payments to your lawyer-fixer from your private for-profit company so as to conceal the existence of that payment. It is Too Hard. It makes our wee brains hurt to think about; perhaps it would be better to use this opportunity to retroactively legalize whatever Donald Trump has done and Move On With Our Republican Lives. […]

    This was in response to Republicans who have been making excuses for Trump and/or Cohen. For example, Rand Paul said:

    And I think we have to decide in our society if — there are thousands and thousands of rules. It’s incredibly complicated, campaign finance. We have to decide whether or not really criminal penalties are the way we should approach criminal finance.

  145. tomh says

    @ 186
    I read through that whole thing, and it was hard to believe. That must have been what the interminable Benghazi hearings were like. At one point Gowdy asked Comey to define “hearsay,” and didn’t like it when Comey’s lawyer told him that was ridiculous. And lucky for Comey, he gets to come back and do it again Dec 17.

  146. says

    The negative effect of Jared Kushner’s bromance with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman:

    In what can best be described as an unseemly cozy consultation, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior advisor on the Middle East, reportedly advised the besieged Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “to weather the storm” that followed the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

    […] the newspaper said, Kushner became Salman’s most important defender inside the White House, helping to persuade the president to avoid criticizing the Saudis for any direct role in the murder.

    According to Saturday’s editions of The New York Times, citing former White House officials and others briefed by the Saudi royal court, Kushner exchanged private, first-name emails with Mohammed in the days before and after news broke of Khashoggi’s death.

    The newspaper said Kushner “has offered the crown prince advice about how to weather the storm” in the wake of the killing and to “resolve his conflicts around the [Mideast] region and avoid further embarrassments.”

    During the immediate aftermath of the Khashoggi murder, Kushner stood by Mohammed and declined to criticize Saudi officials for what increasingly appeared to be their involvement in the matter.

    “I’d say that right now, as an administration, we’re more in the fact-finding phase,” Kushner said at a CNN event after being told of Saudi admission that Khashoggi had been killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and 18 people had been arrested in connection with his death. “Once we have all the facts, we’ll make an assessment.” […]

    In a detailed article, reporters David D. Kirkpatrick, Ben Hubbard, Mark Landler, and Mark Mazzetti, trace how Kushner and Mohammed developed their close ties, noting that Saudi Arabia saw Kushner as a viable, impressionable target to get close to the White House. The reporters describe the Saudi effort as the “courtship” of Kushner, going back to the early days of the Trump administration.

    Martin Indyk, a former Middle East envoy and current Council on Foreign Relations, told The New York Times that the “bromance” between the two men “constitutes the foundation of the Trump policy not just toward Saudi Arabia but toward the” entire Middle East.”

    At the very least, the private conversations between the two represents an off-the-book, back-door form of diplomacy that is as furtive as it is secretive. […]

    Think Progress link

  147. says

    tomh @189, yes, the entire grilling of Comey is infuriating … especially if you read the entire transcript. Comey handles that better than I would.

    After the hearing, Comey described it this way:

    A desperate attempt to find anything that can be used to attack the institutions of justice investigating this president.


  148. says

    This is new, Nick Ayers will not be taking John Kelly’s job after all:

    Nick Ayers, the current chief of staff for Vice President Pence, will not be the next White House chief of staff […]

    Ayers, who was considered one of the likeliest choices to replace John Kelly, will instead work for the super PAC supporting the president, the source said. Trump will settle on a new chief of staff by the end of the year.

    “Thank you @realDonaldTrump, @VP, and my great colleagues for the honor to serve our Nation at The White House,” Ayers wrote. “I will be departing at the end of the year but will work with the #MAGA team to advance the cause.” […]

    The Hill link

  149. KG says

    Just back a couple of hours ago from this anti-fascist demo in London. I’ll write more about it tomorrow, and about the conference I went to on Saturday. Meanwhile May’s days as PM are in my view numbered, and probably she will have to resign this week. Unless she postpones the vote – and at this stage, I think that would itself remove most of her remaining authority, after having insisted repeatedly that she will not do so – she is going down to a heavy Commons defeat on the central task her government undertook. It’s absurd to say she can carry on if she loses more than marginally. Cameron and everyone in the Tory Party swore blind he would continue in office whatever the referendum result in 2016. He went immediately – well, a few hours after the result was known. All the unattributed sources supposedly within the Cabinet, May “Has no plan B” if she loses. That means one of three things: May intends to resign immediately if she loses by more than a handful of votes; or May has lost touch with either her sense of responsibility – she knows she’s going to lose heavily but refuses to think about what to do next, or of reality – she really does think she can still win or come very close.

    If I’m right, we’ll have another ex-PM within a few days (a week or two if she postpones the vote). An interim PM would then have to be appointed while the Tories pick a new leader (the rats are already manoeuvring against each other to take over the sinking ship), but Corbyn would be bound to launch a no-confidence motion. Probably not succeeding, but he will have another chance after the new leader is chosen, when one wing or other of the Tory Party will be seriously disgruntled, to say no more. If a hard Brexiteer wins (likely, as all they would need to do is have one candidate out of the two finalists, and the members will back their (wo)man. Could the Remainer Tories (who have a lot of support among the parties rich and corporate doners – what my more Marxist comrades call “The Real Ruling Class”, I think this over-simplifies, but I digress..), could they possibly come to a deal for a GNU* led by Corbyn, and drawing in as many parties and tendencies as possible, to run for a limited time in order to hold a referendum? As yet unlikely, but there are rumours of discussions/plotting between dissident Tories and Labour.

    *Government of National Unity

  150. KG says

    That’s the optimistic scenario. But even that would probably lead to large-scale protests and significant violence from the right. Any otrher possibility looks worse. But we still lack a vital piece of information – the ECJ decision, due to be announced tomorrow, on whether the UK can unilaterally cancel Brexit. There’s been a good deal of premature celebration on the part of some on my side of the question. True the whole court (27 judges I believe) usually follows the Advocate-General’s recommendation. But not always. Supposedly, the UK government now hopes the answer will be “Yes”, because they will be able to use it to scare the Ultras. But if she thinks this will save the vote on Tuesday or anything near it, she really has lost touch with reality.

  151. KG says

    To clarify #195, as a Remainer I of course hope the answer is “Yes”! It would greatly strengthen our position (but if we lose, it will be a serious setback, but not a decisive one).

  152. KG says

    Highly significant (and from my viewpoint, very good) news: The European Court of Justice (the top EU court) has ruled that a state can unilaterally cancel its invovcation of Article 50, at any time up to the ratification of a withdrawal agreement, or the end of the 2-year negotiation clock which Article 50 sets going. Moreover, it would then remain in the EU on its current terms. Congratulations to those who brought the case, particularly Andy Wightman, one of the six Scottish Green Party MSPs, who led the team.

    Meanwhile, May is to make a statment to MPs this afternoon. amid increasing rumours that the vote on her deal planned for tomorrow is being called off. The link is to The Grauniad’s live page on the matter. I wondered if she was going to resign, but the statement to be made is entitled “Exiting the EU”. But could she survive the humiliation of cancelling the vote, especially after insisting so many times that she wouldn’t? More probably, it will be announced as postponed for a few days, during which time May will clutch at straws.

  153. KG says

    Rumours now that the vote will be postponed until the New Year. Do they really think that’s going to keep May afloat? It’s transparently kicking the can down the road, with no realistic chance of success. I think the Ultras may take this moment to launch their coup, finally getting together the famous “48 letters” that the Chair of the Tory backbenchers’ 1922 Committtee needs to receive for May to face a straight vote of confidence within the parliamentary party. Separately. Corbyn could launch a motion of No Confidence – it would at least show up many of those who’d vote against it as barefaced liars! But he’s more likely to hold off. If only the man would act as Leader of the Opposition, and actually oppose the Government from a coherent position – which could only be a new referendum. But I think that although rationally he knows leaving the EU is at the least an unnecessary risk, making his task more rather than less difficult if he comes to power, emotionally he’s of the “anti Common Market” left of the 1970s.

  154. says

    KG @ #198, that’s great news! It’s receiving no coverage here.

    If only the man would act as Leader of the Opposition, and actually oppose the Government from a coherent position – which could only be a new referendum. But I think that although rationally he knows leaving the EU is at the least an unnecessary risk, making his task more rather than less difficult if he comes to power, emotionally he’s of the “anti Common Market” left of the 1970s.

    I find it baffling and frustrating. He’s very much the wrong leader for this moment. In contrast,…

  155. says

    Huge: Detectives are ‘revisiting’ the deaths of Scot Young & Alexander Perepilchnyy after discovering GRU agents travelled from Russia to the UK around the time of their deaths, according to the Sunday Times….”

    Much more at the link. The discovery came as a result of the catastrophic GRU security failures of this year, which I knew were going to prove a goldmine.

  156. says

    CNN – “‘I can’t breathe.’ Jamal Khashoggi’s last words disclosed in transcript, source says”:

    “I can’t breathe.” These were the final words uttered by Jamal Khashoggi after he was set upon by a Saudi hit squad at the country’s consulate in Istanbul, according to a source briefed on the investigation into the killing of the Washington Post columnist.

    The source, who has read a translated transcript of an audio recording of Khashoggi’s painful last moments, said it was clear that the killing on October 2 was no botched rendition attempt, but the execution of a premeditated plan to murder the journalist.

    During the course of the gruesome scene, the source describes Khashoggi struggling against a group of people determined to kill him.

    “I can’t breathe,” Khashoggi says.

    “I can’t breathe.”

    “I can’t breathe.”

    The transcript notes the sounds of Khashoggi’s body being dismembered by a saw, as the alleged perpetrators are advised to listen to music to block out the sound.

    And, according to the source, the transcript suggests that a series of phone calls are made. Turkish officials believe the calls were placed to senior figures in Riyadh, briefing them on progress.

    Some of the details in the transcript seen by CNN’s source have emerged in previous reports of the recording’s content. But this is the fullest account of the transcript that has so far been published.

    The original transcript of the audio was prepared by Turkish intelligence services. Turkish officials have never said how they obtained the audio. The transcript would have been translated before it was shared with other intelligence services; CNN’s source read a translated version and has been briefed on the investigation.

    The office of one US senator, who has received a briefing on the investigation by CIA Director Gina Haspel, told CNN that the source’s recollections of the transcript are “consistent” with that briefing.

    According to the source, the transcript suggests Mutreb is updating someone, whom Turkish officials say was in Riyadh, with almost step-by-step details of what is taking place.

    “Tell yours, the thing is done, it’s done.”

    The word “yours” is taken by CNN’s source to refer to a superior, or boss.

    The working assumption among those allies is that Mutreb was talking to Saud al-Qahtani, bin Salman’s closest aide, the source said. Saudi officials say al-Qahtani has been removed from his former position as media chief to the crown prince.

    It is clear from the transcript of the phone conversation that the calls do not describe a terrible situation gone awry, or explain an unexpected set of circumstances, the source says. Instead, the caller appears simply to be informing someone of what is going on. Hardly, the source says, the actions of a panicked ringleader, but more the description of a situation going entirely according to plan….

  157. says

    The Supreme Court has refused to hear the cases brought by Louisiana and Kansas (or the case about whether they can bring a case?) against Planned Parenthood – a victory for PP. If I understand it correctly, the states tried to block Medicaid recipients from being able to get (non-abortion) pregnancy services from PP, which PP successfully stopped, and lower courts had told the states they couldn’t sue; since the Supreme Court refused to hear it, the lower courts’ decision stands. Dissenters were Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch.

  158. says

    Jerome Corsi thinks his reputation is worth $350 million.

    […] That’s how much Corsi is demanding in a lawsuit he filed this weekend against special counsel Robert Mueller, the DOJ, FBI, CIA, and NSA, accusing the cabal of “leftist and Democrat partisan prosecutorial and ethically and legally conflicted staff” of spying on him and conducting a smear campaign to destroy his reputation.

    In the complaint, Corsi alleges illegal government surveillance against him, saying that Mueller’s prosecutors leaked grand jury information against him in an attempt to “destroy his reputation and personal and professional well-being and livelihood, thus also attempting to drive him into bankruptcy.”

    Corsi adds that his tribulations are part of a conspiracy “designed to remove the current president of the United States for political and other improper purposes, and therefore effectively wage a ‘legal coup d’etat,’ negating the will of the American voters who elected Donald J. Trump on November 6, 2016”

    This isn’t Corsi’s first time donning a tinfoil hat. He’s built a career fabricating conspiracies that drive media narratives while serving reactionary interests, including the Obama birther conspiracy and the swiftboating of John Kerry.

    The 72-year old conspiracy theorist has aroused the interest of prosecutors in the Mueller probe for his apparent advance knowledge in the summer of 2016 of what Wikileaks was going to release and when.

    Corsi claims in the lawsuit and elsewhere that a combination of shoe leather reporting and a hunch allowed him to figure this out, that he “logically reasoned and thus speculated that these emails would be released in a future batch.” […]

    TPM link

    Claiming to be “logical” doesn’t prove you are a logical thinker.

  159. says

    Followup to comment 192.

    From Josh Marshall:

    Mike Pence’s Chief of Staff surprised everyone this weekend – none more than Donald Trump it seems – when he turned down Trump’s offer to succeed John Kelly as Trump’s third Chief of Staff. An overeager Trump couldn’t wait to announce Kelly’s departure this weekend and now he’s running through an increasingly desperate and comical list of potential chiefs of staff after Ayers turned him down. What happened here?

    Part of the equation must be that it’s a good time to get out of the Trump administration. All the signs are there of a slowing economy and quite possibly a sharp recession timed to hit during 2020. […] More dramatically, it’s not just President Trump’s legal vulnerability that is increasingly clear. It is personally perilous to be near him and his family.

    But there’s another part of the equation with Ayers that seems just as clear to me.

    For that we have to go back to the late 2017 federal disclosure filings that showed Ayers, a 36 year old man with no apparent inherited wealth, was worth between $12.2 and $54.8 million.

    Most or all of that money appears to come out of Ayers’ work as a campaign operative in the increasingly lucrative world of dark money politics. There are lots of ways a guy like Ayers gets that money. But the central one is TV advertising. If you control the ad budgets, you get a large slice of the cash for yourself, usually by owning or having a stake in the company that the campaign has place the ads. Reporting from Axios and other outlets last night says that Ayers is planning to run the main pro-Trump outside group America First, which he helped found last year. It seems like it was that gig that made Ayers refuse to give Trump more than a three month commitment.

    Put it all together and you see that Ayers is a guy who has already accumulated a staggering personal fortune on political work. Given the inherently lucrative nature of that kind of work and the nose-bleed high tolerance for corruption in the Trump world, running the big unregulated money stream for the President’s reelection campaign is an opportunity to rake in an almost unimaginable amount of money. In perfectly Trumpian fashion, Ayers appears to have stiffed his boss in a richly humiliating way so that he could cash in big time on his name and political movement.

  160. says

    The ‘Smocking Gun’ — Trump retreats behind the tiniest, whiniest claims yet.

    Commentary from Mark Sumner, (and, yes, Trump did write “smocking”).

    Nothing screams innocence like retreating behind claims that no one has rock solid proof of guilt. Following last week’s triple-play of court filings centered around Donald Trump’s former national security advisor Michael Flynn, Trump attorney Michael Cohen, and Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, everyone seemed to understand that Trump’s goose is deeply, and thoroughly … let’s say “cooked.”

    […] somewhere over the weekend, a modicum of truth was apparently forced through the thick orange makeup and thicker skull. Because on Monday morning, Trump had retreated to the tiniest, whiniest corner of “you can’t prove it.” […]

    Trump’s two tweets:

    Democrats can’t find a Smocking Gun tying the Trump campaign to Russia after James Comey’s testimony. No Smocking Gun…No Collusion That’s because there was NO COLLUSION. So now the Dems go to a simple private transaction, wrongly call it a campaign contribution, which it was not (but even if it was, it is only a CIVIL CASE, like Obama’s – but it was done correctly by a lawyer and there would not even be a fine. Lawyer’s liability if he made a mistake, not me). Cohen just trying to get his sentence reduced. WITCH HUNT!

    More from Mark Sumner:

    No Smocking Gun, dammit. No Smocking Gun, no crime! Someone apparently breached the sanctity of Trump’s Executive Time to bring in an emergency dictionary, because the Smocking Gun tweet has been pulled down in favor of a whine that features the correct spelling. […]

    But it’s too late now. The meme is out. From now on, this is the term that’s going to define everything that comes from the Russia investigation: The quest for the Smocking Gun. And if that tweet isn’t ridiculous enough, Trump’s follow-up attempt to shrug off the stack of evidence settling in around his shoulders is even more laughable.

    Except no. The federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York have have already charged Cohen with a pair of felonies, and already made it clear that “Individual-1” is complicit in those felonies. Trump doesn’t get a do-over. The crime here is all about intent, and it’s clear the intent was to pay off two women to shut them up during the campaign.

    Finally, the biggest thing that Trump doesn’t get is just how pitiful the Smocking Gun statement from Fox really is—even when it’s spelled correctly. Trump’s biggest defenders have fallen back on the position not that Trump didn’t conspire with Russia, but that that what’s been released to the public isn’t evidence enough to convict him of that conspiracy. […]

    […] everything Flynn had to say about conspiracy at the Trump campaign, was redacted. Everything Cohen had to say about conspiracy at the Trump campaign, was redacted. Everything Manafort had to say—including the lies he was caught in—about conspiracy at the Trump campaign, was actually filed in a separate document still under seal.

    Trump is hiding behind the lack of evidence, when he hasn’t even seen the evidence. But just the shape that all that evidence makes out there, the giant hole around which last week’s documents only define the edges, has its implications. Guns. Lots and lots of guns. And all of them are Smocking.

  161. says

    Jessica Elgot (linked in the Guardian liveblog – see KG’s #198 above): “Looks like we could be in this for the long haul. In Downing Street briefing just now there were no guarantees of a vote before xmas, indeed no guarantees of one in January. No expectation of securing change needed by end of the week, even after dash round EU capitals & summit.”

  162. says

    Statement from CREW – “CREW Sues FBI for Giuliani Leak Records”:

    The FBI is in violation of the law for failing to turn over documents related to the FBI’s investigation into the leak of information to Rudy Giuliani in October 2016 that then-FBI Director James Comey was going to reopen the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email system, according to a lawsuit filed today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

    Two days before Comey announced that the FBI was reopening its investigation into Clinton’s emails, Giuliani went on Fox News and said, “I do think that all of these revelations about Hillary Clinton are beginning to have an impact. He’s got a surprise or two that you’re going to hear about in the next two days.” He later admitted to getting advanced information about the FBI, saying, “Did I hear about it? You’re darn right I heard about it. And I can’t even repeat the language that I heard.”

    An investigation was later launched into who leaked the information to Giuliani, which would violate the law. In April, CREW requested copies of all records of the investigation into the source of the leak, but has yet to receive any.

    “The FBI legally has to give us these records or explain why they cannot,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “It is important for the public to have all of the information that the law requires be made available.”

    Last week, Comey testified before Congress that an investigation was started into the leak after Giuliani’s comments, which appeared to stem from his communications with people in the FBI’s New York field office.

    “The American people should have the information they need to evaluate whether there was wrongdoing before the presidential election,” Bookbinder said. “The FBI must live up to its legal obligations.”

    What the hell is the story with this investigation? According to Comey’s testimony on Friday, it began in either October or November of 2016. It’s more than two years later. The IG’s report was deliberately opaque on the subject, with no good explanation. They won’t respond to CREW. According to Bradley P. Moss, “The investigation was still ongoing as of a few months ago, per FOIA litigation run by @MarkSZaidEsq and me against DOJ.” How could it possibly take this long? Was it folded into the Mueller probe?

  163. says

    From the Washington Post fact checkers: Meet the Bottomless Pinocchio, a new rating for a false claim repeated over and over again.

    […] Despite the facts, which have been cited numerous times by fact-checkers, Trump repeated his false assertion on an imaginary wall 86 times in the seven months before the midterm elections, according to a database of false and misleading claims maintained by The Post.

    Trump’s willingness to constantly repeat false claims has posed a unique challenge to fact-checkers. Most politicians quickly drop a Four-Pinocchio claim, either out of a duty to be accurate or concern that spreading false information could be politically damaging.

    Not Trump. The president keeps going long after the facts are clear, in what appears to be a deliberate effort to replace the truth with his own, far more favorable, version of it. He is not merely making gaffes or misstating things, he is purposely injecting false information into the national conversation.

    To accurately reflect this phenomenon, The Washington Post Fact Checker is introducing a new category — the Bottomless Pinocchio. That dubious distinction will be awarded to politicians who repeat a false claim so many times that they are, in effect, engaging in campaigns of disinformation. […]

  164. says

    From Wonkette’s coverage of the UN climate conference in Poland:

    We knew something might go a little screwy with the UN’s big climate conference in Poland when we saw it would be sponsored, in part, by one of Poland’s biggest coal companies.

    […] Now the US has joined the governments of Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait in watering down one of the central points of the summit, a joint statement on October’s report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In essence, the world’s top three oil-producing nations (plus Kuwait) are officially brushing off the report’s call for serious action on climate within the 10-year timeline left to head off even more severe global warming.

    As with lots of diplomatic stuff, the conflict hinges on a few words that make a hell of a big difference. The IPCC report reflected an international effort to predict, as accurately as possible, the kind of world we’ll have at the end of the century if we can limit warming to no more than more than 1.5 degrees Celsius — or in non-communist terms, 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit — since pre-industrial averages, versus the much more severe outcomes if warming went up to 2 degrees C. That half a degree Celsius is the difference between bad things happening and extremely bad things happening to cities, agriculture, endangered species, and yes, entire nations.

    Well by golly, the top three oil producing nations (Kuwait, also!) said, nah, not interested in giving any legitimacy to that nonsense, because we like oil money, silly.

    […] the October report was commissioned by the UN Framework Convention two years ago as a follow-up to the Paris climate agreement. But there was an election in the US, so 80,000 voters in three Midwest states (plus massive voter suppression, plus some degree of Russian influence) means we’re just going to make the world unfit for human life instead. Yeah, plus other species, but fuck them, they don’t even make campaign donations.

    […] Donald Trump himself went even further, explaining that because he’s a very smart person, he just doesn’t see any truth to the science at all, because something about plastic on beaches.

    […] since the National Climate Assessment was released, Team Trump has rolled out two new dirty energy measures that will result in worsening carbon emissions. The administration will open some nine million acres of previously protected sage grouse habitat to promote oil and gas development through fracking […]

    In addition to the carbon-friendly regulations, Team Trump is also very proud of its new ambassador to Canada, Kelly Craft, whose husband, Joseph Craft, is — BIG SURPRISE — a coal billionaire. Craft herself is a big GOP fundraiser. In an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the newly minted ambassador explained she’s a big fan of science, as long as equal time is given to the tiny number of industry-funded shills who reject the consensus of 97 percent of climate scientists who accept the reality of global warming. […]

    All the best people, Kelly Craft:

    CBC: Do you believe in climate change?

    Craft: I believe there are scientists on both sides that are accurate. [This is bullshit — Dok]

    CBC: Do you believe there is science that proves that man is not causing climate change?

    Craft: Well, I think that both sides have, you know, their own results from their studies, and I appreciate and respect both sides of the science. [This too is bullshit. Notice Craft couldn’t identify any — Dok]

  165. says

    Followup to comment 208.

    Just a few examples of social media’s response to Trump having misspelled “smoking” as “smocking” … twice:

    From Kevin M. Kruse:

    I believe a “smocking gun” is the proof of a plot waged by morons everyone else laughs at.

    From Kathy Griffin:

    “Smocking gun”. Did orange dumbass smock another bong of stupidity?

    From Tom Peck:

    At the precise moment the pound is falling to its lowest level against the US dollar in eighteen months, the President of that country is screaming “There is No Smocking Gun! There Is No Smocking Gun!”

    My word we’ll miss these times when they’re gone.

    From Jeremy Newberger:

    Spell smoking gun wrong once, shame on you. Spell smoking gun wrong twice, shame on anyone who voted for a total idiot.

    From Heather Hogan:

    2018: Waking up and seeing #SmockingGun trending and already just knowing *exactly* why without clicking on anything.

    From Matthew Rozsa:

    […] most important, is the fact that the “smocking gun” tweet was written with an arrogance that was undercut by its own faux pas. Absolutely crucial to the president’s success is his ability to convince followers of his own authority; he is supposedly stronger, braver and smarter than all who criticize him. While it would be cruel to hold someone up to a standard of perfection if they were humble about themselves and forgiving toward others, Trump goes out of his way to puff out his own chest and pounce on the shortcomings he perceives in others. When his credibility in doing these things is brutally undercut by his own ignorance, it is fair — and arguably righteous — to rejoice. […]

  166. says

    From former Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal:

    Trump knows he’s facing some pretty strong criminal liability when he leaves office, one way or another. And you know, even if the sitting president can’t be indicted, he’s got to know his future looks like it’s behind bars unless he cuts some sort of deal with the prosecutors.

    […] That is an incredibly damning document that his own Justice Department filed, essentially against him, on Friday, saying President Trump ordered the commission of various felonies. Serious felonies.

  167. tomh says

    From lawfare:
    The Ninth Circuit’s Asylum Ban Ruling is a Message to Trump

    In an important order issued late on Friday, Dec. 7, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied the government’s request for a stay of the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by U.S. District Court Judge Jon Tigar of the Northern District of California against a new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) interim final rule implementing President Trump’s proclamation limiting access to asylum for entrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. Judge Jay Bybee, joined by Judge Andrew Hurwitz, wrote the Ninth Circuit order, relying heavily on the text, structure, and plan of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and on past practice interpreting the INA; Judge Edward Leavy dissented. The denial of a stay leaves Judge Tigar’s TRO intact.

    Judge Bybee is a conservative jurist, generally inclined to defer to the executive on matters of foreign policy and national security. In March 2017, he dissented from the Ninth Circuit’s refusal to vacate an unfavorable ruling on the first version of Trump’s travel ban. In his careful opinion Friday denying the stay of the asylum ban TRO, Judge Bybee acknowledged a point made by the government: asylum applications, including those filed by Central Americans who typically enter the United States through Mexico, have risen significantly in recent years. Asylum seekers have for many years entered at the U.S. southern border, and evaluating asylum claims has been a perennial challenge. The increase in asylum claims has contributed to a growing backlog in U.S. immigration courts. Applying the rigorous standard for judging stay requests, the Ninth Circuit determined that the government’s response to this issue was inconsistent with the INA.

    Judge Bybee weighed the legal merits of the DHS rule against the INA’s plain language in 8 U.S.C. § 1158(a)(1), which establishes the threshold eligibility for asylum of “any alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States (whether or not at a designated port of arrival)” (emphasis added).

    Much more at the link. However the article does end with this grim reminder:

    Unless Judge Bybee’s lucid opinion persuades the government to alter its course, the Supreme Court is the likely final destination for adjudication of the asylum ban.

  168. says

    Manu Raju:

    Hatch dismisses allegations of Trump crimes over hush money.
    Asked if he had any concerns, Hatch said: “The Democrats will do anything to hurt this president.” Told it was alleged by SDNY, Hatch told me: “Okay but I don’t care; all I can say is he’s doing a good job as President”

    Hatch added this when asked if he was concerned about allegations. “No because I don’t think he was involved in crimes but even then, you know, you can make anything a crime under the current laws; if you want to you can blow it way out of proportion you can do a lot of things.”

  169. says

    Tea leaves: Today, two secret motions were secretly decided by the DC circuit in the sealed grand jury case. The latest motion is only 191 words (h/t @Tierney_Megan), but the one before it had a 12,970 word brief attached, so it’s probably about something significant.”

  170. says

    Sen Kennedy: ‘Well, let me say this about Mister Cohen: Jesus loves him, but everybody else thinks he’s an idiot. I think most Americans think he’s a sleazoid grifter. I can’t imagine basing any kind of prosecution on the word of Mister Cohen’.

    Sen Kennedy: ‘Do I support violations of the campaign finance act if that indeed happened? Of course not. But the President says it was a private transaction, and it would appear to me that the only evidence is coming from Mister Cohen, who’s [sic] credibility can be questioned. Duh’.”

    (Aside from anything else, using “Jesus loves him” in reference to the son of a Holocaust survivor is peak Oblivious Christian Asshole.)

  171. says

    “Maria Butina, accused Russian agent, reaches plea deal with prosecutors that includes cooperation”:

    Maria Butina, a 30-year-old Russian gun rights activist who stands accused developing a covert influence operation in the United States, has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy and cooperate with federal, state and local authorities in any ongoing investigations.

    She admits, as part of the deal, according to a copy obtained by ABC News that is expected to be filed to the court, that she and an unnamed “U.S. Person 1,” which sources have identified as longtime Republican operative Paul Erickson, with whom she had a multiyear romantic relationship, “agreed and conspired, with a Russian government official (“Russian Official”) and at least one other person, for Butina to act in the United States under the direction of Russian Official without prior notification to the Attorney General.”

    Based on the description, the “Russian Official” appears to be Alexander Torshin, deputy governor of the Russian Central Bank and a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Under his direction, the agreement said, she “sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over U.S. politics.”

    The agreement, which Butina signed on Saturday, Dec. 8, also notes that the conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison, but the deal could see Butina receive a lesser sentence, depending on the level of her cooperation, before likely being deported back to Russia.∗

    Most notably, Butina’s Russian gun rights group “Right to Bear Arms” hosted a delegation of former NRA presidents, board members and major donors in Moscow in 2015, where she appears to have succeeded in arranging a meeting between NRA insiders and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, raising the prospect of a discussion between conservative political operatives and a powerful member of Russian President Putin’s inner circle in the midst of a presidential campaign.

    After that now infamous meeting, the agreement said, Butina sent the Russian Official a message, which was translated as saying “We should let them express their gratitude now, we will put pressure on them quietly later.”

    It would appear that, even as Erickson was helping Butina forge those connections, he may have been aware of the political implications….

    More at the link.

    ∗ Yikes. I hope not.

  172. Oggie. My Favourite Colour is MediOchre says

    from Lynna @185:

    Tapper pressed, asking what the difference was between an impeachable offense and an impeachable offense “important enough to actually begin proceedings of impeachment?”

    Well, obviously, if the President is a Democrat, then dissembling about a blow-job (from an intern (which IS a major problem)), then he’s gotta be impeached. No question. However, if the President is a Republican, and conspired to commit crimes in order to win the White House, possibly with a foreign hostile power, then, well, you really have to step back and look at whether that is really worth bringing impeachment.

    From Lynna’s @188:

    We have to decide whether or not really criminal penalties are the way we should approach criminal finance.

    Seriously? Can anyone, anywhere, make the serious argument that, had H. R. Clinton won the 2016 election, and it was found that some campaign finance paperwork was filed incorrectly, Rand Paul would not be pushing for more investigations and, hopefully (on his part), impeachment?

    I am so focking* tired this. The GOP claims to be the party of honour, the party of responsibility, the party of law and order. This is beyond the old “It’s Okay If You Are A Republican.” This has become, “You Can Get Away With Anything if You Are A Republican.”

    In honour of the Smocking Gun

  173. says

    NYT – “Targets of U.S. Sanctions Hire Lobbyists With Trump Ties to Seek Relief”:

    On a July evening, Trump administration officials and allies, including the president’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, gathered with investors atop the Hay-Adams hotel overlooking the White House for a cocktail reception featuring a short presentation by the Democratic Republic of Congo’s special envoy to the United States.

    An invitation for the reception billed it as an opportunity to learn about “the role Africa plays in gaining access to critical minerals, such as cobalt” and to discuss “the strategic relationship” between the United States and the nations of Africa.

    In fact, the reception was part of an aggressive $8 million lobbying and public relations campaign that used lobbyists with ties to the Trump administration to try to ease concerns about the Congolese president, Joseph Kabila, whose government was facing threats of additional sanctions from the Trump administration for human rights abuses and corruption.

    The lavish cocktail party was one example of a lucrative and expanding niche within Washington’s influence industry. As President Trump’s administration has increasingly turned to sanctions, travel restrictions and tariffs to punish foreign governments as well as people and companies from abroad, targets of those measures have turned for assistance to Washington’s K Street corridor of law, lobbying and public relations firms.

    The work can carry reputational and legal risks, since clients often come with toxic baggage and the United States Treasury Department restricts transactions with entities under sanctions. As a result, it commands some of the biggest fees of any sector in the influence industry. And some of the biggest payments have been going to lobbyists, lawyers and consultants with connections to Mr. Trump or his administration.

    This has been encouraged, they say, by the willingness projected by Mr. Trump and his team to make deals around sanctions and tariffs exemptions. Previous administrations had worked to wall off politics from those processes, which are supposed to be overseen primarily by career officials and governed by strict legal analyses.

    Sanctions targets who had not previously tried to win reprieve are sensing an opening….

    Much more at the link.

  174. says

    WaPo – “Saudi Arabia’s brutal treatment of female reformers should have woken us up long ago”:

    Months after the Saudi government jailed some of its most prominent female activists, new reports say the women have endured torture and sexual abuse in detention. The accounts, coming from multiple sources, are appalling and include allegations ranging from electrocution and flogging to forced kissing and groping at the hands of masked interrogators. If true, these actions would stand in flagrant violation of international law, including the Convention Against Torture, which Saudi Arabia has signed. Now, sources close to the women have linked the women’s mistreatment to Saud al-Qahtani, a former top adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who has also been implicated in the murder of Saudi journalist and Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi.

    Yet these shocking revelations have so far garnered scant response from an international community that has repeatedly dismissed these women’s plight. Their suffering began months ago — many have been jailed since May under trumped-up accusations of treason. Most of the Western media and world leaders were too enamored with Mohammed as a would-be reformer to confront the prince over the matter. Even as human rights groups warned of miscarried justice, most mainstream outlets preferred to focus on the narrative of a “Saudi renaissance” in which a young, moderate ruler had just granted women the right to drive.

    At the end of June, as the ban on female drivers lifted, most overlooked the irony that many of the activists who gave years or decades to the cause of women’s rights remained behind bars. Far from the state-orchestrated celebrations, these women were the canaries that the world let languish in the coal mine of the crown prince’s “new” Saudi state.

    In the end, it would take the nightmarish murder of Khashoggi to wake us to the nature of the crown prince’s reign. Yet the murder was only an extension of what had by then become an established brutal pattern of suppression by the crown prince.

    While some argue that Mohammed is likely to proceed with greater caution after this period of scandal, such an assessment ignores the fact that brutality has been endemic in his rule since the very beginning. In this, the case of the female reformers should have been instructive. Their arrests, long before Khashoggi’s killing, demonstrated Mohammed’s ruthless policy to preemptively strike down potential critics as well as active dissidents….

    Yet even the possibility of their future action was apparently too much for the crown prince, who rewarded their compliance by pulling them from their homes into the murky waters of the Saudi penal system. (In some cases, the women had been subject to earlier travel bans or forced repatriation, which bear ominous parallels to Khashoggi’s exile.) The women’s treatment after their arrests should also have been telling:…

    In these moments, the crown prince revealed he did not feel bound even by the traditional standards of his own culture or state. By failing to recognize the unprecedented viciousness of his attack on the women prisoners, the international community missed several important chances to chastise the crown prince — chastisement which would have come months before Khashoggi’s death. Instead, the collective dismissal of the women’s mistreatment signaled to Mohammed to proceed in his march toward unilateral control of both hard and soft power in the kingdom.

    It was this single-minded mission that motivated Mohammed to tighten his censorship on the Saudi press even as he spent millions marketing himself as a liberalizing reformer….

    If there was ever a time to doubt the nature of the crown prince’s rule, it has long since past. As the grisly reports of torture remind us, many still paying an enormous price for our misplaced credulity….

  175. says

    Matthew Miller:

    The House is going to need to conduct a robust investigation and hold public hearings into the depths of the NRA’s work with a Russian spy.

    I mean, seriously. For all the NRA’s flag waving and faux patriotism, they were working hand in glove with an admitted Russian spy. They owe the public a full, transparent accounting.

  176. says

    I have the Nancy/Chuck/Donald meeting on mute because I can’t listen to Trump, but I love that Pelosi is winning the hand-gesture game. Schumer is holding his own. Pence is a bump on a log.

  177. says

    “The White Supremacist Who Killed A Protester At The Unite The Right Rally Was Sentenced To Life In Prison”:

    The white supremacist convicted of murdering anti-racist protester Heather Heyer at 2017’s Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison.

    James Alex Fields Jr. was found guilty of first-degree murder on Friday for ramming his car into a crowd of people at the rally in 2017, killing Heyer and injuring scores of other counterprotesters at the white nationalist rally. He was also found guilty of five counts of aggravated malicious wounding, three counts of malicious wounding, and one count of failing to stop at the scene of an accident involving a death.

    The judge accepted the jury’s recommendation of a life sentence for the first degree murder of Heyer and an additional 419 years and a $480,000 fine. Victims wept in court as the sentence was read. A formal sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 29.

    Fields must still stand trial for federal hate crime charges next year. In that case, he faces the death penalty….

    More at the link.

  178. says

    SC @237, Trump threw a temper tantrum.

    He said he would be “proud to shut down the government.”

    Nancy Pelosi kept saying that when the press left, they would have a discussion based on evidence and facts. She even said at one point that she didn’t want to fact check Trump in front of the press. Trump insisted on making numerous claims that are now on the Washington Post’s “bottomless Pinocchio” list.

  179. says

    More on the morning meeting between Trump, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and a mannequin named Mike Pence:

    As Trump and Schumer sparred over who was responsible for the last government shutdown, Trump said he would “take the mantle” if a shutdown happens over border security.

    “I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck,” he said. “The people of this country don’t want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country. So I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down and I’m not going to blame you.”

  180. says

    From Mark Sumner:

    Donald Trump decided that today was the day for another episode of “the wall.” Trump invited soon-to-be Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leader in the Senate Chuck Schumer to stop by the White House so he could push them to agree to wall funding in exchange for his not shutting down the government and throwing thousands out of work just in time for Christmas.

    The meeting was initially supposed to be off camera. But then Trump decided this would be a great opportunity to bring in the cameras and show the Democrats who is boss. Trump came out smiling and lying, attempting to equate “border security” with his multi-billion wall and maintaining that “large sections” of the wall were already built and working.

    But neither Pelosi or Schumer was in a mood to roll over. Pelosi piled in immediately, challenging Trump on his ability to get a bill with the wall past even the Republican-controlled House. Trump continually insisted that he could do so “in a second,” though he hasn’t. Pelosi pushed Trump hard enough on this issue that she practically knocked him out of his chair, forcing Trump to retreat to claiming that Republicans “won the Senate.” That was a moment when Chuck Schumer pulled out the quickest reply of the event.

    Schumer: When the president brags that he won North Dakota and Indiana he’s in real trouble.

    The rest of the on-air wrestling match consisted of Democrats attempting to get Trump to own up to shutting down the government. Trump repeatedly insisted that he wasn’t responsible for the last shut down (he was) and didn’t say he would shut down the government last time (he did). But less than thirty seconds later, Schumer had Trump pinned down and forced him to either drop the whole idea or own it.

    Trump: If we don’t get what we want I will shut down the government. I am proud to shutdown the government for border security. … I will take the mantle for shutting down the government.

    After the meeting, Schumer pointed out that so little actual construction has taken place that less than 6 percent of the money allocated to its funding last year has been spent. There seems little point laying out more money for a wall that’s not one seems to want—and which Trump is claiming is getting built “way under budget.”

  181. says

    From Josh Marshall:

    We’ve just finished a wild press availability with President Trump, Vice President Pence and Democratic leaders Pelosi and Schumer.

    This was clearly not something Trump was prepared for, as predictable as it was.

    There are a few takeaways. One is Schumer at the very end baiting Trump into defiantly insisting he’ll be “proud” to shut down the government. (“I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck.”)

    Another is Pelosi, steel without bluster, formidable in any circumstance but particularly for Trump who couldn’t seem to find either weakness or escalation. He would switch over to Schumer for a break.

    My tweeted blurbs for some of the clips are a bit flippant. But each captures a revealing moment in the increasingly combustible exchange. […]

    Video clips are available at the link, including the link featuring Trump telling the lie that “Tremendous amounts of wall have already been built.”

    An excerpt:

    Trump: “If I needed the votes for the wall in the house, I would have them in one session. It would be done.”

    Pelosi: “So go do it.”

  182. says

    Another excerpt from the Trump, Pelosi, Schumer meeting:

    […] Trump claimed that, because she is working to nail down the votes to become speaker, “Nancy’s in a situation where it’s not easy for her to talk right now.”

    To that Pelosi retorted: “Please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting.” […]

    Pelosi repeatedly asked the president to take the encounter off-camera but it continued for nearly 20 rancorous minutes before Trump ejected the media.

    But even in private it appeared little was resolved, although Pelosi told reporters later that she began with a prayer about King Solomon.

    Pelosi and Schumer both implored Trump not to shutdown the government. Trump initially said he didn’t want a shutdown either but in the end announced that he did. […]

    Washington Post link


    […] “I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck,” Trump said, insisting the public doesn’t want criminals and others coming into the country. “I’m going to shut it down for border securty.”

    “We believe you shouldn’t shut it down,” Schumer said.

    “I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck,” Trump said.

    Trump wants $5 billion for the wall in 2019 while Democrats are offering only $1.3 billion — a gulf that showed no signs Tuesday of getting bridged.

    The meeting occurred several hours after House Republicans dug in on their demand for $5 billion in support of Trump’s stance.

    “Our position is the president’s position,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters at a news conference. “We share the president’s goal. … We need to secure the border.” […]

  183. tomh says

    From ScienceDaily:
    Harmful, unfounded myths about migration and health have become accepted, used to justify policies of exclusion

    Stereotypes that migrants are disease carriers who present a risk to public health and are a burden on services are some of the most prevalent and harmful myths about migration. Evidence from a comprehensive new report, including new international data analysis, shows these myths to be unfounded, yet they continue to be used to deny migrants entry, restrict access to healthcare, or detain people unlawfully.

    Public health protection and cost savings are often used as reasons to restrict migrants’ access to health care, or to deny them entry. Yet, as the new UCL-Lancet Commission on Migration and Health lays out with new international data and analysis, the most common myths about migration and health are not supported by the available evidence and ignore the important contribution of migration to global economies.

    Much more at the link.

  184. Akira MacKenzie says

    …while Democrats are offering only $1.3 billion…

    Here’s a thought how about telling him that there isn’t going to be mother fucking wall?!

    Oh that’s right, bipartisanship, compromise, got to meet racist xenophobia half-way lest we scare off the centrists by opposing it totally.

  185. tomh says

    You have to like Pelosi – from WaPo:

    Moments after returning to Capitol Hill after an Oval Office standoff with President Trump, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi questioned Trump’s manhood and said the border wall was a matter of masculine pride.
    “It’s like a manhood thing for him. As if manhood could ever be associated with him. This wall thing,” said the California congresswoman.

  186. says

    After nearly 2 years, a lawmaker finally fact-checked President Trump to his face.

    Pelosi to Trump: “What the president is representing in terms of his cards over there is not factual.”


    […] “It’s been very effective,” he said. “…If you look at San Diego, illegal traffic dropped 92 percent once the wall was up. El Paso, illegal traffic dropped 72 percent, then ultimately 95 percent once the wall was up. In Tucson, Arizona, illegal traffic dropped 92 percent. Yuma, it dropped illegal traffic 95 to 96 percent.”

    Pelosi rejected that assertion, suggesting the president’s claims about the effectiveness of a border wall were overblown. San Diego, for instance, is by far the biggest gateway for illegal drugs, despite the fact that Trump previously praised the city for building a wall along the southern border. There is no wall in Tucson, Arizona because it is not on the border.

    “What the president is representing…is not factual,” Pelosi said. “We have to have an evidence-based conversation about what does work, what money has been spent, and how effective it is. This is about the security of our country we take an oath to protect and defend, and we don’t want to have that mischaracterized by anyone.”[…]

    From the post-meeting press conference:

    In a press conference with reporters after the meeting, Pelosi described the conversation as “unfortunate.”

    “We didn’t want to contradict the president when he was putting forth figures that had no reality to them, no basis in fact,” Pelosi said. “[But] we have to, if we’re going to proceed in all of this, have evidence-based, factual, truthful information about what works and what doesn’t.”

    She added, “I didn’t want to, in front of those people, say, ‘you don’t know what you’re talking about.’”

  187. says

    What Comey said:

    All of us should use every breath we have to make sure the lying stops on Jan. 20, 2021. I understand the Democrats have important debates now over who their candidate should be, but they have to win. They have to win.

    Trump’s inane response:

    James Comey just totally exposed his partisan stance by urging his fellow Democrats to take back the White House in 2020. In other words, he is and has been a Democrat. Comey had no right heading the FBI at any time, but especially after his mind exploded!

  188. says

    Pelosi mocks Trump on wall: ‘It’s like a manhood thing for him’

    […] “It’s like a manhood thing for him. As if manhood could ever be associated with him. This wall thing,” the California Democrat told members of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee in a closed-door meeting after returning to the Capitol. […]

    “But the fact is we did get him to say, to fully own that the shutdown was his,” Pelosi said, according to two sources inside the room. “That was an accomplishment. “ […]

    “It was so wild,” Pelosi described the meeting to her colleagues, according to sources inside the room. “It goes to show you: You get into a tickle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you” […]

  189. says

    From Wonkette’s coverage of the Trump, Pelosi, and Schumer meeting today:

    Y’all saw that crazy shit that happened at the White House today when Chuck ‘n’ Nancy went to visit Trump to talk about averting a government shutdown, and Chuck ‘n’ Nancy ended up playing foosball with Trump’s face while he screamed “WALL!” over and over again? It was so great.

    During the meeting, Trump interrupted Pelosi a whole lot, and she responded by not giving a fuck and making fun of him to his face about how all she does is win, while Trump was left to whine about how nobody ever talks about how “he” won the Senate for the GOP. (The Senate election schedule, which heavily favored Republicans in the 2018 midterms, won the Senate for the GOP.)

    When Pelosi walked out of the White House, she looked like some kinda badass spy walking away at the perfect moment, right before the building explodes. (We are not saying Nancy Pelosi blowed up the White House! OK fine, she did it WITH VOTES.) […]

    Nice photo of Nancy leaving the White House:

  190. says

    Trump’s extraordinary Oval Office squabble with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, annotated.

    Washington Post link


    [Trump speaking] One thing that I do have to say is tremendous amounts of wall have already been built, and a lot of wall when you include the renovation of existing fences and walls renovated a tremendous amount, and we’ve done a lot of work. In San Diego we’re building new walls right now. And we’ve — right next to San Diego, we’ve completed a major section of wall, and it’s really worked well. So a lot of wall has been built. We don’t talk about that, but we might as well start because it’s being built right now. Big sections of wall. And we will continue that. And one way or the other it’s going to get built.

    Annotation of the statements above:

    These claims are false, yet Trump keeps making them. He has made them so much, in fact, that The Washington Post’s Fact Checker this week created a new rating for such situations: The “Bottomless Pinocchio.”

    Even Ann Coulter is fact-checking Trump: “Even a Washington Post reporter knows that not 1 inch of Trump’s wall has been built. Does Trump think his supporters are dumber than a WaPo reporter?”

  191. Akira MacKenzie says

    Ugh! There is no more disgusting than watching the so-called “liberals” here lick Pelosi and Schumer’s capitalist taints. What part of offering $1.3 billion for Trump’s wall did you miss?

  192. Oggie. My Favourite Colour is MediOchre says

    Akira, there is no politician in the United States with whom I would agree completely. There is no politician in the United States who would vote the way I would want them to vote. For the current centrist Democratic Party, I agree with about half, maybe a little less, of their platform. Sounds pretty bad, right? How could I possible vote for someone who supports about half of my preferred programme?

    Another option is the Greens (I agree with about half, maybe less, of their platform) and I know that the way the system is rigged, Green candidates, except in very unusual circumstances, are not viable candidates.

    And yet another option is the GOP, or the Libertarians, which whom I disagree very close to 100% of the time. Their platform is the polar opposite of my politics. Their disregard of law, the Constitution, ethics, and anyone worth less than $500,000, is anathema to me.

    So I overwhelmingly vote for Democratic candidates. I refuse, categorically, to push myself into a radical purity stance. I will vote for someone with whom I somewhat agree in order to, hopefully, stop the ones with whom I do not agree at all.

    I apologize for not being pure enough for you.

  193. Chris J says

    Also, politics is about not getting everything you want or even everything you think is right. There are political reasons to offer a scaled-back deal on the wall funding as opposed to all-or-nothing, especially if you think that Trump is bull-headed enough to refuse it and shut down the government, and especially-especially if you think the “wall-funding” really can go to useful infrastructure and other border-security things rather than only possibly being able to be spent on a new brick-and-morter (or glass and steel, or whateverthehell Trump blathers about) wall.

    Also, praising Schumer and Pelosi for a good thing they’ve done is not even close to “licking their capitalist taint.” That mindset works for an internet commenter, not so much for someone who has to navigate the realities of a world where a whole bunch of people don’t think like you do.

  194. says

    Ah, yes, many Congress critters, especially Republicans, are steeped in baseless conspiracy theories. Many Congress critters, especially Republicans, do not have even a rudimentary understanding of how the internet works, nor how Google works.

    These same Republicans questioned Google CEO Sundar Pichai before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday.

    From NBC News:

    After months of wrangling, members of Congress finally had Google CEO Sundar Pichai right where they wanted him on Tuesday – testifying in front of a House oversight committee.

    But instead of data privacy, antitrust, the abuse of market power, China or any number of other crucial topics, partisanship in the form of Republican questions about political bias at Google dominated the House Judiciary session.

    From Slate:

    In arguing that Google relies too heavily on “liberal” Wikipedia, Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert admitted that his staff was altering his own Wikipedia page every night for two weeks, only to be rebuffed by the site’s editors. (Wikipedia guidelines state that editing an employer’s page is a “conflict of interest.”)

    Iowa Rep. Steve King, after issuing several stern threats to impose regulations on Google to deal with political bias, ended his time asking why his granddaughter had come across a profane meme featuring his picture while using an iPhone. Pichai responded, “Congressman, iPhone is made by a different company.”

    From the Washington Post:

    Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) complained that when he googled the Republican health-care bill or the GOP tax cuts the first several pages listed negative articles. “How do you explain this apparent bias on Google’s part against conservative points of view, against conservative policies? Is it just the algorithm, or is there more happening there?” Chabot asked.

    “Congressman, I understand the frustration of seeing negative news, and, you know, I see it on me,” Pichai offered. “What is important here is we use the robust methodology to reflect what is being said about any given topic at any particular time. And we try to do it objectively, using a set of rubrics. It is in our interest to make sure we reflect what’s happening out there in the best objective manner possible. I can commit to you, and I can assure you, we do it without regards to political ideology. Our algorithms have no notion of political sentiment in it.”

    But Chabot wasn’t having it. He told Pichai that conservatives believe Google is “picking winners and losers in political discourse.”

    “There’s a lot of people that think what I’m saying here is happening,” Chabot said.

    From WIRED:

    […] Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) cited a report by PJ Media that claims 96 percent of search results for President Trump are from liberal media sites, a stat that has previously been debunked. […]

    Rep. Ted Lieu, also of California, carried all the weight for Pichai with a stunt that compared search results for Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) to results for Rep. King. He found that the results for Scalise mostly turned up stories about his book, while results for King mostly called him a bigot. “If you want positive search results, do positive things,” Lieu warned his colleagues, reserving almost no scrutiny for the man actually seated in the witness chair.

    Perhaps it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. The long-awaited hearing followed months of similar conservative finger-pointing in Silicon Valley’s direction. Until Tuesday, Pichai had mostly avoided the spotlight, opting instead to meet with House majority leader Kevin McCarthy and other conservatives in closed-door meetings. The California congressman became one of Google’s harshest critics after reports surfaced that Google search was listing “Nazism” as a core ideology of the California GOP. The error was due to a rogue Wikipedia edit, which Google surfaced in its search results and quickly corrected. But the conservative rage only grew from there. […]

    The committee learned little about how Google uses those troves of data in advertising or tracks its users’ locations, thanks to flawed and overheated questioning that oversimplified the company’s data collection practices. At one point, Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) raised his voice and demanded that Pichai tell him whether Google can track his phone as it moves around the room. Of course, Google services like Maps can do that, but such tracking would depend on a user’s settings. Rather than allowing Pichai to explain, however, Poe chastised him. “You make $100 million a year,” Poe said. “You should be able to answer that question.” […]

  195. says

    Followup to comment 256.

    The word “idiot” has been searched for more than one million times, following testimony typing it into Google Images threw up pictures of President Trump.

    The link between the two was mentioned during a congressional grilling of Google chief executive Sundar Pichai.

    He was asked whether this was an example of political bias in algorithms, something he denied.

    According to Google Trends, “idiot” is currently the number one most searched for term in the US.

    Republican congresswoman Zoe Lofgren posed the question about why “idiot” highlighted results that included pictures of the president.

    “How would that happen? How does search work so that would occur?” she asked.

    Mr Pichai replied that Google search results were based on billions of keyword ranked according to more than 200 factors, including relevance and popularity. […]

    If I may paraphrase Representative Ted Lieu: if you don’t want your face associated with the word “idiot,” then don’t be an idiot.

  196. says

    Nearly 70 Ex-Judges Urge ICE To Stop Immigration Arrests At Courthouses

    Dozens of retired state and federal judges called Wednesday on U.S. immigration officials to stop making arrests at courthouses of people suspected of being in the country illegally, saying immigrants should be free to visit halls of justice without fearing they will be detained.

    Nearly 70 former judges from 23 states — including federal judges and state supreme court justices — said in a letter sent to Acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Ronald Vitiello that courthouse arrests are disrupting the criminal justice system. […]

  197. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Akira MacKenzie@253,
    So, is licking socialist taint more fulfilling than licking capitalist taint? You sound like a connoisseur. What other taints have you sampled?

    Enquiring minds want to know.

  198. tomh says

    Some of the most lasting damage being done by the Trump Administration.
    From NYT:
    Trump’s Judicial Nominees Take Heat but Largely Keep Marching Through Senate

    WASHINGTON — The Senate narrowly confirmed Jonathan Kobes as a federal appeals court judge on Tuesday even as the American Bar Association questioned his understanding of “complex legal analysis” and “knowledge of the law.”

    Mr. Kobes, a 44-year-old aide to Senator Mike Rounds, Republican of South Dakota, is the second of President Trump’s judicial nominees to be confirmed whom the bar association deemed unqualified.

    A number of other Trump nominees have raised concerns, including five who also received the unqualified rating. Others were rated as qualified but carried with them politically or racially insensitive remarks from their past that resurfaced during their confirmations. One wrote in an online forum that the nation’s commitment to diversity was tantamount to accepting “lower standards.”

    To the chagrin of even some Republicans, their confirmation hearings have thrust politically sensitive topics into the spotlight at a time when the party is wrestling with issues of race and governing competence. Despite the controversies, they have all won the backing of most Republican senators, revealing how far they are willing to push the boundaries on their drive to reshape the judiciary as a conservative bastion.

    The judicial renaissance, led by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has energized a party wowed by the number of judges placed on the federal bench — two have risen to the Supreme Court and 30 will have made it to appeals courts by the end of the year. Mr. McConnell has come to define his legacy by his ability to transform the judiciary, calling the confirmations “the most significant, long-term contribution we are making to the country” in an interview with a Kentucky radio station last week.

    The nominees are deeply conservative and often white, young and male. Mr. Kobes has worked for Mr. Rounds since 2014. He worked as an assistant United States attorney in South Dakota for two years, then as counsel for two agriculture companies. He has tried six cases in his life, for assault and intent to distribute drugs, for instance, which the bar association considered straightforward and not legally complex.

    Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, blistered the Kobes nomination. “He’s never been a judge, has tried only SIX cases, and has argued only ONE appeal — 15 years ago,” she wrote on Twitter. “Kobes has filed briefs in only two appeals, yet he’s been nominated to serve on an appellate court where he would write dozens of opinions a year. Circuit courts are where most Americans receive final justice. They deserve to have qualified, experienced judges presiding.”

  199. says

    Michael Cohen was just sentenced to 36 months in prison.

    Part of his “I’m sorry” statement to the judge included a statement that blind loyalty to Trump led him down a path of darkness.

  200. says

    Followup to comment 261.

    More on Cohen’s sentencing:

    […] “Recently the president tweeted a statement calling me weak, and it was correct but for a much different reason than he was implying,” Cohen said, according to CNN. “It was because time and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds.”

    Trump last month blasted Cohen as a “weak person” for pleading guilty to lying to Congress in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

    Cohen faces sentencing for nine federal charges, including campaign finance violations stemming from a scheme to pay off two women alleging affairs with Trump.

    Trump’s former fixer on Wednesday said he has been “leading a personal and mental incarceration” ever since he began working for Trump in the early 2000s.

    “This may seem hard to believe but today is one of the most meaningful days of my life,” Cohen said, Bloomberg reported. “The irony is today is the day I get my freedom back. I have been leading a personal and mental incarceration ever since the fateful day that I accepted the offer to work for a famous real estate mogul whose business acumen I greatly admired.”

    Cohen also lamented the impact the ordeal has had on his family.

    “There is no sentence that can supersede the suffering I live with on a daily basis knowing that my actions have brought undeserved pain and shame upon my family,” Cohen said. “I deserve that shame, they do not.”
    Towards the end of his remarks, Cohen handed a tissue to his crying daughter, according to Bloomberg.

    Federal prosecutors in New York last week recommended Cohen serve “substantial” prison time despite his ongoing cooperation in the Mueller probe and other law enforcement investigations.

    The prosecutors also said Cohen committed the campaign finance violations at the direction of “Individual-1,” who has been identified as Trump.

    Cohen is likely to face significant prison time. He concluded that he takes responsibility “for each act that I pled guilty to: The personal ones to me and those involving the President of the United States of America.”

    Judge William Pauley after Cohen spoken said Cohen has pleaded guilty to a “veritable smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct.”

  201. says

    The scandal involving Republican voter suppression in North Carolina is expanding:

    McCrae Dowless, the man whose ‘get-out-the-vote’ activities are the center of the election fraud investigation in North Carolina, told a local political campaign volunteer that he was holding onto 800 absentee ballots, according to a new affidavit obtained by NBC News. […]

    Simmons [Kenneth Simmons] wrote, he and his wife saw Dowless with a large number of absentee ballots “in his possession.”

    Simmons stated that he asked Dowless why he had so many ballots and that Dowless responded that he was holding onto more than 800. Simmons wrote that he “asked him why he had not turned them in” and that Dowless replied: “you don’t do that until the last day because the opposition would know how many votes they had to make up.”

    “My concern,” Simmons concluded at the end of his affidavit, “was that these ballots were not going to be turned in.” […]

    The development has led a top North Carolina Republican Party official to “likely” support a new election in the state’s ninth congressional district. The State Board of Elections is investigating allegations of irregularities and fraudulent activities related to absentee by-mail voting and potentially other matters in that race, and has not certified the initially reported election results.

    The Republican won more than 61 percent of Bladen County’s mail-in ballots, a puzzling margin considering just 19 percent of accepted mail-in ballots belonged to registered Republican voters.

    “We are extremely concerned that early voting totals may have been leaked in Bladen County as reported by The Charlotte Observer,” said Robin Hayes, chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party, in a press release. “This action by election officials would be a fundamental violation of the sense of fair play, honesty, and integrity that the Republican Party stands for,” Hayes said. […]

    McCrae Dowless has a long history of conducting absentee ballot fraud that was well documented. Yet Mark Harris still hired him,” North Carolina state Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin said at a news conference in Raleigh Tuesday. “And now Harris refuses to answer several questions about their relationship.” […]

    NBC News link

    More at the link.

  202. says

    Wonkette took a look at the ways in which ICE uses children to lure immigrants already in the USA into situations in which they can be arrested and/or deported.

    […] you’ve probably wondered what’s going on with all those migrant children the Trump administration separated from their families. Turns out they’ve been used as collateral for even greater acts of evil.

    The friendly folks at US Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) announced Tuesday that federal authorities have arrested 170 immigrants who came forward to sponsor migrant children in government custody. This is the result of a new, fun rule the Department of Homeland Security put into effect this summer. It allows immigration authorities to examine the criminal background and legal status of anyone who attempts to sponsor the unaccompanied minors — usually parents or close relatives already in the country. They can even check the papers of any other adults living in their home, including Grandma.

    It’s a masterclass in evil: Use defenseless children as bait to lure immigrants to the authorities. […]

    ICE concedes that 109 of the immigrants arrested had no criminal record. The remaining 61 had criminal records, but ICE wouldn’t specify what those were. […]

    The talking heads on Fox will argue that illegal immigration is already a horrible crime. […] But what about the actual babies the government is using as human glue traps? What happens to to them once their relatives are busted? […]

    Prior to the Trump administration’s rule change, immigration enforcement wasn’t the point of the background information the Office of Refugee Resettlement collected. Their goal was to make sure the sponsors could keep the children safe, enroll them in school, and provide them with an attorney for their court appearances. During the month of May alone, 658 children were separated from their parents and the new rule has the effect of keeping them in federal custody longer than necessary.

    Democratic Senator Kamala Harris from the state of Awesome introduced a bill with Oregon’s Ron Wyden that would block ICE from using information from sponsor background checks for immigration enforcement.

    “Right now, unaccompanied children are being held in detention facilities or living in tent cities due in part to potential sponsors’ fear of retribution from ICE for coming forward. This is an unacceptable obstacle to getting these children into a safe home, and we must fix it… We will ultimately be judged as a society by how we treat our children, and without these crucial protections we are depriving unaccompanied minors of a place they can begin to call home.”

    Harris tweeted Tuesday that a “natural consequence of these arrests is that these children have nowhere to go.” […]

  203. says

    Hmmm, this is interesting. And, it puts yet another hole in Trump’s claim that paying hush money to women was a “private transaction” that had nothing to do with the election:

    […] the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced that prosecutors had previously reached an agreement not to prosecute the National Enquirer’s parent company over its payment to kill Karen McDougal’s story about her alleged affair with President Trump.

    As part of the agreement, American Media, Inc., admitted that it paid McDougal $150,000 in an attempt to influence the 2016 election […]

    “The Office also announced today that it has previously reached a non-prosecution agreement with AMI, in connection with AMI’s role in making the above-described $150,000 payment before the 2016 presidential election,” the U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement on Cohen’s sentencing. “As a part of the agreement, AMI admitted that it made the $150,000 payment in concert with a candidate’s presidential campaign, and in order to ensure that the woman did not publicize damaging allegations about the candidate before the 2016 presidential election. AMI further admitted that its principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.” […]

    TPM link

  204. Oggie. My Favourite Colour is MediOchre says

    Lynna @ 265:

    I’m beginning to wonder if any part of Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign was actually legal.

  205. Chris J says

    Oggie @ 266:

    If it wasn’t (or if only trivial things were), I wonder what our collective reaction is going to be. Especially after Trump leaves office and people “on his side” can criticize him without feeling as defensive.

  206. says

    Oggie @266, Ha! I know what you mean. Endless pit of corruption. Or a rotting onion with many layers to be removed. Something like that.

    And, of course, always “all the best people” involved.

    Chris J @267, Unfortunately, I think that some people will remain Trump cult followers no matter what facts are made public.

  207. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Chris J., I think history already has an answer to your question with the canonization of Ronald Reagan after his Presidency.

    Reagan was NOT a good President, let alone a great one. He decimated the civil service, tanked the US debt, egregiously failed to deal with the AIDS epidemic, set the stage for new terror movements, destabilized Latin America and opened the door to the takeover of the Republican party by the Xtian theocrats. And by the time he was elected, he was already showing signs of dementia. In the end, this diminished mental capacity was his strongest defense against facing charges as a result of the Iran-Contra scandal.
    And yet…
    Republicans to this day still march under the banner of St. Ronnie of Hollyweird. Long after the current occupant of 1600 Penn. Ave. is in the ground, the rank and file of the ashes of the Republican party will be lobbying to carve his face on Mt. Rushmore–dyed-orange combover and all.

  208. Chris J says

    a_ray_in_dilbert_space @ 269

    Good point, but counterpoint: Nixon. Not many are turning to Nixon these days as an example of a wonderful president.

    It really does depend on what “sticks”. If it turns out that Trump ran an entirely illegal campaign and he faces consequences for that, I’d hope that that’s what defines his legacy. The Iran-Contra scandal wasn’t linked directly back to Reagan at the time (according to wikipedia, anyway).

    I’m sure there’s also a “foreign” vs “domestic” line as well; George W wasn’t a great president either, and started a massive war that blew a hole in the economy. But… that caused suffering outside the US, so while people don’t beatify him the way they do Reagan, I don’t see much national talk around him being a corrupt and awful president. I think people are just glad to ignore him a little, or remember him fondly in comparison to what we have now.

    What I hope is that the Trump Campaign’s corruption leads to a strengthening of the FEC (which was, if you recall, bemoaning its own uselessness during the 2016 election season), and future campaigns will face far heavier scrutiny.

    I also hope that, even if people won’t admit being wrong, they’ll at least be encouraged to be slightly more critical of future demagogues.

    … yeah, that’s a lotta hope without much foundation. Still.

  209. Chris J says

    I mean… I did say “not many,” and one politico writer and Ben Stein don’t really disabuse that notion. Unless you are saying that their views are mainstream among republicans?

  210. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    There are a lot of Republicans who did feel that Nixon was treated unfairly–11 Republicans voted against impeaching Nixon on the Judiciary committee.

    When Bill Clinton was impeached, Alfonse D’amato said, “Payback time.” There are a lot of Republicans who think the whole Watergate scandal was purely political. If they don’t come out strongly in Nixon’s defense, it’s because nobody liked Nixon–not even his fellow Republicans.

  211. says

    Maria Butina, Russian agent, pleaded guilty today.

    Russian operative Maria Butina, who is accused of infiltrating politically powerful U.S. organizations, including the National Rifle Association, in an effort to push Moscow’s agenda, pleaded guilty Thursday to a conspiracy count.

    Butina has agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors and pleaded guilty in a Washington, D.C., courtroom to one count of conspiracy to violate the law governing foreign agents operating in the United States. […]

    Thursday’s guilty plea means she is admitting to conspiring with an unnamed American to act at the direction of a Russian official “to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over U.S. politics … for the benefit of the Russian Federation,” according to a plea agreement.

  212. says

    It took Trump a full day to come up with a response to the sentencing of Michael Cohen.

    I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law. He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. It is called ‘advice of counsel,’ and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made. That is why they get paid.

    Despite that many campaign finance lawyers have strongly stated that I did nothing wrong with respect to campaign finance laws, if they even apply, because this was not campaign finance. Cohen was guilty on many charges unrelated to me, but he plead to two campaign charges which were not criminal and of which he probably was not guilty even on a civil basis.

    Those charges were just agreed to by him in order to embarrass the president and get a much reduced prison sentence, which he did-including the fact that his family was temporarily let off the hook. As a lawyer, Michael has great liability to me!

    Well, that’s a mess.

    Here is Steve Benen’s response to just part of that mess from Trump:

    […] There’s probably no point in scrutinizing every error of fact and judgment in the message, but there were two things that jumped out at me. The first is Trump’s continued insistence that the hush-money payoffs to his alleged former mistresses were “not campaign finance.”

    The evidence to the contrary is overwhelming. Indeed, American Media Inc., which publishes the National Enquirer tabloid, admitted it paid off one of Trump’s alleged former mistresses, “in concert with” the Trump campaign, in order to “suppress the woman’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.”

    But perhaps even more interesting is the president’s assertion that his former fixer pleaded guilty to two “campaign charges which were not criminal.”

    If that sounds at all familiar, it’s because Trump made a similar pitch in August, arguing that Cohen’s violations of campaign-finance law “are not a crime.”

    Even by 2018 standards, this is odd. As a Washington Post analysis explained the last time the president tried this, “It’s a bit baffling that Trump would assert that criminal charges accepted by Cohen aren’t a crime. Perhaps he’s arguing that the alleged crimes didn’t occur or that prosecutors crafted their charges in a way to maximize Cohen’s exposure to legal risk. It’s not clear. It’s not true.”

    I’m trying to imagine Trump’s perspective on this. Does he genuinely believe prosecutors charged Cohen; Cohen’s attorneys scrutinized the allegations; and Cohen agreed to plea guilty, and no one noticed that the allegations “were not criminal”?

    Over the summer, one of Trump’s attorneys famously said, “Truth isn’t truth.” Now, this position has apparently evolved into “crimes aren’t crimes.”

  213. says

    More details regarding Michael Flynn’s contacts with Russians:

    Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has told associates that he spoke to Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. during the 2016 campaign about how the two countries could work together on key foreign policy matters if Donald Trump was elected, Mother Jones reported Thursday.

    Two associates of the short-lived national security advisor told Mother Jones that Flynn’s contact with Sergey Kislyak predated the previously reported communications that the pair had during the post-election transition period.

    One associate told the publication that Flynn and Kislyak proposed a situation in which Moscow would work with the Trump administration to end the Syrian civil war in exchange for an end to U.S. sanctions against Russia.

    Another said Flynn spoke of talking to Kislyak about “Syria, Iran and other foreign policy matters” that the two countries could work together on if Trump took office.

    These communications could be significant, given Russia’s active interference with the presidential election through the summer and fall of 2016. Only a sitting administration is supposed to negotiate policy issues with foreign governments.

    Flynn pleaded guilty last December to lying to the FBI about his conversations about Russian sanctions with Kislyak during the transition. He has been cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller over the past year, and is set to be sentenced on December 18.

    TPM link

  214. says

    Kentucky’s Republican governor melts down over prospect of robust investigative journalism

    Kentucky’s maniac Republican Gov. Matt Bevin is publicly freaking out over the news that ProPublica, what he calls “a left-wing activist group funded by the likes of George Soros” (yes, that’s the sound of a dog whistle) is partnering with the Louisville Courier-Journal for a year-long investigative reporting project into a state government program. […]

    ProPublica’s response is priceless:

    “You asked who @ProPublica is,” they respond. “We thought we’d give you some answers. Like everything we do, they are, you know, actually accurate.” They start out saying that they’re “thrilled to be partnering w/ the fine folks” at the Courier Journal, one of 14 newsrooms they’ll be partnering with over the next year. And they say the “paper’s reporting project is [very] promising.” That’ll trigger Bevin. They also don’t let his calling out of Soros slide, saying “We noticed you mentioned two of our donors – who just happen to be Jewish.” As for those donors, they had 34,000 of them last year, and Soros’s Open Society Foundations provided “less than 2 percent of our revenue.” They go on to point out that “we believe in evidence. Hard, indisputable evidence. Carefully gathered and precisely told.” That’s perhaps why, they say, “our peers have given us 4 Pulitzers, 3 Peabodys, 2 Emmys, 6 Polks, a duPont and a National Magazine Award.” Zing.

    More on what is coming down the pike for the con-man Bevin:

    They also let Bevin know that “We’ll be in touch with questions and would love *your* answers.” In a P.S., they point out how the Courier Journal has “been doing lots of good work, like this recent story about how @GovMattBevin hired a buddy for a govt job and then gave him a $215,000 raise.” That points to this investigation into the hiring and massive salary hike for his “old army buddy and longtime business associate” Charles E. Grindle, who got the 134 percent increase in his salary in August, after he’d been in the job for less than a year. Note, his annual salary isn’t $215,000. That’s how much his raise was, coming “four months after the passage of a state budget that included no pay increases for more than 42,000 Kentucky public school teachers and most of the state’s nearly 30,000 state workers.” […]

    All hail the free press.

  215. says

    What Trump said: “I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it.”

    When the Trump government shutdown would take effect, if it does take effect: December 21.

    What Trump will be doing on December 21: flying to Mar-a-Lago to begin his holiday vacation.

    Trump plans to vacation in Mar-a-Lago from December 21 to January 6.

  216. says

    Mormons and Republicans, (who are sometimes one and the same), joined forces in Utah to go against the wishes of voters: Utah Governor Gary Herbert, and Utah’s Health Department vacated a measure approved by the voters, and they put in place a measure backed by the Mormon Church.

    […] Nearly 53 percent of voters in the state approved Proposition 2 on Election Day, bucking the state’s Republican leaders.

    More strikingly, the vote was a repudiation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), which had lobbied heavily against the bill. (More than six in 10 Utah residents are Mormon, and church leaders are not shy about weighing in on political issues.) […]

    It turns out it didn’t matter what Utahns had to say about Prop 2. Last week, the state legislature, in a special session called specifically to address the bill, threw out the measure. Prop 2 was already one of the most restrictive medical marijuana laws in the country, but still went too far in making pot available, according to some conservatives.

    In its place, lawmakers in the GOP-led legislature passed a bill much more to their liking, the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, also known as House Bill 3001, which Governor Herbert quickly signed into law.

    While lawmakers have touted the new law as the “best-designed medical cannabis program in the country,” some patients say it is too restrictive and say many people who need medical marijuana will not be able to access it.

    Opponents of the new bill also bristle over the outsize role played by the LDS Church in overturning the will of the voters, interference they say was unconstitutional. Reached by ThinkProgress, the church declined comment for this story. […]

    Think Progress link

  217. says

    More far rightwing, autocratic moves in Hungary:

    Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban took another step closer to becoming Europe’s premier autocrat by passing a law that effectively nullifies the country’s independent judiciary.

    Under the new legislation, which passed through the Hungarian Parliament on Wednesday, the country’s supreme court is now stripped of its ability to judge what are known as administrative disputes. In Hungary, this is a wide-ranging description encompassing everything from electoral law to corruption to police abuse to tax evasion.

    Instead, a new system will be set up over the next 12 months overseen by Orban’s justice minister, who will control which judges get promoted to settle the administrative disputes. Hungary’s existing independent judiciary would be significantly weakened and have no oversight of the new system.

    The move to quash the independence of the judiciary is the latest autocratic move by Orban, who is feeling increasingly emboldened as the beleaguered European Union confronts political threats on all sides, be it from Brexit, the Yellow Vests protests in France, or the rise of far-right parties like AfD in Germany. […]

    Think Progress link

  218. says

    Pennsylvania Replaced Prison Mail With Photocopies. Inmates and Their Families Are Heartbroken.

    And they worry a private company is holding copies of their letters for far too long.

    If you think a black and white photocopy (poor quality at that) is an adequate replacement for the originals, just take a look at the Mother Jones article.


    […] The American Civil Liberties Union is now suing over this handling of legal mail, arguing it violates attorney-client privilege.

    Family members upset about the changes have questioned whether the restrictions are misdirected, noting that guards sometimes sneak contraband into correctional facilities. And some toxicologists have cast doubt on whether inmate mail was really sickening prison staffers in the first place, suggesting that their symptoms could have been psychosomatic, the result of anxiety about drug exposure as opposed to actual exposure. But within a month of implementing the new mail policies, the Department of Corrections says, drug finds in Pennsylvania state prisons dropped nearly in half. Other state corrections systems began calling to express interest in the new security protocols, according to a department spokeswoman.

    Still, advocates worry prison officials aren’t considering the full impact on inmates. Writing letters is one of the most popular ways for them to stay in touch with relatives, in part because of the hefty price tag for phone calls. And studies show that those who maintain ties with their family are more successful after their release. “It’s not like the intentions are bad, so we want to make sure people understand what the cost is to families,” says Kevin Ring, who spent time in a federal prison in Maryland in 2014 for his part in a lobbying scandal and now leads the advocacy group FAMM, which collected messages from Pennsylvania inmates like Onzik who are upset about the mail policy. During his incarceration, Ring kept color photos of his daughters in his locker to boost his morale. “That mattered. To get some grainy copy of a picture is not the same,” he says. […]

  219. says

    Trump was in the room when hush money payments to women were discussed. That’s news. More on that later.

    Also, the feds have opened a new criminal probe into the Trump inauguration committee. Looks like pay-for-play details will come out soon. More on that later.

    Trump is considering Jared Kushner for his new Chief of Staff. More on that later.

  220. says

    Followup to comment 282.

    Regarding the new, (or newly revealed), federal investigation into Trump’s inaugural committee:

    Trump’s inaugural committee is under criminal investigation by federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York over whether donors handed over cash in exchange for access to government officials and into whether funds were misallocated […]

    Documents seized during raids of former Trump attorney and current felon Michael Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room in April 2018 led to the investigation […]

    Specifically, the report stated that federal agents seized the recording of a conversation that Cohen made between himself and former Melania Trump adviser Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. In the recording, Wolkoff purportedly “expressed concern about how the inaugural committee was spending money,” […]

    Investigators interviewed former Trump campaign aide and inaugural committee deputy chair Rick Gates in connection with the probe, asking him about “the fund’s spending and its donors.” Gates, the one-time protege to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manfort who pleaded guilty in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe and testified against Manafort, went to work for Barrack after the inauguration.

    Billionaire Thomas Barrack Jr. headed the inauguration committee, and has reportedly not been approached by investigators.

    Wolkoff’s company – WIS media partners – was the inauguration’s largest vendor, and was paid $25.8 million after being formed 45 days before the inauguration began.

    Tax filings reviewed by the Journal show that the inauguration claimed that $77 million was spent on conferences, $4 million on ticketing, $9 million on travel, and $4.5 million on payroll.

    It wasn’t immediately clear which payments specifically are subject to the probe.

    Sam Patten, a political consultant who had done work in Ukraine, pleaded guilty to failing to register as a foreign agent in August for wiring $50,000 to the inauguration committee in order to secure a spot at the inauguration for the same Ukrainian politician who steered payments to Manafort.

    TPM link

    More rocks overturned.

  221. says

    This is unimaginable. So bad. A 7-year-old girl in the custody of the U.S. Border Patrol died of dehydration. It seems likely that the girl was in bad condition when she was taken into custody, but it is also true that she did not start having seizures until after she had been in BP custody for eight (8!) hours.

    A 7-year-old girl from Guatemala died of dehydration and shock after she was taken into Border Patrol custody last week for crossing from Mexico into the United States illegally with her father and a large group of migrants along a remote span of New Mexico desert, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Thursday.

    The child’s death is likely to intensify scrutiny of detention conditions at Border Patrol stations and CBP facilities that are increasingly overwhelmed by large numbers of families seeking asylum in the United States. […]

    More than eight hours later, the child began having seizures at 6:25 a.m., CBP records show. Emergency responders, who arrived soon after, measured her body temperature at 105.7 degrees, and according to a statement from CBP, she “reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days.”

    After a helicopter flight to Providence Hospital in El Paso, the child went into cardiac arrest and “was revived,” according to the agency. “However, the child did not recover and died at the hospital less than 24 hours after being transported,” CBP said.

    The agency did not release the name of the girl or her father, but the father remains in El Paso awaiting a meeting with Guatemalan consular officials, according to CBP. The agency is investigating the incident to ensure appropriate policies were followed, it said.

    Food and water are typically provided to migrants in Border Patrol custody, and it wasn’t immediately clear Thursday if the girl received provisions and a medical exam before the onset of seizures. […]

    Washington Post link

  222. says

    Yeah, nobody wanted to go to a party at the White House anyway:

    Some members of the media fired back at the White House on Thursday after it announced that it would forgo its traditional holiday party for members of the press.

    “FYI, I had never planned to attend the White House Christmas party last year or this year,” National Urban Radio Network White House correspondent April Ryan said on Twitter shortly after the announcement.

    “Why break bread with folks who hate you & call you names? (@PressSec & @realDonaldTrump) That is not the Christmas spirit I know. I feel sorry for those who wanted to go and can’t. SAD!” continued Ryan, who has frequently criticized the White House.

    “I really don’t give a damn if @realDonaldTrump cancelled the White House Christmas party for the press,” tweeted Roland Martin, the former host of News One Now and host of “Roland Martin Unfiltered.” […]

    The Hill link

    From the Daily Beast:

    Trump has become the president who stole Christmas .

    From Holly Figueroa O’Reilly:

    FINALLY, the leader of the War on Christmas surfaces. Who radicalized him? The Grinch?

    Trump Cancels White House Christmas Party for the Press

  223. says

    The Senate just passed a resolution to end US support for the Saudi war in Yemen

    It’s a bipartisan rebuke of the Trump administration in the wake of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.

    […] The resolution, which passed 56 to 41, is a rare bipartisan rebuke to the White House over its policies toward Saudi Arabia. The measure, which had failed in the Senate in March, was revived and reinvigorated […]

    Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Chris Murphy (D-CT) co-sponsored the resolution to stop US involvement in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is fighting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. The nearly four-year conflict has killed an estimated 50,000 people and put nearly 12 million on the brink of famine.

    The war in Yemen — and US support for the Saudi-led effort — actually began during the Obama administration. But President Trump has moved the US even closer to Saudi Arabia as part of his administration’s broader Middle East policy, which largely focuses on countering Iran. […]

    Find a resolution to the war. Help the starving children.

    Partially as a result of the war in Yemen, Iran’s support for Houthi rebels has increased.

  224. says

    What Trump tweeted:

    I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law. He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. It is called “advice of counsel,” and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made. That is why they get paid. Despite that many campaign finance lawyers have strongly……

    …stated that I did nothing wrong with respect to campaign finance laws, if they even apply, because this was not campaign finance. Cohen was guilty on many charges unrelated to me, but he plead to two campaign charges which were not criminal and of which he probably was not…

    ….guilty even on a civil basis. Those charges were just agreed to by him in order to embarrass the president and get a much reduced prison sentence, which he did-including the fact that his family was temporarily let off the hook. As a lawyer, Michael has great liability to me!

    Context and analysis from Ben Mathis-Lilley:

    […] The context here is that Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday after pleading guilty to, among other things, criminally circumventing campaign-spending disclosure laws by arranging secret 2016 hush-money payments to two women who say they had extramarital affairs with Trump. Hours later, prosecutors announced that the tabloid publishing company AMI had also admitted to involvement in the circumvention scheme. […]

    Now, there is actually some subtlety to the issue of whether Trump himself committed a crime, which would require having “knowingly and willfully” concealed a campaign expense. For one, there’s the potential argument that he arranged the payments not because of the campaign but to keep his family from finding out about the alleged affairs. That argument is undercut by what prosecutors describe as a 2015 meeting involving Trump and AMI chairman David Pecker in which Pecker offered to support Trump’s campaign by suppressing negative stories about Trump’s past relationships. Trump’s current lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, also said on TV in March that the payments were made to keep allegations of affairs from coming out before the election, and Cohen has affirmed that version of events in court.

    As to the knowing/willful issue, the Department of Justice’s guidelines on the subject suggest that “the use of surreptitious means [to make payments] such as cash, conduits, or false documentation” is evidence of willful concealment; Trump didn’t make either payment directly and reimbursed Cohen for the second one via a convoluted process involving the pretense that he was being issued a retainer. […]

    There also doesn’t appear to be evidence that Trump sought Cohen’s “advice of counsel” about how to make the payments legally, and you can’t get off the hook for a crime because your lawyer was involved when you both knew what you did was illegal.

    Anyway, though, my primary purpose here is just to chuckle about the phrase “I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law,” as if knocking on wood and shouting NO LAW-BREAKO while you’re doing something extremely illegal means you can’t get in trouble for it. Ha ha, what a quirky criminal president!

  225. says

    Followup to comment 283.

    Sarah Huckabee Sanders pontificated about how none of the growing scandal around Trump’s inaugural committee had anything to do with Trump himself:

    This didn’t have anything to do with the president, he was focused on the transition and building out a new government and preparing to take office. The role that the president had in the inauguration was to raise his hand and take the oath.

    I think this is a perfect example of Democrats recognizing that all the accusations they made and the information that came out of the Michael Cohen case has nothing to do with the president. So now they’re going to — I would say plan B, but this is more like plan D or E or F to take this president down.

    Federal prosecutors, not Democrats, are investigating the shady finances of the inaugural committee.

    Federal prosecutors implicated Trump in some of Michael Cohen’s crimes.

    Democrats don’t have to work hard to come with new plans to hold Trump accountable. Federal prosecutors are doing a good job of that. The Federal investigations look legitimate and likely to yield results.

    A tsunami of new revelations make Trump look bad and/or criminal. Sarah Huckabee Sanders can’t stop that.

  226. says

    Trump whines like a toddler whose feelings have been hurt:

    Nobody except for me would be looked at this like — nobody.

    What about Congress? Where they have a slush fund and millions and millions of dollars is paid out each year. They have a slush fund — millions. They don’t talk about campaign finance or anything. Have you ever heard a campaign finance list? Have they listed that on their campaign finance sheets? No.

    Whatasboutism. Self pity.

    Steve Benen had a good take on this:

    […] The president started the defense by suggesting it’s unfair to examine his record. Sure, he made illegal hush-money payments shortly before the election, but does that really justify scrutiny?

    And then he pivoted, hoping to change the subject away from the accusations surrounding his political operation and toward a multi-million-dollar congressional slush fund. For what it’s worth, I haven’t the foggiest idea what he was referring to, and given Trump’s approach to reality, it’s quite likely he simply made this up.

    But it’s the underlying point of the argument that matters here: the president thinks he’s being picked on, just because there’s evidence of him committing some felonies. Trump may have broken the law, but true to form, he sees himself as a victim.

    It reeks of weakness, but at this point, Trump is running out of other defenses.

  227. says

    Trump explains that Mexico is paying for the wall:

    I often stated, ‘One way or the other, Mexico is going to pay for the Wall.’ This has never changed. Our new deal with Mexico (and Canada), the USMCA, is so much better than the old, very costly & anti-USA NAFTA deal, that just by the money we save, MEXICO IS PAYING FOR THE WALL!

    If you shout, that makes it true.

    From The New York Times:

    […] “It’s much harder to connect actual provisions of the U.S.M.C.A. to cash for the wall, since they don’t put money in the coffers of the Treasury,” said Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “Any connection between labor, auto rule of origin and other chapters to the wall is pretty remote.”

    Scott Lincicome, a trade expert at the libertarian Cato Institute, said he viewed Mr. Trump’s claim with “immense skepticism,” given that the new agreement merely updates Nafta and that none of the changes will be a major revenue driver. […]

    Trump has come up with a new scam-like explanation for the “Mexico will pay for the wall” claim. No one but his hardcore cult followers will believe that. Trump’s claim is transparently, evenly stupidly, wrong.

    He is even wrong about what he calls “USMCA.” “The pact simply updated the North American Free Trade Agreement, which allows Mexico, Canada and the United States to trade goods and services with zero tariffs.” And, to repeat this bit of wisdom from Scott Lincicome: “none of the changes will be a major revenue driver.”

    NY Times link

  228. says

    A bit more detail concerning the investigation into Trump’s inaugural committee:

    Federal prosecutors are examining whether foreigners illegally funneled donations to President Trump’s inaugural committee and a pro-Trump super PAC in hopes of buying influence over American policy, according to people familiar with the inquiry.

    The inquiry focuses on whether people from Middle Eastern nations — including Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — used straw donors to disguise their donations to the two funds. Federal law prohibits foreign contributions to federal campaigns, political action committees and inaugural funds.

    NY Times link

  229. says

    From Josh Marshall:

    Yesterday’s news is a good reminder of a fundamental point drawing together all unfolding scandals: The Trump campaign, like its parent organization the Trump Organization, was fabulously corrupt. That limitless, flagrant and ravenous corruption made it ripe for compromise, subversion and control by foreign actors.

  230. says

    Followup to comment 284.

    About the 7-year-old girl who died in Border Patrol custody, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said:

    This family chose to cross illegally, what happened here is they were about 90 miles away from where we could process them. They came in such a large crowd, it took our border patrol folks a couple times to get them all. We gave immediate care, we’ll continue to look into the situation, but again, I cannot stress enough how dangerous this journey is when migrants choose to come here illegally.

    I think you just blamed a 7-year-old girl for dying in your custody.

  231. says

    An excerpt from the interview of Michael Cohen by George Stephanopoulos, concerning the hush money payments:

    Stephanopoulos: He was trying to hide what you were doing, correct?

    Cohen: Correct.

    Stephanopoulos: And he knew it was wrong?

    Cohen: Of course.

    Stephanopoulos: And he was doing that to help his election?

    Cohen: You have to remember at what point in time that this matter came about — two weeks or so before the election. Post the Billy Bush [“Access Hollywood”] comments, so, yes, he was very concerned about how this would affect the election.

    Stephanopoulos: To help his campaign?

    Cohen: To help him and the campaign.

    Another excerpt, answering the question of why anyone should believe Cohen now:

    Because the special counsel stated emphatically that the information that I gave to them is credible and helpful. There is a substantial amount of information that they possessed that corroborates the fact that I am telling the truth.

  232. says

    Republicans ignore science, again.

    Scientists tell lawmakers fetal tissue research is ‘essential’ but House GOP refuses to listen.

    During a congressional hearing on “exploring alternatives to fetal tissue research” on Thursday, Dr. Sally Temple tried to set lawmakers straight: there are no comparable alternatives. But Republican lawmakers, who espoused “pro-life” beliefs throughout the hearing, ignored her.

    “I offer my perspective as a representative of nearly 4,000 research colleagues around the world,” said Temple, who spoke on behalf of the International Society for Stem Cell Research and, separately, has earned a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” for her research findings.

    “Fetal tissue is an essential resource for studying and developing therapies for cancer, HIV, Zika, Tuberculosis, and other devastating diseases. Fetal tissues have unique properties. The alternatives mentioned may be useful at times but cannot fully replace fetal tissue.”

    […] House Republicans are trying to get the Trump administration to stop federal funding for research that uses donated tissue from aborted fetuses. In fact, anti-abortion groups recently met with White House officials to demand as much. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is already looking into alternatives, and paused the further procurement of fetal tissue for some researchers — halting at least one government-run study aiming to find a cure for HIV — as part of an ongoing audit. […]

    Just minutes after Temple’s testimony — in which she explained why researchers couldn’t use alternatives like organoids to better understand how, for example, Zika behaves in the body — Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) punted the conversation to how abortion providers like Planned Parenthood are selling “body parts.” (That’s untrue.) Hice went on to thank two experts who also testified for declaring “aborted fetal tissue is not necessary” — a notion Temple called “dangerous.”

    The two experts [Not really experts!], Drs. Tara Sander Lee and David Prentice, are affiliated with the same anti-abortion research organization, the Charlotte Lozier Institute. […] it is unusual and telling for one hearing to have two expert witnesses affiliated with the same research tank, […]

    “After over 100 years of research, no therapies have been discovered or developed that require aborted fetal tissue,” Lee told lawmakers. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) fixated on this statement, declaring, perhaps jokingly, that it’s unnecessary to investigate further and that the body should just end the $100 million in federal funding.

    “History is that fetal tissue was vital to vaccine development,” said Lawrence Goldstein, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego, where he heads the university’s stem cell program and depends on human fetal tissue for his research on Alzheimer’s disease. Medications like Enbrel for rheumatoid arthritis, Pulmozyme for cystic fibrosis, and Nuwiq for hemophilia used fetal tissue studies as well. […]

    The article is written by Amanda Michelle Gomez.

  233. says

    From Wonkette: a look into Jared Kushner’s part in Trump’s hush money payoffs, as well as other issues:

    “The people have got to know whether or not their president is a murderer. Well, I’m not a murderer. I’ve earned everything I’ve got and never once committed armed robbery.” — Donald Trump, tomorrow. PROBABLY.

    We’ve now reached the stage of the Trump administration where the president’s defenders are cold calling reporters to tell them to quit making such a big deal, because HELLO, THERE’S NO DEAD BODY. (Yet.)

    “Nobody got killed, nobody got robbed… This was not a big crime,” Giuliani told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. […]

    This is also the stage where there is a new OMG, breaking! every ninety minutes. So let’s type fast to run down the latest on Trump’s backroom fuckery with The National Enquirer before this tabloid stuff metastasizes any further.

    Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump met personally with David Pecker, CEO of the Enquirer’s parent company American Media, Inc. (AMI) in August 2015. Would Donny’s old pal David like to become an unofficial member of Team Trump? HE WOULD.

    What can you do to help my campaign? he asked, according to people familiar with the meeting.

    [Pecker] offered to use his National Enquirer tabloid to buy the silence of women if they tried to publicize alleged sexual encounters with Mr. Trump.

    Well, there goes Trump’s defense that he was just racing to buy up those stories to protect poor, delicate Melania […]

    From AMI’s corporate immunity deal:

    [August 2015, David Pecker] met with Michael Cohen, an attorney for a presidential candidate, and at least one other member of the campaign. At the meeting, Pecker offered to help deal with negative stories about the presidential candidate’s relationship with women by, among other things, assisting the campaign in identifying such stores so they could be purchased and their publication avoided. Pecker agreed to keep Cohen apprised of any such negative stories.

    More from Wonkette:

    NBC News confirms that “at least one other member of the campaign” was the Very Stable Genius himself, who was bound and determined to leave his greasy fingerprints all over a conspiracy to commit campaign finance fraud.

    Donald Trump was the third person in the room in August 2015 when his lawyer Michael Cohen and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker discussed ways Pecker could help counter negative stories about Trump’s relationships with women, NBC News has confirmed.

    […] During the campaign, The Daily Beast reports, Michael Cohen was TrumpWorld’s conduit to the magazine. But once Cohen got exiled to the hinterlands, Trump turned to his multi-tasking son-in-law Jared Kushner to pick up the slack. You know, in all J-Kush’s free time when he wasn’t solving the Middle East and fixing technology and opioids and trying to get warlords to bail out his family’s poor real estate investments.

    […] During the early months of the Trump era, Kushner performed the task admirably, discussing with Pecker various issues over the phone, including everything from international relations to media gossip, according to four sources familiar with the situation. Pecker, for his part, bragged to people that he was speaking to the president’s son-in-law and, more generally, about the level of access he had to the upper echelons of the West Wing, […]

    Remember when the AP reported that Pecker had a safe full of damaging stories on Trump that he was holding for not-at-all-blackmail purposes? Remember that Pecker and his villainous henchman Dylan Howard flipped and have now spilled their guts to the nice people at SDNY? […]

    In July [2017], David J. Pecker, the chairman of the company that owns The National Enquirer, visited his old friend President Trump at the White House.

    The tabloid publisher took along a special guest, Kacy Grine, a French businessman who advises one of Saudi Arabia’s richest men and sometimes acts as an intermediary between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Western businesses.

    The two men and other Pecker associates chatted with the president in the Oval Office and briefly met with Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East envoy, Jared Kushner. […]

  234. says

    Another detail to add to the corruption surrounding Trump’s inaugural committee raising and spending funds: Trump’s Inauguration Paid Trump’s Company — With Ivanka In The Middle

    […] When it came out this year that President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee raised and spent unprecedented amounts, people wondered where all that money went.

    It turns out one beneficiary was Trump himself.

    The inauguration paid the Trump Organization for rooms, meals and event space at the company’s Washington hotel, […]

    During the planning, Ivanka Trump, the president-elect’s eldest daughter and a senior executive with the Trump Organization, was involved in negotiating the price the hotel charged the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee for venue rentals. A top inaugural planner emailed Ivanka and others at the company to “express my concern” that the hotel was overcharging for its event spaces, worrying of what would happen “when this is audited.”

    […] The inaugural committee’s payments to the Trump Organization and Ivanka Trump’s role have not been previously reported or disclosed in public filings. […]

    Rick Gates, then the deputy to the chairman of the inaugural, asked some vendors to take payments directly from donors, rather than through the committee, according to two people with direct knowledge. The vendors felt the request was unusual and concerning, […]

    The revelations about the inauguration’s finances show how Trump blurred the lines between his political and business lives, […]

    […] federal prosecutors in New York have opened a criminal investigation into whether the inaugural committee misspent money and whether donors gave in return for political favors, citing people familiar with the matter. In addition, The New York Times reported that prosecutors are examining whether foreigners illegally funnelled money to the inauguration.

    Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Ivanka Trump’s ethics lawyer, said: “When contacted by someone working on the inauguration, Ms. Trump passed the inquiry on to a hotel official and said only that any resulting discussions should be at a ‘fair market rate.’ Ms. Trump was not involved in any additional discussions.”

    Mirijanian did not provide evidence that Ivanka Trump sought a fair market rate. […]

    Trump’s 2017 inauguration committee, which was chaired by his friend the businessman Tom Barrack, raised nearly $107 million from donors including the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and AT&T. The January 2017 festivities cost almost twice President Obama’s 2009 inauguration, previously the most expensive. The nonprofit that planned Trump’s inauguration booked many spaces in the Trump International Hotel, located in the Old Post Office building near the White House, including a ballroom, hotel rooms and work spaces, as well as paying for meals there, according to several people who worked on the inauguration. […]

  235. tomh says

    If anyone is still interested in the Steele Dossier it is dissected here (on lawfare) in excruciating detail. In general, not all of the material has been proven. But none has been disproven.
    The Steele Dossier: A Retrospective
    By Sarah Grant, Chuck Rosenberg Friday, December 14, 2018

    The bottom line:

    As we noted, our interest is in assessing the Steele dossier as a raw intelligence document, not a finished piece of analysis. The Mueller investigation has clearly produced public records that confirm pieces of the dossier. And even where the details are not exact, the general thrust of Steele’s reporting seems credible in light of what we now know about extensive contacts between numerous individuals associated with the Trump campaign and Russian government officials.

    However, there is also a good deal in the dossier that has not been corroborated in the official record and perhaps never will be—whether because it’s untrue, unimportant or too sensitive. As a raw intelligence document, the Steele dossier, we believe, holds up well so far. But surely there is more to come from Mueller’s team. We will return to it as the public record develops.

  236. Oggie. My Favourite Colour is MediOchre says

    From Lynna @ 297:

    The January 2017 festivities cost almost twice President Obama’s 2009 inauguration,

    I seem to remember some right-wingers freaking out about (a) how much Obama’s inauguration cost, (b) where the money came from, and (c) what favours did it buy.

    Odd that none of them freaked out over Trump’s inauguration (which, on a per-person basis, would have been three or four times the cost of Obama’s).

    Well, okay. Not really odd.

  237. says

    Two views of Flynn’s sentencing, one from Flynn and his lawyers, and one from Mueller:

    Special counsel Robert Mueller on Friday filed his response to former national security adviser and cooperating witness Michael Flynn’s sentencing memo. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI last year about his contacts with Russian officials and is set to be sentenced on Dec. 18.

    In their own memo filed Tuesday, Flynn’s defense attorneys asked he be spared prison time for his “uncharacteristic error in judgment.” They suggested that federal agents may have lured him into a false sense of security before he agreed to the Jan. 24, 2017 interview about his communications with Russians, failing to notify the retired general that it is a crime to lie to the FBI.

    Mueller came out swinging against that argument in his response, saying “nothing about the way the interview was arranged or conducted caused the defendant to make false statements to the FBI.”

    “A sitting National Security Advisor, former head of an intelligence agency, retired Lieutenant General, and 33-year veteran of the armed forces knows he should not lie to federal Agents,” Mueller said. “He does not need to be warned it is a crime to lie to federal agents […]

    Mueller rejected Flynn’s argument that the circumstances of the interview should be a mitigating factor in determining his sentence, urging the court to “reject the defendant’s attempt to minimize the seriousness of those false statements.” […]

    In the latest document, the special counsel takes a firm tone with Flynn for implying there was anything untoward about the FBI’s conduct towards him. Mueller notes that Flynn also falsely told the Washington Post, Vice President Mike Pence, then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer that he did not discuss sanctions with the then-Russian Ambassador to the U.S. before President Trump took office.

    “By the time of the FBI interview, the defendant was committed to his false story,” Mueller said.

    Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe also notified Flynn about the topic of the interview—what McCabe called “his recent contacts with Russian representatives”—before Flynn sat down with agents, according to contemporaneous notes made by McCabe and submitted by Mueller to the court.

    “The interview was voluntary, and lacked any indicia of coercion,” Mueller said.

    The agents even tried to signal to Flynn that they were aware of the exact nature of his contacts, according to the document.

    “When the defendant said he did not remember something they knew he said, they used the exact words the defendant had used in order to prompt a truthful response,” Mueller wrote. […]

    Mueller concluded the filing by said that Flynn’s cooperation and military service still merit a light sentence—“assuming the defendant continues to accept responsibility for his actions.” […]

  238. says

    You tell them what’s what, former Attorney General Eric Holder:

    […] advocacy groups on Friday announced that they would file a lawsuit challenging Wisconsin Republicans’ slate of laws that restrict the power of the incoming Democratic governor and limit early voting in the state.

    Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed the bills on Friday, less than a month before he leaves office and incoming Democratic Gov.-elect Tom Evers takes over. Republicans in the state legislature rushed the bills through in a special session in a blatant attempt to limit Evers and Democrats. […]

    In a statement, former Attorney General Eric Holder called the newly passed law “a shameful attack on our democracy by politicians who will do anything to hold onto power.”

    “After losing an election, Republicans in the state legislature are using their gerrymandered majorities and their defeated governor to ignore the will of the people. Their actions are grossly partisan, deeply undemocratic, and an attack on voting rights. They must not stand,” Holder said.

    TPM link

  239. says

    A list from Steve Benen:

    Donald Trump is under investigation.
    Trump’s business is under investigation.
    Trump’s foundation is under investigation.
    Trump’s campaign operation is under investigation.
    Trump’s transition team is under investigation.
    Trump’s inaugural committee is under investigation.

    I will add that the pro-Trump Super PAC, Rebuilding America Now is also under investigation.

  240. militantagnostic says

    Lynna @297


    blockquote>Ivanka Trump’s ethics lawyer



    That job description reminds me of the time I worked as a Unicorn Wrangler.

  241. says

    Followup on comments 284 and 293.

    The family of the 7-year-old migrant girl who died in Border Patrol custody is disputing the government’s story about her death.

    […] In a statement released by lawyers, the parents of Jakelin Caal said the girl had been given food and water and appeared to be in good health as she traveled through Mexico with her father, 29-year-old Nery Gilberto Caal Cuz. The family added that Jakelin had not been traveling through the desert for days before she was taken into custody.

    Tekandi Paniagua, the Guatemalan consul in Del Rio, Texas, told The Associated Press that he spoke with the Jakelin’s father. The consul said Nery Caal told him the group they were traveling with was dropped off in Mexico about a 90-minute walk from the border. […]

    Jakelin and her father were seeking asylum in the U.S. and were among a large group of migrants arrested Dec. 6 near a remote border crossing in New Mexico. Hours later they were placed on a bus to the nearest Border Patrol station, but Jakelin began vomiting and eventually stopped breathing. She later died at a Texas hospital.

    Border Patrol officials on Friday said agents did everything they could to save the girl but that she had not had food or water for days. They added that an initial screening showed no evidence of health problems, and that her father had signed a form indicating she was in good health.

    But the family took issue with that form, which was in English, a language her father doesn’t speak or read. He communicated with border agents in Spanish but he primarily speaks the Mayan Q’eqchi’ language.

    “It is unacceptable for any government agency to have persons in custody sign documents in a language that they clearly do not understand,” the statement said.

    Jakelin’s family is urging authorities to conduct an “objective and thorough” investigation into the death and to determine whether officials met standards for the arrest and custody of children.

    A cause of death has not yet been released. […]

    Jakelin’s mother and three siblings remained in San Antonio Secortez, a village of about 420 inhabitants.

  242. says

    Oh, FFS. Trump thinks negative coverage of him should be illegal, or is illegal:

    A REAL scandal is the one sided coverage, hour by hour, of networks like NBC & Democrat spin machines like Saturday Night Live. It is all nothing less than unfair news coverage and Dem commercials. Should be tested in courts, can’t be legal? Only defame & belittle! Collusion?

    Washington Post link to an article about SNL’s spoof. Video available at the link.

    […] In its most creative cold open of the season thus far, SNL imagined a world in which Trump never became president in a black-and-white spoof of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” This version is called “It’s a Trump Life.” […]

    It begins with Baldwin’s Trump standing on a balcony at the White House and decrying his job and everything that has come with it.

    “I don’t think I can do this anymore. I might finally eat a salad. And explode,” he says sadly.

    Cue Keenan Thompson’s Clarence the angel, who wants to help out.

    “It’s awful. Everything’s falling apart,” SNL’s Trump says. “Sometimes I wish I had never been president.”

    Clarence is eager to help out, so he brings Trump into a new reality, one in which he lost the election because Hillary Clinton did what she had to do: “visit Wisconsin once.” The two walk through a holiday party at the White House, encountering many people both in the Trump family and administration (and, often, in both) to see how things turned out for everyone.

    The conceit is a smart one. It allowed the show to run through many of its best impressions — both the cast and guest stars in a greatest hits-esque compilation — without simply reciting the week’s major headlines. In doing so, the writers had a bit more leeway with their jokes. Beck Bennett’s Mike Pence, for example, is DJing the Christmas party. He says “It’s so great to be myself. Thank God I was never your vice president. I’d just be sitting in meetings . . . staring out into space and imagining this,” a callback to the uncomfortable White House meeting earlier this week between an angry Trump, a silent (and nearly motionless) Pence, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) without diving into specifics. […]

  243. says

    Beto O’Rourke Calls for “Public Pressure” on Trump to Close Child Migrant Camp.

    More than 2,500 children are being held in Tornillo, Texas.

    From O’Rourke’s Twitter feed:

    There are 1,300 kids ready to leave to live with sponsors who have already been identified. But these children remain at Tornillo each day because this administration has deliberately prolonged the process of releasing them.

    From Mother Jones:

    […] O’Rourke called for the type of widespread activism that earlier this year helped force the administration to end its policy of separating migrant families who enter the country illegally. “The public pressure that you brought to bear after Father’s Day that ended the practice of family separation—we need that same pressure again, brought to bear on this administration, to close Tornillo,” O’Rourke said. […]

  244. says

    White House senior adviser Stephen Miller is in a class of his own when it comes to be a narcissistic dunderhead without a firm grasp of facts or reality. The Trump administration trotted Miller out to make the case for a border wall on the Sunday shows. He was awful, but very confidently awful.

    […] “We’re going to do whatever is necessary to build the border wall to stop this ongoing crisis of illegal immigration,” Miller, who has long been seen as one of the administration’s most hard-line voices on immigration, said on CBS’ Face the Nation. When asked whether that meant forcing a shutdown of the government, Miller didn’t hesitate: “If it comes to it, absolutely.”

    Miller made sure to emphasize the president doesn’t see the wall as a minor point that can be negotiated away. “This is a very fundamental issue. At stake is the question of whether or not the United States remains a sovereign country,” Miller said. “Whether or not we can establish and enforce rules for entrance into our country.”

    In a jaw-dropping point of the interview, Miller suggested “left wing, activist judicial rulings” were to blame for the death of a young Guatemalan girl while in the custody of border officials. “One of the great tragedies that is going on in our country today is the loopholes in our immigration laws and the deficiencies in our immigration laws,” Miller said. “And left wing, activist judicial rulings that incentivize the most vulnerable populations to come to our country.” […]

    Slate link.

    Video available at the link.

  245. says

    New report on Russian disinformation, prepared for the Senate, shows the operation’s scale and sweep

    The report, a draft of which was obtained by The Washington Post, is the first to study the millions of posts provided by major technology firms to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

    […] The research — by Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project and Graphika, a network analysis firm — offers new details on how Russians working at the Internet Research Agency, which U.S. officials have charged with criminal offenses for meddling in the 2016 campaign, sliced Americans into key interest groups for targeted messaging. These efforts shifted over time, peaking at key political moments, such as presidential debates or party conventions, the report found. […]

    “What is clear is that all of the messaging clearly sought to benefit the Republican Party — and specifically Donald Trump,” the report says. “Trump is mentioned most in campaigns targeting conservatives and right-wing voters, where the messaging encouraged these groups to support his campaign. The main groups that could challenge Trump were then provided messaging that sought to confuse, distract and ultimately discourage members from voting.” […]

    The new report offers the latest evidence that Russian agents sought to help Trump win the White House. Democrats and Republicans on the panel previously studied the U.S. intelligence community’s 2017 finding that Moscow aimed to assist Trump, and in July, they said investigators had come to the correct conclusion. Despite their work, some Republicans on Capitol Hill continue to doubt the nature of Russia’s meddling in the last presidential election. […]

  246. says

    More details from the report mentioned in comment 310:

    […] Facebook was particularly effective at targeting conservatives and African Americans, the report found. More than 99 percent of all engagement — meaning likes, shares and other reactions — came from 20 “Pages” controlled by the IRA [Internet Research Agency, a Russian operation], including “Being Patriotic,” “Heart of Texas,” “Blacktivist” and “Army of Jesus.”

    Together, the 20 most popular pages generated 39 million likes, 31 million shares, 5.4 million reactions and 3.4 million comments. Company officials told Congress that the Russian campaign reached 126 million people on Facebook and 20 million more on Instagram. […]

    the IRA’s heavy use of links to YouTube videos leaves little doubt of the IRA’s interest in leveraging Google’s video platform to target and manipulate US audiences.”

    The use of YouTube, like the other platforms, appears to have grown after Trump’s election. Twitter links to YouTube videos grew by 84 percent in the six months after the election, the data showed.

    The Russians shrewdly worked across platforms as they refined their tactics aimed at particular groups, posting links across accounts and sites to bolster the influence operation’s success on each, the report shows. […]

  247. KG says

    I did promise some account of the “Another Europe is Possible” conference I went to on Saturday 8th in London. Some good speakers, especially Emiliano Mellino of the IWGB (Independent Workers Union of Great Britain), which has organised several thousand migrant workers and others in precarious work in the “gig economy”, largely ignored by the long-established unions. The IWGB recently announced its support for the People’s Vote (new referendum, now it is known what the real options are). Mellino gave three reasons for this: the central importance of Freedom of Movement for many of his members (many are Latin Americans who have Spanish, Portuguese or Italian passports, enabling them to live and work in the UK, which shows up the “Lexit” claim to be concerned for non-Europeans who want to come to the UK but can’t because of the EU look even less convincing); the “floor” for employment rights provided by EU law – the European Court of Justice has been much more favourable to workers in employment rights cases than UK courts; and the economic impact of Brexit, which will hit the poorest worst. Some interesting workshops – I went to one on understanding “Lexit” (leftists who support Brexit) arguments and motivations (useful) and one on making environmental issues central to a campaign if there’s a People’s Vote (OK, but superficial – I don’t think people in the group have given this much thought yet, I left my details with the organiser). There was considerable (in my view, somewhat excessive) optimism about the prospects for getting a People’s Vote. There was a reasonable gender balance and age mix, but rather few people of colour. The event was very England (and indeed London) centred, with little apparent realisation that things are different in each part of the UK – and importantly so both in pressing for a new referendum and in winning it if achieved. Most attendees were Labour Party members, and there were quite a number of badges with the absurd slogan: “Love Corbyn, Hate Brexit” – absurd because Corbyn is still pedelling the illusion that if only he were PM, the “fantasy Brexit” people were promised, where the UK leaves the EU and doesn’t have to follow its rules, but retains all the advantages of membership, would be realisable. He still hopes to get a new general election – which is very unlikely because neither the DUP nor any Tory faction want one – and opposes a new referendum, although he doesn’t say so outright. He is, in fact, one of the main obstacles to a new referendum, to halting Brexit, and even to halting the disastrous no-deal Brexit. Some even speculate that the latter is what he wants, thinking of himself as the whitered knight who gallops in to save the day. I doubt that – I think his heart’s in the right place, but unfortunately his head is stuck up his fundament, held there by his neo-Stalinist advisers Andrew Murray and Seumas Milne – the UK left’s very own upper-class twits, both being from highly privileged backgrounds.

    On Brexit more generally, despite winning her confidence vote among Tory MPs, I still think May’s days in power are numbered. More than 1/3 of the parliamentary party voted against her, everyone but her and her most deluded followers knows she can’t get her deal through the Commons, members of her cabinet are openly promoting different courses of action, the EU has directly contradicted her claim that talks are continuing. It seems to be dawning on increasing numbers of MPs that if May does not let them vote on her deal until 21st January (now the promised date), there simply might not be time to stop May dragging us over the “No deal” cliff out of sheer spite if its rejected. Opposition parties are going to push for the vote to go forward this weak, and although procedurally it’s probably not possible for them to force this as long as the government remains in power, a further series of humiliating defeats even on non-binding motions could bring about a new rash of cabinet resignations and open calls from the resigners for her to go. Of course even if she does, that won’t solve the problem: only a small minority of the House are stupid enough to think a v”No deal” Brexit acceptable, and the EU has made clear it is not reopening negotiations. But May’s obsession with her deal is currently preventing the Commons as a body even considering any alternative course of action. Confrontations between the executive and legislature are less common in parliamentary than in presidential systems, and specifically in the UK than in the USA (because the executive is chosen from and by the legislature, and directly accountable to it), but here we have the possibility of a clash that could rock the political system to its foundations, and set it on a new course, impossible to predict.

  248. KG says

    I should have said at the end of #312 that in the Uk the executive is supposed to be directly accountable to the legislature. But at every turn, the current executive, despite being a minority government, has sought to avoid such accountability – it took a court case to force the government to let the Commons vote on invoking Article 50 ; and it seems that if the numbers to actually dismiss the government are not achieveable, even if it is a minority government as this one is, Parliament has great problems preventing the government following any course of action it likes. If May’s deal does now go through, contrary to almost universal expectation, this will greatly increase the power of the executive; if it is blocked, and the Commons agree on an alternative course of action that actually get us out of this mess, its prestige at least, if not its power over the executive, will be enhanced.

  249. says

    Awkward truth about the ruling in the Affordable Care Act case: it’s ‘pretty bananas’

    […] Nicholas Bagley, a law professor at the University of Michigan and prominent health care advocate, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post over the weekend, explaining, “The legal arguments in previous rounds of litigation over the ACA may have been weak, but they were not frivolous. This case is different; it’s an exercise of raw judicial activism. Don’t for a moment mistake it for the rule of law.”

    […] many conservatives agree with Bagley’s conclusion.

    Lawyers on both sides of previous A.C.A. battles said the reasoning behind this one was badly flawed, notably in its insistence that the entire 2010 law must fall because one of its provisions may have been rendered invalid by the 2017 tax overhaul legislation. Had Congress meant to take such radical action, they said, it would have said so at the time.

    Ted Frank, a lawyer at the Competitive Enterprise Institute who is critical of the ACA, told the Washington Post the decision was “embarrassingly bad” because “you’re twisting yourself into knots” to reach a particular conclusion.

    Perhaps the most striking piece came from Case Western Reserve University School of Law’s Jonathan Adler and Yale Law School’s Abbe Gluck, who co-authored an op-ed in the New York Times, despite having fought on opposite sides of the issue:

    A ruling this consequential had better be based on rock-solid legal argument. Instead, the opinion by Judge Reed O’Connor is an exercise of raw judicial power, unmoored from the relevant doctrines concerning when judges may strike down a whole law because of a single alleged legal infirmity buried within.

    We were on opposing sides of the 2012 and 2015 Supreme Court challenges to the Affordable Care Act, and we have different views of the merits of the act itself. But as experts in the field of statutory law, we agree that this decision makes a mockery of the rule of law and basic principles of democracy — especially Congress’s constitutional power to amend its own statutes and do so in accord with its own internal rules.

    […] There are, to be sure, plenty of Republicans – Donald Trump comes to mind – who are cheering Friday night’s news. It’s possible some of them read the ruling and found it persuasive, but it’s far more likely that they simply don’t care whether the decision has merit or not.

    […]The ruling could’ve been written in crayon by a toddler on the back of a napkin and their enthusiasm would’ve been just as vigorous.

    But for those who take the law even remotely seriously, the debate looks far different. It’s less a fight about whether the health care law is worthwhile or not, and more a fight that pits legal sanity against transparent nonsense.


    Note that even lawyers on opposite sides of the health care issue think the ruling from the judge in Texas is “unmoored.”

    In other news, KG @312 and 313, thanks for that update. I was particularly interested to see that emphasized the growing power of the executive branch in the UK.

  250. says

    Is Trump operating like a mob boss? Yes. Here is Trump’s tweet:

    Remember, Michael Cohen only became a “Rat” after the FBI did something which was absolutely unthinkable & unheard of until the Witch Hunt was illegally started. They BROKE INTO AN ATTORNEY’S OFFICE! Why didn’t they break into the DNC to get the Server, or Crooked’s office?”

    The FBI did not “break into” Cohen’s office. Federal law enforcement officers executed a court-approved search warrant.

    Is this the first time Trump has publicly called Michael Cohen a “rat”? I think so.

    From Steve Benen:

    […] So what we have here is a sitting president — who’s responsible for faithfully executing the nation’s laws, who appoints federal judges, and and who chose senior members of the Department of Justice, including the attorney general and FBI director — publicly condemning someone for cooperating with federal law enforcement, while simultaneously criticizing the FBI for executing a lawful search warrant.

    In other words, the line between Donald J. Trump’s rhetoric and the dialog from villains in mob movies is getting uncomfortably blurred.

    There is a degree of irony to all of this. To hear the president tell it at campaign rallies, he’s a great champion of law enforcement. In practice, however, Trump’s posture toward law enforcement tends to break down into three categories:

    1. Trump opposes common law-enforcement procedures: When the president isn’t condemning the execution of lawful search warrants, he’s arguing that “flipping” witnesses should be illegal.

    2. Trump opposes law-enforcement institutions: As recently as September, the president said he sees his conflict with the FBI as one of his “crowning achievements.” […]

    3. Trump expects the justice system to be a tool of his political agenda […]

    In August, The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg said of this president, “He’s doing nothing less than elevating gangster ideology to the status of high principle.”

    […] Trump is, if anything, sounding even more like the head of a crime family now.

  251. tomh says

    More fun and games in Washington today, as James Comey returns to finish his testimony before two House panels conducting an investigation into how federal law enforcement officials handled probes of the Trump campaign’s Russia ties and Hillary Clinton’s emails. Mostly emails. This is the Republicans last gasp as majority to hammer away at the old email bogeyman.

    After the last interview, Comey said that if Trump were not president, he would be “in serious jeopardy of being charged” by New York prosecutors. I hope the Dems ask him to expand on that.

  252. says

    Follow-up to comment 315.

    From a reader’s comments:

    Trump Crimes Likely Include:
    — Blackmail
    — Witness Intimidation
    — Obstruction of Justice
    — Intimidating a Whistleblower
    — Threats against private citizens
    — Money Laundering
    — Witness Tampering
    — Campaign Finance Fraud
    — Tax Fraud
    — Conspiring with a foreign power against the U.S.
    — Racketeering

  253. says

    The sphere of bad actors expands: one of Mike Flynn’s associates has been indicted:

    Bijan Kian, a onetime business partner of former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, has been indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly acting as an unregistered foreign agent, and engaging in a conspiracy, related to a lobbying campaign aimed to encourage the extradition of a U.S.-based Turkish cleric whose long been an enemy of the Turkish government.

    Kian, whose full name is Bijan Rafiekian, appeared Monday at a federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia after the grand jury handed down the indictment last week. The charges were brought by prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia and the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

    Also charged in the indictment is Ekim Alptekin, who, according to the Washington Post, remains abroad. Alptekin faces charges of making false statements to the FBI, in addition to the same conspiracy and acting as a unregistered foreign agent counts Kian faces.

    The indictment details Alptekin and Rafiekian’s alleged efforts with an individual known as “Person A,” who appears to be Flynn. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI last year and has been cooperating with prosecutors since. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

    The lobbying effort, dubbed the “Truth Campaign” and “Project Confidence,” was born in the summer of 2016, according to the indictment, after the the Justice Department denied Turkey’s request to extradite the cleric, Fethullah Gulen. At the time, Flynn was advising Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and was a frequent speaker at his rallies.

    After proposals were drafted and there were multiple discussions with Turkish officials, the campaign had been solidified by September in a contract offering Flynn and Kian’s company $600,000 — in three $200,000 installments — from Alptekin’s company. […]

    TPM link

    More at the link.

  254. says

    Hillary Clinton’s letter to a third-grade girl who ran for class president:

    Dear Martha:

    I learned from your father, Albert’s post on Facebook about your election experience running for Class President at . . . . Congratulations on being elected Vice President!

    While I know you may have been disappointed that you did not win President, I am so proud of you for deciding to run in the first place. As I know too well, it’s not easy when you stand up and put yourself in contention for a role that’s only been sought by boys. The most important thing is that you fought for what you believed in, and that is always worth it. As you continue to learn and grow in the years ahead, never stop standing up for what is right and seeking opportunities to be a leader, and know that I am cheering you on for a future of great success.

    With best wishes and warm regards, I am

    Sincerely yours,

    Hillary Rodham Clinton

    Martha Kennedy Morales ran for class president at her school. She lost to a fourth-grade boy. Third and fourth grade are combined at their private school.

    From Martha’s father, Albert Morales:

    As a father, my wife and I are thrilled because she does look up to the secretary. We try to encourage her to learn as much about public figures as possible. It’s just been really nice to see someone like the secretary take the time to actually write a little girl who lost an election by one vote, but got back up.

  255. says

    From Wonkette: Paul Ryan Loves Mexicans! Just As Long As They’re From Ireland

    One of Paul Ryan’s very last acts as speaker of the House is aimed at addressing immigration — of white people […] He pushed a bill that would grant a whole bunch of extra work visas to Irish immigrants “as a grateful nod to his Irish ancestors,” as Politico put it. Isn’t that sweet? […]

    The bill would take the annual allotment of E-3 visas reserved for Australians and grant any leftovers to applicants from the Emerald Isle. The E-3 visa is a special immigration carve-out for Aussies working in “specialty occupations” that require a bachelor’s degree or equivalent. Since Australians have only been taking a bit over half the 10,500 work visas available each year since the program started in 2005, that’s another roughly 5,000 white people we could be improving America with […]

    Ryan’s bill already passed the House in November, but may be in trouble in the Senate, where one Republican is still blocking it, which is an improvement, Politico notes, because mere weeks ago, six Republicans were blockng it.

    Of course, the Senate is a little busy at the moment, what with trying to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government open while keeping President Diaperbaby happy. And even if the one, unidentified Republican is won over, the bill would have to be signed by Donald Trump, a decision that would really be up to Stephen Miller, who may be so pissed over everyone making fun of his spray-on hair that he’ll be more unpredictable than usual. […]

    From Breitbart, “Home of Modern Know-Nothings are very much against ANY immigration”:

    Retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan is quietly pushing a bill to outsource many thousands of U.S. college graduate jobs to Irish graduates and deliver amnesty to Irish illegals. […]

    The plan would provide the Irish — but not anyone else — with roughly 50,000 endlessly renewable work permits per decade.

    More from Wonkette:

    […] The article even misleadingly quotes an advocate for Irish immigration to imply the bill is aimed at getting legal status for Irish migrants here illegally. Behold the fake newsing! […]

    Among saner people, Dems are pointing out this is all pretty rich, what with Republicans being Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Rals about immigration in general, but also saying, oh, sure, more Irish are fine, because surely we can take in a few thousand white people a year. Just as long as we slam the doors for browns. You see, last year, 16,331 people applied for asylum — an all-time high, mind you, and even if the average approval for asylum remains at about 20 percent (3,266) we can’t possibly take in such huge swarms of people. (Of course, that doesn’t mean that the 80 percent not approved are faking — it just means the asylum process is incredibly, even needlessly, rigorous.)

    On the other hand, 5,000 Irish would be no trouble at all. […]

  256. says

    Lies Trump recently (yesterday) repeated:

    The Democrats [sic] policy of Child Seperation [sic] on the Border during the Obama Administration was far worse than the way we handle it now. Remember the 2014 picture of children in cages – the Obama years. However, if you don’t separate, FAR more people will come. Smugglers use the kids!

    The Associated Press debunked … again … some of Trump’s lies:

    Democratic President Barack Obama did not have a separation policy. The Trump administration didn’t, explicitly, either, but that was the effect of his zero-tolerance policy, which meant that anyone caught crossing the border illegally was to be criminally prosecuted, even those with few or no previous offences.

    The policy meant adults were taken to court for criminal proceedings and their children were separated. In most cases, if the charge took longer than 72 hours to process, which is the longest time that children can be held by Customs and Border Protection, children were sent into the care of the Health and Human Services Department. Zero tolerance remains in effect, but Trump signed an executive order June 20 that stopped separations.

    Trump also misrepresents 2014 photos of children in holding cells. They did not involve family separation. The photos, taken by The Associated Press during the Obama administration, showed children who came to the border without their parents and were being housed at a Customs and Border Protection center in Nogales, Arizona.

    We can also debunk Trump’s claim that “If you don’t separate, FAR more people will come.” There’s evidence that the family-separation tactic was an ineffective deterrent. American Progress link.

    […] Internal memos from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), however, illustrate that the administration’s family separation policy has not had its intended effect. A new analysis of data from a longer period of time illustrates that family detention has not acted as a deterrent either. Altogether, the data show that both family detention and family separation policies have not deterred families from coming to the United States in the past—and are unlikely to do so in the future. […]

    Trump is, right now, actively defending a family-separation policy that he claimed earlier (in June) to have ended. Trump is, right now, considering the implementation of another family-separation policy that is slightly modified. Washington Post link to “Trump administration weighs new family-separation effort at border.”

    […] One option under consideration is for the government to detain asylum-seeking families together for up to 20 days, then give parents a choice — stay in family detention with their child for months or years as their immigration case proceeds, or allow children to be taken to a government shelter so other relatives or guardians can seek custody. […]

  257. says

    Greg Sargent wrote an article for the Washington Post titled “The signs are mounting: Trump has been badly weakened. It will get worse for him.”

    Stephen Miller, the Trump kingdom’s Immigration Iago, wants you to believe that his boss retains great leverage in the ongoing government shutdown fight — so much so that he will, repeat will, get his great border wall. Miller, a top White House adviser, said Sunday that President Trump will “do whatever is necessary” to force Democrats to cough up the $5 billion he wants for the wall and will “absolutely” shut down the government to get it.

    In reality, it’s not even clear that Trump has sufficient Republican support to get his wall money out of Congress. The New York Times now reports that Republicans aren’t even sure that this funding would pass the House, because many Republicans who were defeated in the midterms might not bother showing up to vote for it.

    Wait, this cannot be! Miller, after all, spent much of his “Face the Nation” appearance excoriating Democrats over the wall. Democrats have instead offered far less in border security funding, with restrictions against spending it for that purpose. Miller suggested Democrats have the weaker position, claiming they must “choose to fight for America’s working class, or to promote illegal immigration.”

    Wow, what a powerful message! That must be the same message that carried Trump and House Republicans to a great midterms victory! Oh wait, the opposite happened. This has gone down the memory hole, but last spring, Miller vowed that precisely this same contrast on immigration would prove potent for Republicans. They ran the most virulently xenophobic nationalist campaign in memory — and lost the House by the largest raw-vote margin in midterm elections history.

    The meta-message that Miller hoped to convey is that Trump retains formidable strength in the shutdown battle over the wall, but the real story right now is that Trump is weakened. He lacks leverage in the shutdown fight […]

    […] Trump’s rage-tweets about special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation are looking increasingly pathetic and impotent. On Sunday night, Trump blustered that “people are starting to see and understand what this Witch Hunt is all about,” as if he’s winning the argument over the investigation through sheer force of tweet.

    Yet a new NBC News poll demonstrates with remarkable clarity that Trump is decisively losing that argument. It finds that 62 percent of Americans think Trump has not told the truth about the Mueller investigation. […]

    More at the link.

  258. KG says

  259. says

    Trump Demands Stop To Emoluments Case As State AGs Subpoena 38 Witnesses
    TPM link

    […] Trump’s Justice Department is scrambling to stop two state attorneys general from procuring evidence about whether the President is violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause by filing an emergency appeal in the Fourth Circuit court.

    Warning that attorneys general from Maryland and DC have sent 38 subpoenas to third parties, Justice Department attorneys argue that the court needs to halt the lawsuit at the district court level before documents from those subpoenas are returned by a January 3 deadline.

    Trump lost a motion to dismiss the suit at the district court level in the case, and he filed the appeal as a petition for writ of mandamus, essentially asking the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to override the lower court and halt the case immediately before throwing it out entirely.

    DOJ attorneys argue that the state attorneys general have a “fundamentally flawed” view of the Constitution and that the lower court judge, District Judge Peter Messitte, committed a “manifest abuse of discretion” in failing to allow an appeal of his decision denying a motion to dismiss. […]

    “The President is likely to obtain mandamus, and he is likely to suffer irreparable injury in the interim from the intrusive discovery into his personal finances and the official actions of his Administration (including through third-party subpoenas of government agencies),” the filing reads.

    Trump attorneys also argue that the a violation of the emoluments clause, even as alleged by the state attorneys general, doesn’t give them the right to sue to enforce it. […]

    Trump attorneys cite Washington D.C. land records from 1793 to show that George Washington purchased “several lots of federal land” during his presidency, adding that “no concern was raised that such transactions conferred a benefit.”

    The DOJ goes further, however, and reaches for the slave-run plantations that Washington and Thomas Jefferson ran while in office as examples how the Constitution permits presidents to run private businesses while in office. […]

    The Trump administration attorneys also make a comparison between Barack Obama’s book sales while in office and Trump’s D.C. hotel, arguing that Judge Messitte’s ruling that an emolument has to be larger than minimal payments “was created to explain away inconvenient examples like President Obama’s likely royalties from book sales to foreign governments.”

    You can read the entire brief at the link.

  260. says

    Followup to comment 324.

    From the readers comments:

    “Please stop this lawsuit before they find out how guilty he is!”

    In other news, Comey made a few statements following his grilling by Republicans in Congress today:

    So another day of Hillary Clinton’s emails and the Steele dossier. This while the President of the United States is lying about the FBI, attacking the FBI, and attacking the rule of law in this country. How does that make any sense? […]

    Republicans used to understand that the actions of a president matter, the words of a president matter, the rule of law matters, and the truth matters. Where are those Republicans today. At some point, someone has to stand up and in the fear of Fox News and fear of their base, and fear of mean tweets, stand up for the values of this country and not slink away into retirement.

  261. says

    More from Comey:

    […] “I don’t know exactly what they’re investigating. The questions about Hillary Clinton and the Steele dossier strike me as more of the same. I didn’t learn anything new in there, maybe they did.”

    Asked separately why he waited until the day of the FBI’s interview with then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to inform then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates about the interview, Comey was blunt.

    “Because I knew that if anything came of the interview, if it advanced our investigation, the attack from the Trump administration would be that an Obama holdover had engineered it,” he said. “And so I had to make the decision, separate from her, to leave them with their only opportunity to challenge it would be to burn down the entire FBI.”

    He pointed his finger at the Capitol hallway around him.

    “To my shock and horror, they’ve tried to do just that in the face of silence from people in this building,” Comey said, adding later, referring to congressional Republicans: “Their silence is shameful.”

    Asked later if he had confidence in acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, Comey said “no comment.”

  262. says

    More from Comey:

    REPORTER: Do you see any Republicans who are remaining taking that mantle of defending the FBI & taking on POTUS?

    COMEY: “Not yet. To my view, to their everlasting shame. I hope they will overcome and realize they’ll have to explain to their grandchildren what they did today”

    Catherine Herridge, after Comey’s swipe at Fox News, made a point of saying, “I have a question, from Fox News, in fact.” She proceeded to confront him about his handling of Michael Flynn‘s interview, which he defended.

    Herridge also asked him about the FBI’s reputation taking “a big hit,” asking him if he shares the responsibility for that.

    Comey answered by saying this:

    “No. The FBI’s reputation has taken a big hit because the President of the United States, with his acolytes, has lied about it constantly, and in the face of those lies, a whole lot of good people who watch your network believe that nonsense! That’s a tragedy. That will be undone eventually, but that damage has nothing to do with me.”

  263. says

    Followup to comment 315.

    From Andy Ostroy:

    Do you realize that by calling #Cohen a “rat” you’re admitting he had something to rat on you with? Are you really this dumb? #Trump

  264. says

    From Steve Benen:

    By some accounts, Pam Patenaude ran the Department of Housing and Urban Development because Ben Carson doesn’t know how: “The HUD official considered by many to be crucial to both the agency’s smooth operation and to Puerto Rico recovery efforts resigned Monday and will transition out of the role in January.”

    In other news:

    Chai Feldblum’s plight: “Conservative Sen. Mike Lee is taking a lone stand against a Trump nominee, blocking her from joining the office that takes workplace complaints because of her support for LGBTQ rights.”

    Vox link

  265. KG says

    The UK government has refused to allow time for the Labour motion of no confidence in May as PM which I mentioned above. They could not do this if it was a motion of no confidence in the government, but Corbyn won’t put one forward. The government derides Corbyn’s motion as “silly political games”, which seems a reasonable description, but the fact the government can refuse to allow time for the debate underlines the extent to which the executive dominates the legislature in the UK.

  266. says

    Just a few startling paragraphs from a much longer article by Susan B. Glasser, written for The New Yorker:

    This past July, on the final day of the nato summit in Brussels, Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, proposed a closed-door emergency meeting. The emergency was Donald Trump. Minutes earlier, the President had arrived late to a session where the Presidents of Ukraine and Georgia were making their case to join nato. Trump interrupted their presentation and unleashed a verbal assault on the members of the alliance, calling them deadbeats and free riders on American power. Trump threatened to go his “own way” if they didn’t immediately pay more for their own defense. His barrage centered on Merkel, Europe’s longest-serving democratic leader.

    “You, Angela,” Trump chided Merkel. Most of nato’s members had failed to fulfill the goal of spending two per cent of G.D.P. for defense, but Trump focussed on Germany’s military spending of just over one per cent of G.D.P. In front of television cameras the previous day, he had accused Germany of being “totally controlled by Russia,” because of a proposed new gas pipeline. His tweets that day sounded like blackmail. “What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy? The U.S. is paying for Europe’s protection, then loses billions on Trade. Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025.”

    Now, with the room cleared of staff, the nato leaders sat stunned by what one called the “bizarre spectacle” of Trump’s harangue. It fell to another woman, Dalia Grybauskaitė, the President of Lithuania, to defend Merkel. Germany had sent troops to protect Lithuania from Russia, Grybauskaitė pointed out, and Merkel was committed to spending more on nato’s common defense. The Danish and the Norwegian Prime Ministers also pushed back. In the corner of the room, Merkel strategized with other Europeans about how to stop Trump. Eventually, Mark Rutte, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, offered the President what he appeared to want most: a way to claim victory. Rutte noted that, since Trump took office, the nato allies had collectively raised their defense budgets by some seventy billion dollars. Take the win, he urged the President. Trump did just that.

    And yet, when he emerged from the meeting and spoke with reporters, Trump lied, claiming not only that his allies had capitulated to him but also that they would consider his demand to raise their annual military spending to four per cent of G.D.P., an assertion so politically impossible that Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, immediately issued a public rebuttal. Trump, of course, went on behaving in his erratic, inexplicable manner.

    As he left the summit, he interrupted the Chancellor while she was addressing her fellow nato leaders, and kissed her. “I love this woman,” he said. “Isn’t she great?” A senior German official who told me about that particular Trumpian flourish resisted any attempt at full understanding. “It’s up to psychologists and historians what to make of that,” he said. Four days later, Trump ended his European tour in Helsinki. There, standing next to Vladimir Putin, he spoke with bewildering sympathy for Russian foreign policy, ill-concealed contempt for his nato partners, and implausible skepticism about his own intelligence services. […]

  267. says

    This statement from Sarah Huckabee Sanders sounds ominous, “We have other ways …”

    Trump […] expects Congress to approve $5 billion in taxpayer-funded spending for his proposed border wall. If lawmakers balk, the president has said he’s prepared to shutdown the government.

    […] White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggested Trump will not follow through on those threats. The Washington Post reported:

    …Sanders told Fox News Channel: “We have other ways that we can get to that $5 billion.”

    “At the end of the day we don’t want to shut down the government, we want to shut down the border,” Sanders said.

    Sanders said the White House was exploring other funding sources and believed it could be legally done.

    […] when Trump’s chief spokesperson hints at “other ways” to get the money, it’s important to ask for details about the alternate revenue streams.

    […] the Fox News host specifically asked this morning, “In a legal sense, you could use defense money for border security?” Sanders replied, “There are certainly a number of different funding sources that we’ve identified that we can use, that we can couple with the money that would be given through congressional appropriations that would help us get to that $5 billion that the president needs in order to protect our border.” […]

    If the White House is talking about using military resources for “border security” – deploying troops to the border, for example – that’s legal. It may be a pointless public-relations stunt, but it’s legal.

    If, however, the Trump World is talking about redirecting funds from the Pentagon budget to finance border wall construction, that’s a very different story. […] he doesn’t have the legal authority to take federal funding devoted to one purpose and then redirect it to some other purpose.

    The Washington Post reported at the time:

    The military is not likely to fund the wall, according to White House and Defense Department officials. The Pentagon has plenty of money, but reprogramming it for a wall would require votes in Congress that the president does not seem to have. Taking money from the 2018 budget for the wall would require an act of Congress, a senior Pentagon official said.

    To find the money in the 2019 defense budget, Trump would have to submit a budget amendment that would require 60 votes in the Senate, the official said.

    Leading congressional Democrats have already told the administration that rerouting federal funding this way would be illegal. […]

    If Team Trump is backing away from the shutdown ledge, that’s good news. If Team Trump is planning to pick a prolonged legal fight over misusing funds from the Pentagon budget, that’s not at all good news.

    Maddow Blog link

  268. says

    News from the past:

    […] In the 2010 lame-duck session — the last lame-duck session in which one party controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress — Democrats repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” ratified the New START treaty, passed the Zadroga 9/11 health bill, reached an agreement with Republicans on some expiring tax breaks, and confirmed more than a few judicial nominees. (In that same lame-duck session, Dems very nearly approved the Dream Act, too, but they couldn’t quite overcome a Republican filibuster.)

    It was such an extraordinarily productive session for Democrats that one angry House Republican pushed legislation, called the “End the Lame Duck Act,” to prevent future Congresses from even having post-election legislative sessions. […]

    News from the present:

    […] Congress approved a Farm Bill and a measure related to sexual-harassment on Capitol Hill. The Senate appears likely to approve the First Step criminal justice reform bill today, and there’s a chance it’ll clear the House in time, too.

    With a little luck, the GOP might even avoid a government shutdown.

    But as Republicans prepare to give up control over the levers of federal power, not only is the GOP setting its sights low, quite a few soon-to-depart House Republicans aren’t even showing up for work anymore, making it that much more difficult to approve important bills. […]

    As things stand, however, this won’t be a lame-duck session Republicans will be bragging about.

    I have the impression that Republicans like to talk a big game, and they like to maximize the public relations aspect of their job in Congress, but they don’t like to do the actual hard work that it takes to, say, negotiate and then write major legislation.

  269. says

    Here’s the full quote: “Judge Sullivan: ‘All along you were an unregistered agent of a foreign country while serving as the national security adviser of the president of the United States. … Arguably that undermines everything that flag over here stands for. Arguably, you sold your country out’.”

  270. says

    After the judge said he has “disdain” and “disgust” for Flynn’s actions, asked the prosecutors whether Flynn could have been charged with treason, and hinted he’s going to get prison time, Flynn’s team requested and received a recess until 12:30.

  271. says

    Daily Beast – “Mueller Ready to Pounce on Trumpworld Concessions to Moscow”:

    For more than a year, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office has questioned witnesses broadly about their interactions with well-connected Russians. But three sources familiar with Mueller’s probe told The Daily Beast that his team is now zeroing in on Trumpworld figures who may have attempted to shape the administration’s foreign policy by offering to ease U.S. sanctions on Russia.

    The Special Counsel’s Office is preparing court filings that are expected to detail Trump associates’ conversations about sanctions relief—and spell out how those offers and counter-proposals were characterized to top figures on the campaign and in the administration, those same sources said.

    The new details would not only bookend a multi-year investigation by federal prosecutors into whether and how Trump associates seriously considered requests by Moscow to ease the financial measures. The new court filings could also answer a central question of the Russia investigation: What specific policy changes, if any, did the Kremlin hope to get in return from its political machinations?

    “During his investigation, Mueller has shown little proclivity for chasing dead ends,” said Paul Pelletier, a former senior Department of Justice official. “His continued focus on the evidence that members of the Trump campaign discussed sanction relief with Russians shows that his evidence of a criminal violation continues to sharpen. This has to come as especially bad news for the president.”…

  272. says

    SC @341, it sounds to me like Flynn’s lawyers really messed up. They tried to throw some red meat to the rightwing conspiracy theorists and they almost got Flynn thrown in jail instead. Ari Melber is right.

  273. says

    Followup to comment 343.

    Here is some of what the rightwing is saying:

    The more information comes forward the more I’ve come to the conclusion, Sandra, that the wrong men are in that courtroom today. I actually don’t think it should be Gen. Flynn who is being sentenced for any wrongdoing. I actually think it’s Mccabe and Strzok and Comey who should be in that courtroom. And this is the greatest travesty of justice I’ve seen in politics.

    That’s from American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp, speaking on Fox News.

    From Talking Points Memo:

    It’s unclear why, exactly, Schlapp believes those men should be facing possible prison time instead of Flynn, who pleaded guilty a year ago to lying to the FBI about his contacts with then-Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. But conservatives have gone after former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, FBI official Peter Strzok and former FBI Director James Comey as evidence of what they say is anti-Trump bias within the Justice Department.

    If you dispense with logic, dispense with law, dispense with legality, then you can understand Schlapp and other right-wingers. From them, it is all about public relations and tribalism.

    From the readers comments:

    Right, all the criminal activities of Flynn should have gotten a pass because they weren’t about Hillary’s email server.

  274. says

    Jared and Ivanka are criminals? Seems likely.

    Former National Enquirer senior editor Jerry George said Monday night that he knew of stories killed by his old magazine and its Trump-sympathetic publisher that implicated Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump in “criminal activity.”

    “They’re certainly embarrassing,” he told MSNBC’s Ari Melber about stories killed concerning President Donald Trump. “And then when you get involved with the actions of his children, including his daughter and son-in-law, we’re getting closer to criminal activity.”

    George added that he believes the magazine acted together with the Trump campaign to break the law, and that there is still “another shoe to drop” now that America Media Inc., the National Enquirer’s parent company, has been granted immunity by federal prosecutors.

    George homed in on Kushner, suggesting that he played a significant role in communication between AMI and the Trump campaign. “I definitely think that once Michael [Cohen] stepped aside, there was foot traffic between people in the Trump Organization, including Jared, into the American Media organization,” George said.

    George also nodded to Kushner’s ties with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, saying that the magazine featured the royal on its cover, an odd move for a domestically-focused publication, and soon after received a mysterious influx of cash. […]


  275. says

    Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ comments about Mike Flynn:

    We’re arguing that he was certainly ambushed and the FBI, that we know had clear political bias, we’ve seen that time and time again. One thing we’re 100 percent sure on is that the President made the right decision in firing James Comey.

    From Mother Jones:

    […] a filing made by Flynn’s lawyers prior to sentencing raised questions about whether Flynn knew lying to the FBI was a crime and why he was not represented by an attorney during his initial FBI interview. The filing suggested that Flynn might have been duped into making false statements, an assertion that Trump and his supporters jumped on immediately.

    From Trump:

    The Russian Witch Hunt Hoax, started as the “insurance policy” long before I even got elected, is very bad for our Country. They are Entrapping people for misstatements, lies or unrelated things that took place many years ago. Nothing to do with Collusion. A Democrat Scam!

    More from Mother Jones:

    But in court in Washington, DC, on Tuesday morning, under stern questioning from Sullivan, Flynn quickly walked back any suggestion he was not taking full responsibility.

    “Were you not aware that lying to FBI investigators was a crime?” Sullivan asked Flynn.

    “I was aware,” Flynn said, confirming that he still wanted to plead guilty.

    Trump had clearly hoped Flynn and his lawyers would bolster the narrative that he was entrapped:
    “Good luck today in court to General Michael Flynn. Will be interesting to see what he has to say, despite tremendous pressure being put on him, about Russian Collusion in our great and, obviously, highly successful political campaign. There was no Collusion!”

    After obtaining Flynn’s reassurances that he was indeed pleading guilty because he knew he was guilty of a crime, Sullivan proceeded to skewer Flynn, scolding him for lying to the FBI while on the premises of the White House. […]

  276. says

    Trump backs off demand for $5 billion for border wall, but shutdown still possible after Democrats reject new GOP offer.

    Washington Post link

    […] Trump on Tuesday retreated from his demand for $5 billion to build a border wall, as congressional Republicans maneuvered to avoid a partial government shutdown before funding expires at the end of Friday.

    Democrats immediately rejected Republicans’ follow-up offer, leaving the two sides still at impasse as hundreds of thousands of federal workers await word on whether they will be sent home without pay just before Christmas.

    The new border funding offer from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) calls on Congress to pass a $1.6 billion homeland security spending bill that was crafted earlier this year in a bipartisan Senate compromise.

    Under the offer, Congress would also reprogram $1 billion in unspent funds that Trump could use on his immigration policies. […]

    “Leader Schumer and I have said that we cannot support the offer they made of a billion-dollar slush fund for the president to implement his very wrong immigration policies,” Pelosi said. “So that won’t happen.” […]

  277. militantagnostic says

    Trump via Lynna @346

    The Russian Witch Hunt Hoax, started as the “insurance policy” long before I even got elected, is very bad for our Country

    He didn’t say “very very bad” Either this written by someone else or Trump is so rattled he only used one very.

  278. says

    Three Kansas lawmakers have switched from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party:
    State Senator Barbara Bollier
    State Senator Dinah Sykes
    State Representative Stephanie Clayton.

    Representative Joy Koesten says she is also thinking of switching parties. Kansas voters recently chose a Democrat for governor, Laura Kelly.

    There’s still more work to be done to change “red” Kansas to purple, but the state is headed that way.

  279. says

    From Steve Benen’s update on Trump’s wall:

    Last night, Trump also made the case that his wall won’t be “concrete,” but will instead be made of “artistically designed steel slats.”

    So to recap, the president originally promised Americans that Mexico will pay for a wall. Since then, Trump has tried to redefine the words “Mexico,” “pay,” and “wall.”

    And for the record, the administration said – in writing – from the outset that Trump intended to build a concrete wall.

    If Trump thinks this debate is going well for him, he’s mistaken.

  280. says

    Jared Kushner has successfully completed a task. He got the criminal justice reform bill he was pushing approved:

    The Senate passed a huge criminal law reform bill on Tuesday night, seizing on bipartisan support for the broadest set of changes to federal crime statutes in a generation.

    A rare coalition of conservatives, liberals, activists, prosecutors and defense attorneys — spanning the political spectrum — pushed senators to pass the “First Step Act” by a final vote of 87-12.

    NBC News link

    From Steve Benen:

    […] it would affect only about a tenth of the nation’s prison population, targeting federal facilities exclusively – but it includes provisions that would expand eligibility in the Fair Sentencing Act, ease mandatory-minimum sentences, and increase “credit” programs that would enable some federal inmates to earn early release.

    In the not-too-distant past, many politicians steered clear of initiatives like these, afraid of “weak on crime” attack ads, but the political culture surrounding criminal justice issues has evolved in recent years. Even many on the right see the “get tough” policies of the 1980s and 1990s as expensive failures, clearing the way for incremental progress.

    As for why Donald “tough on crime” Trump would endorse such a package, that’s a little tougher to explain. My best guess is that the president has no idea what’s in the bill, but he likes the idea of signing bipartisan legislation on an important national issue.

    In fact, nearly two years into the Trump presidency, the bill signing for the First Step Act will be the first bipartisan event of national significance since before [Trump] took office. […]

  281. says

    Trump established a school safety commission. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos oversees the commission, which is, as expected, a failure on all levels. In addition to being a failure on safety issues, DeVos is overseeing the use of racially-charged changes to policies that affect school discipline:

    A school safety commission created by President Donald Trump in the wake of the massacre in Parkland, Florida, has recommended that an Obama-era policy to reduce racial disparities in school discipline be rescinded, according to a report released by the panel on Tuesday.

    The Federal Commission on School Safety said that it was “deeply troubled” by the Obama administration’s 2014 guidance, which warned schools that they could be violating federal law if their discipline policies targeted minority students at higher rates.

    NBC News link

    From Representative Bobby Scott, a Democrat from Virginia:

    The report makes no recommendations to address the common denominator in school tragedies — easy access to assault-style firearms designed for the battlefield. Rather than confronting the role of guns in gun violence, the Trump administration blames school shootings on civil rights enforcement.

    From the Washington Post:

    [The commission suggested that schools] consider arming and training teachers or other personnel to prevent, recognize and respond to threats of violence. That could include school resource officers, who are typically law enforcement officers, and school personnel, which could include administrators and teachers.

    The commissions also recommended that states NOT raise the minimum age required for gun purchases.

  282. says

    Say what now? Rudy Giuliani goes off the rails again:

    Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani is now acknowledging that Trump did in fact sign a letter of intent to develop a Trump Tower in Moscow, just days after Giuliani claimed that Trump never signed it.

    But Giuliani argued during an interview with New York Daily News that the letter is “bullshit because it didn’t go anywhere.”

    “That was the end of it,” Giuliani told the local New York City paper. “It means nothing but an expression of interest that means very little unless it goes to a contract and it never did.”

    After Giuliani claimed on Sunday that Trump never signed a letter of intent for the project, CNN obtained a copy of the letter, which contained Trump’s signature.

    In the interview with the Daily News, Giuliani refused to acknowledge that he told CNN Sunday that “no one signed the letter.”

    “I don’t think I said nobody signed it,” Giuliani told the Daily News. […]

    TPM link

    From readers comments:

    He’s retreating so fast we may need to rewrite some laws of relativity.
    “It means nothing,” Rudy, it “means very little” except for being the quid or the quo in a conspiracy to defraud the United States. In that context it means a lot. And blabbering to the Daily News won’t change that. Idiot.
    There was no letter.
    There was a letter but Trump didn’t sign it.
    Trump signed it, I never said he didn’t.
    It’s a bullshit letter that didn’t go anywhere.

    Coming soon:
    It went somewhere but it’s not a crime.
    It’s a crime but it’s like jaywalking, everyone does it.
    This orange jumpsuit is not flattering.
    It is like Giulliani’s idea of a defense is, “Trump always lies in business deals, so this signed business deal means nothing.” Might work.

  283. says

    Trump’s legal woes are affecting the Pentagon:

    […] on the open and public battle between the White House and the Pentagon over whether to withdraw immediately all U.S. troops from Syria:

    But one Defense Department official suggested that Mr. Trump also wants to divert attention away from the series of legal challenges confronting him over the recent days: the Russian investigation run by the special counsel as well as the sentencing of his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, in a hush-money scandal to buy the silence of two women who said they had affairs with Mr. Trump.

    That’s an extraordinary allegation by a Pentagon official. Or more precisely an extraordinary ‘suggestion.’ In the narrowest sense, it’s a gloves-off fight over whether an abrupt withdrawal undermines or enhances U.S. strategic interests in the Middle East.

    But in the broader sense, it’s an alarming level of irony that as the special counsel’s Russia probe closes in on President Trump, he would hastily order a withdrawal that the Pentagon argues would “cede foreign influence in Syria to Russia and Iran at a time when American policy calls for challenging both countries,” as the Times puts it.

    TPM link

  284. says

    Sigh. This is from Mitch McConnell:

    Later this morning, we’ll introduce a continuing resolution that will ensure continuous funding for the federal government. The measure will provide the resources necessary to continue normal operations through February 8th.

    This move actually means that McConnell and Trump are caving when it comes to that whole “$5 billion for the wall” thing. Still, it is disheartening that U.S. lawmakers can’t agree to fund the government for more than a month or so at a time.

  285. says

    Republican Senators are not backing the White House story on Mike Flynn:

    Two Republican senators on Wednesday disagreed publicly with the White House’s assertion that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was unfairly “ambushed” by FBI agents before he lied to them about his contacts with Russians after the 2016 election. Flynn himself has disputed that assertion, as well.

    “He should have been honest with the FBI, he should have been honest with the White House,” Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” adding: “I do” think Flynn lied.

    “I see no indication that Mr. Flynn was tricked,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) said later in the day on CNN. “He told a bald-faced lie.”

    Kennedy added: “I just think he let the country and the President down.”

    White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday reiterated the White House’s position: Flynn “was certainly ambushed and the FBI, that we know had clear political bias, we’ve seen that time and time again,” she said.

    Asked about Sanders’ line on Flynn, the Louisiana senator said he doesn’t speak for the White House, but repeated “Flynn — 33 years as an Army general, with a deep background in national security — he had to know there was a good chance that the FBI knew about his conversation with the Russian ambassador, and he chose not to tell the truth.” […]


  286. says

    Followup to comment 359.

    […] Trump has reportedly decided to remove all 2,000 American troops from Syria […]

    The White House released a statement Wednesday morning following those reports declaring victory over the Islamic State in Syria and announcing that the U.S. has “started returning United States troops home.” However, the statement did not specify when the U.S. will completely eliminate its presence in Syria.

    “Five years ago, ISIS was a very powerful and dangerous force in the Middle East, and now the United States has defeated the territorial caliphate. These victories over ISIS in Syria do not signal the end of the Global Coalition or its campaign. We have started returning United States troops home as we transition to the next phase of this campaign,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in the statement. […]

    Trump has pushed for the withdrawal despite warnings from the Pentagon that it’s too early to completely eliminate American presence in the region. Officials at the Pentagon were still trying to talk Trump out of the withdrawal this week, according to the New York Times. Officials have told the President in meetings and calls recently that the move could expose the United States’ Kurdish allies in the region to attacks from Turkish troops and would allow Russia and Iran to have more influence over the region, per the New York Times.

    Yet Trump seems hellbent on fulfilling a campaign promise, tweeting Wednesday morning that he had accomplished his goal of defeating the Islamic State. “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.” […]

    Abandoning the Kurds … again. Doing what Russia prefers … again. Doing what that autocrat, Erdogan wants … again.

    From the readers comments:

    Turkey agrees to stop implicating MBS in Khashoggi murder,
    We agree to let them slaughter the Kurds.
    in the case of Syria a cold turkey withdrawal would leave the Kurds seriously exposed and they’ve been a loyal ally all along. would tickle the shit out of Russia.

    Yup Russia again. We pull out and the joint is theirs. Trump was not able to deliver on sanctions relief so I imagine this is a form of atonement. Russia’s calling in their chits and this is all Trump has. Allowing this draft dodging wuss to make major military calls is like letting an anti-vaxxer run a pediatric hospital. He has serous courage / intelligence deficit and you must have both to get into this kind of thing. But again, Russia is happy.

  287. says

    The courts strike down yet another Trump policy:

    A federal judge on Wednesday struck down most of a Trump administration policy that turned away asylum seekers who claimed to suffer domestic violence or gang violence.

    U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled that policies blocking the alleged victims from obtaining “credible fear” of return to their home country — the first step in an asylum claim — violates federal immigration law.

    The decision bars the Trump administration from rapidly deporting such asylum seekers and represents another legal setback in President Donald Trump’s battle to discourage migrants from trekking to the U.S.-Mexico border.

    Sullivan wrote in a detailed 107-page opinion that new credible fear policies stemming from an immigration court opinion issued in June by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions ran afoul of congressional intent.

    “And because it is the will of Congress — not the whims of the executive — that determines the standard for expedited removal, the court finds that those policies are unlawful,” Sullivan wrote. […]

    Politico link

    Yes, that is the same Judge Sullivan who presided over the Michael Flynn sentencing yesterday.

  288. says

    Trump tweeted a bunch of nonsense about Mexico paying for the wall, and about the U.S. military building the wall:

    Mexico is paying (indirectly) for the Wall through the new USMCA, the replacement for NAFTA! Far more money coming to the U.S. Because of the tremendous dangers at the Border, including large scale criminal and drug inflow, the United States Military will build the Wall!

    In our Country, so much money has been poured down the drain, for so many years, but when it comes to Border Security and the Military, the Democrats fight to the death. One way or the other, we will win on the Wall!

  289. says

    Democrats are standing up against Trump judicial nominee push:

    Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.), facing pressure from left wing groups, will not agree to a customary year-end package of judicial nominees, according to a Senate Democratic aide.

    A Senate Republican aide said there is a list of 31 judicial nominees waiting for floor action before the end of the year.

    Schumer and his Democratic colleagues are in no mood to agree to a year-end deal after a federal judge in Texas struck down the entire Affordable Care Act last week, including protections for people with pre-existing conditions. […]

    The Hill link

  290. says

    Ann Coulter rants about the U.S.-Mexico border wall, and along the way she gets a few things unexpectedly right:

    […] In a podcast interview with the Daily Caller, Coulter blasted the Trump presidency, saying it will have been a “joke” without the wall.

    “Why would you [vote for him again]?” she said. “To make sure, I don’t know, Ivanka and Jared can make money? That seems to be the main point of the presidency at this point.”

    “They’re about to have a country where no Republican will ever be elected president again,” she added. “Trump will just have been a joke presidency who scammed the American people, amused the populists for a while, but he’ll have no legacy whatsoever.”

  291. says

    Trump tries, and fails, to defend the Trump Foundation “charity”:

    The Trump Foundation has done great work and given away lots of money, both mine and others, to great charities over the years – with me taking NO fees, rent, salaries etc. Now, as usual, I am getting slammed by Cuomo and the Dems in a long running civil lawsuit started by sleazebag AG Eric Schneiderman, who has since resigned over horrific women abuse, when I wanted to close the Foundation so as not to be in conflict with politics.

    Shady Eric was head of New Yorkers for Clinton, and refused to even look at the corrupt Clinton Foundation.

    In any event, it goes on and on & the new AG, who is now being replaced by yet another AG (who openly campaigned on a GET TRUMP agenda), does little else but rant, rave & politic against me. Will never be treated fairly by these people — a total double standard of ‘justice.’

    Nope. Not buying any of Trump’s bullshit.

    Here is a good analysis from Steve Benen:

    […] the New York attorney general’s office has accused the Trump Foundation of being little more than a slush fund for Donald Trump and his adult children, who collectively stand accused of willfully misusing the charity’s resources for personal, business, and political expenses over the course of a decade.

    The closer one looks, the more damaging the allegations appear. We learned two years ago about Trump using his charitable foundation’s money to buy giant portraits of himself. He also used foundation money to make illegal campaign contributions, settle private-sector lawsuits, and support conservative political entities that could help further his partisan ambitions.

    […] Making matters slightly worse, the president has been caught lying about all of this, arguing publicly that “all” of the money the the foundation raised was “given to charity.” He added soon after that “100%” of the millions raised went to “wonderful charities.” Neither claim was consistent with reality.

    Simon Maloy’ […]: “This filing lays out absurd and flagrant corruption, and it makes clear not just that it was driven personally by Trump, but that he deliberately removed all safeguards and oversight that could have hindered his illegal behavior.”

    Let’s also not overlook the fact that the president personally signed federal tax returns – under penalty of perjury – swearing that his foundation wasn’t used for political and/or business purposes, and we now know there’s quite a bit of evidence that suggests it was used for both.

    Jenny Johnson Ware, a criminal tax attorney in Chicago, told the New York Times in June, “People have gone to prison for stuff like this, and if I were representing someone with facts like this, assuming the facts described in this petition are true, I would be very worried about an indictment.”

    The idea that Trump is feeling sorry for himself, convinced that he’s been treated unfairly in this case, is bonkers.


    In Benen’s article, at the link, readers can access embedded links that lead to corroborating facts.

  292. says

    Representative Elijah Cummings, a Democrat from Maryland, will chair the House Oversight Committee when Democrats become the majority in the House of Congress in January. Cummings is readying dozens of investigations into actions taken by the Trump administration.

    Today, Cummings sent out 51 letters that alert the White House and federal agencies to the upcoming investigations.

    The letters cover topics from child separations to the hurricane response in Puerto Rico to Cabinet members’ travel habits.

  293. says

    Followup to comments 359 and 362.

    From Jake Tapper:

    “ISIS has NOT been defeated,” says @SoccerMouaz of the Syrian Emergency Task Force. “I have no idea what the president is talking about.”

    From Mouaz Moustafa:

    Joel Rayburn, Deputy Assistant Secretary and Special Envoy for #Syria just cancelled a closed meeting I was attending this morning. Everyone at state department is lost with this sudden reversal of policy by the president. Sources tell me heads are exploding all over DC. Iran Wins

    For someone who campaigned on taking and keeping the oil @realDonaldTrump if he pulls all US presence in #Syria he’s literally giving the oil rich region to Iran and their Assad regime. Moscow and Tehran must be ecstatic. Last Isis pockets feel safer than ever and will resurge.

    From CNN:

    Even though the US will continue to maintain troops in Iraq with the capability of launching strikes into Syria, a US withdrawal of ground forces would fulfill a major goal of Syria, Iran and Russia and risks diminishing US influence in the region.

    The US-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have had some recent success against the terror group and are on the cusp of capturing the last major town held by ISIS east of the Euphrates.

    From Lindsey Graham:

    Withdrawal of this small American force in Syria would be a huge Obama-like mistake.

    With all due respect, ISIS is not defeated in Syria, Iraq, and after just returning from visiting there — certainly not Afghanistan.

    From Marco Rubio:

    “full and rapid” withdrawal from #Syria is a grave error with broader implications beyond just the fight against #ISIS

    From Jim Sciutto:

    The president has now dismissed or undermined US intelligence assessments on:

    – Russian interference in the election
    – Saudi Crown Prince direction of Khashoggi murder
    – North Korea’s continued missile and nuclear activity
    – ISIS’s continued presence in Syria

  294. says

    Just one story from the many tragic stories emerging as a result of Trump’s family-separation policies at the U.S.-Mexico border:

    U.S. officials literally ripped a child from the arms of an asylum seeker when they were taken into custody at the southern border earlier this year. “I was pulling on my son,” Raul Submacx tearfully recalled, “and the immigration man was pulling on his feet. I said let him go.” He didn’t. They were separated for five months.

    “I spent it crying,” Submacx said about being separated from Abner. The two had fled their village in Guatemala, where a gang had begun to threaten their tiny community. “They hit me, they threatened me, they knew where I lived,” he said. “They knew my family.”

    With some money from relatives already living in the U.S., Submacx and the boy made their way north, hoping to set down roots in safety. It never happened. The dad said that once they were detained in Arizona, he was made to sign papers he didn’t understand, and was then deported back to Guatemala.

    Meanwhile, Abner remained here and the two were unsure when they would ever be reunited again. “When I talked to him, my son said, ‘Dad, the lady where I am said she was going to adopt me,” Submacx said. The two were finally reunited after five months, but only because Abner was sent back to Guatemala as well.

    Submacx blamed himself for their trauma and his child’s ongoing nightmares. “I’m sorry, son,” he said he told the boy. “I’m a bad father. Why did I bring you to the United States?” No, Raul, you are a good father, because you made this journey to save his life, and yours. You did it because you love him. Your separation was not your fault; it was ours.

    Today, Wednesday, Dec. 19, marks 146 days since a federal judge’s reunification deadline, yet children ripped from families at the border due to “zero tolerance” continue to remain separated. Family separation remains a crisis.


  295. says

    Followup to comments 359, 362 and 370.

    About one week ago, Trump’s State Department said this:

    “Even as the end of the physical caliphate is clearly now coming into sight, the end of ISIS will be a much more long-term initiative,” said Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS Brett McGurk at the time. “Nobody is declaring a mission accomplished.”

    More details from the same interview:

    QUESTION: Thank you. Until when the coalition will be staying in Syria?

    MR MCGURK: Well, we have multiple objectives in Syria. So the military objective – very clearly, the military objective is the enduring defeat of ISIS. And if we’ve learned one thing over the years, enduring defeat of a group like this means you can’t just defeat their physical space and then leave; you have to make sure the internal security forces are in place to ensure that those gains, security gains, are enduring. So the enduring defeat of ISIS means not just the physical defeat, but make sure that we are training local security forces. So that will take some time.

    We also have other interests in Syria, which I think you heard from Ambassador Jeffrey. We want to see a resolution to the Syrian civil war through the UN Security Council resolution process. And we also want to see the removal of foreign forces from Syria, particularly the Iranian-commanded and proxy forces from Syria.

    Think Progress link

    The State Department canceled its daily briefing on Wednesday after the White House made its withdrawal announcement. In other words, Trump acted on a whim, tweeted out some nonsense, had Sarah Huckabee Sanders back him up with more nonsense, and did not consult his own State Department.

  296. says

    Another part of the Trump administration defies Trump:

    The Federal Reserve on Wednesday raised interest rates for the fourth time this year despite protests from President Trump.

    The Fed’s policy-making arm, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), voted Wednesday to raise the baseline interest rate range from 2.25 to 2.5 percent, a 0.25 percentage point increase.

    The central bank had been telegraphing a December rate hike for several months, and Wednesday’s move had been widely expected by Fed watchers.

    But the move comes in the face of intensifying attacks from Trump on the bank and its chairman, Jerome Powell, for raising rates amid new questions about the American economy.

    Trump has urged the independent central bank to keep cheap money flowing into the strong economy. The president begged the Fed Tuesday to consider a steep stock sell-off on Wall Street and to halt their rate hikes.

    “Feel the market, don’t just go by meaningless numbers,” Trump said in a tweet. “Good luck!” […]

    The Hill link

  297. Chris J says

    “Feel the market, don’t just go by meaningless numbers,” Trump said in a tweet. “Good luck!”

    Oh gee, I wonder how Trump possibly could have managed to go through so many bankruptcies! XD

  298. says

    Chris J, yeah, that “meaningless numbers” phrase from Trump says a lot you about his business management style.

    In other news, Facebook is found to have screwed up again:

    For years, Facebook gave some of the world’s largest technology companies more intrusive access to users’ personal data than it has disclosed, effectively exempting those business partners from its usual privacy rules, according to internal records and interviews.


    […] The special arrangements are detailed in hundreds of pages of Facebook documents obtained by The New York Times. The records, generated in 2017 by the company’s internal system for tracking partnerships, provide the most complete picture yet of the social network’s data-sharing practices. They also underscore how personal data has become the most prized commodity of the digital age, traded on a vast scale by some of the most powerful companies in Silicon Valley and beyond.

    The exchange was intended to benefit everyone. Pushing for explosive growth, Facebook got more users, lifting its advertising revenue. Partner companies acquired features to make their products more attractive. Facebook users connected with friends across different devices and websites. But Facebook also assumed extraordinary power over the personal information of its 2.2 billion users — control it has wielded with little transparency or outside oversight.

    Facebook allowed Microsoft’s Bing search engine to see the names of virtually all Facebook users’ friends without consent, the records show, and gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read Facebook users’ private messages. […]

  299. says

    Here’s why you should be concerned about Facebook’s banking partnerships.

    Royal Bank of Canada was able to access data it shouldn’t, even as Facebook moves to work with more financial institutions.

    […] This isn’t the first time Facebook has forged banking business partnerships. In August, it was reported that the company was partnering with several banks in order to create a new banking feature for Facebook Messenger. Among the financial institutions named were Citigroup, Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase. The partnerships would allow Facebook access to an incredible amount of private information, including card transactions and checking account balances.

    In a statement at the time, Facebook maintained that the service would be completely opt-in, and that “[the company] is not using this information beyond enabling these types of experiences – not for advertising or anything else.”

    But bearing in mind the extent of Facebook’s co-operation with the Royal Bank of Canada (not to mention the 149 other companies), as well as Facebook’s extensive history of privacy mishaps, there is plenty of reason to question how this highly sensitive banking data could be used by the social media giant. Hypothetically, for example, it would be incredibly useful for a predatory payday loan company to identify the Facebook accounts of people who are suffering financially, and target their Facebook feeds with ads. […]

    There’s also the open question of what sort of data the banks would receive back, bearing in mind that many of these institutions have had repeated data breaches and technological issues. In August, for instance, hundreds of Wells Fargo customers had their homes foreclosed due to a computer glitch. […]

  300. says

    Followup to comments 359, 362, and 370.

    Putin is happy with Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria:

    President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Thursday welcomed President Trump’s announcement of a withdrawal of American troops from Syria, calling it “the right decision.” […]

    Speaking at his annual news conference, which typically runs for several hours, Mr. Putin said he broadly agreed that the Islamic State had been defeated in Syria. “Donald’s right, and I agree with him,” Mr. Putin said.

    New York Times link

    Meanwhile, Trump claims that Russia and Iran are NOT happy with the withdrawal. Here’s Trump’s nonsense:

    Time for others to finally fight. Russia, Iran, Syria & many others are not happy about the U.S. leaving, despite what the Fake News says, because now they will have to fight ISIS and others, who they hate, without us.

    From Steve Benen:

    […] It was just yesterday when [Trump] boasted that ISIS forces in Syria have been “defeated,” adding, “We’ve beaten them and we’ve beaten them badly.” Just 24 hours later, the same president argued that other countries will now have to fight ISIS forces in Syria – forces that the American president just said no longer exist.

    But even putting that aside, the idea that countries like Russia and Iran want U.S. military forces to remain in Syria suggests Trump probably should’ve attended an intelligence briefing or two before deciding on his new strategy. […]

  301. says

    Trump speaks for the dead, and he delivers a muddled message about Syria:

    We’ve been fighting for a long time in Syria. I’ve been president for almost two years and we’ve really stepped it up. And we have won against ISIS. We’ve beaten them and we’ve beaten them badly. We’ve taken back the land. And now it is time for our troops to come back home.

    I get very saddened when I have to write letters or call parents or wives or husbands of soldiers who have been killed fighting for our country. It’s a great honor. We cherish them. But it’s heartbreaking. There is no question about it; it’s heartbreaking.

    Now we’ve won. It is time to come back. They’re getting ready. You’re going to see them soon. These are great American heroes. These are great heroes of the world because they’ve fought for us. But they’ve killed ISIS, who hurts the world. And we’re proud to have done it.

    And I’ll tell you, they’re up there looking down on us, and there is nobody happier or more proud of their families, to put them in a position where they have done such good for so many people.

    So our boys, our young women, our men, they’re all coming back. And they are coming back now. We won. And that is the way we want it, and that is the way they [pointing to the sky] want it.

  302. says

    Followup to comment 360.

    The possibility of a government shutdown over Trump’s wall is back.

    […] Trump is back to demanding funding for a border wall with Mexico in order to avoid a government shutdown, throwing Congress back into chaos and raising the possibility of a partial shutdown as of midnight Friday. […]

    On the White House’s handling of the situation: “How are they handling it? Are they handling anything right now, or are we all just twisting in the wind?” [said Retiring Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA)]

    After the Senate unanimously passed a continuing resolution to fund the government through Feb. 8 late Wednesday night, it initially looked likely that the House would acquiesce to delaying the fight. But conservative members balked at swallowing a bill they see as surrender, and Republicans of all stripes began desperately pleading with the White House for a sign on whether President Trump will actually sign the bill if it gets to his desk.

    Trump had earlier backed off a bit from his demand for $5 billion for a border wall in any deal to keep funding the government. But he’s once again reversed himself, throwing the entire process back into chaos.

    “We’re having a conversation with members and the president about where we go, the interest we have in getting the wall funded,” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) told reporters shortly before Trump’s latest position was made public.

  303. says

    Followup to comment 379.

    From readers comments:

    I’m actually thinking Ann Coulter’s baiting of Trump has a lot to do with this. And I think yesterday’s Syria withdrawal and relief of sanctions on a former Soviet oligarch are all about appeasing Putin, who is blackmailing Trump. So there you have it, folks, our foreign policy and defense policy are being decided based on playground taunts and blackmail!
    what Trump really meant was…

    oh crap. The Syria distraction turned out to be a liability, so now I need to re-distract attention back to wall funding.
    He got his ass kicked – monumentally – but then when he had it explained to him like he was a third grader by everybody – FOX, Rush Limbaugh, and CNN and MSNBC – everybody – basically saying Nancy Pelosi knocked his teeth in – – he then became humiliated & had a tantrum and is now demanding a do-over…. and is going to be a mega shrieking asshole about it because he – through his own ineptitude – he revealed himself to be utterly incompetent at sophisticated governmental negotiations – he got de-pantsed – but he did it to himself – so brace yourself – this time he will be the brat that kicks over the cardtable and demands to have it all his way no matter what – no matter who gets hurt
    Just get together, call his bluff, and if he vetoes it override his veto. Merry Christmas, MFer.

  304. says

    During his campaign, and near the beginning of his presidency, Trump pledged that he would not start any new business deals outside of the USA. He lied.

    […] As a new undercover report from pro-transparency watchdog Global Witness uncovered earlier this week, the Trump Organization has been exploring the construction of a new beachside resort in the Dominican Republic, and local representatives said that a “new development with the Trump Organization” is underway.

    According to Global Witness, the development would see the Trump Organization and local partners are considering developing a new resort called “Juanillo Beach” in the Dominican Republic’s Cap Cana district. As a sales representative filmed by Global Witness relayed, the planned resort will have apartments and a commercial area. The representative said that the Trump Organization isn’t merely going to license its name to the project, as it often does — it will also be a partner in the project’s overall development. […]

    “Global Witness went undercover at the Cap Cana resort and discovered that the Trumps are pursuing what appears to be a new deal, in contradiction to Trump’s pledge not to,” the group’s report said. […]

    Think Progress link

    More details at the link, including an explanation of how the Trump Organization seems to be redefining “new.”

  305. says

    Trump is going to force asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico. The plan will probably face legal challenges.

    Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Thursday announced that asylum-seekers who arrive at the US-Mexico border will be forced to wait in Mexico while their cases are decided, a process that can take years. The plan is the most aggressive step yet in the Trump administration’s ongoing crackdown on people fleeing persecution.

    Asylum-seekers who are made to wait in Mexico would only be allowed into the United States if they are granted asylum by a US immigration judge. The plan will impact both asylum-seekers who cross the border without authorization and those who request asylum at official ports of entry, which Nielsen has urged asylum-seekers to do.

    […] The policy will apply only to non-Mexican migrants—mostly from Central America—who enter Mexico and then seek asylum or other forms of protection in the United States. Mexicans will still be allowed to wait in the United States while they seek protection.

    WTF? How does it make sense to only apply the new rule to migrants from Central America for the most part?

    […] The announcement solidifies the “Remain in Mexico” agreement that the Trump administration has been pushing the administration of Mexico’s new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, to accept. Mexico’s foreign ministry said in a statement Thursday that it would let some people stay in Mexico “so that they can wait here for the development of their immigration process in the United States.”

    The plan will almost certainly be challenged in court. On Wednesday, federal judges rules against two other parts of the Trump administration’s systematic crackdown on asylum-seekers, blocking a rule that sought to make migrants who cross the border illegally ineligible for asylum and overturning policy guidance that would make it easier to quickly deport people fleeing gang and domestic violence.

    Under the agreement, non-Mexican asylum-seekers would receive visas from the Mexican government while they wait for their cases to be decided. There is currently a backlog of more than 800,000 cases in US immigration courts—a situation that leads to months- or years-long waits for cases to be decided. The new plan will take effect immediately and be implemented across the southwest border in the coming days, DHS officials told reporters on Thursday.

    Mexican cities along the US border have high murder rates, and human rights advocates generally do not consider them to be safe places for migrants to wait. Two teenagers from Honduras were murdered in Tijuana, Mexico, this weekend while reportedly moving between migrant shelters as they waited to request asylum in the United States.

    Mother Jones link

  306. says

    Followup to comment 382.

    From readers comments:

    Let’s turn Mar a Lago into a refuge for asylum seekers.
    Clearly, the intention of the Dear Leader and his neo Nazi attack dog Stephen Miller is to create such terror and degradation at the border for would-be asylum seekers, that their lives will become at least as miserable and dangerous as what they had back home.

    They’re hell bent on destroying the American dream of asylum and turning it into a nightmare of endless abuse, exploitation and abandonment in Mexico. The Trumpians are sick and twisted people.

  307. says

    Schumer’s view of the renewed debate over a government shutdown:

    […] “With less than two days to go until the appropriations lapse, if we are to avoid a shutdown the House must pass this continuing resolution and President Trump must sign it,” Schumer said from the Senate floor on Thursday.

    Schumer argued that if Trump rejects the stopgap measure, it would be “indisputable” that he and Republicans would be blamed for a partial government shutdown over the Christmas holidays.

    “Vetoing the last train out of the station, a CR, would be a doubling down on his responsibility for a Christmas shutdown and every single American would know it,” Schumer said. […]

    “Trump’s allies in the House can pound their fists on the table all they want but it’s not going to get a wall. They can, having caught the Trump temper tantrum fever, jump up and down, yell and scream. It’s not going to get a wall,” Schumer said.

    “Neither Mr. Meadows or Mr. Jordan have outlined any conceivable plan on how to achieve what they say they want to achieve. I would say to my less frenzied friends in the House, go ask Mr. Jordan and ask Mr. Meadows, what is your plan? What is your end game? What is your path to getting the wall?” Schumer said.

    The Hill link

    From the ultra conservative point of view:

    […] conservative pundits and lawmakers have lashed out over the deal and questioned why Trump would sign something that didn’t include additional border wall money.

    Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and other members of the House Freedom Caucus are publicly urging Trump to reject the Senate-passed stopgap bill, which would fund roughly 25 percent of the government through Feb. 8. […]

    Schumer is right. The ultra conservatives in the House do not have a plan.

  308. says

    From Matthew Yglesias: “I’m starting to think Mexico isn’t going to pay for the wall.”

    […] “I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively,” Trump said. “I will build a great, great wall on our southern border and I’ll have Mexico pay for that wall.” […]

    making Mexico pay for the wall was actually one of the few issues on which the Trump 2016 campaign actually released a detailed policy agenda. It’s still up on his website, in fact, and it explains that coercing Mexico into paying for the wall will be a simple matter of invoking Section 326 of the USA Patriot Act to “issue detailed regulations” under 31 CFR § 130.120-121 to block remittance payments from unauthorized residents of the United States back to friends and family in Mexico.

    According to the Trump campaign, “It’s an easy decision for Mexico: make a one-time payment of $5-10 billion to ensure that $24 billion continues to flow into their country year after year.”

    So there you have it. A wall built on the cheap for $5 billion to $10 billion, paid for by the Mexican government, because if they don’t pay up, we will block remittances. Yet it hasn’t happened.

    Perhaps this plan was flawed.

    In retrospect, I perhaps should have paid more attention to skeptics who pointed out that this was riddled with errors.

    Stephen Heifetz and Kaitlin Cassel at the Steptoe International Compliance Blog wrote at the time that Trump was mangling the legislation:

    He says the executive branch issued “detailed regulations on the subject, found at 31 CFR 130.120-121.” But there are no regulations at 31 CFR § 130.120-121. When the Treasury Department initially issued customer identification regulations for banks, they were found at 31 CFR § 103.121. (That number after the letters is 103, not 130). Forgiving the transposition of numbers in Trump’s memo, those regulations were re-issued over five years ago with completely different numbering, so that the current regulation to which Trump presumably meant to cite is 31 CFR § 1020.220.

    Is this just a set of typos we should overlook? Nope — it evinces a lack of familiarity with the relevant legal terrain that becomes obvious in the next paragraph of Trump’s memo.

    They go on to argue in some detail that using this regulatory mechanism would likely impede a lot of legitimate commerce while doing little to reduce remittances. Trump, it turns out, was not really as versed in the policy weeds of this as he portrayed himself to be. […]

  309. says

    Trump’s tweet from this morning:

    The Democrats, who know Steel Slats (Wall) are necessary for Border Security, are putting politics over Country. What they are just beginning to realize is that I will not sign any of their legislation, including infrastructure, unless it has perfect Border Security. U.S.A. WINS!

    So, the “wall” is being rebranded as “steel slats.” That’s funny.

  310. tomh says

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Ignoring advice from ethics officials within his own Justice Department, acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker will not recuse himself from overseeing the investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a source said on Thursday.

    Justice Department ethics officials had recommended that Whitaker, who made comments critical of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe before taking office, should not supervise the investigation, said the source, who has knowledge of the situation.


  311. says

    The accelerating pace of threatened shutdowns when Republicans are in control, and when Trump is President , (a partial list):

    * February 2015: Republicans threaten a Department of Homeland Security shutdown.

    * September 2015: Republicans threaten another shutdown.

    * November 2015: Republicans threaten another shutdown.

    * September 2016: Republicans threaten another shutdown.

    * April 2017: Donald Trump threatens a shutdown, which is only avoided by Congress ignoring his demands.

    * January 2018: The government shuts down again, leading to a spirited argument over who’s to blame.

    * February 2018: Trump threatens another shutdown.

    * March 2018: Trump threatens another shutdown.

    * July 2018: Trump threatens another shutdown.

    * December 2018: Trump threatens another shutdown.

    Maddow Blog link

    From Steve Benen:

    […] There is no precedent in the American tradition for a governing party careening, over and over again, from one self-imposed crisis to the next. Partisan fights and gridlock may be timeless, but there’s never been an era in which the elected federal officials tried to function this way.

    And yet, in an era of Republican radicalization, the crises never seem to stop.

  312. says

    tomh @388, that worries me.

    This also worries me: Defense Secretary Mattis is resigning:

    […] The ouster comes a day after the news — reportedly catching congressional Republicans and military leadership by surprise […]— that the United States would be withdrawing its troops from Syria.

    According to the Washington Post, Mattis was among those with whom Trump met before making up his mind about the troop withdrawal. Mattis, the Post reported, argued that the Islamic State was still operational in the country, and that it would be a mistake to pull out troops.

    “My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues,” Mattis wrote in his resignation letter. “We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.”

    He added: “Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.”

    Trump, though he once called Mattis one of “my generals,” has also distanced himself from the retired four-star Marine Corps general. “He’s sort of a Democrat,” Trump said of the defense secretary during a “60 Minutes” interview in October. “He may leave. I mean, at some point, everybody leaves.”

  313. says

    We Need Wall

    Here’s one of the weirder dimensions of late 2018 Trumpism. For reasons that are not entirely clear to me the word has apparently come down from the White House that the wall, as in the wall to be built along the southern border, must now be called “wall”.

    In other words, no definite article, no “the”. […] Trump now does this. It was part of a DHS press release a week ago. And today in a congressional hearing, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told Rep. Tom Marino: “From Congress I would ask for wall. We need wall.”

  314. says

    Trump gives Paul Ryan a going-away gift, kicks 800,000 people off food stamps

    Ryan built this trap door beneath poor families. Trump is just the one pulling the lever.

    It was a classic bait and switch. On Thursday, in the hours before the Oval Office was set to host President Donald Trump’s ceremonial signing of a farm bill — one which had been lauded by anti-hunger advocates for sparing the food stamps program of deep funding cuts — the Trump administration quietly announced its plan to dump hundreds of thousands of people off of the food assistance program.

    It was a quick end to a much ballyhooed example of bipartisan compromise. A few months ago, the kind of multi-billion-dollar slashing of food aid that President Donald Trump had called for in his previous budgets seemed almost inevitable. Republicans had control of every choke point of the federal government, and they’ve long wanted to carve up the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It was indeed a victory to have defeated that dire impulse in the law that simultaneously sets the table for both farmers and the destitute.

    Or it could have been such a victory. But earlier Thursday morning, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue made good on the promise he’d issued after Republican leaders compromised to get the farm bill over the line before control of the House reverted to Democratic hands. The hard-hearted food stamps policies will happen, after a fashion, without anyone elected by the people having to leave their fingerprints at the scene of the crime.

    Rather, Perdue’s USDA is using its regulatory authority to dramatically shrink the parameters of government generosity to those on the brink of hunger. The wonky new rules that Perdue has devised will radically alter how public servants administer food aid. […]

  315. says

    After announcing during a meeting with Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and a nearly comatose Mike Pence that he would be “proud” to shut down the government, Trump is now changing tactic and saying that the coming shutdown will be the fault of Democrats.

    Dude, this time everybody knows you are lying.

    Trump tweeted:

    Senator Mitch McConnell should fight for the Wall and Border Security as hard as he fought for anything. He will need Democrat votes, but as shown in the House, good things happen. If enough Dems don’t vote, it will be a Democrat Shutdown!

    What Trump said last week:

    I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck, because the people of this country don’t want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country. So I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it…. I will take the mantle of shutting down.

  316. says

    Trump’s shutdown strategy is shaped by what he sees on TV

    It’s practically become a punch-line to a national joke: when Donald Trump needs to find personnel for his team, the president instinctively turns to people he’s seen on television. What’s often overlooked, however, is the degree to which Trump’s presidency is also guided by what he sees and hears from his favorite personalities in conservative media.

    Earlier this week, as the White House came to terms with the fact that Congress wouldn’t approve $5 billion for a border wall, the president and his team backed off its shutdown threats. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders publicly discussed the “other ways” the administration would secure the funds – outside of the congressional appropriations process – and Trump eagerly did the same.

    When it came time for the Senate to approve a stopgap spending bill to prevent a shutdown, it passed effortlessly in large part because the White House told Senate leaders the president would sign it.

    Not only did the bill pass “effortlessly,” it passed unanimously on a voice vote.

    So what happened? As the Washington Post reported, Trump started responding to what he saw on TV.

    […] On Fox News Channel and across conservative media, there was a brewing rebellion. Prominent voices urged Trump to hold firm on his wall money and warned that caving would jeopardize his reelection.

    Rush Limbaugh dismissed the compromise bill on his radio program as “Trump gets nothing and the Democrats get everything.” Another firebrand, Ann Coulter, published a column titled “Gutless President in Wall-less Country.” Trump even found resistance on the couch of his favorite show, “Fox & Friends,” where reliable Trump-boosting host Brian Kilmeade chided him on the air Thursday.

    The president was paying attention.

    The Post’s article added that Trump has spent the last couple of days “flipping out” over criticisms in the media.

    Politico added, “He has alternately seethed and panicked about the stream of invective he’s hearing from allies on television.” […]

  317. says

    Followup to comment 390.

    More analysis and more details concerning the “retirement” of Defense Secretary James Mattis:

    […] it quickly became apparent that this wasn’t just the latest cabinet shake-up in Trump World. […]

    In the letter, Mattis suggested Trump was not treating allies with respect and had not been “clear-eyed” about U.S. enemies and competitors.

    “My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues,” he wrote. […]

    This was not, in other words, a “retirement.” It was the Pentagon chief — arguably the most respected members of this president’s cabinet — declaring, in a public and brutal way, that he could no longer endorse Trump’s agenda by serving in his administration.

    […] James Mattis is the first secretary of Defense to ever resign in protest, declaring that the sitting president is not acting in the nation’s interests.

    Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and someone who talked to Rachel on last night’s show, went so far as to say, “A Secretary of Defense quitting over a public disagreement with a President whose foreign policy he believes has gone off the rails is a national security crisis. No way around it.”

    Similarly, Leon Panetta, who served as Defense secretary, CIA director, and White House chief of staff for Democratic presidents, told the Washington Post that Mattis’ resignation is a singular moment and that his letter, which underscores how Mattis sees Trump’s approach as misguided, “puts the security of the nation right now at some degree of risk.”

    There’s no word yet on who Trump will tap as Mattis’ successor […]

    Mattis’ tenure is scheduled to end at the end of February. Whether he makes it that long remains to be seen.

    Maddow Blog Link

  318. says

    Update of Justice Ginsburg’s health:

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had surgery Friday to remove two malignant growths in her left lung, the Supreme Court said.

    It is the 85-year-old Ginsburg’s third bout with cancer since joining the court in 1993.

    Doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York found “no evidence of any remaining disease” and scans taken before the surgery showed no cancerous growths elsewhere in her body, the court said in a statement. No additional treatment is currently planned, the court said.

    Ginsburg, who leads the court’s liberal wing, is expected to remain in the hospital for a few days, the court said.

    The growths were found during tests Ginsburg had after she fractured ribs in a fall in her Supreme Court office on Nov. 7.

    The court’s oldest justice had surgery for colorectal cancer in 1999 and pancreatic cancer 10 years later.

    Among other health problems, she also broke two ribs in a fall in 2012 and had a stent implanted to open a blocked artery in 2014. She was hospitalized after a bad reaction to medicine in 2009.

    Ginsburg has never missed Supreme Court arguments in more than 25 years on the bench. The court won’t hear arguments again until Jan. 7. […]

  319. says

    Followup to comments 390 and 395.

    More details about how Mattis prepared to leave the Trump administration:

    […] Mattis did something else extraordinary, something that should quite seriously set off alarm bells for us all. As Donald Trump was tweeting that Mattis was heading off to retirement, Mattis was ordering his aides to distribute 50 copies of his resignation letter throughout the highest echelons of the Pentagon. The New York Times has the extraordinarily unusual details of Mattis’s resignation.

    Officials said Mr. Mattis went to the White House with his resignation letter already written, but nonetheless made a last attempt at persuading the president to reverse his decision about Syria, which Mr. Trump announced on Wednesday over the objections of his senior advisers.

    Mr. Mattis, a retired four-star Marine general, was rebuffed. Returning to the Pentagon, he asked aides to print out 50 copies of his resignation letter and distribute them around the building.

    James Mattis thought pulling out of Syria was such a danger to the United States that he again tried to talk Donald Trump out of it and resigned on the spot when Trump refused, deploying his resignation letter around the Pentagon to make certain our military leaders knew he was resigning because Donald Trump’s view are so dangerous to the security of the United States.

    That’s the equivalent of pulling every fire alarm in the building on the way out the door. […]

    Daily Kos link

  320. says

    Lyndon LaRouche Is Still Alive and He’s Been Hobnobbing With Roger Stone

    The international cult leader has long-standing ties to Russia.

    Eleven days after […] Trump’s election, Roger Stone, a longtime self-proclaimed GOP dirty trickster and Trump adviser, invited an unusual guest on his short-lived radio show, Stone Cold Truth, and began the interview with a question about former President Bill Clinton. “Well, I think the question of Bill Clinton is sometimes confused. Bill was framed,” Lyndon LaRouche replied. “And he was framed by the Queen of England.”

    It was typical fare from LaRouche, the 96-year-old leader of a fascist political cult group that has long pitched a variety of dark conspiracy theories, including his pet notion that a Zionist British aristocratic oligarchy secretly orchestrates world events. The queen has long been a favored villain of LaRouche, who has claimed she presides over the international narcotics trade. [LaRouche] earned surprising prominence in the 1970s and 1980s, before a 1988 federal conviction for mail fraud sent him to prison for five years.

    Stone’s recent association with LaRouche is consistent with his decades-long evolution from a mainstream GOP operative to an advocate and ally of the conspiratorial and political fringe. Stone is reportedly being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is examining his possible interactions during the 2016 campaign with WikiLeaks ahead of its releases of emails stolen by Russian government hackers. (Mueller himself is no stranger to LaRouche; he was a key player in the 1980s investigation that sent LaRouche to jail.) Despite all the scrutiny over Stone’s role in the 2016 campaign, his alignment with a political group that the Heritage Foundation once described as a “strange asset for the KGB’s disinformation effort” remains a little-examined aspect of his recent activities.

    Also under-examined has been a tantalizing clue about possible ties between LaRouche’s organization and Moscow. Buried in Christopher Steele’s dossier on Trump’s possible links to Russia was an August 2016 report with this allegation: A “Kremlin official involved in US relations” had claimed that Russia facilitated a LaRouche delegation’s trip to Moscow, offering members of LaRouche’s group assistance and enlisting them in an effort to disseminate “compromising information” as part of the Kremlin’s 2016 influence campaign. A lawyer with ties to both Stone and LaRouche’s network has claimed that he introduced Stone to a key LaRouche aide in early 2016, as Trump began to secure the Republican nomination. […]

  321. says

    Some good news: the coming shutdown would not affect Mueller’s investigation:

    Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference would continue unimpeded in the event of a government shutdown at midnight Friday.

    The special counsel’s office is “funded from a permanent indefinite appropriation and would be unaffected in the event of a shutdown,” a Justice Department spokesman told The Hill. […]

    Mueller’s investigation was not impacted by past government shutdowns during the Trump presidency.

  322. says

    Delusion on top of delusion. Sarah Huckabee Sanders trumps Trump.

    [Trump] settled on his new policy [a precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria] after “a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week.”

    […] it’s a crazy dynamic in which the leader of a foreign country effectively says, “We’re planning on attacking your allies where you have 2,000 troops,” at which point Donald Trump decided it’s time to get out of the other country’s way.

    Complicating matters, of course, is Russia, which is delighted by the American president’s decision, though the White House continues to insist otherwise. Trump said yesterday that Moscow is “not happy” with the new U.S. policy, and his chief spokesperson went even further today.

    A day after Russian President Vladimir Putin said that President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops from Syria was “a correct one,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dismissed as “ridiculous” and “silly” the “idea” that Putin was happy about the withdrawal.

    “The idea that Putin is happy about this is ridiculous,” Sanders told reporters outside the White House Friday morning. “He’s not. This puts a greater emphasis and makes them have to actually step up and do something, and do more in the region. It puts them at a greater risk. So I think that’s just silly.”

    I don’t understand what it is the White House doesn’t understand. […]

    Putin and his government have long wanted American forces out of Syria – a country Russia has seen as its top outpost in the Middle East. Putin was prepared to bargain for greater control, free of U.S. influence, and Trump, for whatever reason, decided to give the Russian leader his long-sought goal in exchange for nothing.

    The New York Times reported overnight:

    A note of glee crept into Russian commentary and news coverage on Friday about the current turmoil in Washington around national security, with President Vladimir V. Putin seemingly checking off one item after another that he might have written on his wish list for Santa.

    First, President Trump blindsided his aides and the rest of the world by deciding to pull the full contingent of some 2,000 American troops out of Syria, helping the Kremlin to confirm Mr. Putin’s gamble that intervening in Syria would revive Russian influence in the Middle East.

    Mr. Trump followed that up by declaring that the United States would pull half its forces out of Afghanistan; the combined withdrawals prompted the resignation of Jim Mattis, the respected general who leads the Pentagon.

    All that followed Mr. Trump’s already substantial effort to undermine NATO and the European Union by weakening the American commitment to its traditional alliances.

    The Times’ article quoted Leslie Vinajmuri, a professor of international relations at SOAS University of London, who said, “Once again we see a president who appears to be acting impulsively and erratically – except when it comes to Russia. Here, Trump has been eerily consistent in his willingness to adopt policies that enable Russia’s strategy while undermining ours.”

    To Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ argument, there’s certainly something “ridiculous” about this, but it’s not those pointing to obvious factual details.