1. says

    Not sure what happened here.

    The previous chapter of this thread reached 500 comments, and then rolled over to a new chapter, as usual. However, comments in the new thread, once posted, led one back to the old 500-comment thread. You could get to the new thread by scrolling to the “newer comments” link, or by starting again from the home page and choosing the “Political Madness All the Time” in the lefthand navigation column. I notified PZ via email.

    Now an entirely, second new edition of the thread has appeared … minus all the previous comments posted today in the first new chapter of the thread. Maybe I can find all those comments and post them again.

  2. says

    From the lost comments …I found them! (see comment 2 for an explanation):

    Good news. “We have a healthy spacecraft.”

    NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has survived humanity’s most distant exploration of another world.

    Ten hours after the middle-of-the-night encounter 4 billion miles (6.4 billion kilometers) away, flight controllers in Laurel, Maryland, received word from the spacecraft late Tuesday morning. Cheers erupted at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, home to Mission Control.

    “We have a healthy spacecraft. We’ve just accomplished the most distant flyby,” announced Alice Bowman, mission operations manager. […]

    More at the link.
    Talking Points Memo link

  3. says

    From the lost comments:

    Family of American arrested in Russia on spy charges fears for his safety.

    […] Paul Whelan, a 48-year-old retired Marine, was detained last week by Russia’s domestic security services while he was in Moscow for what they described as a “spy mission.”

    “We are deeply concerned for his safety and well-being,” his family said in a statement. “His innocence is undoubted and we trust that his rights will be respected.”

    Whelan’s twin brother, David, said Paul was in Moscow for a wedding of a fellow Marine, which took place at an upscale hotel in central Moscow on Dec. 28, the day he was detained.

    “It is inconceivable to me that he would have done anything to break the law in Russia,” David Whelan told The Washington Post. […]

    A member of the U.S. government should have visited Whelan in detention by now, according to Russia’s obligations under the Vienna Convention, which dictates that consular access must be provided within a 72-hour window from the time of arrest.

    But the U.S. government shutdown may have hindered this process, said a person familiar with Whelan’s case, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

    Although U.S. embassies are not closed during the shutdown, they are working with reduced staff. The person added that it could take months before the case is resolved. […]

    More at the link.

    18 more lost comments coming soon.

  4. says

    From the lost comments:

    Here are a few links to lead readers back to the previous chapter of this thread.

    Here Are All the Ways Trump Tried to Shut Down Science This Year

    Retired four-star general warns White House applicants against working for ‘immoral’ Donald Trump.

    Taxpayers footing a heavy portion of the bill for Mar-a-Lago’s New Year’s Eve party

    The Political Madness All the Time thread rolls over to a new “chapter” when the comments exceed 500.

  5. says

    From the lost comments:

    Trump can’t brag about this, (well, he probably can, but he would have to lie to do so): Stocks in the U.S. Close Worst Year Since 2008.

    Wall Street enjoyed some solid gains on New Year’s Eve but the day of low-volume trading was certainly not enough to reverse the trend: 2018 was the worst year for U.S. stocks since 2008. That is notable considering that 2008 was the height of the financial crisis. The year looked promising for a bit but in the end uncertainty about everything from tariffs, interest rates, and shrinking profits suddenly moved stocks to sell territory.

    The S&P 500 index ended 2018 with a loss of 6.2 percent while the Dow Jones Industrial Average decreased 5.6 percent and the Nasdaq composite narrowed 3.9 percent. Although things were already looking bad, December was the month when stocks really took a dive. The S&P 500, for example, suffered the worst December since the Great Depression. […]

  6. says

    From the lost comments:

    Kip wrote:

    Why doesn’t Trump just order them to make the wall from see-through concrete? It’s as reasonable as many of his decrees. MAKE IT SO!

    Yes! A new take on the “emperor has no clothes” theme. And see-through concrete would fit all of Trump’s criteria. I’m sure Mexico would pay for it in invisible money.

    In other news, Trump said this about Senator Elizabeth Warren’s announcement that she was exploring a run for the presidency in 2020:

    […] Trump expressed excitement Monday at the prospect of running for president next year against Sen. Elizabeth Warren but told a Fox News interviewer that “you would have to ask her psychiatrist” if the Massachusetts Democrat believes she can beat him.

    Earlier Monday, Warren (D-Mass.) announced she would launch an exploratory presidential committee, making her the highest-profile entrant in what is expected to be a crowded 2020 Democratic primary field. Trump, who has regularly targeted Warren for criticism and ridicule, salivated at the possibility that she might win the Democratic nomination.

    “We’ll see how she does. I wish her well, I hope she does well, I’d love to run against her,” the president told Fox News in an interview during the network’s New Year’s Eve coverage.

    Asked if he believes Warren thinks she can unseat him, Trump replied, “well, that I don’t know. You’d have to ask her psychiatrist.” […]


  7. says

    From the lost comments:

    New Year’s message from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un:

    If the United States takes sincere measures and corresponding action to our leading and pre-emptive efforts, then (U.S.-North Korea) relations will advance at a fast and excellent pace through the process of implementing (such) definite and groundbreaking measures.

    It is the unwavering position of our party and the republic’s government and my firm will that the two countries as declared in the June 12 joint statement … take steps to establish a permanent and stable peace regime and push toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Therefore, we have already declared domestically and internationally and took various actions showing our commitment that we will no further create or test nuclear weapons and will not use or spread them.

    From commentary by The Associated Press:

    […] However, he said the North will be forced to take a different path if the United States “continues to break its promises and misjudges the patience of our people by unilaterally demanding certain things and pushes ahead with sanctions and pressure.”

    Kim also said the United States should continue to halt its joint military exercises with ally South Korea and not deploy strategic military assets to the South. He also made a nationalistic call urging for stronger inter-Korean cooperation and said the North is ready to resume operations at a jointly run factory park in the North Korean border town of Kaesong and restart South Korean tours to the North’s Diamond Mountain resort. Neither of those is possible for South Korea unless sanctions are removed.

    Some analysts say North Korea has been trying to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul while putting the larger burden of action on the United States. Pyongyang over the past months has accused Washington of failing to take corresponding measures following the North’s unilateral dismantlement of a nuclear testing ground and suspension of nuclear and long-range missile tests.

    Washington and Pyongyang are trying to arrange a second summit between Trump and Kim […]


  8. chigau (違う) says

    When the comment count reaches 500, a new page opens automatically but it is still the same thread.
    Every so often PZ opens a new thread with the same name and closes the old thread this thread is #9 in the Political Madness chain. The previous iteration is #8 and it is still open.
    Just needs some house-keeping from PZ.

  9. says

    From the lost comments:

    One result of Trump’s shutdown: piles of garbage and human waste in National Parks.

    National parks are grappling with overflowing garbage and human waste as visitors continue to arrive despite limited staffing amid a partial government shutdown, according to an Associated Press report.

    The Trump administration left many parks open to visitors even as park rangers and others who staff campgrounds have been furloughed. Officials have expressed concerns that the parks may be damaged because of the excess waste.

    “It’s so heartbreaking. There is more trash and human waste and disregard for the rules than I’ve seen in my four years living here,” Dakota Snider, who lives and works in Yosemite Valley near Yosemite National Park, told the AP. […]

    The Hill link

    Associated Press link

    Human feces, overflowing garbage, illegal off-roading and other damaging behavior in fragile areas were beginning to overwhelm some of the West’s iconic national parks, as a partial government shutdown left the areas open to visitors but with little staff on duty. […]

  10. says

    From the lost comments:

    Trump’s tweet from today indicates that the government shutdown will be prolonged:

    The Democrats, much as I suspected, have allocated no money for a new Wall. So imaginative! The problem is, without a Wall there can be no real Border Security – and our Country must finally have a Strong and Secure Southern Border!

    One thing has now been proven. The Democrats do not care about Open Borders and all of the crime and drugs that Open Borders bring!

    From commentary by Brett Samuels:

    Trump, who said he would be “proud” to shut down the government over wall funding in an Oval Office meeting in December, tweeted on Monday that Democrats’ offer of money for technology and equipment upgrades along the border amounted to “meaningless bells & whistles.”

    “Throughout the ages some things NEVER get better and NEVER change,” Trump tweeted. “You have Walls and you have Wheels. It was ALWAYS that way and it will ALWAYS be that way! Please explain to the Democrats that there can NEVER be a replacement for a good old fashioned WALL!”

  11. says

    From the lost comments:

    General Stanley McChrystal said:

    […] It’s important for me to work for people who I think are basically honest, who tell the truth as best they know it.
    I don’t think he [Trump] tells the truth.

    Trump’s response was to fully engage his schoolyard bully mode:

    General’ McChrystal got fired like a dog by Obama. Last assignment a total bust. Known for big, dumb mouth. Hillary lover!

    McChrystal has also criticized Trump’s decision to send troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. He did not formally endorse Hillary Clinton for president. He criticized then Vice President Joe Biden in a Rolling Stone article, after which he resigned—an outcome President Obama supported.

    Trump used the “Hillary Clinton fan” slur before. When speaking about Adm. William McRaven, the man who oversaw the mission that killed Osama Bin Laden, Trump called him a “Hillary Clinton fan.” Trump has a limited vocabulary, and a limited stock of insults.

  12. says

    From the lost comments:

    Trump: I’m Not Flip-Flopping!!! 100 Percent Concrete Wall! … sort of. … mostly … maybe … kind of.

    Talking Points Memo link.

    […] “An all concrete Wall was NEVER ABANDONED,” tweeted Trump, whose demand for congressional funding to construct one has caused a budgetary standoff. “Some areas will be all concrete but the experts at Border Patrol prefer a Wall that is see through (thereby making it possible to see what is happening on both sides).”

    Trump’s comments on Monday came after officials, including his departing chief of staff, indicated that the president’s signature campaign pledge to build the wall would not be fulfilled as advertised. […]

    White House chief of staff John Kelly told the Los Angeles Times in an interview published Sunday that Trump abandoned the notion of “a solid concrete wall early on in the administration.” […]

    Along the same lines, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway called discussion of the apparent contradiction “a silly semantic argument.”

    “There may be a wall in some places, there may be steel slats, there may be technological enhancements,” Conway told “Fox News Sunday.” […]

    Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who is close to the president, emerged from a Sunday lunch at the White House to tell reporters that “the wall has become a metaphor for border security” and referred to “a physical barrier along the border.” […]

    In August 2015 during his presidential campaign, Trump made his expectations for the border explicitly clear, […]

    “Jeb Bush just talked about my border proposal to build a ‘fence,’” he tweeted. “It’s not a fence, Jeb, it’s a WALL, and there’s a BIG difference!”

    Trump suggested as much again in a tweet on Sunday […]

    Democrats maintain that they have already presented the White House with three options to end the shutdown, none of which funds the wall, and insist that it’s Trump’s move.

    “At this point, it’s clear the White House doesn’t know what they want when it comes to border security,” said Justin Goodman, Schumer’s spokesman. “While one White House official says they’re willing to compromise, another says the president is holding firm at no less than $5 billion for the wall. Meanwhile, the president tweets blaming everyone but himself for a shutdown he called for more than 25 times.” [….]

  13. says

    From the lost comments:

    Another one of Trump’s weird lies, one that is easily proven false:

    President and Mrs. Obama built/has a ten foot Wall around their D.C. mansion/compound. I agree, totally necessary for their safety and security. The U.S. needs the same thing, slightly larger version!

    Nope, not true.

    […] “There’s a fence that goes along the front of the house, but it’s the same as the other neighbors have. It’s tastefully done,” one neighbor, who was kept anonymous, told the newspaper.

    Another neighbor also told the Post that the home is completely visible from the street.

    “There is no 10-foot wall in the front, back or sides of the house — and no wall is going up,” the neighbor said. […]

    The Hill link

    Washington Post link

    Photo available at the Washington Post link. There are some bricks, (a low brick foundation), and some open metal work in the front, with a break for the driveway. There’s also an open walkway leading to the front door.

  14. says

    Oh, good. Laura Ingraham’s radio show has been cancelled in response to an advertiser boycott.

    The world will be a better place in 2019, if for no other reason than Laura Ingraham has lost one of her platforms for hatemongering […] But before you get too excited, she’ll be replacing it with a podcast and she’s still a fixture on Fox News. Media Matters did a lengthy article on the lowlights of Ingraham’s show. If you find yourself wondering for even a moment why the [Trump followers] think like they do, here is the mother lode of their dogma, 17 years of it.

    Ingraham fawned over Donald Trump’s bigoted rhetoric on immigration; she defended his calls for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, and even argued that the ban was “not broad enough,” claiming that she would “go farther” and be “even worse than Trump.” […]

    She fearmongered about Muslim immigrants as “people who have dual loyalties … whether it’s the Quran, or the Quranic way of thinking, versus the loyalties to the United States.”

    Ingraham claimed that Trump’s assertion that Mexico is “sending rapists” is true, and stated that Mexicans “have come here to murder and rape our people.”

    She parroted Trump in claiming that “nobody has a right to be here except the people who are born here,” and said the United States should shoot deported immigrants if they try to re-enter the country. […]

    Before the 2016 election, Ingraham implied that Hillary Clinton may try to kill then-FBI Director James Comey if she won.

    Ingraham pushed a discredited conspiracy theory that a Democratic National Committee staffer was murdered for leaking the hacked 2016 DNC emails.

    After Christine Blasey Ford accused then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, Ingraham argued that “George Soros is involved” because Ford’s “social media was scrubbed.” She also claimed — without offering any evidence — that Ford’s accusations were “a left-wing conspiracy.” […]

    She accused U.S. judges of “aiding and abetting” human traffickers and drug cartels by granting due process to immigrants. […]

    The boycott of sponsors of the radio show was a direct result of the efforts of David Hogg and other student activists in the wake of the Parkland shooting […]


  15. says

    This is the last day in the White House for Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. He had planned to stay through February 28 in order to allow for an orderly transition. But then Trump finally read his resignation letter, (or had someone read it to him), and realized that Mattis was dissing him big league. Then Trump tried to fire him, having Pompeo tell Mattis to leave by the end of today.

    Here is part of Mattis’ exit memo, which was released today by the Pentagon:

    On February 1, 1865, President Lincoln sent to General Ulysses S. Grant a one sentence telegram. It read: ‘Let nothing which is transpiring, change, hinder, or delay your military movements, or plans.

    Our Department’s leadership, civilian and military, remains in the best possible hands. I am confident that each of you remains undistracted from our sworn mission to support and defend the Constitution while protecting our way of life. Our Department is proven to be at its best when the times are most difficult. So keep the faith in our country and hold fast, alongside our allies, aligned against our foes.

    It has been my high honor to serve at your side. […]

    The bolding is mine.

    Notice that there is no mention of it having been an honor to serve Trump. Mattis focused on U.S. military personnel in his exit memo.

    “Secretary Mattis prefers that today, like every day, the focus remain on the mission and those who carry it out,” said Dana White, the chief Pentagon spokeswoman.

  16. says

    John Kelly is departing as Trump’s Chief of Staff. Kelly is talking about all the things he prevented Trump from doing, which is an odd way for a chief of staff to exit the job.

    […] in an interview on Sunday, outgoing chief of staff John Kelly cast doubt on the president’s signature proposal, saying “To be honest, it’s not a wall.”

    Kelly, as head of the Department of Homeland Security and then chief of staff, has been an instrumental figure in enforcing the president’s hardline immigration policies. But he criticized the administration’s handling of those issues in an interview with the LA Times.

    As head of DHS, Kelly said he was not consulted beforehand about the administration’s disastrous Muslim ban. “I had very little opportunity to look at them,” he said. “Obviously, it brought down a greater deal of thunder on the president.”

    He also blamed then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions for the administration’s widely-condemned policy of separating migrant children from their parents along the US-Mexico border. “What happened was Jeff Sessions, he was the one that instituted the zero-tolerance process on the border that resulted in both people being detained and the family separation,” Kelly said. “He surprised us.” […]

    Kelly took credit for stopping Trump from national security decisions he viewed as reckless, such as threatening to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan. “When I first took over, he was inclined to want to withdraw from Afghanistan,” Kelly said. “He was frustrated. It was a huge decision to make…and frankly there was no system at all for a lot of reasons—palace intrigue and the rest of it—when I got there.” But after Trump announced Kelly’s departure, the president abruptly decided to pull half of US troops out of Afghanistan and all of them out of Syria, which led Defense Secretary James Mattis to resign.

    Though Kelly paints yet another picture of a dysfunctional and fractious White House, other top Trump aides have been far more critical of the president. Kelly said Trump had never ordered him to do anything illegal and, if he had, he would have resigned. But other top administration officials said that Trump had routinely attempted to circumvent the law.

    “So often, the president would say, ‘Here’s what I want to do, and here’s how I want to do it,’” former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in early December, “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.’”


    Kelly’s description of his time in the White House is, in part, self-serving. For example, Kelly helped with the policy of separating immigrant children from their parents. He said that the policy would be “a tough deterrent.”

  17. says

    Migrant children were dragged, pushed, and slapped at the Southwest Key shelter in Arizona.

    […] One surveillance video shows a male staffer dragging and pulling a boy into a room, then slapping him and pushing him against a wall. The staffer then recoils when it appears the child strikes him. The staffer then leaves the room, and the boy is seen retreating to a corner, then pounding on the window in a door to an adjacent room.

    A second video shows a female staffer hustling a child through a conference room, then dragging the child into an adjoining room because the child had lain down and tried to block the doorway with their legs. It is unclear from the edited video if the child is a boy or girl.

    As that is happening, another staffer pulls a child with extended arms into the same room. All the while, workers doing other tasks in the conference room go about their business, with one seen adjusting her ponytail.

    A third video shows a disrupted classroom setting, but the exact actions are unclear from the blurry image.

    The state agency blurred the videos to protect the privacy of the children depicted. […]

    Arizona Republic link

  18. says

    Senator Lindsey Graham met with Trump yesterday. Graham says that Trump is now in a “pause situation” regarding withdrawing troops from Syria.

    I don’t believe either man. We’ll have to wait and see what they actually do, as opposed to what they say.

    If the “pause” is true, I still don’t see how that gives clear guidance to our allies (Kurds and others), or to military leaders.

    Also, it looks like it took a few weeks of serious backlash before Trump moderated (perhaps) his intention to immediately withdraw troops after he spoke with Erdogan. Too late to keep General Mattis or Brett McGurk as part of the administration.

    For more information, see comments 359, 362, 400, 414, and 456 in the previous chapter of this thread.

  19. says

    As shutdown continues for second week, Trump demands Democrats return to DC to reach deal
    Trump continues to blame Democrats for a shutdown he caused.

    I campaigned on Border Security, which you cannot have without a strong and powerful Wall. Our Southern Border has long been an “Open Wound,” where drugs, criminals (including human traffickers) and illegals would pour into our Country. Dems should get back here an fix now!

    From theThink Progress link above:

    […] Although they controlled both chambers of Congress for nearly two years, Republican lawmakers have been unable to deliver on Trump’s demands of $5 billion in funding for a border war along the U.S.-Mexico border, one that the president vowed Mexico would fund. GOP leaders in the House and Senate, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), have been largely absent over the past week and, according to the Washington Post, Republicans haven’t organized meetings to develop a strategy to defend the president.

    GOP lawmakers have attempted over the past year to rebrand the wall as a “security fence,” in an apparent effort to make the the structure more palatable to Democrats. On Sunday, after a meeting with the president, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told reporters that the “wall has become a metaphor for border security” and that Republican lawmakers are merely pushing for a “physical barrier” that “makes sense.”

    Democratic leaders have said they support more than $1 billion in border security funding, but that they do not want any of the money to go toward building a wall.

    Despite Republican attempts to downplay the wall, Trump repeated his stubborn demands early Monday morning, tweeting that “An all concrete Wall was NEVER ABANDONED, as has been reported by the media.” […]

    The government shutdown is now in its second week.

  20. says

    Obamacare … here we go again.

    That federal Judge Reed O’Connor’s ruling striking down the Affordable Care Act—issued once the midterm election was over and just in time to screw up the last hours of open enrollment—was the shoddy work of a hyperpartisan, activist judge was clear from the get-go. That it took another two weeks for O’Connor to clarify his ruling to say that the law remains in effect pending an appeal.

    He had to issue the new ruling because he hadn’t bothered to address that two weeks ago, and recognized in his ruling that “many everyday Americans would otherwise face great uncertainty during the pendency of appeal.” […]

    Seventeen states led by Democratic attorneys general had also asked O’Connor to “clarify the ramifications of his ruling so they would be able to file an immediate appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.” […]

    One conservative, Case Western Law Professor Jonathan Adler, who was an architect of the most recent lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act and called the initial ruling “pretty bananas” is no less impressed with this new ruling to stay. “I’ve been very critical of Judge O’Connor’s severability analysis, but the standing analysis in these opinions may be even worse—and that’s saying something,” he tweeted. “I will be gobsmacked if O’Connor’s opinion survives review in the Fifth Circuit.”

    Unless all those Republicans who brought the initial challenge have a change of heart, which isn’t impossible given the drubbing Republicans got in November, this is almost certainly headed to the Supreme Court.


  21. birgerjohansson says

    If you are as grumpy as I am, you will probably enjoy the heroic angry rants by stand-up comedian Lewis Black on Youtube. Catharsis by proxy.

    Also, there is the Scottish bloke who -when summarizing the misery of Britain the last twelwe months- used the headline “2018: The year when Aretha Franklin had a better year than you had! “

  22. birgerjohansson says

    See “Frankie Boyle’s NWO 2018 review” for a hilarious summary of the misfortunes that have hit Britain the last year.
    The Tories are not quite as daft as Trump, but the infighting coupled with inept negotiating has made Brexit even worse.

  23. says

    Doesn’t surprise me at all that Trump is hesitating to pull us out of Syria and Afghanistan — since it’s the right thing to do, and sending troops to either one was wrong, obviously now that Trump’s six brain cells have caught up with what his mouth was saying, he’s hesitating.

    It’s a pity, though, because both parties are so enmeshed in the MIC that no candidate who actually gets the nod from either one would ever consider doing it, even though it combines ethical behavior with financial sense. Our political system punishes anybody who puts an end to a military quagmire and rewards people who feed one, so I was hoping Trump would do it and absorb the stigma, so this particular pair of tragedies would be resolved and nobody undeserving would get punished for doing the right thing.

    Instead, we have loyal Democrats being as bloodthirsty as Bush supporters in 2004, and people saying “we need to keep fighting to support our allies” when “our allies” means the dictator Erdogan, the vile Netanyahu, and the perennially terrible Saudi Arabia.

    It’s horrifying to realize that Trump’s actions (if not his motivations) were, at least for a little while, morally superior to his critics. Normality has reasserted itself, apparently, though, so now his critics on the withdrawal are merely as evil as he is.

  24. says

    According to an NBC News article, Senator-elect Mitt Romney seems to be making the Republican case, (again), that Trump’s manner, tone, and way of doing things are worse than the actions Trump takes:

    Sen.-elect Mitt Romney wasted no time in the new year branding himself as a Senate maverick and a foe of President Donald Trump, saying in a blistering New Year’s Day essay that after nearly two years in the White House “the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.”

    Romney, just two days from being sworn in as the junior Republican Senator from Utah, wrote in the Washington Post that Trump’s most glaring failure has been his inability to unite a “nation so divided, resentful and angry.”

    “It is well known that Donald Trump was not my choice for the Republican presidential nomination,” Romney said. “After he became the nominee, I hoped his campaign would refrain from resentment and name-calling. It did not.”

    I agree that Trump has a hard time doing even the right thing right.

    However, I agree with Steve Benen that Romney’s op-ed:

    […] takes issue with Trump’s tone, tweets, and temperament, while glossing over the president’s corruption, mismanagement, and misguided policy efforts.

    Romney clearly disapproves of Trump’s character, which is understandable, but it’s also an incomplete critique.

    For another, I’m not sure after having read his Washington Post op-ed what, exactly, Romney intends to do about his concerns. He wrote, “I will speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions.” That suggests Romney will be busy, but just as importantly, “speaking out” is of limited practical utility.

    Finally, I’m not altogether sure what the point of Romney’s op-ed is. […]

    Is this about 2020? Does Romney want to be positioned to lead Republicans in the event Trump’s many scandals bring his presidency to a premature end?

    Trump has already responded to Romney. He responded in a way that bolstered some of the points Romney made:

    Here we go with Mitt Romney, but so fast! Question will be, is he a Flake? I hope not. Would much prefer that Mitt focus on Border Security and so many other things where he can be helpful. I won big, and he didn’t. He should be happy for all Republicans. Be a TEAM player & WIN!

  25. says

    Trump’s meandering policy in Syria drifts deeper into incoherence.

    In mid-December, Trump said this:

    It is time to come back. They’re getting ready. You’re going to see them soon … our boys, our young women, our men, they’re all coming back. And they are coming back now.

    Now he has backed off a bit:

    […] Trump has agreed to give the military about four months to withdraw the 2,000 United States troops in Syria, administration officials said on Monday, backtracking from his abrupt order two weeks ago that the military pull out within 30 days.

    Mr. Trump confirmed on Twitter that troops would “slowly” be withdrawn, but complained that he got little credit for the move after a fresh round of criticism from retired Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal and reports from the departing White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, himself a retired Marine general, about the president’s impulsive decision-making.

    About Lindsey Graham’s influence, or lack thereof:

    President Trump has agreed to give the military about four months to withdraw the 2,000 United States troops in Syria, administration officials said on Monday, backtracking from his abrupt order two weeks ago that the military pull out within 30 days.

    Mr. Trump confirmed on Twitter that troops would “slowly” be withdrawn, but complained that he got little credit for the move after a fresh round of criticism from retired Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal and reports from the departing White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, himself a retired Marine general, about the president’s impulsive decision-making.

    This came after Trump publicly mocked Graham for opposing the immediate withdrawal of troops. I don’t know if we really have a “pause” or not.

  26. says

    W. Sam Patten’s case may not be so minor after all.

    A mystery filing in the case of W. Sam Patten, the D.C. lobbyist who pleaded guilty to acting as an unregistered foreign agent in August, adds a curious wrinkle to what has generally been regarded as a relatively minor case.

    On New Year’s Eve, prosecutors moved to keep a routine status update in Patten’s case entirely under wraps. The joint status reports filed after plea agreements but before sentencing have typically included a broad reference to the defendant’s ongoing cooperation.

    The fact that Patten’s status report is entirely under seal could suggest that Patten, who has been seen as a more marginal figure in the foreign lobbying world, may in fact have more value to prosecutors, including special counsel Robert Mueller, than previously realized – or that a problem has developed with his cooperation.

    In pleading guilty, Patten admitted that he helped a Ukrainian oligarch attend the Trump inauguration by illegally using a straw donor to purchase a $50,000 ticket to the event. The plea agreement required Patten to cooperate with the DC U.S. attorney’s office, Mueller’s office, and other law enforcement agencies.

    Patten’s Ukrainian client – Serhiy Lovochkin – was the same politico who prosecutors said was Paul Manafort’s main paymaster during his time in Ukraine. Patten worked with alleged Russian spy Konstantin Kilimnik as well, who was charged with witness tampering in the separate Manafort case in June. […]

    Talking Points Memo link

    Ah, yes, all of the Russian contacts are connected, like a web, with many of the Trump campaign personnel or Trump supporters. Note the mention of various oligarchs whose names we’ve heard before, and the mention of Paul Manafort.

  27. says

    Followup to comment 28.

    From the readers comments:

    […] Patten was involved in a scheme to funnel foreign money into the Trump Inaugural Fund (slush fund) which was run by Tom Barrack and Rick Gates.

    As the collusion track was being executed by Russia in coordination with the Trump campaign (and perhaps a separate track run by Saudi Arabian and Israeli interests) plans were being made to pitch Trump on policy change wish lists in exchange for financial contributions (read: bribes).

    Patten is tied to Konstantin Kilimnick and the same circle of pro-Russian Ukrainians and Russians with a deep interest in Ukraine and ties to the Kremlin.

    In the Patten case, the policy change wish list would’ve included sanctions removal, with possible links to the Flynn promoted nuclear energy plan for the Middle East, an acceptance of the ‘Ukraine Peace Plan’ which would in effect give US recognition to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, positioning on NATO, and possibly Syria.

    All of these moves would change the global balance of power in favor of Russia and diminish the western coalition. All of this was purported to be executed through a simple pay to play scheme. Patten brought the pay and asked, on behalf of clients, to play.

  28. says

    Looks like another court battle will soon be coming Trump’s way:

    FBI agents and investigators with the New Jersey attorney general’s office are looking into potential immigration violations at […] Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey […]

    Anibal Romero, represents several current and former Bedminster employees including Victorina Morales and Sandra Diaz, who came forward in the New York Times recently as having been hired by Trump’s club despite being undocumented. Diaz, who now has legal status in the United States, is no longer employed by the club. Morales is still employed at Bedminster but has stopped going to work […]

    Romero told the Daily News he’d handed over fraudulent green cards and Social Security numbers — which he says were procured for his clients by Bedminster supervisors — to investigators from the New Jersey attorney general’s office, and that he’d met with FBI agents in New Jersey after initially reaching out to special counsel Robert Mueller. […]

    “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,” Morales told the Times when she came forward as an undocumented Trump employee early last month. “We sweat it out to attend to his every need and have to put up with his humiliation.”


    Trump’s immigration law violations at properties he owns should weaken his standing to comment on immigration law.

  29. says

    Republican National Committee members are looking for ways to protect Trump during the primary process. To me, this sounds like a very bad, and possibly anti-democracy move.

    […] RNC committeeman Jevon Williams sounded the alarm in a mass email. “Unfortunately, loopholes in the rules governing the 2020 re-nomination campaign are enabling these so-called Republicans to flirt with the possibility of contested primaries and caucuses,” Williams wrote.

    “While President Trump would win re-nomination it wouldn’t come quick and it wouldn’t be inexpensive. Any contested re-nomination campaign—even a forlorn hope—would only help Democrats,” he continued. “Accordingly, I am asking for your support to take the unprecedented step of amending the rules to close loopholes in the re-nomination campaign…” […]

    This is not the first time RNC members have toyed with the idea of manipulating the primary process to give Trump a buffer. […]


    It also sounds like the RNC is afraid that challengers to Trump will cost them money.

    From the readers comments:

    Someone in the media needs to ask Trump straight out if he needs protection from a primary challenger. And couch it in schoolyard terms he will understand.
    I suppose if the RNC is unsuccessful in amending the rules they could always fall back on help from the Russians to clear Trump’s path to renomination.
    I look forward to the spectacle of the Republicans ratfucking their own primaries.
    Seriously shades of Munich 1933
    Not even remotely interested in democracy , even in their own party.
    Protect him from what? Better qualified candidates who would be better at the job?
    Aren’t those “loopholes” known as the democratic process?

  30. says

    Team Trump is cozying up to far-right autocrats … again.

    Pompeo attends the inauguration of Brazil’s anti-migrant, homophobic president.

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday attended the inauguration of Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro. Pompeo joined other populist leaders, including Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, in optics that only further support the notion that the United States is running in the same circles as some of the world’s most hardline, anti-democratic circles. […]

  31. says

    U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel fired tear gas across the border into Mexico … again.

    U.S. authorities fired tear gas into Mexico during the first hours of the new year to repel about 150 migrants who tried to breach the border fence in Tijuana.

    U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement later Tuesday that the gas was used to target rock throwers apart from the migrants who were trying to cross. […]

    An Associated Press photographer saw at least three volleys of gas launched onto the Mexican side of the border near Tijuana’s beach that affected the migrants, including women and children, as well as journalists. The AP saw rocks thrown only after U.S. agents fired the tear gas.

    The agency said agents saw “toddler sized children” being passed over concertina wire with difficulty. It said its agents could not assist the children because of the rocks being thrown. Agents responded with smoke, pepper spray and tear gas, it said. The AP journalist also saw plastic pellets fired by U.S. agents. […]

    Politico link

  32. says

    Trump hosted a meeting with congressional leaders and Cabinet members today. Here is some of what he said:

    The United States needs a physical barrier. It needs a wall. […]

    We are in a shutdown because Democrats refuse to fund border security. […]

    Cabinet members and others praised Trump during a sort of round robin of sucking up to Trump. Here is one example:

    Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker praised the president for “giving up” his holiday vacation “while some members of Congress went on vacation.”

    Trump later said his job would be “a lot easier if I just relaxed and enjoyed the presidency like a lot of other people have done.”

  33. says

    Followup to comment 34.

    Another detail from today’s cabinet meeting at the White House … a Game of Thrones poster:

    […] Trump on Wednesday appeared with a poster inspired by the book-series-turned-HBO show “Game of Thrones” during a Cabinet meeting at the White House.

    The unusual prop, which features a photo of Trump behind the phrase “Sanctions Are Coming,” lay in front of the president on top of a table inside the Roosevelt Room, where Cabinet secretaries were seated. […]

    You can see the poster here:

  34. says

    Followup to comments 34 and 35.

    Here are some more of Trump’s incoherent statements:

    Mexico is paying for the Wall through the new USMCA Trade Deal. Much of the Wall has already been fully renovated or built. We have done a lot of work. $5.6 Billion Dollars that House has approved is very little in comparison to the benefits of National Security. Quick payback!

    Fact-checking from Vox:

    […] if the wall is already largely built and the border is secure, then why drag out a government shutdown for the funding? […]

    the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement has not even been approved by Congress, and even if it is, it will not result in Mexico paying for the wall. Meanwhile, Trump is demanding American taxpayers foot the bill.

    It is also not true that “Much of the Wall has already been fully renovated or built.” While prototypes for the wall have been commissioned by the Department of Homeland Security, an omnibus spending bill Trump signed last March contained $1.6 billion for border security measures. That money was only available for fencing and improvement to existing barriers — not to build the wall prototypes that Trump made a big show of inspecting that same month. Congress in fact hasn’t appropriated a cent directly for Trump’s wall.

    The construction status of the wall isn’t the only respect in which Trump’s messaging about border security has been incoherent. He wants you to believe that the southern border is now secured because of his tough measures. But he also wants you to believe the same border is in crisis and requires the construction of an expensive border wall to secure it. […]

    On December 11, Trump claimed that: “Our Southern Border is now secure and will remain that way.”

  35. says

    Followup to comment 27.

    While answering questions from the press after his cabinet meeting today, Trump said that he didn’t know where that “four months” came from because he didn’t say that.

    The concept of a four-month period of withdrawal from Syria came from Trump administration officials.

    So, yeah, even more incoherence surrounding Trump’s plans and/or policies concerning Syria.

    In other news, or rather non-news, Trump did not provide any specifics about what kind of deal he wants to end the shutdown. He kept saying that he needs the wall, that even the Vatican has a wall, etc., but he would not answer questions about specific funding he would accept, nor about specific “border security” measures he would accept. He’s in a fight and he has no specific plans whatsoever.

  36. says

    Yeah, that rings true. Trump’s go-to interval of time to proffer in order to blow off questions is usually “a couple of weeks” or “a couple of months.”

  37. says

    Followup to comment 17.

    More details concerning the interview Kelly gave that marked the end of his tenure as White House Chief of Staff:

    In the phone interview Friday, Kelly defended his rocky tenure, arguing that it is best measured by what the president did not do when Kelly was at his side. […]

    Kelly’s supporters say he stepped in to block or divert the president on dozens of matters large and small. They credit him, in part, for persuading Trump not to pull U.S. forces out of South Korea, or withdraw from NATO, as he had threatened.

    Analysis from Steve Benen:

    […] I’m not contesting the accuracy of the argument, especially as it relates to this White House. In fact, I have no doubts that John Kelly has had to intervene, on multiple occasions, to stop Trump from making genuinely dangerous decisions.

    The trouble, however, is seeing this as some kind of positive development, deserving of praise. At its core, the question is one over standards: where should the bar for governmental success be set?

    Parents with unruly children don’t generally brag, “I stopped my kids from setting our home on fire. Where’s my Parent of the Year award?” Similarly, White House officials who managed to hide the matches from Donald Trump aren’t in a position to credibly argue that they’ve accomplished something impressive.


    The argument being made is that things could have been even worse. Things are bad as is. In my opinion, Trump advisors and Republicans in Congress should have done a lot more to slow Trump’s roll.

  38. says

    Trump publicly trashed General Mattis today.

    Trump claimed that he had “essentially fired” former Defense Secretary James Mattis, but in fact, Mattis resigned.

    During the Cabinet meeting today, Trump also said:

    What’s he done for me? How has he done in Afghanistan? Not too good. Not too good. I’m not happy with what he’s done in Afghanistan.

    Trump also said:

    I would have been a great general

    Trump blustered and rambled and bloviated. He repeated talking points that have been proven false. He said things that made no sense. He lied. He talked out of his ass during a long monologue. He even bothered to criticize Obamacare some more.

    Another choice bit:

    Russia used to be the Soviet Union. Afghanistan made it Russia because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan. Russia.

    He followed that statement with his approval of the fact that the Soviets invaded Afghanistan.

    Trump said that the shutdown could be “long” or “short.”

    “I think what we saw right there was the stream of consciousness from man who hasn’t talked to anybody in a few weeks,” [Katy Tur, MSNBC host, said.]

  39. says

    One of the many lies Trump told today, (followed by fact-checking):

    We had a deal pretty close to being done, and a lot of people say I backed away from that deal. I didn’t back away. The minute the judge overruled the case and they allowed DACA, they didn’t talk to us — and I don’t blame them — they didn’t answer the calls.

    Glen Kessler of the Washington Post fact-checked Trump’s bullshit:

    […] Kessler noted that Trump, bowing to pressure from immigration hard-liners, backed out of an earlier September 2017 deal with Democrats on DACA, and that this occurred long before the 9th Circuit ruled on the matter. Trump’s earlier retreat also occurred before the three district court judges ruled to block the Trump administration’s phaseout of DACA.

  40. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    There will come a point where defending Trumplethinskin will simply be too costly to the reputation of any serious politician or bureaucrat, regardless of how large a tax cut he will sign or how many idiots he can get confirmed to the judiciary.

    We are already at the point where opportunists like Kelly will try to make that turd on their CV look as shiny as possible.

    The thing is that no one actually likes Trump. His mail-order bride barely tolerates him. His children are trying to stay in his good graces long enough to remain in his will. He has no real friends, no real relationships. If he weren’t the pulsing heart of evil, I’d feel sorry for him.

  41. DanDare says

    Has anyone else been keeping an eye on Civil?

    Its an attempt to create a distributed online news room system with journalistic ethics built into its constitution while somehow making money for journalists and newsroom staff.

  42. says

    a_ray in comment 42:

    The thing is that no one actually likes Trump.

    That may be true, but as Trump gets rid of people who tolerated him as much as they could, (like General Mattis and Jeff Sessions), Trump replaces those people which utter suckups, who pretend to love Trump. Trump doesn’t know that no one likes him.

    The expert yes-men and lackeys make Trump think that someone likes him. Trump replaced Jeff Sessions with Matt Whitaker. Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker gave a performance today at the Cabinet meeting that I could not believe. And I’m used to watching people grovel before Trump while praising him with purple prose.

    You’ve got to see it.

    Acting AG Whitaker kisses up to Trump for staying in DC over the holidays: “Sir, Mr President, I will start by highlighting the fact you stayed in DC over the holidays, giving up Christmas with your family, New Year’s with your family, trying to bring an end to this shutdown […] While some members of Congress went on vacation and ignored the problem you have demonstrated your dedication to delivering on this critical issue. But Congress has to act! They have to fund the wall!” Watch the video. Whitaker goes on and on. No integrity is in evidence. It’s hilarious, but also effing scary. That’s the Acting Attorney General.

  43. says

    Trump indulges in yet another narcissistic fantasy:

    People see that gasoline is way down. And the reason it’s way down is because I called up some of the OPEC people. I say, “Don’t do it.” You know, if you look back a few months, gasoline was at $83 a barrel. That was going to be bad. And it was going to $100, and some people were saying $125, [Energy Secretary Rick Perry].

    And I make calls. I said, “You better let that oil and that gasoline flow.” And they did. And now it’s down to $44. And I put out a social media statement yesterday; I said, ‘Do you think it’s luck that that happens?’ It’s not luck. It’s not luck.

    Analysis from Steve Benen:

    […] Gas prices steadily increased for nearly two years, at which point Trump … made some stern phone calls. Oil producers, awestruck by the American president’s awesomeness and force of will, increased production and scrambled to make Donald Trump happy.

    It’s a nice fantasy for the White House, but it doesn’t reflect reality in any meaningful way.

    Vox recently published a good piece taking a closer look at the recent drop in gas prices.

    As the Wall Street Journal’s Sarah McFarlane and Pat Minczeski laid out on Tuesday, there are a number of factors at play. The global supply of oil is outpacing demand right now, oil inventories (basically, the amount of oil in storage) are on the rise, and the US is increasing how much oil it’s pumping. There’s also more Iranian oil in the market than expected, and Russia and Saudi Arabia have been ramping up production as well.

    Most of that has nothing to do with President Trump. Some of it does, but not exactly in a positive way.

    The main Trump-related factor is, perhaps surprisingly, Iran.

    […] the Trump administration has approved waivers that allowed Iran to export oil, at least temporarily. The result is a greater supply for the international market, which in turn has helped push prices lower.

    Ashley Petersen, a senior oil market analyst at the energy advisory firm Stratas Advisors, told Vox, “You could say he helped lower oil prices, but he did it by being weaker than expected on a country he’s labeled as an enemy of America and by potentially derailing economic growth through a trade war with China. Not exactly bragging points.” […]

    When they [gas prices] climb anew, won’t everyone simply ask why Trump can’t fix it with another round of stern phone calls?

  44. says

    Trump disrespected India during his Cabinet meeting yesterday:

    I get along very well with India and Prime Minister Modi, but he’s constantly telling me he built a library in Afghanistan. Okay, a library. That’s like — you know what that is? That’s like 5 hours of what we’ve spent. And he tells it. And he’s very smart. And we’re supposed to say, “Oh, thank you for the library.” I don’t know who’s using it in Afghanistan.

    Here is how Trump’s comments were covered in the India Times:

    India has asserted that its projects worth $3 bn in Afghanistan speaks for itself and has regretted the ignorance of American officials after President Donald Trump mocked PM Narendra Modi over the utility of Delhi sponsored “library” in the landlocked country. […]

    It was unclear which project Trump was referring to, but India has committed $3 billion in assistance to Afghanistan since 2001. An Afghan civil society member Parwiz Kawa said that Trump may have confused the Parliament building with the library. […]

    “India has helped to build Parliament, if that is what he is referring to or Salma Dam, transmission lines, roads and over 400 high-impact community development projects. Delhi is probably third or fourth largest single country donor,” sources said, adding it appears that the US President’s statement is a matter of poor briefing by officials around him. […]

    A long list of investments that India made in Afghanistan was included in the article. A library was not on the list.

  45. says

    Trump told Schumer he would “look foolish” if he accepted a deal offered by the Democrats to reopen the federal government agencies that are currently shut down.

    […] Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) repeatedly asked the President why he wouldn’t accept a deal from Democrats to reopen the government while both sides negotiate on funding for the border wall. President Trump demurred before finally admitting he would “look foolish” if he compromised.

    According to a person familiar with the exchange who spoke to CNN, Democrats explained their proposal to Trump — which would fund the government, including the Department of Homeland Security, temporarily while both sides continue to negotiate — and Schumer persistently pressed Trump on why he opposed the plan.

    “I would look foolish if I did that,” Trump finally responded, according to CNN’s source. […]

    Trump, you dunderhead, you already look foolish.

    You look and sound foolish when you say things like this:

    I was in the White House all by myself for six, seven days, it was very lonely. My family was down in Florida. They were all, I said, “Stay there and enjoy yourself.”

    But I felt I should be here just in case people wanted to come to negotiate the border security.

    I was hoping that maybe somebody would come back and negotiate […]

    You looked like you didn’t know how to negotiate, nor how to govern when the Senate passed a bill unanimously to keep the government open, (a bill you had previously agreed to sign), and then you rejected the whole thing on the basis of criticism from Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh.

    You looked foolish sitting around in the White House without reaching out to Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer by phone over the holidays.

    You looked foolish when Senators and other congressional personnel went home for the holidays and you expected them all to come around to your house.

  46. says

    Trump expounded on Soviet foreign policy toward Afghanistan in the 1970s:

    Russia used to be the Soviet Union. Afghanistan made it Russia because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan, Russia…. The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia, they were right to be there. The problem is it was a tough fight and literally they went bankrupt. They went into being called Russia again as opposed to the Soviet Union. You know a lot of these places you are reading about now are no longer a part of Russia because of Afghanistan.

    The New Yorker’s Susan Glasser said, “That sound you hear is historians, everywhere, weeping.”

    Analysis from Steve Benen:

    […] the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan 40 years ago was broadly condemned by the American mainstream and the West. […]

    […] where, exactly, did Trump get this bogus history lesson?

    Rachel noted on the show last night, “Somebody has apparently given President Trump the old Soviet Union talking points on why that invasion was an awesome idea. And so, President Trump decided to wheel out those Soviet era talking points for the cameras in front of his somewhat bewildered cabinet today.” […]

    It seems unlikely Trump read it somewhere, since he’s not much of a reader, and it’s implausible to think he’d deliberately brush up on Middle East history from the 1970s. It seems even less likely that he heard this from someone on his staff, since the president’s aides generally don’t encourage him to believe Soviet propaganda. He probably didn’t get this from conservative media, since Fox News doesn’t devote much airtime to covering Soviet foreign policy from the Carter era.

    So who put this nonsense in Trump’s head? The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler asked, “Is it possible that Trump’s remarks on Afghanistan … reflect a conversation he had with Putin?”

    […] Jon Chait added yesterday, “Meanwhile, the Russian government is moving an official resolution defending the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. (The approval is scheduled to take place next month.) Russians have previously called the invasion a tragic error, but Vladimir Putin’s regime — which regards the collapse of the Soviet Union as a world-historical tragedy — is systematically rehabilitating various Soviet crimes.”

    Yep, that’s it most likely. Trump got his bogus Afghanistan talking points from Putin.

  47. says

    Democrats took control of the House of Congress today. Nancy Pelosi was sworn in as Speaker of the House.

    Meanwhile, in the Senate Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, reintroduced his bill to force sitting presidents to release their tax returns publicly. The bill applies to presidential nominees as well.

    In the House, Representative Richard Neal, the new chair of the Ways and Means Committee, has the authority to request Trump’s tax returns the Treasury Department. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin will likely refuse that request, setting up yet another court battle.

    Here are some of the priorities that Democrats in the House are taking up:
    – end the partial government shutdown
    – pass House Resolution 1, a package that contains a lot of measures that reflect a focus on campaign finance reform, ethics enforcement, fighting voter suppression efforts from Republicans, etc.

    More details on House Resolution 1:

    A ban on ex-senior government officials lobbying their former co-workers in executive branch agencies on behalf of a new employer for two years after they leave government […]

    A requirement that presidential nominees disclose ten years of tax returns, which would be posted publicly by the Federal Elections Commission […]

    A requirement that political groups — including the 501(c)4 charitable organizations that commonly become vehicles for “dark money” from anonymous donors during elections — disclose the donors behind contributions over $10,000 during election cycles […]

    Public financing of elections, in which the government provides matching funds to a candidate that amplify small dollar donations […] [Elizabeth Warren promoted this legislation on Rachel Maddow’s show last night.]

    Provisions to strengthen the Voting Rights Act, and a call for nation-wide Automatic Voter Registration, […]


  48. says

    As Paul Ryan leaves his position as Speaker of the House, his favorability rating is at 12%. Seems about right.

    Nancy Pelosi’s return to power is an historic moment. She was the first female Speaker and now she is Speaker again. She asked her grandchildren and other children to join her on the podium for the actual swearing-in part of the ceremony. She prevailed, even after decades of negative ads from the Republican side painting her as some sort of evil being.

    Excerpts from her acceptance speech:

    I am particularly proud to be the woman speaker of the House of this Congress, which marks 100 years of women winning the right to vote, as we serve with more than 100 women in the House of Representatives – the highest number in history. […]

    The existential threat of our time: the climate crisis – a crisis manifested in natural disasters of epic proportions […]

  49. says

    Women being sworn in to Congress proudly wore traditional clothing:

    Representative Deb Haaland, a Democrat from New Mexico, wore a traditional Pueblo dress. She is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna tribe, and she is one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress. Representative Sharice Davids, a Democrat from Kansas, is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation.

    Representative Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat from Michigan, wore a traditional Palestinian gown — a thobe.

    Tlaib is one of the first two Muslim women to join Congress.

    Representative Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota, became the first Somali-American member of Congress. She is the first person to wear a hijab or headscarf on the floor. A religious exemption was granted from the 181-year-old rule barring hats in the chamber.

  50. says

    From Dick Durbin:

    It’s up to the president; it’s really in his hands. There’s a way to end this [to end the shutdown], the President can do it immediately. We offered to him yesterday to take the Republican-passed spending bills for eight different federal agencies and departments and to enact them today so that would be the end of the shutdown — he said no. I mean, listen to Mitch McConnell for goodness sakes. He’s waiting for a permission slip from Donald Trump to be a leader in the Senate.

  51. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Yeah, that was quite a rim job, Whitaker gave T-rump. He’s a goddamned human bidet.

  52. says

    a_ray @55, Yep. And as disgusting as that performance was, it’s even worse when you remember that Whitaker is the Acting Attorney General. He is head of a justice department that is supposed to be apolitical and independent from the Executive branch.

    Whitaker is the guy nominally now in charge of approving requests from the Mueller probe, etc.

    I never thought that I would see corruption this bad in the government of the USA.

  53. militantagnostic says

    via Lynna @

    You know, if you look back a few months, gasoline was at $83 a barrel. That was going to be bad. And it was going to $100, and some people were saying $125 … And I make calls. I said, “You better let that oil and that gasoline flow.”

    This ignorant dunderhead doesn’t know the difference between crude oil and gasoline or maybe between natural gas and gasoline. Most likely both. He is probably ignorant of the existence of oil refineries. He doesn’t know how anything works.

  54. KG says

    Amalgamation of two comments I posted on the “lost comments” thread, after Lynna rescued the others!

    So, in the YooKay the New Year has brought no obvious change. May is still threatening to torch the economy if MPs reject her Brexit deal, Corbyn still has his head just as far up his arse, and the government has contracted a company which owns no ships to make emergency deliveries from continental Europe in the event of a no-deal Brexit, while screaming about the threat posed by a handful of desperate people crossing the Channel in small boats to claim asylum.

    Oh – and the police have still failed to catch anyone who was flying an unauthorised drone near Gatwick Airport, or produce any video evidence that there ever was such a drone.

  55. KG says

    we have loyal Democrats being as bloodthirsty as Bush supporters in 2004, and people saying “we need to keep fighting to support our allies” when “our allies” means the dictator Erdogan, the vile Netanyahu, and the perennially terrible Saudi Arabia. – The Vicar@24

    A typically mendacious (or just possibly, ignorant and stupid) comment from The Vicar. Erdoğan is of course delighted by Trump’s intended withdrawal, as it gives him the green light to invade the areas of Syria under the control of the SDF and kill him a lot of Kurds.

  56. KG says

    Last night I dreamed May was going to get her Brexit deal approved by MPs. In the dream I was very disappointed, which presumably reflects my emotional response. In reality, my rational reaction is more mixed, as the default if she doesn’t is the YooKay crashing out of the EU without a deal, which could cause immediate serious shortages, and would be used to justify slashing public services and probably a “national security” clampdown – the Civll Contingencies Act 2004 would almost certainly be invoked. In reality it still seems very unlikely she will get her deal approved, at least at the first try, which is due the week after next. The “D”UP continue to insist on changes to the legally binding Withdrawal Agreement, which the EU has ruled out – all they will offer is warm words, and the Tory Ultras would prefer a no-deal Brexit precisely because it could be used to ratchet up austerity, and the security state. May has been trying to appeal over the heads of her MPs to the Tory Party and the general public, but without success – according to a poll I saw today, a clear majority of party members prefer no deal to May’s deal, so constituency parties won’t be pressing their MPs to fall in line.

  57. KG says

    Further to #59, the Saudis are probably OK with the American withdrawal from Syria as well, since it’s clear they are not going to be able to get rid of Assad or his Iranian backers, and Turkey dropping the issue of Mohammad bin Salman’s murder of Khashoggi is probably the other side of the deal.

  58. says

    When they were in control of the House of Congress, Republicans refused to hold hearings before crafting the legislation they offered. They wrote bills in secret, such as the “repeal and replace” bill for Obamacare, and then they failed spectacularly.

    Hearings are supposed to precede bill-writing, but I don’t think Republicans are interested in doing that kind of fact-finding and analysis, let alone taking the time to hear from experts.

    Now that Democrats are in charge of the House, they are taking the opposite approach. This is from The Washington Post:

    The new Democratic majority in the House will hold the first hearings on Medicare-for-All legislation, a longtime goal of the party’s left, after Speaker Nancy Pelosi lent her support for the process. […]

    Pelosi, who had been a co-sponsor, said throughout the 2018 campaign that Democrats were free to discuss many other health-care programs. She strongly suggested that a Democratic House would at least hold hearings on the far-reaching Jayapal bill; on Wednesday, [Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.)] got Pelosi’s commitment to hearings in the Rules and Budget committees.

    The incoming chairmen of those committees, Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), support Medicare for All, and Yarmuth had told reporters last year that he would like to use his committee for hearings on how single-payer health care could work.

    From Steve Benen:

    Despite support for a Medicare-for-All plan among Democratic voters, progressive activists have no choice but to keep their expectations in check. Even if Democratic policymakers were able to come together on such an ambitious overhaul of the existing system – an incredibly difficult task, to be sure – there’s a Republican majority in the Senate and a Republican White House.

    All of which means anything resembling a single-payer model will have to wait.

    But in the meantime, proponents of the idea can start laying the policy groundwork for future reforms. […]

    As part of the process, lawmakers will invite subject-matter experts to offer testimony and answer questions, all in the hopes of better understanding the practical implications of an idea.

    Or put another way, the U.S. House is preparing to do something we haven’t seen much of since before the 2010 midterms.

  59. says

    Followup to comment 49.

    In her show last night, Rachel Maddow expanded on the tale of Trump being suspiciously well-versed in Russian talking points.

    First segment

    Second segment, in which Trump parrots russian revisionism on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s. (This was Trump’s new mouthpiece-for-Vlad episode, the one that took place during his Cabinet meeting.)

    The first segment includes Trump spouting anti-Nato, Russian nonsense about Montenegro and about other international affairs. I had forgotten how startling it can be to hear Trump pretending to be steeped in the history and culture of countries near Russia’s border. Montenegro is about the size of Connecticut and has a population of about 1 million people. Russia didn’t want Montenegro to join Nato, so we ended up with the spectacle of spectacularly uniformed Trump claiming that “aggressive” Montenegro citizens would start world war three.

    Who is stove-piping Russian talking points into Trump’s disordered brain? He didn’t get the Afghanistan-related revisionist history from Fox News or from any other disinformation doofuses in the USA. He must of gotten it from the Kremlin. Ditto for his past nonsense about Poland invading Belarus, and about the bloodthirsty citizens of Montenegro.

    Maddow’s segments are excellent.

  60. says

    Trump sent a letter to Congress today. Here are some excerpts:

    […] Absolutely critical to border security and national security is a wall or a physical barrier that prevents entry in the first place. Members of both parties—including then Senators Obama and Clinton, current Senator Schumer, and many other members of the House and Senate—all voted for a hard, physical barrier. Walls work. That’s why rich, powerful, and successful people build them around their homes. All Americans deserve the same protection. In Israel, it is 99 percent effective. […]

    It had been my hope that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen would have the opportunity to deliver a presentation discussing the facts about the depth and severity of the humanitarian crisis and the security crisis that is now unfolding at the Southern Border. However, some of those present did not want to hear the presentation at the time, and so I have instead decided to make the presentation available to all Members of Congress. […]

    The letter reads like Stephen Miller wrote it, and it contains a list of lies about how many “illegal and inadmissible aliens” were arrested for sex crimes, etc. You can read the entire letter here.

    From the readers comments:

    The success of barriers such as a wall or fence depend on their scale and how heavily guarded they are, said Reece Jones, a political geography professor at the University of Hawai’i-Manoa and who has written about money spent on border security projects and their consequences.

    On a small scale and with many guards, walls can effectively stop movement, Jones said.

    But Israel and the United States’ southern borders are significantly different.

    The Israel-Egypt border fence is about 150 miles.

    The U.S.-Mexico border is nearly 2,000 miles.
    But the system has proved far from hermetic. Depending on the season, up to 60,000 Palestinians without work permits sneak across the barrier to work in construction, agriculture or service industries in Israel, either through gaps in the route or by utilizing the services of local smugglers. […]
    Trump is opening the door to money allocated to reinforce existing physical barriers and no special allocation to build new ‘wall’. It tells me WH aides are now pushing Trump behind the scenes to end the shutdown and are trying to find a face saving way out for him. The problem is that unless McConnell provides a tacit threat of some kind, those WH aides won’t have leverage to get him to sign on the dotted line and no one can control Stephen Miller it seems. […]
    “That’s why rich, powerful, and successful people build them around their homes.”

    I’ve been in some of these homes and I have to say the walls seem pretty shit at keeping immigrants out.

    A commentator on MSNBC’s “All In” show said that Trump needs a fig leaf big enough to cover his shame, and then he will end the government shutdown.

  61. says

    Terrible decision, and terrible optics from team Trump:

    […] Senior-level Trump administration appointees are slated to get $10,000 raises while about 800,000 federal workers don’t see a dime of their paychecks due to the shutdown.

    According to a Friday Washington Post report, Congress has renewed legislation placing a cap on pay for top government employees every year since 2013. By failing to pass legislation to keep the government funded, they allowed the current pay freeze to expire. If lawmakers don’t take action by Saturday, the accumulated raises will begin showing up on the paychecks of Cabinet secretaries, deputy secretaries and even Vice President Mike Pence.

    The Democratic-majority House included an extension of the pay freeze in a spending bills package passed Thursday night, but the Senate will likely not take it up since it omits wall funding and President Donald Trump would not sign it.


  62. says

    Followup to comments 49 and 63.

    From The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board:

    […] Right to be there? We cannot recall a more absurd misstatement of history by an American President. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan with three divisions in December 1979 to prop up a fellow communist government. […]

    Wall Street Journal link

  63. says

    Followup to comments 49, 63 and 66.

    Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani responded to Trump’s blatherings:

    After the invasion by the Soviet Union, all presidents of America not only denounced this invasion but remained supporters of this holy jihad of the Afghans.

    Acting Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, son of the high-profile anti-Soviet commander, Burhanuddin Rabbani, was far more direct, tweeting, “Soviet occupation was a grave violation of Afghanistan’s territorial integrity.”

    Then President Ronald Reagan said,

    The Soviet Union bears a grave responsibility for the continued suffering of the Afghan people, the massive violations of human right, and the international tension which has resulted from its unprovoked attack … The Afghan people will ultimately prevail.

    Rahmatullah Nabil, the former director of the Afghan spy agency tweeted:

    Mr Pres @realDonaldTrump let me make a point in a manner that appeals to you. The Soviet Union lost in AFG & US won the Cold War because of the many sacrifices that AFGs made, several million AFGs were killed or injured. The US reaped tremendous economic benefits from winning the ColdWar yet US abandoned the AFGs, we suffered fr many rs & eventually the tragedy extended to US in Sep 2001. Those that fail 2 learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it: Hopefully you are smart enough not to make the same mistake when it comes to abandoning AFG.

  64. says

    Satirical summary of Trump’s shutdown message:

    […] The border is secure. The wall has been funded and is well underway. The military, with existing resources, is building it. Mexico is paying for it. Everything was going well until Democrats, traumatized by the last shutdown, decided to stage another one. The president tried to avert this crisis, but he is a strong leader. He knows that our border is being overrun and must be sealed. That’s why he has prepared for months to close the government in order to force Congress to pay for the wall. It’s up to Democrats to end the shutdown. But the president won’t reopen the government till his demands are met. […]

    Slate link

    Much more at the link.

  65. says

    In an email message to the American people there are some typos. Trump signed the message. It’s short, and would have been easy to proofread.:

    […] In a new email message Friday to the American people, President Trump is demanding that Congress come to an “agreemnet” to end the partial government shutdown and give him his wall “immediatly.” […]

    Washington Post link

  66. says

    “Absolutely I said that.” Trump confirms that he threatened to keep the government shutdown going for months or years.

    […] “We told the president we needed the government open. He resisted. In fact, he said he’d keep the government closed for a very long period of time — months or even years,” Schumer said as he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) exited a contentious meeting with the president on the shutdown’s 14th day.

    Trump confirmed he’d said that.

    “I did. Absolutely I said that,” he said when asked about Schumer’s claim in a Rose Garden press conference […]

    On Thursday night, the Democratic-controlled House passed bills funding most of the government through September and funding the Department of Homeland Security for a month so the two sides could continue to negotiate — the same bills the GOP-controlled Senate passed unanimously at the end of December. But Trump has said he won’t accept that deal, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has made clear he won’t give the bills another vote in the new Congress.

    “We’ll continue discussing, of course, but it’s very hard to see how progress will be made unless they open up the government,” Schumer continued.

    Pelosi described the meeting as a “lengthy and sometimes contentious conversation with the president.” She said some progress had been made in the meeting — but only in the sense that the two sides understood each other’s position better and had eliminated options that one side or the other didn’t find acceptable.


  67. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Reminder, on MSNBC tonight Joy Reid is hosting a Town Hall Meeting with Speaker Nancy Pelosi as the political guest. It will be on in place of the Last Word After Rachael’s show.

  68. says

    chigau @74, I had to work on a project that earns me money. There was deadline. Multiple deadlines actually. So I worked on Saturday, and I didn’t have time to post comments to this thread.

    I don’t think it was a slow news day. With Trump and his cronies still in the White House, there’s always some form of skullduggery going on.

    Jerry Falwell Jr. recently confirmed his cult member status. He is loyal to Trump, no matter what:

    Washington POST: Is there anything President Trump could do that would endanger that support from you or other evangelical leaders?

    FALWELL: No.

    POST: That’s the shortest answer we’ve had so far.

    FALWELL: Only because I know that he only wants what’s best for this country, and I know anything he does, it may not be ideologically “conservative,” but it’s going to be what’s best for this country, and I can’t imagine him doing anything that’s not good for the country.

    So, Trump is now infallible?

    Later in the interview, Falwell said:

    Think about it. Why have Americans been able to do more to help people in need around the world than any other country in history? It’s because of free enterprise, freedom, ingenuity, entrepreneurism and wealth. A poor person never gave anyone a job. A poor person never gave anybody charity, not of any real volume. It’s just common sense to me.

  69. says

    From Josh Marshall, “The Rot Runs So Deep.”

    It seems conceivable, though highly unlikely, that there’s an innocent explanation for the National Parks Service decision to keep a small site tied to President Trump’s hotel open while everything else is closed or unstaffed.

    Assuming it is what it looks like, another example of the federal government being harnessed to the personal finances of the President, it will be just a more minor example of what we’ll learn far more about in the years to come. There is so little transparency in this administration, so much corruption that has become commonplace, that I don’t think we can really even imagine just how deep it all runs.

    Of course, budgeting a few parks rangers to main this clock tower is more a symbol of the problem than the end of the world in itself. But there’s every reason to believe that the whole country’s foreign policy is being harnessed to the President’s personal financial interests as well.

  70. says

    Followup to comment 76.

    Feds Find Money for National Park Site Tied to Trump Hotel

    Smithsonian museums are closed. There are no federal staffers to answer tourists’ questions at the Lincoln Memorial. And across the United States, national parks are cluttered with trash. Yet despite the federal government shutdown, a historic clock tower at the Trump International Hotel remained open Friday for its handful of visitors, staffed by green-clad National Park Service rangers.

    “We’re open!” one National Park Service ranger declared around lunchtime, pushing an elevator button for a lone visitor entering the site through a side entrance to ride to the top of the 315-foot-high, nearly 120-year-old clock tower.

    The Trump administration appears to have gone out of its way to keep the attraction in the federally owned building that houses the Trump hotel open and staffed with National Park Service rangers, even as other federal agencies shut all but the most essential services. […]

  71. says

    DACA recipient and recipient of a Rhodes Scholarship, Jin Park, faces a conundrum:

    The very first DACA recipient of the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship has revealed that he fears he won’t be able to return to the United States if he accepts the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study at England’s Oxford University. In an interview with the Associated Press Friday, Jin Park, 22, who graduated from Harvard University last month, explained the real risks he faces by investing in his future.

    “If I leave, there’s a very real possibility that I won’t be able to come back. That’s the biggest fear for sure,” said Park, whose family came to the U.S. from South Korea when he was 7 years old. “I haven’t really thought about what that’s going to mean if I’m not allowed back.”

    In its 2017 attack on DACA, the Trump administration rescinded the Obama-era permissions that once allowed program recipients to travel abroad for reasons such as academic study. But since the program has been upheld by the courts, Park believes that his travel should be permitted.

    The molecular and cell biology major is a longtime immigration activist: In 2015, he founded the nonprofit Higher Dreams, which helps young people with temporary immigration status navigate the college application process. Park, who grew up in Queens, was part of a campaign to push the Rhodes Scholarship within reach for DACA recipients for the first time.[…]


  72. says

    Trump lied when he claimed that “some” former presidents support his wall. Joe Biden knows the former presidents who are still alive, and he begs to differ.

    Here’s a video of Joe Biden not mincing words:

    Here is some info on other former presidents not supporting Trump’s vanity wall:

    […] […]George W. Bush, through spokesman Freddy Ford, said the Republicans have “never” discussed the Beautiful Steel Barrier.

    Bill Clinton, through his spokesman Angel Ureña, not only denies sharing wistful woulda coulda shouldas, with Trump—he admits they haven’t spoken a word to each other in almost two years, “since the inauguration.”

    Now, despite “some” meaning “an unspecified number of,” Trump does seem to be using the word as a plural, indicating at least two of the ex-presidents took Trump as their confidant. Yet we’ve only got one left: Jimmy Carter.

    Like Obama, America’s eldest living Commander in Chief did not deign to comment on the “yuge” lie; however, Carter has also spoken out against Trump in the past, and one comment in particular seems very, very appropriate in this case.

    “I think it’s well-known that the incumbent president is very careless with the truth. […]”


    Here’s what President Obama said:

    Suggesting that we can build an endless wall along our borders, and blame our challenges on immigrants — that doesn’t just run counter to our history as the world’s melting pot, it contradicts the evidence that our growth and our innovation and our dynamism has always been spurred by our ability to attract strivers from every corner of the globe.

  73. says

    From The New York Times:

    As Mr. Trump began exploring a presidential run in 2014, his political advisers landed on the idea of a border wall as a mnemonic device of sorts, a way to make sure their candidate — who hated reading from a script but loved boasting about himself and his talents as a builder — would remember to talk about getting tough on immigration, which was to be a signature issue in his nascent campaign.

    “How do we get him to continue to talk about immigration?” Sam Nunberg, one of Mr. Trump’s early political advisers, recalled telling Roger J. Stone Jr., another adviser. “We’re going to get him to talk about he’s going to build a wall.”

    So, a mnemonic aid invented for a simple-minded man … that’s why we have a government shutdown?

  74. says

    More resignations from Trump world, and this one seems to be prompted by the resignation James Mattis:

    Another day, another resignation. This time it’s the Pentagon chief of staff, Rear Adm. Kevin Sweeney, who resigned on Saturday, offering a brief statement that made no mention of the president nor provided a reason for his departure.

    “After two years in the Pentagon, I’ve decided the time is right to return to the private sector. It has been an honor to serve again alongside the men and women of the Department of Defense,” said Sweeney.

    The move comes less than a week after Department of Defense Secretary James Mattis officially handed over authority to his deputy, Patrick Shanahan, a former Boeing executive with no previous government experience prior to taking the No. 2 job at the DOD in 2017. Mattis resigned in late December after clashing with Trump over the president’s decision to withdraw troops in Syria and Afghanistan.

    Since then, the department has experienced a shakeup. On Monday, Mattis’s chief spokeswoman, Dana White, stepped down, announcing her resignation on Twitter: “I appreciate the opportunity afforded to me by this administration to serve alongside Secretary Mattis, our Service members and all the civilians who support them. It has been my honor and privilege,” White wrote. “Stay safe and God bless.”

    Her departure marked the first of what Foreign Policy suggested would likely become “a wave of resignations from Mattis’s staff,” a prediction that is now playing out.


  75. says

    Excellent tweet from Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez:

    GOP loves to insult my intelligence, yet offers *this* as their best + most seasoned opposition to my policy proposals.

    If anything, this dude is a walking argument to tax misogyny at 100% 😉

    Republicans rob everyone of the opportunity of real policy debate by resorting to this.

    The tweet is accompanied by a video excerpt in which Lou Dobbs’ guest Ed Rollins refers to sitting congresswoman @AOC as “the little girl”

  76. says

    Fox News and Trump get it wrong again:

    “‘Former @NYTimes editor Jill Abramson rips paper’s “unmistakably anti-Trump” bias,’” the president tweeted, appearing to parrot the headline of a recent Fox News story on Abramson’s book, “Merchants of Truth: The Business of News and the Fight for Facts.”

    “Ms. Abramson is 100% correct. Horrible and totally dishonest reporting on almost everything they write,” Trump continued. “Hence the term Fake News, Enemy of the People, and Opposition Party!”

    Yeah, that’s about 180 degrees from the truth:

    The ex-newsroom chief complained last week of what she argued was an inaccurate representation of her book by Fox News host Howard Kurtz in a Wednesday report headlined, “Former NY Times editor rips Trump coverage as biased.”

    Abramson told POLITICO that Kurtz took her book “totally out of context,” adding: “His article is an attempt to Foxify my book, which is full of praise for The Times and The Washington Post and their coverage of Trump.”

    I like her use of “Foxify” to describe how Fox News, (and Trump by extension), turn news into propaganda.

  77. says

    It’s not over yet: Mueller’s team was granted a six-month extension for the Washington grand jury.

    […] By law, most federal grand juries are impaneled for 18-month terms, although extensions for up to six months are routinely granted. The key grand jury used by Mueller came into existence on July 5, 2017, and would have run out Saturday without action from the court.

    Chief Judge Beryl Howell approved the extension of the investigative panel, although there was no comment by the court on why. “The chief judge confirms that grand jury 17-1 has been extended,” an aide to Howell said Friday.

    The grand jury bearing that number is known to have produced several indictments related to the Mueller probe, including charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates. The same panel has also returned indictments against 25 Russians and three Russian companies over alleged hacking and online activity related to the 2016 U.S presidential election.

    The extension of the grand jury suggests that Mueller may plan further indictments […]

    Politico link

  78. says

    Trump Prepares To Unleash Emergency Batsh*t Powers

    Donald Trump treated the press to another full-on delusional rant Friday. It was allegedly about the government shutdown (he said he doesn’t call it a shutdown, then repeatedly called it a shutdown) and how it will only end when Congress gives him WALL. Along the way, he made up even more shit than usual […]

    Trump has now gone full postmodern about WALL, which maybe is a wall, maybe is steel bollards, might could be a metaphor, and ultimately is pure steel bollocks. Maybe it’ll be a steel wall, because after all, now we have steel companies again, which we didn’t have ANY of, but we suppose they came back when Trump let Americans say “Merry Christmas” again. […]

    Trump again lied about the mayor of San Diego begging him to build WALL (not true) and said he had then built WALL near San Diego (also not true, though repair work on existing fences has been done). Then he spun out an extended weirdass fantasia about human smugglers driving cars through open desert to avoid border crossings. And no, it didn’t make a goddamn bit of sense. At least he knows which way they turn after crossing the border in cars out in the desert […]

    Honestly, we have no idea what the hell he’s talking about. Previous administrations have already put up fencing along most parts of the border vehicles can reach. But he’s very enamored of the story, so expect to hear it again and again. […]

    At one point, Trump even said that when it comes right down to it, Trump doesn’t even need to get Congressional authorization or appropriations for WALL, because he can totally just declare a national emergency for WALL:

    We can call a national emergency because of the security of the country. We can do it. I haven’t done it. I may do it. I may do it! […] We can call a national emergency and build it very quickly and it’s another way of doing it, but if we can do it through a negotiated process, we’re giving that a shot.

    He’d never threaten Democrats, he said, but sure, he’s allowed to do that. But can he, actually? […] ABC News reported that before the presser, administration sources said the White House is looking at options for repurposing money from the Department of Defense, and working out a legal framework for declaring such an emergency. […] The Defense Department has already noticed this little gem tucked away in Title 10 of the US Code:

    In the event of a declaration of war or the declaration by the President of a national emergency in accordance with the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) that requires use of the armed forces, the Secretary of Defense…may undertake military construction projects, and may authorize the Secretaries of the military departments to undertake military construction projects, not otherwise authorized by law that are necessary to support such use of the armed forces.

    Of course, as the article also notes, Trump would also get his ass sued, because for chrissakes defense appropriations are supposed to go to what Congress says they’re for, and you can’t just yell “Emergency!” and get anything you want. Not that the fine points of basic legality seem much of a priority for Trump.

    […] Trump is not a normal president, and as we’ve noted before, his immigration Obersturmbannführer, Stephen Miller, has made something of an art out of finding novel interpretations of US law to use against immigrants — all immigrants. So yes, Trump’s “call an emergency” mumbles certainly sounded crazy. But we won’t be the least bit surprised if in the next month or so, regardless of when the government shutdown ends […] we might start hearing Sean Hannity urging Trump to declare that national emergency, because after all, it’s an INVASION. […]

    Video excerpts are available at the link.

    See Daniel Dale’s Twitter feed for the full horror of Trump’s latest ranting:

  79. says

    West London

    Crouched on the pavement close by Belgrave Square,
    A tramp I saw, ill, moody, and tongue-tied:
    A babe was in her arms, and at her side
    A girl; their clothes were rags, their feet were bare.

    Some labouring men, whose work lay somewhere there,
    Passed opposite; she touched her girl, who hied
    Across, and begged, and came back satisfied.
    The rich she had let pass with frozen stare.

    Thought I: Above her state this spirit towers;
    She will not ask of aliens, but of friends,
    Of sharers in a common human fate.

    She turns from that cold succour which attends
    The unknown little from the unknowing great,
    And points us to a better time than ours.

    Matthew Arnold

    Screw Falwell and his fellow flock fuckers. Poor people know that the wealthy are the last place to find real charity. Even our government and rich people know they can bleed those with very little far more easily than they can persuade those with a nice pile to let a little of it go to someone with less.

  80. chigau (違う) says

    Lynna #75
    Sorry, I did not intend to criticise.
    I tend to use this thread as a starting point for daily news browsing.
    It was disorienting having to do my own homework.

  81. inzvanity says

    Chigau #87: WTF?? If you can’t cope with “doing your own homework”, then maybe stay off the booze until after you’ve been on the internet for the day. Sheesh.

  82. inzvanity says

    Aaaanndd…chigau is still “disoriented”, which seems to be a euphemism for drunk.

  83. says

    chigau, no need to apologize. I’m glad you find this thread useful. Kind of funny, though, you doing your own homework. :-)

    We do not like to have our routines disrupted. I don’t anyway.

    kip @86:

    Poor people know that the wealthy are the last place to find real charity.

    Too true. Good poem for the discussion.

    In other news, this is from Maine Republican Susan Collins:

    Well, I can’t speak for Senator McConnell, but I would like to see him bring the House-passed bills to the Senate floor. We could reopen much of government where there’s no dispute over issues involving certain departments like Agriculture , Transportation, Housing, Interior. Let’s get those reopened while the negotiations continue.”

    I’m not saying their whole plan is a valid plan, but I see no reason why the bills that are ready to go and on which we’ve achieved an agreement should be held hostage to this debate over border security.

    To be fair to Senator McConnell, the fact is that unless Chuck Schumer and Speaker Pelosi agree, and the President agrees to sign a bill, we can pass bills but they won’t become law. So that’s why I understand the point that Senator McConnell is making about these important negotiations that are, in fact, ongoing.

    Trump sent Mike Pence, Jared Kushner and other lackeys to “negotiate” with Congressional staffers today. Trump did not give Pence or anyone else on his team the ability to negotiate. Trump set his $5 billion-plus terms for wall money, and said “there is no bend” in his position. Trump also said he did not want to open eight other government agencies now, leaving only the Department of Homeland Security for the current debate. Trump indicated it was an all-or-nothing situation for him. So, yeah, the “negotiations” were all for show. No results were expected and none were obtained.


    The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a funding package to reopen all shut down parts of government through September except the Department of Homeland Security, for which they separately passed temporary funds to reopen the department while the debate continues over Trump’s demand for border wall funds.

    McConnell has pronounced both bills dead on arrival in the Senate without Trump’s support, but Sens. Collins and Cory Gardner (R-CO) both said the Senate should consider funding the government without Trump’s desired wall money.


    Senator McConnell is not supposed to run the Senate as an adjunct of the White House. He should pass the bills and put them on Trump’s desk.

  84. inzvanity says

    I certainly will, chigau. You do the same, and may your heart be a little lighter tomorrow, once you have gotten over your “disorientation” ahem.

  85. says

    This was kind of delightful actually. Chris Wallace fact-checked Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

    White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders attempted on Sunday to join the ranks of Trump administration officials trotting out bogus statistics in support of President Donald Trump’s border wall demands — but Fox News’ Chris Wallace was ready for it.

    “We know that roughly– nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists come into our country illegally,” Sanders told Wallace in a Sunday interview, echoing a well-rehearsed administration talking point that began with Trump’s (admittedly baseless) dog whistle that “unknown Middle Easterners” were among those traveling as refugees to the southern border.

    The claim is wrong in multiple ways: The individuals Sanders is referring to, according to DHS spokespeople, were prevented from entering the United States — many before even obtaining a visa or boarding a plane. A DHS official told TPM in October: “CBP prevented 10 known or suspected terrorists from traveling to or entering the United States every day in fiscal year 2017.”

    And while Sanders referred to “known or suspected terrorists” […] she was responding to a clip of DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen using the term “special interest aliens” (SIAs), which refers to a broad group of people specified only by their country of origin, most of whom have no connection to terrorism at all. […]

    Video available at the link.

  86. says

    Followup to comment 94.

    “We know that roughly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists come into our country illegally, and we know that our most vulnerable point of entry is southern border,” Sanders said.

    “I know the statistic, I didn’t know if you were going to use it, but I studied up on this,” Wallace interjected. “Do you know (when) those 4,000 people come where they are captured? Airports.”

    “Not always,” Sanders said, but Wallace insisted.

    “Airports. The State Department says there haven’t been any terrorists found coming across the southern border,” he said.

    Sanders responded, “It’s by air, it’s by land, it’s by sea. It’s all of the above. But one thing that you’re forgetting is, the most vulnerable point of entry that we have into this country is our southern border.”

    She was interrupted again by a terse Wallace, who insisted that the 4,000 known or suspected terrorists who have entered the country have not come across the southern border and have instead been stopped at airports.

    We are now in the third week of the government shutdown. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ dismal performance shows that team Trump is still promoting the idea that “terrorists” are coming across the southern border with absolutely no facts to back that up. The statistics they do quote are all misinterpreted and then presented in the most misleading way possible.

    For this sound and fury signifying nothing we have 800,000 federal workers going without pay, and people depending on the Supplemental Food Assistance Program facing starvation when the funding runs out (soon!). Etc.

    Some journalists reported that team trump had no idea what the shutdown would actually do, what people it would affect, or what programs would fail. They are just now beginning to figure it out.

  87. says

    Lawsuit over contaminated water in Flint, Mich. moves forward

    An appeals court ruled 2-1 that claims against several state officials can proceed.

    A lawsuit brought by residents of Flint, Mich., who for months were supplied drinking water that was dangerously lead-contaminated and bacteria-laden, can go forward, an appeals court has ruled.

    An appellate court on Friday, over the objections of some state and local officials, ruled that the federal lawsuit against the city of Flint and several Michigan state officials can proceed,. […]

    The city of Flint, arguing it is an arm of the state, claimed it should be exempt from litigation under the 11th Amendment, which grants a state immunity from being sued in federal court by individuals, but the court ruled the city does not have immunity and was acting as its own body. […]

    Newly-elected Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) signed her first executive order last week in response to the crisis in Flint, requiring state employees to immediately report any public health or safety concerns to their bosses.

  88. says

    Followup to comment 92.

    Shutdown dynamics are analyzed by Dara Lind, writing for Vox:

    […]T rump won’t commit to accepting a deal — and he can’t even commit to what, exactly, he wants to make a deal about.

    Vice President Mike Pence, who is reportedly heading the working group, has been undermined by the president as recently as this week when trying to make a deal with Democrats — when Trump shut down Pence’s offer to accept $2.6 billion in wall funding instead of $5.6 billion. […]

    The announcement of the working group is likely to fuel speculation that the White House is planning to compromise. It’s clear that someone out there is floating a trial balloon on a deal that would fund border barriers in exchange for legalizing immigrants currently protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — a proposal that has jumped from the editorial pages of major newspapers to Trump whisperers on Fox News, with both Pence and Sean Hannity opening the door to a wall-for-DACA deal on Thursday night.

    But we’ve been here before. And every time this happens, the deal falls through because of Donald Trump. […]

  89. says

    Followup to comments 17, 40, 47, 49, 63, 66 and 67. Comments 49, 63, 66 and 67 are the most relevant.

    White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney is making excuses for Trump. In a conversation with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Mulvaney largely failed:

    TAPPER: As you know, the Soviet Union did not invade Afghanistan because terrorists from Afghanistan were attacking the Soviet Union, and it is not necessarily considered by Americans or even the Soviets, now Russians, certainly not the Afghans, a good thing that they did so. Where did he get that idea from?

    MULVANEY: I think that idea is born out of frustration. The president has been — this ties into the comments and the discussions I think you and I have had about Syria as well, which is that the president promised that he would have a different Middle Eastern foreign policy. He’s just very frustrated with the slow progress in Afghanistan. And I think that was probably just a comment born in frustration. […]

    TAPPER: But you know that it’s not true that the Soviet Union didn’t invade Afghanistan because of terrorist attacks on the Soviet Union, and they — it was not a good thing that they went in there, right?

    MULVANEY: I mean, again, I think those are comments the president made born out of frustration from where we are. And I’m not too concerned about the details.

    Trump lied. Trump spread obscure, let’s-rewrite-history talking points from Putin.

    From Chuck Rosenberg, a former U.S. attorney and a former senior official at the FBI:

    I don’t mean to be an alarmist but … the president of the United States is echoing directly the line of the Kremlin on a whole bunch of things. And so, whether or not it results in an indictment, whether or not it’s something we ultimately we can see, touch, feel, and hear, this is something U.S. intelligence officials have to understand: why is the president saying what he’s saying?

  90. says

    Trump told reporters that he is in no hurry to have the Senate confirm cabinet secretaries for positions that are now vacant.

    Some analysis from Steve Benen of Trump’s let’s-not-run-a-proper-government stance:

    […] recent departures from Trump’s cabinet have created some awfully swamp-like conditions for the Republican’s cabinet. As Ryan Zinke ends his scandal-plagued tenure at the Department of the Interior, for example, his acting successor is David Bernhardt, a former oil lobbyist.

    At the Pentagon, former Secretary James Mattis’ office is now being filled by Patrick Shanahan, a former executive at a major defense contractor. At the EPA, the acting administrator is Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist. At the Justice Department, the acting attorney general is Matthew Whitaker, who shouldn’t be there for a wide variety of reasons.

    None of these people have been confirmed to lead their respective cabinet agencies, and according to the president, he’s in “no hurry” to disrupt the “flexibility” his team of “actings” currently provides him.

    If Trump wants to help us “understand” why he’s trying to govern this way, I’m all ears.

  91. says

    On December 19 Trump announced via Twitter an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. Defense Secretary James Mattis; and Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy for the coalition to defeat ISIS, (and others, such as Pentagon chief of staff, Rear Adm. Kevin Sweeney), resigned in protest.

    Just a few day later, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney confirmed Trump’s plan, saying that he would not change his mind.

    Then Trump changed his mind … or significant public criticism changed his mind. From the Wall Street Journal:

    The Trump administration won’t withdraw forces from northern Syria unless Turkey offers a firm commitment not to target the U.S.’s Kurdish allies, White House national security adviser John Bolton said Sunday.

    President Trump’s order to withdraw U.S. troops is a “cause-and-effect mission” that requires certain assurances from various players in the region before it can be executed, said Mr. Bolton, the first administration official to outline the conditions for withdrawal.

    Yesterday, Trump said this to reporters:

    We’re pulling out of Syria, but … we won’t be finally pulled out until ISIS is gone.

    Trump is now apparently in a memory hole, one in which he did not order troops out of Syria within 30 days, and one in which he did not claim that ISIS was already defeated.

    We’re going to be removing our troops; I never said we’re doing it that quickly.

    An excerpt from what Trump said in December:

    You’re going to see them soon … our boys, our young women, our men, they’re all coming back. And they are coming back now.

    Trump’s incoherence is obscuring the actual debates and plans that should be taking place around the efficacy of U.S. troop deployments in Syria. Also, questions about our Kurdish allies have not been answered. Questions about Russia’s growing influence in Syria have not been addressed.

  92. says

    Kip @100, too true. Funny, in a black-comedy kind of way.

    And here is more to add to that conclusion: Senator Lindsey Graham is blaming the shutdown, partially, on the fact that Democrats hurt Trump’s and other Republican’s feelings.

    Republicans are not going to put any offers on the table as long as people in charge of these negotiations accuse all of us who want a wall of being a racist and see our Border Patrol agents as gassing children. Until you get that crowd put to the sidelines, I don’t see anything happening.

    Why would you negotiate with someone who calls you a racist?

    I think we’ll have offers on the table when we find somebody that’s not crazy to deal with.

    Remember, Democrats in the House, under Nancy Pelosi’s guidance, have already passed bills to end the shutdown. Furthermore, they passed the same bill Republicans in the Senate passed before the shutdown, and before Trump blew everything to smithereens when Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh criticized him.

    Some things never change. Steve Benen provides a nugget of history that proves that Republicans often shut down government on the basis of hurt feelings:

    […] In 1995, in the midst of the longest government shutdown in American history, then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) publicly confessed he’d shut down the government in part because then-President Bill Clinton had seated him toward the back of Air Force One following Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral in Israel.

    “This is petty,” Gingrich acknowledged at the time. But, he added, “You’ve been on the plane for 25 hours and nobody has talked to you, and they ask you to get off the plane by the back ramp…. You just wonder, where is their sense of manners? Where is their sense of courtesy?” The Republican Speaker concluded, “It’s petty, but I think it’s human.”

    The Gingrich “cry baby” meme soon followed.

    More than a decade later, in 2008, as the global economy crashed, the House was poised to approve a rescue plan for the financial industry, but Republicans balked in the 11th hour, saying they were offended by Nancy Pelosi’s speech on the economic crisis. The top three leaders of the House Republican caucus – all of whom supported the legislation – held a press conference to say, earnestly and sincerely, that Pelosi’s “partisan” speech led at least a dozen House Republican lawmakers to vote against a package they would have otherwise supported.

    It was a stunning admission: GOP leaders effectively said their own members voted against the nation’s interests during a crisis because Nancy Pelosi had hurt their feelings. […]

    Trump is the ultimate cry baby.

    Part of the problem is that one has to suck up to Trump like Matt Whitaker if Trump’s feelings are to be assuaged. (See comments 45, 55 and 56.)

  93. says

    I’m sure Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is hurting Trump’s feelings:

    Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said in an interview aired Sunday that there is “no question” […] Trump is a racist.

    “The President certainly didn’t invent racism, but he’s certainly given a voice to it, and expanded it, and created a platform for those things,” the newly sworn-in congresswoman told “60 Minutes’” Anderson Cooper.

    “Do you believe President Trump is a racist?” Cooper asked.

    “Yeah, yeah, no question,” Ocasio-Cortez responded.

    Cooper asked how she could “say that?” […]

    “When you look at the words that he uses, which are historic dog whistles of white supremacy, when you look at how he reacted to the Charlottesville incident, where neo-Nazis murdered a woman, versus how he manufactures crises like immigrants seeking legal refuge on our borders, it’s night and day,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

    “60 Minutes” reported that a White House spokesperson called the congresswoman’s response “sheer ignorance” and added: “President Trump supported and passed historic criminal justice reform and has repeatedly condemned racism and bigotry in all forms.”


    Yeah, Trump claims fairly frequently that he is the “least racist person you know,” but then he acts in ways that are definitely racist. Methinks he doth protest too much. Frequently, he also says things that are blatantly racist.

  94. says

    Followup to comment 92.

    During the so-called “negotiations” over the shutdown, team Trump asked for even more money:

    […] That Pence, whom Trump has already cut off at the knees as a negotiator, is meeting not with members of Congress, but with staff shows just how dug-in Individual 1 is on continuing this shutdown.

    So is the fact that they’re upping Trump’s demands. They’ve gone from $5 billion for the wall to $5.6 billion and now to $5.7 billion, “for construction of a steel barrier for the Southwest border,” and then tacked on “an additional $800 million to address urgent humanitarian needs” and unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the border.

    They provided no information, says a Democratic official, “about how the money would be used or why the request is for so much more than the administration sought only a few months ago.” Their concession to Democrats is to make the wall out of steel rather than concrete.

    Meanwhile, the sheer incompetence of the Trump administration is becoming clear. The Department of Housing and Urban Development is scrambling to keep thousands of people from being evicted after it was caught up short by the expiration of one HUD program on January 1. It didn’t know that this program was expiring and that it wouldn’t be able to renew it in a shutdown. HUD spokesman Jereon Brown says that budget and contract staff are now “scouring for money” to try to meet the contracts on an interim basis.

    IRS and Treasury are trying to figure out how they’re going to send out tax refunds in the next months, and the Interior Department is potentially breaking the law by diverting funds from one program in the National Park Service to keep the parks open and safe and save them from vandalism. At least seven people have died in the unstaffed national parks since the shutdown began, “including a man at Yosemite National Park who illegally brought his dog on a trail and subsequently fell.”

    All because Trump’s weak brain and outsized ego were manipulated by Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and the Freedom Caucus […] And because Mitch McConnell refuses to bring that same bill he passed last month and that the House passed last week back to the floor.


    “Their concession to Democrats is to make the wall out of steel rather than concrete.” That’s not a concession.

  95. says

    How the government shutdown is making the U.S. immigration system even worse

    “The irony is not lost on us that immigration court is shut down over immigration.”

    […] While cases for immigrants in government custody are proceeding, immigration courts are not holding hearings for non-detained immigrants during the shutdown, meaning immigrants re-authorizing work visas, applying for permanent residency, or contesting government charges on deportability are in a precarious situation.

    Missing even a single day of hearings could add hundreds to the current backlog of 800,000 cases — over a million if you include the ones the U.S. Attorney General wants on the docket.

    “If I were to walk into court asking for a final decision before the the shutdown even happened, I would have to wait until 2021,” Ava Benach, an immigration attorney at Benach Collopy told ThinkProgress in an interview. “I have a client who was supposed to have a hearing on January 3 where we were going to resolve a number of issues and create a plan going forward, and now who knows when that will happen?” […]

    Claimants could lose witnesses or the evidence could get stale. A child could turn 21 between when the government shutdown and when it re-open, resulting the parent to lose their claim. For a simple adjustment of status, like a green card, the individual must submit a medical exam as part of the application. Those medical exams expire after a year. There are also people who, because of the shutdown, will have to resubmit a new medical exam or update their tax returns. […]

    Incompetence and ignorance run amok.

  96. says

    Please, no. This is going to be a propaganda show. Trump is going to the U.S.-Mexico border on Thursday.

    […] Trump will travel to the U.S.-Mexico border this week amid a partial government shutdown triggered by his demand for wall funding […]

    White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump will “meet with those on the frontlines” of what the administration is calling “the national security and humanitarian crisis” at the southwest border. […]


    From the reader’s comments:

    Cheap photo-op by using taxpayer dollars… Sick and tired of him.
    Is he picking up a check from Mexico?

    This will result in more free TV time for Hair Furor. With the cameras on him, Hair Furor will lie, bloviate and make things worse than they already are.

  97. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Senator Lindsey “No, I’m not closeted and no I’m not racist” Graham: “Why would you negotiate with someone who calls you a racist?”

    Isn’t it funny that these guys think being called a racist is so much worse that actually being a racist?

  98. says

    a_ray @107, good point.

    In another instance of thinking what you call something, thinking that the label matters more that what you do, Trump is rebranding the shutdown as a “strike.” Total dunderheaded move. Fool.

    Mr. Trump opened Friday’s meeting with lawmakers with a 15-minute profanity-laced rant about impeachment, according to people familiar with the meeting. Mr. Trump also told lawmakers he didn’t like the word shutdown and preferred the word “strike,” one of the people said.

    Text above is from the Wall Street Journal.

    From the Daily Beast:

    Many of the federal employees affected by the weeks-long shutdown have been working without pay. That is essentially the opposite of a strike.

    Steve Benen pointed out that Trump often tries to make his bad moves look good by rebranding them:

    […] the first president with a professional branding background got the ball rolling soon after taking office, insisting that we stop calling Trump’s Muslim ban a “ban.”

    […] some Department of Health and Human Services officials received guidance telling them to use “Obamacare” instead of the Affordable Care Act, and to use “exchanges” instead of “marketplaces.” Around the same time, certain State Department documents started referring to sex education as “sexual risk avoidance.”

    Trump has similarly rejected use of words and phrases such as “Dreamers” and “community colleges,” and one of his principal goals during NAFTA talks was to give the tweaked trade agreement a new name. […]

    [Trump] suggested people start referring to his “wall” as “steel slats,” as if the latter would make it more palatable to Congress.

    Why does he care so much what things are called? Apparently, Trump sees this as his way to contribute to policy debates. In February 2017, Trump boasted at a meeting with business leaders, “I’m good at branding.”

    He’s really not, and his focus on the subject isn’t helpful.

  99. says

    Bernie Sanders’ home town newspaper published an editorial asking him not to fun for president:

    Bernie Sanders should not run for president. In fact, we beg him not to.

    That is an unfavorable opinion, especially among most Vermonters and progressives who support the platform that has come to define him. But at this point, there are more things about another Sanders run at the White House that concern us than excite us.

    In this space, we have repeatedly hit the senator on where his loyalties lay: Vermont or a bigger calling? We have asked him to make a choice, which he would argue was his recent re-election to Congress. But in his previous run for the presidency, Sanders, an independent who ran for the White House as a Democrat, missed dozens of votes that likely would have helped Vermonters. […]

    We fear a Sanders run risks dividing the well-fractured Democratic Party, and could lead to another split in the 2020 presidential vote. There is too much at stake to take that gamble. If we are going to maintain a two-party system, the mandate needs to be a clear one. […]

    For us, this comes down to principle over ego. It is one thing to start a revolution, but at a certain point you need to know when to step out of the way and let others carry the water for you. […]

    More at the link.

  100. says

    This is definitely not good news. Under the reign of Education Secretary Betsy Devos, (and with Trump’s backing), regulations that help to assure the quality of education in the USA are being weakened or done away with altogether.

    The Trump administration plans to release a draft of proposals to further deregulate higher education […] The Education Department reportedly intends to reduce the responsibilities of accreditors for colleges and universities — effectively gutting consumer protections for college students.

    The department is taking aim at protections for students receiving distance education, the credit hour standard, and oversight of faculty communication with students.

    Antoinette Flores, associate director for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress, said the proposals may seem insignificant and technical, but the targeted regulations are “the building blocks for consumer protection” in higher education. […]

    “The department is saying this is all about innovation. What it’s doing is it’s making it very easy for non-accredited, unvetted institutional providers to access federal student aid money. It’s making it very easy to become an accreditor with no experience,” Flores said. […]

    One of the biggest changes that the department proposed was to get rid of the prohibition on colleges that receive federal funds outsourcing more than 50 percent of their programs to non-accredited providers. Flores said this would be like Purdue University giving all of its operations for a program to a for-profit college chain.

    “That means students could potentially be buying something and getting something else entirely and it’s not really clear who is providing the education,” she said. “They don’t really have any restrictions or oversight on these kinds of agreements so a school could outsource its programs to a coding boot camp that the federal government, states, and accreditors have zero oversight of or accountability for. It’s kind of like a shell game.”

    It would also eliminate the Obama-era credit-hour definition and would let colleges and accreditors decide on how to evaluate a student’s progress. That means, for example, that schools can inflate credit hours and charge students significantly more money, something Flores said has happened in the past.

    There would also be a rewrite of the “regular and substantive interaction,” which requires distance programs, like online learning, to ensure there is “regular and substantive” instructor and student interaction. […]

    Think Progress link

  101. says


    An Arizona right-wing group sent an armed man into a church to yell at volunteers for helping migrants.

    “The guys involved appear confused about their president’s handling of asylum-seekers, and very eager to scream at somebody else about it.”


    An armed man from the confrontational right-wing group Patriot Movement Arizona barged into a Phoenix church on Saturday […]

    The church targeted Saturday by the right-wing group is reportedly helping government officials to resettle asylum-seekers pending final determinations of their immigration status. The people housed at Alfa y Omega Discipulos de Cristo are not taking sanctuary to forestall Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents from detaining and deporting them. But the PMAZ rage-spouters seen on video yelling at congregants outside the church seem confused about what’s happening inside.

    “You’re in violation of harboring! Federal law! Subsection thirteen twenty-four, A-one-A, a federal offense!” one of the protesters yells in a snippet of video posted Saturday by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Nick Martin. […]

    Much more at the link.

  102. says

    Followup to comment 79.

    Former President Jimmy Carter denied ever supporting President Donald Trump’s border wall, contradicting the current commander in chief’s claim that previous presidents confided they regret not building a physical barrier on the Mexican border.

    “I have not discussed the border wall with President Trump, and do not support him on the issue,” Carter said through a statement released Monday by the Carter Center. […]

  103. says

    Oh, no. At least she is alive and can participate on a a limited basis from home, but today we learned that for the first time ever Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be unable to attend oral arguments.

    Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said Ginsburg was working from home after undergoing surgery on Dec. 21 to remove two cancerous nodules in the lower lobe of her left lung, which were discovered incidentally during tests performed at the George Washington University hospital to diagnose and treat rib fractures she sustained in a fall on Nov. 7.

    Arberg said Ginsburg will participate in the cases using briefs, filings and transcripts of oral arguments. […]


  104. says

    Yeah, Trump is almost alone on this shutdown thing:

    […] An overwhelmingly 72 percent of registered voters in the latest The Hill-HarrisX poll said they want Trump and Congress to reach some sort of compromise, compared to just 28 percent who say that sticking to principles is more important than ending the partial shutdown.

    The poll found that while Trump’s most fervent supporters approve of refusing to bend, no other demographic group did. Even then, voters who said they “strongly approve” of Trump did so by only a slim margin of 54 percent to 46 percent.

    Voters who only somewhat approve of Trump were strongly in favor of compromise with 70 percent saying they wanted to see an accord reached while only 30 percent said they wanted policymakers to stick to principles.

    That only Trump’s most fervent backers reject compromise may be politically problematic for the president since only 21 percent of voters said they strongly approve of him.

    Among Republicans as a whole, a majority of 61 percent said they wanted a compromise while 39 percent said that staying tough was their preference. […]


  105. says

    Protecting Mueller and his special counsel investigation is back on the table.

    A bipartisan group of senators are preparing to revive legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller from being fired.

    Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) will reintroduce the legislation this week, spokespeople for Coons confirmed.

    The legislation protects Mueller, or any other special counsel, in the event he is fired by providing for an “expedited review” of the firing. If a court determines that it wasn’t for “good cause,” the special counsel would be reinstated.

    It would also codify Justice Department regulations that say only a senior department official could fire Mueller or another special counsel.

    Republican backers of the legislation have said they don’t believe President Trump will fire Mueller, who he has accused of leading a “witch hunt” against him, but that the legislation is good policy regardless of who is in the White House. […]


  106. says

    Here’s how Ocasio-Cortez’s tax comments are being misrepresented.

    We should be clear at the outset that the tax rate mentioned by freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) in an interview with “60 Minutes” was not a hard-and-fast proposal meant to be voted on in the House over the short term. Asked by interviewer Anderson Cooper what a “fair share” of taxes looked like for wealthier Americans, Ocasio-Cortez offered an example.

    “You look at our tax rates back in the ’60s and when you have a progressive tax rate system,” she said. “Your tax rate, you know, let’s say, from zero to $75,000 may be 10 percent or 15 percent, et cetera. But once you get to, like, the tippy tops — on your 10 millionth dollar — sometimes you see tax rates as high as 60 or 70 percent. That doesn’t mean all $10 million are taxed at an extremely high rate, but it means that as you climb up this ladder you should be contributing more.”

    That’s a broadly accurate statement: Fifty years ago, the tax rate on the highest bracket of income was indeed over 70 percent. […]

    This is an important distinction that has been blurred in the aftermath of Ocasio-Cortez’s comments. If she were proposing that incomes above $10 million be taxed at a rate of 70 percent, she’s not suggesting that those making $10 million or more be taxed at 70 percent for every dollar. […]

  107. says

    From Nancy Pelosi:

    [If Trump] is against governance, and doesn’t care whether people’s needs are met, or that public employees are paid, or that we can have a legitimate discussion, then we have a problem.

    From the Washington Post:

    The Trump administration, which had not anticipated a long-term shutdown, recognized only this week the breadth of the potential impact, several senior administration officials said. The officials said they were focused now on understanding the scope of the consequences and determining whether there is anything they can do to intervene.

    The Department of Housing and Urban Development was clueless. That department has started to contact about 1,500 landlords as part of a “last-minute” effort to prevent thousands of evictions.

    Millions of low-income Americans who use SNAP (food stamps and other food assistance) will soon have no assistance.

    The Transportation Safety Administration is already facing a shortage of workers for airport screening and other safety issue.

    From The New York Times:

    The impact of a partial government shutdown began to ripple across the economy as it stretched into Day 17, with mortgage applications delayed, public companies unable to get approval to raise capital and thousands of Secret Service agents expected to show up for work without pay.

    From Steve Benen:

    […] Maybe Trump administration officials were unprepared for all of this because they don’t fully appreciate what government does. Maybe they expected the ordeal to be brief because Trump’s first two shutdown wrapped up quickly.

    Or maybe officials didn’t see the point in preparing for a shutdown that wasn’t supposed to happen. It’s a detail that’s often overlooked, but facing a Dec. 21 shutdown deadline, the White House told lawmakers on Dec. 19 that Trump would sign a stopgap spending measure that included no wall funding. West Wing officials prioritized avoiding a shutdown, so much of the government approached the deadline confident that nothing would happen.

    Then the president started consuming conservative media, he rejected his own position, and one of the longest shutdowns on record commenced.

    Whatever the rationale for the mismanagement, if it seems as if the Trump administration has been caught in another amateur-hour moment, that’s because it has.

    Meanwhile, Trump demanded, and got, free prime time TV coverage from the major networks tonight (9:00 pm Eastern time) to tell the public a bunch of lies about the U.S.-Mexico border. Democrats demanded equal time. We’ll see how that goes.

  108. says

    ABC News’ Jonathan Karl interviewed Vice President Mike Pence:

    KARL: How can [the president’s] work be trusted on this, when he has said so many things that are just not true about this crisis? He said Barack Obama has a 10-foot wall built around his house here in Washington; you know that’s not true. He said some of his predecessors told him that they wanted to build a wall, but all four living presidents have now put out statements saying that they never had any such conversation with the president. You saw that Sarah Sanders said that nearly 4,000 terrorists come into the country every year and you know that that’s not true, either.

    How can the American people trust the president when he says this is crisis when he says things over and over again that aren’t true?

    PENCE: Well, look, the American people aren’t as concerned about the political debate as they are concerned about what’s really happening at the border.

    Notice that Pence did not claim that Trump is honest.

  109. says

    Russian Lawyer At Trump Tower Meeting Charged For Obstruction Of Justice

    Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who attended the infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting with then-candidate Donald Trump’s inner circle, was charged last month with obstruction of justice, according to an indictment unsealed Tuesday.

    Veselnitskaya allegedly filed a fraudulent statement in a closely watched case that’s technically separate from the ongoing probe into Russia’s 2016 election meddling, but which involves some of the same players.

    Prosecutors accuse Veselnitskaya of lying about her cooperation with a “senior Russian prosecutor” in drafting “supposed investigative findings” for an asset forfeiture case in New York federal court.

    That case — U.S. v. Prevezon Holdings — was the first case brought under the 2012 Magnitsky Act. […]

    The indictment accuses Veselnitskaya of secretly collaborating on the drafting of a legal assistance response U.S. prosecutors sought from the Russian government as part of the Prevezon case. That case saw Manhattan federal prosecutors accuse Prevezon Holding — a Cypriot company with Russian ownership — of laundering money generated from a Russian tax fraud scheme. The case was settled in 2017, with Prevezon paying a $5.9 million fine without admitting any wrongdoing.

    While Veselnitskaya’s alleged role in drafting the response itself is not charged as a violation of law, prosecutors say she lied in a November 2015 declaration that she filed in the case by citing the Russian legal assistance reply without disclosing her own involvement in its creation. […]

    More at the link, including details concerning Bill Browder.

  110. says

    Most of the time, we steer clear of comparing Trump to Hitler. John Judis went there … carefully:

    […] To justify his political and racial views, and to win support for controversial domestic and foreign initiatives, Hitler simply made things up. He insisted that Jews shirked service in World War I and in 1937, as Stalin was killing off the last Jews who had been in leadership, he insisted that “more than 80 percent of the leading positions” were occupied by Jews. To win support for his invasion of Czechoslovakia, Hitler had the Nazi-controlled press fabricate stories about government atrocities against Sudeten Germans.

    In his campaign for the border wall, Trump and his dutiful aides have manufactured fictions about terrorists streaming across the border. While U.S. Customs has reported only six people on the government’s watch list attempting to cross the border in the first half of 2018, Trump claimed that 3755 “known or suspected terrorists” had been apprehended. White House Secretary Sarah Sanders reported nearly 4000. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen has echoed these false charges. Trump may use these lies to justify calling for a national emergency, which, if you want to carry the comparison a little further than justified, echoes Hitler’s Enabling Act of 1933 that allowed him to act independently of the Bundestag. Other presidents have used fabrications to justify their initiatives — George H.W. Bush claimed Iraq was readying an invasion of Saudi Arabia to justify taking action against Iraq in the fall of 1990 — but during his presidency, Trump has outdone his predecessors by a very wide margin. […]

  111. says

    Some Republicans are pushing back more publicly against Trump:

    Rejecting the Trump administration’s line, former Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) said Tuesday that there is no crisis at the U.S. southern border.

    “There is drug trafficking at the southern border. There is human trafficking. However, it’s not at a crisis level, Craig,” Curbelo told MSNBC’s Craig Melvin. “That is a political framing. That is the President trying to get his base upset, excited, however people want to characterize it. But there is no crisis at the border.” […]

  112. says

    Pelosi and Schumer will deliver the Democratic Party rebuttal to Trump’s prime time speech tonight.

    “Now that the television networks have decided to air the President’s address, which if his past statements are any indication will be full of malice and misinformation, Democrats must immediately be given equal airtime.”

    BC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN, Fox News and Fox Business have agreed to broadcast Trump’s address, which is scheduled for 9 p.m.

  113. says

    Yeah, we could see this coming.

    The Justice Department is trying to delay acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker from delivering testimony to the new Democratic-led House until next month, potentially pushing his high-profile appearance until after a permanent replacement has already been confirmed, according to two sources familiar with the situation.

    Whitaker had initially committed to Democratic leaders that he’d give testimony in January to the House Judiciary Committee. But those plans have since stalled, with Justice Department officials citing the ongoing government shutdown and Whitaker’s busy travel schedule as reasons for pushing back the hearing, the sources said. […]

    Politico link

  114. says

    Pelosi is taking some intelligent approaches to ending the shutdown:

    Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democrats are ramping up pressure on President Trump and Republicans to open the government amid a prolonged impasse over border wall funding that shows no signs of abating.

    Sensing a winning hand, Democrats this week will repackage a handful of uncontroversial bills funding a number of shuttered agencies — excluding Homeland Security, which covers the proposed wall — and send them off to the Senate one by one, forcing GOP leaders to explain their inaction on measures they supported just weeks ago. […]

    The Hill link

  115. says

    From Steve Benen:

    […] On Friday afternoon, two weeks into his shutdown, the president declared, “I think we’re probably talking about steel because I really feel the other side feels better about that, and I can understand what they’re saying.” He made similar comments over the weekend, telling reporters, “I informed my folks to say that we’ll build a steel barrier.” He added, in reference to Democrats, “They don’t like concrete, so we’ll give them steel.”

    In other words, in Trump’s mind, congressional Democrats have raised anti-concrete objections, but they’ll “feel better” about steel. In reality, literally zero Democrats have said anything along these lines.

    But then the president also something just as notable:

    “As far as concrete, I said I was going to build a wall. I never said, ‘I’m going to build a concrete…’ I said I’m going to build a wall.”

    There’s no doubt that Trump was lying. He spent years promising to build a concrete wall.

    To be sure, as presidential lies go, this hardly seems getting worked up about. That said, I think this is important for a few reasons.

    First and foremost, the White House has quietly abandoned a key feature of Trump’s signature domestic priority. Evidently, we’re not supposed to notice, […]

    Second, it’s always notable when the president tries to gaslight the public. When Trump spends years promising a concrete wall, and then pretends he never vowed to build a concrete wall, it’s plainly amazing – and not in a good way.

    But even putting those relevant details aside, it’s important that no one see Trump’s new offer as a “compromise.” It’s not. […]

    Just so we’re all clear: demanding a wall of one material, and then endorsing a wall of a different material, is not a “compromise” offer. Democratic objections have nothing to do with construction details. Rather, they, like the American mainstream, don’t see the point of a taxpayer-financed medieval vanity project.

    Trump is still promoting a physical barrier.

  116. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    So, here’s a thought–given the astounding rate at which Trump generates lies and the difficulty of fact-checking in real time: Maybe they could broadcast future Trump speeches with a 5-minute delay.

  117. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    ARIDS #16, an idea worthy of consideration. I would propose that if lies were told, Trump would be seen on video flapping his jaws futilely, but the sound (channeling the Great Carnac), would either be that of an unclean camel with diarrhea, or Benny Hill style flatulence during said lies.

  118. KG says

    Brexit update:
    1) Hardline Brexiteers in yellow jackets (in imitation of the French “giletd jaunes”) have been harassing MPs and journalists on “College Green” outside the House of Commons. They have been shoutining insults including “fascist” and “Nazi” at their targets. Unsurprisingly, those involved include real fascists and Nazis – so I suppose the shouts may simply have been their way of identifying themselves. A cross-party group of MPs, including some Brexiteers, have written to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner demanding that police take action.
    2) The government suffered another defeat in the Commons last night, and may suffer another today if an amendment to its “business motion” is allowed to be debated. The defeat last night, on an amendment to the Finance Bill, was mainly symbolic, intended to show that there is a Commons majority against a “no deal” Brexit. 20 Tories voted against the government, along with all the opposition parties (apart from the “D”UP which is technically an opposition party despite propping up the government).
    3) Today, five days of debate on May’s deal begin. According to the Grauniad, May conceded in a Cabinet meeting yesterday that she is on course to lose the vote on it due next week (possibly Tuesday).

    In other UK news, one of the runways at Heathrow Airport (the largest in the country) was closed for an hour yesterday because of a supposed “drone sighting”. The police have still failed either to catch anyone responsible for drone flights at Gatwick before Christmas, or produce any video evidence there were any drones there other than their own.

  119. says

    a_ray @126:

    So, here’s a thought–given the astounding rate at which Trump generates lies and the difficulty of fact-checking in real time: Maybe they could broadcast future Trump speeches with a 5-minute delay.

    Good idea, but five minutes might not be enough.

    I watched the wax-museum version of Trump read from the teleprompter last night, followed by the Nancy and Chuck show. I thought at the time that in the few minutes they had, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer could not have debunked all of Trump’s lies, let alone made their points about Democratic Party attempts to actually govern the country. They tried, but really…

    It was wise of Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes to fact-check Trump before he spoke. After all, Trump does tell the same lies over and over.

    Trump did come up with some new lies last night.

    When Trump said that the switch to steel slats was at the request of the Democrats, I almost injured myself laughing.

    Trump also claimed that law enforcement experts were the ones asking for $5.7 billion to build a wall.

  120. says

    Some thoughts on Trump’s speech that was delivered from the Oval Office last night as if it were not a pack of lies and fear-mongering that debased the office:

    Plenty of crimes were committed in the United States on Dec. 27, but Donald Trump decided to single out one for attention.

    “There is right now a full scale manhunt going on in California for an illegal immigrant accused of shooting and killing a police officer during a traffic stop,” the president wrote. “Time to get tough on Border Security. Build the Wall!”

    The point obviously wasn’t subtle, but it was familiar.

    Not long after taking office, the Trump administration created a Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) office, which included a hotline Americans can call if they’re a victim of a specific kind of crime: those perpetrated by undocumented immigrants. (The initiative proved to be ridiculous.)

    In February 2018, the White House distributed to reporters a “round-up” of “immigration crime stories,” purporting to show — in some cases, falsely — evidence of immigrants breaking the law. In June 2018, Trump hosted a special event for the victims of crimes committed by immigrants, complete with a special name: “Angel Families.”

    Last night’s Oval Office address fit comfortably within the larger pattern. A Washington Post analysis explained:

    […] It’s not a surprise that Trump’s first Oval Office address to the country focused on stoking visceral fear of people crossing America’s southern border. […]

    He wanted America to focus on a police officer murdered by an undocumented immigrant in California. He wanted listeners to hear about a veteran brutally killed by another immigrant here illegally. He wanted people to focus on gang members he talked about so often at his rallies, who killed a teenage girl in cold blood.

    […] the entire pitch ignores the simple fact that native-born Americans, on average, commit more crimes than immigrants, including undocumented immigrants.

    But as the debate — and the related government shutdown — continue, it’s worth appreciating why Trump insists on framing the debate in a demagogic way. […]

    […] I suspect it’s because, from the president’s perspective, there’s simply nothing left. He has no economic argument. He has no counter-terrorism argument. […] To the extent that the White House had a substantive pitch in support of Trump’s goal, it has collapsed.

    […] As Dara Lind documented very well, “ ‘Immigrants are coming over the border to kill you’ is the only speech Trump knows how to give.”

    It’s the speech the president relied on ahead of the midterm elections, and it’s the speech he pitched from the Oval Office last night.

    It didn’t work ahead of Election Day, and as Republican members of Congress move toward Democrats on a resolution of the shutdown, it doesn’t appear to be working now, either.


  121. says

    From Chuck Schumer’s rebuttal last night:

    American democracy doesn’t work that way. We don’t govern by temper tantrum. No president should pound the table and demand he gets his way or else the government shuts down, hurting millions of Americans who are treated as leverage. […]

    Make no mistake: Democrats and the President both want stronger border security. However, we sharply disagree with the President about the most effective way to do it. So, how do we untangle this mess?

    There is an obvious solution: separate the shutdown from the arguments over border security. There is bipartisan legislation — supported by Democrats and Republicans — to re-open government while allowing debate over border security to continue.

    Sounds good, Chuck. That’s a way out of the mess. Some Republicans agree.

    From the Washington Post:

    Divisions grew among congressional Republicans on Tuesday over President Trump’s shutdown strategy, as a number of lawmakers expressed consternation over the possibility that he’d declare a national emergency to build his border wall, while others voiced some support for Democrats’ plans to reopen most of the government without the wall money Trump has demanded.

    Ahead of a nationally televised address by Trump, Vice President Pence lobbied House Republicans behind closed doors to stand with the president, reminding them that Trump would not sign any spending bills passed by Democrats unless he gets the wall funding he wants and urging them to reject the Democratic strategy.

    Well, that last bit sounds like classic Trump-style bullying. And Trump is such a coward that he sent Pence to deliver the message.

    More from the Washington Post:

    But in a potentially perilous sign for Trump on the 18th day of the partial shutdown, cracks were multiplying within GOP ranks even before Pence ventured to Capitol Hill late Tuesday.

    From Politico:

    Several dozen House Republicans might cross the aisle this week to vote for Democratic bills to reopen shuttered parts of the federal government, spurring the White House into a dramatic effort to stem potential GOP defections.

    In the Senate, the following Republican Senators are breaking ranks: Lisa Murkowski from Alaska, Cory Gardner from Colorado, Susan Collins from Maine, Shelley Moore Capito from West Virgina, and Marco Rubio from Florida. Capito and Rubio are not quite there yet, but a Rubio put it, they are “potentially” ready to support some Democratic bills to open the government.

    Mitch McConnell gave a speech today in which he attempted to back Trump, but his heart wasn’t in it. That was a lackluster performance. Pro forma. Done as a matter of form, not substance.

  122. says

    Did you watch Trump’s speech last night and think “that guy doesn’t want to be there”? I did.

    Reporting from the New York Times confirms this:

    […] Privately, Mr. Trump dismissed his own new strategy as pointless. In an off-the-record lunch with television anchors hours before the address, he made clear in blunt terms that he was not inclined to give the speech or go to Texas, but was talked into it by advisers, according to two people briefed on the discussion who asked not to be identified sharing details.

    Analysis of the speech from Steve Benen:

    […] it was a transparent failure. As became painfully obvious over the course of his nine minutes, Trump has no plan. He has no new material. He has no offer to extend to his rivals. He has no bill to promote or lobby on behalf of. He has no facts, as evidenced by the avalanche of falsehoods he peddled to the nation. He has no support, with polls showing broad American opposition to his demands for a border wall.

    Trump also has no crisis, and as of last night, no desire to declare a national emergency.

    All of which led Rachel last night to pose the question I couldn’t get out of my head: why in the world did this Oval Office address even happen at all?

    “We’re talking about how the president is singing the same song that he has singing all along. This is not different. He doesn’t have any support. He probably has less support on this than he did before, particularly after the midterm elections.

    “So, why did he just do this? I mean, he didn’t announce a national emergency so that he could use some sort of authority that he doesn’t think he has otherwise to go build this thing. Why did this just happen?”

    […] Why did Trump make this address? There are a handful of possibilities.

    Trump’s desperate and can’t think of anything else. He’s spent the last few years trying to convince Americans to be terrified of immigrants.[…] By and large, however, the public isn’t buying what he’s selling, […]

    Trump wants attention. The president watches an extraordinary amount of television, and over the last week, he’s probably seen a lot of coverage of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the new House Democratic majority. Trump doesn’t like to share the spotlight, so maybe he saw an Oval Office address as a way to turn attention back to himself?

    Trump has an exaggerated opinion of his ability to persuade. […]

    Trump wants to impress his base. […]

    The president probably doesn’t expect to get a border wall, but he clearly seems eager to give the appearance of someone who’s fighting tooth and nail for a border wall.

    The result was a spectacle that was as pointless as it was ugly.

  123. says

    From Josh Marshall: The “Collusion” debate ended last night.

    […] the seemingly accidental redaction error in the Manafort legal filing combined with the news published mid-evening by The New York Times is one of the biggest revelations in more than two years of the Trump/Russia scandal. […] combined with earlier reports effectively end the debate about whether there was ‘collusion’ between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. There was. It wasn’t marginal. It was happening at the very top of the campaign.

    The campaign manager was secretly funneling campaign data and information to a Russian oligarch closely tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin, someone who had no possible use for such information other than to use it in the Russian efforts to get Donald Trump elected President.

    […] the Special Counsel’s Office charged that Manafort had lied about sharing “polling data” about the 2016 campaign with his former Ukrainian deputy Konstantin Kilimnik, a man who US intelligence believes is himself tied to Russian intelligence. Given that Manafort had also told Kilimnik to offer briefings on the campaign to Russian oligarch Oleg V. Deripaska, it was a reasonable surmise that handing over the polling data was meant for Deripaska as well.

    […] The New York Times confirmed as much.

    Both Mr. Manafort and Rick Gates, the deputy campaign manager, transferred the data to Mr. Kilimnik in the spring of 2016 as Mr. Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination, according to a person knowledgeable about the situation. […]

    Mr. Manafort asked Mr. Gates to tell Mr. Kilimnik to pass the data to Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who is close to the Kremlin and who has claimed that Mr. Manafort owed him money from a failed business venture, the person said. It is unclear whether Mr. Manafort was acting at the campaign’s behest or independently, trying to gain favor with someone to whom he was deeply in debt.

    […] It says both men – Manafort and Gates – “transferred data to Mr. Kilimnik.” This suggests that there were multiple transfers, […] What’s crystal clear is that the transfer to Kilimnik came with explicit instructions to give the information to Deripaska. And that’s enough.

    […] “He [Manafort] owed us a lot of money,” Victor Boyarkin told Time. “And he was offering ways to pay it back … I came down on him hard.”

    […] none of this can be fully understood without murkier but now quite significant information first reported more than a year ago. Signals intercepts from mid-2016 about Manafort allegedly working with Russian intelligence to help the Trump campaign was one of the key factors that kicked off the investigation during the election.

    CNN has learned that investigators became more suspicious when they turned up intercepted communications that US intelligence agencies collected among suspected Russian operatives discussing their efforts to work with Manafort […] to coordinate information that could damage Hillary Clinton’s election prospects […]

    […] now we appear to have clear cut evidence from the other side that Manafort was doing precisely what was claimed: passing on confidential campaign data to a high-level Russian oligarch who Manafort knew from long experience was closely tied to Putin and the Russian intelligence services. There’s really no question about whether there was collusion. We have it right here in front of us. […]

    Bolding is mine. More at the link.

  124. says

    Another look backstage as the Trump reality show rolls on:

    […] Trump told TV news anchors at a lunch before his Oval Office address that his upcoming trip to the border won’t “change a damn thing” and that it’s really just a photo opportunity.

    According to a New York Times report, Trump also threw his aides under the bus during the off-the-record meeting, saying that he personally does not want to make the trip.

    “But, these people behind you say its worth it,” he said, gesturing to Communications Director Bill Shine, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.


    Taxpayers should not be paying for Trump’s trip to the border. His reelection campaign can pay for crap like that.

  125. says

    So, Rod Rosenstein is leaving.

    Mueller’s investigation may be largely over by the time Rosenstein leaves. Hope so.

    A new attorney general, William Barr, is likely to be sworn in soon, and Barr will choose his own deputy attorney general.

    Senator Lindsey Graham claims that Barr, Trump’s nominee, will allow Mueller to finish his probe.

    […] “I can assure you he has a very high opinion of Mr. Mueller and he is committed to letting Mr. Mueller finish his job,” Graham said after a meeting Wednesday with Barr, according to Reuters. […]


    I do not feel assured.

    […] Barr has drawn criticism from Democrats for writing an unsolicited memo last year to the White House criticizing Mueller’s investigation, saying that the probe into possible obstruction of justice on Trump’s part was based on a “fatally misconceived” theory.

    Some Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), have argued that the memo disqualifies Barr from heading the Department of Justice (DOJ) and thus overseeing the Mueller probe.

    Schumer on Wednesday called on Trump to withdraw the Barr’s nomination. […]

    reports emerged that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — who originally appointed Mueller — will depart from his post sometime after Barr’s confirmation hearings.

    Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said Wednesday on CNN’s “New Day” that Rosenstein’s looming departure would “raise the stakes” of Barr’s confirmation hearings.

    “William Barr was sending freelance memos to the Trump administration making a case to undercut the Mueller investigation,” Kaine said. “So the deep concern will be if he comes in and Rosenstein is gone, is this just a, you know, preface to either undercutting the investigation or trying to keep the results of it hidden from the American public.” […]

  126. says

    Trump tweeted this today:

    Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forest fires that, with proper Forest Management, would never happen. Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!


    Nancy Pelosi responded:

    .@realDonaldTrump’s threat insults the memory of scores of Americans who perished in wildfires last year & thousands more who lost their homes. @GOPLeader must join me to condemn & call on POTUS to reassure millions in CA that our govt will be there for them in their time of need

    From Senator Kamala Harris:

    We should work together to mitigate these fires by combating climate change, not play politics by threatening to withhold money from survivors of a deadly natural disaster.

  127. says

    Followup to comment 133.

    So now that we see more evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, team Trump is poised to ease sanctions agains Oleg Deripaska. Of course.

    Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday will provide House lawmakers with a classified briefing on the Trump administration’s plan to ease sanctions against three companies controlled by Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who has close ties to President Vladimir Putin. […]

    The notice comes the day after seven Democratic House chairmen sent Mnuchin a letter asking him “to explain the easing of sanctions on businesses tied to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.”

    “As the chairs of committees with oversight jurisdiction over the U.S. response to Russia’s attempts to interfere in our elections and other hostile actions, we have a number of concerns about the agreement that the U.S. has reached,” the Democrats wrote in the missive and requested a detailed response by Friday.

    Last month, the Treasury Department announced its plan to lift sanctions on Rusal, one of the world’s largest aluminum companies, as well as En+ Group, the holding company that owns nearly half of Rusal, and Russian power company EuroSibEnergo.

    At the time, Mnuchin said the companies had “committed to significantly diminish Deripaska’s ownership and sever his control.” […]

    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer filed a resolution to potentially disapprove of Treasury’s decisions to lift the sanctions on the three Russian firms.


  128. Chris J says

    Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!

    What possible “act” does he expect California to get together? Not have any more fires? Or is it politics, trying to make democratic politicians support his wall?

    I saw this tweet earlier, and I’m still flabbergasted. Withholding money now will only lead to more death, more wasted lives.

  129. tomh says

    An interesting opinion piece from the editorial board of the Washington Post:
    The Future of Personhood Nation

    Now that the Supreme Court has a conservative majority that appears inclined to overhaul Roe v. Wade, it is likely only a matter of time before women’s reproductive rights are ratcheted back. But what if the court goes further? What if, as many opponents of abortion hope, the court rules that the fetus has “personhood” rights under the Constitution?

    In that event, all abortions would be illegal — even in states that overwhelmingly support a woman’s right to choose. Wealthy women might travel to other countries for reproductive health care, but poorer women would be left behind.

    And the changes to American life would go deeper than that. A society that embraces a legal concept of fetal personhood would necessarily compromise existing ideals of individual freedom. Americans — even many who oppose abortion — have not considered the startling implications of this idea, even as it has steadily gained strength in the law and in social norms. If a fetus is granted equal rights, women who become pregnant may find their most personal decisions coming under state control. Every health decision facing a pregnant woman that might affect the fetus would be up for scrutiny by prosecutors, the courts and expectant fathers. A pregnant woman would cease to exist as an autonomous person. Her womb would become a legal battleground.

    Conferring personhood on fertilized eggs could also call into question the legality of treatments like IVF (which often involves fertilizing multiple eggs, with the understanding that not all will result in embryos and viable pregnancies) and of some common birth control methods, like the pill, IUDs, vaginal rings and the morning-after pill. A black market for abortion pills and birth control would flourish.

    Consider the case of Marshae Jones, who may soon face a grand jury in Alabama. The police say that when Ms. Jones was five months pregnant, she started a fight that led to her being shot in the stomach and losing her fetus. “That child is dependent on its mother to try to keep it from harm, and she shouldn’t seek out unnecessary physical altercations,” explained Lt. Danny Reid of the Pleasant Grove, Ala., police force.

    Much more at the link. Very scary.

  130. says

    tomb @139, the Handmaid’s Tale being made manifest in the USA.

    Chris J @138, there are no actions other than voting only for Republicans that would make California all hunky dory in Trump’s eyes. That tweet from Trump was full of malice, ignorance and narcissistic bullying.

    In other news, it looks like Democrats in the House are not going to let acting Attorney General Whitaker skate:

    House Democrats are summoning acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker to testify by the morning of the State of the Union in late January, rejecting a Justice Department plea to delay the hearing until February.

    In a letter to the DOJ on Wednesday, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler identified Jan. 29 as the very last day the panel could hear from Whitaker, a critics of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation who has refused to recuse himself from overseeing the critical probe.

    Justice officials for weeks had hesitated to schedule the meeting. And Republicans on Capitol Hill have called Whitaker’s appearance pointless, arguing that the Senate is soon set to confirm his permanent replacement, William Barr.

    But the Wednesday letter shows that Democrats will not allow Whitaker to fade away without a proper grilling. And they’re intent on hearing from him about how and why he got the job, whether President Donald Trump asked him to end or limit the FBI’s Russia investigation and why he has ignored recommendations from ethics officials that he recuse himself from the matter.

    “We are willing to work with you to identify a mutually identifiable date for your testimony,” Nadler wrote, “but we will not allow this date to slip past January 29, 2019… As you know, it has been nearly 15 months since Attorney General Sessions testified before the committee. It is past time for the committee to conduct oversight.” […]


    In other, other news, Trump proclaimed again today that he has “the absolute right” to declare a national emergency and have the military build his vanity wall.

  131. says

    O’Rourke hits El Paso streets to rebut Trump’s immigration address

    […] O’Rourke filmed himself on Facebook Live for about 75 minutes, visiting friends’ homes and sharing scenic views of the El Paso and Juárez, Mexico, skylines.

    “The president using fear and anecdote to try to instill an anxiety and paranoia to build the political will to construct this wall that would cost $30 billion and take private property and cause death and suffering as more asylum seekers are pushed to ever more hostile stretches of the U.S.-Mexico border — that was what we heard from the Oval Office,” O’Rourke said. “And we need to meet that fear with the truth, with our ambition, with the best traditions of this country, a country of immigrants, and with the example of El Paso and Juárez.” […]

    “I think he [Trump] has seized this emotional language very effectively, completely irresponsibly, not tethered to the truth,” O’Rourke said. “But if I don’t live in El Paso, if I haven’t had the experience that we’ve had, if I live in Michigan, Iowa, Oregon, the northern border, I don’t … I may not know any better, and ‘Shit, the president of the United States just said that there are rapists and criminals and murderers who will chop your head off coming to get us. Fuck yeah, build a wall.’ And so … I can see responding that way.”

    O’Rourke said he was filming the Facebook Live video — and asking friends about their families’ immigration stories — in an effort to counter such rhetoric. He noted El Paso’s low crime rate and research indicating immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than native-born populations

  132. says

    From Wonkette’s coverage:

    Did you watch last night’s very stupid and bad Donald Trump Oval Office address about racism, bitterness, lies and WALL? […]

    We watched it, sort of. It was very dumb and bad. He didn’t even declare a NATIONAL EMERGY or anything fun like that, because he’s a YOOGE loser who isn’t even good at being an authoritarian dicksnot president.

    Afterward, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi did the Democratic response, and it was OK, except for how they stood next to each other like you see above, and the entire liberal internet subjected them to some FRIENDLY RIBBING for how they looked and sounded like your mom and dad caught you coming home drunk at age 16, two hours after curfew, and on top of that you didn’t even finish your vegetables, what’s wrong with you, drunk-ass ungrateful teenager, EAT YOUR GODDAMNED FUCKING PEAS. Anyway, YOU ARE GROUNDED for two weeks, but mommy and daddy are just happy you are safe, because that’s the most important thing of all.

    It was like that.

    And it beat Trump in the ratings, according to the early numbers, oh my God, nobody tell Trump, just kidding, everybody tell Trump:

    The quarter hour (9-9:15 p.m. ET) containing the president’s speech drew a combined 28.1 household rating in metered markets on ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, CNN, Fox News and NBC. The following 15 minutes, including analysis and the Pelosi-Schumer rebuttal, averaged 29.3 across those same networks, a bump of about 4 percent.
    Here are some more details:

    Last night’s Democratic response (9:15-9:30) outrated the POTUS address (9-9:15) by +26% on CNN, +15% on MSNBC, +3% on ABC.

    POTUS speech outrated Dem response by +3% on CBS.

    The two rated equally on NBC, FOX, FNC.

    Yes, that’s right, President Reality Star couldn’t get bigger ratings than Chuck ‘n’ Nancy for sitting in the Oval Office reading lies off the teleprompter and sniffing like a grown-ass man who can’t swallow pills so he snorts Adderall. […]

    And this happened even though Chuck ‘n’ Nancy, God bless their hearts, looked and talked like they just got off the phone with your history teacher, who told them she caught you passing notes to Schuyler in class again and also you didn’t turn in your homework. […]

  133. says

    Trump used last night’s debacle of a speech to raise funds. That’s right, he made money off the deal.

    […] Trump in an email Tuesday afternoon asked supporters to donate to his “Official Secure the Border Fund” through the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a joint fundraising committee for the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee.

    In other words, there is no “Official Secure the Border Fund,” Trump just made that up. Any money his cult followers coughed up went straight to Trump’s reelection campaign.

    “We need to raise $500,000 in ONE DAY. I want to know who stood with me when it mattered most so I’ve asked my team to send me a list of EVERY AMERICAN PATRIOT who donates to the Official Secure the Border Fund,” read the email written in Trump’s name.

    “Please make a special contribution of $5 by 9 PM EST to our Official Secure the Border Fund to have your name sent to me after my speech,” it added.

    Does anybody really believe that the names of contributors were sent to Trump … and that he read those names?

    Furthermore, after the speech ended, another email went out that was supposedly from Trump himself. He “extended” the deadline for contributing. Claimed he had not seen your name on the list of contributors and was giving you another chance.

    Effing con man, scam artist.

  134. says

    From Joy Reid:

    Trump campaign text to his supporters just now:

    Pres. Trump: I just addressed the nation on Border Security. Now I need you to stand with me. Donate […]

    From readers comments:

    I believe he keeps the $$$ whether he runs or not. It is the Trump Criminal Defense Fund, so he doesn’t have to spend a dime of his own on his criminal defense.
    A con within a con within a con. We’ve gone #MetaCon

    From the Trump fundraising email:

    Friend, President Trump just finished his speech addressing our National Security crisis on the Southern Border and explaining why he will NOT cave to the Democrats … We sent him a list of all patriots who donated to our Official Secure the Border Fund and he noticed your name wasn’t on the list, Friend … Since you’ve been such a strong supporter and one of our greatest advocates for THE WALL, we have decided to extend your deadline to get on the list …

  135. says

    Trump just walked out of a meeting in which he was supposed to be negotiating with Congressional leaders:

    After congressional Democratic and Republican leadership met with President Donald Trump Wednesday afternoon, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that Trump called the meeting a “waste of his time” and walked out after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said she didn’t agree with his desired border wall.

    “Unfortunately, the President just got up and walked out,” Schumer said, standing alongside Pelosi outside the White House. “He asked Speaker Pelosi, ‘Will you agree to my wall?’ She said ‘No.’ And he just got up and said, ‘Then we have nothing to discuss.’ and he just walked out.” […]

    From Trump:

    Just left a meeting with Chuck and Nancy, a total waste of time. I asked what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier? Nancy said, NO. I said bye-bye, nothing else works!

    More from Schumer’s response:

    Schumer added that he told Trump “We’re willing to discuss anything” once the government is re-open.

    “And he said, ‘If I open up the government, you won’t do what I want,” Schumer said.

    “And then a few minutes later, he sort of slammed the table, and when Leader Pelosi said she didn’t agree with the wall, he just walked out and said ‘We have nothing to discuss.’ He said it was a waste of his time.”


    Video available at the link shows Schumer describing Trump’s behavior.

  136. KG says

    More on Brexit:
    A second defeat within 24 hours for the UK government. This one is considerably more than symbolic: an amendment to the government’s “Business motion”, which sets out what is to be debated in the Commons, and when, and which is normally only amendable by “Ministers of the Crown”, was allowed to be debated and voted on by the Speaker, causing Tory Brexiteers to accuse him of going against the rules of the House and the advice of the “Clerk of the Commons”, an official whose job is to advise the Speaker. The amendment was moved by a Tory ex-minister, Dominic Grieve, and passed as 17 Tories supported it. It demands that if May’s deal is defeated next week (which it will be unless she postpones the vote again), a minister must table a motion within 3 days setting out what the government intends to do, and this motion will itself be amendable, allowing MPs to put forward alternatives. (Jacob Ree-Smugg, Brexiteer extremist and member for the 18th century, says the amendment doesn’t mean the motion has to be debated, only tabled, but I can’t see the Speaker letting May or the Ultras get away with that.) The Speaker is indeed clearly siding with the legislature against the executive – and whatever the precedents say, is quite right to do so, given May’s recent record of delay and obstruction. As he said, the House was free to vote against the amendment.

  137. KG says

    Further to #146: if an amendment to the motion setting out the government’s plans was passed, that would not legally oblige May to follow it, but politically, it would become clear that she was directly defying the will of the Commons, and there would probably be several resignations from the cabinet. I think she would still continue to insist on her deal or a no-deal Brexit, and that we are indeed headed for a the latter unless the Commons passes a vote of no confidence in the government. At present Corbyn plans to table a no-confidence motion once May’s deal is rejected, but I think at that stage, it would be defeated. But if (say) an amendment calling on the government to request an extension to the Article 50 period passed, and May refused to do so, enough Tories might turn against her for one to succeed. One possibility then is a short-term GNU* under someone judged to have no prospect of turning it into a longer-term administration (e.g. an anti-Brexit Tory, a Labour second-ranker, or Vince Cable, the LibDem leader), with the sole task of avoiding the disaster of a no-deal Brexit.

    *Government of National Unity

  138. KG says

    And yet another installment of the Brexit farce. This morning, the government is poised to accept a meaningless amendment to its motion accepting May’s deal, from the right-wing Labour Brexiteer, John Mann, which purports to strengthen protections for workers and the environment. This comment to a Grauniad Live thread explains why it doesn’t. Its purpose is purely to give Mann and his fellow right-Labour Brexiteers (distinct from and indeed hostile to the left-Labour Brexiteers such as Corbyn) a fig-leaf of justification for voting for a Tory deal.

    This BBC article gives a broader picture. Hilariously, the Business Secretary Greg Clark claims that the acceptance of the amendment shows Parliament “coming together” around May’s deal. That’s so absurdly far from the truth it’s hardly even describable as a lie – it’s more of a Trumpism.

  139. KG says

    Sorry, the first link @148 is wrong: what I want to link to, but apparently can’t, is the update headed “What the Mann amendment on workers’ rights after Brexit would actually achieve?”

  140. KG says

    Corbyn is (right now) delivering a speech in Wakefield. He’s made clear he will continue to uise the same strategy as May – delay, delay, delay, to make any escape from Brexit impossible. Specifically, he says that if May’s deal is defeated, Labour will launch a no confidence motion at the time when it thinks it has the best chance of success. That, of course, allows him (because he as opposition leader has to table the motion) to delay doing so indefinitely, thus ruling out a push for a new referendum, which he has ruled out until after a no confidence vote.

  141. KG says

    Unless he’s completely lost his political judgement, Corbyn doesn’t even want the general election he keeps calling for, because he would very likely lose it. Polls show the Tories ahead (itself an eloquent condemnation of Corbyn’s strategy, given the utter disarray in the Tory party), and as a Tory spokesperson pointed out this morning, Labour’s Richard Burgon, in a Radio 4 interview this morning, repeatedly evaded the question of what Labour’s policy on Brexit would be in the event of an election. I’m increasingly thinking that Corbyn wants a disastrous no-deal Brexit, as long as the Tories get the blame.

  142. says

    Sigh. More of this bull pucky. Trump claimed this morning that Mexico is going to pay for the wall.

    When during the campaign, I would say Mexico is going to pay for it, obviously, I never said this and never meant they’re gonna write out a check. I said they’re gonna pay for it. They are. They are paying for it with the incredible deal we made…. Mexico is paying for the wall indirectly…. Obviously, they’re not gonna write a check.

    Well, yeah, you did more or less indicate, in writing, that Mexico would make a one-time payment of $5-$10 billion. That claim is still online, from the Trump campaign:

    Sound like a check to me. Unless Mexico uses a few thousand bag men to give Trump some cash.“>President Trump’s nonsensical claim that Mexico is paying for the wall is an article from the Washington Post that presents most of Trump’s lies on the subject, debunks Trump’s lies, and pays particular attention to his claim that a trade deal will pay for the wall, which is a really big lie.

    History, some of Trump’s remarks:

    “Mexico will pay for the wall, okay? One way the other, there’s five different ways they can pay.” — Jan. 20, 2016

    “Lightweights come up to me, and they say you can’t get Mexico to pay for the wall. I said a hundred percent, not 99, I said a hundred percent.” — March 4, 2016

    “Mexico’s going to pay for the wall. They just don’t know it yet. But trust me, they’re going to pay for it.” — Sept. 30, 2016

    “Mexico will pay for the wall. They’ll be very happy to do it. Very happy to do it.” — Oct. 30, 2016

    “One way or the other Mexico is going to pay for the wall. It may be through reimbursement, but one way or the other, Mexico will pay for the wall.” — Aug. 28, 2017

    “Mexico will pay — in some form — Mexico will pay for the wall.” — Jan. 6, 2018

    “They can pay for it through, as an example, they can pay for it indirectly through NAFTA. OK? You know, we make a good deal on NAFTA, say I’m going to take a small percentage of that money and it’s going to go toward the wall. Guess what? Mexico’s paying.” — Jan. 11, 2018

    “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!”

    More History:

    […] In his first conversation with then-Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, on Jan. 27, 2017 […] Trump admitted that he had a political problem of his own making. […]

    “The fact is we are both in a little bit of a political bind because I have to have Mexico pay for the wall — I have to,” Trump said. “I have been talking about it for a two-year period.” He pleaded with the Mexican president not to say that Mexico would not pay for it. “You cannot say that to the press. The press is going to go with that, and I cannot live with that,” Trump said.

    Peña Nieto replied that he was happy to avoid the subject. “Let us for now stop talking about the wall,” he said. “… Let us leave this topic — let us put it aside and let us find a creative way of looking into this issue.”

    Trump agreed that if reporters asked about Mexico paying for the wall, he would try to avoid the issue by saying he was trying to work something out. […]

    About that claim from Trump that the NAFTA deal he tweaked would pay for the wall, which is equally ridiculous.

    […] Countries do not “lose” money on trade deficits. A trade deficit simply means that people in one country are buying more goods from another country than people in the second country are buying from the first country. […]

    the trade deficit with Mexico has been climbing during the Trump presidency, so by his own (nonsensical) math, he’s already in deficit. […]

    The new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is actually a modest updating of the 25-year-old NAFTA. […]

    One key change concerns autos, and it might end up raising prices for American consumers. Starting in 2020, to qualify for zero tariffs, a car or truck must have 75 percent of its components manufactured in Canada, Mexico or the United States, a substantial boost from the current 62.5 percent requirement.

    In theory, if automakers do not meet the requirement, there will be tariffs on cars, which would increase revenue. But that means Trump’s policy would have failed, since the whole point was to encourage more production in the United States. Moreover, the tariffs would essentially be a tax on American car buyers, who would pay higher prices.

    There’s nothing in the agreement that earmarks funds for the wall. And any revenue raised via tariffs (or some other source) still must be appropriated by Congress, which thus far has refused to fund Trump’s wall.

    Finally, the agreement must still be ratified by legislators in the three countries and would not take effect until 2020 at the earliest. […]

    The president has already earned a Bottomless Pinocchio for claiming that the United States loses money on trade deficits. Now, he’s claiming that the “savings” from his trade deal will pay for the border wall.

    […] even if the trade deficit declined, that would not translate into government revenue that could be claimed for the wall. Congress would still need to appropriate the necessary funds.

    It’s hard for any politician to admit they broke a campaign promise. But no amount of spinning and fuzzy math will obscure the fact that Trump made a promise that he cannot deliver. If he keeps making this claim, he’ll end up with a Bottomless Pinocchio — compounded.

  143. says

    KG, (comments 148-151), it sounds like Corbyn just likes a fight. It looks like he is fighting just to keep his heart pumping. Fighting for the sake of fighting. And he wants to make sure the Tories get the blame. It’s all very Trump-like.

    Also, lots of incompetence, plenty to go around. Also, procedural shenanigans.

  144. says

    Trump’s White House just hired 17 new lawyers.

    The optics are bad, as they say, to see the White House hiring more than a dozen more lawyers when Trump is refusing at the same time to end the shutdown so that government workers can get paid.

    From the Washington Post:

    […] A beefed-up White House legal team is gearing up to prevent President Trump’s confidential discussions with top advisers from being disclosed to House Democratic investigators and revealed in the special counsel’s long-awaited report, setting the stage for a potential clash between the branches of government.

    The strategy to strongly assert the president’s executive privilege on both fronts is being developed under newly arrived White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, who has hired 17 lawyers in recent weeks to help in the effort. […]

    There is a growing sense that the special counsel’s closely held investigation could come to culmination soon. Some Trump advisers think Mueller could deliver the confidential report explaining his findings to senior Justice Department officials next month. Under the rules authorizing the special counsel, the attorney general can then decide whether to share the report or parts of it with Congress and the public.

    Some House leaders have vowed to immediately seek to obtain a copy of Mueller’s findings. But the White House would resist the release of details describing confidential and sensitive communications between the president and his senior aides, Trump advisers say. […]

  145. says

    The government shutdown has put a stop to most food safety inspections by the FDA.

    The ongoing federal government shutdown has stopped most food safety inspections, but the Food and Drug Administration is planning to resume at least some of them. To do it, the agency will have to force furloughed workers to come back without pay. […]

    […] the FDA has virtually stopped inspecting domestic food production facilities, which could mean threats to the public are going undetected.

    NBC News link

    As Steve Benen noted: FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb conceded to NBC News, in reference to the agency he leads, “There are important things we are not doing.”

    Only people who eat food should be concerned.

  146. says

    Nancy Pelosi to Mitch McConnell: “Do you take an oath to the Constitution or an oath to Donald Trump?”

    In other news, tests show you can saw right through Trump’s ‘impenetrable’ border wall. See photos here.

  147. says

    Trump frequently reveals his shallow and narcissistic motives. He just wants another “win.”

    There is GREAT unity with the Republicans in the House and Senate, despite the Fake News Media working in overdrive to make the story look otherwise. The Opposition Party & the Dems know we must have Strong Border Security, but don’t want to give “Trump” another one of many wins!

    So, the government shutdown and the drama around Trump’s push for the wall is not a “national emergency” then? There is no “crisis” on the border? There is no “national security” issue that the wall would solve. I’m shocked. Shocked, I say.

    From Nancy Pelosi:

    Many federal workers will not be receiving their paychecks, and what that means in their lives is tragic … the president seems to be insensitive to that. He thinks maybe they could just ask their father for more money. But they can’t.

  148. says

    The Shutdown Could Take Its Biggest Toll on the Most Vulnerable Americans

    Millions of people who rely on federal housing assistance are at risk.

    […] “The needless government shutdown has put the lowest-income residents at risk,” said Ellen Lurie Hoffman, federal policy director at the National Housing Trust, in a letter to Congress. “This threatens seniors, people with disabilities, and families who are struggling to make ends meet.” […]

    “The longer the shutdown continues, the more low-income people will be hard hit,” Yentel says. Local housing agencies rely on federal funding for capital and operating costs. They have enough funds to keep operating through the end of the month, but if the shutdown stretches into February, the situation could get precarious, particularly in smaller cities and rural areas that rely even more on the federal government.

    Even before local housing agencies run out of cash, the impact of the shutdown is already being felt. Federal contracts for the Project-Based Rental Assistance program, which subsidizes rent and utilities for 1.2 million low-income families, expired on January 1, and HUD couldn’t renew them because the department was mostly shut down. […]

  149. says

    The FBI and the shutdown:

    The professional organization representing the country’s FBI agents on Thursday called for an end to the ongoing partial government shutdown, warning that the current lapse in funds is unsustainable and could ultimately compromise national security.

    The FBI Agents Association, which represents nearly all active duty FBI agents, urged lawmakers in a letter to pass appropriations for the Department of Justice as soon as possible, noting that FBI agents, like over half a million other federal employees, are set to miss their first paychecks on Friday because of the shutdown. […]

    The letter from the FBI agent group undercuts Trump’s argument that large parts of the federal workforce support his push for border wall funds, even if it means the government shutdown persists. […]


  150. says

    The government shutdown is hurting America’s diplomats — and diplomacy

    The State Department is running on fumes.

    […] Many of the State Department’s roughly 75,000 employees — 50,000 are employed locally in US embassies abroad — have found trouble progressing with their work and even, in some cases, struggling to put food on the table while they wait for the White House and Congress to strike a deal. That’s a big problem, since the State Department is America’s leading foreign relations agency. […]

  151. says

    Trump renewed his threat to declare a national emergency today.

    This text is from Steve Benen’s analysis:

    […] Under this plan, Trump would grant himself emergency powers, borrow the “power of the purse” from legislators, redirect funds away from the Pentagon, and build a border wall in defiance of Congress’ wishes.

    How likely is the president to pull the trigger on this? As of this morning, Trump made it sound as if he’d effectively made up his mind.

    “I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency. The lawyers have so advised me. I’m not prepared to do that yet, but if I have to I will. I have no doubt about it. I will. I have the absolute right to declare. […]

    “I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency. I haven’t done it yet. I may do it. If this doesn’t work out, probably I will do that. I would almost say definitely…. This is a national emergency.”

    “I would like to do the deal through Congress and because it makes sense to do it through Congress but the easy route for me would have been to call a national emergency and do it.”

    “If we don’t make a deal, I mean, I would say 100 percent [likely] but I don’t want to say 100 percent because maybe something else comes up. But if we don’t make a deal, I would say it would be very surprising to me that I would not declare a national emergency.”

    Of course, the president’s argument seems to be that pursuing this route is more of a fallback plan in response to legislative failure than a genuine belief that there’s an actual emergency that necessitates extraordinary action. Don’t be surprised if his quotes are used against him in the event of a court case. […]

    Does this mean an emergency declaration might actually be good news? That’s a matter of perspective. Many would benefit from the end of a pointless shutdown, but as the New York Times’ Charlie Savage explained in an overnight piece, if Trump were to pursue such a radical strategy, it would be “an extraordinary violation of constitutional norms,” which would risk long-term damage to how federal institutions are supposed to operate.

    As Walter Dellinger, a former solicitor general in the Clinton administration, put it, “If there is not, in fact, a persuasive basis for this being the kind of national emergency that was contemplated by Congress, and it is nevertheless approved by the Department of Justice, what is the rule-of-law cost? […]

    […] Major legal disputes like these tend to take quite a while before getting resolved. It’s possible, if not probable, that Trump could try this radical move, and the adjudication would extend well into 2020. All of which is to say, if the president sees this as the quickest route to beginning construction, he’s likely to be disappointed.

  152. tomh says

    For anyone looking for a faint ray of sunshine amidst the Trump darkness, this feel-good story from the WaPo about the district that replaced the Democratic power broker, Joe Crowley (who had pushed legislation mandating that immigrations and customs officers file a report every time they stop someone, rather than every time they make an arrest) with the 29-year-old Latina leftist working as a bartender, should do the trick.

    A cautious hope emerges among Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s constituents

    But they didn’t stop there. They voted a formerly undocumented immigrant to the state assembly, and they replaced another long-standing politician in the state Senate. The political old guard had been toppled. In its stead were three leftist Latinas with no prior experience in government, who echoed their neighborhood’s desire for a radical shift in politics.

  153. says

    Texas Border Landowners Vow To Reject Buyouts For Trump’s Wall

    […] Rather than surrender their land, some property owners are digging in, vowing to reject buyout offers and preparing to fight the administration in court.

    “You could give me a trillion dollars and I wouldn’t take it,” said Cavazos, whose land sits along the Rio Grande, the river separating the U.S. and Mexico in Texas. “It’s not about money.” […]

    Congress in March funded 33 miles (53 kilometers) of walls and fencing in Texas. The government has laid out plans that would cut across private land in the Rio Grande Valley. Those in the way include landowners who have lived in the valley for generations, environmental groups and a 19th century chapel.

    Many have hired lawyers who are preparing to fight the government if, as expected, it moves to seize their land through eminent domain. […]

    Legal experts say Trump likely cannot waive eminent domain — which requires the government to demonstrate a public use for the land and provide landowners with compensation — by declaring a national emergency. […]

  154. says

    Scott Pruitt has left the Trump administration, but he remains a scam artist and a self-dealing dunderhead.

    Scott Pruitt left a long trail of investigations behind when he exited the Environmental Protection Agency last July to lead a private life as a coal consultant. […] Democratic senators [requested] more information from the EPA revolving around Pruitt’s legal defense fund. […]

    […] questions about a financial filing in December that revealed a $50,000 donation to Pruitt’s legal defense fund from a Republican donor and businesswoman. An EPA ethics official noted on the report that Pruitt did not seek ethics advice before accepting the gift (another promise he made back in May that he’s broken). “EPA ethics officials did not know of this contribution—believed to be in cash —until they received the termination report,” the official, Justina Fugh, wrote.

    That is a problem, the senators argue, because the Office of Government Ethics forbids officials from accepting gifts from “prohibited sources”—or entities with business before the agency. The OGE also instructs officials “to seek advice from ethics officials before accepting a gift to pay for legal expenses.” […]

    Pruitt’s single listed benefactor was Diane Hendricks, considered by Forbes the “richest self-made woman” in America thanks to her role as the chair of the wholesale roofing distributor ABC Supply Company. […]

    “Because Hendricks Holdings is a privately held company, Ms. Hendricks likely has a personal financial stake in its numerous subsidiaries, any one of which may be a prohibited source,” the Democrats write.

    The disclosure in Pruitt’s termination report indicates that it was a gift he received while he was still in office, observes Robert Rizzi, an ethics lawyer with experience in legal defense funds. “What it really shows is that these legal defense funds can be vehicles for getting payments from people who are affected by your agency,” Rizzi told Mother Jones. “In this case, we don’t know that. But there’s obviously potential for that.” […]

    The senators ask the EPA to disclose any communications with Hendricks and the companies she’s invested in starting from when Pruitt arrived in 2017, and any related investigations or enforcement actions in the last five years. […]

    Mother Jones link

  155. says

    Well, this doesn’t make much sense, but since when has Trump ever made much sense.

    Because of the Democrats intransigence on Border Security and the great importance of Safety for our Nation, I am respectfully cancelling [sic] my very important trip to Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum. My warmest regards and apologies to the @wef!

    The World Economic Forum begins on January 22. Does this mean Trump is planning for the shutdown to continue through January? Or does it mean that Trump just decided he doesn’t want to travel to Davos this year and was looking for an excuse? (There were anti-Trump protests last time he went.) Does it mean Trump just looks for any opportunity to needle the Democrats, even when it doesn’t make sense?

    Trump’s main contribution to negotiations over border security has been to blow up any deals on which Republicans and Democrats agree. It would be good to have a break from the Trump tantrums. Hope he changes his mind and goes to Switzerland to see some international protestors.

  156. says

    Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, is scheduled to testify before Congress on February 7. The testimony will be public.

    That should be interesting.

    The House Oversight Committee Chairman is Elijah Cummings, an experienced Democrat.

  157. says

    Trump’s advisers push for emergency declaration — while assuming it’ll be stopped in court.

    They are treating a state of emergency as a get-out-of-shutdown-free card.

    Anything to placate Big Baby Trump, I guess.

    From Peter Nicholas:

    White House officials discussing a potential exit ramp in the shutdown fight: Trump declares national emergency; courts intervene and stay the order; he and Congress re-open the gov’t while case is litigated.

    For political reasons, and to tamp down the Trump tantrum, White House officials are pushing for Trump to take an action, (declaring a national emergency), that they think the courts will block.

    What if the courts don’t block it?

  158. says

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went to Cairo to give a speech about Trump’s Middle East policy. Trump’s policy is completely incoherent, so I guess it should not be too surprising that Pompeo’s speech was also incoherent. Still, more of an effort should have been made to at least sound coherent.

    […] Pompeo’s speech, titled “A Force for Good: America’s Reinvigorated Role in the Middle East,” presented a rosy picture of the US’s historical involvement in the region that was largely at odds with historical reality. It described a vague vision of US involvement going forward that seemed both incoherent and largely at odds with President Donald Trump’s America First approach to foreign policy.

    The result was a speech that essentially boiled down to: Iran is bad, the Obama administration was bad, and Trump’s America is awesome.

    […] in trying to denigrate Obama’s approach to the Middle East at every turn, Pompeo — purposely or accidentally — expressed a sentiment that flies in the face of Trump’s latest moves in the region.

    “So today, what did we learn from all of this?” he asked, referring to the “dire” lessons of Obama’s failed approach. “We learned that when America retreats, chaos often follows. When we neglect our friends, resentment builds. And when we partner with enemies, they advance.”

    Warning that chaos results when America withdraws from the Middle East is quite a statement for Pompeo to make, given that the entire reason he’s in the Middle East right now is to try to reassure allies following Trump’s abrupt announcement that he is withdrawing all 2,000 US troops from Syria.

    […] Pompeo failed to go into specifics about how America is actually going to go about its renewed engagement […] Pompeo’s speech made two things clear: The Obama administration’s Middle East policy was bad, and so is Iran. The rest was a jumble of vague statements about building and strengthening partnerships and confronting terrorism. Democracy and human rights were largely absent in a speech that was supposed to be about America being a force for good. […]

    […] he didn’t exactly make a compelling case for the Trump administration’s current policies. Pompeo was frustratingly opaque about how, exactly, the US planned to engage in the region — and be that “force for good” — other than simply not being Iran. And what he did say clashed with Trump’s past statements.

    “For those who fret about the use of American power, remember: America has always been a liberating force, not an occupying power, in the Middle East,” Pompeo said. “We’ve never dreamed of domination. Can you say the same of the Iranian regime?”

    America as a “liberating force” doesn’t exactly fit with Trump’s America First policy […]

    The result was a speech that highlighted not just the push-pull between Trump and the rest of his top foreign policy advisers, but also the utter incoherence of the administration’s Middle East policy. Rather than clarifying Trump’s decision-making for the region and for America’s allies, Pompeo’s speech revealed the murky mess that it is.

    Vox link

    More details are available at the link.

  159. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Lynna #168

    What if the courts don’t block it?

    Given the discussion on MSNBC last night, Trump appears to be more interested in optics showing him not caving in to the democrats, rather than actually getting the wall built, which he (stupidly) thinks will help him in 2020 as a talking point if no concrete is being poured.
    Lawyers can always argue their case so badly, that a judge will inevitably decide against them. I suspect that is what Trump really wants to happen. That would increase his grievances of persecution, and provide an excuse for letting the government reopen.

  160. says

    Nerd @170, good points. Thanks.

    Today, I noticed this detail: Trump may be planning to take disaster relief funds slated for use in Puerto Rico and other places to build his wall.

    If so, he will be adding insult on top of insult.

    The idea of declaring a national emergency in order to build a wall is starting to scare Republicans. From Marco Rubio:

    If today, the national emergency is border security … tomorrow the national emergency might be climate change.

    Climate change is a crisis, one that is real, but I get Rubio’s point.

  161. says

    Trump continues to claim that his border wall will solve problems it will not solve.

    From the New York Times:

    […] Trump surrounded himself with border agents, victims of horrible crimes, a display of methamphetamine and heroin, an AK-47 and an AR-15 rifle, and a trash bag stuffed with $362,062 in cash that had been confiscated by law enforcement officials.

    In his view, it all added up to a single word, “crisis,” with a lone solution, building a wall — a point he emphasized in a discussion with the crime victims, law enforcement officers and McAllen residents. […]

    But there was another reality. The display of drugs, weapons and cash was mainly the product of law enforcement actions stopping criminals at international bridges, where most drugs are smuggled, and conventional ports of entry.

  162. says

    Followup to comment 171.

    Rep. Matt Gaetz [a Republican from Florida] said that he doesn’t want […]Trump to declare a national emergency to fund the wall because of the precedent it would set for the next Democratic President, according to a Thursday Wall Street Journal report.

    “I don’t want the next national emergency to be that some Democrat President says we have to build transgender bathrooms in every elementary school in America,” Gaetz said.

    Trump has been teasing the decision for days, saying Thursday that he “can’t imagine any reason” not to declare a national emergency.


  163. says

    Members Of Congress honored Jamal Khashoggi 100 days after he was killed.

    Members of Congress called for the protection of press freedom around the world Thursday as they honored a U.S.-based Saudi columnist who was killed inside his country’s consulate in Turkey in October.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Adam Schiff of California and Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia were among those attending an event at the Capitol marking 100 days since the slaying of writer Jamal Khashoggi.

    Pelosi said Congress is committed to seeing that the people responsible for his killing are held accountable.

    “We must honor our moral responsibility to safeguard the lives and liberties of journalists both at home and abroad,” she told a room of lawmakers, journalists and activists.

    “If we decide that commercial interests should override the statements that we make and the actions that we take then we must admit that we have lost all moral authority,” she said. […]

  164. says

    Trump said, “I’m a professional at technology.” No, he is not.

    Here is that comment in context:

    The only [way] you’re going to have border security — there’s only [one] way. You can have all the technology in the world. I’m a professional at technology. But if you don’t have a steel barrier or a wall of some kind — strong, powerful — you’re going to have human trafficking; you’re going to have drugs pouring across the border; you’re going to have MS-13 and the gangs coming in.

    Trump went on to say about MS-13: “We’re removing them by the thousand.” Nope. Trump always has a problem with numbers. He inflates them a hundred or a thousand fold.

    As Steve Benen said, this is what Trump is:

    […] a television personality, an amateur politician, an amateur conspiracy theorist, and an overleveraged businessman who managed to lose money running a casino, […] a man confused by Google News results […]

    From the Washington Post, a look at how many times Trump claims to be the foremost expert in some field:

    […] “I know more about drones than anybody,” Trump said. […]

    Close Trump watchers will recognize the format of this assertion that Trump knows more than anyone about topic X. He’s used it frequently, fitting with his tendency toward hyperbole in all things, especially himself. It is high time, though, that we document all of Trump’s expertises, given how frequently a president is called upon to exercise his judgment on important issues. […]

    So, an index of those things on which Trump is the leading expert […]

    “You also know I predicted that Osama bin Laden was coming to the United States, because I knew a lot about it, and I know more about it than most, believe me, and I’ve been given credit for it.”

    “I know more about Cory [Booker] than he knows about himself.” […]

    “I know more about [campaign] contributions than anybody,” […]

    “Nobody knows more about debt than I do,” […]

    “I know the H-1B [visa system]. I know the H-2B. Nobody knows it better than me.” […]

    “Nobody in the history of this country has ever known so much about infrastructure as Donald Trump.” […]

    “I understand money better than anybody,” […]

    “There is nobody who understands the horror of nuclear more than me” […]

    “I know more about people who get ratings than anyone.” […]

    “I know more about renewables than any human being on earth.” […]

    “I know more about steelworkers than anybody that’s ever run for office,” […]

    “I know the details of taxes better than anybody. Better than the greatest C.P.A.,” […]

    “I know tech better than anyone, & technology.” […]

    “I know more about wedges than any human being that’s ever lived,” […]

    More at the link.

  165. says

    During border visit, Trump gets border apprehensions backwards.

    […] Trump traveled to southern Texas, where he highlighted another non-existent record set by Customs and Border Patrol officials. “They have done a fantastic job,” the president said. “Never so many apprehensions, ever, in our history.”

    That’s not just wrong; it’s backwards.

    In fact, apprehensions at the southern border are at historic lows. Border Patrol agents caught just under 400,000 people trying to illegally cross the border in 2017, and just over 300,000 in 2016. Yet from 1983 to 2006, border apprehensions topped one million 19 times, with the agency setting a record in 2000 with 1,643,679 apprehensions, according to Customs and Border Patrol data.

    And while it’s problematic when Trump peddles claims that aren’t true, in this case, the issue is made more serious by how the president intends to respond to his confusion.

    Does Trump want a wall because he thinks CBP is making more apprehensions than at any point in American history? If someone can point out reality to him, maybe he’ll back off his shutdown gambit?

    Other things Trump has gotten wrong:

    […] He argued this week, for example, that the number of jobs created in December was “record setting,” It wasn’t. In fact, December wasn’t even the best month for jobs in 2018, much less all of American history.

    [Earlier this year, Trump] boasted of “record” enrollments in association health plans, despite the fact that the plans hadn’t yet gone on sale. Trump has similarly bragged several times that he set a “record” by increasing defense spending, even though the record doesn’t belong to him. […]

  166. says

    Russian singer Emin Agalarov is going to tour the USA.

    […] taking his sultry ballads and pop numbers on a four-city North American tour later this month. And as much as he’d like to focus on his American fans, Emin—who helped orchestrate the private June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between a recently indicted Russian emissary and Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and the now-imprisoned Paul Manafort—may not be able to avoid the attention of one particular American who has little interest in his music: special counsel Robert Mueller.

    With shows scheduled in New York, Toronto, Miami, and Los Angeles that are, according to his publicist Ric Salmon, “nearly” sold out, Emin’s tour comes just six months after news broke that the special counsel has been pressing for an interview with the singer, who is the son of President Donald Trump’s most prominent Russian business partner, Aras Agalarov. And Emin’s plans to spend time in the United States suggest that he has already answered questions from the special counsel or is prepared to do so when he arrives. Otherwise, the singer should certainly expect a visit from the special counsel’s investigators—perhaps as soon as his flight lands. […]


  167. says

    Followup to comment 171.

    From Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello:

    No wall should be funded on the pain and suffering of US citizens who have endured tragedy and loss through a natural disaster. Today it’s us, tomorrow it could be you.


    […] Trump has been criticized for his lackluster response to natural disasters in places like Puerto Rico and California in particular, where Hurricane Maria and a wave of wildfires, respectively, have left wide swaths of destruction. Earlier this week, Trump threatened to yank FEMA dollars for California, accusing the state for poor forest management, even though FEMA is currently hamstrung by the shutdown.

    Rossello argued that not only should Trump dismiss the plan to divert money from reconstruction efforts, he should provide even more money for those initiatives, pleading with the president that he not “tear down U.S. citizens in order to build a wall” […]


  168. says

    Right. I’m sure Robert Mueller will go for this.

    Rudy Giuliani says President Trump’s legal team should be allowed to “correct” special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report before Congress or the American people get the chance to read it.


  169. says

    There is more confusion surrounding the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria … more confusion if you look at what National Security Adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Hair Furor have said recently.

    However, if you look at what it actually happening, it’s less confusing. U.S. troops are withdrawing from Syria.

    […] This week, Bolton and Pompeo flew to the region to assure allies that Trump’s wish wouldn’t come true anytime soon.

    In Israel on Sunday, Bolton told reporters that US troops would stay in Syria until two conditions are met: The remaining ISIS fighters still active in Syria are defeated, and Turkey promises not to attack US-allied Kurdish fighters in Northern Syria after America left.

    And on Thursday, Pompeo delivered a speech in Cairo, Egypt, in which he declared that “when America retreats, chaos often follows” and vowed that “America will not retreat until the terror fight is over.”

    That now appears somewhat bogus — because Friday morning, Col. Sean Ryan, a spokesperson for the US-led coalition to defeat ISIS, told reporters that “the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria” has started. […] even after a full week of assurances that America might reconsider a full withdrawal, it’s gone ahead and started that process.

    “This is an administration in disarray,” Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations think tank, tweeted on Friday in response to the news.

    […] “Nothing has changed,” an official [said]. “We don’t take orders from Bolton.”

    The report also noted that there are troops in Kuwait and western Iraq prepared to help their colleagues in Syria leave as well as a ship full of Marines and aircraft headed to the region to protect troops while they withdraw. That would actually increase the number of troops in the area to help the withdrawal process.

    […] The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks conditions on the ground in Syria, reported that the US military had begun moving equipment — around 10 armored vehicles and engineering machines — from a base in Northeastern Syria.

    And a Trump administration official told CNN on Friday that “some cargo has already moved” out of Syria. Another official added that the Pentagon may offer occasional updates about the withdrawal so that the public — and presumably the president — can see that the military is following orders.

    Pompeo and Bolton may not agree with those orders, but at the end of the day, Trump is the commander in chief, and his orders are the only ones that matter.


  170. says

    From Wonkette’s coverage of the speech Trump gave at the border yesterday:


    A wheel is older than a wall. And I looked, and every single car out there, even the really expensive ones that the Secret Service uses, and believe me they are expensive, I said, ‘Do they all have wheels?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Oh. I thought it was medieval. […]

    There are some things that work. A wheel works, and a wall works!


    Of course, #FactCheck, wheels are not older than walls. We could get into a history lesson, or we could just continue assuming that our average reader is not mindfuckingly stupid. […]

  171. tomh says

    From the NYT:
    Ruth Bader Ginsburg Is Cancer Free After Surgery, Supreme Court Says

    WASHINGTON — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is cancer free and on the mend after her recent surgery for the disease, a Supreme Court spokeswoman said on Friday.

    “Her recovery from surgery is on track,” the spokeswoman, Kathleen Arberg, said in a statement. “Post-surgery evaluation indicates no evidence of remaining disease, and no further treatment is required.”

    Justice Ginsburg, 85, underwent surgery in late December to remove two nodules from her left lung. She missed this week’s arguments, and will be absent from the bench next week, too, Ms. Arberg said.

    “Justice Ginsburg will continue to work from home next week and will participate in the consideration and decision of the cases on the basis of the briefs and the transcripts of oral arguments,” Ms. Arberg said.

    After next Wednesday’s arguments, the court will take its four-week midwinter break, returning to the bench on Feb. 19.

  172. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Rachael Maddow last night interviewed during her last segment Dr. Raja Flores, chair of thoracic surgery at Mt. Sinai Hospital, about the type of surgery Justice RBG underwent. He indicated that her recovery seems normal. During the following commercial break Dr. Flores said he did essentially the same surgery on a 105 year old woman. That was reported during the hand-off to Lawrence O’Donnell.

  173. tomh says

    @ 183
    That’s interesting. 105 yrs old! Who would have thought such a thing was ever done.

    There’s a new biography of Ginsburg, “Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life,” by Jane Sherron De Hart, a retired professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

    The book is reviewed on Scotusblog. I thought this snippet was interesting.

    Some of De Hart’s most valuable insights come in her account of how Ginsburg, who, in an effort “not [to] be considered confrontational,” responded to Harvard Law School Dean Erwin Griswold’s query about why she was occupying a place in the first-year class that could have gone to a man by saying it was important for her to “understand her husband’s work,” came to espouse women’s rights so whole-heartedly.

  174. says

    Wow! Breaking news.

    F.B.I. Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia, according to a new report from the New York Times.

    In the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests, according to former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation.

    The inquiry carried explosive implications. Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the president’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security. Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.

    The investigation the F.B.I. opened into Mr. Trump also had a criminal aspect, which has long been publicly known: whether his firing of Mr. Comey constituted obstruction of justice.

    Agents and senior F.B.I. officials had grown suspicious of Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign but held off on opening an investigation into him, the people said, in part because they were uncertain how to proceed with an inquiry of such sensitivity and magnitude. But the president’s activities before and after Mr. Comey’s firing in May 2017, particularly two instances in which Mr. Trump tied the Comey dismissal to the Russia investigation, helped prompt the counterintelligence aspect of the inquiry, the people said.

    The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, took over the inquiry into Mr. Trump when he was appointed, days after F.B.I. officials opened it. That inquiry is part of Mr. Mueller’s broader examination of how Russian operatives interfered in the 2016 election and whether any Trump associates conspired with them. It is unclear whether Mr. Mueller is still pursuing the counterintelligence matter, and some former law enforcement officials outside the investigation have questioned whether agents overstepped in opening it.

    The criminal and counterintelligence elements were coupled together into one investigation, former law enforcement officials said in interviews in recent weeks, because if Mr. Trump had ousted the head of the F.B.I. to impede or even end the Russia investigation, that was both a possible crime and a national security concern. The F.B.I.’s counterintelligence division handles national security matters.

    If the president had fired Mr. Comey to stop the Russia investigation, the action would have been a national security issue because it naturally would have hurt the bureau’s effort to learn how Moscow interfered in the 2016 election and whether any Americans were involved, according to James A. Baker, who served as F.B.I. general counsel until late 2017. He privately testified in October before House investigators who were examining the F.B.I.’s handling of the full Russia inquiry. […]

    More at the link.

  175. says

    Trump broke a record. He should NOT be proud of this record.

    The House broke for the weekend Friday, all but ensuring that the partial government shutdown would become the longest in U.S. history, while President Trump continued his efforts to sway public opinion on the need for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

  176. says

    Followup to comment 185.

    From Benjamin Wittes, writing for Lawfare:

    […] Observers of the Russia investigation have generally understood Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s work as focusing on at least two separate tracks: collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, on the one hand, and potential obstruction of justice by the president, on the other. But what if the obstruction was the collusion—or at least a part of it? […]

    Today, the New York Times is reporting that in the days following the firing of James Comey, the FBI opened an investigation of President Trump. It wasn’t simply the obstruction investigation that many of us have assumed. It was also a counterintelligence investigation predicated on the notion that the president’s own actions might constitute a national security threat. […]

    The analysis that follows is lengthy and takes a number of twists and turns before laying out what I think is the significance of the whole thing. Here’s the bottom line: I believe that between today’s New York Times story and some other earlier material I have been sifting through and thinking about, we might be in a position to revisit the relationship between the “collusion” and obstruction components of the Mueller investigation. Specifically, I now believe they are far more integrated with one another than I previously understood. […]

    Much more at the link.

    From former FBI General Counsel James Baker:

    A lot of the criticism seems to be driven by the notion that the FBI’s investigation was, and is, an effort to undermine or discredit President Trump. That assumption is wrong. The FBI’s investigation must be viewed in the context of the bureau’s decades-long effort to detect, disrupt and defeat the intelligence activities of the governments of the Soviet Union and later the Russian Federation that are contrary to the fundamental and long-term interests of the United States. The FBI’s counterintelligence investigation regarding the 2016 campaign fundamentally was not about Donald Trump but was about Russia. Full stop. It was always about Russia. It was about what Russia was, and is, doing and planning. Of course, if that investigation revealed that anyone—Russian or American—committed crimes in connection with Russian intelligence activities or unlawfully interfered with the investigation, the FBI has an obligation under the law to investigate such crimes and to seek to bring those responsible to justice. The FBI’s enduring counterintelligence mission is the reason the Russia investigation will, and should, continue—no matter who is fired, pardoned or impeached (emphasis added).

    More from Ben Wittes:

    […] what if the factual premise is more complicated than that? What if the pattern that jumped out at the FBI officials was that the President of the United States had just sought to interfere in an investigation of Russian intelligence activity and then boasted on television that his action was connected in some way to the Russia probe? What if the FBI knew that by the time he did so, the president had drafted a never-sent dismissal letter to Comey, and this letter also made clear that the Russia probe was on his mind at the time he acted? These are the facts that, the Times reports, led the bureau to open a new file on Trump:

    After Mr. Comey was fired on May 9, 2017, two more of Mr. Trump’s actions prompted them to quickly abandon those reservations.

    The first was a letter Mr. Trump wanted to send to Mr. Comey about his firing, but never did, in which he mentioned the Russia investigation. . . .

    Even after the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, wrote a more restrained draft of the letter and told Mr. Trump that he did not have to mention the Russia investigation — Mr. Comey’s poor handling of the Clinton email investigation would suffice as a fireable offense, he explained — Mr. Trump directed Mr. Rosenstein to mention the Russia investigation anyway.

    He disregarded the president’s order, irritating Mr. Trump. The president ultimately added a reference to the Russia investigation to the note he had delivered, thanking Mr. Comey for telling him three times that he was not under investigation.

    The second event that troubled investigators was an NBC News interview two days after Mr. Comey’s firing in which Mr. Trump appeared to say he had dismissed Mr. Comey because of the Russia inquiry.

    “I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it,” he said. “And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself—I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”

    […] even as the bureau was beginning its obstruction inquiry, Trump boasted about his action to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador, saying he had relieved pressure on himself by taking it. […]

    The reporting Schmidt shared with me about Baker’s testimony suggests rather strongly that the FBI did not think of the Comey firing simply as a possible obstruction of justice. Officials thought of it, rather, in the context of the underlying counterintelligence purpose of the Russia investigation. At one point, Baker was asked whether firing Director Comey added to the threat to national security the FBI was confronting.

    “Yes,” Baker responds. […]

    As noted above, much more at the link.

  177. says

    Trump claims that there is no chaos in the White House, and that he has a plan for the shutdown:

    I just watched a Fake reporter from the Amazon Washington Post say the White House is “chaotic, there does not seem to be a strategy for this Shutdown. There is no plan.” The Fakes always like talking Chaos, there is NONE. In fact, there’s almost nobody in the W.H. but me, and .I do have a plan on the Shutdown. But to understand that plan you would have to understand the fact that I won the election, and I promised safety and security for the American people. Part of that promise was a Wall at the Southern Border. Elections have consequences!

    We have a massive Humanitarian Crisis at our Southern Border. We will be out for a long time unless the Democrats come back from their “vacations” and get back to work. I am in the White House ready to sign!

    I don’t know how one becomes a “Fake reporter.”

    The Washington Post is not the “Amazon Washington Post.” Jeff Bezos does not interfere with or any way direct what is printed in the Post.

    If there is “almost nobody in the W.H. but me” then we really are in trouble. Incompetence, chaos, and conflict are guaranteed.

    The differing and sometimes contradictory messages coming from Trump aides, from the Vice President, from the heads of the agencies that are shut down, and from Trump himself, (from Trump himself most of all), indicate that, yes, there is chaos in the White house. And, yes, there is no coherent plan. In fact, it soon became apparent that no one on team Trump really knew what effects the shutdown would have, (for example, HUD was unprepared).

    Stephen Colbert talked about the shutdown: YouTube link

  178. says

    Critical Context for the FBI Probe of Trump, from Josh Marshall:

    So many things have happened over the last two-plus years that simply defy belief that it can be essential to review them, to see what light they shed on new developments when arranged in order. Last night the Times reported that in the immediate aftermath of James Comey’s firing the FBI launched a probe into “whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.”

    It’s worth reviewing the precise chain of events.

    Trump fired Comey on Tuesday, May 9th, 2017. The following day, May 10th, Trump received Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in the Oval Office. US press was barred from the event. But the Russian state news agency TASS was invited to cover the meeting. The photos that were later released came out of Russia.

    The White House later confirmed that Trump had taken this meeting because Vladimir Putin had personally asked him to on a phone call a few days earlier. […]

    At the meeting, Trump told Lavrov and Kislyak that he had just fired Comey and that this had removed the “pressure” he was under because of the FBI investigation into possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia. “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off,” […]

    At the meeting, Trump also shared highly classified intelligence about the Islamic State with Lavrov, intelligence that apparently came from Israel and jeopardized field sources and operations in Syria.

    The Times article says that FBI agents felt ‘validated” in their decision to act so quickly and decisively when these quotes from the President to Lavrov surfaced. This makes it seem like this wasn’t itself part of the decision but vindicated the decision after the fact. But that may be a bit misleading. The summary of the discussions was first revealed to The New York Times nine days later on May 19th, presumably after the FBI had already kicked off its investigation. It seems plausible that the FBI would have had access to this information before the Times. But if we take the Times‘ reporting from last night on its face, they only learned what the President said after they started the probe.

    Even if that’s the case, which I assume it was, the fact of the meeting itself, held at President Putin’s request and with no US press allowed would have raised alarm bells throughout the US intelligence and counter-intelligence worlds and almost certainly figured into the decision to launch the investigation.

  179. says

    Here is Trump’s response to the New York Times article, (see comments 185 and 187):

    Wow, just learned in the Failing New York Times that the corrupt former leaders of the FBI, almost all fired or forced to leave the agency for some very bad reasons, opened up an investigation on me, for no reason & with no proof, after I fired Lyin’ James Comey, a total sleaze!

    Funny thing about James Comey. Everybody wanted him fired, Republican and Democrat alike. After the rigged & botched Crooked Hillary investigation, where she was interviewed on July 4th Weekend, not recorded or sworn in, and where she said she didn’t know anything (a lie), the FBI was in complete turmoil (see N.Y. Post) because of Comey’s poor leadership and the way he handled the Clinton mess (not to mention his usurpation of powers from the Justice Department). My firing of James Comey was a great day for America. He was a Crooked Cop who is being totally protected by his best friend, Bob Mueller, & the 13 Angry Democrats – leaking machines who have NO interest in going after the Real Collusion (and much more) by Crooked Hillary Clinton, her Campaign, and the Democratic National Committee. Just Watch!

    I have been FAR tougher on Russia than Obama, Bush or Clinton. Maybe tougher than any other President. At the same time, & as I have often said, getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. I fully expect that someday we will have good relations with Russia again!

    Lyin’ James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter S and his lover, agent Lisa Page, & more, all disgraced and/or fired and caught in the act. These are just some of the losers that tried to do a number on your President. Part of the Witch Hunt. Remember the “insurance policy?” This is it!

    From former Obama administration official and CNN national security analyst Samantha Vinograd:

    The President’s tweet trying to make the case that he’s not a Russian asset really just undercuts his own defense. The President’s tweet couldn’t have been scripted better if it was written by Putin himself. Someone has to have told the President that undercutting the FBI, insulting past presidents and members of the U.S. government, and criticizing their actions to keep us safe is really advancing Russia’s mission. Our own intelligence community has said that those very things are exactly what Russia is after, so in the President’s response he’s really just making Russia’s job easier while at the same time really showing that he’s going to continue to undercut our law enforcement community, and the question really is why.

    This part of Trump’s Twitter rant is true: “former leaders of the FBI, almost all fired or forced to leave the agency for some very bad reasons.” Yes, Trump, you did fire them or force them to leave for very bad reasons, like the fact that you wanted to end the investigation into Russian attacks on U.S. elections.

    Trump also wrote: “opened up an investigation on me, for no reason.” The FBI had plenty of reasons to open a counter intelligence investigation of Trump. Read the New York Times article to get a sense of those very good reasons. And there are probably more reasons that have not yet been made public.

    From the readers comments of a Talking Points Memo article:

    The title of the NYT article is worth restating: “FBI Opened Inquiry into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia”.

    Ponder this headline. This will be in textbooks in the coming years. One of the most important publications in the US has reported that the FBI had good reason to think Trump was a Russian agent who is doing the bidding of Russia and undermining the US from within. Before Trump, such a story would be considered so fantastical it wouldn’t make it to the big screen unless it was wrapped into some slapstick, cornball comedy. […]

    When Mueller got on the case, he wasn’t just investigating Russian interference and ties to the Trump campaign. From the beginning, he was also investigating whether Donald Trump was a Russian asset both from a counterintelligence and criminal perspective. […]

    So who shaped Mueller’s mandate and hid the true scope from Trump? Rod Rosenstein. If you look at the actual mandate granted to Mueller, it’s expressly broadly written […] without putting it expressly in the original order. Rosenstein provided cover to Mueller and expanded the mandate in the follow-up redacted memos. If Bob Barr had been the AG at the time, he would’ve stifled Mueller. […]

    At this point, I wonder how much, if any, difference it makes whether Trump was a witting Russian agent or an unwitting Russian agent. My bet is that he was mostly unwitting, since Trump is unwitting about everything. He has almost no wits. That was a good thing from Russia’s point of view.

  180. John Morales says

    Lynna quoting Trump:

    … almost all fired or forced to leave the agency for some very bad reasons …

    So, to take him at his word, there were no good reasons for them to be fired or forced to leave the agency — only very bad reasons. Pretty sure that’s not what was intended to be expressed.

    (Wordsmith, he ain’t)

  181. KG says

    Brexit update. No hard news, but two lines of speculation:
    1) Reports that the EU would be willing to extend the negotiation period at least to July, if May can convince them she could get a modified deal (maybe including a permanent customs union) through the Commons. This rather assumes that all 27 other EU states would go along with the idea, which I’d say is by no means certain.
    2) Rumours of a cross-party plan for the Commons to gain control of the legislative process from the government. At present, the government of the day determines what gets debated and voted on. If the rumoured attempt succeeded, that would be a considerable shift of power from the executive to the legislature – although in practice it might make little difference when there was a government with a secure majority in the Commons.

    Also, Corbyn has said that if May’s deal is defeated on Tuesday, he will bring forward a motion of no confidence in the government “soon”. But that’s so vague it means little if anything.

  182. says

    redwood @191, yes. We would have to listen to him anyway, which is a hellish situation. To add to the litany of witlessness, Trump was asked point blank on Fox News if he was a Russian agent. In his reply, Trump blathered on and on for more than two minutes, without ever saying that he was not a Russian agent. He never answered, “No.” He did let us know however that he was extremely insulted by the question.

    John @192, correct. Trump said the right thing by accident.

    KG @193, the extension to July sounds like a good idea to me. I know that an extension prolongs the agony, but it would be good to give the powers-that-be more time to get their act together.

  183. says

    Another WOW moment. Trump took the interpreter’s notes from a meeting with Putin, and then Trump told the interpreter not to share details of the meeting.

    […] Trump has taken steps to keep the details of his meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin from reaching other members of his administration, the Washington Post reported Saturday, leaving holes in the U.S. government’s account of what happened during meetings between the two leaders at five locations over the past two years.

    Trump has even gone so far as to take his interpreter’s notes at the end of one meeting, the Post reported, citing current and former U.S. officials. That occurred after the President’s 2017 meeting in Hamburg with Putin, which the Post noted was also attended by then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Trump also instructed the interpreter “not to discuss what had transpired with other administration officials,” in the Post’s words.

    Later, at the same G-20 summit, Trump and Putin spoke at a banquet with only Putin’s interpreter present. The Post said it wasn’t clear if there were other instances when Trump took his interpreter’s notes after meeting with Putin. […]

    The Post reported that, while the American interpreter in the room during the Hamburg meeting “refused” to discuss it with other administration officials, the interpreter did say that Trump responded “I believe you” after Putin denied any Russian involvement in the U.S. election.

    That contradicts the Trump administration line. A White House spokesperson told the Post, without mentioning Hamburg specifically, that Trump “has affirmed that he supports the conclusions in the 2017 Intel Community Assessment.”

    Trump himself told Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro on Saturday, after the Post’s report was published: “Anybody could have listened to that meeting. That meeting is open for grabs.” It was unclear what he meant. [He lied.]

    […] After that meeting, Trump and Putin held a memorable joint press conference during which Trump doubted U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusions about Russian election interference.

    Putin, Trump said at the press conference after their private meeting, “was extremely strong and powerful in his denial” of election interference.

    Several unnamed officials, the Post reported, “said they were never able to get a reliable readout of the president’s two-hour meeting in Helsinki.”

    With the normal flow of information interrupted, the Post reported, administration officials have relied at times on intelligence agencies to glean information about Trump’s meetings with Putin — by monitoring Russian officials’ reactions to the meetings.

    Talking Points Memo link

  184. says

    Followup to comment 196.

    From the readers comments:

    Somewhat old news, but the reporting and summary of the extent of Trump hiding his talks with Putin, taking the interpreter’s notes, and keeping even his highest staff clueless is very disconcerting. On top of the recent revelations of FBI investigations of Trump as a Russian agent, Manafort sharing sensitive polling, Trump spilling classified info to the Russians in the oval office where he admitted firing Comey took the pressure off of him and Russia, Helsinki, etc., this is yet another mind-blower.

    More to come.
    Obviously the interpreter will be called to testify before the House. I hope it goes without saying that her testimony should be public. I would not be at all surprised if, like Comey and others put into a professional and moral bind by Trump’s misdeeds, she quickly made a note of what she’d heard. Unless she’s in cahoots with Trump, which can’t be ruled out but seems unlikely.
    Nadler and Schiff are going to be taking all of this into their very competent hands. There will be lies and obfuscation to wade through, but we have the House and just in time.
    Name one fact that in any way tends to exonerate him, that in any way complicates the issue, militates against his being some kind of asset, anything that argues in the other direction. I’m reasonably honest with myself and I can’t think of one.
    If our current situation were to be likened to the frog in boiling water I’d say the frog is completely cooked by now. There can be no doubt in the minds of sane, rational people that Donald Trump is actively and obviously working at the behest of a hostile foreign power. The overarching problem we have, of course, is that a very large section of the American electorate is most decidedly NOT sane or rational.
    I would only question the term asset. He is phenomenally stupid, so I think the better term for him is useful idiot — though of course that still does make him an asset. It just gets rid of any semantic connection with competence.

  185. says

    Here are the 358 words Donald Trump said when asked if he works for Putin. (None of them were “no.”)

    Even when it’s a softball from a friend, Trump struggles to give a straight answer on the central national security question of the age.
    Think Progress link

    […] I think it’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked. I think it’s the most insulting article I’ve ever had written. And if you read the article, you’d see that they found absolutely nothing. But the, the headline of that article, it’s called “The failing New York Times” for a reason, they’ve gotten me wrong for three years. They’ve actually gotten me wrong for many years before that. But you look at what’s going on, you know, I fired James Comey. I call him lying James Comey, because he was a terrible liar, and he did a terrible job as the FBI director. Look at what happened with the Hillary Clinton and the e-mails and the Hillary Clinton investigation, one of the biggest screw-ups that anybody’s ever seen as an investigation. And what happened after I fired him? Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, his lover, Lisa Page, they did it. And, you know, they’re all gone. Most of those people, many, many people from the top ranks of the FBI, they’ve all been fired or they had to leave. And they’re all gone. This is what they were talking about. And, obviously, nothing was found. And I can tell you this, if you ask the folks in Russia, I’ve been tougher on Russia than anybody else, any other — probably any other president period, but certainly the last three or four presidents, modern day presidents. Nobody’s been as tough as I have from any standpoint including the fact that we’re doing oil like we’ve never done it, we’re setting records in our country with oil and exporting oil and many other things, so, which is obviously not great for them, because that’s what they, that’s where they get their money for the most part. But many other things. So I, I think it was a great insult. And the New York Times is a disaster as a paper. It’s a, it’s a very horrible thing they said, and they’ve gone so far that people that weren’t necessarily believers are now big believers, because they said that was a step too far. They really are a disaster of a newspaper.

    Word salad.

  186. says

    So now attacking Iran is back on the table? Trump is desperate for a really big distraction from news stories about him being Putin’s puppet?

    White House reportedly asked Pentagon for military options to attack Iran

    “People were shocked. It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran.”

    […] Trump’s National Security Council asked the Pentagon in September for military options against Iran […]

    The request was made shortly after an attack near the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, which the White House blamed on Iranian proxies in Iraq.

    The request from the National Security Council troubled many at the Pentagon and State Department, especially given that the attack caused no casualties and little damage.

    “It definitely rattled people,” one former senior U.S. administration official told the Journal. “People were shocked. It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran.” […]

    U.S. foreign policy towards Iran has seriously escalated since April, when John Bolton became national security advisor and Mike Pompeo became secretary of state.

    In May, the White House released a statement announcing that Israeli intelligence proves that “Iran has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program.” According to U.S. intelligence, Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program. The White House later corrected the statement to the past tense, without issuing a formal correction online.

    A few days later, Trump withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal, despite repeated confirmations from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Iran was complying with the agreement. As part of that withdrawal, the United States re-imposed nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, which took effect in November.

    The upheaval has seriously affected the Iranian economy, with an approximately 60 percent decrease in the Iranian rial last year and inflation soaring to about 40 percent. […]

    Bolton is a strong supporter of the Muhajideen-e Khalq, a cult-like diaspora group that advocates for regime change in Iran. Bolton has been paid by the group and spoke at MEK conferences even when the group was still on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations. […] In 2015, while the Iran nuclear deal was being negotiated, he wrote an op-ed in the New York Times titled “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.” […]

  187. says

    Followup to comments 196 and 197.

    […] The secrecy “is not only unusual by historical standards, it is outrageous,” said Strobe Talbott, a former deputy secretary of state. “It handicaps the U.S. government — the experts and advisers and Cabinet officers who are there to serve” and it also “gives Putin much more scope to manipulate Trump.” Lawmakers have also found the secrecy shocking and Rep. Eliot L. Engel, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has vowed to launch an investigation.

    The White House denied the characterization of the story. “The Washington Post story is so outrageously inaccurate it doesn’t even warrant a response,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. Trump also denied it as nonsense during an interview with Fox News Saturday night. “Anyone could have listened to that meeting. That meeting is open for grabs,” Trump said. He also dismissed suggestions that he would not release details of his conversations with Putin. “I would. I don’t care,” he said. “I’m not keeping anything under wraps. I couldn’t care less.”

    Slate link

    Reminds me of the many times that Trump said he would release his tax returns.

  188. says

    Followup to comments 135 and 140.

    A few more details about William P. Barr, Trump’s nominee to be attorney general:

    […] Democrats have argued for Barr’s recusal from the Mueller probe because of his past public statements critical of some aspects of the investigation, and a private memo he sent to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein last June in which he called Mueller’s investigation into whether the president may have obstructed justice “fatally misconceived.” Barr also wrote that Mueller should not be allowed to subpoena the president about obstruction, saying an “interrogation” was not warranted. […]

    Barr also will likely have to answer for meetings he participated in around the time the memo was submitted on June 8. On May 30, Barr gave a presentation to Justice Department political appointees, though he did not mention the document, according to people who attended. Around that time, Barr also spoke to then-attorney general Jeff Sessions, according to several people familiar with the matter.

    Sessions was recused from the Russia probe, and it’s unclear if the two discussed the arguments Barr made in his memo.

    On June 27, Barr visited the Justice Department again to speak at a lunch organized by the Office of Legal Counsel, which he had once headed and to which he had directed the memo. […]

    Around the time Barr’s memo was submitted to the Justice Department, it was also sent to the White House, according to a person familiar with the matter. That could be a another troublesome point for Barr. Long before he submitted the memo, Barr had discussions about potentially serving as Trump’s lawyer in the investigation, though he declined. […]

    Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) […] said that even if Barr can assuage her concerns about the specifics of his Mueller memo, “I’m still concerned about some of his views about executive power.”

    […] In the early 1990s, Barr was an outspoken critic of the prosecutor handling the Iran-contra case and pushed for President Bush to pardon those who were charged.

    Democrats plan to press Barr on whether he would take a similar view toward possible pardons of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort or others who have been convicted as a result of Mueller’s investigation, according to a Senate aide.

    While questions about Mueller and Barr’s memo are expected to dominate the hearing, Democrats also plan to press him on his record on the use of torture on terrorism suspects, abortion, and his past statements indicating support for renewed investigations of Trump’s opponent in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton.

    Washington Post link.

    More at the link.

  189. says

    Inside Trump’s defiance on the longest shutdown ever:

    […] The president who pitched himself to voters as a world-class dealmaker has proven to be an unreliable negotiator. […] Trump has contradicted himself, sent miscues and spread falsehoods. He has zigzagged between proudly claiming ownership of the shutdown and blaming it on Democrats, […]

    Trump’s advisers are scrambling to build an exit ramp while also bracing for the shutdown to last weeks longer. Current and former aides said there is little strategy in the White House; people are frustrated and, in the words of one, “freaking out.”

    […] Angry that he was stymied by party leaders and his own aides from getting more money for the wall in 2018, rattled by conservative criticism and stung by his party’s midterm defeats, Trump decided in late December to plunge into a border fight after being encouraged by Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), both hard-line conservatives. It was a startling decision to McConnell and others, who thought they had White House assurances that a shutdown would be avoided. […]

    Trump has exhibited more determination than calculation. Over the holidays, he inhabited the White House largely alone, tweeting out his demands and grievances. Several senior West Wing officials described the building as a “ghost town” or a “no man’s land.”

    Only after Christmas did administration officials begin realizing the full scale of the logistical problems a prolonged shutdown would cause. Aides said Trump has been largely uninterested in the minutiae of managing government agencies and services. […]

    During negotiation sessions, Trump’s attention has veered wildly. At one such meeting with Pelosi and Schumer in the White House Situation Room earlier this month, the president went on a long diatribe about unrelated topics. He trashed the Iran nuclear deal, telling Democrats they should give him money for the wall because, in his view, they gave President Barack Obama money for the agreement with Tehran. He boasted about his wisdom in ordering the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. […]

    After meeting with McConnell last Thursday, Graham and three colleagues — Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) — presented their plan to Pence. He then relayed the idea to Trump, who was flying to Texas for his border tour.

    But the president said no. Pence then told Graham and Alexander that Trump appreciated their proposal but was not interested in re-opening the government until the Democrats were willing to negotiate on the wall.

    “I have never been more depressed about moving forward than I am right now,” Graham told reporters that afternoon. He then walked off, muttering: “I’m going to the gym.” […]

    Washington Post link

  190. tomh says

    @ #200

    “Reminds me of the many times that Trump said he would release his tax returns.”

    Exactly what I thought. A quick search shows some of what he said.

    MAY 20, 2014:
    More than a year before he announced his presidential campaign, Trump told an Irish television station that he would “absolutely” release his tax returns if he entered the race.

    FEBRUARY 25, 2015:
    Trump told radio host Hugh Hewitt that he would “certainly show tax returns if it was necessary.”

    OCTOBER 4, 2015:
    Trump said in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he was considering releasing his tax returns.

    JANUARY 24, 2016:
    Trump told NBC’s Chuck Todd that he had “very big returns.” Asked if he would release them publicly, Trump said, “we’re working on that now. I have very big returns, as you know, and I have everything all approved and very beautiful and we’ll be working that over in the next period of time, Chuck,” Trump said. “Absolutely.”

    FEBRUARY 11, 2016:
    Trump appeared again on Hewitt’s radio program and said of his returns, “we’ll get them out at some point, probably.”

    FEBRUARY 25, 2016:
    Trump tweeted that he’s already filed public financial disclosure forms that are “great.” He said that tax returns “have 0 to do w/ someone’s net worth.” During a CNN-Telemundo debate later that day, Trump said he wanted to release his tax returns, but could not while he’s under audit. “I’ve had it for years. I get audited. And obviously if I’m being audited, I’m not going to release a return,” he said. “As soon as the audit is done, I love it.”

    FEBRUARY 27, 2016:
    Trump revisits the audit argument on Twitter. “Tax experts throughout the media agree that no sane person would give their tax returns during an audit,” he said. “After the audit, no problem!”

    MAY 11, 2016:
    Trump tells the Associated Press that his taxes are under “routine audit” and he will release them when the audit is done. “I would release my tax returns when audit is complete, not after election!” he tweeted about the interview.

    SEPTEMBER 27, 2016:
    Trump says during the first presidential debate that his taxes will be released once an audit is finished. “I don’t mind releasing. I’m under a routine audit, and it will be released. As soon as the audit’s finished, it will be released,” he said.

    JANUARY 23, 2017:
    KellyAnne Conway tweets: “On taxes, answers (& repeated questions) are same from campaign: POTUS is under audit and will not release until that is completed.”

    APRIL 16, 2017:
    A day after protestors called on Trump to release his tax returns, the president derided the demonstrators on Twitter. “I did what was an almost an impossible thing to do for a Republican-easily won the Electoral College!” he tweeted. “Now Tax Returns are brought up again?”

    APRIL 17, 2017:
    Spicer, the White House press secretary, says Trump’s tax returns are still under audit. “It’s the same thing that was discussed during the campaign trail, the president is under audit. It’s a routine one that continues,” he said. Asked in a later exchange if we can assume Trump will never release his returns, Spicer said he would “get back to you on that.”

  191. says

    Schumer will force a vote over team Trump’s decision to relax sanctions on oligarch-linked firms.

    […] Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has defended the decision, saying the companies are undergoing a major restructuring to “sever Deripaska’s control and significantly diminish his ownership.” He says Deripaska himself and any companies he controls remain under sanctions.

    Schumer, however, contends the Russian oligarch maintains significant influence on these companies, including the aluminum manufacturing giant Rusal.

    Schumer says it’s important the sanctions remain in place while the special counsel’s Russia investigation proceeds. Deripaska has figured into the investigation due to his ties to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. […]

    Following the completion of the Senate Committee review process, Leader Schumer has concluded that the Treasury Department’s decision to lift sanctions on these three Russian companies was misguided and believes that the Senate must act to right the Trump Administration’s wrong, especially given the fact that the Special Counsel’s Russia investigation has not yet completed its work.


  192. says

    Trump wants your pity because he has been spending more time in the White House lately. He also wants credit for spending time in the White House.

    PIRRO [Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro]: You’re sitting there waiting for a deal, the Democrats are not sitting with you. If this isn’t an emergency, I don’t know what is.

    TRUMP: Well, I haven’t actually left the White House in months…. I’ve been here virtually every night, I guess every night other than one day I flew to Iraq and then to Germany to see our troops.

    First: that’s his job. To reside and work in the White House is his job.

    Second: Trump lied. In just the one week before the interview with Pirro, Trump had been to Camp David; to McAllen, Texas; and to Capitol Hill. Today, he will be in New Orleans. Trump said he hadn’t left the White House in “months.” In December Trump traveled to Philadelphia, Argentina, and Kansas City, Mississippi.

    In the embarrassing cabinet meeting during which acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker sucked up to Trump, Whitaker made a point of praising Trump for remaining in the White House over Christmas. (See comments 34, 45, 55, and 56.)

    From the Associated Press:

    […] Trump has been trying to play up his presence at the White House during the standoff as a sign that it’s Democrats who won’t negotiate a deal.

    “I like the symbol of me being here,” Trump told Pirro. “I like that symbol because I am ready to sign. And they’re not. And they’re not.”

    Trump has expressed bafflement that he is not getting more credit for largely staying put during the shutdown. Aides acknowledge that the West Wing mishandled the first few days of the shutdown, when Trump remained out of sight, and are now trying to use the trappings of his office, with an Oval Office speech, a visit to the Texas border and the president’s frequent tweets about waiting in the White House for Democrats to act.

    By Sunday night, a blanket of snow in Washington seemed to provide a calming backdrop for the discontented president. He tweeted: “Wish I could share with everyone the beauty and majesty of being in the White House and looking outside at the snow filled lawns and Rose Garden. Really is something – SPECIAL COUNTRY, SPECIAL PLACE!” […]

  193. says

    Trump Rejects Reopening Gov’t, Cites Desired Wall

    […] Trump acknowledged Monday that he’d rejected the possibility of reopening the government before securing funding for his desired border wall, an idea most recently pitched by his ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

    “Well, that was a suggestion that Lindsey made, but I did reject it, yes,” he told reporters outside the White House. “I’m not interested. I want to get it solved. I don’t want to just delay it. I want to get it solved.” […]

    “I would urge him to open up the government for a short period of time, like three weeks, before he pulls the plug,” Graham said on “Fox News Sunday.” “See if we can get a deal. If we can’t at the end of three weeks, all bets are off. See if he can do it by himself through the emergency powers.”

    Trump has previously said that he feels he needs the leverage of the government shutdown in order to force Democrats to the table to negotiate funds for his desired border wall. Democratic congressional leadership have insisted that Trump should allow the government be reopened.

    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Wednesday, after Trump walked out of a meeting with Democrats, that Trump had told him and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA): “If I open up the government, you won’t do what I want.” […]

  194. says

    From Josh Marshall, “Thoughts on the Translator Secrecy.”

    Let me share a few thoughts about the WaPo report on […] Trump going to extraordinary lengths to hide the details of his one-on-one conversations with Vladimir Putin. First, the most obvious point: this simply confirms what we’ve now been discussing for years. The President is hiding something very secret and very damaging about his relationship to Russia and Putin. […]

    [Trump] confiscated the notes of his translator (an as-yet-unidentified male) after his meeting with Putin in Hamburg in July 2017. For two hours during his July 2018 meeting with Putin in Helsinki, Finland, no U.S. officials were present except for a State Department translator named Marina Gross.

    My guess is that […] Trump would still be leery of having a completely frank conversation with Putin in front of a U.S. government translator. Sure, he can instruct that person not to discuss the conversation. Indeed, diplomatic translators have an ethic of extreme discretion. […] But that only goes so far. […] They are almost certainly career State Department employees. […]

    This raises the following question: Were these translators ever dismissed for a brief period so that the two men could speak alone or with only a Russian translator? […] It’s a basic question for congressional investigators to pose to these translators.

    More concretely, a few hours after that meeting in Hamburg, Trump sought Putin out at a gala dinner for world leaders. There he had a lengthy conversation with Putin in which the only other person present was Putin’s translator. No one from the United States witnessed that conversation. (As I argued here, there’s a decent circumstantial case that Putin helped Trump devise the cover story for the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting that he dictated to The New York Times the following day.) […]

    Simple point: none of the innocent explanations for this behavior make any sense. In any other investigative context such efforts to hide communications would be treated as presumptive evidence of guilt on their face. It’s really that open and shut. As I say, I don’t think trying to muzzle the translators is reliable enough for Trump. But he has to make do as he can and, as we’ve seen, he’s not the most organized guy or someone who excels at planning.

  195. says

    Gunshots have been reported at a UPS facility in New Jersey.

    An employee at a UPS facility that is the scene of a reported active shooter situation in New Jersey says he heard an apparent gunshot and began to run.

    Allen Anthony Dowling tells The Associated Press he heard a fellow worker say someone had a gun. Dowling says he then heard what he thought was a gunshot and began to run along with other employees.

    Police surrounded an area around a loading dock at the supply chain processing facility in Logan Township, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Philadelphia.

    Television news footage showed armed officers crouching behind one of the vehicles.

    In a statement, UPS says it’s working with law enforcement on an active shooter situation, but did not provide details or identify if any employees were involved.

    Schools in the area were put on a modified lockdown.

  196. says

    Think Progress link

    This looks like another major screwup by Customs and Border Protection, this time at an airport. Mohammad Asif Motawakil, who underwent aggressive screening for his job assisting the U.S. military, now faces possible deportation back to Kabul.

    U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detained a U.S. military interpreter and his family at George Bush International Airport in Houston, Texas last week after their visas were canceled “mid-air.”

    According to the Houston Chronicle, Afghan national Mohammad Asif Motawakil, along with his wife and their five children, boarded a plane from Afghanistan without a problem, but learned U.S. customs officials had revoked his visa upon arrival.

    The family first caught the suspicion of CBP after they handed officers an unsealed documented containing their medical records. The State Department website warns immigrants to not open those packets, but does not outline what might happen if they do. Lawyers for the family claimed either the wife or children had mistakenly unsealed the documents.

    CBP officials told Motawakil, who has gone through extensive background checks for his career assisting the military, that the U.S. consulate in Afghanistan had flagged his visa and emailed him to return to the office, which he did not do. Motawakil and his family were then taken into custody and threatened with deportation back to Kabul. […]

    U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detained a U.S. military interpreter and his family at George Bush International Airport in Houston, Texas last week after their visas were canceled “mid-air.”

    According to the Houston Chronicle, Afghan national Mohammad Asif Motawakil, along with his wife and their five children, boarded a plane from Afghanistan without a problem, but learned U.S. customs officials had revoked his visa upon arrival.

    The family first caught the suspicion of CBP after they handed officers an unsealed documented containing their medical records. The State Department website warns immigrants to not open those packets, but does not outline what might happen if they do. Lawyers for the family claimed either the wife or children had mistakenly unsealed the documents.

    CBP officials told Motawakil, who has gone through extensive background checks for his career assisting the military, that the U.S. consulate in Afghanistan had flagged his visa and emailed him to return to the office, which he did not do. Motawakil and his family were then taken into custody and threatened with deportation back to Kabul. […]

    Despite the fact that Motawakil and other Afghan and Iraqi nationals have gone through extensive vetting procedures to receive visas, under the Trump administration, their ability to remain in the country has been made less certain. […]

  197. says

    Senator Rand Paul has voted against health care for people in the U.S., but now that he needs surgery he is headed to Canada. Paul has dual citizenship.

    Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) will travel to Canada in late January to get hernia surgery, related to the attack he sustained from a neighbor in 2017, according to the Louisville Courier Journal.

    Notably, Paul is adamantly against socialized medicine and has called the idea of a national public health care system “slavery.” Canada enjoys publicly funded universal healthcare. […]

    TPM link

  198. tomh says

    From ReligionClause:
    Expanded Religious and Moral Exemptions From Contraceptive Mandate Enjoined In Part of the Country

    In State of California v. Health and Human Services, (ND CA, Jan. 13, 2019), a California federal district court granted a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the the Trump Administration’s broadened religious and moral exemptions from the ACA’s contraceptive coverage mandate. The court enjoined enforcement of the Final Rules that were scheduled to take effect today, but only in the 13 states and the District of Columbia that are plaintiffs in the case. The court concluded that the plaintiffs are likely to succeed on their claim that the exemptions are inconsistent with the Women’s Health Amendment, and that the religious exemption is likely not required by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The court agreed with decisions in nine Courts of Appeal that the Obama Administration accommodation for religious objectors does not impose a substantial burden on the free exercise of religion.
    Politico reports on the decision.

  199. says

    Followup to comment 188.

    Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, and his wife MacKenzie are getting a divorce. Trump commented:

    So sorry to hear the news about Jeff Bozo being taken down by a competitor whose reporting, I understand, is far more accurate than the reporting in his lobbyist newspaper, the Amazon Washington Post. Hopefully the paper will soon be placed in better & more responsible hands!

    Trump is claiming that the tabloid newspaper National Enquirer is more accurate than the Washington Post.

    Some analysis from Steve Benen, who writes for the Maddow Blog:

    […] Trump hates the Washington Post because of its coverage of his White House, which leads Trump to also hate Jeff Bezos, because he publishes the newspaper, and Amazon, because Bezos owns the online retailer.

    [Trump] loves the National Enquirer, which has helped Trump with glowing coverage, and which reportedly uncovered damaging information about Bezos, contributing to the breakup of his marriage.

    Trump thought it’d be a good idea to tie all of this together, declaring that the supermarket tabloid is “far more accurate” than one of the nation’s premier news organizations – all while demonstrating the maturity of an ill-tempered child. (“Jeff Bozo”? Seriously?)

    [Note the timing. Last month] prosecutors in New York documented the fact that American Media Inc., which publishes the National Enquirer, admitted that it made lucrative hush-money payments to some of Trump’s alleged former mistresses, all in the hopes of silencing them ahead of the 2016 elections.

    […] in order to avoid prosecution, AMI conceded that its efforts were made “in concert with” the Trump campaign. […]

    Did AMI target Bezos as a favor to Trump? […]

    National Enquirer’s publisher admitted to campaign-finance violations with Trump in December, only to be publicly praised by Trump a month later. Common sense suggests the president should be downplaying his connections to the tabloid, not doing the opposite.

  200. says

    A polling update, courtesy of Steve Benen:

    In the latest CNN poll, Donald Trump’s approval rating is just 37%, but of likely interest to the White House is this: among whites without college degrees — the heart of the president’s base — Trump has a 45% approval rating and a 47% disapproval rating. It’s the first time in Trump’s presidency that he’s been “underwater” with this constituency.

    So, Trump’s popularity with whites who do not have a college degree is going down. Hmmm.

  201. says

    WTF? Is this team Trump accidentally saying the truth out loud? A “senior Trump official” said this about the shutdown: “We do not want most employees to return.”

    I guess that’s proof, as if we needed more proof, that team Trump does not believe in government nor in governing.

    An unnamed “senior official in the Trump administration” wrote in an anonymous Daily Caller op-ed Monday that the record-breaking 24-day partial government shutdown “is an opportunity to strip wasteful government agencies for good.”

    While it’s unclear how “senior” this administration official is — many senior Trump officials are still being paid, while the author claims to be “one of the senior officials working without a paycheck” — the op-ed could offer a window into another goal of this shutdown, in addition to using federal workers’ paychecks as leverage in an attempt to extract border wall funds from Congress: starving the government.

    The op-ed’s author wrote that “many federal agencies are now operating more effectively from the top down on a fraction of their workforce” and that “we do not want most employees to return, because we are working better without them.”

    That last bit above sounds like utter bull pucky. The author must not want his food supply to be inspected, must not want air travel in the USA to be safe, must not want poor people to have housing, must not want the children of low-income families to receive food assistance, must not want farmers to have both the subsidies and information they need to buy seeds for this spring … and on and on.

    Roughly 800,000 federal employees are currently going without pay, and millions of Americans who rely on the agencies those employees usually run — everything from the Food and Drug Administration to the Department of the Interior to the Department of Homeland Security — are going without services, except for those provided by workers deemed essential to national security or public safety.

    “Now that we are shut down, not only are we identifying and eliminating much of the sabotage and waste, but we are finally working on the president’s agenda,” the official wrote, adding in conclusion: “Wasteful government agencies are fighting for relevance but they will lose. Now is the time to deliver historic change by cutting them down forever.”

    The Daily Caller said the author’s “career would be jeopardized” if their name were to be made public. “We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers,” the publication added.


  202. says

    Followup to comment 215.

    From the readers comments:

    Drumpf would do something like this if he were, say, a Russian Agent.
    This is an Administration completely full of assholes, but this has a Stephen Miller asshole vibe to it. [Lynna agrees.]
    Yeah who needs the TSA and air traffic controllers and the coast guard and park employees and the IRS and.. etc etc.. If anything the shutdown shows how important gov workers are.
    Psst, senior official man, you’re saying the quiet part out loud again. You’re not supposed to do that.
    These nasty motherfkers. Truly. I want them out of there. If they want to ‘shrink’ government do it in an orderly fashion instead of being sneaky bastids and ruining peoples lives. This is totally Trump. HIRE people, have them do a job, belittle and demean them and then don’t pay them.
    Meanwhile, thousands die because agricultural inspectors, EPA officials, FDA officials, NIH researchers etc have no longer have jobs. National Parks and Monuments are permanently trashed. Air traffic at a standstill for personal and business travel. And that’s just part of the story.

  203. says

    Yeah, right. This is pretty much how we expected hardcore Trump cult followers to react. This statement is from Representative Peter King, a Republican from New York:

    From what I’ve seen and heard, if this is true, what the FBI did is absolutely disgraceful. They have been investigating the Trump campaign from the summer of 2016. Absolutely nothing, zero has come up involving President Trump. James Comey told that to the president. The reason President Trump fired Comey was Comey refused to say that publicly, that the President was not under investigation.

    For the FBI to use that firing, that legitimate firing, as an excuse to launch an investigation of the President of the United States, as to whether or not he was a spy, that’s almost like a coup within the government. I mean that is absolutely disgraceful.

    See comments 185, 187 and 189 for background and for facts, as opposed to Peter King’s fact-free rants.

  204. says

    What it is like to be a furloughed federal worker:

    […] Mallory Lorge, who suffers from Type 1 diabetes, is forced to ration her insulin and look at her possessions to decide what she can sell to pay down her bills because she isn’t receiving a paycheck during the record-long government shutdown.

    Lorge has two vials of insulin in her fridge, and is rationing them because she doesn’t know how long they’re going to have to last—how long this shutdown is going to last. She has a $300 copay on her insurance plan, and lives in River Falls, Wisconsin. Last week, she told NBC News, she didn’t treat a blood-sugar high, feeling forced to ignore it. It wasn’t high enough to make her break into her stash, just in case. “I can’t afford to go to the ER. I can’t afford anything. I just went to bed and hoped I’d wake up.”

    She’s 31 years old and married her husband in September. They’re now facing a payment on the $40,000 debt-consolidation loan they were forced take on after she fell ill and had to be hospitalized for sepsis and pneumonia, both conditions made far more serious by her diabetes. Her husband is working overtime, and they’ve depleted their savings and all the money they received as wedding gifts, so Lorge is now flirting with death on a daily basis because she can’t afford life-saving medicine. […]


  205. says

    Teachers take to the picket lines in Los Angeles

    Tens of thousands of Los Angeles teachers went on strike Monday, demanding more pay and smaller classrooms in the nation’s second-largest school district.

    The United Teachers Los Angeles, which has more than 30,000 members, opted to strike for the first time in three decades after nearly two years of negotiations. Teachers — carrying signs in the rain that read, “our students deserve fully funded schools” — planned to picket at hundreds of schools before gathering for a massive march.

    “Here we are in a fight for the soul of public education,” said Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of the United Teachers Los Angeles union, in an early morning press conference. “The question is, do we starve our public neighborhood schools so they are cut and privatized, or do we reinvest in our public neighborhood schools for our students and a thriving city?” […]

  206. KG says

    Today we (supposedly) come to the “meaningful vote” in the Commons on May’s Brexit deal. I can find literally no-one, even in the government, willing to say they think it will be other than a heavy defeat for her – probably well over 100 votes, the heaviest government defeat since the 1920s, when we had a minority Labour government holding little more than 1/3 of the seats in the Commons. Yet no-one seems to expect her to resign in the wake of this stunning failure. Nor even to change course significantly if she can possibly avoid it. Corbyn came under pressure last night at a meeting of Labour backbenchers to put down a no confidence motion promptly after the “meaningful vote” but again, no-one expects it to succeed, and Corbyn has refused to say what he will do if it doesn’t. What a useless shower the political leadership of the YooKay have proved themselves to be.

  207. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    As to the idea that federal workers might not return after the shutdown…well, wrt me, it’s working. I’m a fairly senior person in a highly, technical field, and like many in my position, I am close to retirement age. I’ve been one of the most active people in my agency trying to recruit, train. and mentor the next generation of experts. Over the past 5 years, we’ve had a helluva time recruiting new people–especially anyone with anything like the technical expertise to do the job. Time and again, we’ve found a candidate, recruited them and then had them say, “thanks, but no thanks.” Also during this time, we’ve lost 5 highly trained experts to retirement or industry, leading those left to burn out. We recently found two candidates we could bring in and eventually train up…and then they shut down the gummint. Now tell me: why would an ambitious, intelligent young person what to work for the gummint anymore?

    So, the question I face is this. Do I go back, start rolling the stone up the hill again, only to see it roll back down? Or do I say “Fuck it,” and take early retirement?

  208. tomh says

    Judge rejects citizenship question for 2020 U.S. census

    NEW YORK (Reuters) – A federal judge on Tuesday rejected the Trump administration’s plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census questionnaire.

    U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan said the 18 U.S. states, 15 cities and various civil rights groups that challenged Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ addition of the question proved it was more likely than not that they would be harmed if it were added.

    Furman also said Ross’s decision to add the question was “arbitrary and capricious” and violated federal law, despite a lack of proof that the commerce secretary was motivated by discriminatory intent.

    The Commerce Department and the White House were not immediately available for comment.

  209. tomh says

    Court Enjoins Broadened Contraceptive Mandate Exemptions

    Yesterday in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Trump, (ED PA, Jan 14, 2019), a Pennsylvania federal district court issued a nationwide preliminary injunction preventing enforcement of the Trump Administration’s expanded exemptions for those asserting religious or moral objections to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage mandate. In addition to finding procedural problems in the way the rules were adopted, the court concluded: The Final Rules—just as the IFRs before them—exceed the scope of the Agencies’ authority under the ACA, and, further, cannot be justified under RFRA.

    A California court issued a similar, but more limited injunction on Sunday. Washington Examiner reports on the decision.

  210. says

    One of Trump’s latest, bigoted comments aimed at Senator Elizabeth Warren:

    If Elizabeth Warren, often referred to by me as Pocahontas, did this commercial from Bighorn or Wounded Knee instead of her kitchen, with her husband dressed in full Indian garb, it would have been a smash!

    Disdain and criticism from Native Americans:

    […] “We condemn in the strongest possible terms the casual and callous use of these events as part of a political attack,” said Jefferson Keel, president of the National Congress of American Indians. “Hundreds of Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho people lost their lives at the hands of the invading U.S. Army during these events, and their memories should not be desecrated as a rhetorical punch line.”

    The chairman of the Rosebud Sioux tribe, Rodney Bordeaux, called the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre in South Dakota “one of the darkest and most tragic chapters in the history of the Sioux Nation” in which as many as 400 unarmed Native Americans, many of them women and children, were slaughtered by U.S. soldiers. Bordeaux called Trump’s tweet “racist and disrespectful,” and demanded the president apologize for his “shameful and ignorant misstatement.”

    Sioux tribal lawyer and writer Ruth Hopkins tweeted: “This isn’t funny. It’s cold, callous, and just plain racist.” […]


    Responses to Trump’s offensive comments from South Dakota’s Republican senators:

    […] Sen. Mike Rounds, in a string of tweets, said that Trump should go with him to visit tribal lands in South Dakota, where the 1890 massacre took place, adding that the country should “mend our history through reconciliation [and] mutual respect.” […]

    Asked about Trump’s comments, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, separately told reporters that he wished Trump “wouldn’t do that.”

    “I wish he wouldn’t tweet as much, [as] I’ve said many times in the past. That’s obviously a very sensitive part of our state’s history. So yeah, I wish he’d stay away from it,” Thune told reporters.

    The public pushback comes after Trump mocked a video of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) over the weekend and renewed his use of his racially charged nickname for the potential 2020 contender: Pocahontas. […]


  211. says

    If you haven’t seen it already, watch this episode from Chris Hayes.

    Chris Hayes thanks […] Trump for his tweets quoting Pat Buchanan, making Hayes’ thesis clear – “Buchanan, Steve King and Donald Trump want the wall built explicitly as part of an ethno-nationalist project to maintain white dominance in America.”

    I have not seen Trump’s white supremacy underpinnings so thoroughly exposed in a long time.

  212. says

    The confirmation hearings for William Barr have been underway since this morning. Here is an excerpt from Allegra Kirkland’s coverage:

    […] In his opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee and answers to lawmakers’ questions, Barr sought to assuage concerns he’ll act as a flunky to […] Trump, committing to allow the Russia investigation to continue unimpeded and to publicly releasing special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings to the extent the law allows.

    Yet Barr notably declined to commit on other key issues—like whether his prior comments on Trump’s possible obstruction of justice rendered him incapable of independently overseeing the Mueller probe at all.

    Early on in the hearing, Barr affirmed that he respected Mueller and his work.

    “I don’t believe Mr. Mueller would be involved in a witch hunt,” Barr said, contradicting Trump’s frequent Twitter laments.

    […] Barr vowed not to interfere with the scope of the special counsel’s investigation, to provide Mueller with the resources needed to complete his work, and only to terminate Mueller’s service with good cause.

    “Frankly, it is unimaginable to me that Bob would do anything that gave rise to good cause,” Barr said. “But in theory, if something happened that was good cause, for me it would actually take more than that. It would have to be pretty grave and the public interest would have to compel it because I believe the overarching public interest is to allow him to finish.” […]

    “I am going to make as much information available as I can consistent with the rules and regulations that are part of the special counsel regulations,” Barr told Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who pursued a similar line of questioning.

    However, Barr equivocated on several other issues of concern to Democratic lawmakers.

    Barr said that Trump may legitimately be able to claim executive privilege to block some parts of Mueller’s report from release. [Oh, that’s a bad sign!]

    […] Barr stopped short of committing to follow ethics officials’ recommendations on a recusal. [Oh, that’s another bad sign!]

    “I will seek the advice of the career ethics personnel, but under the regulations, I make the decision as the head of the agency as to my own recusal,” Barr said. “So I certainly would consult with them and at the end of the day, I would make a decision in good faith based on the laws and the facts that are evident at that time.”

    Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker notably sought the advice of DOJ ethics officials on whether he should recuse from overseeing the probe, given his harsh public criticism of Mueller’s actions. The DOJ recommended that Whitaker do so, but Whitaker ultimately took the advice of his own advisers, and did not.

  213. KG says

    MPs are voting right now on May’s deal. The result is expected in about 15 minutes. (The archaic procedures of the Commons result in this delay – the MPs have to troop through the “Aye” or “No” lobby*, hence the bizarre call from the Speaker, which sounds like an anatomically tricky order: “Eyes to the right, nose to the left!”.)

    *Unless they are physically unable to, when they can be “nodded through provided they are on the premises. There’s a very pregnant Labour MP in this position today – she’s postponed her caesarean to be present for the vote.

  214. KG says

    May’s deal has been rejected by 432 to 202. This is at the high end of the various estimates, and I’ll try to find out if she’s achieved an all-time record!

  215. says

    KG @227:

    “Eyes to the right, nose to the left!”

    Ha! Thanks for that much needed note of levity.

    Theresa May’s Brexit deal was rejected by the UK parliament. The vote was 432-202.

    What is going to happen next?

  216. tomh says

    A few more snippets from the Barr hearings:


    Mr. Barr said he agrees with the president about the need to change the nation’s immigration laws, including his demand for a border wall that has prompted the nation’s longest government shutdown. “We need money right now for border security — including barriers and walls and slats and other things,” Mr. Barr said, “anything that makes sense in different areas of the border.”

    Asked whether he would considering jailing journalists “for doing their jobs,” Mr. Barr paused before explaining that he could conceive of situations “as a last resort” where a news organization or journalist needs to be held accountable for “putting out stuff that they know will harm the country.”

  217. says

    KG, my apologies for repeating info in my comment 232 that you had already posted.

    In other news, followup to tomh’s comment 222:

    In what was almost certainly an effort to discourage participation from immigrant communities, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced last year that he would add a question to the 2020 Census questionnaire asking if each person in the United States is a citizen — a question that the Census has not asked since the Jim Crow era.

    On Tuesday, a federal district court held that this citizenship question must be removed from the Census form. The case is New York v. United States Department of Commerce.

    The Trump administration was discouraged from including this question by an array of census experts from both political parties — including top officials from the Reagan and Bush I administrations — who concluded that it “could seriously jeopardize the accuracy of the census,” because “people who are undocumented immigrants may either avoid the census altogether or deliberately misreport themselves as legal residents.”

    The administration’s own Census Bureau warned that adding such a question “is very costly, harms the quality of the census count, and would use substantially less accurate citizenship status data than are available from administrative sources.”

    Secretary Ross ignored this advice and included the question anyway. And as Judge Jesse Furman lays out in a 277-page opinion striking down the citizenship question, the Trump administration then went to embarrassing lengths to find someone — anyone — who would defend their attempt to rig the Census.

    At one point, for example, a Trump administration official emailed the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a conservative think tank, asking if someone at AEI “can speak to the pros of adding such a question.” The same day, a senior AEI employee responded that “none of my colleagues at AEI would speak favorably about the proposal.”

    Judge Furman’s opinion presents Ross and his team as grossly incompetent. They seemed oblivious to their legal obligations, often appeared unaware of what their own advisers were telling them, and even appear to have outright lied about why they included the citizenship question. […]

    Think Progress link

    Bolding above is mine. So, we are spared yet another racist action by team Trump thanks to team Trump’s gross incompetence.

  218. says

    tomh @234, the longer Barr is questioned, the worse he seems. He comes off as a conservative all right, but also as a dunderhead.

    Barr is ill-informed about incarceration rates of minorities on drug charges. He is ill-informed about the effects of the “war on drugs” in general. He is equally ill-informed about state laws governing the use of marijuana. And he seems to think that if he just enforces existing federal laws, he’s good. There’s no nuance, no thoughtfulness behind which laws are given high priority, and which are less vigorously pursued.

    Barr’s attitude and his statement around the issue of immigration are troubling.

  219. says

    Trump flunkey extraordinaire, Mitch McConnell, blocked another bill that would have ended the government shutdown.

    […] the record-breaking shutdown stretches into its fourth week.

    The legislation would fund the Department of Homeland Security through February 8 and the rest of the agencies affected by the shutdown through September. Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) asked for the Senate to take up the package, but McConnell said Tuesday that he would not “participate in something that doesn’t lead to an outcome.”

    “The solution to this is a negotiation between the one person in the country who can sign something into law, the president of the United States, and our Democratic colleagues,” McConnell said Tuesday. “Here in the Senate, my Democratic colleagues have an important choice to make. They could stand with common sense border experts, with federal workers, and with their own past voting records, by the way, or they could continue to remain passive spectators complaining from the sidelines, as the speaker refuses to negotiate with the White House.”

    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) encouraged McConnell Tuesday to engage in the negotiations.

    “There’s only one person who can help America break through this gridlock: Leader McConnell,” Schumer said. “For the past month, Leader McConnell has been content to hide behind the president, essentially giving him a veto over what comes to the floor of the Senate.” […]

    I agree with that last bit: Schumer’s recognizes that McConnell has given Trump veto power over what bills are brought to the Senate floor.

  220. says

    Followup to comments 226, 234, and 236.

    Barr can’t explain Trump’s policy that results in family separations at the border.

    […] Barr claimed that because he is not a current member of the department, he “doesn’t know all the details.”

    “Well, I’m not sure I know all the details because one of the disadvantages I have is I’m not in the department and don’t really have the same backing I did in terms of information that I had last time,” Barr said. “But my understanding is that DHS makes the decision as to who they are going to apprehend and hold.”

    That Barr was unaware of the details surrounding the administration’s zero tolerance at the border is perplexing, considering it monopolized national headlines for months over the summer. Moreover, the relevant details are not incredibly complex: President Donald Trump, emboldened by his then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, separated asylum-seeking families who crossed the border between ports of entry.

    In his explanation, Barr butchered a key component of U.S. immigration law.

    “Now, you can claim asylum, but that doesn’t mean you can waltz into the country freely,” Barr said.

    Contrary to Barr’s claim, any immigrant can apply for asylum “whether or not at a designated port of arrival,” according to U.S. law. This is primarily the reason why the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy was so troubling. Some organizations like Amnesty International have gone as far as to describe zero tolerance as violation of international human rights.

    Because the U.S. immigration courts are under the purview of the Department of Justice, it is imperative that any U.S. attorney general is familiar with the intricacies of immigration law. […]

    Think Progress link

    Yep, more signs that Barr is an ill-informed dunderhead.

  221. Chris J says

    The solution to this is a negotiation between the one person in the country who can sign something into law, the president of the United States, and our Democratic colleagues,” McConnell said Tuesday. “Here in the Senate, my Democratic colleagues have an important choice to make. They could stand with common sense border experts, with federal workers, and with their own past voting records, by the way, or they could continue to remain passive spectators complaining from the sidelines, as the speaker refuses to negotiate with the White House.

    Jesus. Ok, so first off, the democrats HAVE been negotiating. Trump refuses to back down off of the one wall idea, and has rejected previous wall funding because Trump. Meanwhile, McConnell is specifically causing republicans to become mere “passive spectators” to the process, deferring to what they think Trump would or would not do rather than letting Trump actually do it. Have we heard anything substantial from republicans about the deal beyond complaining and grumbling? Nothing except for the three that include Lisa Murkowski expressing their non-support of the wall.

    Talks about standing with your previous voting records, and refuses to vote for a bill that he supported already but that Trump reneged on. I mean, yeah, I already new McConnell was a feckless partisan, but man this is an infuriating new example.

  222. KG says

    The “D”UP have confirmed that they will support the government in the no confidence vote tomorrow. It’s highly unlikely any Tories will support it, and if not, it will fail. A No. 10 spox says the withdrawal agreement will not change, so WTF is May going to consult other parties about? It’s just more time-wasting, before she tries to bring the same deal back for another vote. But the Speaker may not (and should not) allow that. The will of the House could hardly be clearer.

  223. says

    From Slate:

    The border wall-shutdown standoff is exactly the kind of situation in which another Democratic fold would seem to be, er, in the cards. And yet not only have [Senate Minority Leader Chuck] Schumer and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi not folded, it doesn’t seem like they’ve even thought about folding, despite some grumbling by new House members from swing districts.

    It’s gotten to the point where Donald Trump invited several centrist-ish rank-and-file Democrats to have lunch with him Tuesday without caucus leaders, ostensibly to woo and seduce them, but it didn’t work; none of them went.

    From the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne:

    The idea is that if one party to a negotiation behaves in a particularly crazy and dangerous way, the more reasonable people at the table will give in simply to end the lunacy and avoid catastrophe.

    So why aren’t Democrats giving in? This is from Steve Benen:

    […] I think there are several factors playing out simultaneously. For example, congressional Dems care about the efficacy of public policy, and they realize that a giant border wall is a bad idea. It’s from this starting point that Dems’ spines were stiffened by multiple independent polls, each of which showed the American mainstream rejecting the president’s idea and blaming Republicans for the shutdown.

    [Trump’s demands are absurd.]

    At the same time, Trump has made it easier for Dems to stick to their guns by refusing to offer them anything: the president hasn’t tried to broker a deal; he’s simply told Schumer and Pelosi to meet his demands in exchange for nothing.

    What’s more, it’s not lost on Pelosi and Schumer that they’re asking Republicans to adopt the exact same position Republicans held last month: support a clean spending bill that allows the government to function.

    […] Trump is trying to bypass the traditional American policymaking process – introduce an idea, send it to committee, allow for congressional debate and amendments, hold a series of legislative votes, etc. – by simply jumping to the end. He wants a wall, and he’ll hold government agencies and government workers hostage until he gets one.

    If Dems agree, it will tell this president – and future presidents – that the easiest way to succeed is to embrace the politics of extortion. For the remainder of Trump’s term, no matter how long that is, he would know that he can get what he wants simply by demanding a series of non-negotiable ransoms.

    The lesson would be unmistakable: if the president hurts just enough people, Democrats will give in to stop the suffering.

    Pelosi and Schumer appear to understand that this is an untenable scenario. Trump has left them with little choice: they simply cannot fold.

  224. says

    From the New York Times:

    […] Mr. Trump sought out Mr. Putin again during a dinner for all the leaders. Videotape later made public showed Mr. Trump pointing at Mr. Putin, who was seated across and down a long table, then pointing at himself and then making a pumping motion with his fist.

    Mr. Trump later told The Times that he went over to see his wife, Melania Trump, who was sitting next to Mr. Putin, and the two leaders then talked, with Mr. Putin’s interpreter translating. No American officials were present, and the White House did not confirm the encounter until more than 10 days later, after it was independently reported.

    The day after the two meetings, as Mr. Trump was on Air Force One taking off from Germany heading back to Washington, he telephoned a Times reporter and argued that the Russians were falsely accused of election interference. […]

    From Steve Benen:

    […] as a rule, reporters call officials far more than officials call reporters. Journalists seek out comment from those in positions of authority every day, but it’s less common for leaders to call a reporter unprompted, just to share a point he or she considers important.

    In this case, however, Trump, after a couple of private chats with the Russian president, decided to call a New York Times reporter in order to endorse Putin’s denial about election interference, despite the findings of Trump’s own intelligence officials.

    [Trump] made the call from Air Force One – on the exact same flight on which Trump dictated a deceptive statement about the 2016 meeting in which top members of his team sought Russia’s campaign assistance.

    The White House will very likely say this is all benign and unimportant. I’m less sure why anyone would believe this. […]

  225. says

    Weirdness. (Beware of faux Washington Post newspapers, and faux WP websites):

    There are fake print editions of The Washington Post being distributed around downtown DC, and we are aware of a website attempting to mimic The Post’s. They are not Post products, and we are looking into this.

    Looks to me like someone is working really hard to make the Washington Post look bad. As one commenter put it:

    Who just has a four color web offset press laying around, much less people to run it?


  226. says

    Postponing the State of the Union address, and sort of disinviting Trump for now:

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wrote to President Trump on Wednesday seeking to reschedule his State of the Union address until after the government has reopened.

    Pelosi stopped short of disinviting the President to deliver the address, which is scheduled for Jan. 29.

    “Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government reopens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has reopened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to the Congress on January 29th,” Pelosi wrote.

    The speaker noted that the Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security are tasked with providing security and protection for the high-profile event, but “have not been funded for 26 days now — with critical departments hamstrung by furloughs.” […]


  227. says

    Mike Pence’s wife Karen has a new teaching job at Immanuel Christian School in Virginia. The private school bans LGBTQ students. The school also requires employees to sign this:

    I understand that the term “marriage” has only one meaning; the uniting of one man and one woman in a single, exclusive covenant union as delineated in Scripture and that God intends sexual intimacy to occur only between a man and a woman who are married to each other and that God has commanded that no intimate sexual activity is engaged in outside of marriage between a man and a woman. Further, I will maintain a lifestyle based on biblical standards of moral conduct. Moral misconduct which violates the bona fide occupational qualifications for employees includes, but is not limited to, such behaviors as the following: heterosexual activity outside of marriage (e.g., premarital sex, cohabitation, extramarital sex), homosexual or lesbian sexual activity, polygamy, transgender identity, any other violation of the unique roles of male and female, sexual harassment, use or viewing of pornographic material or websites, and sexual abuse or improprieties toward minors as defined by Scripture and federal or state law.

    Huffington Post link

    “It’s absurd that her decision to teach art to children at a Christian school, and the school’s religious beliefs, are under attack,” said Kara Brooks, spokeswoman for the second lady. Kind of awkward wording there, spokeswoman, but we get the idea: don’t question Karen Pence’s decision to support an obviously anti-LBGTQ organization.

  228. says

    Vice President Mike Pence delivered a speech meant to back up Trump’s claim that ISIS has been defeated. Then ISIS attacked a restaurant in Syria, killing U.S. troops and others.

    An undisclosed number of U.S. troops were killed in an a suicide attack in the northern Syrian city of Manbij on Wednesday, the Pentagon has confirmed, raising new questions about President Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw from the country.

    “U.S. service members were killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol in Syria today,” the military headquarters responsible for operations in Iraq and Syria said in a statement. “We are still gathering information and will share additional details at a later time.”

    About 2,000 U.S. troops are currently in Syria, including special operations forces who work with local Syrian and Kurdish militias and conventional troops who support them.

    The blast came just days after the Pentagon announced it has begun withdrawing equipment at the direction of Trump, who announced in December his desire to withdraw American forces from the country, citing gains against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. […]

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in the U.K., reported that at least eight people were killed. Video on social media also depicted an armed civilian S-92 helicopter evacuating casualties afterward. […]

    During a speech Wednesday to a gathering of American ambassadors, Vice President Mike Pence did not mention the U.S. casualties and struck a triumphant note, declaring: “The caliphate has crumbled and ISIS has been defeated.” […]

    Politico link

    Pence and Trump need a reality check. However, I think their world views are reality-proof.

  229. says

    Oh, no. This is bad news.

    The Senate on Wednesday narrowly rejected a Democratic-led effort to block President Trump from lifting sanctions against three Russian businesses.

    Senators voted 57-42 to end debate on the resolution, falling short of the 60 votes needed. […]

    The Trump administration announced plans late last month to relax sanctions on the three businesses — Rusal, EN+ and EuroSibEnergo — connected to Oleg Deripaska, an oligarch with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    Under the 2017 sanctions bill, Democrats are able to force a vote on a resolution to block the administration from lifting the financial penalties.

    Wednesday’s vote hands the Trump administration a win after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was dispatched to Capitol Hill to lobby Congress to squash the resolution. […]

    The Hill link

    Republican senators are allowing Trump to bully them. Oleg Deripaska and Putin must be very happy.

  230. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Lynna: “Pence and Trump need a reality check. However, I think their world views are reality-proof.”

    It reminds me of the what T. H. Huxley said upon hearing that Samuel Wilberforce* had died from being thrown from his horse and striking his head on the pavement: “For once reality came into contact with his brain, and the result proved fatal.”

    *Wilberforce was the cleric who had the misfortune to ask Huxley whether he was descended from an ape on through his grandfather’s side or his grandmother’s. Huxley eviscerated him by responding that he would rather be descended from an ape than from a man who used his gifts of oratory so vacuously.

  231. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Also, I’m not convinced that the failure of the Democrats to block the lifting of sanctions is such a bad thing. It plays right into the allegations that Boris Trumpski is a Russian agent, and tars his entire party along with him.

  232. says

    An excerpt from Wonkette’s coverage of Trump’s multiple threats to withdraw from NATO:

    Donald Trump has a lot of stupid, deeply held beliefs, like the idea that he’s a good negotiator, his certainty that the Central Park Five were guilty (even after they were exonerated by DNA), and his suspicion that everyone is secretly laughing at him (they are, but the mockery’s right out in the open).

    Among his highly stable beliefs is that every other country in the world is taking advantage of the USA, especially when it comes to our military alliances […] Trump has always distrusted NATO, but the New York Times reported Monday night just how deeply — and possibly catastrophically — that belief goes. According to “senior administration officials,” Trump repeatedly told his national security aides in 2018 he wanted to just plain pull the US out of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization altogether, because he is A Idiot.

    […] Current and former officials who support the alliance said they feared Mr. Trump could return to his threat […] In the days around a tumultuous NATO summit meeting last summer, they said, Mr. Trump told his top national security officials that he did not see the point of the military alliance, which he presented as a drain on the United States. […]

    The Times hints at why the “senior officials” came forward at this particular moment:

    Now, the president’s repeatedly stated desire to withdraw from NATO is raising new worries among national security officials amid growing concern about Mr. Trump’s efforts to keep his meetings with Mr. Putin secret from even his own aides, and an F.B.I. investigation into the administration’s Russia ties.

    Rachel Maddow was a lot more direct about it, speculating […] that the news that Trump had actually taken away his translator’s notes was the holy shit! moment for some high-up people who decided it was time to take this “hey, let’s leave NATO” idiocy to the media […]

    Just in case anyone was unsure whether dumping the alliance that has kept Europe united and not having wars all the time since the post-WWII era might be a terrible idea, the Times includes a whole bunch of perspective from people who know a thing or two about diplomacy and war stuff, like Obama undersecretary of defense Michèle A. Flournoy, who said abandoning NATO — or hell, just talking about it, “would be one of the most damaging things that any president could do to U.S. interests.”

    “It would destroy 70-plus years of painstaking work across multiple administrations, Republican and Democratic, to create perhaps the most powerful and advantageous alliance in history,” Ms. Flournoy said in an interview. “And it would be the wildest success that Vladimir Putin could dream of.”

    […] The Times piece points out Trump’s desire to leave NATO is one of his default crazy obsessions, or as the Times puts it, it

    appears to be a core belief, administration officials said, akin to his desire to expropriate Iraq’s oil. While officials have explained multiple times why the United States cannot take Iraq’s oil, Mr. Trump returns to the issue every few months.

    Similarly, just when officials think the issue of NATO membership has been settled, Mr. Trump again brings up his desire to leave the alliance.

    Yes, and don’t get him started on aircraft carrier catapults, either. Trump prefers steampunk! […] Back in 1987, he ran a full-page ad in the New York Times complaining that our allies need to pay the full cost of their own defense and stop playing the USA for suckers: […]

    I’ve debunked Trump’s idea that NATO allies should or do pay the USA (for military protection) so many times that I’m not going to bother to do it again. Trump has no idea how NATO works, nor he does understand the history behind the treaty organization.

  233. says

    Good news:

    Roku, the streaming video company, said Tuesday that it would no longer include a channel for conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ Infowars network on its platform — less than a day after the new channel first went live. […]

    several media and tech companies — Twitter, Vimeo, Facebook, Apple, Spotify — removed Jones and his content from their platforms.

    A judge recently ordered Jones to turn over Infowars financial and marketing documents to the families of Sandy Hook victims that sued Jones over his characterization of the 2012 elementary school shooting massacre as a hoax. […]


  234. says

    Bad news:

    Sinclair Broadcast wants to “Stirr” up streaming.

    The nation’s largest owner of television stations launched a free, ad-supported streaming service Wednesday drawing on local news, sports and other programs from the 191 TV stations it owns in 89 U.S. markets. […]

    Sinclair was admonished by media watchdogs in April after the sports news service Deadspin pieced together clips of dozens of TV anchors for Sinclair reading from the same script. The script warned viewers about “biased and false news” from other media outlets. At the time, President Donald Trump tweeted his support of the company. Sinclair defended the effort as a way to distinguish its news shows from unreliable stories on social media.

    Uh. That last sentence is an own-goal. Sinclair distinguished itself as faux news … and it garnered Trump’s endorsement. Ouch.

    Stirr comes just months after Sinclair’s $3.9 billion bid for Tribune Media collapsed because of regulatory concerns, ending a bid to create a massive media juggernaut that could have rivaled the reach of Fox News. [Silver lining, but not much of one.]

    Fox News launched a paid subscription service Fox Nation in November, emphasizing short-form commentary from conservative hosts on Fox News Channel. [snipped list of other media companies starting streaming services]

    The centerpiece of Stirr will be a digital channel called Stirr City. […]


    From readers comments:

    Free, and worth every penny of it.
    Free, and still not worth the price.
    This service will hoover up more personal data and use it for selling gold futures, survival kits and targeting the gullible for votes.

  235. says

    Lindsey Graham just accidentally admitted that suppressing black voter turnout is a core GOP goal

    “Elections have consequences,” the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman said.

    The text below is long, but well worth reading. This is how Republicans reveal their racism, even when they don’t intend to do so. This is how Republicans shoot themselves in the foot.

    For a few minutes on Wednesday morning, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) seemed to think he’d caught the country’s foremost civil rights groups with their pants down.

    With National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) head Derrick Johnson and National Urban League (NUL) head Marc Morial testifying against attorney general nominee William Barr, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s new chairman saw an opportunity to portray the leading advocates for black people’s political power as shameless partisans.

    Graham’s approach was slipperier than that often taken by modern Republican critics of black civic organizations. He didn’t dabble in “plantation” metaphors for the Democratic party’s relationship with black Americans as some prominent conservatives have done, or tout the synthetic online efforts fellow right-wingers have recently undertaken to spark a mass departure of African-American voters from the party.

    Instead, Graham pointed to the NAACP’s legislator scorecards. Why, he demanded to know, do the Democrats on the panel get high marks while no Republican can do better than the 22 percent rating the group recently gave Graham? Doesn’t that dichotomy prove the NAACP is ideologically blinkered, beholden to the center-left, and opposed to the political right based primarily on party labels rather than policy specifics?

    “I don’t know how we got here…and I certainly don’t know how to close this gap,” Graham said after laying out the group’s numbers. “Maybe the problem’s all on our side. I don’t think so. I think the agenda that you’re pursuing, in the eyes of conservatives, is not as good for the country as you think it is.”

    After Johnson tried to explain how the group compiles ratings, NUL’s Morial jumped in — and quickly brought the senator back to Earth. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions had wielded his power to thwart non-white voters from accessing the franchise, Morial reminded Graham.

    “In two instances, Attorney General [Jeff] Sessions in his first days and months in office had the Justice Department change sides in the middle of an important civil rights case,” Morial said, referring to the Trump administration’s abandonment of challenges to a voter purge in Ohio and a Texas voter ID law that treats conceal-carry gun permits as valid, but rejects ID cards from a government job or public college. If you think people whose votes were systematically repressed by the white establishment for decades after they were freed from slavery at gunpoint should like Republicans more, Morial was saying, perhaps you should look at what Republicans actually do with power when it’s given to them.

    In his scramble to regain the momentum in the exchange, Graham accidentally gave the game away.

    “Elections have consequences,” the senator interjected — perhaps not realizing he’d just answered his own earlier bewilderment at how poorly Republicans are viewed by the people they move to harm when they win.

    “The enforcement of civil rights laws is neutral when it comes to elections,” Morial replied. “Why did the Justice Department, without any discussion with the Congress, without any discussion with the civil rights community, switch sides immediately? That should not have anything to do with who wins an election.”

    Graham’s candle sputtered out quickly from there, with the senator retreating to abstractions and straw men. Nobody should have expected things to stay exactly the same at DOJ after the election, he said.

    “If you don’t expect elections to matter, that’s a mistake,” he said, confirming for a second time that to vote for Republicans is to vote for a government that supports the systematic disenfranchisement of the voters […]

    Video snippets are available at the link.

  236. F.O. says

    The Guardian deservedly harping on AOC.
    I find this note particularly interesting:

    But there’s one person who never mentions her: Donald Trump. Strange, isn’t it? Trump mocks everyone on Twitter. But he has never once sent a tweet about her, even though they both have major presences on the platform. I suspect I know exactly why: he realizes that she’s better at this than him.

  237. tomh says

    From WaPo:
    IG: Trump administration took thousands more migrant children from parents

    By Amy Goldstein January 17 at 11:42 AM
    The Trump administration separated thousands more migrant children from their parents at the U.S. border than has previously been made public, according to an investigative report released Thursday, but the federal tracking system has been so poor that the precise number is hazy.

    According to a report issued Thursday by the Department of Health and Human Services’s inspector general, the separated children include 118 taken between July and early November — after the administration halted a short-lived family separation policy that provoked a political firestorm and public outrage. The report estimates that thousands more youngsters were taken into government custody from early in the Trump administration and through last summer.

    When immigration enforcement officials transferred those youngsters into HHS custody, they said the biggest reason was that their parents had criminal histories. But information on the parents’ criminal records often was so sketchy that it is unclear whether the separations were warranted or whether the children can be safely returned to their families, the report said.

  238. says

    Trump, claims that most polls are fake, (if they show him in a negative light), paid to produce false poll results:

    Those who’ve spent a considerable amount of time online have come across websites that invite visitors to vote in online unscientific polls. They generally tell us very little about public attitudes, but people often like to register their opinions, and website operators often like to create ways to engage visitors, so they’re fairly common. Those who understand social-science research know to ignore the results.

    Donald Trump is not one of those people. […]

    […] the Wall Street Journal published a rather remarkable article this morning on Michael Cohen’s efforts — when he was Trump’s personal lawyer and “fixer” — to “rig online polls in his boss’s favor” before the 2016 elections.

    To execute the plan, Cohen reportedly hired John Gauger, the chief information officer at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, and the owner of a small tech company called RedFinch Solutions LLC. The goal was simple: deliver online poll results intended to make Trump happy.

    In January 2014, Mr. Cohen asked Mr. Gauger to help Mr. Trump score well in a CNBC online poll to identify the country’s top business leaders by writing a computer script to repeatedly vote for him. Mr. Gauger was unable to get Mr. Trump into the top 100 candidates. In February 2015, as Mr. Trump prepared to enter the presidential race, Mr. Cohen asked him to do the same for a Drudge Report poll of potential Republican candidates, Mr. Gauger said. Mr. Trump ranked fifth, with about 24,000 votes, or 5% of the total.

    As is often the case with people who do work for Team Trump, Gauger said he never received the $50,000 he was promised, though he claims Cohen did give him a Walmart bag containing between $12,000 and $13,000 in cash.

    Cohen denies that detail — he insists payments were made by check — though he seemed to confirm the gist of the story. In a tweet published this morning, Cohen pointed to the WSJ article and said that when it came to poll rigging, his actions were made “at the direction of and for the sole benefit of” Donald Trump.

    […] “I truly regret my blind loyalty to a man who doesn’t deserve it.” […]

    […] when Trump lashes out at polls he doesn’t like as “rigged,” perhaps he knows of what he speaks.

    […] we’re occasionally reminded that the president has long overseen an operation that can charitably be described as amateurish and incompetent, which offers insights into why his White House is such a mess.

    But a Washington Post analysis published this morning raised a related point, putting the contract to rig polls in a larger context: “Why should we not assume that other surreptitious investments might have been made?”


  239. says

    Trump invited a bipartisan group of members of Congress to the White House for talks yesterday. During those talks, Trump shared “serious misconceptions” about the U.S.-Mexico border.

    From the Washington Post:

    He believes what he believes”: That’s what Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Tex.), who met with President Trump at the White House on Wednesday along with a handful of his colleagues from the “Problem Solvers Caucus,” told [the Washington Post] about the president’s “very serious misconceptions of the border.”

    “He mentioned, ‘I don’t even know why we have ports of entry. You can just drive down the border and turn left into the U.S.’ … I think he’s convinced himself that that’s what the border is,” Gonzalez told us. “I was listening to him today. He makes a lot of comments that are so untrue. But I believe that he actually believes them.”

    Analysis from Steve Benen:

    […] “There are many ways Trump is bad at being president, but this is one of the most consequential, and most surprising,” Vox’s Ezra Klein wrote last week. “The business of divided governance runs on dealmaking, and Trump himself has become the obstacle to serious, successful negotiations. Of all the overhyped, underpowered products and promises to bear Trump’s name, none has been as much of a scam as his reputation as a dealmaker.”

    And why, exactly, is the president so embarrassingly bad at striking deals? Part of the problem is his seemingly uncontrollable dishonesty, creating conditions in which participants simply can’t trust him to keep his word.

    Similarly, he’s inconsistent, routinely changing his mind on core positions. Indeed, in the case of the shutdown, it was just last month when Trump endorsed a clean spending bill – without funding for a giant border wall – to prevent a shutdown. A day later, after conservative media howled, the president abandoned his own position.

    But I think the most serious hurdle for Trump, and the principal reason he’s struggled mightily to negotiate any deals, is that he too often doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    Referring back to Rep. Vicente Gonzalez’s (D-Tex.) comments, how are members of Congress supposed to negotiate a substantive resolution with a president who genuinely believes “very serious misconceptions” and “makes a lot of comments that are so untrue”?

    That’s right, Trump often doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

  240. says

    Josh Marshall discussed the new and surprising line from Rudy Giuliani:

    Last night Rudy Giuliani dramatically shifted his defense of the President, claiming that he’d never denied there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. That’s obviously false. He claimed it a million times.

    […] Giuliani now only claims that the President himself did not collude with Russia. Indeed, he makes a further, related claim that the only potential crime would be if President Trump was personally involved in the hacking of DNC servers and email accounts or paid those who did.

    In an interview with NBC and a written statement today, he’s now trying to claim those remarks last night have been misrepresented. But his follow up statements are actually the same, just with less fireworks. He is claiming only that President Trump isn’t personally guilty. He makes no claims about anyone else in the campaign.

    And here’s part of his follow up clean-up statement: “I represent only President Trump not the Trump campaign. There was no collusion by President Trump in any way, shape or form. Likewise, I have no knowledge of any collusion by any of the thousands of people who worked on the campaign.”

    This is a less suggestive way of putting it. But it’s the same. He’s now only willing to say Trump personally didn’t collude. Anyone else on the campaign, he won’t say.

    It’s a perfectly reasonable surmise, indeed almost certain that the line wrongdoing Giuliani is no longer willing to explicit deny is the line of wrongdoing he believes will eventually be proven. We’ve seen this pattern repeatedly for more than a year.

    Video is available at the link.

  241. says

    Hypocrisy much?

    […] The Trump Organization requested and received at least 192 visas for foreign workers in 2018, according to Department of Labor data. That number appears to be the highest for the company going back to at least 2008 and likely much earlier, based on public records.

    The nearly two decades’ worth of data were pulled together by the Democratic research group American Bridge and shared with TPM, which then reviewed the raw Labor Department information files.Those visas were almost entirely for the type of low-skilled foreign workers that Trump has claimed drive down American wages. Cooks, servers, housekeepers and farmworkers make up a large chunk of the Trump Organization’s requests, most of them making between $10 and $15 hourly.

    In 2018, the various Trump properties received 163 H2B visas for non-agricultural temporary workers and 29 H2A visas for agricultural temporary workers.

    The largest number of the Trump Organization’s foreign worker visas in 2018, like in most years, went to his Mar-a-Lago property in Palm Beach, Florida. The “Winter White House” where Trump spends much of his time received 78 temporary foreign worker visas last year for waiters, cooks and maids. […]

    Talking Points Memo link

    More at the link.

  242. says

    The latest front in Russian infiltration: America’s right-wing homeschooling movement

    This is the latest connection between Russia and the American religious right.

    The group and its origins sound innocuous enough. But the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) — a right-wing group founded 36 years ago — has deepened connections between America’s religious right and Russians even as the latter have been sanctioned by the United States, according to a ThinkProgress investigation.

    By networking with Russians, the HSLDA — now America’s largest right-wing homeschooling association — has provided the Kremlin with a new avenue of influence over some of the most conservative organizations in the United States.

    […] Russian ties to groups like the HSLDA demonstrate the Kremlin’s broader attempts to hold sway over American policies.

    Other ties between sanctioned Russians and the American far-right are well documented. From Christian fundamentalists to white supremacists to secession movements to fascists in the so-called “alt-right,” the links are as diffuse as they are damning. Not only have these networks brought Russian agents into close contact with higher-ups in the Republican party, but they’ve presented some of the primary threads of the Kremlin’s efforts at upending and unwinding American democracy. […]

    […] the HSLDA co-sponsored a formal homeschooling conference in Moscow and St. Petersburg, […] One of the conference’s other sponsors was a foundation run by sanctioned Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev. The event featured some of the most outspoken anti-LGBTQ officials in Russia, and included a Russian official who’s currently sanctioned by the U.S. for her role in stoking Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. […]

    Much more at the link.

  243. says

    Trump put the kibosh on a trip Nancy Pelosi was planning to take to Afghanistan. It looks like Trump took about 24 hours to find some way to hit back at Pelosi when she, citing security concerns, suggested that Trump postpone the State of the Union address. Here’s Trump’s spiteful, fifth-grade-level taunt:

    Due to the Shutdown, I am sorry to inform you that your trip to Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan has been postponed. We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the Shutdown is over. In light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I am sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate. I also feel that, during this period, it would be better if you were in Washington negotiating with me and joining the Strong Border Security movement to end the Shutdown. Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative.

    I look forward to seeing you soon and even more forward to watching our open and dangerous Southern Border finally receive the attention, funding, and security it so desperately deserves!

    Trump just breached security protocols by revealing Pelosi’s plans to fly to Afghanistan, which is a war zone.

    He also suggested that Pelosi take a commercial flight into a war zone.

    Trump got so many facts wrong in that little tantrum that it makes me weary to just think about debunking Trump’s lies. Let’s let Steve Benen do the heavy lifting.

    […] the needlessly petty president doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Pelosi wasn’t going to Egypt; this wasn’t an “excursion” or a “public-relations” trip; the trip wasn’t scheduled to last seven days; there’s no such thing as a “Strong Border Security movement”; and if Trump is genuinely interesting in giving the border obsessive “attention,” it’s a mystery as to why he invested so little effort into the issue in his first two years in office – and why he agreed with Pelosi’s position on funding the government as recently as last month.

    Nevertheless, the House Speaker’s office responded soon after with a written press statement:

    “The Congressional Delegation to Afghanistan included a required stop in Brussels for pilot rest. In Brussels, the delegation was scheduled to meet with top NATO commanders, U.S. military leaders and key allies – to affirm the United States’ ironclad commitment to the NATO alliance. This weekend visit to Afghanistan did not include a stop in Egypt.”

    “The purpose of the trip was to express appreciation and thanks to our men and women in uniform for their service and dedication, and to obtain critical national security and intelligence briefings from those on the front lines. The President traveled to Iraq during the Trump Shutdown as did a Republican CODEL led by Rep. Zeldin.”

    Given the president’s hostility toward NATO – a position that brings Trump in line with his benefactors in the Kremlin – we’re left to wonder whether that contributed to the American president’s latest tantrum.

    Similarly, it’s unclear why it’s not an “excursion” and a “public-relations” event when Trump visits U.S. troops in Iraq, but Pelosi receives the labels when visiting U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

    All additional congressional delegation trips have also been canceled, though members of the president’s team, at least for now, are still scheduled to attend the upcoming Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

    Nancy Pelosi is second in line to the presidency (Mike Pence is first).

  244. says

    tomh @256, the fact that the number of family separations is so high makes me angry, and it breaks my heart at the same time.

    Here is some followup discussion to add to what you have already posted:

    Just when it seemed Donald Trump’s family separation policy couldn’t look worse, we’re confronted with a new report from Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general’s office. Not only did the Trump administration separate thousands more immigrant children from their parents than we previously knew, but as NBC News reported, whether those families have been reunified is unknown:

    The report found a spike in immigrant family separations beginning in the summer of 2017, a year prior to the “zero tolerance” policy that prosecuted immigrant parents who crossed the border illegally while holding their children separately in HHS custody. The families separated under zero tolerance were represented in a class action lawsuit, where a federal judge ordered that the government reunify them.

    However, the government had no such order to reunify children separated prior to “zero tolerance.” Some may have been released to family or nonrelative sponsors, but it is not known how many have been reunified.

    HHS officials did not keep track of whether children they were releasing from their custody had been separated from their parents at the border or whether they crossed the border without a parent.

    Just how many families are at issue? No one seems able to say for sure, and both the report and an HHS spokesperson said the department has faced “challenges in identifying separated children.”

    They didn’t know what they were doing, and they did it badly. […]

    A central database to track separated families did not exist.

    A Washington Post analysis added, “The report is at once confirmation that the Trump administration proactively elected to implement this policy – contradicting its public pronouncements – and shows that the policy itself was highly premature and poorly carried out. It’s a triple-whammy of an indictment of the administration’s actions, courtesy of an internal review by the administration itself. And it describes an administration that wasn’t honest about its policy throughout.”

    It was last June when Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen declared via Twitter, “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.”

    It’s a quote that hasn’t improved with age.


    From the readers comments:

    At least the Nazis kept meticulous records.

  245. says

    Followup to comments 262 and 264.

    From Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California who is also House Intelligence Committee Chairman:

    As far as we can tell, this has never happened in the annals of congressional history.

    I’m not going to comment on the Speaker’s travel plans. Frankly, there has been far too much said about that already. [Speaking about it is a breach of security protocols.] I think the President’s decision to disclose a trip that a Speaker was making to a war zone was completely and utterly irresponsible in every way.


    Schiff was scheduled to travel with the delegation alongside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and others. Speaking to the press Thursday, Schiff said Trump was out of line in discussing the congressional delegation’s plans, which are usually kept secret until after the trip is completed due to security concerns. The delegation would have traveled to Afghanistan.

  246. says

    PZ already posted about the BuzzFeed report that says Trump instructed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress.

    Here are some additional details. First, let’s look at what Trump said in response:

    [Cohen is] lying about a project that everybody knew about. I mean, we were very open with it. We were thinking about building a building. I guess we had – in a form, it was an option. I don’t know what you’d call it. We decided – I decided ultimately not to do it. There would have been nothing wrong if I did do it. If I did do it, there would have been nothing wrong. That was my business. […]

    When I run for president, that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to do business. I was doing a lot of different things when I was running…. I was running my business while I was campaigning. 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? […]

    Even if [Cohen] was right, it doesn’t matter because I was allowed to do whatever I wanted during the campaign. I was running my business – a lot of different things – during the campaign.”

    Yes, that’s a fairly good argument, but it does not explain all the lying. If Trump claims this was all aboveboard and legit, then why did he lie? Why did he instruct Cohen to lie? Why did they hide the offer of a penthouse for Putin, (as a gift)?

    Steve Benen points out more of Trump’s lies:

    […] The president said he deliberately “stayed away” from possible deals with Russia, but that wasn’t true. His lawyer said there was never a signed letter of intent, but that wasn’t true. Trump said he and his team were “very open” about the possible deal during the campaign, but that wasn’t true.

    Cohen, of course, lied to Congress about when the Trump Organization abandoned the deal, and according to the latest reporting, he lied at the president’s behest.

    I realize that Trump occasionally lies when he doesn’t have to, but for a perfectly benign business arrangement, it’s extraordinary just how far the president and his team have gone to obscure the truth.

    And what, pray tell, is the White House’s explanation for all of this? Spokesperson Hogan Gidley appeared on Fox News this morning and passed on multiple opportunities to say Trump didn’t direct Cohen to lie to Congress. Kellyanne Conway also had an opportunity to deny the accuracy of the BuzzFeed article, and she didn’t.

  247. says

    Followup to comment 266.

    In a rare move, Mueller’s office denies BuzzFeed report that Trump told Cohen to lie about Moscow project

    Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s office on Friday denied an explosive report by BuzzFeed News that his investigators had gathered evidence showing President Trump directed his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about a prospective business deal in Moscow.

    I think “denied” is too strong. Questioning some aspects of the reporting does not make the basic premise of the report wrong. Cohen already admitted to lying to Congress about the timeline associated with the Trump Tower Moscow project. Cohen shared his pre-planned lies with various people in the White House. Coverage from Chris Hayes.

    Second segment from Chris Hayes.

    More from The Washington Post:

    “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate,” said Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller.

    Well, that’s very carefully written. One thing it does not say is that the whole story is bogus.

    More from The Washington Post:

    The statement was remarkable on several levels — first, the special counsel’s office speaks exceedingly rarely, and second, the statement seemed to drive a stake through a sensational allegation that Democratic lawmakers suggested earlier in the day could spell the end of the Trump presidency.

    Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe Mueller just meant to put the brakes on the wildest speculations. Maybe Mueller just wanted to make everyone wait for the full facts.

    More from The Washington Post:

    The story published by BuzzFeed on Thursday night attributed to two federal law enforcement officials an incendiary assertion: that Mueller had collected emails, texts and testimony indicating Trump had directed Cohen to lie to Congress about the extent of discussions surrounding a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow. That project never came to pass, but Cohen pleaded guilty last year to lying to Congress about the matter. […]

    The potential consequences of the report were so severe — immediate congressional investigations and a possible legal showdown with the White House […]

    The explicit denial [again, “denial” is too strong a word here in my opinion] by the special counsel’s office is likely to provide further ammunition to complaints by Trump and his supporters that press coverage of him is unfair and inaccurate. […]

    Following the special counsel’s denial, BuzzFeed insisted its story was correct. In a statement, the website’s top editor, Ben Smith, said, “We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he’s disputing.” […]

    More at the link.

  248. says

    From Josh Marshall:

    […] The statement is as follows: “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate.”

    The first thing to note here is that I don’t think the Mueller office has ever issued a statement like this. They hardly ever say anything at all beyond terse and procedural statements about court cases. […]

    The other point to note is that this is not a blanket refutation of the story. The statement is carefully worded and disputes “description[s] of specific statements” and the “characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office.” It’s possible to interpret this as disputing specific subsidiary points in the story, while leaving the central claims intact. But that seems like a stretch.

    It’s very difficult, perhaps impossible to parse this statement. The fairest read is that certain specific claims or characterizations of documents are not accurate, not that the general claims of the article or all of its claims are necessarily wrong. That leaves us with an almost infinite range of possibilities, which is just what Mueller’s office wants. They didn’t want to give us any clues or bread crumbs in the first place. They’ve only told us want they want us to know: the article contains significant inaccuracies.

    This is a case where it’s important to remember Rod Rosenstein’s role in overseeing the investigation. […] As far as we know he has steadfastly resisted any attempts to meddle with or interfere with the probe. But if a story like this is out there, this damning to the President and is in some material and significant way wrong, it quite plausible to me that he would have insisted the Mueller’s office release a statement. It’s equally plausible that the decision was Mueller’s. […]

    As noted last night, there’s something curious in the sourcing of this story. It doesn’t have the accustomed sourcing from cooperators or grand jury witnesses or targets strategically leaking information about themselves. It’s specifically sourced to “two federal law enforcement officials.” That in itself was probably very unwelcome to Mueller’s investigators who have clearly worked long and hard to run a leak free operation. Some of the motivation is likely to make clear that the Special Counsel’s Office was not the source of this information.

    […] The SDNY is notoriously more porous to the press than the Special Counsel’s Office. So we have a kind of information that seems more likely to come out of New York and an office there that seems considerably more likely to leak.

    We don’t know what’s really being disputed here. Maybe the idea that Trump explicitly told Cohen to lie is just totally bogus. But my sense is that it’s not quite that clear cut. The dispute about facts and I suspect the breakdown in the sourcing of information likely stems from the relationship between these two offices – New York US Attorney’s Office (SDNY) and Mueller’s office – different propensities to leak, different levels of knowledge of the case, different strategies about what they’re investigating.

  249. says

    From Wonkette’s coverage, beginning with a tweet from Trump:

    Kevin Corke, @FoxNews “Don’t forget, Michael Cohen has already been convicted of perjury and fraud, and as recently as this week, the Wall Street Journal has suggested that he may have stolen tens of thousands of dollars….” Lying to reduce his jail time! Watch father-in-law!

    From Wonkette’s analysis:

    That’s right, the president of the United States reacted to a bombshell news report exposing that he had tampered with a witness by suborning perjury by … tampering with that witness some more in public, by threatening his father-in-law! (To be fair, Trump has been trying to intimidate the witness by encouraging the feds to investigate Cohen’s father-in-law for a hot minute now. […])

    Anyway, so that is how Donald Trump is handling the news.

    In our morning post, we included some early reactions from the goons who populate Trump’s orbit, which was funny, because literally nobody was denying the truth of the story. Rudy Giuliani’s initial response, last night, was that if we believe KNOWN LIAR Michael Cohen, then he is going to sell us the Brooklyn Bridge for a bargain price. This, of course, intentionally ignored the fact that if you read the BuzzFeed article (a tall order for the average Trump supporter, we know), then you could see that Cohen was merely corroborating what Robert Mueller already knew, through interviewing other witnesses and reading internal emails and texts from the Trump Organization. Also, BuzzFeed’s sources were two high-level law enforcement officials, not Michael Cohen.

    But those details didn’t stop White House press dude Hogan Gidley […] who went on Fox News and explained what’s really going on here:

    “… This is why the president refuses to give any credibility to news outlets …”
    Fox News was like, “That’s not a denial.”

    ” … No, but the premise is ridiculous. We’re also talking about a person, Michael Cohen, who, quite frankly, has now been proven to be a liar …”
    Fox News was like, “That’s not a denial.”

    “… The president’s attorneys already addressed this …”

    Fox News was like, “That’s not a denial.” Also, at the time of that Hogan Gidley interview, the only lawyerly statement from TrumpWorld was that horseshit Rudy Giuliani, so we guess that’s what he meant when he said they had “addressed this.” [Rudy Giuliani’s initial response, last night, was that if we believe KNOWN LIAR Michael Cohen, then he is going to sell us the Brooklyn Bridge for a bargain price.]

    So, Gidley “refuted” the story by saying the fake news is stupid and Michael Cohen is a liar, even though Cohen wasn’t the source for the story, ROBERT MUELLER’S RECEIPTS were the source of the story. […]

  250. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    I think Mueller was motivated to speak out because he perceived a threat to his investigation. People were starting to moot impeachment proceedings–and that would tear the investigation out of fact-finding and legal analysis and place it firmly and wholly in the political realm.
    Meuller is smart. He’s been given a job to do. He knows history will judge him by his execution of that job, and he is taking steps to protect his ability to complete the investigation–despite threats, be those threats from the right or the left. He also has the cautionary tale of Ken Starr, who allowed partisan politics to hijack the Clinton investigations and effectively ended his legal career.

  251. tomh says

    @ #270
    Speaking of Ken Starr, that old fraud popped up in a NYT opinion piece, The Integrity of William Barr, subtitled, “He should not be required to recuse himself from the Mueller investigation.”

    It’s just what one might expect, a full column praising Barr as “an accomplished lawyer with a deep respect for the law” and praising Barr’s dubious memorandum on the special counsel that, “demonstrates the vital quality of a careful lawyer’s open-mindedness, which has been vividly on display in recent days, when Mr. Barr has pledged to protect the independence of the Mueller investigation.”

    All in all, a nauseating display.

  252. says

    a_ray @270, yes. I’m basically in agreement with your analysis.

    tomh @271, So Ken Starr is sucking up to William Barr? Sheesh.

    In other news, Trump is prepping yet another “Infrastructure Week.” All of the past infrastructure weeks have fizzled in an embarrassing manner. Trump does not know how to govern, how to negotiate, nor how to repair/improve the infrastructure of the USA. For one thing, he basically stripped his administration of income by pushing for a tax bill that was bonkers. For another, he thinks arranging more government giveaways to well-to-do corporations, (in this case, construction companies), is the way to fund infrastructure projects. He also wants to make taxpayers beholden to those construction companies for decades.

    Trump is also planning to announce a deal to end the shutdown this afternoon. Rumor has it that he will offer an “extension” of DACA in return for $5.7 billion to build his wall. I don’t see how anyone can trust Trump to negotiate in good faith, to keep his word, or to actually end the shutdown. We will see.

  253. says

    From Josh Marshall, “Don’t Expect the Mueller Probe To Do What Isn’t Its Job”:

    […] Our most critical national and civic need is to find out the truth of what happened in the 2016 election and who […] Trump really works for today. That imperative is far more important than whether any individual person or group of individuals is incarcerated or otherwise punished for crimes. But that is not the purpose of the Mueller probe. It never has been. The Special Counsel investigation is a criminal and counter-intelligence investigation. Its goal is to find out whether crimes were committed and to prosecute them.

    […] It is quite possible that the most critical facts about what happened in the 2016 election and afterwards are not tied to statute crimes. […]

    One value of the very flawed Independent Counsel statute was that it required the Independent Counsel to issue a final report on its findings. Mueller has no such requirement. […]

    As we’ve seen, a probe like Mueller’s can have a significant fact-finding component. Certainly Mueller must see that, in practice, as some part of his brief. But that’s not the point of his investigation and in specific and binding ways it’s in conflict with his mandate. This role, what I’ve described as our most central national need, falls either to Congress or to an independent commission Congress could create.

    It’s not an either/or of course. We need both. […]

    Even if it’s findings are now in dispute, the Buzzfeed story from Thursday evening has nonetheless brought a growing number of national security and legal luminaries to say it is time for Congress to begin hearings over impeachment if not impeachment itself. As Michael Hayden and Neal Katyal wrote last night in the Post: “There is a big difference between calling for impeachment and calling for an investigation into whether impeachment is appropriate.”

    […] I think impeachment is premature for very specific and practical reasons. Impeachment is nothing more than inviting the Senate to remove the President from office. Given that about 20 Republican senators would have to vote to do that, one might as well invite the senate to send Trump to the moon. So the real issue in my mind is that we need fact-finding that will hopefully over time shift opinion so that removal from office becomes likely.

    […] Only Congress can get to and air the facts. So get about finding and airing them. They will tell their own story and lead to new possibilities. […]

  254. says

    From Representative Will Hurd, a Republican from Texas:

    […] The border crisis is a myth.

    I think $67 billion of drugs coming into our country is a crisis. Now, I also think when you think of a crisis, that means people are afraid to leave their homes, right?

    [El Paso and other border towns] are some of the safest cities in the United States of America. […]

    In my district alone there’s the potential of ceding 1.1 million acres of land to Mexico. There’s a thing in Texas we care about called private property rights. […]

    Why aren’t we also talking about streamlining this immigration process so that we get people here legally who are going to contribute to our economy? It’s a problem that needs to be solved. […]

    In some places, a physical barrier is a helpful too. But you can’t use the same tool over every single mile. Let’s be efficient. What I always say is building a wall from sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security. […]

    Rolling Stone link

    […] Hurd’s district includes 820 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, more than any other member of the House of Representatives. But if you’re expecting Hurd, who was narrowly re-elected to a third term last year, to support President Trump’s “big, beautiful wall” and stand with the decision to partially shut down the federal government over the fight, you’ve got it all wrong. Trump’s border crisis is a “myth,” Hurd tells Rolling Stone, and a wall made of cement or steel slats is a “third-century solution to a 21st-century problem.” […]

  255. says

    From Mark Sumner:

    Donald Trump says that he will not use his Saturday afternoon “major announcement” on border security to declare a national emergency. So a national emergency declaration is still completely on the table. But, on day 28 of the shutdown that Trump engineered because he was afraid Anne Coulter didn’t like him anymore, it’s mostly likely that his announcement about his economy-sinking national snit will contain both a carrot and a stick.

    The “carrot” will be the deal that Trump has come up with, not by talking to Democrats, but in private consultation with Steve Miller and Jared Kushner. Really. So expect this to be one rooty, bitter, and generally rotten carrot. The stick will likely be a threat to declare a national emergency if you don’t like his carrot.

    It’s unclear just how much time during the Trump announcement will be spent smirking about his cutting off flights for Congress, or smirking about forcing people to work without pay, or smirking about the fallout from yesterday’s Buzzfeed article.[…]

    Since this appears to be an offer coming from Trump without actual Democratic input, it’s likely that any “deal” will include 110 percent of what Trump has already demanded. And in exchange he’ll offer something that he thinks Democratic leaders will like. Something like building the wall out of transparent aluminum. It could be kind of bizarrely interesting to see what Trump believes he has that sounds, to him, like a reasonable offer. […]

  256. says

    Leaked memo shows Trump administration carefully plotted how to hurt migrant children and families

    […] Sen. Jeff Merkley released a draft memo, leaked by a whistleblower, showing that the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security thoroughly gamed out different ways they could tear children from their parents and use it as a deterrent to keep migrants from seeking asylum at the border.

    The memo dates to December 2017, when border crossings were dramatically lower than in December 2016, yet is titled “Policy Options to Respond to Border Surge of Illegal Immigration.” In the memo and in comments on it, Trump administration officials floated the possibility of taking children from their parents but then denying them a hearing before an immigration judge and deporting the whole family—without necessarily reunifying them first. “It appears that they wanted to have it both ways,” ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt said. “To separate children from their parents but deny them the full protections generally awarded to unaccompanied children.”

    The draft memo also considered restricting green cards available to abused, abandoned, or neglected children, as well as previewing the policy of intensive background checks of people who agreed to sponsor unaccompanied migrant children. Publicly, the Trump administration claims that this is for the safety of the children—children they held in detention camps—but the memo acknowledged that the policy would lead to kids being held longer.

    A lot of Trump administration policies are based on whim-tweets by Donald Trump and then implemented by his loyal flunkies. This was not. This was carefully gamed-out cruelty to children. […]

    From Alexandra Limon:

    NEW @SenJeffMerkley asks the FBI to open a perjury investigation into DHS Secretary @SecNielsen
    Merkley: Nielsen stated under oath that “we’ve never had a policy for family separation” but secret memo shows DHS was actively planning family separation policy as early as Dec 2017

  257. says

    Steve King rallies with support from the far-right

    King’s now using his white nationalism as a selling point for his re-election campaign.

    In the past week, it appeared the long overdue backlash to Rep. Steve King and his white nationalism had finally arrived. After ignoring King’s racism for years, congressional Republicans struck a different tone, admonishing King and stripping him of committee assignments.

    […] Members of the Religious Right, white supremacists, and others on the far-right have joined forces to rally around the racist congressman. […]

    Far-right activist Janet Porter has been gathering signatures of prominent religious leaders as part of an open letter to House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), which calls on McCarthy to reinstate King to the Agricultural and Judiciary Committees. The letter also pleads with McCarthy not to make the “fatal mistake” of allowing the “liberal media” to dictate Congress’ agenda. […]

    “We are appalled that Republican leadership would choose to believe a liberal news organization famous for their bias over an outstanding member of Congress who has served the people of Iowa and the United States honorably and faithfully for 16 years,” the letter, first reported by Right Wing Watch, reads. “Unlike North Korea, we in the United States are ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and hold to the principles of Western Civilization, as Rep. King so admirably does.” […]

  258. says

    From German Chancellor Angela Merkel, (excerpts from her speech):

    […] We have a responsibility to pursue this separation process [Brexit] responsibly so that in 50 years, people won’t shake their heads and say “Why weren’t they able to find a compromise?”

    To the last day, I will work towards finding a treaty-based solution for a deal for the U.K.’s exit, and I will work towards having the best kind of relations afterward.

    The United Kingdom is a part of Europe. We’re bound together by wonderful cooperation in all domestic and security policies. And the U.K. needs to remain a close partner in the future.

  259. says

    Trouble in Trump’s version of paradise, a version in which he is always fighting and always winning:

    Allies of President Trump are growing increasingly concerned about the political impact of the partial government shutdown, which has now entered its fifth week.

    Trump evinces confidence that he will prevail in the battle to secure funding for the southern border wall he promised at almost every opportunity during his 2016 campaign.

    But even some veterans of his own White House aren’t sure he fully grasps the odds he faces.

    “The president jumped without looking first,” said one former White House official. “And can you imagine the humiliation the president would bring on himself if he caved and got little or nothing in return?” […]

    The Hill link

  260. says

    Trump is looking for a new way to cut Medicaid — without Congress

    Block grants could be the next front in the Trump administration’s war on Medicaid.

    Two years in, senior Trump administration officials are still hunting for new ways to cut Medicaid.

    Seema Verma, who runs the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for President Trump, has been exploring whether the agency could implement Medicaid block grants […]. It would represent the most aggressive action yet by the Trump White House to cut Medicaid spending. (The program is unaffected by the ongoing government shutdown, however, because it is considered mandatory spending.)

    […] the plan might not even be legally permissible: Some experts argue CMS lacks the authority to change Medicaid’s funding formula without congressional approval.

    […] Under block grants, states would receive a set amount of federal funding, instead of the open-ended funding commitment they currently receive from the feds. The Medicaid spending caps proposed as part of Obamacare repeal were projected to lead to hundreds of billions of dollars in spending cuts and millions of people falling off the Medicaid rolls. […]

    […] merely the latest step in a two-year crusade by the Trump administration to cut Medicaid and fundamentally change the program. CMS has already approved the first Medicaid work requirements under Trump, and thousands of people in the states implementing them have lost coverage. Other smaller restrictions in benefits that had been off the table during President Barack Obama’s tenure are finding a much more receptive audience under Trump. […]

  261. says

    This Is The Future Republicans Want: MAGA Brats Mock Native American Drummer, Just To Be Assholes.

    Throughout the Trump presidency, things have gone really downhill politically and legally. But what’s almost scarier than that is the way things have gone downhill socially. I’m not talking about “division” — if people are terrible it is not a bad thing to be “divided” from them. I’m talking about people just thinking it’s totally fine to be huge assholes. I’m talking about kids looking at this smug ass President and going “Yeah, this is a great way to be.” […]

    During the March for Forced Birth in Washington yesterday, some high school students from Covington Catholic, an all boys school in Park Hills, Kentucky, decided to take a break from demanding that women lose their reproductive rights in order to harass Native American drummer/singer Nathan Phillips of the Omaha Tribe and others participating in the Indiginous People’s March simultaneously going on that day. It is, hands down, one of the creepiest goddamned things I’ve ever seen in my life. […]

    The school’s motto is “Educating Young Men Spiritually, Academically, Physically and Socially.” Note that they do not specify how, exactly, they do this. Perhaps they have full-on classes on how to be smarmy, repulsive assholes. […] Given that such a large contingent of the school seems to think this is acceptable behavior, something is clearly up. […]

    More, including video snippets, at the link.

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