Comments

  1. says

    Trump is backing down on his previous claims about North Korea.

    For months, President Donald Trump and top administration officials have maintained that they struck an agreement with North Korea last June to end its nuclear program.

    But after US intelligence officials on Tuesday openly contradicted that, stating that North Korea likely won’t give up its arsenal, Trump seems to be walking that back just a bit.

    “Decent chance of denuclearization,” he tweeted on Wednesday. “Time will tell what will happen with North Korea.”

    A “decent chance.” That, folks, is what people in the political world call “moving the goalposts.”

    That’s a far cry from the comments Trump made in June — just hours after meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for the first time — in which the president stated that there was “no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”

    Now he’s admitting not only that the threat remains, but also that it’s not guaranteed to go away anytime soon. […]

    Link

  2. says

    From Wonkette, “Trump And Scott Walker’s Foxconn Factory Deal Goes POOF!”

    […] In July 2017, Wisconsin’s then-Governor Scott Walker and then-Speaker of the House Paul Ryan went to the White House for a yuuuuuuge announcement. The tech manufacturing mega-firm FoxConn, best known for its Chinese factories with suicide barriers on the roof to keep employees from jumping off in despair, was going to build a 20 million square foot plant outside Racine!

    Why yes, that is bigger than the Pentagon! For the low, low price of $4 billion in incentives paid for by Wisconsin taxpayers — that’s $230,000 to $1 million per job — plus a delicious basket of goodies including 7 million gallons of water per day from Lake Michigan and the right to condemn 3,000 acres of agricultural and residential land as “blighted”, Foxconn would hire 13,000 full-time employees at an average salary of $54,000. And these workers would produce state-of-the-art LCD screens for televisions […]

    Trump bragged that he’d been instrumental in closing the deal with Foxconn chairman Terry Gou — he hadn’t, negotiations preceded his presidency — saying:

    So I had this incredible company going to invest someplace in the world — not here necessarily. And I will tell you they wouldn’t have done it here, except that I became President, so that’s good. But they wanted to do it someplace now in the United States. And I immediately thought of the state of Wisconsin.

    Terry came up, fell in love with the people, fell in love with the location, fell in love with the concept here. You know, he’s going to make robotics here. They’re doing many other things including full television sets. They’re doing many things here. And they’ll do a lot of expansion.

    This was always, always, ALWAYS a lie. […] today the company finally admitted that they’re not building televisions in Wisconsin, or any other American state, because it’s so much cheaper to produce the components in Asia, assemble the televisions in Mexico, and then import the assembled product to America.

    Foxconn spokesman Jason Woo told Reuters, “In terms of TV, we have no place in the U.S. … We can’t compete.” They’re still promising to build something, but not a factory because, “You can’t use a factory to view our Wisconsin investment.” Which is an odd metric for a project which was explicitly sold to the citizens of Wisconsin as a factory which would produce steady, good jobs for generations to come.

    Reached for comment, Foxconn factory workers in Pennsylvania and Indonesia said … NOTHING. Because they don’t exist. Foxconn promised them factories, too, and nothing ever came of it. […]

  3. says

    To lead interested readers back to the previous chapter of this thread, here are a few links:

    Link one..
    This leads to a comment about the Democratically controlled House of Representatives restoring the 2.1% pay raises that were due to automatically kick in in January for federal workers, until Trump cancelled the raises one day after he shut the government down.

    Link two.
    This leads to a comment about the House intelligence committee finally being able to start working after some Republican shenanigans had hobbled it for two weeks.

    Link three
    A note on global warming, Trump’s ignorant comments, and an explanation of the “polar vortex” from “Science Enthusiast” are posted.

  4. says

    Not sure what happened here, but it seems to happen every time.

    The previous chapter of this thread reached 500 comments, and then rolled over to a new chapter, as usual.

    However, comments in this new thread, once posted, lead one back to the old 500-comment thread. You can get to this new chapter of the thread by scrolling to the “newer comments” link at the bottom of the 500-comment page, or by starting again from the home page and choosing the “Political Madness All the Time” thread in the lefthand navigation column.

    I hope we don’t lose a whole bunch of comments on this new thread once this issue is resolved. That’s what happened last time.

    PZ, please look into this. Thanks.

  5. says

    Trump’s daily freakout:

    Republicans on the Homeland Security Committee are wasting their time. Democrats, despite all of the evidence, proof and Caravans coming, are not going to give money to build the DESPERATELY needed WALL. I’ve got you covered. Wall is already being built, I don’t expect much help!

    More troops being sent to the Southern Border to stop the attempted Invasion of Illegals, through large Caravans, into our Country. We have stopped the previous Caravans, and we will stop these also. With a Wall it would be soooo much easier and less expensive. Being Built!

  6. says

    Nefarious and secret deeds:

    The Department Of Energy, led by noted expert Rick Perry, secretly shipped half a ton of “weapons-grade” plutonium to a site 90 miles from Las Vegas. The shipments came despite decades of objections from state officials, and over concerns of both environmental groups and scientists.

    As The Hill reports, information on the shipments only became public because Nevada sued to stop what the state thought were still only plans to ship material from South Carolina. But in court, officials learned that some time before November 2018, Trump and Perry had already delivered a gift of 1,000 pounds of element Pu. The dates, means of delivery, and route the plutonium took in crossing the country are still secret.

    Driving up the anger-counter is the fact that the DOE was continuing to pretend to negotiate with the state of Nevada as if the shipments were still upcoming. While the state government raised objections and thought it was negotiating over how any shipments might be conducted safely, behind the scenes the plutonium was already arriving. As the state’s Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak made clear, “They lied to the State of Nevada, misled a federal court, and jeopardized the safety of Nevada’s families and environment.” Sisolak declared himself “beyond outraged” by the DOE’s action. […]

    Link to Mark Sumner’s article.

  7. says

    Oh, FFS.

    Roger Stone, a former informal adviser to President Trump’s campaign, on Thursday claimed that he believes special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia’s election meddling is a partisan plot to make Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and possibly even Hillary Clinton president.

    Speaking about his indictment last week on charges in the Mueller probe, Stone said he thinks the investigation is about finding a way to “void the 2016 election” in an attempt to get Pelosi or Clinton into the White House.

    “I don’t think this is about Roger Stone. I think this is about finding some allegation of Russian collusion to void the 2016 election so that both President Trump and Vice President Pence can be removed, making Nancy Pelosi president,” Stone told Hill.TV’s Buck Sexton and Krystal Ball on “Rising.”

    “That would create a vacancy in the vice presidency, which she, of course, could then appoint Hillary Clinton to, then she could resign, and Hillary could become president,” he continued. “Perhaps that’s what they have in mind, or maybe Nancy Pelosi would remain as president.” […]

  8. says

    Followup to comment 492 in the previous chapter of this thread.

    From <a href=https://www.wonkette.com/republicans-sure-hate-it-when-people-can-vote-wonder-why”>Wonkette, “Republicans Sure Hate It When People Can Vote. Wonder Why?”

    Republicans really, REALLY hate House Resolution 1, the Democrats’ first big bill of the new House session. The great big restoring-democracy proposal includes all sorts of measures aimed at letting people vote more freely, like automatic voter registration, stopping voter suppression, restoring the parts of the Voting Rights Act […] and ending gerrymandering by requiring that congressional districts be drawn by nonpartisan commissions. It would also require transparency for donations to super PACs, so of course lobbyists and rightwing dark money groups HATE it. […]

    Democratic lawmakers and witnesses pointed to all the efforts Republicans have taken to suppress the vote, and Republicans insisted there’s no such thing, just absolutely necessary measures to protect the “integrity” of elections (by making sure only the right people can vote). […] Mitch McConnell’s op-ed in the Washington Post a couple weeks back fretted [that] the mean old Democrats are actually aiming for a “naked power grab” that would give them an unfair advantage. You know, by undoing some of the unfair advantages Republicans have so carefully constructed for themselves over the past few decades. […]

    In remarks on the Senate floor, McConnell (R-Ky.) said Democrats “want taxpayers on the hook for generous new benefits for federal bureaucrats and government employees,” including making Election Day a “new paid holiday for government workers.” […]

    Yup, that’s exactly what letting more Americans vote more easily would be: an unconscionable bid to not let Republicans rig the rules. Or as Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii explained,

    Voting is a power grab. By citizens.

    […]

    There’s nothing wrong with three-hour waits at the polls, said Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the ranking R on the Judiciary Committee, because after all, Georgia already has early voting, and those long lines “actually should be applauded. We have long lines because a lot of people wanted to vote.” Funny how the longest lines always seem to be in areas with large minority populations. […]

    Tellingly, the only two witnesses for the Republicans were the Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky and the Public Interest Legal Foundation’s J. Christian Adams. Both were appointed to Donald Trump’s abandoned and discredited Fraudulent Voting Commission, and both are BIG proponents of the myth that there’s rampant voter fraud out there […] laws mandating uniform access to the ballot would be a horrible overreach, because States’ Rights!!!! […]

    Heck, if states aren’t allowed to rig their own elections, there’s no telling what mischief the wrong people might get up to, like having everyone’s vote count equally. Then you might not be able to gerrrymander a Republican majority in states like Michigan, where last fall Democrats got more votes, but the GOP held on to both houses of the state legislature. […]

  9. says

    A Russian company that Mueller indicted, (along with a long list of Russian hackers and social media propagandists), is using the mandated discovery phase of U.S. court trials to get information that is then being fed straight back to the Kremlin. Not only is info going to the Kremlin, but once there it is being cherry picked, augmented with false info and otherwise manipulated to make Mueller look bad. Then the discovery-information-turned-into-propaganda is disseminated online.

    That’s illegal by the way. Discovery materials are supposed to be used only to defend a client in court, not broadly disseminated by foreign powers.

    This whole Russian “discredit Mueller” campaign fits right into Trump’s personal “discredit Mueller” campaign.

    From Wonkette, “Robert Mueller Just Asking If Russian Troll Farm Lawyer Has A Hotline To The Kremlin.”

    You got some ‘splainin’ to do, Counselor Eric Dubelier! How the hell did court documents from the Russian troll farm case wind up tweeted out from a Russian shitpost account? Those documents are only supposed to be used for purposes of defending your client in DC. How exactly did they escape your file cabinet and hop across the Atlantic?

    […] Remember last year when Robert Mueller indicted Russian oligarch Yevgeniy “Putin’s chef” Prigozhin, two of his companies, Concord Catering and Concord Management, and 13 hackers from the “Internet Research Agency”? The rest of the defendants stayed safely out of Mueller’s reach in Russia, but Concord Management actually showed up to defend itself in American court, using the proceedings to throw dirt on the Special Counsel while simultaneously extracting maximum info on the investigation through the discovery process. […]

    Dubelier has been arguing for months that he needs access to every detail of the classified Mueller investigation to mount a proper defense, and he has to be able to share it with his Russian clients, including Yevgeniy Prigozhin, who owns the defendant company Concord Management. No doubt Judge Dabney Friedrich will be very impressed with Dubelier’s diligent protection of the documents, as laid out in yesterday’s filing:

    On October 22, 2018, the newly created Twitter account @HackingRedstone published the following tweet: “We’ve got access to the Special Counsel Mueller’s probe database as we hacked Russian server with info from the Russian troll case Concord LLC v. Mueller. You can view all the files Mueller had about the IRA and Russian collusion. Enjoy the reading!”
    [See https://twitter.com/cjcmichel/status/1090714549916000258 ]

    The now-suspended @HackingRedstone account tweeted out a mountain of gobbledygook, including forged documents intended to discredit the Mueller investigation. But in the shitpile were more than 1,000 files which could be identified by their unique filing labels as having come directly from Special Counsel discovery disclosures, […]

    The tweet also included a link to a webpage located on an online file-sharing portal. This webpage contained file folders with names and folder structures that are unique to the names and structures of materials (including tracking numbers assigned by the Special Counsel’s Office) produced by the government in discovery. […]

    In addition to ThinkProgress reporter Casey Michel, the @HackingRedstone account tried to bait Russian troll hunter Josh Russell with the same bullshit. Here’s an interesting thread — we’ll have more on this ham-handed plot to smear Robert Mueller later.

    But back to yesterday’s Mueller filing. The FBI says government servers weren’t hacked, and furthermore some of the files appear to have been coded using the document management software Relativity. Robert Mueller doesn’t use that program, but guess who does … […]

    Robert Mueller sees what you are doing.

    Here is Rachel Maddow’s first segment on this issue.

    Here is Rachel Maddow’s second segment on this issue, with commentary from Barbara McQuade.

  10. says

    Undercover agents working for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement set up a fake university as a sting operation.

    […] “Located in the heart of the automotive and advanced manufacturing center of Southeast Michigan, the University of Farmington provides students from throughout the world a unique educational experience,” the site informed prospective applicants.

    But there were no classes taking place at the university, which employed no instructors or professors. In court filings that were unsealed Wednesday, federal prosecutors revealed that the school was being run by undercover agents working for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. […] part of an elaborate sting operation aimed at ensnaring foreign nationals who had initially come to the United States on student visas. […]

    The phony university was “being used by foreign citizens as a ‘pay to play’ scheme,” prosecutors allege. After forking over thousands of dollars, students would provide immigration authorities with evidence that they were enrolled in a full-time educational program. They could then continue to live and work in the United States under a student visa. But since the University of Farmington didn’t exist, they didn’t have the hassle of writing papers, taking tests or showing up to class.

    Students knew that the scheme was illegal “and that discretion should be used when discussing the program with others,” prosecutors wrote […]

    According to the Detroit News, which first reported on the undercover operation, dozens of University of Farmington students were arrested on immigration violations on Wednesday as part of a massive nationwide sweep and are now potentially facing deportation. In addition, eight people who allegedly worked as “recruiters” for the school and collectively helped at least 600 students to remain in the country under false pretenses now face federal conspiracy charges. […]

    The Department of Homeland Security’s list of certified schools where international students can enroll includes the University of Farmington. […]

    The eight recruiters allegedly helped create fraudulent records, including transcripts, that students could give to immigration authorities. Authorities contend that they collectively accepted more than $250,000 in kickbacks for their work, not realizing that the payments were actually coming from undercover agents who worked for Homeland Security Investigations, a division of ICE. […]

    Washington Post link

    Looks like yet another way for team Trump to arrest desperate people.

  11. says

    Ha! Thanks, a_ray for the link in comment 12.

    Yes, indeed, the whole security-clearance fiasco in Trump’s administration is blowing up in their faces.

    From the link:

    A White House security specialist has been suspended without pay for defying her supervisor Carl Kline, less than a week after NBC News reported Kline approved Jared Kushner for top secret clearance over the objections of career staff.

    The specialist, Tricia Newbold, had filed a discrimination complaint against Kline three months ago.

    Newbold’s two-week suspension from the White House security office was for failure to supervise, failure to follow instructions and defiance of authority, according to the suspension decision notice obtained by NBC News. Security office chief Crede Bailey first proposed the suspension on Dec. 3, 2018.

    Wednesday’s notice is signed by Bailey and mentions that in Newbold’s 18-year career she has not faced any “prior formal disciplinary action.” The document also harshly criticizes Newbold for her “defiance” and notes that Newbold said she would “continue to do what is best for the Executive Office of the President.” […]

    Newbold’s lawyer, Ed Passman, considers her a whistleblower and said he believes the administrative charges were brought as payback for her decision to file the complaint against Kline.

    “It’s clearly reprisal for her whistleblowing,” Passman said. “[It] has no basis in merit whatsoever.”

    Newbold told NBC News, “I confidently feel that this is completely unwarranted and I am also confident that I have done nothing wrong, every decision I and my team have made have always been in the best interest of the United States,” she said. “There is no compromise of personal identifiable information or sensitive information.” […]

    I expect more dirt on Carl Kline to emerge as investigative journalists dig into this. He was obviously hired to ignore the recommendations of career professionals, and to grant security clearances to members of team Trump, to grant security clearances for people who should never have a security clearance.

  12. says

    Q: Do you have confidence with [CIA Director] Gina Haspel and [Director of National Intelligence] Dan Coats to give you advice?

    TRUMP: No, I disagree with certain things that they said. I think I’m right. But time will prove that. Time will prove me right, probably.

    Nope. Trump will not be proven right.

  13. says

    A judge slapped down Carter Page’s lawsuit against the Democratic National Committee.

    In a brief but biting order, a federal judge in Oklahoma dismissed a defamation lawsuit Carter Page brought against the Democratic National Committee and its lawyers related to the involvement of the DNC’s law firm in funding the Trump-Russia dossier. […]

    In filing the lawsuit pro se, meaning that it was filed by Page himself rather than by lawyers on his behalf, Page pointed to an LLC in Oklahoma where he is a managing partner to explain why he brought the case in Oklahoma.

    Page told Oklahoma City’s News 9 that, through the business, he had “longstanding Oklahoma ties,” despite not having a residence there, and even called Oklahoma “his main home.”

    The judge on Thursday rejected that argument for jurisdiction as well.

    “Plaintiff alleges that he owns a corporation based in Oklahoma, but there is no plausible basis alleged for concluding that defendants alleged actions were somehow directed at that corporation or plaintiff’s interest in it, or that defendants even knew of its existence,” the order said. […]

    TPM link

    Carter Page is an odd duck. One can see that Page feels personally wronged by the Steele dossier, but one can also see that Page is clueless.

  14. says

    From Nancy Pelosi:

    One dismaying factor of it all is that the president just doesn’t seem to have the attention span or the desire to hear what the intelligence community has been telling him […]

    It’s important for the Republicans in Congress to recognize they have to weigh in with the president to say, “You can’t act without knowledge.”

    An accurate assessment from the House Speaker.

  15. says

    Crushed like a grape?

    Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, sent Sen. Mitch McConnell a jar of jam Thursday after the Senate majority leader was quoted suggesting he would “crush [Manchin] like a grape.”

    “I heard @senatemajldr wanted some #WV crushed grapes, so I dropped some off at his office today,” Manchin tweeted.

    The quote comes from former White House adviser Cliff Sims’s new book, “Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House.”

    During a discussion about repealing the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare, in February 2017, Trump allegedly mentioned that Manchin might side with the GOP after McConnell said they would have to operate “without any Democratic votes.”

    “Do we have to go after him like that?” Trump asked, according to Sims.

    “Absolutely, Mr. President,” McConnell responded. “We’re going to crush him like a grape.” […]

    The Hill link

  16. says

    Trump and McConnell have been packing the courts with conservative judges. Kamala Harris wants to put a stop to that.

    Sen. Kamala Harris said Thursday that she will oppose any of President Trump’s picks for the powerful appeals courts after the administration moved forward this week with nominees for the Ninth Circuit.

    “This Administration is packing the court [the Ninth Circuit] that protected Dreamers from deportation and blocked the unconstitutional transgender military ban. We need nominees who will uphold equality and justice. Until a fair process is in place, I will oppose every nominee to an appellate court,” Harris said in a tweet.

    Her decision comes after Trump revived a months-long feud by nominating three judicial picks to fill three of California’s seats on the Ninth Circuit.

    The San Francisco-based court has been a long-running sore spot for conservatives, who argue it is too large and too liberal. It’s also acted as a foil to some of Trump’s most controversial policies, including ruling against his travel ban and an effort to cut off federal funding for so-called “sanctuary cities.”

    The administration said Wednesday night that it would nominate Daniel Collins, Kenneth Lee and Daniel Bress to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

    Harris, who is a 2020 presidential candidate and a member of the powerful Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the Senate panel’s top Democrat, said in a joint statement that they were “deeply disappointed.”

    “We even identified candidates selected by the White House we could support to demonstrate our willingness to work cooperatively. Unfortunately, the White House is moving forward with three nominees to a circuit court who have no judicial experience. The White House’s decision to push these nominees fails to secure consensus on the circuit court,” they said. […]

    The Hill link

    All the best people.

  17. says

    Trump is walking away from another treaty:

    President Donald Trump on Friday said the U.S. is suspending its involvement in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and would start the process of withdrawing entirely in six months.

    “For far too long, Russia has violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with impunity, covertly developing and fielding a prohibited missile system that poses a direct threat to our allies and troops abroad,” Trump said in a statement.

    NBC News link

    From John McLaughlin, former deputy director of the CIA:

    The Trump administration’s plan to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) is the wrong way to respond to a real problem. If carried out, it would be dangerous, destabilizing and potentially counterproductive. […]

    First, when it comes to nuclear weapons, just giving up and walking away from an arms-control treaty reverses the wise course of negotiated reductions we have followed for decades. The likely consequence of killing this treaty is that Russia will build more nukes and so will we. There are about 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world and tons of explosive nuclear material; no one needs more. While nuclear weapons can be stabilizing, that effect is most apparent when there is a degree of cross-national transparency codified in arms control agreements. […]

    Second, this is wrong example to set for aspiring nuclear states such as North Korea and Iran. If the big guys can’t restrain the nuclear impulse, why should they? This is the absolute wrong moment to telegraph that to the Iranians, with President Trump having already jettisoned the U.S. nuclear agreement with them – and to Pyongyang, which has yet to follow through on its denuclearization pledges.

    Third, there’s a better way out of the INF Treaty dilemma. Why not try to turn it into an opportunity, as former U.S. senator Sam Nunn has suggested? Use the six-month withdrawal notice the treaty provides to follow through on the “Strategic Stability” talks that Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin promised at their summit. In those, look for ways to resolve differences on this through inspections, information exchange and other measures of transparency. If that is impossible, at least try to renew momentum on arms reductions more broadly, recalling that our major nuclear agreement with Russia, New START, is set to expire in 16 months.

    Washington Post link

    From Steve Benen:

    […] Heather Hurlburt had a related piece, explaining how scrapping the treaty would further advance Vladimir Putin’s plans. Fred Kaplan made a similar argument.

    The point isn’t that Russia’s defiance should be tolerated. No one has made the case that the United States just look the other way in response to Putin’s actions in this area. The Trump administration has raised legitimate concerns, which are effectively identical to complaints raised by the Obama administration.

    Rather, the point is, simply walking away from the treaty and hoping for the best isn’t a real policy. There are alternatives that the White House can and should pursue.

    Trump has spoken on several occasions about a prospective “arms race.” I’m not sure he knows what the phrase means, but he’d likely figure it out if/when the INF Treaty ends.

    Postscript: When John Bolton took over as the White House national security advisor, and many expressed alarm at the kind of influence he’d have, today’s news is emblematic of those fears. Bolton has long opposed this and other nuclear treaties with Russia, and it’s likely he’d been pushing Trump to agree with this vision.

  18. says

    Trump redefined “business” in order to say that he did not lie about his Trump Tower Moscow project:

    […] Yesterday, the New York Times asked the president about the project, and his answers went in an interesting direction.

    Mr. Trump offered a vague account of his involvement in the proposed Moscow project. Michael D. Cohen, his former personal lawyer, has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the project and told the authorities that talks continued into the summer of 2016, even as Mr. Trump was securing the Republican nomination.

    Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s current lawyer, said recently that talks went all the way through the November election, only to later claim that he was mistaken and speaking only hypothetically.

    “He was wrong,” Mr. Trump said on Thursday. “Rudy has been wrong a little bit. But what has happened is this: I didn’t care. That deal was not important. It was essentially a letter of intent or an option.”

    Of course, in reality, it wasn’t “essentially” a letter of intent; it was literally a letter of intent. Then-candidate Trump signed it in the fall of 2015 – the same day of one of the Republican primary debates – months into his national candidacy.

    Trump nevertheless later assured Americans that he “stayed away” from any business opportunities in Russia. How does he reconcile his claim with reality?

    The president told the New York Times’ Peter Baker yesterday, in reference to the business deal he pursued, “That wasn’t business.”

    Trump added, “It was a nothing. And I wasn’t doing anything. I don’t consider that even business.”

    Let’s take a moment to recap. While running for president of the United States, Trump signed a letter of intent to pursue a Trump Tower Moscow project, to be financed by a sanctioned Russian bank. He dispatched top members of his inner circle – including his personal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen – to work on the deal, which included a penthouse gift for Vladimir Putin, over the course of several months.

    Cohen later lied to Congress about the details of the deal, and Trump himself told the public that he “stayed away” from any business opportunities in Moscow.

    Pressed for an explanation, the Republican president’s new position is that the proposed business deal didn’t really count as “business,” so his falsehood doesn’t really count as a lie.

    Trump has had months to come up with a defense for his actions. Apparently, this is what he’s come up with.

    Link

  19. says

    Followup to comment 14.

    More on recent testimony from the heads of all of the intelligence agencies, and on Trump’s reactions, walkbacks and gaslighting efforts:

    […] On everything from Iran to North Korea, Russia to border security, Trump and his national security team had very little in common.

    The president’s initial reaction was to mock U.S. intelligence professionals, calling them “passive,” “naïve,” and in need of additional schooling. Trump kept the offensive going yesterday, suggesting he lacks confidence in the information he receives from CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

    But that’s when things started to get a little weird. The president told reporters, in reference to the 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment, “I didn’t see the report from the intelligence. When you read it, it’s a lot different than it was covered on in the news.” If Trump didn’t read the threat assessment, how would he know about its differences with press accounts?

    About three hours later, the president was satisfied that the obvious contradictions between his stated positions and his team’s assessments no longer exist. Trump declared via Twitter:

    “Just concluded a great meeting with my Intel team in the Oval Office who told me that what they said on Tuesday at the Senate Hearing was mischaracterized by the media – and we are very much in agreement on Iran, ISIS, North Korea, etc. Their testimony was distorted press.

    “I would suggest you read the COMPLETE testimony from Tuesday. A false narrative is so bad for our Country. I value our intelligence community. Happily, we had a very good meeting, and we are all on the same page!”

    With reporters, the Republican added that his intelligence chiefs assured him “they were totally misquoted and they were totally – it was taken out of context…. They said it was fake news, so – which, frankly, didn’t surprise me.”

    […] reality in this case is unambiguous. We know what the intelligence chiefs said, not because they were “totally misquoted,” but because their remarks were aired live on national television.

    […] the intelligence chiefs also contradicted Trump’s positions on key issues in writing: the 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment is a rather brutal refutation of the White House’s political rhetoric on several key areas of national security. […]

    But Trump nevertheless turned on a dime, pretending reality is what he wants it to be, and expecting the rest of us to play along. In the morning, he believed he was right, and the top members of his intelligence team were wrong. In the afternoon, the president was still convinced he’s right, but he also concluded that his intelligence chiefs secretly agree with him, despite what the country saw and heard a few days ago.

    Even by 2019 standards, this was hopelessly ridiculous. […]

    Link

  20. says

    Followup to comment 21.

    The White House abruptly cancelled President Donald Trump’s daily intelligence briefing with his chiefs Wednesday, a day after CIA Director Gina Haspel and DNI Dan Coats gave Congress a yearly threat assessment during which they contradicted many of Trump’s favorite talking points.

    According to a Thursday Daily Beast report, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders gave no specific reason as to why the briefing was cancelled: “It was moved,” she said.

    After spending Wednesday criticizing his own intelligence officers on Twitter, Trump changed his stance and began blaming the media for making it “appear” that the chiefs undermined many of his claims. […]

    Link

    Reality check: the intelligence officers did undermine all of Trump’s bogus claims … and they did so thoroughly. Blaming the media is not going to work for Trump this time.

  21. says

    The Trump Administration Said It Would Impose Tough New Sanctions on Russia. It Still Hasn’t.

    It has yet to fulfill its pledge to punish the Kremlin for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal.

    In August, when the Trump administration formally declared Russia responsible for the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, it invoked a decades-old law designed to punish countries that use chemical or biological weapons. As required by the law, the administration imposed an initial round of light sanctions—a warning shot, in essence—with a requirement that if, within 90 days, Russia did not admit responsibility for the attack and provide assurances that it was mending its ways, a far harsher round of sanctions would take effect. That deadline came and went in November with Russia continuing to deny the accusations, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the second round of sanctions would be imposed imminently.

    But two months later, nothing has happened. […]

    […] in Russia’s case, the Trump administration did impose an initial round of sanctions, while making it clear that it would ratchet up the penalties, as called for by the CBW, if Russia didn’t respond.

    “Simply by virtue of what the statute sets out, you will be able to see in the US code that if the executive branch cannot certify that Russia has met a series of conditions within three months of the initial round of sanctions, the second round must be imposed,” a senior State Department official told reporters in a background briefing in August. “Those conditions are pretty demanding, but you can see them for yourself in the statute.” […]

    In September, acting Undersecretary of State Manish Singh testified before Congress that the administration would respond sharply if Russia didn’t take the blame for the Skripal attack.

    “We are looking at this November deadline and absolutely we plan to impose a very severe second round of sanctions under the CBW,” Singh said. “The global community will not tolerate behavior such as we have seen from Russia.” […]

    Nope. Team Trump did not follow through. They did not obey the statute.

    Last week, New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent Pompeo a letter demanding to know why the new round of sanctions had not taken effect. “These sanctions are more than two months overdue,” he wrote. “I urge you to impose these sanctions immediately to ensure that the statutorily mandated sanctions regime is not undermined.”

  22. says

    All the best people can’t do anything right.

    DHS Caused Hundreds of Immigrants to Show Up Thursday for Fake Court Dates

    “It’s obviously a logistical mess.”

    When immigration lawyer Christina Reggio arrived at San Francisco’s immigration court around 8:30 on Thursday morning, she found chaos. A long line of men, women, and children stretched down the block, many of them holding court papers and wondering what to do. Reggio was meeting her client, a 17-year-old living in nearby San Mateo, for what was supposed to be her initial appearance in court for deportation proceedings. But when they went inside, after waiting in the long line, Reggio found out that the court had no record of her client. Instead, they were told to wait in another line for a piece of paper verifying that the client had shown up to court that day, and wait to be issued a date for a later hearing.

    […] Lawyers say it’s just the latest example of the Department of Homeland Security issuing fake dates for immigrants to appear in court […]

    Attorneys across the country have been seeing these notices with fake dates since last summer, according to Laura Lynch, senior policy counsel at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). […]

    […] lawyers began reporting notices to appear for deportation proceedings with dates that were clearly wrong—for example, people were told to show up on dates that didn’t exist, like September 31, or instructed to appear at midnight when the court was closed. […] described the practice as a way to “circumvent the Supreme Court’s ruling.” […]

    “It’s obviously a logistical mess,” says Dana Leigh Marks, the former president of the National Association of Immigration Judges. “It’s very unfortunate that this occurred in the week we’re coming back to face the chaos that was created by the shutdown.” (Marks spoke as a representative of the judges’ union and not on behalf of the Department of Justice.) […]

    “Immigrants are traveling hundreds of miles to show up for a scheduled court date because no one wants to face the severe consequence of being ordered deported because they were absent…It’s disruptive for these individuals’ lives. What’s really concerning is the anxiety of not knowing what this means for their case.” […]

  23. says

    From Stacey Abrams:

    […] The marginalized did not create identity politics: Their identities have been forced on them by dominant groups, and politics is the most effective method of revolt. What Fukuyama laments as “fracturing” is in reality the result of marginalized groups finally overcoming centuries-long efforts to erase them from the American polity — activism that will strengthen democratic rule, not threaten it. […]

    https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2019-02-01/e-pluribus-unum

  24. Akira MacKenzie says

    Lyanna, OM @ 26

    Yeah, I just read that one. I wonder if Sulzberger’s are got sore gently lobbing all those softball questions.

  25. says

    Akira @27, yep. And yet Trump managed to come off as ill-informed and narcissistic anyway. Anytime Trump opens his mouth he demonstrates that he is a dunderhead.

    In other news that concerns some people that really like Trump:

    GOP megadonors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson together contributed a half a million dollars last year to a legal defense fund set up for Trump aides swept up in the Russia investigation, tax filings released Thursday evening revealed.

    The contributions — 250,000 from each spouse — were the only ones made to the Patriot Legal Expense Fund Trust in the last quarter of 2018. Previous tax filings show that Trump allies including Geoffrey Palmer, Phillip Ruffin and Anthony Lomangino contributed tens of thousands of dollars earlier this year. […]

    TPM link

  26. says

    More about those phone calls Trump Junior made around the same time that he was meeting with Russians in Trump Tower:

    One of the most intriguing unsolved mysteries of the Russia investigation has been a series of phone calls Donald Trump Jr. made to a blocked phone number while he was setting up a meeting during the campaign with Russian agents who were promising to help his father. Many people, including me, speculated that the call might have been to his father to inform him of the meeting. Yesterday, CNN reported the calls were actually “between Trump Jr. and two of his business associates.”

    Trump and his supporters, presented with one of the very few times a suspicious angle in the Russia investigation did not pan out, immediately began gloating:

    Just out: The big deal, very mysterious Don jr telephone calls, after the innocent Trump Tower meeting, that the media & Dems said were made to his father (me), were just conclusively found NOT to be made to me. They were made to friends & business associates of Don. Really sad!

    To be clear, nobody said the phone calls “were made to his father.” […]

    On the other hand, the notion that Donald Jr. was just making an innocent phone call to what some reports have described as a “longtime family friend” elides some distinctly less innocent possibilities opened by this news.

    The recipient of one of the phone calls was Howard Lorber who is, yes, a ‘family friend.’ But he is also a longtime point of contact in Trump’s ambitions to build a tower in Moscow, which date back to the 1980s. Lorber accompanied Trump on a 1996 visit to Moscow to explore building there. “Howard has major investments in Russia,” Trump boasted to a Russian politician at the time. As Craig Unger notes, Lorber’s dealings in Russia put him in contact with Russian mobsters.

    Trump Jr. was also very active in the family efforts to consummate the Moscow deal. Now, the timing of his call to Lorber may well be a total coincidence. But the more information that emerges about the Moscow tower project, the more central it appears to be to the Trump-Russia relationship. […]

    http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/02/donald-trump-jr-phone-call-trump-tower-family-friend-howard-lorber.html

  27. says

    No-empathy, pathologically cruel Trump has another bad idea:

    On Friday, the Trump administration officially released a proposed rule that would put 755,000 Americans’ food assistance in jeopardy over three years, according to its own analysis.

    The rule focuses on “able bodied adults without dependents” from ages 18 to 49 who need food assistance […]

    The Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) proposal says the rule is “consistent with the administration’s focus on fostering self-sufficiency.”

    In December,[…] Trump’s effort to strip millions of people of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits through the Farm Bill failed. But Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue vowed that the administration would find another path to put limits on food assistance. […]

    The most worrisome aspect of the Trump administration’s proposed rule is that the USDA wants to further restrict the waivers so fewer people are able to benefit from them, Sarah Reinhardt, food systems and health analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told ThinkProgress. The new rule would restrict those waivers to areas where the unemployment rate is higher than 7 percent.

    “When that law was originally implemented, it gave states a lot of flexibility to say, ‘OK, I’m going to use this data set and combine these counties, for example, because I know that there is need there and it makes the most sense. I know people are struggling there,” Reinhardt said. “What the USDA is saying now is that they are raising the bar and making their standards more difficult to meet. They are tweaking the types of data you can use and what they essentially want to do is set a minimum threshold for unemployment. So even if your unemployment locally is twice the national average, if the national average is really low, their argument is it still shouldn’t be enough to qualify you for SNAP benefits –even if there are some extremely distressing economic conditions in that area.”

    Reinhardt added that through rule-making, the administration may ultimately be able to achieve restrictions on food assistance without trying to reach a legislative compromise. […]

    Think Progress link

    Autocratic as well.

  28. says

    Trump pumping up his evangelical base:

    […] Trump gave his blessing Monday to lawmakers in several states who are pushing legislation to allow Bible literacy classes in public schools.

    “Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible,” Trump wrote in a morning tweet. “Starting to make a turn back? Great!”

    As president, Trump has no formal say in state legislative processes.

    His tweet came shortly after a segment on Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends” reporting that bills have been introduced in at least six states that would allow public school children to study the historical significance of the Bible.

    The legislation has drawn objections from groups seeking to protect the separation of church and state. The groups argue that the bills are backdoor attempts to promote Christianity in public schools. […]

    Washington Post link

  29. says

    Followup to comment 31.

    From Steve Benen:

    […] For the record, there’s nothing necessarily problematic – legally or scholarly – with public schools providing secular courses on religious history or the literary significance of religious texts. That said, as my friend Rob Boston explained this week, “So-called ‘Bible literacy’ courses may look all right on the surface, but you don’t have to probe too deeply to expose serious problems. Often, these courses are just a cover to bring a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible into public schools. Essentially, they’re Sunday School lessons masquerading as legitimate instruction.”

    It’s likely the public will soon hear more about these courses, with or without the White House’s assistance. As USA Today recently reported, “The proposals are getting more attention because they’re linked to a common source: an initiative called Project Blitz coordinated by conservative Christian political groups.” […]

  30. says

    Followup to comment 19.

    Well, we could see this coming, but it is still so disturbing: Russia follows Trump administration’s lead, pulls out of nuclear arms treaty

    Russia says it believes the U.S. suspension of the INF treaty jeopardizes other arms control agreements as well.

    One day after the Trump administration declared the United States would withdraw from a landmark nuclear weapons treaty, Russia followed suit by announcing it would suspend its obligations under the treaty.

    On Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that as a result of what he called years of Russian violations, Washington would no longer abide by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. […]

    The treaty, signed in 1987, bans land-based ballistic and cruise missiles that can hit targets between roughly 300 and 3,400 miles. The treaty was the first nuclear agreement to ever outlaw an entire class of weapons. […]

    The Russian government said it believes the U.S. suspension of the INF Treaty also jeopardizes other arms-control agreements, including the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) pact, which is set to expire in 2021.

    The U.S. withdrawal from the treaty “could unleash a dangerous and costly new missile competition between the United States and Russia in Europe and beyond,” the independent Washington-based Arms Control Association said Friday.

    […] Trump’s decision comes as the United States and other countries are working to modernize their nuclear arsenals. The U.S. decision to pull out of the treaty is expected to return the world to the unstable times of 40 years ago, before key nuclear arms treaties had been signed. […]

    The discussion is posted on Think Progress.

    Video segment from The Rachel Maddow Show: Trump hands Putin gift in missile treaty withdrawal. The video is 4:13 minutes long.

    Joe Cirincione, nuclear weapons policy expert, talks [about] Trump’s announced intention to withdraw the United States from the INF treaty, and why Donald Trump doesn’t seem to understand how to exert pressure through a treaty as he hands Vladimir Putin another victory.

  31. says

    From Wonkette’s coverage:

    Seriously, we talked about assholes in blackface just last week. We have to do it again? That’s how you want to kick off Black History Month? Fine, then let’s jump right to the point, shall we? Virginia Governor Ralph Northam needs to resign immediately. He admitted Friday to having appeared in a racist photo from his 1984 medical school yearbook that shows a man in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan robe.

    Northam issued a half-assed apology yesterday. He was wearing neither blackface nor a KKK robe at the time, but the statement still came up lacking. The only thing that could’ve helped was if Northam had provided us with conclusive medical evidence that we’d all collectively tripped acid and hallucinated the photo. […]

    Instead, all he did was confirm that the photo is a material object that captures an actual horrible moment in time. Worse, it was one of three photos Northam selected to represent the academic year: “Let’s see, I want to show off my cool ride and my contempt for black people and utter disregard for their humanity. That’s how I want folks to remember me.” […]

    True redemption often requires genuine sacrifice, not a pity tour where those you’ve offended have to absolve you like we’re priests specializing in blackface sins.

    Northam is not yet 60 and the photo is from 1984. His blackface costume is not even a misguided riff on superstars Prince or Michael Jackson. He’s dressed in the full Mr. Bojangles. This was pre-Google so he had to do some research

    But Northam’s yearbook indiscretions only get worse. […]

    The sad shit is that black people got Northam elected in 2017. According to exit polls, he won 87 percent of black voters, who were 20 percent of the electorate. Northam only won 42 percent of white voters, even fewer if you exclude voters in blackface.

    […] Ed Gillespie, was a bigoted Trump-train-chasing opportunist who wanted to put a Confederate monument on every corner, […]

    From now on, before we consider voting for any white candidate, we’re asking them directly if they’ve ever worn blackface, do they plan at some point to wear blackface, and, if necessary, why are they currently wearing blackface.

    As of late Friday night, every Democrat who ever wanted to win an election again had abandoned Northam. […]

    Virginia’s lieutenant governor is Justin Fairfax, who is young, black, and fearless enough to sit out a Robert E. Lee tribute. He should be governor right now. […]

  32. says

    Followup to comment 34.

    Northam: I’m Not In The Photo, But ‘Darkened My Face’ Another Time

    In a remarkable Saturday press conference, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam insisted he had nothing to do with a racist photo discovered on his medical school yearbook page, but acknowledged he’d donned blackface on another occasion.

    “I believed then and now that I am not either of the people in that photo,” Northam said of the image of a man in blackface and a man in KKK garb. […]

    The Democratic National Committee, Democratic Governor’s Association, Virginia state and House Democrats, and leading Democratic politicians have all called on Northam to immediately resign over the controversy.

    But Northam said that listening to the chorus of calls for him to step down would allow him to “spare myself from the difficult path that lies ahead,” he continued. “I could avoid an honest conversation about harmful actions from my past. I cannot in good conscience choose the path that would be easier for me.”

    […] he has a clear memory of donning blackface on another occasion.

    “That same year I did participate in a dance contest in San Antonio in which I darkened my face as part of a Michael Jackson costume,” Northam told the crowd of reporters, later joking that it is difficult to get shoe polish off your face. “I look back now and regret that I did not understand the harmful legacy of an action like that.”

    Northam said that he won the dance contest, and when a reporter asked if he could still moonwalk, he look around to see if there was space to show off the dance move.

    He paused after his wife jumped in to say it was an “inappropriate circumstance.”

  33. says

    Followup to comments 34 and 35.

    From the readers comments:

    So he’s gonna do a public self-flaggelation in the name of… what again? Not stepping down because he needs to have an honest conversation about his past? Get gone and get therapy, dude.
    —————–
    Resigning in disgrace is the path of least resistance and I’m simply too good a person to do it. And the reason I wasn’t in blackface in the one picture is because I distinctly remember being in blackface that other time and I would have remembered the first time because obviously I remembered the other one, that really happened, although it shouldn’t have.

    Yeah. This is just getting better and better for him.
    ——————
    By my calculation, he’s now wasted three days without yet doing the right thing. Graciously hand the levers of power to the lieutenant governor and exit stage right.

  34. says

    All the best people.

    One of the authors of the bogus Republican House Intelligence Committee memo accusing the FBI and Justice Department of anti-Trump bias is joining the National Security Council […]

    The White House confirmed to CNN that congressional aide Kashyap Patel will join the NSC’s International Organizations and Alliances directorate.

    […] Patel was one of four Intel committee staffers behind the so-called “Nunes memo,” which alleged that top intelligence and DOJ officials abused their surveillance authority by obtaining a warrant on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Congressional Republicans, led by then-committee chairman Devin Nunes, spent weeks hyping the memo as a knockout blow for special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

    But the four-page document was mocked and discredited when it was released last February. The memo lacked key background information about the investigation’s roots, misstated basic dates, and included details that undercut the Republican authors own conclusions.

    According to CNN, Patel will now work on policy surrounding the United Nations and other international organizations. He will report to Erin Walsh, a senior director at the NSC who was ousted from her high-ranking Commerce Department post last year under mysterious circumstances.

    TPM link

    From the readers comments:

    So does anyone know when Kashyap Patel got his security clearance?
    ——————
    NSC, you say? Well, it’s not like Trump pays any attention to Intelligence, at least from our side, so half tongue in cheek, probably inconsequential.
    ——————–
    The headline had me at “Bogus Nunes”.
    —————-
    Her [Erin Walsh’s] ouster from dual roles as Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Director General of the United States Commercial Service apparently included being physically escorted out the building by security. She now reports directly to Bolton, overseeing U.S. relations to the UN.

    I wonder why the person overseeing U.S. relations with the UN requires a writer of conspiracy theories. Hmmm.

  35. says

    13 ways it costs more to be poor

    […] 1. Poverty charges interest […]
    A few of the ways the poor pay more in interest:

    – Higher interest because of lower credit scores
    – Loan-shark levels of interest if you have to use payday lending
    – Acquired interest because you’re making minimum payments
    – Overdraft fees
    – Late fees
    – Reconnection fees

    2. Break/fix mode

    “Keeping the lights on” is a phrase used in the corporate world to describe a group or organization that is so stressed or strapped that it can’t do anything else. This is the situation poor people often find themselves in. […]

    Lack of choice. They just don’t get that poverty is all consuming, staying afloat takes all of a persons energy. None left for self-improvement, planning etc

    3. Inability to take advantage of bulk pricing or competition

    When you have to buy small quantities because you can’t afford the larger ones, it ends up costing more.

    In addition, as you make more money and your circumstances become better, you’re able to take better advantage of competition. If your transportation is better, you can drive to more places. The poor often do their shopping at neighborhood convenience stores that charge higher prices.

    4. Fines and fees

    Not being able to pay a fine on time often doubles the fine. If you can’t afford insurance or to register your car, you can be fined. […]

    Often, fines also involve other fees like court fees or convenience charges. Some states will suspend your driver’s license, and then you need to pay reinstatement fees.

    Court fees can also be significant and can compound. The people most likely to face arrest and go to jail are poor.

    5. Transportation is more expensive

    If you take public transportation, the biggest cost is often in time. In Cincinnati, for example, bus service is routed through downtown. If you need to get across town, you may have to connect through a route downtown that adds extra time to each trip you make. […]

    11. You may have to take care of parents or other family members

    If you’re poor, you can’t afford day care or elder care for family members. You may also have other relatives who are also poor and who need a place to stay and/or other help. […]

    13. Higher taxes

    […] As a percentage of income, the poor tend to pay more in state and local taxes, even if they don’t pay much income tax. This is because state and local taxes are typically regressive and cost those in the bottom fifth of income earners 11 percent of their income. In addition, they pay payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare. All told, those in the bottom fifth pay an estimated 20 percent of their income in taxes. […]

    More at the link.

  36. says

    Yes, even some Republicans are unhappy with Trump’s Syria policy.

    From the Republican chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Senator Ron Johnson:

    ISIS was able to rise from the thoroughly defeated ashes of al-Qaida in Iraq, and I don’t want to be making the same statement six months from now that we bugged out of Syria unwisely and that ISIS has re-emerged from the defeated ashes of ISIS in Syria.

    I think it would just be tragic if we bugged out, left the Kurds who, by and large, have done the fighting and have defeated the ISIS caliphate, the territorial caliphate and ISIS, if we just abandoned them to the mercies — and I use that term loosely — of Russia and Iran and, possibly, Turkey. It would just be unconscionable.

  37. says

    From Daniel Dale’s Twitter feed:

    As Trump makes the African-American unemployment rate his chief defence against racism charges, it’s worth looking at this chart.

    The African-American unemployment rate went from 13.7% in Obama’s first full month to 7.7% when he left. It has gone from 7.7% to 6.8% under Trump.
    —————–
    Thirteen times as president, Trump has lied that the New York Times issued a public apology to him after the election. Here’s what he said to the publisher of the Times. “I’m not gonna say that you apologized, but they did a whole big thing, you know, like what happened and there were those who say that it was an apology.”
    ————–
    Trump sort of backed off his claim that Coats and Haspel’s public testimony was mischaracterized: “They said they were mischaracterized. Maybe they were maybe they weren’t, I don’t really know.”
    —————-
    Eight previous times, Trump inflated the US presence in South Korea from the high 20,000s to “32,000.” This was the first time he made it “40,000.” Trump on keeping US troops in South Korea: “Yeah, I mean we haven’t talked about anything else. Maybe someday. I mean who knows. But you know it’s very expensive to keep troops there. You do know that. We have 40,000 troops in South Korea, it’s very expensive.” (It’s 25,813.)
    —————-
    Reminded more than 30 people have been charged in the Russia probe, Trump responded, “Excuse me. OK, you ready? OK, you ready? Of the 34 people, many of them were bloggers from Moscow or they were people that had nothing to do with me.” (There were hackers, not bloggers.)
    —————–
    Trump again tried to rewrite the history of the Mattis resignation, saying, contrary to everything that has been reported, that he actually fired Mattis and just did him the courtesy of letting him send that resignation letter: “He ‘resigned’ because I was very nice to him.”
    ——————
    Exclusive: During the 2016 campaign, @realDonaldTrump asked to borrow millions of dollars from @DeutscheBank. The loan request was never disclosed. Deutsche Bank, fearing for its reputation, said no. with @JesseDrucker @benprotess
    —————–
    New wrinkle: Not only has Trump re-submitted Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson’s name to pin on a second star in promotion, he’s selected him again to be the White House’s chief medical adviser. That while the Pentagon IG investigation against Jackson continues.
    ——————–
    A thing Trump does when he is asked a question that includes a factual premise he doesn’t like or is planning to deny: say “excuse me” in an aggrieved tone and talk over the person.
    ——————
    EXCLUSIVE: Undocumented workers at yet another Trump golf club lose their jobs as his company scrambles to contain the fallout of NYT revelations.
    ——————
    Man. Trump said today at his human trafficking meeting, “Human trafficking by airplane is almost impossible.” It’s so common that airport and airline workers are being trained in how to spot it. There are posters in the Vegas airport.
    ——————-
    This is another major lie from Trump about human trafficking. No expert would say “almost all” human trafficking comes over the southern border. Experts emphasize that a large percentage of victims are U.S. citizens, trafficked within the United States.

    https://twitter.com/ddale8

  38. says

    Yes, we know Trump is ignorant. His special place in infamy when it comes to ignorance is that he is willfully ignorant.

    Some intelligence officials reportedly say that […] Trump has displayed “willful ignorance” when presented with analysis from the intelligence community, according to Time Magazine.

    The magazine reported Saturday, according to anonymous senior aides, that Trump allegedly has difficulty paying attention during briefings and that intelligence officials often work to keep Trump’s attention by using visual aids, allegedly keeping points to two or three sentences and frequently repeating Trump’s name and title.

    The report details multiple instances in which Trump appeared to lack understanding on certain subjects.

    In one briefing on South Asia, Trump allegedly claimed that Nepal and Bhutan were parts of India, Time reported, citing interviews with intelligence officers and congressional officials. Trump’s advisers then reportedly informed him that Nepal is an independent nation and Bhutan is an independent kingdom. […]

    The Hill link

  39. says

    Trump may have convinced himself that he can’t be impeached.

    […] Trump says that the “only way” Democrats could possibly win in 2020 is to “bring out the artificial way of impeachment.” But in an exclusive interview with “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan, the president defended his leadership of the country, saying “you can’t impeach somebody for doing the best job of any president, in the history of our country, for the first two years.” […]

    CBS News link

    He’s wrong … in several ways.

    A president who is doing a good job can still be impeached if he or she commits a crime.

    Also, Trump is not doing a good job.

    Trump brags about successes that are not his:

    You go down the list: Veterans Choice, V.A. Choice. They’ve been trying – as long as you’ve been writing they’ve been trying to get V.A. Choice…. Nobody thought it could be done.

    That is utter bullshit. President Barack Obama’s administration created V.A. Choice in 2014.

    As PZ posted, about 26% of Americans think Trump is awesome. Trump is so deluded that he inflates his awesomeness to be the greatest of all time. Only Trump thinks he is that awesome. Most people know that he is deluded, that he lies constantly, and that he is a danger to everyone on planet earth. (Just look at his withdrawal from a treaty meant to curb to spread of nuclear weapons. See comment 19.)

  40. says

    Followup to comment 43.

    Not only is Trump not doing a good job, he is, for the most part, not doing any work at all.

    A White House source has leaked nearly every day of President Trump’s private schedule for the past three months.

    This unusually voluminous leak gives us unprecedented visibility into how this president spends his days. The schedules, which cover nearly every working day since the midterms, show that Trump has spent around 60% of his scheduled time over the past 3 months in unstructured “Executive Time.”

    AXIOS link

    More detail:

    […] What the schedules show: Trump, an early riser, usually spends the first 5 hours of the day in Executive Time. Each day’s schedule places Trump in “Location: Oval Office” from 8 to 11 a.m.

    But Trump, who often wakes before 6 a.m., is never in the Oval during those hours, according to six sources with direct knowledge.

    Instead, he spends his mornings in the residence, watching TV, reading the papers, and responding to what he sees and reads by phoning aides, members of Congress, friends, administration officials and informal advisers. […]

  41. quotetheunquote says

    RE: 44-
    Given what he might be doing, i think the fact that he’s doing nothing is probably the best we can hope for.

    (Of course, this doesn’t negate the fact that people (and I use the term loosely) like Bolton, de Vos, and Stephen Miller are able to do plenty of harm with no help from Hair Furor at all…).

  42. says

    quotetheunquote:

    Given what he might be doing, i think the fact that he’s doing nothing is probably the best we can hope for.

    Ha! Yes, that is a good point. And I would prefer that he play golf instead of shutting the government down.

    It is also true that some things should be done, some government functions should function. From The Washington Post: ‘It’s way too many’: As vacancies pile up in Trump administration, senators grow concerned.

    From the Justice Department to Veterans Affairs, vast swaths of the government have top positions filled by officials serving in an acting capacity — or no one at all. More than two years into Trump’s term, the president has an acting chief of staff, attorney general, defense secretary, interior secretary, Office of Management and Budget director and Environmental Protection Agency chief. […]

    Under Trump, nothing is working properly, and the few things that do get done are done in an impulsive, slapdash, and dangerous manner.

  43. says

    Another WTF moment, courtesy of Trump:

    BRENNAN [CBS News’ Margaret Brennan]: Would you make the Mueller report public because you say there’s nothing in there? Congress can subpoena it anyway, though.

    TRUMP: Totally up to the attorney general.

    BRENNAN: But what do you want them to do?

    TRUMP: Even the Mueller report said it had nothing to do with the campaign.

    There is, as of now, no Mueller report. It does not exist.

  44. says

    Newt Gingrich has stepped in and justified Trump’s indolence by invoking Churchill.

    And it’s true! Winston Churchill would sleep till noon, but before it was dark, he’d have gotten every picnic basket that was within the vast borders of Jellystone Park!

    Many people do not know this.

  45. says

    In the last chapter of this thread, we discussed a bogus list of non-citizen voters that Texas Republicans had come up with. We knew it was bullshit, but now we have more details showing just how deep the bullshit was.

    Texas’ list of suspected noncitizen voters was so sloppy that among the people it flagged was an El Paso County elections staffer, whose naturalization party the county’s elections administrator recalled attending a couple of years ago.

    The staffer’s presence on the list — which Texas Republicans and President Trump have baselessly touted as showing tens of thousands of noncitizen voters — was highlighted in a lawsuit filed Monday alleging that state elections officials violated the constitution and the Voting Rights Act. […]

    Local election officials in Texas have been scrambling since Texas Secretary of State David Whitley put out on advisory on Jan. 25 indicating that the state — by comparing voter registration records to the records kept by Texas Department of Public Safety, which issues driver’s licenses and other IDs — had found 95,000 potential noncitizens on the voter rolls, 58,000 having cast a ballot in the last 22 years of elections.

    Civil rights advocates and election policy wonks quickly noted that such an approach is ripe for false positives, particularly among naturalized citizens who may have applied for a driver’s license before their naturalization.

    Nonetheless, the secretary of state instructed local officials to vet the list themselves by sending notices to suspected noncitizen voters requiring they show proof of citizenship. Those who don’t respond to the notice within 30 days can then be removed from the voter rolls, under the secretary of state’s guidance.

    Yikes! Sound the alarm. A purge of legitimate voters from the rolls in Texas is bound to follow.

    […] Trump further mischaracterized what the state had actually found.

    From Trump:

    58,000 non-citizens voted in Texas, with 95,000 non-citizens registered to vote. These numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. All over the country, especially in California, voter fraud is rampant. Must be stopped. Strong voter ID!

    More details:

    Since then, the list has been found to be riddled with hundreds of duplicates and thousands of citizens. Monday’s lawsuit, filed by several voting rights organizations, is at least the second lawsuit the state is facing for how it handled the allegations.

    The lawsuit accuses Texas of treating naturalized citizens as second class citizens and of imposing on them a discriminatory burden by forcing them to show proof of citizenship at the risk of their voter registrations being purged. […]

    Link

  46. says

    Trump wants the doctor who was willing to lie about his weight, and willing to fudge other medical facts, appointed as his chief doctor. Trump’s push for this appointment comes just before his next medical exam is required.

    […] Trump has tapped his former VA Secretary nominee Ronny Jackson to be promoted to a two-star admiral and named his chief medical adviser, despite an ongoing Pentagon investigation into allegations against Jackson.

    Relatedly, Trump’s medical examination is slated for Friday. Jackson performed last year’s and gave the President a glowing report, despite Trump’s well-documented affinity for junk food.

    According to a Sunday Washington Post report, the White House is re-upping an old promotion request for Jackson, since Trump has always liked Jackson and thinks he was smeared during the VA secretary confirmation process. Administration officials submitted the request to the Senate on January 15.

    Jackson’s nomination went up in flames last April when Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) released a summary of accusations against him, ranging from irresponsible pill distribution to drunkenness on the job.

    Link

    All the best people.

    From the readers comments:

    You have to ‘love’ (or not) Donnie’s ability to only hire those with a weakness he can exploit.
    ————–
    Jackson: 239 pounds on the dot, it is amazing how fit you are!!!!!!!!
    Trump: I give that answer 2 stars.
    —————
    Couldn’t Jared just do it? I mean, he can do everything else and the GOP can just overlook that he doesn’t have a medical degree.
    ——————
    Trump is scheduled for his physical on Friday but he has not yet embedded his choice of doctor, a man who has a questionable history and in the view of many has lied about Trump’s physical condition.

    My prediction: If Jackson is not in place, Trump will simply cancel his physical citing the “ongoing security and humanitarian crisis on the southern border” and claiming he is simply too busy attending to matters of state to go to the doctor.

  47. says

    Trump is so weak as a 2020 presidential candidate that his reelection team is now looking for ways to rig the primaries.

    There’s no surer sign of how weakened a president really is than when she or he begins seriously worrying about a primary challenge. […] The AP reports the Trump campaign is launching an initiative to rig the primary structure in favor of Trump in order to prevent any serious opponents from getting traction.

    The plan includes what Trump campaign officials called “an unprecedented effort” to influence local and state party operations through lobbying and rule changes in order to pack the Republican nominating convention with Trump loyalists. In other words, it’s a top-down blitz to snuff out any opposition by exerting maximum control over GOP county and state caucuses and installing handpicked people in key state leadership roles in order to dominate the Republican convention. […]

    “They’re not talented, but they’re not idiotic,” noted GOP strategist John Weaver, who’s an adviser to former Ohio Gov. John Kasich. “They rightfully understand that he could be badly damaged or lose in a nomination battle. They’re doing too much. It looks weak.”

    Correction: It is weak.

    Link

  48. says

    At least four of the guests at Tuesday night’s State of the Union address will be either transgender people currently in the military or transgender veterans, a visible rebuke of President Donald Trump’s efforts to ban them from serving. […]

    Link

  49. says

    Followup to comment 53.

    More on audience members for the State of the Union address:

    […] Trump will almost certainly bring up the issue of illegal immigration during his State of the Union address on Tuesday. When he does, Victorina Morales, a former employee, will be in the audience watching.

    The 45-year-old immigrant from Guatemala worked for more than five years as a housekeeper at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. She is also undocumented.

    Morales washed Trump’s clothes, made his bed, and scrubbed toilets at the private villa where he stays. She continued working there even after he won the presidency and he ramped up his rhetoric about immigrants like her, blaming them for rampant crime, job losses, and a host of other social problems. […]

    Link

  50. says

    Trump was asked to defend his Syria policy. His answer is incoherent nonsense.

    “But we didn’t have Syria whereas we had Iraq” is an actual line from the interview.

    […] CBS’s Margaret Brennan asked Trump about this contradiction in the interview, pointing out that “you’re telegraphing your retreat” from Syria. Here’s Trump’s full answer to Brennan’s challenge. I have omitted nothing:

    I’m not telegraphing anything. No, no, no. There’s a difference. When President Obama pulled out of Iraq in theory we had Iraq. In other words, we had Iraq. We never had Syria because President Obama never wanted to violate the red line in the sand. So we never had Syria. I was the one that actually violated the red line when I hit Syria with 59 Tomahawk missiles, if you remember. But President Obama chose not to do that. When he chose not to do that, he showed tremendous weakness. But we didn’t have Syria whereas we had Iraq. So when he did what he did in Iraq, which was a mistake. Being in Iraq was a mistake. Okay. Being in Iraq — it was a big mistake to go — one of the greatest mistakes going into the Middle East that our country has ever made. One of the greatest mistakes that we’ve ever made.

    I understand some of the individual words and phrases in Trump’s monologue. He’s talking about Obama’s “red line,” the president’s threat to attack Syrian forces if they used chemical weapons (a threat he backed down from in 2013). Trump is saying Obama’s climbdown was bad, and that he’s better for following through on attacking Syria after regime forces used chemical weapons again in 2017 and 2018. That makes sense, as far as it goes.

    But that isn’t an answer to Brennan’s question. Trump doesn’t explain the contradiction between his past words and his current actions because he can’t, at least not without admitting he was wrong in the past (which he hates doing). So he ends up offering an increasingly incoherent series of rambles like “we didn’t have Syria whereas we had Iraq,” and concludes by talking about how the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 (which Trump supported) was a mistake. It’s just nonsensical. […]

    Link

  51. says

    Yet another chapter in “All the Best People.”

    […] Trump told voters how tired he was of everyone in D.C. “being controlled by the special interests and the lobbyists.” At one point, he went so far as to say he’d have “no problem” banning lobbyists from his administration altogether. […]

    […] Trump will nominate David Bernhardt to be the new Interior secretary, ending the search for a permanent replacement for Ryan Zinke.

    Zinke exited the agency in December amid multiple scandals and ethics investigations. Bernhardt will still have to woo support from senators who oppose the Trump Interior Department’s policies, including its attempts to expand oil and gas drilling in coastal waters and parts of the Arctic that had long been off the table.

    […] Bernhardt is a former oil lobbyist.

    In fact, while serving as a deputy to Ryan Zinke, Bernhardt had so many conflicts of interest, the Washington Post reported last year that he had to “carry a small card listing them all,” because he “worked for years as a lobbyist representing many of the very businesses he now regulates.”

    Bernhardt will join the former lobbyist Trump tapped to oversee the White House Domestic Policy Council, the former coal lobbyist whom Trump nominated to lead the EPA, and the former executive at a major defense contractor who’s currently leading the Pentagon.

    [From a] New York Times report from April 2017:

    […] Trump is populating the White House and federal agencies with former lobbyists, lawyers and consultants who in many cases are helping to craft new policies for the same industries in which they recently earned a paycheck.

    The potential conflicts are arising across the executive branch, […]

    The Times highlighted instances in which Team Trump appointed lobbyists to government posts in violation of the administration’s own ethics rules. There may be others, the article added, “but evaluating if and when such violations have occurred has become almost impossible because the Trump administration is secretly issuing waivers to the rules.” […]

    Link

  52. says

    From Wonkette’s coverage of Brad Parscale, Trump’s past and present “data guru”:

    […] Brad Parscale, who’s been doing numbers for the Trump campaign for quite a while — and gets to manage the whole campaign in 2020! […]

    Now, far be it from your humble Wonkette to say definitively that Parscale is bad at numbers. This is a man whose data operation led Donald Trump to a historic minus three million vote win in the popular vote, and a weak-ass squeaker of a win in the Electoral College, and he didn’t need anything besides his own expertise and a multi-national espionage operation led by Russia to do it.

    Parscale is doing some ANALYTICALS on new internal polling from the RNC, and he’s got a dire prediction for the poor Democrats:

    Data clearly shows that if most Freshman Democrats don’t turn on @SpeakerPelosi and vote for the wall and stop being a rubber stamp, they will not have a chance to see their Sophomore class. @cnn and @msnbc ignores this fact because they are complicit in playing them.

    […] first of all, we seem to remember that the Dems swept the House, with the greatest gains since Watergate, mere months ago, and that it happened in response to a loathed president whose entire midterm campaign strategy was WALL! He used the troops as fucking political props and made them camp out by the border, in order to stop the marauding hordes of NOBODY from invading America. And yet all those Dems won.

    But also, in a follow-up tweet, Parscale showed us the poll he’s looking at. It does not say what he says it says. But it is hilarious! […]

    The poll was conducted on behalf of the RNC, and let us tell you a couple things about it. First of all, they talked to 800 VOTERS across 10 CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICTS. And yes, they are all districts held by Democrats, and which were won by Trump in 2016. Did we mention that it’s a push poll? It’s a push poll.

    It lists a series of bullshit statements about how WALL will stop drugs and human trafficking and all sorts of other PUSH POLL-style rigarmarole. And according to the data, those statements moved people in these districts … a little bit. […]

    Our point is that even the RNC’s internals show hilariously nonexistent “support” for the wall among these 800 voters in 10 districts, and that support mostly seems to be the RNC saying that people support it while the numbers do not actually say that people support it. Did we mention it’s a push poll?

    It’s also possible that congressional Democrats are reading more than internal RNC push polls (imagine that), like this […] Quinnipiac poll showing 55 percent opposed to building the goddamned thing in the first place. (Slate compiled other recent polls, and they range between 52 percent and 58 percent, overall, who are opposed to the wall.)

    Maybe they read the very important Wonkette post from January entitled “Majority Of Americans Support Trump Building Wall UP HIS ASS,” which details just how badly Trump is losing on this issue. […]

  53. says

    Ah, good. Trump has yet another court case to worry about.

    Federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York sent a wide-ranging subpoena to Trump’s presidential inaugural committee on Monday. […]

    The New York Times reported that the subpoenas asked the committee to produce documents related to the committee’s donors and event attendees, vendors, contracts, federal disclosure filings, and “any benefits handed out” to guests and donors, including photo ops with the president.

    The Times also reported that prosecutors were interested in whether foreigners had circumvented campaign finance restrictions to illegally donate to the committee, and whether employees on the committee were aware of any such donations. The investigation is also reportedly focusing on whether the committee made false statements to the Federal Election Commission.

    Foreigners cannot contribute money to inaugural committees, political campaigns, and PACs under U.S. federal law.

    At least one person has said he funneled foreign cash into the inaugural committee in exchange for tickets. D.C. lobbyist W. Sam Patten admitted to the scheme during an August guilty plea to failing to register as a foreign agent, saying he used a straw donor to funnel $50,000 into the committee in exchange for tickets for a Ukrainian oligarch. […]

    The Washington Post reported that the subpoena also requested “all communications” with Los Angeles venture capitalist Imaad Zuberi and the company he is linked to – Avenue Ventures. FEC records show that that firm donated $900,000 to the inaugural committee. […]

    Accusations of self-dealing and mismanagement have surfaced since the 2017 event, which took in a record $107 million haul from donors. During the trial of former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, inaugural committee deputy chairman Rick Gates said that he may have stolen money from the committee. […]

    Link

  54. says

    Wall construction on the southern border? A bit, anyway. A bit that is going to endanger some butterflies.

    There is not a single positive thing that one can say about the Trump-proposed border wall. It’s not simply a useless symbol of an ultimately self-destructive immigration policy, it’s also an environmentally backward use of our country’s engineering capabilities. Back in December it was reported that the proposed wall would devastate the private, nonprofit National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas. The center includes more than 100 acres of butterfly sanctuary, and Trump’s plan would take around 70 percent of it and stick it on the Mexico side of his stupid wall.

    The Butterfly Center was embroiled in a lawsuit against the administration as, they allege, Trump’s henchmen couldn’t even go about taking away people’s land with any competence, showing up unannounced and very likely illegally moving away habitat before securing the legal rights to do so. But that lawsuit and other similar ones have taken a big hit after the conservative-hijacked Supreme Court ruled that Trump and his administration need not pay attention to environmental concerns in the building of their mythical wall.

    Now, according to the San Antonio Express-News, the first bulldozers have appeared at the National Butterfly Center. The nonprofit sanctuary posted images of the bulldozers on their Facebook page, saying law enforcement officials came and said that National Butterfly Center officials will have no access to their own land south of the levee. […]

    Link

    From the San Antonio Express News:

    […] Congress approved funding for this section of the wall in last year’s federal budget, before the impasse between Democrats and […] Trump held up another round of wall funding and led to the recent 35-day partial government shutdown. […]

  55. says

    Appeals court overturns FCC’s attempt to throw 70 percent of low-income people off broadband.

    A federal appeals court overturned Ajit Pai and his FCC’s attempt to make it far more difficult for tribal residents to get the subsidies needed to afford broadband internet access through the Lifeline program. […] Back in November of 2017, Pai and his two other Republican telecom shills voted to gut the Lifeline services […]. It was a classic conservative use of double speak, with Pai speaking loudly about wanting to bridge the digital divide—a term used to talk about the growing chasm between the haves and have nots in the broadband internet access networks across the country, while trying to get rid of the only programs helping to bridge that gap.

    […] Pai’s FCC wanted to limit Lifeline’s $25 subsidy to “facilities-based telecommunications providers,” meaning only the telecoms that own and run the broadband infrastructure—after taking billions in tax breaks—would be able to sell residents subsidized broadband. A major problem here is that these companies are not interested in selling to the poorer areas of our country, and the subsidies in the Lifeline are not enough to entice them. Instead, a market of “resellers,” businesses that are able to buy broadband capacity from the facilities-based telecoms and resell them to others, has sprung up to provide the only true avenue for millions of Americans. […]

    As Ars Technica reports this decision overturns not only the attempt to screw residents on tribal lands, but also urban residents who too would have lost out on the $25 subsidy. […]

    […] the decision is saying in the nicest way possible, that Pai and his republican buddies Michael O’Rielly and Brendan Carr, seem to have whimsically and without any real thought, come up with a plan that would completely denigrate the very nature of the program they are charged to uphold. On top of that, not unlike Pai’s cartoonish dictatorial Net Neutrality comments period, the FCC did not give anyone adequate time to comment and point out how myopic and terrible a decision it would be. The Lifeline program is one of the best things that the FCC has ever done. It’s the reason the Obama-era FCC worked to expand it, and its noble mission also seems to be exactly why Ajit Pai and Trump’s FCC want to destroy it.

    Link

  56. says

    So now the U.S. is holding some prisoners in buildings without heat or electricity? WTF?

    After days of protests, a Brooklyn detention center has finally restored power — but there’s still no clear sign the heating is fixed.

    Just after 6:00 p.m. Sunday night, the lights in the the Metropolitan Detention Center flickered back on and the crowd protesting outside cheered. Though the lights are now on, there are concerns that conditions inside the facility won’t necessarily improve and there are reports that parts of the prison still do not have heat.

    Hundreds of protesters have rallied outside the Metropolitan Detention Center over the last week, demanding that power and heat be restored. On Sunday, police guards pepper sprayed protesters attempting to enter the facility, including family members and legal defenders. Many of the families attempting to enter the prison were at their wits’ end after a week of barred visits (a violation of the inmates’ Sixth Amendment rights) and alarming reports about the worsening conditions.

    According to The New York Times, around 1,600 inmates were held in “freezing cells” that dipped below 34 degrees for more than a week. Inmates told legal defenders they had no power and no heat, and many of them were growing sick. Nearly all were worried that conditions would not improve since things had begun to go downhill early last month. […]

    From Cory Booker:

    Spoke with the Federal Bureau of Prisons earlier to make sure they know I’m closely monitoring this. Discussed timeline for restoring heat and access to lawyers. Was assured I’ll get updates on the status and better answers — will share more soon.

    People at a federal prison in Brooklyn are enduring unbearable, freezing conditions after going without heat and power for days — this is outrageous and inhumane. We need answers.

    […] the question remains, why did it take days of protests for the Federal Bureau of Prisons to maintain basic conditions at one of their facilities?

    The truth is: this kind of thing happens far too often, and prisons generally refuse to meet inmates’ basic needs.

    Last April, a prison riot in South Carolina left seven inmates dead and 17 injured. There weren’t enough guards at the initial time the riot broke out — two in fact — and to add to the devastation, they waited four hours before intervening. Which begs the questions: If guards are there to maintain the safety of the inmates, why aren’t they doing it?

    As last summer winded down, prisoners across the nation went on strike to bring awareness to the poor conditions they face. During the strike — which lasted from August 21 to September 9 — prisoners refused to work, and many refused to eat. They were demanding better conditions but also shedding light on the increasingly exploitative labor practices. (See: prisoners being forced to fight wildfires in California.) […]

    Link

  57. says

    After Super Bowl win, Patriots players waste no time saying they won’t visit White House.

    Washington Post link

    While championship sports teams making a visit to the White House has long since become an annual tradition, a newer one has emerged since […] Trump took office: athletes following up a title-winning performance by declaring that they’ll skip the trip.

    Sure enough, the confetti had barely stopped raining down on the Super Bowl-winning New England Patriots before several members of the team, all defensive backs, said they had no desire to go to the White House. One player, asked if he was interested in emulating an example recently set by the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, expressed a strong interest in meeting with former president Barack Obama.

    “That would be dope,” Patriots safety Duron Harmon said, adding, “Hey, Obama, come holler at me. We love you over here, man.” […]

  58. says

    Most of the news coverage this morning repeats team Trump’s claim that Trump is going to give a “unifying” state of the union speech. I doubt it.

    He may read a few clichés off the teleprompter, but Trump does not know how to unify Americans. He is divisive by nature.

  59. says

    From John Light, writing for TPM:

    Senate Republicans are getting nervous about the national emergency President Trump keeps threatening to declare. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned Trump last week that if he does declare an emergency to secure wall funding, the Senate could end up passing a resolution disapproving of his action with the intent of blocking him. Trump would then be forced to veto that resolution.

    Trump, for his part, has repeatedly touted the emergency declaration as the best path forward, even suggesting that he may announce it during the State of the Union (a possibility that at the moment doesn’t seem likely).

    But Republicans are putting their weight behind McConnell’s warning. Yesterday, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) warned the President in a statement to reporters, “I think it’s a dangerous step,” continuing to say that “it won’t succeed in accomplishing his goal.”

    “While I’m in favor of what this president wants to do [on the border wall], I think it sets a dangerous precedent and I hope he doesn’t do it,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) told Politico.

    If Democrats vote as a block, only a few Republicans would have to join them in opposing the President for a resolution of disapproval to pass. These warnings — if they’re working — make the national emergency a significantly less appealing option for the President.

    But a legislative path forward on wall funding does not seem to exist either, and Trump has dismissed legislative efforts as a “waste of time.” At the moment, it looks as if the President will have to shut down the government again, veto an attempt by his party to block a national emergency, or fold.

    The President’s Road Forward On Wall Funding Is Getting Murkier By The Day

  60. says

    About the Democratic response to Trump’s State of the Union speech tonight:

    Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams will make history tonight when she gives the Democratic response to Donald Trump’s State of the Union address. She will become the first black woman to ever give a party’s formal response to the president’s address. Of course, this is nothing new for Abrams. In 2018, she became the first black woman to ever be nominated for governor by a major political party. And in 2011, when she became the minority leader in the Georgia House of Representatives, she was the first woman to do so.

    […] We can expect nothing less from her than confidence, clarity, and competence in tonight’s speech. […]

    The State of the Union will air on most major networks at 9 PM ET. It will be followed by the Democratic response, delivered by Abrams. The Spanish-language response, delivered by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, will follow the official response.

    Link

  61. says

    So, right before he is scheduled to give a “unifying” state of the union speech, Trump tweeted this:

    Tremendous numbers of people are coming up through Mexico in the hopes of flooding our Southern Border. We have sent additional military. We will build a Human Wall if necessary. If we had a real Wall, this would be a non-event!

    I see Schumer is already criticizing my State of the Union speech, even though he hasn’t seen it yet. He’s just upset that he didn’t win the Senate, after spending a fortune, like he thought he would. Too bad we weren’t given more credit for the Senate win by the media!

  62. says

    Here is a SOTU Bingo card from The Hill:

    1. The speech is a much-needed reset button for President Trump.

    2. Trump and his aides have hinted at using tonight’s speech to lay the groundwork for declaring a national emergency to fund the wall.

    3. Will there be a potential olive branch to Democrats? The dynamic this year is very different.

    4. Trump can finally explain his recent foreign policy moves in the Middle East to the American people (i.e.: Syria and Afghanistan).

    5. Will he share details of the next U.S.-North Korea summit? Trump has been teasing this announcement.

    My bet is that Trump will mock the concept of climate change; blame Democrats (especially Nancy Pelosi) for the government shutdown; repeat his usual lies about immigrants and immigration policy; give himself credit for things he did not do (or things he thinks he did well, but that turned out horribly hurting lots of people); and he will claim that Democrats have become “radical leftists,” or are “radicalized” and “un-American”. He will read poorly off the teleprompter and will try to cover his mistakes with ad libs that don’t make any sense.

  63. says

    From Wonkette’s coverage of Howard Schultz’s presidential campaign:

    Where are we on Howard Schultz’s 15 minutes of fame? About 13 and a half minutes? This should help get us all the way to the finish line. […]

    […] we came to tell you about just how shitty the internal polling is on a Howard Schultz candidacy, and also to tell you that SURPRISE, at this point, if he actually did mount an independent run, financed by his “people of means” spare change, he would A) lose […] and B) likely hand the election to Donald Trump. (Which may be what he wants, let’s be honest here.)

    Schultz recently suggested that billionaires be rebranded as “people of means.”

    Now, before we tell you the polling numbers, you may say “yeah sure, those numbers mean jackshit right now.” You’re right. The oppo research has only just begun and we are going to get meaner and meaner from here on out, to the point that this coffee [guy] nobody had heard of two weeks ago will likely have his reputation absolutely destroyed by the time we’re done with him. […]

    Change Research decided to assess Schultz’s chances after two weeks of Beltway idiots sitting at the undeclared candidate’s feet like he was the coolest thing since false insinuations about the Clinton Foundation, and found that a whopping four percent of people have a positive view of Schultz, compared to 40 percent with a negative view and the rest of the folks, who didn’t know and didn’t care. And what’s funny is that that four percent held pretty steady regardless of whether it was a Democrat, a Republican, or an “independent.” In other words, Americans are united! In hating Howard Schultz!

    But here’s the key:

    Schultz takes an average of four points away from what the Democratic candidate receives in a two-way race, while taking just 1% away from Donald Trump. […]

    In every three-way matchup except against Biden (who leads both candidates), President Trump has plurality support.

    He hurts the Democrat and helps Trump, just like we suspected. Weird that he’s still talking, then, if he’s really doing this because he thinks Trump is a danger to the republic and that the American public is just clamoring for an asshole just like him to come in and save us.

    The other Democrats in the hypothetical scenarios were Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and it turns out that when the coffee [guy] wasn’t included, they all beat Trump by almost exactly the same (small) margin. With Schultz in there, they all lose by almost exactly the same (small) margin. […]

    Even when pollsters read respondents a long thing about how Howard Schultz is nice and Howard Schultz smells good and Howard Schultz wants to take from the poor to feed the rich, people strangely didn’t flock into his arms. […]

    In response to this polling, we guess, Schultz slipped Chuck Todd a piece of paper to read on “Meet The Press” that says NUH UH, Howard Schultz is the embodiment of the hopes and dreams of 17 PERCENT OF AMERICA, citing the internal polling he probably did when he asked his mom if he should be president, and which … still shows Trump winning 33 percent of the vote compared to 32 percent for Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren. But that would mean Howard Schultz would get to be on the debate stage! Which would give him an opportunity to win America’s hearts by saying “I’m the meaning in my life, I’m the inspiration!” and that he would like some more tax cuts for billionaires! […]

  64. says

    OMFG. Kansas Judge Shortens Convicted Sex Abuser’s Sentence Because Teenage Victims Were “Aggressors”

    A Kansas judge has come under fire after arguing that two girls under the age of 16 had been the “aggressors” in a sexual abuse case involving a 67-year-old man, the Kansas City Star reported. In pointing to what he saw as their active role in the encounter and their apparent lack of trauma, the judge sentenced the man to less than half the prison time recommended by Kansas sentencing guidelines.

    In December, Leavenworth County District Judge Michael Gibbens sentenced Raymond Soden to just five years and 10 months in prison for knowingly soliciting a 13-year-old girl on Facebook, according to the Associated Press. Prosecutors, who told the Star they are now looking into the possibility of an appeal based on the judge’s comments, had asked for more than 13 years, as Soden had prior convictions for battery and sexual battery.

    The judge, however, made a point of noting that the girls, ages 13 and 14, had voluntarily gone to Soden’s house and taken money for sexual favors. “I do find that the victims in this case, in particular, were more an aggressor than a participant in the criminal conduct,” Gibbens said. “They were certainly selling things monetarily that it’s against the law for even an adult to sell.”

    He later reiterated, “I think that a 13-year-old who offered what she offered for money is certainly an aggressor, particularly since she’s the one that had to travel to Mr. Soden.”

    Gibbens also responded to a statement the younger girl gave that she felt “uncomfortable” about one incident with physical contact. “And so she’s uncomfortable for something she voluntarily went to, voluntarily took her top off of, and was paid for?” Gibbens asked the prosecutor.

    “Yes, judge. She was also a 13-year-old who under our laws can’t consent to anything,” the prosecutor responded. The age of consent in Kansas is 16.

    The judge acknowledged the point but, according to the Star, said, “I wonder what kind of trauma there really was to this victim under those peculiar circumstances.”

    Is there anyway to remove this judge from the bench?

    From the readers comments:

    25 is too young to be held responsible for wearing blackface, but 13 is old enough to be responsible for being ‘sexually aggressive’. Jesus wept.
    ——————–
    How awful that a 13 year-old child knew this was a way to get money and a very mature man wanted to use that young girl. It is another way our system fails. Poverty makes people do things that are bad and dangerous and children are very bad at making decisions.
    —————–
    There are literally no mitigating factors in this case. The facts are a man in his 60s lured girls online to have sex with him. He had prior history of child sex abuse.

  65. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    President Goodbrain: “If we had a real Wall, this would be a non-event!”

    Well, given that it is a non-event anyway, he probably isn’t wrong for once in his life.

  66. says

    On Syria policy, Trump didn’t consult with key US general, either.

    About a year ago, many of the Trump administration’s top officials on national security – including then-Defense Secretary James Mattis, then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo, and White House National Security Advisor John Bolton – all declared with confidence that the United States was committed to a long-term military commitment in Syria. Their boss disagreed.

    Regular readers may recall that Donald Trump, despite vowing to never publicly disclose his future military plans, publicly declared last spring, “We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon…. Very soon – very soon we’re coming out.”

    In December, the president made it official, announcing a new withdrawal policy – which “blindsided Congress and most senior officials at the Pentagon and State Department.” By one account, even Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “was in the dark” until after Trump had made his decision.

    Evidently, as Reuters reported this morning, CENTCOM was surprised, too.

    The U.S. military commander overseeing American troops in the Middle East told a Senate hearing on Tuesday that he was not consulted ahead of President Donald Trump’s surprise decision in December to pull U.S. troops out of Syria.

    “I was not consulted,” said U.S. General Joseph Votel, head of the U.S. military’s Central Command, while acknowledging Trump had publicly expressed a desire to leave Syria at some point.

    The disclosure came as Votel warned about an enduring threat from the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq that will persist following a U.S. withdrawal. […]

    Link
    Trump’s impulsive announcements and tweets are ridiculous … until they aren’t.

    U.S. General Joseph Votel commands American troops in the Middle East.

    Trump spoke on the phone to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about Syria a few months ago, and during that phone call the Turkish President said that if the U.S. withdrew from Syria, Turkey would go in and eliminate the ISIS forces that remained. Say, what now? Why would Erdogan offer that? Why would Trump agree?

    Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria shortly thereafter. Reckless. Stupid. There was Twitter followup. Sheesh.

    In other news: a_ray in comment 70, agreed. I do think that Stacey Abram’s response will be an event, and it will be newsworthy.

  67. says

    Four Trump Trips To Mar-A-Lago Cost Taxpayers $13.6M, New Gov’t Report Finds

    President Trump and his entourage cost taxpayers a combined $13.6 million for just four trips over one month to his private Mar-a-Lago resort […]

    From February 3 to March 7, 2017, Trump visited his private resort in south Florida four different times. That cost government agencies approximately $10.6 million for operating costs of government aircraft and boats and $3 million for temporary duty costs of government personnel supporting Trump’s travel, according to the report.

    The GAO, a nonpartisan government watchdog that works as Congress’s investigative arm, found that the government paid about $60,000 to the Mar-a-Lago directly in these four trips, money that goes towards further enriching the Trump family. […]

    These trips occurred over 15 total days, but Trump has spent 84 total days at Mar-a-Lago in his presidency so far, including three days this past weekend. The costs can’t be directly extrapolated since travel days are significantly more expensive, but if these numbers carried through the government would have spent roughly $77 million total for Trump’s frequent Mar-a-Lago visits.

    That estimate doesn’t include his trips to other Trump properties. As of the end of 2018, according to NBC news, Trump had spent 222 of his 746 days as president at one of his properties.

    Those aren’t the only government costs of Trump family travel the report explored. A trio of trips by Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. that were conducted for Trump Organization business cost taxpayers an additional $400,000 in Secret Service protection and other costs, the GAO found. That includes trips by Eric Trump to Uruguay and the Dominican Republic and a trip by both brothers and their spouses to the United Arab Emirates.

    Link

  68. says

    Now WTF kind of racism-on-TV is this?

    Fox Business guest demands that Ocasio-Cortez renounce her “Latin American values”

    “Instead of us assimilating them, they are assimilating us.”

    Conservatives just can’t seem to leave Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) alone. […] guest economist Peter Morici made the criticism blatantly racist.

    “[Y]ou know, there’s ignorance, there’s willful ignorance, and then there’s willful and malicious ignorance — that is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,” he said. “The left is just using global warming, climate change, the environment as a stalking horse for socialism. They can’t take away all your money and accomplish this, but they will. That’s what this is about. She’s a demagogue.”

    Host Stuart Varney was a bit surprised by this remark, noting that Ocasio-Cortez co-wrote her legislation with Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA), who has been serving in Congress for 42 years. “The Democrats really are taking this very, very seriously,” he countered.

    But Morici plowed ahead, attacking Ocasio-Cortez’s ethnicity.

    “Basically what you have in Ocasio-Cortez are Latin American values,” he insisted. “Instead of us assimilating them, they are assimilating us. And they want to bring the kind of socialism that destroyed Venezuela, and frankly Mexico, here. You know, it isn’t that we’re going to become Venezuela, but we could easily become Mexico, and you won’t be able to go outside your door without getting shot.” […]

  69. says

    Senate Republicans say they want a border/budget deal that would avoid another government shutdown, no matter what Trump wants. I am not convinced at all that they would be able to muster enough votes to override a Trump veto.

    Senate Republican leaders said Tuesday that they want the bipartisan group working on avoiding another shutdown to reach an agreement on border security funding — regardless of whether President Trump agrees to support it.

    “Obviously it would be great if the president decided to sign the bill,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters Tuesday afternoon, just hours before Trump was to deliver his State of the Union speech. “I think we don’t yet know what his view is on this. But I think the conferees ought to reach an agreement and then we’ll hope that the president finds it worth signing.”

    Senate Republicans have been allowing a hint of daylight between themselves and President Trump on border security since the government shutdown. The government will enter another partial shutdown if lawmakers can’t reach a deal by the end of the day on Feb. 15 that Trump will sign off on. […]

    Link

  70. says

    “An economic miracle is taking place in the United States — and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations. If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation.”

    Trump just said the above.

    Daniel Dale’s take on this:

    This is a good example of what Trump himself means by “unity”: Democrats uniting with Republicans in letting him do what he wants.

    https://twitter.com/ddale8/status/1092972745489633281

  71. says

    More from Daniel Dale’s fact-checking of the State of the Union address:

    Trump did not eliminate the estate tax, virtually or otherwise, merely raised the threshold at which it has to be paid. Also, it affected a tiny number of family farms and small businesses even before this change: [80 farms and small businesses]

    […] There have not been 600,000 manufacturing jobs added during Trump’s presidency: 12,822,000 as of Jan. 2019, 12,368,000 as of Jan. 2017, an increase of 454.000 jobs.

    Trump warns against “vengeance.” He loves vengeance! He is America’s leading vengeance advocate.

    “We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good.” – Donald J. Trump

    Yes indeed, Trump said “Democrat agenda” in the opening unity pitch.

    From Jim Acosta:

    Trump on immigration in excerpt released by WH: “Wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards.”

    From Daniel Dale:

    No Democrat in Congress is pushing for “open borders,” though this is common GOP language beyond Trump; Dems support various non-Wall security measures. (You can excuse this as non-literal political rhetoric, but I say it’s a false claim.)

    Trump is now talking about the scary “caravans” and all of his other favorite demons.

  72. says

    More comments from Daniel Dale:

    The prepared text did not have Trump speaking for the Taliban – he ad-libbed, or late-added, that “the other side would like to do the same thing” line.

    Trump’s “$7 trillion” claim about Middle East war spending is still inaccurate. He was extrapolating from a Brown University estimate, the latest version of which is $4.9 trillion; $5.9 trillion including estimated future health care obligations.

    Trump, being Trump, keeps saying that the Afghanistan war has gone on for “19 years” or “nearly 19 years.” (He didn’t specifically say Afghanistan this time.) It is 17 years, 4 months old.

    Some Republican boos for “socialism.” Trump: “Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country. America was founded on liberty and independence –- not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free, and we will stay free.”

    There is no apparent basis for Trump’s opinion – though I won’t call an opinion “false” – that the US would’ve been in a big war with NK without him. He initially claimed, falsely, that Obama told him Obama was close to a war, then started scaling it back to opinion.

    “The catastrophe known as NAFTA” is overwhelmingly preserved in Trump’s USMCA deal, though it contains some significant changes.

    I’d call this Trump’s biggest lie of the speech so far. It’s not an exaggeration or an outdated stat or hyperbolic rhetoric – it’s the president, joined by Texas’s Republican attorney general, just making something up. That is a straight-up lie about El Paso, which was one of America’s safest large cities for violent crime before the fencing was erected and did not immediately see crime fall after the fence was built.

  73. says

    In Trump’s address, Democrats feel “a slap in the face with an olive branch.”

    […] White House officials kept emphasizing the president’s interest in promoting unity and cooperation. In private, however, something very different was unfolding.

    The New York Times reported that Trump complained to his team about previous drafts of his remarks because they were, in his opinion, “too gentle on Democrats.” The article added, “The president has sought to sharpen various lines, and while aides have urged him to congratulate Speaker Nancy Pelosi on her ascension after the November midterm elections, which handed control of the House to Democrats, they were not entirely clear that he would.”

    He didn’t.

    Also ahead of his speech, Trump had lunch with television news anchors, who reportedly heard the president deride Joe Biden as “dumb” and blast Chuck Schumer as a “nasty son of a bitch.”

    It was against this backdrop that the president delivered his State of the Union address and paid lip-service to the importance of unity and a sense of shared purpose.

    We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution – and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the common good.

    Together, we can break decades of political stalemate. We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions, and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future. The decision is ours to make.

    We must choose between greatness or gridlock, results or resistance, vision or vengeance, incredible progress or pointless destruction. Tonight, I ask you to choose greatness.

    Trump then proceeded to spend the next hour pushing divisive issues in divisive ways.

    In one of the night’s more memorable lines, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) responded to the presidential address by saying, “It was a slap in the face with an olive branch.”

    […] What Trump quickly made clear is that when he referred to bringing people together, what he meant was that everyone should stop arguing and begin giving him what he wants.

    That hasn’t changed. When the president talks about “unity,” he means uniting around him. When he refers to “shared goals,” he means his goals.

    […] “The agenda I will lay out this evening is not a Republican agenda or a Democrat [sic] agenda. It is the agenda of the American people.” […]

    The fact that Trump doesn’t seem to realize how counterproductive this posture is speaks volumes.

  74. says

    In Trump’s address, Democrats feel “a slap in the face with an olive branch.”

    […] White House officials kept emphasizing the president’s interest in promoting unity and cooperation. In private, however, something very different was unfolding.

    The New York Times reported that Trump complained to his team about previous drafts of his remarks because they were, in his opinion, “too gentle on Democrats.” The article added, “The president has sought to sharpen various lines, and while aides have urged him to congratulate Speaker Nancy Pelosi on her ascension after the November midterm elections, which handed control of the House to Democrats, they were not entirely clear that he would.”

    He didn’t.

    Also ahead of his speech, Trump had lunch with television news anchors, who reportedly heard the president deride Joe Biden as “dumb” and blast Chuck Schumer as a “nasty son of a bitch.”

    It was against this backdrop that the president delivered his State of the Union address and paid lip-service to the importance of unity and a sense of shared purpose.

    We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution – and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the common good.

    Together, we can break decades of political stalemate. We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions, and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future. The decision is ours to make.

    We must choose between greatness or gridlock, results or resistance, vision or vengeance, incredible progress or pointless destruction. Tonight, I ask you to choose greatness.

    Trump then proceeded to spend the next hour pushing divisive issues in divisive ways.

    In one of the night’s more memorable lines, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) responded to the presidential address by saying, “It was a slap in the face with an olive branch.”

    […] What Trump quickly made clear is that when he referred to bringing people together, what he meant was that everyone should stop arguing and begin giving him what he wants.

    That hasn’t changed. When the president talks about “unity,” he means uniting around him. When he refers to “shared goals,” he means his goals.

    […] “The agenda I will lay out this evening is not a Republican agenda or a Democrat [sic] agenda. It is the agenda of the American people.” […]

    The fact that Trump doesn’t seem to realize how counterproductive this posture is speaks volumes.

  75. says

    In Trump’s address, Democrats feel “a slap in the face with an olive branch.”

    […] White House officials kept emphasizing the president’s interest in promoting unity and cooperation. In private, however, something very different was unfolding.

    The New York Times reported that Trump complained to his team about previous drafts of his remarks because they were, in his opinion, “too gentle on Democrats.” The article added, “The president has sought to sharpen various lines, and while aides have urged him to congratulate Speaker Nancy Pelosi on her ascension after the November midterm elections, which handed control of the House to Democrats, they were not entirely clear that he would.”

    He didn’t.

    Also ahead of his speech, Trump had lunch with television news anchors, who reportedly heard the president deride Joe Biden as “dumb” and blast Chuck Schumer as a “nasty son of a [B-word].”

    It was against this backdrop that the president delivered his State of the Union address and paid lip-service to the importance of unity and a sense of shared purpose.

    We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution – and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the common good.

    Together, we can break decades of political stalemate. We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions, and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future. The decision is ours to make.

    We must choose between greatness or gridlock, results or resistance, vision or vengeance, incredible progress or pointless destruction. Tonight, I ask you to choose greatness.

    Trump then proceeded to spend the next hour pushing divisive issues in divisive ways.

    In one of the night’s more memorable lines, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) responded to the presidential address by saying, “It was a slap in the face with an olive branch.”

    […] What Trump quickly made clear is that when he referred to bringing people together, what he meant was that everyone should stop arguing and begin giving him what he wants.

    That hasn’t changed. When the president talks about “unity,” he means uniting around him. When he refers to “shared goals,” he means his goals.

    […] “The agenda I will lay out this evening is not a Republican agenda or a Democrat [sic] agenda. It is the agenda of the American people.” […]

    The fact that Trump doesn’t seem to realize how counterproductive this posture is speaks volumes.

  76. says

    Followup to comment 75.

    […] Trump’s argument is predicated on the idea that scrutinizing his scandals would interrupt economic growth. That’s absurd. Congressional investigations of Bill Clinton’s scandals in the late 1990s had no effect on the economy – it was stronger at the time than it is now – and there’s no reason to believe scrutiny of Trump would undermine the recovery, either.

    For that matter, it was unclear why the president and his speechwriters thought it’d be wise to tie “war and investigation” together.

    But at its core, Trump’s threat hasn’t changed since the day after his party’s defeats in the midterm elections: he will not work with a Congress that scrutinizes his many scandals. The president could cooperate with congressional oversight of the executive branch, but as of last night, he instead preferred to deliver a very high-profile ultimatum to lawmakers: drop the investigations or else. […]

    Trump ultimately seems to have some kind of corrupt bargain in mind: desperate for some kind of leverage, the president wants Democrats to believe he’s prepared to govern, but only if they look the other way on his many areas of alleged wrongdoing.

    If he seriously expects the House Democratic majority to accept these conditions, he’s going to be disappointed. Indeed, Trump’s pitch has arguably backfired: the question overshadowing all others this morning is, why is the president so afraid of scrutiny?

    Link

    Link for comment 78.

  77. Chris J says

    I read somewhere that you could clearly tell where Trump spoke and where his aides spoke about an issue. And yeah, I agree. Trump talks about how he’s so proud to reduce prison sentences for non-violent, first time offenders like drug dealers (which disproportionately affect people of color), and then in the next breath bemoans the hordes of rapists and gang members and drug dealers streaming over our southern border. He talks about not wanting to put forward a Democratic or Republican agenda, then luridly describes New York senators in particular cheering and celebrating their ability to rip children from their mother’s wombs and execute them on the operating table. Never mind the mother’s agency and decision making in all this, and never mind that late-term abortions are pretty much only ever done in cases of medical necessity. And, of course, there’s the frequent claims to love children and hate kidnappers while literal children sit in literal cages in an ongoing scandal caused by Trump.

  78. says

    From Josh Marshall:

    […] Trump hit his key bloodthirsty points, portraying undocumented immigrants as a tide of murderers threatening the country. He bragged on his supposed accomplishments – some real, most pretended. […] He even had some genuinely touching moments, such as the stories at the end of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp, with US soldiers who were the liberators and inmates who were there that day. [guests in the audience were former soldiers and inmates]

    There were occasional jagged moments, [Trump described] babies being ripped from mothers’ wombs […]

    Trump and his advisors can see he’s in a corner. He needs to try to get some footing with a less confrontational, more unifying posture that most Presidents at least optically try to govern from. […] the word ‘compromise’ or variants of it appeared again and again in the speech, even though this is a President who has almost never sought compromise. Far more often, even when he can’t win a fight, he will maintain it as an unresolved confrontation because he believes that helps him politically. The reality of his abject defeat at the hands of Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the monthlong government shutdown drama loomed over the whole night.

  79. says

    Democratic women many have created the most viral moment at the SOTU address.

    It was an end-zone dance right in front of Donald Trump’s face.

    […] it was an impromptu moment between the president and the historic group of Democratic women wearing white that captured the night, shooting like a rocket across social media and encapsulating the new political reality in Washington.

    Democrats cheered, high-fived and raised the roof after Trump paid tribute to the gains women have made in the country, from their fight for voting rights a century ago to the fact that 58 percent of jobs created in the last year went to women. […]

    After all, most women currently serving in Congress are Democrats. House Democrats have 89 female members, while the House GOP has just 13 women in its ranks. And Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), to date the only woman to serve as the highest-ranking congressional leader, sat behind him on the dais because of Democrats’ midterm gains.

    “We were super excited and high-fiving. And he really didn’t realize what was going on — he didn’t understand what we were doing,” Rep. Ann Kuster (D-N.H.) told The Hill after the speech.

    “Part of it is that we wanted to draw attention to the contrast of our caucus that reflects the diversity of the American people. … And we were hoping that just by wearing white, that the cameras would pick that up,” Kuster continued. “We didn’t realize that we’ve have a big opportunity to demonstrate that. … Finally, he did [understand], because he got very — he was ticked off. …

    “I think he caught on that the joke was on him.” […]

    While the GOP side of the aisle resembled a homogeneous sea of navy and black suits worn by a predominantly male group of lawmakers, the Democratic side was marked by scores of female lawmakers donning white, the color of the suffragettes. […]

    Democrats expressed disbelief after Trump explicitly warned against the expected onslaught of House oversight investigations and declared that “if there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation.”

    “To actually say out loud that Congress couldn’t both legislate and conduct oversight or investigations, which of course is a suggestion that we shouldn’t do our job. And if the president thinks by getting up there and telling us not to do investigations we won’t, he’s sadly mistaken,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), a Judiciary Committee member who also leads House Democrats’ messaging arm. […]

    The Hill link

    Response to Democratic women wearing white to the SOTU address:

    Katrina Pierson, a senior adviser on Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign, tweeted early Wednesday morning to slam the white outfits.

    “The only thing that the Democrats uniform was missing tonight is the matching hood,” Pierson tweeted.

    More coverage of Democratic women cheering for themselves: Wow: Trump Got Democratic Women to Give a Standing Ovation AND Break Into USA Chant. Video available at the link.

  80. Chris J says

    “The only thing that the Democrats uniform was missing tonight is the matching hood,” Pierson tweeted.

    I saw a couple tweets along those lines, including a photoshopped image that put klan hoods on all the women wearing white. I thought it was disgusting there, but I never imagined that anyone of importance would repeat it.

    But… like… it was only women wearing the white, so it’s not a Democrat thing alone, and the women wearing white were hugely diverse, so a klan reference makes no gosh-darn sense. It’s… I dunno, I guess this is what you get in a world where people can freely make public comments and have them out in the world instantly.

    I am a little irritated that whoever reported on that quote called it a “slam” on the white outfits. It’s a general irritation of mine, to call something a “jab” or a “slam” no matter how on-point the comment really is or how true it is. It just feels like it lends credibility to something that doesn’t deserve it.

  81. says

    From Wonkette’s coverage:

    Democrats sat stone faced as Trump bullshitted his way through a State of the Union address full of half-truths and double-speak peppered with cliched rhymes and alliteration. As per usual, Trump chummed the crowd with red meat, screaming about Mexican Muslim taco trucks roaring across our post-apocalyptic Southern border, “endless wars” (started by Republicans), the investigation into his Russian fuckery, and he even shed some crocodile tears on abortion and HIV before taking credit for what’s left of our purple mountains’ majesty […] while casually ignoring his huge, embarrassing failures. […]

    If you missed Trump’s second State of the Union Address, don’t worry, so did a lot of other people. CNN reports the majority of people watching Orange Julius Ceaser gaslight America were Republican […]

    Because Trump is incapable of saying anything honest, here’s all your fact checks: NPR / NYTimes / CNN / WaPo

    Delivering the Democratic rebuttal to Trump’s eye rolling sideshow, Stacey Abrams gave a speech that set the stage for 2020 — rebuking Trump and the GOP’s policies on health care, voting rights, economic equality, and immigration. Abrams spoke before electrical union workers in Atlanta […]

    Not to be outdone, Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders gave his own rebuttal, as did Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris. TLDR: Bernie yelled that Trump was a racist liar, and Harris reminded her audience that Trump purposely shut down the government for 35 days over his goddamn wall.

    Trump’s Energy dingus Rick Perry was the only person capable of being the “designated survivor” last night because Trump’s cabinet has so many vacancies (unless you’d prefer a DeVos!). Some super nerds and policy wonks note that Trump’s insistence on “flexibility” with his cabinet officials is, much like everything else in his life, not exactly legal or illegal, it’s just nobody has ever been that reckless and stupid.

    Mick Mulvaney has invited an undisclosed and bipartisan group of lawmakers to Camp David Friday. The rumor mill on the Hill is that Mulvaney intends to lock them all in a room with a bucket and some Hot Pockets and hope they emerge with a way to avoid another government shutdown, and give Trump money for his goddamn wall (or “peaches,” or steel slats, or fencing, or whatever). […]

    PBS link to Stacey Abrams’ speech.

  82. says

    From Zack Beauchamp:

    A kind of faux populism that’s really about race. […]

    This idea came up again and again in the speech. His biggest economic accomplishment? Jobs. His tax cut? Good for “working families.” His trade agenda? Designed to save American jobs from foreigners in Mexico and China. The unitary message, again and again, is that Trump is here for the little guy, the victim of Washington’s business as usual.

    This is not, in fact, true. Trump’s tax cut helped the wealthy, not the working class, and his attempt to weaken Obamacare is taking away health care from Americans who couldn’t otherwise afford it. There’s no evidence his trade policies are helping the working class. His policies on immigration have terrorized an untold number of working-class migrant families, who live in fear of an ICE raid targeting their loved ones. If Trump’s goal is to help the little guy at the elite’s expense, he’s doing a terrible job of it.

    But like all myths, the central one in Trump’s State of the Union does contain a real message. The tension between Trump’s State of the Union message and his actual record reveals the core of his administration’s thinking: Not populism, but ethno-nationalism. An ideal of a country whose politics center the interests of one ethnic group, the white majority. […]

  83. says

    A border fence did not lower crime rates in El Paso. In fact, crime went up a bit.

    During his State of the Union speech, President Trump tried to make the case for his border wall with wildly false claims about the Texas border city.

    […] El Paso was never considered one of the most dangerous cities in the United States. It’s actually had low violent crime rates for decades — long before the US Army Corps of Engineers began to build a steel fence along the Rio Grande in 2009.

    The El Paso Times took a close look at the crime data in January, after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton first claimed that the border city had a high crime rate before the fence was constructed.

    Using Uniform Crime Reports from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the rate of violent crime in El Paso can be calculated by combining data reported by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and the El Paso Police Department.

    Looking broadly at the last 30 years, the rate of violent crime reached its peak in 1993, when more than 6,500 violent crimes were recorded. Between 1993 and 2006, the number of violent crimes fell by more than 34 percent and less than 2,700 violent crimes were reported. The border fence was authorized by Bush in 2006, but construction did not start until 2008.

    The fence, therefore, played no role in lowering violent crime in El Paso. In fact, violent crime in the El Paso increased by 17 percent from 2006 to 2011. Contractors began building the 57-mile fence in 2008 and finished in 2009. Even then, in 2010, El Paso’s violent crime rate was among the lowest in the country for a city of its size.

    Trump is now planning to visit El Paso to make the case, again, for his wall. Doofus.

  84. says

    The magnetic North Pole is quickly moving toward Siberia — and no one knows why.

    Probably not Trump’s fault.

    […] the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a new World Magnetic Model that shows the pole has moved yet again, and at a weirdly fast pace.

    The model is a map of magnetic north and the Earth’s magnetic field. And magnetic north has now moved away from Canada and toward Siberia, in a nearly straight line.

    The locations of magnetic north and south have always been moving targets. Because of that, NOAA and its partners in the UK release an updated magnetic model of the Earth every five years. That way, navigation systems that use magnetic compasses, like those used by airplanes, can be more accurate and correct for the difference between the magnetic poles and the geographic ones.

    The next update wasn’t supposed to happen until the end of 2019. But magnetic north has been moving at a rate of 31 miles a year since the last update in 2015 — faster than usual. […]

  85. says

    On Sunday, Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, will announce her plan to compete in the 2020 presidential campaign.

    In other news, (news we already knew, but for which we now have more proof), Trump skips intelligence briefings.

    A series of recently published presidential schedules show that he has been in just 17 intelligence briefings over the last 85 days. That’s about the same frequency as two of his predecessors, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, according to a former CIA briefer who has written a book on the subject.

    But unlike those former presidents, Trump does not regularly read the written intelligence briefing sent over each day to the White House, U.S. officials tell NBC News, and in private he frequently questions the integrity and judgment of the intelligence officials who are giving him secret information.

    NBC News link

  86. says

    https://twitter.com/joshtpm/status/1093194554940014592

    Treasury Secretary says US not “going back to socialism” we had before Trump.

    Trump fulminated about “socialism,” and the evils thereof, during his SOTU speech.

    From the readers comments:

    Full steam ahead on fascism though.
    ————
    They called the ACA ‘socialist’, they called a progressive tax rate ‘socialist’, they called Obama ‘socialist’ (and a muslim). They have been doing this forever
    —————
    So the strategy now is to convince the US population that they have been living under socialism until the mighty Mr. Trump came along?

  87. says

    Michael Cohen’s testimony in front of the House Intelligence Committee has been delayed until February 28, “in the interests of the investigation.” I’m sure we’ll find out more later.

    […] Considering that Cohen has already been sentenced, it seems odd that Robert Mueller would be concerned about his appearing before the House. But Cohen is connected to at least two ongoing investigations—both of which appear to be heating up. CNN has indicated that federal investigators are digging deeper into the Trump Organization, requesting interviews with executives at the 100 percent Donald-Trump-owned corporation. Considering that company CFO Allen Weisselberg was earlier given partial immunity in exchange for his testimony, this would seem to indicate that investigators are ready for the next stage of digging into Trump’s businesses. […]

    Link

  88. says

    https://twitter.com/AOC/status/1093018708186972160

    Why should I be “spirited and warm” for this embarrassment of a #SOTU?

    Tonight was an unsettling night for our country. The president failed to offer any plan, any vision at all, for our future.

    We’re flying without a pilot. And I‘m not here to comfort anyone about that fact.

    Accurate, in my opinion.

    That was in response to this tweet from Peggy Noonan:

    And good natured with the white jackets, who I see some on twitter are calling the straight jackets. AOC had a rare bad night, looking not spirited, warm and original as usual but sullen, teenaged and at a loss.

    Not accurate, in my opinion.

  89. says

    About the Pelosi “clap back”:

    […] the imagery of the night belongs to Nancy Pelosi. The Speaker of the House perfectly played the part, sitting motionless as Trump rambled and sniffed his way through his book report of a speech. There was one particular moment that stood out and Nancy Pelosi’s response has already launched a thousand memes. As Donald Trump stood at the podium and said, “We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution, and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good.” Nancy Pelosi agreed and stood behind him to clap in agreement, although it seemed to be a bit more clapback than standing ovation and wow, Twitter users took notice. […]

    Link

    From Patton Oswalt:

    Congrats to @SpeakerPelosi for inventing the “fuck you” clap.

    https://twitter.com/pattonoswalt/status/1092984227623141377

    From Parker Molloy:

    Just in case anyone wanted golf-clap-Pelosi with a transparent background.

    https://twitter.com/ParkerMolloy/status/1092989821004533760/photo/1

  90. says

    From John Cassidy, writing for The New Yorker:

    […] Trump must be getting used to going up to Capitol Hill and reading out pablum about the need for bipartisanship and unity. In his February, 2017, address to a joint session of Congress, he said, “The time for trivial fights is behind us.” In his inaugural State of the Union speech, he called on both parties to “summon the unity we need to deliver for the people.” This year, his speechwriters upped the ante. “The agenda I will lay out this evening is not a Republican agenda or a Democrat agenda,” Trump said at the start of his speech. “It is the agenda of the American people.” […]

    From there, the speech went all over the place, including Normandy (stand up, three veterans of D-Day); the moon (stand up, Buzz Aldrin); and Alliteration Abaddon. “We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution—and embrace the boundless potential of coöperation, compromise, and the common good,” Trump said at one point. “We must choose between greatness or gridlock, results or resistance, vision or vengeance.”

    It was all hot air, of course—a gaseous exhalation delivered to a packed House chamber that is now under Democratic control. After about fifteen minutes of making nice and boasting about the economy, Trump reverted to type and warned the Democrats that, if they wanted him to coöperate with them, they would have to drop the many investigations of him and his Administration that they are now busy launching. […]

    Shortly thereafter, he turned to the subject of his beloved border wall, saying, “Now is the time for the Congress to show the world that America is committed to ending illegal immigration and putting the ruthless coyotes, cartels, drug dealers, and human traffickers out of business.” Then it was onto the “caravans,” MS-13, and the grief-stricken family of an elderly couple who were allegedly murdered, in Trump’s telling, by an undocumented immigrant. […]

    Nobody should need reminding that this is the line that Trump took in the run-up to the midterms, which resulted in a heavy defeat for his party. It is also the line he took during the five-week shutdown, which ended with him being forced to back down and reopen the federal government. . […]

    about all that he offered in terms of specific proposals that Democrats might support were vague references to an infrastructure package, cheaper prescription drugs, and paid family leave. And he coupled these suggestions with a call for Congress to outlaw late-term abortions, which was a sop to the evangelical right, and a rote attack on Obamacare.

    […] coöperation and bipartisanship aren’t Trump’s bag: he’s much more comfortable practicing division and aggression. […]

  91. says

    So, Trump has never heard of Adam Schiff, or so he claims. Seconds later, Trump accused Schiff of “presidential harassment.”

    Trump […] falsely claimed that he has never heard of House Intel Committee chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) […]

    “Never heard of him,” Trump said nonchalantly when asked about Schiff leading the House Democrats in investigations against him, per pool reports. […]

    “He’s just a political hack who’s trying to build a name for himself,” Trump continued. “It’s called presidential harassment.”

    Trump has previously given Schiff the nickname “little Adam Schitt,” a sure sign that the President does, in fact, know the man who could significantly escalate the Russia investigation.

    Schiff hasn’t responded yet, though he did serve up a reaction to Trump’s bashing of “ridiculous partisan investigations” Tuesday night during the State of the Union.

    Link

  92. says

    EU Council President says there’s a ‘special place in hell’ for clueless Brexiteers

    Donald Tusk, the president of the European council, launched an extraordinary broadside at pro-Brexit politicians Wednesday, saying there was a “special place in hell…for those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan [for] how to carry it out safely.”

    Tusk was speaking to reporters after meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar to further discuss how to approach the issue of the Irish backstop, which is rapidly becoming the most significant Brexit hurdle.

    In essence, the backstop is a guarantee that, even without a deal, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would remain open, owing in large part to the region’s complicated and violent history which might otherwise be reignited.

    British Prime Minister Theresa May, however, has been seeking to renegotiate the backstop to placate pro-Brexit Conservative MPs (as well as the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, which is propping up May’s government), who see the backstop as a way for the U.K. to remain part of the EU’s customs Union. […]

  93. says

    Excerpt from Stacey Abrams’ speech:

    So even as I am very disappointed by the president’s approach to our problems, I still don’t want him to fail. But we need him to tell the truth and to respect his duties and respect the extraordinary diversity that defines America. Our progress has always been found in the refuge, in the basic instinct of the American experiment, to do right by our people.

  94. says

    Are there any white Democratic politicians in Virginia who didn’t wear blackface? Are there any black politicians who are not accused of sexual assault?

    What a mess. Ralph Northam, Justin Fairfax and Mark Herring are all beset by scandal. Those guys are the top three Democrats in the state of Virginia government. Link

  95. says

    More commentary on the megalomania evident in Trump’s SOTU speech:

    […] when he won the Republican nomination for president, Trump said of our political system, “I alone can fix it.” On Tuesday, he extended that conceit to foreign affairs. He cast himself as the man who single-handedly defeated ISIS and saved us from war with North Korea. “When I took office, ISIS controlled more than 20,000 square miles in Iraq and Syria,” Trump declared. “Today, we have liberated virtually all of that territory from the grip of these bloodthirsty killers.” This is hype: 20,000 square miles is one-twelfth of Iraq and Syria, and Trump has largely stood by as our military and our allies finished a job that was well underway.

    Trump also took credit for averting a nuclear war with Asia. “If I had not been elected president of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea,” he proclaimed. This is rich. When Trump first spoke to President Barack Obama after winning the 2016 election, he was surprised to learn from Obama that North Korea was a serious problem. Trump’s policy on this issue is a joke: He holds summit meetings with Kim Jong-un at which Trump pretends North Korea is dismantling its nuclear programs, while in fact no such thing is happening. That’s because Trump’s goal isn’t to protect us. It’s to convince us that he, our dear leader, is the only thing standing between us and Armageddon.

    One common myth about authoritarians is that they view leaders of other countries as their enemies. In reality, as the Trump-Kim bromance illustrates, authoritarians are more interested in crushing domestic opposition, and they use conflicts with foreign adversaries to enhance their status at home. That’s why Trump, in his remarks about trade policy on Tuesday, stipulated, “I don’t blame China for taking advantage of us. I blame our leaders and representatives for allowing this travesty to happen.” Trump doesn’t want to humiliate Chinese President Xi Jinping. He wants to belittle Obama and Democrats […]

    Slate link

  96. says

    What Trump said:

    No one has benefited more from our thriving economy than women, who have filled 58 percent of the new jobs created in the last year. All Americans can be proud that we have more women in the workforce than ever before.

    What the facts say:

    America’s female labor force participation rate is not at an all-time high. It’s so low that leaders of other countries make fun of the United States for not having more women in the workforce.

    When Trump said the United States has “more women in the workforce than ever before,” he was referring to the fact that 76.8 million women are employed. That is the most ever, but it just means the female population has been growing.

    America’s female labor force participation rate peaked at 60.3 percent in 2000. It is now 57.5 percent. (This is the proportion of women 16 and older who are working or actively searching for employment).

    What’s particularly striking is that the United States used to be a leader in getting women into the working world. In 1985, the United States ranked second — behind only Sweden — for labor force participation of women in their prime working years (ages 25 to 54). Today the United States has fallen to ninth place, behind Germany, Canada, Australia, Japan and others […]

    Washington Post link

  97. says

    From Eric Lach, writing for The New Yorker: “Trump’s Dangerous Scapegoating of Immigrants at the State of the Union”

    […] on Tuesday, he offered unfiltered immigrant scapegoating, laying practically all the sins of the country at immigrants’ feet. “Working-class Americans are left to pay the price for mass illegal migration,” Trump declared. “Reduced jobs, lower wages, overburdened schools and hospitals, increased crime, and a depleted social safety net.” Insecure jobs, stagnant wages, underfunded schools and safety-net programs, an embarrassing health-care system, crime rates—immigrants, undocumented or otherwise, are responsible for none of these problems. But here was the President of the United States telling those people willing to hear it that they were. “Year after year,” Trump said, “countless Americans are murdered by criminal illegal aliens.” This is untrue. There is no undocumented-immigrant murder wave.

    Trump can dress up his demand for a wall all he wants. On Tuesday he also spoke of a “smart, strategic, see-through steel barrier,” and about a “common-sense proposal.” But Trump’s border wall wasn’t born as a common-sense proposal; it was campaign-rally red meat. It was an imagined monument to anti-immigrant sentiment, telling people outside the U.S. to stay out. […]

    It’s a tragedy that many people in Trump’s base took his promise of a wall seriously. They also take it seriously when Trump places blame for multiple problems on immigrants.

  98. says

    Followup to comment 93.

    “New Mexico will not take part in the president’s charade of border fear-mongering by misusing our diligent National Guard troops,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement.

  99. says

    Followup to comments 19 and 33.

    Russia said it was working to develop new missile systems, including a hypersonic long-range rocket, in the first concrete indication of its response to the breakdown of a Cold War-era nuclear treaty. […]

    Wall Street Journal link

  100. says

    What Trump said:

    […] Many childhood cancers have not seen new therapies in decades. My budget will ask the Congress for $500 million over the next 10 years to fund this critical lifesaving research.

    Response from Nancy Pelosi:

    “$500 million over 10 years – are you kidding me?” Pelosi said during a closed-door conference meeting, according to an aide in the room. “Who gave him that [$50 million] figure? It’s like the cost of his protection of his Mar-a-Lago or something.” […]

    But allotting an extra $500 million over the next decade pales in comparison to the National Cancer Institute’s nearly $6 billion annual budget — or even the Obama administration’s cancer moonshot, which resulted in Congress approving $1.8 billion over seven years to finding a cure.

    “We’re talking about a moonshot,” Pelosi said during the conference meeting. “He’s talking about a trolley ride.”

    Politico link.

  101. says

    OMG, Representative Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida, is such an irritating dolt.

    During a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday to discuss a new bill that would require background checks on all gun purchases, Gaetz argued that President Trump’s favored border wall would make the U.S. safer than background checks and attempted to get the father of a slain Parkland student removed from the hearing.

    Gaetz — an ardent Trump supporter — argued that guns are not the problem and suggested the wall would keep violent people out of the U.S. […]

    Gaetz’s remarks were interrupted by shouts and “boos” from the audience, which included Manuel Oliver, the father of Joaquin Oliver, one of 17 murdered when a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida — Gaetz’s home state — last year.

    After several shouts from the audience, which included March For Our Lives and other gun control activists, Gaetz asked Chairman Jerry Nadler to have protesters removed from the crowd. Nadler said he would give Oliver a warning, though it was unclear what Oliver was shouting.

    “Is there a process in the committee whereby the very same people are repeatedly interrupting the time of the members that those people will be asked to depart the committee?” Gaetz asked Nadler, jabbing his finger and pointing at Oliver. “I’d observe that’s three interruptions of my time by the same individual and that the chair is not utilizing his discretion to remove that individual.” […]

    Link

    Video that will make you also want to shout at Gaetz is available at the link.

  102. says

    Russian agent Maria Butina’s “boyfriend,” Paul Erickson has been indicted.

    Paul Erickson, the American political operative and boyfriend of admitted Russian agent Maria Butina, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in South Dakota on charges of wire fraud and money laundering.

    The U.S. attorney for the district of South Dakota is handling the prosecution, which is separate from the case that was lodged against Butina in Washington, D.C.

    Erickson, 56, was arrested on Tuesday and entered a plea of not guilty at an arraignment, according to the court filings. His attorney, Clint Sargent, said in a statement: “Mr. Erickson is anxious to let the criminal justice process play out and believes a story different from the Government’s will emerge.”

    The indictment alleges that Erickson ran a criminal scheme from 1996 to 2018 using a chain of assisted living homes called Compass Care. Erickson also allegedly defrauded investors through a company called Investing with Dignity that claimed to be “in the business of developing a wheelchair that allowed people to go to the bathroom without being lifted out of the wheelchair.” The indictment says he also ran a fraudulent scheme that claimed to be building homes in the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota. […]

    Daily Beast link

  103. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Lynna@73
    So, we have Peter Morici trying to tar Ocasio-Cortez with having “Latin-American values”–despite the fact that her family originates from Puerto Rico, which has been a US territory since 1898, when the flag had only 45 stars! Now where have we seen such “othering” tactics before. Hmm, was it Bombay-born Dinesh D’Souza trying to blame Kenyan tribalism for Barrack Obama’s “radical leftist” philosophical bent, despite the fact that Obama never set foot in the country until 2015? Why, yes…yes…I believe it was.

    It appears Trump is on-shoring right-wing lunacy, rather than outsourcing it to an Indian. Must be part of his MAGA efforts.

  104. says

    KG @108, sounds like something Steve Bannon would like … just dissolve and/or disrupt everything with no empathy for the collateral damage. I’m appalled, but not surprised to see the connection to rightwing doofuses in the USA, Turning Point. I would also not be surprised to see mega donors like the Mercer family in the USA bankrolling the whole thing.

    Putin must love this.

    KG @110, facists and budding fascists every where you turn. They are, in some cases, trying to create chaos in order to take advantage of chaos.

    Any kind of chaos will do, like Trump’s fake emergency on the U.S.-Mexico border.

  105. says

    a_ray @111, good analysis. Also, what the heck is wrong with “Latin-American values” anyway? Sounds like a reference, in some ways, to the growing demonization of “socialism,” as decried by Trump in his SOTU speech, and as is showing up in increasingly shrill rants on most right media outlets.

    In other news, Trump advised Stacey Abrams not to run next year against Senator David Perdue. Trump said, “I don’t think she can win.” Translation: I’m afraid of Stacey Abrams! That woman is going to take another Republican seat in the Senate and turn it Democratic! Must stop her with my ignorant insults.”

  106. says

    Today, the Justice Department “notified Sasse that the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility ‘has now opened an investigation into allegations that Department attorneys may have committed professional misconduct in the manner in which the Epstein criminal matter was resolved.’ The letter does not mention Acosta by name.” The text references Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, who called the Epstein plea deal an “epic miscarriage of justice.”

    NBC News link.

    More on who Acosta is:

    […] Alex Acosta, is now President Donald Trump’s labor secretary. But he was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida when key decisions about the case of Jeffrey Epstein were made. […]

    There’s a video at the link: “How criminal justice failed/Epstein’s accusers”

  107. says

    All the best people:

    […] Trump has nominated Treasury Department official David Malpass, a vocal critic of the World Bank, to head the international financial institution.

    Malpass, 62, is a conservative with longstanding ties to Trump. He once worked as chief economist at investment bank Bear Stearns, which collapsed in 2008 in the midst of the financial crisis. He also served in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. At Treasury, Malpass is currently involved in tense trade negotiations with China. […]

    NPR link

    Malpass is the guy who publicly downplayed risks posed by the subprime crisis. He did that in the days and weeks before Bear Stearn collapsed, brought down by the subprime crisis.

    From Paul Krugman:

    Give Trump credit for consistency: his “the worst and the dumbest” strategy of choosing personnel hasn’t varied a bit, and now he’s trying to bring it to the World Bank

    More details in this Twitter thread:
    https://twitter.com/paulkrugman/status/1092740393832247296

  108. says

    Trump’s Twitter rant from this morning:

    The Republicans never did this to President Obama, there would be no time left to run government. I hear other committee heads will do the same thing. Even stealing people who work at White House!

    PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT! It should never be allowed to happen again!

    My analysis: Panic. Trump is in panic mode.

    Response from Adam Schiff:

    I can understand why the idea of meaningful oversight terrifies the President. Several of his close associates are going to jail, others await trial, and criminal investigations continue. We’re going to do our job and won’t be distracted or intimidated by threats or attacks.

  109. says

    Wondering what lies Trump will tell at this event:

    MEGA HUGE TRUMP RALLY COMING TO ELPASO TEXAS
    Event Schedule
    Mon, February 11, 2019

    If you go, you have to buy a ticket.

  110. says

    The House Judiciary Committee granted Chairman Nadler the authority to subpoena Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. Whitaker says he won’t appear before the committee if they subpoena him.

    […] The vote was 23-13.

    The move sets up the potential for a high-stakes showdown at Friday’s hearing and perhaps the first major confrontation in the new era of Democratic oversight of the Trump administration.

    Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said Thursday that he hoped he would not have to use the subpoena authority. He said he would not issue a subpoena if Whitaker fully answered his questions on Friday.

    “If he does not, then we will have the tools we need to ensure that we may adequately meet our own responsibilities,” Nadler said. […]

    I don’t know what will happen next.

    […] Nadler appears to be laying the groundwork to avoid a situation that was somewhat the norm for the first two years of the Trump administration, when Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress. Several top administration officials declined to answer lawmakers’ questions about their conversations with Trump. […]

    Often, the congressional Republicans holding the gavel did not move to compel that testimony and Democrats did not have the power to.

    “For the first two years of the Trump Administration, witnesses have often been allowed a free pass,” Nadler said.

    Now, Nadler is taking the steps that would allow him to subpoena Whitaker if he doesn’t answer lawmakers’ questions. If Whitaker continued to stonewall, it could lead Congress to hold him in contempt, which in turn could prompt a legal fight with the White House.

    Multiple Republicans spoke up in opposition to the resolution. Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), the committee’s top Republican, called the potential subpoena “nothing short of political theater” and said that the purpose of Friday’s hearing appeared to be “embarrassing a witness.” […]

    Looks like a make-popcorn-and-watch-the-show situation.

    […] Nadler said that Whitaker promised in a phone call last year to appear in front of the committee, but that Justice Department personnel then tried to claim such a promise was never made, that Friday’s hearing was not that necessary and that it should be delayed until after Whitaker’s replacement was confirmed. […]

    Link

  111. says

    Followup to comment 118.

    From the readers comments:

    Better have the Sargent at Arms at the ready, to arrest Whitaker if need be. Congress has not had to do this since 1935, but with Trump’s bunch of crooks and grifters, it is good to be prepared.
    ————–
    “So how was your day honey?”

    “I lost my job and got subpoenaed by congress”.
    —————–
    Looks like there’s 17 repubs on the committee, so at least 4 of them voted to ’embarrass the witness’ by making him answer the goddam questions. [Lynna notes: good point.]
    ——————-
    Oversight. Finally.
    —————–
    Show no mercy. This bullshit has got to stop
    —————–
    The GOP allowed the Trumpers to abuse executive privilege as a sort of pocket veto. It was implicitly asserted without basis and without even stating it. It boiled down to ‘I don’t want to answer because the POTUS doesn’t want me to and there are no consequences if I disregard your request […]’. Nadler is putting an end to that. This will be a traditional hearing with the traditional balance of power between the WH and Congress. I doubt that Whitaker is ready for that. They’ll need to leave him a bucket or two for his sweat. He won’t need a big dick toilet b/c he’ll have sweated it all out. He will need a new suit, however.

  112. says

    Trump lauds religious adoption agencies for refusing service to same-sex couples

    “We will always protect our country’s long and proud tradition of faith-based adoption.”

    […] Trump openly endorsed discrimination by foster and adoption agencies, speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast Thursday morning.

    After welcoming Chad and Melissa Buck, a couple from Michigan who he applauded for having adopted five children, he said, “Unfortunately, the Michigan adoption charity that brought the Buck family together is now defending itself in court for living by the values of its Catholic faith.”

    “We will always protect our country’s long and proud tradition of faith-based adoption,” he added. “My administration is working to insure that faith-based adoption agencies are able to help vulnerable children find their forever families while following their deeply held beliefs.”

    The case Trump referred to is a lawsuit the ACLU brought on behalf of two same-sex couples challenging Michigan’s law granting adoption agencies a license to discriminate, even if they receive state funding. […]

  113. says

    There’s another wrinkle in the Maria Butina case: she worked to arm militia groups that helped Putin seize Crimea. She did that at the same time that the National Rifle Association in the U.S. was welcoming her with open arms.

    The American public has continued to know little about Maria Butina, who pleaded guilty in December to participating in a foreign conspiracy against the United States. Not much has emerged about the confessed Russian agent’s political activities beyond her efforts to build ties with Republican leaders and top officials of the National Rifle Association. But Butina wasn’t just a gun rights fan who attended American University, romanced a veteran Republican operative, and pitched US-Russian collaboration at NRA conventions.

    Mother Jones has uncovered a trail of activity showing that during the same period when top NRA leaders welcomed Butina into the fold—meeting with her extensively in Moscow and the United States—Butina actively supported Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military takeover of Crimea. In the immediate aftermath of the invasion and annexation in March 2014, Butina denounced retaliatory sanctions by the Obama administration and traveled to Crimea to promote the arming of pro-Russian separatists. Her efforts there included pledging support to a leader of a militia group that violently seized a Crimean news outlet it deemed “pro-American” and swiftly repurposed for a Kremlin propaganda operation.

    As multiple congressional probes of NRA ties with Russia intensify, the NRA now says it had no official connection to a trip NRA leaders took to Moscow to meet with Butina’s gun group and Kremlin officials—a claim that Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, who is leading one of the probes, calls “not credible.” Butina’s role in Crimea raises additional questions about why the NRA—known historically for its hawkish “freedom loving” image—spent years getting close with a Russian national who was doing work hostile to US national security interests. […]

    Link

  114. says

    More details are emerging concerning Ahmed al-Rumaihi, and Imaad Zuberi, businessmen who may be targets of federal prosecutors in the investigation of Trump’s inaugural committee.

    On December 11, 2016, Ahmed al-Rumaihi, then the head of a branch of Qatar’s $320 billion sovereign wealth fund, dined with President Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, at Manhattan’s Peninsula Hotel on Fifth Avenue. The men discussed possible investments by the Qatari fund in public-private partnerships that the incoming Trump administration hoped to establish to bankroll infrastructure projects—and, Al-Rumaihi later claimed, Cohen requested a $1 million fee for linking the Qataris with US investment partners. Also present at the dinner, according to a spokeswoman for Al-Rumaihi, was Imaad Zuberi, a Pakistani American businessman who has come under scrutiny by federal prosecutors probing donations to Trump’s inaugural committee. […]

    The Qatari outreach was part of an influence campaign targeting the Trump administration as the Gulf state sought to convince the US government to back it in a diplomatic feud with regional rivals, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. […]

    Link

  115. says

    For the first time during the Trump administration, federal health officials have been called to testify before Congress about immigration policies that resulted in children being separated from their parents. When Republicans controlled Congress, they did not hold such hearings. Now that Democrats are in charge, a lot of issues will be investigated.

    […] Jonathan White, a career civil servant who helped lead efforts to reunify thousands of separated families, told a congressional oversight panel he first learned in February 2017 the administration was considering separating migrant families.

    He said he quickly encouraged the Department of Health and Human Services officials to intervene to stop the policy, but he said they told him the administration would not implement the policy — though it would later be formally announced in May 2018 before being scrapped amid public uproar about six weeks later.

    During the hearing of the House Energy and Commerce oversight committee, Democrats attacked the abandoned border policy as inhumane and faulted health officials for not opposing it.

    “There is no evidence that HHS leaders ever tried to stop this abhorrent policy,” said subcommittee chair Diana DeGette (D-Colo.). “As the agency dedicated to the health and welfare of children, we need to know why.”

    […]The HHS refugee office took custody of the separated children but didn’t have a role in setting the separation policy. […]

    White, the career HHS official, said he had raised concerns to Scott Lloyd, then-director of the HHS refugee office; Steven Wagner, then-acting assistant secretary for children and families; and counselor Maggie Wynne.

    The Trump administration reported last year that more than 2,800 migrant children had been separated from their families at the border. An inspector general report last month found that “thousands” more children may have been separated by the Trump administration than previously known, months before the policy was announced.

    HHS assistant inspector general Ann Maxwell, who helped write that report, testified Thursday that some HHS officials raised questions about whether the count of separated children was accurate.

    Lloyd, the former HHS refugee director, has since been moved to the department’s office for faith and community initiatives. He is scheduled to testify at a House Judiciary Committee hearing about family separations on Tuesday. Democrats have long called for HHS to fire Lloyd, citing his reported mishandling of the separated children and efforts to block pregnant minors in the government’s care from receiving abortions. […]

    “While I support strong enforcement of the nation’s borders, I want to make something very clear: I support keeping families together,” said Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the Energy and Commerce Committee’s top Republican.

    Politico link

  116. says

    Sounds to me like Matthew Whitaker is desperately looking for an excuse to not testify at all before the House Judiciary Committee tomorrow.

    Whitaker said in a statement Thursday that the Democratic-led panel “has deviated from historic practice and protocol and taken the unnecessary and premature step of authorizing a subpoena to the me [sic], the acting attorney general, even though I had agreed to voluntarily appear.”

    “Such unprecedented action breaches our prior agreement and circumvents the constitutionally required accommodation process. Based upon today’s action, it is apparent that the Committee’s true intention is not to discuss the great work of the Department of Justice, but to create a public spectacle. Political theater is not the purpose of an oversight hearing, and I will not allow that to be the case,” he said.

    “Consistent with longstanding practice, I remain willing to appear to testify tomorrow, provided that the Chairman assures me that the Committee will not issue a subpoena today or tomorrow, and that the Committee will engage in good faith negotiations before taking such a step down the road.”

    Whitaker gave Democrats a deadline of 6 p.m. Thursday [today] to respond about their threat to subpoena him. […]

    Response from Chairman Nadler:

    “When we invite officials to testify before this committee, they have to appear. When we ask them questions, they have to provide us with answers, or provide us with a valid and clearly articulated reason to withhold certain information,” Nadler said at a business meeting Thursday morning.

    “Without the threat of a subpoena, I believe it may be difficult to hold Mr. Whitaker to this standard.”

    The Hill link

  117. says

    There’s now an official Green New Deal.

    A close look at the fights it picks and the fights it avoids.

    […] On Thursday, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) introduced a Green New Deal resolution that lays out the goals, aspirations, and specifics of the program in a more definitive way. This is as close as there is to an “official” Green New Deal […].

    It has to offer enough specifics to give it real shape and ambition, without overprescribing solutions or prejudging differences over secondary questions. It has to please a diverse range of interest groups, from environmental justice to labor to climate, without alienating any of them. It has to stand up to intense scrutiny (much of it sure to be bad faith), with lots of people gunning for it from both the right and center.

    And, of course, it eventually has to give birth to real legislation. […]

    the resolution does a remarkably good job of threading the needle. It is bold and unmistakably progressive, matched to the problem as defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, while avoiding a few needless fights and leaving room for plenty of debate over priorities and policy tools.

    The resolution consists of a preamble, five goals, 14 projects, and 15 requirements. The preamble establishes that there are two crises, a climate crisis and an economic crisis of wage stagnation and growing inequality, and that the GND can address both.

    The goals — achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, creating jobs, providing for a just transition, securing clean air and water — are broadly popular. The projects — things like decarbonizing electricity, transportation, and industry, restoring ecosystems, upgrading buildings and electricity grids — are necessary and sensible (if also extremely ambitious). […]

    1) Justice

    Ordinary people matter. Emissions matter, yes. Costs and money matter. Technologies and policies matter. But they all matter secondarily, via their effects on ordinary people. The role of progressive politics, if it amounts to anything, is to center the safety, health, and dignity of ordinary people. […]

    2) Investment

    Neoliberalism has also made old-fashioned public investment something of a taboo. The GND goes directly at it — public investment aimed at creating jobs is central to the project.

    The preamble notes that “the Federal Government-led mobilizations during World War II and the New Deal era created the greatest middle class that the US has ever seen” and frames the GND as “a historic opportunity to create millions of good, high-wage jobs in the United States.” […]

    Much more at the link.

  118. says

    Shorter Matthew Whitaker: I will only show up to testify before the House Judiciary Committee if you guarantee that I will not have to answer questions.

    Trump, meanwhile, thinks that Whitaker “would do very well” if he showed up to testify. Did Trump see Whitaker’s recent flop-sweat-ridden performance while answering questions in public?
    Mediate link
    Inquisitr Link

  119. says

    Mercy! Another politician in Virginia is in trouble:

    A Republican Virginia state senator oversaw a yearbook at the Virginia Military Institute that included racist images and slurs, adding him to the list of scandal-plagued Virginia politicians that has thrust the normally decorous state capital Richmond into a state of tumult.

    State Sen. Tommy Norment, a Republican who represents much of the area north of Newport News, served as managing editor of the 1968 yearbook, which featured images of blackface and Confederate battle flags, and contained racist slurs, including the N-word. […]

    Politico link

  120. says

    Trump’s troop deployment strung ‘lethal’ razor wire on the border. This city has had enough.

    Arturo Garino said one of his constituents told him about the razor wire on Saturday night.

    Garino knew the military had installed a line of wire across the top of the fence that divides Nogales, a border town of about 20,000 in Arizona, from its sister city in Mexico, after troops were deployed to the border by President Trump before the midterm election. The resident, who lived just steps from the border, was calling Garino, the mayor, to complain that troops had been out again to deploy more wire across the 18-foot fence over the weekend.

    What Garino saw when he arrived at the fence surprised him: Row after row of razor wire had been strung on the fence so that it covered nearly the entire surface in parts. Photographs show as many of six separate coils of wire — typically made from steel and studded with hundreds of razor-like barbs — covering portions of the fence, lending it the appearance of a war zone or a high-security prison.

    Garino said he was confused. Trump’s push was for a wall, which the town already has. So what was the point of the wire?

    “This is overkill,” Garino said in a phone interview. “It’s way over the top.” […]

    The town’s city council passed a resolution unanimously on Wednesday to formally condemn the wire, and demand that it be taken down over safety concerns. Residents and business owners have told local reporters that it makes the town feel like a war zone — “an inquisition,” one said — and worry about the effect on its life and commerce downtown. Local newspaper columnists have panned it; a letter writer, Allen Zale, who said he served with the Army, said it reminded him of his time stationed in Berlin.

    Garino said he’s concerned that the wiring is more of a danger than a safety feature because of the way it is installed down to the ground. The town’s code prohibits the use of the wire, which is also known as concertina wire, except in industrial parks and storage areas. Even then, it has to be at least six feet off the ground, he said. The wall it adorns stretches through many residential areas in the city, as close as 10 feet in some places to people’s property. […]

    More, including photos at the link.

    Washington Post link

    Trump recently sent more troops to the border. I think, perhaps, those troops really don’t have anything useful to do. Their leaders are probably using the unnecessary deployment as a training exercise. Stringing concertina wire was all they could find to do?

  121. KG says

    Further to my #108, George Monbiot expands on the same thought, that the Ultras want the opportunity to apply “disaster capitalism” to the UK, and suggests “Re-Smog” in place of my “Ree-Smugg”, as this Brexiteer Ultra is open about wanting to trash environmental regulations. And I must admit I’ve had the same “dark thoughts” as him, of the “Let the bastards own the disaster” kind – but as in his case, they don’t last long, because it will be those at the bottom of the heap who suffer first, and worst. One thing he doesn’t note is that the same thought may well be in the minds of “Lexiteers”, including Corbyn – that only in disaster will the proletariat turn to socialism as their salvation.

  122. says

    On the surface at least, it looks like Trump is using the National Enquirer to go after Jeff Bezos. Bezos is not having it.

    Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos accused the National Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc., of “extortion and blackmail” on Thursday for threatening to publish scandalous photos of him and his girlfriend if he didn’t drop an investigation into how the tabloid obtained text messages exposing his extra-marital affair.

    According to the emails that Bezos published, which have not been independently reviewed by NBC News, AMI threatened to publish texts from Bezos and his girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez, that included photos of a sexual nature. In exchange for withholding the photos, AMI demanded that Bezos stop the Washington Post, which he owns, from reporting about political motivations behind the National Enquirer’s initial reports about his relationship with the former TV anchor.

    NBC News link

    So yeah, the National Enquirer doth protest too much. This makes us think that the tabloid does indeed have political motivations for going after Jeff Bezos.

    From Steve Benen:

    […] Bezos explained these developments in a lengthy blog post […] which appeared to include the written messages he’d received from AMI. American Media Inc., led by a prominent Donald Trump ally named David Pecker, has not yet commented.

    But to appreciate the significance of all of this, we’re going to have to back up a bit.

    Michael Cohen’s many crimes, committed during his tenure as Trump’s personal attorney and “fixer,” have been well documented, but in some cases, they were also connected to his boss’ favorite supermarket tabloid. Specifically, Cohen made pre-election hush-money payments to two women, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, who allegedly had extra-marital affairs with the president.

    But as Cohen received his three-year prison sentence for this and other misdeeds, prosecutors also reached an agreement with AMI and its flagship tabloid. The National Enquirer’s publisher admitted last year that it paid hush money to Trump’s alleged mistresses and worked with Trump’s campaign to advance his candidacy, in defiance of federal campaign finance laws.

    The company avoided prosecution by providing “substantial and important assistance in this investigation” – though that non-prosecution agreement came with some conditions.

    Indeed, prosecutors told AMI it won’t face charges so long as it continues to cooperate and agrees not to commit any crimes over the next three years. If the media company violated any part of that non-prosecution agreement, all bets would be off.

    […] the tabloid recently published intimate text messages between Bezos and an alleged mistress, which contributed to the breakup of the Amazon CEO’s marriage.

    Donald Trump responded to that story with unseemly glee and praised the National Enquirer for its work.

    […] Bezos to begin exploring the motivations behind the National Enquirer’s reporting about him. […]

    It became the basis for an offer: if Bezos didn’t reject arguments about possible political motivations for the National Enquirer’s reporting, AMI would further embarrass Bezos.

    Keep in mind, AMI has already exposed Bezos’ affair, just as it’s already admitted to illegally assisting Trump in 2016. Why make new threats against Bezos over allegations that its reporting might be politically motivated?

    Might it have something to do with that non-prosecution agreement, which is still in effect, and which involves pending legal issues?

  123. says

    Followup to comment 132.

    From Ronan Farrow:

    I and at least one other prominent journalist involved in breaking stories about the National Enquirer’s arrangement with Trump fielded similar “stop digging or we’ll ruin you” blackmail efforts from AMI. (I did not engage as I don’t cut deals with subjects of ongoing reporting.)

    From Ted Bridis:

    We were warned explicitly by insiders that AMI had hired private investigators to dig into backgrounds of @AP journalists looking into the tabloid’s efforts on behalf of Trump. Never saw evidence of this either way, and it didn’t stop our reporting.

    From Noah Shachtman:

    “In the process of reporting those stories, The Beast and a member of its staff were threatened by AMI’s attorneys.”

    From the readers comments:

    Very proud of Mr. Bezos. History won’t remember any naked pictures, but they might remember this moment as the beginning of the end of AMI and that mob organization known as the Trump entities and Administration.
    ——————-
    Back to the topic at hand…how did AMI think that threatening the richest man on earth was a good idea? That there’d be no blowback or repercussions????

    The only person absolutely STUPID ENOUGH to do such a thing is Individual 1. 🙄
    ———————
    Definitely feels like there is a lot more to this. I can see AMI being an enforcer for more than just Trump. Bracket that with what we know already, it is an easy jump.

    I have no idea if I would like Bezos as a person or an employer, but I can say he has me in complete awe in what he did. Wealthy as hell or not, he took it straight on. The story immediately went from tittering over his junk to AMI as a criminal concern. Well played.
    ——————–
    It was Saudi Intelligence. [that gave the texts and photos to the National Enquirer, or so speculation has it]

    AMI (and Pecker in particular) have long-standing financial relationships with the Saudis, and Prince Bin Salman in particular. [True]

  124. says

    From David Frum:

    “My client, the world’s richest man and owner of the Washington Post, asks if you would be so good as to put your blackmail demands in writing.”

    “Sure! But don’t share this with the US Attorney office, because that might contravene our immunity deal with them.”

    “You don’t say.”

    A side note: in his blog post, Bezos did not redact the emails, addresses or phone numbers of the would-be-blackmailers from the National Enquirer.

    From Rachel Maddow: Bezos suggests National Enquirer nervous about Saudi Arabia ties.
    The video is 4:45 minutes long.

  125. says

    From The Hill’s live coverage of the House panel questioning Matthew Whitaker

    Chairman Nadler signaled that the Friday hearing would not be Whitaker’s last appearance before the committee. He said the panel would ask Whitaker to appear for a transcribed interview after Whitaker declined to answer several questions.

    “You cannot repeat forever that the president might want to assert privilege,” Nadler said.

    “I do not believe that issuing a subpoena here would correct the problem, but I am going to give you the opportunity to rectify the situation. After today’s hearing, we will attempt to reach an accommodation with the department to obtain answers to these questions,” he added.

    “As part of that process, I ask for your commitment to return for a deposition before this committee in the coming weeks – under oath, with an understanding that the transcript will be released to the public as soon as practicable thereafter.”

    Whitaker did not, however, give him a yes or no answer.

  126. says

    Whitaker did not, however, give him a yes or no answer.

    It would probably save some time from here on out to set it up so you can push two keys at once and have your computer type this whole phrase.

  127. says

    Kip @138, too true.

    Kip @137, I agree. Here are few more details concerning Jeff Bezos going public with the threats made by the National Enquirer:

    […] It is still not totally clear how the National Enquirer obtained the texts, but Bezos responded by tasking his longtime private security consultant Gavin de Becker with figuring out how the publication invaded his privacy. Bezos’ investigation points to Lauren Sanchez’s brother, Michael Sanchez, as the likely culprit. The Hollywood operator is vocally pro-Trump and runs in a circle with known Trump associates Roger Stone and Carter Page. Bezos’ post, however, contains a far more serious charge of extortion by AMI. “They said they had more of my text messages and photos that they would publish if we didn’t stop our investigation,” Bezos wrote. “Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, I’ve decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten. … If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?”

    Bezos then posted damning—and personally embarrassing—emails from AMI’s legal team dated Tuesday describing the racy pictures it has and is willing to publish, unless Bezos is willing to negotiate.

    …[I] the interests of expediating this situation, and with The Washington Post poised to publish unsubstantiated rumors of The National Enquirer’s initial report, I wanted to describe to you the photos obtained during our newsgathering In addition to the “below the belt selfie — otherwise colloquially known as a ‘d*ck pick’” — The Enquirer obtained a further nine images. These include:

    · Mr. Bezos face selfie at what appears to be a business meeting.

    · Ms. Sanchez response — a photograph of her smoking a cigar in what appears to be a simulated oral sex scene.

    · A shirtless Mr. Bezos holding his phone in his left hand — while wearing his wedding ring. He’s wearing either tight black cargo pants or shorts — and his semi-erect manhood is penetrating the zipper of said garment.

    · A full-length body selfie of Mr. Bezos wearing just a pair of tight black boxer-briefs or trunks, with his phone in his left hand — while wearing his wedding ring.

    · A selfie of Mr. Bezos fully clothed.

    · A full-length scantily-clad body shot with short trunks.

    · A naked selfie in a bathroom — while wearing his wedding ring. Mr. Bezos is wearing nothing but a white towel — and the top of his pubic region can be seen.

    · Ms. Sanchez wearing a plunging red neckline dress revealing her cleavage and a glimpse of her nether region.

    · Ms. Sanchez wearing a two-piece red bikini with gold detail dress revealing her cleavage.

    It would give no editor pleasure to send this email. I hope common sense can prevail — and quickly. […]

    Slate link to an article by Dahlia Lithwick.

  128. says

  129. says

    Followup to comment 140.

    Sessions says he hopes child separation policy will serve as a deterrent

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Fox News’ Laura Ingraham on Monday that he hopes the administration’s new policy that separates children from their parents will serve as a deterrent to other immigrants considering crossing the border illegally. […]

    AXIOS link

  130. says

    No surprise really. It looks like the National Enquirer was trying to score points with Trump when they published Jeff Bezos’ text messages with his mistress.

    A former senior editor for the National Enquirer said Friday that he believes the tabloid’s story on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ infidelity was a way for the publishing company’s chief executive to make amends with President Trump.

    Jerry George, who previous worked as Los Angeles bureau chief and a senior editor for the Enquirer, told CNBC that there was “somewhat of a falling out” between American Media Inc. CEO David Pecker and Trump after AMI reached a non-prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors over the company’s decision to “catch and kill” Karen McDougal’s story about an alleged affair with Trump.

    “The Bezos divorce ordinarily wouldn’t have been registered on the Enquirer Richter scale other than he is the archenemy of President Trump,” George told CNBC. “So after the Mueller investigation and after AMI became involved in the investigation, there was somewhat of a falling out. I think American Media and David Pecker tried to make amends and brought this divorce story to the President as a means of kissing and making up.” […]

    Link

    “Federal prosecutors in New York are also taking a look at the case, according to reports, to see if AMI violated its pledge not to commit any crimes.”

    From the readers comments:

    Trump was correct. There is Fake News, pushing a political agenda.
    On the right.
    ————–
    guess Pecker really is that stupid
    After getting burned badly with Stormy and Karen McDougal the stupid fuck stuck his hand back in the fire for Trump
    You just scratch your head and wonder “What was he thinking”
    First rule of Trump
    Everything Trump Touches Turns to shit and dies
    ——————
    MBS [Saudi Prince] is VERY concerned with WaPo coverage of Khashoggi, and they would have seen an attack at the owner as a way to make him back off. And they’ve demonstrated that they have the tools to pull it off.

    If he had signed on the lesser things in the e-mails, then they would know he cared enough about his personal pics that they could use it as blackmail leverage for other things… Like getting the WaPo to shut up.

  131. says

    Followup to comments 108 (KG) and 112.

    Turning Point USA’s Candace Owens says Hitler’s nationalism was OK in cringeworthy appearance

    It’s been a rough week online for the newest branch of Turning Point USA.

    Last week, the pro-Trump non-profit unveiled its first overseas chapter in the U.K.. Almost immediately, parody accounts sprang up and multiplied on Twitter, including, but not limited to, Turning Point Glasgow, Turning Point Belfast, Turning Point Kurdistan and (this author’s personal favorite) Turning Point Albania.

    The group’s posturing as a grassroots effort to combat the threat of dreaded socialist indoctrination among the young has also quickly fallen on its face. Media outlets, including ThinkProgress, were quick to point out that the father of the chapter’s leader, George Farmer, is also a multi-millionaire Conservative Party donor who paid for his son’s initiation into the notorious Bullingdon Club (somewhat akin to Yale’s Skull & Bones club, but with even more blue-blooded aristocratic “banter”). […]

    Farmer is also engaged to Candace Owens, the communications director for Turning Point USA. During her remarks from the chapter’s introductory event in December, a video of which resurfaced online this week, Owens managed to add fuel to the dumpster fire already in progress.

    “I actually don’t have any problems at all with the world ‘nationalism’,” Owens said, […] “Whenever we say ‘nationalism,’ the first thing we think about — at least in America — is Hitler. He was a national socialist, but if Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, OK, fine.”

    “The problem is, he had dreams outside of Germany,” Owens continued. “He wanted to globalize, he wanted everyone to be German, everyone to be speaking German… to me that’s not nationalism. In thinking about how it can go bad down the line I don’t really have an issue with nationalism.”

    If one were to abide by Owens’ timeline of events, the persecution of Jews in Germany would be “OK, fine” by her, as they began as early as 1933, well before Hitler began “globalizing” beyond Germany’s borders. The Nuremberg Race Laws, which deprived German Jews of citizenship rights, were introduced in 1935. Kristallnacht, the horrific night of extreme and deliberate violence towards Jews, was in November 1938, nearly a year before the official declaration of World War 2 in September 1939. The first concentration camp in Dachau had been operational for more than five years before Hitler ran afoul of Candace Owen’s moral compass. […]

    More at the link.

  132. Chris J says

    “The problem is, he had dreams outside of Germany,” Owens continued. “He wanted to globalize, he wanted everyone to be German, everyone to be speaking German… …”

    Yeah, see, there’s a word for wanting everyone to be under your country’s flag, and it ain’t nationalism. It’s colonialism or imperialism.

    I’ve heard this argument before, and it’s such a transparent attempt to play with words to link wanting to be a global community of allied humanity with wanting to subjugate humanity under your despotic rule.

  133. says

    New, juicy bits emerging in the Mueller probe.

    It’s Rudy Giuliani’s favorite New York City hangout spot: the Grand Havana Room on Fifth Avenue.

    The members-only club (located in a building owned by the Kushner family) played host to an August 2, 2016 meeting between then-Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, his deputy Rick Gates, and Konstantin Kilimnik, a former Russian military intelligence staffer.

    The meeting occurred two weeks before Manafort resigned as campaign chairman […]

    […] an unsealed transcript from Monday’s hearing in the Manafort case reveals new, intriguing details about the meeting.

    “This goes, I think, very much to the heart of the what the Special Counsel’s Office is investigating,” special counsel prosecutor Andrew Weissmann told Judge Amy Berman Jackson at the hearing. “And in 2016 there is an in-person meeting with someone who the Government has certainly proffered to this Court in the past, is understood by the FBI, assessed to be — have a relationship with Russian intelligence, that there is REDACTED.”

    Weissmann appears to be referring to Kilimnik above.

    Even though the juiciest parts of the transcript were redacted, Weissmann’s repeated mentions of the August cigar room meeting – and how Manafort may have lied about it – suggest something significant.

    Specifically, Weissmann’s remarks suggest that prosecutors believe Manafort lied about refusing something that Kilimnik offered at the meeting, and then also lied about the August meeting being the last time that it was discussed. […]

    Weissmann pointed out that it was “an unusual time for somebody who is the campaign chairman” to be having an “in-person meeting” with Kilimnik. Over the previous month, Manafort and Kilimnik had communicated via email, in part reportedly to convey an offer to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska for private briefings on the campaign.

    “That meeting and what happened at that meeting is of significance to the special counsel,” Weissmann added.

    He mysteriously went on to say that “in looking at the issue of what REDACTED, all are the focus of – and are raised by the issue of the August 2nd meeting.”

    Link

  134. KG says

    From the Brexit “You couldn’t make it up” department. The UK government made a deal with Seaborne Freight to run a ferry service for goods in the case of a no-deal Brexit. The company owned no ships, had no experience running ferries, and turned out to have copied the part of its website dealing with customer contracts from a pizza delivery firm. But the government said they had carefully vetted it, and were completely confident it could do the job. Now they have cancelled the contract, after one of the company’s backers pulled out. But they assure us they are at an advanced stage of negotiations with other companies.

    In other Brexit news, it seems likely that May’s “new deal” will not be put to Parliament until late March, while a Parliamentary vote intended to prevent a no-deal Brexit will be delayed, to give May more time to faff about and run down the clock, while pretending she has some chance of getting significant changes to the backstop continue negotiations with the EU.

  135. says

    The conservative majority in the Supreme Court seems to be favoring the Christian religion while limiting the rights of other religions and their followers:

    […] At issue was Alabama’s plan to execute a man, Domineque Ray, for the robbery, rape, and murder of a 15-year-old girl […] His guilt was not in doubt. […] what mattered in this case was the method in which the state planned to kill him.

    Alabama said it would permit a Christian minister — an employee of the state prison system — to be in the execution chamber with Ray at the time of his death, but Ray was a Muslim and requested an imam. Officials balked and a court fight ensued.

    The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the plaintiff, citing the First Amendment, and issued a stay. If Christian inmates can have a Christian minister with them during their executions, a unanimous appellate court panel concluded, then inmates of minority faiths deserve equal treatment.

    This week, the U.S. Supreme Court, on a 5-4 vote, rejected the appellate court’s reasoning. […] the court’s majority said little in defense of its decision, thought Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the dissenters, made a striking case that the majority was “profoundly wrong.”

    Under Alabama’s policy, she wrote, “a Christian prisoner may have a minister of his own faith accompany him into the execution chamber to say his last rites…. But if an inmate practices a different religion — whether Islam, Judaism or any other — he may not die with a minister of his own faith by his side,” Justice Kagan wrote.

    “That treatment goes against the Establishment Clause’s core principle of denominational neutrality,” she added, referring to the clause of the First Amendment that bars the government from favoring one religious denomination over another. […]

    “Ray has put forward a powerful claim that his religious rights will be violated at the moment the state puts him to death,” she wrote. “The 11th Circuit wanted to hear that claim in full. Instead, this court short-circuits that ordinary process — and itself rejects the claim with little briefing and no argument — just so the state can meet its preferred execution date.” […]

    Alabama is the nation’s only state with an official policy of having a Christian minister — and only a Christian minister — in the execution chamber.

    The five conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t seem to care. […] they offered no real explanation for overturning the 11th Circuit, except to say that the condemned man “waited until January 28, 2019 to seek relief.”

    The calendar may not seem especially relevant, but apparently, Ray was supposed to speak up a few months ago, when Alabama originally scheduled his execution. He might have done so, but he was only made aware of the Christian-chaplain-only rule a couple of weeks ago.

    At that point, the Supreme Court had a choice: prioritize Ray’s religious liberty or Alabama’s execution schedule. The five conservatives went with the latter.

    Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick added:

    This is a court that has staked its moral legitimacy on the proposition that religion, above all, is at the very core of humanity, to be elevated in all instances no matter the competing interests. In so many faiths, there is no more sacred moment than entry and departure from this life. But never mind.

    For a court that cannot bear the thought of a religious baker forced to frost a cake in violation of his spiritual convictions to be wholly unaffected at the prospect of a man given last rites by a member of another faith borders on staggering. The court that had no problem with a transparently anti-Muslim immigration ban, promised and performed as an anti-religious measure, looks more and more like it has two standards for protecting religious liberty.

    Domineque Ray’s lawyer told reporters at 10:20 p.m. on Thursday night that Alabama had, in fact, executed his client. There were no religious leaders in the room.

    http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/week-god-2919

  136. says

    Representative Joe Kennedy III endorsed Elizabeth Warren today when she formally announced her candidacy for president in 2020.

    In other news, we are hearing from reporters that Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker’s sometimes bizarre behavior at his hearing before the House Judiciary was actually an audition for a job. He wants to be Trump’s Chief of Staff.
    The Atlantic link

    Companies and supposed non-profit foundations in which Whitaker was involved are currently under investigation. He looks to be, like Trump, a scam artist. Whitaker is also a purveyor of conspiracy theories. During his testimony, he repeated the rightwing conspiracy theory that CNN was tipped off about Roger Stone’s arrest by the FBI. That theory has been debunked several ways, several times. While he was under oath, and while he was acting as the top law enforcement officer in the U.S., Whitaker proffered that conspiracy theory to the congressional panel.

    All the best people.

    From the readers comments:

    He is obviously a complete jerk and a terrible human being, with not so much as a shred of decency . . . so he is perfect for the job.
    —————–
    And to celebrate a successful audition, Whitaker had dinner yesterday evening at Trump Hotel.
    ———————–
    As a clueless shill for a company who’s sole business was defrauding their customers, he’s perfect for tRump.
    ——————
    I hope he gets the job. Someone who was actually above average IQ with political savvy might be able to stall the investigations long enough for Trump to get re-elected. With this moron running the WH, the downfall will come sooner.

  137. says

    An excerpt from Elizabeth Warren’s speech:

    […] Hard-working people are up against a small group that holds far too much power, not just in our economy, but also in our democracy. Like the women of Lawrence, we are here to say “Enough is enough.” We are here to take on a fight that will shape our lives, our children’s lives, and our grandchildren’s lives, just as surely as the fight that began in these streets more than a century ago.

    Because the man in the White House is not the cause of what is broken, he is just the latest and most extreme symptom of what’s gone wrong in America: a product of a rigged system that props up the rich and powerful and kicks dirt on everyone else.

    So once he’s gone, we can’t pretend that none of this ever happened. It won’t be enough to just undo the terrible acts of this administration. We can’t afford just to tinker around the edges, a tax credit here, a regulation there. Our fight is for big, structural change.

    This is the fight of our lives. The fight to build an America where dreams are possible, an America that works for everyone.

    And that is why I stand here today, to declare that I am a candidate for president of the United States of America. […]

    She is now the seventh Democrat to enter the presidential race.

  138. says

    What Trump tweeted:

    Deepest sympathies to Congresswoman Debbie Dingell and the entire family of John Dingell. Longest serving Congressman in Country’s history which, if people understand politics, means he was very smart. A great reputation and highly respected man.

    One of the many replies on Twitter that blasted Trump:

    “My advice always begins with the truth, which is why would-be despots and demagogues try so hard to discredit it. They hate it like the devil hates holy water.” – John Dingell

    From John Dingell, prior to his death:

    We’ve had presidents of almost ever stripe, but this one will be remembered as the smallest and most vile. A petty man with no interest in a greater good for us all. All I want for Christmas is January 201th, 2021.

    John Dingell died at the age of 92 on Thursday evening. He was a representative to Congress from Michigan, 1955-2015.

  139. says

    From Gabriel Sherman, writing for Vanity Fair:

    […] Morale inside the White House, never high to begin with, has turned particularly bleak, according to interviews with 10 former West Wing officials and Republicans close to the president. The issue is that many see Trump himself as the problem. “Trump is hated by everyone inside the White House,” a former West Wing official told me. His shambolic management style, paranoia, and pattern of blaming staff for problems of his own making have left senior White House officials burned out and resentful, sources said. “It’s total misery. People feel trapped,” a former official said. […]

    White House Communications Director Bill Shine has told friends he’s angry that Trump has singled him out for the bad press during the government shutdown. “Bill is like, ‘you’re the guy who steps on the message more than anyone,’” said a Republican who’s spoken with Shine recently. Economic adviser Larry Kudlow has told people he’s probably got six months left. “Larry’s really tired of it all,” a source close to Kudlow said.

    What’s driving a lot of the frustration is that Trump, now more than ever, runs the West Wing as a family business. Four sources said the only White House advisers he truly consults are daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner. […]

    Link

  140. says

    ICE detained a rapper who has been nominated for two Grammys. As a result, ICE’s questionable tactics, and Trump’s immigration policies, are getting a lot of media attention.

    Rapper 21 Savage (born Shéyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph) is nominated for two Grammys. The awards ceremony is Sunday night, but he won’t be there. He’ll be in the custody of the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency, where he has been detained since his arrest a week ago.

    Though known as an Atlanta artist, 21 Savage is a British national who, according to one of his immigration attorneys, Charles Kuck, came to the United States at age seven with his parents. He has remained in the country continuously ever since, save for a one-month stretch in 2005, after which he re-entered the U.S. on an H-4 visa. That visa expired in 2006.

    […] the police had no warrant to stop 21 Savage when they stopped him outside a gas station in DeKalb county in Georgia. […]

    “The first thing [the ATF agent] said was, ‘We got your man,’” Kuck said. “I.C.E. was there and said, ‘Great, let’s go,’ and took him directly. Shéyaa was never in the custody of anyone other than I.C.E.” […]

    According to Kuck, I.C.E. was acting on inaccurate information. “They thought [21 Savage] had a conviction for what they termed to be an aggravated felony, and he does not. That conviction was vacated late last year. They clearly had not done their homework beforehand.”

    Also evident, as far as Kuck can see, is that I.C.E. did not anticipate the public blowback for 21 Savage’s arrest. “It’s clear they didn’t understand what they were starting when they arrested 21 Savage and what that really is going to mean to the immigrant and to the black communities.”

    “The only reason I.C.E. Can detain somebody is if they’re a flight risk, which he’s clearly not, or if he’s a danger to the community, which he’s clearly not. But I.C.E., at its highest levels yesterday at 5:00 decided — and I’m talking about headquarters I.C.E. — they were not going to release him.”

    […] Kuck also discussed the disproportionate rate at which black immigrants are arrested by I.C.E. Though black immigrants make up 5.4 percent of the U.S. unauthorized migrant population, they account for 10.6 percent of all removal proceedings between 2003 and 2015.

    […] “It’s shocking the disparity among black immigrants at their higher rates of incarceration and deportation. It’s simply not justified. […]”

    Think Progress link

    21 Savage had previously criticized Trump in a song he performed on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon late in January. “Been through some things so I can’t imagine my kids stuck at the border / Flint still need water / People was innocent, couldn’t get lawyers.”

  141. says

    What Did Ivanka Know About Trump Tower Moscow? It Wasn’t “Almost Nothing.”

    Here’s why her story doesn’t hold up.

    In an interview aired Friday, Ivanka Trump told ABC News that she knew “literally almost nothing” about her family’s secret pursuit of a deal to build a Trump-branded tower in Moscow during the 2016 campaign. Her claim, however, is contradicted by various sources, including information released by special counsel Robert Mueller and emails cited in media reports, which indicate that the president’s eldest daughter was closely involved with the controversial project. […]

    In a December memo describing [Michael] Cohen’s cooperation, Mueller noted that Cohen had said that he “briefed family members” of Trump about the Moscow project. Those briefings clearly included Ivanka. She has acknowledged that in November 2015 she emailed Cohen to suggest he contact Dmitry Klokov, a Russian weightlifter who said he could help secure a meeting for Donald Trump with Russian President Vladimir Putin in order to help facilitate a Trump Tower-Moscow deal. […]

    In late 2015, Ivanka also suggested an architect for the Moscow project in an email to Cohen, according to the Associated Press and other outlets. Under the preliminary deal, she received the right to have a spa under her name in the building. […] part of an initial agreement, secured the option to “brand any or all portion of the spa or fitness facilities as ‘The Spa by Ivanka Trump’ or similar brand.” If the spa was named after her, Ivanka or her designee would be given sole power to approve “all interior design elements of the spa or fitness facilities.” […]

    The Trump Organization pursued the Tower-Moscow deal even as Donald Trump, campaigning for president, falsely claimed that he had no business dealings in Russia. […]

    In her ABC interview, Ivanka attempted to downplay the project, which her father signed a letter of intent to pursue. “There was never a binding contract,” she said. “I never talked…with a third party outside of the organization about it.” This claim apparently excludes her contact with Klovkov. […]

    Ivanka said Friday that the project was one of “40 or 50 deals like that that were floating around, that somebody was looking at. Nobody visited it to see if it was worth our time.”

    But according to Felix Sater, a Trump Organization associate who helped Cohen pursue the Moscow deal, Ivanka herself visited Moscow in 2006 as part of the Trump Organization’s long-running pursuit of a deal there. “I arranged for Ivanka to sit in Putins private chair at his desk and office in the Kremlin,” Sater boasted in a 2015 email to Cohen. […]

  142. says

    Yet another investigation that is bound to turn up corruption and other bad practices by the Trump administration:

    House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano(D-Calif.) today opened an investigation into the outsized role of three members of President Donald Trump’s Florida country club in a digital health record contract and other VA business. […]

    POLITICO broke the news last April that Marvel Entertainment Chairman Ike Perlmutter, physician Bruce Moskowitz and lawyer Marc Sherman were deeply involved in contract decisions that led to the $10 billion contract with Cerner Corp. to implement a new EHR for the VA. ProPublica has provided additional details, including evidence that Moskowitz tried to benefit his son’s foundation through the VA.

    Wilkie has testified that after one meeting with the three at Mar-a-Lago prior to his confirmation last July, he hasn’t consulted with them. […]

    […] new documents have shown the powerful influence of the Mar-a-Lago members, including an email from Wilkie last April […]

    VA spokesperson Curt Cashour said the agency had been “transparent on its communications with these three individuals,” […]

    Most of the communications with the Mar-a-Lago group occurred during the tenure of Secretary David Shulkin, he noted, adding that Wilkie had been clear no one outside the VA would dictate his decisions. […]

    Politico link

  143. says

    From House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California:

    All countries do psychological profiles of other foreign leaders to determine how they can be manipulated.

    North Korea may have determined that if they flatter Trump, they can achieve normalization of relations and easing of sanctions without denuclearization.

    That’s dangerous.

    From Trump:

    North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, will become a great Economic Powerhouse. He may surprise some but he won’t surprise me, because I have gotten to know him & fully understand how capable he is. North Korea will become a different kind of Rocket – an Economic one!

    Trump and Kim are planning to meet in Hanoi late this month.

  144. says

    Rep. Pramila Jayapal grilled the acting attorney general about family separation — and he had no answers.

    The most powerful moment during Matthew Whitaker’s testimony before Congress had nothing to do with the point of the hearing, which was supposed to be about whether he’s interfering in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

    Instead, the moment came when Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) asked Whitaker about his involvement in a Justice Department policy that resulted in thousands of migrant children being separated from their families. (Whitaker served as then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s chief of staff when the policy was implemented by the department in April 2018.)

    Whitaker’s response: “There was no family separation policy.”

    While it’s true that there is no DOJ document called “family separation policy,” there was a formal “zero tolerance” policy, which resulted in parents being prosecuted for illegal entry and their kids being taken away.

    Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) recently released an internal government memo indicating that officials were aware the zero-tolerance policy would result in families being separated.

    Jayapal asked Whitaker: “Were you aware of this memo at the time?”

    “No,” Whitaker replied.

    “So as the chief of staff, you were not aware of what your boss was doing?” she asked.

    Whitaker didn’t have a response.

    Vox link

    Video snippet available at the link.

    The liars in the Trump administration, including DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, knew what they were doing:

    […] last month Merkley released a leaked DHS and DOJ memo from December 2017 that indicates the department was explicitly considering separating families arriving at the border months before the zero-tolerance policy was implemented.

  145. says

    Followup to comment 158.

    That memo lists “prosecution of family units” and “separate family units” as among the options the government could use to deter illegal immigration. Upon releasing the memo, Merkley sent a letter to the FBI asking the bureau to open a perjury investigation into Nielsen, who claimed during testimony to the House Judiciary Committee that “we’ve never had a policy of family separation.”

  146. says

    From Wonkette: “In This Episode Of Bonesaw Weekly, Saudi Arabia Opts For The Subtle Approach”

    […] A lot of rocks got turned over, and a lot of ugly bugs are crawling out. And also this was a good man [Khashoggi] who died in horrible circumstances. […]

    Recap, As If Anyone Could Forget This Nightmare

    On October 2, Jamal Khashoggi was lured to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to retrieve documents attesting to his divorce so he could remarry. Lying in wait was a team of 15 assassins who had just flown in from Riyadh with a lethal injection of narcotics, a bonesaw, a coroner, a body double who resembled Khashoggi, and an iPod full of music to drown out the unpleasant sounds of a human being getting dismembered. Moments after entering the consulate, Jamal Khashoggi was dead, and another man wearing his clothes and a false beard had walked out the back door of the embassy, leaving his fiancée waiting out front for hours, growing increasingly panicked as she realized that he was never going to come out. According to Reuters, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s then-security chief Saud al-Qahtani listened to the entire murder via Skype and congratulated the assassins when it was done. Khashoggi’s body has never been recovered.

    Because the Turkish government had bugged the consulate, they now had leverage over their regional rivals. Ankara started squeezing, dribbling out details of the murder in a bid to embarrass KSA and up the ante to extract significant infrastructure investments from their wealthy nemesis. Because Khashoggi was a resident of the United States associated with one of the most widely read newspapers in the world, there was wide international outcry for justice for the slain journalist. Because the White House is full of cranks who envision some fantasy realignment of the Middle East led by Israel and Jared Kushner’s BFF MBS — and because we’re pretending that the Saudis are going to buy $110 billion of arms from us, which they’re not — the White House has bent over backward to pretend Khashoggi’s murder is some inscrutable whodunit. And because the Saudi government is confident that they can buy their way out of this problem, they’ve variously claimed that Khashoggi left the consulate unharmed, that he attacked the embassy staff and was accidentally killed (and dismembered), that this was an interrogation gone wrong and he was accidentally killed (and dismembered), that they’re shocked, SHOCKED by this terrible rogue operation and will get to the bottom of it, and that no one high up in the Saudi government ordered the killing. […]

    At this point, literally no one believes that MBS was not involved in Khashoggi’s assassination. He’s removed Qahtani from his post as security chief and shuffled around his ministers, making a show of taking the investigation very seriously, Mister! But he kept his position in the royal line of succession, […] back to business as usual. […]

    yesterday The New York Times reported the CIA has discovered an intercept from 2017 where Prince Mohammed bin-Salman explicitly threatened to murder Jamal Khashoggi if he refused to return to the Kingdom and cease his criticism of MBS and his government. […]

    Which looks, bad, okay. But perhaps this helpful PSA from the Saudi Foreign Ministry will convince you. [See the link for the PSA, which reads, in part, “OUR LEADERSHIP IS A RED LINE, WE WARN AGAINST ANY ATTEMPT TO LINK KHASHOGGI’S CRIME TO OUR LEADERSHIP.” […]

    the Enquirer, which declared bankruptcy in 2010 and was bought by two private equity funds in 2014, has been desperately seeking funding from Saudi Arabia. And Donald Trump has been only too happy to help his old pal David Pecker, hosting the Enquirer publisher and French middleman Kacy Grine, who brokers foreign deals for MBS, at a White House dinner in July 2017. […]

    Luckily, the Saudis are also on the hunt for a hot media whore who’ll do whatever nasty, dirty things you ask if the price is right. If buying up salacious stories of dalliances with porn stars is not to the Prince’s liking, perhaps he’d be interested in a 97-page full-color glossy magazine with no advertising showering praise on Saudi Arabia and its revolutionary young prince, a modernizing genius who will set the world ablaze with his vast wealth and ravishing good looks. […]

    More at the link.

  147. says

    Oh, FFS.

    Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday that […] Trump may still declare a national emergency in order to secure additional funds for a border wall even if Congress appropriates money for a wall.

    Mulvaney also said “you absolutely cannot” rule out Trump shutting the government down again at the end of the week if he isn’t satisfied with what Congress approves.

    Oh, yeah, … and Trump might shut the government down again even after Republicans and Democrats have to come to an agreement on the budget.

    […] “Do you find money without declaring a national emergency or do you need to declare the national emergency to use this other money?” Todd asked.

    “The answer to the question is both,” Mulvaney began. “There are certain sums of money that are available to the President, to any president.”

    But, he added later, while “there are pots of money all presidents have access to without a national emergency … there [are] ones that he will not have access to without that declaration.”

    “What we’re trying to, what we’re looking at doing with President Trump is stuff that is entirely legal,” Mulvaney said.

    TPM Link

    Does anyone have any patience left for this nonsense?

    Perhaps you protest too much when you have to keep repeating that you are doing is “entirely legal.”

  148. says

    Followup to comment 161.

    From the readers comments:

    “Mulvaney also said ‘you absolutely cannot’ rule out Trump shutting the government down again at the end of the week.”

    Shorter Mick: “We have absolutely no idea what we’re doing. None whatsoever.”
    —————
    And it still won’t be an emergency…or even a thing, really.
    —————-
    “‘Okay, and then I’ll go find the money someplace else,'”

    What, Russia?
    ————-
    Ignore the background noise. Remain focused on brokering a deal in Congress with a veto-proof majority.

  149. says

    Tweet O’ the Day:
    https://twitter.com/AOC/status/1094110726468325376

    The right has gotten increasingly desperate w/spreading targeted rumors about me lately.

    Someone made up a meme that led to @snopes disproving this: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-credit/

    (Also, I had to live alone in my family’s apt after my dad died, so the eviction lie is especially bad)

    This stuff is really sad. The GOP is so intellectually bankrupt that they no longer engage to debate issues in good faith, but instead seek to lie, distort, name-call, target, & destroy people/communities w any means possible.

    It’s a virus and a race to the bottom.

    The lie to which AOC was responding came from John LeFevre, and was then passed around on rightwing media:

    .@aoc has a 430 credit score, two evictions, and an empty résumé

    Just two months ago, she couldn’t afford an apartment in DC

    Now, the Democratic leadership has put her on the Financial Services Committee & the media is saying that her Green New Deal will “reshape” the economy

    John LeFevre also thinks that, “Democrat bureaucrats ruined Atlantic City. It wasn’t trump. Everybody failed.”

    Sarcasm from Kevin Kruse: “Right, all the casinos in Atlantic City failed. I bet that checks out. Good point.”

    From another Twitter follower:

    Six bankruptcies for Trump.

    Six.

    That’s not a failing of Atlantic City.

    That’s a failing of Trump.

  150. says

    Black History Month:

    “A first-class citizen does not beg for freedom. A first-class citizen does not plead to the white power structure to give him something the whites have no power to give or take away. Human rights are human rights, not white rights.”

    —Gloria Richardson, leader of the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee

    YouTube link.

    This photo captures what has been called the best example os side-eye in American history [photo of Gloria Richardson pushing aside the bayonet of a national guard officer]. In one frame, Gloria Richardson’s resolve was immortalized by photographer Fred Ward. […]

  151. says

    Twitter users reminded Trump of his own racism after he tried to speak for African Americans.

    […]Trump has seized on the controversy in Virginia, where Democratic Governor Ralph Northam is facing calls to resign after blackface photo appeared under his name in his medical school yearbook. The state’s attorney general, Mark Herring, has also admitted to wearing blackface in the past.

    [Trump Tweeted]

    African Americans are very angry at the double standard on full display in Virginia!

    […] Political journalist and commentator Roland Martin noted that Trump has yet to atone for propagating the racist birther lie against former President Obama. Before he ran for president, Trump was the most well-known person to suggest Obama wasn’t ineligible to be president and claimed to have the proof (he did not have proof).

    “African Americans are still ticked with you @realDonaldTrump and @FLOTUS @MELANIATRUMP for the failure to apologize to @BarackObama for racist birther attack. We have NOT forgotten!”

    Trump was also reminded of his acts against the Central Park Five, who were falsely convicted of committing sexual assault on a jogger in 1989. Trump spent $85,000 on full-page advertisements in major New York City newspapers calling for the execution of the men. […]

    Trump’s business history also had plenty of racist elements to it, as Trump denial of rental applications to black people in New York City were so frequent he was investigated and subsequently sued by the Department of Justice. This, too, was brought to his attention on Twitter.

    “You marked rental applications by African-Americans with a “C” for “colored” to deny them apartments. DoJ sued you for racial discrimination. Twice. You settled. Twice. You refused to denounce the KKK. You tweeted fake black crime stats from a white supremacist site. SIT DOWN!” […]

    Think Progress link

  152. says

    Fox News pundit argues Trump is too ignorant to make racist taunt about Native American genocide

    “See you on the campaign TRAIL, Liz!” Trump tweeted. That was a reference to Elizabeth Warren, and to the Trail of Tears.

    […] Trump’s ignorance is well-noted, but in this particular case there is little doubt that he knew what he was referencing. The president has on many occasions expressed admiration for Andrew Jackson, who ordered the Trail of Tears expulsion of thousands of Native Americans from tribal lands. Trump even keeps a portrait of Jackson in the Oval Office. […]

    From Fox News pundit Brit Hume:

    Yes, because Trump is noted for his knowledge of 19th century American history vis a vis the native population. Jeez.

  153. says

    This should be worth watching: Beto O’Rourke will hold a counter-rally just a few blocks from the venue where Trump will speak on Monday in El Paso, Texas. O’Rourke’s rally is expected to pull a larger crowd than Trump’s rally.

    […] “The President is coming to El Paso Monday. He will promise a wall and will repeat his lies about the dangers that immigrants pose,” O’Rourke wrote in a Medium post Friday, referring to a claim Trump made during his State of the Union address this week that border barriers in the town have kept it from becoming one of the country’s most dangerous cities.

    As Mother Jones’ Noah Lanard reported afterward, that claim is completely false:

    El Paso’s violent crime rate peaked in 1993 and fell by more than a third by 2006. The El Paso Times reported in January, “From 2006 to 2011—two years before the fence was built to two years after—the violent crime rate in El Paso increased by 17 percent.” El Paso is now one of the safest cities in America.

    “What he’s saying and doing is extremely insulting,” local official Peter Svarzbein told my colleague of Trump’s remarks.

    O’Rourke pushed back against the president’s narrative. “Monday we will welcome the President to one of the safest cities in the United States. Safe not because of walls, and not in spite of the fact that we are a city of immigrants. Safe because we are a city of immigrants and because we treat each other with dignity and respect,” he wrote. […]

    Mother Jones link

    — EL PASO CALLING —

    Come one, come all!

    A bold, confident, ambitious message for the country from the U.S. – Mexico border.

    *** JOIN US ***

    Monday 5pm at Bowie High School — 801 S San Marcial St. in El Paso, TX, USA.

    https://www.facebook.com/events/537578166725292/?ti=ia

    https://twitter.com/BetoORourke/status/1094257285000581120

  154. says

    Uh, oh.

    Negotiations to avert another government shutdown abruptly fell apart over the weekend, […]

    Talks over hammering out a border security package have cratered because of disagreements over interior enforcement within the U.S., detention beds and paying for a border barrier, leaving lawmakers in the same place they’ve been for months. […]

    Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) acknowledged on Sunday that negotiations had stalled, and he put the odds of getting a deal at 50-50. […]

    The faltering discussions came after lawmakers entered the weekend feeling optimistic about their chances of crafting a bipartisan deal. Negotiators are under pressure to reach an agreement by Monday to fund the government past Feb. 15, in order to allow the House and Senate sufficient time to review and vote on the proposal. […]

    A congressional source familiar with the talks said: “I would say all is not lost, but it’s certainly not the place anybody wanted to be.”

    Democrats insist they want a cap on detention beds to force ICE to prioritize which undocumented immigrants it targets within the U.S., and they say that without it, the agency will increase deportation raids in local communities without valid reason. […]

    Politico link

    More at the link.

    One note: the Trump administration tends to add families seeking asylum to the category “violent criminals,” so that’s a problem.

  155. says

    Eric Porterfield, a GOP delegate in West Virginia, is amazingly creepy:

    […] “The LGBTQ is a modern day version of the Ku Klux Klan, without wearing hoods with their antics of hate,” Porterfield said in an interview Friday morning. He also called the gay community a “terrorist group” and said he is being “persecuted” by the gay community in retaliation for his remarks, including receiving threats on Facebook and voicemails. […]

    Charleston Gazette-Mail link

    On Facebook, Porterfield doubled down:

    Last night and today, members of the LGBTQ have exercised hate crimes and threatened my safety. We have reported this to the Capitol Police in Charleston and I would like all of my friends to pray for the safety of me and my family. These vicious monsters are proving that they are the most bigoted and discriminatory people in America. Though they try to intimidate and bully and try to strike fear to me and my family, we ask the Lord to help us stand tall against their persecution and their leftist minions within the legislature.

    From Wonkette:

    […] Again, this is all because he [Porterfield] wants it to be legal to discriminate against LGBTQ people, because not allowing people to discriminate would be discrimination. The mind, it reels.

    Democrats in the state are calling for Porterfield to step down, which of course he will not do — because he is not a Democrat and Republicans likely do not have a problem with his views. […]

    One thing I want to point out here is the way conservatives like Porterfield think they can adopt the language of the Left to push their own agenda. They think our power is in the language we use rather than the ideas behind that language, that by simply calling someone a bigot you immediately [win]. It’s why they’re trying so very, very hard to position heterosexual, cisgender, rich white men as an oppressed class — because they have it in their heads that they can siphon off empathy from actually oppressed groups and gain more privilege than they already have that way. […]

    Here is an excerpt from Porterfield’s description of the law he wants to pass:

    It is true that to not pass this amendment would be discriminating against people who have either religious convictions or who don’t want to run their business the way a socialist-left agenda wants us to run it.

    Porterfields proposed amendment would ban counties in West Virginia from enacting laws that protect LGBTQ people from housing and employment discrimination.

  156. says

    This is, more or less, an expansion of the threat Trump voiced in his SOTU speech: “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way!”

    WALLACE [Fox News’ Chris Wallace]: Wait, you can do both and presidents have done both plenty of times.

    MULVANEY[ acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney]: Right. But don’t — again, it’s not reasonable to expect the president to work with you on Monday on a big infrastructure bill, and then on Tuesday, have you punch him in the face over 15 different investigations. […] It’s very difficult to do both. I just think that’s human nature.

    […] The host reminded [Mulvaney] that GOP lawmakers investigated assorted controversies, including Benghazi, during Barack Obama’s presidency, but the Democrat “got some things done despite the fact that these were aggressive partisan investigations.”

    Mulvaney responded, “Listen, I’ll be the first to admit that when the Tea Party wave, of which I was one, got here in 2011, the last thing we were interested in was giving President Obama legislative successes.”

    Mulvaney has a curious habit of blurting out embarrassing truths. About a year ago, for example, he spoke to a group of bankers how they could use their money to influence the administration’s agenda, confessing at the time that during his congressional career, he would only meet with lobbyists who gave him campaign contributions. […]

    In context, he was responding to a question about Republicans investigating matters such as the terrorist attack in Benghazi, suggesting Mulvaney saw a connection between investigating faux “scandals” and undermining Obama’s prospects for “legislative successes.”

    All of which helps shed light on Mulvaney’s posture now: in his mind, congressional oversight isn’t a function of checks and balances; it’s a political game intended to undermine presidents. […]

    The difference, of course, is that Trump’s many scandals are real. Congressional oversight is necessary. The idea that Democrats must turn a blind eye to meaningful, ongoing controversies, or the delicate president will have no choice but to sulk in the White House and scrap his legislative agenda, is plainly ridiculous.

    Link

    One wonders if Trump is always looking for an excuse not to govern.

  157. says

    Followup to comments 132, 133, 134, 137, 139, and 142.

    Now we know who gave Bezos’ private messages to the Enquirer … maybe.

    The brother of Lauren Sanchez, (Jeff Bezos’ girlfriend), gave the pair’s private text messages to the National Enquirer, The Daily Beast reported.

    According to several sources within the tabloid’s parent company, American Media Inc., who spoke to the Daily Beast, Michael Sanchez —[…] who supports President Trump and has ties to Roger Stone — shared the stolen messages. Sanchez has denied any involvement and claimed his political affiliations are being used against him. […]

    From the readers comments:

    Sounds like they are trying to lay a red herring alibi for Trump and the Israeli Cell Phone Hacking Company and whatever foreign government agency that was involved.
    —————-
    I would note that all the sources came from within American Media, Inc according to the report.

    I note that because AMI as an entity is not a disinterested actor, and so the sources are not necessarily disinterested actors.
    ——————
    He’s a friend of Trump. That makes it not hard to believe at all that he would betray his sister.
    ———————
    Doesn’t add up to me, if it was just the brother who did it why did the PI think otherwise, and why was the National Enquirer freaking out so much.
    ——————
    exactly what AMI would want the public to think if it were actually hackers associated with a foreign government.
    ——————
    even if the brother shared a couple of texts (what an a$$hole) the pictures sound like they were intercepted a different way. I think that’s why AMI & KSA are freaking out.

  158. says

    No, I wouldn’t shop there.

    […] The front page of the ad featured promotions for food products and included the text: “Heaven has a wall, a gate and a strict immigration policy. Hell has open borders. Let that sink in.”

    The company describes itself as family-owned and Christian. Jack Digby is the manager of a Mac’s Cashsaver in Camden. He says he’s fielded dozens of angry calls over the ad. […]

    Link

    The grocery chain has stores in Arkansas and Louisiana.

  159. says

    Brawls from the far right wing:

    Nothing beats the radical Right when it comes to internecine warfare.

    With membership and participation in decline, Joey Gibson’s far-right Patriot Prayer organization—the allies of street-brawling Proud Boys in an ongoing series of right-wing, pro-Trump protests in the Pacific Northwest’s urban centers, especially Portland and Seattle—has devolved in recent weeks into a cesspit of internal squabbling, accompanied by fever-pitched talk of committing violence, some of it directed at each other. It’s bubbled up in recent weeks in threats directed particularly at Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who is blamed by the region’s far Right in all of their complaints about the city (where few of them actually live). Reggie Axtell, who is a leader in both Patriot Prayer and the regional Proud Boys chapter, posted a hateful video rant on Facebook in January directed at the mayor: “I promise you this, Ted Wheeler: I’m coming for you, you little punk. And all your little antifa bastards. I’m coming for you fuckers, too!”

    […] one of Gibson’s top lieutenants and biggest brawlers—a hulking Samoan named Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, who has been a bloody fixture at most Patriot Prayer rallies—[announced] that he was no longer associated with the group. Instead, he was embracing the regional Proud Boys organization—who in fact had come to dominate the scene at Patriot Prayer events, both in raw numbers and in the intended violence that occurred around them. […]

    In an October video he made with a YouTube QAnon conspiracy theorist named Tiny Mercado, Toese brandishes his fist and promises “antifa” that they will learn “the hard way” if they keep fighting him.

    Mercado shouts: “We have guns, niggas! We will never, we will never submit to you motherfuckers. We will never submit to you. You all gonna get hurt.” Toese mentions that “they’re threatening me with five years”—an apparent reference to an ongoing investigation by Portland police into his activities, which have included a number of assaults at various venues—and promises: “I ain’t goin’ down.”

    Mercado continues ranting about “antifa”: “Imma tell you right now, soon as you see them in the hood, that’s it! It’s over for them! … Kill them! If we don’t kill them, they’re going to kill us!”

    Another social-media video posted in October by Axtell is filled with similarly murderous intent, voiced by an anonymous off-camera “Steve,” while Axtell counsels against murdering antifascists.

    “Yeah, but killing ‘em ain’t the fucking point, dude,” Axtell says at one point.

    “Well, you ain’t gotta kill all of ‘em,” replies Steve.

    “What, you’re just gonna kill a couple of ‘em? That’s it?”

    “That’s it. They will get the point.”

    “Well, how many of them do you think you need to kill before they get the point?”

    “Ohhhhh… a hundred seventy-five.”

    “You’re gonna kill 175 …” […]

    Link

  160. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Rachel Maddow has Amy Klobushar on as her featured guest. Links in the morning.

  161. says

    Thanks, Nerd, for the links in comment 175. I thought Klobuchar did well in that interview. She may be “Minnesota nice,” but she is also tough. I liked her answer to Rachel’s question about the effects of Trump pulling the U.S. out of nuclear treaties.

    In other news, Trump spoke in El Paso, Texas last night. One of the new slogans he tried was “We’re only getting stronger together.” The Republican National Committee was ready. The started promoting that slogan on social media while Trump was still speaking at the event. “Stronger Together” was Hillary Clinton’s campaign slogan, and it was the title of a book she wrote.

    The RNC noticed, but they don’t care: “When you lose your campaign, you lose your monopoly on any slogans.”

    Okay, but Trump said he has “the best words,” so couldn’t he come up with an original slogan?

    Trump also introduced “Finish The Wall” as a new slogan. “I don’t know if you heard, right. Today we started a big beautiful wall right on the Rio Grande. Right smack on the Rio Grande.” His crowd still chanted “Build that wall,” so Trump corrected them. “You really mean ‘finish that wall,’” Trump said, “because we’ve built a lot of it already.” He’s going to force his cult followers to chant a slogan based on one his lies..

    When Trump took office, 654 miles of barriers of one kind or another existed along the border. There are still 654 miles of barriers. It’s the same. No new wall. Some of the old barriers have been repaired. That’s it.

    It looks like Trump’s 2020 campaign is going to be based entirely on stuff he makes up.

  162. says

    We’ve already discussed the fact that Trump is outright lying when he claims that El Paso, Texas was one of the “most dangerous cities” in the U.S. before a wall was built there along the border with Mexico. See comments 86 and 167.

    Trump told the same lie last night, but he added a bunch of blather that was supposed to prove that he is not lying:

    I don’t care whether a mayor is a Republican or a Democrat. They’re full of crap when they say [a border barrier] hasn’t made a big difference.

    I heard the same thing from the fake news They said “Oh, crime actually stayed the same.” It didn’t stay the same. Went way down…. These people, you know you’d think they’d want to get to the bottom of a problem and solve a problem. Not try and pull the wool over everybody’s eyes.

    Trump was referring to a statement from El Paso’s mayor, Dee Margo, and from other Republicans:

    The president is just wrong about the wall and wrong about El Paso,” said Jon Barela, a lifelong Republican and chief executive of the Borderplex Alliance, an organization promoting economic development in a cross-border industrial hub with a combined population of more than 2.7 million, taking in the cities of El Paso, Ciudad Juárez and Las Cruces.

    Mr. Barela disputed Mr. Trump’s widely discredited assertion that border fencing had cut violent crime in El Paso, pointing to F.B.I. data showing that the city has ranked for decades among the safest urban areas its size in the United States — long before American authorities started building some fencing along the border about a decade ago.

    “As a fiscally conservative Republican, I just don’t understand how spending $25 billion on a wall with limited effectiveness is a good idea,” Mr. Barela said in an interview. “Mexico is an economic and strategic ally of the United States, and an antiquated effort to place a barrier between us just won’t work.”

    Dee Margo, the Republican mayor of El Paso, voiced similar criticism of Mr. Trump’s description of El Paso, in his State of the Union address, as “one of the nation’s most dangerous cities” before the barrier went up on the border. Representative Veronica Escobar, a Democrat recently elected to Congress to represent El Paso, is asking Mr. Trump to apologize and meet with migrant families seeking asylum in the United States.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/10/us/trump-el-paso-rally.html

  163. says

    The bipartisan Congressional Conference Committee has come up with a funding bill that would prevent a government shutdown. Nobody knows if Trump will sign the deal or not.

    I don’t think the prospects of Trump signing the funding are good. He is coming off his Texas rally feeling pumped up by the adoration of his base. His base wants a wall. His base has conveniently forgotten that Mexico was supposed to pay for Trump’s wall.

    Also, Fox News’ Sean Hannity disparaged the deal last night. He called it a “garbage compromise.” Hannity also threatened Republicans on the committee, saying that they would have to “explain” themselves.

    The government will shut down on Friday at midnight if a new funding bill is not passed by the House and by the Senate, and then signed by Trump.

    One positive sign: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is praising the compromise.

    I know I speak for members on both sides of the aisle when I say we are grateful to our colleagues on the appropriations committee for their leadership. We’re eager to see them complete this work.

    As we speak, our colleagues are working hard to produce a legislative text. “I look forward to reviewing the full text as soon as possible and hope the Senate can act on this legislation in short order.

    This is a major change for McConnell. During the last shutdown, he refused to bring any bill to a vote without Trump’s guarantee that he would sign it.

    The new compromise legislation provides $1.4 billion for border barrier construction, much less than the $5.7 billion Trump previously demanded.

    More on the response from conservative media:

    Fox and Friends hosts cheered the deal as a win for Trump Tuesday morning, saying that after all, Democrats didn’t even want “one mile” of the wall to be built. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Fox News’ Sean Hannity had dimmer views of the agreement, Meadows calling it “lacking” and Hannity labeling it “garbage.”

    From the readers comments:

    GOPers are starting to sound off that they got what they wanted in this deal…probably because that’s all they’re gonna get if they don’t accept the deal being offered. They have to play like tRump came out on top.

    tRump is getting exactly what they passed the first time around, before the first shutdown, but they can’t let their constituents or tRump’s cult followers realize they’re right back at the beginning from where they came. I read that even McCarthy is playing along now throwing in a fib or two for good measure of course.

    That “Finish the Wall” thing was the first clue that tRump and the GOP are stuck and have to move past this or it’ll be curtains for tRump and his party. Pretending the fucking wall has already been built is about the best they can do now. Pure delusion and wishful thinking, but frankly, it’s what they do. It would be laughable if it didn’t put so many people out of work for no good reason and cost the country unnecessarily for tRump’s self-aggrandizing fantasies.

  164. says

    News from Trump’s former attorney John Dowd:

    I know a lot. Because as people have found out, we communicate on this side of the fence. Matter of fact, we’ve got, probably, better intelligence than they [Mueller’s team] do. […]

    And I can’t — I never discuss joint defense, because of confidential communications. We were just — we were just briefed, like every other witness, on what he [Michael Cohen] was gonna tell the House and Senate and — and other things.

    From Josh Kovensky, writing for Talking Points Memo:

    […] He [Dowd] added that he was worried about that Trump “couldn’t do it. There’s no way he could — I mean, we’d have to script it.”

    Dowd went on to say that the President was simply processing too much information to handle the special counsel investigation.

    “It’s not a matter of integrity. It’s overload,” he said.

    Dowd also told the ABC podcast that he doubted Mueller would release a detailed report about the Russia investigation.

    “All he is is a departmental attorney, nothing more, okay?” Dowd said. “That’s it. I mean, he abides by the rules. And by the way, it’s gotta go up — it’s gotta go up to Barr.”

    Link

  165. says

    Attacking the press:

    Ron Skeans, a BBC cameraman, was roughly shoved by a man clad in a MAGA hat at President Donald Trump’s rally in El Paso Monday night.

    According to a BBC report, the man had been attacking various news crews, but Skeans got the worst of it, the blow so blindsiding him that the camera dipped to the floor and swung around crazily until the man was restrained.

    Trump saw the attack from the stage and paused to give Skeans a thumbs up and ask if everything was okay.

    Mere minutes later, Trump brought attention to the press in the room, jeering at them and eliciting boos from the crowd.

    Link

    Video available at the link.

  166. says

    Crowd size:

    […] Trump told the crowds inside El Paso County Coliseum that 69,000 people had signed up to attend. “The arena holds 8,000 and, thank you fire department, they got in about 10 [thousand],” he said. “But if you really want to see something, go outside. Tens of thousands of people are watching screens outside.”

    According to reports, a spokesman for El Paso fire department said the president’s claim was incorrect, and that only 6,500 people were allowed inside – the building’s capacity. […]

    The Guardian link

    Trump was correct to say that a large crowd was outside the venue, watching on screens.

    Followup to comment 180: some reports say that Trump was checking to see if the press people were okay after being attacked by a Trump supporter. It’s hard to tell from the video.

  167. says

    Excerpts from Beto O’Rourke’s speech last night:

    El Paso is one of the safest cities in the United States of America. Safe, not because of walls — but in spite of walls.

    Walls do not save lives. They end lives.

    Nobody tells our story better than we do. It’s incredibly important that this community stand up to be counted, to tell the story and to make sure that we set the record straight. That this is, as you know, a march for truth…we are here to follow the lead of this great community and make sure the country sees us at our best.

  168. says

    Donald Trump Junior also spoke at the Trump rally in El Paso last night.

    Donald Trump Jr. warmed up the crowd for Individual 1 in El Paso last night and, after spotting some young people in the crowd, he delivered a message right to them: “Keep up that fight. Bring it to your schools. You don’t have to be indoctrinated by these loser teachers that are trying to sell you on socialism from birth.” Pretty rich statement for someone who’s had everything handed to him from birth, even the very platform he used to trash teachers last night.

    Link

  169. says

    Mark Kelly, the retired astronaut and the husband of Gabby Giffords, announced that he will run for a Senate seat. He is a charismatic candidate and he may help turn Arizona from a red state to a purple state.

  170. says

    Followup to comment 181.

    More details that reveal Trump’s obsession with crowd size.

    […] The president also falsely claimed on Monday night that former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who is considering a 2020 presidential run, only had a couple hundred people attend his counter-rally in El Paso.

    “So we have, let’s say, 35,000 people tonight,” the president said. “And he has 200 people, 300 people. Not too good,” Trump said of O’Rourke.

    Estimates from O’Rourke’s anti-border wall protest show that 7,000 to 8,000 people attended his rally. Some other reports put attendance as high as 10,000 to 15,000.

    Trump on Tuesday doubled down on those false claims in an exchange with reporters during a Tuesday cabinet meeting, telling the White House press pool that O’Rourke “failed very badly” and that “from what I hear he had less than 1,000 people.”

    Trump lied. He lied about the size of O’Rourke’s crowd, and he lied about the size of his own crowd.

    The El Paso Fire Department said Trump’s statement was untrue.

    Fire Department spokesman Enrique Aguilar told the El Paso Times on Monday that Trump did not receive permission to exceed the limit and that there were 6,500 people inside the building during the president’s rally.

  171. says

    From Ann Coulter:

    Trump talks a good game on the border wall but it’s increasingly clear he’s afraid to fight for it. Call this his “Yellow New Deal.” America will be a socialist country within 5 years, if you don’t build the wall. They’re about to have a country where no Republican will ever be elected president again. Trump will just have been a joke presidency who scammed the American people, amused the populists for a while, but he’ll have no legacy whatsoever”

    Meanwhile, Mick Mulvaney is looking to raid disaster funds for Puerto Rico and California to pay for Trump’s wall.

    Also from the “meanwhile” category, Trump is not categorically refusing to sign the bipartisan bill that the Congressional Conference Committee is writing, but he did say, “I can’t say I’m happy. I can’t say I’m thrilled.” Trump went on to say that he is looking at other options to get money to build the wall.

  172. says

    From Wonkette’s coverage of the dueling rallies:

    Donald Trump held one of his hate rallies in El Paso, Texas, Monday night and millions of people showed up in his mind. The rally was intended to hype up Trump’s stupid WALL, but El Paso native Beto O’Rourke decided to throw his own counter rally, the “March for Truth,” with actual people and facts.

    Trump claimed during his State of the Union address last week that El Paso was once a wretched hive of scum and villainy before border fencing was erected. […] Even the Republican mayor of El Paso gently pointed out that Trump had confused reality with racist paranoia. This is one of Trump’s dumber lies. […] If O’Rourke launches a 2020 presidential campaign, immigration could be his signature issue, and his talent for moving oratory was on full display last night. […]

    BETO: We know that walls do not save lives, walls end lives. We stand for the best traditions and the values of this country … for who we are when we’re at our best, and that’s El Paso, Texas.

    O’Rourke also repeatedly spoke Spanish to the diverse crowd. He’s bilingual and Trump is barely monolingual. Did Trump have any new, compelling WALL-related messages to share last night?

    TRUMP: We need the wall, and it has to be built.

    Oh, well, why didn’t he say that earlier? If we’d only known we needed a useless WALL, we could’ve avoided a lot of pointless debate. There were banners at the rally demanding that we “Finish the Wall” because that shows progress that Trump hasn’t actually made when it comes to “building” WALL. Trump remained true to form, not offering any insight or inspiration at the rally — just random insults and lies. He claimed the Democratic Party currently represents “socialism, late term abortion, open borders, and crime.” He suggested that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was going to take away all our airplanes, and he somehow managed to make us feel bad for Ralph Northam. […]

    You have to wonder about the level of intellect that would believe doctors are “executing” babies in front of their parents like some slasher film. Reportedly, almost 18,500 people showed up to listen to Trump’s bullshit. This is far too many, but Trump’s team wasn’t satisfied with that still depressing number so they made up their own.

    Brad Parscale, who manages Trump’s re-election campaign, tweeted last night that 35,000 people attended the rally. He absurdly claimed 8,000 people were inside the El Paso County Coliseum where Trump spoke, which would’ve been a fire code violation. The maximum number permitted, standing and seated, is 6,500. […]

    Parscale ludicrously lowballed attendance at O’Rourke’s counter rally as less than a thousand people. Trump himself claimed it was only “200 to 300 people.” This was a rally, not regional theatre. The El Paso Police Department estimated that between 10 to 15,000 people showed up at Chalio Acosta Sports Center for the anti-WALL rally. […]

    Trump turned up for an ass-kissing, post-hate rally wrap up with fellow hatemonger Laura Ingraham. He demonstrated an unhealthy fixation with O’Rourke’s crowd size. By this point, he was claiming the only people there were former members of O’Rourke’s punk rock band. He also threw up more WALL-related lies that O’Rourke, the El Paso mayor, literally everyone, have clearly debunked. […]

  173. says

    Oh, FFS. John Bolton is featured in a Trump administration video that tells a lot of lies while simultaneously warmongering:

    The White House issued an official video message this morning from National Security Advisor John Bolton, who made a rather provocative claim about Iran.

    “Iran continues to seek nuclear weapons to intimidate peaceful people all around the globe, and ballistic missiles to use as delivery systems.”

    And it that were true, it’d be an important assessment. The trouble, of course, is that while Donald Trump’s White House national security advisor, a longtime proponent of an armed conflict with Iran, is peddling claims like these, the president’s intelligence chiefs have drawn the exact opposite conclusion.

    In fact, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats recently told the Senate that Iran is not “currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activity” needed to make a bomb. It’s also the judgment of American intelligence agencies that Iran is actually abiding by the terms of the international nuclear agreement negotiated in part by the Obama administration (and abandoned by Trump for reasons that have never really made any sense). […]

    When U.S. intelligence professionals told him the truth about Iran, Trump mocked them publicly and told the public that he doesn’t have full confidence in the intelligence chiefs’ assessments when it comes to Iran.

    It led to a series of leaks about the president’s “willful ignorance” when it comes to intelligence briefings and his capacity for understanding the information about critical national security developments. […]

    John Bolton, true to form, appears to be laying the groundwork for a confrontation. Quality intelligence is necessary to prevent a war – and the hapless president has decided he isn’t interested in seeing or hearing any information that conflicts with what he wants to believe.

    Link

  174. says

    Elizabeth Warren announced that she will not accept any corporate PAC money for her campaign. A lot of other Democratic Party candidates made the same promise. Now Senator Amy Klobuchar has also announced she will not accept corporate PAC money as part of her campaign.

  175. says

    Excerpts from Beto O’Rourke’s Radical Vision of the Border by Eric Lach, writing for The New Yorker:

    The politics of the southern border have, for many years, been dominated by fear-peddling voices from elsewhere. […] there were few national figures who could speak about the border from firsthand experience.

    On Monday night, Beto O’Rourke, the former congressman from El Paso whose failed bid to unseat Senator Ted Cruz, in November, has done little to quell speculation that he will run for President in 2020, spoke at a march in El Paso designed to counter the pro-border-wall rally that President Trump was holding in town.

    […] O’Rourke went beyond rejecting Trump’s wall and calling for more funding for ports of entry or “smart” technologies such as drones—the standard Democratic line at this moment. He spoke of the border as a transnational place. “Here, in the largest binational community in the Western Hemisphere,” O’Rourke said, speaking of El Paso and its neighbor, Ciudad Juárez, “two and a half million people, two countries, speaking two languages, with two cultures, and two histories, who come together—are joined, not separated—by the Rio Grande river, forming something far greater and more powerful than the sum of our parts. We have so much to give, so much to show the rest of the country, and we’re doing it right now.”

    In El Paso, these are not new talking points. But, in our national politics, this is something new: holding up the border not as the place where American political imagination ends but where it begins.

  176. says

    Followup to comment 176.

    On Twitter, people called Trump out for stealing Hillary Clinton’s slogan:

    Oh, hey, it’s that thing where men pretend a woman doesn’t exist until a man repeats what she said. Link
    —————
    Well he stole her presidency. Might as well steal her slogan too
    ——————
    How original 🙄
    ——————-
    Sigh, when you give an assignment to Melania Trump to complete. [Melania plagiarized Michelle Obama’s speech earlier]

    Plagiarism!

    Hillary Clinton ran on Stronger Together, credit her next time.

  177. says

    Susan Collins’ outrageously stupid defense of Brett Kavanaugh

    There’s nothing ‘careful’ about Brett Kavanaugh’s attack on Roe v. Wade.

    Last summer […] Collins claimed that a Supreme Court nominee “who would overturn Roe v. Wade would not be acceptable to me.” Yet she quickly backtracked, voting to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court despite his anti-abortion record.

    You’ll never guess what happened. Last week, Kavanaugh voted to allow a Louisiana anti-abortion law to go into effect — despite the fact that this law is virtually identical to a Texas law that the Supreme Court struck down in 2016. The Louisiana case is June Medical Services v. Gee.

    Nevertheless, Collins insisted on Tuesday that she had kept her promise to not vote for an anti-Roe judge when she secured Kavanaugh’s appointment to the nation’s highest court. “To say that this case, this most recent case, in which he wrote a very careful dissent, tells you that he’s going to repeal Roe v Wade I think is absurd,” Collins told CNN.

    […] Kavanaugh’s opinion calls for a massive rollback of abortion rights. Had his opinion been embraced by a majority of his court, it would have fundamentally changed the nature of abortion litigation and made it much harder for pro-abortion litigants to secure lasting victories. […]

    Gee was before the Supreme Court after a federal appeals court upheld the Louisiana law. Lawyers representing abortion providers requested a stay of that decision, and the Supreme Court granted it in a 5-4 vote — with Chief Justice John Roberts crossing over to join the court’s liberal minority.

    Although this case involved a narrow question — whether to temporarily stay a lower court decision upholding the Louisiana law — Gee was closely watched because the lower court’s decision defied the Supreme Court’s recent opinion in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which struck down an extraordinarily similar Texas law. If the Supreme Court had not stayed this lower court decision, it would have signaled to anti-abortion judges throughout the country that the high court will no longer enforce its decisions protecting the right to an abortion.

    […] Gee involves a state law requiring abortion doctors to obtain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. […]

    Because admitting privileges are difficult for most abortion providers to obtain, however, these laws effectively force many abortion clinics to shut down […] A federal trial judge determined that, had this law taken effect, Louisiana would be left with just one abortion doctor for the entire state.

    In his Gee dissent, Kavanaugh argues that the Gee plaintiffs filed their request for a stay too soon — and that they should have to spend a “45-day regulatory transition period” trying to get admitting privileges before they can seek a stay again. […]

    Kavanaugh’s dissent suggests that the Gee plaintiffs should not be able to proceed with a facial challenge, and instead must bring “an as-applied complaint or motion for preliminary injunction” at a later date. But that would be a momentous shift in the law. Hellerstedt, after all, held that its plaintiffs prevailed in a facial challenge. Kavanaugh’s dissent would effectively overrule that aspect of Hellerstedt.

    Kavanaugh would do so, moreover, in a case that was not fully briefed, did not receive oral argument, and that the court had less than a week to consider. […]

    Were Kavanaugh’s views to become law, it would mean that any time a new abortion provider wished to operate in Louisiana — or presumably, in any other state with a similar law — they could have to bring their own as-applied challenge. Moreover, if a Louisiana hospital changed its policy regarding admitting privileges, the state could potentially argue that a previous court decision granting as-applied relief to an abortion doctor should be lifted because the facts on the ground have changed.[…]

  178. says

    Not surprising, but still very disappointing:

    Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Jim Risch said Tuesday that he’s satisfied with the Trump administration’s probe into the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, even as several of his GOP members complain forcefully that the administration has not complied with a law requiring them to make a determination in the killing.

    Many Senate Republicans widely believe that Khashoggi was killed at the direction of the Saudi kingdom after hearing from top administration officials last year. But […] Trump has declined to join them in that determination even though U.S. intelligence reportedly concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing. Though the Magnitsky Act required the administration to respond to a bipartisan request asking them to come to a conclusion, the White House last week declined to meet the deadline to reply.

    Multiple Senate Republicans said in interviews on Monday night that they were angry about the administration’s move to not comply with the law. […]

    Politico link

  179. Oggie. My Favourite Colour is MediOchre says

    Did my taxes last night. The first taxes under Trump’s middle class tax cut.

    I earned more money than the year before. I donated more money than the year before. I had more deductions than the year before. I could not itemize my deductions — my deductions came to about $14,000. So I went with the standard deduction.

    Last year, I got a refund of $150.00. This year, I owe $600.00. My withholding stayed about the same ($5.00 less was withheld per pay period, with is $130.00 less withheld for the year). Which means that my taxes went up by over $600.00. My state taxes stayed exactly the same (I got a $1.00 refund. Again.)

    So, tell me again how this was a $4,000 raise for me? I saw an extra $5.00 in each paycheck and have to pay an extra $750.00. So, according to TrumpMath, $130 – $600 =$4,000? Maybe that’s why he kept going bankrupt and needed all the money from Russia . . .

  180. says

    Nerd @195:

    Looks like Rachel is planning on interviews after a new candidate declares. Should be interesting.

    I like this format. It’s an in-depth interview. We actually get to know the candidate, or at least to take a meaningful step toward knowing the candidate. It’s like a public service from Rachel Maddow.

    Oggie @196, thanks for those details. “I saw an extra $5.00 in each paycheck and have to pay an extra $750.00. So, according to TrumpMath, $130 – $600 =$4,000?” Yep. That’s the experience of a lot of people. Trump’s tax cut was a scam, for the most part. And that $4,000 figure? Trump and his cronies pulled that out of their assess. It represents a mythical savings over several years, and it is based on the idea that businesses and rich people had been given such a big tax cut that their subsequent spending would jump start the economy. In other words, if you wait long enough, Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers will trickle down on you.

    From PoliticsUSA:

    Trump sold his tax cuts as a tax cut for working families. But now, reality has struck and not only will millions not get a refund this year, but some might have to pay the IRS.

    The Republican tax cut, which involved the biggest changes to the tax code in 30 years and might have put more money in people’s paycheck due to withholding table changes, has come home to roost and it’s not pretty.

    DCReport.com founder David Cay Johnston explained the tax changes to MSNBC‘s Stephanie Ruhle, “Republicans ran a sort of stimulus program buy reducing your withholding under new tables without the experience of knowing what would happen. About 25% of taxpayers who had been itemizing deductions will not be able to do so under the new law and those people are going to get a real shock because of the limitation of how much they can deduct for state and local taxes… and you’re going to pay more.” […]

    Johnston also broke down how, for example, Trump‘s tax laws take away from police officers the ability to deduct cleaning their uniforms, their guns, etc as well as taking away property taxes and medical deductions and home equity loan against your house. He also said all of this was done instantaneously. He said many people will have to borrow money to pay the IRS.

    Johnston pointed out that Republicans didn’t phase this huge tax overhaul in slowly because they couldn’t make the budget work for tax cuts for the richest among us without hitting the middle class.

    “Why did they do this so abruptly, why didn’t they phase in the way Ronald Reagan did? Because they couldn’t make the budget numbers work for the tax cut for the richest among us unless they hit the middle class first fully,” Johnston said. […]

    Link

    See also:
    https://twitter.com/markblei/status/1092438151354826752

    And:
    https://twitter.com/Redpainter1/status/1094401833131483137

  181. says

    An analysis of the deal to avoid a shutdown, from Steve Benen:

    […] We haven’t yet seen all of the details, but NBC News highlighted some of the details of the deal, as described by multiple sources:

    * $1.375 billion for border barrier enhancements like steel slats and other “existing technologies,” but no concrete wall;

    * The money would fund about 55 miles of new barrier;

    * Geographic restrictions on where the new fencing could built, likely limited to the Rio Grand Valley sector of the border.

    It’s worth pausing at this point to take a stroll down memory lane.

    In 2017, the White House put together a budget request seeking $25 billion for a border wall project. In early 2018, Democrats were prepared to meet the president’s demands – Trump had taken DACA protections for Dreamers hostage, and Dems felt like they had to pay the ransom – but the president turned down the deal because it didn’t include cuts to legal immigration.

    In the months that followed, Trump’s dreams … evolved. The original White House vision was for a 1,000-mile concrete wall, to be paid for by Mexico. By late last year, the president wanted $5.6 billion for steel slats, to be paid for by Americans.

    The bipartisan deal that Trump rejected in mid-December, after originally having endorsed it, included $1.6 billion for border security measures. The deal Vice President Mike Pence offered Democratic leaders around the same time was for $2.5 billion, though Trump rejected that, too, demanding more.

    It now appears Trump will end up with $1.375 billion, which leaves him further away from his goal than if he’d accepted the bipartisan package two months ago and failed to launch the longest government shutdown in American history. […]

    White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters last year, “[T]he president is, I think, the ultimate negotiator and dealmaker when it comes to any type of conversation.” […]

  182. says

    Trump’s deep, deep delusions about illegal drugs, and about human trafficking, are revealed … again. This quote is from Trump’s cabinet meeting yesterday:

    We could save billions and billions of dollars in cost and hundreds of billions of dollars in drugs and what they’re doing to us with drugs. And so much of it comes through. And don’t believe people when they say it all comes through the portals; it doesn’t — the ports of entry. It comes through — the big loads come through the border, where you don’t have wall, where they can drive a truck, a big truck, loaded up with drugs or loaded up with this thing called a ‘human cargo.’ Human cargo.

    These are traffickers. These are the worst people on Earth. And they don’t come through the ports of entry with people in the back of a car tied up. Could never do that. They come through areas where there’s no barrier.

    What Trump said to the New York Times:

    Unlike what the Democrats say, they don’t, you don’t bring trucks of drugs through the checkpoints. You bring trucks of drugs by making a right 20 miles, and a left into the country.

    It is Trump’s own Drug Enforcement Administration that says in a 2016 report that most narcotics are smuggled into the USA by driving them through ports of entry, with some disguised as legal, commercial goods. Customs and Border Patrol officials say the same thing. El Chapo ran a drug smuggling operation that sent drugs through the ports of entry. Maybe Trump will see that on TV.

    Intelligence agencies working under the Trump administration all say the same thing.

    Trump may still be running in his head an endless loop of the movie “Sicario, the Day of the Soldado.” In the movie, starring Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin, the U.S. Mexico border is a violent place rife with Middle Eastern terrorists, human traffickers, and drug smugglers. In the movie, prayers rugs of supposed Muslim terrorists are discovered by Border Patrol agents in the desert along the border. In the movie, women are abducted and bound with duct tape.

    Trump said:

    They come in. They nab women. They grab them. They put tape over their mouth. They tie their hands. They have tape over their mouths, electrical tape, usually blue tape, as they call it. Tying up women, putting tape in their mouths. They tie up women, taping them out. Women are tied up. They’re bound. They have women in the backseat of the cars with duct taped all over the place.

  183. says

    Trump and his supporters are having a field day with this. Senator Richard Burr is the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He said this about his committee’s investigation: “If we write a report based upon the facts that we have, then we don’t have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia.”:

    […] For Donald Trump, his allies, and other critics of the scandal, it was effectively a case-closed moment. […]

    There are, however, others on the panel, who’ve seen the same intelligence, and who haven’t reached the same conclusion. Yesterday, for example, Sen. Mark Warner, the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was asked about Burr’s comments, and he told reporters, “Respectfully, I disagree.” NBC News’ report added:

    Sen. Mark Warner, D.-Va., ranking member of the committee, told reporters in the Capitol Tuesday that he disagrees with the way Burr characterized the evidence about collusion, but he declined to offer his own assessment.

    “I’m not going to get into any conclusions I have,” he said, before adding that “there’s never been a campaign in American history … that people affiliated with the campaign had as many ties with Russia as the Trump campaign did.”

    […] the investigation is ongoing, members are dealing with highly sensitive information, and the committee is still months away from completing its work — it’s not surprising that Warner would be circumspect, especially when speaking with the press.

    The Virginia Democrat was, however, willing to make clear that he’s seen the same information as Burr, and he’s not prepared to endorse Burr’s assertion. […]

    Link

    More details, gleaned from an article published by Mother Jones, and summarized by Steve Benen:

    Sen. Angus King […] was asked about claims that there’s no clear evidence of a conspiracy between […] Trump and Moscow. “That’s not true,” the Maine Independent said. “I think it’s misleading. The intelligence committee hasn’t discussed the matter, let alone released a committee report.” […]

    There have already been months of open-source reporting pointing to extensive communications and attempts at cooperation between the Trump campaign and their Russian benefactors during Moscow’s attack on American elections – all of which the Republican operation lied about.

    Yes, the GOP chairman of the Intelligence Committee – who was originally inclined to ignore the controversy, and who later reached out to reporters, downplaying the importance of the Russia scandal, at the White House’s behest – has said what Trump wants to hear about evidence of collusion. […]

    “We were never going to find a contract signed in blood saying, ‘Hey Vlad, we’re going to collude,’” one Democratic aide said.

    To suggest that such a contract signed in blood is what’s necessary to justify the significance of the scandal is a mistake.

    From the readers comments:

    Burr is slicker than Romney, and displays more credibility than Graham. But at the core, he’s GOP, and he’s gonna call it for them every time.

  184. says

    Followup to comment 197.

    More financial news, from the Associated Press:

    The Treasury Department’s daily statement showed Tuesday that total outstanding public debt stands at $22.01 trillion. It stood at $19.95 trillion when President Donald Trump took office on Jan. 20, 2017.

    The debt figure has been accelerating since the passage of Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut in December 2017 and action by Congress last year to increase spending on domestic and military programs.

    What Trump said in April 2016:

    Trump declared that he was confident that he could “get rid of” the entire multi-trillion-dollar debt “fairly quickly.” Pressed to be more specific, the future president replied, “Well, I would say over a period of eight years.”

    What Trump said in July 2016:

    We’ll start paying off that debt like water.

  185. says

    Followup to comment 44.

    Thanks to Axios, we now know that […] Trump spends most of his work day in executive time, tending to his Twitter account, talking on the phone and watching TV.

    Now, add hitting the virtual links to that list.

    According to a new report from The Washington Post, […] Trump paid out of his own pocket to replace the golf simulator that President Obama installed at the White House with a more “sophisticated” system, in the Post’s words. The simulator takes up an entire room and allows him to play virtual golf at courses across the globe.

    The system cost about $50,000 and was set up in his personal quarters. While a White House official told the Post that Trump doesn’t use the simulator during his executive time, the President spends the majority of his morning in his personal residence. Trump doesn’t generally report to the Oval Office until 11 a.m., according to Axios.

    Link

  186. says

    From Ilhan Omar, after Trump called for her to resign:

    Hi @realDonaldTrump-

    You have trafficked in hate your whole life—against Jews, Muslims, Indigenous, immigrants, black people and more. I learned from people impacted by my words. When will you?

  187. says

    Followup to comments 197 and 201.

    […] According to the Tax Policy Center those in the bottom 20 percent of earners likely saw an average tax cut of about $60 total for the year. The next 20 percent could expect just a $380 total cut, while the top 0.1 percent of Americans saved an average of more than $190,000.

    Think Progress link

  188. says

    Measles in Washington state:

    A large measles outbreak in Washington state shows no sign of abating.

    According to the State Department of Health, there are now at least 54 cases of the illness, all but one of which were located in Clark County, Washington, just across the river from Portland, Oregon. Directly to the south, the Oregon Health Authority has reported at least four cases. Within Clark County, the vast majority of diagnoses are of children 10 years old or younger.

    Measles — an airborne virus that can lead to lung infections, brain damage, and death in the worst cases — was responsible for thousands of deaths in the U.S. each year prior to the discovery of a vaccine in 1963. Measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, but in the last year, there has been a worldwide resurgence of the virus, with cases increasing 30 percent, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). One of the main drivers of this trend is a growing reluctance to vaccinate children, so much so that the WHO listed the anti-vaccination movement as one of its top ten threats to global health in 2019. […]

    According to a 2018 study by the American Journal of Public Health, combating the problem has been made even more difficult by Russian trolls spreading disinformation on the subject. As ThinkProgress has previously documented, Kremlin-backed disinformation agents have specifically focused on wedge issues designed to divide Americans […]

    Think Progress link

    Yep. Russian trolls are working to ensure that more American children have measles.

    “Whereas bots that spread malware and unsolicited content disseminated antivaccine messages, Russian trolls promoted discord,” the study’s conclusion read. “Accounts masquerading as legitimate users create false equivalency, eroding public consensus on vaccination.” According to the paper, which analyzed a sample of 1.7 million tweets between July 2014 and September 2017, Russian trolls tweet about vaccines at a rate 22 times higher than the average user. […]

    “Facebook should prioritize dealing with the threat to human health when falsehoods and misinformation are shared. This isn’t just self-harm, it’s community harm,” Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, spokeswoman of the American Academy of Pediatrics, told the Guardian. “If [parents] are being served up something that is not true it will likely increase their levels of anxiety and fear and potentially change their uptake of vaccines, which is dangerous.”

  189. says

    A reaction to to Howard Schultz’s latest town hall event, written by Zack Beauchamp:

    The CNN town hall from former Starbucks CEO and potential 2020 candidate Howard Schultz on Tuesday was revelatory: It showed he has no agenda beyond blaming the “extreme left” and “extreme right.” Asked repeatedly to explain his policies for fixing America’s biggest problems, Schultz proved himself entirely incapable of proposing new ideas or specific solutions.

    His policy answers were exercises in vacuity, less showcases for a potential president and more giant televised sucking sounds.

    One audience member asked Schultz what he would do to fix the health care system. His response: “This gives me another opportunity to talk about the extreme left and the extreme right.” CNN’s Poppy Harlow asked him for specifics two more times, to explain what exactly he would do to overhaul American health care. Schultz had no plan.

    A Houston resident, citing his city’s damage from Hurricane Harvey, asked Schultz what his plans would be to address climate change. Schultz responded by bashing the Green New Deal and complaining about the federal debt. […]

    And when asked about a high-profile incident of racial profiling at a Starbucks, Schultz responded with a line straight out of a Stephen Colbert skit: “I didn’t see color as a young boy and I honestly don’t see color now.”

    So it went, on topics ranging from veterans to gun control. Schultz’s inability to speak about policy or ideas in any level of detail led political scientist Seth Masket to dub him “the Trump of the center.” […]

    How long do we have to wait before we write this guy off entirely? He is not a good presidential candidate.

  190. says

    Followup to comment 206.

    From Wonkette’s coverage of Howard Schultz:

    […] someone apparently advised him that the path to the White House involves repeatedly demonstrating that he’s a clueless moron. Guess it worked for the current guy.

    CNN, for no good reason, devoted an entire town hall last night to a man who hasn’t even declared he’s running for president and has no identifiable base of support beyond the rich asshole demographic. His current polling numbers plainly reveal that he’ll never be president or ever hold an elected office, because he’s annoying. […] Now, he’s moved on to the gun debate. We’re not making progress, see, because everyone is so “partisan.” The “far right” wants guns everywhere, and the “far left” wants to replace everyone’s guns with love beads. The last part is a lie.

    SCHULTZ: The far left wants to do everything possible to remove guns completely. I am in the middle

    Yes, you’re in the middle of an NRA talking point. Just when you think this town hall couldn’t get any dumber, Schultz offers his solution to racism. […]

    White people should really stop saying they don’t see color. It’s not a compliment. It’s a plainly racist assertion that implies the color of someone’s skin isn’t noteworthy or even a positive attribute. Imagine someone saying, “I don’t see hair color. Marilyn Monroe was blonde? Really?” […]

    Race is in fact a relevant trait. No one demonstrates their cosmopolitan open-mindedness by absurdly claiming they don’t hear different languages. “I have no idea Germans exist or talk differently than me. I thought they all had the same speech impediment and I was too polite to mention it.”

    Studies have shown that the “color-blind” claim is wishful nonsense. Children notice differences in skin color, hair texture, and body type fairly early. You don’t have to enroll them in some exclusive racist pre-school for this to happen. Viewing these differences as negative or “wrong” is what parents must actively teach against, but that means acknowledging them. Don’t recoil in horror if your child observes that your friend has kinky hair or full lips. Talk to them about it. Celebrate differences. […]

    From Jay Rosen:

    @brianstelter I know you’re always looking for ideas for @ReliableSources. Here’s one. Invite the relevant CNN executive to explain: why a town hall for Howard Schultz? Has he declared? No. Does he have a vast network of support? He does not. Is he polling well? Nope… Then why?

  191. says

    Trump’s “good brain” invents the Fourth Of July holiday in the USA:

    We’re thinking about doing, on the 4th of July or thereabouts, a parade, a “Salute to America” parade. I guess it’d be really more of a gathering than a parade. Perhaps at the Lincoln Memorial. We’re looking at sites. But we’re thinking about doing something that would, perhaps, become a tradition.

    The fireworks (are) there anyway, so we just saved on fireworks. We get free fireworks because it’s already being done. So, that’s very good.

    Salute to America is a great idea. We are working diligently to present the best options to the White House.

    And, [acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt], you’re taking charge of that and you’ll see how it works out with schedules and everything else. And I think it could be a very exciting day.

    There are already parades in Washington D.C. on the 4th of July. There are already fireworks in a setting that includes the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, etc.

    Commentary from Steve Benen:

    […] Pretty much everything Trump proposed yesterday has existed for years. D.C. already has an annual 4th of July parade. D.C. also already hosts an enormous event with people – many of whom gather around the Lincoln Memorial – celebrating the national holiday.

    This could “become, perhaps, a tradition”? It’s already a tradition. Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt is responsible for executing the idea? I have good news for you, Dave, you can already check this off the to-do list.

    When I talk about the president being an amateur, I’m not just referring to his incompetence and inexperience. It’s also striking to see Trump’s unfamiliarity with basic elements of civic life. […]

    Trump thinks he’s come up with something new and “exciting” when he pitches a 4th of July celebration in the nation’s capital?

    Matt Stieb, meanwhile, did a great job summarizing several other instances in which the president proposed things that already exist:

    In November 2018, upset by his presentation on CNN, Trump put forward the idea for a ‘worldwide network to show the World the way we really are,’ apparently unaware of Voice of America, the government-funded media distributor founded during World War II to do just that….

    In June 2017, Trump suggested a policy that bars immigrants from receiving welfare for their first five years as citizens – a law that has existed since 1996….

    And there’s this classic: In February 2018, during a meeting in which Trump said violent media may be to blame for America’s blight of mass shootings, he suggested, ‘Maybe they have to put a rating system’ in effect for movies and video games.”

    Link

  192. says

    Trump has no strategy other than repeating himself, and claiming to know things no one else knows:

    It’s going to be a great, powerful wall. People will not be able to get through that wall very easily, and I think you see that. I think you see it happening. We have other things happening which people aren’t talking about, but we have a lot of funds for a lot of other things and with the wall they [Democrats] want to be stingy, but we have options that most people don’t really understand.

    From the readers comments:

    Don’t forget the part where the “stingy” Dems are giving him $25 million per mile for his ornamental fencing.

    $25 million per mile.

    Which works out to $4735 per foot.
    ——————
    If the preznit has options most people don’t understand then you can be sure he doesn’t understand them.
    ——————
    “It’s going to be a great, powerful wall. People will not be able to get through that wall very easily…”

    No, they will climb over it, tunnel under it, buy a plane ticket, rent a car…
    ———————
    In the last two days stupid has called the Democrats radicals and now they’re stingy. And on so many parts and points we could emphasize how greedy and stingy he is like when it comes to helping California In Puerto Rico after their disasters. He such a hypocrite and so many points. Sign the bill stupid and shut the F up.
    ——————
    Whenever I hear him say something along the lines of “great and powerful” anything, I can’t help but think of that scene in The Wizard of Oz when Toto pulls back the curtain and you see the weak, frightened showman desperately trying to cover up his limitations. “I am the Great and Powerful Oz”.

  193. says

    Team Trump is striking an anti-Iran note during a meeting in Warsaw, Poland. Key European diplomats will not be there to hear team Trump’s pitch.

    […] While officials from between 60 countries are set to show up, there are notable absences: foreign ministers from France and Germany will not be there to meet with Vice President Mike Pence, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and […] Trump’s senior adviser (and son-in-law) Jared Kushner, nor will European Union policy chief, Federica Mogherini.

    Indeed, roughly half of the countries attending are not sending top-level envoys for the trip.

    These absences speak to the divide between major European powers and the United States over dealing with Iran. Mogherini played a key role in negotiating the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, along with France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, and the United States.

    The deal saw Iran curbing its nuclear enrichment activities in exchange for sanctions relief, and the United States, under President Trump, is alone in insisting that it must also cover a wide range of Iran’s other activities, including its ballistic missile program and its footprint in the region, specifically, in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen.

    Trump violated the agreement in May and has reimposed sanctions against Iran, while the European partners in the deal have been trying to come up with ways to keep it alive without risking secondary U.S. sanctions on European companies. […]

    U.S. Special Representative to Iran Brian Hook spoke to NPR Wednesday morning to make the case for the legitimacy and effectiveness of the meeting.

    “We’re going to be discussing a range of issues, but in the case of Iran, we agree to disagree with the Europeans on the Iran nuclear deal. But I do think we share the same threat assessment when it comes to Iran’s testing and Iran’s missile proliferation,” said Hook […]

    He also touted the success of the latest round of sanctions on Iran, even as he expressed support for the Iranian people.

    “Well, we’ve taken off over a million barrels of oil from Iran’s export list, and that has denied them billions and billions of dollars in revenue, and that’s a good thing,” he said. The Trump administration’s aim is to take Iran’s oil exports to zero.

    But just how effective those sanctions will be in the months and years to come remains in question, as Iran’s dependency on its oil exports is significant, though diminishing. […]

    Link

    Sanctioning Iran also provides a boost to Russia and to Saudi Arabia for energy exports.

  194. says

    Followup to comment 154.

    ICE is dropping charges against grammy-nominated rapper 21 Savage.

    Attorneys for Immigration and Customs Enformcent (ICE) have dropped aggravated felony charges against rapper 21 Savage as cause for his deportation.

    […] Charles Kuck, [attorney for 21 Savage], said that the U.S. government is now only pursing the rapper’s deportation on the basis that he emigrated from the United Kingdom at the age of 7 and overstayed his visa.

    “I think this case is emblematic of a lot of cases where people are detained for not correct reasons, but they don’t always have resources to fight the system,” Kuck told BuzzFeed. “This case is very emblematic of what happens in immigration court and detention.” […]

    21 Savage was released on bond on Tuesday, nine days following his detainment. An expedited hearing will take place at an immigration court in the future […]

    Link

  195. says

    Yes, he messed up. Yes, his apology is inadequate:

    Trump confidante Tom Barrack apologized Wednesday for his comment that the Saudi Arabian slaying of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is equal to the “atrocities in America.”

    “The killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was atrocious and inexcusable,” Barrack wrote in a statement. “I apologize for not making this clear in my comments earlier this week.” […]

    Barrack made his original comments during a panel in Abu Dhabi, criticizing Western countries’ high-handedness with dictating a “moral code” for Middle Eastern nations.

    “The atrocities in any autocratic country are dictated by the rule of law,” Barrack reportedly said. “So for us to dictate what we think is the moral code there, when we have a young man and regime that is trying to push themselves in to 2030, I think is a mistake.”

    Barrack, a longtime friend of President Donald Trump, played a large role in his 2016 campaign, bringing into the fold the now-indicted former chairman Paul Manafort. Barrack also served as chairman of Trump’s inaugural committee, which is now the subject of a federal probe.

    TPM link

    All the best people are friends of Trump, including guys who use both-side-ism to excuse murdering a journalist.

    From the readers comments:

    It’s like trying to “walk back” eating a small child alive.
    ——————
    “So for us to dictate what we think is the moral code there, when we have a young man and regime that is trying to push themselves in to 2030, I think is a mistake.”

    Hm. The “young man” defense … It’s not just for white people anymore.

  196. says

    From John Cassidy, writing for The New Yorker:

    With Donald Trump, it’s always been B.S. all the way down. “I play to people’s fantasies,” begins a passage in “The Art of the Deal,” his ghostwritten magnum opus, from 1987. “People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration—and a very effective promotion.”

    Ever since Trump entered the Presidential race, in 2015, he’s been selling a fantastical vision of a wall across the southern border. Now reality has finally caught up with him, and he isn’t enjoying the experience. […]

    This time last year, he was demanding twenty-five billion dollars for a vast concrete wall. At the end of December, he shut down large parts of the federal government in support of his demand for $5.7 billion in funding and two hundred miles of steel barriers. Under the deal reached on Monday, Congress would provide $1.375 billion for fifty-five miles of slat fencing. […]

    He certainly knows how coercive deals work. When he was in the private sector, he was often on the other end of them. In 2006, Andrew Tesoro, a New York architect who designed the clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club Westchester, informed Trump’s representatives that he was owed a hundred and forty thousand dollars. They offered him fifty thousand, take it or leave it. Fearing he might get nothing, Tesoro submitted a revised bill for that amount. Then Trump called him up and said that he’d pay half of it. “I walked away with $25,000,” Tesoro told Forbes, in 2016.

    In all of his businesses, Trump was known for behaving like this toward smaller venders and contractors. How did he get away with it? He had the leverage. To get paid in full, people like Tesoro would have had to take him to court, an expensive, risky, and hassle-inducing prospect. So, they tended to settle for dimes on the dollar, as Trump knew they would.

    Now Trump’s the one lacking leverage. […]

    Trump is stuck, so he’s resorting to yet more B.S. After registering his unhappiness about the spending deal to reporters, he went on, “It’s not doing the trick, but I’m adding things to it. And when you add the things I have to add, it’s all gonna happen where we’ll build a beautiful, big, strong wall that’s not gonna let criminals and traffickers and drug dealers and drugs into our country.” Later in the day, in a pair of tweets, Trump said, “Looking over all aspects knowing that this will be hooked up with lots of money from other sources . . . Will be getting almost $23 billion for border security. Regardless of Wall money, it is being built as we speak.”

    […] Mark Meadows, the head of the House Freedom Caucus, told Hannity’s colleague Neil Cavuto, “Only in Washington, D.C., can we start out with needing twenty-five billion dollars for border-security measures and expect applause at $1.37 [billion]. I mean, only in D.C. is that a winning deal.”

  197. says

    The War Powers Act, how does it work? How is it supposed to work? How did the House of Congress just use the War Powers Act to rebuke Trump?

    The House on Wednesday passed a measure aimed at withdrawing all U.S. military support for the Saudi Arabia-backed war in Yemen, the latest in a series of rebukes by Congress to […] Trump’s foreign policy.

    The Democratic-led House advanced the bill, 248-177, as its first major vote on foreign policy […] Last year, with Republicans in the majority, the House refused to take up the measure […]

    The resolution, authored by Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., has strong support from both sides of the aisle. It would invoke the War Powers Resolution, inserting congressional oversight into the conflict in Yemen, effectively ending U.S. involvement and military assistance to the civil war there between the Yemen government and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. […]

    The bill is the result of a long-running debate between Congress and the executive branch over war-making authority, but it’s also the latest example of a Congress, including members of the president’s own party, increasingly asserting its voice against his foreign policy in a number of critical areas. […]

    Criticism in Congress escalated after the administration refused to place blame on Saudi Arabia for the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, despite U.S. intelligence that shows a “high confidence” Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was involved.

    Members are also concerned about the worsening humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where food and supplies are being blocked by the Saudi-led coalition. Aid groups and the United Nations say 14 million people are on the brink of starvation and more than 85,000 children have already died from malnutrition.

    And critics say Trump’s foreign policy is inconsistent as he’s supporting a continuation of the U.S.’s role in that conflict even as he has ordered the withdrawal of troops in Syria and Afghanistan. […]

    https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/house-passes-measuring-end-u-s-involvement-yemen-n971191

    More at the link.

  198. says

    Mueller wins one. Three out of five of the arguments that Mueller’s team brought to the judge, saying that Paul Manafort lied after he had entered into a plea deal with Mueller, three of those claims from Mueller were upheld by the judge.

    So, Manafort blew up his plea deal! He will now be likely to get a longer jail term.

    More on this later.

  199. says

    Followup to comment 217.

    A judge ruled on Wednesday that Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort lied to the FBI and special counsel Robert Mueller multiple times.

    Manafort “intentionally made multiple false statements to the FBI, the OSC and the grand jury concerning matters that were material to the investigation,” Judge Amy Berman Jackson decided. […]

    The Hill link

    […] The decision by U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson confirms some of Mueller’s latest set of charges against the former Donald Trump campaign chairman that he lied during guilty-plea-stipulated cooperation sessions about his contacts with Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime aide alleged to have ties to Russian intelligence.

    Jackson, however, ruled that Mueller had “failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence” that Manafort intentionally made a false statement about his contacts with the Trump administration. Jackson’s four-page order said Mueller was “no longer bound” by the plea agreement terms he’d reached with Manafort in September, including the special counsel’s pledge to support a less-stringent sentence.

    Politico link

    My takeaway is that Manafort continued to lie about his contacts with Konstantin Kilimnik, the guy with ties to Russian intelligence … and this was during the time that Manafort was Trump’s campaign chairman.

  200. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on All In is having a show on our southern border tomorrow night. Should be interesting to see reality versus Trump’s delusions.

  201. says

    Follow up to comments 217 and 218.

    On Rachel Maddow’s show tonight Adam Schiff made the point that, perhaps, Manafort did not tell the truth about his meeting in August 2016 with Konstantin Kilimnik because, if he had, the truth would have damaged Trump so greatly that Trump would no longer be in a position to give anyone a pardon. Manafort may have been protecting Trump so that he would still be in power, and so that he would still be able to grant Manafort a pardon.

    That’s an interesting theory, but I don’t know that anyone should trust Trump to come through with a pardon, even if Trump remains in power as president.

    My theory is that Manafort is more afraid of the Russians than he is of spending the rest of his life in prison.

    Adam Schiff, a Democrat, is the House Intelligence Committee chairman.

    In other, related news, Trump confidant Roger Stone was recently arrested and his home was searched. Stone’s wife is now using “the email distribution list of former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich to request contributions for her husband’s legal defense.” TPM link

    More:

    […] A Gingrich aide says Gingrich regularly rents his Virginia-based company’s email list to people or causes as long as they’re not “totally off brand.” The aide says Stone’s email was approved after Gingrich’s team determined the message was largely in line with Gingrich’s criticism of Mueller’s investigation. […]

  202. says

    Followup to comment 179.

    Good news story: more people standing up to Trump’s bullying:

    The U.S. Conference of Mayors is defending El Paso, Texas, mayor Dee Margo (R) as he faces attacks from President Trump for his comments about the border fence’s impact on crime.

    “During his rally in El Paso, President Trump claimed that Margo was ‘full of crap’ because he and other local officials have said that a border fence has not made a difference in reducing crime in the city,” the body’s president, Steve Benjamin, said in a statement.

    “This is simply untrue. Credible statistics validated by the FBI and other local law enforcement officials show that El Paso has never been one of the nation’s most dangerous cities and was a safe city long before any wall was built along the border.”

    Benjamin, who is the mayor of Columbia, S.C., added that mayors throughout the country “make decisions based on the facts and what we know to be true.”

    “Moreover, this kind of criticism only contributes to the further loss of civility in public discourse and prevents us from moving forward together to make our cities and our country stronger and more secure,” Benjamin concluded.

    Trump on Monday night declared that “people were full of crap” if they said a border fence hasn’t made a difference in reducing crime in El Paso.

    The comments came about a week after Trump claimed in his State of the Union address that El Paso was one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. before a barrier was constructed.

    “I’ve been hearing a lot of things. ‘Oh the wall didn’t make that much of a difference,'” Trump said while speaking at the El Paso County Coliseum on Monday. “I don’t care if a mayor is a Republican or a Democrat, they’re full of crap when they say it hasn’t made a big difference.” […]

    From Mayor Dee Margo:

    El Paso was NEVER one of the MOST dangerous cities in the US. We‘ve had a fence for 10 years and it has impacted illegal immigration and curbed criminal activity. It is NOT the sole deterrent. Law enforcement in our community continues to keep us safe #SOTU

    My job as Mayor is to represent El Paso factually and with integrity, correcting any misstatements negatively reflecting our community. I don’t focus on political rhetoric, only facts.

  203. says

    More anti-Iran bloviation from team Trump:

    […] Vice President Pence on Thursday launched a combative broadside against some of America’s closest allies, calling on European countries to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran and accusing them of attempting to break U.S. sanctions against “that vile regime” in Tehran.

    Officials from Britain, France and Germany — all countries that negotiated and signed the 2015 landmark agreement that President Trump withdrew from last year — were in the audience as Pence accused them of essentially joining sides with America’s enemy. […]

    Washington Post link

    Analysis from Steve Benen:

    Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats recently told the U.S. Senate that Iran is not “currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activity” needed to make a bomb. In fact, it’s American intelligence agencies have concluded that Iran is actually abiding by the terms of the international nuclear agreement reached in 2015. […]

    It’s an extraordinary foreign policy dynamic. After Donald Trump withdrew from the JCPOA for reasons the White House has never fully explained — “Because Obama helped negotiate a historic and effective agreement” is not a compelling reason — U.S. allies took steps to ensure the policy continued to work. In fact, the efforts from British, French, and German officials are ongoing.

    In response, the Republican administration is criticizing our allies and pressuring them to abandon the international agreement that — according to U.S. intelligence chiefs — our former partners are still honoring.

    It came against a backdrop in which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly said this morning, “You can’t achieve peace and stability in the Middle East without confronting Iran.”

    What’s more, all of this comes the same week as an official White House video message in which National Security Advisor John Bolton claimed. “Iran continues to seek nuclear weapons to intimidate peaceful people all around the globe, and ballistic missiles to use as delivery systems.”

    Again, Trump’s own intelligence chiefs have already said, publicly and under oath, that this isn’t true.

    Yesterday, meanwhile, NBC News reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “startled Iranians and even the White House on Wednesday with a strident call for Israeli-Arab action against the government in Tehran that was translated by his office as urging ‘war with Iran.’”

    The messaging isn’t exactly subtle.

  204. says

    Excerpts from former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s book have surfaced here and there, along with a lot of discussion, and along with the usual disparaging tweets from Hair Furor.

    It’s been nearly a year since former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was fired, but he’s now firing back at his Trump administration adversaries with a book called, “The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump.”

    McCabe spoke to CBS News’ Scott Pelley, who reflected on the interview this morning.

    “The most illuminating and surprising thing in the interview to me were these eight days in May when all of these things were happening behind the scenes that the American people really didn’t know about,” Pelley said on the show.

    “There were meetings at the Justice Department at which it was discussed whether the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet could be brought together to remove the president of the United States under the 25th Amendment,” Pelley said. “These were the eight days from [former FBI Director James] Comey’s firing to the point that Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel. And the highest levels of American law enforcement were trying to figure out what do with the president.”

    Asked if the conversation about the 25th Amendment was in jest, Pelley, apparently relying on McCabe’s version of events, said it was not. […]

    Link

    From Trump:

    Disgraced FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe pretends to be a “poor little Angel” when in fact he was a big part of the Crooked Hillary Scandal & the Russia Hoax – a puppet for Leakin’ James Comey. I.G. report on McCabe was devastating. Part of “insurance policy” in case I won….

  205. says

    Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker is still in trouble. Here is an excerpt from a letter sent to Whitaker by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler:

    Although the Committee appreciates your decision to appear, Members on both sides of the aisle found many of your answers to be unsatisfactory, incomplete, or contradicted by other evidence. You repeatedly refused to offer clear responses regarding your communications with the White House, and you were inconsistent in your application of the Department’s policy related to the discussion of ongoing investigations.

    From Natasha Bertrand, writing for The Atlantic:

    It took about five minutes of questioning for the acting attorney general to provoke gasps and jeers in the congressional hearing room. “Your five minutes is up,” Matthew Whitaker, an ex–U.S. attorney turned toilet salesman, told the House Judiciary Committee’s Democratic chairman, Jerry Nadler. Nadler cracked a smile, but from that point on, the rules of engagement seemed clear: Whitaker, with just days remaining in his legally dubious role as the interim head of the Justice Department, appeared to be playing to an audience of one. […]

    Trump appointed Whitaker late last year to replace Jeff Sessions, […] He also served as a paid advisory-board member of a fraudulent invention-promotion firm. Later, he was the executive director of a conservative nonprofit funded by dark money. And then came his stint as a CNN commentator in 2017, during which he blasted Mueller and opined that his probe had “gone too far.” All of this received heavy scrutiny as the constitutional basis of his appointment was challenged in the courts. […]

    Chuck Rosenberg, a former senior Justice Department official who resigned in 2017, said it would have been “easy” for Whitaker to say that Mueller’s investigation is legitimate, as Barr did during his recent confirmation hearings. “I don’t know how somebody could be that cowardly,” he added. But doing so would have undermined what is arguably his boss’s most important talking point—and that would not have been a good move for Whitaker if he was, in fact, auditioning for his next position.

    Instead, Whitaker had a boilerplate response prepared for the myriad questions. […]

    Frank Figliuzzi, the former assistant director for counterintelligence at the FBI, seemed shocked by Whitaker’s demeanor: “I am not kidding when I say I have interviewed terrorists who were more cooperative and respectful than Matt Whitaker was today,” Figliuzzi told MSNBC. “The attorney general’s role is America’s lawyer; we are his client.”

    Unfortunately, at Friday’s hearing, Figliuzzi said, “he treated us with utter disdain.”

    During a recent cabinet meeting, Trump praised Whitaker, and he praised Whitaker’s performance during the House committee hearing.

  206. says

    Followup to comment 223.

    More excerpts from McCabe’s book, and from an interview of McCabe conducted by Scott Pelley:

    […] “I was speaking to the man who had just run for the presidency, and won the election for the presidency, and who might have done so with the aid of the government of Russia, our most formidable adversary on the world stage, and that was something that troubled me greatly,” McCabe said in the interview. […]

    In the excerpt, McCabe described what he considered an unusual call from the president just after Comey’s firing, asking to visit the FBI “to show all my FBI people how much I love them.” According to McCabe, Comey’s firing had not been well received news at the FBI, where he was popular.

    The president said, I’m good. You know—boy, it’s incredible, it’s such a great thing, people are really happy about the fact that the director’s gone, and it’s just remarkable what people are saying. Have you seen that? Are you seeing that, too?

    He went on: I received hundreds of messages from FBI people—how happy they are that I fired him. There are people saying things on the media, have you seen that?

    According to McCabe, the president also railed against Comey’s use of a government plane to return home after his firing (the news of it broke while he was giving a speech in Los Angeles).

    Since the members of the protection detail would all be coming home, it made sense to bring everybody back on the same plane they had used to fly out there. … The president flew off the handle: That’s not right! I don’t approve of that! That’s wrong! He reiterated his point five or seven times.

    I said, I’m sorry that you disagree, sir. But it was my decision, and that’s how I decided. The president said, I want you to look into that! I thought to myself: What am I going to look into? I just told you I made that decision.

    The ranting against Comey spiraled. I waited until he had talked himself out.

    And as one last anecdote about inappropriate behavior from the president during that phone call, McCabe described the president asking about McCabe’s wife, Jill, who in 2015 had lost her bid—as a Democrat—for a state Senate seat in March 2015.

    He said, How is your wife? I said, She’s fine. He said, When she lost her election, that must have been very tough to lose. How did she handle losing? Is it tough to lose?

    I replied, I guess it’s tough to lose anything. But she’s rededicated herself to her career and her job and taking care of kids in the emergency room….

    He replied in a tone that sounded like a sneer. He said, “Yeah, that must’ve been really tough. To lose. To be a loser.”

    […] the president incorrectly claimed that McCabe had received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Hillary Clinton through contributions to his wife’s campaign. […]

    https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/02/andrew-mccabe-trump-russia-investigation-fbi.html

  207. says

    In a carefully worded statement, the DOJ pushed back against some of McCabe’s statements:

    “The Deputy Attorney General never authorized any recording that Mr. McCabe references. As the Deputy Attorney General previously has stated, based on his personal dealings with the President, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment, nor was the DAG in a position to consider invoking the 25th Amendment,” the spokesperson said.

    The statement alludes to what appears to be other claims McCabe made in the interview.

    “Finally, the Deputy Attorney General never spoke to Mr. Comey about appointing a Special Counsel. The Deputy Attorney General in fact appointed Special Counsel Mueller, and directed that Mr. McCabe be removed from any participation in that investigation,” the spokesperson said. “Subsequent to this removal, DOJ’s Inspector General found that Mr. McCabe did not tell the truth to federal authorities on multiple occasions, leading to his termination from the FBI.”

    McCabe never claimed that a recording had been “authorized.”

    The carefully-worded pushback does not directly refute McCabe’s claim that the 25th Amendment remedy was discussed. McCabe never claimed that the DAG was a body that could invoke the 25th Amendment.

    McCabe may have been removed from participation in the investigation by the Special Counsel because he was a fact witness to Trump’s obstruction of justice. As a witness, he should have been recused.

    Trump’s DOJ is currently headed by Matthew Whitaker. Don’t trust statements overseen by him.

    From Renanto Mariotti:

    McCabe and Rosenstein were acting in response to unprecedented attempts to obstruct justice by the President of the United States. Their actions are shocking, but they were in response to dangerous and alarming actions by Trump. https://t.co/imdN4HlcJq

    Rosenstein’s response to McCabe is odd and raises many questions. First, it states that Rosenstein never “authorized” a recording of Trump. That doesn’t mean Rosenstein didn’t repeatedly float the idea of wiring up and recording Trump. https://t.co/LI7oYhDH2R”

    2/ Rosenstein also states that there *is* no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment (to remove Trump from office) but does not deny that he and others discussed doing so at length.

    3/ Rosenstein’s statement also indicates he directed that McCabe be removed from involvement in Mueller’s investigation but does not explain why. One reason could be that McCabe would be a witness or could be perceived to be unfair.

    The mere fact of removal means nothing. /end

    My conclusion: we have a non-denial denial from Rosenstein and others.

    From readers comments:

    This statement reeks of Sister Sarah or her programmer. Do they have some sort of statement generation device?
    —————-
    “As the Deputy Attorney General previously has stated, based on his personal dealings with the President, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment, nor was the DAG in a position to consider invoking the 25th Amendment,” the spokesperson said.”

    The lawyer in me looks at the statement and thinks, it seems to say one thing but it doesn’t actually do that. It seems to say that Rosenstein said that his personal dealings with the President convinced him that there’s no basis to invoke the 25th. But what it actually says is that there’s no basis for invoking the 25th “based on his personal dealings with the President.” Rosenstein may very well think that there’s a reason to invoke the 25th based on things other than his personal dealings with the President.

    Also, “nor was the DAG in a position to consider invoking the 25th” seems to say that the DAG didn’t think there was any reason to invoke the 25th. But what it actually says is that the DAG wasn’t in the position to do that. And since the DAG wouldn’t be the one invoking the 25th — it would be the Cabinet — that statement actually doesn’t say anything at all.

  208. says

    Protection of election systems in the USA needs to be ramped up. So what does Trump do? He downsizes:

    Two teams of federal officials assembled to fight foreign election interference are being dramatically downsized, according to three current and former Department of Homeland Security officials. And now, those sources say they fear the department won’t prepare adequately for election threats in 2020.

    “The clear assessment from the intelligence community is that 2020 is going to be the perfect storm,” said a DHS official familiar with the teams. “We know Russia is going to be engaged. Other state actors have seen the success of Russia and realize the value of disinformation operations. So it’s very curious why the task forces were demoted in the bureaucracy and the leadership has not committed resources to prepare for the 2020 election.” […]

    One of the task forces is now half the size it was a few months ago, according to two DHS officials familiar with the task forces, and there’s no indication that DHS senior political leadership will staff it up or sustain it. Instead, there are concerns it will completely wither away. The other task force also shrank significantly shortly after the midterms, according to that official, and before its members produced a thorough assessment of what happened during the 2018 elections.

    “Our key allies are wondering why the U.S. is not more coordinated and not more proactive in dealing with this,” said the DHS official. “They don’t understand why the U.S. is not getting its act together.” […]

    “It won’t be 2016 all over again—the threat is changing,” said a former DHS official. “A thinly staffed task force working on that is not going to be equipped to keep up with the adversary.” […]

    “Because it’s a very difficult task and because DHS has never done it before, there’s a lot of catching up to do,” said the former DHS official. “Even with a fully resourced effort, that would be an extremely tall task. But having it be deprioritized and lacking access to senior leadership, it’s virtually impossible.”

    That said, these changes appear to reflect the White House’s lack of interest in beefing up election security, according to Paul Rosenzweig, formerly deputy assistant secretary for policy at DHS.

    “If the president isn’t interested and there is no strategy, it’s no surprise that DHS is not wasting its time,” said Rosenzweig, now a senior fellow at the R Street Institute. “The failure of the White House to take this seriously is perhaps its single most significant dereliction of duty.” […]

    Inside DHS, staffers are frustrated that emphasis on election security has dwindled as the focus on border security has exploded. […]

    Trump’s DHS Guts Task Forces Protecting Elections From Foreign Meddling, a Daily Beast article by Betsy Woodruff and Erin Banco.

    Trump is clearing the way for Russia; and perhaps Saudi Arabia, China and others?, to help him win in 2020.

  209. says

    William Barr has been confirmed as the attorney general.

    […] Senators voted 54-45 for Barr’s nomination […]

    Sen. Rand Paul was the only Republican who voted against Barr on Thursday, while Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin, Doug Jones and Kyrsten Sinema broke with their party and supported him. […]

    Democrats have raised concerns for weeks over Barr’s views on executive power and special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the 2016 election. As attorney general, Barr is set to take over oversight of the investigation […]

    Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said before the vote on Barr on Thursday that the circumstances around Mueller’s probe make the threshold for supporting an attorney general nominee higher than normal.

    “The next attorney general must be a public servant in the truest sense, with the integrity, the force of will, and the independence to navigate the Justice Department – and maybe our democracy – through treacherous waters. Mr. Barr’s attitude: leave it to me. That is not good enough,” Schumer said.

    He added that Barr “does not recognize nor appreciate the moment we’re in.” […]

    “We need an attorney general that grasps the urgency of the moment, who is aware of the impact of the Department of Justice on communities across this country,” [Cory] Booker said, “and who is willing and prepared to protect our most fundamental rights.” […]

    The Hill link

    I think this confirmation will result is less justice and more corruption.

  210. says

    From Representative Adam Schiff:

    As a Member of Congress who is deeply concerned about declining vaccination rates, I am requesting additional information on the steps that you currently take to provide medically accurate information on vaccinations to your users, and to encourage you to consider additional steps you can take to address this growing problem.

    I was pleased to see YouTube’s recent announcement that it will no longer recommend videos that violate its community guidelines, such as conspiracy theories or medically inaccurate videos, and encourage further action to be taken related to vaccine misinformation.

    The letter from Schiff was directed to CEOs Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai.

  211. says

    Weather news that is very troubling for California:

    A massive, gushing river in the sky — a mile high, more than 300 miles wide, and carrying up to 15 times the amount of water in the Mississippi River — is now drenching huge swaths of the West Coast. This phenomenon, known as an atmospheric river, has already brought more snow to northern California in a day than parts of New England have seen all winter. […]

    Such rivers occur when plumes of moisture over the Pacific Ocean start to mesh with a larger storm system. Sometimes years can go by without an atmospheric river, and sometimes several can occur in a single season.

    A massive volume of precipitation soaking the West Coast all at once can be dangerous. Officials in California are already warning residents of flash flooding as rainfall starts to immerse some of the ordinarily drier parts of the state. On Wednesday, Sacramento broke a daily rainfall record with a 1.6-inch downpour over 24 hours. The prior record was 1.22 inches. There are also mandatory evacuations in Orange County.

    A key concern for California right now is mudslides. After back-to-back years of expansive, record-breaking wildfires, many areas of the state are denuded of the vegetation that would ordinarily anchor the soil in place. But even areas that haven’t seen fires recently are vulnerable. Sausalito, California, saw five inches of rain in the past 24 hours, which triggered a mudslide in the hilly Bay Area town and forced people to evacuate at least 50 homes.

    The National Weather Service is now expecting more than seven inches of precipitation in Southern California and the Sierra Nevada through Saturday.

    Over the long term, researchers expect that atmospheric rivers will grow more intense as the climate changes. As average temperatures go up, more water evaporates and the atmosphere can hold on to more moisture to dish out in storms. […]

    Vox link

  212. says

    Followup to comments 223, 225, and 226.

    From Wonkette’s coverage of McCabe’s book:

    Andrew McCabe, the acting director of the FBI who “resigned” suddenly, but remained technically employed so he could retire with his pension, until Jeff Sessions fired him two days before that pension kicked in, for basically no reason except seemingly as a way to give Donald Trump a political scalp, has written a book! (Of course he has.) It is called The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump […]

    The Atlantic has an exclusive excerpt, and it will make you mad and rage about how Donald Trump treated this dude, whom he hated. Trump […] was pretty sure McCabe was a Deep State Hillary operative intent on his destruction, and at the end of the day, the president got what he wanted, which was the end of McCabe’s career and yet another body blow to the independence of the Justice Department.

    From the headline of the profile, readers can see what they’re in for with this excerpt from McCabe. It doesn’t exactly break any news — everybody with a brain knows Donald Trump is an unhinged, possibly senile piece of shit who is a clear and present danger to national security and American institutions – [“Every Day is a New Low in Trump’s White House”] […]

    The president said he thought most people in the FBI voted for him—he thought 80 percent. He asked me again, as he had in his office, if I knew that Comey had told him three times that he was not under investigation. Then he got to the reason for his call. He said, I really want to come over there. I want to come to the FBI. I want to show all my FBI people how much I love them, so I think maybe it would be good for me to come over and speak to everybody, like tomorrow or the next day. […]

    [More from McCabe]:

    Every day brings a new low, with the president exposing himself as a deliberate liar who will say whatever he pleases to get whatever he wants. If he were “on the box” at Quantico, he would break the machine.

    […] Sarah Chucklefucks Sanders also released an official White House response, but we’re not linking to it, because nobody cares what that lying shitshow says. […]

  213. says

    Amazon has dropped plans to build a headquarters in New York City.

    […] “There are a number of folks on the ground who oppose our presence,” Amazon spokeswoman Jodi Seth said. “We don’t think there’s a path forward in terms of working with them over the long term.”

    The company issued a statement shortly before noon saying it did not intend to reopen its search for a second headquarters at this time, but would continue with plans to put at least 25,000 jobs in Arlington in Northern Virginia and 5,000 in Nashville.

    The decision was a stunning reversal for Amazon, which badly miscalculated how it would be received when it said it would put half of the 50,000 jobs promised in its much-publicized HQ2 search in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens. […]

    Washington Post link

  214. says

    Yay! No government shutdown. The bill passed the Senate. It’s guaranteed to pass the House. Trump says he will sign it, probably about 9 PM.

    Oh, FFS! Trump has announced that he will sign an emergency declaration today in order to get money to build his wall. This is an action that will be challenged. Trump is bypassing Congress, the body that supposedly has the power of the purse. Trump is claiming an emergency that does not exist. He created the humanitarian challenges on the border, but the emergency is only in his mind. The White House does not have the right to appropriate funds to build a wall. Nevertheless, this is what they are going to try. Sarah Sanders says the White House is prepared for any legal challenges.

    Not so good: the current funding bill does not renew the Violence Against Women Act. Democrats are looking at other ways to get that done.

    Also not so good: the current funding bill does not include back pay for government contractors who did not get paid during the past shutdown. Democrats are looking at other ways to get that done. In the meantime, Trump has stiffed contractors again.

  215. says

    The White House issued a statement on the anniversary of the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida:

    Melania and I join all Americans in praying for the continued healing of those in the Parkland community and all communities where lives have been lost to gun violence.

    Trump posted a similar tweet, with one important, and stupid change:

    Melania and I join all Americans in praying for the continued strength and healing of those in the Parkland community and all communities where there has been the loss of life as a result of school violence.

    “School violence?” Give me a break.

  216. says

    Followup to comment 234.

    Democrats did something more meaningful to mark the anniversary of the mass shooting in Parkland:

    A key House committee approved a bill Wednesday to require background checks for all sales and transfers of firearms, a first step by majority Democrats to tighten gun laws after eight years of Republican rule.

    The House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of the bill 23-15, sending it to the House floor. If approved by the full House, the bill would be the most significant gun-control legislation approved by either chamber of Congress in at least a decade.

    That’s the first time in over a decade that a major bill meant to curb gun violence has made it out of committee in the House of Congress.

    One step at a time.

  217. says

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Thursday said President Donald Trump was “making an end run around Congress” with his pledge to declare a national emergency in order to secure more funds to build a border wall than Congress appropriated.

    “We will review our options,” Pelosi pledged, saying the Trump’s stated “emergency” was “an illusion that he wants to convey.” […]

    TPM link

  218. says

    Legal opinions:

    The Department of Justice (DOJ) has warned the White House that the courts are likely to block a national emergency declaration to build a wall along the southern border, according to ABC News.

    The White House, however, remains confident that it can win on appeal and ultimately have such a declaration approved by the courts, ABC News reported. […]

    Link

  219. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Rachel Maddow, in her opening segment, mentioned that the “emergency” by the statute, can be rescinded by a majority vote by both the house and senate. I suspect Speaker Pelosi will work on it for the house, which will require a vote by the senate (sorry McConnell, it must be voted on). Should be an interesting vote. Link, if available, in the morning.

  220. says

    http://www.msnbc.com/all-in/watch/the-border-has-never-been-as-safe-and-secure-as-it-is-now-1442974787669

    In this “All In” segment, Beto O’Rourke talks to Chris Hayes. The setting is El Paso, with a view of Mexico behind the two men. Beto offered an eloquent argument against border walls. The video is about 7 minutes long. It begins with an introduction from Chris Hayes that summarized recent events on the border, including Beto’s rally, and Trump’s rally. The segment then presents an interview with Beto that was taped earlier in the day so that Beto could be home in the evening to spend Valentines Day with his wife and three children. The whole thing was just what I needed as an antidote to Trump.

  221. says

    Nerd @238, Nancy Pelosi won … again. And, with upcoming disapproval and/or veto-overriding votes, she will win again.

    There’s already a veto-proof vote in the Senate (83). In the House, the vote was about 300 yes to about 100 no, so you have another veto-proof vote in the House.

    Trump has no leverage left. He can’t shutdown the government.

    It’s looking more and more likely that Trump also won’t be able to declare a national emergency. Or, that if he does, Nancy Pelosi and/or the courts will stop him.

    Remember when Trump said, “I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck.” I was surprised that both Chuck and Nancy didn’t laugh out loud.

    I loved Rachel Maddow’s segment in which she proved that Trump is NOT 6 feet 3 inches tall. That’s what his recent doctor claimed as part of Trump’s yearly physical. Bull pucky. Trump is actually shrinking. Nancy is cutting him down to size.

    If you want to know, Trump is about six feet one inch tall, or perhaps six feet one and a half inches tall.

  222. says

    From the Washington Post’s review of Andrew McCabe’s book:

    He didn’t read intelligence reports and mixed up classified material with what he had seen in newspaper clips. He seemed confused about the structure and purpose of organizations and became overwhelmed when meetings covered multiple subjects. He blamed immigrants for nearly every societal problem and uttered racist sentiments with shocking callousness.

    This isn’t how President Trump is depicted in a new book by former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe. Instead, it’s McCabe’s account of what it was like to work for then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

    The FBI was better off when “you all only hired Irishmen,” Sessions said in one diatribe about the bureau’s workforce. “They were drunks but they could be trusted. Not like all those new people with nose rings and tattoos — who knows what they’re doing?”

    It’s a startling portrait that suggests that the Trump administration’s reputation for baseness and dysfunction has, if anything, been understated and too narrowly attributed to the president.

    The description of Sessions is one of the most striking revelations in “The Threat,” a McCabe memoir that adds to a rapidly expanding collection of score-settling insider accounts of Trump-era Washington. […]

    […] the book includes disturbing new detail about Trump’s subservience to Russian President Vladimir Putin. During an Oval Office briefing in July 2017, Trump refused to believe U.S. intelligence reports that North Korea had test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile — a test that Kim Jong Un had called a Fourth of July “gift” to “the arrogant Americans.”

    Trump dismissed the missile launch as a “hoax,” McCabe writes. “He thought that North Korea did not have the capability to launch such missiles. He said he knew this because Vladimir Putin had told him so.” […]

  223. KG says

    May suffered another defeat over Brexit in the Commons last night, over an anodyne motion which her spox insisted it was very important she win before the vote (to send the message to the EU that she could get a deal through if only they would make changes they have been insisting for months they will not make), and then insisted it was insignificant once she lost. She’s obviously been learning from Trump.

    The defeat came about because members of the ERG (European Research Group – the Tory Ultras) abstained because the government hadn’t been insistent enough that a no-deal Brexit was still “on the table”. But the unsuccessful grovelling to the ERG also annoyed Remainer Tories, some of whom are saying the ERG are in effect a separate party and should join UKIP or Farage’s new “Brexit” party.

  224. says

    Yes, Trump declared a national emergency in order to fill his pockets with the money he needs to build his border wall. He said about $8 billion. While making the announcement in the Rose Garden, Trump also said, “I didn’t need to do this.”

    Okay, so he just shot down the whole idea of an “emergency.” That should go over well in the many court cases that will be brought against him.

    The quote in context: “I want to do it faster. I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster…. I just want to get it done faster, that’s all.”

  225. says

    There’s always a tweet.

    In 2014, President Donald Trump railed against then President Barack Obama over his use of executive power on immigration. Fast forward five years and Trump is expected to do the same thing.

    “Repubs must not allow Pres Obama to subvert the Constitution of the US for his own benefit & because he is unable to negotiate w/ Congress,” Trump said in a tweet on Nov. 20, 2014.

    USA Today link

  226. says

    From Steve Benen:

    […] Today’s emergency declaration is many things, but it’s principally an acknowledgement of a defeat. Trump has effectively surrendered. By signing the declaration, the president is admitting that he couldn’t get Mexico to pay for a wall, he couldn’t get Congress to pay for a wall, and he couldn’t turn to his vaunted negotiating skills to achieve his goal – because those skills don’t exist in reality.

    An uncomfortable truth has been laid bare: what Trump billed as his greatest strength has proven to be one of his most glaring weaknesses.

    Link

    Public opinion:

    […] A Post-ABC News poll released in January makes another point clear: Opposition to using a national emergency to build the wall is actually higher than opposition to the wall in general. […]

    Washington Post link

    PR ploys and legal opinion:

    The president huddled with contractors to review designs; his budget gurus identified pots of money that might be tapped by executive fiat for wall construction; his lawyers reviewed the U.S. Code and drafted orders; and his political hands debuted a new slogan designed to convey that nonexistent action was already under­way: “Finish the wall.”

    […] the White House Counsel’s Office expressed concerns that the emergency declaration would be legally dicey.

    Inside the West Wing, Trump’s advisers argued to him that his call for a border wall was more popular because of his showdown with Congress and that his approval ratings had improved slightly. Indeed, he said at Monday night’s rally that the shutdown was “a very important thing we did” because it raised public awareness of “what the hell is happening with the border.” […]

    Washington Post link

  227. says

    From Caitlin MacNeal, writing for Talking Points Memo:

    […] Trump announced his intention to declare a national emergency at the southern border Friday in one of his most bizarre, rambling White House appearances yet.

    Trump’s weaved and bobbed between talking about immigration and making asides about completely unrelated issues. So we’ve pulled together the highlights, in chronological order, from Trump’s chaotic rant:

    It began with an aside about trade deals
    Trump began the announcement by first mentioning the administration’s ongoing trade negotiations with China.

    “We’re covering everything, all the points that people have been talking about for years that said couldn’t be done, whether it was theft or anything, anything,” Trump said in his vague update on trade discussions.

    Then came a rundown of other foreign policy issues
    The President breathlessly mentioned trade negotiations with the United Kingdom, the situation in Syria, and an upcoming summit on North Korea’s nuclear capabilities.

    “A lot of positive things are going on,” he said.

    Trump got distracted as soon as he mentioned the border
    When he finally gave a nod to the purpose of his speech, Trump claimed he was taking the extraordinary measure not just to fill a campaign promise. This prompted a rambling tangent on the economy as Trump claimed he has filled his campaign promise to boost the American economy. […]

    ‘Walls work 100 percent’
    Trump finally committed to talking about border security.

    “They say walls don’t work. Walls work 100 percent,” he declared. […]

    ‘Nobody’ cared about past declarations
    Right after making his announcement, Trump suggested that his declaration should not be seen as a big deal.

    “And it’s been signed many times before. It’s been signed by other presidents. From 1977 or so it gave the presidents the power. There’s rarely been a problem. They sign it. Nobody cares. I guess they weren’t very exciting. But nobody cares. They sign it, for far less important things in some cases, in many cases,” Trump said. “We’re talking about an invasion of our country with drugs, with human traffickers, with all types of criminals and gangs.”

    Another China shoutout
    Trump clearly had China on the mind. While discussing the southern border, Trump praised China’s death penalty punishment for drug dealers. […]

    The President then discussed trade negotiations with China yet again.

    And back to the economy
    Not long after Trump again started talking about the “invasion” of drugs at the southern border, he was back to touting his economic agenda. He mentioned a past executive action taken by President Obama, and it prompted him to bash the former president.

    “Let me tell you, the previous administration, it was heading south, and it was going fast. We would have been down the tubes. The regulations were strangling our country, unnecessary regulations. By creating such a strong economy, you just look at your televisions and see what’s going on today. It’s through the roof,” Trump said.

    He quickly brought it back to immigration, however, with a questionable claim about the number of people attempting to emigrate to the U.S.

    “What happens is more people want to come. So we have far more people trying to get into our country today than probably we’ve ever had before,” Trump claimed. [That’s not “questionable,” it’s an outright lie.]

    Trump said he was ‘new to the job’
    The President said that he could have secured funding for the border wall had he been a more experienced politician when Republicans controlled both chambers in Congress.

    “It would have been great to have done it earlier, but I was a little new to the job, a little new to the profession,” he said.

    But he quickly placed some blame on other unnamed individuals.

    “People that should have stepped up did not step up,” he said.

    A tune about the coming court fights
    After ranting about immigration and the border for several minutes, Trump gave a sing-song rundown of the likely court fight over his border declaration.

    Trump then lashed out at the press for their focus on lower court decisions that struck down his travel ban, noting that the Supreme Court ultimately upheld his final iteration of the policy. […]

    A conclusion about gang ‘monsters’
    Before wrapping up his lengthy rant, Trump mentioned the MS-13 gang, something Trump has obsessed over since the campaign.

    […] “We take them out by the thousands. And they are monsters,” he said. […]

  228. says

    From the readers comments:

    It was the usual sniffing and riffing. It was full of incomplete sentences, out right lies, his fascination with the death penalty (China executes drug dealers), touting the stock market which is not the economy, wall wall wall, love of Kim Jong Un (executes his own family members, starves his people, sends his people to gulags for minor stuff), Isis is gone (ya sure.), and the declaration of a national nonemergency. This emergency is so bad he is headed for Mar a Lago to play golf for the long weekend.
    —————-
    Fuck. Just plain fuck. We’re led by a demented person.
    ——————
    I hope everybody remembered to drink when he mentioned the bound women.

    What is the deal with “3 women tied up in the back of a car”? Why 3? Is that in “Sicario”? Wouldn’t the white panel van used by all self-respecting kidnappers have room for more than 3?

  229. says

    Oh, yeah, I forgot this bit: while Trump was delivering his rambling, shoot-myself-in-the-foot speech in the Rose Garden, he also lamented that he didn’t get the Nobel Prize. He claimed Obama got the Nobel Prize after being in office for “15 seconds.”

    More of Trump’s outlandish, Nobel Prize-related claims:

    Prime Minister Abe of Japan gave me the most beautiful copy of a letter that he sent to the people who give out a thing called a Nobel Prize. He said, “I have nominated you” or “respectfully on behalf of Japan, I am asking them to give you the Nobel Peace Prize.” I said, “Thank you. Many other people feel that way, too.”

    I’ll probably never get it, but that’s okay, they gave it to Obama. He didn’t even know what he got it for. He was there for about 15 seconds and he got the Nobel Prize. He said,”‘Oh, what did I get it for?” With me, I probably will never get it.

    The very last sentence is true.

    From TPM:

    Former President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 for his international diplomacy efforts. On the day of the announcement, Obama said he was “surprised” by the award, not that he didn’t know why he was given it.

    From the readers comments:

    Former President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 for his international diplomacy efforts. On the day of the announcement, Obama said he was “surprised” by the award, not that he didn’t know why he was given it.
    ——————-
    A Mr. Google search found that Trump has been nominated once by18 Republican congressmen, once by two members of Norway’s governing Progress Party, and twice on forged nomination letters, but no mention of Abe. How could Trump make such a mistake?
    —————-
    He is taking credit for something the Russians and Turks did. In typical PP style, only 1.5 million people live in Idlib Governorate. [Trump also said that he saved the lives of 3 million people in Idlib. That was part of his claim that he deserved a Nobel prize.]

  230. says

    OMG, the Justice Department is keeping that doofus Matthew Whitaker.

    Former Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker remains at the Justice Department, but in a very different role.

    Whitaker, who last week appeared before the House Judiciary Committee, now works in the office of the associate attorney general.

    That office oversees the Justice Department’s civil litigation as well as matters including civil rights, environmental and antitrust. […]

    Link

  231. says

    Trump was unable to explain where he gets his bogus immigration statistics:

    Reporter: Mr. President, to follow up on that. Unifying crime reporting statistics—numbers from your own border control and government—show the amount of illegal immigrants are—

    Trump: You have 26 people killed on the border a mile away from where I went.

    Reporter: I was there. I understand. That’s not the question.

    Trump: Do we forget about that?

    Reporter: No. I’m asking you to clarify where you get your numbers. Most of the DEA crime-reporting statistics show that drugs come through at the ports of entry, that illegal immigration is down, and the violence is down. What do you base your facts on? Secondly—

    Trump: No. You get one. Sit down.

    Reporter: Could you please answer?

    Trump: Sit down. I get my numbers from Homeland Security primarily, and the numbers I have from Homeland Security are a disaster. You know what else is a disaster? The numbers that come out of Homeland Security for the cost that we spend and the money we lose because of illegal immigration. Billions and billions of dollars a month. It’s unnecessary.

    Reporter: Your own government stats are wrong?

    Trump: No. I use many stats.

    Reporter: Could you share those stats with us?

    Trump: You have stats far worse than what I use. I use many stats. I use Homeland Security.

    Analysis from Walter Einenkel:

    This person just took billions from national security in order to fund less national security, based on nonexistent statistics and crime rates that the people in his corrupt administration haven’t been able to cook up to match his dumb mouth yet.

  232. says

    Some details about just two of the budgets from which Trump plans to steal money for his wall:

    […] It is anticipated that $3.5 billion will come from the military construction budget, which is intended to improve military bases, many of which are in dire need of overhaul. North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune alone sustained an estimated $3.6 billion in damages during Hurricane Florence, which struck in September 2018.

    Additionally, a report released on Wednesday by the Military Advisory Family Network indicated that “Military families are living in dangerous situations with reports of the existence of black mold, lead paint, faulty wiring, poor water quality, pesticides, and a wide variety of vermin, insects, and other animals (e.g., bats, skunks, and squirrels) in their homes.” […]

    Trump is expected to tap an additional $2.5 billion from DOD’s drug interdiction operations, targeting drugs coming into the United States at official ports of entry.

    According to Customs and Border Protection, the bulk of the drugs seized at the southern border were trying to be smuggled at official borders or ports of entry — something a border wall would not address.

    But Trump claimed on Friday that this is a lie spread by Democrats. “It’s wrong. It’s wrong. It’s just a lie. It’s all all a lie,” he said. […]

    Think Progress link

  233. says

    During his Rose Garden speech, Trump praised conservative pundits who helped him decide to declare a national emergency:

    […] “Sean Hannity has been a terrific, terrific supporter of what I do, not of me. If I change my views, he wouldn’t be with me,” he began. “Rush Limbaugh, I think he’s a great guy. He’s a guy who can speak for three hours without a phone call. Try doing that sometime. For three hours he speaks. He has one of the biggest audiences in the history…this guy is unbelievable. Try speaking for three hours without taking calls. Taking calls is easy. ‘Okay, I’ll answer this one and I’ll answer that one.’”

    He continued, “Laura [Ingraham] has been great. … Tucker Carlson has been great.” […]

  234. says

    One of many upcoming court battles that will challenge Trump’s declaration of a national emergency:

    California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday announced plans to sue […] Trump for declaring a national emergency to access funds for a southern border wall.

    “[…] Trump is manufacturing a crisis and declaring a made-up ‘national emergency’ in order to seize power and subvert the constitution,” Newsom said in a statement hours after the president’s declaration. “Our message back to the White House is simple and clear: California will see you in court.”

    California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said at a news conference that Trump does not have the power to “act frivolously” to redirect federal funding away from Congress, which has “power to direct dollars, the power of the purse.”

    “This is not 9/11,” he said. “This is not the Iran hostage crisis of 1979. This is a president showing his disdain for the rule of law and the U.S. constitution.”

    Trump declared a national emergency to bypass Congress and spend roughly $8 billion on barriers along the southern border. […]

    Link

  235. says

    From Wonkette’s coverage of Trump’s speech:

    […] Trump’s news conference this morning was batshit, even for him. It was like two old raccoons with syphilis engaged in a mating dance to the death, except wait NOPE, that was just the president’s brain, which seems more broken than usual today. Thank God he’s flying to Mar-a-Lago this afternoon to get some rest, relaxation and tee time, you know, because that’s what presidents do during NATIONAL EMERGIES.

    What was clear during the presser was that Trump was VERY frustrated, and his brain was VERY addled, and he simply did not come across like the healthy six-foot-three 243-pounder his doctor presented to America in the very laughable “results” of his recent physical. He knows he lost, but he’s not on the “acceptance” stage of grief for WALL yet. He knows he didn’t get hardly any money for WALL, and he’s still clinging to the illusion that NATIONAL EMERGY will help him find money for WALL, but he sort of also knows that it’s going to be tied up in the courts forever, probably until after inauguration day in 2021 […] Trump has already “done a lot of wall for the election!” Seriously, you can go see it right now! It is at border! What, you cannot see it? […]

    Trump talked for a while, then he took questions for a while. And during the event, he admitted that there is no NATIONAL EMERGY, that he “didn’t need to do this,” but just wanted to, because reasons. […]

    There were more words, including a thing about how the prime minister of Japan supposedly nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize, which is just some CERTIFIED ANGUS ASS-KISSING if true, but we are tired of that fucking idiot’s voice. You should watch the part where he’s clearly upset that his WALL EMERGY declaration is just going to be in court forever and at the end of it, he still probably won’t have WALL.

    In a bizarre sing-song cadence, Trump acknowledges that his national emergency will face legal challenges, but expresses hope that SCOTUS will eventually rule in his favor. https://twitter.com/atrupar/status/1096441093489598465

    […]at one point he threw some sudden shade at Ann Coulter:

    “She’s off the reservation, but anybody who knows her understands that.” […]

  236. says

    Hey, political people! I’m back from a lovely vacation.

    Sorry if I’m duplicating anything already posted:

    The judge just granted a gag order in the Roger Stone case.
    Mueller requested setting a date for Manafort’s sentencing as soon as possible. Said they would be submitting their sentencing memo today.
    The Supreme Court will hear the case about the inclusion of a citizenship question in the 2020 census this year.
    US military commander in Syria Votel publicly disagreed with Trump’s Syria decision.

  237. says

    The White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to clean up after one of the many times that Trump shot himself in the foot:

    […] During his announcement, Trump said he “didn’t have to do this,” a line critics predicted would end up in lawsuits against the action. Sanders tried to clarify the comment by arguing Trump “shouldn’t have to do this.”

    “I think the biggest thing is he shouldn’t have to do this,” she told Fox News Friday afternoon. “Congress should have stepped up and done their job and done everything necessary to fully and safely secure the border. The President could have waited and he could have drug this out.”

    “The bill allows for 55 new miles of wall, which is a great step forward and it is certainly a down payment on the wall, but it doesn’t finish the job,” she continued. “The President is somebody who wants to complete the job […]. … He doesn’t want to drag this out over the next several year. He wants to get the funding now so he can stop this national security and humanitarian crisis at the border and take care of it.” […]

    Link

    From the readers comments:

    Nice try, but you can’t go back in time before we all heard it.
    —————–
    There are so many ways to phrase “The President did not say that thing he said.” And poor dumb clown SHS has used them all!
    ——————–
    Too late Sarah, don’t even bother. It’s captured on video, filed away to be brought out when needed. Very soon, I expect.
    —————
    Sorry Sarah. He said it, he meant it, it was the inadvertently admitted truth, and it’s going to be front and center in every brief in every suit challenging the declaration.
    —————–
    I’m only sorry there wasn’t a camera on McConnell’s face when Trump said that, to capture the face-slap.

  238. says

    There’s an active shooter situation at a business in Aurora, IL. According to someone who was able to escape, the shooter is/was a man who worked at the facility. They’re now getting reports of multiple injured people being taken to local hospitals.

  239. says

    This from southpaw is interesting (link to the document at the link):

    “This is the filing I’ve been waiting for today. The SCO says evidence in Roger Stone’s case was found in accounts that were searched for the GRU case, in which 11 Russian military officers were charged with a conspiracy to interfere in the election….

    In other words, following the evidence from the Russian side of the investigation led the Special Counsel’s Office to Roger Stone. Consider the implications of that.

    More detail from the filing. ‘Several of those search warrants were executed on accounts that contained Stone’s communications with Guccifer 2.0 and Organization 1 [Wikileaks]’.

    This part in particular about the use of the accounts ‘to discuss the timing and promotion’ of the release of the stolen emails stands out to me. Of course, it doesn’t say whether Stone participated in any of those discussions.”

  240. says

    “Cummings: 2 Trump attorneys may have lied about Cohen payments”:

    House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings said on Friday that his panel received new documents showing that two attorneys for President Donald Trump may have lied to government ethics officials about Trump fixer Michael Cohen’s payments to women alleging affairs with the president ahead of the 2016 election.

    “It now appears that President Trump’s other attorneys — at the White House and in private practice — may have provided false information about these payments to federal officials,” Cummings (D-Md.) wrote in a letter to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone.

    Cummings named Sheri Dillon and Stefan Passantino as the two attorneys who might have made false statements to the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), citing documents the committee obtained from the office.

    “This raises significant questions about why some of the president’s closest advisers made these false claims and the extent to which they too were acting at the direction of, or in coordination with, the president,” the chairman wrote.

    In a separate letter, Cummings revealed that the Trump Organization refused to comply with the committee’s request for documents. The letter was addressed to Alan Futerfas, who represents the Trump Organization and Donald Trump Jr….

  241. says

    Good to see you back, SC!

    In all my comment above about Trump’s speech that delivered in the Rose Garden today, I forgot to say that Trump also admitted, twice, that he was building a wall “for the 2020 election.” Yeah, strange orange dude, you are not supposed to say that out loud when you are declaring your fake national emergency.

    Some more details having to do with the legal side of this issue:

    “White House lawyers have told Trump he could reprogram money without calling an emergency,” Fred Barbash, Ellen Nakashima and Josh Dawsey report. “But Trump … has been determined to declare an emergency, partially for fear of looking weak.”

    This is just the latest, and possibly starkest, illustration of Trump’s disdain for the rule of law, as well as the premium he places on political expediency over constitutional norms and legal guardrails.

    Washington Post link

    So, the lawyers said, “Probably not legal,” and Trump said, “Good. Let’s do it right away.”

    From William Banks, a Syracuse University law professor:

    This is a real institutional threat to the separation of powers to use emergency powers to enable the president to bypass Congress to build a wall on his own initiative that our elected representatives have chosen not to fund. It sets a precedent that a president can, without regard to an actual existence of an emergency, use this tool to evade the normal democratic process and fund projects on his own

    Earlier, Joyce Vance also pointed out that the fact that Congress has chosen NOT to fund the wall greatly weakens Trump’s case.

    More on that last point from Vox:

    The Constitution gives Congress, not the president, the ultimate power to appropriate money. The president legally has the power to declare emergencies and respond, but can he do that in a situation where Congress has explicitly declined to fund the president’s wall?

    According to Elizabeth Goitein, an expert on national security law, the answer is that he can’t – and Trump’s attempt to do so constitutes a “constitutional crisis.”

    Goitein is the co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan but liberal-leaning legal nonprofit. Her research focuses on balancing national security and constitutional rights, which makes her pretty well-positioned to evaluate the president’s claim. In a series of tweets, she made the case that declaring an emergency on the border constitutes a power grab that directly threatens the constitutional order.

    Back in 2017 Sally Yates told us that Trump’s modus operandi constituted “nothing short of an all-out assault on the rule of law.”

    Steve Been made the point that Trump is probably not focused on breaking on the law [I’m paraphrasing], it is just that he is indifferent to the law, especially when it stands between him and one of his goals.

  242. says

    Democrats in the House of Congress have officially opened an investigation into Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to fund construction of his border wall.

    House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler sent a letter to Trump, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and officials at the Department of Justice noting the basis for the hearings: Trump’s “reckless disregard for the separation of powers”.

  243. says

    Oh, dear. More trouble in paradise. This is from Ann Coulter:

    Thank God he’s [Trump’s] relieved me of any responsibility for what he’s been doing. That was the biggest favor anyone could do [for] me today.

    It [the wall] was the one thing, the promise he made every single day at every single speech. Forget the fact that he’s digging his own grave. The only national emergency is that our president is an idiot.

  244. says

    WSJ with more on the report @ #262 above:

    “Ethics Office Notes Show ‘Evolving Stories’ on Trump’s Reimbursement of Michael Cohen, House Oversight Committee Says”:

    The House Oversight Committee in a letter to the White House on Friday said it had received new documents from the Office of Government Ethics that showed President Trump’s lawyers gave the agency “evolving stories” about whether the president had reimbursed his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, for hush-money payments made during the 2016 campaign.

    In a letter to White House counsel Pat Cipollone, House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D., Md.) said the committee had received internal notes taken by officials at the Office of Government Ethics, which is charged with reviewing administration officials’ financial disclosures, that showed the president’s lawyers gave the agency several different answers on whether Mr. Trump ever owed Mr. Cohen money.

    On March 30, 2018, asked whether Mr. Trump owed Mr. Cohen money at any point in 2016, the lawyer, Sheri Dillon, told OGE: “Not that I am aware of.”

    Months later, after Rudy Giuliani, another lawyer for Mr. Trump, said in a televised interview that Mr. Trump had reimbursed Mr. Cohen for the payments, Ms. Dillon told OGE officials: “Mr. Cohen always knew that he would be reimbursed but the mechanisms for reimbursement changed over time.” She also said “all payments are in connection with legal services,” and added: “Let the facts come out as they may and let the criticism fall on the President.”

    Ms. Dillon likened the expenses for which Mr. Trump reimbursed Mr. Cohen to “payments for a kitchen remodel” and said “unequivocally that Michael Cohen did not loan President Trump money in the natural sense of the word,” according to the notes.

    Stefan Passantino, at the time deputy White House counsel for compliance and ethics, also told OGE officials that Mr. Cohen was “authorized to outlay and that was part of retainer agreement.”

    OGE officials, including acting OGE Director David Apol, appeared skeptical of the claim that Mr. Cohen had a retainer agreement, Mr. Cummings wrote in his letter. When the agency asked Ms. Dillon to see the retainer agreement, she declined, saying the agreement was privileged.

    The committee also sent a letter to Trump Organization lawyer Alan Futerfas, noting that the company on Jan. 22 had declined to provide the documents the panel requested, citing “ongoing inquiries concerning this subject.” Mr. Futerfas had advised the committee that documents related to the payments Mr. Cohen arranged had previously been provided to authorities.

    “I write to correct your fundamental misunderstanding of the role of Congressional oversight,” Mr. Cummings wrote Friday, adding that the panel would insist on “full compliance” with the document request. “Prosecutors seek to prove criminal conduct beyond a reasonable doubt, while Congress reviews issues of public concern that are not necessarily criminal.”

    “We received it and are considering it,” Mr. Futerfas said of the request….

    They’re so fucking crooked.

  245. says

    Lynna @ #263:

    Good to see you back, SC!

    Good to see you, too!

    militantagnostic @ #266:

    Looks like the fox has been investigating the henhouse robbery.

    Sure does. Natasha Bertrand also has a new piece about Burr apparently outright lying about Christopher Steele. I think maybe since the Republicans lost control of the House and therefore the House committees Trump has been stepping up the pressure on Burr and other Senate Intel Republicans. Bertrand and Ken Dilanian had almost a little argument on TV the other morning about his odd recent claims re the Senate Intel investigation.

  246. says

    SC @268, all the best people.

    In other news, good news, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg returned to the court today. During her recuperation from lung cancer surgery, Ginsburg had been working from home. Today she returned to the court.

    In other, other news, Trump is riding out the “national emergency” at Mar-a-Lago.

  247. says

    SC, I saw that report. Ari Melber made the point that Manafort’s sentence will likely be longer than any of the participants in Watergate received. Seems appropriate, considering the seriousness of the charges.

    In other news, here are some comments from Mark Sumner regarding Trump’s “hour of absolute insanity”:

    […] Trump is a national emergency, and he demonstrated it forcefully on the White House steps Friday morning in an emergency announcement buried deep in taco salad of nuttiness.

    Trump stumbled out of the White House, apparently breathless and confused, and opened by fumbling around about trade negotiations in China, but had nothing really to report on those other than “who knows” if anything would actually be done. Then he wandered around the world, talking about the UK, Syria, North Korea … anything but getting to the point. And then, without any transition, he began talking about the border, then the economy, then the stock market, then the border again. Then he smiled and chuckled over the joys of his El Paso rally, then he zigged to Israel, then he genuinely fell into his fantasy of women, “three, four women,” being tied up in the back of a van with tape over their mouths. Yes, Trump’s emergency declaration included his women-with-tape-on-their-mouths fantasy, and Trump insisted that “Nancy knows, and Chuck knows” that these women won’t be coming through ports of entry.

    Finally, in words that will surely ring through history, Trump declared, “So, I’m going to be signing a national emergency, it’s been signed many times before,” before going on to claim that it was no big deal, and nothing to make a fuss about. To support his overthrow of congressional authority, Trump gathered up a clutch of “angel moms” and forced them to stand up and fumble out pictures of their children. From there, he actually began bragging about how much better China is than the United States because they have a death penalty for people who sell drugs.

    That thought of China apparently dragged Trump back into a few minutes of talking about the China trade deal, and then … bam, back to the national emergency again. “Something signed many times, many, many times, by other presidents.” In fishing around for some kind of legitimacy, Trump then talked about how he might piggyback on an existing emergency order around drug cartels.

    Then he went back to bragging on the economy, and claimed that if a Democrat had been in office, the economy would have been “down the tubes” instead of “through the roof,” saying that it’s because he’s created such a great economy that “far more people” are trying to enter the country today “than ever before.” Which is … a huge lie. […]

  248. says

    Gavin Newsom endorsed Kamala Harris for president:

    California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday evening he is endorsing Sen. Kamala Harris’ bid for president.

    “I’ll be endorsing her candidacy for president. I know her well, I’ve known her for decades, not only as district attorney where she did an extraordinary job with a very progressive record, but I watched her up close as lieutenant governor, when she served as attorney general, and I have the privilege of working with her as a U.S. senator,” Newsom said on MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes.”

    “I think the American people could not do better.”

    The Hill link

  249. says

    Uh, say what now? You think Mueller will soon be gone?

    Matt Schlapp, a conservative activist and commentator, said now that William Barr was becoming attorney general, special counsel Robert Mueller’s days were numbered, a striking statement from someone whose wife works in the White House and one that runs counter to Barr’s own words during his contentious confirmation process.

    “Tomorrow will be the first day that President Trump will have a fully operational confirmed Attorney General,” Schlapp wrote Thursday on Twitter. “Let that sink in. Mueller will be gone soon.”

    Schlapp, president of the American Conservative Union, which hosts the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, is an ally of President Donald Trump. His wife, Mercedes Schlapp, works in the White House as a strategic communications adviser. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. […]

    Politico link

    Does he know something because his wife works in the White House? Or is this just wishful thinking?

    Does he think that a “fully operational Attorney General” is one that will obey Trump’s every wish?

  250. KG says

    I forgot to say that Trump also admitted, twice, that he was building a wall “for the 2020 election.” – Lynna, OM@263

    Well obviously, what Trump meant is that WALL is needed to prevent the entire population of Mexico sneaking across the desert and voting multiple times for the Democrat party!

  251. Akira MacKenzie says

    Lynna, OM @ 274:

    “I think the American people could not do better.”

    Unless you’re a sex worker or accused/convicted of a crime. Then you’re shit out of luck.

  252. says

    KG @276, yes! That’s it for sure.

    In other news, more thoughts on Manafort blowing up his plea deal, (bolding is mine):

    […] Judge Jackson’s argument, (reasoning), is notable. The false claims were not cases where Manafort forgot something, or couldn’t remember or misremembered something. They weren’t even cases where he simply denied something. In most cases he made a concerted effort to create an alternative factual narrative which was not consistent with the evidence. Often he concocted multiple ones. […] certainly evidence of intentional deception rather than poor memory or confusion. As she puts it on page 10: “My concern isn’t with non-answers or simply denials, but times he affirmatively advanced a detailed alternative story that was inconsistent with the facts.” […]

    I haven’t had a chance to go over this with our Russia team of Sneed, Kovensky and Kirkland. So there are some points where I need to do a bit more research on what is likely to be under certain redactions. There’s clearly talk about the ‘peace plan’, seemingly also about polling data. But the heart of the discussion is about Manafort’s repeated lies about his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, his longtime deputy for his work in Ukraine.

    On that front what comes through is the sheer persistence of Manafort’s deceptions. He lies a lot. His charged crimes were largely about lying. Bank frauds, misleading filings. He lied in his interviews with prosecutors, both before and after he began his nominal cooperation. In some cases he would concede a key factual point and then start lying about it again in a subsequent interview. This pattern is difficult to fully explain in either strategic or characterological terms. But as Judge Jackson notes, Manafort’s relationship and dealings with Kilimnik seemed to be at the core of the deception. […]

    What is clear, though, is that Manafort was still working his business machinations with Russia and Ukraine while he was running the campaign of a candidate who was trying to curry favor with Russia and being actively assisted by Russia.

    […] Manafort had repeated chances to come clean and did not and now faces a sentence of between 20 and 25 years in prison only weeks shy of his 70th birthday. Keeping this secret has left Manafort facing what is all but certain to be a life sentence in prison.

    No mundane criminality could possible explain his actions. He’s at the center of the conspiracy.

    One explanation is simply that Manafort wants and believes he’s going to get a pardon. […] But it’s simply not a sufficient explanation.

    […] remember that Mueller structured Manafort’s plea deal in such a way as to facilitate a state prosecution if Manafort is pardoned.

    […] is there anything we know about Donald Trump that would give anyone confidence that he could be relied upon to issue such a pardon? Even if he did, Manafort would likely have served as much or more time than Gates will end up serving with his plea agreement. […]

    Link

  253. says

    Akira @277, good points. Kamala Harris has some baggage. I’m not surprised that Gavin Newsom gave her that unequivocal endorsement, but I doubt that others will do the same.

    In other news, the band R.E.M. wants Trump to keep his stubby hands off their music.

    The publisher of the rock band asked Twitter to remove a video Trump tweeted of his State of the Union speech that included their hit song “Everybody Hurts” late Friday night, according to CNBC. The video was originally created by pro-Trump Twitter account @CarpeDonktum.

    Mike Mills, the band’s bass guitarist, called the makers of the video “assholes” when he first caught wind of it and asked Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to take it down.

    The assholes @CarpeDonktum created the meme. #PresidentAsshole retweeted it. Measures have been taken to stop it. @jack you need to get on this.

    […] CNBC confirmed on Saturday that a lawyer for Universal Music Publishing Group successfully got Twitter to remove the video.

    Meanwhile, R.E.M.’s official Twitter account made their feelings about Trump crystal- clear.

    World Leader PRETEND!!! Congress, Media–ghost this faker!!! Love, R.E.M.

  254. says

    In a single year, Trump has had 10 judicial nominees who don’t agree with school desegregation.

    As part of his reign of terror, Trump has appointed a record number of conservative federal judges, many of whom hold absolutely frightening views on race, religion, and reproductive justice. […]

    As an example, Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court decision that ended school segregation, has been universally supported in the legal community. It is considered to be beyond debate. Yet Trump has put forth at least ten judicial nominees in the past year who refuse to offer an opinion on Brown. […] Trump’s nominee to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Neomi Rao, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee. She is positioned to take the seat left vacant by Brett Kavanaugh when he was confirmed to the Supreme Court. In her hearing, Rao refused to answer whether she thought Brown was correctly decided.

    Asked by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) whether the court had made the right decision in Brown, Rao replied, “As a judicial nominee, I think it’s not appropriate for me to comment on the correctness of particular precedents.”

    When pressed for a yes or no answer, Rao only replied that the case was “an incredibly important decision of the Supreme Court.”

    You cannot make this stuff up. Donald Trump’s nominees to the federal bench actually refuse to acknowledge school desegregation as a good thing. […]

    Link

  255. says

    https://twitter.com/AOC/status/1095763596062150656

    Shock doesn’t begin to cover it.

    Today I left a hearing on homelessness & saw tons of people camped outside committee.

    I turned to my staff and asked if it was a demonstration.

    “No,” they said. “Lobbyists pay the homeless + others to hold their place so they can get in 1st.”

    Apparently this is a normal practice, and people don’t bat an eye.

    The first few people in line are guaranteed a seat in a given hearing.

    This was the hearing for marijuana banking laws. Lobbyists and those who can afford it pay people to hold their spot so they get in 1st.

    Photos and more discussion at the link.

  256. says

    Followup to comment 281.

    Hey now, lobbyists don’t just fill the hearing rooms. They help write the bills being considered in those hearings, as well.

    […] it is all about access and influence. Audience members in a congressional hearing have no role in committee process, and (short of outbursts) no influence on the proceedings. Lobbyists whose careers are dedicated to being as influential with lawmakers as possible want to be seen, by those they are lobbying, in the audience. They find it important to remind lawmakers that they are there, during deliberations. That they are listening.

    Which is not at all creepy or dystopian, of course. Not a bit. […]

    Link

  257. says

    Yes, Customs and Border Protection agents are out of control.

    Two women who were detained by a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent for speaking Spanish at a grocery store in Montana are suing the agency.

    Mimi Hernandez and Ana Suda filed the lawsuit on Thursday with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) after May’s incident, which was recorded and went viral.

    In the footage, CBP agent Paul O’Neal can be heard telling the women — both American citizens — “I saw that you guys are speaking Spanish, which is very unheard of up here.”

    O’Neal also says the women are being detained because of “speaking Spanish in the store, in a state where it’s predominantly English-speaking.” […]

    Since the incident, the women claim to have endured harassment in the community where both reside. Suda says her eight-year-old daughter is now afraid to speak Spanish in public.

    “In some ways, it would have just been easier to stay quiet about the incident,” Suda recently told the ACLU. “Maybe life would have gone back to normal, but then I think about my kids. I want them to not only be proud of being bilingual, but I also want them to know that they live in a country where people can’t just be stopped and interrogated based on how they look and sound.” […]

    Link

  258. says

    Followup to comment 65.

    More lawsuits are springing up in the wake of Trump’s declaration of a national emergency:

    […] Watchdog group Public Citizen filed suit on behalf of three landowners in Starr County, Texas. Their suit claims that Nayda Alvarez, Leonel Romeo Alvarez, and Yvette Gaytan would be cut off from their own property should Trump’s wall be built.

    “By the president’s very own admission in the Rose Garden, there is no national emergency,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero. “He just grew impatient and frustrated with Congress, and decided to move along his promise for a border wall ‘faster.’”

    Trump’s Justice Department was also hit with a lawsuit. Watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sued over the department’s failure to “provide documents concerning the legal authority of the president to invoke emergency powers to declare a national emergency to build a wall.”

    In other words, CREW wants to know if Trump’s own Justice Department even believes what he’s doing is legal. Thus far, the DOJ has been silent.

    Trump’s newest plan to build his border wall already faces an uphill legal battle. But don’t expect a response from the president until the weekend is over, as he’s more concerned with making tee time.

  259. says

    From Wonkette: “Aurora Shooter Had A History Of Violence Against Women, Because Of Course He Did.”

    Yesterday afternoon, 45-year-old Gary Martin of Aurora, Illinois was let go from his job at the Henry Pratt Company, a factory that manufactures water valves. In response, he took out a pistol with a laser scope and began shooting at random. He killed five people and injured six others who were just trying to make it through the day at the water valve factory, and then the police killed him. […]

    Gary Martin, like most other mass shooters, also had a history of violence against women. In 1994, in Mississippi, he was convicted for stabbing one. He should not have been able to get a gun after that. I would like to know how and why he was able to get that pistol with the laser scope that he killed five people with yesterday afternoon. Maybe someone gave it to him. Maybe he bought it somehow. Maybe someone forgot to do a background check. Maybe he bought it from someone who didn’t have to do a background check.

    I am so goddamned tired of writing this article. I am out of things to say.

  260. says

    From John Cassidy, writing for The New Yorker:

    […] he [Trump] sought to justify his action by trotting out some of his old lies about undocumented immigrants, and some he’s added to his repertoire more recently. “We have far more people trying to get into the country today than probably we’ve ever had before.” (The number of interdictions at the southern border is running at roughly half the level it was a decade ago.) The crime and drug problem in El Paso is “a hundred per cent” better since the construction of a border barrier. (El Paso has long had one of the lowest crime rates of any city in the country.) Federal prisons are full of illegal immigrants. (Even setting aside people being held for immigration offenses, undocumented immigrants make up a tiny proportion of the federal-prison population.)

    Trump’s description of the situation at the border is almost entirely fictitious, of course, but in one sense it is real. It’s a central element of the political narrative he has constructed for his white-nationalist base over the past three and a half years, and, as he helpfully sought to explain, it’s one he can’t easily back away from at this stage. […]

    In this carefully concocted narrative, the wall isn’t a mere stretch of concrete or steel fencing stretching along the border; it’s a symbol of national sovereignty and regeneration. But, if it’s so important, why didn’t Trump get it built during his first two years in office, when the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress? Trump’s failure to get his own party to support what was arguably his signature campaign pledge demonstrates that he is fundamentally a weak and isolated President. But, of course, he can’t admit that publicly, either. […]

    Here was yet another example of how the G.O.P. leadership’s Faustian pact with Trump has driven them to enable his more authoritarian tendencies. […]

    Arguably, the most revealing exchange came when Peter Alexander, of NBC News, asked Trump to admit that the spending deal he was to sign later in the day gave him less money for his wall than he could have got before the government shutdown. Of course, Trump never admits anything. He insisted that he’d got “billions and billions of dollars for other things—port of entries, lots of different things” from Congress. But, when it came to the wall, he went on, “they skimped.” Then he added, “So I did—I was successful in that sense, but I want to do it faster. I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.” […]

  261. says

    On Trump and Fox News:

    Over at Media Matters, senior fellow Matt Gertz has become one of the nation’s best decipherers of Donald J. Trump’s Twitter feed. Specifically, Gertz has been tracking Trump’s seemingly obsessive habit of tweeting out things that he has just seen on Fox News, […]

    It’s not a minor enterprise. Trump is an obsessive television watcher, reportedly spending over half his day in “executive time” sessions that seem to consist largely of sitting himself down in front of the idiot box and phoning up friends to praise or complain about the coverage he’s receiving. […] “I think what we’re seeing is how the president can be influenced in real time—and the consequences that can have,” Gertz said.

    It’s important to understand that this is not speculation. Fox hosts themselves know that they have Donald Trump’s ear, and programming is targeted at influencing his beliefs and suspicions directly. Fox programs contain constant, lavish praise of Trump, securing his attention in a media landscape in which every other news program is painting him in a less flattering light; this is interspersed with, in the cases of hosts like Lou Dobbs and Sean Hannity, direct messages to Trump about what he ought to be doing next and how grandly it will work out for him.

    […] The ease with which government policy can be manipulated by the orchestrations of a single television studio is the stuff of dystopian fiction; it ought to be considered, by itself, a crisis.

    Gertz told CJR [Columbia Journalism Review] that he fully expected Trump to declare a “national emergency” in order to build his obsessed-over border wall, because Fox News hosts have been relentless in insisting he do so. The prior government shutdown was similarly caused by Trump trusting overconfident Fox rhetoric more than the recommendations of Republican lawmakers: He was reportedly baffled that it didn’t work out for him, […]

    But what are the responsibilities of Fox here? Its hosts are the channel through which a sitting president comes to believe a great many misleading statistics, false historical claims, white nationalist-promoted conspiracy theories, and other lies; their influence can be measured, and quantified, by doing what Matt Gertz has done in a long-term project to pair up Trump’s misleading or nonsensical tweets with specific Fox network segments. […]

    Link

  262. says

    Why do British people NOT like Trump?

    […] Trump lacks certain qualities which the British traditionally esteem.

    For instance, he has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtlety, no sensitivity, no self-awareness, no humility, no honour and no grace – all qualities, funnily enough, with which his predecessor Mr. Obama was generously blessed. […]

    Plus, we like a laugh. And while Trump may be laughable, he has never once said anything wry, witty or even faintly amusing – not once, ever.

    […] He doesn’t even seem to understand what a joke is – his idea of a joke is a crass comment, an illiterate insult, a casual act of cruelty.

    Trump is a troll.
    […] And scarily, he doesn’t just talk in crude, witless insults – he actually thinks in them. His mind is a simple bot-like algorithm of petty prejudices and knee-jerk nastiness.

    There is never any under-layer of irony, complexity, nuance or depth. It’s all surface.

    Some Americans might see this as refreshingly upfront.

    Well, we don’t. We see it as having no inner world, no soul. […]

    He’s not even a spoiled rich-boy, or a greedy fat-cat.

    He’s more a fat white slug. A Jabba the Hutt of privilege.
    And worse, he is that most unforgivable of all things to the British: a bully.

    That is, except when he is among bullies; then he suddenly transforms into a snivelling sidekick instead.

    There are unspoken rules to this stuff – the Queensberry rules of basic decency – and he breaks them all. He punches downwards – which a gentleman should, would, could never do – and every blow he aims is below the belt. He particularly likes to kick the vulnerable or voiceless – and he kicks them when they are down. […]

    He is a Picasso of pettiness; a Shakespeare of shit.

    His faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws, and so on ad infinitum.

    God knows there have always been stupid people in the world, and plenty of nasty people too. But rarely has stupidity been so nasty, or nastiness so stupid. […]

    Link

  263. says

    After allegations of sexual abuse, Afghanistan women’s soccer team fights for justice

    Their voices were being silenced. So they made themselves impossible to ignore.

    Detailed allegations surfaced months ago that officials from the Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF) were sexually assaulting members of the women’s football team. Now the players, many of whom were victims, are holding the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and the International Federation of Association Football — better known as FIFA, the sport’s highest governing body — accountable for what they say was a slow response to well-known problem. […]

    In one instance, a player disclosed that a gun was put to her head after she was sexually assaulted and was punched in the face. The abuser threatened to kill her and her family if she spoke to the media. Another survivor said she was threatened in front of her teammates and said the AFF executive threatened to cut off her tongue. […]

    Much more at the link.

  264. says

    It’s good to remember this background when we look at the new charges Paul Manafort is facing, (lying about his meetings with Kilimnik>:

    George Stephanopoulos: “Are there any ties between Mr. Trump, you or your campaign and Putin and his regime?”

    Paul Manafort: “No, there are not. That’s absurd.” — July 24, 2016
    ————————
    Donald Trump: “I have nothing to do with Russia. I don’t have any jobs in Russia. I’m all over the world, but we’re not involved in Russia.” — July 26, 2016

    Hope Hicks: “There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.” — Nov. 11, 2016
    —————————-
    Chris Wallace asks if there were any contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.

    Mike Pence: “Of course not. Why would there be?” — Jan. 15, 2017
    ———————–
    “Trump campaign had at least 18 undisclosed contacts with Russians.” — Reuters, May 18, 2017

    “Members of the Trump campaign interacted with Russians at least 32 times.” — The Washington Post, Nov. 13, 2017

    “Trump and his associates had more than 100 contacts with Russians before the inauguration.” — N.Y. Times, Jan. 26, 2019

    “Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election.” — U.S. Intelligence Community assessment, Jan. 6, 2017

    Russian agents purchased advertising on Facebook and distributed inflammatory posts that reached at least 126 million Facebook users. The Russians published more than 131,000 messages on Twitter and uploaded more than 1,000 videos on YouTube. — Statements by the companies prepared for congressional hearings, October 2017.

    Russian intelligence conspired “to gain unauthorized access (to ‘hack’) into the computers of U.S. persons and entities involved in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, steal documents from those computers, and stage releases of the stolen documents to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.” — Indictment of 12 Russians, July 13, 2018

    President Trump acknowledges that even as his presidential campaign was underway in 2016, his business was in discussions with Russia about building a Trump property in Moscow. — N.Y. Times interview, Jan. 31, 2019

    Paul Manafort tells prosecutors on undisclosed date or dates that he had repeated talks with a Russian, Konstantin Kilimnik, who is believed to have ties to Russian military intelligence. Kilimnik flew to New York for one crucial dinner meeting on Aug. 2, 2016, while Manafort was Trump’s campaign chairman, and they discussed a peace proposal for Ukraine that would resolve the dispute over Putin’s intervention there. This issue was high on Putin’s agenda.

    Manafort may also have handed over confidential polling data to Kilimnik; it’s not clear if this could have been used for Russian interference in the U.S. election.

    A federal prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann, says on Feb. 4, 2019, “This goes, I think, very much to the heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating.”

    Manafort and Kilimnik left the Aug. 2 meeting separately by different exits. […]

    NYT link

  265. says

    White House adviser Stephen Miller writes a lot of Trump’s speeches. He wrote the anti-immigrant stuff in the State of the Union speech, for example. Miller appeared today on “Fox News Sunday.” He could not name a single previous instance in which a president of the U.S. had declared a state of emergency as way to make an end run around Congress in order to access funds Congress had refused to authorize during the appropriations process.

    […] “Can you point to a single instance — even one — where the President asked Congress for money, Congress refused to give him that money, and the President then invoked national emergency powers to get the money?” “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace asked Miller in an interview.

    Miller couldn’t.

    TPM link

    Video available at the link.

  266. says

    Trump has been watching Saturday Night Live again.

    Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake News NBC! Question is, how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real Collusion!

    THE RIGGED AND CORRUPT MEDIA IS THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!

    Yeah, yeah. So glad to see SNL mocking Trump quite effectively:

    It appeared Trump was referring to SNL’s most recent cold open, which showed Alec Baldwin satirizing the President’s off-the-walls press conference from the White House Rose Garden on Friday, in which Trump said he would declare a national emergency to collect more funds for border wall construction than Congress appropriated.

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/trump-broods-how-can-snl-air-total-republican-hit-jobs-without-retribution

    Video available at the link.

  267. says

    From Representative Adam Schiff:

    This is the first time a president has tried to declare an emergency when Congress explicitly rejected funding for the particular project that the president is advocating.

    And in saying just the other day that he didn’t really need to do this — he just wanted to do it because it would help things go faster — he’s pretty much daring the court to strike this down. So it’s hard to imagine a poorer case.

    If we give away, surrender the power of the purse, which is our most important power, there will be little check and no balance left. It will not be a separation of powers anymore. Just a separation of parties. So this is going to be a moment of truth for my GOP colleagues

    There are reasons why a president should have an ability to declare an emergency — that is, under a real emergency

    The [risk] is that we limit the president’s power to act when it really is necessary, when it is not practical to bring the Congress into session on a moment’s notice. But this president doesn’t care about future presidents. He only cares about himself. And in this case, he only cares about placating his conservative critics.

  268. says

    Trump threatened the European allies of the U.S.:

    The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial. The Caliphate is ready to fall. The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them.

    The U.S. does not want to watch as these ISIS fighters permeate Europe, which is where they are expected to go. We do so much, and spend so much – Time for others to step up and do the job that they are so capable of doing. We are pulling back after 100% Caliphate victory!

  269. says

    Senator Lindsey Graham defended the idea of Trump taking school funds from children in Kentucky in order to build a border wall:

    […] Graham speculated Sunday that middle schoolers in Kentucky who would otherwise benefit from Defense Department funds for school construction would be better off should that money be used for a border wall instead.

    Trump administration officials have said that, because President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on Friday, already-appropriated money designated for military construction will be available to build a wall on the southern border instead.

    CBS “Face The Nation” host Margaret Brennan asked Graham about the trade-off in an interview Sunday.

    “Aren’t you concerned that some of these projects, that were part of legislation that you helped approve in Congress, are now going to be possibly cut out?” she asked.

    Graham said the choice of which DOD funds to use was Trump’s, not his, but, should the military middle school construction project get the ax, “I would say it’s better for the middle school kids in Kentucky to have a secure border.”

    “We’ll get them the school they need, but right now we’ve got a national emergency on our hands,” he added. […]

    TPM link

    I think we’re going to see more and more stories like this as the funds stolen to build the wall become less of an abstraction and are more closely tied to actual concrete funds that had previously been allocated for other, better, purposes.

  270. says

    George Conway, husband of top Trump aide Kellyanne Conway, responded to Trump’s claim that, “He [Obama] told me he was so close to starting a big war with North Korea.”

    We should highly question the mental stability of a president of the United States who would lie about whether the United States had been on the verge of starting “World War III” with another state possessing nuclear weapons.

    Ben Rhodes, former deputy national security advisor, also responded:

    We were not on the brink of war with North Korea in 2016. Highlighting the longstanding and widely known threat of North Korea’s nuclear program is very different from saying you’re about to start a big war.

    Earlier, Trump also said that if he had not been elected president, the U.S. would already be at war with North Korea. The implication was that Hillary Clinton would have started a war with North Korea. Trump’s claims are fact-free and irresponsible. His main goal here is to paint himself as a hero for having avoided a war, when in fact, he is the one that came close to more-or-less accidentally starting a war with all of his “fire and fury” threats.

  271. says

    Excerpts from an article by Sam Knight, writing for The New Yorker about Theresa May’s Brexit plan, or lack thereof:

    […] with Brexit now forty-three days away, the possibility of Britain suddenly losing its place in the international order—by accident or by design—is something that you can hear and feel.

    Last week, the civil service advertised for staff at a planned “EU Exit Emergencies Centre,” to oversee the widespread disruption to Britain’s ports, food supplies, and general way of life that is expected in the event of no deal. Withdrawing from forty-six years of integration with European regulations and replacing them with nothing at all would complicate everything from aviation rules to fruit inspections to cross-border arrest warrants. […]

    Businesses are panicking.[…] a quarter of British food exporters would face bankruptcy if there is more than six weeks of delays at the country’s ports. […] Multinational corporations are cutting jobs and moving projects out of the U.K. On February 3rd, Nissan, the Japanese carmaker, announced that it would no longer be making its new X-Trail S.U.V. in Sunderland, where it employs almost seven thousand people […] Over all, car production fell by almost ten per cent in the U.K. last year. Britain’s latest official economic data, published on February 11th, showed that growth came to a standstill in December.

    Medical supplies are likely to be interrupted if there is no Brexit deal. […] Around two-thirds of medicines used in the U.K. come from the E.U. […] The vast majority of Britain’s cardboard medical packaging is made in Belgium—an unrecognized consequence of a quarter of a century of seamless trade with the Continent. […]

    […] the truth is that we are now a nation that makes barely a drop of insulin but that is home to millions of citizens with diabetes. […] “It is only going to take a couple of patients to be in trouble for the government to be seriously embarrassed, and they will come down and they will invoke emergency powers. That is where I think we would soon be.” […]

    […] in the past three years, Britain’s leaders have failed even to start a conversation about what a more equitable society might look like. With exit day only six weeks away and the risk of chaos so high, it is possible that something much worse is about to emerge.

  272. KG says

    Seven UK MPs have resigned from the Labour Party, to sit as an independent group. Their justifications centre around Brexit (where I agree with their objections to Corbyn’s line, but they are making a People’s Vote less rather than more likely) and the (largely but not entirely confected) row about antisemitism in the party. But it’s clear they are also supporters of the neoliberal status quo, who find it intolerable that someone suspected of being an actual socialist is leading the Labour Party.

  273. says

    More on the cold shoulder team Trump received at the Munich Security Conference:

    Vice President Mike Pence [told] attendees that he was there on behalf of a “champion of freedom and of a strong national defense.”

    Pence quickly added, “I bring greetings from the 45th president of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.”

    He then paused for applause. In fact, the prepared text explicitly included an “applause” note. But the American vice president’s comments were met with a lengthy and awkward silence.

    “I was there,” Sen Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) wrote via Twitter. “The silence was deafening.”

    Later, in the same remarks, Pence declared with conviction, “The time has come from our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and join us as we bring the economic and diplomatic pressure necessary to give the Iranian people, the region, and the world the peace, security, and freedom they deserve.”

    He again paused to allow the audience — made up of many U.S. allies — to offer some kind of approval. Again, the Republican heard silence.

    It’s not that attendees to the conference were unusually reticent. Consider, for example, the leader who spoke immediately before Pence. The New York Times reported:

    Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany delivered a strong rejoinder on Saturday to American demands that European allies pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and gave a spirited defense of multilateral institutions in a world increasingly marked by great-power rivalry.

    In an uncharacteristically passionate speech, Ms. Merkel said the nuclear deal was the best way of influencing Iranian behavior on a range of non-nuclear issues, from missile development to terrorism.

    Without mentioning President Trump or the United States by name in what may be her last speech to this major security conference, Ms. Merkel criticized other unilateral moves, such as Mr. Trump’s decision to pull American troops out of Syria, a suggestion that he would withdraw quickly from Afghanistan and his decision to suspend the Intermediate Range Missile Treaty with Russia, which directly affects European security.

    Merkel received a standing ovation. (Ivanka Trump, who attended the event for reasons I can’t explain, remained seated.)

    […] A senior German official, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on such matters, shrugged his shoulders and said: “No one any longer believes that Trump cares about the views or interests of the allies. It’s broken.” […]

    Sigmar Gabriel, a former German foreign minister, told the newspaper, “He has done damage that the Soviets would have dreamt of.”

    Link

  274. says

    The “60 Minutes” interview with former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe aired last night.

    Here are some highlights:

    • Mueller has McCabe’s memos

    • Trump trusted Putin over US intel agencies

    “I don’t care. I believe Putin,” Trump said. (See comment 241.)

    • Trump’s own actions and statements prompted the obstruction of justice probe

    • McCabe knew he was likely to be fired soon after Comey was fired
    (Trump tried to get him to admit that he’d been against Comey all along.)

    I didn’t know when I’d be out of the job. I thought it would probably be pretty soon. And so I just put my head down and got to work trying to stabilize the people around me and do the things that I felt we needed to do with the Russia investigation, getting cases opened and getting a special counsel appointed.

  275. says

    An excerpt from the interview with Andrew McCabe:

    Andrew McCabe: Rod [Rosenstein] was concerned by his interactions with the president, who seemed to be very focused on firing the director and saying things like, “Make sure you put Russia in your memo.” That concerned Rod in the same way that it concerned me and the FBI investigators on the Russia case.

    If Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein listed the Russia investigation in his memo to the White House, it could look like he was obstructing the Russia probe by suggesting Comey’s firing. And by implication, it would give the president cover.

    Scott Pelley: He didn’t wanna put Russia in his memo.

    Andrew McCabe: He did not. He explained to the president that he did not need Russia in his memo. And the president responded, “I understand that, I am asking you to put Russia in the memo anyway.”

    When the memo justifying Comey’s firing was made public, Russia was not in it. But, Mr. Trump made the connection anyway, telling NBC, then, Russian diplomats that the Russian investigation was among the reasons he fired Comey.

    Rosenstein knew that Trump was going to fire Comey because of the Russia investigation, even if he didn’t put that in his memo.

  276. says

    An update on a voter-suppression effort by Republicans in North Carolina (we’ve been following this story for a long time):

    About three months after election fraud allegations surfaced in the congressional race to represent North Carolina’s 9th District, the state board of elections director said Monday there was a “coordinated, unlawful” plot to falsify and steal absentee ballots […]

    Director Kim Strach has completed her preview of the state’s investigation and tells of a scheme where political operative McCrae Dowless would pay workers to illegally collect people’s absentee ballots.

    He would allegedly stash the ballots in his home and office, and take such measures as matching ink colors on the ballots he and his workers would forge.

    The still-undecided race has Republican candidate Mark Harris up 905 votes over Democrat Dan McCready. The North Carolina board of elections will hold its evidentiary hearing Monday.

    Link

  277. says

    Portland Police’s chummy handling of far-right extremists creates a well-earned uproar.

    Reporters covering the series of rallies organized by the far-right street-brawling group Patriot Prayer that have plagued the Pacific Northwest for the past two years have frequently remarked on the clear bias displayed by Portland police officers in their handling of the two competing sides. […] police were more interested in subduing and arresting local anti-fascists at Portland rallies than going after the out-of-town agitators who were there to create violence.

    Now, thanks to terrific investigative work by reporters at Willamette Week and the Portland Mercury, those impressions have been confirmed with startling clarity.

    Text exchanges […] the main officer involved, Lt. Jeff Niiya, appears to have shared information about an ongoing investigation involving a key Patriot Prayer member, Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, with Gibson.

    […] city commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty called for an independent investigation, in no small part because Outlaw’s [Police Chief Danielle Outlaw] previous statements suggesting an anti-leftist bias—she once boasted on a right-wing talk radio show that her officers had “kicked their butts,” referring to anti-fascist protesters—raise doubts about her fairness. […]

    Many of the texts […] showed Niiya expressing sympathy for Gibson’s activism, including his quixotic campaign for the U.S. Senate in Washington state, which is where Gibson actually lives. Other exchanges show Niiya being protective of Gibson’s group in the middle of rallies.

    “Heads up just told 4-5 black Bloch [another nickname for antifa] heading your way. One carrying a flag,” Niiya texted Gibson during a December 2017 protest. […]

    The most disturbing text, from Dec. 8, 2017, shows that Niiya asked Gibson about an active warrant for Toese’s arrest, wondering if Toese had “his court stuff taken care of.” The text noted that officers ignored the warrant at a past protest, and then informed Gibson he saw no need to arrest Toese unless he were to commit a new crime. “Just make sure he doesn’t do anything which may draw our attention,” Niiya replied to Gibson on Dec. 9. “[…] I don’t see a need to arrest on the warrant […]

    Link

    Much more at the link.

  278. says

    The war with North Korea that Trump thinks he prevented (but didn’t).

    […] “When I came into office, I met right there, in the Oval Office, with President Obama. And I sat in those beautiful chairs and we talked. It was supposed to be 15 minutes. As you know, it ended up being many times longer than that.

    “And I said, ‘What’s the biggest problem?’ He said, ‘By far, North Korea.’ And I don’t want to speak for him, but I believe he would have gone to war with North Korea. I think he was ready to go to war. In fact, he told me he was so close to starting a big war with North Korea. And where are we now?”

    The quoted text above is what Trump said on Friday.

    […] It was, by Daniel Dale’s count, the 25th time [Trump] told some version of this story. […]

    Obama’s top national security aides have emphatically denied Trump’s version of events, explaining that Obama identified a longstanding security threat, which is a far cry from saying the two countries were “ready to go to war.”

    A New York Times analysis added, “The notion that Mr. Obama, who famously equivocated about a single missile strike against non-nuclear Syria to punish it for using chemical weapons against its own civilians, would have started a full-fledged war with North Korea seems hard to imagine, to say the least. But this presumption has become part of Mr. Trump’s narrative in patting himself on the back for reaching out to North Korea to make peace.”

    So what’s driving Trump to lie about this? There are a few angles to this to keep in mind.

    The first is that he’s desperate for some victories after a series of embarrassing defeats, and if that means exaggerating events beyond recognition, so be it. This president hasn’t accomplished anything of significance with North Korea, so he invented a success story: he prevented a war.

    On a related note, Trump could also use some kind of rationalization that puts his entire North Korea gambit in a favorable light, especially with another summit with Kim Jong-un coming up. The reality – Trump inherited a longstanding challenge, went out of his way to make it much worse, then eased tensions by giving a communist dictator what he wanted in exchange for nothing – isn’t exactly impressive. […]

    Link

  279. says

    In other words, he is not going to walk away, and he is going to play the part of a spoiler that could give Trump another win.

    Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said he’s prepared walk away from a possible independent presidential campaign, but only if Democrats nominate someone who meets his vague definition of “centrist.”

  280. says

    Trump’s totally bonkers tweet from yesterday:

    The Mueller investigation is totally conflicted, illegal and rigged! Should never have been allowed to begin, except for the Collusion and many crimes committed by the Democrats. Witch Hunt!

    So now Trump is claiming that the investigation is “illegal”? Sheesh.

    Trump is still going after McCabe, however he has also added Rod Rosenstein to his enemies list. Trump throws in Jeff Sessions as well, and then he repeats claims of illegality that are not supported by the facts:

    Wow, so many lies by now disgraced acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe. He was fired for lying, and now his story gets even more deranged. He and Rod Rosenstein, who was hired by Jeff Sessions (another beauty), look like they were planning a very illegal act, and got caught…

    Note that McCabe made public statements. He was not “caught.”

    In a later tweet, Trump added “treasonous” to his ridiculous claims.

    There is a lot of explaining to do to the millions of people who had just elected a president who they really like and who has done a great job for them with the Military, Vets, Economy and so much more. This was the illegal and treasonous “insurance policy” in full action!

    Hair Furor is hopping mad, and he is, thus, even more bonkers than usual.

    From Steve Benen:

    […] Rod Rosenstein remains one of the nation’s top law enforcement officials. He’s also, evidently, someone Trump considers a criminal.

    Occasionally, the Republican president likes to assure the public that he’s a champion of law enforcement, which is what makes outbursts like these so bizarre. Indeed, as regular readers know, Trump’s attacks on federal law enforcement are strikingly common.

    This is, after all, the same president who said last fall that he sees his conflict with the FBI as one of his “crowning achievements.” Trump added at the time that he sees some leaders who’ve served in federal law enforcement as “a cancer in our country.”

    The president has also referred to the “Department of ‘Justice’ ” – as if he believes the DOJ’s commitment to justice is in doubt – as “an embarrassment to our country!” […]

    It’s the same president who fired dozens of U.S. attorneys under unusual circumstances. And then fired an FBI director. And a deputy FBI director. And an acting attorney general. And an attorney general. And dozens of federal prosecutors.

    Trump has attacked federal law enforcement with conspiracy theories. He’s attacked common law-enforcement tools. He’s even urged law enforcement to enforce his political vendettas and help Republicans win elections.

    And yet, despite all of this, suggesting federal investigators “ought to be in jail” still seems like a new one.

  281. says

    Followup to comment 304.

    Blatant tampering with ballots —all done by Republican operatives:

    Lisa Britt, a worker for political operative McCrae Dowless, said during the North Carolina board of elections hearing Monday that Dowless instructed his employees to fill out illegally collected absentee ballots with votes for the Republican candidates. […]

    “Basically what we would do — what I would do — is to submit the vote for whoever was the Republican,” Britt testified.

    Britt said that they would tamper with the ballots at Dowless’ home or office.

    Earlier in her testimony, she said that Dowless had told her to plead the 5th Amendment since “they have nothing on us.” […]

    Link

  282. says

    Smooth move, Roger Stone. (He posted a picture of the judge hearing his case with crosshairs, like a rifle sight, added to one corner of the image.)

    Stone’s Instagram posting also included this text:

    Through legal trickery Deep State hitman Robert Mueller has guaranteed that my upcoming show trial is before Judge Amy Berman Jackson , an Obama appointed Judge who dismissed the Benghazi charges again Hillary Clinton and incarcerated Paul Manafort prior to his conviction for any crime. Help me fight for my life at @StoneDefenseFund.com

    Including the target marking is not going to please Judge Amy Berman Jackson. Link

  283. says

    Followup to comments 304 and 309.

    […] Board of Elections executive director Kim Strach told the members that a “coordinated, unlawful and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme operated” during the 2018 elections, and that the investigation was actually still ongoing.

    Strach said that the two counties had unusually high numbers of unreturned absentee ballots: 595 in Bladen, and 1,493 in Robeson. Let’s not forget, either, that according to previous reporting, both counties had insanely high unreturned ballot rates among minority voters.[…] no other counties had such high percentages of unreturned ballots.

    Strach laid out the basics of Dowless’s absentee vote fraud scheme: He paid workers $150 for each 50 ballots they collected from voters, and then voted the blank ones at his home or office. He even got creative to try to avoid arousing suspicion:

    Dowless tried to hide his scheme by delivering ballots in small batches, mailing them from post offices near voters’ addresses, having witnesses falsely use the same date as the voter signed and using different ink colors for signatures.

    In North Carolina, it’s illegal for non-relatives to pick up someone’s absentee vote to mail it, let alone fill it in fraudulently, so yeah, a few crimes happening here.

    Strach also said, without going into detail, that “Efforts were made to obstruct this investigation,” which we have to say is an impressive use of the passive voice. She said the evidence of that attempted obstruction would be revealed soon. […]

    Link

    More at the link.

  284. says

    From Dahlia Lithwick:

    […] the fiction that this was a real commander-in-chief giving a serious political speech about a genuine emergency itself becomes improper. This was, even as the standard Trumpian shitshow goes, an extraordinary jaunt into rambling, fact-free, fact-adjacent, fact-inventing mayhem.

    We can certainly have a sober conversation about whether this newly-declared emergency at the Southern border matters, or doesn’t matter, or matters a whole lot. But if we could be perfectly honest, a bunch of brilliant scholars standing around discussing the legal implications of what happened Friday at the White House has pretty much the same feeling as a bunch of adults standing around discussing nuclear fission as a small child rolls around in the ball pit at Ikea, except the small child is in charge of the nuclear fission. At some point, it becomes embarrassing to continue to pretend that the leader of the free world exulting in the prospect of executing drug dealers, and asserting that he has secret stats from which he is forming border policy, is making any sense. […]

    It’s honestly gotten to a point where it isn’t even funny to watch Saturday Night Live parody him, it’s just frightening. I have watched and then read the speech seven times, trying to understand it. The only thing the spectacle of an unscripted Donald Trump ranking his cable news faves in lieu of discussing real policy did was afford us was a window into the Trumpian world order. A careful review of his remarks illuminates nothing but his hierarchy of moral priorities, a kind of food pyramid of what matters most to this man, a hierarchy of ego-fuel demonstrating just how much of each kind Donald Trump must consume in any 50-minute period. […]

    Clearly at the top of that pyramid of priorities lies “me” and “mine” and “I.” […] He has sorted out all the things with China, and Britain, and North Korea, and everyone respects him now. He controls the financial markets. […]

    This top category includes the fact that “if you look at Idlib Province in Syria, I stopped the slaughter of perhaps 3 million people. Nobody talks about that.” […] [There’s not even 3 million people living in Idlib. Trump got that fact wrong.]

    […] The next stage of his hierarchy of values is the people who like him. They aren’t quite as important as he is, but they do count. In Friday’s speech that class of people included the “tremendous crowd in El Paso” and Sean Hannity, who “has been a terrific, terrific supporter of what I do.” Also “Rush Limbaugh, I think he’s a great guy. Here’s a guy who could speak for three hours without a phone call… and he’s got an audience that’s fantastic.” This list also includes “Laura’s been great, Laura Ingraham. Tucker Carlson’s been great. I actually have a couple of people on CNN that have been very good. […]

    The third level of the Trump ego-food pyramid features people who don’t necessarily love Donald Trump, but they do, largely thanks to the toughness and excellence of Donald Trump, respect Donald Trump. In that category we can find China and President Xi, (who “haven’t respected us for a long time” but do now) and North Korea and Chairman Kim (same). […]

    The fourth level is the Real Country. […] it’s clear that “the real country—our real country, the people that really love our country,” support his border plans. […]

    The fifth level of the hierarchy consists of people who probably love Donald Trump but just haven’t shown it yet. That would be the U.S. Supreme Court.

    The next level is people who have disappointed the president. He needs them, they still have certain transactional value, but whoa, did they fail him. This includes, “the people that should have stepped up did not step up” to get him the Wall earlier. […]

  285. says

    Followup to comment 293.

    From Alec Baldwin:

    I wonder if a sitting President exhorting his followers that my role in a TV comedy qualifies me as an enemy of the people constitutes a threat to my safety and that of my family?

    From Peter Baker:

    It’s become commonplace enough in the past two years that it no longer gets much notice. But it’s worth remembering that no other president in decades publicly threatened “retribution” against a television network because it satirized him.

    From Ted Lieu:

    Dear @realDonaldTrump: One thing that makes America great is that the people can laugh at you without retribution. The First Amendment allows Saturday Night Live to make fun of you again, and again, and again. @nbcsnl

    From Scott Bixby:

    Four months after a man sent more than a dozen pipe bombs to CNN and other perceived critics of the president, he is calling for “retribution” against news organizations.

  286. KG says

    Further to #300, Angela Smith, one of the seven former Labour MPs made a truly bizarre racist remark in a subsequent TV interview, , referring to black and minority ethnic (BAME) people as having a “funny tinge”. The seven have made a great thing of complaining that Labour is “institutionally antisemitic” as a reason for leaving the party. What weird mental process could have led her to make that remark? She has, in a classic notpology, said:

    I am very sorry about any offence caused and I am very upset that I misspoke so badly… It’s not what I am…

    Oh yes it is, Angela, oh yes it is.

  287. KG says

    And further to #314, the 7 ex-Labour MPs are already being referred to as the “Funny Tinge Group”! It’s fair to note that one of the group, Chuka Umunna, is black – his father was a Nigerian Igbo, his mother is English-Irish – but even so, it’s very difficult to see how this clutch of mediocrities are going to escape the name. It also appears that they have, gob-smackingly, registered their group (or at least, its website) as a private company in Panama, famous world-wide as a tax-haven for dodgy businesses. What spectacular self-foot-shooting!

  288. says

    Quoted in Lynna’s #289 above:

    And worse, he is that most unforgivable of all things to the British: a bully.

    That is, except when he is among bullies; then he suddenly transforms into a snivelling sidekick instead.

    There are unspoken rules to this stuff – the Queensberry rules of basic decency – and he breaks them all. He punches downwards – which a gentleman should, would, could never do – and every blow he aims is below the belt. He particularly likes to kick the vulnerable or voiceless – and he kicks them when they are down. […]

    He is a Picasso of pettiness; a Shakespeare of shit.

    The “60 Minutes” interview with Andrew and Jill McCabe showed them watching a clip of Trump on the campaign trail lying about them, which they said was “sickening.” And it was. Even when you understand how awful Trump is, it still leaves a pit in your stomach to review specific attacks.

    And there’s the Roger Stone Instagram post @ #310. He’s since removed it and sent an official statement apologizing (and lying) to the court. (Popehat: “I’ve been doing federal criminal law for 24 years and I’ve never seen anything like this. This is not normal.”) They tried to blame it on a “volunteer,” and people have been noting that the upper corner might not be a crosshairs but a racist-appropriated Celtic cross. I think the ambiguity is just what he wanted, and that the racist symbol is potentially more of an implied threat given that the judge is Jewish. Update: I’m just seeing that there’s a hearing today about possibly revoking his bail.

    Meanwhile, the Russian regime continues to operate in this vicious manner, as do their British lackeys like Arron Banks. These are hollow, miserable people who gain a momentary release by harassing, cruelly mocking, and defaming people. It’s not a level of meanness added to political differences – it’s a poisonous anti-politics that needs to be pushed back on. (Incidentally, MSNBC, CNN, and the networks should make part of their rules a prohibition on “Democrat Party.” After one use, an on-air warning; after a second, suspension; after a third, your contract to appear is over. It’s not a political argument, but a slur against the Democratic Party as such – and the same people who let Republicans do it on their shows continue to call the Republican Party the “GOP”! There’s no reason to say it other than to publicly disrespect Democrats. Prohibiting it is the minimum the media can do toward rejecting this culture.)

  289. says

    McCabe says the FBI, in the days after Comey’s firing, told the Gang of 8 that the FBI had opened a counterintelligence investigation into Trump.

    GUTHRIE: Did anyone object?

    McCABE: No one objected. Not on legal grounds not on constitutional grounds and not based on the facts.”

    Natasha Bertrand quotes from McCabe’s book: “Now that the Gang of Eight was a crowd of two dozen in the room, I thought, the chance of this not getting back to the president was basically zero. Then Devin Nunes walked in, and the chance was less than zero.”

    Here’s her new interview with McCabe in the Atlantic: “Andrew McCabe’s Warning to Trump: Mueller Won’t Be Intimidated.”

  290. says

    The House Oversight Committee is investigating Flynn’s plan to give nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia. Whistleblowers in the NSC have called attention to it, and it appears they’ve given the committee documents about it. They fear the scheme might still be alive now.

  291. says

    NBC – “‘Whistleblower’ seeks protection after sounding alarm over White House security clearances”:

    A White House security specialist is seeking official whistleblower protection from the federal government after raising concerns about “unwarranted security clearances” for administration officials, including Jared Kushner, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

    The specialist, Tricia Newbold, filed the whistleblower complaint less than two weeks after she was suspended without pay for defying her supervisor, Carl Kline.

    The complaint, which was obtained by NBC News, alleges Newbold raised concerns with Kline about a security clearance for an individual as early as July 2017. The complaint does not identify the person, but sources familiar with the situation told NBC News that it was Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and adviser.

    In the complaint, Newbold says Kline “repeatedly mishandled security files and has approved unwarranted security clearances.”…

  292. says

    David Rothkopf: “I believe this coup attempt language, the ‘insurance policy’ language, the ‘socialism’ language, are part of setting the stage for a period of danger in US politics unlike any any of us can remember. And that period has now begun.”

  293. says

    SC @321, I wonder how that will affect Trump’s campaign for a Nobel Peace Prize?

    From the Washington Post:

    Several current and former Trump administration appointees promoted sales of nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia despite repeated objections from members of the National Security Council and other senior White House officials, according to a new report from congressional Democrats.

    The officials who objected included White House lawyers and H.R. McMaster, then the chief of the National Security Council. They called for a halt in the nuclear sales discussions in 2017, citing potential conflicts of interest, national security risks and legal hurdles.

    Yet the effort to promote nuclear sales persisted, led by retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who served briefly as President Trump’s national security adviser, and more recently by Energy Secretary Rick Perry. The possible nuclear power sale was discussed in the Oval Office as recently as last week. […]

    The Cummings report notes that one of the power plant manufacturers that could benefit from a nuclear deal, Westinghouse Electric, is a subsidiary of Brookfield Asset Management, the company that provided financial relief to the family of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and adviser. Brookfield Asset Management took a 99-year lease on the family’s deeply indebted New York City property at 666 Fifth Avenue.

    “Multiple whistleblowers came forward to warn about efforts inside the White House to rush the transfer of highly sensitive U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia in potential violation of the Atomic Energy Act and without review by Congress as required by law — efforts that may be ongoing to this day,” the report says.

    The whistleblowers also “warned about a working environment inside the White House marked by chaos, dysfunction and backbiting. They noted that White House political appointees repeatedly ignored directives from top ethics advisers who repeatedly — but unsuccessfully — “ordered senior White House officials to halt their efforts.” […]

  294. says

    Here’s the WaPo report on the House Oversight investigation mentioned @ #321:

    “Top Trump appointees promoted selling nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia over objections from national security officials, House Democratic report says”:

    Several current and former Trump administration appointees promoted sales of nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia despite repeated objections from members of the National Security Council and other senior White House officials, according to a new report from congressional Democrats.

    The officials who objected included White House lawyers and H.R. McMaster, then the chief of the National Security Council. They called for a halt in the nuclear sales discussions in 2017, citing potential conflicts of interest, national security risks and legal hurdles.

    Yet the effort to promote nuclear sales persisted, led by retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who served briefly as President Trump’s national security adviser, and more recently by Energy Secretary Rick Perry. The possible nuclear power sale was discussed in the Oval Office as recently as last week.

    Details about these internal White House battles are contained in a 24-page report released Tuesday morning by Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. The report is based on documents obtained by the committee and the account of unnamed whistleblowers inside the White House who said they were distressed at the continual effort to sell the power plants.

    The Cummings report notes that one of the power plant manufacturers that could benefit from a nuclear deal, Westinghouse Electric, is a subsidiary of Brookfield Asset Management, the company that provided financial relief to the family of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and adviser….

    The whistleblowers also “warned about a working environment inside the White House marked by chaos, dysfunction and backbiting. They noted that White House political appointees repeatedly ignored directives from top ethics advisers who repeatedly — but unsuccessfully — “ordered senior White House officials to halt their efforts.”…

    Here’s a link to the House Oversight report (more information in the surrounding thread).

  295. says

    16 states have formed a coalition to file a lawsuit to block Trump’s “national emergency.”

    […] The suit, California et al. v. Trump et al., filed in the Northern District of California, argues that Trump’s declaration is unconstitutional. The states hope to obtain a preliminary injunction to halt Trump’s ability to access federal funds. […]

    California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who helped spearhead the effort, suggested Trump had shot himself in the foot during his own announcement of the “emergency.”

    “Probably the best evidence is the president’s own words,” Becerra told the New York Times, referring to Trump’s admission,“I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.”

    The plaintiffs listed in the suit are as follows: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and Attorney General Dana Nessel on behalf of the People of Michigan.

    Link

  296. says

    Here’s what you should know about the Austrian chancellor Trump is meeting

    Sebastian Kurz has been hailed as a conservative wunderkid, but his governing coalition has plenty of far-right links.

    On Wednesday, the White House will host one of Europe’s rising political stars; the 32-year-old Chancellor of Austria, Sebastian Kurz.

    Since becoming head of state after a knife-edge election in 2017, Kurz has endeared himself to conservatives around the globe with his youthful charm and vehement opposition to the European Union’s immigration policies. […] For the second half of 2018, Austria —and thereby Kurz — assumed the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union.

    […] his rampant Islamaphobia and a power-sharing agreement with the far-right Austrian Freedom Party (FPO), which has enabled the far-right to inject their ideas into the mainstream of Austrian politics.

    In order to establish a governing majority after the 2017 elections, Kurz’s conservative People’s Party (OVP) partnered with the FPO, led by Heinz-Christian Strache, a former neo-Nazi and now vice-Chancellor who reformed the FPO to focus against immigration and Islam.

    […] “Austria is not a country of immigration” […]

    The ruling coalition has adopted Strache’s mindset. In June 2018, the Austrian coalition shut down seven mosques and expelled dozens of imams who they accused of being funded by foreign powers. “This is just the beginning,” Kurz said at the time. “Political Islam’s parallel societies and radicalizing tendencies have no place in our country.” […]

    The anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies of Kurz’s government will undoubtedly have fans within the Trump White House and their allies on Capitol Hill. For his part, white supremacist Representative Steve King has made frequent trips to the country, and gave an extensive interview to an Austrian far-right TV channel in which he outlined his white nationalist beliefs. Coupled with the simmering far-right sympathies within Kurz’s coalition, this week’s trip is a clear indication that neither he nor his government are merely a fresh-faced vessel of conservatism.

  297. says

    Trump seems to be having a problem: he doesn’t have enough cash left to fund business efforts overseen by his sons.

    […] Trump’s sons announced Thursday that they were shelving plans to open two chains of lower-end hotels and motels, blaming Democrats and journalists on their failure to get the new brands off the ground. But there’s a likelier explanation for their struggles, and it has to do with their dad.

    It’s been two-and-a-half years since the Trump sons trademarked the names Scion and American Ideal for the new hotel chains. With Thursday’s announcement, they have nothing to show for the once-ballyhooed expansion of the Trump empire. […]

    So what will the Trumps do now? In his statement to the Times, Eric Trump said he doesn’t mind if the Trumps have to “slow down our growth for the time being.” But really, what the Trump Organization needs is cash.

    Fresh evidence of the Trump Organization’s financial conundrum came last week, with news that in the midst of his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump sought out Deutsche Bank for a loan. Trump poured tens of millions of dollars of his own money into his campaign, but at the same time, he secretly approached one of the last lenders in the world willing to deal with him, asking for cash to help refurbish his Scottish golf courses. […] He didn’t get the loan, and the courses have continued to bleed money. […]

    According to the New York Times, Deutsche Bank’s CEO in Germany put his foot down about lending any more money to Trump. […] The last big condo sale was in 2017, when, shortly after the inauguration, Trump sold a $16 million condo to a Chinese-American businesswoman with apparent links to Chinese military intelligence. Since then, only a string of smaller properties have sold. Some of his most lavish pieces of real estate have lingered unsold. Cash is not flowing into the company’s coffers as it did before Trump ran for president. […]

    https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2019/02/donald-trump-has-a-cash-problem/

  298. says

    Bernie Sanders just launched his second bid for the presidency.

    In other news, Trump is claiming that he never called Andrew McCabe’s wife a “loser.” If I remember correctly, Trump not only called her a “loser” to McCabe’s face, but he also called her a loser on Twitter.

  299. says

    Trump’s tweet criticizing the Washington Post’s fact checker:

    The Washington Post is a Fact Checker only for the Democrats. For the Republicans, and for your all time favorite President, it is a Fake Fact Checker!

    From Glenn Kessler, the Post’s fact-checker columnist:

    Reminder: Trump cites the @washingtonpost Fact Checker when we give Pinocchios to Democrats.

  300. says

    Excerpts from a town hall featuring Amy Klobuchar:

    Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar on if the US can have “Medicare-for-all”: “It could be a possibility in the future. I’m just looking at something that will work now.” #KlobucharTownHall
    ——————–
    Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) says that she supports banning semi-automatic firearms because it “doesn’t hurt in the deer stand”
    ———————
    “I am not for free four-year college for all, no,” says Sen. Amy Klobuchar. But the Democratic presidential candidate says she wants to make college more affordable by creating easier ways to refinance loans and make community college free. #KlobucharTownHall
    ——————–
    KLOBUCHAR: Am I a tough boss sometimes? Yes. Have I pushed people too hard? Yes. But I have kept expectations for myself that are very high. I’ve asked my staff to meet those same expectations.

    https://twitter.com/CNN/status/1097706548103659521

  301. says

    Followup to comment 332.

    More from Amy Kobuchar’s statement about health care:

    What we need is to expand coverage so people can have a choice for a public option. And that’s a start. And you can do it with Medicare. You can do it many ways. But you can also do it with Medicaid, something I don’t think we’re talking about enough as a potential solution. This is a bill that I am one of the original sponsors of, Sen. Sanders is also sponsoring it, it’s a bill by Brian Schatz, who is a senator from the state of Hawaii, and what it basically says is “Let’s expand Medicaid so you can buy into Medicaid, and it’ll bring the prices down, and we can cover more people.

  302. says

    In other news about Democratic Party presidential candidates:

    Senator Elizabeth Warren will unveil a major new initiative on Tuesday designed to make sure every family can afford high-quality child care […]

    The plan seeks to make access to child care universal […] by offering federal funds to providers that offer care at their facilities on a sliding income scale.

    No family would have to spend more than 7 percent of its household income on child care, no matter the number of kids. Families with incomes below twice the poverty line, which is roughly $50,000 a year for a family of four, would pay nothing.

    Only providers that meet federal safety, staffing and curriculum standards could qualify for the funding. […]

    the initiative will likely require approximately $700 billion in new federal spending over 10 years. That is a net figure, taking into account higher economic benefits of early childhood investments, such as making it easier for new parents to return to work.

    If that estimate is indicative, the new outlays in Warren’s plan would be at least four times what the federal government currently spends on its main early childhood programs, which include Head Start, a block grant for state-level child care programs, and a tax credit that mostly benefits middle-class families.

    To offset the cost of the initiative, the sources said, Warren will propose using revenue from her proposal for a new tax on wealth. […]

    Huffington Post link

  303. says

    Oh, FFS.

    Adopting an unusual stance, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) reportedly offered a tacit defense of WikiLeaks during a campaign stop in New Hampshire over the weekend. “Obviously, the information that has been put out has exposed a lot of things that have been happening that the American people were not aware of and have spurred some necessary change there,” the congresswoman was quoted saying.

  304. says

    Followup to comments 310 and 317 (SC).

    Stone is continuing to shoot himself in the foot.

    […] As for last night’s apology, Stone published a link to a right-wing blog this morning, defending the images of Jackson that he posted to Instagram yesterday, which suggests his “humble” apology may have been less than sincere.

    Link

  305. says

    Here’s the NYT report – “Intimidation, Pressure and Humiliation: Inside Trump’s Two-Year War on the Investigations Encircling Him”:

    As federal prosecutors in Manhattan gathered evidence late last year about President Trump’s role in silencing women with hush payments during the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump called Matthew G. Whitaker, his newly installed attorney general, with a question. He asked whether Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York and a Trump ally, could be put in charge of the widening investigation, according to several American officials with direct knowledge of the call.

    Mr. Whitaker, who had privately told associates that part of his role at the Justice Department was to “jump on a grenade” for the president, knew he could not put Mr. Berman in charge, since Mr. Berman had already recused himself from the investigation. The president soon soured on Mr. Whitaker, as he often does with his aides, and complained about his inability to pull levers at the Justice Department that could make the president’s many legal problems go away.

    Trying to install a perceived loyalist atop a widening inquiry is a familiar tactic for Mr. Trump, who has been struggling to beat back the investigations that have consumed his presidency. His efforts have exposed him to accusations of obstruction of justice as Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, finishes his work investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

    Mr. Trump’s public war on the inquiry has gone on long enough that it is no longer shocking. Mr. Trump rages almost daily to his 58 million Twitter followers that Mr. Mueller is on a “witch hunt” and has adopted the language of Mafia bosses by calling those who cooperate with the special counsel “rats.” His lawyer talks openly about a strategy to smear and discredit the special counsel investigation. The president’s allies in Congress and the conservative media warn of an insidious plot inside the Justice Department and the F.B.I. to subvert a democratically elected president.

    An examination by The New York Times reveals the extent of an even more sustained, more secretive assault by Mr. Trump on the machinery of federal law enforcement. Interviews with dozens of current and former government officials and others close to Mr. Trump, as well as a review of confidential White House documents, reveal numerous unreported episodes in a two-year drama.

    White House lawyers wrote a confidential memo expressing concern about the president’s staff peddling misleading information in public about the firing of Michael T. Flynn, the Trump administration’s first national security adviser. Mr. Trump had private conversations with Republican lawmakers about a campaign to attack the Mueller investigation. And, there was the episode when he asked his attorney general about putting Mr. Berman in charge of the Manhattan investigation.

    The story of Mr. Trump’s attempts to defang the investigations has been voluminously covered in the news media, to such a degree that many Americans have lost track of how unusual his behavior is. But fusing the strands reveals an extraordinary story of a president who has attacked the law enforcement apparatus of his own government like no other president in history, and who has turned the effort into an obsession. Mr. Trump has done it with the same tactics he once used in his business empire: demanding fierce loyalty from employees, applying pressure tactics to keep people in line, and protecting the brand — himself — at all costs….

    Much, much more at the link. Recommended.

  306. says

    From the NYT piece: “One of Mr. Trump’s lawyers also reached out that summer to the attorneys for two of his former aides — Paul J. Manafort and Mr. Flynn — to discuss possible pardons. The discussions raised questions about whether the president was willing to offer pardons to influence their decisions about whether to plead guilty and cooperate in the Mueller investigation.”

    Did we know this?

  307. says

    Other team Trump players seem to be following Trump’s lead when it comes to obstruction of justice:

    Democrats in Congress are accusing the Education Department of interfering with an investigation by the agency’s independent watchdog.

    Five lawmakers sent a letter to Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday saying her deputy pressured the department’s inspector general on Jan. 3 to drop an internal investigation.

    When the inspector general said she would continue the inquiry, she was told weeks later she was being replaced. That decision was quickly reversed after it became public. […]

    The investigation is examining DeVos’ decision to reinstate a troubled accrediting agency that was shut down by the Obama administration. […]

    Link

  308. says

    Trump administration accepted 260 oil and gas drilling applications during shutdown

    The Trump administration is working to “advance drilling no matter the cost,” say public lands advocates.

    […] Those findings shed more light on the extent to which the Interior Department (DOI) favored the oil and gas industry over public lands protection during the longest government shutdown in history — a decision House Democrats now plan to probe.

    The research published by the Colorado-based nonpartisan nonprofit Center for Western Priorities (CWP) was based on data published on government databases. The analysis found that of the 260 applications for drilling permits accepted during the shutdown across the country, 40 permits were approved by the shutdown’s end, along with 15 oil and gas leases. An additional 162 nominations of public lands parcels were accepted with the intent of leasing for oil and gas development.

    These findings come at the same time as reporting by local New Mexico news outlet, Carlsbad Current Argus, which found the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)’s Carlsbad Field Office processed around 80 applications to drill on public lands between Dec. 22, 2018 and Jan. 25, 2019, when the shutdown ended. […]

    “It is both telling and concerning that under Bernhardt the Interior Department cut legal corners to keep the lights on for oil and gas while leaving our parks open to looting and vandalism,” said Prentice-Dunn. […]

  309. says

    From Wonkette, we see Trump taking time out of his busy schedule to come up with derogatory nicknames for his opponents in the 2020 presidential race:

    […] the Associated Press reports that Trump’s already begun focusing on what’s important.

    Inside the West Wing and in conversations with outside allies, Trump has been workshopping other attempts to imprint his new adversaries with lasting labels, according to two people on whom the president has tested out the nicknames. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations with the president. He is also testing out lines of attack in public rallies, exploring vulnerabilities he could use against them should they advance to the general election.

    Shit, not this again. He’s such a big, stupid child. […]

    These are just dumbass, offensive nicknames. The president is getting ready to play the dozens like some hack comic and the media is just gonna shrug and let him. […]

    The AP is also guilty of enabling Trump’s flat-out bigotry.

    No candidate has drawn more commentary and criticism from Trump than Sen. Warren, the liberal Massachusetts Democrat. Warren’s past claims of Native American heritage prompted Trump to brand her “Pocahontas” and he has shown no qualms about deploying racially charged barbs harking back to some of the nation’s darkest abuses.

    Really, Associated Press? Really? Trump called Warren a racist — not “racially charged” but racist — nickname because he’s racist. Linking it to a supposed bad thing Warren did gives Trump more credit than he deserves […]

    This is just the beginning, of course. There’s no telling what horribly offensive, likely sexist and racist — or both in Kamala’s case — nicknames the supposed leader of the free world has in store for us. God bless America.

  310. says

    Followup to SC’s comment 338.

    SC already posted a longer excerpt from the New York Times. I am repeating this part to add context for Steve Benen’s analysis.

    […] Mr. Trump called Matthew G. Whitaker, his newly installed attorney general, with a question. He asked whether Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York and a Trump ally, could be put in charge of the widening investigation […]

    Mr. Whitaker, who had privately told associates that part of his role at the Justice Department was to “jump on a grenade” for the president, knew he could not put Mr. Berman in charge, since Mr. Berman had already recused himself from the investigation. The president soon soured on Mr. Whitaker, as he often does with his aides, and complained about his inability to pull levers at the Justice Department that could make the president’s many legal problems go away.

    From Steve Benen:

    […] Consider this exchange […] between Whitaker and Representative David Cicilline, during last week’s House Judiciary Committee hearing:

    CICILLINE: Mr. Whitaker, did the president lash out to you on or about December 8, 2018, to discuss a case before the southern district in New York where he was identified as individual one?

    WHITAKER: No, congressman.

    CICILLINE: Did anyone on the president’s behalf. either inside the White House or outside the White House. contact you to lash out or express dissatisfaction?

    WHITAKER: Did they contact me to lash out?

    CICILLINE: Yes. Did they reach out to you in some way to express dissatisfaction?

    WHITAKER: No.

    There’s now reason to believe the answer should’ve been, “Yes.”

    Keep in mind, the House Judiciary Committee’s Democratic leadership recently reached out to Whitaker, offering him a chance to clarify his testimony, and insisting that some of the claims he made under oath have been “contradicted by other evidence.”

    The committee specifically referred to Whitaker’s claims about Michael Cohen and Trump’s hush-money scandal. Perhaps now we know why?

    Postscript: Just yesterday, I noted that the hush-money scandal’s relevance is ongoing. Today’s reporting helps bolster the point.

  311. says

    Oh, FFS. The New York Times published some garbage … again … in its opinions section.

    Readers turning to the New York Times opinion pages this weekend may have left feeling confused about the urgency of climate change and where Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) stands on the issue.

    The main thrust of the op-ed written by columnist Bret Stephens is to argue that Pelosi has an “incrementalist approach to climate” in order to falsely argue that this proves she doesn’t believe in the dire predictions of climate science. And within this, Stephens spreads confusion about the urgency of the science on climate change and proposed plans to ambitiously tackle the global issue, like the Green New Deal which calls for rapid decarbonization of the economy within a decade.

    It all begins with the headline: “Is Nancy Pelosi a Climate Skeptic?”

    To the contrary, the Speaker of the House has been one of the strongest advocates of both climate science and aggressive climate action of any political leader in U.S. history. Indeed, she actually shepherded a very strong climate bill through the House in 2009. […]

    Think Progress link

  312. says

    Followup to SC’s comment 343.

    From Wonkette:

    In a move that has media watchers scratching their heads, CNN has hired Sarah Isgur, a Republican political consultant who served as Jeff Sessions’s official spokesperson, as a political editor for the network. Isgur (formerly Isgur-Flores) has no journalism experience at all, so as is only logical, she will “coordinate political coverage for the 2020 campaign,” according to Politico. No, really. A major network’s coverage of an entire election will be massaged by a partisan whose only experience with the news business has been as a press flack for one party’s candidates.[…]

    Politico blandly observes,

    While it is common for departing administration officials to join cable news networks as analysts or contributors, it is less common for them to oversee news coverage. Isgur has no experience in news but a long history as a political operative…

    […] Well gosh, that IS unusual. In fact, we’d say it’s probably freaking unprecedented outside of state-run news services, no? CNN’s 2020 election coverage will be “coordinated” by a partisan hack? OK, just another day, we guess. […]

    (A CNN person assures us that there are many political editors, and 2020 political coverage will still be overseen by David Chalian, […]

    Pfft, how silly these media people are, getting all upset about a network throwing what little credibility it had out the window. Again. Or maybe a fifteenth time.

    Vox’s Aaron Rupar put together a thread of some really important tweets by “CNN’s new political editor,” who over the years has offered some decidedly non-journalistic opinions, […] From Rupar’s thread, we compiled a few screenshots, just in case CNN’s new political editor decides to send some of her own social media history down the memory hole. […]

    From Aaron Rupar:

    this is CNN’s new political editor

    Sarah Isgur: just saw 100 ft wave surfing clip on CNN…way more interesting that carney’s surfing over “truth” and “accuracy”

    Sarah Isgur was unhappy that CNN’s coverage wasn’t more homophobic
    Sarah Isgur: Seriously? More balanced reporting today from CNN: chiron reads “anti-gay, anti-abortion group hosts value voters summit”

    CNN’s new political editor pushed conspiracy theories about Planned Parenthood that were based on misleadingly edited videos
    Sarah Isgur: Watch the video Planned Parenthood & its media allies don’t want you to believe exists–> http://thefederalist.com/2015/09/17/watch-the-video-planned-parenthood-and-its-media-allies-deny-exists/

    I would like to see CNN fact-check this dubious claim from their new political editor
    Sarah Isgur: Hypocritical for @HillaryClinton to pretend her policies don’t hurt women! 92 percent of jobs lost in Obama’s first term belonged to women.

    Sarah Isgur’s defense of Trump’s Muslim ban was whatabout Obama:
    Sarah Isgur: Dear Outrage Machine: ur “OMG Muslim ban!” doesn’t include largest Muslim pop countries, mention Islam, & is same as Obama’s temp Iraqi ban

    CNN’s new political editor blamed Obama for stuff he had absolutely nothing to do with […]

    Sarah Isgur: Obama Admin is “the new Nixon admin when it comes to bullying, withholding info and targeting enemies.”

  313. says

    More re #344, from Jim Sciutto: “New: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross violated his ethics agreement and submitted a financial disclosure form that ‘was not accurate’, according to the Office of Government Ethics. Ross reported he had sold bank stock that other reports indicate he did not sell.”

  314. KG says

    Three Tory MPs have defected to the Funny Tinge Group. That these Tories find it acceptable to join the ex-Labour MPs rather confirms that the latter are, in fact, pro-Remain Tories. (I suppose you could argue the contrary, but while the defecting Tories emphasise Brexit in their statements, the ex-Labourites mostly talked about antisemitism – but if that was really their main reason for leaving the party, they would surely shun any association with Tories.)

  315. says

    Ah, this is quite interesting. Josh Marshall has a different way to explain that Trump is sometimes not just wrong, but aggressively wrong:

    […] In Andrew McCabe’s account of his first meeting with [Trump] after James Comey’s firing, Trump’s main focus was telling McCabe how everyone at the FBI couldn’t stand Comey and was grateful to Trump for firing him. From everything we know this was clearly false. McCabe was in as good a position as anyone to know this was false. I give the President the respect of not assuming he’s an infant. He knows this. He moves from an aggressive statement of things that McCabe knows are not true and – just as critically – that McCabe knows Trump knows are not true. It is an assertion of power more than an effort to convince. Then Trump moves to the real ask: “I heard you were part of the resistance.”

    In some ways this is the most revealing part of McCabe’s account. Trump pushes a blatantly false storyline to McCabe in a private meeting, one the point of which appears to be its very falsity, an aggressive dominating statement that is the exact contrary to the reality of the situation. Then he tries to put McCabe on the defensive by suggesting he’s part of the resistance. The whole episode seems calculated to test whether McCabe will accept his version of reality. You demonstrate your loyalty by accepting non-facts.

    Even at this late date in our collective experience with Donald Trump I hear claims about these sorts of episodes suggesting that Trump is just comically misinformed or only believes what he wants to believe or what the last person told him. It is something quite different. Information, claims, facts, portrayals are for Trump all parts of power transactions, getting people to accept his power, his will, his versions of events. In a way we know this all first hand, with his constant public denials about every new Russia revelation. No collusion! Witch hunt! etc. It is important to see that this is the way he operates in private too. It’s all of a piece.

    Link

    You may want to read the entire essay to get the whole argument from Josh.

  316. says

    The top 2020 Democrats face a “sustained and ongoing” social media disinformation attack.

    Many of those apparently viral memes and hashtags you’re seeing attacking leading Democratic presidential prospects are in fact a “sustained and ongoing” coordinated attack […]

    The tech company Guardians.ai ran an analysis of social media activity against Democratic presidential candidates or potential candidates, and found that Senators Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders, and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke are the top targets, with “clear signs of a coordinated effort of undetermined size that shares similar characteristics with the computational propaganda attacks launched by online trolls at Russia’s Internet Research Agency in the 2016 presidential election,” though Russia isn’t the only possible foreign state actor that could be involved in such attacks.

    About 200 social media accounts are at the center of the effort—and the same accounts were active in trying to attack and divide during the 2018 midterm elections. This is not a minor effort: “Over a recent 30-day period, between 2 and 15 percent of all Twitter mentions of the four candidates emanated in some way from within that cluster of accounts, according to the Guardians.ai findings. […]

    “It looks like the 2020 presidential primary is going to be the next battleground to divide and confuse Americans,” Guardians.ai’s Brett Horvath told Politico. “As it relates to information warfare in the 2020 cycle, we’re not on the verge of it—we’re already in the third inning.”

    Link

  317. says

    He didn’t bother to refute any of The New York Times reporting in his tweet this morning, but Trump did rant as usual:

    The New York Times reporting is false. They are a true ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!
    ——————
    The writers don’t even call asking for verification. They are totally out of control. Sadly, I kept many of them in business. In six years, they all go BUST

    Of course, reporters for The New York Times did their due diligence:

    Maggie Haberman, one of the Times reporters who authored the piece, said Wednesday on CNN that the Times reached out to the White House multiple times before publishing the report.

    Politico link

    Who lies with every breath? Trump.

  318. says

    Putin warned the U.S. that Moscow is ready to respond to hostile actions from Washington:

    “We don’t want confrontation, particularly with such a global power as the U.S.,” Putin said in his state of the nation address, according to The Associated Press. The Russian president also said his nation “remains open” to nuclear arms control talks, though he said those would need to be initiated by the U.S.

    He called Washington’s targeting of Moscow with sanctions “destructive” policy, and fired a warning shot, cautioning U.S. officials to consider the “range and speed of our prospective weapons” when considering policies that could negatively affect Russia. […]

    He also said that while will not make the the first move to place intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Moscow will take retaliatory measures if the U.S. moves to do so […]. He added that retaliation by Russia could include targeting European countries playing host to the U.S. missiles as well as using new weapons to target U.S. decision-making centers. […]

    Link

  319. says

    A good ruling from the Supreme Court … and a refreshing appearance by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

    The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday that the Constitution’s prohibition on excessive fines applies to state and local governments, limiting their abilities to impose fines and seize property.

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, on just her second day back on the bench after undergoing cancer surgery in December, announced the decision for the court, saying that the 8th Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause protects against government retribution.

    “For good reason, the protection against excessive fines has been a constant shield throughout Anglo-American history: Exorbitant tolls undermine other constitutional liberties,” Ginsburg wrote. “Excessive fines can be used, for example, to retaliate against or chill the speech of political enemies . . . Even absent a political motive, fines may be employed in a measure out of accord with the penal goals of retribution and deterrence.”

    The court ruled in favor of Tyson Timbs of Marion, Ind., who had his $42,000 Land Rover seized after he was arrested for selling a couple hundred dollars’ worth of heroin. […]

    Washington Post link

  320. says

    Fact checking Trump:

    “Nearly 5 million Americans have been lifted off food stamps.”— President Trump, during the State of the Union address, Feb. 5, 2019

    “We’ve lifted 4.3 million Americans off of food stamps.”— President Trump, at a rally in Biloxi, Miss., Nov. 26, 2018

    “We have 46 million people on food stamps.”— Candidate Donald Trump, in a speech, Burlington, Iowa, Oct. 21, 2015

    […] Trump lauded the number of people “lifted off food stamps” amid a slew of economic statistics in his annual State of the Union address. This is nothing new — he made some variation of this point 41 times in rallies and at speeches taking office.

    Meanwhile, as he campaigned for president, Trump pointed to the number of people receiving assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) as evidence of what he insisted was the poor state of the economy. […]

    In October 2015, around 45.4 million people received SNAP benefits. At that time, Trump used this number to argue that the country was failing to recover from the recession. By the time Trump was elected in November 2016, that number had fallen to 43.2 million people; by the time he took office, another couple hundred thousand people had dropped off the rolls.

    As of October 2018, 38.5 million people received SNAP benefits. That means enrollment has declined by 4.6 million people since Trump’s election, according to the most recent publicly available data. […] In reality, 3.6 million people — not nearly 5 million people — have stopped receiving SNAP benefits since Trump took office. […]

    It makes sense that SNAP participation would have been falling before Trump’s election and would keep falling afterward. After all, SNAP participation generally tracks with the official poverty rate, which has been falling since 2010. And generally speaking, lower unemployment means people are less reliant on SNAP benefits. […]

    Reports have also suggested that immigrant families with citizen children have dropped out of the program for fear of the administration’s immigration policies. […]

    The president is taking a predictable play out of his playbook: pointing to a statistic as disastrous — then claiming credit for a turnaround even though the trend line didn’t change. […]

    The president consistently elevates the number by dating from the election, not his inauguration, and he takes credit for a trend already underway by the time he took office. On the other hand, SNAP participation has continued to decline because of an improving economy […] So we will keep it at Two Pinocchios.

    Washington Post link

  321. says

    “Concord Cites Dostoevsky, Visa Wait In Latest Broadside Against Mueller”:

    The company accused of funding Russia’s election meddling in the 2016 cycle on Wednesday offered its version of how thousands of discovery materials from the case wound up on an alleged Russian disinformation website.

    While most of the alternate telling from Concord Management is redacted in the court filing, the company took time to get a few choice hits in against special counsel Robert Mueller in the public portion of the document.

    Mueller is “blowing a dog whistle at the feckless media about a completely imaginary effort to undermine the Office of Special Counsel,” wrote Concord attorney Eric Dubelier, affixing a footnote to “media” that contained a quote from Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky.

    “[I]t takes something more than intelligence to act intelligently,” the footnote reads.

    Concord goes on to biliously belabor the point.

    “And in so describing this alleged issue related to non-sensitive discovery (much of which is indiscriminate garbage from the internet), the government does not even take the time to get its facts straight and instead goes on a rant marked by calumny,” attorneys for the company wrote….

    The judge warned them against precisely this bullshit after their last filing. This won’t go over well with her.

  322. says

    From SC’s link in comment 358:

    Under socialism in Venezuela, they are now eating their pets and birds because of mass starvation.

    Demonizing socialism, and using Venezuela as an example of the supposedly terrible fate of the U.S. if Democrats win the presidency, is one of Trump’s latest PR/disinformation campaigns. (Trump is calling the Democratic Party candidates socialists, and he categorizes them as “the radical left” or “radical leftists.”)

    It looks like Russian trolls and bots are out in force to comment on every Twitter thread, including those threads that provide news about Elizabeth Warren.

    The Venezuelan disinformation campaign is being hyped, and I can see it expanding right before my eyes.

    Trump is exploiting the Venezuela crisis in order to win the 2020 presidential election

    He’s using it as a way to label his Democratic challengers as socialists.

  323. says

    Concord Management is defending itself in court against the Mueller probe. Some of their defense strategies have been, um … novel.

    The company accused of funding Russia’s election meddling in the 2016 cycle on Wednesday offered its version of how thousands of discovery materials from the case wound up on an alleged Russian disinformation website.

    While most of the alternate telling from Concord Management is redacted in the court filing, the company took time to get a few choice hits in against special counsel Robert Mueller in the public portion of the document.

    Mueller is “blowing a dog whistle at the feckless media about a completely imaginary effort to undermine the Office of Special Counsel,” wrote Concord attorney Eric Dubelier, affixing a footnote to “media” that contained a quote from Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky.

    Pretty entertaining, but I doubt the court, (or Mueller), will be impressed.

    “It takes something more than intelligence to act intelligently,” the footnote reads.

    Concord goes on to biliously belabor the point.

    “And in so describing this alleged issue related to non-sensitive discovery (much of which is indiscriminate garbage from the internet), the government does not even take the time to get its facts straight and instead goes on a rant marked by calumny,” attorneys for the company wrote.

    At issue is how to handle sensitive discovery in the case going forward. Mueller alleged in a filing last month that a Russia-based online disinformation campaign obtained non-sensitive discovery materials from the Concord case. The special counsel’s office then pushed for new procedures for handling discovery in the case. […]

    Mueller’s team had suggested Concord Management officials could come to the United States to view the sensitive discovery going forward.

    Concord pushes back on the proposal, arguing that Concord Management’s owner Yevgeny Prigozhin — a Kremlin fixer known as “Putin’s chef” who is named in the lawsuit — can’t travel to the United States to review the documents himself.

    “Neither Mr. Prigozhin (because he would be arrested), nor any other employee of Concord (because they would need a visa that would never be granted) can come to the United States,” the company wrote.

    Link