Yet another weirdly sexualized photo of Dad and daughter
Here's one I haven't heard before:
Watching TV commentators applaud him for containing himself for a little over an hour was like hearing a parent praise a difficult child for not pooping in his pants during a pre-school interview. Besides, vintage Trump is not going anywhere anytime soon. A couple of weeks earlier, during a visit by the Japanese prime minister, Shinzō Abe, the president told an acquaintance that he was obsessed with the translator’s breasts—although he expressed this in his own, fragrant fashion.
And if they have to purge the executive branch of all but the most loyal Republicans, even civil servants, so be it.And if they spread their names all over the wingnut media and get the gun toting nutballs all riled up, that's just the way the game is played now:
Conservative news outlets, including one with links to a top White House official, are singling out individual career government employees for criticism, suggesting in articles that certain staffers will not be sufficiently loyal to President Donald Trump by virtue of their work under former President Barack Obama.
The articles — which have appeared in Breitbart News, the Conservative Review, and other outlets — have alarmed veteran officials in both parties as well as current executive branch staffers. They say the stories are adding to tensions between career staffers and political appointees as they begin to implement Trump's agenda, and they worry that the stories could inspire Trump to try purging federal agencies of perceived enemies.
The claims posted on the conservative sites include allegations of anti-Israel and pro-Iran bias against staffers at institutions such as the State Department and the National Security Council. Breitbart News, whose former executive chairman Steve Bannon is now Trump’s chief strategist, has even published lists of workers that the president should fire.
Washington veterans say they can't recall similar targeting of government employees, who are required to stay apolitical and generally shun the spotlight.
"It’s deeply unfair to single people out and question their loyalty,” said William Burns, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former longtime diplomat, “It’s demoralizing for institutions. It’s demoralizing for professionals, and it’s offensive.”
Elliott Abrams, a veteran of the George W. Bush administration who was passed over last month for the role of deputy secretary of state because of his past criticism of Trump, agreed with Burns. Career staffers, he said "are trying to do their jobs and will respond to presidential leadership — including from a new president when an administration changes.”
U.S. civil and foreign service officers have long been seen by Republicans and Democrats as the backbone of government — subject matter experts who help political appointees administer their policy agenda regardless of who serves as commander-in-chief. But many in the Trump administration and its allies on the right are skeptical of career staffers, believing they are part of an American “deep state” that is working in secret to undermine the president.
Several people who have been targeted did not respond to requests for comment. But one said the information being spread was unnerving, in part because even if Trump's top aides don't always believe the reports they read in the conservative press, they may still feel pressure to act from voters in the Republican base who do believe the accounts.
“I, of course, worry about the fact that there are people inside the administration and outside it who may believe what they read in these things, who don’t necessarily appreciate what it means to be a career staffer,” said the employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity for job protection reasons. “Most people don’t understand that that does not come with politics attached.”
There's more. And it's creepy. But Trump did say that he believed the victor was entitled to the spoils and on of the big spoils is the ability to give out patronage jobs to your lackeys.I have to believe that's a big part of this.
As the confirmation hearings continue for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, we’re getting wind of some interesting rulings he has made through the course of his judicial career. “Interesting” in the sense of giving us a glimpse of his character.
One of the most riveting moments in the Gorsuch hearing occurred when Minnesota Senator Al Franken questioned Gorsuch about his ruling in a case involving a truck driver who got fired after he disobeyed a supervisor and abandoned his trailer that he was driving, because he was on the verge of freezing to death. The truck driver couldn’t drive off with the trailer, because the trailer’s brakes had frozen. In the case, Judge Gorsuch cast the sole dissent ruling in favor of the trucking company against the trucker.
SEN. AL FRANKEN: There were two safety issues here: one, the possibility of freezing to death, or driving with that rig in a very, very—a very dangerous way. Which would you have chosen? Which would you have done, Judge?
JUDGE NEIL GORSUCH: Oh, Senator, I don’t know what I would have done if I were in his shoes, and I don’t blame him at all, for a moment, for doing what he did do.
SEN. AL FRANKEN: But—but—but—
JUDGE NEIL GORSUCH: I empathize with him entirely.
SEN. AL FRANKEN: OK, just you’ve—we’ve been talking about this case. Don’t—you don’t—you haven’t decided what you would have done? You haven’t thought about, for a second, what you would have done in his case?
JUDGE NEIL GORSUCH: Oh, Senator, I thought a lot about this case, because I—
SEN. AL FRANKEN: And what would you have done?
JUDGE NEIL GORSUCH: I totally empathize and understand—
SEN. AL FRANKEN: I’m asking you a question. Please answer questions.
JUDGE NEIL GORSUCH: Senator, I don’t know. I wasn’t in the man’s shoes. But I understand why he did—
SEN. AL FRANKEN: You don’t know what you would have done.
JUDGE NEIL GORSUCH: I understand—
SEN. AL FRANKEN: OK, I’ll tell you what I would have done. I would have done exactly what he did.
JUDGE NEIL GORSUCH: Yeah, I understand that.
SEN. AL FRANKEN: I think everybody here would have done exactly what he did. … It is absurd to say this company is in its rights to fire him because he made the choice of possibly dying from freezing to death or causing other people to die possibly by driving an unsafe vehicle. That’s absurd. Now, I had a career in identifying absurdity, and I know it when I see it. And it makes me—you know, it makes me question your judgment.
He seems nice. While that case is getting a lot of press, it’s only part of a larger pattern that emerges when you study his past. Corporate America will have a real SCOTUS bud in Neil Gorsuch; because they can rest assured they won’t lose any more of those $400 handcarts:
When asked if he felt vindicated after the Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes rushed up to the White House to share a leak with him (and the media) which says that some Trump transition officials were incidentally surveilled and "unmasked" by intelligence agencies:
"I somewhat do. I must tell you I somewhat do. I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found, I somewhat do."
He feels "somewhat" vindicated that Devin Nunes broke every protocol to hold a news conference designed to give the president cover for his manic 4 AM tweet two weeks ago.
Unfortunately for him, Nunes is a moron and has opened a Pandora's Box by saying that the intercepts had nothing to do with Russia and implying that there are other FISA warrants out there that picked up conversations with Trump officials. If he hadn't said that one might have assumed that these were the kind of incidental routine intercepts of conversations with foreigners that don't require a FISA warrant. He seems confused.
One thing is now crystal clear. Nunes cannot run the House intelligence committee investigation. As a member of Trump's transition team he should have recused himself from the beginning. Now he's so obviously tainted that he made the best cast yet for an Independent commission and/or a special prosecutor. He should not be given any more access to intelligence reports. After spending the whole day on Monday ragging on leaks to James Comey he just went out and held a press conference hurling charges based upon a ... leak.
Defense Secretary James Mattis’ unconventional choices for top Pentagon posts and his reluctance to aggressively push for dramatic increases in the defense budget have rankled Republicans on Capitol Hill who say he’s burning through political capital he needs as he begins reshaping the Pentagon. Mattis was widely embraced on both sides of the aisle when President Donald Trump nominated him. Republicans and Democrats alike expressed hope that the retired four-star general would be a moderating force on the volatile commander in chief.
But Republican lawmakers and senior congressional aides said in recent interviews they’re running out of patience with Mattis' staffing decisions, which have disappointed Republican members of the Senate Armed Services Committee hoping to see their ideological allies elevated to senior levels in the Defense Department. Others are grumbling about Mattis’ refusal to advocate a bigger increase in the defense budget, which defense hawks believe was gutted disastrously under President Barack Obama. “He certainly has got a tough job, but it sometimes feels like he forgets that we won the election,” said one aide to a GOP senator on the Armed Services Committee, who declined to speak on the record for fear of publicly alienating the defense secretary.
“We’ve waited eight years for this, to be able to fill these posts with Republicans,” said another top GOP Hill staffer. “We know Trump isn’t part of the establishment and that it’s going to be a bit different, but it should go without saying that a Republican administration is expected to staff federal agencies with Republicans.”
When a Democrat is president these same wingnuts demand that the Secretary of Defense himself must be a Republican. And the FBI Director and any number of other slots. And the Democrats acquiesce every time. When the shoe is on the other foot, the GOP demands a full purge and replacement with ideological zealots.
I wonder how long Mattis is going to last. He seems to be on a collision course with Bannon and the far-right. I guess it's up to Trump. Oh God.
If the great dealmaker can't even get the House Republicans to agree ...
I wrote about the "great negotiator's" weak skills along with other health care observations for Salon this morning:
Throughout Barack Obama’s administration, the Republicans in Congress griped that the president wasn’t sufficiently respectful of their beliefs or willing to conduct the necessary bipartisan “outreach.” President Obama did, of course, go out of his way to try to gain the support of Republicans, spending years attempting to put into effect his “grand bargain,” which was designed to settle a number of big-ticket items on both sides of the aisle. To no avail.
His famous debut speech to the 2004 Democratic convention was all about blue-state and red-state America being one. When Obama decided to run for president in 2007, he said this:
I have always had extraordinarily good relations with very conservative colleagues. And that’s not because I agree with any of them or fudge on my positions, but people feel I listen to them and give them the benefit of the doubt. I assume the best of people.
Obama was going to “fix Washington.” When the Republicans laughed in his face and adopted a policy of total obstruction, he was deemed a failure for being unable to fulfill his promise.
Donald Trump is in no danger of that particular failure. He made a few vague references to bringing people together, but it always sounded like he left off the “or else” at the end of the sentence. Certainly nobody expected that after eight years of GOP obstruction and the most disgusting campaign in history, Democrats were going to meet this president halfway. So far, they have not.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has announced that he’s going to hold the vote on his Trumpcare bill on Thursday and the GOP is completely on their own. After the devastating Congressional Budget Office report knocked members of the House leadership back on their heels with terrible headlines all over the country (followed closely by more terrible headlines about Trump’s budget), Ryan and company threw on some patches that they hoped would appease enough nervous members to pass the bill and throw this toxic hot potato to the Senate.
House leaders have thrown some money at constituents ages 50 to 64 (whose insurance would become unaffordable under Trumpcare), but most analysts say this measure would barely make a dent in the problem. Ryan has attempted to further appease the bloodthirsty Freedom Caucus, which is demanding that Medicaid be destroyed as quickly as possible. Until that happens, Republicans appear to have agreed that sick, poor people must be required to have a job before they can see a doctor.
There’s no word yet on whether this proposal would include the millions of elderly who depend upon Medicaid to pay their nursing home costs, which is the largest single outlay in the Medicaid budget. Perhaps Trump’s promised jobs initiative includes work that can be done from wheelchairs and hospital beds.
Whip counts early in the week were not promising. The Freedom Caucus is so rigidly committed to full repeal its members say they won’t be satisfied with anything less than throwing out every person using Obamacare and Medicaid on their own immediately. More moderate members concerned with keeping their seats in districts where Democrat Hillary Clinton won or came close are terrified that this draconian bill spells doom for their careers. Tellingly, very few have indicated that their main concern is the tens of millions of people who will suffer if this bill passes.
Having seen the Breitbart headlines, Ryan understands that Trump might prefer the bill to fail so he could keep ragging on Obama for a few more years. Ryan also perceives that conservative knives are out for him once again, ready to hold him responsible for any failure to repeal the hated program. So the speaker has made the shrewd move of flattering the president like a well trained manservant, calling Trump “the ultimate closer” and tying him to the success of the vote as tightly as possible.
On Tuesday Ryan even persuaded the president to make a rare trek to Capitol Hill to make a patented Trump sales pitch to an excited GOP caucus. According to The Washington Post, Trump didn’t even try to make a case for the bill on the merits, likely because he has no idea what they are. Instead, he issued a veiled threat to “go after” those who failed to vote for the bill and complained that “we won’t have these crowds if we don’t get this done.” The president added, “I honestly think many of you will lose your seats in 2018 if you don’t get this done.”
Trump doesn’t seem to understand that the “yuge” crowds these legislators are getting aren’t cheering ecstatically. They’re protesting:
The general consensus is that despite his insistence that the meeting was “terrific” and “tremendous” the greatest salesman in the world didn’t make the sale. As of Tuesday night, most whip counts still had the bill falling short.
It’s interesting to see how much this process mirrors the Democratic Sturm und Drang over the Affordable Care Act back in 2009. The Democrats did take their time to write the bill carefully, which hasn’t happened this time around. They held extensive hearings and listened to expert analyses. But the politics were very fraught, with progressives fighting for more ambitious coverage and conservative Democrats worried about the same folks back home that Republicans are worried about today
Politico reported at the time that the conservative Blue Dog Democrats were under tremendous pressure from their constituents and told the president about it. They reminded him that many of them had been down the health care reform road 14 years before when Bill Clinton tried to pass it and were wary of the political pitfalls:
Arkansas Congressman Marion Berry said, “They just kept telling us how good it was going to be. The president himself, when that was brought up in one group, said, ‘Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was you’ve got me.’”
That didn’t work out too well. The 2010 midterm elections were an electoral massacre that brought the Tea Party to power in Congress.
Maybe Trump’s veiled threat to punish Republicans in 2018 if they don’t vote for the bill will bring enough reluctant congressmen around by Thursday. But his threats don’t guarantee a midterm victory for Republicans any more than Obama’s promises did for Democrats.
At least the Democrats who lost having voted for the Affordable Care Act could feel they had sacrificed their seats for something that alleviated pain and suffering for millions of people. Republicans are now fretting that they’ll be similarly punished for failing to bring all that pain and suffering back. You have to wonder if a few of them wonder what kind of a devil’s bargain they’ve made.
President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago and proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics, The Associated Press has learned. The work appears to contradict assertions by the Trump administration and Manafort himself that he never worked for Russian interests.
Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse.
Manafort pitched the plans to Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally with whom Manafort eventually signed a $10 million annual contract beginning in 2006, according to interviews with several people familiar with payments to Manafort and business records obtained by the AP. Manafort and Deripaska maintained a business relationship until at least 2009, according to one person familiar with the work.
"We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success," Manafort wrote in the 2005 memo to Deripaska. The effort, Manafort wrote, "will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government."
Manafort's plans were laid out in documents obtained by the AP that included strategy memoranda and records showing international wire transfers for millions of dollars. How much work Manafort performed under the contract was unclear.
The disclosure comes as Trump campaign advisers are the subject of an FBI probe and two congressional investigations. Investigators are reviewing whether the Trump campaign and its associates coordinated with Moscow to meddle in the 2016 campaign. Manafort has dismissed the investigations as politically motivated and misguided. The documents obtained by AP show Manafort's ties to Russia were closer than previously revealed.
In a statement to the AP, Manafort confirmed that he worked for Deripaska in various countries but said the work was being unfairly cast as "inappropriate or nefarious" as part of a "smear campaign."
"I worked with Oleg Deripaska almost a decade ago representing him on business and personal matters in countries where he had investments," Manafort said. "My work for Mr. Deripaska did not involve representing Russia's political interests."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of Trump's critics in the Senate, called the disclosures about payments to Manafort from the Russian billionaire "very disturbing if true."
"That's basically taking money to stop the spread of democracy, and that would be very disturbing to me," he said Wednesday on Capitol Hill.
We still don't know what Trump and his pals knew. But this man was Trump's campaign chairman. And he worked for free, something Trump might have questioned, since the guy isn't the sort that does something like that.
I haven't leaned very far into the Russian story because I honestly find the simplest answer --- Trump is a vain, moron --- to be the likeliest answer. It's obvious that the Russian government interfered in the campaign and that's worrying enough. Trump is most likely vulnerable to corruption and coercion because of his business conflicts in my opinion which are obviously disqualifying.
But this is something else:
Manafort and his associates remain in Trump's orbit. Manafort told a colleague this year that he continues to speak with Trump by telephone. Manafort's former business partner in eastern Europe, Rick Gates, has been seen inside the White House on a number of occasions. Gates has since helped plan Trump's inauguration and now runs a nonprofit organization, America First Policies, to back the White House agenda.
Gates, whose name does not appear in the documents, told the AP that he joined Manafort's firm in 2006 and was aware Manafort had a relationship with Deripaska but was not aware of the work described in the memos. Gates said his work was focused on domestic U.S. lobbying and political consulting in Ukraine at the time. He said he stopped working for Manafort's firm in March 2016 when he joined Trump's presidential campaign.
In another of his strong pieces in New York magazine, Frank Rich takes the liberal media Establishment and Democratic politicians to task for wasting "time and energy chasing unreachable voters in the base of Trump’s electorate."* That is, for trying to work up empathy for Trump voters in a kind of post-9/11 redux: Why do they hate us?
"Perhaps they should hate us," Rich writes, and gives them more reason to in 4,000 words or so.
Rich believes chasing centrist think tank Third Way (I'm not a fan) down a $20 million rabbit hole in the Rust Belt, as its Clintonista president insists, to “restore Democrats as a national party that can win everywhere” is a fool's errand. As is poring over Nancy Isenberg’s White Trash or J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy to discover elusive common ground with "the Trumpentariat" and perhaps the key to their opioid-numbed hearts.
After delving into some profiles in self-destructiveness and victimhood in Trump country, Rich concludes:
Perhaps it’s a smarter idea to just let the GOP own these intractable voters. Liberals looking for a way to empathize with conservatives should endorse the core conservative belief in the importance of personal responsibility. Let Trump’s white working-class base take responsibility for its own votes — or in some cases failure to vote — and live with the election’s consequences. If, as polls tell us, many voters who vilify Obamacare haven’t yet figured out that it’s another name for the Affordable Care Act that’s benefiting them — or if they do know and still want the Trump alternative — then let them reap the consequences for voting against their own interests. That they will sabotage other needy Americans along with them is unavoidable in any case now — at least until voters stage an intervention in an election to come.
Trump voters should also be reminded that the elite of the party they’ve put in power is as dismissive of them as Democratic elites can be condescending. “Forget your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap,” Kevin Williamson wrote of the white working class in National Review. “The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible.” He was only saying in public what other Republicans like Mitt Romney say about the “47 percent” in private when they think only well-heeled donors are listening. Besides, if National Review says that their towns deserve to die, who are Democrats to stand in the way of Trump voters who used their ballots to commit assisted suicide?
The problem with Rich's analysis is the "election to come" part. Elections involve math. At the end of Election Day we count votes. Not empathy, not good intentions, not programs, not policies, and not hurt feelings. Whether Democrats can win back control of Congress and state legislatures is about numbers.
Another problem — and this is hardly Rich's alone — is that "Trump voters" always seems to imply red states, or to at least to conflate red states with Trump voters. And after reading Rich's take on Trump voters, the knee-jerk response is to say to hell with them. But there are more than Republican voters in those red states. Those states each get two U.S. senators and a number of representatives; they each have governors and legislatures, many dominated by Republicans just as crazy as Trump. Abandoning them is not a progressive option.
Democratic activists should not hold their breaths waiting for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), and the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) to come to Jesus and become more than "old boys" reelection funds. And the jury is out on whether a Democratic National Committee that snapped up Hillary for America veterans who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory will, as promised, restore Howard Dean's 50 state plan in more than name only, or adopt a time horizon that looks beyond the next election. Their focus on (what they consider) sure bets is why state organizations have withered since Obama pulled the plug on "50 state." But liberal, grassroots activists cannot ignore red states unless they have started ignoring math the way Trump voters ignore climate science. Nationally and locally the numbers don't add up for winning back Congress and writing off red states. (Ask Michigan, Wisconsin, and North Carolina what it means leaving state legislatures in Republican hands.) Liberals cannot have both a winning 50 state plan and a policy, as Rich's piece implies, of giving 60 percent of states the middle finger.
If you don't show up to play, you forfeit. Too many Republican sinecures in red states go uncontested because dispirited Democrats there have neither the training, the funding, nor the infrastructure to contest them. When Dean sent organizers into such places in 2005, some had not heard from the national party in years. By 2006, Democrats were chalking up big wins. Conditions are ripe for them to do so again.
Swing states that went red in November aren't necessarily all that red. In North Carolina, 2.2 million voters (46%) chose Hillary Clinton for president. 2.1 million (45%) chose former ACLU attorney Deborah Ross for U.S. Senate. We should be careful where we aim the broad brush with the red paint. There are a lot of supporters in those "red" states, and they've had their share of being ignored by Democrats' shortsighted bi-coastal presidential strategy.
Post inauguration, both those groups living out where rural Republicans control state house and senate seats have even more reason than white liberals to channel their anger into action.
That brings up yet another math-related reason for not tossing out red state babies with Grover Norquist's bathwater. Since November 8, the activist momentum among progressives is impressive, an unintended consequence of the Trump win:
Republicans in Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas had best not look over their shoulders.
It would be a shame to squander all that fresh activism and youthful enthusiasm on misdirected anger. But perhaps that's what Rich meant by suggesting Democrats weaponize it. "Instead of studying how to talk to 'real people,'” he wrote, "might they start talking like real people?" Absolutely. So long as they do it not from TV studios but on the stump in districts and in races they need to win to regain majorities in state houses and in Congress. As The King suggested, "A little less conversation, a little more action."
Trump's win has produced an outpouring of progressive activism not seen since 2008. Obama fired up Democrats, but not like Orange Julius. Counties across North Carolina and elsewhere are seeing record numbers of organized Democratic precincts and Democratic meetings overflowing, and in a non-election year. In red states where Republicans are accustomed to Democrats sitting out mid-term elections, groups like Our Revolution, Indivisible, and others are organizing to retake state capitols and Congress. When Trump voters find out what their votes will cost them, they'll be the ones staying home in 2018. Those too are unintended consequences from the last election angry Democrats would be fools not to seize on. The best defense and all that.
* Notice I didn't use Judge Gorsuch's "Democrat judge" formulation.
According to Gabriel Sherman, National Affairs Editor at New York Magazine, people close to the White House say Mr Trump has begun watching “a lot” of Fox News recently, after a period of tuning in to CNN. But not wanting to miss anything, the President also has a system that allows him to catch up on the day's morning shows before bed.
Appearing on Slate magazine’s Trump podcast on Monday, Sherman shared information he had gleaned from his White House contacts with host Jacob Weisberg. “My sources in Trumpworld say that he watches a lot of Fox,” he said. “But the other thing he does, a source close to the White House has told me, is that he DVRs [digitally records] basically all of the cable news.”
Mr Trump’s TV consumption has reportedly been a source of concern to his aides since he became President. But so far his team has failed to have any real influence on what Sherman calls his “obsessive” behaviour. “It’s kind of remarkable really, that someone would actually want to watch cable news on recording,” he says. “Donald Trump apparently does, and when he goes back up to the residence at the end of the day, I’ve been told he spends a lot of time flipping through the cable networks, including CNN, and catching up on the way he’s been covered. This is a man whose validation is cemented by the way the media covers him, so he obsessively monitors his media coverage."
Mr Trump’s viewing habits have been a source of interest to the media since he became President. He has repeatedly tweeted in response to TV coverage, sometimes within minutes of it airing. In February CNN began to track Mr Trump’s "TV" tweets, and post them alongside the moments that seemed to inspire them.
In one instance recorded earlier this month, “Fox & Friends” host Brian Kilmeade said Russia "ran right over" Obama for eight years. Ten minutes later, at 8:03am, Mr Trump tweeted: “For eight years Russia ‘ran over’ President Obama, got stronger and stronger, picked-off Crimea and added missiles. Weak! @foxandfriends”
Mr Trump's love-hate relationship with the media has become one of the biggest traits of his presidency so far. While he regularly condemns the press' coverage of him, and calls entire outlets like CNN "fake news", reports like Sherman's suggest he's not going to switch off anytime soon
Sherman also reported that his staff also gives him a full set of newspaper clippings every day with a heavy emphasis on Breitbart.
He's the president of the United States. But he watches cable news like he's a retired accountant in Boca Raton with nothing better to do.
This came in my email from the DNC so take it for what it's worth. Seemed interesting:
The latest On Trump Org And Russia
The Trumps continue to be in touch with the family of Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov, a close Kremlin ally who was Putin’s emissary to Trump during his 2013 trip to Moscow.
Forbes: “[Emin Agalarov] described an ongoing relationship with the Trump family, including post-election contact with the president himself…He has maintained contact with the Trump family since the election, and has exchanged messages with Donald Trump Jr. as recently as January; and that President Trump himself sent a handwritten note to the Agalarovs in November after they congratulated him on his victory.”
Eric Trump complained yesterday that low oil prices are driving Russian oligarchs away from the New York real estate market.
Eric Trump: “Listen, I think in every market you have a little, you know, hem and haw, but you know the great thing about being at 21,000 in terms of stock market is- hey that’s a really, really good thing. There’s a lot of discretionary- income out there and I think real estate’s gonna continue to do really nice and I as the markets—quite frankly—ride up I think, you know, real estate will continue to increase. At the same time, I think you see the adverse effect of, you know, oil prices. For instance, there’s less Russian oligarchs coming into New York City right now because, you know, when oil prices were double what they are right now there’s a lot more discretionary money that, you know, a lot of those countries were coming into the US and putting into the US. Same thing with, quite frankly, you know, China.”
There’s new evidence that Manafort accepted money from Putin’s puppet political party in Ukraine and deliberately hid the payments.
Washington Post: New documents show [Paul Manafort] laundered payments from party with Moscow ties, lawmaker alleges
Tillerson is nixing a meeting with NATO – a Putin foe – but adding a trip to visit Russia
Reuters: Tillerson plans to skip NATO meeting, visit Russia in April – sources
Politico: In 2012, Putin personally bestowed Russia’s Order of Friendship on Tillerson
The White House is desperately trying to distance itself from advisors who were in contact with Russia during Trump’s campaign.
Associated Press: “White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Monday referred to Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, as a ‘volunteer of the campaign.’ And he said Paul Manafort, who ran Trump’s campaign for months, ‘played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.’”
A Russian bank is trying to block examination of its servers’ connections to Trump Org.
Cyber Scoop: “A Russian bank under investigation for possible ties to the Trump Organization has threatened at least one security researcher with a lawsuit over the dissemination of data that point to a server connection between the bank and the first family’s conglomerate.”
It probably means nothing, right? Except that we have a president who has refused to be transparent about his business or divest himself and his family of it. This suggests that he is greedy, corrupt and possibly subject to some kind of blackmail. Also he lies pathologically about everything.
The investigation into the Russian government hacking and the potential involvement of the Trump campaign will continue and we will eventually know if there was anything to it. The corruption, however, is something that the press will have to continue to dig for. It is his --- and our --- greatest vulnerability. It's not just Russia. It's a bunch of criminals and oligarchs all over the world who may have their talons into Trump.
I don't want to get into the business of defending the Clinton campaign or trying to argue that they didn't make some fatal mistakes. Obviously they did. But try to imagine what it must have been like to battle the press's obsession with the "emails," the FBI's apparent mission to sully your reputation, an unpredictable, malevolent, circus clown for an opponent and a Russian campaign to destroy your candidacy.
And the last was a startling fact they knew but nobody else believed:
Let's just say they didn't exactly make it easy for her to win:
1/ Given the stunning information we now know from Comey’s testimony, we really need to take a moment to reflect back on July 24, 2016.
The Trump White House’s contempt for the press—and for the more general notion that there are inconvenient truths in the world that can’t be denied out of existence—is so well established by now that many of us who cover politics have become desensitized to its constant manifestations.
But sometimes, the administration’s dissembling is so egregious that it can’t be laughed off, such as on Monday when White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer revised the history of the Trump campaign, transition, and the early days of the administration to write central characters into trivial roles.
At his daily briefing, Spicer referred to now-deposed national security adviser Michael Flynn as a “volunteer of the campaign” and Paul Manafort—who was Trump’s campaign manager—as someone “who played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.”
As Spicer spoke, FBI Director James Comey was testifying on Capitol Hill, where he both disputed Trump’s claim that he was unlawfully wiretapped last year by President Barack Obama and confirmed that the FBI is “investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts … includ[ing] an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.”
It is hard to say, exactly, how a presidential administration should behave when it has been the beneficiary, wittingly or unwittingly, of foreign interference on its behalf. The U.S. intelligence community has already concluded that the Russian government sabotaged Hillary Clinton’s campaign to bolster Trump’s candidacy. Even under the most innocent of circumstances, Trump and his senior aides would find themselves in the awkward position of having to contend with the role that dirty tricks played in their rise to political power.
But the defensive, contentious posture they have adopted—marked by obfuscation, deflection, and wild counterpunching—doesn’t call to mind the temporary embarrassment of a political team benefiting from the interference of some noxious but unaffiliated entity, like the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that smeared Democratic nominee John Kerry in 2004. They’re acting like cornered animals. And though Trump’s response to these developments is dressed up with the trappings of the presidency, including a White House press secretary who speaks on his behalf every day, it bears all the hallmarks of his standard reaction when his unsavory associations come back to bite him. This is vintage, guilty Trump.
In the following video, filmed a few years ago, a BBC reporter asks Trump to account for his deep entanglements with Felix Sater, a Russian gangster and FBI informant whose name recently resurfaced when The New York Times reportedthat he has a backchannel to the White House through Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.
Here, again, Trump’s instinctive response is to avoid any association with his partners’ wrongdoings by pretending they’re more like acquaintances.
“I know who he is,” Trump allows reluctantly, when he realizes outright denial won’t work.
It is easy enough to imagine a version of events in which the Russian government determined its preference for Trump over Clinton and consequently sought to influence the outcome of the election in complete isolation from the Trump campaign, like a kind of rogue, sovereign, lawbreaking super PAC. If at bottom, Trump had confidence that his associates never colluded improperly or illegally with the Russian effort to sabotage the election, he might see it as in his interest to let an investigation proceed unencumbered.
You send your spokesman out to make an ass of himself, and pretend your closest advisers were mere hangers on, when you’re afraid of what that investigation might turn up.
I had never seen that video before ... Jesus. I love that thing about how "if you have a signed contract you have to fulfill it" coming from Trump, the man who is legendary for refusing to honor his contracts.
Yes, he is not one to ever admit to anything, even in the face of absolute proof. But he acts a certain way when he's guilty and it's obvious.
What did House Republicans know and when did they know it?
On MSNBC’s Monday edition of “Hardball,” Washington Post columnist David Ignatius claimed that yesterday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing with FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Michael Rogers was “a turning point” in the growing “Russia” scandal. At the time of the hearing I wouldn’t have thought so. Not that the testimony wasn’t dramatic. It was. Director Comey categorically denied that there was any evidence of President Trump’s inane accusation that President Obama ordered Trump Tower wiretapped, and confirmed that there is an ongoing investigation into possible “coordination” between Trump associates and Russian government actors over interference in the presidential election campaign.
But it’s not as if there hadn’t been extensive reporting about all of this already. This was no smoking gun. The hearing was significant in that it was the first time anyone in government has publicly acknowledged the investigation, which means that the calls for a special prosecutor and/or a bipartisan commission take on new urgency. Despite the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, this issue is too critical, and the Trump administration is too lacking in credibility to be allowed to investigate itself. Comey may have struck an independent note in the hearing but his reputation in regard to the election is so tainted by his previous behavior that no matter what comes of the investigation, half the country won’t believe it. And no one will trust the senior members of Sessions’ Justice Department to make a fair decision about whether or not to prosecute.
Yes, Comey's testimony was a turning point: Consider the reaction from Trump and the GOP
But it wasn’t the testimony itself that created the impression that something important had shifted. It was the over-the-top reaction. According to Politico, the White House was “knocked on its heels” and “scrambling to contain the fallout.” Perhaps administration officials expected their buddy Comey to come through for them once again, but it appears he’s only willing to take so many bullets on Donald Trump’s behalf. (Admitting in the hearing that the probe had begun last July, as he was ostentatiously proclaiming Hillary Clinton “reckless” for what turned out to be nothing, may have made Comey feel slightly chagrined.)
Press secretary Sean Spicer seemed to be near panic as he desperately tried to steer attention away from the fact that the President’s campaign is the subject of a counterintelligence investigation. He reminded the press about Obama officials saying they had no proof of collusion, even as Republicans on the committee seemed to imply that those same officials were the ones responsible for the leaks. In a lame attempt to distance the White House from former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Spicer claimed they were insignificant campaign volunteers, which doesn’t pass the laugh test.
Even as he pretended that Flynn wasn’t intimately involved with the campaign, Spicer tried gamely to turn reporters’ attention to the fact that Flynn’s name was leaked improperly and claim this was the “real” scandal that should be investigated (along with some nonsense about Hillary Clinton being involved with the Russians.)
It was a manic performance, but no more bizarre than Trump’s tweets prior to the hearing, which were a tipoff that the president was feeling nervous and wanted to steer the narrative his way.
James Clapper and others stated that there is no evidence Potus colluded with Russia. This story is FAKE NEWS and everyone knows it!
Republicans on the committee followed Trump’s lead as best they could. Despite having backed the Patriot Act and NSA mass surveillance to the hilt in the past, nearly all of them are now born-again civil libertarians, overwhelmed with concerns for the privacy rights of average citizens as long as they are named Michael Flynn.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., did everything but beg Comey to say he was investigating newspapers and would promise to prosecute journalists. Committee chair Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., went on and on about the Clinton Foundation. It was almost as if these GOP congressmen wanted to talk about anything but the Russian hacking of the election campaign.
As Politico’s Michael Crowley told Brian Williams on MSNBC last night:
There’s just an unwillingness [among Republicans] to hear the fundamental facts of what happened in this election. It’s a desire to tell a different story, to have a narrative that this is about leaks. And sure, that’s a valid point to raise and it’s a serious question. But relative to the idea that a foreign government interfered in our election, tried to distort our democracy, it just doesn’t compare. And I just saw so little concern about that on the part of he Republicans on that committee today. I just found it very strange.
Even for partisans trying to provide some cover for their president it was odd. After the hearing, Mother Jones’ David Corn reported that Nunes was weirdly lackadaisical about the hearing and acted as if he’d never heard of some of the main players in the controversy — including Roger Stone, who has been all over the news for his admitted contact with Guccifer 2.0, one of the alleged hackers.
Maybe Republicans have other motives for trying to downplay this growing scandal aside from partisan loyalty to a president most of them barely know. As I noted here on Salon a few weeks back, the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chair John Podesta were not the only hacks. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, was hacked as well and the information was professionally curated and disseminated by none other than the same Guccifer 2.0. The release of that information targeted close campaigns where the information could be most effectively used against the Democrats.
The New York Times published a long exposé about this last December showing exactly how the hacks were done, but amid the Trump furor it’s never been followed up. One can imagine why Republican Intelligence Committee members would prefer it never is. After all, the Russians apparently didn’t just interfere on behalf of Donald Trump. They interfered on behalf of House Republicans. Somebody might begin to wonder what they expected in return.
If the administration and congressional Republicans want to avoid a widening net of suspicion they should probably stop acting as if they are desperate to change the subject. It’s a sure sign of a coverup.
The real reason Trump didn't want to shake hands with Merkel...
by Gaius Publius
As a joke, a phantasm, this meme is very good. But the emotional content it catches in the Trump-Merkel body language rings true. This is a boy. Too bad his handlers are very much men, and very dangerous men at that.
The breaking American state, the state that breaks other countries to its will, is breaking itself under stress of rule by the "deconstructing" Trump cadre.
Orderly rebellion, or rolling civil war? We're headed for one or the other, perhaps even both.
FBI Director James Comey yesterday informed a congressional hearing that the FBI has a counterintelligence investigation underway looking into whether any of President Donald Trump's associates coordinated with Russian operatives engaged in efforts to manipulate the 2016 elections. The investigation, Comey confirmed, began last July. Both Comey and NSA Director Adm. Michael Rogers dismissed allegations by Trump that Trump Tower had been wiretapped by order of President Obama. The New York Times called it "a remarkable public takedown of a sitting president."
The Los Angeles Times indicates it is not only Trump knocked back on his heels. Russian hackers have been surprised by the blowback. “The story has magnified more than the Russians expected,” said William Courtney, an adjunct senior fellow at the Rand Corp:
Traditionally, former Soviet governments were reluctant to get involved in the internal politics of America because of the risk of possible retaliation. “But Putin has been willing to do that and to take extra risks,” said Courtney, a former U.S. ambassador to Georgia and onetime presidential special assistant for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia.
“The fact that they were willing to do it openly suggests Putin is trying to fire a shot across the bow, in a political sense, to show that Russia has the capacity to make it look like the integrity to the U.S. elections is not as strong as Americans think it is and to undermine confidence … that the democratic process is honest,” Courtney said.
The L.A. Times report notes that Kremlin loyalists claimed Monday's congressional hearings are meant to undermine Moscow's ties with Trump:
The aim of this week’s hearings in Washington “is not to allow Trump to improve ties with Russia,” said Sergei Markov, a Moscow-based political analyst and a former lawmaker with the ruling United Russia party. “Very serious circles in the U.S. think that they can’t let Russia become a great power, that Russia should be pressed, pressed, pressed.”
Just now, encouragement from Moscow cannot be helpful to a Trump administration and Republican leaders in Congress hoping to make this investigation go away quickly if not quietly.
Alex Shepard at the New Republic offered this bit of snark on the Republicans' blue Monday:
But by the end of the day, Republicans had hit upon their strategy. “The longer this hangs out there, the more the cloud grows,” House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes said to Comey near the end of the hearing. The suggestion was that Comey—not Trump—had put this cloud over the White House. This is a remarkable thing to say, given that it’s Trump’s campaign that is under investigation for its ties to Russian intelligence. But the subtext is clear: We’re going to apply political pressure to try to get you to wrap this up quickly. Shortly after the hearing ended, notable Google result Rick Santorum concurred that this strategy was the way to go on CNN.
Good luck with that. This morning's Washington Post online headline reads:
As of 8 a.m. EDT, both the White House and Trump's Twitter feeds are dark.
In his interview with the respected Fox News journalist Jesse Waters:
I think the Alec Baldwin situation is not good. Chuck [Schumer] I’m very disappointed in, because he’s a guy who should make deals for the people. Instead he’s just an obstructionist. So, I’m disappointed in him. And Jeff Zucker, I mean, I got him the job. And CNN is just, you know, fake news. Who would I say? I just, I don’t want to say, but I will say I’m disappointed in all three. I think the portrayal of me is ridiculous.
Some of us will suffer sooner, others later but we're all going to suffer under Trump's gold-plated heel. That people voted for Trump is utterly deplorable. And no, there's little point in trying to reach them if that means abandoning our values.
But there were many factors that led to this disaster - sexism, a media that provided billions of dollars in free coverage to a histrionic fascist because doing so sold ad space, a Democratic campaign tone-deaf to the working class, Comey (thanks, man), and America's original sin (the accommodation of slavery) embodied in the electoral college. There were others.
There is absolutely nothing to be gained, imo, in being furious with people who were woefully misled. And for those angry voters who actually are racists, Islamophobes, sexists, homophobes, and ignorant, there is nothing to be gained by matching their anger with our own. Why? Because to act from anger is to make terrible mistakes - like voting for Trump.
Instead, we should focus laser-like on the main problem: the monstrous, sexist, racist, and viciously anti-democratic behavior of the modern Republican party. To begin, I suggest we start by looking at our rhetoric. Many of the most prominent Democrats, liberals, and independents are really terrible at it.
Need examples? Here, at the height of the media frenzy, is one of the worst campaign op-eds I've ever read. A 10-20-30 plan? Now there's a bunch of numbers America's voters could sign up for - if only they cared enough to find out what the hell those numbers could possibly mean. Who can blame them for focusing on the easy-to-digest tweets floating around the inter-webs instead?
“This is an important process that needs to be carried out with the kind of dignity and perseverance that it warrants,” Ms. Feinstein said. “Because this is so pivotal, as the decisive vote on the court, this is a huge responsibility. This is complicated by what came before, which was the Republican treatment of Merrick Garland, which I found very disagreeable and unprecedented.”
There are many things that the blocking of Garland's nomination was. "Disagreeable" was the least of it. If only she'd say something like this:
For years, Republicans have consistently made a mockery of Supreme Court confirmations. Then their immature clowning around escalated into outrageous, unheard-of levels of Republican obstructionism in Merrick Garland's case. They wouldn't even deign to meet with him. Rest assured: no Senate Democrat has forgotten.
Of course, decent rhetoric's not sufficient. But it is necessary and it would be a start. And if you ever want proof that good ideas aren't enough, well look back to November of '16, dear friends. tristero 3/20/2017 05:30:00 PM
The White House was shocked to learn the sun came up this morning
Apparently the White House doesn't bother reading anything but Breitbart or watching anything but Hannity these days because they were apparently surprised that Comey would confirm there's an investigation that everyone has known about for months and about which they have received intelligence briefings. Talk about a bubble. Politico reports:
The White House was knocked on the defensive Monday ahead of its biggest week yet on Capitol Hill as FBI Director James Comey confirmed the existence of an active investigation into Russia’s meddling in the presidential election, including whether there was any coordination with now-President Donald Trump’s team.
The dramatic revelation, made at a hearing of the House Intelligence Committee, dragged the Trump administration yet again back into uncomfortable territory just as it had hoped to highlight the smooth rollout of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, who began his confirmation hearings across the Capitol on Monday.
In another blow to Trump, Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers also publicly refuted his unsubstantiated claims on Twitter that President Barack Obama had ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower phones. The leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees had said last week that Trump’s allegations were untrue.
“I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI,” Comey said.
The White House scrambled to contain the fallout, deploying two simultaneous war rooms, according to two people familiar with the arrangement, one in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to monitor the Comey hearing and another in the Senate offices to keep tabs on Gorsuch.
But any hopes in the West Wing for a split-screen day were dashed with the revelation of an active probe into campaign associates of the president. At the White House, televisions in the press offices played the Comey hearing as it ran live on all the cable networks.
“I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election,” Comey said. “And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government.”
Comey said the probe will “include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.”
He also revealed that the FBI launched its investigation into possible ties between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials back in July — a detail that enraged allies of Hillary Clinton, considering Comey chose to confirm the existence of the probe into her email arrangement but not the one into Trump’s campaign.
Yeah --- quite the double standard on that one.
Spicer tried his best but it didn't really work:
He repeatedly tried to cast former national security adviser Michael Flynn as the victim of illegal leaks, seeking to point reporters' focus to the circumstances around which Flynn's pre-inauguration phone calls with the Russian ambassador were revealed. It was a tactic followed by Republicans on Capitol Hill, who mostly ignored Russian interference in the election and opted to focus on leaks to the press.
Spicer said reporters needed to take “no” for an answer about collusion, and he said more attention should be paid to other issues, like leakers and any contact between Clinton's campaign and Russia. He also sought to minimize the role in the campaign of some people who have been linked to Russia or WikiLeaks, including former campaign adviser Carter Page, longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone and former campaign Chairman Paul Manafort.
Spicer was particularly obtuse on that one, saying that Manafort had a "limited role in the campaign. Except for being the campaign chairman for months, he's right.
This was truly amazing:
Trump’s war room teams, meanwhile, offered a preview of what is likely to come as they cherry-picked elements from Comey and Rogers to make it seem as if Russia hadn’t meddled in the election.
“The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process,” Trump tweeted with a clip of the testimony from the official @POTUS account.
That is not accurate, or, at the least, is misleading. Comey and Rogers testified that Russia had not altered vote tallies, though they acknowledged they could not judge whether the Russian efforts had any influence on voters.
Trump himself began the pushback before the hearings even began, with a burst of morning tweets attacking the media, Clinton, polls and the Democratic Party. “The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!” Trump tweeted.
The good little soldiers on the committee happily followed that lead and spent the whole time smearing former Obama administration figures and rending their garments over leaks naming poor Michael Flynn. It's heartwarming to see how they've all suddenly had an epiphany and become privacy advocates, especially Trey Gowdy who spent years trying to get a peek into Hillary Clinton's personal emails.
They were not bothered at all by the Russian interference apparently since they didn't bother to ask about it. They did ask about this, however:
Meanwhile, Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said the Clinton Foundation and Clinton campaign need more examination regarding Russia ties.