Good Morning Sky Dancers!!
I’m still struggling with a bad cold. I’ve been coughing so much that I’m not getting enough sleep. I finally decided to go to a doctor yesterday, and the good news is my lungs are clear despite all the coughing and some wheezing. So I’m just resting, drinking fluids and hoping I’ll be OK by Christmas Eve.
I have to agree with Daknikat’s post yesterday. I don’t see how much longer Trump can go on with the daily revelations of his criminality. In just 17 days, the Democrats will take over the House and Trump will face investigations on another front; he is already facing 17 separate investigations that we know of.
Trump is nothing but a common criminal. It’s sickening that he’s still living in the people’s house. If you missed this essential summary on Deadline White House last week, please watch.
Before the Friday deadline, Trump will have to decide if he really wants to shut down the government over his ridiculous border wall. NBC News: Trump sounds defiant note on wall funding ahead of Friday shutdown deadline.
Days before a Friday night deadline to fund the government and prevent a partial shutdown, the workweek began Monday with no plan to resolve the impasse.
No further conversations occurred over the weekend between Democratic leaders and the White House, aides said.
“They have not responded to our offers,” said an aide to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, who’s poised to be formally elected speaker in January….
During an Oval Office meeting last Tuesday, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York gave the president two options to keep the government open: Either Congress passes six remaining appropriations bills and a one-year spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security that maintains current funding levels, or it passes a one-year spending bill extending current levels for half of the government.
The White House, however, hasn’t entertained either idea — and Democrats have made clear they don’t plan to budge. Top White House adviser Stephen Miller doubled down Sunday on Trump’s threat to shut down the government in order to secure his requested $5 billion in funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“We’re going to do whatever is necessary to build the border wall to stop this ongoing crisis of illegal immigration,” Miller said in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” And asked if that means a shutdown, he replied, “If it comes to it, absolutely.”
We’ll see. Trump is about to go on a 16 day vacation in Florida, and if the government shuts down, he’ll be golfing while the Secret Service agents who protect him work without pay. HuffPost:
President Donald Trump, clad in a golf shirt and golf hat under a warm South Florida sun, hitting a drive off the tee while Secret Service agents protecting him are forced to work without paychecks, possibly for weeks, because Congress wouldn’t pay for Trump’s “Great Wall.”
Such is the nightmare public relations scenario facing the White House less than a week before the Department of Homeland Security and other key government agencies run out of money at midnight Friday while Trump is scheduled to fly that day to his Mar-a-Lago resort for a 16-day vacation.
The U.S. Secret Service is among the half-dozen agencies in the quarter-million-employee DHS, which also includes the U.S. Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration. Other major agencies facing a shutdown include the departments of state, treasury and interior. Many of the affected employees would be deemed essential and be forced to work anyway. None would be paid during the shutdown and would have to get by on savings or short-term loans.
Rick Tyler, a former aide to the man who engineered the last extended government shutdown in 2013, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, said that Trump will cave in the days to come.
“The only leverage in shutting down the government is who gets the blame for it. And he’s already taken the blame for it,” Tyler said, predicting that Trump will approve whatever Congress gives him.
My guess is he’ll cave. If not, his already weak approval ratings will suffer.
Meanwhile, news is breaking several times a day in the various investigations. Some stories to check out:
The Washington Post Editorial Board: Russia’s support for Trump’s election is no longer disputable.
TWO REPORTS prepared for the Senate on Russian disinformationunfold a now-indisputable narrative: The Kremlin engaged in a coordinated campaign to elevate Donald Trump to the presidency, and this country’s technology companies were central to its strategy.
The Russia operation is staggering in its scale, precision and deceptiveness. Pages generated by the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency elicited nearly 40 million likes and more than 30 million shares on Facebook alone, reeling in susceptible users with provocative advertisements and then giving them propaganda to spread far and wide. The aim was not to toss the country into tumult, but to put the preferred candidate of a foreign adversary in the Oval Office. All the while, Americans were entirely unaware of what was happening: What seemed like local Black Lives Matter activists were actually Russian trolls well-versed in the buzzwords of social justice. Ostensible patriots for Second Amendment rights were broadcasting from St. Petersburg.
Republicans have protested over the past year that election interference is neither unusual nor important. This week’s reports comprehensively put both arguments to rest. Russia waged an unprecedented campaign, targeting Americans across all segments of society, on platforms large and small. The studies do not even cover the entirety of Russia’s online tampering: The hack-and-leak operation that led to the release of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s private emails, orchestrated by the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, was another crucial salvo in a pro-Trump onslaught.
The Daily Beast: Mueller Ready to Pounce on Trumpworld Concessions to Moscow.
For more than a year, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office has questioned witnesses broadly about their interactions with well-connected Russians. But three sources familiar with Mueller’s probe told The Daily Beast that his team is now zeroing in on Trumpworld figures who may have attempted to shape the administration’s foreign policy by offering to ease U.S. sanctions on Russia.
The Special Counsel’s Office is preparing court filings that are expected to detail Trump associates’ conversations about sanctions relief—and spell out how those offers and counter-proposals were characterized to top figures on the campaign and in the administration, those same sources said.
The new details would not only bookend a multi-year investigation by federal prosecutors into whether and how Trump associates seriously considered requests by Moscow to ease the financial measures. The new court filings could also answer a central question of the so-called “Russia investigation”: What specific policy changes, if any, did the Kremlin hope to get in return from its political machinations?
“During his investigation Mueller has shown little proclivity for chasing dead ends,” said Paul Pelletier, a former senior Department of Justice official. “His continued focus on the evidence that members of the Trump campaign discussed sanction relief with Russians shows that his evidence of a criminal violation continues to sharpen. This has to come as especially bad news for the President.”
Mueller’s interest in sanctions arose, at least in part, out of his team’s investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. The Special Counsel’s Office noted in a court filing last week that Flynn had lied to the FBI about his conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak concerning U.S. sanctions. But other portions of this court filing were left redacted.
Mueller’s team is looking closely at evidence—some of it provided by witnesses—from the transition period, two individuals with knowledge of the probe said.
Read the rest at the link.
At Emptywheel, Marcy Wheeler explains why documents released by Mueller’s office yesterday show that Michael Flynn “lied to protect trump.”
In response to Judge Sullivan’s order, the government filed Flynn’s 302 under seal. After Sullivan reviewed it, he deemed it pertinent to Flynn’s sentencing, and had the government release a redacted version.
And it is unbelievably damning, in part because it shows the degree to which Flynn’s lies served to protect Trump.
The 302 shows how the FBI Agents first let Flynn offer up his explanation for his conversation with Kislyak. He lied about the purpose for his call to Kislyak on December 29 (he said he had called to offer condolences about the assassination of Russia’s Ambassador to Turkey) and he lied about the purpose of his call about Israel (he claimed he was, in part, doing a battle drill “to see who the administration could reach in a crisis” and in the process tried to find out how countries were voting on the Israeli motion; Flynn denied he had asked for any specific action).
Then, after the Agents specifically asked whether he recalled any conversation about the Obama actions, Flynn doubled down and claimed he did not know about those actions because he was in Dominican Republic….
He was hiding two things with this claim: first, I believe Susan Rice had given the Trump Administration a heads up on what Obama was going to do (at the very least the Obama Admin had asked the transition not to send mixed messages, and at least one person on the transition says they agreed not to). More importantly, he was hiding that he had already talked about the actions with KT McFarland, who was at Mar-a-Lago relaying orders from Trump.
And Flynn again denied having had a heads up from Susan Rice when he claimed he didn’t know that Russia’s diplomats were being expelled.
That’s just a the gist. You’ll need to read the whole thing at the link.
One more from The Hollywood Reporter, if you can stomach it: Woody Allen’s Secret Teen Lover Speaks: Sex, Power and a Conflicted Muse Who Inspired ‘Manhattan’
Sixteen, emerald-eyed, blond, an aspiring model with a confident streak and a painful past: Babi Christina Engelhardt had just caught Woody Allen’s gaze at legendary New York City power restaurant Elaine’s. It was October 1976, and when Engelhardt returned from the ladies’ room, she dropped a note on his table with her phone number. It brazenly read: “Since you’ve signed enough autographs, here’s mine!”
Soon, Allen rang, inviting her to his Fifth Avenue penthouse. The already-famous 41-year-old director, still hot off Sleeper and who’d release Annie Hall the following spring, never asked her age. But she told him she was still in high school, living with her family in rural New Jersey as she pursued her modeling ambitions in Manhattan. Within weeks, they’d become physically intimate at his place. She wouldn’t turn 17, legal in New York, until that December.
The pair embarked on, by her account, a clandestine romance of eight years, the claustrophobic, controlling and yet dreamy dimensions of which she’s still processing more than four decades later. For her, the recent re-examination of gender power dynamics initiated by the #MeToo movement (and Allen’s personal scandals, including a claim of sexual abuse by his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow) has turned what had been a melancholic if still sweet memory into something much more uncomfortable. Like others among her generation — she just turned 59 on Dec. 4 — Engelhardt is resistant to attempts to have the life she led then be judged by what she considers today’s newly established norms. “It’s almost as if I’m now expected to trash him,” she says.
Time, though, has transfigured what she’s long viewed as a secret, unspoken monument to their then-still-ongoing relationship: 1979’s Manhattan, in which 17-year-old Tracy (Oscar-nominated Mariel Hemingway) enthusiastically beds Allen’s 42-year-old character Isaac “Ike” Davis. The film has always “reminded me why I thought he was so interesting — his wit is magnetic,” Engelhardt says. “It was why I liked him and why I’m still impressed with him as an artist. How he played with characters in his movies, and how he played with me.”
That’s all I’ve got for today. What stories are you following?
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
I believe the end of our national nightmare may be coming to an end. Yes, part of me really wants this to happen badly because I’m extremely tired of reading things like that useless wall plowing through a National Butterfly refuge and that children are dying in ICE custody because his base is a bunch of racist xenophobes and all plus the rest of the horrid things he’s been up to. But, I’m old and I’ve been through this before. Nixon resigned right after I graduated High School. I’m seeing many of the same signs that his days may be numbered. Oh, yes, the pictures are from our National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas (Hildago County along the Rio Grande).
Timothy O’Brien–writing for Bloomberg–explains how and why KKKremlin Caligula is in a ‘legal vise’. There is not one thing that the Trump Family crime syndicate owns or has been involved in that’s not under investigation by some component of our Justice System.
As President Donald Trump and his lawyers turn toward the new year, they’ll have to contend with a legal narrative that’s taken fuller shape through a flurry of court filings and news reports that began landing about three weeks ago and extended through Friday afternoon: Members of Trump’s presidential campaign – and possibly “Individual 1” himself – may have orchestrated a number of criminal conspiracies that took root before and during the 2016 presidential campaign, continued after Trump won the election, and have tainted the White House’s policies and torn at its operations ever since.
The breadth of investigations is so sweeping – as many on social media and reporters with the Washington Post, the Associated Press, and Bloomberg News have already noted – that few of the worlds Trump inhabits have escaped prosecutors’ attention. The Trump Organization, the Trump Foundation, the Trump family, the Trump campaign, the Trump transition, the Trump inauguration, and the Trump White House are all being probed for wrongdoing.
The Trump team’s possible collusion with Russia to sabotage and tilt the 2016 election, a probe spearheaded by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, pulls many strands of the investigations together. Trumplandia’s intersection with Russia may have started with business propositions more than a decade ago (such as the Trump SoHo hotel and condominium), and included more recent undertakings like a project in Moscow, before evolving into a political partnership during the 2016 campaign after Trump’s presidential prospects brightened.
A senate report details the incredibly complex and twisted the interference of Russian in the 2016. The presidential election was so tight in key electoral states that it’s very difficult to not see that the Trump Presidency is not a legitimate one. I can only imagine what the final Mueller report will elucidate.
As if the country didn’t have enough to be divided about, now the forces aligned for and against President Trump are battling over whether his presidency is legitimate.
The evidence emerging in recent days and months of crimes committed to help Trump win the presidency is fueling arguments from Democrats and other Trump critics that the man in the Oval Office got the job through nefarious means. Even without proof that those crimes swayed votes, the critics say Trump has no moral hold on the office.
In the past week, the legitimacy debate has swelled with each new court filing in cases stemming from the investigations into Trump’s 2016 campaign.
First came the statement by federal prosecutors in New York that Trump attorney Michael Cohen “sought to influence the election from the shadows” by arranging to pay hush money to women who said they had extramarital affairs with Trump. Then, on Tuesday, executives at the National Enquirer’s parent company admitted paying hush money to prevent news of the candidate’s alleged infidelities “from influencing the election.”
In Congress, in the media and among activists, criticism of Trump is increasingly taking the form of arguments that he won office fraudulently — especially as the hush-money revelations have landed atop allegations by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team that Russian agents engaged in a criminal scheme to undermine Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy.
“People don’t actually really consider Trump a legitimate president,” former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean said on MSNBC last month. “He was obviously elected and all this business, but he does not represent American values.”
Back to the Senate report on Russian Interference via WAPO. It’s pretty clear why Trump feels illegitimate and seeks to prove his election every time he speaks.
A report prepared for the Senate that provides the most sweeping analysis yet of Russia’s disinformation campaign around the 2016 election found the operation used every major social media platform to deliver words, images and videos tailored to voters’ interests to help elect President Trump — and worked even harder to support him while in office.
The report, a draft of which was obtained by The Washington Post, is the first to study the millions of posts provided by major technology firms to the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), its chairman, and Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), its ranking Democrat. The bipartisan panel hasn’t said whether it endorses the findings. It plans to release it publicly this week.
The research — by Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project and Graphika, a network analysis firm — offers new details of how Russians working at the Internet Research Agency, which U.S. officials have charged with criminal offenses for interfering in the 2016 campaign, sliced Americans into key interest groups for targeted messaging. These efforts shifted over time, peaking at key political moments, such as presidential debates or party conventions, the report found.
The data sets used by the researchers were provided by Facebook, Twitter and Google and covered several years up to mid-2017, when the social media companies cracked down on the known Russian accounts. The report, which also analyzed data separately provided to House Intelligence Committee members, contains no information on more recent political moments, such as November’s midterm elections.
“What is clear is that all of the messaging clearly sought to benefit the Republican Party — and specifically Donald Trump,” the report says. “Trump is mentioned most in campaigns targeting conservatives and right-wing voters, where the messaging encouraged these groups to support his campaign. The main groups that could challenge Trump were then provided messaging that sought to confuse, distract and ultimately discourage members from voting.”
It appears they specifically targeted Black voters. This is from NBC News’ Ken Delianian
Two separate reports on the operation were prepared for senators, both of which were obtained by NBC News. Both sets of researchers found, as Mueller did, that the Internet Research Agency set out in the 2016 presidential election to help Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, in part by inflaming right-wing conspiracy theories and seeking to engender distrust among — and suppress the vote of — left-leaning groups, including African-Americans.
The Russians set up 30 Facebook pages targeting black Americans, the researchers found, and 10 YouTube channels that posted 571 videos related to police violence against African-Americans. YouTube, which is part of Alphabet, the holding company for Google, was not correct when it said in a statement last year that Russian content did not target a segment of U.S. society, the researchers concluded.
The Russians also set up hotlines that encourage people to discuss sexual or other personal problems the researchers found, raising the possibility they could use the information later to blackmail people. Through deceit, the Internet Research Agency recruited many Americans to take various political actions, the researchers found.
The post that drew the most attention featuring Trump emerged on Jan. 23, 2017, after his inauguration — a conspiracy theory asserting that President Barack Obama had refused to ban Sharia Law and encouraging President Trump to take action. It was shared 312,632 times from a page created by Russian propagandists.
The top post featuring Clinton came a month before the election, the researchers found — a soup of conspiracy theories alleging that she would win because of voter fraud and alluding to an armed uprising. It received 102,253 engagements, which can be anything from likes and shares to comments.
“This newly released data demonstrates how aggressively Russia sought to divide Americans by race, religion and ideology, and how the IRA actively worked to erode trust in our democratic institutions,” said Senate Committee on Intelligence chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.
Frankly, Senator Burr, the same could be said about the Republican Party. This is why I agree with Melissa at Shakesville
What’s crucial to understand about this dynamic is that none of it would have been possible without decades of groundwork laid by the Republican Party.
It would not have been possible had the Republican Party not, for example, critically undermined the sort of corporate regulation that would have prevented the monopolies and the vacuum of oversight in which social media giants proliferated, with zero accountability to the populations they exploited in reckless cash grabs.
It would not have been possible had the Republican Party not, for example, ruthlessly fomented divisions among the U.S. populace, which created fissures into which any bad actor could shove their own crowbar to create massive breaks.
It would not have been possible had the Republican Party not, for example, abandoned their responsibility of good governance, willing instead to compromise the security of the nation — and ultimately its sovereignty — in order to win.
We’re just beginning to see the connections between the NRA, Russian Money, the Republicans, and elections. What other Republicans will be found with Russian money and connections besides Dana Rohrbacher? A new poll suggests no one believes Trump now. When will that extend to the rest of his cronies? From NBC News: Poll: 62 percent say Trump isn’t telling the truth in Russia probe. More Americans want Democrats — not Trump — in charge of setting policy, a new national NBC News/WSJ poll finds.
Six in 10 Americans say President Donald Trump has been untruthful about the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, while half of the country says the investigation has given them doubts about Trump’s presidency, according to a new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
The survey, conducted a month after the results of November’s midterm elections, also finds more Americans want congressional Democrats — rather than Trump or congressional Republicans — to take the lead role in setting policy for the country.
And just 10 percent of respondents say that the president has gotten the message for a change in direction from the midterms — when the GOP lost control of the U.S. House of Representatives but kept its majority in the U.S. Senate — and that he’s making the necessary adjustments.
Polls like these are likely to stick the more news we get from all these investigations. How long can the party ignore them? The Plum line argues that Trump’s been weakened.
Stephen Miller, the Trump kingdom’s Immigration Iago, wants you to believe that his boss retains great leverage in the ongoing government shutdown fight — so much so that he will, repeat will, get his great border wall. Miller, a top White House adviser, said Sunday that President Trump will “do whatever is necessary” to force Democrats to cough up the $5 billion he wants for the wall and will “absolutely” shut down the government to get it.
In reality, it’s not even clear that Trump has sufficient Republican support to get his wall money out of Congress. The New York Times now reports that Republicans aren’t even sure that this funding would pass the House, because many Republicans who were defeated in the midterms might not bother showing up to vote for it.
Wait, this cannot be! Miller, after all, spent much of his “Face the Nation” appearanceexcoriating Democrats over the wall. Democrats have instead offered far less in border security funding, with restrictions against spending it for that purpose. Miller suggested Democrats have the weaker position, claiming they must “choose to fight for America’s working class, or to promote illegal immigration.”
Wow, what a powerful message! That must be the same message that carried Trump and House Republicans to a great midterms victory! Oh wait, the opposite happened. This has gone down the memory hole, but last summer, Miller vowed that precisely that same contrast on immigration would prove potent for Republicans. They ran the most virulently xenophobic nationalist campaign in memory — and lost the House by the largest raw-vote margin in midterm elections history.
The meta-message that Miller hoped to convey is that Trump retains formidable strength in the shutdown battle over the wall, but the real story right now is that Trump is weakened. He lacks leverage in the shutdown fight, and it’s plausible that he’s losing influence over congressional Republicans.
So, how far can the party take the policy of dead and imprisoned immigrant children with tattoed numbers waiting to seek legal refuge and ravaged butterfly sanctuaries? My guess is that everything but the tweets go dark in the six week hold up at Mar a Lago. The NJ one is under investigation by the state so it seems he’s got few options to hide out these days. He’ll have sixteen days to stew and discuss what to do with all the other out of touch greedos.
Meanwhile, I just hope we clear him out before he can do any more damage. But, then there’s Pence …
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
It is late, but I suppose we should start this with the skit from last night’s SNL…
The tweets being:
Let’s take these to account.
And talking about Rudy G…
tRump is talking rats… Miller has a dead rat plastered to his head:
Take a look at some of the responses to that thread….funny stuff.
An update on a story from weeks ago:
Its an open thread.
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
I have a pre-exisiting condition. I developed cancer when I was pregnant with my youngest and was diagnosed about 5 months after her birth with inoperable 4th stage cancer. I asked my ob/gyn if she had to choose a type of cancer would this be it. She said no because, to this day, I’m the only one who appears to have recovered from this form of leiomyosarcoma. Many cancer survivors–like me and the children in these pictures– as well as many others living with other illnesses breathed a sigh of relief when the Affordable Healthcare Act passed. I was no longer at the mercy of an employer with a stellar health plan. I could get health care.
Many Republican controlled states and the Republicans throughout all levels of government have sworn to kill the ACA. The weird thing is a lot of them ran this last election promising they supported this feature of the ACA while they were actively supporting the very lawsuit that would put people like me and these kids in jeopardy.
Here’s how one crazy judge in Texas has put many lives in danger. At the very least, it will head back to SCOTUS. This is the bottom line via Axios.
The Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature achievement, may be headed back to the Supreme Court after a conservative federal judge in Texas struck down the individual mandate as unconstitutional last evening.
Be smart: This really could end with the Affordable Care Act being wiped out. There’s no guarantee that a more conservative Supreme Court won’t just let the law die.
How did one judge rule the entire ACA unconstitutional? Here’s the coverage from WAPO by Amy Goldstein.
A federal judge in Texas threw a dagger into the Affordable Care Act on Friday night, ruling that the entire health-care law is unconstitutional because of a recent change in federal tax law.
The opinion by U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor overturns all of the sprawling law nationwide.
The ruling came on the eve of the deadline Saturday for Americans to sign up for coverage in the federal insurance exchange created under the law. If the ruling stands, it would create widespread disruption across the U.S. health-care system — from no-charge preventive services for older Americans on Medicare to the expansion of Medicaid in most states, to the shape of the Indian Health Service — in all, hundreds of provisions in the law that was a prized domestic achievement of President Barack Obama.
President Trump, who has made the dismantling of the ACA a chief goal since his campaign, swiftly tweeted his pleasure at the opinion. “As I predicted all along, Obamacare has been struck down as an UNCONSTITUTIONAL disaster!” the president wrote just after 9 p.m. “Now Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions.”
That’s right. One small change through many lives in jeopardy. We now have rampant uncertainty in the health insurance market. Here’s more information via Bloomberg.
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth agreed with a coalition of Republican states led by Texas that he had to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act, the signature health-care overhaul by President Barack Obama, after Congress last year zeroed out a key provision — the tax penalty for not complying with the requirement to buy insurance.
“Today’s ruling is an assault on 133 million Americans with preexisting conditions, on the 20 million Americans who rely on the ACA’s consumer protections for health care, and on America’s faithful progress toward affordable health care for all Americans,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement, leading a chorus of Democrats who blasted the decision. A spokeswoman for Becerra vowed a quick challenge to O’Connor’s ruling.
Obamacare was struck down by a Texas federal judge in a ruling that casts uncertainty on insurance coverage for millions of U.S. residents.
The decision Friday finding the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional comes at the tail end of a six-week open enrollment period for the program in 2019 and underscores a divide between Republicans who have long sought to invalidate the law and Democrats who fought to keep it in place.
So, that’s all I have time to post today as I’m covering for our BB who is under the weather. Also, I’m headed out to see what’s available to me on this last day of ability to apply for coverage under the ACA.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Wow! Has it been cold here Sky Dancers! It’s finally crept back up into the more seasonal sixties . At least I’m not out in the cold but I’m thinking it’s just a bit of time before the Republican Party, its leaders, and the Golden Bull its been worshiping get thrown out on the ice floes. Let’s hope there’s enough of them left by the time the country vomits them into history.
Enjoy the winter scenery at some of our nation’s best National Parks! Let’s also hope they survive by the time we get rid of the party of corruption and destruction.
It’s not looking good for movement conservatives, war loving conservatives, or whatever Bill Kristol has become besides a Never Trumper. The headlines on the Trump mess are getting more brutal by the minute. But, the folks on the outside are fairing pretty badly too. The Weekly Standard is shutting down. John Poderhertz is out of a job but blogging all the same. It seems fitting that the demise of the Republican party should accompany the demise of the Standard.
The Weekly Standard will be no more. There is no real reason we are witnessing the magazine’s demise other than deep pettiness and a personal desire for bureaucratic revenge on the part of a penny-ante Machiavellian who works for its parent company.
There would at least be a larger meaning to the Standard’s end if it were being killed because it was hostile to Donald Trump. But I do not believe that is the case. Rather, I believe the fissures in the conservative movement and the Republican party that have opened up since Trump’s rise provided the company man with a convenient argument to make to the corporation’s owner, Philip Anschutz, that the company could perhaps harvest the Standard’s subscriber-base riches and then be done with it.
That this is an entirely hostile act is proved by the fact that he and Anschutz have refused to sell the Standard because they want to claim its circulation for another property of theirs. This is without precedent in my experience in publishing, and I’ve been a family observer of and active participant in the magazine business for half a century.
The creation of the Weekly Standard was my proudest professional moment. When Bill Kristol and I conceived the magazine at the end of 1994, our purpose was to create a publication that would help guide and keep honest the hard-charging Republican Party that had scored its stunning lopsided victory over Bill Clinton’s Democrats. This putative magazine would not cheerlead for Newt Gingrich’s Republicans, but instead represent the best thinking about how to lead the country through a new conservative era. We were criticized for not being part of the team from the get-go. Indeed, after the first issue came out in September 1995, a wag at a weekly meeting in Washington chaired by Grover Norquist handed out a parody of the Standard based on the precept that we had already gone off the reservation and weren’t being properly supportive of the Gingrich era.
As a matter of character, while the kindest and most generous of men, Bill is more the type for an ironic and deflating joke than a good “rah rah” about anything. And for better or worse, I was the kind of player on your softball team who would side with the other on a close call at second base if that’s what it looked like to me. Thus, not being a team player was part of the DNA of the Standard from the outset, for better or worse. Our loyalty was to the ideas in which we believed, not to the Republican Party. And to be truthful in our analysis. That sounds pompous, and I hate sounding pompous, but it’s true. And it has been ever thus in the 23 years of the Standard’s existence, from its opening personal essay (the “casual”) to the cultural essays of the back-of-the-book and even the parodies that bring the weekly issue to its close.
Where’s the tiniest violin in the world? Perhaps we should get an orchestra filled with them. Here’s a bit from George Packer of The Atlantic: “The Corruption of the Republican Party. The GOP is best understood as an insurgency that carried the seeds of its own corruption from the start.” At least we’ve switched from burying Nancy Pelosi to burying the Republican party. I still argue it came the minute they let white evangelicals in the door.
The corruption I mean has less to do with individual perfidy than institutional depravity. It isn’t an occasional failure to uphold norms, but a consistent repudiation of them. It isn’t about dirty money so much as the pursuit and abuse of power—power as an end in itself, justifying almost any means. Political corruption usually trails financial scandals in its wake—the foam is scummy with self-dealing—but it’s far more dangerous than graft. There are legal remedies for Duncan Hunter, the representative from California, who will stand trial next year for using campaign funds to pay for family luxuries.* But there’s no obvious remedy for what the state legislatures of Wisconsin and Michigan, following the example of North Carolina in 2016, are now doing.
Republican majorities are rushing to pass laws that strip away the legitimate powers of newly elected Democratic governors while defeated or outgoing Republican incumbents are still around to sign the bills. Even if the courts overturn some of these power grabs, as they have in North Carolina, Republicans will remain securely entrenched in the legislative majority through their own hyper-gerrymandering—in Wisconsin last month, 54 percent of the total votes cast for major-party candidates gave Democrats just 36 of 99 assembly seats—so they will go on passing laws to thwart election results. Nothing can stop these abuses short of an electoral landslide. In Wisconsin, a purple state, that means close to 60 percent of the total vote.
The fact that no plausible election outcome can check the abuse of power is what makes political corruption so dangerous. It strikes at the heart of democracy. It destroys the compact between the people and the government. In rendering voters voiceless, it pushes everyone closer to the use of undemocratic means.
Today’s Republican Party has cornered itself with a base of ever older, whiter, more male, more rural, more conservative voters. Demography can take a long time to change—longer than in progressives’ dreams—but it isn’t on the Republicans’ side. They could have tried to expand; instead, they’ve hardened and walled themselves off. This is why, while voter fraud knows no party, only the Republican Party wildly overstates the risk so that it can pass laws (including right now in Wisconsin, with a bill that reduces early voting) to limit the franchise in ways that have a disparate partisan impact. This is why, when some Democrats in the New Jersey legislature proposed to enshrine gerrymandering in the state constitution, other Democrats, in New Jersey and around the country, objected.
Taking away democratic rights—extreme gerrymandering; blocking an elected president from nominating a Supreme Court justice; selectively paring voting rolls and polling places; creating spurious anti-fraud commissions; misusing the census to undercount the opposition; calling lame-duck legislative sessions to pass laws against the will of the voters—is the Republican Party’s main political strategy, and will be for years to come.
One of the old things I won’t mind ringing out is Paul Ryan. I think I’ve made that pretty clear. John Nichols asks this for The Nation: “What the Hell Is Wrong With Paul Ryan? It is outrageous that the House Speaker continues to block action to end US support for Saudi atrocities against Yemen.” Paul Ryan is always wrong. Does why really matter?
What the hell is wrong with Paul Ryan? At a point when the whole world is demanding urgent action to end the Saudi-led bombardment and starvation of Yemen, the Speaker of the House has been scheming to prevent congressional debate on a resolution to get the United States out of a humanitarian crisis.
This is not about partisanship or ideology. As Ryan was blocking action in the House this week, 11 Senate Republicans—including some of the chamber’s most conservative members—voted with Democrats to open the Senate debate on ending US military support for the Saudi Arabia’s assault on Yemen.
The 60-39 vote to advance the bipartisan effort by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Mike Lee (R-UT) to invoke the war-powers authority of the Congress to constrain military interventions and engagements by the Executive Branch, cleared that way for a 56-41 vote on Thursday in favor of the S.J.Res. 54: “A joint resolution to direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress.”
“Today we tell the despotic regime in Saudi Arabia that we will not be a part of their military adventurism,” declared Sanders, who has for months made the case for congressional action on Yemen, waging a two-pronged campaign for the resolution. First, he made a moral argument, telling his colleagues they have a duty to end US support for Saudi abuses that have fostered a “humanitarian and strategic disaster” in Yemen—a crisis so severe that United Nations officials say it could lead to the worst famine in a century. Second, the senator made a constitutional argument, explaining that “The Senate must reassert its constitutional authority and end our support of this unauthorized and unconstitutional war.”
Frankly, Paul Ryan is into starving and killing just about everything that’s of no interest to Paul Ryan’s pocketbook. Glad to see him go back to Wisconsin to hopefully freeze. As the nation’s justice system unwinds the Trump Crime Syndicate, we get a better idea of how exactly The Steele Dossier got so much right. Lawfare Blog has a good read up by Grad Student Sarah Grant of Harvard Law.
The dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele remains a subject of fascination—or, depending on your perspective, scorn. Indeed, it was much discussed during former FBI Director Jim Comey’s testimony in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Dec. 7. Published almost two years ago by BuzzFeed News in January 2017, the document received significant public attention, first for its lurid details regarding Donald Trump’s pre-presidential alleged sexual escapades in Russia and later for its role in forming part of the basis for the government’s application for a FISA warrant to surveil Carter Page.
Our interest in revisiting the compilation that has come to be called the “Steele Dossier” concerns neither of those topics, at least not directly. Rather, we returned to the document because we wondered whether information made public as a result of the Mueller investigation—and the passage of two years—has tended to buttress or diminish the crux of Steele’s original reporting.
The dossier is actually a series of reports—16 in all—that total 35 pages. Written in 2016, the dossier is a collection of raw intelligence. Steele neither evaluated nor synthesized the intelligence. He neither made nor rendered bottom-line judgments. The dossier is, quite simply and by design, raw reporting, not a finished intelligence product.
In that sense, the dossier is similar to an FBI 302 form or a DEA 6 form. Both of those forms are used by special agents of the FBI and DEA, respectively, to record what they are told by witnesses during investigations. The substance of these memoranda can be true or false, but the recording of information is (or should be) accurate. In that sense, notes taken by a special agent have much in common with the notes that a journalist might take while covering a story—the substance of those notes could be true or false, depending on what the source tells the journalist, but the transcription should be accurate.
With that in mind, we thought it would be worthwhile to look back at the dossier and to assess, to the extent possible, how the substance of Steele’s reporting holds up over time. In this effort, we considered only information in the public domain from trustworthy and official government sources, including documents released by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office in connection with the criminal casesbrought against Paul Manafort, the 12 Russian intelligence officers, the Internet Research Agency trolling operation and associated entities, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos. We also considered the draft statement of offensereleased by author Jerome Corsi, a memorandum released by House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Ranking Member Adam Schiff related to the Carter Page FISA applications and admissions directly from certain speakers.
These materials buttress some of Steele’s reporting, both specifically and thematically. The dossier holds up well over time, and none of it, to our knowledge, has been disproven.
Jared Kushner may be the only person in the administration more corrupt than his father-in-law. It astounds me to think he could wind up as Chief of Staff. The Daily Beast has this today from some of the stunners we learned this month: ” Jared Kushner Replaced Michael Cohen as Trump’s National Enquirer Connection. The president’s son-in-law grew tight with David Pecker during the early months of the administration.” I actually think this guy would make Nixon blush.
Shortly after the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner was handed a task considered critical to the president’s operations. In addition to serving as a senior adviser in the White House, he would also be playing the role of the main conduit between Trump and his friend David Pecker, the National Enquirer publisher and chief executive of AMI, who prosecutors said on Wednesday admitted to making a $150,000 hush-money payment “in concert with” the Trump campaign.
During the early months of the Trump era, Kushner performed the task admirably, discussing with Pecker various issues over the phone, including everything from international relations to media gossip, according to four sources familiar with the situation. Pecker, for his part, bragged to people that he was speaking to the president’s son-in-law and, more generally, about the level of access he had to the upper echelons of the West Wing, two sources with knowledge of the relationship recounted.
The relationship underscored both the wide breadth of responsibilities that Kushner was given in the White House—a portfolio that saw him serve as a point person on some of the most critical government functions and as a chief protector of the Trump family image—as well as the degree to which Trump continued to value the relationships he’d built up with key media figures during his time in New York real estate and reality TV.
Pecker, after all, was no bit player. He has been a valuable asset within Trump’s orbit, at least until federal investigators came knocking. His ties to Trump began well before the president was elected to office. But before Kushner was his main conduit, that role was played by Michael Cohen, the president’s former attorney and fixer.
During the heat of the 2016 election, Pecker’s AMI and Enquirer—with Cohen helping facilitate matters behind the scenes—endorsed Trump, ran a catch-and-kill operation to suppress damaging stories of Trump’s alleged affairs, and published numerous negative articles on Trump’s political enemies and adversaries in the Republican primary. Trump himself used to contribute to the Enquirer and the future president reportedly also used the tabloid to settle his pettier, more personal scores. In late 2016, actress Salma Hayek claimed on a conference call hosted by the Hillary Clinton campaign that Trump had tried to date her and when she rejected him, he planted a false story about her in the Enquirer.
Pecker had banked on Cohen remaining in Trump’s political inner sanctum after the election. But during the presidential transition, it became clear that Trump’s then-fixer wouldn’t be landing a plum job in the administration—though he had told people close to him that he expected a senior position, even White House chief of staff, two sources with direct knowledge recall.
These folks are so corrupt that even Chris Christie won’t touch the Chief of Staff position. This is from ABC.
ABC News has learned former New Jersey governor and ABC News contributor Chris Christie interviewed for the position on Thursday, but released a statement Friday saying he’s asked the president to no longer consider him.
“It’s an honor to have the President consider me as he looks to choose a new White House chief-of-staff,” Christie said. “However, I’ve told the President that now is not the right time for me or my family to undertake this serious assignment. As a result, I have asked him to no longer keep me in any of his considerations for this post.”
The president is expected to continue the interview process over the weekend and next week, sources said.
Providing an update on his search Thursday, the president said he has whittled his list down to five candidates.
“We’re interviewing people for chief of staff, yes,” Trump told reporters, saying he has five “terrific” candidates lined up for the position so far.
Sources with knowledge of the president’s thinking told ABC News that Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway are also on the list.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said the president is expected to make a decision on the post soon. He added, however, that Trump could decide to “extend” the current deal with Kelly. Kellyanne Conway also said Thursday on CNN that Kelly’s job could extend past the new year while the president continues his search.
So, we do seem to be in the middle of some TV presidency but I really don’t think it’s reality TV or even a crime series. It’s more like a never ending soap opera with the bad people center stage and the good people waiting in the wings. The New Congress cannot come soon enough.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Poor sad sack Trump is feeling sorry for himself this morning. He’s likely beginning to realize that he would have been better off if he had just continued his criminal career in New York and never run for president.
Now Trump is totally screwed. If he had half a brain, he would try to make a deal now to resign in return for not going to prison. He could work out an agreement with Pence to pardon him, along with Ivanka, Don Jr., and Eric for Federal crimes; but they would still be on the hook for state charges in New York. And Pence cannot pardon the Trump Organization.
Poor old guy. He should really, really start thinking about resigning before it’s too late.
I came across some interesting information this morning on Twitter that could explain some of Trump’s behavioral issues. A man named Noel Casler who spent six years working on Celebrity Apprentice claims that Trump frequently chopped up Adderall tablets and snorted them.
This could explain some of Trump’s weird speech problems and his loud sniffing in the presidential debates and in other appearances.
From a site called Polipace last year: Are Stimulant Drugs Messing Up Trump’s Mind and Speech? Doctor Claims He’s on Drugs. (Obviously, I can’t vouch for this accuracy of this piece, but as a strong rumor, it’s quite interesting.)
This morning I got a weird phone call after the Trump speech ended announcing the US Embasy Moving to Jerusalem, from a Psychiatrist in New York, who claimed that Donald Trump was taking Adderall and other psycho-stimulants. He didn’t want to have his name used, but he checked out as a Psychiatrist who had been working in Manhattan for over 20 years. He said that Trump had been taking all types of stimulants for years and it was one of the reasons that Trump was, according to him, suffering from Dementia, as it causes permanent brain damage.
The Doctor said that it was “obvious” that Trump has been popping speed of some sort, and this would explain his weird speech patterns, and even the “crashes” he seems to have where he starts slurring his words suddenly and has severe dry mouth.
Back in the day, Spy Magazine claimed that Trump was using amphetamines. Gawker published articles about this in 2016.
Gawker, 2/11/16: The Best Theory of 1992: Donald Trump Took Amphetamine-Like Diet Pills, by Sam Biddle.
Two decades ago, Donald Trump wasn’t a fascist lightning rod, hick idol, reality star, or political entity. He was just a high-profile rich schmuck and evergreen victim of Spy magazine, which used him as a peg for a February 1992 feature on Dr. Joseph Greenberg, whom they alleged was prescribing powerful stimulants to anyone with a checkbook. Stimulants, Spy’s John Connolly speculated, that might explain how Donald Trump maintains his infinite, inexhaustible arrogance:
Have you ever wondered why Donald Trump has acted so erratically at times, full of manic energy, paranoid, garrulous? Well, he was a patient of Dr. Greenberg’s from 1982 to 1985…Dr. Greenberg diagnosed both of the Trump brothers as suffering from a “metabolic imbalance.”
According to Spy, Dr. Greenberg believed the cure for “metabolic imbalance” (not an actual medical disorder) was Tenuate Dospan, a diet drug similar to dexedrine with known side effects that include “confusions” and “hallucinations,” according to the NIH. It also gives you an amphetamine-like buzz. This is all probably why it’s only supposed to be prescribed on a short-term basis, as opposed to the multiple-monthlong regimens Dr. Greenberg allegedly dosed out, according to Spy:
Dr. Greenberg’s program included no set caloric limit, and Tenuate was prescribed or five months. The long-term use of Tenuate can, according to the medical literature, lead to psychosis—delusions of grandeur, say, like the belief that by simply putting your name on real estate properties, you will double their value.
Or, say, like running for president without a platform beyond “look at that yonder Muslim, what’s he up to?” Most juicily, Connolly included what purports to be the Trump brothers’ medical charts, “indicating many, many visits” to Greenberg. Over email, Connolly told me that the image was in fact a direct photocopy of the Trump brothers’ medical records, and not merely a reproduction from information or an illustration.
Gawker, 7/1/16: Rumor: Doctor Prescribes Donald Trump “Cheap Speed,” by Ashley Feinberg.
Back in December, Donald Trump’s personal doctor declared to the world that Trump would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.” While that particular claim is unfalsifiable (although almost certainly incorrect), according to a source with knowledge of Trump’s current prescriptions, that letter isn’t telling the whole story. Most notably: Donald Trump is allegedly still taking speed-like diet pills.
In addition to referencing the Spy story, Feinberg quotes from Harry Hurt’s biography of Trump, Lost Tycoon.
In 1993, Harry Hurt’s unauthorized biography on Trump, Lost Tycoon, corroborated the rumors and went one step further:
The diet drugs, which [Trump] took in pill form, not only curbed his appetite but gave him a feeling of euphoria and unlimited energy. The medical literature warned that some potentially dangerous side effects could result from long-term usage; they included anxiety, insomnia, and delusions of grandeur. According to several Trump Organization insiders, Donald exhibited all these ominous symptoms of diet drug usage, and then some.
The supposed drug Trump took back then was Tenuate Dospan, a drug with speed-like effects that’s not unlike dexedrine.
These rumors say Trump stopped seeing Dr. Greenberg decades ago. But according to our source, the Donald Trump of today is on a diet drug called phentermine—and has been since at least April of 2014.
Phentermine first gained notoriety in the U.S. under the name Fen-Phen, a “miracle” combination of phentermine and fenfluramine, another established anti-obesity drug. The only problem with it was that patients taking the drug began reporting damage to their hearts and lungs. Apparently, the combination destroyed patients’ bodies’ abilities to regulate the amount of serotonin.
Phentermine on its own, however, is still prescribed. And while the U.S. National Library of Medicine notes that most people take phentermine for a month or so at a time, since the drug is addictive, Trump has supposedly been taking it continuously for over two years .
- Trouble with thinking, speaking, or walking
- Decreased ability to exercise
- False or unusual sense of well-being
- Increase in sexual ability, desire, drive, or performance
Readers can determine for themselves if these symptoms remind them of anyone.
So . . . that would certainly explain a lot about Trump.
I know this is a strange post, but I have a nasty cold and I’m not thinking clearly enough to deal with real news. Here are a few links to check out in case you’re in the mood to do it.
The Daily Beast: Get Ready for Mueller’s Phase Two: The Middle East Connection.
The Washington Post: Russian Maria Butina pleads guilty in case to forge Kremlin bond with U.S. conservatives.
The Daily Beast: Trump Cancels White House Christmas Party for the Press.
Associated Press: As protectors abandon Trump, investigation draws closer.
David Corn at Mother Jones: Did Michael Flynn Try to Strike a Grand Bargain With Moscow as it Attacked the 2016 Election?
What stories are you following today?
That has to be the best representation of the theatrics played out before the cameras yesterday, during the stage show given in the Oval Office.
(Something is up with WordPress…Images are not loading correctly. Hopefully you can see these cartoons.)
This next cartoon from Eric Garcia hits home if anyone has seen the latest series of Narcos: Mexico…
And…the latest news:
A federal judge in New York sentenced President Donald Trump’s former long-time attorney Michael Cohen to 36 months imprisonment on Wednesday after he pleaded guilty to several charges earlier this year, according to multiple reports.
This is an open thread.