Monday Reads: From Russia with Thugs

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

It would be nice to focus on something other than T-Russia for awhile but this probably is the story of the century and it’s unfolding at a breakneck speed. Hannah Levintova at MoJo has written a great tick tock for any one having trouble keeping up with all the events to date. You may want to bookmark it since they will be updating and editing it. It spans 30 years of T-Russia history.

The Trump-Russia scandal—with all its bizarre and troubling twists and turns—has become a controversy that is defining the Trump presidency. The FBI recently disclosed that since July it has been conducting a counterintelligence investigation into possible coordination between Trump associates and Russia, as part of its probe of Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 election. Citing “US officials,” CNN reported that the bureau has gathered information suggesting coordination between Trump campaign officials and suspected Russian operatives. Each day seems to bring a new revelation—and a new Trump administration denial or deflection. It’s tough to keep track of all the relevant events, pertinent ties, key statements, and unraveling claims. So we’ve compiled what we know so far into the timeline below, which covers Trump’s 30-year history with Russia.  We will continue to update the timeline regularly as events unfold.

So, here are some interesting reads on the most recent developments which include a Senate Committee questioning Jared Kushner.  NW Luna posted this which is the list of what’s happened this week alone. It’s written by Yonatan Zunger via Medium.

In the past week, there have been several startling revelations about the investigations into Donald Trump, his closest allies, and their ties to Russia. Not only has the existence of two investigations, one by the FBI and one by the House Intelligence Committee, been confirmed, but there is increasing information as to just what is being investigated: an alleged deal for Trump to advance Russian interests as President in exchange for a share of the Russian state oil company Rosneft and Russian intelligence assistance in winning the election.

This news has been spread over a tremendous number of articles and even Twitter threads, rather than in a single big headline. So today I would like to pull together all of these reports, and make it clear what things are known for certain, what things have been reported and sourced but not confirmed, and what things are still speculation.

Information from Nunes continues to shock.

He continues to try to explain his White House visit and conversation with Paul Ryan as calls mount for his resignation.

According to a Daily Beast report later over the weekend, Nunes went off the grid that night to meet a source and view dozens of intelligence reports, including accounts of meetings involving President Donald Trump’s advisers.

Then it gets weirder. CNN is now reporting that Nunes had in fact slipped off to the White House grounds last Tuesday to view the documents. And then on Wednesday, after briefing reporters on what he had found in those intelligence reports, he went back to the White House to inform the president.

On the surface, none of this looks good for Nunes, who is in charge of his committee’s bipartisan investigation into all things Trump and Russia. Why would Nunes need to brief the president on documents he viewed at a facility on White House grounds?

In an interview Monday, Nunes told me that he ended up meeting his source on the White House grounds because it was the most convenient secure location with a computer connected to the system that included the reports, which are only distributed within the executive branch. “We don’t have networked access to these kinds of reports in Congress,” Nunes said. He added that his source was not a White House staffer and was an intelligence official.

Nunes, it should be said, has a history of cultivating independent sources inside the intelligence community. He made contact, for example, with the U.S. intelligence contractors who ended up saving most of the Americans stuck in the Benghazi outpost when it was attacked on Sept. 11, 2012. More recently, Nunes has reached out to his network of whistleblowers to learn about pressure inside the military’s Central Command on analysts to write positive reports on the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State.

In this case, Nunes had been hearing for more than a month about intelligence reports that included details on the Trump transition team, and had been trying to view them himself. He told me that when he finally saw the documents last Tuesday evening, he made sure to copy down their identifying numbers so he could request access to them formally for the rest of the committee.

So, what the heck is going on with Jared Kushner and why hasn’t some one told him to shove off?  It appears T-Russia was in full swing prior to and after the election including stealth visits by the Russian ambassador facilitated by Kushner who secreted him into Mount Doom last fall.  Inquiring senators want to know wtf were they all thinking?

The Senate Intelligence Committee will reportedly question White House adviser Jared Kushner as part of its probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The committee wants to question Kushner, who is also President Trump’s son-in-law, about meetings he arranged with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, The New York Times reported.

According to the Times, the White House counsel’s office was told this month about the panel’s request.

A White House official and a spokesman for Intelligence Committee chair Richard Burr (R-N.C.) confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that Kushner had agreed to meet.

“Throughout the campaign and transition, Jared Kushner served as the official primary point of contact with foreign governments and officials. Given this role, he has volunteered to speak with Chairman Burr’s Committee,” a White House official told the Journal.

The White House has previously acknowledged a December meeting at Trump Tower between Kushner, Kislyak and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Discussions at that meeting reportedly focused on the potential of better relations between the U.S. and Russia.

Meanwhile, Putin is brutally suppressing a nascent Russian Protest that broke out around the country on Sunday.

This is from the Ioffe article at The Atlantic mentioned in the Goldberg tweet above.

But Sunday’s protest was different. Unlike the rallies in Nemtsov’s memory or even the 2011-2012 protests, this one did not have a permit from the Moscow city authorities. Over the weekend, the mayor’s office warned people that protestors alone would bear the responsibility for any consequences of attending what they deemed an illegal demonstration. But despite those warnings and despite the fresh memory of some three dozen people being charged—many of whom did prison time—for a protest in May 2012 that turned violent, thousands came out in Moscow. The police estimated attendance at 8,000, but given officials’ predilection for artificially deflating the numbers of those gathered at such events to make them seem less of a threat, the number could easily have been double that. People clogged the length of Tverskaya Street, one of the city’s main drags. The iconic Pushkin Square was packed, and people clung to the lampposts, chanting “Russia will be free!”

Three weeks ago, Navalny, who became famous as an anti-corruption blogger, posted an hour-long video exposé (with English subtitles) on his blog and YouTube channel. It showed, in great detail and using drone footage, what he said were the vast real-estate holdings of prime minister and former president Dmitry Medvedev, a man who talked of fighting corruption during his presidency and who in May told the residents of recently annexed Crimea, who are suffering from electricity and fuel shortages, “We don’t have the money now. … But you hang in there!” The money, Navalny alleged, was all bundled up in palaces, some costing hundreds of millions of dollars, all over the country. It was strange to attack Medvedev, now a widely ridiculed has-been in Russian politics, and many doubted that Navalny telling people to go out and protest Medvedev would have any resonance. And yet, when he named the day—March 26—people across 11 time zones answered his call and came out.

The Russian opposition leader–Navalny–has been jailed for at least 15 days. More disturbing was the arrest of many foreign journalists.

Thousands of people rallied in dozens of cities across Russia on Sunday following a call by Navalny to protest over an investigation into Medvedev’s alleged corruption. Navalny’s team released a video alleging Medvedev had amassed a collection of palaces, yachts and vineyards during his time in office.

Authorities in most cities – from Chita in Siberia to Makhachkala in Dagestan – denied permission for the rallies. Police arrested those who were holding posters or chanting, and also on occasion simply swept random people off the street.

Guardian correspondent Alec Luhn was among those arrested, despite having Russian journalistic accreditation. He was held for hours and charged with participating in an unsanctioned demonstration before being released after the foreign ministry intervened.

A rights group monitoring the arrests said on Monday morning that 1,030 people had been detained in Moscow alone. About 120 remained in custody on Monday morning. The majority of those released were charged with the minor offence of taking part in an unsanctioned demonstration and are likely to be fined.

In Nizhny Novgorod, parents of five children who took part in the protests were charged with “improper parenting”, according to Interfax news agency.

It took the US State Department 12 hours to respond to arrests of protesters and journalists.

On Sunday night, roughly 12 hours after images and reports of the crackdown began emerging from Moscow, the top State Department spokesman issued a statement strongly condemning the detention of hundreds and calling for the immediate release of all peaceful protesters.

And we thought the Cold War was pretty much over.  Sheesh!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: Presidency of Horrors 

 

What a week it has been…

This presidency is like a horror show, and I’m not talking about a good one either. It is beyond Plan 9 From Outer Space…

The images are my commentary on that.

 

 

Things are very bad at home right now. Cancer is a bitch. So the post today is just links. In no particular order…

WATCH: A Yale historian explains to Maher how Trump resembles 1930s fascists — and makes the Russia connection

Yale History Professor Timothy Snyder’s latest book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century outlines some of the things that fall under dictators as they rise to power. In a conversation Friday with Bill Maher, the host asked Snyder if this was his “busy season” given President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.

Maher asked Snyder to give the top three lessons from tyranny for which Americans should suit up.

“Don’t obey in advance,” was Snyder’s first instruction. He doesn’t necessarily mean obeying leaders or authority rather, “don’t follow what everyone else is doing… figure out what you stand for and be yourself.”

His second instruction was that Americans must defend institutions. Many anticipate that “the institution will save us” but Snyder said that this kind of thinking is wrong. “We have to save the institutions. They don’t do it on their own. This is the moment of ‘ask not what the institutions can do for you. Ask what you can do for the institutions.’”

His third was for Americans to believe in the truth. “Without truth, we don’t have trust. Without trust, we don’t have the rule of law. Without the rule of law, we don’t have democracy,” he continued.

More at the link.

Scientists turn spinach leaf into working human heart tissue | The Independent

Researchers have turned a spinach leaf into working human heart tissue.

Scientists struggle to make large-scale human tissue – while they have had success in creating small lab samples, it is much more difficult to make them at the size of tissues, bones or whole organs. But that’s what will be needed if the tissue proves useful in the treatment of disease or injury.

Now they have come closer to solving perhaps the hardest of those challenges ,and creating a vascular system that can deliver blood into the new tissue.

47 Days to Leave their Village and Never Return

An eviction notice is never the kind of letter you want to receive, but in 1943, the villagers of Imber, on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, all received the very same letter, regretting to inform them “that it is necessary to evacuate” their home to be “made available for training by December 17th”, giving them just 47 days to pack up their lives and “quit” Imber, never to return.

How a new women-only cab service is helping women get around in Pakistan

One of the many barriers perpetuating that disparity is a lack of safe transportation options, as many women face sexual harassment when taking public transit — and cabs can be no better. Noor Jehan, a Pink Taxi driver, told the Independent most women in Pakistan would “think thrice” before getting into a car alone with a man.

Dystopian dreams: how feminist science fiction predicted the future | Books | The Guardian

From Mary Shelley to Margaret Atwood, feminist science fiction writers have imagined other ways of living that prompt us to ask, could we do things differently?

Thin-Skinned Trump Targets 17-Year-Old Coder For Kitten Website

Instead of running the country, Trump has decided his priority is sending cease-and-desist letters to high school girls for making funny websites.

Alone in the Wild for a Year, TV Contestants Learn Their Show Was Canceled – The New York Times

The remaining contestants on a reality television series have emerged after surviving 12 months in the Scottish wilderness — fending off hunger, infighting and fatigue — only to learn that the show stopped broadcasting after four episodes, the last of them in August.

The show, “Eden,” was billed as a unique social experiment in which 23 men and women living in isolation “would take on the challenge of building a new life and creating a society from scratch,” according to a statement promoting the show.

The contestants were taken to a 600-acre estate on the remote Ardnamurchan peninsula on the west coast of Scotland, which is known for its forests, lochs and beaches.

But “Eden” proved to be anything but paradise.

 CNN analyst: Sources say Mike Flynn may have turned on Trump and become a witness for the FBI

Tasmanian tiger: ‘Sightings’ of extinct animal spark hunt in Australia | The Independent

292448.bin

Carnivore hunted to extinction by European settlers may have survived in isolated wilderness area, if sightings by park ranger and tour guide are genuine

Auschwitz shuts down after nude protesters slaughter sheep, chain selves to ‘arbeit macht frei’ gate – Europe – Haaretz.com

Regretful Trump Voters Are (Mostly) a Myth

Angry Trump voters blame everyone but the president for US healthcare fail

Frank Rich: No Sympathy for the Hillbilly

 

tRump voters are assholes!

 

 

That video is sheer horror…

Some more horror tales:

Fifteen Percent Of Undergrad Women At UT Austin Reported Being Raped, Survey Finds

10 critics of Vladimir Putin who wound up dead – Chicago Tribune

Russia’s Putin Picks Le Pen to Rule France – The Daily Beast

U.S. Confirms Coalition Strike Killed as Many as 200 Civilians in Mosul

U.S. airstrikes may have killed as many as 200 civilians in Mosul.

Dem to Trump: ‘You truly are an evil man’ | TheHill

5 ways Trump is mentally torturing us now

Trump Is Dragging Us Into Another War… And No One Is Talking About It | The Huffington Post Well, we are talking about it here on the blog…

Fox Host Does Trump’s Dirty Work | Crooks and Liars

Trump’s day in tweets: Saturday, March 25 – LA Times

His tweets have the power to shape international relations, send stock prices up — or down — and galvanize the American public.

We’re watching how Donald Trump is using this platform of unfettered communication now that he’s commander in chief. Here is everything Trump has tweeted since he was sworn in as 45th president of the United States. In many cases, we look at what he was reacting to and whether what he said was accurate. And, as much as possible, we’ll relate what else was going on at the time. Check back for more as Trump continues to tweet.

Nearly 1 million pounds of chicken recalled due to ‘metal objects’ | WSB-TV This chicken was sold throughout the US…so make sure you don’t have any in your kitchen.

Caution: Your Supermarket Grocery May Be Carrying More Germs Than Your Toilet : HEALTH : Tech Times

Orcas Spew An Array Of Bacteria When They Exhale, And Human Waste May Be To Blame : SCIENCE : Tech Times

Why dissecting the brain only gives us half its story | Daniel Glaser | Life and style | The Guardian

Trump’s semi-truck photo op turned into picture book | TheHill

Anna Kendrick, Lin Manuel-Miranda and Others Vie to Be Stephen Hawking’s New Voice

Stephen Hawking is shopping for a new voice. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with his old one, it’s just that he’s had it for 30 years and he’s ready to swap it out. Happily, celebrities ranging from Liam Neeson to Anna Kendrick to Rebel Wilson to Lin-Manuel Miranda were more than willing to offer their services, each vying pitifully to have their vocal cords associated with one of the greatest minds in modern physics.

“Stephen…it’s me…surely it has to be me,” said Neeson in his fake audition tape, his neck wrapped tight in a heavy scarf despite being indoors. Kylie Minogue, standing under the shade of a tree, insisted she should be his new voice, since all of her songs are about…science. Lin-Manuel rapped.

“No.” Hawking said, his horror palpable.

The production was created for British charity Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day, a high profile telethon that raises money for kids both in the U.S. and in poor communities in developing countries.

In the end, Hawking ultimately rejected each celebrity entreaty, selecting instead Sir Michael Caine. He didn’t even have to audition. Figures.

And on that note I will wrap this thread up…

Hope everyone is having a better day then we are, lol. This is an open thread…


Lazy Saturday Reads: Trumpcare’s Ignominious Defeat and Spy News

Good Afternoon!!

Last night, for the first time since November 8, 2016, I went to bed happy. Thanks in large part to the millions of Americans who marched in the streets, went to town halls or their representatives’ offices to defend Obamacare, the attempt by tRump and Ryan to destroy the health care system has been thwarted–at least for the time being.

Trump is being roasted in the media. Here are a few stories to check out, links only because there are so many:

The Washington Post: ‘The closer’? The inside story of how Trump tried — and failed — to make a deal on health care.

Politico: Trump gets tamed by Washington (click on this one if only to view the absolute worst photo of tRump’s hair so far).

Politico Magazine: Inside the GOP’s Health Care Debacle. Eighteen days that shook the Republican Party—and humbled a president.

The Atlantic: The Republicans Fold on Health Care. The House abandoned its legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, handing President Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan a major defeat.

The New York Times: How the Health Care Vote Fell Apart, Step by Step.

Jonathan Chait: Why Obamacare Defeated Trumpcare.

I want to highlight one aspect of the tRump strategy. He let Steve Bannon talk to the Freedom Caucus, and it did not go well.

Mike Allen at Axios: 

When the balky hardliners of the House Freedom Caucus visited the White House earlier this week, this was Steve Bannon’s opening line, according to people in the conference room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building:

Guys, look. This is not a discussion. This is not a debate. You have no choice but to vote for this bill.

  • Bannon’s point was: This is the Republican platform. You’re the conservative wing of the Republican Party. But people in the room were put off by the dictatorial mindset.
  • One of the members replied: “You know, the last time someone ordered me to something, I was 18 years old. And it was my daddy. And I didn’t listen to him, either.”\\ [….]It’s hard to overstate the magnitude of the Day 64 defeat. President Trump, who made repeal-and-replace a central theme of his campaign, and House Republicans, who made it the central theme of every campaign since 2010, lost in a publicly humiliating way despite controlling every branch of government and enjoying margins in the House rarely seen in the past century.

More on Bannon’s role at The Daily Beast: Bannon Tells Trump: ‘Keep a Shit List’ of Republicans Who Opposed You. (This one was published before the bill was pulled.)

According to multiple Trump administration officials speaking to The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity to talk freely, the president is angry that his first big legislative push is crumbling before his eyes—and his chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon is advising him to take names and keep a hit list of Republicans who worked for Trumpcare’s defeat.

“[Bannon] has told the president to keep a shit list on this,” one official told The Daily Beast. “He wants a running tally of [the Republicans] who want to sink this…Not sure if I’d call it an ‘enemies list,’ per se, but I wouldn’t want to be on it.”

One aide described it as a proposed “hit list” for Republicans not sufficiently loyal. Courses of action stemming from any related tally is yet to be determined, but the idea and message is that “we’ll remember you.”

Two senior Trump administration officials with direct knowledge of the process told The Daily Beast that Bannon and Trump have taken a “you’re either with us or against us” approach at this point, and that Bannon wants the tally of “against” versus “with us” mounted in his so-called West Wing “war room.”

“Burn the boats,” Bannon (in his typical, pugnacious style) advised Trump, according to one official involved. Burning one’s boats is a reference to when military commanders in hostile territories order his or her troops to destroy their own ships, so that they have to win or die trying.

Now let’s get to the really interesting stuff–the spy news.

Is Mike Flynn already talking to the FBI? I would be if I were in his shoes, and he has been awfully quiet since he belatedly registered as a foreign agent for his work in support of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. And yesterday we learned that Flynn proposed kidnapping Erdogan’s sworn enemy Fethullah Gulen, a former Turkish cleric whom Turkey has been trying to get extradited from the U.S.

The Washington Post: Pentagon weighs response to Flynn working on behalf of Turkish interests without U.S. permission.

President Trump’s ousted national security adviser did not seek permission from the U.S. government to work as a paid foreign agent for Turkish interests, U.S. defense officials said, raising the possibility that the Pentagon could dock the retirement pay of Michael T. Flynn.

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said that the Defense Department is reviewing the issue. It arose after Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, registered retroactively this month with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for work that his company, Flynn Intel Group, carried out on behalf of Inovo BV, a Netherlands-based company. It is owned by Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish businessman who is not a part of the Turkish government, but has links to it.

The Inovo assignment centered on researching Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric whom Ankara blames for fomenting a coup attempt last summer and wants extradited from the United States, where he has lived in exile for years. That led Flynn’s company to conclude that the work “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey,” according to a letter sent by Flynn’s attorney, Robert K. Kelner, to the Justice Department, along with the filing.

Flynn Intel Group received a total of $530,000 in three payments between September and November from Inovo BV before discontinuing the arrangement after Trump was elected president, according to Flynn’s filings. It is unclear from the paperwork how much Flynn personally profited from the deal, but he is the majority owner and chief executive officer of the firm. Kelner, reached by phone Wednesday night, declined to comment on the deal.

Flynn is in deep trouble, and now that tRump has thrown him under the bus in The National Enquirer, Flynn has plenty of motivation to start telling what he knows about the tRump campaign’s coordination with Russia to hurt Hillary Clinton.

In addition, we learned yesterday that the three other tRump guys who are under investigation, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Carter Page, have offered to testify before the House Intelligence Committee.

Next, we have the very strange behavior of Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the Intel Committe, who appears to be working as a double agent for tRump. Nunes has given three bizarre press conferences about supposed secret information he got access to that may or may not show that members of the tRump transition team were caught up in surveillance of foreign actors. It’s obvious that Nunes is way over his head and doesn’t really understand whatever it is he saw. So far he hasn’t shared anything with the members of his committee. But where did he get this mysterious information? He isn’t saying, but here’s some background from Tim Mak at The Daily Beast: Devin Nunes Vanished the Night Before He Made Trump Surveillance Claims.

Rep. Devin Nunes was traveling with a senior committee staffer in an Uber on Tuesday evening when he received a communication on his phone, three committee officials and a former national security official with ties to the committee told The Daily Beast. After the message, Nunes left the car abruptly, leaving his own staffer in the dark about his whereabouts.

By the next morning, Nunes hastily announced a press conference. His own aides, up to the most senior level, did not know what their boss planned to say next. Nunes’ choice to keep senior staff out of the loop was highly unusual.

The Republican chairman had a bombshell to drop.

“The intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition,” Nunes told reporters Wednesday morning.

Nunes reviewed “dozens of reports” produced by the U.S. intelligence community that showed this, he added….

Where Nunes went and who his source was for this information—which he said was still incomplete—is now a mystery with serious repercussions for the independence of his investigation into Russian interference with U.S. elections.

“This information was legally brought to me by sources who thought that we should know it,” Nunes added.

Suspicions have been raised that Nunes may have gotten his information from the White House, and so far he has refused to deny it. So who could have been incidentally picked up on wiretaps? Yesterday, Dakinikat posted some links that suggest that person could have been Mike Pence. I’m reposting them here.

DailyKos, 3/22/17: Manafort made Pence the VP, they talked regularly during the transition.

The Daily Beast: 11/30/16: Paul Manafort Is Back and Advising Donald Trump on Cabinet Picks.

Finally, Bill Palmer pull the conspiracy theory together: Mike Pence appears to be the “Donald Trump transition team” member caught on wiretap.

This week House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes got his hands on some kind of classified intelligence through unofficial channels, and it spooked him to the point that he broke every protocol – and may have broken his career in the process. Nunes insists someone on the Donald Trump transition team was legally picked up on a wiretap that was targeted at someone else. And it appears the person incidentally surveilled was Vice President Mike Pence.

Based on Nunes’ description, someone on the Trump transition team was picked up while speaking on the phone with someone who was the subject of a FISA warrant. Widespread media reports have long pegged four people in the Trump campaign’s orbit as being under FBI investigation: Michael Flynn, Carter Page, Roger Stone, and Paul Manafort. These are the four who could realistically have been the subject of a judge-issued FISA surveillance warrant.

Of the four men, the only one who is known to have had phone conversations with anyone on the Trump transition team during the transition was Manafort. And the one person Manafort kept calling? Mike Pence (source: Daily Kos. The two have long been aligned; Manafort went to great lengths to ensure Pence was Trump’s running mate. So it appears that Devin Nunes learned this week that Pence had been caught saying something disconcerting on Manafort’s wiretap. And that may explain why Nunes did what he did from there.

More at the link.

And we can’t forget James Comey’s surprise appearance at the White House yesterday. Will more shoes drop over the weekend? I sure hope so!

What stories are you following?


Friday Reads: Just another Manic Newsday

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

I don’t know about you, but I can barely keep up with the breaking news this week.  I feel like I’m caught in a whirlpool of unbelievable events and emotions. I’m going to be like BB yesterday and just try to list them.  I’m not sure I have to time to truly analyze or elucidate anything.  Maybe the chaos is working in their favor on that account.  At least news reporters are assigned desks and topics.  Some of them must be very busy.  Here are the three top stories:  T-Russia, T-RumpCare, and T-Rump Syndicate shenanigans.

First, up is that notorious Foreign Agent, obsequious Trump neighbor, and former Campaign Director Paul Manafort has volunteered to testify to Congressional Intelligence Committees.  Congressional Clown Car Chauffeur Devon Nunes announced it today.  It will likely be a closed session.

Manafort has also offered to be interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to a Senate source.

Both Intelligence committees are investigating Russian interference in the US election.

The White House this week rushed to distance itself from Manafort after the revelation that he signed a multimillion-dollar contract with a Russian oligarch in 2006 to help advance Russian President Vladimir Putin’s interests around the world.

The story fueled the growing controversy over the Trump team’s ties to Russia, which was rekindled Monday when FBI Director James Comey publicly confirmed the bureau is investigating whether Trump associates coordinated with Moscow during the 2016 presidential race.

Nunes also said Friday he has asked Comey and National Security Agency (NSA) Director Michael Rogers to brief the House Intelligence Committee in a closed session.
Nunes cautioned that he does not expect to receive documentation from the NSA regarding his claims that Trump campaign associates were possibly monitored by the intelligence community on Friday.

Nunes said he expects to have more information from the NSA by “early next week.”

But he categorically denied that his decision to make public the information on the issue that he does have was coordinated by the White House.

Nunes continues to be underfire for what appears to be collusion with the White House to cover up the Russian Involvement with the Trump Campaign which is so obvious now that a grade school kid would call “shenanigans!!”

So you can read more about this unfolding story at CNN too as well as the recent announcement that Republicans are using closed meeting formats which is not making Democrats happy.  Nunes is really in over his head on all of this.

The House Intelligence Committee chairman and the panel’s top Democrat publicly disagreed Friday over the handling of their investigation into Russian meddling into the US election, coming after the announcement that President Donald Trump’s campaign chairman agreed to testify before the committee.

“Yesterday, the counsel for Paul Manafort contacted the committee yesterday to offer the committee the opportunity to interview his client,” committee chairman Devin Nunes announced during a news conference. “We thank Mr. Manafort for volunteering and encourage others with knowledge of these issues to voluntarily interview with the committee.”

Nunes also announced that the committee is bringing in FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers for a second briefing, this time behind closed doors so that they can provide more information. The committee is also delaying its March 28 hearing, a decision infuriating Democrats on the committee.

“Chairman just cancelled open Intelligence Committee hearing with (former Director of National Intelligence James) Clapper, (former CIA Director John) Brennan and (former deputy Attorney General Sally) Yates in attempt to choke off public info,” Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee tweeted moment before going to speak to the press Friday morning.

Schiff refused to say whether he thought Nunes should step down from his position, telling reporters, “What’s really involved here is the cancellation of this open hearing and the rest is designed to distract.”

You can view the Nunes presser at that link also.

GOP leaders have done the WHIP count on Trumpcare and it appears that they do not have the votes they need to pass it.  This may be a very big test of both Paul Ryan and Kremlin Caligula’s ability to whip a vote.

House GOP leaders aren’t confident they have enough votes to pass their embattled health-care bill, according to a senior congressional aide, and are already considering what to do if the measure is blocked before a do-or-die vote hours away.

House Speaker Paul Ryan went to the White House Friday to brief President Donald Trump ahead of the vote. Vice President Mike Pence canceled a trip to Arkansas to be in Washington for the vote, a White House official said.

The Trump administration is doubling down on its demand that House Republican leaders hold a vote Friday on their embattled health-care bill without any changes. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the vote will proceed as scheduled Friday afternoon.

“It’s not a question of negotiating any more, it’s understanding the greater good,” Spicer said at a news conference. “This is it.” The president, he added, has “made it clear this is our moment.”

But an influential GOP member said he’s not sure they have the votes.

“I’m not sure we’ve landed it,” Mark Walker of North Carolina, chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee of House members, said Friday morning. “I’m hopeful that we can get there today but at this point I don’t know how many we’re short.”

Tensions among House Republicans were high, said Chris Collins of New York, the first House member to endorse Trump last year.

“There’s some divisiveness within our conference now that’s not healthy,” Collins said. “I’ve never seen this before. People are just refusing to talk to each other. They’re storming past each other. This is not good.”

Paul Ryan is CYA mode this afternoon.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, facing a revolt among conservative and moderate Republicans, rushed to the White House Friday afternoon to inform President Trump he did not have the votes to pass legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to decide whether to pull the bill from consideration.

The president and the speaker faced the humiliating prospect of a major defeat on legislation promised for seven years, since the landmark health legislation was signed into law. President Trump had demanded a vote regardless, which has been scheduled for Friday afternoon. But House leaders were leaning against such a public loss.

The House opened debate Friday on what would have been one of the most consequential pieces of legislation in years, a bill that would have rolled back a major, established social welfare program, a feat that is almost unheard of.

Meanwhile, more Trump ethics violations are on the horizon: “After Promising Not To Talk Business With Father, Eric Trump Says He’ll Give Him Financial Reports”.

Eric Trump sits behind a desk on the 25th floor of Trump Tower in New York City, dressed in a slightly less formal version of his father’s go-to power uniform—blue suit, white buttoned-down shirt, no tie. There are reminders of Donald Trump everywhere in this office, including the TV in the corner that beams out wall-to-wall news about the president any time his son turns it on. Amidst it all, Eric Trump, who now manages the Trump Organization with his brother Don Jr., wants to emphasize that the Trump business is separate from the Trump presidency.

“There is kind of a clear separation of church and state that we maintain, and I am deadly serious about that exercise,” he says, echoing previous statements from his father. “I do not talk about the government with him, and he does not talk about the business with us. That’s kind of a steadfast pact we made, and it’s something that we honor.”

But less than two minutes later, he concedes that he will continue to update his father on the business while he is in the presidency. “Yeah, on the bottom line, profitability reports and stuff like that, but you know, that’s about it.” How often will those reports be, every quarter? “Depending, yeah, depending.” Could be more, could be less? “Yeah, probably quarterly.” One thing is clear: “My father and I are very close,” Eric Trump says. “I talk to him a lot. We’re pretty inseparable.”

So, this is what it’s like to live in a Banana Republic.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads: All Hell Is Breaking Loose!

Good Morning!!

Following politics these days is a full-time job. Yesterday I went out for a few hours and, as often happens, all hell had broken loose by the time I got back to my computer.

  1. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee that is investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia held two press conferences to claim that Trump transition members–and maybe Trump himself–were incidentally picked up by surveillance in Trump Tower. Then, instead of sharing this information with members of his committee, he went running to the White House to brief Trump. What Nunes said didn’t make a lot of sense, so here’s an explanatory piece at Lawfare.
  2. The Supreme Court reversed a decision by Trump’s SCOTUS pick Neil Gorsuch shortly after Gorsuch defended the decision during his confirmation hearing.
  3. The Associated Press breaks the news that Paul Manafort “secretly worked for a Russian billionaire with a plan to ‘greatly benefit the Putin Government…'”
  4. AP also reported that Michael Flynn never signed the ethics pledge required for people working in the White House. Has anyone signed it?
  5. There was a horrible attack in London–JJ covered it well yesterday.

When I got home, Devin Nunes was all over the TV, soon followed by a press conference by Adam Schiff, the Democratic ranking member of Nunes committee.

Democrat Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, held a hastily-planned press conference to respond to committee chairman Devin Nunes‘ decision to give President Donald Trump updates on the Russia investigation and wiretapping without showing the evidence to Schiff. He said that Nunes’ actions mean that there is reason to create an independent commission to investigate Russia’s involvement.

Schiff, who is also from California, said that Nunes’ actions created “enormous doubt” that Congress can handle an independent investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election. He said he will ask House Speaker Paul Ryan about creating an independent commission….

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif. (right), holds a press conference with ranking committee member Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., about their investigation of Russian influence on the American presidential election.

Schiff also said that he hopes these press conferences weren’t part of a “broader campaign” by the White House to distract attention away from FBI Director James CButomey‘s testimony that there is no evidence that President Barack Obama ordered Trump Tower to be wiretapped during the campaign. Comey also confirmed that the FBI is running an investigation into possible ties between members of the Trump campaign and Russia.

Schiff also told Chuck Todd yesterday that there is now more than circumstantial evidence of collusion between the Trump gang and Russia. But that’s all yesterday’s news.

The AP has a new exclusive out about Manafort: U.S. Probes Banking of Ex-Trump Campaign Chief.

U.S. Treasury Department agents have recently obtained information about offshore financial transactions involving President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, as part of a federal anti-corruption probe into his work in Eastern Europe, The Associated Press has learned.

Information about Manafort’s transactions was turned over earlier this year to U.S. agents working in the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network by investigators in Cyprus at the U.S. agency’s request, a person familiar with the case said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to publicly discuss a criminal investigation.

The Cyprus attorney general, one of the country’s top law enforcement officers, was made aware of the American request….

Manafort, who was Trump’s unpaid campaign chairman from March until August last year, has been a leading focus of the U.S. government’s investigation into whether Trump associates coordinated with Moscow to meddle in the 2016 campaign. This week, the AP revealed his secret work for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago.

Rick Gates

The Washington Post has a story on Manafort’s business partner, who is still a very important member of the Trump administration: Manafort is gone, but his business associate remains a key part of Trump’s operation.

…even as Trump officials downplay Manafort’s role, his ­decade-long business associate Rick Gates remains entrenched in the president’s operation. Gates is one of four people leading a Trump-blessed group that defends the president’s agenda. As recently as last week, he was at the White House to meet with officials as part of that work.

Through Manafort, Gates is tied to many of the same business titans from Ukraine and Russia, including Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with strong ties to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin. On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that Manafort had a multimillion-dollar contract with Deripaska between at least 2005 and 2009 that was aimed at helping the political interests of Putin.

Manafort has acknowledged the contract with Deripaska but denied that it, or any other of their dealings, had anything to do with the Russian government. In a brief interview, Gates described his work as being focused on “supporting the private equity fund started by the firm and democracy building and party building in Ukraine.”

Gates also acknowledged a role in at least two recent, controversial deals involving separate Putin-connected oligarchs, including one other with Deripaska. Both led to lawsuits in which Gates was listed as a partner to Manafort, though Gates said he holds no equity interest in the firm.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov

Then there this story from Haaretz: The Russian Crime Organization That Operated in Trump Tower.

The FBI did wiretap Trump Tower, but its target was not the future president of the United States and the operation was over well before Donald Trump even declared his candidacy. Instead, the bureau was listening in on a Russian crime organization that worked out of offices on the building’s 63rd floor, just three stories below Trump’s penthouse. As reported by ABC News on Tuesday, the FBI had the building under surveillance, including electronic monitoring, from 2011 to 2013. The investigation led to the indictment of Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, who is wanted by Interpol and on the lam in Russia, and 33 individuals suspected of working for him.

“He is a major player,” Mike Gaeta, who ran the FBI’s Eurasian organized crime unit in New York and led the 2013 FBI investigation, told ABC News about Tokhtakhounov, who holds both Russian and Israeli citizenship.

“He is prominent. He has extremely good connections in the business world as well as the criminal world, overseas, in Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, other countries.

Again, read more details at the link.

Another prominent Russian was assassinated on a street in Ukraine. The Independent: Former Russian MP shot dead in Kiev, Ukraine.

Denis Voronenkov was killed around noon and his bodyguard was injured in the attack, Kiev police chief Andriy Kryschenko said.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the killing was an act of Russian “state terrorism.”

The Kremlin called allegations Moscow was behind the murder “absurd.”

Denis Voronenkov shot dead on Kiev street.

Mr Voronenkov, 45, a former member of the communist faction in the lower house of Russian parliament, had moved to Ukraine last autumn and had been granted Ukrainian citizenship.

The former MP had criticised Moscow’s illegal annexation of Crimea and had been due to testify against ex-President Viktor Yanukovych, a firm ally of President Vladimir Putin.

His bodyguard reportedly returned fire and wounded the attacker, who is being treated in hospital.

Another former MP and Kremlin critic living in Kiev said Mr Voronenkov was killed while heading to meet with him.

Mr Voronenkov was “an investigator who was deadly dangerous for the [Russian] security agencies,” Mr Ponomaryov wrote on Facebook, according to a translation from The Moscow Times.

They’re dropping like flies. I’d say Paul Manafort’s should be watching his back.

Then there’s the lawyer who was thrown out of his window in Moscow. It’s a complicated story that Michael Weiss explains at The Daily Beast: Russian Lawyer Thrown From Window Was a Witness for the U.S. Government. I won’t try to excerpt it; it’s not long though.

Nikolai Gorokhov

This morning, Rep. Elijah Cummings called for an investigation of Rep. Devin Nunes. The Hill reports:

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) on Thursday called for an investigation into House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who bypassed the panel to brief President Trump on information related to U.S. surveillance of his transition team.

During an interview on CNN’s “New Day,” Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, called the Intelligence panel a “very special committee.”

“They are privileged to information that most members of Congress may never see and so you expect them to be extremely confidential,” he added.

“What he did was basically to go to the president, who’s being investigated, by the FBI and others and by the intelligence committee, to give them information.”

Late last night, CNN broke this story: US officials: Info suggests Trump associates may have coordinated with Russians.

The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, US officials told CNN.

This is partly what FBI Director James Comey was referring to when he made a bombshell announcement Monday before Congress that the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, according to one source.

The FBI is now reviewing that information, which includes human intelligence, travel, business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings, according to those U.S. officials. The information is raising the suspicions of FBI counterintelligence investigators that the coordination may have taken place, though officials cautioned that the information was not conclusive and that the investigation is ongoing.

This is out of control. What more wild news will today bring? And I haven’t even mentioned the GOP “health care” bill which is in deep trouble.

What stories are you following today?


Wednesday Hump Day Cartoons: Nasty Scheme 

 

So, things are happening.

Westminster attack: woman killed and others left with ‘catastrophic’ injuries in ‘terrorist incident’ – live | Politics | The Guardian

U.K. Parliament Attacker Is Shot; Panic on Westminster Bridge – The New York Times

Then there is this…

Key witness in Preet Bharara’s Russian crime probe was just thrown from fourth floor of building – Palmer Report

Former Trump Campaign Head Manafort Was Paid Millions By A Putin Ally, AP Says : The Two-Way : NPR

 

Now for the cartoons.

 

 

Trump Rabbit Hole: 03/22/2017 Cartoon by Adam Zyglis

Cartoon by Adam Zyglis - Trump Rabbit Hole

SECURITY BLANKETS: 03/22/2017 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - SECURITY BLANKETS

Confirmation Hearing: 03/21/2017 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - Confirmation Hearing

TWITTER-RANG: 03/20/2017 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - TWITTER-RANG

ST PAT’S DAY: 03/17/2017 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - ST PAT'S DAY

BUDGET CUTS: 03/16/2017 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - BUDGET CUTS

tRUMPCARE – CBO REPORT: 03/14/2017 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - tRUMPCARE -  CBO REPORT

03/22/2017 Cartoon by Nick Anderson

Cartoon by Nick Anderson -

03/21/2017 Cartoon by Nick Anderson

Cartoon by Nick Anderson -

03/10/2017 Cartoon by David Horsey

Cartoon by David Horsey -

03/09/2017 Cartoon by David Horsey

Cartoon by David Horsey -

03/21/2017 Cartoon by David Horsey

Cartoon by David Horsey -

This is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

As usual these days, I don’t know where to begin. We are living through something so strange and unprecedented that I just find myself shaking my head at each new revelation. Once again, I’m going to illustrate this post with baby animal pics, just because.

One crazy-making thing for me is the fact that the Senate is currently grilling a candidate for the Supreme Court who has been nominated by a man who may have committed treason. Neil Gorsuch should not be approved until the investigation of Trump’s involvement with Russia’s interference in the election is complete. I’m actually having difficulty watching the Gorsuch hearing. The word I think of when I look at and listen to him is “oily.” I hope some of you are following the questioning and can share your impressions.

I did watch the entire “Comey hearing” yesterday, and I’m still processing the latest revelations. I expect the press will be on this now and news outlets will compete to give us new information on a daily basis. We may have to function during political chaos for months and years to come. I can only hope the Republicans begin to develop spines as the 2018 election gets closer.

While the House Intelligence Committee testimony by FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers was still going on, White House spokesman Sean Spicer bizarrely continued to defend Trump’s accusation that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. He also claimed that Michael Flynn was only “volunteer” for the Trump campaign and that Paul Manafort had only a “limited role.”

Vanity Fair on the press briefing yesterday:

During the campaign, Flynn was a top adviser and, at one point, was vetted to become Trump’s running mate. He later accepted a job as national security adviser, one of the most important roles in the West Wing, before resigning 24 days into the new administration, after it was revealed that he had not been entirely forthcoming about his conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

“General Flynn was a volunteer of the campaign,” Spicer said on Monday, brushing off concerns that Flynn had been a high-level Trump campaign adviser with any degree of influence while maintaining ties to Russia.

On Manafort, CNN reports:

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer incorrectly diminished the role of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, remarks made at the same time as a House Intelligence Committee hearing investigated whether campaign aides colluded with Russia during last year’s presidential race.Spicer, pressed on a number of Trump associates’ connections to Russian operatives, claimed Manafort played a “limited role (in the campaign) for a very limited amount of time.”

Manafort was hired by the Trump campaign in March 2016 to lead the delegate operation on the floor of the Republican National Committee in Cleveland.

Manafort was promoted in May to campaign chairman and chief strategist. And when campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was fired in June, Manafort — who butted heads with Lewandowski — was widely seen as the campaign’s top official.

Manafort is largely credited with securing Trump the Republican nomination, through a mix of deep ties in the Republican establishment and tireless organizing to win the Republican delegate fight which almost derailed Trump one year ago.

I wonder why the White House is so desperate to disown Manafort, who is a close friend of Trump buddy Roger Stone and has lived in Trump Tower since for more than a decade? The Washington Post may have provided a partial answer this morning: New documents show Trump aide laundered payments from party with Moscow ties, lawmaker alleges.

A Ukrainian lawmaker released new financial documents Tuesday allegedly showing that a former campaign chairman for President Trump laundered payments from the party of a disgraced ex-leader of Ukraine using offshore accounts in Belize and Kyrgyzstan.

The new documents, if legitimate, stem from business ties between the Trump aide, Paul Manafort, and the party of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who enjoyed Moscow’s backing while he was in power. He has been in hiding in Russia since being overthrown by pro-Western protesters in 2014, and is wanted in Ukraine on corruption charges.

The latest documents were released just hours after the House Intelligence Committee questioned FBI Director James B. Comey about possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow. The hearing that also touched on Manafort’s work for Yanukovych’s party in Ukraine.

Comey declined to say whether the FBI is coordinating with Ukraine on an investigation of the alleged payments to Manafort.

More details at the link.

Another Russia fan who is still in the Trump administration is good old Rex Tillerson. Have you hear about the recent changes to his travel schedule? This seems odd after what we heard at the Intel Committee hearing yesterday.

NBC News: Rex Tillerson to Skip Key NATO Summit, Plans to Travel to Russia.

America’s smaller European allies have expressed concern about President Donald Trump’s mixed signals on whether he would protect them against Russia.

The uncertainty threatened to deepen late Monday when U.S. officials said that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson planned to skip what would have been his first official meeting with NATO in April.

However, Tillerson will travel later in the month to a series of unspecified meetings in Russia, a State Department spokesman confirmed to NBC News.

Whoa! Skipping the NATO meeting and heading to Moscow? I’m speechless.

Here’s an interesting opinion piece by Walter Shapiro at Roll Call: James Comey and the Art of the Shiv.

Before Comey returned to his offstage role, he dropped enough bombshells to solidify his reputation as the most significant FBI director since J. Edgar Hoover. Joined by his crusty sidekick, Adm. Michael Rogers, who heads the National Security Agency, Comey gave an artful lesson in how to stick a shiv into a sitting president without ever raising his voice or making a specific accusation.

Early in the hearing, Comey shredded Trump’s cockamamie Twitter claim that Barack Obama had wiretapped him before the election. As Comey solemnly stated, “I have no information that supports those tweets and we have looked carefully inside the FBI.”

Comey had arrived at the hearing with his own smoking gun that he brandished at the beginning of his opening statement — official confirmation that the FBI is investigating “any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russian efforts.”

Comey’s offensive against the White House even extended to refuting a presidential tweet about the ongoing hearing. Connecticut Democratic Rep. Jim Himes asked Comey to respond to a Trump tweet claiming, “The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence the electoral process.” Comey dismissed Trump’s fanciful version of the truth by saying, “It wasn’t certainly our intention to say that today.”

Shapiro thinks Comey’s “role in upending” Hillary Clinton gives him credibility against Trump. I’m not so sure. Still, the piece is worth a read.

This morning Trump went to Capitol Hill in person and tried to convince hostile House Republicans to vote for his disastrous health care bill. If this is how he negotiates deals, it’s surprised he didn’t have more than 6 bankruptcies.

The Washington Post: Trump to GOP critics of health care bill: ‘I’m gonna come after you.’

Assuring Republicans they would gain seats if they passed the bill, the president told Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, to stand up and take some advice.

“I’m gonna come after you, but I know I won’t have to, because I know you’ll vote ‘yes,’” said the president, according to several Republican lawmakers who attended the meeting. “Honestly, a loss is not acceptable, folks.”

But after the meeting, Meadows told reporters that the president had not made the sale, that the call-out was good-natured, and that conservative hold-outs would continue pressing for a tougher bill.

“I’m still a ‘no,’” he said. “I’ve had no indication that any of my Freedom Caucus colleagues have switched their votes.”

House Republicans made some changes to the bill yesterday, but according to Ezra Klein: The new Republican health care bill doesn’t fix the old bill’s problems.

There are three problems you could have imagined the manager’s amendment to the American Health Care Act trying to fix:

  1. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the AHCA will lead 24 million more Americans to go uninsured, push millions more into the kind of super-high-deductible care Republicans criticized in the Affordable Care Act, and all that will happen while the richest Americans get hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts. Voters — including the downscale rural whites who propelled Donald Trump into the presidency — aren’t going to like any of that.
  2. Virtually every health policy analyst from every side of the aisle thinks the AHCA is poorly constructed and will lead to consequences even its drafters didn’t intend. Avik Roy argues there are huge implicit tax increases for the poor who get jobs that lift them out of Medicaid’s ranks. Bob Laszewski thinks the plan will drive healthy people out of the insurance markets, creating even worse premium increases than we’re seeing under Obamacare. Implementing this bill, as drafted, would be a disaster.
  3. As written, the AHCA is unlikely to pass the House, and so GOP leadership needs to give House conservatives more reasons to vote for the bill, even if those reasons leave the legislation less likely to succeed in the Senate. For this bill to fail in the House would embarrass Speaker Paul Ryan and President Trump.

Of the three problems in the AHCA, the third is by far the least serious — but it’s the only one the manager’s amendment even attempts to solve. These aren’t changes that address the core problems the GOP health care bill will create for voters, insurers, or states; instead, it’s legislation that tries to solve some of the problems the bill creates for conservative legislators. It might yet fall short on even that count.

This is a trap for Republicans. Both the process and the substance of the American Health Care Act have revealed a political party that has lost sight of the fact that the true test of legislation isn’t whether it passes, but whether it works.

One more from Mother Jones on the Trump kleptocracy:

The Trump Organization Says It’s Vetting Deals for Conflicts—But Refuses to Say How.

The week after Donald Trump’s inauguration, as questions swirled about the ethics ramifications of his refusal to divest from his business holdings, the Trump Organization announced that it had created a system for vetting new deals that could benefit the president. The company said it had tapped George Sorial, a Trump Organization executive, to be chief compliance counsel and Bobby Burchfield, a Washington-based corporate lawyer, to serve as an outside ethics adviser who would scrutinize new Trump company transactions for potential conflicts of interest. Trump’s private lawyer, Sheri Dillon, had pledged in early January that Trump would “build in protections” to assure Americans that his actions as president “are for their benefit and not to support his financial interests.” But two months into Trump’s presidency, there are serious questions about the rigor and transparency of the Trump Organization’s vetting process.

The first deal completed after Trump’s swearing-in suggested the vetting procedures are weak. This transaction, as Mother Jones reported, was the sale of a $15.8 million condo to a Chinese American businesswoman who peddles access to Chinese elites and who has ties to a front group established by China’s military intelligence apparatus. Angela Chen’s connections to Chinese officials and military intelligence evidently weren’t a cause for concern to the Trump Organization. The condo sale went through on February 21, with Chen apparently paying the $15.8 million in cash—roughly $2 million more than a unit one floor below. (Chen had lived in the same Trump-owned Park Avenue building in a smaller apartment for years. Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump lived in the same building before their move to Washington.) Contacted by Mother Jones earlier this month, Burchfield, the Trump Organization’s outside ethics adviser, declined to comment on the sale or how it was vetted.

Robert Weissman, president of the good-government group Public Citizen, says the Chen deal raises questions about whether any real vetting happened. “Here, where we actually need extreme vetting, it appears to be absent,” he says. “It’s absolutely unclear if Burchfield or anybody else is doing anything pursuant to what they alleged they would do. And if they are, we don’t know what it is. But we should not presume it’s happening.”

On Thursday, Burchfield, a veteran corporate litigator who specializes in political law and largely represents Republican clients, declined to comment regarding the vetting process for new Trump deals. He would not talk about any transactions approved or denied since he began advising the Trump Organization. At Trump’s January 11 press conference, Dillon promised that the outside ethics adviser would provide “written approval” of any new deal, ostensibly explaining why a transaction does not pose a conflict for the president. Burchfield has not publicly disclosed details about the written approval process.

Read more details at Mother Jones.

What stories are you following today?