Wednesday Reads: 37% of Dumbfvcks is still a lot of Dumbfvcks!

 

Last night on the Chris Hayes show… the two guest were talking about the 36-38 percent of polls that continuously believe every fucking word tRump says, whatever tRump says…

Poll: Most think Trump lying about Russia probe

The president is relentlessly attacking Robert Mueller and what he keeps calling the “witch hunt.” A new poll finds it isn’t working.

That is the link to the video from the show….it is only 5 minutes if you didn’t see it last night.

 

How many times do we have to kick this dead horse?

37%!!!!!!

It is always the same.

I see people on The Last Word, discussing how tapes of tRump saying the N-word will be very bad for tRump:

We all know that 37% won’t be upset about tRump’s use of the N-word…hell, it will only delight his followers.

 

 

 

I think it is painfully clear….nothing tRump does…will get him what he truly deserves. Impeachment and prison.

 

It is all super bullshit.

 

Now the cartoons:

08/15 Mike Luckovich: Sheet yes!

Yes, exactly!

08/09/2018 Cartoon by Joe Heller

Cartoon by Joe Heller -

Clay Bennett editorial cartoon: 08/14/2018 Cartoon by Clay Bennett

Cartoon by Clay Bennett - Clay Bennett editorial cartoon

 

Nick Anderson cartoon: 08/11/2018 Cartoon by Nick Anderson

Cartoon by Nick Anderson - Nick Anderson cartoon

 

Melania’s Parents: 08/14/2018 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - Melania's Parents

SPACE FARCE: 08/13/2018 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - SPACE FARCE

Charlottesville 1: 08/11/2018 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - Charlottesville 1

Ingraham Angle: 08/10/2018 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - Ingraham Angle

08/14/2018 Cartoon by Nate Beeler

Cartoon by Nate Beeler -

Doug Jones Kavanaugh Decision: 08/10/2018 Cartoon by J.D. Crowe

Cartoon by J.D. Crowe - Doug Jones Kavanaugh Decision

08/14/2018 Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson

Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson -

08/14/2018 Cartoon by Matt Wuerker

Cartoon by Matt Wuerker -

08/07/2018 Cartoon by Matt Wuerker

Cartoon by Matt Wuerker -

 

08/14/2018 Cartoon by Joe Heller

Cartoon by Joe Heller -

08/14/2018 Cartoon by Jimmy Margulies

Cartoon by Jimmy Margulies -

08/13/2018 Cartoon by Jimmy Margulies

Cartoon by Jimmy Margulies -

08/14/2018 Cartoon by MStreeter

Cartoon by MStreeter -

08/14/2018 Cartoon by Joel Pett

Cartoon by Joel Pett -

Omarosa: 08/14/2018 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Omarosa

California fires: 08/13/2018 Cartoon by Adam Zyglis

Cartoon by Adam Zyglis - California fires

Enriching his family: 08/10/2018 Cartoon by Adam Zyglis

Cartoon by Adam Zyglis - Enriching his family

Chris Collins arrested: 08/09/2018 Cartoon by Adam Zyglis

Cartoon by Adam Zyglis - Chris Collins arrested

08/11/2018 Cartoon by Steve Artley

Cartoon by Steve Artley -

08/11/2018 Cartoon by Gustavo Rodriguez

Cartoon by Gustavo Rodriguez -

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On that note, this is an open thread….

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Tuesday Reads: The Tabloid “President”

Henri Matisse, Sleeping cat

Good Afternoon!!

With each passing day, our country sinks deeper into the muck and mire of Trumpism. This evil man was foisted on us by a minority of voters and by a media that focused on preventing an experienced and accomplished woman from becoming president. The institutions we hoped would protect us are mostly failing to do so. It’s incredibly depressing, and I have to admit, I’m getting beaten down by it. It feels like Trump is winning and democracy is losing.

Trump’s corruption is spreading throughout the government. As of yesterday, he has managed to purge all of his political enemies from the FBI. Bradley P. Moss at Politico:

The announcement Monday morning that former FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok had been fired likely brings to a conclusion the personnel debate within the bureau regarding the behaviors of certain high-profile officials during the 2016 campaign cycle. Agent Strzok—a counterintelligence expert with particular expertise on Russia—played a significant role not only in parts of the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email server but also—in his role as deputy assistant director of the Counterintelligence Division—in the initiation of the still-ongoing probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. He also committed the serious political sin of exchanging private text messages (at least some on a government phone) with Lisa Page, an FBI attorney with whom he was having an affair, in which the two officials expressed their severe distaste for President Trump personally (as well as other candidates). Like former Director James Comey and former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe before him, Agent Strzok was terminated in the midst of a highly politicized environment in which the president of the United States has repeatedly attacked FBI officials by name and denounced the probe of his campaign as a “witch hunt.”

Strzok’s firing is problematic, and I assume he will file a lawsuit over it.

Henri Matisse, Goldfish

Just like in any other FBI disciplinary proceeding, Strzok was initially afforded the right to appeal the proposed termination of his employment to Candace M. Will, the head of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility. I have appeared before Will several times on behalf of FBI clients and I can state from personal experience that she is well-credentialed and compassionate, but ultimately very strict. She is a firm believer in the notion that the FBI has to hold itself to the highest ethical and moral standards and that is often reflected in her determinations. In 11 years of practice, I cannot think of a single time I have ever managed to persuade Will to reverse a proposed termination of an FBI official’s employment.

Nonetheless, according to a statement from Strzok’s attorney, Will chose not to uphold the proposed termination of Strzok’s employment. Instead, she concluded that it was appropriate to instead demote Strzok and suspend him for 60 days. She apparently also concluded that Strzok would be afforded what is known as a “last chance agreement,” which is effectively a written understanding between the agency and the employee that even the slightest instance of misconduct going forward can and will likely result in immediate termination. That Will reached this conclusion is very surprising and, in my professional opinion, speaks to just how thin the case for firing Strzok likely was.

But Deputy FBI Director David Bodich chose to intervene and reverse Will’s decision.

That Deputy Director Bowdich chose to overrule Will is what takes this matter so far outside the ordinary practice of the FBI disciplinary process. I have never seen senior FBI leadership unilaterally and directly intervene in such a manner, whether in my client’s favor or otherwise. If Strzok had not been satisfied with Will’s determination, appealing to Deputy Director Bowdich would not even have been a formal option. His final stage of administrative appeal would have been before the Disciplinary Review Board, which is comprised of three senior FBI officials but to my knowledge does not typically (if ever) include the deputy director.

Obviously this was done to pacify Trump. He has successfully intervened in an investigation of his own corrupt behavior.

Henri Matisse, Bouquet con dalie e libro bianco, 1923

And Trump’s behavior is getting worse. This morning he called a black woman a “dog.” Here’s what he wrote on Twitter:

“When you give a crazed lying lowlife a job at the White House, I guess it just didn’t work out. Good work by General Kelly for quickly firing that dog!”

Kali Joy Gray at True Blue Media:

And why is the former reality TV star whom he has repeatedly praised now a “dog”? Because she has said that he is unhinged, which he clearly is and which no one needed her to tell us. We can see it for ourselves every day that Trump takes to his Twitter during his “executive time.”

And what particular detail has Trump and his White House so upset he is obsessing about his former aide for the second day in a row, instead of doing his job and talking about, say, the 1,427 Americans who died in Puerto Rico and whose deaths he is plainly ignoring?

The long-rumored existence of a tape in which Trump says the “N-word.” It’s a rumor that predates the latest Omarosa bombshell interviews, but apparently, it particularly bothers Trump that she is saying it too.

After all, as he admitted Monday, the whole reason he hired her in the first place and wanted to keep her around the White House is because she said “GREAT things” about him. And as the only black adviser in his painfully white (supremacist) inner circle, he especially appreciated having an African American around to praise him.

Trump destroys everyone who makes the mistake of getting involved with him. After working for Trump, John Kelly’s reputation is now permanently blackened.

The Washington Post: Corruption wafts into the Situation Room. Why on earth did Kelly use the White House situation room to fire Omarosa? And why was she permitted to take her personal cell phone with her?

In a familiar Washington syndrome that the Trump administration has taken to new heights, we are rushing past the obvious. There is no reason to believe that the Kelly-Manigault Newman discussion contained any classified information and therefore deserved the extreme security precautions taxpayers fund for the Situation Room.

Henri Matisse, Still life with apples on a pink tablecloth

There is no indication of classified matters on the illicitly recorded tape that Manigault Newman brazenly played Sunday on “Meet the Press” to publicize her new tell-some memoir, “Unhinged,” where she reportedly portrays the president as a narcissistic bigot and charlatan losing control of his mental faculties (thereby proving the adage that even blind squirrels can find acorns)….

Begin with the obvious fact that she pulled off the taping in the Situation Room when Kelly clearly expected the venue to prevent that result. His failure speaks volumes about the effectiveness of Trump’s chief of staff and of this White House.

Kelly came to the White House as a Marine commander deeply respected by his troops, whose lives frequently depend on the judgments they make about people. To hear Kelly (on a tape that the White House has confirmed is authentic) try to cajole and bully a woman into silence is heartbreaking for those of us who respect the Marine Corps — and its leaders. (Full disclosure: My father was a Marine in World War II.)

It is not classified information that is at risk in Kelly’s threats that Manigault Newman’s “reputation” may suffer if her departure from the White House isn’t “friendly.” There is no indication in anything Kelly said then or that the White House has said since that Manigault Newman had access to classified information, or that defense information would have been threatened in any way had this conversation been held elsewhere. Kelly used the Situation Room to isolate and intimidate a troublemaker and loudmouth whom Trump had created in his own image and then placed in the upper ranks of his White House staff.

There’s more well-deserved Kelly bashing at the link.

Henri Matisse, Still life with oranges

I can’t resist sharing a couple more Omarosa stories. I’m glad the media is publishing these excerpts so I don’t have to read her book.

The New York Daily News: President Trump called Donald Jr. ‘a f–kup’ after he released emails about controversial meet with Russian lawyer, book says.

President Trump blasted his firstborn son as a “f–kup” after learning he had released emails about a controversial Trump Tower meeting attended by a Kremlin-connected lawyer who had promised dirt on Hillary Clinton, according to Omarosa Manigault Newman’s forthcoming book.

Manigault Newman, who was unceremoniously fired from the White House last December, says the President erupted in anger after she met with him in July 2017 and told him she was “sorry to hear” Donald Trump Jr. had posted screen grabs on Twitter of his email exchanges with British publicist Rob Goldstone.

“He is such a f–kup,” Trump said of his son, according to Manigault Newman’s tell-all book, a copy of which was obtained by the Daily News. “He screwed up again, but this time, he’s screwing us all, big-time!”

Newsweek: Melania Can’t Wait to Divorce Trump and Punishes Him with her Fashion Choices, Omarosa claims.

First lady Melania Trump is eager for her husband, President Donald Trump, to leave office so that she can divorce him, and until then, deliberately chooses to “punish” the president with certain fashion choices, according to former White House aide to the president Omarosa Manigault Newman.

Manigault Newman made the claim in her new book, Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House, a damning tome that accuses the president of using racial slurs and having impaired mental acuity, among other salacious claims.

Henri Matisse, Cat with red fish

“In my opinion, Melania is counting every minute until he is out of office and she can divorce him,” Manigault Newman wrote….

Manigault Newman also suggested that the first lady had weaponized her style choices. She pointed to the “Gucci ‘pussy bow’ pink blouse” the first lady wore to one of the presidential debates in 2016 after an infamous Access Hollywood tape came out in which the president bragged about sexually assaulting women. She also cited the “I Really Don’t Really Care. Do U?” jacket the first lady donned during her trip to a Texas border facility in June after the administration had faced blowback for its “zero-tolerance” immigration policy.

“Taken as a whole, all of her style rebellions have served the same purpose,” Manigault Newman wrote, “and not only misdirection and distraction—strategies her husband knows all too well. I believe Melania uses style to punish her husband.”

This is what we’ve come to. We have a tabloid “president” who is wallowing in crime and corruption without the slightest interest in living up to his oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.”

What stories are you following today?


Monday Reads: The Wheels of Justice Turn very Slowly

Rediscovered painting by Raphael, circa 1520

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

I’m focusing on the last standing functional branch of our Democracy today. I’ve noticed that some of the court cases recently have shown us that a few of our institutions are still working despite attempts to take them down.  I also cover a bit of that because, as you know, “these are the times that try men’s souls”.

The Special Counsel’s Appointment and Authority has been upheld by one of the first Trump Court Appointee’s this morning. This is significant as Mueller’s team takes aim at Roger Stone who dallied with Guccifer 2.0 and may be one of the first of the campaign’s inner circle to be directly indicted for playing footsy with the Russians. This is via CNN:

A federal district judge who was appointed by President Donald Trump has upheld Robert Mueller’s appointment and constitutional authority in the special counsel’s case against Russian social media propagandists.

Judge Dabney Friedrich, who serves at the trial-court level in DC federal court, said Concord Management and Consulting could not have its case tossed on constitutional grounds. The Russian company accused of backing a social media effort to sway voters against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton claimed Mueller didn’t have power to bring the case because he was not appointment by the President and confirmed by Congress. Mueller was appointed under the authority of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has broad power as the acting head of the Justice Department for the 2016 election probe.

“The appointment does not violate core separation-of-powers principles. Nor has the Special Counsel exceeded his authority under the appointment order by investigating and prosecuting Concord,” Friedrich wrote in an opinion published Monday morning. She was one of the first judges Trump placed into a federal court position.

Friedrich cited opinions by three other federal judges — Amy Berman Jackson, who oversees Paul Manafort’s criminal foreign lobbying case; T.S. Ellis, who oversees Manafort’s financial fraud case; and DC District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell — to back up her decision.
All three judges also denied requests to invalidate Mueller’s authority, with Howell writing as recently as late July that a witness subpoenaed to turn over documents and to testify before the grand jury about Roger Stone would have to. That witness, Andrew Miller, has been held in contempt of the court and now may appeal.

 

Bronze statue of Astraea

Both Manafort and Stone and key associates have tried to dart and dodge aspects of their indictments.  So far, they’ve failed.

The prosecution is wrapping up its tax- and bank-fraud case against Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman.

After the blistering pace set by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, the trial ground to a sudden halt on Friday for an unexplained reason. The judge and lawyers spent half the day huddled behind closed doors, with the trial not resuming until mid-afternoon.

The star of the trial was Gates, who was depicted by the defense as an unprincipled crook who ripped off Manafort and maybe the Trump campaign, and cheated on his wife to boot. But he also described to prosecutors how he helped Manafort hide millions of dollars that he earned from political consulting work in Ukraine in offshore accounts, and helped forge documents that made it easier for Manafort to defraud banks.

The jury heard from plenty of financial experts who backed up those claims. The professionals who helped Manafort, including his bookkeeper and tax accountant, said Manafort was the one in charge and insisted on giving final approval. The accountant said she was aware that Manafort’s tax returns contained false information. Bankers testified they wouldn’t have approved Manafort’s loan requests had they received the correct information from him about his income and debts.

Stephen Calk, chief executive officer of Federal Savings Bank in Chicago, expedited approval of two loans for Manafort totaling $16 million as he pushed Manafort for help landing a job with the Trump administration soon after the 2016 election, a former bank employee testified.

Manafort’s defense gets a chance to put its case before the jury this week, although it’s not required to do so. It’s unclear whether Manafort plans to testify or when jurors will begin deliberating.

Lady Justice Streets of Dublin.  Jenny Rainbow (artist)

However, the White House continues to skirt laws and ethics guidelines.  This one is a whopper of an issue.  The Daily Beast has this lede: ‘White House: It’s in ‘Public Interest’ for Staff to Skirt Ethics Rules to Meet With Fox News’ written by Lachlan Markay. No wonder they want to change the way administrative judges are appointed.

It is “in the public interest” for a the White House’s top communicator to be excused from federal ethics laws so he can meet with Fox News, according to President Donald Trump’s top lawyer.

Bill Shine, Trump’s newly minted communications director, and Larry Kudlow, the White House’s top economist, who worked at CNBC before his White House post, have both been excused from provisions of the law, which seeks to prevent administration officials from advancing the financial interests of relatives or former employers.

“The Administration has an interest in you interacting with Covered Organizations such as Fox News,” wrote White House counsel Don McGahn in a July 13 memo granting an ethics waivers to Shine, a former Fox executive. “[T]he need for your services outweighs the concern that a reasonable person may question the integrity of the White House Office’s programs and operations.”

Kudlow, a former CNBC host, received a similar waiver allowing him to communicate with former colleagues.

Including Shine and Kudlow, the White House has granted a total of 20 waivers to provisions of various federal ethics laws and the ethics pledge that President Trump instituted by executive order the week he took office. Federal agencies have granted many more such waivers.

Very Old White Guy from Iowa Grassley has decided September 4th is the day to trot out the Kavanaugh confirmation.

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation hearings will start on Sept. 4 and last between three and four days, Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) announced on Friday.

That scheduling tees up the GOP to meet its goal of getting President Donald Trump’s pick seated on the high court by the time its term begins in early October, barring unforeseen obstacles or a breakthrough by Democrats who are pushing to derail Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

The Supreme Court battle so far has focused on documents related to Kavanaugh’s five years in the George W. Bush White House. Democrats have excoriated the GOP for declining to seek records from the nominee’s time as Bush’s staff secretary and condemned the Republican decision to rely on a Bush-driven review process for the early round of vetting, while the majority party hails the vast scope of documents that are set for release.

Grassley said earlier this month that he anticipates being able to complete Kavanaugh’s consideration by the Judiciary panel within about two weeks after the close of the confirmation hearings, which will feature questioning of the nominee beginning on Sept. 5. After the Judiciary panel clears Kavanaugh, Grassley added, the nomination is expected to reach the Senate floor within days.

“At this current pace, we have plenty of time to review the rest of emails and other records that we will receive from President Bush and the National Archives,” Grassley said in a Friday statement setting the hearing dates. “It’s time for the American people to hear directly from Judge Kavanaugh at his public hearing.”

The FBI has overridden its normal process of employee discipline to fire Agent Peter Strzok who basically was exercising his first amendment rights to criticize D’oh Hair Furor.  I’m wondering how long it will take to fire up a law suit on this one. This is from Matt Zapotosky at WAPO.

The FBI has fired agent Peter Strzok, who helped lead the bureau’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election until officials discovered he had been sending anti-Trump texts.

Aitan Goelman, Strzok’s lawyer, said FBI Deputy Director David L. Bowdich ordered the firing on Friday — even though the director of the FBI office that normally handles employee discipline had decided Strzok should face only a demotion and 60-day suspension. Goelman said the move undercuts the FBI’s repeated assurances that Strzok would be afforded the normal disciplinary process.

“This isn’t the normal process in any way more than name,” Goelman said, adding in a statement, “This decision should be deeply troubling to all Americans.”

The FBI declined to comment.

The termination marks a remarkable downfall for Strzok, a 22-year veteran of the bureau who investigated Russian spies, defense officials accused of selling secrets to China and myriad other important cases. In the twilight of his career, Strzok was integral to two of the bureau’s most high-profile investigations: the Russia case; and the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.

Meanwhile, Cruella D’Vos “Just Pulled a Full Marie Antoinette And Retracted Fraud Rules Against For-Profit Colleges.” This is from Elura Nanos writing for Law & Crime.

Welp, now we’ve at least closed the circle on Betsy DeVos and for-profit colleges. She’s gone from evading questions about whether she would regulate these fraud machines to disbanding the team charged with investigating them. Now, she flat out withdrew the gainful employment rule, signaling to all that under her watchful eye, the DeVrys, the Trump Universities, and the Corinthian Colleges are free to flourish – while unwitting students and their families can simply eat cake.

The “gainful employment rule,” you may remember, is the one adopted in 2016 under the Obamaadministration, after several cash-cow diploma mills found themselves defending fraud lawsuits brought by swindled students. The rule prohibited these businesses from using deceptive practices to entice customers to plunk down thousands in student loan money when the corresponding “degree” wasn’t worth the expensive paper on which it was printed. Or in other words, exactly what Trump University was accused of doing. It was also the rule Senator Elizabeth Warren skeweredDeVos on at DeVos’ confirmation hearing.

Well, as they say “No justice, No Peace”.

This is pretty outrageous.

The Clearwater man who shot and killed a father of three outside a convenience store in a parking dispute last month — setting off a stand your ground debate that has swept Florida and the nation — has a history of road rage.

Since 2012, according to records and interviews, 47-year-old Michael Drejka has been the accused aggressor in four incidents. Investigators documented three cases in police reports.

The other was not shared with authorities at the time but involved the same handicap-reserved parking spot outside the Circle A Food Store near Clearwater and another shooting threat.

Two involved allegations of Drejka showing a gun. In another, a trooper accused him of aggressive driving and cited him after a crash when Drejka braked hard in front of a woman driving with two children.

Drejka has not spoken publicly in the weeks since he shot and killed 28-year-old Markeis McGlockton. No one has spoken much about him, either. Not family. Not neighbors. Not lawyers. Several alleged victims in previous incidents either declined to comment or could not be reached. Drejka remains, in many ways, an enigma to the public. He has not been arrested.

The shooter was white and the victim was black.  Just an hour ago, however, we got this lede from the Tampy Bay Times: “Shooter charged with manslaughter in Clearwater stand your ground case”.

Prosecutors charged Michael Drejka, the man accused of killing Markeis McGlockton in a shooting that has reignited a debate around Florida’s stand your ground law, with manslaughter Monday.

According to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Drejka was taken into custody Monday morning. He is being booked into the Pinellas County Jail, where he will be held in lieu of $100,000 bail.

Drejka, 47, has avoided arrest since he shot 28-year-old McGlockton on July 19 because of the controversial self-defense law that eliminated one’s duty to retreat before resorting to force.

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced July 20 that his agency was precluded from arresting Drejka because evidence showed it was “within the bookends of stand your ground and within the bookends of force being justified,” which provides immunity from arrest, the sheriff said. He forwarded the case Aug. 1 to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office to make a final charging determination.

Lady Justice by Cartoonist Gunduz Agayev

So, I have ignored Omarossa today but I will pass this bit of sad news on about our country’s Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.

Music legend Aretha Franklin is “gravely ill,” her family told WDIV-TV (Channel 4) on Monday.

Channel 4 anchor Evrod Cassimy said this morning in a tweet: “I spoke with her family members this morning. She is asking for your prayers at this time.”

She is said to be dying at this time so we’re losing a great voice and person again.

So that’s a little this and that on what may be our last functional branch of government.  Pray it stands its ground.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: Blank Page?

 

Good Morning…

I spent over three hours last night looking for things to write about and link to for today’s thread. Actually, it was more than three hours, because my dad was watching his shitty island treasure shows…and that last one was a two hour long season finale. Ugh…

We are all exhausted over this never-ending shitty show going on in real life, the tRump pres… I can’t even type out the word.

So, here is the post, it is an open thread. Go out and do something today, find some happiness. Because we all know that later tonight some horrible news will be flashing before our eyes. Enjoy the day while it is young.

 


Lazy Saturday Reads: Russia News

The Athenaeum – Thérèse Reading in the Park at Meric (Jean Frederic Bazille)

Good Afternoon!!

Remember Peter Smith, the guy who was trying to help the Trump campaign get Hillary Clinton’s emails? He ended up supposedly committing suicide in a Minnesota hotel room in July, 2017, shortly after he was interviewed by Shane Harris of The Wall Street Journal. After the story broke, Matt Tait published an article at Lawfare about his involvement in the story. Today Buzzfeed News reporters Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier have a new story on Smith: GOP Operative Made “Suspicious” Cash Withdrawals During Pursuit Of Clinton Emails.

In one of the most intriguing episodes of the 2016 presidential campaign, Republican activist Peter W. Smith launched an independent effort to obtain Hillary Clinton’s emails to help defeat her and elect Donald Trump. His quest, which reportedly brought him into contact with at least two sets of hackers that he himself believed were Russian, remains a key focus of investigations into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin.

Now, BuzzFeed News has reviewed documents showing that FBI agents and congressional investigators have zeroed in on transactions Smith made right as his effort to procure Clinton’s emails heated up. Just a day after he finished a report suggesting he was working with Trump campaign officials, for example, he transferred $9,500 from an account he had set up to fund the email project to his personal account, later taking out more than $4,900 in cash. According to a person with direct knowledge of Smith’s project, the Republican operative stated that he was prepared to pay hackers “many thousands of dollars” for Clinton’s emails — and ultimately did so….

Maxwell Doig

The money trail, made public here for the first time, sheds new light on Smith’s effort, in which he told people he was in touch with both Russians on the dark web and Trump campaign officials — particularly Michael Flynn, who was then a top adviser to the Trump campaign and later served as national security adviser before having to resign after misleading White House officials about his meetings with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

Intelligence agencies have given the FBI information that Russian hackers talked about passing Clinton’s emails to Flynn through a cutout, according to two law enforcement officials with direct knowledge of the matter. It is not known if that cutout was in any way connected to Smith.

Smith claimed that the Russians had hacked Hillary’s private server and he was determined to get his hands on the emails.

Smith assembled a group of people including experts in technology, lawyers, and even a Russian-speaking investigator to figure out how to obtain Clinton’s emails, according to the Journal. On the Friday before the Labor Day weekend, Smith incorporated a company called KLS Research. In a proposal Smith put together describing the effort to obtain the emails, he named the company as the “preferred vehicle” for the research into Clinton’s email, and Smith would tell Tait that KLS Research would also help “avoid campaign reporting.”

Smith and his longtime business partner, John Szobocsan, were the two signers for a bank account linked to KLS Research….

Soon after Labor Day, Smith appears to have finished an operational plan, which included the names of top Trump campaign officials, some of whom have denied speaking with Smith anytime during the campaign. Smith’s report is dated Sept. 7.

Girl in Green by Sara Hayden (1862–1939), American

The next day, Smith withdrew $9,500 from the KLS Research account and deposited it into his personal bank account, both held at Northern Trust. From there, Smith took out a little more than $4,900 in cash and sent checks to an accountant and an LLC controlled by a private real estate company. Later in September, Smith made withdrawals of $500 and $700 from KLS Research.

These transactions came to light after Northern Trust received a subpoena from the FBI for Smith’s records last December. The subpoena specifically sought information about the $9,500 withdrawal from KLS Research’s account.

After scouring nine accounts that Smith controlled, Northern Trust turned over documents showing 88 suspicious cash withdrawals totaling about $140,000 between January 2016 and April 2017, including a $3,000 withdrawal six days after the election. Northern Trust found these transactions suspicious because officials could not determine the purpose of the withdrawals and because some of them took place over the time Smith was engaged in his project to obtain Clinton’s emails. Many of the cash transactions, the bank noted, were less than $10,000, small enough not to trigger an automatic alert to the government. After receiving the subpoena, the bank sent a report to Treasury’s financial crimes unit, which shared its findings with the FBI, special counsel Robert Mueller, and Senate Intelligence Committee investigators.

The story reports that “three US law enforcement officials” confirmed that Smith is still “an important figure” in the investigation and that Mueller’s investigators have interviewed people involved with Smith. I wonder if Mike Flynn is helping out with this aspect of the investigation?

Head over to Buzzfeed News to read the rest of the story.

Lawfare has a lengthy post up about the Buzzfeed story: Peter Smith’s Search for Hillary Clinton’s Emails: The Subplot Thickens. Here’s just a taste:

On its own, the Buzzfeed story might not be a groundbreaking development. But the article doesn’t stand alone. It comes in the wake of Mueller’s indictments of Russians involved in the Kremlin’s social media manipulation operation and, more importantly for present purposes, the hacking and leaking of Democratic Party materials during the 2016 campaign. In that context, it is highly significant that Buzzfeed reports that Smith’s efforts are actively being investigated by the special counsel’s team. Not only has Mueller’s team interviewed “people who Smith tried to recruit and others who worked on his operation to obtain Clinton’s emails,” it has also “tried to determine if [former national security adviser Michael] Flynn assisted Smith in his operation”—a question that Smith’s possible payments to hackers are “key” to answering, Buzzfeed writes.

Louis Buisseret (1888-1956, Belgian) Contemplation 1938

So how do the facts reported in the Peter Smith stories, particularly Buzzfeed’s latest, line up with Mueller’s indictments? Mueller’s allegations describe, in detail, a complex Russian conspiracy to shape the 2016 U.S. elections—a conspiracy that involved an influence operation conducted on social media, the publication of hacked information, and outreach to a person in contact with the Trump campaign, reportedly Roger Stone.

The Peter Smith stories—between the Journal’s reporting, Tait’s Lawfare account and the latest report from Buzzfeed—describe another plot, one that took shape on this side of the Atlantic. Whether this second plot amounts to a conspiracy is a legal question beyond the scope of this post, but it appears to have involved, at a minimum, an agreement among a number of actors to obtain illegally hacked emails, perhaps by buying them. Tait wrote that he specifically warned Smith that the person purporting to have Clinton’s emails was likely part of Russia’s campaign against the United States and that Smith didn’t care about the source, as long as he got the emails. So it’s certainly plausible that the Smith operation also involved a conspiracy of some sort.

Meanwhile, Russian state TV is getting more and more blatant about Putin’s influence on Trump. Raw Story: Russian state TV warns Trump to ‘do what we say’ if you want ‘support in the elections.’

Julia Davis, who runs the Russian Media Monitor website, reports via Twitter that news show “60 Minutes” this week held a panel discussion about actions Russia should take to retaliate against the latest round of American sanctions.

Vitaly Tretyakov, the dean of the Moscow State University’s School of Television, argued that the Russian government should use whatever leverage it had over Trump to bend the president to its will.

“Let’s turn this into a headache for Trump,” he said, according to Davis’ translation. “If you want us to support you in the elections, do what we say.”

At The Washington Post, Anne Applebaum asks if American institutions are really strong enough to stop Trump: Are you still sure there’s no need to worry?

William Moore Davis (1829 – 1920, American)

“Don’t worry, the institutions will stop him.” Or: “Don’t worry, he hasn’t done any real damage yet, the institutions have stopped him.” How many times have you heard some version of this analysis since the election of President Trump? Sometimes, the speaker is an optimist, someone with faith in the U.S. Constitution. Sometimes, the speaker is a skeptic, someone who dislikes the alleged “hysteria” of those who think Trump’s corrupt habits, autocratic language and authoritarian behavior are doing lasting damage. Either way, they are reassured, and reassuring: Congress will stop him. The judiciary will stop him. The FBI, the Republican Party, the Constitution will stop him. Don’t worry.

But America’s federal institutions are not the only ones designed to prevent someone like Trump from undermining the Constitution. We have other kinds of institutions, too — legal organs, regulatory bodies, banks — that are supposed to prevent men like Trump from staying in business, let alone acquiring political power. The truth is that many of these equally important American institutions failed a long time ago. Trump is not the cause of their failure. He is the result.

One example: Paul Manafort.

Here is a man who is alleged to have declared income as “loans,” concealed foreign bank accounts and lied about money that Ukrainian oligarchs were paying him via shell companies in Cyprus. For decades, in other words, U.S. law enforcement institutions were unable to spot the money-laundering, tax evasion and fraud that his partner Rick Gates spent several hours describing, even when carried out by a prominent person. As long ago as 1985, Manafort’s name featured in Jacob Weisberg’s still-famous New Republic cover story about Roger Stone, then his consulting partner. The headline: “The State-of-the-Art Washington Sleazeball.”

Summer (c.1958). Donald Moodie (British, 1892-1963)

For decades, Manafort’s “political consultancy” has helped crooks and autocrats retain power. But even leaving aside the question of morality: Why wasn’t Manafort put out of business for suspected fraud years ago? Did the police not have the resources? The motivation? Whatever the reason, here, for the optimists and skeptics, is a clear institutional failure: A society allegedly obsessed with “law and order,” so much so that it has the highest incarceration rates in the world, couldn’t be bothered to investigate a famously sleazy man who was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on antique rugs and men’s suits in Northern Virginia.

And what about Trump’s career?

Nearly 40 years ago, in 1980, Trump employed 200 illegal Polish workers to destroy the Bonwit Teller department store, a historic building on Fifth Avenue, to make way for what would become Trump Tower. The men earned half the union wage and worked 12-hour shifts without hard hats; at one point, their contractor stopped paying them. Eventually they sued. In 1998, Trump paid $1.375 million to settle the case.

Trump broke immigration law and employment law, and he violated union rules, too. Yet neither immigration authorities nor employment regulators nor union bosses put him out of business. Why not? Why were the terms of that settlement kept confidential? Why, with his track record, was he allowed to get a casino license? Building permits? Wall Street banks did, it is true, stop lending to him. But when he began looking abroad for cash — doing extremely dodgy deals in Georgia and Azerbaijan, for example — no one stopped him.

Read the whole thing at the Post.

What else is happening? What stories are you following?


Friday Reads: Racism Still

William Kay, active 1795, Seamstresses, St. Kitts, Caribbean, 1798, Watercolor over graphite on moderately thick, slightly textured, cream wove paper

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

I have been fully overwhelmed and outraged by how the 2018 campaign season has devolved to overt, ugly, full frontal racism. No more subtle dog whistles and murmured references to culture these days; just naked, hateful racism on fully display. Can we stop talking about economic anxiety or white anxiety or fragility or some fancy schmanzy word that tries to cover the truth that our country has an issue with pervasive, systemic racism? It is time for the media and for all white Americans who see this for what it is to call it out for what it is.

It’s been one year since Charlottesville and four years since Ferguson. The Struggle continues.

Adam Sewer–writing for The Atlantic–believes that ‘The White Nationalists Are Winning.’

A year after white nationalists in Charlottesville chanted, “You will not replace us!” their message has been taken up and amplified by Fox News personalities. Tucker Carlson tells his audience that “Latin American countries are changing election outcomes here by forcing demographic change on this “country.” Laura Ingraham says that “the America that we know and love doesn’t exist anymore” because of “massive demographic changes” as a result of “both illegal and sometimes legal immigration that progressives love.” They echo the white-nationalist claim that America is at risk because the nation is growing more diverse, an argument that treats the mere presence of nonwhite people, citizen or noncitizen, as an existential threat to the country. White nationalists like Cantwell are cheered to hear their beliefs championed on Fox. Cantwell wrote last year that Carlson “is basically telling white America to prepare for war as directly as he can get away with while remaining on Fox News.”

American history is replete with tragedies that are epic in scale, but few are comparable to what has happened to the party of Lincoln, who struck perhaps the most decisive victory against the principle that America is a white man’s country with the proposal and ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment. There is no reason that this new generation of immigrants cannot become loyal Republican voters, much as a previous generation of despised foreign newcomers did. The obstacle is the conservative movement’s growing embrace of a definition of American citizenship that is inherently racial. Where prior conservative champions like George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan might have seen a new generation of Republicans, today many conservatives see only an invasion.

While few sitting Republican legislators echo these sentiments publicly, Republican audiences are now being fed white-nationalist philosophy through mainstream conservative figures with national followings. Unless something changes, conservative constituencies will eventually begin to demand that their representatives adopt those views as well.

White nationalists win by activating white panic, by frightening a sufficient number of white people into believing that their safety and livelihoods can only be protected by defining American citizenship in racial terms, and by convincing them that American politics is a zero-sum game in which white people only win when people of color lose. While this dynamic has always been present in American politics, it has been decades since the White House has been occupied by a president who so visibly delights in exploiting it, aided by a right-wing media infrastructure that has come to see it as a ratings strategy. It is not just the white nationalists who win when racialized fears surrounding crime, immigration, and terrorism shape the political behavior of white voters. Donald Trump also wins. And both the Trump White House and the men who rallied in Charlottesville for the cause of white power know it.

Laurie Ingraham’s racist screed should deny her a public platform. This is the joint view of Tom Kludt and Brian Stelter writing for CNN.

It wasn’t so much a dog whistle as it was an airhorn. Or perhaps a primal scream. But whatever it was, Laura Ingraham’s forceful denunciation of “massive demographic changes” served as another raw example of a Fox News host echoing white nationalist language.

Perhaps it was a glimpse into President Donald Trump’s well of support, too.

The Fox News audience is almost 100% white, according to Nielsen. And on the channel’s highest-rated shows, the politics of white anxiety play out practically every day, as hosts and guests warn about the impacts of immigration and minimize or mock the perspectives of people of color. The talk show segments are clearly intended to appeal to people who perceive they are losing their grip on power.

In 2018, Tucker Carlson, at 8 p.m., and Ingraham, at 10 p.m., spend the most time on this subject. (The host in between, Sean Hannity, concentrates more on defending Trump.)

“The America we know and love doesn’t exist anymore,” Ingraham said Wednesday night. “Massive demographic changes have been foisted on the American people, and they are changes that none of us ever voted for, and most of us don’t like.”

Ingraham said “this is related to both illegal and legal immigration.”

The commentary was amplified on social media by the liberal, anti-Fox watchdog group Media Matters. Many people who viewed it on social media were shocked, as her rhetoric went beyond what other conservative commentators have said in the past.

Nearly 24 hours later, Ingraham’s name was still a top trending topic on Twitter. Media Matters made a video asserting that Ingraham’s “anti-immigrant rant” was “ripped from white supremacists.” Some Democratic lawmakers also spoke out. Senator Tammy Duckworth tweeted that the “racist” comments “shouldn’t have been aired by @FoxNews.”

Fox News declined to comment.

1796 Thomas Rowlandson. Rachel Pringle of Barbados.

Of course they did. NFL Players resumed their #BlackLivesMatter protests and KKKremlin Caligula demanded they be suspended without pay on twitter.  Of course he did.

Several NFL players knelt, raised fists or simply refused to take the field during the playing of the national anthem as a controversial protest against police brutality dragged into the 2018 preseason.

As The Associated Press reports, in Philadelphia, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, who suspended his protest last December, and cornerback De’Vante Bausby, raised their fists while defensive end Chris Long stood with his arm around Jenkins’ shoulder.

Defensive end Michael Bennett walked out of the tunnel during the anthem and walked toward the bench while it played.

Sports Illustrated reports that the Jaguars’ Jalen Ramsey, Telvin Smith, Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon did not join their teammates skipping the pregame performance of the anthem.

In Seattle, three Seahawks also declined to take the field.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins’ Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson knelt, while defensive end Robert Quinn raised his fist.

1844 Adoph Rinck. Possibly a portrait of Marie Laveaux.

Twitler on vacation keeps tweeting the ugly.

President Trump, who has been vocal in his opposition to using the anthem as a stage for protest, responded on Friday morning with a pair of tweets blasting Jenkins, Stills and others who didn’t stand at attention.

Meanwhile, ‘Omarosa says Trump is a racist who uses N-word – and claims there’s tape to prove it.’

Donald Trump is a “racist” who has used the “N-word” repeatedly, Omarosa Manigault Newman, once the most prominent African American in the White House, claims in a searing memoir.

The future US president was caught on mic uttering the taboo racial slur “multiple times” during the making of his reality TV show The Apprentice and there is a tape to prove it, according to Manigault Newman, citing three unnamed sources.

Trump has been haunted from around the time of his election in 2016 by allegations that outtakes from the reality TV show exist in which he is heard saying the N-word and using other offensive language.

In her book, Unhingeda copy of which was obtained by the Guardian ahead of its publication next week, the former Apprentice participantinsists that the reports are true, although she does not say she heard him use the word herself.

She also claims that she personally witnessed Trump use racial epithets about the White House counselor Kellyanne Conway’s husband George Conway, who is half Filipino. “Would you look at this George Conway article?” she quotes the president as saying. “F**ing FLIP! Disloyal! Fucking Goo-goo.”

Both flip and goo-goo are terms of racial abuse for Filipinos.

Critics have previously questioned Manigault Newman’s credibility and are likely to accuse her of seeking revenge against the administration after her abrupt dismissal last December.

At the time, she writes, she felt a “growing realization that Donald Trump was indeed a racist, a bigot and a misogynist. My certainty about the N-word tape and his frequent uses of that word were the top of a high mountain of truly appalling things I’d experienced with him, during the last two years in particular.”

Women in Santo Domingo wearing Tignons.

 

I believe these accounts even though the source is spurious.

Jonathan Capehart writes ‘Yes, Donald Trump, you are a ‘racist’’ 

Lemon interviewed Trump on May 1, 2011, and challenged Trump on his views on race and the promotion of the racist birther against then-President Barack Obama. The on-air conversation was fine. Lemon recalled after that interview, an irked Trump “vowed he’d never come back and do an interview with me because I was racist.”

When I read the item about all this in The Post’s Reliable Source on Thursday, I had a sense of deja vu. Trump announced his candidacy on June 16, 2015. The same day he said Mexico was sending “rapists” over the U.S. southern border. By July 6, I’d seen and heard enough and wrote a post decrying Trump’s retweet (and then deletion) of an offensive dig directed at former Florida governor Jeb Bush:

That he retweeted such an offensive comment speaks ill of his judgment. That he would get so personal with a rival speaks ill of his temperament. That he felt comfortable endorsing such a hateful remark speaks ill of the GOP, which has turned a blind eye to this low-boil hate for so long that it has lost all ability to squelch it.

Well, that didn’t go over well with the Queens-born builder. As was his wont, Trump had my piece printed out, then he scribbled out a quick missive atop it and had a PDF sent to me.

Jonathan – You are the racist, not I. Get rid of your “hate.” Best wishes …

Trump’s response was laughable then. Three years later — more than 18 months into his presidency — such a remark remains stunning. There have been so many instances of Trump’s racism that I don’t have time to look for them all. But his wretched response to the white-nationalist mayhem unleashed on Charlottesville a year ago this Sunday remains the most egregious.

Portrait of a Woman in a Blue Turban by Eugene Delacroix, c. 1827

This seems to be a pattern now.  No, you’re the puppet!  No, you’re the racist!  I know you are but what am I?  I have yet to figure out why I get called out for being racist against white people by standing up for the Black Lives Matter movement and supporting black women for office. Is that even a thing?

This CNN interview with Spike Lee over his new movie discusses how the Oval Office is giving racists “a bullhorn.”

Spike Lee believes that racists in America have been given the “green light” from the White House.

“Since [President Trump] has gotten into the White House it is not even a dog whistle, it’s a bullhorn,” Lee said. “We’ve seen a rise to the right. It’s not just America, it’s worldwide.”

The two-time Academy Award nominee spoke to CNN’s Anderson Cooper Thursday about his new film, “BlacKkKlansman,” which tells the true story of Ron Stallworth, the first African-American detective in the Colorado Springs police force in the 1970s. It chronicles how Stallworth, played by John David Washington, manages to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan.

“BlacKkKlansman,” is set to release Friday, one day before the one-year anniversary of a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left counter-protester Heather Heyer dead.

Lee told Cooper that the release date for his latest film was intentional.

“The President of the United States had a chance to denounce hate,” the director said. “The whole world saw what happened and he didn’t do it.”

Lee is no stranger to films about race in America, gaining notary with films like “Do The Right Thing” and “4 Little Girls.”

Cooper went on to ask the director if he would sit down with President Trump to which Lee curtly answered “No.”

Lee added that he refuses to call Trump by his name, instead referring to him as “Agent Orange.”

I’m going to end with this essay in Salon by Chauncey DeVega: ‘Beyond Lebron James and Don Lemon: What James Baldwin can teach us about Donald Trump’s racism’  Is the GOP our country’s biggest white identity group?

Donald Trump loves “his” African-Americans.

As black conservatives their primary purpose is to serve as professional “best black friends” for white racists. This is very lucrative work. Being a black conservative is a right-wing American version of the soft bigotry of low expectations.

With Donald Trump they are very busy in their role as human deflector shields: Trump claims to be “the least racist person” but also believes that neo Nazis and white supremacists can be “very fine people,” puts nonwhite immigrants — including babies — in concentration camps, and with other Republicans is doing everything possible to take away voting and other civil rights from black and brown Americans. Quite logically, white supremacists such as Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke claim Donald Trump as a hero.

But woe be unto those black people who do not bow before Donald Trump in deference and obedience. For Trump, black people who are deemed to be “uppity” and “disrespectful” are “low I.Q.” “sons of bitches” who are traitors that should be exiled from America perhaps back to “shithole” countries in Africa. And Trump possesses special rage towards black women who dare to defy him such as Representative Maxine Waters and sports journalist Jemele Hill.

Racism and sexism are intoxicants for Donald Trump; he cannot resist them. For example, Michael Harriot, who is a contributing writer at The Root, recently conducted an analysis of Trump’s tweets which showed that 93.4 percent of his comments on Twitter about African-Americans are negative.

Alexandre Alaux (French/New Orleans, 1851‑1932), “Portrait of Free Woman of Color Wearing a Tignon

But let’s jump to the voice of Baldwin:

It is perfectly timed that last week was James Baldwin’s birthday and his words are so fitting for how they describe the insecurity, and yes jealousy, that afflicts Donald Trump and so many of his white racially resentful, if not outright, racist supporters.

In the “Fire Next Time”, Baldwin observed:

The white man’s unadmitted—and apparently, to him, unspeakable—private fears and longings are projected onto the Negro. The only way he can be released from the Negro’s tyrannical power over him is to consent, in effect, to become black himself, to become part of that suffering and dancing country that he now watches wistfully from the heights of his lonely power.

These fears and longings also drive Donald Trump’s deep insecurities and his fixation on Barack Obama, the latter being a man whose shadow of excellence and achievement Trump will never be able to escape or equal. This obsession is further revealed by Donald Trump’s behavior on Twitter, where he has made at least three times as many comments about Barack Obama than his own family.

I fret over all of this like I do many things these days and feel powerless to do much other than speak up and write and share on social media.  I do know that none of this will be put right until our Congress gets more black voices.  My Congressman is head of the black caucus. My Senators are a huge part of the problem.   Just work wherever you are to get Congress right in 2018.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today? 


Thursday Reads: Trump and His Swamp Creatures

La lectura al borde del pantano. Dennis Perrin

Good Morning!!

One of Trump’s biggest lies was his promise to “drain the swamp.” Instead, he and his cronies have turned Washington, D.C. into a playground for swamp creatures from all over the country and the world.

And that tweet leaves out the asbestos story! Alexandra Petri at The Washington Post: Make America Asbestos Again.

One of them wants to come to your country legally, work a job, contribute and eventually become a citizen. The other… is asbestos.

Guess which one President Trump has, historically, been vocally in favor of, and which one Trump’s administration is about to emit guidelines to discourage as much as it can? No, you do not need to guess. It is the Trump administration, and obviously its attitude is “LEGAL IMMIGRANTS are the real danger here. Give us more asbestos, please.”

That’s right. Not only have we not gotten around to banning asbestos, as nearly 60 other countries have, but also a Significant New Use Rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency in June (open for comment until Aug. 10!) would allow the case-by-case approval of certain uses of asbestos! Hooray! We have too many people coming here to try to build better lives! We have too little asbestos! You’re welcome!

Femme Lisant Pres de la Fenetre. Delphin Enjolras

One of them wants to come to your country legally, work a job, contribute and eventually become a citizen. The other… is asbestos.

Guess which one President Trump has, historically, been vocally in favor of, and which one Trump’s administration is about to emit guidelines to discourage as much as it can? No, you do not need to guess. It is the Trump administration, and obviously its attitude is “LEGAL IMMIGRANTS are the real danger here. Give us more asbestos, please.”

That’s right. Not only have we not gotten around to banning asbestos, as nearly 60 other countries have, but also a Significant New Use Rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency in June (open for comment until Aug. 10!) would allow the case-by-case approval of certain uses of asbestos! Hooray! We have too many people coming here to try to build better lives! We have too little asbestos! You’re welcome! [….]

All of the things we had hoped to leave in the ’80s are here right now with a big TRUMP seal attached.

We could have had Hillary. We could have had the first woman president. Instead we got Trump and his pack of grifters.

Jonathan Chait: The Whole Republican Party Seems to Be Going to Jail Now.

The entire Trump era has been a festering pit of barely disguised ongoing corruption. But the whole sordid era has not had a 24-hour period quite like the orgy of criminality which we have just experienced. The events of the last day alone include:

(1) The trial of Paul Manafort, which has featured the accusation that President Trump’s campaign manager had embezzled funds, failed to report income, and falsified documents. His partner and fellow Trump campaign aide, Rick Gates, confessed to participating in all these crimes, as well as to stealing from Manafort.

Albert Anker

(2) Yesterday, Forbes reported that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross may have stolen $120 million from his partners and customers. Meanwhile Ross has maintained foreign holdings in his investment portfolio that present a major conflict of interest with his public office. (The “Don’t worry, Wilbur Ross would never do anything unethical just to pad his bottom line” defense is likely to be, uh, unconvincing to the many people filing suit against Ross for allegedly doing exactly that.)

(3) Also yesterday, ProPublica reported that the Department of Veterans Affairs is being effectively run by three Trump cronies, none of whom have any official government title or public accountability. The three, reports the story, have “used their influence in ways that could benefit their private interests.”

(4) And then, this morning, Representative Chris Collins was arrestedfor insider trading. Collins had been known to openly boast about making millions of dollars for his colleagues with his insider knowledge. He is charged with learning of an adverse FDA trial, and immediately calling his son — from the White House! — urging him to sell his holdings.

Yes, yesterday was “quite a day.”

Trump biographer Timothy O’Brien on mega swamp creature Wilbur Ross. It’s hard to believe anyone could top Scott Pruitt’s corruption, but Ross has done it.

Wilbur Ross, like his former White House colleague, Scott Pruitt, is an interesting and unevolved version of Homo Paludosus: mired in myriad and ongoing ethical conflicts, subjected to tawdry revelations about his finances and business practices, and yet apparently impervious to extinction.

Brian Kershisnik (b. 1962, USA)

Ross, to be sure, hasn’t trafficked in all of the deeply swampy acts that made Pruitt so scandalicious. As far as we know, Ross hasn’t enlisted his security detail and staff to go shopping for him, he hasn’t hit up lobbyists for bargain condo rentals, and he hasn’t asked a big corporation to give his wife a business.

On the other hand, Ross, a veteran Wall Street dealmaker and investor, joined President Donald Trump’s cabinet as secretary of commerce already saddled with ongoing investments in companies and industries that would be directly affected – and possibly helped – by his policy decisions.

Ross is 80 and his biography on the Commerce Department website suggests how hard it would have been for him from his very first day in office to chart an unconflicted course…

Read the rest at Bloomberg News.

CNN follows up on ProPublica’s scoop on the Mar-a-Lago-gang who are running the VA from outside the government:

This group of three, led by Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter, was very open about the fact that they had been “anointed by the President and had his full support to influence policy at the VA” despite never being appointed or installed as formal advisers, the source said.

Bruce Moskowitz, a Palm Beach doctor, and lawyer Marc Sherman were the other two individuals who worked to influence the VA from the outside, the source confirmed.

Mathis Miles Williams

The trio, known within the VA as “the Mar-a-Lago crowd,” have used their influence with Trump and within the VA for personal gain, badgering career staff, pushing certain policies and products and ignoring government rules and processes, ProPublica said.

It cited hundreds of documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act in the article, which says the three exercised their influence without “transparency, accountability or oversight,” and that officials traveled to Mar-a-Lago at taxpayer expense to hear their views….

Virginia Democratic Rep. Don Beyer reacted to ProPublica’s report on Twitter, calling the revelation “a huge corruption scandal.”

“Trump gave power to make decisions at the VA – affecting every US veteran – to three men who are neither government officials nor vets. Their only qualification: membership at Mar-A-Lago, for which they pay Trump,” Beyer said.

Membership to the exclusive 20-acre club in Palm Beach, Florida — now dubbed by Trump the “Winter White House” — reportedly costs $200,000, with annual dues of $14,000.

The ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs wrote to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie on Wednesday, demanding any and all communications between VA officials and Perlmutter, Moskowitz and Sherman.

“The situation reeks of corruption and cronyism,” said Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota in a statement.

It reeks alright. Everything about Trump’s “administration” smells to high heaven!

Oma Koti, March 1934. Martha Wendelin (Finnish. 1893-1986).

When Trump told his MAGA cultists that “I know the best people,” he apparently meant the best cheaters, liars, and crooks–even worse than any normal person could imagine. One of those crooks is on trial in Virginia right now, good old Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager.

All the experts say that the case against Manafort is rock solid, but I can’t help worrying about the crazy judge who’s in charge of the case. The New York Times has a profile of him today: Judge in Manafort Trial Is a ‘Caesar’ in His Own Rome.

Judge T. S. Ellis III had dismissed the jury for the day, but he was not quite finished opining about what he saw as irrelevant and repetitive questioning of a witness in the financial fraud trial of Paul Manafort.

Standing up so as to loom even larger over the courtroom, he angrily confronted Greg D. Andres, the lead prosecutor.

“Look at me,” the judge demanded, slamming his hand on the wooden ledge. “When you look down, it’s as if to say, you know, that’s B.S., I don’t want to listen to any more from you.”

“Don’t look down. Don’t roll your eyes,” he told Mr. Andres.

And so for the second time that afternoon, the prosecutor had to try to convince the judge that he only looked down because otherwise, he said, he would “be yelled at again by the Court” for his facial expression when “I’m not doing anything wrong, but trying my case.”

The Judge keeps riding the prosecution and trying to control how they present their case.

Leon Viorescu

Judge Ellis, 78, is the formidable ringmaster of the greatest show in the United States District Court in Alexandria, Va., demanding both precise questioning and a breakneck pace in the trial of Mr. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman.

He has routinely broken in on questioning, limited admission of evidence and exhorted lawyers to “expedite” — all the while entertaining spectators with humorous asides about his age, his wife, his Navy past, his lack of an email address, the jury’s lunch menu, split infinitives and the noise produced by a machine intended to keep bench conferences from being overheard (like “the sound of waves crashing”).

An appointee of President Ronald Reagan, he has pushed the customary limits of judicial intervention so far that Mr. Andres at one point seemed to suggest the prosecution had grounds to appeal. After the prosecutor complained Monday about the number of times “your honor stops us and asks us to move on,” the judge declared that he would stand by the record.

“I will stand by the record, as well,” Mr. Andres responded.

“Then you will lose,” Judge Ellis said.

But this morning, the judge apologized. The Washington Post reports:

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III has raked prosecutors from the special counsel’s office over the coals for the past week and a half. But on Thursday, he backed down, telling jurors to ignore one piece of criticism.

“I was critical of counsel for … allowing an expert to remain in the courtroom,” he said before testimony began. “You may put that aside… I may well have been wrong.”

On Wednesday, Ellis scolded prosecutors for calling an IRS expert who has sat through the trial in the gallery. Prosecutors filed a motion Thursday morning pointing out that the transcript backed up their understanding that Ellis had explicitly allowed the expert to do so.

I’m just hoping the jury will pay more attention to the reams of documentary evidence the prosecution is producing than to the judge’s tantrums.

So . . . what stories are you following today?