Tuesday Reads: Hugs Help

Good Morning!!

Besides being the official celebration of Martin Luther King’s birthday, yesterday was National Hugging Day. I’m using that as an excuse to post pictures of creatures hugging each other in today’s post. From Psychology Today: National Hugging Day: Five Scientific Facts About Hugging, by Sebastian Ocklenburg. Excerpts:

No one knows exactly when the first hug occurred between two human beings, but we do know that hugs have been in the human behavioral repertoire for at least several thousand years. In 2007, a team of archeologist discovered the so-called “Lovers of Valdaro” in a Neolithic Tomb near Mantua in Italy (Stewart, 2007). The lovers are a pair of human skeletons that have been buried holding each other in a tight embrace (see Figure 1). They have been determined to be approximately 6000 years old, so we know for sure that people already hugged each other in Neolithic times….

When we hug, we wrap our arms around another person. Typically, we lead the hug with one arm. A German study in which I was a co-author analyzed whether people preferentially hug with their left or their right arm (Packheiser et al., 2018). In this study, we observed hugging couples at the arrivals or departure lounges at international airports and also analyzed videos of people who blindfold themselves and let strangers hug them on the street. We found that overall, most people hugged to the right….

A study from the University of North Carolina investigated how hugging before a stressful event reduced the negative effects of stress on the body (Grewen et al., 2003). Two groups of couples were tested: In one group, partners were given 10 minutes time to hold hands and watch a romantic movie, followed by a 20 second hug. In the other group, the partners just rested quietly and did not touch each other. Afterwards one partner had to participate in a very stressful public speaking task and their blood pressure and heart rate were measured while they spoke. The results? Individuals who had received a hug from their partner prior to being stressed showed significantly lower blood pressure and heart rate than those who did not touch their partners before the public speaking task. Thus, hugging leads to lower reactivity to stressful events and may benefit cardiovascular health.

A study from the University of North Carolina investigated how hugging before a stressful event reduced the negative effects of stress on the body (Grewen et al., 2003). Two groups of couples were tested: In one group, partners were given 10 minutes time to hold hands and watch a romantic movie, followed by a 20 second hug. In the other group, the partners just rested quietly and did not touch each other. Afterwards one partner had to participate in a very stressful public speaking task and their blood pressure and heart rate were measured while they spoke. The results? Individuals who had received a hug from their partner prior to being stressed showed significantly lower blood pressure and heart rate than those who did not touch their partners before the public speaking task. Thus, hugging leads to lower reactivity to stressful events and may benefit cardiovascular health.”

Here’s another piece by Ocklenburg on the ways that hugging increases well being. It turns out that hugging can reduce your chances of getting a cold, lower your blood pressure, and improve your mood.

So as we go into day 4 of the MAGA teens story and day 32 of the government shutdown, remember that hugs can help.

The New York Times: Government Shutdown: Updates on Where Things Stand.

It has been a month since the first day of the government shutdown.

Furloughed federal employees have started part-time jobs with delivery and ride-hailing apps and applied for other opportunities, such as yoga-instructor positions, to try to make ends meet without a government paycheck.

Some of the most vulnerable Americans — including the homeless, the elderly and people one crisis away from the streets — are feeling the burden. Without payments from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, nonprofit groups that support low-income renters are also struggling. Many other social safety net programs are facing similar crises.

As a bone-chilling flash freeze swept through the Midwest and Northeast over the holiday weekend, hundreds of thousands of federal workers remain furloughed, and some continued to work without pay, including forecasters at the National Weather Service. Veterans of the emergency management field are worried about longer-term trouble, too.

Government workers are suffering.

When it began, the shutdown left about 800,000 federal workers without pay, with just over half continuing to work, including members of the Coast Guard and food safety inspectors. The number of people working has grown as the Trump administration reinterprets longstanding rules, often to the benefit of the president’s base.

Some of the employees who still have to report to work during the shutdown spoke with The New York Times about their experiences….

Many federal workers have filed for unemployment benefits. In Washington, local programs have sprouted up to support the city’s large, struggling federal work force. Nationally, an informal network of businesses has also mobilized to ease the pain.

The article notes that we are approaching the point when the federal courts will run out of money, and the economy is beginning to feel effects. Frankly, with Trump calling even more people back to work without pay, this is starting to feel criminal–it’s forced labor.

The shutdown is impeding law enforcement. No wonder Trump likes it.

Just one story on the MAGA teen Nick Sandmann from The Louisville Courier Journal: Louisville PR firm played a key role in Covington Catholic controversy. The firm is Run/Switch, and one of its partners is Scott Jennings, who is a paid commentator on CNN and also writes a column for the Courier Journal! From the article:

Lion rescued as a cub hugs her rescuer.

RunSwitch partners Steve Bryant and Gary Gerdemann said that Sandmann family asked people they knew over the weekend about getting help with handling the media.

“They reached out to our firm, and we responded,” said Bryant, adding that the business specializes in crisis management “all over the country.”

Scott Jennings, a conservative political commentator and a columnist for the Courier Journal, is the third partner in RunSwitch.

I’ve seen Jennings on CNN and interestingly, he routinely wears a smirk just like the one we all saw on Nick Sandmann’s face. Jennings smirks as other people are talking, no matter what is being said, and then he smirks as he defends whatever Trumpian thing is being discussed during his appearance. I find him utterly repulsive and infuriating.

So why was Jake Tapper the first shitty media man to tweet out the poor little Nick’s PR statement?

So Jennings worked for Karl Rove and Mitch McConnell too. How not surprising. I remember when CNN was a serious news channel, but now it’s just a Fox News wannabe that hires people like Oliver Darcy and Kaitlin Collins away from right wing sites (The Blaze and The Daily Caller respectively).

But I’ll move on to other news. This depressing story broke this morning. The Washington Post: Supreme Court allows Trump restrictions on transgender troops in military to go into effect as legal battle continues.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed President Trump’s broad restrictions on transgender people serving in the military to go into effect while the legal battle continues in lower courts.

Rescued Kangaroo hugs rescuer.

The justices lifted nationwide injunctions that had kept the administration’s policy from being implemented.

It reversed an Obama-administration rule that would have opened the military to transgender men and women, and instead barred those who identify with a gender different from the one assigned at birth and who are seeking to transition.

The court’s five conservatives–Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh–allowed the restrictions to go into effect while tIhe court decides to whether to consider the merits of the case.

The liberal justices–Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan–would have kept the injunctions in place.

I feel nauseated.

From The New York Times last night: Deripaska and Allies Could Benefit From Sanctions Deal, Document Shows.

When the Trump administration announced last month that it was lifting sanctions against a trio of companies controlled by an influential Russian oligarch, it cast the move as tough on Russia and on the oligarch, arguing that he had to make painful concessions to get the sanctions lifted.

Sea hugs baby seal toy

But a binding confidential document signed by both sides suggests that the agreement the administration negotiated with the companies controlled by the oligarch, Oleg V. Deripaska, may have been less punitive than advertised.

The deal contains provisions that free him from hundreds of millions of dollars in debt while leaving him and his allies with majority ownership of his most important company, the document shows.

With the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election continuing to shadow President Trump, the administration’s decision to lift sanctions on Mr. Deripaska’s companies has become a political flash point. House Democrats won widespread Republican support last week for their efforts to block the sanctions relief deal. Democratic hopes of blocking the administration’s decision have been stifled by the Republican-controlled Senate.

From ABC News: US banker with ties to Putin’s inner circle sought access to Trump transition: Sources.

Nine days after Donald Trump won the presidency, as scores of supporters clamored for meetings with his transition team, the Hollywood producer of “The Apprentice,” Mark Burnett, reached out to one of Trump’s closest advisers to see if he would sit down with a banker who has long held ties to Russia.

The banker, Robert Foresman, never got the role he was seeking with the fledgling Trump administration. But he has recently attracted the attention of congressional investigators as one more name on an expanding list of Americans with established ties inside the Kremlin who appears to have been seeking access to the newly elected president’s inner circle, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

Foresman, who is now vice chairman of the Swiss bank UBS’s investment arm, lived for years in Moscow, where he led a $3 billion Russian investment fund and was touted by his new company as someone who maintains connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. Reached by phone, Foresman declined to comment. Attorneys he has hired, including one in Washington who was hired to deal with the congressional probe, also declined to discuss the matter.

One more and then I’ll wrap this up. Catherine Rampell at The Washington Post: The GOP has become the Soviet party.

Once upon a time, Ayn Rand-reading, red-baiting Republicans denounced Soviet Russia as an evil superpower intent on destroying the American way of life.

My, how things have changed.

The Grand Old Party has quietly become the pro-Russia party — and not only because the party’s standard-bearer seems peculiarly enamored of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Under Republican leadership, the United States is starting to look an awful lot like the failed Soviet system the party once stood unified against.

Supposedly middle-class workers — people who have government jobs that are supposed to be stable and secure — are waiting in bread lines. Thanks to government dysfunction and mismanagement, those employed in the private sector may also be going hungry, since 2,500 vendors nationwide are unable to participate in the food stamp program while the government is shuttered and unable to renew licenses for the Electronic Benefit Transfer debit card program.

Why? Because of the whims of a would-be autocrat who cares more about erecting an expensive monument to his own campaign rhetoric than about the pain and suffering of the little people he claims to champion.

And for now, at least, most of those little people are too frightened of the government’s wrath to fight back overtly. Instead, desperate to keep jobs that might someday offer them a paycheck again, the proletariat protest in more passive ways: by calling in sick in higher numbers.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

Now, what stories have you been following? Please share in the comment thread below.

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Monday Reads: MLK Holiday, Super Blood Wolf Moon, and waiting for this too to pass …

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

The beginning of our celebration of the American Civil Rights Movement and the birth of Martin Luther King began with the syzygy of a Super Blood Wolf Moon in lunar eclipse.  I hope you had as good a view of it as we did down here in New Orleans.  It was amazing.  

We began the day with another Democratic Party contender for President in 2020. Kamala Harris threw her hat in the ring.  We have an amazing number of women with serious potential and ability eager to take on the Russian Potted Plant. This is the legacy of many and most importantly Hillary Clinton.  Today, made me think of my childhood shero Shirley Chisolm.  Kamala gave her a shout out!   Chisolm would be ecstatic to see so many serious women candidates.  Politico’s Christopher Caledego assesses Harris’ plan to run as a former, high profile prosecutor which worries many.

According to interviews with a half-dozen of her confidants and strategists, Harris will court voters wary of law enforcement by presenting herself as a kinder and gentler prosecutor — a “progressive” attorney who advocated for the vulnerable and served the public interest. At the same time, they believe leaning into her background will allow her to project toughness against Donald Trump, and contrast what they call her evidence-based approach to law and politics with the president’s carelessness with facts and legal troubles with the special prosecutor.

“In the face of a lawless president and a lawless administration, Americans are going to be looking for somebody who represents and stands for the rule of law,” one Harris adviser said.

But it will be a tough balancing act, and it’s an open question whether Harris has the political dexterity to pull it off. A scathing New York Times op-ed by a California law professor last week gave a taste of what the Californian is in for: It argued that Harris was overzealous against defendants in a slew of cases she or her office handled. Her critics and opponents quickly circulated the article.

6196f7ba-80f1-4f4d-af77-6e74ad72c20d-epa_belgium_lunar_eclipse

A view of the lunar eclipse pictured in Jubilee Park, in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo: OLIVIER HOSLET, EPA-EFE)

We need immense criminal justice reforms as well as the reform of our immigration process. We have incredible problems nationally with local police forces and their treatment of minority communities.  Does Kamala have the chops for these issues? Astead W Herndon of the NYT writes about her candidacy and her chances today.

In California, Ms. Harris sought to fashion a third-way approach to criminal justice as a city and state prosecutor, what she dubbed being “smart on crime.” But like many Democrats, she has sought to align herself with the party’s leftward drift in recent years, proclaiming her support for “Medicare for All” and, after an initial hesitation, disavowing most corporate donations and embracing the legalization of recreational marijuana, which Ms. Harris once rebuffed.

But it remains unclear how exactly Ms. Harris will position herself on the ideological spectrum in this race. She does not hurl rhetorical thunderbolts at Wall Street in the same fashion of colleagues and rivals like Senator Warren. Still, she is no centrist and would likely embrace an agenda that is more unreservedly progressive than some of her moderate opponents.

Ms. Harris focused her initial campaign themes on broad themes of unity and revitalization, which emphasize her unique status as one of — if not the — most viable black women to ever run for president. Her announcement video borrows language from “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” the song and poem written in 1900 and long referred to as America’s “black national anthem.”

At a recent appearance to promote her latest book “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey,” Ms. Harris, when asked why she would run for president, cited the need for leaders who have a “vision of our country in which everyone can see themselves.”

Democrats flocked to see her at a handful of public events tied to the book and many were enthusiastic about her potential.

“Her message of unity is key — people need that hope again,” said Valoree Celona, a 50-year-old insurance executive, who attended one of Ms. Harris’ book events earlier this month in New York. Ms. Celona, who said Ms. Harris caught her attention during Senate hearings, described the senator as “tough, but she’s fair.”

“I didn’t think someone from California could speak to all parts of the country, but I was impressed,” said Ava Leegant, a surgeon from San Francisco who also came to the New York event.

The super blood wolf moon is seen during a total lunar eclipse near Salgotarjan, northeast of Budapest, Hungary. (Photo: PETER KOMKA, EPA-EFE)

VP Pence–whose sole mission in life seems to be taking rights from others–has been co-opting the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  CNN’ Julian Zelizar calls his behavior and words “shocking”.

In the weekend of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, Vice President Mike Pence shockingly invoked a line from the civil rights leader’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech to build support for President Donald Trump’s proposed deal on the border wall. Asking legislators to agree to Trump’s proposal of spending $5.7 billion on a border wall along with a temporary extension of the DACA program(that Trump dismantled), Pence said, quoting King, on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” “Now is the time to make real the promises for democracy.” He compared King’s belief in using the legislative process to solve social problems to what the President is trying to do.

The “I Have a Dream” speech continues to resonate to this day as one of the most important symbols of a civil rights movement that was committed to ending social injustice and dismantling policies that enabled the inhumane treatment of people living in the United States and all around the globe.

The comments made by Pence — who works at the top of an administration that promotes policies that directly contradict King’s message — fly directly in the face of Martin Luther King’s legacy.

It does so because this is an administration that right now is holding the government hostage — leaving civil servants without paychecks and citizens without full benefits — in exchange for a monument made of brick and mortar or steel that most experts agree won’t do much to enhance border security. Not to mention that, under this administration, thousands of parents have been separated from their children at the border.

In a stark contrast to what King stood for, the Trump administration has repeatedly sent encouraging signals to the forces of white nationalism, starting with the President saying that there were “very fine people” among the neo-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville, the keepers of the flame for the white Americans who did everything in their power to stop civil rights back in the 1960s.

And as a way to promote the passage of new voting restrictions — which would fall hardest on marginalized groups of voters — the administration has promoted false claims of election fraud.

 

Blood Moon. A super blood wolf moon over the peace statue on Brighton seafront during a lunar eclipse. Picture date: Monday January 21, 2019. Andrew Matthews/PA Wire URN:40746499 (Press Association via AP Images)

I wake each day with one thought on my mind. Is today the day we can make him go away?  Max Boot writes on the two year anniversary of this travesty of everything right and democratic at WAPO.  “A look back on two dismal years of the Trump administration”.  I’ve chose to share the section on incompetence with you.

Incompetence: If Trump has a saving grace, it is that he is so incompetent: A more cunning populist would be far more dangerous. His tweets are riddled with spelling, grammar and factual mistakes. (Remember the “smocking gun”?) More significantly, he couldn’t get a Republican-controlled Congress to approve a border wall or repeal Obamacare. His attempt to implement his Muslim ban led to chaos in airports and a lengthy court battle. He has record-setting turnover and numerous vacancies among his staff. (There is still no nominee for 37 percent of key administration jobs.) He impetuously announced a ban on transgender soldiers, the suspension of military exercises with South Korea and the withdrawal from Syria, catching the Pentagon by surprise. His administration leaked so badly that one anonymous official boasted in a New York Times op-ed of obstructing Trump’s agenda. He launched a trade war with China and a government shutdown with no exit strategy. His midterm campaign backfired, leading the Democrats to pick up 40 House seats. He can’t consistently break 40 percent approval despite a booming economy. And he’s not learning from his mistakes. From the vantage point of 2019, in the midst of a record-setting government shutdown, the chaos of 2017 looks like the good ole days.

Full moon rises behind snow-covered mountains in Hakkari province of Turkey
Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

We’re learning more about the cadre of young men from Kentucky whose parents sent them on a jaunt to the District to assert their white male privilege over the bodies of women.  While it appears that the story began as a rush to judgement, the initial judgement was not that off.  This situation still reeks of the white washing of Brett Kavanaugh and the fact they have the same smug little looks on their faces as they pronounce their sanctimonious BS still lets me know one thing.  The struggle is real and the MAGA hats are today’s white hoods.  This is via the NYT which has a history of white washing.  Look out for the mayo!

In a lengthy video posted to YouTube, the Hebrew Israelite activists shouted insults at Native Americans and the high school students. One of the activists, Shar Yaqataz Banyamyan, denied in a Facebook video that his group had been instigators.

On Sunday night, Mr. Banyamyan said that their words had been misconstrued as hateful and that they, in fact, were being mocked by the students.

“I know we seem aggressive reading the Bible, but the Bible states for us to cry aloud and don’t spare anybody’s feelings,” he said. “We’re not violent or ignorant.”

A parent of a Covington Catholic sophomore, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of safety concerns for his family, said his son, who attended the event, said the students were shouting school chants to drown out harassment from the black men. When it worked, the students were “hyped up and high-fiving each other,” he said.

The parent and Mr. Sandmann’s statement denied that the students chanted about building a wall at the border with Mexico, as Mr. Phillips had said. But in an interview on Sunday, Chase Iron Eyes, a spokesman for the Indigenous Peoples Movement, which organized the march, said he had also heard chants of “build that wall,” a rallying cry of supporters of Mr. Trump.

Marcus Frejo, an Indigenous hip-hop artist who is also known as Quese Imc, said he was standing with a friend near the black men when tensions flickered. He said he was worried “something ugly” was going to happen.

Around that time, he said, Mr. Phillips approached, asking to borrow a drum. Together, they headed into the center of the students, creating a sort of prayer circle. They sang what he said was a well-known spiritual song associated with the American Indian Movement of the 1960s and used for prayer and resistance.

Any one wearing a MAGA hat is not going to be taken as a person of good intent. I do not care how self righteous the kid and his friends say they’ve been in this situation. And, all women and all POC  know that “look” of white patriarchy asserting its superiority.  Little white boys at expensive prep schools learn that look well.

The struggle continues.

Here’s a link to The Guardian’s pictures of last night’s moon. They’re worth a look.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Sunday Reads: Hypocrisies of Dead White Soldiers

 

The image above is from the town of Blue Ridge GA…as a White dead soldier is driven home…

Procession for fallen North Carolina Marine – Story | WAGA

USMC Sgt. Christopher J. Lockett died last week at a U.S. facility, but military officials have not yet offered more details.

Tuesday, his body was flown into Atlanta and driven in a solemn procession to Murphy. Hundreds lined Highway 515 in Fannin County, waving flags and showing their respect for the fallen hometown hero.

The people lining the streets are “tRump supporters,” in every sense of that description.

I do not want to diminish this man’s death, in any way, but I want to point out the hypocrisy…the difference in respect given this white soldier compared to other soldiers of color (killed in the line of duty)…as well as their gold star families.

Lest we forget:

The parents of Capt. Humayun Khan…

Donald Trump Criticizes Muslim Family of Slain U.S. Soldier, Drawing Ire – The New York Times

And the entire incident that occurred with the widow of U.S. Army Sergeant La David Johnson…

Trump Call Controversy Renews Spotlight On Gold Star Families : NPR

The widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, one of the four U.S. soldiers killed in a military operation in Niger earlier this month, says President Trump’s condolence call only made her feel worse.

Donald Trump keeps attacking Gold Star families like Myeshia Johnson. Here’s what he could have done instead. – The Washington Post

 

I started to write this post for Wednesday…but decided to hold it for today. I don’t know why, but it would appear like fate:

 

The Stupidity of Evil: Teens Shouting ‘Build that Wall’ at Native American Vet

Some high school young men from a private Catholic school in Kentucky had been encouraged to attend an anti-abortion “March for Life” near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on Friday. Nearby, Native Americans were rallying for their rights.

Vietnam Vet Nathan Phillips saw a mean crowd of white teens in Trump’s red “Make America Great Again” caps harassing four African American young men. He was beating his drum and chanting, and came forward, drawing the attention of the young thugs, realizing the danger, he said.

They then mocked and taunted him, doing a bad sing-along of his chant, and then one of the teens, an unbearably smug look on his face, planted himself in Phillips’s way and trapped him in the ugly crown of Mean Boys. They were chanting “Build the Wall.”

[…]

Nathan Phillips gave a chilling interview about the incident to CNN, in which he expressed fear about where the United States is going. Remember, Phillips risked his life for a country that had treated his people like crap, stealing their land, putting them on reservations, forbidding them to practice their religion, and occasionally massacring them.

[…]

Hannah Arendt spoke of the banality of evil, of the way in which boring routine bureaucracy had been deployed by the Nazis to commit unspeakable crimes against humanity.

What struck me from looking at those young men was that she could have perhaps even more usefully spoken of the stupidity of evil.

How stupid do you have to be to chant “build the wall” at a Native American whose people were here at least 13,000 years ago before the European undocumented migrants showed up in their lands?

How stupid do you have to be to chant “build the wall” at African-Americans whom white slavers kidnapped from their homes in Senegal and Nigeria and Angola and transported here against their will?

How stupid do you have to be as a Catholic not to know that anti-immigrant slogans like “Build the Wall” and “Make America Great Again” are the descendants of the racist slogans (such as “Keep America American”) that white Protestants of the 19th century ‘Know Nothing’ secret society chanted at Catholic immigrants from Ireland and Italy and Germany just before they burned down Catholic churches?

How stupid do you have to be to insist on a fetus’s right to life but to endanger the life of an elderly Vet by putting him into a bottleneck in the midst of an angry mob?

How stupid do you have to be to think that “Make America Great Again” could possibly mean anything when chanted by chickenhawk young men at a Vet who risked his life for this country?

How stupid do you have to be not to realize that the people Trump wants to keep out of the United States by building his idiotic, cruel and ineffective wall are for the most part Catholics?

Nathan Phillips said he is afraid for where the country of going because of the wave of hatefulness sweeping the country.

He is too polite to blame Trump for our collective national two minutes hate, but I’m not. This incident was Trump’s fault.

Mean boys in high school acting out evil may be a bit banal as well. But if Nathan Phillips is apparently afraid that hatred is contagious, I am afraid that stupidity might be an infectious disease.

The following are various tweets about this…another fucking disgusting episode in The tRump Chronicle of Shit.

This is an open thread….


Lazy Caturday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

It has been quite a roller coaster ride for politics junkies over the past couple of days.

First, Buzzfeed news posted a blockbuster story on Thursday night citing law enforcement sources who claimed to have documentary evidence that Trump told Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow deal that was in the works during the 2016 campaign.

The story was out there for a full day and then the Special Counsel’s office released a cryptic statement saying there was something wrong with the story but not specifically spelling out the problem. CNN: Mueller’s office disputes BuzzFeed report that Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress.

“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate,” said Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller’s office, in a statement.

By Alice Neel

It’s highly unusual for the special counsel’s office to provide a statement to the media — outside of court filings and judicial hearings — about any of its ongoing investigative activities.

In response, BuzzFeed said in its own statement, “We are continuing to report and determine what the special counsel is disputing. We remain confident in the accuracy of our report.”
Ben Smith, the editor-in-chief at Buzzfeed, echoed similar sentiments.

“We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he’s disputing,” he tweeted….

The BuzzFeed story, by reporters Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier, asserted that Cohen had told special counsel investigators that “after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie — by claiming that negotiations [for a Trump development project in Moscow] ended months earlier than they actually did — in order to obscure Trump’s involvement,” BuzzFeed wrote, attributing its assertion to two law enforcement sources.

The sources also said the special counsel’s office had corroborating Trump company emails, text messages and other documents, though the BuzzFeed reporters were unclear Friday in television interviews about whether they had seen the documents described in their story.

I’m not going to try to figure out what all this means at the moment, because we have plenty of evidence already that Trump has lie, encouraged others to lie, and has engaged in witness tampering on Twitter and most likely in private. We also have evidence that Trump told his own son to lie about the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting. In that instance, Trump actually composed the false story to be given to The New York Times.

Numerous experts have weighed in on the meaning of the Special Counsel’s statement Raw Story compiled several of them. And here is Emptywheel’s take on the statement.

We’ll learn what it all means at some point. Buzzfeed will surely go back to their sources for clarification and I hope they’ll publish a follow-up story. Meanwhile, we already know that Trump is a criminal.

By Amy Hill

In other news, Trump announced last night that he is going to make a “major announcement” about the so-called “crisis” at the border and the government shutdown. CBS News reports:

President Trump said he will make a “major announcement” about the southern border and the partial government shutdown on Saturday. It is scheduled to take place at 4 p.m. ET.

“I will be making a major announcement concerning the Humanitarian Crisis on our Southern Border, and the Shutdown,” Mr. Trump tweeted Friday evening. He had originally said it would be at 3 p.m. but his schedule later noted it would take place an hour later….

A senior administration official told CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett that Mr. Trump will present what the White House believes could be a deal to end the shutdown. The deal was largely influenced by talks between Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.

Obviously, no deal can be reached without including Democratic leaders, and it’s already clear that Trump understands there’s no crisis, or he wouldn’t have waited until day 29 of the shutdown to try to deal with it. It will be interesting to see how Nancy Pelosi responds to whatever Trump proposes. Axios’s Jonathan Swan claims to know what it will be:

President Trump plans to use remarks from the Diplomatic Reception Room on Saturday afternoon to propose a notable immigration compromise, according to sources familiar with the speech.

The offer is expected to include Trump’s $5.7 billion demand for wall money in exchange for the BRIDGE Act — which would extend protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — and also legislation to extend the legal status of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, according to a source with direct knowledge.

Jared Kushner and Mike Pence have led the crafting of this deal and the negotiations with members, according to White House officials.

Whatever. He just needs open up the government and stop acting like spoiled brat and holding the country hostage.

By Betty Pieper

Today is the “Women’s March,” and it’s not going to be anything like the one in 2017. The Washington Post:

Thousands of women from across the country gathered in the nation’s capital Saturday morning for the third annual Women’s March on Washington.

Organizers wrote in a permit application weeks ago that they expected hundreds of thousands to attend — a number similar to the 2017 march the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration — but a National Park Service permit issued Thursday indicated that about 10,000 are expected. Similar marches were planned across the country.

The 2019 march is taking place amid controversies that have dogged the national Women’s March organization, including allegations of anti-Semitism and secretive financial dealings and disputes over who gets to own and define the Women’s March. Some organizers have called for its national co-chairs to resign.

Attendees gathered at 10 a.m. at Freedom Plaza, followed at 11 a.m. by a half-mile march past the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The rally — originally planned for the Mall — will resume at 1 p.m. at Freedom Plaza with speakers and performers, then is scheduled to end at 4 p.m.

Yesterday was the oddly named “March for Life,” at which fake Christians argue that American women should be forced to bear children whether they want to or not. There was also an Indigenous People’s March in Washington yesterday, and some kids from Covington Catholic High School in Park Hill, Kentucky wearing MAGA hats chose to harass and mock the indigenous people at the Lincoln Memorial. It was ugly.

It was even worse than it looks in the video, because the boys surrounded the Native American group, pushing and bumping up against them. Here’s some video of the crowd surround the Native American demonstrators.

Here’s a Twitter thread to check out:

You can find lots more on this on Twitter. We’ll see if the school takes any action. Someone posted this news story from a Kentucky outlet, River City News: Video Appears to Show Covington Catholic Students Swarming Native American Marcher.

Multiple videos being shared extensively on social media appear to show students from Covington Catholic High School surrounding a Native American participant in the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, D.C. on Friday. The event happened at the same time as the National March for Life, an anti-abortion gathering in D.C., which was attended by Cov Cath students.

A request for comment from a spokesperson at Covington Catholic has not yet been returned. The school removed its Facebook page and made its Twitter profile private after social media users identified the students as being from Cov Cath.

Woman with a Cat, Fernand Léger (french, Argentan 1881–1955

In the videos, one student appears to stand very close to a Native American participant playing a drum as other students stand nearby shouting, chanting, and jumping around.

Many of the students in the video appear to be wearing Covington Catholic apparel, while others are wearing clothing or hats in support of President Donald Trump.

We’ll see if the school takes any action. Obviously they don’t support autonomy for women and these boys learned this horrible behavior somewhere.

Is anyone else getting sick of hearing about Beto O’Rourke? At Yahoo News, Jon Ward asks a question and struggles with the obvious answer: Why was Beto O’Rourke a national phenomenon while Stacey Abrams wasn’t?

One was a three-term congressman known for once playing in a punk band, riding a skateboard and giving an answer about structural racism that went viral.

The other was the leader of her party in a Deep South state with a long history of racial discrimination who had spent years mobilizing people of color to register to vote and whose opponent was overseeing the election while erecting numerous obstacles to voting that disproportionately affected her supporters.

If one of these résumés seems more impressive than the other, you’d be forgiven for wondering why Texas’s Beto O’Rourke, the politician with the decidedly thinner personal story, became a national sensation while Georgia’s Stacey Abrams did not.

Let’s see, young charismatic (to some) white man vs. strong, intelligent, powerful black woman. What could be the explanation for why of of these two got so much more media attention than the other? I just can’t quite put my finger on it.

Way down in the story Ward finally gets to the race issue and just glances on the gender issue. Here’s sample:

By Nikolay Radulov

One staffer to a Democratic governor who was not allowed to be quoted by name said, “We have a very narrow mindset of what electable means, and a tall, white dude who is semifluent when speaking to minorities checks all of those boxes.”

“Stacey Abrams is the opposite of everything we count as electable: She’s black, she’s a woman, she’s in debt and honest about it, has incarcerated family,” the staffer said.

Teddy Goff, who worked for both Obama campaigns as a top digital adviser and also advised Clinton in 2016, tweeted more than a week before the election last fall: “I love Beto, but Stacey Abrams is the most talented Democrat running this year and we would all be talking about her (even) more if so many people didn’t tacitly view women and people of color as having less potential or being less ‘presidential.’”

“You look at Beto, and it’s easy to slot him into a framework of being president. It’s not to his discredit to wonder why don’t we think of President Stacey Abrams,” Goff told Yahoo News.

I’ll end with this piece by Noah Bierman on why Trump is such a terrible dealmaker–he’s the boy who cried wolf. The LA Times: Why can’t Trump make deals? No one trusts him anymore.

Sen. Mitch McConnell was jolted with a fresh reminder of President Trump’s capriciousness last month: The majority leader persuaded Republican colleagues to take a politically difficult vote to temporarily fund the government, but not a border wall, only to see Trump withdraw support — initiating the longest shutdown in history.

House Republicans learned the same lesson early in Trump’s presidency when he rallied them to repeal Obamacare, then described their effort as “mean.”

As Trump reaches the halfway mark of his term on Sunday, he has left a trail of negotiating partners from both chambers of Congress, both political parties and countries around the world feeling double-crossed and even lied to.

The result is that the president who campaigned as the world’s best deal-maker, vowing that he alone could fix Washington’s dysfunction, has been stymied as he looks for achievements before facing the voters again. Two years in, the man who built a political reputation as a guy who tells it like it is has lost the essential ingredients to closing deals: credibility and trust.

Read the rest at the LA Times.

So . . . what else is happening? What stories have you been following?


Friday Reads: Smoking Canons

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

This promises to be another of those weeks where we breach the outer limits of Republican tolerance of presidential criminality. We have yet more evidence and smoking guns combined with the cunning of a very wise Amy Klobucher who  got the incoming AG to admit that a president that suborns perjury is a president that commits high crimes and misdemeanors. But then we knew that. It is exactly what finally got Nixon out of the Oval Office way back when I was busy graduating from high school.

Not only do we know that Michael Cohen can testify to these acts but it’s corraborated by hard evidence. He admitted to his complicity after he was shown hard evidence.  This Buzz Feed article that dropped late last night may be the signal of the end of the Trump Family Crime Syndicate. 

Here’s the Headline and lede: “President Trump Directed His Attorney Michael Cohen To Lie To Congress About The Moscow Tower Project. Trump received 10 personal updates from Michael Cohen and encouraged a planned meeting with Vladimir Putin.”

And even as Trump told the public he had no business deals with Russia, the sources said Trump and his children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen, whom they put in charge of the project.

Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying about the deal in testimony and in a two-page statement to the Senate and House intelligence committees. Special counsel Robert Mueller noted that Cohen’s false claim that the project ended in January 2016 was an attempt to “minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1” — widely understood to be Trump — “in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.”

Now the two sources have told BuzzFeed News that Cohen also told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie — by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did — in order to obscure Trump’s involvement.

The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents. Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office.

This revelation is not the first evidence to suggest the president may have attempted to obstruct the FBI and special counsel investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

But Cohen’s testimony marks a significant new frontier: It is the first known example of Trump explicitly telling a subordinate to lie directly about his own dealings with Russia.

On the campaign trail, Trump vehemently denied having any business interests in Russia. But behind the scenes, he was pushing the Moscow project, which he hoped could bring his company profits in excess of $300 million. The two law enforcement sources said he had at least 10 face-to-face meetings with Cohen about the deal during the campaign.

As Jonathan Chait writes at NY Mag, “Trump Ordered Michael Cohen to Perjure Himself. It’s Even Worse Than It Sounds.”  Remember Senator Amy Klobucher’s questions for William Barr?  Yup, she trapped him into going on record on this very behavior.

1. Attorney General William Barr has already defined this behavior as obstruction of justice. In the secret memo Barr wrote to the Department of Justice questioning Robert Mueller’s obstruction inquiry, Barr allowed that of course it was possible the president could obstruct justice if he did something incredibly obvious, such as instruct people to lie in sworn testimony:

At his Senate confirmation hearings, Barr reiterated that suborning perjury would obviously constitute obstruction.

So whatever legal shield Trump believes he is getting in Barr will not help him escape this allegation.

Yes, all those folks saying Senator Klobuchar was a little relaxed with her questions can now go eat shit.  She was laying a nice little trap there and he walked straight into it.  It makes me wonder if it was women’s intution, the skill of a seasoned prosecutor or student of political history, or a bit of the old insider information.  Any which way, it was a brilliant snap of a trap!

Adam Sewer–writing for The Atlantic–believes this is a “straightforwardly impeachable offense”.  If only the Republicans will act.  It is probably a matter of getting the insane base off of their Fox News habit.  Fox News lies are the addiction that is killing our democracy and rule of law.

While evidence that the Trump campaign sought to assist the Russian effort to interfere in the 2016 election, and that the president then sought to hamper the federal investigation into that effort, has been in public view for some time, evidence that the president directed Cohen to lie to Congress would be something different entirely, a claim that the president conspired to commit a crime in pursuit of personal financial gain. Republicans have tried their best to set expectations so that only the clearest and most shocking of acts would qualify as criminal—and Trump’s reported actions not only meet but exceed them.

The report, if verified, provides a potentially simple narrative for a story that has often seemed complicated: Trump sought to profit from a real-estate deal in Moscow, and so defended Russia against accusations of interference, and then directed his personal attorney to commit perjury to cover up what he had done.

Obstruction of justice and perjury are crimes that turn on state of mind, but the details in the BuzzFeed News report would leave Trump with few defenses. “If President Trump instructed Michael Cohen to testify to Congress, giving an account of the Russia project that Trump knew to be false, that’s obstruction of justice,” said Bruce Green, a law professor at Fordham and a former associate counsel in the Iran-Contra investigation. “It’s hard to imagine that Trump would have had an innocent ‘state of mind.’ The only viable legal defense would be ‘It didn’t happen.’”

During the 2016 election, U.S. intelligence agencies have said, the Russian government ordered a campaign of disinformation and hacking designed to hamper the candidacy of Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, and to help put Trump in the White House. The theft and release of emails from the Democratic National Committee and from the Clinton adviser John Podesta were major factors in the election—damaging Clinton’s reputation and altering the news cycle during periods in which the Trump campaign was dealing with negative coverage, and ultimately affecting what turned out to be a startlingly close election in which Trump failed to win the popular vote. Throughout the election, and even his presidency, Trump has used his influence to dismiss the conclusion of American intelligence agencies that the Russian government was responsible for the hacking.

Shortly after becoming president, Trump pressured then–FBI Director James Comey to end an investigation into Trump’s former campaign surrogate and national-security adviser, Michael Flynn, who had lied to federal investigators about his contacts with Russian officials. Comey refused and was later fired by Trump. Although the Trump administration initially said Comey was fired for improperly disclosing information about the federal investigation into Clinton’s handling of classified emails, he later told Russian officials in the Oval Office and an NBC reporter in a televised interview that he had done so because of the Russia investigation. Trump publicly fumed that his choice for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, had recused himself from that investigation after misleading Congress about his contacts with the Russian ambassador, rather than protecting Trump.

Republicans have been deaf dumb and blind to the orange pinball.  Congressional Democrats are preparing an investigation (via AP).

The Democratic chairmen of two House committees pledged Friday to investigate a report that President Donald Trump directed his personal attorney to lie to Congress about negotiations over a real estate project in Moscow during the 2016 election.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said “we will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true.” He said the allegation that Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie in his 2017 testimony to Congress “in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date.”

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, said directing a subordinate to lie to Congress is a federal crime.

“The @HouseJudiciary Committee’s job is to get to the bottom of it, and we will do that work,” Nadler tweeted.

It will be interesting to watch the minority members response as the committee hearings unfold.

Susan Glasser’s thought piece in The  New Yorker Is worth a read. “Are We Really Where We Are?”: Trump, Putin, and Washington’s Unbelievable New Normal. Regardless of whether Trump ends up making a speech on Capitol Hill on January 29th, the state of the union is not strong, and everyone knows it.”

Sunday will mark the second anniversary of Donald Trump’s Presidency. The U.S. government has been partially shut down for weeks, with no end in sight. The White House is on its third chief of staff, nearly a half-dozen Cabinet seats are empty, and the First Daughter Ivanka, previously known for her fashionable yet affordable line of high heels, appears to be in charge of picking the new head of the World Bank. Since the Defense Secretary quit, in protest over Trump’s withdrawal from Syria, the President has been reported to be unilaterally considering pulling out of Afghanistan and the nato alliance, as well. Congressional Democrats, days into their new House majority, are talking about impeachment, and their leader, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, effectively disinvited Trump from giving the annual State of the Union address, citing the shutdown. This past Friday, we learned, via the Times, that the F.B.I. opened a counterintelligence investigation of Trump to determine whether he was a Russian intelligence asset.

On Monday, which marked a year and three hundred and fifty-nine days since his Inauguration, President Trump had his “I am not a crook” moment. All weekend, he had avoided giving even a simple denial of what, for any other American President, would have been an unimaginable revelation. Now, on the snow-covered White House drive, after discoursing on the fast-food hamburgers he planned to serve the Clemson University football team that night, Trump told reporters, “I never worked for Russia.” He added, “Not only did I never work for Russia, I think it’s a disgrace that you even asked that question because it’s a whole big fat hoax.”

Regardless of whether Trump ends up making his speech on Capitol Hill, which is scheduled for January 29th, the state of the union is not strong, and everyone knows it. Almost every day since Trump was elected, someone, somewhere, has asked if this is the constitutional crisis we have been waiting for. Was his firing of the F.B.I. director, James Comey, in what seemed to be an effort to stop the investigation into his campaign, the constitutional crisis? Or his continual talk of firing the special counsel, or his actual firing of the attorney general? Days before the midterm elections, when Trump deployed thousands of U.S. troops to the border, to combat a nonexistent “invasion” by a caravan of poor Central American migrants, I thought that might finally be the crisis. But, of course, every day of the last two years has brought something that would have previously been unthinkable. When will we finally learn that just because it is unthinkable doesn’t mean it can’t happen?

It’s really difficult to believe there isn’t enough evidence out there to end all of this and it’s really difficult to quietly sit and wait for a Mueller report that may or may not come depending on the whims of an Trump appointed AG.  However, it appears Trump’s due diligence on finding his own Roy Cohn may not have given him peace this time out.  From CNN: “Trump startled by cozy Barr-Mueller relationship”.

President Donald Trump was startled Tuesday as he watched television coverage of his nominee for attorney general describing a warm relationship with the special counsel Robert Mueller in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to three people familiar with the matter.

During the first day of his confirmation hearing, William Barr described telling the President the first time he met him in June 2017 that he was friends with Mueller, referring to him on a first name basis.

“I told him how well I knew Bob Mueller and that the Barrs and Muellers were good friends and would be good friends when this was all over,” Barr said. “Bob is a straight-shooter and should be dealt with as such.”

While Barr said during his hearing that Trump “was interested” in hearing about the friendship, the details that emerged this week caught the President off guard, the three sources said. He bristled at Barr’s description of the close relationship, complaining to aides he didn’t realize how much their work overlapped or that they were so close.

There is no indication Trump’s surprise will jeopardize the nomination, however.

Later, Trump privately rationalized the relationship between Barr and Mueller as stemming from both having worked in the Washington legal establishment for years, according to one of the people.

“I have known Bob Mueller for 30 years,” Barr said Tuesday. “We worked closely together throughout my previous tenure at the Department of Justice under President Bush. We’ve been friends since. And I have the utmost respect for Bob and his distinguished record of public service. And when he was named special counsel, I said his selection was ‘good news’ and that, knowing him, I had confidence he would handle the matter properly. And I still have that confidence today.”

On Tuesday, Barr repeatedly sought to reassure senators that he would not interfere with Mueller’s investigation, claiming he wouldn’t be “bullied” into doing anything he deemed improper.

“I am not going to do anything that I think is wrong, and I will not be bullied into doing anything I think is wrong,” Barr told the panel. “By anybody. Whether it be editorial boards, or Congress or the President. I’m going to do what I think is right.”

That doesn’t give me much peace given all the pardons doled out on his recommendations on the Iran Contra Scandal startng with Caspar Weinberger. I’m closing with this quote via NPR with the man who was charged with the prosecution.

To the man who led the Iran-Contra investigation, however, the pardons represented a miscarriage of justice.

“It demonstrates that powerful people with powerful allies can commit serious crimes in high office, deliberately abusing the public trust without consequences,” said Lawrence Walsh, the independent prosecutor in the case, at the time of the pardons.

Will any of this history repeat on us and will it be the good outcomes instead of those miscarriages of justice?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads: Trump Russia, Giuliani’s Meltdown, and Other News

Good Morning!!

Last night I was thinking about when Obama was president and we would have days when there was nothing earth shattering in politics to talk about. There would be quiet Fridays and weekends with no significant news about the government. Now there are terrifying crises in the government every single day, including weekends. If only we could go back to those relatively peaceful times! Instead we have Trump.

This morning, there are so many significant stories, that I can’t possibly get to all of them, so I’ll begin with this stunning headline from Wired: Trump Must Be a Russian Agent; The Alternative is Too Awful, by Garrett Graff.

It would be rather embarrassing for Donald Trump at this point if Robert Mueller were to declare that the president isn’t an agent of Russian intelligence.

The pattern of his pro-Putin, pro-Russia, anti-FBI, anti-intelligence community actions are so one-sided, and the lies and obfuscation surrounding every single Russian meeting and conversation are so consistent, that if this president isn’t actually hiding a massive conspiracy, it means the alternative is worse: America elected a chief executive so oblivious to geopolitics, so self-centered and personally insecure, so naturally predisposed to undermine democratic institutions and coddle authoritarians, and so terrible a manager and leader, that he cluelessly surrounded himself with crooks, grifters, and agents of foreign powers, compromising the national security of the US government and undermining 75 years of critical foreign alliances, just to satiate his own ego.

In short, we’ve reached a point in the Mueller probe where there are only two scenarios left: Either the president is compromised by the Russian government and has been working covertly to cooperate with Vladimir Putin after Russia helped win him the 2016 election—or Trump will go down in history as the world’s most famous “useful idiot,” as communists used to call those who could be co-opted to the cause without realizing it.

At least the former scenario—that the president of the United States is actively working to advance the interests of our country’s foremost, long-standing, traditional foreign adversary—would make him seem smarter and wilier. The latter scenario is simply a tragic farce for everyone involved.

We’re left here—in a place unprecedented in American political history, wondering how much worse the truth is than we already know—after four days of fresh revelations in the public drip-drip-drip of the Russia investigation. The past two months have seen the public understanding of the case advance into almost unthinkable territory. Now we’re simply trying to figure out how bad things really are.

That’s about it. And will be eventually learn that a large proportion of Republicans in Congress are also either compromised by Russia or too stupid to see that their president is? After all, they did vote yesterday to lift sanctions on Paul Manafort’s buddy Oleg Derapaska’s businesses.

And did you see Rudy Giuliani’s meltdown on CNN last night? In case you missed it:

Aaron Blake at The Washington Post: Rudy Giuliani just contradicted nearly all the Trump team’s past collusion denials.

President Trump’s legal spokesman Rudolph W. Giuliani on Wednesday night appeared to grant the possibility that members of Trump’s campaign did, in fact, collude with the Russians during the 2016 presidential election campaign.

And in the process, he contradicted dozens of previous denials that both the Trump team (and Trump himself) have offered.

“I never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign,” Giuliani told CNN’s Chris Cuomo, before getting cut off.

“Yes, you have,” Cuomo said.

Giuliani shot back: “I have not. I said ‘the president of the United States.’”

But while Giuliani himself might not have assured that nobody on the campaign colluded, others including Trump sure have. In fact, the Trump team has moved the goal posts on this question no fewer than 10 times after initially denying any contact at all with “foreign entities.” Trump has said dozens of times that there was “no collusion,” full stop. This appears to be the first time anyone has acknowledged the possibility that someone colluded without Trump’s knowledge.

Read the rest for a list of Rudy’s successive walkbacks on whether there was collusion with Russia in the Trump campaign. Is this just a response to the many revelations about Paul Manafort or is Trump getting ready to throw Don Jr. under the bus? From Raw Story:

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani’s stunning interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Wednesday night is still making waves, and a CNN panel agreed on Thursday morning that it could spell big trouble for Donald Trump Jr.

While discussing Giuliani’s latest admission that there may have been some collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russian government agents, host John Berman asked whether Trump Jr. should be worried that his father is preparing to throw him under the bus for potentially conspiring with a hostile foreign power.

“Would you be nervous if you’re Donald Trump Jr. or Jared Kushner?” Berman asked. “Did Giuliani just send a signal that… the president’s legal defense team isn’t here for you?”

“That’s what I heard,” replied New York Times reporter Astead Herndon. “Everyone under [Trump’s] level can now be considered fair game, if we’re talking about the political signaling.”

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent discussed Giuliani’s meltdown with attorney Neal Kayal.

Former acting solicitor general Neal Katyal told me that this appears to be a tacit admission of serious vulnerability — as well as an effort to lay the groundwork for a last-ditch defense of Trump, should more come out. It also makes the nonstop claims that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is leading a “witch hunt” look ridiculous.

“They’ve been saying for two years that this is a witch hunt,” Katyal told me. “As a lawyer, given the recent revelations, Giuliani now has to pivot and outline the next line of defense.”

“This is straight out of the organized-crime playbook,” Katyal continued. “The boss says, ‘There was no conspiracy.’ Then prosecutors prove there was a conspiracy between your subordinates and a criminal organization. Then the defense shifts to, ‘Okay, there was a conspiracy, but the boss didn’t know anything about it.’”

Sargent also asked Obama’s white house counsel Bob Bauer about Giuliani’s statements.

Bob Bauer, the White House counsel under former president Barack Obama, told me that Giuliani “must have some continuing hope” that Mueller cannot prove Trump knew about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, which Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Manafort attended in the expectation of gaining dirt on Hillary Clinton produced by the Russian government.

That seems unlikely, given the latest from The New York Times on Trump’s black box meetings with Vladimir Putin: Trump and Putin Have Met Five Times. What Was Said Is a Mystery. The story recounts the meetings and phone calls Trump has had with Putin, beginning right after he was elected. But here’s the highlight of the story:

The inaugural meeting [in Hamburg, Germany] came at a sensitive time. Mr. Trump’s team learned that day that one of the biggest secrets of his presidential bid was about to become public: At the height of the campaign, his son, son-in-law and campaign chairman had met at Trump Tower with Russians on the promise of obtaining dirt on Mrs. Clinton from the Russian government. Mr. Trump’s team was scrambling to respond to a request for comment by The Times.

Mr. Trump’s meeting with Mr. Putin that day lasted more than two hours. Afterward, Mr. Trump took his interpreter’s notes and instructed the interpreter not to brief anyone. Mr. Tillerson told reporters that the leaders discussed everything from Syria to Ukraine, but he also described “a very robust and lengthy exchange” on the election hacking.

A few hours later, Mr. Trump sought out Mr. Putin again during a dinner for all the leaders. Videotape later made public showed Mr. Trump pointing at Mr. Putin, who was seated across and down a long table, then pointing at himself and then making a pumping motion with his fist.

Mr. Trump later told The Times that he went over to see his wife, Melania Trump, who was sitting next to Mr. Putin, and the two leaders then talked, with Mr. Putin’s interpreter translating. No American officials were present, and the White House did not confirm the encounter until more than 10 days later, after it was independently reported.

Here’s the shocker:

The day after the two meetings, as Mr. Trump was on Air Force One taking off from Germany heading back to Washington, he telephoned a Times reporter and argued that the Russians were falsely accused of election interference. While he insisted most of the conversation be off the record, he later repeated a few things in public in little-noticed asides.

He said that he raised the election hacking three times and that Mr. Putin denied involvement. But he said Mr. Putin also told him that “if we did, we wouldn’t have gotten caught because we’re professionals.” Mr. Trump said: “I thought that was a good point because they are some of the best in the world” at hacking.

Asked how he weighed Mr. Putin’s denials against the evidence that had been presented to him by Mr. Comey; John O. Brennan, then the C.I.A. director; and James R. Clapper Jr., then director of national intelligence, he said that Mr. Clapper and Mr. Brennan were the “most political” intelligence chiefs he knew and that Mr. Comey was “a leaker.”

Later on the same flight Trump dictated a statement to the NYT about Don Jr.’s meeting with Russians at Trump Tower.

Mr. Trump huddled with aides to decide how to respond to the emerging story by other Times reporters about the Trump Tower meeting. He personally dictated a misleading statement, saying the meeting was about Russian adoptions without admitting that it was actually intended to accept Moscow’s aid for his campaign, as emails obtained by The Times later documented.

You may have seen this footage from the dinner in Hamburg, in which Trump signals to Putin and then clenches his fist. Was he signaling that he needed to talk to Putin about the NYT story?

More stories to check out:

Michael McFaul at The Washington Post: Sorry, but Trump is not ‘tough on Russia’

The Wall Street Journal: Poll-Rigging for Trump and Creating @WomenForCohen: One IT Firm’s Work Order.

The Epoch Times: EXCLUSIVE: In Closed-Door Testimony, Papadopoulos Identified Alleged Spy in Trump Campaign.

The Daily Beast: Rick Gates Tells Mueller About Trump Team’s Dealings With Israeli Intelligence Firm.

The Washington Post: North Korean spy chief’s visit to Washington shrouded in mystery.

CNN: Trump is fraying nerves inside the Pentagon.

Raw Story: Stephen Miller was writing SOTU to blame Democrats for shutdown — until Nancy Pelosi pulled the rug out: report.

So . . . what stories are you following today?


Wednesday Reads: Nyet?

 

Cartoon by Jen Sorensen - No Government, No Problem!

No Government, No Problem!: 01/16/2019 Cartoon by Jen Sorensen

Good afternoon.

Just cartoons today…

Trump Agent: 01/15/2019 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - Trump Agent

Russian Agent: 01/16/2019 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Russian Agent

 

01/16/2019 Cartoon by Jimmy Margulies

Cartoon by Jimmy Margulies -

01/15/2019 Cartoon by Jimmy Margulies

Cartoon by Jimmy Margulies -

01/15/2019 Cartoon by Joe Heller

Cartoon by Joe Heller -

01/16/2019 Cartoon by MStreeter

Cartoon by MStreeter -

White Supremacy: 01/15/2019 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - White Supremacy

Boy Who Cried: 01/11/2019 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Boy Who Cried

Emergency: 01/10/2019 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Emergency

01/16/2019 Cartoon by Gary Varvel

Cartoon by Gary Varvel -

How the mighty have fallen: 01/16/2019 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - How the mighty have fallen

Unlikable: 01/09/2019 Cartoon by Jen Sorensen

Cartoon by Jen Sorensen - Unlikable

Duterte and the Road to Authoritarianism: 01/16/2019 Cartoon by Angelo Lopez

Cartoon by Angelo Lopez - Duterte and the Road to Authoritarianism

01/15/2019 Cartoon by Matt Wuerker

Cartoon by Matt Wuerker -

01/15/2019 Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson

Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson -

01/16 Mike Luckovich: Now frowned upon

01/15 Mike Luckovich: Earn cash fast

 

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Day 723: But is it work if you love doing it? #asshatasset #trumpcrimefamily #putinpuppet #magaisformorons #thedailydon

A post shared by Jesse Duquette (@the.daily.don) on

 

View this post on Instagram

Day 724: When the FDA has to cut down on food inspections because of your tantrum shutdown, you gotta rebrand your berders. #berdercontrol #magaisformorons #trumpliterate #thedailydon

A post shared by Jesse Duquette (@the.daily.don) on

 

01/16/2019 Cartoon by MStreeter

Cartoon by MStreeter -

This is an open thread….