Tuesday Reads: Trump Vs. Pence and Hillary Clinton Speaks Out on Anti-Semitism

Stand Up for Science Rally in Boston, Feb. 17, 2017

The crowd at the Stand Up for Science Rally in Copley Square Boston, Feb. 17, 2017

Good Morning!!

The photos in this post are from the Stand Up for Science Rally in Boston on Friday.

How bad is the tRump presidency? Elderly people who remember great presidents like FDR are dissing tRump in their obituaries. Liz Smith of Norwalk, Ohio, died on Feb. 13. From her obit:

She was born June 12, 1929 in Pittsburgh, PA to the late Leo N. and Cathrine (Picker) Hierholzer. She was a graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania and received her Bachelor’s of Science in Music Education. She was a switchboard operator for many years. She was a lifetime member of Girl Scouts USA and was a 45 year volunteer for Erie Shores Girl Scout Council, and for 25 years she was a driving force behind Norwalk’s Girl Scout Day Camp. She was a recipient of the Thanks Badge, which is the highest award in Girl Scouting. She volunteered for the United Fund, Salvation Army soup kitchen, participated in crop walk, visited shut-ins at nursing homes, was an MDA Volunteer and a member of Huron County Democratic Party and a poll worker. She was an active member of St. Mary Catholic Church and served on parish council, renovation committee, finance council, funeral luncheons and parish festival committees , office aide at St. Mary’s, former Eucharistic minister and liaison for the Toledo Diocesan Association for the parish. She enjoyed traveling, especially to Yellowstone Park and heli-hiking in the Canadian Rockies, white water rafting on the New River in West Virginia and the Snake River in Idaho, Orient Express trip from Vienna to Paris, entire tour of Nova Scotia including Cape Breton. Liz is smiling now, not to be living during the Trump Presidency.

She isn’t the only one. See more at Indy100.

Boston, MA -- 2/19/2017 -  A dog named Louis Vuitton wears an Alternative Fact sweater as scientists, science advocates and community members rally in Copley Square.  (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff) Topic: 20scientists Reporter:

Boston, MA — 2/19/2017 – A dog named Louis Vuitton wears an Alternative Fact sweater as scientists, science advocates and community members rally in Copley Square. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
Topic: 20scientists
Reporter:

Over the weekend, VP Mike Pence and Defense Sec. James Mattis were travelling around the world trying to convince U.S. allies that they–not the actual president–speak for our country. Today Reuters reports that the “White House delivered EU-skeptic message before Pence visit – sources.”

In the week before U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited Brussels and pledged America’s “steadfast and enduring” commitment to the European Union, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon met with a German diplomat and delivered a different message, according to people familiar with the talks.

Bannon, these people said, signalled to Germany’s ambassador to Washington that he viewed the EU as a flawed construct and favoured conducting relations with Europe on a bilateral basis.

Three people who were briefed on the meeting spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter. The German government and the ambassador, Peter Wittig, declined to comment, citing the confidentiality of the talks.

A White House official who checked with Bannon in response to a Reuters query confirmed the meeting had taken place but said the account provided to Reuters was inaccurate. “They only spoke for about three minutes and it was just a quick hello,” the official said.

The sources described a longer meeting in which Bannon took the time to spell out his world view. They said his message was similar to the one he delivered to a Vatican conference back in 2014 when he was running the right-wing website Breitbart News.

In those remarks, delivered via Skype, Bannon spoke favourably about European populist movements and described a yearning for nationalism by people who “don’t believe in this kind of pan-European Union.

“Western Europe, he said at the time, was built on a foundation of “strong nationalist movements”, adding: “I think it’s what can see us forward”.

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Who should we believe: multiple sources who spoke to Reuters or the the lying White House? This morning Anita Kumar of Reuters (via The Miami Herald) asks how long Pence will have influence on policy: Pence has clout in Trump White House, but for how long?

Donald Trump has given Pence, whose connections, conservative credentials and knowledge of policy far outstrip those of his boss, a role that has him at the president’s elbow every day, relying on Pence to navigate Washington in ways that other modern presidents have not needed.

Pence is in the Oval Office when Trump calls foreign leaders. He’s in the room when the president meets with business executives, county sheriffs and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He’s there holding the executive orders after the president signs them. And he always has the best seat in the house when Trump holds a news conference.

Trump likens himself to a CEO who surrounds himself with multiple advisers, and it’s clear right now that Trump feels comfortable having Pence around. But observers caution it may not end up that way, as the new White House shakes itself out and other advisers learn the ways of Washington.

“Everything is going to depend on who Donald Trump believes is trustworthy,” said Leslie Lenkowsky, a former professor at Indiana University who has known Pence for two decades.

Pence’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump and Pence didn’t know each other well before Trump tapped him to be his running mate last summer. Pence had endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, for president just days before the crucial Indiana primary and had criticized Trump for, among others things, calling for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country.

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Kumar isn’t specific about what she thinks might lead to a break between tRump and Pence, but after this weekend, I think Americans and Europeans are wondering when Pence will be sent to the doghouse.

The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin (via The Chicago Tribune) asks: Will it soon be Donald Trump vs. Mike Pence?

Trump, like most demagogues, needs an enemy — the elites, the press, Clinton. If he had to survive on his own merits and accomplishments, he’d flop. Press or Trump? Clinton or Trump? It’s all a tactic to keep his own popularity high, or as high as it can be.

Alas, the technique has not really paid off since people tend to judge presidents in office on what they do in office. Trump’s historically horrendous approval numbers (38 approve, 56 disapprove in Gallup; Pew had a nearly identical split, 39/56.) As Trump’s performance sends more voters, and lawmakers, reeling and the investigation of his and his aides’ ties to Russia get underway, we should remember how critical Vice President Mike Pence becomes. If things get really bad — impeachment or some 25th Amendment “solution” — the choice will not be Trump vs. Clinton. It will be Trump vs. Pence, who’d take over if Trump left or was removed. Uh-oh. Pence is in positive territory (43/39 in the Pollster.com average), and among Republicans, especially those on Capitol Hill, he’s exceptionally popular.

In other words, if down the road the president continues to unravel, there may be a very big bipartisan consensus to show Trump the door. It’s not like they’d be getting Clinton; they’d be getting the not erratic, not flashy, not crazy Mike Pence.

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Speaking of Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady, Secretary of State, and presidential candidate has spoken out about Trump’s refusal to condemn the many anti-Semitic threats and attacks around the country. The Washington Post: After weekend of anti-Semitic acts, Clinton urges Trump to ‘speak out.’

Hillary Clinton called on President Trump on Tuesday to speak out against anti-Semitic vandalism and threats after more than 170 Jewish graves were found toppled at a cemetery in Missouri.

A tweet from Clinton did not specifically mention the gravesite disturbances in University City, Mo., but noted increasing reports of “troubling” threats against Jewish community centers, cemetery desecrations and online intimidation.

She urged her former presidential campaign rival to lead denunciations amid complains by critics that the White House has not spoken out forcefully enough against anti-Semitic acts.

And what do you know? Trump has finally said something, according to Politico: Trump calls anti-Semitism ‘horrible.’

President Donald Trump on Tuesday decried anti-Semitism, calling recent threats against Jewish community centers “horrible” and a “reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.”

“This tour was a meaningful reminder of why we ha ave to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms,” Trump said Tuesday, delivering brief remarks after visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture for the first time. “The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.

”Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton had called on Trump earlier Tuesday to speak out against anti-Semitic violence, an issue he side-stepped at his press conference last week….

Ahead of his brief address, the president had told MSNBC’s Craig Melvin that “anti-Semitism is horrible and it’s gonna stop and it has to stop.” He added that the racial divide in America is “age-old” and speculated that “something” is going on that prevents the country from fully healing.

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Yeah, “something” is definitely going on–a bunch of ignorant white people elected a racist POTUS. The ADL had also called on tRump to speak out. It really doesn’t seem like enough to me, but it’s a start. Here’s a summary of what’s been happening from HuffPo: Jewish Community Centers Across the Country Hit with Another Wave of Bomb Threats.

Forcing evacuations in ten states Monday. There have been 67 incidents at 56 Jewish community centers in 27 states and one Canadian province since the start of 2017. Vandals also toppled over 100 headstones at a prominent Jewish cemetery in St. Louis. Ivanka Trump, who converted to Judaism, tweeted about the incidentsMonday, and not all of Twitter was pleased.

Here’s a report on the vandalizing of a the Jewish cemetery from The St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Up to 200 headstones damaged at Jewish cemetery, director says.

Anita Feigenbaum, executive director of the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, said officials will be cataloging the damage Tuesday and notifying relatives whose families are affected. A monument company will decide which headstones need to be replaced and which need to be reset, she said.

Feigenbaum was emotional in describing the damage she saw.

“It’s hard to even express how terrible it was,” she said Tuesday morning. “It was horrible.”

Police are investigating the vandalism, which happened sometime over the weekend. No arrests had been made, as of Tuesday. Asked whether the incident is being investigated as a hate crime, Detective Lt. Fredrick Lemons II said police were keeping all options open….

The damage was done to an older part of the cemetery, on the southeast end. In one swath, for example, spread across about 40 yards, two dozen stones are toppled but 10 rows of stones nearby are untouched. A semicircle of destruction included stones marked with names of Schaefer, Weisman, Weinstein, Pearl and Levinson, but one headstone in the middle, with the name Levy, was unscathed. The years of death on these stones ranged from about 1921 to 1962.

Visitors streamed in to see if their family stones were pushed over.

Trump and the Bannon crowd own this.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!


Monday Reads: Kremlin Caligula and the Kremlin Klan

putin-and-trump-and-hacking-cartoon-sack-1The saga of the Glasnost Menagerie continues.

And so we begin another Week of America Held Hostage with more news about the connections between the the current Presidential Usurper and his handlers in Moscow.

There are a few places where this story is being completely investigated.  For one, I don’t think Congresswoman Maxine Waters is going to let go of anything despite all the Republican Sandbagging.   TBogg–writing for Raw Story–summarizes Waters’ Sunday appearance on MSNBC.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) leveled serious charges against the Trump White House on Sunday, saying U.S. policies toward Russia are being driven by what she called the “Kremlin clan” more interested in oil and personal business than U.S. needs.

Appearing on MSNBC with host Alex Witt, the California congresswoman said Trump’s recent attacks on the media are a way to delegitimize their reporting on his Russian connections.

Waters’ claims came just before the New York Times released a bombshell report stating that Trump insiders and associates were working on a plan to blackmail Ukraine President Petro O. Poroshenko in an effort to make the Obama-era sanctions disappear.

“Donald Trump is so outrageous that he thinks he can get away with saying anything,” Waters explained. “And he’s trying to get his supporters to believe that the media is lying on him because the facts are going to come out about him, his involvement with Russia, his involvement with Russia during the campaign and the connection between those around him and Putin and the Kremlin. And he’s trying to get his supporters to believe that when they hear this, it’s going to be a big lie because the media cannot be trusted, that somehow they are against the people.”

According to Waters, Trump is worried his supporters will start to put two and two together as more Russia revelations come out, including those involving the people he has surrounded himself with.

“They see that Flynn, who he had to fire, was talking with Russia about sanctions with the Russian ambassador,” she explained. “I believe that [Secretary of State] Tillerson, who was the CEO of Exxon, has as his highest priority getting rid of the sanctions. Don’t forget, he is the one who negotiated the deal with Russia to drill in the Arctic and that was stopped because Obama placed sanctions on them and they couldn’t proceed with that. And so Tillerson, who has this great relationship with Putin, is going to do everything that he can to lift those sanctions and that’s going to be their Achilles heel.”

Waters then said that Tillerson is just one part of what she calls the “Kremlin clan,” and that it begins at the top with Trump.

“Why does he like Putin so much?” Waters asked. “Why does he defend them? And I think it’s all connected to what I call the Kremlin Klan. All of these people around him that are connected to oil and gas in the Kremlin and Ukraine. It’s all about them. Just think about it. Manafort, his campaign manager, and who had to leave because it was determined that he had connections to the Kremlin and to the Ukraine and whether you’re talking about him or Roger Stone or some of the others, they are all about oil and gas and they thought that if they elected Trump, that somehow they were going to have someone friendly to them that would help lift these sanctions and this Kremlin clan are all going to benefit from it.”

trumptoon02Kremlin Caligula has a lot of explaining to do but was probably too wrapped up by his angry tirades and Swedish conspiracy theories to think he may be subject to any inquiry. Matthew Yglesias at Vox has 33 questions that somebody needs to answer.

What we have instead are a lot of small, unanswered questions. Questions about Flynn’s behavior and the circumstances of his firing. Questions about the behavior of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and the circumstances of his firing. Questions about enigmatic remarks made by longtime Trump associate and veteran political operative Roger Stone. Questions about an obscure American businessman named Carter Page who maybe — or maybe not — worked for some time with the Trump campaign.

But there are also longstanding questions about the opaque financing of the Trump Organization, and about why its founder and owner has been so reluctant to engage in normal levels of financial disclosure. And most of all, there are questions about Trump’s highly unorthodox attitudes toward Russia, its government, and its leader, Vladimir Putin.

Go check them out.  It’s a long and intriguing set of entanglements and loose ends.  Joseph Cannon has a great set of links and reads on the topic too.

If Josh Marshall has read the tea leaves correctly, Sater may soon become a household name. Sater, Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and the Putin government have been hammering out a Ukraine peace plan, which Sater gave to General Flynn just before his resignation. Why is this shocking? Because — as indicated above — Sater is a shady, sleazy character, and Trump has been trying to pretend that he has no real links to the guy.

donald-trump-cartoon-w-putin-imageWhat’s really triggered the new intrigue was a Time magazine article that dropped the name Felix Sater. The article cited by Cannon on TPM.  Josh Marshall has a good deal of questions on a guy who may become a household world for sleazeball.  There’s no doubt in my mind that T-Rump sees himself as some kind of global oligarch in the Russian model.  Putin is thought to be the wealthiest man on earth.  Is Kremlin Caligula looking to set up self up similarly by pilfering US assets?

After the lawyers got involved, Trump said he barely knew who Sater was. But there is voluminous evidence that Sater, a Russian emigrant, was key to channeling Russian capital to Trump for years. Sater is also a multiple felon and at least a one-time FBI informant. Bayrock Capital, where he worked was located in Trump Tower and he himself worked as a special advisor to Trump. Again, read the Times article to get a flavor of his ties to Trump, the Trump SoHo project and Russia. For my money there’s no better place to start to understand the Trump/Russia issue.

On its own, Trump’s relationship with Sater might be written off (albeit not terribly plausibly) as simply a sleazy relationship Trump entered into to get access to capital he needed to finance his projects. Whatever shadowy ties Sater might have and whatever his criminal background, Trump has long since washed his hands of him. (Again, we’re talking about most generous reads here.)

But now we learn that Sater is still very much in the Trump orbit and acting as a go-between linking Trump and a pro-Putin Ukrainian parliamentarian pitching ‘peace plans’ for settling the dispute between Russia and Ukraine. (Artemenko is part of the political faction which Manafort helped build up in the aftermath of the ouster of his Ukrainian benefactor, deposed President Viktor Yanukovych.) Indeed, far, far more important, Cohen – who is very close to Trump and known for dealing with delicate matters – is in contact with Sater and hand delivering political and policy plans from him to the President.

Here’s something astounding from WAPO.  This certainly makes Watergate look like a Piker’s Ball.  You have to wonder what kind of stuff the Kremlin hackers got from the RNC and exactly who’s little gonads are swinging in the wind if it’s released.

President Trump’s personal lawyer and a former business associate met privately in New York City last month with a member of the Ukrainian parliament to discuss a peace plan for that country that could give Russia long-term control over territory it seized in 2014 and lead to the lifting of sanctions against Moscow.

The meeting with Andrii V. Artemenko, the Ukrainian politician, involved Michael Cohen, a Trump Organization lawyer since 2007, and Felix Sater, a former business partner who worked on real estate projects with Trump’s company.

The occurrence of the meeting, first reported Sunday by the New York Times, suggests that some in the region aligned with Russia have been seeking to use Trump business associates as an informal conduit to a new president who has signaled a desire to forge warmer relations with Russia. The discussion took place amid increasingly intense scrutiny of the ties between Trump’s team and Russia, as well as escalating investigations on Capitol Hill of the determination by U.S. intelligence agencies that the Kremlin intervened in last year’s election to help Trump.

The Times reported that Cohen said he left the proposal in a sealed envelope in the office of then-national security adviser Michael T. Flynn while visiting Trump in the White House. The meeting took place days before Flynn’s resignation last week following a report in The Washington Post that he had misled Vice President Pence about his discussions in December of election-related sanctions with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

Cohen, speaking with The Post on Sunday, acknowledged that the meeting took place and that he had left with the peace proposal in hand.

But Cohen said he did not take the envelope to the White House and did not discuss it with anyone. He called suggestions to the contrary “fake news.”

“I acknowledge that the brief meeting took place, but emphatically deny discussing this topic or delivering any documents to the White House and/or General Flynn,” Cohen said. He said he told the Ukrainian official that he could send the proposal to Flynn by writing him at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

download-2New York Magazine points this interesting thing out amid all the spooks and spies.  Least we forget the Golden Showers moments and the former spy who has definitely gone into hiding.

A controversial and unverified dossier assembled by a former British intelligence agent alleged that Cohen had discussed Russia’s hacking of Democratic Party computer systems with a Russian official in Prague during Trump’s campaign, but Cohen and the Russian official have both denied that allegation. Sater had apparently been working on a plan for a Trump Tower in Moscow that was halted on account of Trump’s presidential campaign. Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall, for what it’s worth, thinks Sater’s inclusion in the report is a very big deal, since Sater was at the center of the Trump Soho development project in Manhattan, which Marshall notes was the Trump project with the most Russia-linked shadiness.

I don’t know about you but all of this has me extremely nervous.  As David Corn of MoJo puts it:

Every time we turn around, there’s something new linking Trump to Russia. Just a few days ago, FBI Director James Comey briefed the Senate Intelligence committee about the ongoing investigation of Team Trump and its ties to Russia, and all the chatter afterward was about how the senators seemed kind of shaken by what they heard.

Who knows? Maybe it all turns out to be nothing. But there sure is a lot of smoke out there. It’s hard to believe there isn’t a fire too.

Economic Gain?  Blackmail?  Affinity for fellow thugs?  Who knows what the motivations are for all of this.  All I know is that our country is on the losing end of all this and I would hate to for us sell our allies out for rubles.

 

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: What Sweden?

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Yup, that cartoon is correct. tRump taking a dump on democracy.

I write this with a lingering migraine and depression that is going through the roof. So since my fingers can barely move without the will to make them…here are a few links to look through this afternoon.

 

 

 

Above are two promos for a new video on Maya Angelou…via PBS. It looks good…take a peek at that.

Flint water linked to Legionnaires’ outbreak, CDC findings may suggest.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention genetic testing may help prove that untreated Flint River water contributed to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in and around the city, the MLive site reports.

More than 100 individuals, of whom 12 have died, have contracted the bacterial disease in the Flint area since the outbreak began in 2014. Michigan state officials suspected in early 2015 that Legionnaires’ cases may have been linked to Flint’s 2014 decision to begin using the Flint River as a source of tap water but didn’t make that suspicion public until nine months later. City, state, and federal officials’ failures to properly treat and monitor Flint’s tap water after the Flint River switch are also believed to have caused an epidemic of lead contamination.

The relevant CDC test found that a sample of water taken from the McLaren Flint hospital matched a sample taken from a Legionnaires’ patient who is not known to have received services at the hospital. The reason that’s important is because the state of Michigan is attempting to make the argument, disputed by McLaren officials, that the high number of Legionnaires’ cases during the outbreak that involved the hospital were attributable to the failures of its own internal water system. If bacteria found at McLaren match a patient who never spent time there, however, one logical possibility is that both the McLaren sample and the patient sample derive from a third, original source—like untreated Flint River water.

Eight Signs That Someone Is a White Terrorist – Juan Cole – Truthdig

1. If you appoint yourself to carry out surveillance of a mosque congregation who have never given any evidence of being violent, you might be a white terrorist.

2. If you don’t know the difference between gentle Sufi mysticism and violent extremism, you might be a white terrorist.

3. If you plot to burn down a mosque, you might be a white terrorist.

The rest of the 8 signs at the link….

From Newsweek, via Reuters: FBI Pursuing at Least 3 Separate Probes of Russian Hacking

And one more, this one about James Comey Has Some Goddamn Explaining to Do | GQ

It is four days old, but still ask important questions.

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Now for some recent links on this Swedish thing…

‘Sweden, who would believe this?’: Trump cites non-existent terror attack | US news | The Guardian

Trump invents Sweden Terror Attack, Lies about Immigrant Crime | Informed Comment

But it looks like tRump was just watching crap FoxNews again:

 

 

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Here are 21 facts that explain who Trump mouthpiece Stephen Miller really is

Even among the right-wing ideologues doing the actual presidenting in this administration, Stephen Miller stands out for the copious amounts of Kool-Aid he mainlines. Speaking to the New York Times, a Trump team colleague described Miller as “fiercely loyal” to the president, “a true believer in every sense of the word.” Though he joined the campaign in its early days, penning many of the apocalyptic speeches that won fear-drunk Republican hearts and minds, Miller recently got a lot more visibility after a string of television appearances in defense of the Muslim ban. At each stop, Miller showed a flair for the dramatic: he lied, he dodged, he put on his best tyrant’s voice and proclaimed the executive branch above the law. It seemed contrived and forced, like a politically precocious, weasley teenager’s idea of how to command a crowd. According to those who know Miller’s history, that’s not so far off the mark.

In other asshole news: Milo Yiannopoulos to give keynote address at CPAC next week: reports

Two stories with some legal notes:

Republicans Are Using An Arcane Tool To Handcuff Federal Agencies | The Huffington Post

Americans discover a new must-read for the Trump age: the US constitution | US news | The Guardian

And an article about tRump’s emotional state: Trump has ‘cabin fever’ in White House – Business Insider

This little story from NYTs: Opening the Heart’s Floodgates, With a Paw – The New York Times

I could not read the whole thing. Right now I am in a fix, I wanted to adopt this little mutt puppy that was born on the night we thought my mother was dying…back the day after Christmas.  But, now…my mom and dad are refusing to let me bring her home. My mom would be okay with another pug puppy…a 2000.00 pug puppy, but not the puppy that I’ve gotten attached to over the past 2 months. Anyway…that is that.

 

That is all for today, this is an open thread.


Lazy Saturday Reads

Resurrection, by Alma Thomas

Resurrection, by Alma Thomas

Good Afternoon!!

It’s day 29 of the illegimate presidency of Donald tRump and the chaos continues unabated. There are hundreds of stories I could share with you today, and it’s difficult to figure out which is most worthy of attention. I believe that Russian influence on our government has to be number one, but there are many other urgent issues as well. We can’t ignore the truly frightening story of what tRump is trying to do to undocumented immigrants. Of course there really are many more serious concerns, such as tRump’s refusal to accept advice from experts and his war on the free press. So here are a few stories to check out and I hope you’ll add more in the comments.

First, here’s a follow-up to what Dakinikat wrote yesterday about the increasingly public concerns about tRump’s mental health from Dr. Steven Beutler at The New Republic: A Medical Theory for Donald Trump’s Bizarre Behavior. In response to the many questions asked by political leaders, psychologists, and psychiatrists, he writes:

Physicians like me have also taken notice of Trump’s bizarre, volatile behavior. Given our experience, we can’t help but wonder if there’s a medical diagnosis to be made. After all, many medical conditions exhibit their first symptoms in the form of psychiatric issues and personality changes. One condition in particular is notable for doing so: Neurosyphilis.

Syphilis, a sexually transmitted infection, is sometimes referred to as “The Great Imposter” because of its ability to mimic many other conditions. It is commonly broken down into three stages. Primary syphilis is the most widely recognized form of the disease. It is characterized by the development of an ulcer, usually genital, a few weeks to a few months after sexual contact with an infected person. If the ulcer is not noticed, or not treated, it heals on its own, and the disease enters a dormant phase. But during this time, the bacteria—a spirochete called Treponema pallidum—spreads throughout the body without causing any symptoms.

Untitled, by Perle Fine

Untitled, by Perle Fine

A secondary stage of the disease is seen in some patients weeks or months later. These patients may develop a variety of systemic symptoms, such as rash, fever, and swollen glands. If not treated, the infection enters a prolonged latent phase, which can last decades. During this time, it is asymptomatic and it is not contagious. In some cases, this is followed by a tertiary stage, which is the most serious and may involve any organ in the body. It is seen 10 to 30 years after the initial infection, and is best known for causing neurologic and neuropsychiatric disease: Neurosyphilis.

The symptoms of neurosyphilis are protean, varying widely from one individual to another. Commonly recognized symptoms include irritability, loss of ability to concentrate, delusional thinking, and grandiosity. Memory, insight, and judgment can become impaired. Insomnia may occur. Visual problems may develop, including the inability of pupils to react to the light. This, along other ocular pathology, can result in photophobia, dimming of vision, and squinting. All of these things have been observed in Trump. Dementia, headaches, gait disturbances. and patchy hair loss can also be seen in later stages of syphilis.

Beutler of course admits that he cannot make a diagnosis without more information and access to tRump, but he argues that Neurosyphilis needs to be considered as a possibility along with psychological disorders because of tRump’s own public admissions about his sexual history.

Night Creatures, Lee Krasner

Night Creatures, Lee Krasner

Supposedly tRump is going to be interviewing candidates for the National Security Adviser position vacated by Michael Flynn. He has already been turned down by his top two candidates, Adm. Robert Harward and Gen. David Petraeus.

Last night Chris Hayes broke some news about the Harward turndown on his MSNBC show. Business Insider reports: Top national security adviser pick reportedly bailed after seeing Trump’s press conference.

MSNBC host Chris Hayes on Friday cited a former national security official familiar with Harward’s decision who said Harward asked that several demands be met as a condition of accepting the offer:

“Harward wanted to undo the fairly large changes the president had made to the NSC that had inserted Bannon into the process,” Hayes reported.

Citing his source, Hayes said “The White House did not offer Harward sufficient assurances that he would have such autonomy.” Harward wrote a letter declining the offer.

The White House reportedly sought to negotiate with Harward on the matter, which Harward was initially open to, Hayes said, but that changed a short time later.

Lucy, by Mary Abbott

Lucy, by Mary Abbott

On Petraeus, CBS News reports:

Sources close to retired Gen. David Petraeus say the White House eliminated the former CIA director from consideration for the open national security adviser post after he weighed in on the job during a conference in Germany this week.

“Whoever it is that would agree to take that position certainly should do so with some very, very significant assurances that he or she would have authorities over the personnel of the organization — that there would be a commitment to a disciplined process and procedures,” Petraeus said at the Munich Security Conference.

That pronouncement angered the White House as it deepened the sense the next national security adviser must assert authority over staff and the inter-agency process — highlighting the reason Vice Adm. Robert Harward refused to take the job earlier this week. Two sources confirmed to CBS News that Harward had demanded his own team, and the White House resisted.

Sources close to the situation said the White House is content for the time being with acting National Security Adviser Keith Kellogg and does not have a coherent replacement plan in place. Kellogg, a former commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, had been serving as chief of staff and executive secretary of the National Security Council when he took over as the national security adviser.

Apparently, tRump is determined to control the makeup of the NSC, including keeping Steve Bannon on the principals committee. It’s hard to imagine any experienced candidate who would accept that.

Politico: Help wanted: National security adviser who can handle the chaos.

As President Donald Trump prepares to interview more candidates this weekend, accepting the influential policy-making post that oversees a policy staff of hundreds is now widely considered a high-risk gambit, according to current and former government officials and longtime veterans of the National Security Council.

Trump will be forced to “sweeten the deal,” predicted one former Republican NSC official, in order to enlist a high-caliber replacement following the resignation of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn….

Red Ikon, by Sonia Gechtoff

Red Ikon, by Sonia Gechtoff

“I would want to know that I had direct, unimpeded access to the president whenever I felt it was necessary,” said Nicholas Rostow, who served as the top legal adviser to both Colin Powell and Brent Scowcroft when they held the post under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, respectively.

“Historically that job has been one step removed from domestic politics, and the national security adviser and his or her staff have always prided themselves on looking at things through the prism of the national interest — and therefore slightly less political than other positions,” added Rostow, who now teaches political science at Colgate University.

A former high-ranking national security official in the George W. Bush administration, citing the perils of navigating Trump’s dueling power centers, was far more blunt about the challenges awaiting Trump’s would-be national security adviser: “No serious person would take that job. It’s a recipe for disaster.”

If you’re interested in the Russia connection, I hope you had a chance to watch Joy Reid’s show this morning. She had a great segment on Russia’s reaction to the firing their obvious ally Michael Flynn. Here’s a piece Reid wrote about the situation at The Daily Beast: It’s Not Too Early to Ask: Are Even the Russians Turning on Trump?

Trump’s utility to the Russians has never been in his wackiness. It’s been in the potential for him to deliver, as President, a different U.S. foreign policy; one that deemphasizes the traditional Western alliances and frees Russia to operate in the European theater as it pleases, with lifted sanctions and a few lucrative bilateral oil deals to boot.

But Trump as President hasn’t shown any inkling of the kind of competence or political skill—or the political capital—to do any of that. Even his Secretary of State, Exxon’s Rex Tillerson, has sounded a dubious note about the extent to which the United States will allow Moscow to flex its muscle around the world, which had to be a great disappointment to his good friend, “V. Putin,” as Trump labels him in tweets, using the common Russian nomenclature….

Russian leaders seemed palpably freaked out when Gen. Michael Flynn, clearly seen as Moscow’s main man in Washington, was forced out of the Trump administration amid revelations that he conducted secret foreign policy on the phone with the Russian ambassador over Christmas, then lied to the vice president about it. It’s pretty difficult to imagine that Flynn acted without the direction, or at least the approval, of his boss, the then-incoming president.

But more alarming than the phone calls was the fact that Flynn was considered potentially compromised by a foreign power, by the Director of National Intelligence, the acting attorney general of the United States, Sally Yates, and others, and that the White House was told as much and still waited to act. Now, the Kremlin has reportedly ordered Russian media outlets to dial back their glowing Trump coverage, amid uncertainty about what comes next.

Read the whole thing at the link.

Origin,1956 by Jay Defeo. Access. #1980.24 Berkeley Art Museum and Film Archive, Berkeley, CA., USA

Origin,1956 by Jay Defeo. Access. #1980.24
Berkeley Art Museum and Film Archive, Berkeley, CA., USA

More links to explore:

The New York Times: Trump Calls the News Media the ‘Enemy of the American People.’

The Atlantic: Donald Trump’s Plan to Outsource Immigration Enforcement to Local Cops.

The New York Times: Sun, Sand and Influence: For Mar-a-Lago Members, Proximity Is Power.

The New Yorker: Michael Flynn: General Chaos.

Politico: Leaked Trump tape: ‘You are the special people.’ Exclusive audio shows how Trump lets loose at his clubs — inviting guests to join him on staff interviews.

Buzzfeed: Source Says Dr. Ben Carson “Baffled” At Firing Of HUD Staffer. One of Carson’s closest aides was fired from the agency after writings critical of Trump from October resurfaced.

NPR: Trump’s Sons Heading To Dubai As Business Interests Continue To Expand Overseas.

The New York Times: The Downfall of Kellyanne Conway.

CBS News: Trump yells at CIA director over reports intel officials are keeping info from him.

CBS News: “Chill” in flow of intelligence to Trump White House, sources say.

Politico: Trump ignores ‘the grown-ups’ in his Cabinet. Foreign policy chiefs struggle to influence a wobbly White House.

Media Matters: Anti-Semites Praise Trump For Berating Jewish Reporter And Refusing To Condemn Anti-Semitism In Press Conference.

The Washington Post: John McCain just systematically dismantled Donald Trump’s entire worldview.

Note: The images in this post are by women abstract expressionist painters.

Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers!!


Friday Reads: The Longest Month Ever …

csk9fwxw8aenfyd-1Time evidently doesn’t simply fly when you’re operating with daily emotional shock and awe and the chaotic actions of a mad king.  It zooms at super sonic levels leaving stinky vapor trails and maddening sonic booms. It also seems like it never ends. The national nightmare continues after 30 days of hyper Alt Right policies and an Administration creating havoc and chaos what ever they do and where ever they go.  Welcome to the 10 second news cycle.  We are all ADD and PTSD now.

We’re nationally exhausted. The entire civilized world is exhausted. We’re in constant need of spiked hot chocolate, a warm blanket, and a long nap.  Exactly what is it going to take for the Republicans to eliminate this massive onslaught of threats to life as the planet and country has known it?  How much more of this are they going to foist on us so that their theocrats and plutocrats can tear down their pet institutions and feel secure for the time being in their enclaves of privilege?

trump-machineWill this entire Democratic experience die on a cross of religious bigotry and greed while Hair Furor parties on in his Florida Resort Bunker surrounded by leaking oozing hack-able incompetents??

The Democrats and even few Republicans are questioning this so-called President’s mental health.  What more does it take to send up the call for a series neuropsychological tests on the s0-called President? Can any one really tell us that Kremlin Caligula is functional in any standard sense of the word?  How can we get Trump to a psychiatrist or psychologist?  The man is in obvious need of help!

“Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) in a floor speech this week called for a review of the Constitution’s procedures for removing a president. He warned the 25th Amendment of the Constitution falls short when it comes to mental or emotional fitness for office.”

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) during a weekend interview with CNN’s “State of the Union” said that “a few” Republican colleagues have expressed concern to him about Trump’s mental health.

And Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) plans to introduce legislation that would require the presence of a psychiatrist or psychologist in the White House.

The Democrats justify their questions by pointing to Trump’s habit of making demonstrably false claims. At a press conference Thursday, he said he’d had the biggest Electoral College win since President Ronald Reagan, for example, when his margin was lower than either of President Obama’s wins.

Blumenauer told The Hill he started taking another look at the 25th Amendment because Trump had casually repeated easily disproven claims, such as stating that it wasn’t raining during his speech on Inauguration Day when it was.

“It’s not normal behavior. I don’t know anybody in a position of responsibility that doesn’t know if they’re being rained on. And nobody I work with serially offers up verifiably false statements on an ongoing basis,” he said in an interview steps from the House chamber.

But suggesting the president has a mental health problem invites criticism that Democrats are going too far.

“It’s divisive. The bottom line is, if Trump doesn’t succeed, we all fail. It’s time to give the guy a chance,” said Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.).

Reps. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) both burst out laughing when told some Democratic colleagues were questioning Trump’s mental health.

“Are you serious?” Hunter asked. “Yeah, I don’t care what they say.”

trumpcave2That’s the entire deal.  The Republicans keep acting like this is their new normal. This nightmare is their opportunity to gut every reform since The Gilded Age and maybe even before that. We have a daily constitutional crisis.  It’s evident our election had serious issues and that Congressional oversight is needed on many levels.  But hey look!  HER EMAILS!!  AGAIN!!! “Chaffetz seeks charge of ex-Clinton aide in email inquiry.”  Did he ignore that extended live performance yesterday where our president did everything but literally froth at the mouth?

The Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, who has refused Democratic requests to investigate possible conflicts of interest involving President Donald Trump, is seeking criminal charges against a former State Department employee who helped set up Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday asking him to convene a grand jury or charge Bryan Pagliano, the computer specialist who helped establish Clinton’s server while she was secretary of state.

Pagliano did not comply with two subpoenas ordering him to appear before the oversight panel. The GOP-led committee later voted to hold him in contempt of Congress.

Earlier this month, Chaffetz met with Trump at the White House and agreed not to discuss oversight. He has rebuffed calls for his panel to look into Trump’s businesses and possible conflicts.

Chaffetz said in a statement that allowing Pagliano’s conduct “to go unaddressed would gravely harm Congress’ ability to conduct oversight.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said pursuing charges against Pagliano would be a waste of time and money.

cfz9jttJournalists aren’t likely to forget yesterday’s presser for some time.  It’s generally been characterized as “insane”.

On Thursday afternoon, President Donald Trump’s staff corralled the White House press corps into the East Room of the White House so that he could sing the praises of his new Labor Secretary pick, Alexander Acosta.

This was the case only for first few minutes during which the president, visibly bored, read from a sheet of notes, sounding like he had just woke up from a power nap.

For the remainder of the marathon press conference, which lasted one hour and 17 minutes, Trump perked up and did what he has the most fun doing: beating up on the press.

He shouted about Russia, Vladimir Putin, and Russian intelligence. He vented about how unfair and nasty “the media” was to him, but took time to specifically praise friendly outlets such as Fox News. He tried to settle old scores in public. He touted the single national poll that showed a favorable approval rating. He continued to protest too much about charges of racism, and even anti-Semitism in his ranks. And President Trump revived Candidate Trump’s favorite campaign-rally applause line about how he has “never seen more dishonest media than, frankly, the political media.”

It was like he had never left the campaign trail or all the old talking points, pugnacity, and vitriol that came with it. The only thing that was missing was a jab at “Crooked Hillary.”

And as the official White House press conference disintegrated further into unhinged criticism and belligerent sniping, reporters seated in the East Room could hardly contain themselves. There was an awkward mix of laughing with Trump, and chuckling at him as the president kept venting and sneering. The reporters present couldn’t stop quietly gossipping about Trump.

“What is going on?” one journalist whispered to another. “This is insane” and “What the hell?” were other popular refrains in the room.

b9336d1d7d61c6fb4fa4b291ab06d464Given that we’ve got this nightmare partially due to the inability of the media to discern the Pandora’s Box of Trump’s Psyche early on, it only seems fitting they get the abuse straight in their faces.  Embedding in the White House Press Corps should come with war zone pay and counselling for ongoing trauma.  Still, the Republicans just appear to be hiding and doing what weasels usually do.  They’re busy destroying stuff in their own little way.  Krugman has a great op ed about the silence of the weasels.  Well, he calls them hacks.  But then he has to get it published on the NYT and I just press a button here!!!

The story so far: A foreign dictator intervened on behalf of a U.S. presidential candidate — and that candidate won. Close associates of the new president were in contact with the dictator’s espionage officials during the campaign, and his national security adviser was forced out over improper calls to that country’s ambassador — but not until the press reported it; the president learned about his actions weeks earlier, but took no action.

Meanwhile, the president seems oddly solicitous of the dictator’s interests, and rumors swirl about his personal financial connections to the country in question. Is there anything to those rumors? Nobody knows, in part because the president refuses to release his tax returns.

Maybe there’s nothing wrong here, and it’s all perfectly innocent. But if it’s not innocent, it’s very bad indeed. So what do Republicans in Congress, who have the power to investigate the situation, believe should be done?

Nothing.

Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, says that Michael Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador were “entirely appropriate.”

Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, angrily dismissed calls for a select committee to investigate contacts during the campaign: “There is absolutely not going to be one.”

Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the House oversight committee — who hounded Hillary Clinton endlessly over Benghazi — declared that the “situation has taken care of itself.”

Just the other day Republicans were hot in pursuit of potential scandal, and posed as ultrapatriots. Now they’re indifferent to actual subversion and the real possibility that we are being governed by people who take their cues from Moscow. Why?

Well, Senator Rand Paul explained it all: “We’ll never even get started with doing the things we need to do, like repealing Obamacare, if we’re spending our whole time having Republicans investigate Republicans.” Does anyone doubt that he was speaking for his whole party?

And evidently the Presser yesterday played well with the Deplorables in the propaganda press…  Quoted below is a deplorable bit from the NYP that had an even more deplorable cover.  I’m not quoting too much from it because it’s as delusional as its subject.

Just three weeks into his term, Democrats, in and out of the media, smelled blood. Many already were going for the kill.

They won’t get it, at least now. Trump bought himself time yesterday.

fc7fbb01537dc48226e3e43a55623662In what universe was yesterday’s display of insanity a time buyer? We’re all getting used to gasping for air in 10 second or maybe minute news cycles. I guess if you were black, a woke woman or Jewish you heard a totally different set of dog whistles.  This CNN headline says it all “Trump tells Jewish magazine’s reporter to ‘sit down,’ blames anti-Semitism on ‘the other side'”

He settled on a reporter who identified himself as Jake Turx, a reporter with Ami Magazine, which bills itself as “a new standard in Jewish media.” Turx prefaced his question by saying he did not see evidence the President or his staff were anti-Semitic. He even mentioned Trump’s Jewish grandchildren.
He then launched into the thrust of his question about bomb threats to dozens of Jewish Community Centers last month.

What we are concerned about, and what we haven’t really heard being addressed, is an uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take care of it,” Turx said.
As Turx continued, Trump interrupted, “See, he said he was going to ask a very simple, easy question, and it’s not.”
The reporter said, “It’s an important one.”

“Not a simple question. Not a fair question. OK, sit down. I understand the rest of your question,”

Trump said. “So here’s the story folks. No. 1, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. No. 2, racism. The least racist person. In fact, we did very well relative to other people running as a Republican.”

Turx raised his hand again and spoke up.

“Quiet, quiet, quiet,” Trump replied. “See he lied about — he was going to get up and ask a very straight, simple question. So, you know, welcome to the world of the media.”

Turx shook his head, and Trump continued as if he himself had been accused of anti-Semitism, despite Turx’s preface.

“But let me just tell you something: I hate the charge. I find it repulsive. I hate even the question because people that know me — and you heard the Prime Minister, you heard Benjamin Netanyahu, did you hear him, Bibi? He said, ‘I’ve known Donald Trump for a long time,’ and then he said, ‘Forget it.’ So you should take that instead of having to get up and ask a very insulting question like that.”

Trump can make anything into something about directly related to his EGO by his screaming ID.  Even I can see that and I’m not the Psych PhD blogger on the blog.  I’m just the humble economist trying to deal with a continual onslaught of abusive, gas lighting insanity.

I just don’t know how much longer anything can take this constant assault.  It’s an assault on our sanity. It’s national gaslighting. It’s destroying or nation’s rule of law and institutions!  And just to prove yesterday’s rant about leaks was true and news being fake we got a wag the dog leak this morning.  The AP dropped a story about using the National Guard for deportation efforts.  Media outlets got told it was false AFTER the AP made the accusations.  Then, there’s this …

This seemed like an attempt to gaslight the AP to me. They probably think they’re “Winning!”  “Tiger Blood!”   It comes off as Machiavellian which means President Bannon is doing nefarious things again.

To me, this David Corn Tweet says it all.  Would you believe this administration if it told you a terrorist attack was imminent?

Have a great day Sky Dancers! Let me know what’s on your blogging and reading list!!!


Thursday Reads: The Spy War

thrilling_spy_stories_1939fal_v1_n1

Good Morning!!

Week four of the tRump presidency has been even wilder than the previous three weeks, and it’s not over yet. How much more crazy and chaotic can thing get in the U.S. government?

Two days ago, the top special ops commander warned that the government is “in unbelievable turmoil,” according to CNN–and this was before the Flynn resignation!

The head of US Special Operations Command said Tuesday that the US government is in “unbelievable turmoil,” a situation that he suggested could undermine US efforts to fight adversaries such as ISIS.

“Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil. I hope they sort it out soon because we’re a nation at war,” Army Gen. Raymond “Tony” Thomas told a symposium in Maryland….
Thomas oversees America’s elite Special Operations troops, including Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets, which have played a large role in carrying out the nation’s conflicts since 9/11.
Asked later about his comments, Thomas, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, said: “As a commander, I’m concerned our government be as stable as possible.”

Since Flynn resigned/was fired, the media has been focusing on ties between tRump and his “associates” and the Russian government and intelligence agencies, including CNN’s report that “Trump aides were in constant touch with senior Russian officials during campaign.” This scandal has already gone way beyond Watergate, and we still don’t have a serious investigation in Congress. It’s difficult to see how much longer Republicans can avoid the inevitable. Yesterday, Malcolm Nance warned on MSNBC that tRump staffers should seriously consider lawyering up.

Nance, a former NSA employee and current MSNBC counterterrorism and intel analyst, warned that this is “very, very, serious stuff” and that because the FISA warrant “authorized the NSA to turn on the full collection power of the United States…there is nothing that will escape that.”

Given what intelligence agencies know – and this is in direct contradiction of Republican claims that no such evidence exists – he said,

“These people need to start getting lawyers and cutting deals because when we have both sides of the conversation, you are gonna get caught.”

Today former NSA analyst John Schindler has a new opinion piece at the NY Observer: KremlinGate Enters Uncharted Waters as Russian Links Overwhelm DC. Here’s what he had to say about former tRump campaign manager Paul Manafort:

One of the Trump associates named in both reports (from the NYT and at CNN, linked above) is Paul Manafort, the shady veteran political operative who left the campaign last August when his unsavory ties to the Kremlin hit the newspapers. In response to the latest allegations, Manafort replied, “I don’t remember talking to any Russian officials,” last year, memorably adding that he had no recollection of ever being in contact with Kremlin spies: “It’s not like these people wear badges that say, ‘I’m a Russian intelligence officer.’”

That appears to be yet another untruth, since as I reported back in August, Manafort’s longtime friend in Kyiv, Konstantin Kilimnik, who served as his translator and sidekick during Manafort’s years as a political fixer for Ukraine’s then-ruling party, was remarkably open about his longstanding affiliation with GRU, that is Russian military intelligence. Kilimnik boasted of his GRU ties, which he didn’t discuss in the past tense only. For Manafort to say he’s never been in contact with Russian spies is therefore unconvincing.

spy_stories_193505

And on tRump:

The president seems to be increasingly flabbergasted by the exposure of his clandestine relationship with Moscow. As is his wont, he took to Twitter to lambaste the Intelligence Community and the mainstream media some more, denouncing “fake news” and IC leaks, while asserting that American spies are acting “just like Russia”—a puzzling statement that may be more revealing than the president intended—and to top it off they’re “very un-American.” Perhaps this is progress of a sort, since it was only a few weeks ago that Trump compared the IC to Nazi Germany on Twitter.

All the same, presidential mania on social media isn’t a pretty picture and will do nothing to stop the coming investigations by Congress into what exactly was going on between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin last year. Trump’s bluster and deflections on the campaign trail sufficed to push aside some of those troubling questions, but things have reached a point that the full story, no matter how unpleasant it may be, will come out, eventually.

At a minimum, the House and Senate intelligence committees will be conducting investigations which ought to worry the White House, whose political future will likely depend on how many Republicans are willing to back Trump—and by extension the Kremlin—over fellow Americans. Since several prominent Republican senators, including Intelligence Committee chair Richard Burr, have indicated that investigations are going forward, the White House can’t depend on partisan loyalty to protect them for much longer.

Read the whole thing at the NY Observer.

At Newsweek, Kurt Eichenwald reported that our allies have been spying on tRump and “associates” in order to protect themselves.

As part of intelligence operations being conducted against the United States for the last seven months, at least one Western European ally intercepted a series of communications before the inauguration between advisers associated with President Donald Trump and Russian government officials, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation.

The sources said the interceptions include at least one contact between former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and a Russian official based in the United States. It could not be confirmed whether this involved the telephone call with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that has led to Flynn’s resignation, or additional communications. The sources said the intercepted communications are not just limited to telephone calls: The foreign agency is also gathering electronic and human source information on Trump’s overseas business partners, at least some of whom the intelligence services now consider to be agents of their respective governments. These operations are being conducted out of concerns that Russia is seeking to manipulate its relationships with Trump administration officials as part of a long-term plan to destabilize the NATO alliance.

Moreover, a Baltic nation is gathering intelligence on officials in the Trump White House and executives with the president’s company, the Trump Organization, out of concern that an American policy shift toward Russia could endanger its sovereignty, according to a third person with direct ties to that nation’s government.

Head over to Newsweek to read the rest.

spy_novels_193506

The Guardian has a scoop involving Deutsche Bank, which holds a great deal of tRump’s debt: Deutsche Bank examined Trump’s account for Russia links.

The scandal-hit bank that loaned hundreds of millions of dollars to Donald Trumphas conducted a close internal examination of the US president’s personal account to gauge whether there are any suspicious connections to Russia, the Guardian has learned.

Deutsche Bank, which is under investigation by the US Department of Justice and is facing intense regulatory scrutiny, was looking for evidence of whether recent loans to Trump, which were struck in highly unusual circumstances, may have been underpinned by financial guarantees from Moscow.

The Guardian has also learned that the president’s immediate family are Deutsche clients. The bank examined accounts held by Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, her husband, Jared Kushner, who serves as a White House adviser, and Kushner’s mother.

The internal review found no evidence of any Russia link, but Deutsche Bank is coming under pressure to appoint an external and independent auditor to review its business relationship with Trump.

More at the link.

Yesterday, The New York Times reported that tRump plans to ask New York billionaire Stephen A. Feinberg to conduct a “review” of U.S. intelligence agencies. He may be asking for more trouble than he can handle. NBC News First Read: Trump’s War With the Intelligence Community Is His Biggest Yet.

Less than a month in office, President Trump has engaged in plenty of fights already — with the courts, Mexico, the media, and even Nordstrom. But his emerging fight with the U.S. intelligence community (over Russia and leaks) might be his biggest fight yet. On the one hand, you have the New York Times reporting that Trump is planning to appoint an ally who has little experience in intelligence matters “to lead a broad review” of the intelligence agencies. “The possible role for Stephen A. Feinberg, a co-founder of Cerberus Capital Management, has met fierce resistance among intelligence officials already on edge because of the criticism the intelligence community has received from Mr. Trump during the campaign and since he became president,” the Times says. And on the other hand, you have the Wall Street Journal writing that U.S. intelligence officials “have withheld sensitive intelligence from President Donald Trump because they are concerned it could be leaked or compromised.” (The White House and Director of National Intelligence have both disputed this account.)….

We get that Trump is trying to crack down on leaks; Barack Obama was frustrated by them, too. But what is the bigger story here — that Russians had contacts with Trump’s campaign, or the leaks about these contacts? Or that Russians interfered in the 2016 election, or that this interference was leaked to the press? It sure seems like Trump and his team are less bothered by the news than who’s leaking the news.

The Financial Times has an opinion piece on the Russia connections: Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and a fatal attraction. After Flynn’s resignation, smiles are turning to scowls in Moscow.

The opening weeks of the presidency have been as disastrous as anyone could have feared. Mr Trump has behaved in office as he did on the campaign trail. Chaos and belligerence in the White House has been mirrored by the casual disarming of allies and the empowering of adversaries abroad. America’s standing in the world could scarcely be lower. All this as the fires continue to burn in the Middle East and the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un tests a ballistic missile that may soon be tipped with a nuclear warhead.

Mr Trump’s hopes of some sort of grand bargain with Russia’s Vladimir Putin have dissolved. Firing Mr Flynn for lying to vice-president Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in Washington will not staunch the disquiet about the administration’s contacts with Moscow before inauguration day. Mr Trump and his aides face three sets of questions from legislators and law enforcement agencies about the ties.

The first asks how wide and deep were the exchanges: who exactly was involved, what were the subjects of conversations, and were there any bargains struck, implicit or explicit, about the direction of US policy once Mr Trump reached the White House? The second requires the examination of Mr Trump’s financial ties with Russia — the detailed investigation that should have happened during the campaign and now demands open access to the president’s tax returns. The third, made more urgent by the lengthy delay between the White House’s discovery of Mr Flynn’s mendacity and his sacking, asks the old Watergate question — just what did the president know and when?

fleming

I hate to link to The Intercept, but there’s a weird story there you might want to look at: Carter Page, at Center of Trump Russian Investigation, Writes Bizarre Letter to DOJ Blaming Hillary Clinton.

Page provided the lengthy letter to The Intercept when asked whether he would support President Trump using his power as president to declassify any government material to disclose any intercepted conversations between Page and Russian officials. He did not say. Instead he forwarded the letter, which is well-formatted, heavily-footnoted, grammatically correct and has no spelling mistakes. However, its content is bizarre.

To begin with, it is addressed to the voting section of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, which is charged exclusively with enforcing federal laws that protect the right to vote.

It then makes the grandiose claim that “the actions by the Clinton regime and their associates may be among the most extreme examples of human rights violations observed during any election in U.S. history since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was similarly targeted for his anti-war views in the 1960’s.”

Page repeatedly describes as “outrageous” the news coverage claiming that he has significant connections to Russian officials, and what he says was the Clinton campaign’s hidden hand behind it.

The Clinton campaign, says Page, engaged in “human rights violations,” “illegal activities,” “unlawful deceptions,” “Obstruction of Justice – the charge upon which President Nixon was impeached,” spreading “False Evidence,” and “an obviously illegal attempt to silence me on an important issue of national and international consequence in violation of my Constitutional rights.”

Page also states that he was targeted by the Clinton campaign because he is Catholic, a military veteran and a man.

Keep in mind that Page was recommended as an adviser to tRump by none other than Jeff Sessions, who is now in charge of the DOJ. Page is also the guy who was personally in touch with Russian officials who were running the hacking operation against the DNC and the Clinton campaign in order to help tRump get elected.

That’s today’s installment of crazy. I know I’ve barely scratched the surface of the news; so please post your own links in the comment thread and try to stay sane!


Wednesday Hump Day Reads: Shit, meet fan. 

Last night…

I stayed up as late as I could last night…but today I’ve been away from the news. So I do not know what has transpired since around 5 am. Anyway, let’s take a look at some cartoons.

In Like Flynn – Houston Chronicle

02/15 Mike Luckovich: Lock ‘er up! | Mike Luckovich

lk021517_color

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BYE FLYNN: 02/15/2017 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - BYE FLYNN

02/15/2017 Cartoon by David Horsey

Cartoon by David Horsey -

02/15/2017 Cartoon by Lisa Benson

Cartoon by Lisa Benson -

02/15/2017 Cartoon by Tom Stiglich

Cartoon by Tom Stiglich -

02/15/2017 Cartoon by Nate Beeler

Cartoon by Nate Beeler -

02/12/2017 Cartoon by Nate Beeler

Cartoon by Nate Beeler -

Mar-a-Lago: 02/14/2017 Cartoon by Mike Keefe

Cartoon by Mike Keefe - Mar-a-Lago

 

This is an open thread…please post updates as you find them…