Lazy Saturday ReadsPosted: February 25, 2017
The weather is usually weird here in New England, but this is ridiculous. Yesterday it was 74 degrees here in the late afternoon–in February! Today it’s already 66 outside and inside my apartment it’s 77 degrees! I’m sitting in front of a fan at the moment with all the windows and the door to the balcony open. What the hell is happening? From CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller:
This month continues to defy the calendar, with over 4,400 record highs stretching from the northern US border to the south since February 1. In that same timeframe, only 29 record lows have been recorded.
The trees are responding accordingly — to the weather, that is, not the calendar — and are producing leaves as far north as The District of Columbia. According to the USA National Phenology Network, spring is arriving a full three weeks early. Call it Februmarch….
The heat of “Februmarch” will peak across the eastern half of the country on Friday, as southerly winds ahead of the storm system moving across the Great Lakes pull up warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico.
Supposedly it will get cooler here tomorrow. I sure hope so or I’m going to need more fans.
Today’s news is full of Trump-Russia connections. Here’s some breaking news from DC Report about tRump’s choice for Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross.
A study prepared exclusively for DCReport.org by James S. Henry reveals deep financial ties between Donald Trump’s nominee for Commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, and three Russian oligarchs, whose lives and fortunes depend on staying in the good graces of Vladimir Putin.
These connections raise many new questions about Trump’s reliance on the Putin regime, which all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies say interfered in the presidential election on Trump’s behalf, but which Trump disputes.
These relationships between nominee Ross and the oligarchs involve ownership and management of a European bank with a reputation for laundering Russian money and making bad loans.
The study also compared flight records of Trump’s campaign plane and a plane used by one of the oligarchs. During the campaign, the two planes often were at the same airports at the same time.
You’ll want to check that piece out if you’re interested in this developing scandal.
Here’s some more surprising news from The San Diego Union Tribune: Issa calls for special prosecutor on Russian interference in election.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, said on Friday that a special prosecutor needs to lead an investigation into the alleged ties between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s regime.
Issa made the comments to talk show host Bill Maher on HBO. Maher asked about allegations of Russian hacking and interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
Issa initially said House and Senate committees would investigate, and then Maher asked about the idea of an independent counsel handling the matter instead of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“You cannot have somebody — a friend of mine, Jeff Sessions, who was on the campaign and who is an appointee,” Issa said. “You’re going to need to use the special prosecutor’s statute and office — not just to recuse, you can’t just give it to your deputy, that’s another political appointee — you do have to do that.”
Issa then went on to explain why he believes such an investigation is needed, criticizing Putin.
“There may or may not be fault,” Issa said. “But the American people are beginning to understand that Putin murders his enemies, sometimes right in front of the Kremlin, and then suddenly the cameras don’t work there. He’s murdered people and taken down using cyber warfare in Georgia and Ukraine. This is a bad guy who murders people who runs a gas station with an economy the size of Italy but is screwing up things all over the world that we’ve been doing ‘working with.’ Now we have to work with them. We don’t have to trust them, and we need to investigate their activities, and we need to do it because they are bad people.”
That sure seems significant. Darrell Issa? Wow!
Donald Trump is already making the same mistakes that led to Richard Nixon’s downfall over the Watergate scandal. In addition to his direct attacks on the media, he and his pals are trying to interfere with the FBI’s investigation of ties between Trump and Russia. From The Washington Post last night: Trump administration sought to enlist intelligence officials, key lawmakers to counter Russia stories.
The Trump administration has enlisted senior members of the intelligence community and Congress in efforts to counter news stories about Trump associates’ ties to Russia, a politically charged issue that has been under investigation by the FBI as well as lawmakers now defending the White House.
Acting at the behest of the White House, the officials made calls to news organizations last week in attempts to challenge stories about alleged contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives, U.S. officials said.
The calls were orchestrated by the White House after unsuccessful attempts by the administration to get senior FBI officials to speak with news organizations and dispute the accuracy of stories on the alleged contacts with Russia.
The White House on Friday acknowledged those interactions with the FBI but did not disclose that it then turned to other officials who agreed to do what the FBI would not — participate in White House-arranged calls with news organizations, including The Washington Post.\The decision to involve those officials could be perceived as threatening the independence of U.S. spy agencies that are supposed to remain insulated from partisan issues, as well as undercutting the credibility of ongoing congressional probes. Those officials saw their involvement as an attempt to correct coverage they believed to be erroneous.
The effort also involved senior lawmakers with access to classified intelligence about Russia, including Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the chairmen of the Senate and House intelligence committees. A spokesman for Nunes said that he had already begun speaking to reporters to challenge the story and that, “at the request of a White House communications aide, Chairman Nunes then spoke to an additional reporter and delivered the same message.”….
In an interview, Burr acknowledged that he “had conversations about” Russia-related news reports with the White House and engaged with news organizations to dispute articles by the New York Times and CNN that alleged “repeated” or “constant” contact between Trump campaign members and Russian intelligence operatives.
Nunes and Burr are the chairmen of the House and Senate Intelligence committees that are supposedly investigating Trump’s Russia ties!
“The White House appears to have violated accepted protocols and procedures,” said former FBI special agent Ali Soufan.
“As an FBI agent, we always know there shouldn’t be any appearance of political interference over a pending investigation. Any kind of appearance of political influence will be considered against existing protocols and procedures.”
Another retired FBI special agent, Michael German, said the FBI leadership had potentially jeopardized an investigation.
“It is illegal for an FBI employee to take information from an ongoing criminal investigation and share it with a potential witness or subject of that investigation. Obviously, if the justice department ultimately initiates a prosecution in this matter, this purported conversation would be exculpating evidence. Again, if it is true that high bureau officials believe the current FBI investigation is [bullshit], they should close the investigation and be prepared to justify this decision, not leak their opinion to anyone outside of the investigation”, German said.
Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee – which is also investigating Trump’s ties to Russia – called on Comey to explain the communications.
“Politicized assertions by White House chief of staff Priebus about what may or may not be the findings of an FBI investigation are exactly the wrong way for the public to hear about an issue that is of grave consequence to our democracy. The American people deserve real transparency, which means Director Comey needs to come forward, in an open hearing, and answer questions,” Wyden told the Guardian.
Comey really needs to go or else recuse himself from this investigation.
Trump is also following the example of the Bush/Cheney admistration, in that he is attempted to force DHS intelligence experts to tailor their reports to justify his muslim ban. The Wall Street Journal reports: Donald Trump Rejects Intelligence Report on Travel Ban.
An intelligence report by the Department of Homeland Security contradicts the White House’s assertion that immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries pose a particular risk of being terrorists and should be blocked from entering the U.S.
The report is the latest volley in a struggle between intelligence officials and the Trump administration that has rippled across several agencies. Some officials have critiqued administration policies, while the president and senior members of his staff have accused officials of leaking information to undermine his administration and the legitimacy of his election.
The report, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, came from Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis. It said that its staff “assesses that country of citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity.” The White House on Friday dismissed it as politically motivated and poorly researched.
The compilation and disclosure of an intelligence report so directly at odds with top White House priorities marks an unusually sharp rupture between the administration and career public servants. It also underscores the difficulty President Donald Trump has had in converting his confrontational and bombastic campaign rhetoric into public policy….
The DHS report was prepared in response to the White House request for intelligence assessments of terrorist threats posed by migration. Current and former officials with direct knowledge of the Homeland Security report said it was compiled on short notice, but that it relied on information that analysts routinely collect and examine in order to guide counterterrorism policies. The report was shared with agencies outside DHS.
Read more at the link.
I’m going to end here, because it’s getting late, and I’m hot. I think I’m going to make some iced tea. I’ll add more links in the comment thread and I hope you’ll do the same. Have a great weekend!