What a week it has been…
This presidency is like a horror show, and I’m not talking about a good one either. It is beyond Plan 9 From Outer Space…
The images are my commentary on that.
Things are very bad at home right now. Cancer is a bitch. So the post today is just links. In no particular order…
Yale History Professor Timothy Snyder’s latest book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century outlines some of the things that fall under dictators as they rise to power. In a conversation Friday with Bill Maher, the host asked Snyder if this was his “busy season” given President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.
Maher asked Snyder to give the top three lessons from tyranny for which Americans should suit up.
“Don’t obey in advance,” was Snyder’s first instruction. He doesn’t necessarily mean obeying leaders or authority rather, “don’t follow what everyone else is doing… figure out what you stand for and be yourself.”
His second instruction was that Americans must defend institutions. Many anticipate that “the institution will save us” but Snyder said that this kind of thinking is wrong. “We have to save the institutions. They don’t do it on their own. This is the moment of ‘ask not what the institutions can do for you. Ask what you can do for the institutions.’”
His third was for Americans to believe in the truth. “Without truth, we don’t have trust. Without trust, we don’t have the rule of law. Without the rule of law, we don’t have democracy,” he continued.
More at the link.
Researchers have turned a spinach leaf into working human heart tissue.
Scientists struggle to make large-scale human tissue – while they have had success in creating small lab samples, it is much more difficult to make them at the size of tissues, bones or whole organs. But that’s what will be needed if the tissue proves useful in the treatment of disease or injury.
Now they have come closer to solving perhaps the hardest of those challenges ,and creating a vascular system that can deliver blood into the new tissue.
An eviction notice is never the kind of letter you want to receive, but in 1943, the villagers of Imber, on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, all received the very same letter, regretting to inform them “that it is necessary to evacuate” their home to be “made available for training by December 17th”, giving them just 47 days to pack up their lives and “quit” Imber, never to return.
One of the many barriers perpetuating that disparity is a lack of safe transportation options, as many women face sexual harassment when taking public transit — and cabs can be no better. Noor Jehan, a Pink Taxi driver, told the Independent most women in Pakistan would “think thrice” before getting into a car alone with a man.
From Mary Shelley to Margaret Atwood, feminist science fiction writers have imagined other ways of living that prompt us to ask, could we do things differently?
Instead of running the country, Trump has decided his priority is sending cease-and-desist letters to high school girls for making funny websites.
The remaining contestants on a reality television series have emerged after surviving 12 months in the Scottish wilderness — fending off hunger, infighting and fatigue — only to learn that the show stopped broadcasting after four episodes, the last of them in August.
The show, “Eden,” was billed as a unique social experiment in which 23 men and women living in isolation “would take on the challenge of building a new life and creating a society from scratch,” according to a statement promoting the show.
The contestants were taken to a 600-acre estate on the remote Ardnamurchan peninsula on the west coast of Scotland, which is known for its forests, lochs and beaches.
But “Eden” proved to be anything but paradise.
Carnivore hunted to extinction by European settlers may have survived in isolated wilderness area, if sightings by park ranger and tour guide are genuine
tRump voters are assholes!
That video is sheer horror…
Some more horror tales:
Trump Is Dragging Us Into Another War… And No One Is Talking About It | The Huffington Post Well, we are talking about it here on the blog…
His tweets have the power to shape international relations, send stock prices up — or down — and galvanize the American public.
We’re watching how Donald Trump is using this platform of unfettered communication now that he’s commander in chief. Here is everything Trump has tweeted since he was sworn in as 45th president of the United States. In many cases, we look at what he was reacting to and whether what he said was accurate. And, as much as possible, we’ll relate what else was going on at the time. Check back for more as Trump continues to tweet.
Nearly 1 million pounds of chicken recalled due to ‘metal objects’ | WSB-TV This chicken was sold throughout the US…so make sure you don’t have any in your kitchen.
Stephen Hawking is shopping for a new voice. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with his old one, it’s just that he’s had it for 30 years and he’s ready to swap it out. Happily, celebrities ranging from Liam Neeson to Anna Kendrick to Rebel Wilson to Lin-Manuel Miranda were more than willing to offer their services, each vying pitifully to have their vocal cords associated with one of the greatest minds in modern physics.
“Stephen…it’s me…surely it has to be me,” said Neeson in his fake audition tape, his neck wrapped tight in a heavy scarf despite being indoors. Kylie Minogue, standing under the shade of a tree, insisted she should be his new voice, since all of her songs are about…science. Lin-Manuel rapped.
“No.” Hawking said, his horror palpable.
The production was created for British charity Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day, a high profile telethon that raises money for kids both in the U.S. and in poor communities in developing countries.
In the end, Hawking ultimately rejected each celebrity entreaty, selecting instead Sir Michael Caine. He didn’t even have to audition. Figures.
And on that note I will wrap this thread up…
Hope everyone is having a better day then we are, lol. This is an open thread…
Last night, for the first time since November 8, 2016, I went to bed happy. Thanks in large part to the millions of Americans who marched in the streets, went to town halls or their representatives’ offices to defend Obamacare, the attempt by tRump and Ryan to destroy the health care system has been thwarted–at least for the time being.
Trump is being roasted in the media. Here are a few stories to check out, links only because there are so many:
Politico: Trump gets tamed by Washington (click on this one if only to view the absolute worst photo of tRump’s hair so far).
The New York Times: How the Health Care Vote Fell Apart, Step by Step.
Jonathan Chait: Why Obamacare Defeated Trumpcare.
I want to highlight one aspect of the tRump strategy. He let Steve Bannon talk to the Freedom Caucus, and it did not go well.
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
I don’t know about you, but I can barely keep up with the breaking news this week. I feel like I’m caught in a whirlpool of unbelievable events and emotions. I’m going to be like BB yesterday and just try to list them. I’m not sure I have to time to truly analyze or elucidate anything. Maybe the chaos is working in their favor on that account. At least news reporters are assigned desks and topics. Some of them must be very busy. Here are the three top stories: T-Russia, T-RumpCare, and T-Rump Syndicate shenanigans.
First, up is that notorious Foreign Agent, obsequious Trump neighbor, and former Campaign Director Paul Manafort has volunteered to testify to Congressional Intelligence Committees. Congressional Clown Car Chauffeur Devon Nunes announced it today. It will likely be a closed session.
Manafort has also offered to be interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to a Senate source.
Both Intelligence committees are investigating Russian interference in the US election.
The White House this week rushed to distance itself from Manafort after the revelation that he signed a multimillion-dollar contract with a Russian oligarch in 2006 to help advance Russian President Vladimir Putin’s interests around the world.
The story fueled the growing controversy over the Trump team’s ties to Russia, which was rekindled Monday when FBI Director James Comey publicly confirmed the bureau is investigating whether Trump associates coordinated with Moscow during the 2016 presidential race.
Nunes also said Friday he has asked Comey and National Security Agency (NSA) Director Michael Rogers to brief the House Intelligence Committee in a closed session.
Nunes cautioned that he does not expect to receive documentation from the NSA regarding his claims that Trump campaign associates were possibly monitored by the intelligence community on Friday.
Nunes said he expects to have more information from the NSA by “early next week.”
But he categorically denied that his decision to make public the information on the issue that he does have was coordinated by the White House.
Nunes continues to be underfire for what appears to be collusion with the White House to cover up the Russian Involvement with the Trump Campaign which is so obvious now that a grade school kid would call “shenanigans!!”
So you can read more about this unfolding story at CNN too as well as the recent announcement that Republicans are using closed meeting formats which is not making Democrats happy. Nunes is really in over his head on all of this.
The House Intelligence Committee chairman and the panel’s top Democrat publicly disagreed Friday over the handling of their investigation into Russian meddling into the US election, coming after the announcement that President Donald Trump’s campaign chairman agreed to testify before the committee.“Yesterday, the counsel for Paul Manafort contacted the committee yesterday to offer the committee the opportunity to interview his client,” committee chairman Devin Nunes announced during a news conference. “We thank Mr. Manafort for volunteering and encourage others with knowledge of these issues to voluntarily interview with the committee.”
Nunes also announced that the committee is bringing in FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers for a second briefing, this time behind closed doors so that they can provide more information. The committee is also delaying its March 28 hearing, a decision infuriating Democrats on the committee.
“Chairman just cancelled open Intelligence Committee hearing with (former Director of National Intelligence James) Clapper, (former CIA Director John) Brennan and (former deputy Attorney General Sally) Yates in attempt to choke off public info,” Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee tweeted moment before going to speak to the press Friday morning.
Schiff refused to say whether he thought Nunes should step down from his position, telling reporters, “What’s really involved here is the cancellation of this open hearing and the rest is designed to distract.”
You can view the Nunes presser at that link also.
GOP leaders have done the WHIP count on Trumpcare and it appears that they do not have the votes they need to pass it. This may be a very big test of both Paul Ryan and Kremlin Caligula’s ability to whip a vote.
House GOP leaders aren’t confident they have enough votes to pass their embattled health-care bill, according to a senior congressional aide, and are already considering what to do if the measure is blocked before a do-or-die vote hours away.
House Speaker Paul Ryan went to the White House Friday to brief President Donald Trump ahead of the vote. Vice President Mike Pence canceled a trip to Arkansas to be in Washington for the vote, a White House official said.
The Trump administration is doubling down on its demand that House Republican leaders hold a vote Friday on their embattled health-care bill without any changes. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the vote will proceed as scheduled Friday afternoon.
“It’s not a question of negotiating any more, it’s understanding the greater good,” Spicer said at a news conference. “This is it.” The president, he added, has “made it clear this is our moment.”
But an influential GOP member said he’s not sure they have the votes.
“I’m not sure we’ve landed it,” Mark Walker of North Carolina, chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee of House members, said Friday morning. “I’m hopeful that we can get there today but at this point I don’t know how many we’re short.”
Tensions among House Republicans were high, said Chris Collins of New York, the first House member to endorse Trump last year.
“There’s some divisiveness within our conference now that’s not healthy,” Collins said. “I’ve never seen this before. People are just refusing to talk to each other. They’re storming past each other. This is not good.”
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, facing a revolt among conservative and moderate Republicans, rushed to the White House Friday afternoon to inform President Trump he did not have the votes to pass legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to decide whether to pull the bill from consideration.
The president and the speaker faced the humiliating prospect of a major defeat on legislation promised for seven years, since the landmark health legislation was signed into law. President Trump had demanded a vote regardless, which has been scheduled for Friday afternoon. But House leaders were leaning against such a public loss.
The House opened debate Friday on what would have been one of the most consequential pieces of legislation in years, a bill that would have rolled back a major, established social welfare program, a feat that is almost unheard of.
Meanwhile, more Trump ethics violations are on the horizon: “After Promising Not To Talk Business With Father, Eric Trump Says He’ll Give Him Financial Reports”.
Eric Trump sits behind a desk on the 25th floor of Trump Tower in New York City, dressed in a slightly less formal version of his father’s go-to power uniform—blue suit, white buttoned-down shirt, no tie. There are reminders of Donald Trump everywhere in this office, including the TV in the corner that beams out wall-to-wall news about the president any time his son turns it on. Amidst it all, Eric Trump, who now manages the Trump Organization with his brother Don Jr., wants to emphasize that the Trump business is separate from the Trump presidency.
“There is kind of a clear separation of church and state that we maintain, and I am deadly serious about that exercise,” he says, echoing previous statements from his father. “I do not talk about the government with him, and he does not talk about the business with us. That’s kind of a steadfast pact we made, and it’s something that we honor.”
But less than two minutes later, he concedes that he will continue to update his father on the business while he is in the presidency. “Yeah, on the bottom line, profitability reports and stuff like that, but you know, that’s about it.” How often will those reports be, every quarter? “Depending, yeah, depending.” Could be more, could be less? “Yeah, probably quarterly.” One thing is clear: “My father and I are very close,” Eric Trump says. “I talk to him a lot. We’re pretty inseparable.”
So, this is what it’s like to live in a Banana Republic.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Following politics these days is a full-time job. Yesterday I went out for a few hours and, as often happens, all hell had broken loose by the time I got back to my computer.
- Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee that is investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia held two press conferences to claim that Trump transition members–and maybe Trump himself–were incidentally picked up by surveillance in Trump Tower. Then, instead of sharing this information with members of his committee, he went running to the White House to brief Trump. What Nunes said didn’t make a lot of sense, so here’s an explanatory piece at Lawfare.
- The Supreme Court reversed a decision by Trump’s SCOTUS pick Neil Gorsuch shortly after Gorsuch defended the decision during his confirmation hearing.
- The Associated Press breaks the news that Paul Manafort “secretly worked for a Russian billionaire with a plan to ‘greatly benefit the Putin Government…'”
- AP also reported that Michael Flynn never signed the ethics pledge required for people working in the White House. Has anyone signed it?
- There was a horrible attack in London–JJ covered it well yesterday.
When I got home, Devin Nunes was all over the TV, soon followed by a press conference by Adam Schiff, the Democratic ranking member of Nunes committee.
Democrat Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, held a hastily-planned press conference to respond to committee chairman Devin Nunes‘ decision to give President Donald Trump updates on the Russia investigation and wiretapping without showing the evidence to Schiff. He said that Nunes’ actions mean that there is reason to create an independent commission to investigate Russia’s involvement.
Schiff, who is also from California, said that Nunes’ actions created “enormous doubt” that Congress can handle an independent investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election. He said he will ask House Speaker Paul Ryan about creating an independent commission….
Schiff also said that he hopes these press conferences weren’t part of a “broader campaign” by the White House to distract attention away from FBI Director James CButomey‘s testimony that there is no evidence that President Barack Obama ordered Trump Tower to be wiretapped during the campaign. Comey also confirmed that the FBI is running an investigation into possible ties between members of the Trump campaign and Russia.
Schiff also told Chuck Todd yesterday that there is now more than circumstantial evidence of collusion between the Trump gang and Russia. But that’s all yesterday’s news.
The AP has a new exclusive out about Manafort: U.S. Probes Banking of Ex-Trump Campaign Chief.
U.S. Treasury Department agents have recently obtained information about offshore financial transactions involving President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, as part of a federal anti-corruption probe into his work in Eastern Europe, The Associated Press has learned.
Information about Manafort’s transactions was turned over earlier this year to U.S. agents working in the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network by investigators in Cyprus at the U.S. agency’s request, a person familiar with the case said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to publicly discuss a criminal investigation.
The Cyprus attorney general, one of the country’s top law enforcement officers, was made aware of the American request….
Manafort, who was Trump’s unpaid campaign chairman from March until August last year, has been a leading focus of the U.S. government’s investigation into whether Trump associates coordinated with Moscow to meddle in the 2016 campaign. This week, the AP revealed his secret work for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago.
The Washington Post has a story on Manafort’s business partner, who is still a very important member of the Trump administration: Manafort is gone, but his business associate remains a key part of Trump’s operation.
…even as Trump officials downplay Manafort’s role, his decade-long business associate Rick Gates remains entrenched in the president’s operation. Gates is one of four people leading a Trump-blessed group that defends the president’s agenda. As recently as last week, he was at the White House to meet with officials as part of that work.
Through Manafort, Gates is tied to many of the same business titans from Ukraine and Russia, including Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with strong ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that Manafort had a multimillion-dollar contract with Deripaska between at least 2005 and 2009 that was aimed at helping the political interests of Putin.
Manafort has acknowledged the contract with Deripaska but denied that it, or any other of their dealings, had anything to do with the Russian government. In a brief interview, Gates described his work as being focused on “supporting the private equity fund started by the firm and democracy building and party building in Ukraine.”
Gates also acknowledged a role in at least two recent, controversial deals involving separate Putin-connected oligarchs, including one other with Deripaska. Both led to lawsuits in which Gates was listed as a partner to Manafort, though Gates said he holds no equity interest in the firm.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
Then there this story from Haaretz: The Russian Crime Organization That Operated in Trump Tower.
The FBI did wiretap Trump Tower, but its target was not the future president of the United States and the operation was over well before Donald Trump even declared his candidacy. Instead, the bureau was listening in on a Russian crime organization that worked out of offices on the building’s 63rd floor, just three stories below Trump’s penthouse. As reported by ABC News on Tuesday, the FBI had the building under surveillance, including electronic monitoring, from 2011 to 2013. The investigation led to the indictment of Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, who is wanted by Interpol and on the lam in Russia, and 33 individuals suspected of working for him.
“He is a major player,” Mike Gaeta, who ran the FBI’s Eurasian organized crime unit in New York and led the 2013 FBI investigation, told ABC News about Tokhtakhounov, who holds both Russian and Israeli citizenship.
“He is prominent. He has extremely good connections in the business world as well as the criminal world, overseas, in Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, other countries.
Again, read more details at the link.
Another prominent Russian was assassinated on a street in Ukraine. The Independent: Former Russian MP shot dead in Kiev, Ukraine.
Denis Voronenkov was killed around noon and his bodyguard was injured in the attack, Kiev police chief Andriy Kryschenko said.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the killing was an act of Russian “state terrorism.”
The Kremlin called allegations Moscow was behind the murder “absurd.”
Mr Voronenkov, 45, a former member of the communist faction in the lower house of Russian parliament, had moved to Ukraine last autumn and had been granted Ukrainian citizenship.
The former MP had criticised Moscow’s illegal annexation of Crimea and had been due to testify against ex-President Viktor Yanukovych, a firm ally of President Vladimir Putin.
His bodyguard reportedly returned fire and wounded the attacker, who is being treated in hospital.
Another former MP and Kremlin critic living in Kiev said Mr Voronenkov was killed while heading to meet with him.
They’re dropping like flies. I’d say Paul Manafort’s should be watching his back.
Then there’s the lawyer who was thrown out of his window in Moscow. It’s a complicated story that Michael Weiss explains at The Daily Beast: Russian Lawyer Thrown From Window Was a Witness for the U.S. Government. I won’t try to excerpt it; it’s not long though.
This morning, Rep. Elijah Cummings called for an investigation of Rep. Devin Nunes. The Hill reports:
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) on Thursday called for an investigation into House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who bypassed the panel to brief President Trump on information related to U.S. surveillance of his transition team.
During an interview on CNN’s “New Day,” Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, called the Intelligence panel a “very special committee.”
“They are privileged to information that most members of Congress may never see and so you expect them to be extremely confidential,” he added.
“What he did was basically to go to the president, who’s being investigated, by the FBI and others and by the intelligence committee, to give them information.”
Late last night, CNN broke this story: US officials: Info suggests Trump associates may have coordinated with Russians.
The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, US officials told CNN.
This is partly what FBI Director James Comey was referring to when he made a bombshell announcement Monday before Congress that the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, according to one source.
The FBI is now reviewing that information, which includes human intelligence, travel, business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings, according to those U.S. officials. The information is raising the suspicions of FBI counterintelligence investigators that the coordination may have taken place, though officials cautioned that the information was not conclusive and that the investigation is ongoing.
This is out of control. What more wild news will today bring? And I haven’t even mentioned the GOP “health care” bill which is in deep trouble.
What stories are you following today?
So, things are happening.
Then there is this…
Now for the cartoons.
This is an open thread.
As usual these days, I don’t know where to begin. We are living through something so strange and unprecedented that I just find myself shaking my head at each new revelation. Once again, I’m going to illustrate this post with baby animal pics, just because.
One crazy-making thing for me is the fact that the Senate is currently grilling a candidate for the Supreme Court who has been nominated by a man who may have committed treason. Neil Gorsuch should not be approved until the investigation of Trump’s involvement with Russia’s interference in the election is complete. I’m actually having difficulty watching the Gorsuch hearing. The word I think of when I look at and listen to him is “oily.” I hope some of you are following the questioning and can share your impressions.
I did watch the entire “Comey hearing” yesterday, and I’m still processing the latest revelations. I expect the press will be on this now and news outlets will compete to give us new information on a daily basis. We may have to function during political chaos for months and years to come. I can only hope the Republicans begin to develop spines as the 2018 election gets closer.
While the House Intelligence Committee testimony by FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers was still going on, White House spokesman Sean Spicer bizarrely continued to defend Trump’s accusation that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. He also claimed that Michael Flynn was only “volunteer” for the Trump campaign and that Paul Manafort had only a “limited role.”
During the campaign, Flynn was a top adviser and, at one point, was vetted to become Trump’s running mate. He later accepted a job as national security adviser, one of the most important roles in the West Wing, before resigning 24 days into the new administration, after it was revealed that he had not been entirely forthcoming about his conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
“General Flynn was a volunteer of the campaign,” Spicer said on Monday, brushing off concerns that Flynn had been a high-level Trump campaign adviser with any degree of influence while maintaining ties to Russia.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer incorrectly diminished the role of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, remarks made at the same time as a House Intelligence Committee hearing investigated whether campaign aides colluded with Russia during last year’s presidential race.Spicer, pressed on a number of Trump associates’ connections to Russian operatives, claimed Manafort played a “limited role (in the campaign) for a very limited amount of time.”
Manafort was hired by the Trump campaign in March 2016 to lead the delegate operation on the floor of the Republican National Committee in Cleveland.
Manafort was promoted in May to campaign chairman and chief strategist. And when campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was fired in June, Manafort — who butted heads with Lewandowski — was widely seen as the campaign’s top official.
Manafort is largely credited with securing Trump the Republican nomination, through a mix of deep ties in the Republican establishment and tireless organizing to win the Republican delegate fight which almost derailed Trump one year ago.
I wonder why the White House is so desperate to disown Manafort, who is a close friend of Trump buddy Roger Stone and has lived in Trump Tower since for more than a decade? The Washington Post may have provided a partial answer this morning: New documents show Trump aide laundered payments from party with Moscow ties, lawmaker alleges.
KIEV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian lawmaker released new financial documents Tuesday allegedly showing that a former campaign chairman for President Trump laundered payments from the party of a disgraced ex-leader of Ukraine using offshore accounts in Belize and Kyrgyzstan.
The new documents, if legitimate, stem from business ties between the Trump aide, Paul Manafort, and the party of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who enjoyed Moscow’s backing while he was in power. He has been in hiding in Russia since being overthrown by pro-Western protesters in 2014, and is wanted in Ukraine on corruption charges.
The latest documents were released just hours after the House Intelligence Committee questioned FBI Director James B. Comey about possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow. The hearing that also touched on Manafort’s work for Yanukovych’s party in Ukraine.
Comey declined to say whether the FBI is coordinating with Ukraine on an investigation of the alleged payments to Manafort.
More details at the link.
Another Russia fan who is still in the Trump administration is good old Rex Tillerson. Have you hear about the recent changes to his travel schedule? This seems odd after what we heard at the Intel Committee hearing yesterday.
America’s smaller European allies have expressed concern about President Donald Trump’s mixed signals on whether he would protect them against Russia.
The uncertainty threatened to deepen late Monday when U.S. officials said that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson planned to skip what would have been his first official meeting with NATO in April.
However, Tillerson will travel later in the month to a series of unspecified meetings in Russia, a State Department spokesman confirmed to NBC News.
Here’s an interesting opinion piece by Walter Shapiro at Roll Call: James Comey and the Art of the Shiv.
Before Comey returned to his offstage role, he dropped enough bombshells to solidify his reputation as the most significant FBI director since J. Edgar Hoover. Joined by his crusty sidekick, Adm. Michael Rogers, who heads the National Security Agency, Comey gave an artful lesson in how to stick a shiv into a sitting president without ever raising his voice or making a specific accusation.
Early in the hearing, Comey shredded Trump’s cockamamie Twitter claim that Barack Obama had wiretapped him before the election. As Comey solemnly stated, “I have no information that supports those tweets and we have looked carefully inside the FBI.”
Comey had arrived at the hearing with his own smoking gun that he brandished at the beginning of his opening statement — official confirmation that the FBI is investigating “any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russian efforts.”
Comey’s offensive against the White House even extended to refuting a presidential tweet about the ongoing hearing. Connecticut Democratic Rep. Jim Himes asked Comey to respond to a Trump tweet claiming, “The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence the electoral process.” Comey dismissed Trump’s fanciful version of the truth by saying, “It wasn’t certainly our intention to say that today.”
Shapiro thinks Comey’s “role in upending” Hillary Clinton gives him credibility against Trump. I’m not so sure. Still, the piece is worth a read.
This morning Trump went to Capitol Hill in person and tried to convince hostile House Republicans to vote for his disastrous health care bill. If this is how he negotiates deals, it’s surprised he didn’t have more than 6 bankruptcies.
The Washington Post: Trump to GOP critics of health care bill: ‘I’m gonna come after you.’
Assuring Republicans they would gain seats if they passed the bill, the president told Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, to stand up and take some advice.
“I’m gonna come after you, but I know I won’t have to, because I know you’ll vote ‘yes,’” said the president, according to several Republican lawmakers who attended the meeting. “Honestly, a loss is not acceptable, folks.”
But after the meeting, Meadows told reporters that the president had not made the sale, that the call-out was good-natured, and that conservative hold-outs would continue pressing for a tougher bill.
“I’m still a ‘no,’” he said. “I’ve had no indication that any of my Freedom Caucus colleagues have switched their votes.”
House Republicans made some changes to the bill yesterday, but according to Ezra Klein: The new Republican health care bill doesn’t fix the old bill’s problems.
There are three problems you could have imagined the manager’s amendment to the American Health Care Act trying to fix:
- The Congressional Budget Office estimates the AHCA will lead 24 million more Americans to go uninsured, push millions more into the kind of super-high-deductible care Republicans criticized in the Affordable Care Act, and all that will happen while the richest Americans get hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts. Voters — including the downscale rural whites who propelled Donald Trump into the presidency — aren’t going to like any of that.
- Virtually every health policy analyst from every side of the aisle thinks the AHCA is poorly constructed and will lead to consequences even its drafters didn’t intend. Avik Roy argues there are huge implicit tax increases for the poor who get jobs that lift them out of Medicaid’s ranks. Bob Laszewski thinks the plan will drive healthy people out of the insurance markets, creating even worse premium increases than we’re seeing under Obamacare. Implementing this bill, as drafted, would be a disaster.
- As written, the AHCA is unlikely to pass the House, and so GOP leadership needs to give House conservatives more reasons to vote for the bill, even if those reasons leave the legislation less likely to succeed in the Senate. For this bill to fail in the House would embarrass Speaker Paul Ryan and President Trump.
Of the three problems in the AHCA, the third is by far the least serious — but it’s the only one the manager’s amendment even attempts to solve. These aren’t changes that address the core problems the GOP health care bill will create for voters, insurers, or states; instead, it’s legislation that tries to solve some of the problems the bill creates for conservative legislators. It might yet fall short on even that count.
This is a trap for Republicans. Both the process and the substance of the American Health Care Act have revealed a political party that has lost sight of the fact that the true test of legislation isn’t whether it passes, but whether it works.
One more from Mother Jones on the Trump kleptocracy:
The week after Donald Trump’s inauguration, as questions swirled about the ethics ramifications of his refusal to divest from his business holdings, the Trump Organization announced that it had created a system for vetting new deals that could benefit the president. The company said it had tapped George Sorial, a Trump Organization executive, to be chief compliance counsel and Bobby Burchfield, a Washington-based corporate lawyer, to serve as an outside ethics adviser who would scrutinize new Trump company transactions for potential conflicts of interest. Trump’s private lawyer, Sheri Dillon, had pledged in early January that Trump would “build in protections” to assure Americans that his actions as president “are for their benefit and not to support his financial interests.” But two months into Trump’s presidency, there are serious questions about the rigor and transparency of the Trump Organization’s vetting process.
The first deal completed after Trump’s swearing-in suggested the vetting procedures are weak. This transaction, as Mother Jones reported, was the sale of a $15.8 million condo to a Chinese American businesswoman who peddles access to Chinese elites and who has ties to a front group established by China’s military intelligence apparatus. Angela Chen’s connections to Chinese officials and military intelligence evidently weren’t a cause for concern to the Trump Organization. The condo sale went through on February 21, with Chen apparently paying the $15.8 million in cash—roughly $2 million more than a unit one floor below. (Chen had lived in the same Trump-owned Park Avenue building in a smaller apartment for years. Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump lived in the same building before their move to Washington.) Contacted by Mother Jones earlier this month, Burchfield, the Trump Organization’s outside ethics adviser, declined to comment on the sale or how it was vetted.
Robert Weissman, president of the good-government group Public Citizen, says the Chen deal raises questions about whether any real vetting happened. “Here, where we actually need extreme vetting, it appears to be absent,” he says. “It’s absolutely unclear if Burchfield or anybody else is doing anything pursuant to what they alleged they would do. And if they are, we don’t know what it is. But we should not presume it’s happening.”
On Thursday, Burchfield, a veteran corporate litigator who specializes in political law and largely represents Republican clients, declined to comment regarding the vetting process for new Trump deals. He would not talk about any transactions approved or denied since he began advising the Trump Organization. At Trump’s January 11 press conference, Dillon promised that the outside ethics adviser would provide “written approval” of any new deal, ostensibly explaining why a transaction does not pose a conflict for the president. Burchfield has not publicly disclosed details about the written approval process.
Read more details at Mother Jones.
What stories are you following today?
Monday Reads: The sitting President’s campaign is under FBI Investigation for Colluding with an EnemyPosted: March 20, 2017
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
The first thing I need to say is this is not a headline out of some conspiracy rag or The Onion. You can find it on the NYT at this link.
■ The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, publicly confirmed an investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election and whether associates of the president were in contact with Moscow.
■ Mr. Comey also said the F.B.I. had “no information” to support President Trump’s allegation that Barack Obama wiretapped him.
■ The hearing’s featured witnesses: Mr. Comey and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency.
You may find it on Politico here.
FBI Director James Comey confirmed Monday the FBI is investigating Russia’s meddling in the presidential election, including possible links between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
He also shot down President Donald Trump’s explosive claim that President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower in the run-up to the presidential election.
Comey told the House Intelligence Committee at a hearing that the bureau normally does not comment on the existence of counterintelligence investigations, but that he was authorized by the Justice Department to do so in this case because of the extraordinary public interest.
“This will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed,” Comey told the intelligence panel, explaining that the investigation began in late July. He said he could not give a timeline or comment further on the matter, but pledged to “follow the facts wherever they lead.”
Comey also said he had “no information” to support Trump’s claim, made on Twitter, about Trump Tower being wiretapped by his predecessor.
“I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI,” Comey said. He added that the Justice Department had also looked for evidence to support the president’s allegation and could not find any.
Or, if you prefer, here’s the link at WAPO.
Under questioning from the top Democrat on the panel, Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), Comey said no president could order such surveillance. He added the Justice Department had asked him to also tell the committee that that agency has no such information, either.
It’s hard to put all of this into perspective but I’d have to say this is the single most important political scandal I’ve lived through since Watergate, Arms for Hostages, and all the crazy shit we did in South America during the Reagan/Bush years. It’s up there with something that’s so hard to believe that I have to pinch myself daily.
There will be impeachment proceedings. We may even see a frog marchs. Let’s just hope no one ever gets pardoned for any of this.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?