Friday: All the News that’s $hit to print about all the SWAMP things in the West Wing

Well, these posts take longer to compile every day because we live in a 30 second news cycle brought on by a bunch of bigoted white yahoos that had to vote for one very sick mind. This is what bedlam looks like

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

It’s really difficult to know exactly where to start.  There are so many scandals at the moment that it’s mind boggling.  But, I have to start some where and I’m going to emphasize what I’ve known since the tender age of about 25.  You don’t get to be a CEO by any real standard of normal achievement. You’re generally not smart. You pay people like me to be your brains. You’re not all that comfortable with people outside of your own little circle of influence–read CULT–which generally means you drag family and seriously out-of-their depth frat brothers or high school friends with you to high paid places. You expect to be treated like a god and you self-deal like a Persian brothel owner. What you excel at is velvet schmoozing other idiots like you and sending money to the right people.

With that, we move to the topic of Rex Tillerson.  Our Secretary of State is so out of his depth, league, expertise, etc. that he’s cowering in his office and demanding no one give him eye contact.  Whoever said people that are just in it for a buck can aspire to anything else is just plan full of shit.  A rare CEO actually has some kind of conscience.  They are few and far between.  They can’t have them or they couldn’t do what they do which is basically rape, pillage, and steal for money and make sure they get more than a fair share of it.  But ask me how I really feel some day.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson takes a private elevator to his palatial office on the seventh floor of the State Department building, where sightings of him are rare on the floors below.

On many days, he blocks out several hours on his schedule as “reading time,” when he is cloistered in his office poring over the memos he prefers ahead of in-person meetings.

Most of his interactions are with an insular circle of political aides who are new to the State Department. Many career diplomats say they still have not met him, and some have been instructed not to speak to him directly — or even make eye contact.

On his first three foreign trips, Tillerson skipped visits with State Department employees and their families, embassy stops that were standard morale-boosters under other secretaries of state.

Eight weeks into his tenure as President Trump’s top diplomat, the former ExxonMobil chief executive is isolated, walled off from the State Department’s corps of bureaucrats in Washington and around the world. His distant management style has created growing bewilderment among foreign officials who are struggling to understand where the United States stands on key issues. It has sown mistrust among career employees at State, who swap paranoid stories about Tillerson that often turn out to be untrue. And it threatens to undermine the power and reach of the State Department, which has been targeted for a 30 percent funding cut in Trump’s budget.

Many have expressed alarm that Tillerson has not fought harder for the agency he now leads.

Rep. Eliot L. Engel (N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Tillerson called him after the proposed cuts were announced. Engel said Tillerson seemed to share Engel’s concern that the cuts are “draconian” and counterproductive. But Engel said Tillerson seemed to signal his acquiescence when he called them “a glide path to what was about to happen.”

“I’m chagrined by what’s happening, or not happening,” Engel said.

“When you put it all together, it certainly seems they’re trying to downsize the State Department and make it irrelevant. I’m at a loss for words. Why would Tillerson take the job if he was not going to defend his agency?”

It’s easy.  The  CEOS are where ever they are to strip everything down to the bare bones and take the plunders. They can do so–like murderous socipaths–with no thought to all the people whose lives they ruin.  That’s why they do not deserve the pubic trust, welfare, and assets.  This Hill piece finds the most shocking bit in the WAPO piece I cited above.  Yes. it’s repeated THREE times for effect.  Let it settle in.  Do not look Rex Tillerson in the Eye. Th next question begs to be asked “Or WHAT?”.

 Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has remained relatively removed from President Trump’s administration and his own department, a new report by The Washington Post says, adding that many diplomats have yet to meet him and some have been told to avoid eye contact.
The Post report reads:
Most of his interactions are with an insular circle of political aides who are new to the State Department. Many career diplomats say they still have not met him, and some have been instructed not to speak to him directly — or even make eye contact.
Tillerson has kept a low profile since the inauguration. He has made very few remarks to the press and opted not to travel with a press pool.
Earlier this month, Tillerson stood by his decision not to allow reporters to travel with him on his trip to Asia, calling himself “not a big media press access person.”
Erin McPike of the right-leaning Independent Journal Review — the only reporter selected by State to travel with Tillerson — pressed the diplomat about his decision in an interview.
McPike noted China restricts press access and asked whether he’s concerned about the message he’s sending.
Tillerson claimed the decision not to allow more reporters had to do with a desire to save money, saying the plane “flies faster, allows me to be more efficient” with fewer people on it.

Has any one ever stopped to define ‘efficiency’ in terms of successful diplomacy?  I guess not.

BB shared this link yesterday.  It explains exactly how awful Jared Kushner is on every level of what you need to manage anything at all.  He’s also way out of his league.

But I worked for Kushner for 18 months as he tried to infuse a much smaller institution than the U.S. government with cost-cutting impulses from the commercial real estate world. And my experience doesn’t bode well for the Office of American Innovation. Not everything that works in the private sector is transferrable to the public sector — and even if it were, Kushner isn’t the best person to transfer it.

Then there’s Carl Icahn who demonstrates a new level of corruption equal to only Kremlin Caligula himself.  I haven’t cited D-Day for awhile since he writes for The Intercept but I will for a change.  There’s all kinds of nastiness surround former TWA CEO Carl Icahn.  Rachel Maddow calls it “quite blatant corruption”.

WATCHDOG GROUP PUBLIC Citizen asked Congress on Wednesday to investigate whether billionaire investor and unofficial Trump administration adviser Carl Icahn has engaged in illegal, unregistered lobbying in conjunction with his public bid to change an ethanol rule that would save one of his affiliated businesses $200 million annually.

Icahn raised eyebrows last week for getting the Renewable Fuels Association to reverse its position on a key proposal that would benefit him personally. The association, which lobbies for ethanol producers, agreed to a proposal to shift the responsibility for ensuring that gasoline contains a minimum volume of renewable fuels — from oil refiners to gasoline wholesalers. Icahn is the majority shareholder in CVR Energy, a refiner that cannot blend ethanol on its own, and which therefore must buy over $200 million in “renewable fuel credits” each year to follow the law. By shifting the responsibility to wholesalers, CVR would no longer have to make that purchase.

Trump tapped Icahn as his deregulatory czar in December. But as an unofficial adviser to the Trump administration, Icahn was able to maintain his prodigious financial holdings. The renewable fuels proposal struck many as an example of Icahn self-dealing — recommending changes in regulation that benefit him financially.

Now, Public Citizen is accusing Icahn and CVR of violating the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995. Any nongovernmental entity that crosses certain thresholds must register all lobbying activities with the government. Congress oversees compliance with this law.

Since the Trump administration insists that Icahn is a private citizen who receives no compensation as a government official, he would fall into the category of needing to register any lobbying work, according to a complaint sent to the clerk of the House and secretary of the Senate. Public Citizen argues that Icahn’s formal proposal to change the renewable fuel standard regulation, along with his reported assistance in vetting candidates for the Environmental Protection Agency, comprises lobbying activity.

“It is not lobbying to advise a candidate, but once Trump became president, Trump then became a covered official subject to the lobbying disclosure law,” energy program director Tyson Slocum wrote in the letter. “All of this has occurred with no record of any [Lobbying Disclosure Act] filings by or on behalf of Mr. Icahn, Icahn Enterprises or CVR Energy.”

In other words, either Icahn is a Trump administration official, and therefore profiting from his government service, or a private citizen, and therefore lobbying.

Failure to comply with the Lobbying Disclosure Act “may be subject to a civil fine of not more than $200,000,” according to the law’s text. And if an individual “knowingly and corruptly” fails to comply, they face a federal prison sentence of up to five years.


Matt Yglesias calls him  a “conflict-of-interest disaster’.  Oy.just.Oy.  

Five paragraphs into the Wall Street Journal’s article about how Carl Icahn, a legendary investor worth about $20 billion, will serve as a special advisor to Donald Trump on regulatory matters, things get interesting.

“The position isn’t an official government job,” the Journal reports. “Mr. Icahn won’t get paid and won’t have to give up his current business dealings.”

Of course, even if Icahn did get paid, the salary would be peanuts compared with his net worth. More to the point, the monetary value of getting to influence federal regulatory policy when you already have $20 billion in outstanding investments is enormous.

 Back in August, for example, Icahn was complaining to the media about a particular obscure Environmental Protection Agency rule that was hurting a refining company he owns.
And that brings us to what T-Russia signed this week that made Mr. Icahn so happy that he’s been increasing his investments prior to its signing.  Gee.  I wonder what kind of insider information led to that.

Since Carl Icahn, the billionaire investor, was named by President Trump as a special adviser on regulatory matters, he has been busy working behind the scenes to try to revamp an obscure Environmental Protection Agency rule that governs the way corn-based ethanol is mixed into gasoline nationwide.

It is a campaign that fits into the charge Mr. Trump gave Mr. Icahn, to help the nation “break free of excessive regulation.” But there is an additional detail that is raising eyebrows in Washington: Mr. Icahn is a majority investor in CVR Energy, an oil refiner based in Sugar Land, Tex., that would have saved $205.9 million last year had the regulatory fix he is pushing been in place.

How’s this for savvy investing?  “Carl Icahn’s shares in CVR Energy have doubled since Trump won the election”.  Not so savvy you say?   Probably because, gee guess what happened with those regulations?  Rachel Maddow covered the “menu of scandal” of the T-Rump administration and it is so surreal.  I wanted to overwhelm you today with it because it’s almost so much you want to become desensitized.  This cannot become the new normal.  It cannot.

The Scott Pruitt stuff is so blatantly awful that the Bar of Oklahoma seeks to disbar him. Yet, he still seems to be serving safely in the T-Rump cabinet as yup, the guy in charge of the EPA.  And he single handedly took a deadly pesticide off a ban list just because … oh, nothing to do with its neurotoxicity.

Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, announced late Wednesday that a widely used pesticide will remain available to farmers, despite agency scientists recommending last year that it be banned due to neurotoxicity risks to farm workers and children, it is important to know that as a worker you have rights, I totally suggest to check out workers comp attorneys idaho if you need legal representation.

The pesticide, chlorpyrifos, made by Dow Chemical, is used on tens of thousands of farms in the country to protect dozens of different crops from a variety of insects. However, decades of research following its 1965 debut has found that the pesticide can harm the human respiratory, cardiovascular, and nervous systems. Animal and human studies have linked exposure to declines in learning and memory. When chlorpyrifos was commonly used in household bug sprays, babies exposed prenatally via cord blood showed structural abnormalities in brain regions linked to attention, memory, language, and impulse control.

Then there’s VIP Pence who refuses to be alone in a room with any woman and who is likely to go down with the Trumptanic.  This is Maddow again.

Mike Pence had been the head of the Trump transition. As such, he would have been intimately involved with the selection and vetting process for a job as important as national security adviser. Nevertheless, Vice President Mike Pence has professed absolute ignorance of any of the scandals of any of the foreign payments, contacts and all the rest of it surrounding Mike Flynn. Pence was the leader of the transition. As leader of the transition, he was notified in writing by members of Congress about Flynn’s apparent financial ties to the government of Turkey. The transition was also apparently notified twice by Flynn’s own lawyers about his financial relationship with the government of Turkey, but nevertheless, Vice President Mike Pence says he has no idea about any of that.

….

Vice President Mike Pence claims he had absolutely no idea about that despite him being notified about on the record multiple times and it being a matter of considerable public discussion. Mike Pence’s role in the Mike Flynn scandal is flashing like a red beacon for anyone who sees him as the normal Republican in this setting.

 Oh, and the not dining alone with women thing is illegal.  Why woudn’t it be unless you’re a Taliban and prefer your women buried in burkas as property and you forcibly instituted a theocracy in your country?

“I don’t work with women. If they’re attractive, I’m too tempted. And if they’re not attractive, what’s the point?”

A male partner at a law firm casually made this pronouncement one day at lunch, hardly looking up from his plate. Everyone laughed and went back to eating — in the rough-and-tumble world of DC law, it wasn’t even the most obnoxious thing said that day. But this is no laughing matter for the women whose career opportunities are impeded by men who cavalierly dismiss half of the labor force and insist that they’ve behaved honorably by doing so.

This issue was thrust into the news this week when the Washington Post ran a piece on Karen Pence, the wife of our current vice president, and reminded readers of something Mike Pence said in 2002: He does not eat alone with a woman or attend an event where alcohol is being served unless his wife is present. The Twittersphere lit up like a Christmas tree with jokes and rants about Pence’s wife-rule. It’s not clear whether Pence still adheres to this practice, but there are men who do.

As the Atlantic observes, such arrangements are especially common within marriages between religious conservatives of various stripes. (It need not be only men who follow such strictures, but the emphasis is often on male temptation.) On Capitol Hill, where long days and late nights away from the family are part of the job, some Congressmen will not travel alone in a car with a female staffer, the National Journal has reported. Some politicians set gender-neutral rules that have a side effect of keeping them from being alone with women — such as excluding any staff from the office before 7 am or after 7 pm — but others clearly apply special rules to women.

To be sure, a politician’s declining to dine alone with a woman does not fall in the same category as a law partner refusing to work with women (or at least musing about refusing to work with women). Nonetheless, the practice described by Pence in that 2002 interview is clearly illegal when practiced by a boss in an employment setting, and deeply damaging to women’s employment opportunities.

Title VII, which governs workplace discrimination, does not allow employers to treat people differently on the basis of certain protected characteristics, one of which is sex. This means that an employer cannot set the terms and conditions of employment differently for one gender than for the other. This includes any aspect of the relationship between employer and employees — extending to benefits like equal access to the employer.

Why earth are we fighting ISIS if we accept this kind of behavior from our own elected officials?  What’s the difference between this and a Taliban?  Oh, and Mike Pence was the tie breaking vote on a law designed to let states defund Planned Parenthood.

The bill erases a regulation imposed by former President Barack Obama that lets states deny family planning funds to an organization only if it is incapable of providing those services.

Meanwhile, we will no longer be learning if T-Rump deploys troops to Iraq or Syria after the second military inquiry is now scheduled to determine how our military told over 200 innocent civilians in Mosul to stay in their homes to be safe just before we bombed them to death.

Even as the U.S. military takes on a greater role in the warfare in Iraq and Syria, the Trump administration has stopped disclosing significant information about the size and nature of the U.S. commitment, including the number of U.S. troops deployed in either country.

Earlier this month, the Pentagon quietly dispatched 400 Marines to northern Syria to operate artillery in support of Syrian militias that are cooperating in the fight against Islamic State, according to U.S. officials. That was the first use of U.S. Marines in that country since its long civil war began.

In Iraq, nearly 300 Army paratroopers were deployed recently to help the Iraqi military in their six-month assault on the city of Mosul, according to U.S. officials.

Neither of those deployments was announced once they had been made, a departure from the practice of the Obama administration, which announced nearly all conventional force deployments.

Here’s the link to the deadly Mosul strikes.

So, the big news of the day is that the Senate Intell Com has said no to the offer of testimony for immunity by Mike Flynn.

My biggest question is can our country survive anymore #MAGA or T-Rump style winning? Michael Gerson has an Op Ed up at WAPO about the failing Trump presidency and the free fall that characterizes the Republican Party.  Basically, these are the Swamp things that have set the nation on fire while having eliminated the Fire Fighters.

Republicans got an administration that is incompetent. The White House policy process has been erratic and disorganized. It has failed to provide expert analysis or assistance to Congress and did little to effectively advocate the president’s policy in ways that could have united the party.

Republicans got an administration that is morally small. Trump’s proposed budget would require massive cuts in disease research, global development and agricultural programs — just as a famine gathers a hideous strength. The proposed budget practices random acts of gratuitous cruelty.

This is a pretty bad combination: empty, easily distracted, vindictive, shallow, impatient, incompetent and morally small. This is not the profile of a governing party.

Some Republicans choose to comfort themselves by repeating the mantra: “Gorsuch, Gorsuch, Gorsuch.” But that does nothing to change Trump’s stunningly high disapproval ratings. Or the stunning rebuke by the FBI director concerning his claim of being wiretapped by President Barack Obama. Or the stunning rejection of his central campaign promise by elements of his own party. Or his stunning ignorance of the basics of policy and leadership.

 What we have here is a stunning set of enablers that will basically bring the country down as long as they can push their ChristoFascist and kleptocratic, science denying agenda of hate through.  Their black, crusted over souls have been sold for a SCOTUS appointment and the denial of reproductive health care to women, the maintenance of a racist police state and justice system, and bigoted hate-filled interpretation of the rantings of an angry Iron Age Sky Fairy.

Somebody better save this country before there is nothing left of it to save.

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Thursday Reads: “That Was Some Weird Sh*t” — GW Bush

Good Afternoon!!

The quote of the day comes from George W. Bush and his immediate reaction to tRump’s Inauguration speech.

New York Magazine:

The inauguration of Donald Trump was a surreal experience for pretty much everyone who witnessed it, whether or not they were at the event and regardless of who they supported in the election. On the dais, the stoic presence of Hillary Clinton — whom candidate Trump had said he would send to prison if he took office — underlined the strangeness of the moment. George W. Bush, also savaged by Trump during the campaign, was there too. He gave the same reason for attending that Bill and Hillary Clinton did: to honor the peaceful transfer of power….

Following Trump’s short and dire speech, Bush departed the scene and never offered public comment on the ceremony.

But, according to three people who were present, Bush gave a brief assessment of Trump’s inaugural after leaving the dais: “That was some weird shit.” All three heard him say it.

The “weird sh*t” has continued during the first weeks of the tRump presidency, and it’s likely to remain that way. Every day Americans are flustered by new revelations about Russia’s aid to tRump during the election campaign as well as tRump’s wacko tweets and executive orders. We’ve watched the House Intelligence Committee devolve into chaos as its chairman worked with the White House to sabotage his own committee’s investigation. Every day we witness Sean Spicer’s bizarre press briefings, in which he repeatedly attacks reporters and blatantly lies in response to their questions. We’ve even found ourselves in partial agreement with people like GW Bush and Dick Cheney.

Today the Senate Intelligence Committee is holding a public hearing on Russia’s involvement in the election (It’s on C-Span 3 right now). Will tRump try to compromise their efforts too?

CNN: Senate intelligence leaders: 20 people to be questioned, first hearing Thursday.

The Senate intelligence committee has asked 20 people to be questioned in its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, the panel’s chairman said Wednesday.

“This one is one of the biggest investigations the Hill has seen in my time here,” Chairman Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, said at a news conference with committee vice-chairman Mark Warner. Burr’s been in the Senate since 2005, and served in the House since 1995.

Burr and Warner say they have 20 witnesses they plan to interview and have scheduled interviews with five of them so far. The committee leaders said that they are happy that President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort have agreed to testify, but they have not yet decided when they will bring them in.

“To date, we have made 20 requests for individuals to be interviewed by the committee,” Burr said. “As we stand here today, five are already scheduled on the books, and probably within the next 10 days the remaining 15 will have a scheduled date for those individuals to be interviewed by our staff. We anticipate inviting additional individuals to come and be interviewed, and ultimately some of those interviewed individuals may turn into private or public hearings by the committee, but yet to be determined.”

Among those the committee appears to have talked to: Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who resigned after he misled administration officials regarding his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

“It would be safe to say we have had conversations with a lot of people, and it would be safe to say Gen Flynn is a part of that list,” Burr said.

General Flynn has been talking to them? How very interesting. The Committee is also negotiating with Christopher Steele about testifying. He is the former British spy who compiled the famous Trump “dossier.”

There are new Russia stories out in the media too.

Sergei Millian

The Washington Post: Who is ‘Source D’? The man said to be behind the Trump-Russia dossier’s most salacious claim.

In June, a Belarusan American businessman who goes by the name Sergei Millian shared some tantalizing claims about Donald Trump.

Trump had a long-standing relationship with Russian officials, Millian told an associate, and those officials were now feeding Trump damaging information about his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. Millian said that the information provided to Trump had been “very helpful.”

Unbeknownst to Millian, however, his conversation was not confidential. His associate passed on what he had heard to a former British intelligence officer who had been hired by Trump’s political opponents to gather information about the Republican’s ties to Russia.

The allegations by Millian — whose role was first reported by the Wall Street Journal and has been confirmed by The Washington Post — were central to the dossier compiled by the former spy, Christopher Steele. While the dossier has not been verified and its claims have been denied by Trump, Steele’s document said that Millian’s assertions had been corroborated by other sources, including in the Russian government and former intelligence sources.

The most explosive allegation that the dossier says originally came from Millian is the claim that Trump had hired prostitutes at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton and that the Kremlin has kept evidence of the encounter.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

BBC News: Trump Russia dossier key claim ‘verified.’ The subhead: “The BBC has learned that US officials “verified” a key claim in a report about Kremlin involvement in Donald Trump’s election – that a Russian diplomat in Washington was in fact a spy.” This is a long article, so please click on the link and read the whole thing. Here’s a taste:

The roadmap for the investigation, publicly acknowledged now for the first time, comes from Christopher Steele, once of Britain’s secret intelligence service MI6….At one point he wrote: “A leading Russian diplomat, Mikhail KULAGIN, had been withdrawn from Washington at short notice because Moscow feared his heavy involvement in the US presidential election operation… would be exposed in the media there.”

There was no diplomat called Kulagin in the Russian embassy; there was a Kalugin….

Mikhail Kalugin

If anyone looks like a harmless economist, rather than a tough, arrogant KGB man, it is the bland-faced Kalugin.

But sources I know and trust have told me the US government identified Kalugin as a spy while he was still at the embassy.

It is not clear if the American intelligence agencies already believed this when they got Steele’s report on the “diplomat”, as early as May 2016.

But it is a judgment they made using their own methods, outside the dossier.

A retired member of a US intelligence agency told me that Kalugin was being kept under surveillance before he left the US.

Read the rest at BBC News.

Is the tRump administration already failing? Ezra Klein writes at Vox: 70 days in, Donald Trump’s presidency is flailing.

During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump broke every rule of politics — and he won anyway.

He dominated the Republican primary by running against the Republican Party. He repulsed the GOP’s key leaders and emerged all the stronger for it. He delighted in conspiracy theories and schoolyard insults. He contradicted himself routinely, but managed to sell his flip-flops as evidence of pragmatism rather than proof of dishonesty. He knew nothing about policy, didn’t bother to learn more, and profited from the uncertainty about his true positions. His campaign was clearly assisted by Russian hackers, but the story was overwhelmed by the obsession with Hillary Clinton’s emails.

And then, of course, there was the election itself — Trump trailed in the polls, barely built a field operation, lost the popular vote, and then won the presidency.

Like many who covered Trump, I found it hard, after all this, to predict the likely path of his presidency. Perhaps he could defy every norm and succeed there too. But with every day that passes, Trump is looking more bound by the political system he promised to upend. The outcomes we’re seeing look like what you’d expect from an inexperienced, unfocused president who’s more interested in tweeting out cable news commentary than learning about the government he runs and the policies he wants to change. Merely 10 weeks into his term, the processes, skills, and institutions Trump flouted as a candidate are breaking him as a president.

Read the the details of Klein’s argument at Vox.

Ivanka becomes “Assistant to the President”

I have lots of stories for you today; the rest will be links only.

Foreign Policy podcast: Has Moscow Already Taken Down the Trump Administration?

Newsweek: FBI Director James Comey Tried to Reaveal Russian Tampering Months before Election.

New York Times: Ivanka Trump, Shifting Plans, Will Become a Federal Employee.

Reuters: Seattle sues Trump administration over threat to ‘sanctuary’ cities.

NBC News: Hawaii Judge Extends Order Blocking Trump ‘Travel Ban.’

CNN: Trump’s Outlook Going from Bad to Worse.

What stories are you following today?

 


Wednesday Reads: Hump Day Cartoons 

Well, can it be?

Is April finally having that baby?

Well, when I checked the video live feed…it was down. Go figure. 

Cartoons time!

Just a few, I’m doing this post on my phone so my sources are limited. 

This is an open thread, what kind of new disasters are you following today?


Tuesday Reads: Is This A Constitutional Crisis Yet?

The Trump administration is stonewalling. It’s not going to work.

Good Morning!!

Are we in a constitutional crisis yet? I certainly think so. There is so much happening this morning that I have been just sitting here open-mouthed trying to figure things out. I don’t think anyone can do that quite yet. Basically, Rep Devin Nunes has completely blown up the House Intelligence Committee investigation; and until he steps down we’re in a holding pattern.  CNN reports as of 11:33 his morning: White House evasive as House Intelligence Committee grinds to a halt.

The Trump administration is refusing to provide details Tuesday to who signed House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes into offices on White House grounds, as the House investigation into Russia’s interference in the US elections is stalled, the victim of a partisan showdown.

All meetings of the House Russia investigators were canceled this week after the top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, said Nunes must recuse himself in order for the investigation to continue. Nunes, however, told CNN Tuesday morning he was “moving forward” with the investigation and said he won’t recuse himself.
“It moves forward just like it was before,” Nunes told reporters.
It’s a monumental shift from where House investigators planned to be Tuesday, interrogating a trio of former Obama administration officials in a public hearing. But last week’s hearing — the first and so far only public hearing of the House Russia investigation — sparked a wildfire of partisan fighting after FBI Director James Comey confirmed he is investigating possible coordination between President Donald Trump’s campaign aides and Russian officials.

The Washington Post just published this exclusive: Trump administration sought to block Sally Yates from testifying to Congress on Russia.

The Trump administration sought to block former acting attorney general Sally Yates from testifying to Congress in the House investigation of links between Russian officials and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, The Washington Post has learned, a position that is likely to further anger Democrats who have accused Republicans of trying to damage the inquiry.

According to letters The Post reviewed, the Justice Department notified Yates earlier this month that the administration considers a great deal of her possible testimony to be barred from discussion in a congressional hearing because the topics are covered by the presidential communication privilege.

Yates and other former intelligence officials had been asked to testify before the House Intelligence Committee this week, a hearing that was abruptly canceled by the panel’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.). Yates was the deputy attorney general in the final years of the Obama administration, and served as the acting attorney general in the first days of the Trump administration….

Yates and another witness at the planned hearing, former CIA director John Brennan, had made clear to government officials by Thursday that their testimony to the committee probably would contradict some statements that White House officials had made, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The following day, when Yates’s lawyer sent a letter to the White House indicating that she still wanted to testify, the hearing was canceled.,

Read the whole thing at the WaPo. For now, Yates has been silenced. You can read her lawyer’s letters at the link.

Earlier this morning, Rep. Eric Swalwell, a member of the House Intelligence Committee accused Devin Yates of trying to cover up a crime, according to Politico.

Nunes (R-Calif.) confirmed Monday that he had traveled to the White House to meet with his still-unnamed source on the day before he made his announcement but denied that the public disclosure was coordinated in any way with Trump administration officials. The White House, Nunes said in a CNN interview, simply served as a secure location for reviewing classified information and “I’m quite sure that I think people in the West Wing had no idea that I was there.”

But Swalwell (D-Calif.), also a member of the House Intelligence Committee, disputed the chairman’s argument Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “It’s not an internet cafe. You can’t just walk in and receive classified information,” Swalwell said of the White House, adding that when a member of Congress visits, “everyone in the building knows that you’re there in the building.”

“This is done because the White House wanted it to be done,” the California Democrat said. “And this is what a cover-up to a crime looks like. We are watching it play out right now.”

I’ve been somewhat resisting the conspiracy theories, but at this point I have to admit that nothing would surprise me.

Yesterday, Joseph Cannon wrote about what he thinks the White House did to Devin Nunes, who is obviously in so far over his head that he’s drowning in Trump propaganda.

The fun started the day before Nunes made his instantly-infamous press conference, when (says the Daily Beast) he got a sooper-seekrit text message while riding around in an Uber with a chief aide. Nunes suddenly left the car and, we now know, popped on over to the White House — or rather, another building technically located on White House grounds. There, someone ushered him into a special sooper-seekrit room where he was plopped in front of a computer and allowed to look at sooper-seekrit classified documents….

The Brits used to call this gambit the double bubble. The CIA has another name for it which I’ve run into in the course of my readings, but which I’ve forgotten. (Perhaps a reader can refresh my memory.) Basically, it’s the old “You may look, but you may not copy” trick, in which the mark is granted rare access to an impressively secret and secure room where he is allowed to look at classified documents. Sort of like that scene in Citizen Kane, Donald Trump’s favorite movie.

Are the documents real? Or are they a cunning mixture of real and fake?

The mark doesn’t know. He presumes that they are real because he’s caught up in a James Bond fantasy world. It’s all so sooper-seekrit, and he is just soooooooo special because these bigwigs trust him and him alone with all of this sooper-seekrit classified material.

“I’m in on it! Nobody else. Just ME! I must be really important because they chose ME!”

Please read the whole thing.

Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, posted this statement on Twitter this morning:

Last night I read through Louise Mensch’s recent posts on the activities of Boris Epshteyn, Jared Kushner, and Devin Nunes. If you’re interesting the Russia investigation, I’d suggest reading them.

Boris Epshteyn Named in July FISA Application; Did Nunes Obstruct Justice?

Did Nunes Leak FISA Warrant Info via White House Lawyer Michael Ellis?

Kushner and Trump: Taped At Secret Trump Tower Meetings With Russians?

I’m going to wrap this up for now. Sean Spicer will be giving his White House briefing soon; we’ll see what he has to say about all this. Probably nothing useful, but that in itself would be revealing.

Consider this a liveblog to discuss the breaking news as well as an open thread to discuss other any other issues that interest you.

 

 


Monday Reads: From Russia with Thugs

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

It would be nice to focus on something other than T-Russia for awhile but this probably is the story of the century and it’s unfolding at a breakneck speed. Hannah Levintova at MoJo has written a great tick tock for any one having trouble keeping up with all the events to date. You may want to bookmark it since they will be updating and editing it. It spans 30 years of T-Russia history.

The Trump-Russia scandal—with all its bizarre and troubling twists and turns—has become a controversy that is defining the Trump presidency. The FBI recently disclosed that since July it has been conducting a counterintelligence investigation into possible coordination between Trump associates and Russia, as part of its probe of Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 election. Citing “US officials,” CNN reported that the bureau has gathered information suggesting coordination between Trump campaign officials and suspected Russian operatives. Each day seems to bring a new revelation—and a new Trump administration denial or deflection. It’s tough to keep track of all the relevant events, pertinent ties, key statements, and unraveling claims. So we’ve compiled what we know so far into the timeline below, which covers Trump’s 30-year history with Russia.  We will continue to update the timeline regularly as events unfold.

So, here are some interesting reads on the most recent developments which include a Senate Committee questioning Jared Kushner.  NW Luna posted this which is the list of what’s happened this week alone. It’s written by Yonatan Zunger via Medium.

In the past week, there have been several startling revelations about the investigations into Donald Trump, his closest allies, and their ties to Russia. Not only has the existence of two investigations, one by the FBI and one by the House Intelligence Committee, been confirmed, but there is increasing information as to just what is being investigated: an alleged deal for Trump to advance Russian interests as President in exchange for a share of the Russian state oil company Rosneft and Russian intelligence assistance in winning the election.

This news has been spread over a tremendous number of articles and even Twitter threads, rather than in a single big headline. So today I would like to pull together all of these reports, and make it clear what things are known for certain, what things have been reported and sourced but not confirmed, and what things are still speculation.

Information from Nunes continues to shock.

He continues to try to explain his White House visit and conversation with Paul Ryan as calls mount for his resignation.

According to a Daily Beast report later over the weekend, Nunes went off the grid that night to meet a source and view dozens of intelligence reports, including accounts of meetings involving President Donald Trump’s advisers.

Then it gets weirder. CNN is now reporting that Nunes had in fact slipped off to the White House grounds last Tuesday to view the documents. And then on Wednesday, after briefing reporters on what he had found in those intelligence reports, he went back to the White House to inform the president.

On the surface, none of this looks good for Nunes, who is in charge of his committee’s bipartisan investigation into all things Trump and Russia. Why would Nunes need to brief the president on documents he viewed at a facility on White House grounds?

In an interview Monday, Nunes told me that he ended up meeting his source on the White House grounds because it was the most convenient secure location with a computer connected to the system that included the reports, which are only distributed within the executive branch. “We don’t have networked access to these kinds of reports in Congress,” Nunes said. He added that his source was not a White House staffer and was an intelligence official.

Nunes, it should be said, has a history of cultivating independent sources inside the intelligence community. He made contact, for example, with the U.S. intelligence contractors who ended up saving most of the Americans stuck in the Benghazi outpost when it was attacked on Sept. 11, 2012. More recently, Nunes has reached out to his network of whistleblowers to learn about pressure inside the military’s Central Command on analysts to write positive reports on the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State.

In this case, Nunes had been hearing for more than a month about intelligence reports that included details on the Trump transition team, and had been trying to view them himself. He told me that when he finally saw the documents last Tuesday evening, he made sure to copy down their identifying numbers so he could request access to them formally for the rest of the committee.

So, what the heck is going on with Jared Kushner and why hasn’t some one told him to shove off?  It appears T-Russia was in full swing prior to and after the election including stealth visits by the Russian ambassador facilitated by Kushner who secreted him into Mount Doom last fall.  Inquiring senators want to know wtf were they all thinking?

The Senate Intelligence Committee will reportedly question White House adviser Jared Kushner as part of its probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The committee wants to question Kushner, who is also President Trump’s son-in-law, about meetings he arranged with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, The New York Times reported.

According to the Times, the White House counsel’s office was told this month about the panel’s request.

A White House official and a spokesman for Intelligence Committee chair Richard Burr (R-N.C.) confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that Kushner had agreed to meet.

“Throughout the campaign and transition, Jared Kushner served as the official primary point of contact with foreign governments and officials. Given this role, he has volunteered to speak with Chairman Burr’s Committee,” a White House official told the Journal.

The White House has previously acknowledged a December meeting at Trump Tower between Kushner, Kislyak and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Discussions at that meeting reportedly focused on the potential of better relations between the U.S. and Russia.

Meanwhile, Putin is brutally suppressing a nascent Russian Protest that broke out around the country on Sunday.

This is from the Ioffe article at The Atlantic mentioned in the Goldberg tweet above.

But Sunday’s protest was different. Unlike the rallies in Nemtsov’s memory or even the 2011-2012 protests, this one did not have a permit from the Moscow city authorities. Over the weekend, the mayor’s office warned people that protestors alone would bear the responsibility for any consequences of attending what they deemed an illegal demonstration. But despite those warnings and despite the fresh memory of some three dozen people being charged—many of whom did prison time—for a protest in May 2012 that turned violent, thousands came out in Moscow. The police estimated attendance at 8,000, but given officials’ predilection for artificially deflating the numbers of those gathered at such events to make them seem less of a threat, the number could easily have been double that. People clogged the length of Tverskaya Street, one of the city’s main drags. The iconic Pushkin Square was packed, and people clung to the lampposts, chanting “Russia will be free!”

Three weeks ago, Navalny, who became famous as an anti-corruption blogger, posted an hour-long video exposé (with English subtitles) on his blog and YouTube channel. It showed, in great detail and using drone footage, what he said were the vast real-estate holdings of prime minister and former president Dmitry Medvedev, a man who talked of fighting corruption during his presidency and who in May told the residents of recently annexed Crimea, who are suffering from electricity and fuel shortages, “We don’t have the money now. … But you hang in there!” The money, Navalny alleged, was all bundled up in palaces, some costing hundreds of millions of dollars, all over the country. It was strange to attack Medvedev, now a widely ridiculed has-been in Russian politics, and many doubted that Navalny telling people to go out and protest Medvedev would have any resonance. And yet, when he named the day—March 26—people across 11 time zones answered his call and came out.

The Russian opposition leader–Navalny–has been jailed for at least 15 days. More disturbing was the arrest of many foreign journalists.

Thousands of people rallied in dozens of cities across Russia on Sunday following a call by Navalny to protest over an investigation into Medvedev’s alleged corruption. Navalny’s team released a video alleging Medvedev had amassed a collection of palaces, yachts and vineyards during his time in office.

Authorities in most cities – from Chita in Siberia to Makhachkala in Dagestan – denied permission for the rallies. Police arrested those who were holding posters or chanting, and also on occasion simply swept random people off the street.

Guardian correspondent Alec Luhn was among those arrested, despite having Russian journalistic accreditation. He was held for hours and charged with participating in an unsanctioned demonstration before being released after the foreign ministry intervened.

A rights group monitoring the arrests said on Monday morning that 1,030 people had been detained in Moscow alone. About 120 remained in custody on Monday morning. The majority of those released were charged with the minor offence of taking part in an unsanctioned demonstration and are likely to be fined.

In Nizhny Novgorod, parents of five children who took part in the protests were charged with “improper parenting”, according to Interfax news agency.

It took the US State Department 12 hours to respond to arrests of protesters and journalists.

On Sunday night, roughly 12 hours after images and reports of the crackdown began emerging from Moscow, the top State Department spokesman issued a statement strongly condemning the detention of hundreds and calling for the immediate release of all peaceful protesters.

And we thought the Cold War was pretty much over.  Sheesh!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?