Thursday Reads

 Good Afternoon!!

Trump is totally screwed now, and he did it to himself. Last night The Washington Post broke the news that we’ve all been expecting (emphasis added): Special counsel is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice, officials say.

The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said.

The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said.

That sounds significant. How long before Manafort, Flynn, and others turn on Trump?

Five people briefed on the interview requests, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said that Daniel Coats, the current director of national intelligence, Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, and Rogers’s recently departed deputy, Richard Ledgett, agreed to be interviewed by Mueller’s investigators as early as this week. The investigation has been cloaked in secrecy, and it is unclear how many others have been questioned by the FBI.

The NSA said in a statement that it will “fully cooperate with the special counsel” and declined to comment further. The office of the director of national intelligence and Ledgett declined to comment.

Trump’s lawyers are claiming this information was leaked by the FBI, but it seems likely that the news came from people who have been contacted by Mueller’s team for interviews. The medical cases were dealt by the medical malpractice attorneys at Hastings Law Firm Houston who deal with medical negligence cases.

The interviews suggest that Mueller sees the question of attempted obstruction of justice as more than just a “he said, he said” dispute between the president and the fired FBI director, an official said.

In other words, Mueller will seek to find people who can corroborate Comey’s claims about Trump trying to get him to drop the investigation. In addition, the article makes clear that the investigation into Trump’s actions began shortly after he fired Comey. Mueller is simply taking over that thread of the inquiry. Read more details at the WaPo link.

The New York Times followed up on the Post story: Mueller Seeks to Talk to Intelligence Officials, Hinting at Inquiry of Trump.

It has been clear since Mr. Mueller was appointed last month that he was likely to scrutinize the president’s actions. Mr. Trump has said he is willing to be interviewed by Mr. Mueller’s agents, and Mr. Comey said he was sure that the special counsel would investigate the possibility of obstruction.

In recent days, Mr. Trump is said to have considered firing Mr. Mueller but to have been talked out of it by aides. If the president is under investigation for obstruction, a move to fire Mr. Mueller would prove more complicated politically….

The scrutiny of Mr. Trump’s actions is part of a ripple of unintended consequences that began when the president, frustrated by the cloud of investigations into Russian collusion, fired Mr. Comey last month. “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself — I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story,’” Mr. Trump told NBC. He then said: “I might even lengthen out the investigation, but I have to do the right thing for the American people. He’s the wrong man for that position.”

The White House could try to assert executive privilege to keep the intelligence officials from discussing conversations between them and the president with Mr. Mueller. But that could set up a fight in court, where judges have generally held that criminal investigators can demand information that would normally be privileged.

In his memos, Mr. Comey said Mr. Trump had encouraged him to end an F.B.I. investigation into Mr. Flynn, an effort that Mr. Comey called “very disturbing.” There is a broad federal inquiry underway into Mr. Flynn’s actions. Among the issues being examined are whether he misled investigators about his ties to Russia, and his failure to disclose that he was working as a foreign agent of Turkey from August to November 2016: the same time he was advising the Trump campaign.

Read the rest at the NYT.

The Daily Beast explains how Trump “shot himself in the foot”: Even Trump’s Aides Blame Him for Obstruction Probe: ‘President Did This to Himself.’

It’s exactly the circumstance Donald Trump tried to avoid. But Trump’s own actions have made an FBI investigation into the president himself a reality.

Firing James Comey, the FBI director, was, by Trump’s explanation, a way to stop a “witch hunt” against his team’s alleged ties to Russia. It led, within weeks, to the appointment of a special prosecutor, Comey’s FBI predecessor, Robert Mueller. And now Mueller is investigating Trump himself for possible obstruction of justice—by firing Comey, who had led the FBI inquiry.

With the crisis engulfing Trump’s young presidency intensifying, senators, Trump aides, former prosecutors, and FBI veterans are sending the White House an urgent warning: Whatever you do, don’t. Fire. Mueller.

News of the obstruction investigation, which was first reported by The Washington Post on Wednesday, comes just days after Trump himself began floating the possibility of firing the new head of the investigation: Robert Mueller, the Justice Department special counsel appointed in the wake of Comey’s firing.

The obstruction investigation has raised the stakes for Mueller’s potential ouster. Firing him now, which would require that Trump personally direct DOJ leadership to do so, would create a political firestorm.

“Firing Robert Mueller right now would be a direct attack on the rule of law by Donald Trump,” Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told The Daily Beast. Wyden declined to directly address the Post report.

Trump reportedly floated the possibility of firing Mueller as a way to prod him toward exonerating the president and other Trump associates party to the investigation. The New York Times reported on Tuesday that aides dissuaded him from doing so.

Trump just can’t even imagine the existence of a person like Mueller, who is reportedly honest as the day is long and strictly nonpartisan. Axios also reports on what White House officials are saying:

  • They know Trump talked to countless people about ending the Flynn probe, so they assume Comey’s version of events is true.
  • They assume he did, indeed, ask Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, if they could help derail the Flynn probe, as the WashPost reported. They also assume he said similar things to other officials.
  • Nobody has privately mounted a straight-faced argument to us that Trump didn’t say this stuff to Comey or to Coats/Rogers. That’s telling in itself. The fact that the Trump public position — that Comey is a perjurer — isn’t being argued in private.
  • Any obstruction probe requires context, which means investigators digging into the finances of Flynn, Trump and Jared Kushner. This is the phase of the probe many Republicans have always feared most.
  • The obstruction probe is simply a new layer to the bigger underlying matters: Did Flynn have illegal or improper contacts, and did the Trump campaign collude with the Russians to influence the 2016 campaign? So the investigation is metastasizing.

One more to check out at the Washington Post:

Three prongs of the Russia investigation, explained.

The three prongs are Russia’s interference with the campaign and possible coordination with the Trump campaign, Trump’s possible obstruction of justice, and–possibly most significant–financial crimes by Trump or his associates.

Of course, Trump couldn’t resist tweeting this morning. CBS News: Trump tweets obstruction of justice reports are “phony.”

President Trump tweeted Thursday morning to criticize reports that FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller would potentially be looking into whether or not Mr. Trump obstructed justice amid ongoing investigations into any ties between his presidential campaign’s or transition’s associates and the Russian government.

“They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice,” wrote Mr. Trump….

He continued by reiterating his belief that the nation is “witnessing the single greatest witch hunt in America political history,” a move he says is being led by “very bad and conflicted people.”

On yesterday’s shooting:

Steve Scalise with his children

CNBC: Critically wounded GOP Rep. Steve Scalise may need more surgery.

Scalise, the number three republican in the House, underwent surgery at Medstar Washington Hospital Center and is in critical condition. Earlier, a statement from his office characterized his condition as stable.

Two U.S. Capitol Police officers — who [sic] House Speaker Paul Ryan identified as Crystal Griner and David Bailey — were wounded amid the shooting. Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa said in a statement that Griner is in “good condition in the hospital after getting shot in the ankle” and that Bailey was “treated and released” following a “minor” injury.

“Had they not been there, it would have been a massacre,” eyewitness Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who took cover behind a tree amid the shooting, said of the Capitol Police. The officers were present because Scalise is a member of the congressional leadership.

Ryan named the others shot: Tyson Foods lobbyist Matt Mika and Zack Barth, a staffer for Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas. Mika was transported to a hospital and remains in critical condition following surgery, according to a Tyson Foods spokesman.

Barth was hospitalized and released, according to Williams. Williams also injured his ankle while diving for cover.

How ironic that Scalise, an ultra-right-winger who reportedly gave a speech at a KKK-linked event, was rescued by two people of color, one of whom is a lesbian and is married to another woman, Tiffany Dyar. A couple of stories to check out:

The Daily Beast: The Hero Cops Who Prevented a Congressional ‘Massacre’

Capitol Police officers Crystal Griner and David Bailey are special agents on Rep. Steve Scalise’s security detail. Scalise was standing near second base in an Alexandria, Virginia park when the bullets began flying from behind the third base dugout, striking Scalise. While Scalise dragged himself to safety, Griner and Bailey lept into action. In an extended firefight, the two agents took down shooter James Hodgkinson while battling through injuries of their own. Both were taken to the hospital after the gunfight, and are recovering from their injuries, officials say, but now the Law office of Jerry Trevino is going to have to take care of it.

Read all about them at the link.

Politicus USA: Portrait of an American Hero: The Lesbian Minority Woman Who Saved Republican Lives.

David Bailey and Crystal Griner

It’s not that people should be defined by their skin color, gender, or who they love. But in this case, these details are important enough to focus on for a moment.

Capitol Police special agents Crystal Griner and David Bailey are widely credited with saving Republican lawmakers and staff during the horrific shooting in Alexandria, Virginia that left Representative Steve Scalise in the hospital in critical condition.

Both Griner and Bailey were wounded.

Both Griner and Bailey are minorities.

Crystal Griner is a female minority, who just so happens to be married to a woman. Griner married Tiffany Dyar in 2015.

Rep. Scalise strongly opposes same-sex marriage.

Too often, all of the minority categories that Griner falls into are demonized by Republicans and this is a chance to emphasize the importance of humanity, of seeing people as whole beings with a history, with dreams of their own, with loves of their own.

Too many of our leaders, particularly President Trump but he’s not alone in this, are trying to divide us, to dehumanize the “other.” Wednesday, during moments of exceptional horror, these two Capitol Police special agents stepped up to do their jobs with incredible bravery and effectiveness.

In honoring these heroes, people should also take a moment to consider their humanity. Consider how the laws dealt with in Congress would impact these folks who just saved their lives or the lives of their colleagues.

The folks being hurt by laws bandied about in Congress aren’t nameless, bad “others.” They are sometimes people of stunning courage like Crystal Griner.

That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?

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34 Comments on “Thursday Reads”

  1. dakinikat says:

    Meanwhile, on the alt right side of life …

  2. dakinikat says:

    As far as Steve Sleaze goes, his Karma just came back to give him a big lesson. I hope he considers it well a he heals. Now he has a pre-existing condition. He was rescued by people whose rights he tries to remove. He was shot in a state with virtually vending machine access to guns. Hopefully, he looks into his kids eyes and realizes what it might look from their side of life.

    • ANonOMouse says:

      Apparently it was the female officer who took down the shooter. She saved the lives of people who work everyday to take away her rights and her marriage to another woman. I can assure you her heroic actions won’t change any of their minds.

  3. dakinikat says:

    This is a critical time in opposing Trumpcare! PLEASE CALL OUR SENATORS TODAY & every day for the next two weeks. Cassidy is one of 10 key targets in the nation.

    Sen. Cassidy – (202) 224-5824
    Sen. Kennedy – (202) 224-4623

    Can you call your senators right now and demand that they not take away health care from millions of Americans in order to give tax breaks to the 1%?

    • dakinikat says:

      The GOP’s fantastically anti-democratic quest to kill health care in the dark

      EJ Dionne

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-gops-fantastically-anti-democratic-attempt-to-kill-health-care-in-the-dark/2017/06/14/0903e284-5134-11e7-91eb-9611861a988f_story.html?utm_term=.d68f000ef04d

      But everybody doesn’t do it. McConnell is trying to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act using methods completely at odds with how the law was originally brought to life in the early Obama administration. The ACA was debated for more than a year and went through an elaborate hearing and amendment process that included some changes urged by Republicans.

      By contrast, the bill Senate Republicans are writing is being held as close as the nuclear codes. In the meantime, President Trump and his administration (including, most recently, Attorney General Jeff “I don’t recall” Sessions) keep providing McConnell excellent cover as their assorted outrages dominate the news and deflect attention from Capitol Hill. The wrecking squad works in the shadows knowing that if the public were given time to absorb the damage in store for millions of Americans, the pushback would be enormous.

      Cleverly, Senate Republicans say their coverage-destruction bill will be better than the one Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) pushed through the House. (Trump helpfully described the House measure as “mean” during a meeting Tuesday with Republican senators.) Well, great, and a Category 4 hurricane is a bit less harrowing than a Category 5. Most of us would prefer to avoid both.

  4. dakinikat says:

    • Enheduanna says:

      People often lash out at strangers for something deeply embedded within that has nothing or little to do with the object of the attack. Hodgkinson’s political views were probably his excuse for uncontrollable rage.

      There needs to be much more attention and study of this link (misogyny) to attacks of mass murder and it goes without saying prohibitions on gun ownership to perpetrators of domestic violence.

  5. dakinikat says:

    Got a huge laugh out of this:

    • Sweet Sue says:

      The Last Confederate Widow Tells All, Part Deux.
      Although in Newtie’s sequel, she’s a zombie with an insatiable sex drive.

  6. bostonboomer says:

    WaPo:

    Senate overwhelmingly passes new Russia and Iran sanctions.

    The Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a bill stepping up sanctions against both Iran and Russia, in the process delivering a rebuke to President Trump’s policies toward Russia and Europe with a veto-proof majority.

    The measure, which senators passed by a vote of 98 to 2, includes a slate of new sanctions against Moscow over its continued involvement in the wars in Ukraine and Syria, and for its alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections.

    Senators struck a deal earlier this week to include the language stiffening measures against Russia’s intelligence, defense, energy, metals, mining and railway sectors to an underlying bill to introducing mew measures to punish Tehran for a series of ballistic missile tests and the engagements of the country’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps.

    • Enheduanna says:

      This strikes me as a huge rebuke to tRump. Can it be they’ve finally had enough?

    • dakinikat says:

    • Fannie says:

      McConnell stated that they were correcting Pres. Obama’s weak foreign policy strategy that embolden both Iran and Russia. Friggin’ liar, McConnell would not institute the Russian sanctions, and so Pres. Barack Obama did.

      Les we forget, it was McConnell who was informed during the campaign about Putin’s interferences, and he did absolutely nothing.

      • quixote says:

        Not only did he do nothing, I gather he told Obama that if he (Prez) did anything McC would squeal about partisanship and use it to discredit him (Prez). (Which was apparently enough to intimidate Obama??)

        I’d call that a level of “doing nothing” which is actual collusion in stealing the election.

        And he knew it. That’s why he did it.

  7. Pat Johnson says:

    And President Stupid is calling for “prayers”. So typical.

    Instead of calling for gun control the fool signed a bill allowing those with mental problems access to buying guns.

    Prayers to an imaginative being is not the answer. If so, why did he allow the shooting to take place?

    Idiots!

    • dakinikat says:

    • Fannie says:

      How about the Shooter named Robert L. Dear……..he admitted killing 3 and wounding 9 others, and said he did so because the democrats were cutting babies up, and his message was no more “Baby Parts”………….this was all about hate! I remember Fox News, saying Planned Parenthood deserved what they got.

  8. bostonboomer says:

    Holy sh$t!! Sessions lied again in his testimony this week.

    The Guardian: Lobbyist for Russian interests says he attended dinners hosted by Sessions.

    An American lobbyist for Russian interests who helped craft an important foreign policy speech for Donald Trump has confirmed that he attended two dinners hosted by Jeff Sessions during the 2016 campaign, apparently contradicting the attorney general’s sworn testimony given this week.

    Sessions testified under oath on Tuesday that he did not believe he had any contacts with lobbyists working for Russian interests over the course of Trump’s campaign. But Richard Burt, a former ambassador to Germany during the Reagan administration, who has represented Russian interests in Washington, told the Guardian that he could confirm previous media reports that stated he had contacts with Sessions at the time.

    “I did attend two dinners with groups of former Republican foreign policy officials and Senator Sessions,” Burt said.

    Asked whether Sessions was unfamiliar with Burt’s role as a lobbyist for Russian interests – a fact that is disclosed in public records – or had any reason to be confused about the issue, Burt told the Guardian that he did not know.

    Several media reports published before Trump’s election in November noted that Burt advised then candidate Trump on his first major foreign policy speech, a role that brought him into contact with Sessions personally.

  9. bostonboomer says:

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  10. Enheduanna says:

    Here’s some icing for Dump’s birthday cake:

    http://shareblue.com/trump-isnt-teflon-republican-satisfaction-drops-17-percent-in-one-month/

    I don’t see how he will be able to keep congressional GOP backing. Comey’s testimony did have an effect and so will trying to ram through a stealth health care bill.

  11. dakinikat says:

  12. dakinikat says:

    http://www.newsweek.com/trump-tried-convince-nsa-chief-mike-rogers-russia-investigation-fake-report-626073

    A recent National Security Agency memo documents a phone call in which U.S. President Donald Trump pressures agency chief Admiral Mike Rogers to state publicly that there is no evidence of collusion between his campaign and Russia, say reports.

    The memo was written by Rick Ledgett, the former deputy director of the NSA, sources familiar with the memo told The Wall Street Journal. Ledgett stepped down from his job this spring.

    The memo said Trump questioned the American intelligence community findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. American intelligence agencies issued a report early this year that found Russian intelligence agencies hacked the country’s political parties and worked to sway the election to Trump.

  13. NW Luna says:

    Nothing new in Charlie Pierce’s editorial, but many, many of us share his suspicion.

    The Hard Truth Keeps Trickling Out, Little by Little

    It increasingly looks like Russian hackers may have affected actual vote totals.

    …it’s becoming increasingly harder to believe that, in one of those 7,000 local jurisdictions, the Russians didn’t strike gold. …

    Depressingly, the Obama administration decided to keep a lid on most of what it knew so as not to undermine the public’s confidence in the integrity of the election, even though those same people in the Obama administration knew that the integrity of the election was completely up for grabs. There are a lot of dangers to self-government, and one of those dangers that’s done a lot of damage in my lifetime has been the feeling that the American people are such fragile ornaments that we don’t dare risk telling them the truth of something lest they fall to the floor and shatter to pieces. This is just the latest example of this infantilizing attitude toward our general democratic obligation to be wise to what out government is doing.

    We are creeping ever closer to actual evidence that there was Russian ratfcking of the vote totals in the last election.

    http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/news/a55603/russia-hack-voting-totals/

  14. NW Luna says:

    Hmmm. Sanders was 1 out of the 2 Senators who voted against the tougher sanctions on Russia. I wonder why. This is his excuse:

    I am strongly supportive of the sanctions on Russia included in this bill. It is unacceptable for Russia to interfere in our elections here in the United States, or anywhere around the world. There must be consequences for such actions. I also have deep concerns about the policies and activities of the Iranian government, especially their support for the brutal Assad regime in Syria. I have voted for sanctions on Iran in the past, and I believe sanctions were an important tool for bringing Iran to the negotiating table. But I believe that these new sanctions could endanger the very important nuclear agreement that was signed between the United States, its partners and Iran in 2015.

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2017/6/15/1672214/-Why-did-Sanders-vote-against-Russian-sanctions

    • quixote says:

      Sanders is one weird duck. All things being equal, I’d put it down to his off-the-wall eccentricity. But all things never are equal. This is the guy who launched his career using the NRA. The guy who was fine with whatever huge military project it was (F-35s?) when it brought a couple of jobs to Vermont. The guy who wanted to dump nuclear waste on poor communities in Texas. The guy who can’t find his tax returns.

      I wouldn’t be surprised to find he conveniently got help from people he no longer knows.

  15. bostonboomer says:

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