Lazy Saturday Reads: The Latest News with Photos of Authors and their Cats

11 Feb 2003, Woody Creek, Colorado, USA — Author Hunter S. Thompson poses for a portrait with his cat in 2003 at his home. Image by © Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis

Good Afternoon!!

Trump left for a golfing vacation in New Jersey yesterday, but the insanity continues at the White House. The Bannon crowd is trying to get rid of H.R. McMaster and Bob Mueller’s investigation has reaching into the WH for the first time.

I’ll get to the McMaster story in a bit, but first, the latest on the Russia investigation. The New York Times broke another big Russia investigation story last night: Mueller Seeks White House Documents on Flynn.

Investigators working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, recently asked the White House for documents related to the former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, and have questioned witnesses about whether he was secretly paid by the Turkish government during the final months of the presidential campaign, according to people close to the investigation.

Though not a formal subpoena, the document request is the first known instance of Mr. Mueller’s team asking the White House to hand over records.

Doris Lessing

In interviews with potential witnesses in recent weeks, prosecutors and F.B.I. agents have spent hours poring over the details of Mr. Flynn’s business dealings with a Turkish-American businessman who worked last year with Mr. Flynn and his consulting business, the Flynn Intel Group.

The company was paid $530,000 to run a campaign to discredit an opponent of the Turkish government who has been accused of orchestrating last year’s failed coup in the country.

Investigators want to know if the Turkish government was behind those payments — and if the Flynn Intel Group made kickbacks to the businessman, Ekim Alptekin, for helping conceal the source of the money.

The line of questioning shows that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry has expanded into a full-fledged examination of Mr. Flynn’s financial dealings, beyond the relatively narrow question of whether he failed to register as a foreign agent or lied about his conversations and business arrangements with Russian officials.

Read the rest at the NYT. A couple of days ago, Flynn had to correct his financial disclosure report once again. The Washington Post: Flynn files amended disclosure report showing additional payments.

Michael Flynn, who served briefly as President Trump’s national security adviser, filed an amended federal financial disclosure report late Thursday providing new details about his contracts with the Trump presidential transition, a company connected to an Iranian American businessman, and the parent company of a data science firm that worked for the Trump campaign.

In a letter accompanying his revised disclosure, Flynn noted that his initial disclosure reports were filed under rushed circumstances without the customary consultation and review provided by White House lawyers and the Office of Government Ethics. The letter said Flynn did not receive the attention afforded others because he was no longer a White House employee at the time….

Don DeLillo, New York City, 1990s

In addition to the Russia-related income, Thursday’s filing showed that Flynn received at least $5,000 as a consultant to a project to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East. Flynn’s work on that project had been disclosed previously, but it was not known that he was paid.

The updated disclosure also confirms that Flynn had agreed to work with the SCL Group, at the time the British parent company of Cambridge Analytica, a data science company hired by Donald Trump’s campaign. One of Cambridge’s main financiers is hedge fund magnate Robert L. Mercer, whose daughter Rebekah is an influential conservative donor.

I guess that explains why Steve Bannon was so upset when Flynn was fired. And why Bannon is pushing to get rid of National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. McMaster recently got rid of several Flynn appointees to the NSC, including Ezra Cohen Watnick, whom McMaster tried and failed to fire awhile back. The Bannon white supremacist crowd is boiling mad over McMaster’s purge of Flynn loyalists.

Rosie Gray at The Atlantic: The War Against H.R. McMaster.

Long-simmering tensions within the White House burst into public view this week after the firings of three National Security Council officials, resulting in National-Security Adviser H.R. McMaster becoming Public Enemy No. 1 of the pro-Trump online brigades.

Haruki Murakami

McMaster has cleaned house at the NSC over the past few weeks. Via his deputy Ricky Waddell, he fired director of strategic planning Rich Higgins last month over a memo Higgins wrote alleging a deep-state conspiracy against President Trump. McMaster then dismissed two top officials brought on by the previous national-security adviser, Michael Flynn: the NSC’s senior director for the Middle East, Derek Harvey, who was fired last week; and the senior director for intelligence programs, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who was let go on Wednesday….

McMaster’s show of force has set off alarm bells among Bannon allies in the pro-Trump media sphere, who favored Flynn and regard the national-security adviser as a globalist interloper. Other White House officials have in the past been targets of theirs—Priebus was, for example—but the vitriol against McMaster has been notable for its speed and intensity….

It’s come from all corners. Breitbart News, the website Bannon controlled as executive chairman before joining the Trump campaign, has produced a flurry of negative stories about McMaster over the past two days, accusing him of “purging” dissenters and kowtowing to “holdovers” from the Obama administration. Fox News host Sean Hannity has tweeted about McMaster, saying he might need to go. Radio host Laura Ingraham has also weighed in, tweeting that “Obama holdovers at NSC or State Dept who are leaking shd do real time for these leaks. Why has McMasters fired actual Trump supporters?” The Daily Callerpublished an interview with two former NSC officials attacking him, accusing him of undermining the president’s foreign-policy agenda. Circa, a site owned by the conservative Sinclair Broadcasting company, published a letter Thursday that McMaster sent months ago to his predecessor Susan Rice, in which he informed her that she could keep her security clearance. It’s a standard letter, but it has caused a furor in light of the ongoing controversy over unmasking.

Colette

Even Haaretz has gotten involved in the story: Israeli Defense Officials Strongly Reject Criticism of McMaster as ‘anti-Israel.’

Far-right websites, namely Breitbart (formerly edited by Bannon), quoted two senior White House officials as saying that McMaster holds strong anti-Israel views and views it as an “illegitimate entity” and “occupying power.” The crisis is linked to McMaster’s decision to remove four Bannon allies from the National Security Council.

Senior Israeli defense officials told Haaretz on Saturday that the allegations against McMaster concerning Israel are false and baseless. McMaster accompanied Trump to Israel last May, during which he had a three-hour conversation with Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Jerusalem. The meeting was described by the Israeli side as excellent. McMaster and his staff keep regular contact with the top echelons of the IDF and Defense Ministry – particularly with the head of the Defense Ministry’s political-security department, Zohar Palti.

“All on our side who has met McMaster and keeps contact with him are constantly impressed by how pro-Israel he is. The relationship with him is excellent, and we really appreciate him,” one of the senior defense officials told Haaretz.

The New York Times’ Peter Baker reports that Trump is backing McMaster for now: Trump Defends McMaster as Conservatives Seek His Dismissal.

…after two days of unrelenting attacks on General McMaster by conservative activists and news sites, complete with the Twitter hashtag #FireMcMaster, the president weighed in to quash such talk. “General McMaster and I are working very well together,” he said in a statement emailed to The New York Times. “He is a good man and very proIsrael. I am grateful for the work he continues to do serving our country.”

A senior White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the president’s views, added that Mr. Trump has “total confidence” in his national security adviser.

Ernest Hemingway

In other Russia investigation news, Slate dug an interesting tidbit out of a recent CNN article: U.S. Reportedly Intercepted Suspected Russian Agents’ Chatter That Manafort Asked for Their Help With Clinton.

Buried in a long story on CNN Thursday recapping the current state of play in the Russia investigation was a reminder that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is largely out of the spotlight at the moment, may not be for long. Manafort, who had spent years on the political fringes helping dictators and strongmen get elected around the world and then lobbying on their behalf in Washington, came out of nowhere to join the Trump campaign, and then take over the reins when Cory Lewandowski was fired in June 2016. By that time, unusual communications between the Trump campaign and Russian officials had pinged on U.S. intelligence agencies’ radar. As did Trump’s new right hand man.

In the summer of 2016, US intelligence agencies noticed a spate of curious contacts between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian intelligence, according to current and former US officials briefed on the investigation… CNN has learned that investigators became more suspicious when they turned up intercepted communications that U.S. intelligence agencies collected among suspected Russian operatives discussing their efforts to work with Manafort, who served as campaign chairman for three months, to coordinate information that could damage Hillary Clinton’s election prospects, the US officials say. The suspected operatives relayed what they claimed were conversations with Manafort, encouraging help from the Russians.

One more story related to Russia from The Dallas News: Tangled web connects Russian oligarch money to GOP campaigns. I posted this in the comments yesterday, but it’s worth front-paging.

La Rondinaia, Ravello, Amalfi Coast, Italy — Author Gore Vidal at his home, La Rondinaia, in Ravello, Italy. Image by © Jonathan Blair/CORBIS

Party loyalty is often cited as the reason that GOP leaders have not been more outspoken in their criticism of President Donald Trump and his refusal to condemn Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Yet there may be another reason that top Republicans have not been more vocal in their condemnation. Perhaps it’s because they have their own links to the Russian oligarchy that they would prefer go unnoticed.

Donald Trump and the political action committees for Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich and John McCain accepted $7.35 million in contributions from a Ukrainian-born oligarch who is the business partner of two of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s favorite oligarchs and a Russian government bank.

During the 2015-2016 election season, Ukrainian-born billionaire Leonid “Len” Blavatnik contributed $6.35 million to leading Republican candidates and incumbent senators. Mitch McConnell was the top recipient of Blavatnik’s donations, collecting $2.5 million for his GOP Senate Leadership Fund under the names of two of Blavatnik’s holding companies, Access Industries and AI Altep Holdings, according to Federal Election Commission documents and OpenSecrets.org.

Marco Rubio’s Conservative Solutions PAC and his Florida First Project received $1.5 million through Blavatnik’s two holding companies. Other high dollar recipients of funding from Blavatnik were PACS representing Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker at $1.1 million, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham at $800,000, Ohio Governor John Kasich at $250,000 and Arizona Senator John McCain at $200,000.

What stories are you following today?

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46 Comments on “Lazy Saturday Reads: The Latest News with Photos of Authors and their Cats”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    OMG, this is insane from Axios: The Mooch’s replacement could be Stephen Miller.

    Stephen Miller, the Trump senior policy adviser who just tangled on-camera with CNN’s Jim Acosta, is under consideration for White House communications director, top Trump sources tell me.

    The effort to find a Mooch successor is still in the name-gathering process, and Miller is not the top contender, the sources said.

    But Steve Bannon likes the idea of Miller for the job, and Miller was the hero of the West Wing after he attacked Acosta as a “cosmopolitan” for his views on immigration.

    • dakinikat says:

      One for you BB … big words for mean, bigoted, selfish NAZIs.

      In a recent review paper published in the Journal of Social and Political Psychology, Psychologist and UC Santa Cruz professor Thomas Pettigrew argues that five major psychological phenomena can help explain this exceptional political event.

      He uses 5 traits to describe Trump supporters
      Authoritarian Personality Syndrome
      Social dominance orientation
      Prejudice
      Intergroup contact
      Relative deprivation

      • dakinikat says:

        These Trump supporters are experiencing relative deprivation, and are common among the swing states like Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. This kind of deprivation is specifically referred to as “relative,” as opposed to “absolute,” because the feeling is often based on a skewed perception of what one is entitled to. For example, an analysis conducted by FiveThirtyEight estimated that the median annual income of Trump supporters was $72,000.

        • Enheduanna says:

          Thank you for explaining that term.

          My father and his wife live in one of the toniest nabes in north metro ATL – and reluctantly voted for tRump (and Handel). I’m actually estranged from him (lifelong philanderer). They’re retired (he’s almost 90) but I just can NOT understand why anyone would vote for a trashy con-man with such dubious character traits. People would look at my father and his wife, at their affluence, and think they were very high-class people. I just Do Not Get It.

        • NW Luna says:

          “perception of what one is entitled to” — that’s the real problem of “entitlements,” and not Social Security or Medicare which people pay into.

          Social dominance orientation & prejudice — oh yes, those especially. Good article!

      • NW Luna says:

        They are recycling mid-20th Century hate like it’s current fashion. Very disturbing to see this repulsive hate and group-think.

    • NW Luna says:

      It’s all in keeping with the “just when you think they can’t do anything worse…” or more stupid, or more repugnant, they do it.

  2. Enheduanna says:

    BB thank you once again for the round-up. Love the authors and their kitties! Hemingway’s house in Key West is home to lots of cats still (I think). They used to all be polydactyl (extra toes).

    I’m really confused how all the Russian money donations are legal? Something to do with super PACs? And so the result is a traitorous political party? FFS

    OK – weekend soother needed:
    http://www.catster.com/lifestyle/polydactyl-cats-facts

  3. NW Luna says:

    BB, Love the cat & writer pics!

  4. RonStill4Hills says:

    I will reiterate from the previous thread, I just saw Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Sequel. I was thinking of our friends in Lousiana suffering from the rain, and all the weather related hardship around the world.

    Also what we gave away in terms of good policy with the stolen elections of 2000 and 2016. The what could have been is almost too much to bear.

    Al Gore has been the epitome of leadership and does not get his due. Trump and all right wing climate deniers are a clear and present existing threat. IMO

    • NW Luna says:

      the stolen elections of 2000 and 2016.

      There were some funny things about the 2004 election also. Yes, if I think about 2016 too long (more than 1/2 minute) it gets too bad so I think of something else.

      Climate change deniers are implementing policy which will only hurry climate change.

    • dakinikat says:

      The SWB guy in charge of the drainage system said these rain bombs were going to be the new normal. We’re all pretty edgy because we’re close to the Katrina Anniversary. Xoxo

    • Enheduanna says:

      I’m looking forward to that film. I need to check how to get it.

      I’m like Luna – I can’t think about 2016 very long without some pretty deep pangs.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    LA Blade: Trump’s Trans Military Ban Now Policy

    President Donald Trump may be on a 17- day vacation but his White House has been scrambling to hand him a “win” by the time he returns. Trump’s tweets last week announcing a ban on transgender individuals serving openly in the U.S. military was turned into a “guidance” policy for implementation that passed muster with the White House Counsel’s office Friday night. Approved by Trump, the new policy is expected to be now delivered into the hands of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who has been quiet on the issue with approximately 15,000 trans servicemembers under his command.

    After his review, Mattis is expected to order a deliberate implementation by the Pentagon, which could take a period of time. (On August 5, The Los Angeles Blade reports on further actions taken)

    Though the policy—called “A Guidance Policy for Open Transgender Service Phase Out”—has not yet been made public, sources familiar with the planning said it would encourage early retirement, usher out any enlisted personnel after their contract is up, and would fire trans officers up for promotion. Basically, said a source, “the administration want to get rid of transgender servicemembers as fast as they can.”

    No one yet knows what will happen to the servicemembers currently fighting in combat. The new policy does allow trans servicemembers to continue serving but apparently does not offer any protection from harassment or other efforts to get them to quit.

    • NW Luna says:

      …a “guidance” policy for implementation that passed muster with the White House Counsel’s office Friday night.

      Of course it passed the WH counsel. But considering everything we’ve heard so far from top military officials, it’s not going to be welcomed. Mattis is not going to like the idea of understaffing the military by 15,000 or so troops.

      Hope Trump doesn’t find out that the VA covers transgender health care, and even has an office of transgender care at each medical center, and classes for staff on respectful communication with trans patients.

  6. dakinikat says:

    The entire city is flooded.

    I spent the afternoon bailing out the turkey roaster. It’s just really really wet here.

    and here’s the good news:

    http://www.rawstory.com/2017/08/mueller-grand-jury-zeroes-in-on-trump-financial-crimes-because-theyre-faster-to-prosecute-cnn/

    CNN political reporter Pamela Brown said on Saturday that new details have emerged in Special Counsel Bob Mueller’s investigation of President Donald Trump and his connections to the Russian government as well as individuals in that country’s criminal underworld.

  7. dakinikat says:

  8. joanelle says:

    I don’t know how they can keep denying climate change with a straight face, greedy SOBs.
    Well, I had a great birthday 🎂 yesterday, treated like the Queen that I am, by my hubby and about 20 or so of my best gal, pals showed up Friday night to celebrate my big number!
    Lots of fun all around, and then I read your great round up this morning, BB, and was brought back to reality, how did we ever let that bunch take hold?

  9. dakinikat says:

    After Katrina 2005 and yesterday, 2017 Circle Foods.

    new orleans