Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

I’m reading the new book Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win, by Luke Harding. Harding makes a strong case that Trump is at minimum a “useful idiot,” under Kremlin influence and maybe even much worse. In yesterday’s comment thread, Dakinikat posted an excerpt from the book that was posted at Politico: The Hidden History of Trump’s First Trip to Moscow.

Trump’s first visit to Soviet Moscow in 1987 looks, with hindsight, to be part of a pattern. The dossier by the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele asserts that the Kremlin had been cultivating Trump for “at least five years” before his stunning victory in the 2016 US presidential election. This would take us back to around 2011 or 2012.

In fact, the Soviet Union was interested in him too, three decades earlier. The top level of the Soviet diplomatic service arranged his 1987 Moscow visit. With assistance from the KGB. It took place while [the KGB’s Vladimir Alexandrovich]Kryuchkov was seeking to improve the KGB’s operational techniques in one particular and sensitive area. The spy chief wanted KGB staff abroad to recruit more Americans….

It was around this time that Donald Trump appears to have attracted the attention of Soviet intelligence. How that happened, and where that relationship began, is an answer hidden somewhere in the KGB’s secret archives. Assuming, that is, that the documents still exist.

Trump’s first visit to Soviet Moscow in 1987 looks, with hindsight, to be part of a pattern. The dossier by the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele asserts that the Kremlin had been cultivating Trump for “at least five years” before his stunning victory in the 2016 US presidential election. This would take us back to around 2011 or 2012.

In fact, the Soviet Union was interested in him too, three decades earlier. The top level of the Soviet diplomatic service arranged his 1987 Moscow visit. With assistance from the KGB. It took place while Kryuchkov was seeking to improve the KGB’s operational techniques in one particular and sensitive area. The spy chief wanted KGB staff abroad to recruit more Americans.

This book excerpt is a must read. Anyone who doubts that Trump anything other than a conscious or unconscious Russian agent is living in a dream world. I only hope that Robert Mueller and his prosecutors can break the Trump families hold on our executive branch. A lot will depend on whether the Democrats can take over the House in 2018.

Meanwhile . . .

Another member of Trump’s cabinet has spoken the truth about the “president’s” “very good brain.” Buzzfeed: Sources: McMaster Mocked Trump’s Intelligence At A Private Dinner.

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster mocked President Trump’s intelligence at a private dinner with a powerful tech CEO, according to five sources with knowledge of the conversation.

Over a July dinner with Oracle CEO Safra Catz — who has been mentioned as a candidate for several potential administration jobs — McMaster bluntly trashed his boss, said the sources, four of whom told BuzzFeed News they heard about the exchange directly from Catz. The top national security official dismissed the president variously as an “idiot” and a “dope” with the intelligence of a “kindergartner,” the sources said.

A sixth source who was not familiar with the details of the dinner told BuzzFeed News that McMaster had made similarly derogatory comments about Trump’s intelligence to him in private, including that the president lacked the necessary brainpower to understand the matters before the National Security Council.

Of course everyone is denying this ever happened.

“Actual participants in the dinner deny that General McMaster made any of the comments attributed to him by anonymous sources. Those false comments represent the diametric opposite of General McMaster’s actual views,” said Michael Anton, a spokesman for the National Security Council.

Oracle’s top DC operative, who attended the dinner with Catz, also denied that McMaster made the comments his boss later recounted to others. The meeting, Oracle senior VP for government affairs Ken Glueck said, was about China, and “none of the statements attributed to General McMaster were said.” Glueck added that Catz “concurs entirely” with his account of the dinner.

Glueck responded to repeated inquiries only after BuzzFeed News contacted the NSC. And according to two sources with knowledge of the situation, administration officials threatened to retaliate against several figures with knowledge of the July dinner if they spoke to BuzzFeed News. Asked whether he had made his statement under pressure from the administration, Glueck responded, “ridiculous.”

Does anyone believe these denials? I don’t. This is entirely consistent with published leaks from other top Trump advisers. Vox:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson famously referred to Trump as a “moron” — a “fucking moron,” according to some accounts — after a July 20 meeting in the Pentagon about America’s nuclear arsenal. After reports of this comment first broke in early October, Tillerson gave a bizarre press conference in which he refused to point-blank deny insulting the president’s intelligence.

Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin are reportedly so worried about Trump that they’ve formed a “suicide pact” wherein they all quit if one of them is fired. Chief of Staff John Kelly has taken it on himself to fill up Trump’s schedule for fear of him spending his free time learning “unfiltered and sometimes inaccurate information that can rile him up,” per the Los Angeles Times.

There’s more. CIA Director Mike Pompeo has cut huge amounts of text from intelligence briefings, resorting to “killer graphics” because that’s “the way that [Trump] can best understand the information we’re trying to communicate.” The aides who write the remaining text have resorted to stratagems like tweet-length summaries of major foreign policy issues and putting Trump’s name in briefings whenever possible to get him interested in reading.

“I call the president the two-minute man,” a source close to Trump told the Washington Post. “The president has patience for a half-page.”

The Republican mayor of Mesa Arizona was caught calling Trump an “idiot” on a hot mic. AZcentral:

Mesa Mayor John Giles encouraged Sen. Jeff Flake to run for president in 2020 and appeared to call President Donald Trump an “idiot,” according to a video captured by ABC 15.

Flake had just finished speaking at an event at aerospace company GECO on Nov. 17 when Giles approached the senator. The two, apparently unaware that the audio was still recording, briefly discussed Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore and the president.

In video that the station reports is cut off at the beginning, likely clipping the words “if we,” Flake said, “… become the party of Roy Moore and Donald Trump, we are toast.”

Giles responds, “And I am not throwing smoke at you, but you’re the guy that could just for fun, think about how much fun it would be, just to be the foil, you know, and to point out what an idiot this guy is.”

 

In other depressing news, the first member of Congress whose behavior toward women led to a settlement that taxpayers paid for has been revealed. Unfortunately, the man is Rep. John Conyers of Michigan. Buzzfeed: She Said A Powerful Congressman Harassed Her. Here’s Why You Didn’t Hear Her Story.

Michigan Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat and the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 with a former employee who alleged she was fired because she would not “succumb to [his] sexual advances.”

Documents from the complaint obtained by BuzzFeed News include four signed affidavits, three of which are notarized, from former staff members who allege that Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the powerful House Judiciary Committee, repeatedly made sexual advances to female staff that included requests for sexual favors, contacting and transporting other women with whom they believed Conyers was having affairs, caressing their hands sexually, and rubbing their legs and backs in public. Four people involved with the case verified the documents are authentic.

And the documents also reveal the secret mechanism by which Congress has kept an unknown number of sexual harassment allegations secret: a grinding, closely held process that left the alleged victim feeling, she told BuzzFeed News, that she had no option other than to stay quiet and accept a settlement offered to her.

Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., speaks at the Democratic National Convention at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Aug. 17, 2000.

“I was basically blackballed. There was nowhere I could go,” she said in a phone interview. BuzzFeed News is withholding the woman’s name at her request because she said she fears retribution.

Last week the Washington Post reported that Congress’s Office of Compliance paid out $17 million for 264 settlements with federal employees over 20 years for various violations, including sexual harassment. The Conyers documents, however, give a glimpse into the inner workings of the office, which has for decades concealed episodes of sexual abuse by powerful political figures.

Read all the disgusting details at Buzzfeed. I’m sure more of these assholes will be outed soon, and both political parties will be represented. I suppose it’s a good thing in the long run, but it’s going to get really ugly.

In a stunning act of cruelty, the Trump administration has announced that it plans to deport nearly 60,000 Haitians who were allowed into the U.S. after the 2010 earthquake. The Miami Herald reports:

After years of being shielded from deportation from the United States while their disaster-prone country continues to recover from its devastating 2010 earthquake, tens of thousands of Haitians will now lose that safeguard.

The special deportation protection known as Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, will be revoked for as many as 59,000 Haitians living and working in Miami and across the U.S., Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke announced Monday.

The protection will permanently terminate July 22, 2019, allowing Haitians living in the U.S. under TPS an 18-month window to return to their struggling homeland. At the end of the 18 months, Haitians who had TPS but remain in the U.S. will return to whatever immigration status they previously held, leaving them facing possible detention and deportation if they stay in the country illegally.

“With this decision, the law is relatively explicit that if the conditions on the ground do not support a TPS designation, then the secretary must terminate the TPS designation,” a senior administration official said on a call with reporters Monday night to announce the decision. “The conversations she had were constructive. They were informative. They were helpful. And we fully expect that in the 18 months coming up, the acting secretary will continue those conversations with the members on the Hill and the Haitian government to prepare for the return of Haitian [TPS] recipients.”

Fucking assholes.

One more from The Daily Beast before I wrap this up: Hell, No, Bill Clinton Shouldn’t Have Resigned, by Michael Tomasky.

Pres. Bill Clinton delivering Inaugural Day address. (Photo by Dirck Halstead/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

The idea that Clinton should have resigned is insane. It’s insane from the perspective of the historical record, which in no way supports the idea that he should have quit his job. And it’s insane for political purposes today, given that it remains one of the top priorities of the right to smear and discredit both Clintons in the history books, a project that liberals should in no way, shape, or form be abetting.

Let’s start with the historical record. The Clinton-Lewinsky dalliance was distasteful and inappropriate. I wrote plenty critically of what he did, both at the time and in my book on him that came out earlier this year as an entry in the American Presidents series. It was, I wrote, “unfathomably irresponsible.” He knew what kind of enemies he had, and that prosecutor Ken Starr would do anything to get him. He knew (I wrote) that “reckless behavior on his part could imperil not just his presidency, but the presidency, as well as, potentially, Democratic and progressive politics for years.”

All that is what the affair was. But here’s something it was not: sexual assault. I know we have those two or three other more serious allegations about Clinton along those lines, but let’s leave those to the side for now because [Kirstin] Gillibrand and the others said specifically that Clinton should have resigned over Lewinsky. It was not assault. It was a consensual affair between two legal adults. We can have a debate about the power dynamics at play, and Clinton won’t emerge from that debate looking too good (and by the way, that debate did happen in real time—it wasn’t quite as Stone Age-y then as some younger people seem to think). But it was a consensual adult relationship….

The most important point is that the Republican effort to remove Clinton from office was a constitutional coup d’etat. If you’re young—all this hatred you see today, this right-wing rage machine (which does have its much smaller counterpart on the left); it all started then. The right hated Bill Clinton pretty much because he was a liberal (a moderate-liberal, but as they saw him, a dangerous leftist) from the Woodstock generation who had the effrontery to beat a Republican incumbent at a time when conservatives thought the presidency was theirs for life.

That’s about all I have the stomach for this morning. I’m sorry this post is so negative. Does anyone know of any good news? If so, I hope you’ll post it in the comment thread below.

 

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62 Comments on “Tuesday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Sending love and hugs to Dakinikat after the loss of her beloved Miles last night. I’ve never met either of them in person, but I can say honestly that after many years of telephone and internet communication, I love Dakinikat and I loved Miles too. Miles had a powerful voice and personality. He was truly a special cat.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    More shocking, depressing news from the Putin-puppet administration.

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Remember when the military refused to let Myeshia Johnson look at her husband’s body?
    ABC News: Additional remains of Sgt. La David Johnson found in Niger’

    “We can confirm that the Armed Forces Medical Examiner has positively identified these remains as those of Sgt. Johnson,” Dana W. White, chief spokesperson for the Department of Defense, said in a statement today. “The department continues to conduct a detailed and thorough investigation into the deaths of Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, and Sgt. La David T. Johnson. We extend our deepest condolences to all of the families of the fallen.”

  4. bostonboomer says:

    CNN reporting that Trump spoke to Putin on the phone this morning about Syria. Photos of Putin hugging Assad in the news today.

    NY Daily News: Bashar Assad hugs Putin as they declare victory in Syria

  5. Sweet Sue says:

    Great piece by Tomasky. Thanks for posting it, BB. I don’t think that young people know that the long knives were out for Bill Clinton as soon as Lee Atwater noticed the young Governor of Arkansas as an up and comer.

  6. bostonboomer says:

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

  7. NW Luna says:

    I know a lot of you follow WomensArt already, but this is amazing:

  8. bostonboomer says:

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    • bostonboomer says:

      GOP wants Americans to be stupid (proposed taxes on college tuition, etc.) and to not be able to communicate with each other on line about what they are doing to us.

      • Enheduanna says:

        The far right thinks there should be a King, a nobility and a peasant class. There should be an underclass because that is all they think poor people are capable of being. Servants and slaves. The King must be male and white and the nobility must be a male-dominated patriarchy. Women and POC must submit and obey.

        Anyway it is MY hope this is the line they cross that precipitates a backlash that permanently destroys their grip on our national politics. You don’t get between kids and their Internet.

        • NW Luna says:

          And they don’t want an informed and organized constituency, as BB points out.

        • quixote says:

          I don’t know, Enheduanna. Don’t get between them and social media, which are already totally pwned and not neutral. As for the internet, I’m not sure most of them even know that’s what supports everything they care about.

    • Enheduanna says:

      The bill also calls for discontinuing discount programs for media access to low income communites:

      https://shareblue.com/trumps-fcc-is-callously-cutting-off-internet-for-poor-americans/

  9. fernschild says:

    With the internet choked, I could lose FaceTime with my grands, Hoopla and Overdrive through my public library, online banking and bill paying, my CEU requirements for nursing certification and the Amazon channels I love. My world would shrink until it fit on the head of a pin.

    • NW Luna says:

      That’s exactly what they want. Oh, but Fox “News” will be so speedy with easy access everywhere.

      You’re a nurse? *waves* I’m an NP. Since we usually don’t get much if anything from our employers for CE, it’s nice to have online options.

      I love actual books, but have been reading more using the Overdrive access from my city library — it’s so convenient. Also this way I don’t get dinged for overdue fees, and I’m forgetful about due dates.

  10. Pilgrim says:

    I’m planning to listen to Luke Harding with Terry Gross on Fresh Air this evening. Can also be heard on podcast.

  11. NW Luna says:

    Here’s some good news!

  12. NW Luna says:

    More good news:

    Federal judge says Trump administration can’t stop funding sex-reassignment surgery for military members

    A second federal judge has halted the Trump administration’s proposed transgender military ban finding that active-duty service members are “already suffering harmful consequences” because of the president’s policy.

  13. Sweet Sue says:

    Well, my Thanksgiving is in the toilet.
    Does anyone here know about ulcerative colitis (I’m guessing but the symptoms match) as in what to do until I see my doctor in nine days?
    So much pain and so much urgency for so little result.

    • quixote says:

      Oh, how awful. They say to drink lots (camomile tea? generally soothing) and eat only small, non-fatty, non-spicy, non-irritating meals. Which sounds a bit like the opposite of Thanksgiving dinner!

    • dakinikat says:

      Stay away from acidy things like coffee and tomatoes. Drink a lot of dairy and eat things like potatoes, rice and bread. Butter helps a lot. It coats your stomach.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Oh Sue, that’s terrible. I hope it’s not UC. Take care and keep us posted.

    • NW Luna says:

      Sue, I hope it’s not UC. A number of other conditions can mimic the symptoms, including acute gastritis which shouldn’t last more than a couple of days (which is long enough). Urgency is usually your body’s way of getting rid of bad stuff. Extra fiber in the diet is helpful in UC. Small meals are always a good recommendation for anyone. There is no evidence that any food will “coat the stomach” though it’s a commonly held idea among laypeople. Stomach acid, secreted through the stomach lining is about the pH of hydrochloric acid in order to help digest our food, so it would quickly break down any coating. UC affects the colon and not the stomach.

      If your pain is medium for a couple of days, or severe for a day, I’d seriously recommend you see about a visit to an urgent care clinic or even the ER.

  14. quixote says:

    The sex-stupidity vs sex crimes stuff is being engineered into a noise machine to make the whole thing meaningless. (And then, presto, patriarchy preserved, mission accomplished.)

    Between consenting adults, it’s not a crime. Not. A. Crime. Hillary could have divorced Bill for being, literally, a dick, but it’s not actually anybody else’s business. (In his case, there’s also the professional ethics aspect of it. A person with power, Prez, teacher, CO, should never be messing about with those in their power no matter how much they throw themselves at the boss. It’s wrong, very wrong, but not a crime.

    Violation is a crime. Whether it’s violation of personal space or right up to the worst cases, those are crimes. Even murder has gradations. So do crimes that involve dicks.

    What Franken did may not even qualify if the whole troupe was goofing around that way. Conyers? Jeesus. Say it ain’t so. But that does sound bad. Weinstein or that Stain in the White House? Equivalent of first degree murder because of the level of violation and the number of repeats. The latter group should definitely be resigning and then serving jail terms.

    People who aren’t criminals? Not so much. Not sure why this is difficult. (Well, I think I know. They’re trying to drown the whole movement in bothsiderism.)

  15. dakinikat says:

    YES ALL MEN

  16. Sweet Sue says:

    Thanks Quixote and dak. I can’t remember being this sick for this long.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Take care, Sue. I really hope it’s not UC. I once had severe gastritis that lasted a long time. I had to take acid reducers and eventually it got better. I used to have acid reflux too–that’s awful. I don’t need to take anything anymore.

      Luna might be right that you should try to get into an urgent care place, although you’ll probably need to have some tests.

      Thinking of you,

      Ann

    • Minkoff Minx says:

      Sue I hope you feel better soon.

  17. bostonboomer says:

    This is behind the WSJ paywall, but Kushner was involved in shaping foreign policy while Obama was still president.

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js