I think that cartoon above is about right…I mean, if states like Georgia are outright presenting themselves as a special interest group.
The lieutenant governor in Georgia threatened on Monday to kill a proposed lucrative tax cut for Delta Air Lines after the company eliminated a discount fare program for the National Rifle Association over the weekend.
The move by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who presides over the State Senate, immediately put the legislation in jeopardy and put him at loggerheads with other top state officials, including the governor, who had championed the tax deal. The showdown between one of Georgia’s most powerful politicians and one of the state’s largest employers was the latest clash in a national debate around guns after the deadly school shooting in Florida this month.
Uh, isn’t this man supposed to represent the people?
Well, it is obvious that none of those in the GOP represent the “people” that you think of….when we hear the word, people.
Now the cartoons:
Let’s stick with Luckovich for a bit more:
This is an open thread…
If anyone had any doubts about Trump’s mental health they should be put to rest today. You probably saw his ridiculous speech to governors yesterday in which he bragged that he would have run in and confronted the school shooter in Parkland–even if he were unarmed.
After that Governor Jay Inslee of Washington explained why Trump’s plan to arm teachers is incredibly stupid. Trump didn’t like that.
Poor baby Donnie. Some press reactions:
The New York Times: Trump Says He Would Have Rushed in Unarmed to Stop School Shooting.
President Trump asserted Monday that he would have rushed in to save the students and teachers of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School from a gunman with an assault weapon, even if he was unarmed at the time of the massacre.
Speaking to a meeting of the country’s governors at the White House, Mr. Trump conceded that “you don’t know until you test it.” But he said he believed he would have exhibited bravery “even if I didn’t have a weapon, and I think most of the people in this room would have done that, too.”
The president’s remarks came during an hourlong televised conversation with the governors in the State Dining Room, during which Mr. Trump continued to grapple publicly with how best to respond to the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., discussing such things as arming teachers and reopening mental institutions.
As Mr. Trump skipped from one possible solution to another, he mused about the “old days,” when potential criminals could be locked in mental hospitals, and he vowed to ban “bump stocks,” an accessory that can make a semiautomatic weapon fire rapidly, more like an automatic rifle. But he dropped any mention of raising the age required to purchase a rifle to 21 from 18, something he said last week he supported, despite opposition from the National Rifle Association.
Yes, Trump “dropped any mention of raising the age to purchase a rifle” because he found out the NRA doesn’t want that, and he’s scared of the NRA. But he’d run unarmed into a building where a gunman is fired an AR-15. Suuuuuurrre he would.
Humorist Alexandra Petri at The Washington Post: Donald Trump possesses rare powers. Didn’t you know?
Donald Trump would have run in there, unarmed. He would have done that. And it would have worked.
Donald Trump is the greatest hero of our time.
He did not get involved in Vietnam because it would have been unfair to the other combatants, and he wanted to give them a sporting chance. Donald Trump would have been literally unstoppable, especially when angry. The whole country would have been flattened in an instant. Donald Trump was being merciful.
That eagle that seemed to frighten him so much at that photo shoot? Trump could not raise a hand against it, or the beautiful creature would surely have died. Those were his only options. He knows his own strength.
This is a world of cardboard, and it is all Trump can do to contain himself. This is why his handshakes are so formidable. This is as gentle as it is possible for him to be, and he is trying, so hard, to be gentle.
He could end all terrorism, not just domestic, if he ever chose to parachute in there in his signature tie and jacket, but he hasn’t. He has had other things on his mind.
He could end sexism with a swift kick to the teeth, but, again, he has been busy. The same with racism, but he has gotten attached to it, over the years.
Click on the link to read the rest. You won’t be sorry.
Eli Rosenberg at The Washington Post: Trump said he would charge a gunman. Here’s what he’s actually done in the face of danger.
The most frightened that Trump has ever seemed in public was perhaps a moment during a campaign rally in Dayton, Ohio, in March 2016.
The then-candidate was in the midst of speaking about manufacturing, when a man hopped the barrier behind him and rushed the stage. Trump stopped speaking, looked nervously behind him and grabbed and started to duck behind his lectern.
He was then swarmed by Secret Service agents, who steadied him.
Trump continued his speech after the disruption, and gave the audience a thumbs-up, claiming that he could have handled the attacker himself, despite his first reaction.
“I was ready for him,” Trump said, “but it’s much easier if the cops do it.”
Later that year at another rally, Trump was hustled off a stage in Nevada, after the someone in the audience yelled “gun.” No weapon was found.
There are several more examples of Trump’s “courage” at the link. Remember Sam the eagle?
And that time Trump was so afraid of rain on his hair that he left Barron and Melania in the lurch?
More examples at the WaPo link.
One more on Trump’s idiotic boast: Tevor Noah Mocks Trump’s Absurd Claim That He’d Run Into a School Shooting Unarmed.
“You don’t know until you test it, but I think, I really believe I’d run in there, even if I didn’t have a weapon,” the president declared. “And I think most of the people in this room would have done that too.”
That statement stopped Noah in his tracks. “I like that he’s honest enough to say, ‘Look, I haven’t tested this, but I think would run in, without a weapon, yeah, I think I would,’” the host joked.
“To be fair, if Donald Trump ran into a school during a shooting, I do believe he would actually stop the shooting,” he continued, imagining the scenario in which a school shooter all of sudden sees the president walking toward him in the hallway. “How distracting would that be?” he asked.
“‘That’s right, it’s me, Donald Trump,’” he said, imitating the president. “‘I don’t have a gun, but what I do have is an amazing Electoral College victory.’”
“Eight minutes later, the police show up and Trump is still talking,” Noah said. “And the kid is like, ‘What is happening here?’”
Watch the video at The Daily Beast.
I’ve been following another strange Trump story. It’s about the Trump hotel in the Panama. You may recall that last year a major investigative story about the Trump’s business was published at Global Witness: Narco-Lago: Money Laundering at the Trump Ocean Club Panama. Here’s a Newsweek article that discusses the investigation: Trump Made Millions of Dollars from Drug Money Laundering in Panama.
President Donald Trump made tens of millions of dollars in profits by allowing Colombian drug cartels and other groups to launder money through a Trump-affiliated hotel in Panama, according to a new investigation by the organization Global Witness.
In the early 2000s, Trump was having financial difficulties and began selling his high-profile name to real estate developers around the world, the report said. One of these developed Panama’s Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower.
The report said the drug cartels purchased hotel units to hide the origins of money earned through drug trafficking and other criminal activity, and Trump is estimated to have earned tens of millions of dollars from the deals….
The report said the Panama project is a textbook case of money laundering.
“Investing in luxury properties is a tried and trusted way for criminals to move tainted cash into the legitimate financial system, where they can spend it freely,” the report noted. “Once scrubbed clean in this way, vast profits from criminal activities like trafficking people and drugs, organized crime, and terrorism can find their way into the U.S. and elsewhere.”
“In the case of the Trump Ocean Club, accepting easy – and possibly dirty – money early on would have been in Trump’s interest; a certain volume of pre-construction sales was necessary to secure financing for the project, which stood to net him $75.4 million by the end of 2010.”
A few days ago the Associated Press reported: Trump officials fight eviction from Panama hotel they manage.
One of President Donald Trump’s family businesses is battling an effort to physically evict its team of executives from a luxury hotel in Panama where they manage operations, and police have been called to keep the peace, The Associated Press has learned. Witnesses told the AP they saw Trump’s executives carrying files to a room for shredding.
Representatives of the hotel owners’ association formally sought to fire Trump’s management team Thursday by hand-delivering termination notices to them at the Trump International Hotel and Tower, according to a Panamanian legal complaint filed by Orestes Fintiklis, who controls 202 of the property’s 369 hotel units. Trump’s managers retreated behind the glass walls of an office where they were seen carrying files to an area where the sounds of a shredding machine could be heard, according to two witnesses aligned with the owners. The legal complaint also accused Trump’s team of improperly destroying documents.
The Trump people are still in the hotel refusing to leave and and the new owner is still trying to evict them. The Washington Post: Bizarre legal brawl intensifies at Trump hotel in Panama.
Since that first confrontation, police have been called multiple times to referee disputes between owner Orestes Fintiklis — who blames the company’s poor management and damaged brand for the hotel’s declining revenue — and the Trump Organization, which says it still has a valid contract to manage the place.
Offices have been barricaded. Several yelling matches have broken out. The power was briefly turned off, in a dispute over the building’s electronic equipment. At one point, Fintiklis — denied a chance to fire the hotel staff or even check into a room — played a tune on the hotel’s lobby piano as an apparent show of defiance.
On Monday, Panama’s federal prosecutors said they had opened an investigation into the Trump Organization, after Fintiklis complained that he had been unlawfully blocked from his own property.
With that, this bizarre standoff turned a theoretical concern about the Trump administration — that, someday, the president’s private business might be investigated by a foreign government — into a reality.
Republicans in Congress should have been investigating this situation long ago, but they couldn’t be bothered. Now Panama is doing it. The Week: Panama is investigating Trump’s business, vindicating ethics watchdogs.
Panama’s federal prosecutors opened an investigation into the Trump Organization on Monday following the escalation of a dispute over the management of Panama City’s Trump International Hotel, The Washington Postreports. The probe has sparked concerns because President Trump still technically owns the organization that shares his name, although his sons oversee the day-to-day operations. “The fear has always been that there would be an international incident involving the finances of the president, and the president would have his loyalties questioned,” explained Jordan Libowitz of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)….
The local investigators made clear that they are willing to request information from foreign entities as needed. CREW’s Libowitz has wondered “what kind of pressure would [Trump] be willing to place” on the Panamanian government as president.
“Panama’s government receives financial support for counter-narcotics work from the United States,” notes the Los Angeles Times, and “Panama is currently seeking to extradite its former president, Ricardo Martinelli, from the United States to face espionage and embezzlement charges.”
How much more of this shit will happen before the Republicans get off their asses and do something?
What stories are you following today? Please share!
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
Ever so often, I get the calling to be a full on eccentric. It usually happens when I’m exposed to the kind’ve white bread ickiness and utter banality that I grew up around. It’s nothing I use to have to face on a daily basis since living here in New Orleans as long as I stayed out of Jefferson Parish and away from the North Shore. The one good thing about obvious white flight areas is that you know what will be there so you just don’t go there. One indicator is the types of churches that locate there. These are those churches that only reach out with the offering plate and never with the offerings.
So, I always get a belly laugh when a herd of chubby, hyper ivory burbies show up in the hood and find out no one can totally sanitize their cheap ass ‘real’ New Orleans vacation experience here. I wish I had a picture of the crowd on the porch next door I saw while walking Temple on Friday. It was a nice chilly day and their icky fish white, sadly plump arms and legs were on display in tanks and shorts. I was told by the BNB dominatrix they were not happy about an early morning fight between my friend and her friend. It woke them out of their safety bubble.
I wonder if they were around for the dozen or so cop cars the evening before capturing a guy in the back yard that had just broken into the house 2 doors down from me and the apartment of the local drug druggie moments before. Or, for that matter if they realize the abandoned Navy Base 5 doors down holds about 100ish prime examples of the opioid “crisis”, the reality of homelessness down here since affordable rentals have been replaced by reality tourist dens, and how this country finds its mentally ill expendable.
However, the culture vultures did get to see us send off Arthur “Mr Okra” Robinson yesterday. His funeral and second line ended at our shared favorite dive bar which has also been appropriated for the fetishists of poverty porn.
Stuff keeps changing down here in the 9th ward but you also get glimmers of our glory. I’ve lived on the wrong side of the tracks for 20 years now and my only hope is that that’s the part that endures. All the Chads and Beckies, all the AirBnB parasites and the tourists they’ve brought like locusts cannot stomp on my memories. Mister Arthur, you brought me fresh food–after Katrina–when MacD didn’t even find enough of us to exploit. Carry on to glory and make a path and a light with your song and we will know where to go when the time comes.
Meanwhile, today, I’m little Edie of Grey Gardens. Watch me twirl!
We’re dependent on one branch of government these days. The others have been completely stocked with toxic white men. SCOTUS won’t hear Trump’s bid to end DACA. Well, it’s one positive thing they’re doing. We’ll need to worry about our right to form unions soon.
The Supreme Court said on Monday that it will stay out of the dispute concerning the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for now, meaning the Trump administration may not be able to end the program March 5 as planned.
The move will also lessen pressure on Congress to act on a permanent solution for DACA and its roughly 700,000 participants — undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children.
Lawmakers had often cited the March 5 deadline as their own deadline for action. But the Senate failed to advance any bill during a debate earlier this month, and no bipartisan measure has emerged since.
Originally, the Trump administration had terminated DACA but allowed a six-month grace period for anyone with status expiring in that window to renew. After that date, March 5, any DACA recipient whose status expired would no longer be able to receive protections.
Monday’s action by the court, submitted without comment from the justices, is not a ruling on the merits of the DACA program or the Trump administration’s effort to end it.
The case reached SCOTUS after several Federal and District courts issued injunctions.
Federal district judges in California and New York have issued nationwide injunctions against ending the program, siding with states and organizations challenging the administration’s rescission. The court orders effectively block the Trump administration from ending the program on March 5, as planned.
No appellate court has reviewed those decisions, and it would have been exceedingly rare for the Supreme Court to take up a case without that interim step. In the past, the court has granted such cases only in matters of grave national importance, such as the controversy over President Richard Nixon’s White House tapes or solving the Iranian hostage crisis.
The litigation now will take its usual course, and the issue probably won’t return to the Supreme Court before the next term. In the meantime, the White House and Congress can continue to seek a political resolution.
Trump, at a meeting with governors at the White House, reacted to the court’s decision by saying: “We’ll see what happens. That’s my attitude.”
In an official statement, the White House did not criticize the justices for declining to take up the case, but said the DACA program “is clearly unlawful.”
“The district judge’s decision unilaterally to reimpose a program that Congress had explicitly and repeatedly rejected is a usurpation of legislative authority,” said Raj Shah, a White House spokesman. “The fact that this occurs at a time when elected representatives in Congress are actively debating this policy only underscores that the district judge has unwisely intervened in the legislative process.”
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D), among those who challenged the way the Trump administration ended the DACA program, said the Supreme Court was right to deny the government’s “unusual and unnecessary request to bypass the appeals
The Trump administration’s move was unusual to say the least and it’s a good thing SCOTUS didn’t buy into it.
His administration has asked the Supreme Court to take the unusual step of overturning the first injunction, issued by U.S. District Judge William Alsup, now instead of letting it go through the normal appeals process.
Trump declared he would rescind DACA in September, claiming it was unconstitutional. The White House aimed to terminate the program in phases, allowing recipients whose work permits and deportation protections would expire by March 5 to apply for renewal during a four-week window, but barring all new applicants. The plan was that Dreamers whose permits were set to expire after March 5 would be unable to apply for renewal, creating that deadline for Congress to act before an estimated 1,000 people per day began losing protections.
Under the injunctions, however, those who have been approved for DACA are eligible to keep renewing it until the courts decide otherwise.
Public Unions may not be quite so blessed. Of course, all eyes are on the judge put there by KKKremlin Caligula.
The Supreme Court grappled Monday with a reprise of a case that could significantly weaken public employee unions, but Justice Neil Gorsuch added mystery to the proceedings by remaining silent throughout the arguments and offering no hint of how he might vote.
Last year, the high court was widely expected to rule that states could no longer force public employees to pay fees for union representation — a ruling that could have significantly undercut the power of unions in one of the few sectors where they are still relatively common.
However, the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia offered unions a reprieve of sorts, with the court issuing a brief, 4-4, ruling that left in place a 40-year-old precedent allowing such ‘fair share’ fees to cover matters like collective bargaining and grievance processes. The addition of Gorsuch was widely seen as likely to give plaintiffs the fifth vote they need to outlaw the non-member fees.
Aside from Gorsuch’s silence, the most striking aspect of Monday’s argument was Justice Anthony Kennedy’s hostility to the unions’ position. He repeatedly tore into lawyers for the State of California and for a major union as they defended the ‘fair share’ practice.
The Supreme Court is very likely on the verge of dealing a devastating blow to public-sector unions — one of the last remaining strongholds of organized labor, and a critical part of the Democratic Party’s base.
What to watch: The court will hear oral arguments today in a challenge to the fees public-sector unions collect from non-members. But the writing is already on the wall here. It would take a huge surprise for unions to get a reprieve.
The details: Public-sector unions collect dues from their members. They’re also allowed to collect so-called “agency fees” from people who work in unionized workplaces but aren’t members of the union.
- The Supreme Court ruled in 1977, in a case called Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, that non-members couldn’t be forced to pay for unions’ political activity, but that agency fees were OK because they only fund the union’s collective bargaining — which non-union employees still benefit from.
- Conservatives have been taking aim at agency fees, urging the court to overrule Abood. They say agency fees are a form of compelled speech, and violate workers’ rights not to support unions’ message. Because they’re government employees, the challengers argue, even collective bargaining is political.
The impact: Even though the money at stake in this case is separate from the money public-sector unions pump into Democratic campaigns, weakening unions in the workplace would almost certainly weaken their political muscle as well. That’s why conservative activists have taken such a strong interest in this line of cases.
The odds: They’re definitely against the unions.
- This is the third time the high court has taken a crack at this issue. In 2014, the justices issued a narrow ruling, but the conservatives suggested they might be willing to overturn Abood.
- They got their chance in 2016, but Justice Antonin Scalia died shortly after oral arguments. That case ended in a 4-4 deadlock — which gave the unions a reprieve, but indicated that if Scalia had lived, or if he was replaced with a like-minded justice, Abood would be out.
- That time has come. Barring any big surprises today from the four justices who were ready to strike down agency fees in 2016 — or a shocking pro-union bent from Justice Neil Gorsuch — this is likely the end of the road for Abood. And it’s the beginning of a new, weaker era for the unions that represent teachers and other public-sector employees.
A ruling is expected by the end of June.
Apparently, if you are obstructing justice, like Devin Nunes…in the eyes of CPAC…you get an award, The Schiff Memo Drops While Devin Nunes Wins a CPAC Award
Nunes was presented with the ACU’s “Defender of Freedom” award and received a standing ovation.
If you want to read in detail the background during this award presentation, WaPo has a good description: Nunes gets conservative award for pushback on Russia probe – The Washington Post
Defender of Freedom…fucking hell.
With prizes like these…who needs more winning?
But many people replied to the Saturday tweet by saying they’d rather go hungry than attend the RNC’s Annual Spring Retreat Dinner in Palm Beach, Florida, in March with Trump.
It offered one person the chance to win transportation, accommodation and a ticket to the Florida bash, and invited people to donate to the RNC in exchange for entry into the sweepstake. The small print, however, contained another link which allowed people to enter before 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday for free.
The RNC valued the prize at $3,000, but some folks on Twitter “barfed” at the offer:
I wish I could post more links for you, but it is a bad day today…so let me make this an open thread and hopefully you will share some articles that touches your fancy.
This has been quite a week for the Robert Mueller and the Russia investigation. Here’s a good recap of all that has happened from NPR: The Russia Investigations: More Pleas, More Charges — Any More Preparation?
Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller broke his own record this week for guilty pleas. On Tuesday, Dutch attorney Alex van der Zwaan appeared in federal court and admitted he had lied to investigators about his contacts with Donald Trump’s former campaign vice chairman, Rick Gates.
On Friday, Gates himself appeared before a federal judge and confirmed that he is changing his plea to guilty. He had been fighting the case brought against him and the former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, which alleged they laundered millions of dollars and broke other laws related to their work for clients in Ukraine.
That makes the fourth and fifth pleas in the Russia imbroglio — but how much closer does it bring an answer to the question about whether the Trump campaign conspired with the Russians who attacked the 2016 election?
NPR points out that we still don’t know. We still haven’t seen any indictments for the hacking of DNC and Clinton campaign emails, although I’ll bet those will be coming.
Gates and Manafort have not been charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. by “impairing, obstructing and defeating the lawful functions of the government through fraud and deceit for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes.” That was the charge Mueller leveled at 13 Russians and three Russian companies he says did interfere with the election.
Or the special counsel’s office could be laying down one brick in a larger structure. At the very least, Gates’ future testimony against his longtime business partner raises the likelihood that Manafort could be convicted of some or all of the charges he continues fighting.
NPR also details some mild efforts by the Feds to help prepare states for what the Russians might do in the upcoming mid-term elections and asks whether anyone is going to do anything about the extensive propaganda activities that were revealed in the indictments of individual Russians and Russian companies. It’s a good summary of a busy week of Russia news.
Meanwhile, after the Gates guilty plea, Mueller filed more new charges against Manafort. NBC News:
Further squeezing Manafort, Mueller lodged new accusations in a five-count superseding indictment Friday that charges him with conspiracy, money-laundering, being an unregistered agent for a foreign entity and making false statements.
The most significant allegation is that Manafort assembled what he called a “Super VIP” group of highly influential Europeans who could push Ukraine’s agenda “without any visible relationship” with the Ukrainian government, according to an email obtained by Mueller.
Manafort paid the politicians 2 million euros from offshore accounts in 2012 and 2013 to lobby members of Congress and other U.S. officials. It’s illegal for Americans to direct foreigners to lobby the U.S. without informing the Justice Department.
The so-called “Hapsburg Group” was managed by a former European chancellor, who was not named in the indictment.
The term chancellor is used in only a small number of countries, including Germany and Austria. The Associated Press reported last year that Mercury LLC, which was involved in the Manafort lobbying effort, employed former Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer as an expert.
Gusenbauer told Austrian public radio that he had never heard of the Hapsburg group and had met Manafort only twice. “I had nothing to do with the activities of Paul Manafort in Ukraine,” he said.
Manafort is still claiming he’s innocent of all charges. My guess is he is more afraid of his former Russian employers than anything Mueller can do to him. Manafort has to know a lot that could hurt Vladimir Putin and other Russian oligarchs. Those guys don’t fool around; they just poison their enemies or make it look like they had heart attacks or committed suicide.
It also looks like Jared Kushner could be in trouble. We know he can’t get a security clearance, and John Kelly is going to have to figure out what to do about it. Kelly recently set a deadline for yesterday for White House staff without permanent security clearance to be cut off from access to top secret information.
Trump was asked about Kushner’s situation yesterday.
President Donald Trump dodged questions on the status of his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s security clearance during a press conference Friday, saying it is “up to General Kelly” if Kushner will keep his access.
The widespread use of the interim clearances in the Trump White House came under scrutiny after revelations that former White House staff secretary Rob Porter was operating under a temporary pass amid an investigation into allegations of domestic abuse from two of his ex-wives.
The fallout led chief of staff John Kelly to issue new guidance on the use of the interim clearances, including restricting access to confidential information.
Among those White House members working under an interim clearance is Kushner, who has reportedly pushed backagainst the new rules.
“That’ll be up to General Kelly,” Trump told reporters during a press conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. “General Kelly will make that call. I will let the general make that call.”
Shortly after Trump’s remarks yesterday, The Washington Post broke this news: Top Justice Dept. official alerted White House 2 weeks ago to ongoing issues in Kushner’s security clearance.
A top Justice Department official alerted the White House two weeks ago that significant information requiring additional investigation would further delay the security clearance process of senior adviser Jared Kushner, according to three people familiar with the discussion.
The Feb. 9 phone call from Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein to White House Counsel Donald McGahn came amid growing public scrutiny of a number of administration officials without final security clearances. Most prominent among them is Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, who has had access to some of the nation’s most sensitive material for over a year while waiting for his background investigation to be completed….
In his phone conversation with McGahn, Rosenstein intended to give an update on the status of Kushner’s background investigation. He did not specify the source of the information that officials were examining, the three people said.
Justice Department officials said Rosenstein did not provide any details to the White House about the matters that needed to be investigated relating to Kushner.
It seems likely that Jared’s problem stems from something to do with the Russia investigation. Why else would the call have come from Rosenstein instead of Jeff Sessions, who is recused from involvement in the Mueller probe? It should also be noted that neither Ivanka Trump nor Don McGahn has a permanent security clearance yet.
The New York Times released its own story about Jared: White House Told Kushner’s Security Clearance Will Be Delayed.
The Justice Department informed the White House this month that there were substantial issues related to Jared Kushner that still needed to be investigated and would significantly delay a recommendation on whether he should receive a permanent security clearance, according to two people briefed on the matter.
The White House was not told what the issues were involving Mr. Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. But the notification led White House lawyers and aides to believe that they were more problematic than the complexity of his finances and his initial failure to disclose contacts with foreign leaders — the reasons Mr. Kushner’s lawyers have said are holding up the process, the two people said.
Doesn’t that sound like it’s probably about the Mueller investigation? The Times story also examines the ways in which this sets up big problems for John Kelly.
Mr. Kelly, who has tried to inject discipline and order into Mr. Trump’s freewheeling West Wing, has bristled from the start at Mr. Kushner’s amorphous and omnipresent role, and Mr. Kushner has been angered in turn at what he regards as challenges to his authority and access.
The strains have deepened in recent days, as Mr. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, have privately disparaged the chief of staff to Mr. Trump, faulting his handling of the scandal surrounding Mr. Porter, the staff secretary who resigned under pressure after spousal abuse allegations became public.
Mr. Kelly’s memo further inflamed the situation, essentially suggesting that Mr. Kushner might lose the high-level clearance — including to view the presidential daily brief, a summary of intelligence and other sensitive information — that he has enjoyed for more than a year.
Will Kelly be the next White House employee to get the boot from Trump?
Bernie Sanders has been on the defensive after the indictments of Russians last week included the news that Russia tried to help the Sanders campaign during the 2016 primaries, and the resemblances between Sanders and Trump are coming into focus for the press. Here’s the latest from Edward-Isaac Dovere: Sanders promoted false story on reporting Russian trolls.
Bernie Sanders is taking credit for action to combat the Russian incursion into the 2016 election that he didn’t have anything to do with — and didn’t actually happen.
Twice this week, in response to questions about whether he benefited from the Russian effort, as prosecutors allege, or did enough to stop it, Sanders said a staffer passed information to Hillary Clinton’s aides about a suspected Russian troll operation.
It turns out that the purported Sanders’ staffer who said he tried to sound the alarm was a campaign volunteer who acted on his own, without any contact or direction from the Vermont senator or his staff. When the volunteer, John Mattes of San Diego, said he communicated with the Clinton campaign in local press accounts, he was confusing it for a super PAC supportive of Clinton.
He also doesn’t know why Sanders is taking all the credit. “I’m going to send him a bill for my back pay,” Mattes joked.
Read more at the link.
So . . . what do you think? And what stories are you following?
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
I woke up to the news that a university where where I taught a few years while finishing up my doctorate experienced some shooting near its dorms. Thankfully, I’m on an on line campus of Purdue University where I mostly endure Dinah trying to eat my lunch and Temple trying to snooker me into a walk. I always kid them that they should be glad I get harassment training annually so the work place is safe for them. I think it’s okay to grab the pussies here since it’s a totally different behavior. Cats just adore being in the way and my keyboard is not exempt.
Through this administration and the election we’ve discovered there is no level of criminal enterprise too low for the TRump family crime syndicate. Mojo had a short exposition of some of them last summer. Ethics violations are low level for this crowd.
Trump’s own actions—and those of his family and close associates—suggest a president seeking to monetize his office. He spends nearly every weekend at a Trump-branded property such as Mar-a-Lago, which briefly had its own promotional page on the State Department website. Diplomats and industry leaders flock to his Washington hotel in hopes of winning his favor. On the day that Ivanka Trump and her father met with the Chinese president, China approved three of her company’s copyright requests. Kushner’s family firm has touted its ability to grab visas for wealthy Chinese investors. “The stars have all aligned,” Eric Trump recently said. “I think our brand is the hottest it has ever been.”t
To make matters worse, Trump and the Republican Congress have started rolling back the Obama administration’s efforts to combat corruption. In February, Trump signed the repeal of a key provision in the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law that had required US oil and gas companies to disclose their payments to foreign governments. This doesn’t look so good when your secretary of state was the CEO of Exxon Mobil. The Department of the Interior has been backing away from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which also publicizes payments to governments by energy companies. The Trump administration has yet to say whether it will remain in the Open Government Partnership; if it leaves, the United States will join abstainers such as Russia and Angola.
And there are indications that Trump may try to weaken the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the crown jewel of anti-corruption laws. Even before he ran for president, Trump expressed hostility to the FCPA, which prohibits US companies from bribing foreign officials, saying it puts American businesses at a “huge disadvantage” and that it’s a “horrible law and it should be changed.” Part of this animosity may stem from his own experiences trying to take his brand global. A recent New Yorker investigation found that the Trump Organization may have violated the FCPA as part of a failed development deal in Azerbaijan, widely considered one of the world’s most corrupt countries. (A company lawyer dismissed this claim.)
It’s difficult to focus on any one aspect of any of this or the other variety of charges because it’s like juggling hot sticky tarballs while some one throws a few more at you every few minutes. It’s way too much for any one newsroom to keep track of let alone investigate completely. We’re getting some more information from the few of them dedicated to this today. This one is from The Intelligencer and Jonathan Chait at NYMag. Self dealing is a feature in their admnistration. “The Trump Administration Is a Golden Age for Corporate Crooks” pretty much sums it up.
The Republican Party’s main legislative achievement was to facilitate the direct transfer of hundreds of billions of dollars into the hands of business owners. (The proceeds of the Trump tax cuts are mainly going into stock buybacks, a simple windfall for owners of capital.) But a second, less visible channel is the Trump administration’s program of lax regulation. While the tax cuts spray money at business owners as a whole, weak enforcement of regulations confers a windfall targeted specifically at businesses that cheat their customers or break the law.
The Securities and Exchange Commission has brought dramatically fewer cases and lower penalties under Trump. From last February through September, the agency brought 15 cases and collected $127 million in civil penalties, in comparison with 43 cases and $702 million in penalties during a comparable period in 2016. Likewise, the Environmental Protection Agency is collecting far less in penalties from polluters than it did under any of the previous three administrations:
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created to fill in a bare spot in the federal regulatory design: financial products, which are inherently complex and in need of regulation, had been marketed to largely unwitting customers with a minimal amount of oversight, resulting in endemic fraud. Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s director of the CFPB, has called the agency itself a “sick, sad joke.” Just how his vision would translate into practice has already become apparent.
Chris Arnold reports for NPR that Mulvaney forced the agency to drop a lawsuit against alleged loan-shark outfit Golden Valley Lending. Arnold found a Golden Valley victim named Julie Bonenfant, from Detroit, who needed money after a breakup and having her car stolen led to falling behind on rent. Over the course of a year, Bonenfant paid $3,735 to Golden Valley for a $900 loan. “A key backer of Golden Valley was recently convicted of racketeering charges in a case involving another online lender, according to court documents,” reports Arnold.
Zach Everson–writing for the Daily Beast–uncovers Trump’s pre-inaguration shenningan’s surrounding his hotel in Downtown Washington DC. Trump has a reputation for doing Dine and Dashes on jobbers.
In the days around Donald Trump’s inauguration, the hotel bearing his namein downtown Washington, D.C., quietly settled two liens totaling more than $3 million for allegedly unpaid construction work. In one case, a contractor reached an agreement after receiving a phone call from someone his attorney identified as “Trump.”
The liens had both been previously reported. But their settlements had not. And the fact that they were handled right around the time when Trump took office—perhaps even at the behest of the then-president-elect himself—underscores just how politically sensitive the management of the Trump International Hotel was and is to the current White House occupant.
The largest payment was made to Joseph J. Magnolia, Inc. The family-owned D.C.-based company had filed a lien for $2.98 million on Dec. 21, 2016, for “the unpaid balance for work done” on the hotel, dating from that day back through Sept. 9, 2014, according to court filings. Joseph J. Magnolia, Inc. had done “plumbing, mechanical, and HVAC work, along with the site sewer, water, storm, and water services” per the notice. It also provided the labor and materials required to complete that work.
The company had been featured in a Washington Post article about various liens against Trump’s hotel in D.C. that continues to garner a ton of social media notice. In a previous Post article, John D. Magnolia, the company’s president, noted that he had voted for Trump and felt the Trumps had been “decent people” to work with. But, he added, “Mr. Trump and Ivanka [Trump, who oversaw the hotel project] and so forth, they are I guess preoccupied by other matters now.”
Shortly after that interview, in which he noted that he had supported Trump, Magnolia’s company was finally paid. And it might have been at the behest of the soon-to-be-president himself.
Is that an odd situation or is it just me? Say nice things and you get paid? Vote for him and you get paid?
“The company and policy and government are completely separated,” Eric Trump assured the Washington Post last year. “We have built an unbelievable wall in between the two.”
The key word there was “unbelievable.” The president has never been willing to expend much effort on maintaining such a facade. In the first weeks after his election, Trump invited Eric and Don Jr. to a policy meeting with tech executives, met with his Indian business partners, and allowed his D.C. hotel to begin courting the patronage of foreign diplomats. In the first year after his inauguration, he mixed politics and business in ever more blatant ways.
But Don Jr.’s trip to India represents a kind of “coming-out party” for the Trumpist kleptocracy: According the the Washington Post, the manager of the president’s “blind trust” will travel to Mumbai this week to promote his family’s real-estate projects, sell access to himself for $38,000 a head, and give a foreign policy speech (ostensibly) on behalf of his father’s administration at a global business summit ..
Beginning Tuesday, Trump Jr. will have a full schedule of meet-and-greets with investors and business leaders throughout India, where the Trump family has real estate projects — Mumbai, the New Delhi suburb of Gurgaon, the western city of Pune and the eastern city of Kolkata.
Indian newspapers have been running full-page, glossy advertisements hyping his arrival and the latest Trump Tower project under the headline: “Trump is here — Are You Invited?” The ads also solicited home buyers to plunk down a booking fee (about $38,000) to “join Mr. Donald Trump Jr. for a conversation and dinner.” Public relations executives working with two local developers arranging the Trump dinner declined to give specifics about the event.
During the visit, the 40-year-old Trump Jr., executive vice president of the Trump Organization, will take a break from his private promotional tour to give an address on “Reshaping Indo-Pacific Ties: The New Era of Cooperation” at a global business summit on Friday evening, co-sponsored by the Economic Times newspaper. [Indian Prime Minister Narendra] Modi will also speak at the summit … Later this week, Trump Jr. will travel to Mumbai to open the demo unit at the golden-facade Trump Tower being built by the family development firm of Mangal Prabhat Lodha, a state legislator in Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.
To review: Donald Trump Jr. will be serving as a representative of both his father’s business and government during this week’s trip to India, and will be selling access to himself (and thus, ostensibly, to his father’s government) for roughly $40,000 a pop.
Michelle Goldberg–NYT–argues for and elucidates a “De-Trumpification Agenda” to clear out the obvious levels of corruption.
In January, the anti-corruption organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, released a detailed report on the historically unethical presidency of Donald Trump. By February, it was outdated, as Trump’s administration and family charted new frontiers in ethical transgression.
Just this week, Donald Trump Jr. traveled to India to promote his family’s real estate projects and give a foreign policy speech; ads in Indian newspapers offered dinner with the presidential scion in exchange for down payments on Trump-branded apartments. President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is reportedly demanding that he maintain his access to top-secret information despite his inability, after 13 months of serving in the White House, to pass an F.B.I. background check.
David Shulkin, the secretary of veterans affairs, remained defiant after revelations that his chief of staff altered a document to justify a government-funded trip to Europe for Shulkin’s wife, vowing to purge “subversion” at his agency. President Trump reportedly sought advice on gun control from members of Mar-a-Lago, the private club where a $200,000 initiation fee buys plutocrats privileged access to the president.
It’s impossible, in real time, to keep up with every new Trumpian advance in corruption and self-dealing, and Republicans in Congress aren’t even trying. True, they’ve been moved to act in a few high-profile cases — on Wednesday, Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, demanded documents about government-funded luxury travel by Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency. But overall, the administration enjoys a corrosive degree of impunity.
It’s really amazing we’re not seeing more FBI action on these other Trump Players but white collar crimes do not get the level of scrutiny of those accompanied by drugs and violence and minorities. It’s another bastion of White Male Privilege. But, some argue that Public Corruption Laws may be the ones that finally get the TRumpsters and TRump himself. This is from Margaret Carlson writing at the Daily Beast.
Of course, there’s no law against Trump liking Putin; unseemly yes, illegal, no. But a veteran Washington former federal prosecutor who served during both the Clinton and Bush administrations believes there is a strategy that Mueller is quietly pursuing and that explains his actions so far.
Seth Waxman, now a partner specializing in white-collar crime in Dickinson Wright’s Washington office, has a theory of Mueller’s case, which requires no novel reading of existing law to find Trump broke it. It employs the main weapon any federal prosecutor uses to police public corruption. It is Title 18 United States Code, section 201 that specifically makes it a crime for a public official to take “anything of value,” a bribe, in exchange for government action, which can be prospective.
Note that above I wrote “public official.” That’s because the law is generally wielded against public officials. Problem: Mueller is investigating conduct before Trump became one. Enter Waxman. He points out that in 1962, Congress extended the bribery law to cover activity prior to the assumption of office. It did so, he says, in order to close a “loophole” afforded those “who assume public office under a corrupt commitment.” The upshot? Trump became covered by 18 USC not when he was sworn in but as of July 21, 2016 when he became his party’s nominee in Cleveland, Ohio.
What we know of Mueller’s strategy so far is consistent with leveling charges under the bribery statute. This is not to say Mueller is going to indict Trump. He would need an exception from a Justice Department rule, which advises against it. But neither is he likely to send a report laying out grounds for impeachment as former independent counsel Ken Starr did against Bill Clinton relying solely on perjury and obstruction of justice without a finding of an underlying crime.
Again, it’s difficult to see T Jr. pull this one off without some kind of reaction. Zeeshan Aleem–writing for Vox–calls it “staggeringly corrupt.”
Donald Trump Jr. arrived in India on Tuesday for a week-long visit, and his trip has already revealed a couple of things.
First, it’s clear that the Trump administration is still embroiled in huge conflicts of interest. And second, it’s evident that the Trump brand, though toxic at home, commands surprising power in the world’s second most populous country.
President Trump’s eldest son will be spending his time in India promoting Trump-branded luxury apartments across the country. He’ll be meeting with real estate brokers and potential buyers throughout the week in his family business’s biggest market outside the US.
He’s also offering a special reward to Indians who buy property from him: He’ll join them for an intimate meal.
Indian newspapers have been running advertisements that promise homebuyers willing to pay a roughly $38,000 booking fee an opportunity to “join Mr. Donald Trump Jr. for a conversation and dinner.”
Government ethics experts in the US are appalled by that prospect, and say that the arrangement encourages Indians — especially those with ties to India’s government — to use purchases of Trump-branded property as a way to gain favor with the Trump administration.
“For many people wanting to impact American policy in the region, the cost of a condo is a small price to pay to lobby one of the people closest to the president, far away from watchful eyes,” Jordan Libowitz, the communications director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told the Washington Post.
Trump Jr.’s India visit also highlights something else: While Trump’s polarizing presidency has put a dent in his domestic businesses, it doesn’t seem to have damaged his reputation in India. In fact, the Trump brand seems to be chugging along quite nicely there.
Trump’s business elsewhere is not thriving. Read more at that link. Let’s not forget he’s bilking us daily and with every trip to a Trump property. Hey Mister Mueller nab those big fat pussies!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Yesterday afternoon, Trump held a “listening session” for victims of school shootings. (He was invited to the CNN town hall, but chose not to attend.) The Washington Post: This photo of Trump’s notes captures his empathy deficit better than anything.
President Trump held a worthwhile listening session Wednesday featuring a range of views on how to combat gun violence in schools. And while Trump’s at-times-meandering comments about arming teachers will certainly raise eyebrows, for the most part he did listen.
Thanks in part, it seems, to a helpful little reminder.
Washington Post photographer Ricky Carioti captured [an] image of Trump’s notes [see photo above].
Yep, right there at No. 5 is a talking point about telling those present that he was actually listening to them. After what appear to be four questions he planned to ask those assembled, No. 5 is an apparent reminder for Trump to tell people, “I hear you.”
Even No. 1 is basically a reminder that Trump should empathize. “What would you most want me to know about your experience?” the card reads.
I was surprised that the people at Trump’s White House meeting were permitted to speak honestly about their experiences. But when Trump himself spoke, it was clear he wasn’t really listening to their pain. You know who wouldn’t have needed those notes? Hillary Clinton.
After teenagers cried about losing friends and being terrorized by a person with an AR-15, after angry, heartbroken parents spoke of losing their children to senseless gun violence, Trump’s brilliant solution was to give teachers with handguns and expect them to kill suicidal shooters with semi-automatic weapons.
Trump must have seen some of the media reaction to this insane suggestion, because this morning he was on twitter claiming he never said it–but then he said it again.
And would these armed teachers be paid extra for this dangerous duty? Would the government pay for training them? Wouldn’t all this time spent training take away from their actual job of classroom teaching, which requires plenty of preparation and time spend grading papers? Trump isn’t concerned about all that: “far more assets at much less cost.” Trump sees teachers as slave labor!
Trump must have heard from his supporters at the NRA, because he later tweeted this:
Trump learned absolutely nothing from his “listening session.” Last night Lawrence O’Donnell explain why Trump’s idea is utterly insane. Check it out if you didn’t see it.
More from @Lawrence:
Philip Bump at The Washington Post: The economics of arming America’s schools. Bump begins with Trump’s proposal:
“A lot of people are talking about it — it’s certainly a point that we’ll discuss,” Trump said. “But concealed-carry for teachers and for people of talent — of that type of talent — so let’s say you had 20 percent of your teaching force. Because that’s pretty much the number, and you said it — an attack has lasted, on average, about three minutes. It takes five to eight minutes for responders — for the police to come in. So the attack is over. If you had a teacher with — who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly.”
Data from the Department of Education indicates that there are an estimated 3.1 million public school and 400,000 private-schoolteachers in the United States. In total, there are about 3.6 million teachers.
One-fifth of that total is 718,000 — a bit fewer than the number of people in the Army and the Navy combined as of last December. We’d essentially be adding 50 percent to the size of the military by mandating that three-quarters of a million people be trained and prepared to take up arms to defend civilians.
The first cost that needs to be considered is training. What sort of training would be required isn’t clear. Do we want to simply teach the teachers how to target an individual and fire a weapon? Or do we want something more expansive?
Let’s say we want the bare minimum, just enough to pass the safety requirement for gun ownership. In Maryland, there’s a company that will charge you $100 for that training. The cost, then, would be about $71.8 million for all of our teachers.
I’ll let you read the rest at the link. I think the proposal is idiotic. Would Trump expect teachers to pay for this training? It’s a good thing teachers have unions.
As an antidote to all this insanity, here’s a Tweet from Barack Obama:
In other news, Bernie Sanders is on the defensive after indictments from Robert Mueller made it clear that the Russians supported Sanders’ primary campaign against Hillary Clinton.
Bernie Sanders on Wednesday blamed Hillary Clinton for not doing more to stop the Russian attack on the last presidential election. Then his 2016 campaign manager, in an interview with POLITICO, said he’s seen no evidence to support special counsel Robert Mueller’s assertion in an indictment last week that the Russian operation had backed Sanders’ campaign.
The remarks showed Sanders, running for a third term and currently considered a front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, deeply defensive in response to questions posed to him about what was laid out in the indictment. He attempted to thread a response that blasts Donald Trump for refusing to acknowledge that Russians helped his campaign — but then holds himself harmless for a nearly identical denial.
In doing so, Sanders and his former campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, presented a series of self-serving statements that were not accurate, and that track with efforts by Trump and his supporters to undermine the credibility of the Mueller probe.“The real question to be asked is what was the Clinton campaign [doing about Russian interference]? They had more information about this than we did,” Sanders said in the interview with Vermont Public Radio.
Some Twitter reactions:
According to CNN, HR McMaster could be on the way out: McMaster could leave WH after months of tension with Trump.
With tensions flaring between President Donald Trump and national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the Pentagon is considering options that would allow the President to potentially move the three-star general out of his current role and back into the military, according to half a dozen defense and administration officials.
A search is quietly being conducted by the Pentagon to see if there is a four-star military job suited for McMaster, these officials said.
Several sources told CNN that the push for a replacement comes after months of personal tension between McMaster and Trump. The task of easing McMaster out of his role as national security adviser presents a unique challenge for the White House.
While administration officials have privately said the preference is to move McMaster into a position within the Army or Defense Department that qualifies as a promotion, some within the Pentagon feel he has become politicized in the White House and have expressed reservations about him returning to the military in a prominent role. Some defense officials caution that the President could also go as far as not to offer him a fourth star and force him to retire.
Read more at the CNN link.
I’ll end with a bit of positive news from the Dallas Morning News: Fueled by a Democratic surge, Texans turn out in force on first day of early voting.
AUSTIN — Of the 51,249 Texans who cast ballots Tuesday on the first day of early voting, more than half voted in the Democratic primary.
The total number of voters from the 15 counties with the most people registered is high for a midterm year. In 2016, a presidential election year, 55,931 Texans voted on the first day of early voting for the primary. But in the last midterm election in 2014, only 38,441 Texans voted on the first day.
Even more surprising is the turnout among Democrats. Since the last midterm election, the party saw a 51 percent increase in first-day early voting turnout, while Republicans saw a 16 percent increase….
Political experts attribute much of Texas’ increased voter turnout as a reaction to the election of President Donald Trump in 2016, as well as the state’s eight open congressional seats.
“In general, there seems to be more energy, largely stemming from people’s reactions to President Trump and a lot of Democrat-leaning groups trying to get people out and organized,” said Robert Lowry, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. “It’s maybe more Democrats than Republicans, but people who oppose him and don’t like the results of the election and can’t believe he won, [saying] ‘We obviously can’t vote against him this time but we can try to get more Democrats elected to respond to him.'”
What else is happening? What stories are you following today?