Today is the first day of jury selection for Paul Manafort’s trial for fraud against the U.S. This one won’t be about the 2016 Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia. In fact, the judge ordered the prosecution to limit mention of Manafort’s role in the campaign; the second Manafort trial in DC will deal with that. However, the information that comes out in the fraud trial will reveal unsavory facts about the GOP’s financial dealings.
Most tax and bank fraud cases are built on stacks of bland business documents and Internal Revenue Service paperwork — hardly the stuff of international intrigue.
But the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, which began Tuesday in a suburban Washington, D.C., courthouse, promises to upend those low expectations.
Lawyers working for special counsel Robert Mueller plan to call witnesses they say demonstrate where Manafort spent his allegedly ill-gotten gains: custom-made suits; Persian rugs; landscaping fees; Land Rovers and Mercedes-Benz vehicles; and season tickets to the New York Yankees, among other items.
It’s what may not come up much during the trial in Alexandria, Va., that will draw attention from all over the world: Manafort’s work for candidate Donald Trump for a critical period in 2016 when Trump clinched the Republican nomination for president.
In pretrial arguments, prosecutor Greg Andres told the court the government would only bring up Manafort’s campaign work in the context of a witness from a bank who gave him a loan, with the expectation that the banker would win consideration for a post in the Trump administration.
“I don’t anticipate that a government witness will utter the word ‘Russia,’ ” Andres said.
Manafort’s defense team has argued any mention of Trump could be seized on by jurors who have an unfavorable view of the president.
Natasha Bertrand at The Atlantic: Paul Manafort’s Trial Won’t Be All About Russia.
Instead, prosecutors will outline the alleged financial crimes committed by Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort while he worked as an adviser to Ukraine’s pro-Russian former president Viktor Yanukovych—work that earned Manafort more than $60 million over the course of a decade, according to court documents filed by Mueller on Monday, which he allegedly laundered and concealed from the IRS. Jurors will be presented with evidence of Manafort’s lavish lifestyle, including multimillion-dollar homes, expensive cars, Major League Baseball tickets, and antique carpets. The government could call as many as 35 witnesses to testify, including Manafort’s longtime business partner Rick Gates.
Additionally, Manafort was reportedly in debt to pro-Russian interests by as much as $17 million by the time he joined the Trump campaign, which he ran at the height of the 2016 presidential election. One of the biggest outstanding questions in the Mueller probe is whether Manafort gave a Kremlin-linked Russian oligarch access to the campaign in exchange for debt relief. But Mueller may also have other ambitions—like flipping Manafort.
Experts disagree about whether that is likely to happen once the trial begins.
Trump and his allies have sought to downplay the trial, claiming that it has nothing to do with either the president or a conspiracy with Russia to win the election. Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani told CNN on Monday that because Manafort was only with Trump “for four months,” he had no special insight that would incriminate the president. Manafort was forced to step down as Trump’s campaign chairman in August 2016 after reports surfaced that he was allocated millions in off-the-books payments by Ukraine’s pro-Russian Party of Regions, but his work with Trump did not end there: He continued to give Trump “pointers” on how to handle the WikiLeaks dump of the Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails, according to Politico, and his deputy, Rick Gates, stayed and worked on Trump’s transition team. Manafort “insinuated himself” into the transition through Gates, CNN reported at the time.
Manafort may be hoping Trump will pardon him after discovery in the first trial becomes public.
“It makes no sense for a defendant to choose two trials because the prosecution is the only party that benefits from two bites at the apple (since one conviction is all it needs),” [former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York Daniel] Goldman said. “So the only sensible explanation for the course Manafort has chosen is that he is playing the long game and hoping for a pardon, because he can claim that Mueller exceeded his authority in charging him with crimes that preceded the campaign and he was therefore ‘treated unfairly,’ which has resonated in the past with the President in granting pardons.”
Read the whole thing at The Atlantic. Bertrand is one of the most knowledgeable reporters on the Russia investigation.
I suggest reading this Twitter thread by Teri Kanefield on why the trial is important even though it won’t address Russia collusion.
Read the rest on Twitter.
The trial on Manafort’s financial dealings will hang over the White House and show just how deeply federal authorities have looked into the private business of Trump associates.
It comes as the President continues to rail against Mueller’s investigation, calling it a “witch hunt,” and some congressional Republicans are looking to impeach the Justice Department official overseeing the Muller probe, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Trump weighed in on the Mueller probe Tuesday morning, reiterating a defense made by his attorney Rudy Giuliani that “collusion is not a crime,” even though actions such as conspiracy can be criminal.
The trial in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, is expected to last three weeks. Jury selection will begin Tuesday, with opening arguments likely later this week. Manafort is also scheduled to face trial in Washington, DC, on related charges in September.
The case against Manafort doesn’t focus on his time as chairman of the Trump campaign in 2016. Manafort is charged with 18 violations of tax and banking laws. Prosecutors claim he hid millions of dollars in income from lobbying for Ukrainian politicians, all while failing to pay taxes and spending the money on US real estate and personal luxury purchases.
When his Ukrainian political work dried up in 2015, prosecutors say Manafort lied to banks to take out more than $20 million in loans. They accuse him of hiding his foreign bank accounts from federal authorities. Manafort also allegedly received loans from the Federal Savings Bank after one of its executives sought a position in the Trump campaign and administration, prosecutors say.
If found guilty, Manafort could face a maximum sentence of 305 years in prison.
CBS will provide live updates on the trial:
Before Manafort attorney Kevin Downing entered the courtroom Tuesday morning, he told CBS News’ Paula Reid that there is “no chance” Manafort will cooperate with prosecutors or enter a plea deal. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told reporters Tuesday morning that there has been no discussion of a potential pardon by President Trump of Manafort. Still, Reid points out that the pardon power is broad enough for Mr. Trump to pardon Manafort at any time for the crimes he has been charged with in Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Jury selection is underway this morning. Twelve jurors will be selected this week. The pool of potential jurors is being questioned by both sides and by U.S. District Judge T. S. Ellis III at the bench. There are 65 potential jurors — 32 men and 33 women — and the vast majority of the pool is white, CBS News’ Clare Hymes and Kristine Guillaume note. During the questioning, Judge Ellis asked if any in the pool had affiliations with the Justice Department. Nine out of the 65 said they did, but they all said that this affiliation would not cause bias for them….
Prosecutors have lined up 35 witnesses and over 500 pieces of evidence they say will show how Manafort earned more than $60 million from his Ukrainian work and then concealed a “significant percentage” of that money from the IRS. Prosecutors will also argue that Manafort fraudulently obtained millions more in bank loans, including during his time on the campaign.
And they plan to introduce evidence that a chairman of one of the banks allowed Manafort to file inaccurate loan information in exchange for a role on the Republican campaign and the promise of a job in the Trump administration that never materialized.
This morning, Manfort lost his final appeal asking to be freed before his trial in DC in September. Bloomberg:
Paul Manafort will have to stay in jail ahead of his money-laundering and obstruction of justice trial in Washington, which is scheduled to start Sept. 17.
The U.S. Court of Appeals on Tuesday rejected Manafort’s appeal of a judge’s order sending him to jail before the trial, after Special Counsel Robert Mueller accused Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman of attempting to tamper with witnesses.
Yesterday he dropped another appeal leading up to the Virginia trial. Bloomberg: Manafort Drops Case Challenging Mueller on Eve of Fraud Trial.
Just a day before his fraud trial was set to begin in Virginia, Paul Manafort dropped his civil lawsuit challenging the authority of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to charge him with crimes unrelated to his role as President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman.
Manafort, 69, abandoned his appeal late Monday of a judge’s dismissal of his lawsuit in federal court in Washington. The judge ruled in April that Manafort’s criminal case, and not a civil lawsuit, was the proper venue for challenging the Justice Department’s appointment of Mueller to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
The civil lawsuit ended when Manafort filed a stipulation of voluntary dismissal with Justice Department attorneys, who were defending Mueller and the official overseeing his work, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
So that’s a bit of a primer on the first Manafort trial. One thing I heard yesterday is that Manafort’s lawyers will get discovery of the entire prosecution case against him and that means there could be leaks of evidence to be present in the second trial in D.C.
What stories are you following today?
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
Do you remember the good old’ days of last year when the likes of White House Mommy advanced the concept of ‘alternative facts’ and Sean Spicer announced “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration period!” ?
Well, Gas Lighting never goes out of style in Drumpflandia. Rudy Giuliani has picked up where not even the Huckabeast dares go. And of course the Alt Facts Team at Faux News explored each conspiracy is with zest this morning with him. The bigger zesty bang came later on CNN. This is just psychologically exhausting. When will it end?
Zesty Rudy! Atta Boy!
It’s really hard to explain exactly how much Rudy just told us collusion doesn’t matter, isn’t a crime or whatever because you know, D’oh Hair Furor can’t even use a computer let alone hack one. This is pretty fresh off the keyboard of Aaron Blake of WAPO.
President Trump’s defense in the Russia investigation has been a study in goal-post moving — constantly watering down previous denials and raising the standard for what would constitute actual wrongdoing.
But rarely has it been so concentrated in one morning.
Trump’s lawyer/spokesman Rudolph W. Giuliani appeared on Fox News’s and CNN’s morning shows on Monday to downplay the idea that colluding with the Russians would have even been illegal and to argue against strawmen.
The most notable portion of the interviews was when Giuliani rekindled the idea that collusion isn’t even a crime. Trump’s defenders have occasionally noted that the word doesn’t appear in the criminal code — which is a misnomer — but Giuliani took it a step further: He basically suggested Trump would have had to pay for Russia to interfere on his behalf.
“I don’t even know if that’s a crime — colluding with Russians,” Giuliani said on CNN. “Hacking is the crime. The president didn’t hack. He didn’t pay for the hacking.”
Rudy Giuliani made two TV appearances this morning, one on Fox and one on CNN. Both are pretty convoluted and a bit hard to follow. So they’ve led to various interpretations. But there’s what I believe is one pretty big admission that is at least very new to me and I think a pretty big problem for Trump and Giuliani.
As I’ve mentioned a few times before, one of the oddities of Giuliani’s rolling defense of Trump in response to Cohen’s accusations is this: Giuliani says that the meeting where Trump allegedly learned about the Russia meeting never happened and he (Giuliani) has talked to the participants and they agree it never happened and Trump didn’t attend the meeting or know about the Russian offer. Now, there’s sort of a problem here. Cohen never said just what meeting he was referring to. And how can you be a witness to a meeting that never happened about what was said in that meeting?
This makes no sense. But from the start, I’ve had the sense that Giuliani does know specifically what Cohen is talking about but is denying the specifics.
Now let’s get to what Giuliani said this morning. In a back and forth with CNN’s Alisyn Carmerota, he appears to say that two days before the meeting with the Russian lawyer there was a planning meeting to prepare for that meeting. This prep meeting would have been on June 7th, 2016. Giuliani says that meeting included Don Jr., Jared Kushner, Manafort, Rick Gates and others.
Now, I’ve had some off the grid moments in the last ten days. But I don’t think I’d ever heard of this planning meeting. If nothing else, it suggests that the Trump team took the planned encounter with the Russian government emissary much more seriously than they’ve suggested to date. And then there’s Rick Gates, Manafort’s deputy. As we know, Gates is now a cooperating witness. Big problem for the Trump Team, if he was at such a planning meeting.
Giuliani’s key aim throughout is to insist that Trump was not in that meeting. He seems to allow that Cohen was in the meeting, just that Cohen’s lying about Trump’s presence. But that point (Cohen’s presence) is less clear to me. Again, watch the video.
I’m getting tired of the obvious gaslighting and I’m not alone. Betsy Kaplan explores this for WNPR. Listen to the interview with Stephanie Sarkis whose book on gaslighting is due for release in October.
… it’s hard for people to cast informed ballots if President Trump is overtly and boldly lying without fear of repercussion. Some say he’s trying to gaslight us into believing the reality he wants more than the one that exists.
We saw it this weekend when New York Times Publisher A.G. Sulzberger felt the need to correct the record after President Trump tweeted an inaccurate version of what was said in their off-the-record meeting.
Last week, President Trump asked people at a rally in Kansas City, MO to “…stick with us. Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news.” He went on to say “what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”
An Op Ed at Teen Vogue explains the technique of gaslighting and argues that we should care about what’s happening to us. Here’s the term applied by Lauren Duca on what we’re being told on the Seperation of Familes policy.
Gaslighting is a tactic of psychological abuse in which the victim is made to doubt their own sanity, only here the abuser is the White House, and the victim is the American people. The Trump administration is sending up so many conflicting versions of reality that they make us doubt what is and is not real. The past week alone has provided one of the most gruesome examples of this, as it seeks to confuse and distract us from the plight of about 2,300 immigrant children separated from their families with no plan for being reunited. Those children are being held in detention centers, or flown across the country, with no guarantee that they will ever see their parents again. On Thursday, Trump signed an executive order which he claimed would end family separation; it does so only in name. The so-called “zero-tolerance” policy will still be enforced, but now the Trump administration plans to hold families in detention centers together and indefinitely. They have made no statement on efforts for reuniting the families who have already been torn apart — but it doesn’t look like it will be happening anytime soon.
This sort of opacity toward the press isn’t unusual for the Trump administration, nor is the internal, in-the-dark scramble exactly a novelty—Trump caught his entire communications staff off guard in March, when he almost unilaterally agreed to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. The more worrisome possibility is that the president, who has consistently and deliberately lied to the American public regarding Russia, is beginning to employ the same tactics with his own staff. A New York Timesreport published Wednesday reveals the extent of Trump’s obfuscation; per the Times, two weeks before his inauguration, Trump was presented with overwhelming evidence by former C.I.A. director John Brennan, former director of national intelligence James Clapper, and former F.B.I. director James Comey, among others, that Russia had meddled in the presidential election, and that Putin himself had very likely ordered the attack. This evidence reportedly included texts, e-mails, and intel from a source close to Putin, as well as the contents of the controversial Steele dossier. According to those present for the briefing, Trump seemed “grudgingly convinced” of its veracity.
Of course, even if Trump was convinced, he’s shown no sign of it. Moreover, he’s repeatedly trashed the very people who briefed him that day, firing Comey months later, and criticizing Clapper and Brennan. He kept up the tirade as recently as Wednesday night, telling CBS’s Jeff Glor, “Certainly I can’t have any confidence in the past . . . I have no confidence in a guy like Brennan. I think he’s a total lowlife. I have no confidence in Clapper. You know, Clapper wrote me a beautiful letter when I first went to office, and it was really nice. And then, all of a sudden, he’s gone haywire because they got to him and they probably got him to say things that maybe he doesn’t even mean.” He continued, “But no, I certainly don’t have confidence in past people. You look at what’s happened. Take a look at all of the shenanigans that have gone on. Very hard to have confidence in that group.”
Trump also told Glor that in his meeting with Putin, he was “very strong on the fact that we can’t have meddling . . . I let him know we can’t have this, we’re not going to have it, and that’s the way it’s going to be.” Whether or not—and to what extent—he was telling the truth, of course, is impossible to divine.
Now, we’re getting it on the economy. “Team Trump touts GDP growth with gaslighting and brazen lies.” This is from Think Progress’ Aaron Rupar.
President Trump on Friday morning held a press event that amounted to a victory lap for the Gross Domestic Product growing by 4.1 percent in the second quarter of this year.
Trump gave himself all the credit for economic growth, while discrediting the record of his predecessor, Barack Obama.
“We have accomplished an economic turnaround of historic proportions,” Trump said. “Once again we are the economic envy of the entire world.”
Trump went on to tout jobs numbers in particular.
“We have added 3.7 million new jobs since the election,” Trump said. “A number that is unthinkable if you go back to the campaign. Nobody would have said it. Nobody would have even in an optimistic way projected it.”Trump was fibbing. Though he claimed to have “added 3.7 million new jobs since the election,” 3.2 millions jobs have been created since his inauguration.And it is simply not the case that Trump’s jobs record would have been “unthinkable” during the campaign. In fact, Obama’s jobs record during the final 17 months of his administration — a period of time encompassing Trump’s campaign — outperformed Trump’s during his first 17 months.
While Trump attempted to gaslight people, his eldest son touted the GDP number with a brazen lie.
“Incredible numbers,” Donald Trump Jr. tweeted. “I remember when ‘the experts’ laughed about breaking 3%. Just because Obama never broke 2% doesn’t mean that someone with great policies can’t. Let’s keep this going.”
What exactly does it mean when an entire Administration provides “alternative facts” and bobs and weaves to keep up with a continual series of lies and exaggerations?
Now for another random event which happened yesterday. The White House has said that it will no longer provide information about when the president holds conversations with foreign leaders, as it has always done hitherto.
The accounts of the chats may have been anodyne and terse, but they were a useful tool to keep track of foreign policy priorities. And it was always useful to compare and contrast what, say, the Kremlin would have to say about the conversation compared to the White House. Now we will no longer be able to do that.
And so to the final thing. Donald Trump was speaking at a rally in Kansas City. And he came out with a memorable phrase that sounded as though it had been lifted straight from George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984. He said: “Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening.”
Or it is. There is just a concerted – and sometimes it would seem – systematic effort to make you think otherwise.
Forget alternative facts. This is rewriting history.
“I’m so happy to be with you, you not crazy people,” Stephen Colbert said in his Late Show monologue Tuesday night. “Because you’ve got to remember that you’re not crazy, no matter what Donald Trump says.”
After playing the clip of Trump’s remark, the host feigned relief. “Oh good,” he said. “I was worried, because what I’m seeing and reading is that the president is a racist, horny old burger-goblin who literally steals children from poor people.”
“Oh, I’m being told he’s lying,” Colbert added, “which makes sense, because that’s another one of the things I’m seeing and reading.”
“Every day, just like that, Donald Trump gets a little more brazen,” the host continued, pointing to the announcement that the president wants to revoke the security clearances of several former Obama administration intelligence officials who have criticized him.
“Now, I don’t know if we’ve arrived at dictatorship,” Colbert said. “But we’ve definitely made it to dick.”
Meanwhile, I’m exhausted from all of this. It’s tiring to be continually told stuff that you know is not true and then watch the media go over it and over it. I need a Drumpfcation. I’m not sure if that means he goes some where and there’s a press black out for a week or so or I stay home and watch 1984 over and over and over …
I’m sure it’s not going to get any better when we start getting stuff coming out of the Manafort Trial. Buckle up Sky Dancers! It’s going to be a bumpy ride! Oops! Wrong movie reference! Or is it?
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Sunday Reads: “Sanctions that didn’t exist before this regime took office.” – Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State.Posted: July 29, 2018
A lot of shit went down this week, the reason I chose to highlight the quote up top is simply because of the key word: Regime.
Many news outlets made quite a point about Mike Pompeo’s Freudian slip, referring to the tRump Administration as “this regime.”
THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER Senate Grills Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Aired 4:30-5p ET CNN.com – Transcripts
“Sanctions that didn’t exist before this regime took office.” – Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State.
Now, I read the transcript…link above, and honestly…I don’t know what the fuck “regime” Pompeo is talking about; so much bullshit is spewing from his mouth. But if he is indeed referring to tRump…he spoke the words we all know to be true.
I think the following sentiment has been mentioned before:
Take a look at this thread, it deals with Stein and Sanders and Tad Devine…and only strengthens my belief in #FuckBernieSanders :
Here is another long thread to check out, about my state…Georgia and the asshole named Kemp currently running for Governor:
A few tweets that continue to question the 2016 elections.
Here are some associations with tRump and his “friends” ….including the folks that perhaps Putin may have wanted to be excluded from sanctions?
The Trump Administration may lift sanctions on a major Russian company founded by one of Vladimir Putin’s top allies.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnunchin told reporters during G-20 meeting of Finance Ministers last week, that the department may remove sanctions on Rusal, an international aluminum company that controls an estimated 6 percent of the global market that has long been controlled by Oleg Deripaska. Deripaska is a Putin confidant who has been implicated in suspected coordination between Moscow and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, but he has repeatedly denied involvement. As Reuters reported, the department is mulling the move in the wake of a sharp increase in aluminum prices that followed Trump‘s imposition of a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports.
“The objective was to impact the oligarchs, not to impact the hardworking people of Rusal as a result of the sanctions,” Mnunchin told CNN, which reported the comments on Friday.
In April, Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed sanctions on Deripaska and Rusal, along with 24 other Russians, in a delayed action aimedat punishing Russia for interfering the 2016 election. Under the sanctions, the US assets of the individuals and firms listed are frozen, and American citizens are barred from doing business with them. Deripaska was specifically singled out for “having acted or purported to act for, or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, a senior official of the Government of the Russian Federation.”
Updates on tRump’s crimes against humanity:
The latest on that 6 year old who was assaulted at a detention center…she has been reunited with her family.
A 6-year-old girl was allegedly sexually abused while at an Arizona-based detention center, The Nation reports. The child, who The Nation refers to as D.L., reportedly left Guatemala with her mother because of gang violence; they were separated at the U.S. border on May 24, as a result of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy. The 6-year-old was then placed in Casa Glendale, a detention center run by Southwest Key Programs.
According to The Nation, D.L.’s father (who lives in California) received a phone call from Southwest Key on June 11, telling him that another child in the detention center had allegedly “fondled” his daughter and other children. Mark Lane, a spokesperson representing D.L.’s family, told The Nation that the 6-year-old’s father was instructed “not to worry” because “Southwest Key was changing some of its protocols and such abuse would not happen again.” (The report notes that several weeks later, D.L.’s father received another phone call, alerting him to a second instance of alleged abuse by the same suspect.)
The Nation also reports that D.L. was asked to sign a form that was part of the detention center’s “intervention protocol.” The form, a copy of which was obtained by The Nation, noted that D.L. was instructed to maintain her “distance from other youth involved,” and that she was made aware it was her “responsibility to maintain appropriate boundaries with peers/workers.” The document also noted that it was D.L.’s “responsibility to report sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and/or inappropriate sexual behavior.”
Boston Boomer mentioned this yesterday in the comments:
But this is really the disgusting part:
Almost as soon as President Trump took office, he began rolling back health care rules that had angered religious groups for much of the last decade. First, Trump signed an executive order declaring that his administration would protect religious freedom. Then, his administration ruled that health insurance plans offered by large employers don’t have to cover contraception for employees, an about-face from a contentious Obama policy. The Department of Health and Human Services created a Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, signaling a new focus for the agency. A proposed rule could require all 5,500 hospitals in the U.S. to post notices informing individuals and entities that they are protected from religious discrimination.
The changes are all designed to ensure that employers, health care institutions and providers don’t have to participate in health care practices they object to for ethical or moral reasons. But even decades before the Trump administration moved to roll back Obamacare policies, some religious hospitals — in particular, Catholic hospitals — already had the green light from the government to deny certain treatment options to their patients. These hospitals’ right to refuse care is generally unquestioned, creating a dilemma for the people who walk in the door: What happens when you need or want a standard medical service, but the hospital won’t provide it?
In a growing number of communities around the country, especially in rural areas, patients and physicians have access to just one hospital. And in more and more places, that hospital is Catholic. That sounds innocuous — a hospital is a hospital, after all. But Catholic hospitals are bound by a range of restrictions on care that are determined by religious authorities, with very little input from medical staff. Increasingly, where a patient lives can determine whether Catholic doctrine, and how the local bishop interprets that doctrine, will decide what kind of care she can get.
This is worrying news:
I lit candles for Lewis this morning…I hope he gets better…
It’s becoming more and more clear that we have a Russian intelligence asset acting as “president” of the U.S. It’s an full-on national emergency, and the Republican-controlled Congress is seemingly determined to brazenly aid a foreign enemy rather than live up to their oaths to “support and defend the Constitution.”
Yesterday the “president” held 30-minute National Security Council meeting supposedly to discuss election security. To show how committed he was to the project, he sent a nonsense tweet about jobs during the meeting. We’re not going to get any help from Trump or the GOP in the fight to save democracy. They’re too busy figuring out ways to suppress the votes of people who aren’t white and stupid.
President Trump chaired a meeting Friday of his most senior national security advisers to discuss the administration’s effort to safeguard November’s elections from Russian interference, the first such meeting he’s led on the matter, but issued no new directives to counter or deter the threat.
The meeting, which lasted less than an hour, covered all the activities by federal agencies to help state and local election officials, and to investigate and hold accountable Russian hackers seeking to undermine American democracy….
“It was a good meeting,” said one senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe an event that was closed to media coverage. “Everybody was on the same page. We’re doing a lot of good work across the administration.’’
There was no discussion of new actions Trump wants or of a coordinated strategy to prevent Russia from interfering in U.S. politics, officials said. Instead, the meeting focused on the activities undertaken so far.
Read the rest of the article to learn what kinds of defensive strategies government officials other than the “president” have been working on.
From NBC’s Ken Dilanian: Trump admin has no central strategy for election security, and no one’s in charge.
After nearly two years of calling Russian election interference a hoax and its investigation a witch hunt, President Donald Trump on Friday presided over the first National Security Council meeting devoted to defending American democracy from foreign manipulation.
“The President has made it clear that his administration will not tolerate foreign interference in our elections from any nation state or other malicious actors,” the White House said in a statement afterward.
But current and former officials tell NBC News that 19 months into his presidency, there is no coherent Trump administration strategy to combat foreign election interference — and no single person or agency in charge….
To be sure, individual government agencies have responded in various ways. The Department of Homeland Security is working with states to improve cyber security in voting systems. The FBI created a “foreign influence task force,” and the Justice Department announced a new policy his month to inform the public about bots and trolls on social media. The National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command are coordinating to counter Russian influence in cyberspace, the general in charge of those agencies has said.
But even members of Trump’s national security cabinet have acknowledged the need for a central, unifying effort — one that experts say is missing. Senior officials have also admitted that the government has failed to take steps necessary to give the Russians second thoughts about intervening in American politics. Trump hasn’t done so, and neither did Barack Obama, whose response to election meddling — expelling diplomats and closing Russian compounds in December 2016 — has been described by some of his own former aides as tepid.
Read more at NBC News.
According to The New York Times, Russia is focusing more on disrupting the U.S. power grid than on the upcoming election.
State-sponsored Russian hackers appear far more interested this year in demonstrating that they can disrupt the American electric utility grid than the midterm elections, according to United States intelligence officials and technology company executives.
Despite attempts to infiltrate the online accounts of two Senate Democrats up for re-election, intelligence officials said they have seen little activity by Russian military hackers aimed at either major American political figures or state voter registration systems.
By comparison, according to intelligence officials and executives of the companies that oversee the world’s computer networks, there is surprisingly far more effort directed at implanting malware in the electrical grid.
Do you think Trump will do anything about that?
This week, the Department of Homeland Security reported that over the last year, Russia’s military intelligence agency had infiltrated the control rooms of power plants across the United States. In theory, that could enable it to take control of parts of the grid by remote control.
While the department cited “hundreds of victims” of the attacks, far more than they had previously acknowledged, there is no evidence that the hackers tried to take over the plants, as Russian actors did in Ukraine in 2015 and 2016.
In interviews, American intelligence officials said that the department had understated the scope of the threat. So far the White House has said little about the intrusions other than raise the fear of such breaches to maintain old coal plants in case they are needed to recover from a major attack.
Somehow I think Russia, with the aid of their asset in the White House will probably find a way to focus more on election hacking as November approaches.
Like his role model, Vladimir Putin, Trump hates the free press, and works tirelessly to thwart the first amendment. The Washington Post reports: Venting about press, Trump has repeatedly sought to ban reporters over questions.
President Trump has sought repeatedly to punish journalists for the way they ask him questions, directing White House staff to ban those reporters from covering official events or to revoke their press credentials, according to several current and former administration officials.
At various moments throughout his presidency, Trump has vented angrily to aides about what he considers disrespectful behavior and impertinent questions from reporters in the Oval Office and in other venues. He has also asked that retaliatory action be taken against them.
“These people shouting questions are the worst,” Trump has said, according to a current official. “Why do we have them in here?”
Until this week, the officials said, Trump’s senior aides have resisted carrying out his directives. They convinced him that moves to restrict media access could backfire and further strain the White House’s fraught relationship with the press corps, whose members the president routinely derides as “fake news” and “dishonest people.”
On Wednesday, however, newly installed Deputy Chief of Staff Bill Shine and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders took action against CNN correspondent Kaitlan Collins, telling her she could not attend Trump’s open-media event in the Rose Garden because they objected to her questioning of the president earlier in the day.
Read the rest at the Post.
I got some perverse pleasure from reading this piece by Jeff Stein at Newsweek yesterday: How Vladimir Putin Will Take Down Donald Trump When He’s No Longer Useful. According to Russian propaganda expert Julia Davis, the Russians are getting frustrated at Trump’s inability to do the things he promised them. They don’t understand about checks and balances.
Following the controversial Helsinki summit between the Russian and American presidents, Moscow’s media commentators greeted Trump’s deference toward Putin with a mix of concern, pity and ridicule, none of which could have been uttered without the Kremlin’s approval, says Ukrainian-born Julia Davis, an expert on Russian propaganda.
“They usually get a printout of some kind, about which topics they’re supposed to discuss and what their position is supposed to be,” said Davis, a featured expert at the Atlantic Council’s Disinfo Portal. The state-controlled commentary “is very closely monitored, and they would not take a chance on stepping outside of the line,” she told Newsweek.
The Kremlin, she continued, is “growing very frustrated because there’s so many controls that are being placed on” Trump by Congress, starting with Russian sanctions, upgrades to the U.S. nuclear arsenal and beefed-up military aid to Ukraine, which is under assault by Moscow-backed forces in its eastern Donbas region. And then there are the ongoing investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 elections by special counsel Robert Mueller and the Senate Intelligence Committee, independent actions that would be unthinkable in Putin’s Russia….
“They like to talk about him as weak and incompetent and just pretty much a clown,” Davis said of the Moscow analysts before the Cohen disclosure. “They still think he might prove himself to do what he promised him to do. But if he goes down, I expect they would not skip a beat. They would jump in to help finish him off.”
So how would that happen?
Measures at Putin’s disposal include leaking a mix of real and fabricated details on Trump’s suspected debts to Russian bankers and oligarchs, said Milton Bearden, a legendary former CIA officer who worked against the Soviet target and later co-authored a book, The Main Enemy, with the cooperation of several former KGB officials.
“Putin can continue to plug along with his best friend and watch how tribalism and divisions within American society continue to tear it apart,” Bearden told Newsweek. “However, if things start to quiet down here, Putin can begin to release whatever it is he might have on the president. It can be real information dealing with the money flow from Deutsche Bank, or it can be carefully fabricated information that looks genuine.”
“I can imagine a wide variety of scenarios,” John Sipher, another top former CIA Russia hand, wrote in March, including the Kremlin injecting “stolen or otherwise unverified” or “well-crafted forgeries” into the U.S. media to take down Trump or just fan political chaos in the U.S. Former CIA director John Brennan suspects that the Russians have “something on him personally.”
Such suspicions have gained wider currency in recent weeks, mostly from Democrats. But last year a Russian opposition politician, Vladimir Milov, alleged in an interview with a Russian exile journalist that Moscow’s secret services had been “closely ‘following’ Trump for over 30 years and the dossier they have on him certainly comprises many, many volumes.” In the 1980s, Milov told Russian exile journalist Kseniya Kirillova, “Trump was married to a Czechoslovak woman who spoke Russian, which also offers good conditions for recruitment.”
Read the rest the link. Maybe we have something to look forward to when the time comes.
I’ll add more links in the comment thread, and I hope you’ll do the same.
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
Today, I’d like to explore some dimensions of the healthy expression of a good “fuck you” to the powers that be coming from a variety of sources because, you know, we all want to do it every day these days. Resistance frequently comes in the form of art, music, culture, and language in support of socio-economic-political change. The form can be a joyous yet angry expression necessitated by the powerless situations of those most oppressed by the dominant culture, ruling class, religion, and economy. The wink wink nod nod of art can save one from jail or worse.
It may seem disparate but I’ve got some examples that demonstrate that the complaints coming from diverse communities may represent the same undercurrent of dissatisfaction. The dominant socio-economic-political culture wants to silence and remove us which is why we must support and understand the concept of intersectionality. What they can do to one group, they can do to all given enough time and power. Together, we are the many. Separate and apart, they can cut us off like livestock to separate and unequal slaughterhouses.
This is why they are trying to stack the courts, gerrymander congressional districts, suppress voting rights, and shut up the press. It is also why they scream “lock her up” to attack Hillary Clinton and “build the wall” at folks of Mexican heritage”. It is why they still describe our first black President as a “Kenyan-born Muslim” and panic dial 911 on black people just living their lives. It is why they dilute “black lives matter” to “all”. It is why they won’t bake cakes for all weddings.
It is also why they want to set us against each other and we must not let that happen.
I’m going to move around in time for this but I will start with a current art show in Denver. “Denver exhibit puts faces to women who died from botched abortions prior to Roe vs. Wade. Daisy Patton’s paintings of 15 women tell a somber story”. The article is from the Denver Post review of the show.
Quirky and perky, with a face full of determination, it’s hard not to get a quick crush on Vivian Grant the way that Daisy Patton paints her, circa 1960, in a series of women’s portraits on display at Denver’s Art Gym Gallery.
With her emerald green dress, dangling earrings and precision-plucked eyebrows, Grant radiates the kind of organic optimism that could carry her far in her burgeoning career in New York’s publishing world.
But the accompanying text tells a story with a different ending. At 23, she found herself showing signs of pregnancy and sought to terminate it.
Abortion was illegal in those days, and dangerous, the stuff, as we say, of back alleys and shady practitioners and Grant, like many others, was one of its victims, dying from complications of the procedure. An autopsy later showed it was a false pregnancy.
Tragedy on top of tragedy. That’s the narrative arch of Patton’s “Would You Be Lonely Without Me?,” which captures in oil paint on paper the images of 15 women who died as a result of botched abortions in the era before the 1973 Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision made abortion legal, and raised the medical standards around the procedure.
Yes, the exhibit is political. Patton’s portraits are rich in physical and emotional detail. They raise sympathy for women who make the difficult decision to end their pregnancy — and their sale could raise money for national organizations that support the ability for all women to make the choice.
In her artist’s statement for the show, Patton, writes of a time when an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 women died each year from abortion-related injuries that were caused by unskilled doctors or self-inflicted by those, fearing no where else to turn, who treated themselves with knitting needles or drank bleach or other chemicals.
She notes, citing published research, how things have changed in the last four decades: “Now it is statistically more dangerous to
birth than to have an abortion.”
Many of these stories draw me in even though they are not my stories, or stories I would likely hear had I not gone looking for them or most likely, stories I would not have seen if I didn’t have friends who have stories that connect them deeply to these voices. I am drawn in by our shared humanity and vulnerability.
In this case, it was a neighbor who watched a woman die of a botched abortion as a 10 year old in a South Chicago Beauty Salon her mother used. She later, at 13, joined the underground railroad to help women seeking abortions. She was the same age as me when I listened to a panel of women who shared the stories of women in their lives who had died of botched abortions in the fellowship hall of my West Omaha Presbyterian Church. I think that was about the first moment that I realized I had a name and it was “feminist”. My neighbor’s story is more compelling than mine though and I’m glad she put up the link and said share this woman’s art.
I don’t remember her name, but she bled to death from a back alley abortion in the spare bedroom of Jackie, the lady who did my mother’s hair on Saturday’s when I was 10. I was sent to go keep an eye on her while my mother was getting her hair done. I was the last person to see her alive, because she was moaning softly and crying while Jackie was shampooing. I asked her if she needed anything and she said she needed something for her bleeding.I went back down the hall and told Jackie. Jackie went into the bathroom and got then to back bedroom and then she came back into the kitchen. Jackie gave me some towels and told be to bring them to her. I could tell when I went back in the room that she was gone, and lying in an incredible pool of blood.It was the same week a woman my Mother worked with, who was white and had money, had a “procedure” at her gynecologist’s office to take care of her unwanted pregnancy.
I learned about Jane the underground to help women when I was 13. I started donating money, and volunteering. I let women into our apartment to sleep on the couch after everyone had gone to bed and then got them out before anyone got up in the morning, on their journey to Canada to have their abortion there, or if they had enough money to the private clinic on the North side of Chicago.
The story of Louisiana’s Tignon laws has always intrigued me. I’ve been seeing renewed interest in them as it appears they are now part of a discussion on cultural appropriation.
Louisiana had slavery but with some vital differences that eventually disturbed the American colonizers who bought the French Colony. The Catholic church insisted that slaves not work on Sundays and that they be allowed to buy their own freedom. This created an entire community of free people of color in New Orleans. It was inevitable that as the traditional model of American Slavery moved towards Louisiana and New Orleans it would create dehumanizing experiences for its Creole communities.
The Tignon laws passed in 1789, however, were enacted by a Spanish governor who was also critical of the French behavior towards free people of color. Tignon laws were enacted to restrict the fashion, dress and hair styles appropriate in public dress for female gens de couleur in colonial society. Black women could not show their hair in public under the law.
“We cannot discount how enslaved Black women used dress as a form of resistance [and] how even finding different ways of tying the headscarf acted as a form of resistance against the trauma of diaspora and being cut off from Africa,” says Winters. “Or how [African-American] people have drawn inspiration from African traditions as a source of empowerment.”
The tignon remains an important symbol of resistance even today It is essentially a piece of cloth fashioned into a headress to cover the hair of black women. It became much more when styled with bold patterns and color and adorned with jewels.
Even when Louisiana stopped enforcing the laws in the early 1800s, free women of color continued wearing the tignon. It’s a testament to their resilience: The women of New Orleans refused to allow a piece of cloth to humiliate them, erase their status, or diminish their femininity. Instead, they reinterpreted the tignon as a symbol of empowerment. (And Black women in Louisiana weren’t the only women of color to use clothing to resist oppressive laws: In 1773, free women of color in Saint-Domingue were prohibited from wearing shoes, so they wore sandals, adorned their toes with diamonds and continued to do so after the laws were lifted.)
More than 230 years later, remnants of the tignon laws still linger: Traditional hairstyles, such as dreadlocks, are still seen as unprofessional in the workplace; women who wear them are subject to false assumptions—like Giuliana Rancic’s now-notorious snark about Zendaya’s faux locs smelling of “patchouli oil” and “weed.” The military recently lifted its longtime ban on cornrows, Afros, locs, and other protective hairstyles, but we regularly hear stories about Black girls being suspended from school for rocking natural hair.
A number of black women have incorporated the look and statement in their performances.
Pop culture, however, is the most reliable place to look for Black women who still resist the policing of their hair.
The first time we see Beyoncé in Lemonade, her musical celebration of Louisiana’s Afro-Creole women, she’s rocking a tignon while kneeling on a stage. Nina Simone also incorporated the tignon into her signature look, and Lauryn Hill, India.Arie, and Erykah Badu followed her lead in the late 1990s and early 2000s. (Badu even wore a headwrap on Sesame Street). Outside of pop culture, the headwrap is now largely considered a fashion staple. Nnenna Stella travels from Brooklyn to Ghana and Morocco to select the most impeccable textiles for her handcrafted headwraps. Afro-Colombian designer Angelica Balanta’s vibrant headwraps reflect her rich Colombian culture, while Paola Mathé’s collection is inspired by her Haitian heritage.
It’s been years since the Tignon laws have been thrown out but they are still a sign of resistance. They also have been appropriated and are part of a bigger discussion
As of present, we can find conversations about what is and what isn’t cultural appropriation by way of hair (aka Kim Kardashian and her “Bo Derek” braids) or current cases playing out in court about what is and what isn’t discrimination based on a hairstyle. Black hair has always been a topic of conversation.
Most Black women can relate to the struggle of getting braids or weave and having unwanted comments from non-black co-workers. Even young Black girls are subject to ridicule because of their hairstyles. The Tignon Laws of 1786 are proof that Black hair has always been policed in America.
Fashion is frequently used for resistance.
People laugh at me when I tell them my Draq Queen friends would most likely be my spirit animal. My mother even knew that I was not one to be put in ruffles and lace with hair like Shirley Temple. It was not me at all. I basically look over the top in anything girlie which is probably why I can totally relate to a lot of drag.
Cross dressing and lip-syncing is entirely different from the insensitive nature and intention of blackface. In queer and feminist communities, drag tends to be widely accepted. It makes sense, counter cultures allowing each other to thrive and experiment. It is the concept of “gender roles” that forces us to so closely associate femininity with women, so when someone who is clearly not a woman performs femininity, it is still thought of to be a reflection on women.
A lot of drag queens get their names and character traits from pop culture, and the media loves to portray women as, to use Mary Cheney’s words, bitchy, catty, dumb, and slutty. Indeed, these are not great attributes for a person to embody, so when drag queens perform those characteristics while dressed and made up like a woman, it could be read as disrespectful or an insult to woman. Drag queens also tend to be hyper sexual, sometimes with a crude sense of humor. When people over sexualize femininity, it dehumanizes women by turning them into an object of sex as opposed to a complex human being.
Many supporters of drag culture argue that the femininity being performed by drag queens is their own form of self expression and has little to do with people who live their daily lives as women. Judith Butler argues that traditional gender roles are exhaustingly heteronormative, and that they attempt to define a norm that gives a sense of “otherness” to queer culture and drag. If we broaden our lense to not view heterosexuality as “having a claim on naturalness and originality” (Butler 384), gender can be scene as a performance for everyone and therefore not so different from drag. Basically, most people view drag as an imitation, but that implies that gender has a norm in which to deviate from. It’s like personality, there isn’t a set way to be an individual, so there isn’t a set way to be feminine.
I want to bring up art history in this exploration of gender because drag so connected with self expression and the artistry around makeup and fashion. Drag is an experiment gender, makeup, performance, fashion, comedy, parody etc… There is a million different ways to “do” drag, as seen by the assortment of characters who have won RuPaul’s drag race all with varying intensities in the femininity of the character.
Wedding Cakes aside, I grew up in an age when you read Oscar Wilde and knew it was indeed ‘the love that dare not speak its name”. I’ve found these expressions of resistance shared by friends that relate to oppression in a way I can only take in as a listener and human being, But, i can still relate. I knew there were jail sentences and death penalties when I was a child as much as I was aware of Jim Crow Laws separating black from white Americans in the South. Only now, is much of the pre civil rights culture of resistance being documented.
Recently I learned of Polari. This was at the BBC from a year ago: “Fifty years ago, the Sexual Offences Act became law, decriminalising homosexual acts that took place in private between two men over the age of 21. Fiona Macdonald looks at a gay slang that became a form of defiance.”
“And Gloria cackled, let there be sparkle; and there was sparkle.” It’s a passage from the Bible, but not as we know it: this is a familiar line from the Book of Genesis as spoken in Polari. The secret language became a kind of verbal wink between gay men in Britain during the early 20th Century – allowing them to hide and to reveal at the same time.
“One of the things that makes Polari so powerful is that it is simultaneously about disguise and identification,” the artist Jez Dolan tells BBC Culture. “You would be hiding what you were talking about from people who didn’t know it, but also if you were in a bar and you liked the look of somebody, you’d pop it into conversation and they’d either go ‘ah’ or they’d look blank and you’d be on your way.” Polari is rarely spoken today. Yet in the years when homosexuality was illegal, it was a way of communicating in public without risking arrest – as well as a chance to challenge the status quo.
This form of resistance, identification and survival has a fascinating history.
Baker has found it difficult to untangle a clear history of the lexicon. “Polari has a long and complicated provenance, and not all of it is fully known because it was spoken by marginalised groups who didn’t usually have their voices or stories recorded,” he says. While ‘bona’ (meaning ‘good’ or ‘attractive’), which pops up frequently, was first recorded in Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part II, some of the earliest words in Polari come from 18th-Century ‘Molly Slang’. “Mollies were men who were camp and had sex with other men,” says Baker. “These men were sometimes imprisoned and so some words of the criminal slang Cant would have crept into their language use.”
Baker describes how another form of slang, Parlyaree (from ‘parlare’, the Italian for ‘to talk’), was used by buskers, travelling circus and fairground people, market stall holders, prostitutes and beggars. Derived from Italian, it began to be used in music halls in the late 19th Century, and became known as Palarie. “There were influences from Lingua Franca… used by sailors, as well as cockney rhyming slang and Yiddish which were found particularly in the East End of London.” Some of the words are what’s been called ‘backslang’ – hair is ‘riah’, and face is ‘eek’ (from ‘ecaf’)
British comedian Kenneth Williams often spoke Polari in his performances on BBC radio and TV programmes in the 1950s and 60s, some of which had up to 20 million listeners at a time, introducing the language to a much wider audience.
The highlight of my evenings has been watching the nightly occupation of Lafayette Park across from the White House where noise and culture are making a loud stand. Its first night saw a very large Mariachi Band. There have been New Orleans styled Brass Bands and Drummers. The use of a Mariachi band in an Anti-Trump Protest is clearly ironic and brilliant simultaneously given Trump’s bigoted fascination with purging and dehumaniziang Mexicans and Mexican Americans.
Normally, Lafayette Park is one of those pretty, history-drenched spots in Washington, where you walk around wondering whose footsteps you might be following. You’re right across from the White House, close enough that you can practically see into the front windows. Now, though, the most important thing to know about this D.C. spot is what Occupy Lafayette Park is — because the square might just be full of anti-Trump protestors.
Because of its sight line straight to the White House, Lafayette Park is a frequent spot for rallies and gatherings when people want to protest something that the Trump administration has done, like for example the travel ban. Now, the country seems to be at a fever pitch after Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which has gained the name “Treason Summit” on Twitter. Occupy Lafayette Park is an impromptu, grassroots rally set up to protest Trump’s actions in Helsinki, where the meeting was held, and demand his impeachment.
It is only sweeter that idea came from former Clinton Aides. I just hope Trump can never sleep again.
“Nothing says Impeach like a Mariachi band,” one user chimed in.
As you can tell,symbols of resistance can take many forms and they can outlive the original need for the resistance while remaining necessary because of the residual impact. So, one final link to some news about the guy that’s kicked off the #MeToo movement by bragging on sexual assault. It’s from Charles Pierce, Esquire, CNN, Michael Cohen, the Age of Leaks and Treason and more than we’ve all been able to handle. ‘We now stand at a yes-or-no moment in this country’s history.’ It juxtaposes today and that day in 1974 where they found the smoking gun.
We are now at one of those points. With the revelation on CNN Thursday night that, according to the network’s sources, Michael Cohen is ready to testify that the president* knew in advance of the now-legendary meeting in June of 2016 at which individuals connected to the Russian government offered to ratfck Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign for him, we stand as a self-governing republic at a stark, unclouded moment—either you believe the president* of the United States is utterly illegitimate, having conspired with a hostile power to gain the office he now holds, and that every act he has taken in that office, up to an including swearing the oath of office, is equally illegitimate, or you do not. It is now a binary. If Cohen is willing to testify to that effect, then the president* conspired with the regime of Vladimir Putin in order to gain control over the executive branch of government in this country—which includes not only the military, but the law-enforcement and intelligence apparatus as well. We are now at yes-or-no.
It’s time, as artfully as possible, to tell this administration to get the fuck out of the people’s house.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
I watched quite a bit of Mike Pompeo’s appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday. I have to say, Pompeo is as rude and obnoxious as Trump; his personality seems highly unusual for someone who is supposed to be a diplomat. It was obvious from Pompeo’s vague responses to questions from Democrats and Republicans alike that he has no idea what Trump and Putin talked about in their more than two hour private meeting in Helsinki.
From a report on the confrontations at Foreign Policy: In Fiery Hearing, Pompeo Trades Barbs With Lawmakers.
“You come before a group of senators today who are filled with serious doubts about this White House and its conduct with American foreign policy,” said Republican Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in one of the sharper exchanges.
“The administration tells us, ‘Don’t worry, be patient, there is a strategy here.’ But from where we sit, it appears that in a ‘ready, fire, aim’ fashion, the White House is waking up every morning and making it up as they go,” he said.
The senators focused their criticism on Trump’s one-on-one meeting with Putin in Helsinki on July 16, details of which remain murky even to administration insiders.
They also took Pompeo to task for the apparent lack of progress in nuclear negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, more than a month after a summit meeting that Trump hailed as a resounding success.
Pompeo returned fire during more than three hours of testimony—his first open exchange with lawmakers since Trump’s meetings with Putin and Kim.
“I understand the game that you’re playing,” he told Sen. Bob Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the committee, during a line of questioning about Trump’s private meeting with Putin, which raised deep concerns among lawmakers and national security experts.
Menendez cut him off and shot back: “No, no, Mr. Secretary. With all due respect, I don’t appreciate you characterizing my questions. My question is to get to the truth. We don’t know what the truth is.”
The exchange with Menendez was one of the most heated of the day. The Democratic Senator from New Jersey talked about it with NPR’s Ari Shapiro yesterday:
SHAPIRO: What did you learn from Secretary Pompeo about what happened in that closed-door meeting in Helsinki?
MENENDEZ: Not very much. I learned that the reason that there is such concern is because no one has a clear readout of what transpired between President Trump and President Putin for over two hours. What we have is what took place at the press conference in Helsinki. And that was alarming to members on both sides of the aisle, which is why we were trying to pierce an understanding of how far he had been briefed and what elements of a conversation for over two hours were being pursued.
And, you know, it’s interesting that, you know, Secretary Pompeo, when it seems to be of benefit to the administration, will suggest that he knew something. But when if not, he says it’s a private conversation. It only seems to be a private conversation for President Trump because Putin and the Russian defense and public relations ministry is telling all about it. So it obviously has a much different view….
SHAPIRO: It seems like you were trying to ask Secretary Pompeo, in so many words, do you even know what was discussed in that room? And Secretary Pompeo got a little bit indignant and kind of scoffed at the question. But do you think he does know what happened in that room?
MENENDEZ: No. I don’t think he knows what happens in that room.
SHAPIRO: That’s kind of shocking. He’s the secretary of state, right?
MENENDEZ: It is. Well, it’s kind of shocking that you go into a meeting for two hours and you don’t have your secretary of state or your national security adviser or the director of National Intelligence with you because that allows the Russians to ultimately, you know, characterize the discussion as they are doing without a counter to it. And it’s interesting to see that we see no counter. Therefore, when members of the committee are citing the Russian ministry of defense, they’re doing it not because they believe the Russian ministry of defense, but they’re looking for counter arguments.
And when the administration is unwilling to be transparent and speak to it and let us know what actually transpired, it then gives credence to what the Russians are doing. And this is a major concern.
Read more at the NPR link.
As often happens, the Pentagon doesn’t seem to know anything about what Trump and Putin discussed either. That was another topic Senators asked about during the Pompeo hearing. Yesterday Buzzfeed published an article about how often those in charge of our troops are kept in the dark by Trump: New Emails Show What Happens When The Pentagon Has To Scramble To Catch Up To Trump. The article begins with a series of graphics depicting reports about Trump announcements that the Pentagon officials were completely unprepared for.
“The Pentagon was caught off guard” stories have become a staple of news coverage of the Trump administration.
It’s no secret that time and time again, officials in the Defense Department have been blindsided by sudden, often significant announcements and policy changes involving the US military coming out of the White House.
Trump administration officials have excused those moments as overblown, affecting news reports more than creating any real government dysfunction.
Now, however, internal emails released through the Freedom of Information Act offer an inside look at how chaotic it can be for Pentagon officials when they face an unexpected onslaught of questions in the wake of an alarming public statement from the White House. The confusion resonates not only in Washington but around the world, according to the emails, which were sought by a left-leaning watchdog group, Democracy Forward, and shared with BuzzFeed News.
The emails document two days of the aftermath of an unusual, and seemingly sudden, statement released by the White House late on the night of June 26 last year. It warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that he and his military would “pay a heavy price” if they carried out another chemical weapons attack.
Read the rest at the Buzzfeed.
Politico reports that the Pentagon is also being very uncommunicative: ‘We are fighting for information about war’: Pentagon curbs media access.
At a mid-July news conference at the Pentagon, AP reporter Lolita Baldor asked Gen. Mark Milley, the Army chief of staff, about an attack in Afghanistan that had led to the death of an American soldier. But before he could reply, a Defense Department press officer cut in to say that Milley and the three officials flanking him would be answering questions only about the intended topic for the news conference: the announcement of the location of a new command.
The next question went to Jennifer Griffin from Fox News. Over the previous two days, President Donald Trump had roiled the NATO summit in Brussels with verbal shots at the alliance’s members, so Griffin, after opening with a question about the new command, added, “I’m afraid I’m going to have to agree with Lita, we don’t have an opportunity to see you enough. Gen. Milley, have you reached out to your counterparts in Europe after the NATO summit to reassure them that the U.S. forces are staying?”
Again, the press officer cut off the question before Milley could answer.
The incident, which left Pentagon reporters furious, was the latest flash point in what has become an increasingly adversarial relationship between Defense Secretary James Mattis’ Cabinet department and the reporters who cover it. Chief among the complaints, according to defense reporters who spoke to POLITICO, are declining access to Mattis and other military officials, as well as a sense that reporters are not receiving the information they need to keep the public informed about America’s military activities.
Is this happening because Mattis and his team are out of the loop and don’t really know what Trump is up to? Or are they simply following Trump’s example? Read more at Politico.
USA Today has an interesting article by a former CIA officer: Ex-CIA analyst: If Trump were a foreign leader, I’d raise possibility of blackmail.
Trump’s appeasement of Russia is unprecedented for an American president, despite his recent claim that he has been the toughest president on Russia. It is almost certainly driven in part by his desire to protect the credibility of his election victory at all costs, to promote an image of being the ultimate deal-maker, and because of his preference for strong-man leadership. A former KGB officer and skilled manipulator, Putin no doubt recognizes these traits and is leveraging them to manipulate Trump.
Putin publicly admitted at the Helsinki summit that he wanted Trump to win, confirming a key point of the IC assessment. Trump probably is willing to look the other way on Russian interference because it was aimed at getting him elected, even if that means ignoring the threat Russia poses and allowing Moscow to continue attacking the country.
Behavior consistent with blackmail:
Trump’s behavior on Russia is consistent with a recruitment tactic employed by intelligence services to turn a person into an asset using damaging information as black-mail. Several senior Obama-era national security officials have said they believe Putin has compromising information on Trump and is using it to make the president do his bidding. Trump and his political base have been undeterred by revelations about his personal life, such as his alleged extra-marital affairs or history of sexual abuse. This suggests that if Moscow does have comprising information, it is likely to be about his personal finances, business practices, or other information that would damage his business.
► We know that some Trump campaign officials discussed working together with Moscow during the election, suggesting Russia could also be holding additional proof of collusion over the president’s head.
Trump’s doubling down since the summit and his invitation to Putin to the White House almost certainly have emboldened Putin to continue or even escalate intelligence operations against the U.S.
There was some encouraging news yesterday. A federal judge ruled that one of the emoluments cases against Trump can go forward.
Jed Shugarman at Slate: Heartbreak for the Trump Hotel.
Today’s ruling by federal court Judge Peter Messitte in one of the three emoluments cases against President Trump was a big win for the plaintiffs—and a bigger win than many had expected. It sets the stage for potentially shutting down the Trump International Hotel in D.C. as a violation of the government lease and thus an unconstitutional emolument. The legal interpretation in this decision would force Trump to divest from the hotel entirely.
For a little background, recall there are two emoluments clauses in the Constitution: The Foreign Emoluments Clause provides that “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”
The Domestic Emoluments Clause provides, “The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.”After the court ruled that the Foreign Emoluments Clause applies to the president, it adopted the plaintiffs’ definition of emolument as any “profit,” “gain,” or “advantage,” relying on the research of law professor John Mikhail (a co-author with me of our amicus brief in the case). The court acknowledged this historical purpose of the clauses: “the Court does not see how the historical record reflects anything other than an intention that the Emoluments Clauses function as broad anti-corruption provisions. … The Foreign Emoluments Clause was unquestionably adopted against a background of profound concern on the part of the Framers over possible foreign influence upon the President (and, to be sure, upon other federal officials).” The court cited many examples of the historical context from the founding, and discussed how the executive branch has applied the clauses in a manner consistent with that interpretation of the clauses. (The court acknowledged an exception for “de minimis” benefits, i.e., inconsequential minor benefits.)Then the court applied this interpretation to the Trump Organization and the Trump International Hotel specifically.
Click on the link to read the rest at Slate.
Note: The illustrations in this post are by Myles Hyman. So . . . what stories are you following today?
If y’all didn’t see Rachel Maddow you need to see her opening segment, check out the tweets below:
Here’s the cartoons:
I love this next one:
This is an open thread.