Jennifer Rubin actually wrote that we should ignore the president’s tweet. Apparently most people took her advice and spent more time yesterday talking about the president’s threat to strip security clearances from people who criticize him (even some who never had security clearances in the first place) than they did about his threat to annihilate Iran.
All of this has happened since former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman wrote that her fellow Republicans should call on the president to resign because he is unfit for office.
My concern is that there are almost daily examples of how Donald Trump is unfit for office. They happen so regularly that we have now started to ignore his threats to basically initiate World War III. I totally get why people do that. But it also scares the shit out of me when I take a moment to think about what’s happening.
Every now and then I imagine what it will be like in 10-15 years to look back on what I’ve written about during this Trump era. Honestly, I doubt that in the future I’ll feel guilty about over-reacting. But there is a very good chance that I’ll wonder why I wasn’t constantly screaming at the top of my lungs…”This president in absolutely bonkers, we can’t shut up until we get him outta there!”
IMHO, everyone should be listening to Christine Todd Whitman. Trump is dangerously unfit to be president, and he should resign or be impeached.
At Business Insider, Allan Smith speculates on why Trump passed on keeping Michael Cohen’s tapes privileged: Why Trump’s lawyers allowed the government to get ahold of the bombshell Michael Cohen tapes.
A person with knowledge of the Trump team’s decision making on the matter told Business Insider the president’s attorneys waived their privilege claims over all of the tapes because they claim Cohen had been discussing them with others, such as Michael Avenatti, the attorney for porn star Stormy Daniels, who is suing the president and Cohen.
The person said Trump’s legal team didn’t know “exactly what Cohen” has told others, but added that the lawyers “have the tapes” and “heard them all.” Trump’s attorneys “don’t have any problem with anybody listening to them,” the source said, adding that the remaining tapes disclosed Monday contain conversations between Cohen and a third party about Trump, not direct discussions between Trump and Cohen. This person told Business Insider they had heard the tapes.
Trump’s lawyers waived privilege so they could speak freely about the tapes, now that they claim Cohen is separately speaking about them, the person said. The person said waiving the privilege was “inevitable” and that they “didn’t know how it was coming out” but “knew Cohen was the source.”
Avenatti’s Sunday comments on ABC’s “This Week” further confirmed the Trump team’s thoughts, the person said.
Avenatti, who crossed paths with Cohen at a Manhattan restaurant last week, said Sunday that he has “continued to have a dialogue” with Cohen. Avenatti added he believes Cohen will “assist us in our search for the truth.”
So far, we have no idea what Trump discussed in his private meetings with Vladimir Putin. Can our intelligence agencies find out? At Politico, Josh Meyer says yes:
Privately, sources familiar with U.S. intelligence capabilities expressed confidence that the so-called Special Collection Service scooped up not only Putin’s readout of the two-hour meeting, but what the Kremlin’s top spymasters really think about it — and how they’re spinning it to their foreign counterparts.
That means the National Security Agency and CIA are at less of a strategic disadvantage than U.S. intelligence officials have acknowledged publicly. But because they likely are missing the one critical piece of intelligence they need the most — a word-by-word account of what Trump and Putin said during the meeting — those officials appear to be flying somewhat blind when it comes to fulfilling their most important mission of helping U.S. policymakers figure out what comes next.
“Most of the questions about what happened in Helsinki — and about the risks the president created there — are skipping over a more fundamental concern: How can intel officers effectively support policy, at any level, when only the president knows what the policy is?” asks David Priess, a former CIA officer and daily White House intelligence briefer. “If, one-on-one with Putin, the president made or changed policy, and he refuses to tell anyone exactly what happened, how can the national security bureaucracy prepare the memos and talking points for future meetings to be held about those very policies?”
Click on the link to read the rest.
I’ll end with this very long read by Doug Bock Clark at GQ about what may have happened to Otto Warmbier.
The gist is that Trump lied (big surprise!) when he claimed that Warbier had been beaten and tortured. This is based on the coroner’s findings. It appears that Warbier was taken to a North Korean hospital the next day after he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor; and it appears that he received good care in the hospital. Clark writes that the North Koreans do not typically torture American prisoners and they are kept in safe houses, not in hell-hole prisons. It’s possible Warbier may have tried to commit suicide, as several other American prisoners have.
Despite how Trump and his administration boosted the narrative that Otto was physically tortured, however, the evidence was not clear-cut. The day after the Warmbiers went on national television to declare that Otto had been “systematically tortured and intentionally injured,” a coroner who had examined Otto, Dr. Lakshmi Kode Sammarco, unexpectedly called a press conference. She explained that she hadn’t previously done so out of respect for the Warmbiers. But her findings, and those of the doctors who had attended Otto, contradicted the Warmbiers’ assertions.
Fred had described Otto’s teeth as having been “re-arranged” with pliers, but Sammarco reiterated that the postmortem exam found that “the teeth [were] natural and in good repair.” She discovered no significant scars, dismissing the one on his foot as not definitively indicative of anything. Other signs of physical trauma were also lacking. Both sides of Otto’s brain had suffered simultaneously, meaning it had been starved of oxygen. (Blows to the head would have likely resulted in asymmetrical, rather than universal, damage.) Though the Warmbiers declined a surgical autopsy, non-invasive scans found no hairline bone fractures or other evidence of prior trauma. “His body was in excellent condition,” Sammarco said. “I’m sure he had to have round-the-clock care to be able to maintain the skin in the condition it was in.” When asked about the Warmbiers’ claims, Sammarco answered, “They’re grieving parents. I can’t really make comments on what they said or their perceptions. But here in this office, we depend on science for our conclusions.” Three other individuals who had close contact with Otto on his return also did not notice any physical signs consistent with torture.
Basically Trump used Warmbier as an excuse to threaten North Korea.
When Otto finally opened his eyes again, he likely found himself at a guesthouse, which is where the State Department believed he was probably kept. At least five previous American detainees have been imprisoned in a two-story building with a green-tiled roof in a gated alleyway behind a restaurant in downtown Pyongyang, which is run by the State Security Department, the North Korean secret police. (Others have been kept at a different guesthouse, and at least three have stayed at a hotel.) The most used guesthouse is luxurious by local standards—detainees can hear guards using its karaoke machine into the wee hours—but Otto would have likely found its two-room suites roughly equivalent to those in a basic hotel. And no matter how nice his suite, it was also a cell, for he would have been allowed out only for an occasional escorted walk.
So how did he get his injury?
While some previous detainees were allowed letters from home, it seems that North Korea denied Otto any contact with the outside world. His only break from the interrogations was likely watching North Korean propaganda films. The psychic trauma of all this has sent previous detainees into crushing depressions, and even driven some to attempt suicide….
“The staff at Friendship Hospital said they received Otto the morning after the trial and that when he came in he was unresponsive,” Dr. Flueckiger told me. “They had to resuscitate him, then give him oxygen and put him on a ventilator, or he would die.” As Yun, the negotiator who helped free Otto, said, “The doctors were clear that he had been brought to the hospital within a day of his trial, and that he had been in that same room until I saw him.” [….]
Without knowing about the revised time line of Otto’s injury, experts I spoke to overwhelmingly identified some kind of accident—for example, an allergic reaction—as the most likely cause for Otto’s unconsciousness. The likelihood that his brain damage happened immediately after the sentencing, however, raises the possibility that he may have attempted suicide.
Imagine what Otto must have been feeling after hearing that he would spend the next 15 years laboring in what he probably imagined to be a gulag. After two months of being constantly reminded that the American government couldn’t help him, he probably felt that his family, his beautiful girlfriend (who called him her “soul mate”), and his Wall Street future were all lost. What else could he look forward to but physical and mental suffering?
At least two Americans imprisoned in North Korea have attempted suicide. After failing to cut his wrists, Aijalon Gomes chewed open a thermometer and drank its mercury, later explaining that he had given up on America’s ability to free him. Despite eventually having his release won by Jimmy Carter, Gomes was unable to escape his post-traumatic stress disorder, and seven years later burned himself to death. An American official said that Evan Hunziker tried to kill himself while being held, and less than a month after returning home, he shattered his own skull with a bullet in a run-down hotel. Robert Park reportedly tried to take his own life on returning.
Even if North Korea didn’t beat Otto, that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t tortured, as the mental suffering the regime inflicted on him constitutes torture under the U.N. definition. As Tomás Ojea Quintana, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights for North Korea, said, “Otto’s rights were violated on every level.”
Obviously I can’t do this article justice with short excerpts. If you have the time, I recommend reading the whole thing. Clearly, Trump’s use of Warmbier’s family’s suffering is unconscionable.
Those are my offerings for today. What stories are you following?