It is late, but I suppose we should start this with the skit from last night’s SNL…
The tweets being:
Let’s take these to account.
And talking about Rudy G…
tRump is talking rats… Miller has a dead rat plastered to his head:
Take a look at some of the responses to that thread….funny stuff.
An update on a story from weeks ago:
Its an open thread.
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
I have a pre-exisiting condition. I developed cancer when I was pregnant with my youngest and was diagnosed about 5 months after her birth with inoperable 4th stage cancer. I asked my ob/gyn if she had to choose a type of cancer would this be it. She said no because, to this day, I’m the only one who appears to have recovered from this form of leiomyosarcoma. Many cancer survivors–like me and the children in these pictures– as well as many others living with other illnesses breathed a sigh of relief when the Affordable Healthcare Act passed. I was no longer at the mercy of an employer with a stellar health plan. I could get health care.
Many Republican controlled states and the Republicans throughout all levels of government have sworn to kill the ACA. The weird thing is a lot of them ran this last election promising they supported this feature of the ACA while they were actively supporting the very lawsuit that would put people like me and these kids in jeopardy.
Here’s how one crazy judge in Texas has put many lives in danger. At the very least, it will head back to SCOTUS. This is the bottom line via Axios.
The Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature achievement, may be headed back to the Supreme Court after a conservative federal judge in Texas struck down the individual mandate as unconstitutional last evening.
Be smart: This really could end with the Affordable Care Act being wiped out. There’s no guarantee that a more conservative Supreme Court won’t just let the law die.
How did one judge rule the entire ACA unconstitutional? Here’s the coverage from WAPO by Amy Goldstein.
A federal judge in Texas threw a dagger into the Affordable Care Act on Friday night, ruling that the entire health-care law is unconstitutional because of a recent change in federal tax law.
The opinion by U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor overturns all of the sprawling law nationwide.
The ruling came on the eve of the deadline Saturday for Americans to sign up for coverage in the federal insurance exchange created under the law. If the ruling stands, it would create widespread disruption across the U.S. health-care system — from no-charge preventive services for older Americans on Medicare to the expansion of Medicaid in most states, to the shape of the Indian Health Service — in all, hundreds of provisions in the law that was a prized domestic achievement of President Barack Obama.
President Trump, who has made the dismantling of the ACA a chief goal since his campaign, swiftly tweeted his pleasure at the opinion. “As I predicted all along, Obamacare has been struck down as an UNCONSTITUTIONAL disaster!” the president wrote just after 9 p.m. “Now Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions.”
That’s right. One small change through many lives in jeopardy. We now have rampant uncertainty in the health insurance market. Here’s more information via Bloomberg.
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth agreed with a coalition of Republican states led by Texas that he had to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act, the signature health-care overhaul by President Barack Obama, after Congress last year zeroed out a key provision — the tax penalty for not complying with the requirement to buy insurance.
“Today’s ruling is an assault on 133 million Americans with preexisting conditions, on the 20 million Americans who rely on the ACA’s consumer protections for health care, and on America’s faithful progress toward affordable health care for all Americans,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement, leading a chorus of Democrats who blasted the decision. A spokeswoman for Becerra vowed a quick challenge to O’Connor’s ruling.
Obamacare was struck down by a Texas federal judge in a ruling that casts uncertainty on insurance coverage for millions of U.S. residents.
The decision Friday finding the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional comes at the tail end of a six-week open enrollment period for the program in 2019 and underscores a divide between Republicans who have long sought to invalidate the law and Democrats who fought to keep it in place.
So, that’s all I have time to post today as I’m covering for our BB who is under the weather. Also, I’m headed out to see what’s available to me on this last day of ability to apply for coverage under the ACA.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Wow! Has it been cold here Sky Dancers! It’s finally crept back up into the more seasonal sixties . At least I’m not out in the cold but I’m thinking it’s just a bit of time before the Republican Party, its leaders, and the Golden Bull its been worshiping get thrown out on the ice floes. Let’s hope there’s enough of them left by the time the country vomits them into history.
Enjoy the winter scenery at some of our nation’s best National Parks! Let’s also hope they survive by the time we get rid of the party of corruption and destruction.
It’s not looking good for movement conservatives, war loving conservatives, or whatever Bill Kristol has become besides a Never Trumper. The headlines on the Trump mess are getting more brutal by the minute. But, the folks on the outside are fairing pretty badly too. The Weekly Standard is shutting down. John Poderhertz is out of a job but blogging all the same. It seems fitting that the demise of the Republican party should accompany the demise of the Standard.
The Weekly Standard will be no more. There is no real reason we are witnessing the magazine’s demise other than deep pettiness and a personal desire for bureaucratic revenge on the part of a penny-ante Machiavellian who works for its parent company.
There would at least be a larger meaning to the Standard’s end if it were being killed because it was hostile to Donald Trump. But I do not believe that is the case. Rather, I believe the fissures in the conservative movement and the Republican party that have opened up since Trump’s rise provided the company man with a convenient argument to make to the corporation’s owner, Philip Anschutz, that the company could perhaps harvest the Standard’s subscriber-base riches and then be done with it.
That this is an entirely hostile act is proved by the fact that he and Anschutz have refused to sell the Standard because they want to claim its circulation for another property of theirs. This is without precedent in my experience in publishing, and I’ve been a family observer of and active participant in the magazine business for half a century.
The creation of the Weekly Standard was my proudest professional moment. When Bill Kristol and I conceived the magazine at the end of 1994, our purpose was to create a publication that would help guide and keep honest the hard-charging Republican Party that had scored its stunning lopsided victory over Bill Clinton’s Democrats. This putative magazine would not cheerlead for Newt Gingrich’s Republicans, but instead represent the best thinking about how to lead the country through a new conservative era. We were criticized for not being part of the team from the get-go. Indeed, after the first issue came out in September 1995, a wag at a weekly meeting in Washington chaired by Grover Norquist handed out a parody of the Standard based on the precept that we had already gone off the reservation and weren’t being properly supportive of the Gingrich era.
As a matter of character, while the kindest and most generous of men, Bill is more the type for an ironic and deflating joke than a good “rah rah” about anything. And for better or worse, I was the kind of player on your softball team who would side with the other on a close call at second base if that’s what it looked like to me. Thus, not being a team player was part of the DNA of the Standard from the outset, for better or worse. Our loyalty was to the ideas in which we believed, not to the Republican Party. And to be truthful in our analysis. That sounds pompous, and I hate sounding pompous, but it’s true. And it has been ever thus in the 23 years of the Standard’s existence, from its opening personal essay (the “casual”) to the cultural essays of the back-of-the-book and even the parodies that bring the weekly issue to its close.
Where’s the tiniest violin in the world? Perhaps we should get an orchestra filled with them. Here’s a bit from George Packer of The Atlantic: “The Corruption of the Republican Party. The GOP is best understood as an insurgency that carried the seeds of its own corruption from the start.” At least we’ve switched from burying Nancy Pelosi to burying the Republican party. I still argue it came the minute they let white evangelicals in the door.
The corruption I mean has less to do with individual perfidy than institutional depravity. It isn’t an occasional failure to uphold norms, but a consistent repudiation of them. It isn’t about dirty money so much as the pursuit and abuse of power—power as an end in itself, justifying almost any means. Political corruption usually trails financial scandals in its wake—the foam is scummy with self-dealing—but it’s far more dangerous than graft. There are legal remedies for Duncan Hunter, the representative from California, who will stand trial next year for using campaign funds to pay for family luxuries.* But there’s no obvious remedy for what the state legislatures of Wisconsin and Michigan, following the example of North Carolina in 2016, are now doing.
Republican majorities are rushing to pass laws that strip away the legitimate powers of newly elected Democratic governors while defeated or outgoing Republican incumbents are still around to sign the bills. Even if the courts overturn some of these power grabs, as they have in North Carolina, Republicans will remain securely entrenched in the legislative majority through their own hyper-gerrymandering—in Wisconsin last month, 54 percent of the total votes cast for major-party candidates gave Democrats just 36 of 99 assembly seats—so they will go on passing laws to thwart election results. Nothing can stop these abuses short of an electoral landslide. In Wisconsin, a purple state, that means close to 60 percent of the total vote.
The fact that no plausible election outcome can check the abuse of power is what makes political corruption so dangerous. It strikes at the heart of democracy. It destroys the compact between the people and the government. In rendering voters voiceless, it pushes everyone closer to the use of undemocratic means.
Today’s Republican Party has cornered itself with a base of ever older, whiter, more male, more rural, more conservative voters. Demography can take a long time to change—longer than in progressives’ dreams—but it isn’t on the Republicans’ side. They could have tried to expand; instead, they’ve hardened and walled themselves off. This is why, while voter fraud knows no party, only the Republican Party wildly overstates the risk so that it can pass laws (including right now in Wisconsin, with a bill that reduces early voting) to limit the franchise in ways that have a disparate partisan impact. This is why, when some Democrats in the New Jersey legislature proposed to enshrine gerrymandering in the state constitution, other Democrats, in New Jersey and around the country, objected.
Taking away democratic rights—extreme gerrymandering; blocking an elected president from nominating a Supreme Court justice; selectively paring voting rolls and polling places; creating spurious anti-fraud commissions; misusing the census to undercount the opposition; calling lame-duck legislative sessions to pass laws against the will of the voters—is the Republican Party’s main political strategy, and will be for years to come.
One of the old things I won’t mind ringing out is Paul Ryan. I think I’ve made that pretty clear. John Nichols asks this for The Nation: “What the Hell Is Wrong With Paul Ryan? It is outrageous that the House Speaker continues to block action to end US support for Saudi atrocities against Yemen.” Paul Ryan is always wrong. Does why really matter?
What the hell is wrong with Paul Ryan? At a point when the whole world is demanding urgent action to end the Saudi-led bombardment and starvation of Yemen, the Speaker of the House has been scheming to prevent congressional debate on a resolution to get the United States out of a humanitarian crisis.
This is not about partisanship or ideology. As Ryan was blocking action in the House this week, 11 Senate Republicans—including some of the chamber’s most conservative members—voted with Democrats to open the Senate debate on ending US military support for the Saudi Arabia’s assault on Yemen.
The 60-39 vote to advance the bipartisan effort by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Mike Lee (R-UT) to invoke the war-powers authority of the Congress to constrain military interventions and engagements by the Executive Branch, cleared that way for a 56-41 vote on Thursday in favor of the S.J.Res. 54: “A joint resolution to direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress.”
“Today we tell the despotic regime in Saudi Arabia that we will not be a part of their military adventurism,” declared Sanders, who has for months made the case for congressional action on Yemen, waging a two-pronged campaign for the resolution. First, he made a moral argument, telling his colleagues they have a duty to end US support for Saudi abuses that have fostered a “humanitarian and strategic disaster” in Yemen—a crisis so severe that United Nations officials say it could lead to the worst famine in a century. Second, the senator made a constitutional argument, explaining that “The Senate must reassert its constitutional authority and end our support of this unauthorized and unconstitutional war.”
Frankly, Paul Ryan is into starving and killing just about everything that’s of no interest to Paul Ryan’s pocketbook. Glad to see him go back to Wisconsin to hopefully freeze. As the nation’s justice system unwinds the Trump Crime Syndicate, we get a better idea of how exactly The Steele Dossier got so much right. Lawfare Blog has a good read up by Grad Student Sarah Grant of Harvard Law.
The dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele remains a subject of fascination—or, depending on your perspective, scorn. Indeed, it was much discussed during former FBI Director Jim Comey’s testimony in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Dec. 7. Published almost two years ago by BuzzFeed News in January 2017, the document received significant public attention, first for its lurid details regarding Donald Trump’s pre-presidential alleged sexual escapades in Russia and later for its role in forming part of the basis for the government’s application for a FISA warrant to surveil Carter Page.
Our interest in revisiting the compilation that has come to be called the “Steele Dossier” concerns neither of those topics, at least not directly. Rather, we returned to the document because we wondered whether information made public as a result of the Mueller investigation—and the passage of two years—has tended to buttress or diminish the crux of Steele’s original reporting.
The dossier is actually a series of reports—16 in all—that total 35 pages. Written in 2016, the dossier is a collection of raw intelligence. Steele neither evaluated nor synthesized the intelligence. He neither made nor rendered bottom-line judgments. The dossier is, quite simply and by design, raw reporting, not a finished intelligence product.
In that sense, the dossier is similar to an FBI 302 form or a DEA 6 form. Both of those forms are used by special agents of the FBI and DEA, respectively, to record what they are told by witnesses during investigations. The substance of these memoranda can be true or false, but the recording of information is (or should be) accurate. In that sense, notes taken by a special agent have much in common with the notes that a journalist might take while covering a story—the substance of those notes could be true or false, depending on what the source tells the journalist, but the transcription should be accurate.
With that in mind, we thought it would be worthwhile to look back at the dossier and to assess, to the extent possible, how the substance of Steele’s reporting holds up over time. In this effort, we considered only information in the public domain from trustworthy and official government sources, including documents released by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office in connection with the criminal casesbrought against Paul Manafort, the 12 Russian intelligence officers, the Internet Research Agency trolling operation and associated entities, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos. We also considered the draft statement of offensereleased by author Jerome Corsi, a memorandum released by House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Ranking Member Adam Schiff related to the Carter Page FISA applications and admissions directly from certain speakers.
These materials buttress some of Steele’s reporting, both specifically and thematically. The dossier holds up well over time, and none of it, to our knowledge, has been disproven.
Jared Kushner may be the only person in the administration more corrupt than his father-in-law. It astounds me to think he could wind up as Chief of Staff. The Daily Beast has this today from some of the stunners we learned this month: ” Jared Kushner Replaced Michael Cohen as Trump’s National Enquirer Connection. The president’s son-in-law grew tight with David Pecker during the early months of the administration.” I actually think this guy would make Nixon blush.
Shortly after the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner was handed a task considered critical to the president’s operations. In addition to serving as a senior adviser in the White House, he would also be playing the role of the main conduit between Trump and his friend David Pecker, the National Enquirer publisher and chief executive of AMI, who prosecutors said on Wednesday admitted to making a $150,000 hush-money payment “in concert with” the Trump campaign.
During the early months of the Trump era, Kushner performed the task admirably, discussing with Pecker various issues over the phone, including everything from international relations to media gossip, according to four sources familiar with the situation. Pecker, for his part, bragged to people that he was speaking to the president’s son-in-law and, more generally, about the level of access he had to the upper echelons of the West Wing, two sources with knowledge of the relationship recounted.
The relationship underscored both the wide breadth of responsibilities that Kushner was given in the White House—a portfolio that saw him serve as a point person on some of the most critical government functions and as a chief protector of the Trump family image—as well as the degree to which Trump continued to value the relationships he’d built up with key media figures during his time in New York real estate and reality TV.
Pecker, after all, was no bit player. He has been a valuable asset within Trump’s orbit, at least until federal investigators came knocking. His ties to Trump began well before the president was elected to office. But before Kushner was his main conduit, that role was played by Michael Cohen, the president’s former attorney and fixer.
During the heat of the 2016 election, Pecker’s AMI and Enquirer—with Cohen helping facilitate matters behind the scenes—endorsed Trump, ran a catch-and-kill operation to suppress damaging stories of Trump’s alleged affairs, and published numerous negative articles on Trump’s political enemies and adversaries in the Republican primary. Trump himself used to contribute to the Enquirer and the future president reportedly also used the tabloid to settle his pettier, more personal scores. In late 2016, actress Salma Hayek claimed on a conference call hosted by the Hillary Clinton campaign that Trump had tried to date her and when she rejected him, he planted a false story about her in the Enquirer.
Pecker had banked on Cohen remaining in Trump’s political inner sanctum after the election. But during the presidential transition, it became clear that Trump’s then-fixer wouldn’t be landing a plum job in the administration—though he had told people close to him that he expected a senior position, even White House chief of staff, two sources with direct knowledge recall.
These folks are so corrupt that even Chris Christie won’t touch the Chief of Staff position. This is from ABC.
ABC News has learned former New Jersey governor and ABC News contributor Chris Christie interviewed for the position on Thursday, but released a statement Friday saying he’s asked the president to no longer consider him.
“It’s an honor to have the President consider me as he looks to choose a new White House chief-of-staff,” Christie said. “However, I’ve told the President that now is not the right time for me or my family to undertake this serious assignment. As a result, I have asked him to no longer keep me in any of his considerations for this post.”
The president is expected to continue the interview process over the weekend and next week, sources said.
Providing an update on his search Thursday, the president said he has whittled his list down to five candidates.
“We’re interviewing people for chief of staff, yes,” Trump told reporters, saying he has five “terrific” candidates lined up for the position so far.
Sources with knowledge of the president’s thinking told ABC News that Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway are also on the list.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said the president is expected to make a decision on the post soon. He added, however, that Trump could decide to “extend” the current deal with Kelly. Kellyanne Conway also said Thursday on CNN that Kelly’s job could extend past the new year while the president continues his search.
So, we do seem to be in the middle of some TV presidency but I really don’t think it’s reality TV or even a crime series. It’s more like a never ending soap opera with the bad people center stage and the good people waiting in the wings. The New Congress cannot come soon enough.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Poor sad sack Trump is feeling sorry for himself this morning. He’s likely beginning to realize that he would have been better off if he had just continued his criminal career in New York and never run for president.
Now Trump is totally screwed. If he had half a brain, he would try to make a deal now to resign in return for not going to prison. He could work out an agreement with Pence to pardon him, along with Ivanka, Don Jr., and Eric for Federal crimes; but they would still be on the hook for state charges in New York. And Pence cannot pardon the Trump Organization.
Poor old guy. He should really, really start thinking about resigning before it’s too late.
I came across some interesting information this morning on Twitter that could explain some of Trump’s behavioral issues. A man named Noel Casler who spent six years working on Celebrity Apprentice claims that Trump frequently chopped up Adderall tablets and snorted them.
This could explain some of Trump’s weird speech problems and his loud sniffing in the presidential debates and in other appearances.
From a site called Polipace last year: Are Stimulant Drugs Messing Up Trump’s Mind and Speech? Doctor Claims He’s on Drugs. (Obviously, I can’t vouch for this accuracy of this piece, but as a strong rumor, it’s quite interesting.)
This morning I got a weird phone call after the Trump speech ended announcing the US Embasy Moving to Jerusalem, from a Psychiatrist in New York, who claimed that Donald Trump was taking Adderall and other psycho-stimulants. He didn’t want to have his name used, but he checked out as a Psychiatrist who had been working in Manhattan for over 20 years. He said that Trump had been taking all types of stimulants for years and it was one of the reasons that Trump was, according to him, suffering from Dementia, as it causes permanent brain damage.
The Doctor said that it was “obvious” that Trump has been popping speed of some sort, and this would explain his weird speech patterns, and even the “crashes” he seems to have where he starts slurring his words suddenly and has severe dry mouth.
Back in the day, Spy Magazine claimed that Trump was using amphetamines. Gawker published articles about this in 2016.
Gawker, 2/11/16: The Best Theory of 1992: Donald Trump Took Amphetamine-Like Diet Pills, by Sam Biddle.
Two decades ago, Donald Trump wasn’t a fascist lightning rod, hick idol, reality star, or political entity. He was just a high-profile rich schmuck and evergreen victim of Spy magazine, which used him as a peg for a February 1992 feature on Dr. Joseph Greenberg, whom they alleged was prescribing powerful stimulants to anyone with a checkbook. Stimulants, Spy’s John Connolly speculated, that might explain how Donald Trump maintains his infinite, inexhaustible arrogance:
Have you ever wondered why Donald Trump has acted so erratically at times, full of manic energy, paranoid, garrulous? Well, he was a patient of Dr. Greenberg’s from 1982 to 1985…Dr. Greenberg diagnosed both of the Trump brothers as suffering from a “metabolic imbalance.”
According to Spy, Dr. Greenberg believed the cure for “metabolic imbalance” (not an actual medical disorder) was Tenuate Dospan, a diet drug similar to dexedrine with known side effects that include “confusions” and “hallucinations,” according to the NIH. It also gives you an amphetamine-like buzz. This is all probably why it’s only supposed to be prescribed on a short-term basis, as opposed to the multiple-monthlong regimens Dr. Greenberg allegedly dosed out, according to Spy:
Dr. Greenberg’s program included no set caloric limit, and Tenuate was prescribed or five months. The long-term use of Tenuate can, according to the medical literature, lead to psychosis—delusions of grandeur, say, like the belief that by simply putting your name on real estate properties, you will double their value.
Or, say, like running for president without a platform beyond “look at that yonder Muslim, what’s he up to?” Most juicily, Connolly included what purports to be the Trump brothers’ medical charts, “indicating many, many visits” to Greenberg. Over email, Connolly told me that the image was in fact a direct photocopy of the Trump brothers’ medical records, and not merely a reproduction from information or an illustration.
Gawker, 7/1/16: Rumor: Doctor Prescribes Donald Trump “Cheap Speed,” by Ashley Feinberg.
Back in December, Donald Trump’s personal doctor declared to the world that Trump would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.” While that particular claim is unfalsifiable (although almost certainly incorrect), according to a source with knowledge of Trump’s current prescriptions, that letter isn’t telling the whole story. Most notably: Donald Trump is allegedly still taking speed-like diet pills.
In addition to referencing the Spy story, Feinberg quotes from Harry Hurt’s biography of Trump, Lost Tycoon.
In 1993, Harry Hurt’s unauthorized biography on Trump, Lost Tycoon, corroborated the rumors and went one step further:
The diet drugs, which [Trump] took in pill form, not only curbed his appetite but gave him a feeling of euphoria and unlimited energy. The medical literature warned that some potentially dangerous side effects could result from long-term usage; they included anxiety, insomnia, and delusions of grandeur. According to several Trump Organization insiders, Donald exhibited all these ominous symptoms of diet drug usage, and then some.
The supposed drug Trump took back then was Tenuate Dospan, a drug with speed-like effects that’s not unlike dexedrine.
These rumors say Trump stopped seeing Dr. Greenberg decades ago. But according to our source, the Donald Trump of today is on a diet drug called phentermine—and has been since at least April of 2014.
Phentermine first gained notoriety in the U.S. under the name Fen-Phen, a “miracle” combination of phentermine and fenfluramine, another established anti-obesity drug. The only problem with it was that patients taking the drug began reporting damage to their hearts and lungs. Apparently, the combination destroyed patients’ bodies’ abilities to regulate the amount of serotonin.
Phentermine on its own, however, is still prescribed. And while the U.S. National Library of Medicine notes that most people take phentermine for a month or so at a time, since the drug is addictive, Trump has supposedly been taking it continuously for over two years .
- Trouble with thinking, speaking, or walking
- Decreased ability to exercise
- False or unusual sense of well-being
- Increase in sexual ability, desire, drive, or performance
Readers can determine for themselves if these symptoms remind them of anyone.
So . . . that would certainly explain a lot about Trump.
I know this is a strange post, but I have a nasty cold and I’m not thinking clearly enough to deal with real news. Here are a few links to check out in case you’re in the mood to do it.
The Daily Beast: Get Ready for Mueller’s Phase Two: The Middle East Connection.
The Washington Post: Russian Maria Butina pleads guilty in case to forge Kremlin bond with U.S. conservatives.
The Daily Beast: Trump Cancels White House Christmas Party for the Press.
Associated Press: As protectors abandon Trump, investigation draws closer.
David Corn at Mother Jones: Did Michael Flynn Try to Strike a Grand Bargain With Moscow as it Attacked the 2016 Election?
What stories are you following today?
That has to be the best representation of the theatrics played out before the cameras yesterday, during the stage show given in the Oval Office.
(Something is up with WordPress…Images are not loading correctly. Hopefully you can see these cartoons.)
This next cartoon from Eric Garcia hits home if anyone has seen the latest series of Narcos: Mexico…
And…the latest news:
A federal judge in New York sentenced President Donald Trump’s former long-time attorney Michael Cohen to 36 months imprisonment on Wednesday after he pleaded guilty to several charges earlier this year, according to multiple reports.
This is an open thread.
As if the fake “president” didn’t have enough humiliations to deal with this morning, Time Magazine has delivered a crushing blow to his ego, announcing Jamal Khashoggi and other journalists as their “Person of the Year.”
Time magazine has announced its 2018 Person of the Year is “The Guardians,” four individuals and one group — all journalists — who this year helped expose “the manipulation and the abuse of truth” around the world.
They are the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post contributing columnist who was killed inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul in October; the staff of the Capital Gazette newspaper in Maryland; journalist Maria Ressa, the CEO of the Rappler news website, who has been made a legal target in the Philippines; and journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who have been jailed in Myanmar for nearly a year for their work exposing the mass killing of Rohingya Muslims.
“As we looked at the choices, it became clear that the manipulation and the abuse of truth is really the common thread in so many of this year’s major stories, from Russia to Riyadh to Silicon Valley,” Time magazine editor Edward Felsenthal said on the “Today” show Tuesday morning, where the announcement was made.
“The manipulation and abuse of truth” is a pretty clear reference to Trump’s governing style.
Here’s Time’s cover story: The Guardians and the War on Truth.
The stout man with the gray goatee and the gentle demeanor dared to disagree with his country’s government. He told the world the truth about its brutality toward those who would speak out. And he was murdered for it.
Every detail of Jamal Khashoggi’s killing made it a sensation: the time stamp on the surveillance video that captured the Saudi journalist entering his country’s Istanbul consulate on Oct. 2; the taxiway images of the private jets bearing his assassins; the bone saw; the reports of his final words, “I can’t breathe,” recorded on audio as the life was choked from him.
But the crime would not have remained atop the world news for two months if not for the epic themes that Khashoggi himself was ever alert to, and spent his life placing before the public. His death laid bare the true nature of a smiling prince, the utter absence of morality in the Saudi-U.S. alliance and—in the cascade of news feeds and alerts, posts and shares and links—the centrality of the question Khashoggi was killed over: Whom do you trust to tell the story?
Khashoggi put his faith in bearing witness. He put it in the field reporting he had done since youth, in the newspaper editorship he was forced out of and in the columns he wrote from lonely exile. “Must we choose,” he asked in the Washington Post in May, “between movie theaters and our rights as citizens to speak out, whether in support of or critical of our government’s actions?” Khashoggi had fled his homeland last year even though he actually supported much of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s agenda in Saudi Arabia. What irked the kingdom and marked the journalist for death was Khashoggi’s insistence on coming to that conclusion on his own, tempering it with troubling facts and trusting the public to think for itself.
Such independence is no small thing. It marks the distinction between tyranny and democracy. And in a world where budding authoritarians have advanced by blurring the difference, there was a clarity in the spectacle of a tyrant’s fury visited upon a man armed only with a pen. Because the strongmen of the world only look strong. All despots live in fear of their people. To see genuine strength, look to the spaces where individuals dare to describe what’s going on in front of them.
Trump and his gullible son-in-law Jared Kushner won’t be happy about this. Plus, yesterday CNN published quotes from the transcript of the recording of the Kashoggi murder: ‘I can’t breathe.’ Jamal Khashoggi’s last words disclosed in transcript, source says.
“I can’t breathe.” These were the final words uttered by Jamal Khashoggi after he was set upon by a Saudi hit squad at the country’s consulate in Istanbul, according to a source briefed on the investigation into the killing of the Washington Post columnist.
The source, who has read a translated transcript of an audio recording of Khashoggi’s painful last moments, said it was clear that the killing on October 2 was no botched rendition attempt, but the execution of a premeditated plan to murder the journalist.
During the course of the gruesome scene, the source describes Khashoggi struggling against a group of people determined to kill him.
“I can’t breathe,” Khashoggi says.
“I can’t breathe.”
“I can’t breathe.”
The transcript notes the sounds of Khashoggi’s body being dismembered by a saw, as the alleged perpetrators are advised to listen to music to block out the sound.
And, according to the source, the transcript suggests that a series of phone calls are made. Turkish officials believe the calls were placed to senior figures in Riyadh, briefing them on progress.
In other humiliations, the fake “president” decided to humiliate Chief of Staff John Kelly by announcing his firing without any warning, and then the fake “president” was in turn humiliated by his choice to replace Kelly. Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair:
On Friday night, members of Donald Trump’s West Wing gathered for drinks at the Trump International Hotel following a holiday dinner at the White House. As they mingled in the lobby, Bill Shine, Stephen Miller, Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and others grappled with the latest West Wing upheaval: Trump had changed the plan and fired Chief of Staff John Kellyearlier that afternoon. “It got back to Trump that Kelly was bad-mouthing him and Trump had decided he’d had enough. His attitude was, ‘fuck him,’” an attendee told me.
Kelly’s defenestration surprised few people—Trump had wanted to fire him for months—but the lingering problem had been finding a replacement whom Trump felt comfortable with (and who wanted the job). “The president really wanted someone he knows. He didn’t want to gamble,” a former West Wing official said. After weeks of lobbying by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Trump had been convinced that Mike Pence’s 36-year-old chief of staff, Nick Ayers, was the best candidate. On Friday afternoon, Trump met with Ayers, Pence, and Kelly and finalized the transition, a source briefed on the meeting said. A press release announcing Ayers’s hiring was reportedly drafted and ready to go for when Trump planned to announce Kelly’s departure on Monday.
But Trump’s frustration with Kelly boiled over after Kelly pressed him to name his deputy Zachary Fuentes interim chief of staff. “Trump didn’t like how Kelly was trying to dictate the terms of his departure,” a Republican briefed on the discussions told me. Trump blew up the carefully orchestrated announcement and told reporters on Saturday as he walked to Marine One that Kelly would be leaving by the end of the year. “John wanted to announce his own departure. This was a humiliation,” a former West Wing official said.
Trump’s impulsive announcement quickly became an even bigger problem when it turned out that Kelly’s replacement was not sewn up; Ayers surprised Trump later that day by insisting that he only wanted the job short term. “Trump was pissed, he was caught off guard,” a former West Wing official briefed on the talks said.
And to make sure the humiliation of the fake “president” was complete, Ayers announced his departure on Twitter.
Now Trump is left with no one to humiliate in the formerly prestigious Chief of Staff job. The Washington Post: ‘There was no Plan B’: Trump scrambles to find chief of staff after top candidate turns him down.
After announcing the exit of his chief of staff, John F. Kelly, and being turned down by his pick to replace him, Nick Ayers, Trump found himself Monday in an unexpected predicament — scrambling to recruit someone to help run the executive branch of the federal government and guide the administration through the political tumult and possible legal peril ahead.
In any White House, the chief of staff is arguably the most punishing position. But in this White House — a den of disorder ruled by an impulsive president — it has proved to be an especially thankless job. The two people to hold the job were left with their reputations diminished after failing to constrain the president, who often prefers to function as his own chief of staff.
Three members of Trump’s Cabinet who have been discussed inside the West Wing as possible chiefs of staff — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer — each signaled Monday that they were not interested in the position.
Considerable buzz has centered on two other contenders. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) noted his interest in the job by issuing a statement saying that “serving as Chief of Staff would be an incredible honor.”
“It is not something I have been campaigning for,” Meadows told reporters Monday on Capitol Hill, adding that his phone “blew up” after the Ayers news broke. “The president has a good list of candidates. I’m honored to be one of those.”
And acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker, who traveled with Trump to Kansas City, Mo., last week , is seen by the president and his allies as a loyalist.
But Trump’s advisers and aides cautioned that there was not yet a front-runner.
Although aides said the president is committed to finding a replacement for Kelly before the Christmas holiday, they said he has been vacillating — casting about in all corners for potential picks and frustrated by news coverage depicting his White House as a place where talented people do not want to work.
Why would anyone want to work for Trump? I guess it will have to be someone whose reputation is already in tatters. I can’t imagine anyone who has hopes for a future career being interested. That description could apply to Whitaker, but how could he get a security clearance when he’s associated with a company that is under investigation for fraud?
Of course Trump is claiming he has multiple applicants for the job.
That’s it for me today. What stories are you following?
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
I want to start off with the one change that is coming that will hopefully bring some fresh air to desperate circumstances. There’s a whole lot of diversity coming to the House of Representatives and there’s a whole lot of trash being sent back to the states from which it came. Let’s start with the Granny Starver who enabled a huge, historic deficit while preaching austerity. Austerity is for grannies and not real estate and finance high rollers. Bye Bye Paulie Boy! Just remember: Proportion of Democrats who are white men will drop from 41% to 38% while Republican figure will climb from 86% to 90%” These dudes will finally be the minority they are.
Change is gonna come. I can see it in the bright pages of places hidden from corporate media.
Ryan’s defenders portray him as a principled legislator trapped by the coalition he managed.
“Donald Trump was president of the United States, and that circumscribed Paul Ryan’s choices,” says Brooks. “You can dispute what he did, but he got as much of the loaf as he thought he could get given the factions of his caucus and Trump’s peculiarities. Did he like being speaker of the House? The results speak for themselves: He’s leaving.”
In this telling, Ryan’s principled vision was foiled by Trump’s ascendancy. Faced with a Republican president he had never expected, and managing a restive majority that mostly agreed on being disagreeable, Ryan defaulted to the lowest common denominator of Republican Party policy: unpaid-for tax cuts for the rich, increases in defense spending, and failed attempts to repeal Obamacare.
This is more or less the defense Ryan has offered of his tenure. “I think some people would like me to start a civil war in our party and achieve nothing,” he told the New York Times. Trump had no appetite for cutting entitlements, so Ryan got what he could, and he got out.
But would it have started a civil war in the Republican Party if the most publicly anti-deficit politician of his generation had simply refused to pass laws that increased the deficit? And even if it had, isn’t that the war Ryan had promised?
The question here is not why Ryan didn’t live up to a liberal philosophy of government; it’s why he didn’t live up to his own philosophy of government.
What’s more, Trump was clearly flexible when it came to policy. On the campaign, Trump repeatedly promised he wouldn’t cut Medicaid; as president, he endorsed legislation Ryan wrote that did exactly that. After winning the election, Trump promised he’d replace Obamacare with a plan that offered “insurance for everybody” with “much lower deductibles,” but he ultimately backed Ryan’s bill to take Obamacare away from millions and push the system toward higher-deductible plans. For Ryan to claim he was not driving the policy agenda in the Trump years is ridiculous.
Ryan proved himself and his party to be exactly what the critics said: monomaniacally focused on taking health insurance from the poor, cutting taxes for the rich, and spending more on the Pentagon. And he proved that Republicans were willing to betray their promises and, in their embrace of Trump, violate basic decency to achieve those goals.
Just as we’re about to see the start of a promise of a legislative body that has the look and feel of America we see the media trying to push us right back into that old corner. Andrew O’Hehir asks a brilliant question today in Slate: “First wave of 2020 panic: Is Biden vs. Bernie really the best Democrats can do? After the sweeping, female-fueled victories of the midterms, a battle of old white dudes could spell disaster.” Why won’t they just go away?
In case you thought the Democrats’ big win in the midterms — a pickup of 40 House seats, and counting — meant that the weirdness and bitterness of the 2016 primary was behind us, and that the party is ready to come together and banish the Twitter-troll-in-chief to the doghouse (or to prison) two years hence, you have a number of other thinks coming. Consider this: The leading contenders for the 2020 Democratic nomination, by far, are Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.
Speaking as a friend, kind of: That should be avoided at all costs. It’s a tragicomic farce waiting to happen, one that threatens to undermine much of what the Democrats have apparently accomplished over the last two years. Both of them are profoundly decent men who have done a lot for this country. But, just, please no.
But right now we’ve got Joe and Bernie, who both look extremely likely to run and could easily end up as the principal antagonists. What in hell did we do to deserve this? I take no position on which of them is most likely to win, or even which of them should win — as Bill Moyers told me years ago, those are always the least interesting questions in politics. I do know that this could be disastrous for the Democratic Party, and not just because it opens the door for the re-election of What’s His Name. (Although that too.)
A Sanders-Biden throwdown would rip the scabs off old wounds, inflame entrenched divisions and cast the party in the worst possible light, making clear on a bunch of levels that it doesn’t know who it represents or what principles it stands for. At a moment when Democrats finally seem to be moving toward the future, this would make them appear stuck in the past.
I suspect that many political pros in and around the party feel similarly, which is why they keep trying to construct alternate scenarios that will make this one go away. So we have had the Oprah Winfrey boomlet (do you remember it fondly?), the Kirsten Gillibrand ponder, the Michael Avenatti moment, the Michael Bloomberg trial balloon, the Elizabeth Warren mini-wave and most recently Betomania, in which a guy who lost a Senate race in Texas has abruptly been inflated into the latest liberal dreamboat messiah.
Maybe lover-man Beto or one of those other people I mentioned will be elected president two years from now, and we’ll all look back and say, Of course! We should have seen it coming. But also maybe not. At the moment, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are starting out amid a crowded field of unknowns and semi-knowns, with huge advantages in terms of name recognition, fundraising ability and being generally liked more than the incumbent. (Which is admittedly not difficult.)
I think those two face a version of the Prisoner’s Dilemma: It would be better for the country, arguably, if both of them concluded they’d had their shots and run their races and done their part, and it was time to let a scrum of younger Democrats fight it out, with unpredictable results. But if only one of them runs, he becomes the prohibitive favorite and a central focus of media attention — and each has concluded that he’ll be damned if he lets the other guy be the hero who un-Trumps America. So we lurch toward a battle of the dinosaurs that’s a bad idea to start with, and likely to get worse.
I love the snark in this piece but really, do we have to do the least sensible thing to excite the country to the polls? Haven’t we learned anything?
Politico covered some of the new Congress Critters right after Thanksgiving and I have a hankering to see something different heading off to Iowa and New Hampshire. And, I want some action now before we face another presidential campaign season filled with MAGA Hatefests. Can we just let these folks do something first? And there’s a hell of a lot of them which begs the question why the focus on the new woman from NYC? There’s plenty more that are headed east from other parts of the country.
Colin Allred: A former NFL linebacker and civil rights attorney, Allred knocked off GOP Rep. Pete Sessions, an entrenched North Texas incumbent. But Allred says there’s a lot more behind his congressional victory than just a flashy professional football résumé. “The impression that people have gotten, I think, around the country is that I was elected because I was a football player. And that’s not it,” he said. “Football is an icebreaker… but the other things that I’ve done and the story that I have growing up in North Texas is really what resonated.”
Allred told POLITICO his goal in Congress is to continue to be a moderate voice in the Democratic Caucus, even as he senses some liberal colleagues are trying to pull the group further to the left. “All of us who come from the red-to-blue districts, we are the closest to where the American people are,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure that our new members coming from safer districts and the members that are already there understand why we have the majority.”
See, there’s some life in Democrats from all over the country. Why focus on the old white dudes from Maryland and Vermont and the outspoken lady from Queens Rep-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who reminds my republican friends of a Democratic Sarah Palin which is not a really good thing? I mean my cousins from Kansas City sent a nice Lesbian Native American Rep-elect Sharice Davids. Can’t we all do better?
Davids will be part of a record number of women and a historic number of female candidates of color elected to Congress. “The time for people to not be heard and not be seen and not be listened to or represented well changes now,” she saidon election night.
So far we see some movement from other Dems, but today’s headlines focused on Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren has the core of her 2020 team in place if she runs for president. She has the seed money — there’s $12.5 million ready to go, left over from her recent Senate run — and a massive email list she’s amassed over years, boosted by a $3.3 million investment in digital infrastructure and advertising in the last election alone. Her aides have been quietly shopping for presidential campaign headquarters space in the Boston area in recent weeks, according to a source with knowledge of the move.
All that’s left is for her to give the green light.
I’m not sure she’s got what it takes either but again, why not focus what these folks that are coming in can do now? Politico has named “19 to watch” in 2019.
NEW … THE PLAYBOOK POWER LIST — “19 TO WATCH IN 2019” is up. This list features politicians, activists and operatives across the country who are positioned to play a critical role in the political landscape leading up to 2020. From the new generation reshaping the Democratic Party to the behind-the-scenes players who keep Congress moving and those with their eyes on the presidential election, these are the people to watch over the next 12 months. The full list
THE LIST (in alphabetical order): Jarrod Agen … Aimee Allison … Anne Caprara … Saikat Chakrabarti … Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) … Justin Clark … Gary Coby … Michael Dreeben … Lauren Fine … Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) … Lisa Goeas … Drew Hammill … Patti Harris … Tish James … Brendon Plack … Angela Ramirez … Juan Rodriguez … Rep.-elect Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) … Rep.-elect Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.)
But what’s the agenda? Julie Wittes Schlack from NBUR believes the focus should be on legislation.
In contrast to the early and deep partisan divide in the country over health care, there is already a good deal of public agreement over some of the most crucial challenges facing us. A majority of Americans across political parties think that big money has too big an influence in government, and wants to see both greater transparency and constraints on campaign spending. A majority of Americans favor increasing the minimum wage and implementing some common-sense gun control. And though only 50 percent of Republicans believe that global warming is real (versus 90 percent of Democrats), the fact is that Americans who recognize the dangerous reality of climate change outnumber those who don’t by a ratio of 5:1.
Those four issues — voting rights and ethical leadership, a higher minimum wage, gun control and serious, radical measures to fight climate change — should comprise the muse and the mandate for the House for the next two years.
With HR1, their first planned bill of the year, the Democrats are off to a good start. This legislation calls for greater public funding of campaigns (making them more feasible for candidates who lack or don’t wish to take money from wealthy or corporate donors), requires super PACs and “dark money” organizations to reveal their contributors, requires the president to disclose his or her tax returns, strengthens the Office of Government Ethics, and most importantly, restores the Voting Rights Act and creates a new, automatic voter registration system. Will it pass in its entirety? Of course not; probably not even in pieces. But if the loud, clear, undistracted battle leads voters to question why Republicans oppose it, that may be enough to force some candidates to have an ACA-like change of heart or be voted out of office.
The Green New Deal — an audacious proposal to rapidly cut carbon emissions and move the U.S. to 100 percent reliance on clean energy in 10 years and guarantee every American a job building a sustainable food and energy infrastructure — is equally unlikely to win passage in anything resembling its current (still embryonic) form. But if educating the public and agitating for its passage succeeds only in putting the climate change deniers and fossil fuel profiteers on the defensive, that will at least create the conditions in 2020 for the kind of radical, urgent action we need to save jobs, homes, lives and, ultimately, the planet.
More suggestions at the link.
I have two notable international events to end with today. First is the Nobel Peace Prize. Both Winners came to prominence seeking justice for war rape victims Please read their compelling stories.
Denis Mukwege, a doctor who helps victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nadia Murad, a Yazidi rights activist and survivor of sexual slavery by Islamic State, are joint winners
Then, there is this news.
We also lost a woman who was a human Rights activist in Russia which is also not an easy place to extol Human Rights. “The extraordinary life of Lyudmila Alexeyeva. Meduza remembers a Russian human rights icon.”
The “Strategy 31” movement in 2009 belonged to Limonov’s National Bolsheviks. That year, on the 31st day of any month with so many days, a crowd of journalists would burst from the Mayakovsky subway station and descend on Triumfalnaya Square to watch the same spectacle unfold: protesters gathered to honor the Russian Constitution’s 31st article (which guarantees freedom of assembly), with some dragged into police vans, while officers shouted into megaphones: “Disperse! This is an unlawful assembly.” It was especially amusing to watch passersby, running late for a play at the next-door Moscow Satire Theater, completely perplexed by what was happening. Some of the least patient of these theatergoers also ended up in police vans.
Lyudmila Alexeyeva, “For Human Rights” head Lev Ponomarev, and several other activists then formed a temporary and enormously fragile union with Eduard Limonov, the leader of “Other Russia.” At first, they simply provided assistance to detained demonstrators, but on December 31, 2009, Alexeyeva attended the meeting in person, dressed self-deprecatingly as Snegurochka (the mythological character commonly depicted as the granddaughter and helper of Old Man Frost, whose cultural role in Russia is similar to Santa Claus in the West). She was detained and shockingly manhandled by police. “They’ll probably charge me with swearing at them,” she told me in a call that night (this time from a mobile phone), citing the grounds most often used back then to detain demonstrators. Despite the holiday celebrations, the police released Alexeyeva with blinding speed, just as the outcry from state officials around the world started pouring in.
The falling out with Limonov didn’t take long. As always, Alexeyeva and the other human rights activists sought compromises and common ground with the authorities, and eventually they found some. The “31” rallies starting winning permits, but this approach didn’t appeal to the National Bolsheviks, and so they parted ways.
So, I guess there are some inspirational stories out there that have nothing to do with Bernie or Biden. Let’s aspire to make all these voices count in 2019. Out with the old white dudes. In with the rest of us.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?