Attorney General Jeff Sessions is entertaining the idea of appointing a second special counsel to investigate a host of Republican concerns — including alleged wrongdoing by the Clinton Foundation and the controversial sale of a uranium company to Russia — and has directed senior federal prosecutors to explore at least some of the matters and report back to him and his top deputy, according to a letter obtained by The Washington Post.
The revelation came in a response by the Justice Department to an inquiry from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who in July and again in September called for Sessions to appoint a second special counsel to investigate concerns he had related to the 2016 election and its aftermath.
The list of matters he wanted probed was wide ranging but included the FBI’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, various dealings of the Clinton Foundation and several matters connected to the purchase of the Canadian mining company Uranium One by Russia’s nuclear energy agency. Goodlatte took particular aim at former FBI director James B. Comey, asking for the second special counsel to evaluate the leaks he directed about his conversations with President Trump, among other things.
In response, Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd wrote that Sessions had “directed senior federal prosecutors to evaluate certain issues raised in your letters,” and that those prosecutors would “report directly to the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General, as appropriate, and will make recommendations as to whether any matters not currently under investigation should be opened, whether any matters currently under investigation require further resources, or whether any matters merit the appointment of a Special Counsel.”
I never thought I’d say this, but I’m sick and tired of the media’s coverage of “sexual assault.” I was already tired of hearing about it, but this whole thing with Al Franken is just plain ridiculous. How many days now has it been the top story on cable TV? It feels like a month. What he did was stupid and disgusting, but I’ve heard enough. Franken apologized and wrote a personal letter to the “victim.” She said she accepts his apology.
Should Franken resign? No fucking way! Should we spend interminable days relitigating the charges against Bill Clinton from 20 years ago? No thanks. What Clinton did was disgusting too, but he went through years of investigations and was impeached for Christ’s sake. Enough!
Until Donald Trump resigns, the media needs to lay off Franken. Unless a bunch more women come forward to accuse him, it doesn’t look like he’s predator on the scale of Moore or Trump. We know that numerous other men in the House and Senate are guilty of sexual harassment. How about doing some investigative reporting to find out the names of these men and publish them?
We live in a culture in which women are beaten, raped and murdered on a daily basis. Let the media focus on that for a week. But it won’t happen. They prefer to use the rampant violence against women in this country as entertainment. And this 24/7 coverage of sexual harassment is happening for the same reason–entertainment and ratings. After the past couple of weeks, I’m feeling like I want to resign from the human race.
Meanwhile, the abuser-in-chief is stealing money hand over fist from taxpayers and trying to “reform” the tax code to give himself billions more.
Did you watch Richard Engel’s special on Trump’s Panama tower? If not, I highly recommend you check it out. Some interesting reading on just one place where Trump is reaping the rewards of his massive corruption. Some recommended reading on the subject:
Global Witness: Narco-A-Lago: Money Laundering at the Trump Ocean Club Panama. An excerpt:
The warning signs were there from the outset. The Trump Ocean Club, one of Trump’s most lucrative licensing deals to date, was announced in 2006 and launched in 2011, a period when Panama was known as one of the best places in the world to launder money. Whole neighborhoods in Panama City were taken over by organized crime groups, and luxury developments were built with the purpose of serving as money laundering vehicles.
Moreover, investing in luxury properties is a tried and trusted way for criminals to move tainted cash into the legitimate financial system, where they can spend it freely. Once scrubbed clean in this way, vast profits from criminal activities like trafficking people and drugs, organized crime, and terrorism can find their way into the U.S. and elsewhere. In most countries, regulation is notoriously lax in the real estate sector. Cash payments are subject to hardly any scrutiny, giving opportunistic and unprincipled developers free rein to accept dirty money.
In the case of the Trump Ocean Club, accepting easy – and possibly dirty – money early on would have been in Trump’s interest; a certain volume of pre-construction sales was necessary to secure financing for the project, which stood to net him $75.4 million by the end of 2010. Trump received a percentage of the financing he helped secure, and a cut on the sale of every unit at the development.
He and his family have made millions of dollars more from management fees and likely continue to profit from the Trump Ocean Club. Eager for the project’s success, Trump and his children have participated directly in marketing, management, and even project design. According to broker Ventura Nogueira, Trump’s daughter Ivanka attended at least 10 meetings with him and project developer Roger Khafif.
A large number of those involved with the Trump Ocean Club in its early phase were Russian and Eastern European citizens or diaspora members. In an interview with NBC and Reuters, Ventura Nogueira said that 50 percent of his buyers were Russian, and that some had “questionable backgrounds.” He added that he found out later that some were part of the Russian Mafia.
Two more articles:
Lots of news has been breaking on the Russia investigation. For example, The AP is just out with a new scoop: Moscow meeting in June 2017 under scrutiny in Trump probe.
Earlier this year, a Russian-American lobbyist and another businessman discussed over coffee in Moscow an extraordinary meeting they had attended 12 months earlier: a gathering at Trump Tower with President Donald Trump’s son, his son-in-law and his then-campaign chairman.
The Moscow meeting in June, which has not been previously disclosed, is now under scrutiny by investigators who want to know why the two men met in the first place and whether there was some effort to get their stories straight about the Trump Tower meeting just weeks before it would become public, The Associated Press has learned.
Congressional investigators have questioned both men — lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin and Ike Kaveladze, a business associate of a Moscow-based developer and former Trump business partner — and obtained their text message communications, people familiar with the investigation told the AP.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team also has been investigating the 2016 Trump Tower meeting, which occurred weeks after Trump had clinched the Republican presidential nomination and which his son attended with the expectation of receiving damaging information about Democrat Hillary Clinton. A grand jury has already heard testimony about the meeting, which in addition to Donald Trump Jr., also included Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, and his then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
The focus of the congressional investigators was confirmed by three people familiar with their probe, including two who demanded anonymity to discuss the sensitive inquiry.
One of those people said Akhmetshin told congressional investigators that he asked for the Moscow meeting with Kaveladze to argue that they should go public with the details of the Trump Tower meeting before they were caught up in a media maelstrom. Akhmetshin also told the investigators that Kaveladze said people in Trump’s orbit were asking about Akhmetshin’s background, the person said.
How much more evidence do we need to know that Russia has basically taken over our goverment?We’re living in a dystopian nightmare, as Dakinikat wrote yesterday. The world is laughing at us because Trump is rapidly turning the U.S. into a tinpot dictatorship. I’d like to just curl up in my apartment and escape into books, and I may just do that this weekend.
One way to escape the present and perhaps put our situation in perspective is to read dystopian novels, which I love. Louise Erdrich has just published one, and Elle has an interview of her by Margaret Atwood: Inside the Dystopian Visions of Margaret Atwood and Louise Erdrich.
Louise Erdrich, member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, author of more than 20 novels, most of them revolving around an Ojibwe community in North Dakota, won the National Book Award for The Round House (2012), a crime thriller, and was a Pulitzer Finalist for The Plague of Doves (2009), a murder mystery. But when a galley of her new novel, Future Home of the Living God (HarperCollins, out now), came across ELLE’s desk, it seemed to us that Erdrich had gone where she’d never quite gone before.
She’s written a novel—a wonderful, creepy, dystopian novel—in which women become prized, and quickly enslaved, for their ability to produce healthy babies. The pregnant protagonist of the novel, Cedar, an Ojibwe adoptee, is on the run, evading the white male evangelical government that wants to sever her from life as she knows it and use her body to produce healthy babies….
Yes, it sounds familiar, doesn’t it—unless you’ve been living under a rock and missed
The Handmaid’s Tale cleaning up at the Emmys, or the fact that the book by the great Margaret Atwood has been on Amazon’s list of its top-20 most-read books for months.
So who better to interview Erdrich about her new novel than Atwood? Lo and behold: They agreed! Over the summer, the two writers—one in Toronto, one in Minnesota—amid jaunts to the Arctic and Winnipeg, engaged in a cross-border digital interview about the novel, their prophetic fears, politics, climate change, and why we idealize Canada.
Click on the link to read the interview. More dystopian fiction suggestions:
Literary Hub: 30 Dystopian Novels by and About Women.
ShortList: The 20 best dystopian novels.
Another way to escape is to read about earlier times. Here’s an interesting book review I came across yesterday at The New Republic: Little House, Small Government. How Laura Ingalls Wilder’s frontier vision of freedom and survival lives on in Trump’s America.
Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote the “Little House on the Prairie” books, lived a good two decades of her 90 years in a covered wagon going west. Only in late middle age did she become the author of the most successful series for children ever written about the settling of the American frontier. In the stories these books tell, the Ingalls family embodies that extraordinary hunger for pioneering that, through the second half of the nineteenth century, sent a few million men, women, and children out into the prairies and mountains of the mid- and far West to farm, raise cattle, mine for silver, pan for gold. One and all, they went in search of a life free from the restraints of the socialized world, to a place where survival depended on the exercise of one’s own wit and strength and backbreaking labor.
Ultimately, that same drive to be alone with the wilderness got converted to a founding myth of individualism, out of which emerged an ideology that visualized freedom from government as an equivalent of freedom itself. The descendants of that myth are among us still. If Laura Ingalls Wilder were alive today she would be a member of the Tea Party. She would almost certainly have voted for Donald Trump, many of whose followers yet believe that he will restore to them the dubious glory of the frontier America that Wilder so passionately celebrated in her books.
Caroline Fraser’s Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder is an impressive piece of social history that uses the events of Wilder’s life to track, socially and politically, the development of the American continent and its people. The frontier, by definition, has always been a place just beyond the point where land meets sky. In America that longing to move beyond the horizon, which is common to all cultures, became not only synonymous with an idea of the national character, but a vital ingredient in the American brand of democracy. The historian Frederick Jackson Turner ardently believed, in fact, that “that restless, nervous energy, that dominant individualism” attributed to the frontier was the major influence on American democracy’s development.
What the people in the covered wagons did not grasp was that to a large extent they were pawns in the hands of political and business interests—especially those of the railroads—that needed to see ground broken across the entire continent. The pioneers never understood the hucksterism behind the “go west, young man” rhetoric that urged them to go where none had gone before, with no hard knowledge of what actually lay before them. All the pioneers knew—in their fantasies, that is—was that just over the horizon lay adventure, opportunity, possible wealth, and certain freedom.
As a kid, I read every one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s series that began with Little House in the Big Woods and ended with These Happy Golden Years. Oh how I’d love to go back that innocent time in my life for one day. But then, maybe it wasn’t as great as I remember it. The reviewer includes another book about the American frontier that isn’t as joyful as Wilder’s nostalgic tales:
Agnes Smedley’s autobiographical novel Daughter of Earth, published in 1929, gave its readers an altogether different look at the same set of experiences. “I write of the joys and sorrows of the lowly,” she begins, “of those who die … exhausted by poverty, victims of wealth and power…. For we are of the earth and our struggle is the struggle of earth.” Smedley’s masterful work of realism concentrates on everything that Laura Ingalls Wilder either ignores, leaves out, or flatly denies. In this book, capitalism makes a mockery of the illusion of freedom-just-ahead—the promise that sent millions traveling west during those same years when the Ingallses were loading and unloading their covered wagon and then loading it once again.
Smedley was born in 1892 in Missouri into a family of farmers who labored long days in the field and never seemed to get ahead. The father, like Charles Ingalls, was handsome and restless. A lover of music and tall tales, he was possessed of “the soul and imagination of a vagabond,” Smedley wrote. The open road called to him. The mother, unlike Caroline Ingalls, desperately did not want to leave the farm but the father wore her down and at last they packed up and headed out. “And from that moment,” Smedley writes, “our roots were torn from the soil and we began a life of wandering, searching for success and happiness and riches that always lay just beyond—where we were not. Only since then have I heard the old saying ‘Where I am not, there is happiness.’”
The father did not want to homestead; rather, he thought to join the army of miners, loggers, and teamsters who were rushing west right alongside the settlers. Missouri, Colorado—on the Smedleys moved, from one mining camp to another, always working like dogs, always being cheated of their wages, always just barely surviving. “Existence meant only working, sleeping, eating … and breeding…. A book was a curiosity … a newspaper was a rarity; to read was a recreation of the rich.”
The family joined the exploited underclass that got the country built. Men like Smedley’s father, with all his brute strength and hunger of spirit, never realized that they were forever up against the exploitation of the owners of the mines and the railroads, who had the government in their pockets. Smedley himself proved an ignorant and frightened man, helpless before a world he could not fathom, much less define himself against. In time he loses his taste for the songs and the stories that sustained him; he becomes a bully, starts to drink, and beats his wife. Of her mother, old at 30, Smedley writes, “her tears … they embittered my life!” It is above all the hardness of the narrator’s voice that makes Daughter of Earth so unlike anything Wilder could have imagined. For Smedley, the ideology of American individualism proved a bitter punishment, for Wilder the fulfillment of what she took to be a God-given promise.
My grandparents and great grandparents helped settle the Dakota territory. I’d love to read those books. I already have a stack of things I want to read though. There’s never enough time.
I know this is a weird post. I think Trump is slowly driving me insane. What stories are you following today? Any book recommendations?
I’m really glad JJ posted something late yesterday, because I’m feeling overwhelmed this morning. There is just too much happening for anyone to process all of it.
The Republicans have found a distraction from the Roy Moore scandal. A woman has accused Al Franken of sexual harassment/abuse. It happened on a USO tour in 2006. You can read the whole story at KABC Los Angeles: Senator Al Franken Kissed and Groped Me Without My Consent, And There’s Nothing Funny About It.
Here’s a briefer summary from New York Magazine: Radio Host Leeann Tweeden Accuses Senator Al Franken of Kissing and Groping Her.
Senator Al Franken was accused Thursday of kissing and groping a TV and radio host without her consent. Leeann Tweeden, who has previously worked for NBC and Fox Sports and currently works on “McIntyre in the Morning” on KABC/790 AM, wrote on the radio station’s website about her encounter with Franken.
It took place in 2006 when the two of them were a part of a USO trip to the Middle East, she writes. Franken had written a sketch that had the two of them kissing and, before they performed, he insisted they rehearse it despite Tweeden’s refusal.
He continued to insist, and I was beginning to get uncomfortable.
He repeated that actors really need to rehearse everything and that we must practice the kiss. I said ‘OK’ so he would stop badgering me. We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth.
Later on a plane, Tweeden fell asleep and and Franken posed for a “joke” picture with her.
I couldn’t believe it.He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep.
I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated.
How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?
It doesn’t look like Franken is really touching her breasts, but it was still a disgusting thing to do.
Mitch McConnell has called for an ethics investigation and Franken say he’ll be happy to cooperate. Here’s what Joy Reed had to say.
Now the accuser is saying she has heard from another woman with a similar experience with Franken.
Franken has released an apology. From The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
“The first thing I want to do is apologize: to Leeann, to everyone else who was part of that tour, to everyone who has worked for me, to everyone I represent, and to everyone who counts on me to be an ally and supporter and champion of women. There’s more I want to say, but the first and most important thing—and if it’s the only thing you care to hear, that’s fine—is: I’m sorry.
“I respect women. I don’t respect men who don’t. And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed.
“But I want to say something else, too. Over the last few months, all of us—including and especially men who respect women—have been forced to take a good, hard look at our own actions and think (perhaps, shamefully, for the first time) about how those actions have affected women.
“For instance, that picture. I don’t know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn’t matter. There’s no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn’t funny. It’s completely inappropriate. It’s obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture. And, what’s more, I can see how millions of other women would feel violated by it—women who have had similar experiences in their own lives, women who fear having those experiences, women who look up to me, women who have counted on me.
“Coming from the world of comedy, I’ve told and written a lot of jokes that I once thought were funny but later came to realize were just plain offensive. But the intentions behind my actions aren’t the point at all. It’s the impact these jokes had on others that matters. And I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to come to terms with that.
“While I don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does, I understand why we need to listen to and believe women’s experiences.
“I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate.
“And the truth is, what people think of me in light of this is far less important than what people think of women who continue to come forward to tell their stories. They deserve to be heard, and believed. And they deserve to know that I am their ally and supporter. I have let them down and am committed to making it up to them.”
Can you imagine Trump giving an apology like that? Someone needs to ask McConnell why there isn’t an investigation of Trump’s treatment of women.
So that’s pretty depressing. Meanwhile more women have come forward to tell their stories about creepy Roy Moore. Here’s a new one today from ABC News: Roy Moore accuser: I got him banned from the mall.
An Alabama woman who has accused Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore of sexually harassing her in the late 1970s said he was banned from the mall where she worked after she complained about his repeated, unwanted advances toward her.
“I went to my manager and talked to him about it and asked him, basically, what could be done,” Becky Gray told ABC News late Wednesday night. “Later on, he…came back through my department and told me that [Moore] had been banned from the mall.”
Gray said she has grown increasingly frustrated with critics who continue to question the veracity of numerous women’s claims of being sexually harassed four decades ago by the embattled former Alabama chief justice.
“It also upsets me where I read where a person says, ‘Well, why didn’t they come forward 40 years ago?'” Gray said.
She went on, “These women have no reason to lie about their sexual encounters… so I just don’t understand people that don’t believe that it’s true. There’s a lot of shame to this, and for those women who did have sexual encounters with Moore, I commend them for coming out – I really do. It’s about time.”
Meanwhile, Moore and his supporters are not behaving like Al Franken. The Washington Post: In Roy Moore’s Senate race, anonymous threats, deceptive texts, alternative facts.
A minister in south Alabama gets a phone call from a man who says he is a Washington Post reporter offering cash for dirt about Senate candidate Roy Moore. A man who told an Alabama newspaper about Moore’s alleged approaches to teenage girls when he was in his 30s receives texts falsely telling him he is being sued for defamation.
On Twitter and Facebook, in texts and in phone calls, Alabamians say they are on the receiving end of a muddy river of threats, dirty tricks and angry attacks, all aimed at undermining allegations that Moore, the Republican candidate in next month’s special election to fill a U.S. Senate seat, made sexual advances to teenagers decades ago.
After Blake Usry told AL.com, an Alabama news site, that he knew girls Moore tried to flirt with, Usry received threatening phone calls and Facebook messages, as well as texts informing him that he had been sued for defamation.
One text falsely claimed that northern Alabama’s U.S. attorney, Jay Town, “has verified defamation cases” against Usry and others who were quoted in news articles.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
NBC’s First Read on how Trump is ignoring the Moore accusations: Trump’s silence on Roy Moore speaks volumes.
…the silence from Trump — as the president of the United States, as the leader of the Republican Party and as someone who is never afraid to tweet what’s on his mind — speaks volumes. Does he agree with daughter Ivanka Trump, who told the AP that there’s “a special place in hell for people who prey on children. I’ve yet to see a valid explanation and I have no reason to doubt the victims’ accounts”? (But she didn’t call for him to exit the race.) Does he agree with the Alabama Republican Party, which maintains its support for Moore, per NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard? Or does he agree with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, who ended his broadcast last night saying the issue was up to Alabama voters?
In fairness to Trump, there are no good solutions here. The ballot is already set; Moore doesn’t look like he’s leaving the race; a write-in campaign would be incredibly hard to mount; and Trump already tried once to defeat Moore (yet his candidate lost the runoff). But does anyone think if the shoe were on the other foot — if a Democratic candidate in a high-profile race faced similar allegations — would the president be staying silent right now?
We all know Trump is a coward. He doesn’t want to answer questions about his own predatory behavior with women.
I can’t possibly get to all of the news, but here are three stories I think are worth reading.
Sandwiched between onlookers who’d waited in line outside in the cold to be ushered into the dimmed Christie’s gallery to gaze and gawk at what the auction house trumpets as “the greatest and most unexpected artistic rediscovery of the 21st century” — that is, a brand-new Leonardo da Vinci lost in the 1600s, scheduled to be auctioned off this week — a well-known expert in the field leaned over and asked me a question. “Why is a Leonardo in a Modern and Contemporary auction?” Before I could say, “Yeah! Why?” he answered, “Because 90 percent of it was painted in the last 50 years.” He’s right. Not only does it look like a dreamed-up version of a missing da Vinci, various X-ray techniques show scratches and gouges in the work, paint missing, a warping board, a beard here and gone, and other parts of the painting obviously brushed up and corrected to make this probable copy look more like an original.
The painting is titled Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World) and is a portrait of a smoky floating man in a blue robe looking at us, raising his right hand in blessing, holding a crystal orb in his left hand, pictured against a black background. It’s said to have been painted around 1500, when the real Leonardo would have been 48 years old and already the most famous artist alive. On Wednesday night, this small picture is being auctioned off by Christie’s with massive jubilation. The opening bid is set at $100 million. (Which might even seem cheap when you remember that Damien Hirst’s 2007 For the Love of God, a diamond-and-platinum-encrusted human skull, was priced the same.) This explains why one Christie’s official rapturously primed the collector pump by wondering aloud if someone might bid “$2 billion.” In a world this out of whack, that could happen. Promoting the sale is a glossy 162-page book with quotes from Dostoyevsky, Freud, and Leonardo, and several platitudinal Christie’s videos of enraptured gazers gawking in wonder at “the new masterpiece.” Don’t miss the extended clip of three male company bigwigs pitching it to Hong Kong clients as “the holy grail of our business, a male Mona Lisa, the last da Vinci, our baby, something with blockbuster appeal, akin to the discovery of a new planet, and more valuable than a petro chemical plant.”
I’m no art historian or any kind of expert in old masters. But I’ve Realooked at art for almost 50 years and one look at this painting tells me it’s no Leonardo. The painting is absolutely dead. Its surface is inert, varnished, lurid, scrubbed over, and repainted so many times that it looks simultaneously new and old. This explains why Christie’s pitches it with vague terms like “mysterious,” filled with “aura,” and something that “could go viral.” Go viral? As a poster, maybe. A two-dimensional ersatz dashboard Jesus.
Read much more at the Vulture link.
The Washington Post on Nov. 13: This is how a superpower commits suicide.
This is partially the structural byproduct of the rapid rise of China, which has openly called for a 21st century new regional order of “Asia for Asians.” Since 2013, the Asian powerhouse has rolled out an alluring package of development initiatives, which could potentially redraw the economic landscape of the region and beyond. With China emerging as the world’s economic engine, it is proactively reclaiming its historical place in the sun.
But it is also the byproduct of the tempestuous Trump presidency’s devastating impact on American standing in Asia. Both allies and rivals in the region have been perturbed by Trump’s “America first,” neo-isolationist foreign policy. His midnight tirades on Twitter, constant attacks on the liberal international order and push to dismantle the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement have collectively left America isolated even from some of its closest allies.
As an official from one of America’s key partners in the region put it to me earlier this year: “Is this how superpowers commit suicide?” It appears the answer is yes.
I highly recommend reading the whole thing.
The Guardian: How Trump walked into Putin’s web. Subhead: The inside story of how a former British spy was hired to investigate Russia’s influence on Trump – and uncovered explosive evidence that Moscow had been cultivating Trump for years, by Luke Harding. It’s a long read, so I’m not going to try to post excerpts.
Harding has a new book out titled Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win, and the article is based on the book. Last night Ari Melber announced that Harding will be on MSNBC’s The Last Word tonight.
So . . . what stories are you following today?
Once again, there is so much news breaking that it’s difficult to decide what to focus on. So I’ll begin with what’s happening right now, and take it from there.
Right now Attorney General Jeff Sessions is testifying before the House Judiciary Committee. Guess what? He doesn’t remember the meeting where he is pictured with George Papadopoulos and at which Papadopoulos discussed setting up a meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. That’s really strange, because just a short time ago, he claimed to remember objecting to the proposal.
Vanity Fair on Nov. 2: Sessions Suddenly Remembers Russia Conversation He Said Didn’t Happen.
Back in June, there was some cause for concern that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was having memory problems. When questioned from multiple angles during multiple appearances before Congressional investigators about the Trump campaign‘s relationship to Russia, Sessions‘s consistent refrain was: “I don’t recall.”
He gave an equally evasive response when Minnesota Senator Al Franken specifically asked whether surrogates from the Trump campaign had communicated with Russians during the 2016 election in October. “I did not, and I’m not aware of anyone else that did, and I don’t believe it happened,” Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee under oath. (He made similar statements to the Senate Judiciary Committee.)
Now, however, Sessions has reportedly changed his tune. Citing a source familiar with Sessions’s thinking, NBC News reported on Thursday that the attorney general—who served as a top Trump surrogate and headed the then-presidential hopeful’s national security team—does in fact recall rejecting George Papadopoulos’s offer to arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin, after the Republican candidate stopped short of ruling out the idea.
“The March 31 comments by this Papadopoulos person did not leave a lasting impression,” the source told NBC News. “As far as Sessions seemed to be concerned, when he shut down this idea of Papadopoulos engaging with Russia, that was the end of it and he moved the meeting along to other issues.” The source added that Papadopoulos was viewed by those in attendance “as someone who didn’t have a lot of credibility.”
The Washington Post, among other news outlets is reporting that Jeff Sessions is thinking about appointing a second special counsel to investigate Hillary Clinton.
In today’s hearing, Sessions said he can’t confirm or deny any investigation involving the DOJ. It’s important to note that during his confirmation hearing, Sessions pledged to recuse himself from any matters involving Hillary Clinton.
The New York Times has published some direct quotes from Sessions’ testimony this morning: Jeff Sessions Displays Unsteady Recall on Trump-Russia Matters.
Mr. Sessions denied that he lied in October when he testified that he knew of nobody in the Trump campaign who had contacts with Russians during the presidential campaign. “And I don’t believe it happened,” he said.
Court records later revealed that Mr. Sessions led a March 2016 meeting in which George Papadopoulos, a campaign aide, discussed his Russian ties and suggested setting up a meeting between Mr. Trump. and Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president.
“I had no recollection of this meeting until I saw these news reports,” Mr. Sessions said.
Mr. Sessions testified Tuesday that was still hazy on the details about what Mr. Papadopoulos had proposed.
But on one matter, he said his memory is clear: he said he shot down Mr. Papadopoulos’ idea of a Trump-Putin meet-up. And he said he told Mr. Papadopoulos that he was not authorized to represent the campaign in such discussions.
To sum up: Mr. Sessions said he could not remember much about Russian influence on the Trump campaign, except when he could block such influence.
In other news, Don Jr. is in more trouble. You’ve probably read the article by Julia Ioffe in The Atlantic: The Secret Correspondence Between Donald Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks.
Just before the stroke of midnight on September 20, 2016, at the height of last year’s presidential election, the WikiLeaks Twitter account sent a private direct message to Donald Trump Jr., the Republican nominee’s oldest son and campaign surrogate. “A PAC run anti-Trump site putintrump.org is about to launch,” WikiLeaks wrote. “The PAC is a recycled pro-Iraq war PAC. We have guessed the password. It is ‘putintrump.’ See ‘About’ for who is behind it. Any comments?” (The site, which has since become a joint project with Mother Jones, was founded by Rob Glaser, a tech entrepreneur, and was funded by Progress for USA Political Action Committee.)
The next morning, about 12 hours later, Trump Jr. responded to WikiLeaks. “Off the record I don’t know who that is, but I’ll ask around,” he wrote on September 21, 2016. “Thanks.”
The messages, obtained by The Atlantic, were also turned over by Trump Jr.’s lawyers to congressional investigators. They are part of a long—and largely one-sided—correspondence between WikiLeaks and the president’s son that continued until at least July 2017.
Read the rest at the link if you haven’t already. Julian Assange, who controls the Wikileaks Twitter account has responded by claiming he was just “Trying to ‘Beguile’ Donald Trump Jr. Into Leaking.”
There’s another hearing going on simultaneously with the Sessions hearing on Trump’s ability to use nuclear weapons. Quartz: Watch live: Should Trump have control of US nuclear weapons?
Today (Nov. 14), expert witnesses will testify before senators on US national “authority and process” over its nuclear arsenal. The hearing follows a tense few months, in which North Korea has continued nuclear testing, and Donald Trump has responded with belligerent improvisational statements, threatening “fire and fury” and warning that a military response was “locked and loaded.”
Could the US president start a nuclear war with North Korea? That’s what the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing aims to figure out. The hearing will be broadcast on public-service network C-SPAN at 10am US Eastern Time. You can watch it online here.
There’s also the ongoing Roy Moore scandal. Some links to check out if you haven’t already:
CBS News: New accuser steps forward in Roy Moore case.
AL.com also posted an editorial yesterday: Our view: Roy Moore grossly unfit for office.
Roy Moore simply cannot be a U.S. Senator. Even if his party and many of its adherents still think it possible, it is unthinkable — for his state, and his country.
Last week, four women described Moore’s unseemly taste for dating high school girls when he was a single man in his 30s. Another described what can only be seen as a sexual assault on her when she was 14. In a radio interview last week, Moore himself suggested that he may have dated teenage women during his 30s, though he vehemently denied the claims made by these women.
Today, even as those women face disgusting attacks on their motives and credibility, a fifth brave Alabama woman stepped forward and described how when she was 16, Moore violently sexually assaulted her in his car. She said she felt it to be an attempted rape, and that it ended with her bruised from either falling from or being pushed from the car, with Moore warning her he was a powerful man and that no one would believe her if she told anyone.
The seriousness of these incidents cannot be overstated. They should not be parsed with talk of statutes of limitations or whether proof exists. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is a consideration for the courtroom, not the ballot box. When choosing our representative before the rest of the world, character matters….
We believe these women.
As a news organization, we have independently investigated as many of these claims as possible and have found no reason to doubt the accounts outlined in the Washington Post. If anything, the stories we’ve heard in Etowah County have only further corroborated them.
In our view, Moore has already revealed himself as grossly unfit to be a U.S. Senator before these revelations.
At The New York Times, Michelle Goldberg suggests that past accusations against Bill Clinton should be reevaluated in the light of recent revelations about powerful men harassing and assaulting women: I Believe Juanita. The title is explosive, but Goldberg’s only reason for believing Juanita Broaddrick’s accusations is that they are similar to recent allegations against Harvey Weinstein.
Of the Clinton accusers, the one who haunts me is Broaddrick. The story she tells about Clinton recalls those we’ve heard about Weinstein. She claimed they had plans to meet in a hotel coffee shop, but at the last minute he asked to come up to her hotel room instead, where he raped her. Five witnesses said she confided in them about the assault right after it happened. It’s true that she denied the rape in an affidavit to Paula Jones’s lawyers, before changing her story when talking to federal investigators. But her explanation, that she didn’t want to go public but couldn’t lie to the F.B.I., makes sense. Put simply, I believe her.
What to do with that belief? Contemplating this history is excruciating in part because of the way it has been weaponized against Hillary Clinton. Broaddrick sees her as complicit, interpreting something Hillary once said to her at a political event — “I want you to know that we appreciate everything you do for Bill” — as a veiled threat instead of a rote greeting. This seems wildly unlikely; Broaddrick was decades away from going public, and most reporting about the Clinton marriage shows Bill going to great lengths to hide his betrayals. Nevertheless, one of the sick ironies of the 2016 campaign was that it was Hillary who had to pay the political price for Bill’s misdeeds, as they were trotted out to deflect attention from Trump’s well-documented transgressions.
And now they’re being trotted out again. It’s fair to conclude that because of Broaddrick’s allegations, Bill Clinton no longer has a place in decent society. But we should remember that it’s not simply partisan tribalism that led liberals to doubt her. Discerning what might be true in a blizzard of lies isn’t easy, and the people who spread those lies don’t get to claim the moral high ground. We should err on the side of believing women, but sometimes, that belief will be used against us.
To say that Bill Clinton “no longer has a place in decent society” is a bit much at this point, IMHO. I don’t know much about Broaddrick’s claims; but apparently these old accusations are going to be recycled. Will Jeff Sessions appoint another special prosecutor?
So much news happening–what will today bring? What stories are you following?
Look at the photo above with Trump standing next to Putin at the APEC Summit in Danang, Vietnam. That is the closest thing to a genuine smile I have ever seen on Trump’s ugly face.
Trump is literally enraptured by the murderous dictator of Russia. And today Trump made it clear that he believes Putin’s denials a interfering in the 2016 election over the unanimous conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies.
President Trump told reporters on Air Force One that he believes Vladimir Putin’s denials about election meddling, and doesn’t want to press further because he thinks the U.S. and Russia can work together on issues that include North Korea, Syria and Ukraine. But the Kremlin reportedly said they did not discuss this issue during their brief conversation.
Axios provides the full transcript:
Trump: “He said he didn’t meddle, he said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times.”
Trump: “I just asked him again. He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election, he did not do what they are saying he did.”
Reporter: Do you believe him?
Trump: “Well, look, I can’t stand there and argue with him, I would rather have him get out of Syria, I would rather get to work with him on the Ukraine rather than arguing about whether or not… that whole thing was set up by the Democrats. Look at Podesta, look at all the things that they have done with the phony dossier. Those are the big events. But Putin said he did not do what they said he did. But we have a good feeling toward getting things done. If we had a relationship with Russia, that would be a good thing. In fact it would be a great thing, not a bad thing, because he could really help us on North Korea. We have a big problem with North Korea and China is helping us. And because of the lack of the relationship that we have with Russia, because of this artificial thing that’s happening with this Democratic-inspired thing. We could really be helped a lot with Russia having to do with North Korea. You know you are talking about millions and millions of lives. This isn’t baby stuff, this is the real deal. And if Russia helped us in addition to China, that problem would go away a lot faster.”
Trump: “Every time he sees me he says I didn’t do that and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it. But he says I didn’t do that. I think he is very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country. Because again, if we had a relationship with Russia, North Korea which is our single biggest problem right now, it would help a lot. I think they are doing very well with respect to China, they have cut off financing, they have cut off lots of oil and lots of other things, lots of trade and it’s having a big impact. But Russia on the other hand may be making up the difference. And if they are, that’s not a good thing. So having a relationship with Russia would be a great thing especially as it relates to North Korea.”
“Hillary had her stupid reset button that she spelled the word wrong, but she does not have what it takes to have that kind of relationship where you could call or you could do something. But this is really an artificial barrier that’s put in front of us for solving problems with Russia. He says that very strongly, he really seems to be insulted by it and he says he didn’t do it. He is very, very strong in the fact that he didn’t do it. You have President Putin very strongly, vehemently says he has nothing to do with that. Now, you are not going to get into an argument, you are going to start talking about Syria and the Ukraine.”
Trump is a traitor to our country. There is just no way to deny it at this point.
Trump dismissed the meddling allegations as driven by Democrats, warning that the heavy focus on the issue threatens the United States’ ability to partner with Russia on key issues. He asserted that the allegations could fray the U.S.-Russia relationship so badly that the country could be less willing to cooperate on North Korea, Syria and other international crises — an outcome that would put lives at risk.
“This artificial Democratic hit job gets in the way and that’s a shame because people will die because of it,” he said. “And it’s a pure hit job.”
“Everybody knows there was no collusion,” he continued. “I think it’s a shame that something like this can destroy a very important potential relationship between two countries that are very important countries Russia could really help us.”
From the NYT, Here’s a full transcript of all of Trump’s remarks on Air Force One between Danang and Hanoi. It’s just unbelievable.
Meanwhile, back in the USA, there is plenty of news on the Russia investigation front.
At midday on March 24, 2016, an improbable group gathered in a London cafe to discuss setting up a meeting between Donald J. Trump, then a candidate, and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
There was George Papadopoulos, a 28-year-old from Chicago with an inflated résumé who just days earlier had been publicly named as a foreign policy adviser to Mr. Trump’s campaign. There was Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese academic in his mid-50s with a faltering career who boasted of having high-level contacts in the Russian government.
And, perhaps most mysteriously, there was Olga Polonskaya, a 30-year-old Russian from St. Petersburg and the former manager of a wine distribution company. Mr. Mifsud introduced her to Mr. Papadopoulos as Mr. Putin’s niece, according to court papers. Mr. Putin has no niece.
The interactions between the three players and a fourth man with contacts inside Russia’s Foreign Ministry have become a central part of the inquiry by the special prosecutor, Robert S. Mueller III, into the Kremlin’s efforts to interfere with the presidential election. Recently released court documents suggest that the F.B.I. suspected that some of the people who showed interest in Mr. Papadopoulos were participants in a Russian intelligence operation.
The March 2016 meeting was followed by a breakfast the next month at a London hotel during which Mr. Mifsud revealed to Mr. Papadopoulos that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” That was months before the theft of a trove of emails from the Democratic National Committee by Russian-sponsored hackers became public.
Please go read the whole thing. And there is further evidence that George Papadopoulos was not just a “low level” “coffee boy” in the Trump campaign (summarized from the NYT story quoted above).
The campaign aide who suggested that President Trump journey to Russia to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the campaign was in regular contact with now-White House aide Stephen Miller, The New York Times reported Friday.
George Papadopoulos was in regular contact with Miller during the spring of 2016, a period during which Papadopoulos also helped edit a major foreign policy speech Trump delivered, according to the Times.
The speech in question was the one at the Mayflower Hotel, the one attended by Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and at which Kislyak and Jeff Sessions discussed “campaign-related matters.” On July 21, 2017, The Washington Post reported:
Russia’s ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, according to current and former U.S. officials.
Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s accounts of two conversations with Sessions — then a top foreign policy adviser to Republican candidate Donald Trump — were intercepted by U.S. spy agencies, which monitor the communications of senior Russian officials in the United States and in Russia. Sessions initially failed to disclose his contacts with Kislyak and then said that the meetings were not about the Trump campaign.
One U.S. official said that Sessions — who testified that he had no recollection of an April encounter — has provided “misleading” statements that are “contradicted by other evidence.” A former official said that the intelligence indicates that Sessions and Kislyak had “substantive” discussions on matters including Trump’s positions on Russia-related issues and prospects for U.S.-Russia relations in a Trump administration.
New this morning from Reuters: Investigators probe Trump knowledge of campaign’s Russia dealings: sources.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has questioned Sam Clovis, co-chairman of President Donald Trump’s election campaign, to determine if Trump or top aides knew of the extent of the campaign team’s contacts with Russia, two sources familiar with the investigation said on Friday.
The focus of the questions put to Clovis by Mueller’s team has not been previously reported.
“The ultimate question Mueller is after is whether candidate Trump and then President-elect Trump knew of the discussions going on with Russia, and who approved or even directed them,” said one source. “That is still just a question.” [….]
One of the sources described Clovis as “another domino” after former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI over his own contacts with Russians during the 2016 election campaign.“
The investigators now know what Papadopoulos was doing on the Russian front, which he initially tried to conceal, and who he told that to,” said the other source. “Now [they] want to know whether Clovis and others reported these activities and others related to Russia, and if so, to whom,” this source said.
Read the rest at Reuters.
One more before I wrap this up:
Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: Cambridge Analytica Denies Working With Russia, Unconvincingly.
There are several channels through which Donald Trump’s campaign apparently cooperated with Russian efforts to help him win the presidency. The first, and best known, is a Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 to pursue Russian promises of providing dirt on Hillary Clinton. A second is Roger Stone, a frequent Trump adviser who had clear advance notice of the publication of stolen emails. A third is Trump himself openly asking Russia to obtain Clinton’s State Department emails. The final channel is the efforts by Cambridge Analytica, the campaign’s data firm. This channel is less well known to the public, in part because reporting about it has been dominated by The Wall Street Journal, and its stories hidden behind a paywall. But Cambridge Analytica’s role has come into much clearer focus.
Two weeks ago, the Journal reported that Alexander Nix, the CEO of Cambridge Analytica, reached out to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to help him better organize the stolen Democratic emails his site was publishing. On Friday, the Journal found that this contact came as Cambridge Analytica was joining the Trump campaign.
Nix denies the allegation: “We did not work with Russia in this election, and moreover we would never work with a third-party state actor in another country’s campaign.” But Nix also denies Russia had anything to do with the campaign at all. (“On Thursday, Mr. Nix called the notion that Russians “significantly interfered” in the U.S. election “frankly absurd,” the Journalnotes.) That second denial, which is silly, saps the other denials of some of their credibility.
Please go read the rest. It’s not long.
Now what stories are you following today?
The Wall Street Journal has a story on Michael Flynn’s plot to kidnap Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen and “deliver” him to a Turkish prison. We knew about this plan, but the WSJ provides more details. The article is behind the paywall, but I go access by clicking on Twitter link.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating an alleged plan involving former White House National Security Adviser Mike Flynn to forcibly remove a Muslim cleric living in the U.S. and deliver him to Turkey in return for millions of dollars, according to people familiar with the investigation.
Under the alleged proposal, Mr. Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., were to be paid as much as $15 million for delivering Fethullah Gulen to the Turkish government, according to people with knowledge of discussions Mr. Flynn had with Turkish representatives. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has pressed the U.S. to extradite him, views the cleric as a political enemy.
Federal Bureau of Investigation agents have asked at least four individuals about a meeting in mid-December at the ‘21’ Club in New York City, where Mr. Flynn and representatives of the Turkish government discussed removing Mr. Gulen, according to people with knowledge of the FBI’s inquiries. The discussions allegedly involved the possibility of transporting Mr. Gulen on a private jet to the Turkish prison island of Imrali, according to one of the people who has spoken to the FBI….
The people who described the alleged proposal said they didn’t attend the December meeting and didn’t have direct knowledge from Mr. Flynn or his associates about its purported details. It isn’t clear how advanced Mr. Mueller’s investigation of the alleged plan to remove Mr. Gulen is, nor is there any indication that any money changed hands, according to those familiar with the discussions and the FBI investigation.
But federal investigators’ interest in whether Mr. Flynn was pursuing potentially illegal means to forcibly deal with Mr. Gulen indicates that the former Trump adviser faces another investigation stemming from his work on behalf of Turkish government interests, both before and after the presidential election.
One more interesting bit:
One person familiar with the alleged discussions about Mr. Gulen said Mr. Flynn also was prepared to use his influence in the White House to further the legal extradition of the cleric, who lives in Pennsylvania.
According to the WSJ, there were two meetings to discuss the kidnapping. The second one was attended by former former CIA Director James Woolsey, who was concerned enough to tell then Vice President Joe Biden about it. It seems both Mike Flynns are in serious trouble.
Randall D. Eliason of George Washington University Law School writes at The Washington Post: How Robert Mueller can play hardball with Michael Flynn.
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and his team are no strangers to the practice of prosecutorial hardball. That skill may be coming into play once again if, as news reports indicate, the special counsel is turning his attention to former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn and Flynn’s son Michael G. Flynn, who worked with his father’s lobbying firm and was also involved in the Trump transition. The elder Flynn has long been thought to be in Mueller’s sights, and CNN reported Wednesday that Flynn and his wife are worried about their son’s legal exposure as well.
If in fact prosecutors have built cases against both men, they now have a huge, juicy carrot to dangle in front of the elder Flynn: Plead guilty and testify against others, and we’ll go easy on your son. Given the former national security adviser’s prior positions with the Trump campaign and administration, that prospect has to make other potential targets of Mueller’s inquiry extremely uneasy.
Members of Mueller’s team are very familiar with — and have not been shy about employing — the tactic of persuading a witness to cooperate in exchange for leniency toward a family member. His chief deputy is Andrew Weissmann, a career prosecutor with a reputation for aggressiveness. More than a decade ago, Weissmann served on and ultimately headed the Enron task force, the team of prosecutors charged with investigating the financial collapse of the huge energy corporation. Weissmann and the other Enron prosecutors wanted the cooperation of Andrew Fastow, Enron’s former chief financial officer, whom they had indicted on dozens of federal charges. When prosecutors later added additional charges against Fastow, they also indicted a new defendant: Lea Fastow, Andrew’s wife, who had also worked at Enron. With the felony charges pending against Lea Fastow, the couple faced the prospect of spending years in prison while their two young sons were raised by others.
Eventually Andrew Fastow was sentenced to 10 years in prison and his wife got one year, which she was allowed to serve before Andrew went to prison so they could care for their children. It looks like we’re about to find out what Michael Flynn will do to protect his son.
A couple more Russia investigation stories:
ABC News reports that George Papadopoulos, who is cooperating with the Mueller investigation in return for a reduced sentence, initially lied to FBI investigators “out of loyalty to Trump.”
Trump had publicly denied that there had been any contact between his campaign and Russian officials, and Papadopoulos did not want to contradict the official line, the source said.
“It’s all fake news,” Trump said of any alleged connections in January. “It’s phony stuff. It didn’t happen.”
Papadopoulos met with the FBI agents investigating those alleged ties shortly thereafter, and he later acknowledged that he lied during that meeting about the timing of certain contacts.
How may other advisers lied out of loyalty to the liar in chief? And how many of those advisers will end up turning on Trump? Mueller is on the case.
After a business meeting before the Miss Universe Pageant in 2013, a Russian participant offered to “send five women” to Donald Trump’s hotel room in Moscow, his longtime bodyguard told Congress this week, according to three sources who were present for the interview.
Two of the sources said the bodyguard, Keith Schiller, viewed the offer as a joke, and immediately responded, “We don’t do that type of stuff.”
The two sources said Schiller’s comments came in the context of him adamantly disputing the allegations made in the Trump dossier, written by a former British intelligence operative, which describes Trump having an encounter with prostitutes at the hotel during the pageant. Schiller described his reaction to that story as being, “Oh my God, that’s bull—-,” two sources said.
The conversation with the Russian about the five women took place after a morning meeting about the pageant in Moscow broke up, two sources said.
That night, two sources said, Schiller said he discussed the conversation with Trump as Trump was walking back to his hotel room, and Schiller said the two men laughed about it as Trump went to bed alone. Schiller testified that he stood outside Trump’s hotel room for a time and then went to bed.
One source noted that Schiller testified he eventually left Trump’s hotel room door and could not say for sure what happened during the remainder of the night.
Schiller is one of Trump’s closest and longest-term employees. He would probably lie for his boss. So why didn’t he just say there was nothing to the story at all? A couple of legal experts on TV have suggested that Schiller may be afraid that someone else overheard the offer and thus he’s afraid to give a complete denial.
Disguised Russian agents on Twitter rushed to deflect scandalous news about Donald Trump just before last year’s presidential election while straining to refocus criticism on the mainstream media and Hillary Clinton’s campaign, according to an Associated Press analysis of since-deleted accounts.
Tweets by Russia-backed accounts such as “America_1st_” and “BatonRougeVoice” on Oct. 7, 2016, actively pivoted away from news of an audio recording in which Trump made crude comments about groping women, and instead touted damaging emails hacked from Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta.
Since early this year, the extent of Russian intrusion to help Trump and hurt Clinton in the election has been the subject of both congressional scrutiny and a criminal investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. In particular, those investigations are looking into the possibility of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
AP’s analysis illuminates the obvious strategy behind the Russian cyber meddling: swiftly react, distort and distract attention from any negative Trump news.
Read the rest at the AP link above.
Meanwhile Trump is bumbling through his Asia trip, working on destroying U.S. credibility around the world.
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s recent hosting of Donald Trump was a masterclass in how to make the US president comfortable—feed him familiar food, take him on his favorite outing, golf, and tell him how much you like him.
But Chinese president Xi Jinping added a creamy layer of pomp and circumstance to the mix when the White House delegation reached Beijing. Trump has been feted with everything from an unprecedented private dinner in the Forbidden City to a red carpet welcome in Tiananmen Square, the Beijing landmark where hundreds of students were killed by the Chinese military in 1989.
Trump has responded in kind, calling Xi a “very special man” with whom he has “great chemistry.” While US businessmen had high hopes that Trump and his back-to-the-1980s China advisors would wring concessions from Xi to cut the $350 billion trade deficit, the only concrete result has been a mish-mash of previously announced deals and non-binding agreements that probably aren’t worth the $250 billion both governments claim….
Beyond the numbers, it’s Trump’s embrace of Xi that has diplomats and human rights activists around the world concerned. China’s government is “playing Trump like a fiddle,” said Jorge Guajardo, Mexico’s ambassador to China from 2007 to 2013. “You don’t have good chemistry with a Chinese leader who doesn’t speak your language and is geared to not develop chemistry,” he said.
Read more at Quartz.
Putin is playing Trump too. Trump has been dying to meet with him again, but it’s not going to happen. Putin was just jerking him around and trying (successfully) to humiliate him.
Da Nang, Vietnam (CNN)President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will not hold a formal meeting at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit here in Vietnam, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters aboard Air Force One on Friday.
But the two world leaders did briefly meet during the so-called APEC class photo, where all the heads of state come together to take a photo before the summit officially starts. Trump and Putin shook hands and had a briefly spoke before the photo was snapped….
Citing “scheduling conflicts on both sides,” though, Sanders said no formal meeting will take place during the two-day gathering, but that an informal interaction between the two world leaders was likely to happen, a notion reinforced by her Russian counterparts.
“Regarding a Putin meeting, there was never a meeting confirmed, and there will not be one that takes place due to scheduling conflicts on both sides,” Sanders said. “There is no formal meeting or anything scheduled for them.”
Sure Sarah. Poor Donald was so looking forward to a private audience with his idol. But it was not to be.
What else is happening? What stories are you following today?
I’m having another one of those mornings when my head is spinning from trying to sort out all the nutty news out there. We truly are living in Bizarro World now. If you want proof, just try reading Carter Page’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee (pdf). I’ve read some of it, and hope to read more this afternoon. Some insights journalists have noted:
The Washington Post: Trump adviser sent email describing ‘private conversation’ with Russian official.
Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to President Trump’s campaign whose visit to Moscow during the election has drawn scrutiny, sent an email to fellow Trump aides during his trip describing “a private conversation” with a senior Russian official who spoke favorably of the Republican candidate, according to records released late Monday by congressional investigators.
The email appeared to contradict earlier statements by Page, who had said he had only Page also wrote that he had been provided “incredible insights and outreach” by Russian lawmakers and “senior members” of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration during the trip.
The email appeared to contradict earlier statements by Page, who had said he had only exchanged brief greetings with the senior Russian official, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, after he delivered a speech at a Russian university.
In his July 2016 note, Page wrote that Dvorkovich had “expressed strong support for Mr. Trump and a desire to work together toward devising better solutions in response to a vast range of current international problems.”
Page had withheld the email from the Committee, claiming a 5th Amendment right to turn over some information while holding back anything that would incriminate him. Page was unaware that the Committee already had his emails.
Page’s email was read aloud by Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) when Page met behind closed doors last week with the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 president election….
Confronted with his email, Page told the committee that he had not meant that he met with any officials but rather that he had learned of their views about the U.S. election from local media and scholars. He maintained that his interaction with Dvorkovich consisted of a brief greeting, and that he had learned his views on the campaign while listening to Dvorkovich’s public address. Page told the committee that he had not worked with the Russians to hack emails or otherwise influence the election.
OK . . . ?? Page’s testimony reads like something written out of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass.
Natasha Bertrand at Business Insider: Carter Page’s testimony is filled with bombshells — and supports key portions of the Steele dossier.
Page revealed during his testimony that he met with both members of Russia’s presidential administration and with the head of investor relations at the state-owned Russian oil giant Rosneft during his trip to Moscow last July.
He also congratulated members of the Trump campaign’s foreign policy team on July 14 for their “excellent work” on the “Ukraine amendment” — a reference to the Trump campaign’s decision to “intervene” to water down a proposed amendment to the GOP’s Ukraine platform….
Page also revealed that Trump campaign adviser Sam Clovis had asked him to sign a non-disclosure agreement upon joining the campaign — and that he discussed his July Moscow trip with Clovis both before he went and after he returned.
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff confronted Page with an email he wrote on July 8 from Moscow to Trump campaign adviser J.D. Gordon saying that he had received “incredible insights and outreach from a few Russian legislators and senior members of the presidential administration here.”
Former British spy Christopher Steele wrote in the dossier that an “official close to Presidential Administration Head, S. IVANOV, cornfided in a compatriot that a senior colleague in the Internal Political Department of the PA, DIVYEKIN (nfd) also had met secretly with PAGE on his recent visit.”
According to that official in the dossier, Diveykin told Page that the Kremlin had a dossier of kompromat on Hillary Clinton that they wanted to give to the Trump campaign.
Read the rest at Business Insider.
Former Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page, who has come under scrutiny in the investigation of Russian election interference, told a House committee that he sought permission for a July 2016 trip to Moscow from senior Trump campaign officials, and reported to other Trump officials about the trip when he returned.
It’s long been known that Page traveled to Moscow in July 2016, but he has said it was in his private capacity, unrelated to his role with the Trump campaign.
Page, whose sworn testimony was released Monday night, told the House Intelligence Committee last week that he sought permission to make the trip from campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and also notified Hope Hicks, who is now the White House communications director.
Lewandowski told Page he was clear to go on the trip as long as the travel was not associated with his work on the campaign, Page told the committee.
Page also acknowledged that he had been aware that another volunteer campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, had been meeting with a professor with links to the Kremlin, according to the committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.
Check out this lengthy Twitter thread for more details on Page’s testimony.
And a reminder:
Prior to Carter Page’s bravura piece of surreal performance art on Monday before the House Select Committee On Intelligence, there was Casey Stengel in 1958, that was looking into removing professional baseball’s exemption from the country’s anti-trust regulations. And then, 15 years later, Tony Ulasewicz, the hangdog ex-NYPD cop-turned-Nixonian bagman, explained to Sam Ervin and the special committee looking into Watergate how he handled the payoffs to the original Watergate burglars—including the piquant detail that, while he was roaming Washington with paper bags full of cash, he wore a subway motorman’s change dispenser on his belt because he was doing so much business in public phone booths.
But neither of them came anywhere close to the kung-fu fighting that Page did with the English language on Monday. The committee wisely released a transcript of Page’s testimony, and chunks of it were flying around the Intertoobz all Monday night. I found that the best way to read it was to dim all the lights and play all my Hawkwind albums really loud.
There’s just so much chewy goodness. For example, Page refers to the “so-called Putin regime,” but has no compunction of referring to “the Obama-Clinton regime” without the qualifying modifier. He also seems to believe that the Senate “Gang of Eight” was an actual gang, with Harry Reid as its jefe. His testimony begins with a long letter he’d written in response to the committee. Here, from that letter, he presents as evidence that he and the Russians were guiltless of ratfcking the 2016 election the fact that he is not yet wealthy.
If our government had a better understanding of Russia and the way business is now conducted in Russia, the 2016 Dodgy Dossier which alleged that I should have received a multi-million dollar bribe after President Trump’s victory in November would have been easily dismissed as a work of fiction by these supposed subject-matter experts.
The letter also refers to the “gangster tactics” of “the transnational veritable organized crime network that Reid leveraged during the Clinton/Obama regime,” so you can pretty much figure out that we’ve turned a pretty dark bend in a pretty strange river.
Read the rest at the Esquire link above.
Other Bizarro World News:
Something strange is happening in Saudi Arabia and it seems likely Trump and Jared Kushner are involved. David Ignatius wrote on Sunday:
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman says he’s cracking down on corruption. But the sweeping arrests of cabinet ministers and senior princes Saturday night looked to many astonished Arab observers like a bold but risky consolidation of power.
MBS, as the headstrong 32-year-old ruler is known, struck at some of the kingdom’s most prominent business and political names in a new bid to gain political control and drive change in the oil kingdom. By the count of the Saudi-owned al-Arabiya news channel, the arrests included 11 princes, four ministers and several dozen others.
“He’s creating a new Saudi Arabia,” said one Saudi business leader contacted Sunday. He noted that the anti-corruption campaign follows other aggressive but controversial moves, including a royal decree allowing women to drive and limits on the religious police.
“This is very risky,” the business leader said, because MBS is now challenging senior princes and religious conservatives simultaneously. The executive, who strongly supports MBS’s liberalization efforts, worried that “he’s fighting too many wars at once.”
This followed a secret visit by Kushner in October.
MBS is emboldened by strong support from President Trump and his inner circle, who see him as a kindred disrupter of the status quo — at once a wealthy tycoon and a populist insurgent. It was probably no accident that last month, Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, made a personal visit to Riyadh. The two princes are said to have stayed up until nearly 4 a.m. several nights, swapping stories and planning strategy.
President Donald Trump again showed how quickly his tweets can outrun U.S. foreign policy planning, after he backed Saudi Arabia’s king and crown prince over the arrests of dozens of officials before the State Department had completed its review of the moves.
While Trump had talked with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about Saudi Arabia as they toured Tokyo together Nov. 5 and 6, there was no formal consultation before he tweeted early Tuesday that King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman “know exactly what they are doing.” [….] A second tweet said “some of those they are harshly treating have been ‘milking’ their country for years!”
Trump and Kushner are running their own foreign policy out of the White House, probably based on their business interests.
CIA DIRECTOR MIKE Pompeo met late last month with a former U.S. intelligence official who has become an advocate for a disputed theory that the theft of the Democratic National Committee’s emails during the 2016 presidential campaign was an inside job, rather than a hack by Russian intelligence.
Pompeo met on October 24 with William Binney, a former National Security Agency official-turned-whistleblower who co-authored an analysispublished by a group of former intelligence officials that challenges the U.S. intelligence community’s official assessment that Russian intelligence was behind last year’s theft of data from DNC computers. Binney and the other former officials argue that the DNC data was “leaked,” not hacked, “by a person with physical access” to the DNC’s computer system.
In an interview with The Intercept, Binney said Pompeo told him that President Donald Trump had urged the CIA director to meet with Binney to discuss his assessment that the DNC data theft was an inside job. During their hour-long meeting at CIA headquarters, Pompeo said Trump told him that if Pompeo “want[ed] to know the facts, he should talk to me,” Binney said.
A senior intelligence source confirmed that Pompeo met with Binney to discuss his analysis, and that the CIA director held the meeting at Trump’s urging.
Pompeo and Trump are apparently running an alternative CIA investigation!
Finally, The Guardian reports from the Paradise Papers: Offshore cash helped fund Steve Bannon’s attacks on Hillary Clinton.
Eighteen months before guiding Donald Trump to election victory, Steve Bannon delivered the opening shot in the ruthless Republican campaign to paint their Democratic opponent as corrupt.
The future White House chief strategist produced a book in May 2015 accusing Hillary Clinton of trading favours for donations to her charitable foundation. Its questionable central charge, on the sale of a uranium company to Russia, recently became the subject of a House inquiry and feverish talk on conservative media.
But the financial arrangements of another foundation, which bankrolled Bannon’s creation of the book, Clinton Cash, have received less scrutiny.
Leaked documents and newly obtained public filings show how the billionaire Mercer family built a $60m war chest for conservative causes inside their family foundation by using an offshore investment vehicle to avoid US tax.
The offshore vehicle was part of a network of companies in the Atlantic tax haven of Bermuda led by Robert Mercer, the wealthy hedge-fund executive and Bannon patron whose spending helped put Trump in the White House and aided a resurgence of the Republican right.
Read the rest at The Guardian link.
So . . . what else is happening? What stories are you following today?
The illustrations in this post are by comic illustrator Lorenzo Mattotti.
Wannabe dictator Donald Trump has left the country, and he’ll be gone for 12 days. Maybe we’ll get a little peace here in the USA while he’s gone. Of course he’ll probably manage to stir up trouble in other countries. The Guardian: North Korea looms large as Donald Trump embarks on Asia trip.
Donald Trump’s five-nation trip to Asia may take him away from his battles with opponents and prosecutors in Washington, but it will inject his volatile, combative personality into the heart of the most dangerous nuclear standoff in the world.
The president has broken precedent by clearly and repeatedly threatening to carry out a first strike against North Korea. On the eve of his Sunday departure, he did it again.
“We have one problem. That’s called North Korea,” Trump told Fox News. “I must tell you North Korea’s a thing that I think we will solve and if we don’t solve it, it’s not going to be very pleasant for them. It’s not going to be very pleasant for anybody.”
As usual on Fridays in the Trump era, we got some breaking news on the Russia investigation last night. The New York Times reported: Trump Campaign Adviser Met With Russian Officials in 2016.
As with previous threats of “fire and fury”, being “locked and loaded” and ready to “totally destroy” North Korea, Trump did not elaborate, but the comments were made in the context of significant escalation on both sides. North Korea carried out its sixth nuclear test in September, most probably of a thermonuclear bomb, marking a significant step up in its capabilities. It has tested intercontinental ballistic missiles over the summer.
The US has boosted military exercises with its partners and for the first time in a decade, it has three aircraft car
Click on the link to read the rest.
Back here at home we got some breaking news on the Russia investigation last night. Remember when Friday nights were slow except for occasional government news dumps? The New York Times reports: Trump Campaign Adviser Met With Russian Officials in 2016.
Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump presidential campaign, met Russian government officials during a July 2016 trip he took to Moscow, according to testimony he gave on Thursday to the House Intelligence Committee.
Shortly after the trip, Mr. Page sent an email to at least one Trump campaign aide describing insights he had after conversations with government officials, legislators and business executives during his time in Moscow, according to one person familiar with the contents of the message. The email was read aloud during the closed-door testimony.
The new details of the trip present a different picture than the account Mr. Page has given during numerous appearances in the news media in recent months and are yet another example of a Trump adviser meeting with Russians officials during the 2016 campaign. In multiple interviews with The New York Times, he had either denied meeting with any Russian government officials during the July 2016 visit or sidestepped the question, saying he met with “mostly scholars.”
Mr. Page confirmed the meetings in an interview on Friday evening, but played down their significance.
“I had a very brief hello to a couple of people. That was it,” he said. He said one of the people he met was a “senior person,” but would not confirm the person’s identity.
We’re also learning more about George Papadopoulos’s role in the campaign; it seems he was much more than a “coffee boy.” NBC News: Papadopoulos Repeatedly Represented Trump Campaign, Record Shows.
…the public record shows that Papadopoulos, who attempted to set up a meeting between Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, was a more prominent figure than previously understood.
Papadopoulos was in Cleveland during the Republican National Convention where he was invited by the American Jewish Committee to speak on a panel about U.S. foreign policy, organizers said….
“Among the panelists in our 2016 Republican National Convention program — in a session titled ‘Defining America’s Role in Global Affairs’ — was George Papadopolous, then a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser”….
Papadopoulos’ public role for the Trump campaign continued. In late September, just six weeks before Election Day, he gave an interview as a Trump campaign official to the Russian Interfax News Agency, where he said that Trump will “restore the trust” between the U.S. and Russia.
And he met with Israeli leaders during the inauguration in January as a foreign policy adviser for the newly-sworn in president. “We are looking forward to ushering in a new relationship with all of Israel, including the historic Judea and Samaria,” Papadopoulos told the Jerusalem Post the following day.
Read more at NBC News.
More breaking news from last night: CBS news revealed that La David Johnson, who was killed in Niger, “may have been kidnapped by Islamic militants.”
CBS News has learned one of the four American soldiers killed in themay have been kidnapped by Islamic militants who opened fire on a group of U.S. and Nigerien troops in early October.
The Pentagon has not said how Sgt. La David Johnson became separated from the other soldiers….
According to “village elder” Adamou Bububaker, after the battle ended:
“Two of the bodies were in the vehicle and another on the ground,” he said. They had been stripped of their uniforms.
But Johnson’s body was found two days later, about a half a mile away. Nigerien military sources tell CBS News they believe ISIS fighters decided to try and kidnap Johnson.
The fighters later shot him and dumped his body in the bushes, his hands roped together.
This is the man whose widow Trump shamefully called a liar and whose mentor was publicly smeared by former general John Kelly.
The Republican tax plan is obviously a disaster; but some of the things we’re learning about it are just unbelievable. Check this out from The Chronicle of Higher Education: Republican Tax Proposal Gets Failing Grade From Higher-Ed Groups.
“The House tax-reform proposal released today would discourage participation in postsecondary education, make college more expensive for those who do enroll, and undermine the financial stability of public and private two-year and four-year colleges and universities,” said Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education and under secretary of education in the Obama administration, in a written statement.
In broad terms, the bill would eliminate or consolidate a number of tax deductions meant to offset the costs of higher education for individuals and companies, including the Lifetime Learning Credit, which provides a tax deduction of up to $2,000 for tuition, a credit for student-loan interest, and a $5,250 corporate deduction for education-assistance plans.
The bill proposes new taxes on some private-college endowments and on compensation for the highest-paid employees at nonprofit organizations, including colleges and nonprofit academic hospitals. The plan would also tax the tuition waivers that many graduate students receive when they work as teaching assistants or researchers.
Imagine if I had had to pay taxes on the tuition waver I got from Boston University during my Teaching fellowships? I would have had to pay income taxes on around $40,000 per year in addition to my teaching income! I would not have been able to go to graduate school at all. Much more at the link.
Yesterday Trump mused about being able to control law enforcement in the U.S. He hasn’t even been “president” for a year, and he’s already publicly expressing his desire to be a dictator. Tina Nguyen at Vanity Fair’s The Hive: Trump Subtly Wonders If The F.B.I Would Please Jail His Enemies.
When Donald Trump famously asked F.B.I. director James Comey to kindly drop all inquiries into Michael Flynn, and then fired him when he did not, the president triggered a series of events that led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, whose investigation into Russian collusion has now resulted in three indictments and the potential for many more. Thursday afternoon in the White House, Trump indicated that he has learned the dangers of attempting to use the Justice Department as his personal goon squad. “The saddest thing is, because I am the president of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department. I’m not supposed to be involved with the F.B.I.,” he told WMAL radio host Larry O’Connor. Still, he said he is “very frustrated” that he can’t use law-enforcement agencies to do what he really wants: investigate the Obama administration‘s Uranium One deal, which the right is scrambling to position as “clear evidence of the Clinton campaign colluding with Russian intelligence.”
“I look at what’s happening with the Justice Department, why aren’t they going after Hillary Clinton with her e-mails and with her dossier, and the kind of money—I don’t know, is it possible that they paid $12.4 million for the dossier . . . which is total phony, fake, fraud and how is it used?” he railed, expressing how “unhappy” he was with the way the justice system is supposed to work. “But you know as president, and I think you understand this, as a president you’re not supposed to be involved in that process.”
He admits he’s not supposed to be doing this, but he’s continuing to call on the DOJ to prosecute Hillary Clinton in interviews and on twitter. At the Washington Post, Ann Applebaum reminds us that Totalitarian ideologies never die. Not even in America.
Nothing is ever over. No historic trauma is ever resolved. No historic villain is ever buried, and no historic lessons are permanently learned. Everything and everyone can be revived, and anything can be unlearned — even in the most settled civilizations.
Evidence of this is all around us. After two generations of atonement, an elected German politician — Björn Höcke, speaker of the parliamentary group of the new far-right party Alternative for Germany — wants Germans to stop apologizing for Nazi crimes; he describes the Holocaust memorial in Berlin as a “monument of shame.” In China, a government once embarrassed by Maoism is peddling a sanitized version. Last year, 17 million Chinese made pilgrimages to the chairman’s home to pay homage to the man whose madness starved far more of his countrymen than that.
In Russia, Stalin has returned. Nearly half the country now views him with sympathy, respect or admiration. Stalin sent millions of Russians — and others — to die in labor camps, deprived millions of food so they starved to death, ordered hundreds of thousands executed, and left his country stunted and impoverished. In his own lifetime, Russians were terrified of him; soon after his death, he was denounced by his successors. When the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, it seemed, briefly, as if the victims of his terror might finally come to terms with his legacy.
For a long time, Americans thought they were immune to this sort of thing. But are we really? In the United States of my childhood, there seemed no more settled question than the Civil War. In school I was taught that slavery had been defeated, that Lincoln was a hero and that the remaining wrongs were at least partly righted by the civil rights movement. Even the Old South/“Gone With the Wind” nostalgia had faded and shrunk to a small group of battlefield-visiting enthusiasts.
But it never faded away altogether — and now it’s back. With a president who looks at white-supremacist marchers and sees “very fine people” and a White House chief of staff who describes Robert E. Lee as an “honorable man” who “gave up his country to fight for his state,” we may not be as far as we once thought from a revival of Southern exceptionalism, and even treachery on a broader scale. Roy Moore, Republican candidate for the Senate in Alabama, has said repeatedly that the “law of God” is higher than the law of the Constitution itself.
Please go read the whole thing.
What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a great weekend!