Yesterday was dark day for the USA. I didn’t see the inauguration ceremony, but I heard part of tRump’s speech on NPR while I was out in the car. To say I was repulsed by it would be an understatement. tRump painted a picture of America as a hellhole with no redeeming qualities except for the bigoted white people who managed to elect him with a minority of the popular vote. It was a stunning insult to the former presidents in the audience and to the majority of the American people.
Here’s a transcript of the brief, angry address annotated by Aaron Blake at The Washington Post. This is the part I heard before I switched off my car radio in disgust:
At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction, that a nation exists to serve its citizens. Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves. These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public.
But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge; and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.
This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.
American carnage? I get the feeling that in a couple of weeks, tRump will be claiming credit for the growing economy that President Obama left him with. And then there was this:
We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first.
Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.
Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body and I will never ever let you down.
The slogan “America First” has very ugly historical connotations, and tRump know it, because he has been called out on it repeatedly. Brian Bennett at the LA Times: ‘America First,’ a phrase with a loaded anti-Semitic and isolationist history.
At the center of his foreign policy vision, Donald Trump has put “America First,” a phrase with an anti-Semitic and isolationist history going back to the years before the U.S. entry into World War II.
Trump started using the slogan in the later months of his campaign, and despite requests from the Anti-Defamation League that he drop it, he stuck with it.
“From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land,” Trump said on the Capitol steps. “From this day forward, it’s going to be only America First. America First.”
Here’s the historical context:
Those same words galvanized a mass populist movement against U.S. entry into the war in Europe, even as the German army rolled through France and Belgium in the spring of 1940.
A broad-based coalition of politicians and business leaders on the right and left came together as the America First Committee to oppose President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s support for France and Great Britain. The movement grew to more than 800,000 members.
While the America First Committee attracted a wide array of support, the movement was marred by anti-Semitic and pro-fascist rhetoric. Its highest profile spokesman, Charles Lindbergh, blamed American Jews for pushing the country into war.
“The British and the Jewish races,” he said at a rally in September 1941, “for reasons which are not American, wish to involve us in the war.”
The “greatest danger” Jews posed to the U.S. “lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government,” Lindbergh said.
This certainly was not a unifying message from our new and illegitimate POTUS.
Joe Conason at the National Memo: Trump’s Inaugural: A Hostile Transfer Of Power.
Everyone who wondered what Steve Bannon has been doing in Trump Tower now knows the answer: He was drafting the new president’s vengeful and cliché-laden inaugural address, which is certainly the least impressive speech of its kind in memory and likely one of the worst in history.
With its repeated harping on “America First” and the thieving perfidy of Washington, condemning both parties in government, this speech plainly reiterated the same messages formulated by the former Breitbart.com chairman during last year’s campaign. It sounded as if Trump were still on the stump, stirring up his fans, rather than seeking to unify the country and take on the profound responsibilities of the nation’s highest office.But who can blame Bannon and Trump for returning to their battle-tested themes? Gazing out over the National Mall toward the Washington Monument, where a crowd less than a fourth the size of Obama’s 2009 audience stood, and pondering their dismal approval ratings, they had to yearn for the wild enthusiasm of rallies past. What better way to revive the base than to conjure again that dark vision of an America brought low by crime, drugs, immigration, joblessness — and elitist conspiracies at the center of government?
Of course, there is a good reason why a new president — especially one who failed to win the popular vote in an extraordinarily rancorous election — should try to strike a generous and welcoming note on Inauguration Day. The task of governing that the chief executive faces is vast, complex, and daunting, as Trump is now learning, and demands at least a gesture toward national unity. An inaugural speech crafted to encourage such harmony is the mood music of our “peaceful transfer of power.” And by the time a president takes office, the country is usually weary of partisan bitching and expects the victor to display a measure of grace.
tRump isn’t capable of displaying grace. He only cares about himself and the “glorious victory” he imagines he has won. Even at the inaugural balls last night, tRump was still bragging about how he won the primaries and the general election in a “landslide.” Ironically, even winning the presidency and becoming the most powerful man on earth will never satisfy the black hole of inadequacy inside this pathetic, narcissistic man.
A couple more reviews:
Alexandra Petri at The Washington Post: Donald Trump’s inauguration was a Gothic nightmare.
George Will at The Washington Post: A most dreadful inaugural address.
David Sanger at The New York Times: With Echoes of the ’30s, Trump Resurrects a Hard-Line Vision of ‘America First.’
So today it’s the “women’s march,” and there are a lot more people participating in it than the sad crowd for the inauguration. Plus there are women’s rallies in all fifty states and many foreign countries. I guess I should be thrilled, but after learning that the organizers had decided to leave Hillary Clinton off the list of women on their “This is Why We March” announcement, I’m a bit unenthusiastic. I doubt if this will make much difference if the focus is on dismissing Hillary’s achievements and fantasizing that Bernie would have won. I’m also having difficulty with Michael Moore hogging the spotlight on a day that was supposed to be about women’s rights. Time Magazine:
When the Women’s March, which will take place on Saturday, released its official platform earlier this week,the group included a section dedicated to women who inspired organizers but didn’t mention Clinton’s name. The list included activists like Grace Lee Boggs, Gloria Steinem, Winona LaDuke, Malala Yousafzai and Edith Windsor. But Clinton, the first woman to be the a presidential nominee of a major political party, was missing. The omission is especially notable because the March borrows one of its slogans — “Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights” — from Clinton’s famous 1995 speech on women’s rights in Beijing. Clinton has given no indication that she plans to attend the event.
Sonya Clay, who lives in D.C. and supported Hillary Clinton in 2016 election, started a petition to get Clinton’s name added onto the list, which now has over 5,000 signatures. In addition to Clay’s petition, Wise Women for Hillary sent a letter to the March’s organizers asking that they change their mind. Others agreed, tweeting to March organizers under the hashtag #AddHerName. Some women now say they may stay home if Clinton’s name isn’t added.
“A Women’s March without Hillary Clinton — that just makes no sense,” Clay told Motto in a phone interview. “Hillary Clinton has inspired people to participate in this March. Her service has been inspiring to people. And just the way that she’s handled the loss. She’s inspired people to keep fighting and fight back.”
Since Clay’s petition went live, the Las Vegas and Los Angeles contingents of the Women’s March tweeted that they would honor Clinton. The March also put out a statement on its official Facebook page, saying it was proud to include Clinton’s phrase words from her Beijing speech — but didn’t clarify whether it would add Clinton’s name to the honoree list.
To compound the insult, the organizers are using Hillary’s famous quote “Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights,” as well as referring to themselves as “nasty women.”
So . . . I applaud the women who are marching in DC and around the country and the world, but I’m still not so enthusiastic this will lead to any meaningful changes. Sorry about that.
What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and I hope you enjoy your weekend.
Just one more day before the authoritarian baby-man becomes the “leader” of our once-great nation. It’s obvious that he’s not qualified for the job and he has done very little to prepare himself to do it. He has surrounded himself with other wealthy men who in many cases have no experience in government service. Will we survive this catastrophe? We’ll have to wait and see.
Jonathan Bernstein at Bloomberg yesterday: The Empty Trump Administration.
We’re two days away from having a new president. But we’re apparently a lot longer than that from having a Trump administration with even a minimally functional ability to govern.
Politico’s Michael Crowley has a nice piece explaining the missing National Security Council staffers, and the dangers that could cause if there’s an early crisis. Hundreds of briefing papers have been created by Obama’s NSC and sent to Team Trump, but the New York Times reports that no one knows if they’ve been reviewed.
Yet the NSC is ahead of the curve for this administration. Look at the big four departments. There’s no Trump appointee for any of the top State Department jobs below secretary nominee Rex Tillerson. No Trump appointee for any of the top Department of Defense jobs below retired general James Mattis. Treasury? Same story. Justice? It is one of two departments (along with, bizarrely, Commerce) where Trump has selected a deputy secretary. But no solicitor general, no one at civil rights, no one in the civil division, no one for the national security division.
And the same is true in department after department. Not to mention agencies without anyone at all nominated by the president-elect.
Overall, out of 690 positions requiring Senate confirmation tracked by the Washington Post and Partnership for Public Service, Trump has come up with only 28 people so far.
The Atlantic’s Russell Berman had a good story two weeks ago about how far behind Trump was. Since then? If anything, it’s getting worse — he’s added only two of those 28 since Jan. 5. As Berman reported, the Partnership for Public Service suggested a president should have “100 Senate-confirmed appointees in place on or around Inauguration Day.” At this pace, he won’t have 100 nominees by the end of February, let alone having them confirmed and hard at work.
Please read the rest at Bloomberg View.
Just days before he ascends to the presidency, there are lingering questions about whether President-elect Donald Trump’s team is fully prepared to take over the sprawling federal government, according to more than two dozen interviews with Trump and Obama administration officials, lobbyists, experts and others close to the process.
A deep distrust has taken hold between Trump’s transition officials and Obama’s political appointees at a number of federal agencies, slowing down the handover of agency responsibilities on everything from meat inspections to drug pricing. There’s confusion over policy on several major agenda items, as Trump gives conflicting signals and often disagrees with his Cabinet nominees. And a number of federal agencies are far from having the staff they need to run on Day One, people close to the transition say….
“They look like they are designed for chaos,” said Stephen Hess, an expert on transitions at the Brookings Institution. “It’s just, there is no other word for it, weird for those of us who have been involved in government for decades.”
Trump transition officials insist that they are prepared. They say they have written detailed action plans for every major agency, adding they’ve even been charting a path forward at more obscure subagencies and departments. They note that securing the confirmation of their nominees is the most important near-term task and that they will soon announce hundreds of hires.
Much more at the link.
Many of us are apprehensive about tRump having the sole power to order a nuclear strike. But what about the man tRump has chosen (perhaps unknowingly) to maintain and manage the U.S. nuclear arsenal?
The New York Times: ‘Learning Curve’ as Rick Perry Pursues a Job He Initially Misunderstood.
When President-elect Donald J. Trump offered Rick Perry the job of energy secretary five weeks ago, Mr. Perry gladly accepted, believing he was taking on a role as a global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry that he had long championed in his home state.
In the days after, Mr. Perry, the former Texas governor, discovered that he would be no such thing — that in fact, if confirmed by the Senate, he would become the steward of a vast national security complex he knew almost nothing about, caring for the most fearsome weapons on the planet, the United States’ nuclear arsenal.
Two-thirds of the agency’s annual $30 billion budget is devoted to maintaining, refurbishing and keeping safe the nation’s nuclear stockpile; thwarting nuclear proliferation; cleaning up and rebuilding an aging constellation of nuclear production facilities; and overseeing national laboratories that are considered the crown jewels of government science.
“If you asked him on that first day he said yes, he would have said, ‘I want to be an advocate for energy,’” said Michael McKenna, a Republican energy lobbyist who advised Mr. Perry’s 2016 presidential campaign and worked on the Trump transition’s Energy Department team in its early days. “If you asked him now, he’d say, ‘I’m serious about the challenges facing the nuclear complex.’ It’s been a learning curve.”
Unreal. And this is one of the departments presidential candidate Perry said he wanted to eliminate.
Mr. Perry, who once called for the elimination of the Energy Department, will begin the confirmation process Thursday with a hearing before the Senate Energy Committee. If approved by the Senate, he will take over from a secretary, Ernest J. Moniz, who was chairman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology physics department and directed the linear accelerator at M.I.T.’s Laboratory for Nuclear Science. Before Mr. Moniz, the job belonged to Steven Chu, a physicist who won a Nobel Prize.
For Mr. Moniz, the future of nuclear science has been a lifelong obsession; he spent his early years working at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. Mr. Perry studied animal husbandry and led cheers at Texas A&M University.
Mr. Perry would sit atop the men and women making the judgments about whether Iran is complying with that accord. In the basement of the Energy Department’s headquarters, the agency’s intelligence unit monitors compliance, working closely with the C.I.A., the National Security Agency and other intelligence bodies.
That is just plain frightening. According to Politico, Perry now “regrets” calling for the elimination of the Energy Department.
Journalists and biographers are still trying to figure out what’s going on in tRump’s psyche.
Politico: ‘He Has This Deep Fear That He Is Not a Legitimate President.’ I’d say that fear is very well-founded. The piece is a follow up to a previous one in which Politico talked to tRump’s biographers.
Now, after more than two months of Trump’s norm-shattering transition, we gathered Gwenda Blair, Michael D’Antonio and Tim O’Brien by conference call (Wayne Barrett, the dean of Trump reporters, could not participate because of illness) to assess whether Trump has continued to surprise them. Their collective wisdom? In a word, no.
From his pick of nominees for posts in his cabinet to his belligerent use of Twitter (our conversation was a day before he traded barbs with Congressman John Lewis) to his unwillingness to cut ties with his business to avoid conflicts of interest, they see the same person they’ve always seen—the consummate classroom troublemaker; a vain, insecure bully; and an anti-institutional schemer, as adept at “gaming the system” as he is unashamed. As they look ahead to his inauguration speech in two days, and to his administration beyond, they feel confident predicting that he will run the country much as he has run his company. For himself.
“He’s not going to be that concerned with the actual competent administration of the government,” D’Antonio said. “It’s going to be what he seems to be gaining or losing in public esteem. So almost like a monarch. The figurehead who rallies people and gets credit for things.”
Read the rest at Politico.
One more interesting read from Thomas Edsall at The New York Times: What Does Vladimir Putin See in Donald Trump?
At noon on Friday, Donald Trump will become the 45th president of the United States. Millions of Americans will rejoice at the sight, and millions more will not. As a rule, foreign leaders don’t attend the inauguration of American presidents, but Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, will be there in spirit. To understand why and to understand what’s happening as Trump takes over the White House, we need to go back two weeks.
On Jan. 6, the C.I.A., the F.B.I. and the National Security Agency asserted with “high confidence” that “Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election” formed part of a broader, worldwide agenda “to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order.”
According to the intelligence report, “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections,” Vladimir Putin
ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.
The intelligence assessment raises the question: what made Trump an attractive vehicle through which to attempt to weaken the liberal democratic order. Why him?
The article is an excellent summary of reporting and opinions on Russia’s successful campaign to elect their own puppet to the U.S. presidency. Now we will have a baby-man in charge. It’s going to get very hairy folks.
What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and enjoy our country’s final day of sane, adult leadership.
As we approach the dark day when tRump will take the oath of office, my feeling of living in an apocalyptic scifi novel grows ever stronger. How can this be happening?
This morning marks day 4 of tRump’s attacks on civil rights hero and member of Congress John Lewis; and over in Russia, Vladimir Putin went on state TV to defend his puppet from American criticism
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he doesn’t believe that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump met with prostitutes in Russia, calling the accusations part of a campaign to undermine the election result.
Unsubstantiated allegations made against Trump are “obvious fabrications,” Putin told reporters in the Kremlin on Tuesday. “People who order fakes of the type now circulating against the U.S. president-elect, who concoct them and use them in a political battle, are worse than prostitutes because they don’t have any moral boundaries at all,” he said.
Putin said that Trump wasn’t a politician when he visited Moscow in the past and Russian officials weren’t aware that he held any political ambitions. It’s “complete nonsense” to believe that Russian security services “chase after every American billionaire,” he said.
The Kremlin has denied that it holds any compromising material on Trump after U.S. intelligence officials informed the president-elect about unsubstantiated reports that Russia had compiled potentially damaging personal information on him….
Trump is “a grown man, and secondly he’s someone who has been involved with beauty contests for many years and has met the most beautiful women in the world,” Putin said. “I find it hard to believe that he rushed to some hotel to meet girls of loose morals, although ours are undoubtedly the best in the world.”c
Well I guess that settle that then . . . not. Does Putin actually think he’s helping tRump or is he trying to undermine his chosen POTUS? Who knows? Can anyone recall a foreign dictator defending an U.S. president-elect before?
Putin may be defending tRump, but he has already rejected the president-elect’s offer to remove sanctions on Russia in return for reductions in their nuclear arsenal. Radio Free Europe reports:
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters at the United Nations in New York on January 16 that Moscow was willing to talk to the United States about nuclear disarmament, but it was not going to discuss arms control as part of a deal to lift sanctions.
“Sanctions are not a subject for dialogue,” Ryabkov said. “We have never discussed any criteria for the listing of sanctions and are not doing it now. All these sanctions were introduced under contrived and illegitimate pretexts.”
Ryabkov said Russia was open to discussion on the subject of curbing nuclear arms, but stressed that Moscow would not make concessions on arms in exchange for the United States lifting sanctions.
“Without dialogue nothing will happen at all, but it would be too naive to think Moscow would change its [defense posture] for that or other reasons,” Ryabkov said.
Meanwhile back in the USA, tRump appears to be the least popular president-elect in history, according to two new polls.
Donald Trump will become president Friday with an approval rating of just 40%, according to a new CNN/ORC Poll, the lowest of any recent president and 44 points below that of President Barack Obama, the 44th president.
Following a tumultuous transition period, approval ratings for Trump’s handling of the transition are more than 20 points below those for any of his three most recent predecessors. Obama took the oath in 2009 with an 84% approval rating, 67% approved of Clinton’s transition as of late December 1992 and 61% approved of George W. Bush’s transition just before he took office in January 2001.
Trump’s wobbly handling of the presidential transition has left most Americans with growing doubts that the President-elect will be able to handle the job. About 53% say Trump’s statements and actions since Election Day have made them less confident in his ability to handle the presidency, and the public is split evenly on whether Trump will be a good or poor president (48% on each side).
The President-elect dismissed the poll findings on Twitter: “The same people who did the phony election polls, and were so wrong, are now doing approval rating polls. They are rigged just like before.”
The Washington Post: Here’s just how brutal Donald Trump’s pre-inauguration poll numbers are, in context.
Donald Trump will take the oath of office as the most unpopular president in at least four decades, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Just 40 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Trump right now. A majority — 54 percent — have an unfavorable one.
And that probably undersells just how historically unpopular our new president is right now. The only reason we can’t go back further than four decades is because we simply don’t have the data; polls weren’t as plentiful back then.
The data we do have suggest most every non-Trump president experienced an outpouring of goodwill in the two months between their election and their swearing in. Trump just hasn’t gotten it.
The pre-inauguration favorable numbers for the six presidents to come before him, in fact, were all significantly higher than their share of the popular vote. For Obama, it was 26 points higher (79 percent favorable versus 53 percent of the vote). Every other recent president except Ronald Reagan was at least double-digits higher — as much as 28 points for Jimmy Carter. (Reagan’s was 7 points higher.)
The favorable rating for Trump, meanwhile, is actually six points below his vote share (46 percent).
More results from the poll at the WaPo link above.
The New York Daily News reports that scalpers are losing money on Inauguration tickets.
Donald Trump will take office as one of the most unpopular President-elects in recent history — and even scalpers may feel the pain.
Some flippers, who acquired tickets to Trump’s inauguration with the intent of reselling them on the secondary market, are striking out in their efforts to peddle them and are now looking at some relatively “yuge” losses.
Yossi Rosenberg, 36, of upper Manhattan, told the Daily News he bought a pair of tickets to Friday’s Washington, D.C. event from a woman in Westchester County for $700, thinking he could flip them for at least twice as much.
“Nobody wants to buy them,” Rosenberg told The News. “It looks like I’m stuck with them, I might even have to go.”
As tRump would say, “Sad.”
It’s difficult to see how tRump’s attacks on John Lewis could be helping him. Petula Dvorak at The Washington Post: Where was Donald Trump when John Lewis was fighting for civil rights? Let’s compare.
We can start in 1960, when Trump was 14 and Lewis was 20. They both clearly showed their leadership potential early.
At New York Military Academy in Cornwall, N.Y., Donald Trump won a “neatness and order medal.”
That same year, John Lewis became one of the original 13 Freedom Riders, defying laws that prohibited blacks and whites from sitting next to each other on public transportation.
Three years later in 1963, man-of-action Trump led his private school’s white-gloved drill team in the Columbus Day parade in New York. But he was also removed from that drill team command, classmates said, because he hazed younger students.
That same year, Lewis helped organize the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and spoke alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
In 1965, Trump got his second Vietnam draft deferment as a Fordham University student.
In 1965, on a day that became known as Bloody Sunday, Lewis helped lead 600 marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. When the marchers stopped to pray, they were tear-gassed and beaten by troopers. Lewis’s skull was fractured.
In 1973, Trump’s actions got him sued by the Department of Justice. He was managing his dad’s properties and wouldn’t rent apartments to African Americans. The Trumps eventually settled the lawsuit without any admission of wrongdoing.
That same year, John Lewis was running the Voter Education Project, which pushed to register minority voters across the country.
Trump owned the ’80s, right? His actions that decade?
In 1981, Trump bought a 14-story building facing New York City’s Central Park and began a campaign to drive out the rent-stabilized tenants so he could begin gutting and renovating the building. According to lawsuits, Trump cut heat and water to the remaining tenants.
In 1981, John Lewis was elected to the Atlanta City Council.
In 1987, Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal,” became a bestseller. Action? He didn’t even write it; talk about talk talk talk. And his ghostwriter, Tony Schwartz, now regrets the picture he painted of Trump in that book.
In 1987, Lewis was elected to Congress.
The truth is that tRump likely had no idea who John Lewis was; and after someone told him he still didn’t feel any shame. Psychopaths don’t feel shame like normal people do.
At The National Memo, Froma Harrop has some good advice for the media: treat him like a toddler. Too bad they probably won’t listen.
Dog trainers have long advised owners against reacting to their pets’ attention-seeking antics — the barking, jumping and pushiness.
“Dog owners often inadvertently reinforce (reward) these behaviors by interacting with the dog,” writes veterinary behaviorist Lisa Radosta. “Any attention can be regarded as a reward, even yelling.”Similar advice is doled to parents of whining, tantrum-throwing toddlers. Many in the media could use it, as well. All that sputtering over Donald Trump’s personal taunts and stupid tweets is exactly what the president-elect seeks. Turn away. Turn away.
If Trump won’t take questions from serious journalists at a news conference, it’s not a news conference. Reporters are merely playing “straight man” on a reality TV show — complete with paid hecklers and promotions for Trump properties. They don’t have to be there.
Their job is to cover what Trump does, which includes his appointments and ties to foreign adversaries. If Trump publicly insults U.S. or foreign leaders, that’s still news. If he insults newspeople, so what?
Unfortunately, most in the “thin skinned” media will probably be more upset by his attacks on them than by his policies.
What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a great Tuesday!
It looks like one thing we won’t have many of in the tRump era is slow news days. We are on the brink of something big–much bigger than Watergate, Iran-Contra, or any other scandal in my lifetime at least. We must brace ourselves to stand firm in the face of autocracy and the threat of actual tyranny. Watergate began slowly until the dam broke and it began escalating rapidly. This isn’t even starting that slowly.
Already we can see that tRump is planning some kind of real takeover–he’s already signaled a purge of the diplomatic corps, the state department, and the energy department. He has even ordered the commander of the DC National Guard to step down in the middle of the inauguration.
The Army general who heads the D.C. National Guard and has an integral part in overseeing the inauguration said Friday that he will be removed from command effective at 12:01 p.m. Jan. 20, just as Donald Trump is sworn in as president.
Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz’s departure will come in the middle of the presidential ceremony — classified as a national special security event — and while thousands of his troops are deployed to help protect the nation’s capital during an inauguration he has spent months helping to plan.
“The timing is extremely unusual,” Schwartz said in an interview Friday morning, confirming a memo announcing his ouster that was obtained by The Washington Post. During the inauguration, Schwartz will command not only members of the D.C. Guard but also 5,000 unarmed troops dispatched from across the country to help. He also will oversee military air support protecting Washington during the inauguration….
A person close to the transition said transition officials wanted to keep Schwartz in the job for continuity, but the Army pushed to replace him.
Schwartz, who was appointed to head the Guard by President George W. Bush in 2008, maintained the position through President Obama’s two terms. He said his orders came from the Pentagon in the form of an email that names his interim successor, a brigadier general, who takes over at 12:01 p.m. next Friday.
I don’t know if the fact that Schwartz is African American had any role in this decision, but the question must be asked.
And then there is James Comey. Has this man been compromised by tRump, his fear of the New York FBI office, the Russians, or all three? As Scott Lemieux of Lawyers, Guns and Money wrote yesterday, it’s way past time for Obama to fire Comey for cause.
James Comey, who threw the election to Donald Trump by repeatedly violating norms and regulations to falsely imply that Hillary Clinton was a crook, refuses to be candid about the FBI’s investigation Trump’s relationship with the Russians even in private:
Embattled FBI director James Comey has refused to clarify whether his organization is investigating Donald Trump’s ties to Russia in a closed briefing on Friday for members of Congress, angering legislators who recall his high-profile interjections about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign, the Guardian has learned.
Comey’s lack of candor in a classified setting, intended to brief members on the intelligence agencies’ assessment that Russia interfered in the election to benefit Trump, follows a public rebuff this week to senators seeking clarification.
In that earlier hearing, Comey said he would “never comment” on a potential FBI investigation “in an open forum like this”, raising expectations among some attendees of Friday’s briefing that Comey would put the issue to rest in a classified setting.
But according to sources attending the closed-door Friday morning meeting, that was not the case. As such, frustration with Comey was bipartisan and heated, adding to intense pressure on the director of the FBI, whose conduct in the 2016 election itself is now being investigated by an independent US justice department watchdog.
Even in post-parody America, this is astounding conduct.
After yesterday’s closed door hearing with intelligence officials, House Democrats stormed out, visibly enraged.
The Hill: Wasserman Schultz confronted Comey about Russian hacking.
The former head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) confronted FBI Director James Comey on Friday during a confidential briefing on Russian hacking that left many Democrats calling for Comey’s scalp, several lawmakers told The Hill.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who was forced to resign last summer as head of the DNC amid the hacking scandal, told Comey that he should have come to her directly once the FBI was aware of the breach, just as he had done with other hacking victims….
“You let us down!” one Democrat yelled to Comey during the tense exchange, according to one attendee.
Another Democrat described the scene: “Essentially Debbie asked, how was it that the FBI knew that the DNC was being hacked and they didn’t tell her? He gave some bulls–t explanation, ‘That’s our standard, we called this one, we called that one’ — [she said] ‘Well, why didn’t you call me?’ ”
Recall that the only notification the FBI gave the DNC was a phone call from an agent to an IT guy who didn’t know whether the call was legitimate or a prank.
Yesterday, we also learned that top tRump aide Gen. Michael Flynn has been in in “frequent contact” with the Russian ambassador. The AP reports:
WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump’s national security adviser and Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. have been in frequent contact in recent weeks, including on the day the Obama administration hit Moscow with sanctions in retaliation for election-related hacking, a senior U.S. official said Friday.
After initially denying that Michael Flynn and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak spoke Dec. 29, a Trump official said late Friday that the transition team was aware of one call on the day President Barack Obama imposed sanctions.
It’s not unusual for incoming administrations to have discussions with foreign governments before taking office. But repeated contacts just as Obama imposed sanctions would raise questions about whether Trump’s team discussed — or even helped shape — Russia’s response.
Russian President Vladimir Putin unexpectedly did not retaliate against the U.S. for the move, a decision Trump quickly praised.
More broadly, Flynn’s contact with the Russian ambassador suggests the incoming administration has already begun to lay the groundwork for its promised closer relationship with Moscow. That effort appears to be moving ahead, even as many in Washington, including Republicans, have expressed outrage over intelligence officials’ assessment that Putin launched a hacking operation aimed at meddling in the U.S. election to benefit Trump.
In an interview published Friday evening by The Wall Street Journal, Trump said he might do away with Obama’s sanctions if Russia works with the U.S. on battling terrorists and achieving other goals.
“If Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions?” he asked.
In the same interview, tRump said he is not “committed to the One China policy,” according to NBC news this morning.
A couple of updates on the James Bond-like spy who gathered information on the likelihood that tRump has been compromised by the Russian government:
David Corn at Mother Jones: The Spy Who Wrote the Trump-Russia Memos: It Was “Hair-Raising” Stuff.
Last fall, a week before the election, I broke the story that a former Western counterintelligence official had sent memos to the FBI with troubling allegations related to Donald Trump. The memos noted that this spy’s sources had provided him with information indicating that Russian intelligence had mounted a yearslong operation to co-opt or cultivate Trump and had gathered secret compromising material on Trump. They also alleged that Trump and his inner circle had accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin. These memos caused a media and political firestorm this week when CNN reported that President Barack Obama and Trump had been told about their existence, as part of briefings on the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia hacked political targets during the 2016 campaign to help Trump become president. For my story in October, I spoke with the former spy who wrote these memos, under the condition that I not name him or reveal his nationality or the spy service where he had worked for nearly two decades, mostly on Russian matters.“Someone like me stays in the shadows,” the former spy said.
The former spy told me that he had been retained in early June by a private research firm in the United States to look into Trump’s activity in Europe and Russia. “It started off as a fairly general inquiry,” he recalled. One question for him, he said, was, “Are there business ties in Russia?” The American firm was conducting a Trump opposition research project that was first financed by a Republican source until the funding switched to a Democratic one. The former spy said he was never told the identity of the client.
The former intelligence official went to work and contacted his network of sources in Russia and elsewhere. He soon received what he called “hair-raising” information. His sources told him, he said, that Trump had been “sexually compromised” by Russian intelligence in 2013 (when Trump was in Moscow for the Miss Universe contest) or earlier and that there was an “established exchange of information between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin of mutual benefit.” He noted he was “shocked” by these allegations. By the end of June, he was sending reports of what he was finding to the American firm.
The former spy said he soon decided the information he was receiving was “sufficiently serious” for him to forward it to contacts he had at the FBI. He did this, he said, without permission from the American firm that had hired him. “This was an extraordinary situation,” he remarked.
The response to the information from the FBI, he recalled, was “shock and horror.” After a few weeks, the bureau asked him for information on his sources and their reliability and on how he had obtained his reports. He was also asked to continue to send copies of his subsequent reports to the bureau. These reports were not written, he noted, as finished work products; they were updates on what he was learning from his various sources. But he said, “My track record as a professional is second to no one.”
Read the rest at the link.
Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent who investigated Donald Trump’s alleged Kremlin links, was so worried by what he was discovering that at the end he was working without pay, The Independent has learned.
Mr Steele also decided to pass on information to both British and American intelligence officials after concluding that such material should not just be in the hands of political opponents of Mr Trump, who had hired his services, but was a matter of national security for both countries.
However, say security sources, Mr Steele became increasingly frustrated that the FBI was failing to take action on the intelligence from others as well as him. He came to believe there was a cover-up, that a cabal within the Bureau blocked a thorough inquiry into Mr Trump, focusing instead on the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.
It is believed that a colleague of Mr Steele in Washington, Glenn Simpson, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who runs the firm Fusion GPS, felt the same way and, at the end also continued with the Trump case without being paid.
WTF was Comey doing? Was he trying to hold off long enough to find another excuse to hurt Hillary Clinton’s chances and get tRump elected? Comey has to go!
That’s all I have for you this morning, but there is plenty more going on. Please post your own links along with your comments in the thread below.
Where to begin? Each day since the 2016 election brings with it more insanity, more chaos, more despair. What are we to do with a president-elect who is utterly unqualified for the office as well as shockingly dishonest and seemingly mentally incompetent? We are headed into dangerous waters in a ship with no captain.
Yesterday Donald Trump held his first press conference since last July, and it was a doozy. Dan Balz at The Washington Post: After an aggressive news conference, questions linger about Trump’s readiness.
President-elect Donald Trump’s first news conference in six months was a vintage performance. He was self-assured, aggressive, combative, at times willing to offend and at times trying to sound conciliatory. What it added up to was a reminder of the challenges he will face in gaining and maintaining full public trust once he is sworn in as president.
No president in memory has come to the brink of his inauguration with such a smorgasbord of potential problems and unanswered questions, or with the level of public doubts that exist around his leadership. Though he dealt with the issues directly on Wednesday, what he could not answer — what he cannot answer until he is in the Oval Office — is whether he can avoid having these kinds of questions plague and possibly debilitate his presidency over the next four years.
Trump and his advisers have dismissed much of the pre-inaugural controversy as part of an effort to delegitimize his election victory and undermine his presidency even before he takes office. Still, the questions swirling around him as he came to the lobby of Trump Tower were an unprecedented mixture of the personal, the financial and the substantive.
Has he been compromised by the Russians, the most explosive and newest of allegations? (He denied all as fake news.) Are he and his party in conflict over U.S.-Russia relations? Will he truly separate himself from his sprawling business empire in a way that avoids conflicts of interest? Can he and Congress find common ground on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act? Will he live up to the promises he made as a candidate?
The news conference put on display everything the country has come to recognize in Trump from the presidential campaign….Right from the start, he swung back hard against salacious and unsubstantiated claims of personal misbehavior contained in a document prepared by a former Western intelligence officer and now in the hands of the federal government. He aggressively chastised BuzzFeed for publishing the entire document online and CNN for promoting the story about its existence (though CNN did not publish the document).
BTW, Trump referred to Buzzfeed as a “failing pile of garbage.” The site is now selling T-shirts and limited edition trash cans bearing Trump’s words.
One of the stranger moments in Wednesday’s deeply strange Donald Trump press conference came when the president-elect got into a shouting match with CNN’s Jim Acosta, who was trying to ask him a question.
Earlier in the presser — his first one since July — Trump had attacked CNN for disseminating “fake news” because it broke the story that both the sitting president and the president-elect had been briefed on allegations that Russia has “compromising personal and financial information” regarding Trump.
“Since you’re attacking us, can you give us a question?” Acosta asked during a Q&A portion of the presser. Trump replied, “Not you, not you, your organization is terrible.”
“I am not going to give you a question,” the president-elect said. “You are fake news.” ….
Shortly after he successfully shouted down Acosta, Trump took a question from Breitbart News — a website closely associated with the white nationalist “alt-right,” and an avid promulgator of misleading or inaccurate information that supports hard-right beliefs. Trump’s top adviser, Steve Bannon, is the former chairman of Breitbart.
I have to assume there won’t be many more press conferences from this thin-skinned wannabe dictator.
Quite a few reporters who gloatingly published unverified hacked emails from the DNC and John Podesta condemned Buzzfeed for publishing the salacious dossier of supposedly compromising information the Russians may have on Trump. But the prestigious Columbia Journalism Review disagrees: BuzzFeed was right to publish Trump-Russia files.
EARLY TUESDAY EVENING, spurred by a CNN story, BuzzFeed published a 35-page dossier on Donald Trump’s alleged long-term relationship with Russia. The documents contain references to compromising information the Russians purportedly gathered about the president-elect and accusations that Trump’s campaign was in regular contact with Russian officials. Within hours, The Guardian,The Washington Post, and The New York Times, among many others, slammed the digital powerhouse for its decision, while pointing out that they, too, had seen the documents but declined to make them public.
BuzzFeed explained that it was publishing the dossier “so that Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the US government.” But the Post’s Erik Wemple countered that “Americans can only ‘make up their own minds’ if they build their own intelligence agencies, with a heavy concentration of operatives in Russia and Eastern Europe.” The Guardian, meanwhile, complained that BuzzFeed’s “decision…forced other media outlets to repeat the allegations or ignore a story that lit up the internet.” That writer was quick to note that his paper, too, “had obtained and reviewed the documents in recent weeks but declined to publish because there was no way to independently verify them.”
The media’s full-throated condemnation of BuzzFeed is both self-righteous and self-serving. BuzzFeed noted up front that the documents contained “explosive—but unverified—information,” and Editor in Chief Ben Smith convincingly defended the decision in a staff memo, arguing that the dossier was being read and talked about “at the highest levels of American government and media. It seems to lie behind a set of vague allegations from the Senate Majority [sic] Leader to the director of the FBI and a report that intelligence agencies have delivered to the president and president-elect.”
I think that was supposed to be a reference to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s letter to James Comey in October. CJR argued that Buzzfeed has now made itself a strong candidate to receive future leaks.
Meanwhile, BBC News reporter Paul Wood says there is more than one source claiming Russia has compromising information on Trump. BBC News: Trump ‘compromising’ claims: How and why did we get here?
I understand the CIA believes it is credible that the Kremlin has such kompromat – or compromising material – on the next US commander in chief. At the same time a joint taskforce, which includes the CIA and the FBI, has been investigating allegations that the Russians may have sent money to Mr Trump’s organisation or his election campaign.
Claims about a Russian blackmail tape were made in one of a series of reports written by a former British intelligence agent, understood to be Christopher Steele.
As a member of MI6, he had been posted to the UK’s embassy in Moscow and now runs a consultancy giving advice on doing business in Russia. He spoke to a number of his old contacts in the FSB, the successor to the KGB, paying some of them for information.
They told him that Mr Trump had been filmed with a group of prostitutes in the presidential suite of Moscow’s Ritz-Carlton hotel. I know this because the Washington political research company that commissioned his report showed it to me during the final week of the election campaign….
And the former MI6 agent is not the only source for the claim about Russian kompromat on the president-elect. Back in August, a retired spy told me he had been informed of its existence by “the head of an East European intelligence agency”.
Later, I used an intermediary to pass some questions to active duty CIA officers dealing with the case file – they would not speak to me directly. I got a message back that there was “more than one tape”, “audio and video”, on “more than one date”, in “more than one place” – in the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow and also in St Petersburg – and that the material was “of a sexual nature”.
Read the rest at the link.
The other news from the press conference was Trump’s ludicrous plan to deal with his massive conflicts of interest. A good start would be to release his tax returns, but he reiterated yesterday that he’s not going to do that. Instead he had his lawyer make a bizarre presentation that did nothing to deal with the problem.
For this I’m going to turn to Deadspin, a sports website that seemingly is not as fearful of the incoming tin-pot dictator and some mainstream outlets: This Is Why You Don’t Kiss The Ring, by Hamilton Nolan.
Today we saw a “press conference” by our incoming president at which he put forth a farcical plan to allow his own sons to continue running his vast business empire while he is president, and spoke at length about his belief that as president it is impossible for him to have meaningful conflicts of interest, which is why he felt comfortable presenting his decision to turn down a $2 billion business deal with a Middle Eastern real estate mogul as something noble, rather than as an obvious decision that would be made as a matter of course under a normal presidential administration. He dismissed serious reporting that reflected poorly on him as “fake news,” and promised to retaliate against news outlets that displeased him. These things are not normal. These things are not okay. These are actions that flout well-established ethical and civil norms. Admittedly, there is something thrilling about watching him do this. What will he do next? It always keeps us tuning in, in the same way that a violent alcoholic father will always keep his children on his toes. But we should not fool ourselves about what is happening in front of our eyes. We are all coming to realize that our civil society institutions may not be strong enough to protect the flawed but fundamentally solid democracy that we thought we had. We are witnessing the rise to power of a leader who does not care about norms. Since these norms were created to prevent political, social, economic, and cultural disasters, we do not need to wonder how this will end. It will end poorly.
Please go read the whole thing.
I’ve barely scratched the surface of today’s news, but I’m out of space and I’m still very tired from moving. I’ll leave it to you to post your own links in the comment thread below.
It’s just under two weeks until President Obama steps down and the Kremlin controls our government. Congressional Republicans are salivating–dreaming of taking away health care from millions of people and finally destroying Medicare and Social Security. They just can’t wait to destroy everything President Obama has accomplished, crash the economy again, and destroy as many jobs as they possibly can–all while claiming they are doing good work.
The New York Times: Erasing Obama, by Timothy Egan.
And Obama? He bequeaths the incoming president “the longest economic expansion and monthly job creation in history,” as my colleague Andrew Ross Sorkin noted. Trump, the pumpkin-haired rooster taking credit for the dawn, has already tried to seize a bit of that achievement as his own. Thanks, Obama. But he’s also likely to screw it up, perhaps by a trade war, or a budget-busting tax cut.
Already, Trump has flirted with treason, flouted conflict-of-interest rules, bullied dissidents and blown off the advice of seasoned public servants. He has yet to hold a news conference since winning the election. And did another day just pass without a word of the promise to “reveal things that other people don’t know” about Russian interference with our election? Maybe he’s waiting for more whispers in his ear from the Kremlin
n advance of his farewell adIdress next week, the president has tried to Trump-proof a climate pact that commits the world’s second leading producer of earth-warming pollutants — the United States — to making this little orb of ours a less perilous place for Sasha’s and Malia’s and Ivanka’s kids. Trump has promised to go rogue on the planet, as quickly as he can.
Until Day 1, Trump is just a 70-year-old man with a twitchy Twitter account. But on Jan. 20, he becomes what Grover Norquist wished for in a pliantly conservative president: “A Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen.”
With that pen, the new president can take health care from 20 million Americans, free Wall Street to once again wildly speculate and smash things up for the rest of us, and require schools to let people carry guns into classrooms — all campaign promises.
Please read the whole thing at the NYT.
Fortunately, the intelligence community has stated conclusively that Vladimir Putin ordered his cyberspies to interfere with the election. At this point, tRump can only be seen as an illegitimate POTUS. Unfortunately, tRump is threatening to neuter the intelligence community. He doesn’t need their help, because he gets his orders from Russia. If you think I’m just joking, look what intelligence expert Malcolm Nance had to say about it.
If that doesn’t scare every sane American, nothing will.
Nance published a book months ago about the Russian attack on our democracy, and it’s very similar to the report the intelligence community just issued. It’s fascinating reading, with lots of historical background on Russia’s spying activities.
This is from an ad at Yahoo News, but it’s a good summary of the book: Malcolm Nance, US intelligence expert, delivered Russian hacking details months before the CIA’s report.
In The Plot to Hack America, published one month before the election, New York Times bestselling author and MSNBC contributor Malcolm Nance not only identifies the hackers as Russian but digs deep into the biggest political scandal since Watergate.
In April of 2016, computer technicians at the Democratic National Committee discovered that someone had accessed the organization’s computer servers. In the days and weeks that followed, they learned that the cyberthieves had helped themselves to everything: sensitive documents, emails, donor information, even voicemails. Nance’s investigations led him to none other than Russia’s spy service. Their method: A new hybrid cyber warfare called Kompromat.
In The Plot to Hack America, we learn how technicians discovered that Russia’s spy agency was responsible for the hack, how the Russians have devastated individuals, political groups, and entire nations with their cybercrimes, and how they may have cultivated Donald Trump as an unwitting “asset” to facilitate their ultimate foreign policy goals: disband NATO, dominate Eastern Europe, and replace America as the world’s superpower.
But why would Vladimir Putin want to tip the scales of an American election? Nance follows the fascinating real-life spy story through a labyrinth of cyber espionage, the history of Russia’s spy services, and Vladimir Putin’s rise through the KGB from junior officer to spy-in-chief. And he details Donald Trump’s many disturbing personal associations with Putin and Russia’s oligarchy, as well as Trump’s loose affiliation of advisors nicknamed “the Kremlin Crew.”
The Plot to Hack America reads like a spy thriller, but it’s all too real.
I highly recommend it.
Fortunately, the intelligence community has stated conclusively that Vladimir Putin ordered his cyberspies to interfere with the election. Unfortunately tRump is threatening to neuter the intelligence community. He doesn’t need their help, because he gets his orders from Russia. If you think I’m just joking, look what intelligence expert Malcolm Nance had to say about it.
Now check this out from WaPo conservative columnist Kathleen Parker: If Obama is a Muslim, is Trump a Russian spy?
No, I don’t really think he’s a spy because, unlike the man himself, I’m not given to crazy ideas. But what’s with this double standard? Under similar circumstances, how long do you think it would have taken for Obama to be called a traitor for defending a country that tried to thwart our democratic electoral process?
How surreal to realize that the man who soon will become president was long committed to a rumor soaked in paranoia and propagated by conspiracy theorists whose pursuit of truth stops at the point where facts and willful ignorance collide.
How perfectly terrifying.
And now? What is so obviously a conspiracy of Russian leadership, hackers and spies, Trump has repeatedly dismissed as lousy intelligence. Why would he do such a thing? Is it that he’s so thin-skinned he can’t tolerate anyone thinking that he might have benefited from the cyberattack? Or is it that he knew about it in advance and doesn’t want to be found out? This is how conspiracy theories get started. Then again, sometimes a conspiracy is just a conspiracy — and a fool is just a fool.
Actually, there’s little doubt that tRump is at least an unwitting tool of Putin; and if you look at his top advisers and cabinet choices, it seems quite likely that there was collusion between Russian spies and the tRump campaign.
David Remnick: Trump, Putin and the Big Hack.
Vyacheslav Molotov, Stalin’s foreign minister, once remarked while on a trip to Berlin in the early days of the Cold War, “The trouble with free elections is that you never know how they will turn out.”
On the morning of November 9th, Molotov’s grandson, Vyacheslav Nikonov, a member of the Russian Duma’s foreign-affairs committee, announced to the parliament, “Three minutes ago, Hillary Clinton conceded defeat in the American Presidential elections. And just this second Donald Trump began his speech as President-elect.” The Duma members cheered and applauded.
In the days to come, there were more declarations of acid satisfaction among the Russian élite. Dmitri Kiselyov, the host of “News of the Week,” a popular current-affairs show on state-controlled television, gloated over Trump’s victory and Barack Obama’s inability to prevent it. Obama, he said, was a “eunuch.” Trump was an “alpha male”—and one who showed mercy to his vanquished rival. “Trump could have put the blonde in prison, as he’d threatened in the televised debates,” Kiselyov said on his show. “On the other hand, it’s nothing new. Trump has left blond women satisfied all his life.” Kiselyov further praised Trump because the concepts of democracy and human rights “are not in his lexicon.” In India, Turkey, Europe, and now the United States, he declared, “the liberal idea is in ruins.”
Vladimir Putin did not showboat, but he, too, made his satisfaction plain. His spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, told reporters that the similarity between Trump and Putin’s “conceptual approach to foreign policy” was “phenomenal.” Trump’s victory was the basis for Russia’s “moderate optimism”; now both sides could discuss how “to clear out the Augean stables in our bilateral relations.”
All of this is all the more alarming to recall now, in the light of the latest news: according to U.S. intelligence reports, Putin “ordered an influence campaign” to undermine Clinton and work with “a clear preference” to enhance Trump’s prospects.
Read the rest at The New Yorker.
WHEN I wrote in August 2016, in this newspaper, that Donald J. Trump’s character traits posed a national security threat, I didn’t imagine that the first manifestation of that dynamic could play out with the very organization where I spent the first 33 years of my career, the Central Intelligence Agency.
President-elect Trump’s public rejection of the C.I.A., and by extension the rest of the country’s intelligence community, over the assessment that Russia interfered in our presidential election is not only an unprecedented political challenge for our national security establishment — it is a danger to the nation.
While Mr. Trump’s statement on Friday that he had a constructive meeting with senior intelligence officials on the Russian hacking issue was a step in the right direction, his disparagement of American intelligence officers over the last few months is likely to cause significant damage to the C.I.A.
Mr. Trump has questioned the agency’s competence — repeatedly asking, often via Twitter, how we can trust the organization that incorrectly judged that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (criticism that, in my mind, is unfair for an agency that has changed dramatically in the last 15 years). But he has also accused the agency of being biased and political, implying, in comments to The Times, that the C.I.A. manufactured its Russia analysis to undercut him. Mr. Trump, in essence, said that the agency’s officers were dishonorable. To the men and women of the C.I.A., sworn to protect the nation, this was a gut punch.
Mr. Trump’s behavior will weaken the agency, an organization that has never been more relevant to our nation’s security. The key national security issues of the day — terrorism; proliferation; cyberespionage, crime and war; and the challenges to the global order posed by Russia, Iran and China — all require first-rate intelligence for a commander in chief to understand them, settle on a policy and carry it out.
Please read the whole thing if you haven’t already.
More News, Links Only
Joe Conason: Investigate The Hackers — And Ignore Trump’s Chaff.
Washington Post: Hill Republicans embrace building of border wall, despite cost.
New York Times: Jared Kushner, a Trump In-Law and Adviser, Chases a Chinese Deal.
Now I have to get back to packing for my move. Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers!
This morning John McCain is holding a hearing on foreign cyberwarfare in the Armed Forces Committee. I’ve been listening to it on C-Span here. Claire McCaskill just asked James Clapper about the effect on the intelligence community of Donald Trump’s “trashing” them and “putting Julian Assange on a pedestal.”
Investigating the Russian Cyberattacks
The New York Times reports: Russia Looms Large as Senate Committee Is Set to Discuss Hacking.
Who are the key players?
Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, the committee’s chairman, has made no secret of his belief that Russia was responsible for the election-related hacking, and his recent travels will not have eased his concerns about Russian aggression. He just returned from a New Year’s tour of countries that see themselves as threatened by Russia: Ukraine, Georgia and the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the ranking Democrat, also has taken a strong public stand in support of the intelligence agencies’ finding of Russian government interference….
The group will hear testimony from James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence; Marcel Lettre, the under secretary of defense for intelligence; and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, a leader of the National Security Agency and United States Cyber Command….
Who is the intended audience?
He has a tower in Manhattan.
Most Republicans have avoided attacking Mr. Trump directly over his comments — even as he defended the credibility of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, at the expense of the intelligence agencies. But the hearing will offer a potent showcase for the agencies to defend their work.
They are likely to face little hostile questioning from lawmakers.
“The point of this hearing is to have the intelligence community reinforce from their point of view that the Russians did this,” Mr. Graham said on Wednesday.
Let’s hope this will not be the last such hearing in Congress.
The Hill: Five things to watch for in Russia hearings.
Russia’s involvement in the U.S. presidential election will take center stage in Washington on Thursday with two separate hearings in the Senate — including one behind closed doors.
The Senate Armed Services Committee will hear from intelligence officials in public hearings in the morning, while the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will receive a classified briefing in the afternoon.
President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly rejected assertions from the intelligence community that Moscow attempted to influence the election by hacking the Democratic National Committee and the email account of John Podesta, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager.n a series of tweets this week, he accused intelligence officials of delaying a briefing until Friday in order to build a case against Russia — an allegation rejected by other officials. He also appeared to side with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who released emails believed to have been hacked by Russia. Trump noted that Assange has asserted that the emails did not come from Russia, while repeating that anyone could have hacked the DNC.
Trump’s comments have put Republicans in a tough spot, underlining the more friendly approach he has taken with Russia and the more critical approach with U.S. intelligence agencies.
It has provided an opening for Democrats who hope the story about Russia will shadow the beginning of Trump’s presidency, complicating his legislative agenda.
Read the five points at the link.
More news on the hacking scandal
U.S. intelligence agencies obtained what they considered to be conclusive evidence after the November election that Russia provided hacked material from the Democratic National Committee to WikiLeaks through a third party, three U.S. officials said on Wednesday.
U.S. officials had concluded months earlier that Russian intelligence agencies had directed the hacking, but had been less certain that they could prove Russia also had controlled the release of information damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
The timing of the additional intelligence is important because U.S. President Barack Obama has faced criticism from his own party over why it took his administration months to respond to the cyber attack. U.S. Senate and House leaders, including prominent Republicans, have also called for an inquiry.
At the same time, President-elect Donald Trump has questioned the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia tried to help his candidacy and hurt Clinton’s. Russia has denied the hacking allegations.
A U.S. intelligence report on theCN hacking was scheduled to be presented to Obama on Thursday and to Trump on Friday, though its contents were still under discussion on Wednesday, officials said.
CNN: Tim Kaine: Why is Trump Putin’s ‘defense lawyer’?
Sen. Tim Kaine on Thursday criticized President-elect Donald Trump, alleging he is acting like Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “defense lawyer” and calling Trump’s conduct “suspicious.”
“Why does President-elect Trump again and again and again take it upon himself to be Vladimir Putin’s defense lawyer rather than listening to and respecting the intelligence professionals of the United States,” Kaine told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on “New Day” in his first national interview since the 2016 presidential election.The former Democratic vice presidential nominee, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee which is hold a hearing on hacking Thursday, said that even if Trump believes Russia can be America’s ally in the fight against ISIS, he doesn’t have to “trash” American intelligence professionals in the process.“There is something very unusual — indeed, even sort of suspicious — about the degree to which he casually kicks aside the intelligence community when he won’t even go to the briefings again and again and takes the Assange/Vladimir Putin line on this important question” about whether Russian was behind the election-related hacks, Kaine said.California Rep. Adam Schiff, a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, said Republicans’ confidence in Assange over the intelligence community is “embarrassing.”
“You hear former colleagues like mine, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, tie themselves in knots, or my colleague (California Republican) Darrell Issa, saying they put more faith in an accused sex offender tan their own intelligence agencies,” the Democrat told Chris Cuomo on “New Day.”“It’s embarrassing to be honest with you,” he added. “This is not healthy skepticism as they would like to portray it. This is very unhealthy, essentially avoidance of the facts.”
The Washington Post Fact Checker: Julian Assange’s claim that there was no Russian involvement in WikiLeaks emails.
U.S. intelligence officials have formally accused the Russian government of interfering in the 2016 U.S. elections. One of the allegations of Russian involvement is that Russian hackers breached the Democratic National Committee’s network and provided tens of thousands of internal DNC emails to WikiLeaks.
CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity firm hired by the DNC, said in June 2016 that Russian hackers had breached the DNC network….
At least two independent cybersecurity firms have confirmed CrowdStrike’s findings that two Russian hacker groups had penetrated the DNC network. One group is believed to have actually stolen and distributed the emails.
While the independent analysts suspected that Guccifer 2.0 was linked to the Russian groups that hacked the DNC or were a part of a Russian government influence operation, they did not have hard evidence because the documents were posted anonymously. The FBI is still investigating ties between Russian hackers and the WikiLeaks emails.
Read much more at the link.
John Schindler at The New York Observer: Donald Trump’s Soft Spot for Russia Could Be His Political Undoing.
Three weeks ago, I counseled President-elect Donald Trump that going to war against the spies is never a good idea in Washington. Our Intelligence Community knows lots of things, not all of which would be flattering to someone whose retinue includes so many people with odd connections to the Kremlin. When spies get angry, they call reporters and arrange discreet chats in parking garages. The last president who entered the Oval Office with this much dislike and distrust of the IC was Richard Nixon—and we know how that worked out for him.
Trump has now outdone Nixon, upping his war on the spooks even before his inauguration, by making plain that he believes Moscow—not our country’s spies—regarding the issue of Russian interference in our election. As I’ve explained in detail, although there is no evidence that the Kremlin literally “hacked” our election in 2016, there’s a mountain of evidence that Vladimir Putin’s intelligence services stole Democratic emails then went public with them via Wikileaks to hurt Hillary Clinton.
However, the president-elect refuses to accept the consensus view of the IC, not to mention many outside experts who have confirmed their analysis. In response to President Obama’s recent public statement pointing a finger at the Kremlin for their misdeeds against our democracy, backed up by rather mild sanctions on Moscow, President-elect Trump has pursued his customary tactic of denying, doubling-down, then denying some more, regardless of any evidence proffered.
Trump and his mouthpieces continue to deny that Russians had any role in our 2016 election, which is a patent falsehood. Indeed, a few days ago, the president-elect promised to deliver revelations by the middle of this week about what happened with those Democratic emails, adding that he knew “things that other people don’t know” about the hacking. Here he apparently channeled O. J. Simpson, whose quest to find the “real killers” of his ex-wife and her friend remains unfulfilled, more than two decades later.
Trump’s promise was empty, and there is no new evidence to contradict the IC’s conclusion that Moscow stood behind the operation to politically harm Hillary Clinton and her party last year. Like his promise to reveal President Obama’s “real” birth certificate—which would show he was born in Kenya, or Mars, rather than Hawaii—this was no more than another cynical Trumpian publicity stunt.
The facts are in regarding the theft of Democratic emails, and the only people seriously disputing them are those in thrall to Vladimir Putin one way or another. (For an excellent quick primer on the evidence, this cannot be beat.) The promised “new evidence” seems to be no more than the latest lies proffered by Julian Assange in his most recent obsequious interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News. Here, Assange once again stated that Wikileaks, which he created a decade ago, didn’t get the Democrats’ emails from the Russians.
Read the rest at the link.
The Boston Globe: Enough of the tweets, China’s state media tells Trump.
Vanity Fair: After Trump, Will Twitter Wither?
Wall Street Journal: Donald Trump Plans Revamp of Top U.S. Spy Agency.