Monday Reads: Out with the Old or a Change is Gonna Come

Minnesota’s new Congresswoman Ilhan Omar

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I want to start off with the one change that is coming that will hopefully bring some fresh air to desperate circumstances.  There’s a whole lot of diversity coming to the House of Representatives and there’s a whole lot of trash being sent back to the states from which it came.  Let’s start with the Granny Starver who enabled a huge, historic deficit while preaching austerity.  Austerity is for grannies and not real estate and finance high rollers.  Bye Bye Paulie Boy!  Just remember: Proportion of Democrats who are white men will drop from 41% to 38% while Republican figure will climb from 86% to 90%”  These dudes will finally be the minority they are.

Change is gonna come.  I can see it in the bright pages of places hidden from corporate media.

Ryan’s defenders portray him as a principled legislator trapped by the coalition he managed.

“Donald Trump was president of the United States, and that circumscribed Paul Ryan’s choices,” says Brooks. “You can dispute what he did, but he got as much of the loaf as he thought he could get given the factions of his caucus and Trump’s peculiarities. Did he like being speaker of the House? The results speak for themselves: He’s leaving.”

In this telling, Ryan’s principled vision was foiled by Trump’s ascendancy. Faced with a Republican president he had never expected, and managing a restive majority that mostly agreed on being disagreeable, Ryan defaulted to the lowest common denominator of Republican Party policy: unpaid-for tax cuts for the rich, increases in defense spending, and failed attempts to repeal Obamacare.

This is more or less the defense Ryan has offered of his tenure. “I think some people would like me to start a civil war in our party and achieve nothing,” he told the New York Times. Trump had no appetite for cutting entitlements, so Ryan got what he could, and he got out.

But would it have started a civil war in the Republican Party if the most publicly anti-deficit politician of his generation had simply refused to pass laws that increased the deficit? And even if it had, isn’t that the war Ryan had promised?

The question here is not why Ryan didn’t live up to a liberal philosophy of government; it’s why he didn’t live up to his own philosophy of government.

What’s more, Trump was clearly flexible when it came to policy. On the campaign, Trump repeatedly promised he wouldn’t cut Medicaid; as president, he endorsed legislation Ryan wrote that did exactly that. After winning the election, Trump promised he’d replace Obamacare with a plan that offered “insurance for everybody” with “much lower deductibles,” but he ultimately backed Ryan’s bill to take Obamacare away from millions and push the system toward higher-deductible plans. For Ryan to claim he was not driving the policy agenda in the Trump years is ridiculous.

Ryan proved himself and his party to be exactly what the critics said: monomaniacally focused on taking health insurance from the poor, cutting taxes for the rich, and spending more on the Pentagon. And he proved that Republicans were willing to betray their promises and, in their embrace of Trump, violate basic decency to achieve those goals.

Rep.-elect Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.)

Just as we’re about to see the start of a promise of a legislative body that has the look and feel of America we see the media trying to push us right back into that old corner. Andrew O’Hehir asks a brilliant question today in Slate: “First wave of 2020 panic: Is Biden vs. Bernie really the best Democrats can do? After the sweeping, female-fueled victories of the midterms, a battle of old white dudes could spell disaster.”  Why won’t they just go away?

In case you thought the Democrats’ big win in the midterms — a pickup of 40 House seats, and counting — meant that the weirdness and bitterness of the 2016 primary was behind us, and that the party is ready to come together and banish the Twitter-troll-in-chief to the doghouse (or to prison) two years hence, you have a number of other thinks coming. Consider this: The leading contenders for the 2020 Democratic nomination, by far, are Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.

Speaking as a friend, kind of: That should be avoided at all costs. It’s a tragicomic farce waiting to happen, one that threatens to undermine much of what the Democrats have apparently accomplished over the last two years. Both of them are profoundly decent men who have done a lot for this country. But, just, please no.

But right now we’ve got Joe and Bernie, who both look extremely likely to run and could easily end up as the principal antagonists. What in hell did we do to deserve this? I take no position on which of them is most likely to win, or even which of them should win — as Bill Moyers told me years ago, those are always the least interesting questions in politics. I do know that this could be disastrous for the Democratic Party, and not just because it opens the door for the re-election of What’s His Name. (Although that too.)

A Sanders-Biden throwdown would rip the scabs off old wounds, inflame entrenched divisions and cast the party in the worst possible light, making clear on a bunch of levels that it doesn’t know who it represents or what principles it stands for. At a moment when Democrats finally seem to be moving toward the future, this would make them appear stuck in the past.

I suspect that many political pros in and around the party feel similarly, which is why they keep trying to construct alternate scenarios that will make this one go away. So we have had the Oprah Winfrey boomlet (do you remember it fondly?), the Kirsten Gillibrand ponder, the Michael Avenatti moment, the Michael Bloomberg trial balloon, the Elizabeth Warren mini-wave and most recently Betomania, in which a guy who lost a Senate race in Texas has abruptly been inflated into the latest liberal dreamboat messiah.

Maybe lover-man Beto or one of those other people I mentioned will be elected president two years from now, and we’ll all look back and say, Of course! We should have seen it coming. But also maybe not. At the moment, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are starting out amid a crowded field of unknowns and semi-knowns, with huge advantages in terms of name recognition, fundraising ability and being generally liked more than the incumbent. (Which is admittedly not difficult.)

I think those two face a version of the Prisoner’s Dilemma: It would be better for the country, arguably, if both of them concluded they’d had their shots and run their races and done their part, and it was time to let a scrum of younger Democrats fight it out, with unpredictable results. But if only one of them runs, he becomes the prohibitive favorite and a central focus of media attention — and each has concluded that he’ll be damned if he lets the other guy be the hero who un-Trumps America. So we lurch toward a battle of the dinosaurs that’s a bad idea to start with, and likely to get worse.

Rep.-elect Colin Allred, D-Texas., arrives for orientation for new members of Congress, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

I love the snark in this piece but really, do we have to do the least sensible thing to excite the country to the polls?  Haven’t we learned anything?

Politico covered some of the new Congress Critters right after Thanksgiving and I have a hankering to see something different heading off to Iowa and New Hampshire.  And, I want some action now before we face another presidential campaign season filled with MAGA Hatefests.  Can we just let these folks do something first?  And there’s a hell of a lot of them which begs the question why the focus on the new woman from NYC?  There’s plenty more that are headed east from other parts of the country.

Colin Allred: A former NFL linebacker and civil rights attorney, Allred knocked off GOP Rep. Pete Sessions, an entrenched North Texas incumbent. But Allred says there’s a lot more behind his congressional victory than just a flashy professional football résumé. “The impression that people have gotten, I think, around the country is that I was elected because I was a football player. And that’s not it,” he said. “Football is an icebreaker… but the other things that I’ve done and the story that I have growing up in North Texas is really what resonated.”

Allred told POLITICO his goal in Congress is to continue to be a moderate voice in the Democratic Caucus, even as he senses some liberal colleagues are trying to pull the group further to the left. “All of us who come from the red-to-blue districts, we are the closest to where the American people are,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure that our new members coming from safer districts and the members that are already there understand why we have the majority.”

Rep.-elect Sharice Davids, D-Mo., walks past members of the media after checking-in for orientation for new members of Congress, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

See, there’s some life in Democrats from all over the country. Why focus on the old white dudes from Maryland and Vermont and the outspoken lady from Queens Rep-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez  who reminds my republican friends of a Democratic Sarah Palin which is not a really good thing?  I mean my cousins from Kansas City sent a nice Lesbian Native American Rep-elect Sharice Davids. Can’t we all do better?

Davids will be part of a record number of women and a historic number of female candidates of color elected to Congress. “The time for people to not be heard and not be seen and not be listened to or represented well changes now,” she saidon election night.

So far we see some movement from other Dems, but today’s headlines focused on Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has the core of her 2020 team in place if she runs for president. She has the seed money — there’s $12.5 million ready to go, left over from her recent Senate run — and a massive email list she’s amassed over years, boosted by a $3.3 million investment in digital infrastructure and advertising in the last election alone. Her aides have been quietly shopping for presidential campaign headquarters space in the Boston area in recent weeks, according to a source with knowledge of the move.

All that’s left is for her to give the green light.

I’m not sure she’s got what it takes either but again, why not focus what these folks that are coming in can do now?  Politico has named “19 to watch” in 2019.

NEW … THE PLAYBOOK POWER LIST — “19 TO WATCH IN 2019” is up. This list features politicians, activists and operatives across the country who are positioned to play a critical role in the political landscape leading up to 2020. From the new generation reshaping the Democratic Party to the behind-the-scenes players who keep Congress moving and those with their eyes on the presidential election, these are the people to watch over the next 12 months. The full list

THE LIST (in alphabetical order): Jarrod Agen … Aimee Allison … Anne Caprara … Saikat Chakrabarti  Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) … Justin Clark … Gary Coby … Michael Dreeben  Lauren Fine  Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.)  Lisa Goeas  Drew Hammill  Patti Harris … Tish James  Brendon Plack  Angela Ramirez  Juan Rodriguez … Rep.-elect Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.)  Rep.-elect Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.)

But what’s the agenda? Julie Wittes Schlack from NBUR believes the focus should be on legislation.

In contrast to the early and deep partisan divide in the country over health care, there is already a good deal of public agreement over some of the most crucial challenges facing us. A majority of Americans across political parties think that big money has too big an influence in government, and wants to see both greater transparency and constraints on campaign spending. A majority of Americans favor increasing the minimum wage and implementing some common-sense gun control. And though only 50 percent of Republicans believe that global warming is real (versus 90 percent of Democrats), the fact is that Americans who recognize the dangerous reality of climate change outnumber those who don’t by a ratio of 5:1.

Those four issues — voting rights and ethical leadership, a higher minimum wage, gun control and serious, radical measures to fight climate change — should comprise the muse and the mandate for the House for the next two years.

With HR1, their first planned bill of the year, the Democrats are off to a good start. This legislation calls for greater public funding of campaigns (making them more feasible for candidates who lack or don’t wish to take money from wealthy or corporate donors), requires super PACs and “dark money” organizations to reveal their contributors, requires the president to disclose his or her tax returns, strengthens the Office of Government Ethics, and most importantly, restores the Voting Rights Act and creates a new, automatic voter registration system. Will it pass in its entirety? Of course not; probably not even in pieces. But if the loud, clear, undistracted battle leads voters to question why Republicans oppose it, that may be enough to force some candidates to have an ACA-like change of heart or be voted out of office.

The Green New Deal — an audacious proposal to rapidly cut carbon emissions and move the U.S. to 100 percent reliance on clean energy in 10 years and guarantee every American a job building a sustainable food and energy infrastructure — is equally unlikely to win passage in anything resembling its current (still embryonic) form. But if educating the public and agitating for its passage succeeds only in putting the climate change deniers and fossil fuel profiteers on the defensive, that will at least create the conditions in 2020 for the kind of radical, urgent action we need to save jobs, homes, lives and, ultimately, the planet.

More suggestions at the link.

I have two notable international events to end with today. First is the Nobel Peace Prize. Both Winners came to prominence seeking justice for war rape victims Please read their compelling stories.

Denis Mukwege, a doctor who helps victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nadia Murad, a Yazidi rights activist and survivor of sexual slavery by Islamic State, are joint winners

Then, there is this news.

 

We also lost a woman who was a human Rights activist in Russia which is also not an easy place to extol Human Rights. “The extraordinary life of Lyudmila Alexeyeva. Meduza remembers a Russian human rights icon.”

The “Strategy 31” movement in 2009 belonged to Limonov’s National Bolsheviks. That year, on the 31st day of any month with so many days, a crowd of journalists would burst from the Mayakovsky subway station and descend on Triumfalnaya Square to watch the same spectacle unfold: protesters gathered to honor the Russian Constitution’s 31st article (which guarantees freedom of assembly), with some dragged into police vans, while officers shouted into megaphones: “Disperse! This is an unlawful assembly.” It was especially amusing to watch passersby, running late for a play at the next-door Moscow Satire Theater, completely perplexed by what was happening. Some of the least patient of these theatergoers also ended up in police vans.

Lyudmila Alexeyeva, “For Human Rights” head Lev Ponomarev, and several other activists then formed a temporary and enormously fragile union with Eduard Limonov, the leader of “Other Russia.” At first, they simply provided assistance to detained demonstrators, but on December 31, 2009, Alexeyeva attended the meeting in person, dressed self-deprecatingly as Snegurochka (the mythological character commonly depicted as the granddaughter and helper of Old Man Frost, whose cultural role in Russia is similar to Santa Claus in the West). She was detained and shockingly manhandled by police. “They’ll probably charge me with swearing at them,” she told me in a call that night (this time from a mobile phone), citing the grounds most often used back then to detain demonstrators. Despite the holiday celebrations, the police released Alexeyeva with blinding speed, just as the outcry from state officials around the world started pouring in.

The falling out with Limonov didn’t take long. As always, Alexeyeva and the other human rights activists sought compromises and common ground with the authorities, and eventually they found some. The “31” rallies starting winning permits, but this approach didn’t appeal to the National Bolsheviks, and so they parted ways.

 

So, I guess there are some inspirational stories out there that have nothing to do with Bernie or Biden.  Let’s aspire to make all these voices count in 2019.  Out with the old white dudes.  In with the rest of us.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

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Friday Reads: Waiting on Justice


Chip Bok, Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

We’re beginning to see the fruition of really bad policy as we’re far enough into the Trump Reign of Terror to see both the economy and the foreign sector spin into a dead zone.  We’ve already had repeated constitutional crises and threat to rule of law.  Those aspects showed up almost immediately in tweets and executive actions.  But, it takes a nearly two years for fiscal policy actions to start grinding their way onto the edges of our economy and the results are not pretty and are likely to get uglier.  We just witnessed the uselessness of Trump at the G20 and his inability to even pull off another state funeral with grace.  His foreign policy team is lean and getting more ineffective by the day.

How much more can we take?  Well, we’ll see shortly as bad policy actions in the economic arena are shoving us towards recession. Even the Toddler’s advisers can see it coming now.  Trade man has botched up the nation’s longest recovery/boom.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Don’t say I didn’t tell you to bail from the market earlier this year.  It’s not often you see the Dow Jones fall 1400 points in two days.

But many economic analysts also predict the recent economic boom will soon fizzle, with growth plunging below 2 percent by 2020, according to an analysis by S&P chief U.S. economist Beth Ann Bovino. Currently, the economy is growing at a rate of 3.5 percent. That squares with cyclical trends suggesting the U.S. is due for an economic downturn soon.

Friday’s job numbers provided little reassurance, with the Labor Department reporting that employers added 155,000 jobs last month, a figure well below expectations of 198,000.

Compounding the worry is Trump’s trade showdown with China, which poses a risk to the global economy. Over dinner at last weekend’s G-20 summit, Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to pause their escalating trade fight for 90 days as they search for a long-term agreement. But since then, Trump has shaken markets with bellicose trade talk.

That means stress for Trump aides and allies planning a 2020 message they hope to build, in part, around economic growth and greater prosperity for Americans. Former Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and, to a lesser degree, Barack Obama all vaulted to reelection with the help of a growing economy. The last one-term president, the late George H.W. Bush, is widely considered to have been doomed by a recession which struck midway through his tenure.

While top officials like Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin argue that gross domestic product and inflation are the most important metrics to track, and that those figures remain healthy, other advisers say voters are focused on more tangible indicators, including wages, unemployment, and the housing and stock markets.

“They know it could be a very dangerous situation if the market volatility is hurting workers in key battleground states through their pensions, investments, you name it,” said one Republican close to the White House. “The concern is probably at a DEFCON 3 at this point, but it will definitely spike in 2019 if there’s no real solution [to the trade dispute with China] during this 90-day period.”

Part of the problem for a president obsessed with the stock market is that no one can pinpoint what exactly is causing the drops — uncertainty about trade deals, fear about rising debt, or slowing economic growth.

Kudlow is baffled which is what you’d expected from a disgraced coke-raged trader with no economic chops. Mnuchin is far up in the stratosphere of asshole that he’s unlikely to say anything useful.  Meanwhile, Never Trumper Jennifer Rubin minces no words.

Understand that Trump inherited a very strong economy. He has had a Republican-controlled House and Senate. And he got his tax plan, a mammoth supply-side cut that disproportionately benefited the rich and corporations. Oh, and he has been on a protectionist tear since his first day in office, and already has inflicted pain on U.S. consumers and farmers. His promised resurgence of manufacturing and of coal (the latter quite laughable considering the alternative sources of energy) have not panned out.

Put differently, the Obama recovery is wearing down and huge debt, trade wars, rising interest rates and a slowdown in China’s economy are pushing us toward a setback, if not a full-blown recession.

Magnifying the market freakout is the inversion of the yield curve (when short-term bond rates exceed long-term rates, sometimes considered a precursor to a recession). It’s not clear if this is the flashing red light for a recession or a result of “other factors, such as a recent reversal of large speculative bets on declining bond prices and the Federal Reserve’s large holdings of Treasuries,” according to Reuters.

This is not 1929, and as bad as Trump’s trade policies may be, he has not brought back the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act (which raised average tariffs on thousands of imported goods to 48 percent). However, there is a reason that credible economists who may disagree on other matters almost uniformly oppose protectionism.

There is reason to be skeptical that a negotiated settlement will conclude within the 90 days China and the United States decided upon, and even less reason to think Robert E. Lighthizer, the hard-liner U.S. trade representative who will head the U.S. bargaining team, has the ability to close a deal. “He will be taking the reins from [Treasury Secretary Steven] Mnuchin, who led previous rounds of negotiations with the Chinese but could not close a deal that satisfied the president,” the New York Times reported. “That choice could rattle the Chinese, who have cozied up to Mr. Mnuchin, viewing him as more moderate.”

Mike Peters

Trump’s judicial nominations, choices for the DOJ, and just overall wrecking of the criminal justice system in the country is an ongoing war on the rule of law and democracy.  We have a AG nomination but do we actually want him? (Via NYT)

President Trump on Friday said he intended to nominate William P. Barr, who served as attorney general during the first Bush administration from 1991 to 1993, to return as head of the Justice Department.

“He was my first choice since Day 1,” Mr. Trump told reporters as he walked from the White House to a helicopter for a trip to Kansas City, Mo. “He’ll be nominated.”

Mr. Trump’s focus on Mr. Barr, who supports a strong vision of executive powers, had emerged over the past week following the ouster last month of Jeff Sessions as attorney general and the turbulent reception that greeted his installation of Matthew G. Whitaker as the acting attorney general.

The move at the Justice Department is one part of a larger staff shake-up underway.

Mr. Trump also announced that Heather Nauert, the chief State Department spokeswoman, is his pick to be the next ambassador to the United Nations.

William Barr is not the man to pick to lead the fight for criminal justice reform.  He is the one to pick if you want a runaway executive branch.  (Via Vox).

Much of the attention is focused on what Barr’s nomination may mean for the Russia investigation, given his previous remarks that he thought it was okay for Trump to fire FBI Director James Comey and that Hillary Clinton should be investigated.

But as head of the US Department of Justice, Barr would also have a lot of control over the federal criminal justice system more broadly. Ames Grawert, senior counsel at the Brennan Center, which supports criminal justice reform, tweeted, “Barr is one of the few people left in policy circles who could reasonably be called as bad as, or worse than, Jeff Sessions on criminal justice reform.” And make no mistake: Sessions had a very bad record on criminal justice reform.

In fact, Barr praised Sessions’s record at the Justice Department, including some of his work dismantling criminal justice efforts by President Barack Obama’s administration.

In short: If you were hoping that Sessions’s replacement would be better on criminal justice reform, Barr’s nomination should be of great concern.

He has been part of the DOJ establishment so that’s likely to smooth him through the Senate. Will it help the chaos at the DOJ?

Former SOS Rex Tillerson has gone public on what he really things of the placeholder in the White House.  Via WAPO: “Rex Tillerson on Trump: ‘Undisciplined, doesn’t like to read’ and tries to do illegal things”.  I imagine Trump will spend executive time tweeting crap about this.

The fired secretary of state, who while in office reportedly called Trump a “moron” (and declined to deny it), expounded on his thoughts on the president in a rare interview with CBS News’s Bob Schieffer in Houston.

It wasn’t difficult to read between the lines. Tillerson said Trump is “pretty undisciplined, doesn’t like to read,” and repeatedly attempted to do illegal things. He didn’t call Trump a “moron,” but he didn’t exactly suggest Trump was a scholar — or even just a steady leader.

“What was challenging for me coming from the disciplined, highly process-oriented Exxon Mobil corporation,” Tillerson said, was “to go to work for a man who is pretty undisciplined, doesn’t like to read, doesn’t read briefing reports, doesn’t like to get into the details of a lot of things, but rather just kind of says, ‘This is what I believe.’ ”

Tillerson said Trump believes he is acting on his instincts rather than relying on facts. But Tillerson seemed to suggest that it resulted in impulsiveness.

“He acts on his instincts; in some respects, that looks like impulsiveness,” Tillerson said. “But it’s not his intent to act on impulse. I think he really is trying to act on his instincts.”

Well, just when you think things couldn’t get worse on the diplomatic front we get a whacky nomination for our UN Ambassador.  I’m getting a little tired of seeing Fox News sending us their worst.

Nauert, 48, is an unusual choice for the UN role given that she had little experience in government or foreign policy before joining the administration in April 2017 after several years as an anchor and correspondent for Fox News, including on the “Fox and Friends” show watched by Trump. Haley also lacked foreign policy experience when she took the UN posting, but she had twice been elected governor of South Carolina.

Nevertheless, Nauert’s candidacy had the strong support of Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who came to trust her as a reliable voice and advocate for Trump’s agenda. It was a stark turnaround from the era of Pompeo’s predecessor, Rex Tillerson, who shut her out from his inner circle. She had threatened to quit several times under Tillerson but, thanks partly to her alliance with Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband Jared Kushner, she ended up outlasting her former boss.

Here’s some more bombast if you’d care to read it.

And some judge just went back to “but her emails” …we’ll never hear the end of the tweets on this.  Via The Chicago Tribune:

A U.S. judge ordered the Justice and State departments Thursday to reopen an inquiry into whether Hillary Clinton used a private email server while secretary of state to deliberately evade public records laws, and to answer whether the agencies acted in bad faith by not telling a court for months that they had asked in mid-2014 for missing emails to be returned.

The order risks reopening partisan wounds that have barely healed since Clinton’s unsuccessful 2016 presidential bid, but in issuing the order Thursday, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth said the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act required it.

In a narrow but sharply worded 10-page opinion, Lamberth wrote that despite the government’s claimed presumption of transparency, “faced with one of the gravest modern offenses to government openness, [the Obama administration’s] State and Justice departments fell far short” of the law’s requirements in a lawsuit for documents.

Lamberth added that despite President Donald Trump’s repeated campaign attacks against Clinton for not making her emails public, “the current Justice Department made things worse,” by taking the position that agencies are not obliged to search for records not in the government’s possession when a FOIA request is made.

And , of course Comey is testifying today about them again before the House today via USA Today.

Former FBI Director James Comey is scheduled to testify in private before members of two House committees on Friday.

Before Democrats take control of the House in January, GOP leaders want to question Comey about his July 2016 decision not to prosecute former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server and about his role in the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Comey, who President Donald Trump fired in May 2017, has already testified that he didn’t coordinate with the Democratic administration at the Justice Department or White House. But some Republicans have questioned whether investigators were biased. Trump himself has suggested that Comey wanted a job in a potential Clinton administration.

Comey will appear before members of the House Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on a revelatory day in Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller’s closely held investigation into Russia electoral interference.

Lord Trump: February 9, 2018

And despite a bomb threat during Don Lemon’s broadcast last night, CNN managed to come out with this: Kelly expected to resign soon, no longer on speaking terms with Trump.” Here we go again.

Seventeen months in, Kelly and President Donald Trump have reached a stalemate in their relationship and it is no longer seen as tenable by either party. Though Trump asked Kelly over the summer to stay on as chief of staff for two more years, the two have stopped speaking in recent days.
Trump is actively discussing a replacement plan, though a person involved in the process said nothing is final right now and ultimately nothing is final until Trump announces it. Potential replacements include Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, who is still seen as a leading contender.
Kelly has been on the verge of resigning or being fired before, only to bounce back every time. But aides feel the relationship can’t be salvaged this time. Trump is becoming increasingly concerned about Democrats taking over the House in January, and has privately said he needs someone else to help shape the last two years of his first term, which he predicts will be politically focused. He has complained repeatedly that Kelly is not politically savvy.

Well, I’ll end here.  It’s way too early for all of this kinda news and I’m waiting again for Mueller Time!  Only the best and brightest folks!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Meltdown Monday Reads

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

We’re learning more about the Republican ethos for holding power.  Suppress Votes. Gerrymander. Collude with Foreign Agents. Dirty Tricks Done Dirt Cheap.  Cheat as much as possible.  Welcome to the campaign of Baptist Minister Mark Harris for a North Carolina Congressional seat where what we learn from Jesus that the end justifies the means. Yes, it’s their own special version of a Great White Male Sky Fairy’s Word.  Be ruthless, lawless, and immoral when it comes to pushing your agenda off on everyone else.  When it comes to our GAWD’s work, anything goes!

As my grandfather used to say “Jesus wept”.

Just a reminder, this is election fraud.  It has nothing to do with voter fraud which is one of the big bad bugaboos of the republican right.  I’m waiting for any one from the Republican party to make a comment on this.

It was not just the general election in which the numbers looked funny. Investigators are now looking into the Republican primary, in May, as well. Harris won with eight hundred and twenty-eight votes over the incumbent, Robert Pittenger, claiming ninety-six per cent of the absentee ballots in Bladen County—which was a far higher margin of victory than the rest of his totals in the county. Pittenger told Spectrum News on Thursday, “We were fully aware of [the accusations of fraud]. There are some pretty unsavory people, particularly out in Bladen County, and I didn’t have anything to do with them.”

In the general election, Bitzer also found that, compared to other counties in the Ninth District, a much higher rate of mail-in absentee ballots requested in Bladen and Robeson counties—about forty per cent and sixty-two per cent, respectively—were never turned in. In fact, those two counties had the highest rates of unreturned absentee ballots of any district in North Carolina. And an analysis of the voting data by the Raleigh News & Observer found that “the unreturned ballots are disproportionately associated with minority voters,” who tend to vote for Democrats over Republicans. In Robeson County, seventy-five per cent of the absentee ballots requested by African-Americans and sixty-nine per cent of those requested by American Indians were never received by the state. On Friday, Harris tweeted, “There is absolutely no public evidence that there are enough ballots in question to affect the outcome of this race.” But about sixteen hundred mail-in absentee ballots were requested in the two counties and not returned, in a race decided by fewer than a thousand votes. Nate Silver, a data journalist and the founder of FiveThirtyEight.com, tweetedin response, “There are enough ballots in question in NC-9 to potentially affect the outcome.”

“Was this just an anomaly of people requesting ballots and then deciding not to send them in?” Bitzer said. “Or is this evidence of a concerted effort to influence or impact the election?” Prior to the election, Bitzer told me, it would have been possible for someone interested in interfering with the election to determine through public records which voters had not yet returned requested absentee ballots. “So it would not be a stretch, if someone made a concerted effort to look at each day’s records, for that someone to find out where that particular voter lived, and then it would be easy enough to go and try to collect it themselves.” Such an action would not only be illegal because a ballot may be handled only by the voter who completes it but would also create the opportunity for electoral fraud. As Bitzer noted, “Let’s say, a voter handed over a ballot to a collector, and the voter had not secured it in a sealed envelope, and there was no vote in the congressional election. The collector could put a vote in. If there was a vote, but it was not for the right candidate, the collector could mark a vote for a second candidate and spoil the ballot.” But, Bitzer added, “These are hypotheticals. We just don’t know to say with certainty what happened. We’re trying to piece a puzzle together, and we may not even fully understand how many pieces are out there.”

NPR delves further into, again, this huge voter fraud operation.  None of the voter suppression tactics would’ve stopped this including the Voter ID law which is supposed to be the be all and end all of purifying elections.

Enough confusion has clouded a North Carolina congressional race that the state’s board of elections has announced a delay in certifying that Republican Mark Harris defeated Democrat Dan McCready in the state’s 9th District because of “claims of irregularities and fraudulent activities.”

In a 7-2 vote on Friday, the board said it will instead hold a public hearing by Dec. 21 “to assure that the election is determined without taint of fraud or corruption and without irregularities that may have changed the result.” It follows a unanimous vote earlier this week to postpone election certification results.

The Friday vote fueled fresh uncertainty about the outcome of the race and raised the possibility that a second election could be called. The two candidates are separated by 905 votes out of more than 280,000 cast, according to unofficial election results. The Associated Press originally called the race for Harris but revoked that projection on Friday.

In a letter sent to the board of elections, North Carolina’s Democratic Party made claims of wrongdoing. The Washington Post reported that the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement has already collected at least six sworn statements from voters in Bladen County alleging that people came to their doors and urged them to hand over their absentee ballots.

In Bladen and Robeson counties, some 3,400 absentee ballots failed to be mailed back to election officials, according to NPR member station WFAE.

That equates to 40 percent of mail-in ballots in Bladen County and 64 percent in Robeson, according to a Raleigh News & Observer analysis.

Nothing stands between Southern Baptists and hating on gays and punishing women with forced zygote incubation.  Who cares if you got raped or you’ll likely die or it will likely die?  They’re exulted for procreating and you’re a slut!  Take that!  If you’re willing to steal votes from old people, why change course?  You can cheat your way to power.  So, for the ugliest of the ugly–like that racist white woman senator from Mississippi–you can do what you want!  Just rely on the army of whiteness to suppress, gerrymander and  steal your way into office.  Except North Carolina isn’t playing.

And, whatever you do, don’t appeal to voters by actually representing their beliefs.  Keep on pushing yours on every one.

Still,  “Despite Big House Losses, G.O.P. Shows No Signs of Course Correction” according to Jonathan M. Martin writing for the NYT,

With a brutal finality, the extent of the Republicans’ collapse in the House came into focus last week as more races slipped away from them and their losses neared 40 seats.

Yet nearly a month after the election, there has been little self-examination among Republicans about why a midterm that had seemed at least competitive became a rout.

President Trump has brushed aside questions about the loss of the chamber entirely, ridiculing losing incumbents by name, while continuing to demand Congress fund a border wall despite his party losing many of their most diverse districts. Unlike their Democratic counterparts, Republicans swiftly elevated their existing slate of leaders with little debate, signaling a continuation of their existing political strategy.

And neither Speaker Paul D. Ryan nor Representative Kevin McCarthy, the incoming minority leader, have stepped forward to confront why the party’s once-loyal base of suburban supporters abandoned it — and what can be done to win them back.

The quandary, some Republicans acknowledge, is that the party’s leaders are constrained from fully grappling with the damage Mr. Trump inflicted with those voters, because he remains popular with the party’s core supporters and with the conservatives who will dominate the caucus even more in the next Congress.

But now a cadre of Republican lawmakers are speaking out and urging party officials to come to terms with why their 23-seat majority unraveled so spectacularly and Democrats gained the most seats they had since 1974.

“There has been close to no introspection in the G.O.P. conference and really no coming to grips with the shifting demographics that get to why we lost those seats,” said Representative Elise Stefanik, an upstate New York Republican who is planning to repurpose her political action committee to help Republican women win primaries in 2020. “I’m very frustrated and I know other members are frustrated.”

Ms. Stefanik said there had been “robust private conversations” but she urged Republicans to conduct a formal assessment of their midterm effort.

The Republican response, or lack thereof, to the midterm backlash stands in stark contrast to the shake-ups and soul-searching that followed its loss of Congress in 2006 and consecutive presidential defeats in 2012.

Jeer Heet from the New Republic has some speculation on that.

While party leaders like Trump and McCarthy remain in denial about the severity of the trouncing, some party members, especially recently defeated ones, are sounding the warning bell. “It’s clear to me why we lost 40 seats,” said retiring Pennsylvania Congressman Ryan Costello. “It was a referendum on the president, but that’s an extremely difficult proclamation for people to make because if they were to say that they’d get the wrath of the president.”

Trump’s fragile ego is preventing the party from coming to grips with the unpopularity of some of his preferred policies, like immigration restriction. Further, unlike after previous losses, there’s no talk of trying to win back groups that are turning against the GOP (notably suburban women and college educated whites).

Because GOP leaders are acting as if nothing went wrong in the midterms, they are unlikely to fix the party’s problems. As the Times observes, congressional Republicans are “already expressing concern that more of their colleagues may retire rather than run again in 2020—and that recruiting top-flight candidates could prove even more challenging going into the next campaign.”

I can only assume we’ll get more of the same voter suppression and antics given the party seems unlikely to find a strategy to actually attract more voters.  Meanwhile, Mueller is coming. Trump had a series of very bad days in Argentina.  There’s a full on twitter meltdown going during the legendary executive time.  Does this guy ever actually work?

From Axios by Garret M. Graff:

Everyone’s waiting for the “Mueller Report.” But it turns out that special counsel Robert Mueller is writing a “report” in real time, before our eyes, through his cinematic indictments and plea agreements, Garrett M. Graff reports for Axios.

The big picture: One of the least-noticed elements of the special counsel’s approach is that all along, he has been making his case bit by bit, in public, since his very first court filing. With his major court filings so far, Mueller has already written more than 290 pages of the “Mueller Report.” And there are still lots of loose ends in those documents — breadcrumbs Mueller is apparently leaving for later.

Show less

Perhaps the best example is Mueller’s oddly specific reference to the Russian hackers targeting Hillary Clinton “for the first time” after candidate Trump’s still-unexplained “Russia, if you’re listening” comment on July 27, 2016.

  • Trump said: “I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 [Clinton] emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” (He also said: “I have nothing to do with Russia.”)
  • A Mueller indictment in July said that the next day, “the Conspirators … attempted after hours to spear-phish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third-party provider and used by Clinton’s personal office.”
  • That shows Mueller has access to much more intelligence than is publicly known. Remember, these are Russian government employees. So Mueller has remarkable and thus far unexplained visibility.

By making such detailed filings, Mueller is actually increasing his burden of proof — suggesting a supreme confidence that he has the goods.

  • And by making so much public as he goes along, Mueller is also insuring against his probe being shut down or otherwise curtailed by the White House.

Some of his deeply detailed filings raise questions that suggest more is coming:

  • In a February indictment of officials of the Russian troll factory, he announced that three Internet Research Agency employees traveled to the U.S. in 2014. He indicted two of them, but left unindicted someone from the IRA who evidently traveled to Atlanta as part of the operation for four days in 2014.
  • Mueller makes clear in the indictment that he knows the precise IRA official to whom this unnamed male traveler filed his Atlanta expenses after the trip.
  • The information could have come from U.S. intelligence or another country. But Mueller leaves the impression he may have a cooperator inside the troll factory.

Other hints at coming attractions:

  • Mueller said in last week’s Michael Cohen plea agreement that a “Moscow Project” meeting about a Trump-branded building in Russia was called off, by Cohen, on the same day that the DNC hack became public.
  • Based on a court filing last week, Mueller apparently hopes to quickly issue a “report” on Manafort’s activities to the court.

Be smart: If it’s anything like every other document Mueller has filed thus far, it’ll be more informed, more knowledgeable, and more detailed than we can imagine.

 

Plus, Putin and Trump appear to be breaking up. Is it hard to do?

Julia Davis’ take on the Russia media and Trump at the Daily Beast today is a hoot and a holler.

Following the abrupt cancellation of Donald Trump’s G20 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian state media roasted him. Known for seamlessly adhering to the Kremlin’s viewpoint, the troupe of Putin’s cheerleaders took turns laying into the president of the United States.

In an opinion piece for the Russian publication “Arguments and Facts,” Veronika Krasheninnikova, “Director General of the Institute for Foreign Policy Studies & Initiatives, Advisor to the Director General of ‘Russia Today’ and a member of the Kremlin-appointed Russian Public Chamber,” says that in light of the canceled meeting, Russia can now give up on the U.S. and “should have never trusted Trump to begin with.”

Krasheninnikova opines that “as long as Trump is in power, nothing positive can happen in the relations between the United States and Russia,” concluding that “Trump is a rock hanging around Russia’s neck.”

Host of the Russian state TV show “60 Minutes,” Evgeny Popov, angrily criticized Trump’s abrupt cancellation: “Just a few minutes earlier he said that now is a good time to meet… What kind of a man is this – first he says it will happen, then it won’t – are we just supposed to wait until he gets re-elected to start communicating with America? This is just foolishness, he seems to be an unbalanced person.”

Well, so much for that bromance.  Maybe Trump wants his own state media to shoot back at the Russians for fake news now.

So, now we’re supposed to worry about a US Russian Arms race after he said bring it on with regards to the Nuclear Arsenal? Have I missed something?  Plus, isn’t he like really into selling arms all over the world and brags on selling to both Japan and the Saudis?  I’m confused.  And we need to spend all that money for a wall because we’re under attack by Honduran babies and women but we need lower spending on defense against China and Russia?  I’m really confused.

President Donald Trump on Monday said that the U.S., China and Russia would “at some time in the future” begin talks to end what he described as an uncontrollable arms race, and declared U.S. defense spending “crazy!”

 The statement marks a dramatic reversal for the president, who has championed increased spending on the military and in August signed a colossal defense spending bill.

The measure authorized a top-line budget of $717 billion to cover a litany of spending. It provided the largest raise to American troops in nearly a decade.

At the time, Trump said the spending bill was the “most significant investment in our military and our war fighters in modern history.”

In March, after teasing a potential veto, Trump signed a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending package that granted the most significant increase in defense funding in 15 years. The Department of Defense is set to gain $61 billion more than last year’s enacted funding for a top line of $700 billion.

The president said at the time that he had “no choice but to fund out military because we have to have by far the strongest military in the world.”

In recent months, Trump has escalated his attacks on Russia for its arms program and announced his intention to withdraw from a Cold War-era nuclear weapons treaty. The U.S. and Russia collectively possess more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.

The Trump administration has repeatedly targeted both China and Russia for attempting to undermine the United States on the world stage.

In its first National Security Strategy, a document that outlines the administration’s defense priorities, the administration said in late 2017 that “China and Russia challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity.”

“They are determined to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence,” the administration added.

But on Monday, the president appeared more wary of the growing portion of America’s national budget devoted to defense, and signaled the possibility that the three countries could come together to forge an agreement.

“I am certain that, at some time in the future, President Xi and I, together with President Putin of Russia, will start talking about a meaningful halt to what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race,” Trump tweeted. “The U.S. spent 716 Billion Dollars this year. Crazy!”

This comes a little over a month after Trump announced the US was withdrawing from the 1987 intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty (INF), a move that prompted swift criticism from European leaders and nuclear experts.

Trump justified the move by alleging Russia was violating the treaty. American officials began accusing Russia of violating the landmark treaty as far back as the Obama administration, but Russian President Vladimir Putin has vehemently denied breaching its terms.

Nuclear experts have said there is strong evidence Russia is violating the INF treaty and the US is justified for criticizing Moscow in this regard, but also warned ripping the deal up opens a dangerous door for Russia.

“Given Russian violations, there’s no question the US is justified in withdrawing,” Thomas Karako, director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, recently told CNBC. “But we don’t want withdrawal to merely let Russia off the hook without other robust actions to support US deterrence and defense goals.”

The Reagan-era INF treaty barred land-based cruise or ballistic missiles with ranges between 311 miles and 3,420 miles. After it was signed in 1987, the US and Russia were forced to cut thousands of missiles from their respective nuclear arsenals.

Trump briefly met with Putin at the G20 summit in Argentina over the weekend, but their short-lived chat did not seem to accomplish much. The two leaders had originally been set to have a longer, more formal meeting, but Trump cancelled it over Russia’s recent aggression toward Ukraine.

Trump in the past has called for the US to ramp up its defense spending and put more energy into arms development. The president pushed for and approved a $716 billion defense budget earlier this year

So, you’re beginning to see that everything here is all over the place and I can’t imagine that the chaos is part of the plan at this part.  Trump is definitely in trouble on many fronts and just appears to be starting fires here and there just to see which attracts the media away from the big stuff.  However, he keeps tweeting shit on Mueller so his obsessions still don’t wander very far from the main one.  In between the tweets on the “arms race” and other things, the Mueller stuff just burbles right up including one for ex fixer Cohen.

President Trump on Monday said Michael Cohen does not deserve leniency for cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller, arguing that his former personal lawyer should serve a “full and complete” prison sentence.

“He makes up stories to get a GREAT & ALREADY reduced deal for himself, and get his wife and father-in-law (who has the money?) off Scott Free [sic],” Trump wrote on Twitter of Cohen. “He lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence.”

So, it must be executive time in front of the TV.  The Twitter meltdown is continuing as I type this.  Is this any way for a US President to act?

What’s on your reading and blogging today?

 


Friday Reads: The End Game Cometh

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

It’s been evident this week that the Mueller election silent period is over and that indictments are coming. (Yay for no more silent nights from him!!!) This week has been an internicine cage fight between all the creeps in the Trump Family Syndicate and raids. Cohen seems to have come clean in the “no collusion” thing. Manafort resorts to the thug form and gets dumped by Team USA. Trump is having such a meltdown he could barely flip that switch on the National Christmas tree. So, this post mostly follows up on BB’s news yesterday as we go further down the Russian Rabbit hole.

It’s illegal to bribe foreign officials to get business favors in foreign countries when you’re an American. So, what does it mean when you’re doing it big time to the guys that are going to help you win an election and you’re on the campaign trail for the presidency? We’ve had so many laws broken recently by the placeholder in the White House that it’s both horrifying and numbing. Buzz Feed broke this last night and it took the oxygen right out of the news cycle. “The Trump Organization Planned To Give Vladimir Putin The $50 Million Penthouse In Trump Tower Moscow. During the presidential campaign, Michael Cohen discussed the matter with a representative of Putin’s press secretary, according to two US sources.”

President Donald Trump’s company planned to give a $50 million penthouse at Trump Tower Moscow to Russian President Vladimir Putin as the company negotiated the luxury real estate development during the 2016 campaign, according to four people, one of them the originator of the plan.

Two US law enforcement officials told BuzzFeed News that Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer at the time, discussed the idea with a representative of Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary.

The Trump Tower Moscow plan is at the heart of a new plea agreement by Cohen, who led the negotiations to bring a gleaming, 100-story building to the Russian capital. Cohen acknowledged in court that he had lied to Congress about the plan in order to protect Trump and his presidential campaign.

The revelation that representatives of the Trump Organization planned to forge direct financial links with the leader of a hostile nation at the height of the campaign raises fresh questions about President Trump’s relationship with the Kremlin. The plan never went anywhere because the tower deal ultimately fizzled, and it is not clear whether Trump knew of the intention to give away the penthouse. But Cohen said in court documents that he regularly briefed Trump and his family on the Moscow negotiations.

BuzzFeed News first reported in May on the secret dealings of Cohen and his business associate Felix Sater with political and business figures in Moscow.

The two men worked furiously behind the scenes into the summer of 2016 to get the Moscow deal finished — despite public claims that the development was canned in January, before Trump won the Republican nomination. Sater told BuzzFeed News today that he and Cohen thought giving the Trump Tower’s most luxurious apartment, a $50 million penthouse, to Putin would entice other wealthy buyers to purchase their own. “In Russia, the oligarchs would bend over backwards to live in the same building as Vladimir Putin,” Sater told BuzzFeed News. “My idea was to give a $50 million penthouse to Putin and charge $250 million more for the rest of the units. All the oligarchs would line up to live in the same building as Putin.” A second source confirmed the plan.

Dollar Bill Jefferson must be sitting in his federal jail cell in awe of such heights of bribing public officials. The amount in his fridge was no where near this. It’s a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and I have no idea if they charge him with it before or after he leaves office. This is just another one of those constitutional crises thingies we’re getting used to. It’s been in place since 1977 so it’s hardly a new thing.

The FCPA has two provisions- Anti-Bribery and Accounting. In essence, the Anti-Bribery Provisions make it a crime for any US individual, business entity or employee of a US business entity to offer or provide, directly or through a 3rd party, anything of value to a foreign government official with corrupt intent to influence an award or continuation of business or to gain an unfair advantage. The Accounting Provisions basically make it illegal for a company that reports to the SEC to have false or inaccurate books or records or to fail to maintain a system of internal accounting controls.

Which brings us to two raids that happened just yesterday. Law enforcement in Frankfurt stormed Duestche Bank which is the only bank that will fund the Trump Family Crime Syndicate. Today is the second day they’re on the scene.

Police have searched the offices of all the members of Deutsche Bank’s (DBKGn.DE) board as part of an investigation into money laundering allegations linked to the Panama Papers, a source told Reuters on Friday.

Investigators are looking into the activities of two unnamed Deutsche Bank employees alleged to have helped clients set up offshore firms to launder money, the prosecutor’s office has said. The inquiries focus on events from 2013 to this year.

Gerhard Schick, a member of parliament for the opposition Green party, said it was “particularly irritating” that the bank’s current board members oversaw operations during the time in question. “This is not about legacy issues,” he said in a statement to Reuters.

Bloomberg reports today that the raid goes straight to the top and is likely to snag some senior officials. The big question is where did the money come from and who benefited from the laundering and resulting funds? It’s likely the Russians are involved so that could lead us right back to Putin’s puppet.

The police raid on Thursday and Friday was targeting two suspects identified by their age and an unspecified number of other suspects, the prosecutors said. One of the two suspects works in the bank’s anti-financial crime unit, a person familiar with the matter said. It was headed by Philippe Vollot until this summer and now is led by Stephan Wilken. The unit head ultimately reports to Matherat.

The other suspect identified by age works in the private wealth unit, according to the person. It’s led by Fabrizio Campelli and it’s part of Deutsche Bank’s private and commercial bank that is headed by management board member Frank Strauss. It was led by Sewing from 2015-2018 before he was appointed CEO.

Searches don’t necessarily mean that prosecutors have evidence against a person whose office is being raided. They can raid homes or offices of people who aren’t implicated if there’s reason to believe document or other evidence relevant to the case may be found there. In probes of corporate crimes, investigators generally check whether top managers knew about the alleged wrongdoing or did enough to prevent it

Of course, the bank is related to both the Trump and Kushner businesses so it’s likely to vex and jeopardize Trump’s already troubled business dealings. This analysis is from Timothy O’Brien of Bloomberg .

When Trump nearly went personally bankrupt in the early 1990s, he left a handful of major U.S. banks on the hook for about $3.4 billion in loans he couldn’t repay (and about $900 million of which he had personally guaranteed). Hotels, casinos, real estate, an airline and other parts of his debt-ridden portfolio went into bankruptcy protection. In the wake of that collapse, Trump became a pariah among major U.S. banks, and he had to find unique ways of lining up money for the infrequent and small-boredeals he pursued thereafter. That left him borrowing money from labor unions and small, local lenders. Deutsche, keen at the time to make a name for itself in U.S. investment banking and commercial lending, was less hesitant to do business with Trump.

Deutsche’s first transaction with Trump involved a modest renovation loan for 40 Wall Street, a Manhattan skyscraper Trump controls, in 1998. Trump did little to merit Deutsche’s involvement after that until the early 2000s, when it agreed to loan him as much as $640 million for a Chicago project — the Trump International Hotel and Tower.

I was working on a biography of Trump at the time, and he told me that one of things he learned from his financial collapse in the early ’90s was that he had ignored valuable business advice from his father, Fred: Never personally guarantee a loan. Yet he still went ahead and guaranteed $40 million of the Deutsche loan for the Chicago project. (Trump sued me for libel in 2006, claiming the biography, “TrumpNation,” had misrepresented his business history and finances; he lost the suit in 2011.)

Deutsche had a relatively intimate understanding of Trump’s finances. Although Trump told me in 2004 and 2005 that his net worth was anywhere from $1.7 billion to $6 billion (and suggested it might even be $9.5 billion), my sources at the time told me his wealth was closer to $150 million to $250 million. When Trump litigated the point with me, my lawyers produced a Deutsche assessment of his finances that pegged his wealth at $788 million in 2005.

Trump’s relationship with Deutsche briefly soured in a dispute over the Chicago project. When the financial crisis landed in 2008 and imperiled that development, Trump sued Deutsche to avoid paying the $40 million he had guaranteed (claiming, in part, that Deutsche was responsible for the global economic distress unleashed by the crisis). A clash like that can permanently unwind a real estate partnership, but Deutsche and Trump agreed to settle, with the bank extending a loan from its private banking division to allow Trump to pay back its real estate lending unit, according to the New York Times.

Deutsche’s private banking arm has hung in there ever since, with Rosemary Vrablic as the Deutsche banker serving as Trump’s primary liaison there. She also has helped Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a White House adviser, as well as his mother, arrange multimillion-dollar loans and lines of credit at Deutsche. In recent years, Deutsche’s private banking unit has loaned Trump money — about $300 million, according to Bloomberg News and Trump’s government financial disclosure forms — for such projects as his Washington hotel and the Trump National Doral golf course.

The Trump SoHo Hotel, which stripped Trump’s name from the property last year, was financed in the mid-2000s in part with loans channeled through Icelandic banks that collapsed during the financial crisis. I’ve written extensively about Trump’s involvement with the firm originally behind that project, Bayrock Group LLC, and about the murky funds from Europe used to build it. While Deutsche was closely involved with Icelandic banks at the time of the collapse, no information has surfaced that it played a direct role in the Trump SoHo.

What’s likely now, however, is that Trump’s dealings with Deutsche — which have represented, at a minimum, a serious and long-standing financial conflict for him given the influence he wields over law enforcement and financial regulation as president — are about to draw greater scrutiny.

The other most interesting raid is still happening in Chicago. Salon calls the day a Trifecta of bad news for Trump family crime syndicate.

In another curious coincidence that may or may not be related, the law offices of Edward Burke, a Chicago alderman and former Trump tax attorney, were raided on Thursday. Burke’s law firm represented Trump’s businesses — including the same Chicago Trump Tower that secured funding from Deutsche Bank — for 12 years.

With Deutsche Bank hit with yet another money-laundering probe, one former Trump lawyer raided by the feds and another one apparently ready to spill the beans, Democrats — poised to take control of the House of Representatives in January — are already chomping at the bit to investigate.

“All these developments make clear the counterintelligence imperative for the House Intelligence Committee, in the new Congress, to continue to probe the Trump Organization’s financial links to Russia and determine whether the Russians sought financial leverage over Trump and his associates, or hold any such leverage today,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., incoming chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.

Again, no wonder Trump looked greener than the National Christmas tree at the ceremony and the quick exit was such that the White House Press Pool was abandoned there. It was a dark and bizarre event that usually leads into a charming White House Christmas season.

Reporters were briefly held at the Ellipse outside the White House without any immediate indication of where the president had gone. They were later notified that Trump had returned to the White House via motorcade without the press pool in tow.

Members of the press pool protested the situation on Twitter.

The funniest thing I’ve found in years is where Rod Rosenstein was speaking while all of this was going on, along with the topic of his speech. Straight from the DOJ website: Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein Delivers Remarks at the American Conference Institute’s 35th International Conference on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Oxon Hill, MD, Thursday, November 29, 2018, Irony is not lost on this guy. Neither is getting the last laugh.

The term “rule of law” describes the government’s obligation to follow neutral principles and fair processes. The ideal dates at least to the time of Greek philosopher Aristotle, who wrote, “It is more proper that law should govern than any one of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place the supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servants of the law.”

The rule of law is indispensable to a thriving and vibrant society. It shields citizens from government overreach. It allows businesses to invest with confidence. It gives innovators protection for their discoveries. It keeps people safe from dangerous criminals. And it allows us to resolve differences peacefully through reason and logic.

When we follow the rule of law, it does not always yield the outcome we prefer. In fact, one indicator that we are following the law is when we respect a result that we do not agree with. We respect it because it is required by an objective analysis of the facts and a rational application of the rules.

The rule of law is not simply about words written on paper. The culture of a society and the character of the people who enforce the law determine whether the rule of law endures.

One of the ways that we uphold the rule of law is to fight bribery and corruption. Until a few decades ago, paying bribes was viewed as a necessary part of doing business abroad. Some American companies were unapologetic about corrupt payments.

Once again, Melania’s proclivatives for dystopian decorating overshadowed nearly all attempts to emphasize the next battle in the War on Christmas on Fox.

“In real life they look even more beautiful, and you are all very welcome to visit the White House — the ‘people’s house,’” she said.

I just refer to them as the Used Tampon Trees.

Trump is in Argentina as the national embarrassment continues on the international stage. The back and forth meeting on and off business with Russia is truly odd.

President Donald Trump on Thursday canceled his planned meeting with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Argentina.

“Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia, I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting in Argentina with President Vladimir Putin,” Trump tweeted. “I look forward to a meaningful Summit again as soon as this situation is resolved!”

“The Kremlin regrets U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to cancel a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Argentina and said Moscow is ready for contact with Trump, RIA news agency cited spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying on Friday,” Reuters reported.

“This means that discussion of important issues on the international and bilateral agenda will be postponed indefinitely,” President Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Now, the Kremlin announces there will be a meeting. Nothing stands between KGB and the need for a debrief from its agents.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will have a brief impromptu meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Argentina just as he will with other leaders at the G20 summit, RIA news agency cited Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying on Friday.

So, it’s definitely a ‘red’ christmas and I’m beginning to wonder if we get somewhat the feel of the red wedding.

So, we’re on the agenda as being a destablizing force along with Russia. I’m not sure if this actually makes Trump proud of himself or not.

World leaders are meeting in Argentina for their annual G20 summit amid new tension with Russia over Ukraine and a US trade row with China.

US President Donald Trump has cancelled a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in protest at Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian naval boats.

But ahead of the summit’s official start Mr Trump signed a trade deal with the Mexican and Canadian leaders.

A massive security operation is under way for the summit in Buenos Aires.

A bank holiday has been declared for Friday and the city’s main business district has been shut down.

Speaking before the signing of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) – to replace the Nafta free trade deal – Mr Trump described it as “probably the greatest trade deal ever”.

“All of our countries will benefit greatly,” he said.

So, maybe we’ll get some christmas cheer this year from some place other than the Red House with it’s used tampon alley, or commie car wash or whatever that was …

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: Life in War Time

From the creative mind of my friend John Buss @repeat1968

Hello Dear Sky Dancers!

We couldn’t even have a peaceful thanksgiving holiday without the mayhem and mishap placeholder in the White House creating chaos through his policy weakness. Yes, he may have been off golfing and stealing money from the taxpayer to enrich his family crime syndicate, but some terrible things happened yesterday and I just can’t ignore them.

From WAPO: ‘These children are barefoot. In diapers. Choking on tear gas.’

A little girl from Honduras stares into the camera, her young features contorted in anguish. She’s barefoot, dusty, and clad only in a diaper and T-shirt. And she’s just had to run from clouds of choking tear gas fired across the border by U.S. agents.

A second photograph, which also circulated widely and rapidly on social media, shows an equally anguished woman frantically trying to drag the same child and a second toddler away from the gas as it spreads.

The three were part of a much larger group, perhaps 70 or 80 men, women and children, pictured in a wider-angle photo fleeing the tear gas. Reuters photographer Kim Kyung-Hoon shot the images, which provoked outrage and seemed at odds with President Trump’s portrayal of the caravan migrants as “criminals” and “gang members.”

Trump officials said that authorities had to respond with force after hundreds of migrants rushed the border near Tijuana on Sunday, some of them throwing “projectiles” at Customs and Border Protection personnel.

A migrant girl from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America, cries after running away from tear gas thrown by U.S. border agents. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

I can hardly speak about how wrong this is on all levels. Seeking Asylum is a legal process outlined in treaties we’ve signed. I don’t even know if we’ve got an experience basically lobbing chemical weapons across the border into the country of an ally. I did read this at the same WAPO article:

Trump’s response in an early-morning tweet on Monday was to call for Mexico to return the migrants to their home countries, and to again threaten to “close the border permanently.”

That’s never been done, and experts interviewed by The Washington Post on Sunday night knew of no provision explicitly allowing Trump to permanently close the borders. Most of the border, with the exception of designated crossings, is already closed, which doesn’t stop migrants from entering.

So it probably would not solve Trump’s problems with asylum seekers, who, by law, must be allowed to present their claims if in fact they are able to cross the border anywhere.

“This is yet another of several Trump attempts to change what he disparagingly calls the policy of ‘catch and release’ without or against legal authority,” said Yale Law School’s Harold Hongju Koh, legal adviser to the State Department during the Obama administration. “All have been blocked. What he does not understand,” Koh said in an email, “is that everyone crossing our Southern border is not illegally present. Those with valid asylum claims have a legal right to assert those claims and remain.”

Closing the border “permanently” or otherwise would conflict with the asylum laws, agreed Peter S. Margulies, an immigration law expert at Roger Williams University School of Law.

Had the migrants made it to the border and presented themselves as asylum seekers, U.S. officials would have been required by federal law to consider their claim before sending them back to Mexico. Indeed, they are required to do so whether the migrants cross at a designated point of entry or anywhere else.

U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar forcefully reminded Trump of that law last week when he issued a nationwide restraining order against the president’s plan to consider asylum requests only from migrants who cross at legal checkpoints. It was Tigar’s ruling that prompted Trump to lash out last week against the “Obama judge” and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which in turn brought a rare rebuke from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

Trump’s legal options appear limited. “The border is very long,” Margulies told The Post. But if the administration can “stop people just short of the border, there’s a better argument that those people are not entitled to asylum. I think it would be terrible policy and I think it would be morally repugnant,” he said, “but the administration would be on better legal footing.”

Attempting to stop them short of the border appears to be just what Trump may be planning.

I usually don’t copy and paste this much from one source, but the article by Tim Elfrink and Fred Barbash–accompanyied by heart-wrenching photos–was difficult to chop up into small excerpts.

These are really dark times. We now have more children in ICE custody than ever before. The attacks on families seeking aslyum overshadowed this report on jailing children on CBS and Sixty Mintues.

Lee Gelernt: It became such a horrific scene that they started telling the parents, “Oh, your child is just going to take a shower, or just going to get some medical treatment,” and then the parent would never see the child again.

Lee Gelernt is an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. In July, he convinced a federal judge to order the reunification of the children. But when the government realized it lost track of many of the parents, the Trump administration told the court reuniting the families was the ACLU’s problem.

Lee Gelernt: The government took these children away from their parents, and then deported hundreds and hundreds of the parents without the children. The judge said, “These parents need to be with their children.” And the government said, “Well, if you wanna find the parents, we don’t know where they are. Let the ACLU look for them.”

This is the Homeland Security order to arrest and detain all adults who crossed illegally to seek asylum. The copy released to the public was censored by the administration. But we’ve obtained what the White House didn’t want the public to see. The document reveals that child separation began nine months earlier than the administration acknowledged. There was a pilot program in the busy “El Paso sector” from “July to November 2017”. We don’t know how many children were taken in those five months. The censored part of the memo explains a reason for the policy — deterrence — as it “will have the greatest impact on current flows” [of immigrants.]

But Cecilia Munoz says the Obama administration found that deterrent messages failed to turn back immigrants.

Cecilia Munoz: And the reason for that is, if your child was told today by the gangs, “Your life is at risk unless you start running drugs for us.” You’re thinking much more about their safety today and tomorrow than you’re thinking about, “What’s going to happen once we get to our destination?”

Jeff Sessions: We are not going to let the country be overwhelmed.

Security was the stated reason for the policy change. One top White House official called immigration an existential threat to America. But Homeland Security’s inspector general found the chaotic implementation of the policy undermined law enforcement. The report says, “instead of patrolling and securing the border, officers had to supervise and take care of children.” And those officers weren’t prepared for their new role, according to Scott Shuchart, who recently left Homeland Security.

We lurch from consitutional and humanitarian crises–of his creation–to the incredible audacity of authoritarian regimes who feel empowered by the lawlessness and transactional greed of what is supposedly the leader of the free world. Russian seized Ukrainian navl ships over the weekend.

Russia has fired on and seized three Ukrainian naval vessels off the Crimean Peninsula in a major escalation of tensions between the two countries.

Two gunboats and a tug were captured by Russian forces. A number of Ukrainian crew members were injured.

Each country blames the other for the incident. On Monday Ukrainian MPs are due to vote on declaring martial law.

The crisis began when Russia accused the Ukrainian ships of illegally entering its waters.

The Russians placed a tanker under a bridge in the Kerch Strait – the only access to the Sea of Azov, which is shared between the two countries.

During a meeting of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, President Petro Poroshenko described the Russian actions as “unprovoked and crazy”.

Emboldened by the ineffective foreign policy of Trump and his penchant for adoring strongman, Putin continues to annex the Ukraine.

Tensions in the Sea of Azov have been simmering for months and this weekend its waters came to the boil.

Russian ships opened fire at three Ukrainian naval vessels Sundayafter they attempted to enter the sea.

Ukrainian media reported that 23 crew members were detained, including six who were injured, and the vessels seized.

Kiev’s navy is hugely outgunned and outnumbered by Moscow. Ukraine responded by putting its forces on high alert.

Some Western experts say the Kremlin’s tactics in the Sea of Azov are straight out of the Kremlin playbook.

Analysts have been warning for months that the Azov, which is just under half the size of Lake Superior, is the latest example of Russia carrying out “creeping annexation” — where borders are subtly shifted to take territory, or in this case waters, from former Soviet allies.

There is other quite serious news today.

From the AP: “GM to slash 14,700 jobs in North America”

General Motors will lay off 14,700 factory and white-collar workers in North America and put five plants up for possible closure as it restructures to cut costs and focus more on autonomous and electric vehicles.

The reduction includes 8,100 white-collar workers, some of whom will take buyouts and others who will be laid off. Most of the affected factories build cars that won’t be sold in the U.S. after next year. They could close or they could get different vehicles to build. They will be part of contract talks with the United Auto Workers union next year.

Plants without products include assembly plants in Detroit; Lordstown, Ohio; and Oshawa, Ontario. Also affected are transmission factories in Warren, Michigan, as well as Baltimore.

About 6,000 factory workers could lose jobs in the U.S. and Canada, although some could transfer to truck plants.

Another headline from WAPO: “In the United States, right-wing violence is on the rise”. In other words, something wicked this way comes. His reign is the Pandimonium Carnival.

Over the past decade, attackers motivated by right-wing political ideologies have committed dozens of shootings, bombings and other acts of violence, far more than any other category of domestic extremist, according to a Washington Post analysis of data on global terrorism. While the data show a decades-long drop-off in violence by left-wing groups, violence by white supremacists and other far-right attackers has been on the rise since Barack Obama’s presidency — and has surged since President Trump took office.

This year has been especially deadly.Just last month, 13 people died in two incidents: AKentucky gunman attempted to enter a historically black church, police say, then shot and killed two black patrons in a nearby grocery store. And an anti-Semitic loner who had expressed anger about a caravan of Central American refugees that Trump termed an “invasion” has been charged with gunning down 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue, the deadliest act of anti-Semitic violence in U.S. history.

This month brought two more bodies: A military veteran who had railed online against women and blacks opened fire in a Tallahassee yoga studio, killing two women and wounding five. All told, researchers say at least 20 people have died this year in suspected right-wing attacks.

From ABC News: Jared Kushner pushed to inflate Saudi arms deal to $110 billion: Sources: It’s obvious the Saudis have been bailing out his bad business deals. How many foreign interests own the Trump Family Crime Syndicate?

President Donald Trump‘s reluctance to hold Saudi leadership accountable for the brutal murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi stemmed from a partly aspirational $110 billion arms deal between the U.S. and Saudia Arabia that was inflated at the direction of Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, according to two U.S. officials and three former White House officials.

Kushner, in a bid to symbolically solidify the new alliance between the Trump administration and Saudi Arabia while claiming a victory on the president’s first foreign trip to Riyadh, pushed State and Defense officials to inflate the figure with arms exchanges that were aspirational at best, the officials said. Secretary of Defense James Mattis supported Kushner’s effort and ultimately endorsed the memorandum, according to a former NSC official familiar with the matter.

“We need to sell them as much as possible,” Kushner told colleagues at a national securitycouncil meeting weeks before the May 2017 summit in Saudi Arabia, according to an administration official familiar with the matter.

nother U.S. official said there was a back and forth between Kushner and Department of Defense and State officials on how to get to a larger number because the officials initially told Kushner that realistically they had about $15 billion worth of deals in works, based on the Saudi government’s interest in a THAAD system and maintenance of other systems.

But even that order has not been fulfilled.

The Saudis have bypassed the September deadline for one of the pricier items on the list – the THAAD or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-ballistic missile system. A Defense Department spokesperson said the sale has not been finalized.

The question is what are the Trumps getting out of this deal?

From Spencer Ackerman at the Daily Beast: “Trump Ramped Up Drone Strikes in America’s Shadow Wars. In his first two years in office, Donald Trump launched 238 drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia—way beyond what the ‘Drone President’ Barack Obama did.”

The U.S. president inherited a remotely piloted weapon of death from his predecessor. In his earliest period in office, he used this lethal robot force promiscuously, sharply escalating attacks on suspected terrorists away from his declared wars. As time went on, his use of drone strikes in those places diminished.

Barack Obama? Well, yes. But a look at available statistics for drone strikes on America’s undeclared battlefield shows that this description also applies to Donald Trump.

In 2009 and 2010, Obama launched 186 drone strikes on Yemen, Somalia, and especially Pakistan. Donald Trump’s drone strikes during his own first two years on the three pivotal undeclared battlefields, however, eclipse Obama’s—but without a corresponding reputation for robot-delivered bloodshed, or even anyone taking much notice. In 2017 and 2018 to date, Trump has launched 238 drone strikes there, according to data provided to The Daily Beast by U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and the drone-watchers at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London.

Those numbers come with a slew of asterisks. The number of drone strikes on the full-fledged acknowledged battlefields of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria have, ironically, proven far more difficult to track than those in shadow war zones—and knowledgeable observers like Chris Woods of the UK’s Airwars organization believe that the true center of the drone strikes is found there. Additionally, the death toll from those strikes in shadow war zones, especially of civilians, is at best a rough estimate.

This week probably has had some of the most devastingly awful news for world peace we’ve seen in ages. It’s really gotten to me today. What a wicked bunch of people put in a wicked man to turn the world more wicked. And it’s happening in our name with our tax dollars …

What’s on your reading and blogging list today


Friday Reads: When Black Friday Comes …

It’s Friday! And Mueller is Coming! He’s an even better holiday guest than Santa!

Today’s news in traitors includes crazy conspiratorial nut Jerome Corsi. Yes! Another domino falls and brings us closer to the Cretin holding the White House hostage. From WAPO and really hot off the presses: “Stone associate Jerome Corsi is in plea negotiations with special counsel, according to a person with knowledge of the talks”. Stone and Dumb Junior cannot be too far behind. Too borrow a turn of phrase, “I love it!”.

Conservative writer and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi is in plea negotiations with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, according to a person with knowledge of the talks.

The talks with Corsi — an associate of both President Trump and GOP operative Roger Stone — could bring Mueller’s team closer to determining whether Trump or his advisers were linked to WikiLeaks’ release of hacked Democratic emails in 2016, a key part of his long-running inquiry.

Corsi provided research on Democratic figures during the campaign to Stone, a longtime Trump adviser. For months, the special counsel has been scrutinizing Stone’s activities in an effort to determine whether he coordinated with WikiLeaks. Stone and WikiLeaks have repeatedly denied any such coordination.

Stone has said that Corsi also has a relationship with Trump, built on their shared interest in the falsehood that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

David Gray, an attorney for Corsi, declined to comment, as did a spokesman for Mueller. Stone declined to comment on Corsi’s plea negotiations. An attorney for Trump declined to comment.

The deal is not yet complete and could still be derailed. Last week, Corsi said his efforts to cooperate with prosecutors had broken down and that he expected to be indicted on a charge of allegedly lying. He described feeling under enormous pressure from Mueller and assured his supporters that he remains supportive of the president.

In a webcast and a series of interviews, Corsi said he had spoken to prosecutors for 40 hours and feared that he could spend much of the remainder of his life in prison.

After two months of interviews, Corsi, 72, said he felt his brain was “mush.”

“Trying to explain yourself to these people is impossible . . . I guess I couldn’t tell the special prosecutor what he wanted to hear,” he added.

Meanwhile, His Lazy and Greediness is costing us money which is going directly into the pockets of the Trump Family Crime Syndicate.

Krampus is coming and he better bring a lot of sacks and cages! A lot of discussion has been held in the media about the idea of collusions being an actual crime as compared to something along the lines of conspiracy. Here’s an interesting take from Sidebars blog. There’s a lot of legal wonky goodness here.

Is collusion a crime? Since the beginning of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, allegations of “collusion” have dominated the debate. President Trump regularly claims there was “no collusion” with the Russians seeking to influence the 2016 presidential election. His attorneys and other supporters also have repeatedly argued that even if collusion took place, that would not be criminal. But last week, in a case brought by Mueller, a federal judge upheld the legal theory under which “collusion” may indeed be a crime.

I’m not sure how the term “collusion” became so central to discussions of the Mueller investigation. It really should be banned altogether. (I know, I know — this from the guy who just wrote a blog post with “collusion” in the title, right? But hey, I can’t unilaterally disarm.) All it does is breed confusion and lead to diversionary arguments about whether collusion is criminal.

It’s true there is no criminal statute titled “collusion.” But as I’ve noted in several places (here and here, for example) the relevant crime is conspiracy under 18 U.S.C. 371. Collusion refers to an agreement with others to achieve some improper end. In criminal law, we call that a conspiracy – a partnership in crime. And the breadth of the federal conspiracy statute makes it particularly well-suited for cases like Mueller’s probe of Russian interference with the election.

Title 18 Section 371 prohibits conspiracies to commit an offense against the United States, which means a conspiracy to commit any federal crime. But it also broadly prohibits conspiracies to defraud the United States “in any manner or for any purpose.” For nearly a century the Supreme Court has held that conspiracies to defraud the United States include conspiracies to impair, obstruct, or defeat the lawful functions of the federal government through deceit or dishonesty. This is true even if the actions of the conspirators are not independently illegal, and even if the government is not deprived of any money or property.

In this post in the summer of 2017, I argued Mueller could use this theory to charge that individuals who agreed to work together to interfere with the election through deceptive and dishonest methods conspired to impair, obstruct, or defeat the function of the Federal Election Commission to administer a fair and honest election. This legal theory would apply not only to Russians but also to any members of the Trump campaign or other Americans who worked — or colluded — with them. And it applies whether or not the actions taken by the co-conspirators are otherwise illegal; in other words, the “collusion” itself can be the crime

So, this outing out to burn like a yuletide bonfire by the Mississippi. Here’s hoping it works on the Ptomac too! I even get to quote Page Six which I believe is unique for me. I do not plan to read the book but it should be an interesting topic on the pundit circuit. Page Six presents: “National Enquirer editor writing book about ‘Trump and his women’”

The National Enquirer’s long-held secrets about Donald Trump may be about to get substantially less secret.

Page Six is told that the longtime executive editor of the tabloid, Barry Levine, is penning a book for Hachette about the president.

A source says that the book will look into “Trump and his women,” although other insiders tell us that it could be more wide-ranging, even looking at the formerly cozy relationship between the Enquirer’s owner, David Pecker, and Trump. That said, it’s unclear exactly what Levine’s contract with the Enquirer would allow him to reveal about Pecker.

Of course, Pecker has been at the center of an investigation into alleged hush money payouts made to Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels — who both claim to have had affairs with Trump while he was married to First Lady Melania Trump. In August, Pecker was granted immunity in the probe.

Either way, Levine — who left the Enquirer in 2016 after 17 years — will have plenty of previously unreported material for the tome.

In its reporting on the relationship between Pecker and Trump, the Wall Street Journal wrote in June, that, “Tips about Mr. Trump poured into the tabloid after his television show ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ took off in 2002, but the Enquirer turned away stories that could paint him in a bad light, two former American Media employees said,” adding, “Barry Levine … reminded them that Mr. Pecker wouldn’t allow it, these former employees said.” No impediment now exists.

Let’s watch those fundi preachers swallow this.

The Guardian has an exclusive interview with Hillary that’s worth a read: “US media must ‘get smarter’ to tackle Trump, says Hillary Clinton”. Well, again, she speaks the truth to idiots.

Hillary Clinton has criticised the US media over its coverage of Donald Trump, calling on the press to “get smarter” about holding to account a president who is a master of diversion and distraction.

In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, Clinton also offered a stinging rebuke of the Republican party’s base, saying it had become enthralled by the president’s “insults and attacks and entertainment and spectacle”.

“The Republican party has collapsed in the face of Trump,” she said.

Clinton also criticised Trump’s repeated attacks on the press, behaviour she suggested had echoes of authoritarian and fascist political leaders who erode faith in facts and evidence. She said Trump had proved himself skilled at “tweeting and insulting and dominating the news cycles” and said he was too often left unchallenged by the press.

“I believe that where we are now in the political cycle is that the press does not know how to cover these candidates who are setting themselves on fire every day, who are masters of diversion and distraction,” she said.

The former Democratic presidential nominee specifically called out CBS 60 Minutes over its interview with the Trump last month for not asking the president about a major New York Times investigation into alleged tax dodging in his family real estate empire.

“I have a high regard for 60 Minutes and for Lesley Stahl who’s a terrific journalist,” Clinton said, before noting there was “not a single question” about the New York Times story

“So at some point, the press has to get smarter because that’s basically how most voters get their information,” she said, adding that often the quest for “balance” resulted in facts being relegated in favour of opinion.

“If you’re into both-side-ism – so, you know, on the one hand this, and on the other hand that – really there’s no factual basis, there’s no evidence, there’s no record. Everybody lies, everybody gilds the lily. It doesn’t really matter. That just opens a door to somebody like him.”

Is this the beginning of the end? Is the Mueller investigation getting active publicly so we can get a good hint at when our national nightmare ends?

The odds are high that special counsel Robert Mueller will soon announce dramatic news that will escalate our national discussion of the Russia scandal to red-hot levels of intensity that may well compel Congress to begin a serious discussion of impeachment.

Three critical matters were long obvious to informed observers of the Russia investigation. First, Mueller was well aware of the possibility that President Trump would attempt to execute a “Saturday Night Massacre” attack against him and the Russia investigation shortly after the midterm voting was concluded.

Second, Mueller has used the “silent period” during the midterm campaign to advance the investigation assertively without public discussion, under the radar of the media until now. Third, the issues of obstruction of justice and abuse of power are far more grave than is generally realized.

If it is true that Trump aggressively pushed for criminal prosecution of his political opponents and that then-White House counsel Donald McGahn had to intervene, keep in mind that McGahn has spent dozens of hours cooperating with Mueller and his team.

The quiet period for Mueller will soon end. Recently, Mueller and lawyers for Paul Manafort agreed to seek a delay in filing court documents that would detail Manafort’s cooperation with the investigation until next Monday.

In other words, in a few days, there will almost certainly be publicly known major news that will give the court and the American people a much clearer idea of exactly how Manafort has been cooperating with Mueller.

It is very possible, and in my view likely, that there have already been indictments issued and plea bargain agreements reached that for now remain under seal, which will be unsealed and announced in the coming days and weeks.

Trump attempting to name Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general can be seen as a desperate last-ditch effort by Trump — which is ultimately doomed to fail — to derail the Mueller investigation.

This speculation is written for HuffPo by BRENT BUDOWSKY. And here’s one from The Atlantic that tries to explain why so many white women vote themselves into second class citzenship so people of color may be put down to 3rd class citizenship.

Okay, Here we go … wtf is wrong with them? And this is by Katha Pollitt.

For almost three years now, reporters have been begging tired farmers and miners eating their pancakes at Josie’s Diner in Smallville, Nebraska, to say they’ve seen the light. They never do. White evangelical women sneaking away from the Republican Party make for a good story—but they didn’t stop Ted Cruz from getting 81 percent of the white evangelical vote in Texas.

After Trump took the White House, and even after political scientists and pollsters figured out that many Trump supporters were not out-of-work Rust Belters but just your basic well-off Republicans, there was an orgy of self-criticism among Democrats and progressives. Somehow, those voters were our fault; we had neglected them, disrespected them, not felt their pain. The important sociologist Arlie Hochschild wrote a whole book about right-wingers in the Louisiana bayous who rejected curbs on the oil and gas industry that was destroying their way of life and instead blamed their problems on others (people of color, immigrants, women) “cutting in line.” In Strangers in Their Own Land, Hochschild called on us to climb the “empathy wall.” The unstated implication was that liberal condescension—not Trumpers’ racism, say—is the problem.

Another version of this idea is to call on progressive white women to convert other white women who support Trump. Nobody calls on white men to convert white men, because everyone assumes that’s impossible, but for some reason, white women who hate abortion and taxes and Obamacare, who want to “build the wall” and “lock her up,” are supposed to be pliable—and it’s the duty of liberal white women to expiate their own racism by bringing them around. It reminds me of the time years ago when a group of Nation interns came back after spending a weekend at a conference of Evangelical women. They beat themselves up about how those women weren’t feminists; again, it was all our fault.

The assumption is that we have the right ideas; we just haven’t been conveying them persuasively enough to win the other side over. But let me ask a question: When was the last time someone persuaded you to change your worldview? I have written this column for over 20 years, and I doubt I’ve brought more than a handful of people to my way of thinking. So far as I know, the converts were mostly young people who hadn’t given the matter much thought or were leaning that way already. Mostly, what changes people’s minds about important convictions is experience: something new and unusual that shakes their settled views. One of the evangelical Beto fans profiled by the Times was moved by her time meeting with a family separated at the border; it could just as easily have been new friends, a religious experience, falling in love, a charismatic teacher, or being surrounded by people with different beliefs.

Of course, people do change their minds, but probably not after being proselytized by someone they barely know (or, in the case of family, know all too well). You won’t get far inviting your Trumpie co-worker out for coffee so you can politely suggest she’s a racist, or giving your Trumpie cousin a hard time about her Facebook posts at a baby shower.

So why is it so hard to believe that white women who voted for Trump are mostly as fixed in their views as you are? They voted for him for dozens of reasons: to fit in with their family and community, to preserve or gain status, to piss off the libtards, to ally with their menfolk, to keep MS-13 from killing their children, to bring back jobs stolen by Mexico and China, to keep taxes low and black children out of their schools, or because it’s what Jesus wants. You may think their beliefs are bigoted and ill-informed and illogical—which they are. You may marvel that women who think the polite and scandal-free Barack Obama is the Antichrist can believe that foul-mouthed, abusive Donald Trump is God’s instrument, like King David. What you are not going to do is make them see it differently by reminding them that at least 15 women have accused Trump of a range of sexual offenses.

Calling them out as racist, xenophobic foot soldiers of the patriarchy isn’t going to make a dent. Just as you don’t want to be the obedient wife of some porn-addicted Christian bully, they don’t want to be a slutty baby-killer like you. I’m not saying that, given enough time and a pleasing, patient personality—you’ve got one of those, don’t you?—you couldn’t eventually bring one or two around. But is this a good use of your energies?

Go read the rest. It’s full of holiday joy and good advice. I was especially glad to see this as I’ve been called out to “make inroads” as if I haven’t tried in my 40 plus years of committed feminist work. Believe me, when Phyliss Schafly came out of that orange smoke from the trap door with her green make up and cackling, I was as surprised as any other woman just wanting to live her life. I fought them in the 80s and 90s. I tried talking to them in the 80s and 90s and some where in the mid 90s I gave up and decided to spend the rest of my life in liberal enclaves where I just don’t have to deal with them so all these younger women asking me to talk to them can just shove it. I got Kate Millett and Bette Friedan to talk to each other after years of throwing shade at each other in a bar in West Omaha. I consider that my last best diplomatic moment. So, bookmark Katha’s article and send it to any one that’s trying to talk you into creating a bridge that will go no where.

The deal is there are more of us than them. There are more of us coming up all the time and less of them. Just organize and outvote them. Pay attention to judicial appointments and gerrymandering in your state and fight that. Don’t engage in building a bridge to no where.

Have a good long weekend of stuffing yourself with leftovers! And remember, It’s Mueller Time!!!

What’s on your blogging and reading list today?


Monday Reads: Raking Bad

Finnish woman trolls Trump

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

I’m one tired old lady and there’s a long list of things wearing me out including a record breaking cold snap which always bests me and my drafty old house. Then, there’s me waiting and listening for the status of my many friends in California and their various fur babies. I have one friend still sitting in his apartment in Chico, basically surrounded by smoke.

The pictures are overwhelming and the stories even more so. What makes it even more awful is that the Placeholder in the White House thinks that lazy Californians just don’t rake enough leaves and so they ask for these deadly, destructive infernos. Oh, and he can’t even keep the name of the totally destroyed Paradise, California straight. He miscalled it “Pleasure” several times while visiting what remains. This man is a clear and present danger to all living things.

The people he visited were less than enthusiastic. This included some of his voters.

When President Donald Trump rolled into town Saturday, some Camp Fire evacuees in Chico shelters felt like they were a world away, though they were mere miles apart.

Trump joined Gov. Jerry Brown and Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom in the morning for a tour of the devastation to the Paradise area and a visit to the incident base in Chico before heading to Southern California in the early afternoon.

Some evacuees were grateful for his visit. Others were relieved they didn’t have to shake his hand. A few had no idea the president was in Butte County at all.

Paradise resident Michael Reasons, who has been staying at the Neighborhood Church evacuation center in Chico, said that Trump’s visit meant “nothing” to him. Reasons, 50, was walking around with signs for his missing dog Saturday afternoon.

“For me, it doesn’t make a bit of difference,” he said. “I know what kind of person he really is.”

What those impacted by the fire really need right now is positivity, and to know that they are genuinely cared about, Reasons said.

“He really has a hard time showing compassion for, you know, people,” Reasons said. “I don’t really have a lot of respect for the guy.”

Ambrose Reuter, a 68-year-old Paradise resident, said he didn’t vote for Trump or Hillary Clinton in 2016 because he didn’t like either candidate, but he appreciated the president paying a visit.

“It meant a lot that he came out personally,” Reuter said between bites of KFC chicken outside of the church.

Paradise resident Laura Owens, who described herself as a Trump supporter, struggled to answer when asked what it meant to her that the President came out. Owens, 46, has been staying at the East Avenue Church in Chico with her three teenagers, parents and two dogs.

The first night, they slept in a tent outside because the shelter was at capacity, she said.

“I heard he was coming, but that’s so far out of this realm,” Owens said. “Even though that’s amazing and it would have been nice if he had come here, I can’t think about that.”

Meanwhile, Paradise resident Joe Redfern, 72, said he was relieved that Trump didn’t make a stop at the East Avenue Church. He suggested that the visit was purely politically motivated.

“He’s only doing this because politically, he’s being forced to do it,” Redfern said. “I don’t think he knows how to show empathy, sympathy. I don’t know how else to describe it, but Donald is for Donald.”

Glenn Murray, of Chico, held a similar opinion. Murray, 53, evacuated to the church from Chico on Nov. 8 and even though the evacuation has been lifted from east Chico, he has returned night after night to visit with the friends he made there.

“He realized California has a lot of money and a lot of power,” he said. “He realized he can’t do what he did in Puerto Rico.”

Paradise resident Kimberly Comeau, age 50, who lost her home on Clark Road, had just a few words about the president’s trip.

“Is he going to throw paper towels at us?” she asked.

Probably the weirdest Trump thing on the fires is what we now know as the “Finnish Forest Raking” method of Forest Fire prevention which is another one of those things cooked up from the Dotard’s brain.

You gotta rake it till you make it.

After President Donald Trump suggested Finland has few wildfires because the nation spends a lot of time “raking and cleaning” forest floors, many were confused. Not least of all the Finns themselves — or the Californians Trump was visiting, whose state has been devastated by fires that have killed at least 76 and burned hundreds of thousands of acres in the past two weeks.

But confused or not, Finns took to social media — vacuum at hand — to prove their dedication to their newfound civic duty.

Under the hashtag #haravointi (“raking”), some Finns spent this weekend grabbing their gardening tools — with the more creative types picking up their vacuums and Roomba devices — and visiting the woods to document their public service.

“Just this afternoon I was busy meeting my raking quota,” one tweet reads.

“Taking pride in a good day’s work maintaining the forest,” says another.

The Finns might not have been serious, but the US president seemed to be. During his visit to Northern California Saturday, Trump told reporters that America should follow the lead of Scandinavian nations like Finland, which “spend a lot of time” on forest preservation.

The Finnish President, of course, denies the entire thing.

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said in an interview published Sunday that although President Donald Trump claimed the European leader told him Finns rarely have forest fires because they “spend a lot of time raking,” he doesn’t recall discussing that with Trump when they met last weekend in Paris.

Niinistö told the Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat, a CNN affiliate, that the subject of raking was never brought up in his conversations with Trump. He said that they did discuss the California wildfires when they met, and that he told Trump “we take care of our forests.”

The Finnish President told the newspaper that he intended to convey that although Finland is covered by forests, the nation has a good monitoring system which has helped to prevent catastrophic wildfires. He added that he only sees raking in his own yard, and surmised that raking perhaps came to Trump’s mind after he saw firefighters raking some of the burned areas in California.

Still, Trump mentioned raking while surveying the devastation in Northern California on Saturday.

Trump always turns a national disaster into some kind of Monty Python parody of the Minstry of Mayem and Mishap. But, the devastation and loss of life from the fire is real. As usual, the heros are local.

Jeff Evans steers his white Dodge Ram along a narrow dirt road, scanning the blackened trees and ashen ground for two skittish dogs

They come running when they hear the truck, and Evans offers them dog biscuits from the big red box of Milk-Bones he keeps on his floorboard. Good, he said, giving them a pat. They’re doing OK. He can move along.

Checking on the dogs is just one chore on Evans’ list. He’s one of a handful of people left in Concow, Calif., a mountain hamlet tucked deep in the woods that has been under mandatory evacuation orders since the Camp fire tore through here Nov. 8. If he leaves, he can’t get back in.

His neighbors stuck on the outside have been emailing him requests. Because the gas in the generator powering his electricity — and his internet — is limited, he hops online for a few minutes each day, answers their questions and gets going.

“Every single morning until the afternoon, I’m huffing it,” Evans said. “I’m going and going and going. There’s pigs to feed and goats and ducks and chickens.”

Not to mention the eight dogs he’s rescued.

“We’re stuck here anyhow,” he added. “We may as well do something valuable.”

A thin man with a bushy mustache and a quick laugh, Evans, 59, has become an unofficial keeper of Concow. Neighbors send him addresses and ask if he could please go see whether their houses burned down. Almost always, the answer is yes.

From Chico, the nearest city outside the massive evacuation zone, thick smoke obscures the Sierra foothills towns and their devastation.

Okay, this is a story near and dear to my heart because as a fifth grader I started asking my school if I could just opt out of the pledge of allegiance. I felt that there were a lot of nice countries–naming England as one–with flags and similar stated goals. Why not do something like recite the Preamble to the Constitution instead? I remember being being threatened by a Girl Scout Troop leader who thought I shouldn’t be a scout if that’s how I felt.

I do remember suddenly, the pledge disappeared from classrooms in all of the District. I was never sure why though. It could’ve been a visit from my mother or quite likely a District lawyer that showed them they were on the wrong side of the constitution and a SCOTUS decision and any law suit. So, that was around 1966 and you would think since the big court decision was way back in the 1940s that would be that. But, then there is this:Student who refuses to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance expelled, Texas attorney general backs school” from USA Today.

Months after a student was expelled for refusing to stand for her school’s Pledge of Allegiance, the Texas Attorney General is intervening on the school’s behalf.

The mother of Windfern High School senior India Landry launched a legal battle against the Houston-area school, saying her daughter wasn’t able to practice free speech.

India, now 18, was sent home last year after sitting during the pledge. Her mother, Kizzy Landry, said when she came to pick up India, the school provided little details as to why her daughter was kicked out. Later, the principal told the mother”She can’t come to my school if she won’t stand for the pledge.”

India said she sat during the pledge before this incident, and wasn’t punished.

“I don’t think that the flag is what it says it’s for, for liberty and justice and all that. It’s not obviously what’s going on in America today,” India said last year.

Months after a student was expelled for refusing to stand for her school’s Pledge of Allegiance, the Texas Attorney General is intervening on the school’s behalf.

The mother of Windfern High School senior India Landry launched a legal battle against the Houston-area school, saying her daughter wasn’t able to practice free speech.

India, now 18, was sent home last year after sitting during the pledge. Her mother, Kizzy Landry, said when she came to pick up India, the school provided little details as to why her daughter was kicked out. Later, the principal told the mother”She can’t come to my school if she won’t stand for the pledge.”

India said she sat during the pledge before this incident, and wasn’t punished.

“I don’t think that the flag is what it says it’s for, for liberty and justice and all that. It’s not obviously what’s going on in America today,” India said last year.

There was also a lot of ruckus about this when students started refusing to stand for the pledge during Vietnam War protests. This isn’t a new thing and it’s certainly something that I thought was decided by the courts decades again. But then, everything unconstitutional is now up for debate again. From Lawyers.com:

As far back as 1943, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that requiring all public school students to recite the pledge of allegiance was a violation of their First Amendment rights, because free speech includes the right not to speak against your beliefs (West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943)). And as the Court made clear more than 20 years later, public schools must also respect students right to express their opinions through actions (known as “symbolic speech”), as long as they aren’t being too disruptive (Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Dist., 393 U.S. 503 (1969).)

The Supreme Court hasn’t directly addressed the issue of students refusing to stand for the pledge or the national anthem—clear examples of symbolic speech. But federal appellate courts have agreed that public schools may not force students to stand during the pledge. And just as public schools (including colleges and universities) shouldn’t punish students for exercising their First Amendment rights, they also shouldn’t withhold privileges—like participation in school sports—for the same actions.

Texas is wrong on this but then I assume they’re going to keep dragging it through the court process to see if Trump has stacked the courts enough to get a different result. Some folks will just not be convinced that this country and its people are not their personal christianist pisspot.

So, that’s it for me. I need to get back to grading oh, and maybe some raking around Swamplandia.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?