Emboldened in his job, Mr. Trump has rebelled against Kelly’s restrictions and mused about doing away with the chief of staff post entirely. It’s all leading White House staffers and Trump allies to believe that Kelly is working on borrowed time….
Mr. Trump recently told one confidant that he was “tired of being told no” by Kelly and has instead chosen to simply not tell Kelly things at all, according to a person who was not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
We have another White Male Terrorist mass shooting. This dude is a real MAGA darling. Naturally, the sounds of Crickets are coming from the White House. “Waffle House suspect Travis Reinking deemed himself a ‘sovereign citizen,’ part of anti-government group.” Of course, he’s anti-government just like Ronnie Raygun who declared our “government was the problem” in 1981 during his inaugural address and then proceded to turn it into a problem. That statement was almost as uplifting as the dank shit we got last time out with KKKremlin Caligula, the hair fury. Gun violence in this country is the choice of a lot of white men buying politicians via the NRA. That’s the problem.
The suspected gunman on the run after riddling a Tennessee Waffle House with bullets dubbed himself a “sovereign citizen,” before being arrested in July 2017 outside the White House.
Travis Reinking, 29, used that term — which the FBI has also used to describe a group of anti-government extremists — during a clash last year with the Secret Service, according to a police report obtained by USA TODAY.
Reinking told agents he needed to see President Trump and defined himself as sovereign citizen who had a right to inspect the grounds, according to an arrest report by the Metropolitan Police Department in D.C. He was arrested on an unlawful entry charge after refusing to leave the area.
The FBI has said sovereign citizens “believe that even though they physically reside in this country, they are separate or ‘sovereign’ from the United States.”
The agency has also defined sovereign citizens as “anti-government extremists who claim the federal government is operating outside its jurisdiction and they are therefore not bound by government authority—including the courts, taxing entities, motor vehicle departments, and even law enforcement.”
This guy has a politically extreme view that motivates him. He’s another Timothy McVeigh sort. So, when do we hear the WHITE CHRISTIAN MALE TERRORIST label?
It’s unknown if Reinking’s 2017 sovereign citizen self-designation was in line with the FBI’s definition or if it played any role in the Antioch, TN Waffle House attack, which left four dead.
A motive has not been released and investigators are continuing to probe Reinking’s background, which includes several past incidents with law enforcement.
Well, obviously NOT today Satan. Law enforcement took away the dude’s guns once and GAVE them to his father! Raise your hand if you think any person of color would’ve had that freaking experience. I can see we have no takers.
On Aug. 24, 2017, sheriffs deputies in Tazewell County, Illinois took a state-issued card from Reinking that Illinois requires for someone to own a weapon. During a Sunday news conference streamed online, Tazewell County Sheriff Robert M. Huston said Reinking volunteered to give up his four weapons.
However, Reinking’s father was present when those deputies came to confiscate the guns, Huston said. The father had a valid state authorization card and asked the police if he could keep the weapons. Deputies gave Reinking’s father the weapons, Huston said.
“He was allowed to do that after he assured deputies he would keep them secure and away from Travis,” Huston said, referring to Reinking’s father.
Huston and Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson said they believe Reinking’s father returned the weapons to Reinking.
DudeBro gunned down four people in the Waffle House located in Nashville. He was all of 29. Did we mention he was nearly buck naked and the police can’t find his lily white ass?
Murder warrants were issued for the suspect, identified as a 29-year-old White male named Travis Reinking. He’s accused of killing four people and wounding four others 3:25 a.m. Sunday at a Waffle House restaurant in Nashville. Reinking, who was naked, fled on foot, the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department tweeted.
The motive behind the shooting is unknown, authorities said, according to CNN. It appears to be a random mass shooting. Investigators, however, are typically slow to declare mass shootings by White males a domestic terror attack, even though White men constitute the largest group of domestic terrorists in the nation.
Oh, wait! Some one did recognize this for what it is!!! Could it be: “The Epidemic Of White Male Terrorism And Its Connection To White Privilege . “Race shapes our reaction to gun violence,” professor and author David J. Leonard writes.” Will we get the usual Dudebro just suddenly became unhinged, crazy, and violent?
Such narratives are unique to white male mass shooters. As are the efforts to humanize and to offer cultural autopsies that point to potential gambling addictions or mental illness as the reason behind a mass shooting rather than a pervasive evil inherent in white male killers.
The erasure of “white male” mass shooters from public discourse produces coverage that depicts Paddock and countless others as individuals who we must empathize with. Paddock deserves empathy because he is not the imagined Muslim terrorist, the criminal Latino immigrant, and the Black thug. Whereas they are terrorists and super predators who “terrorize communities,” who undermine the safety and tranquility of our communities,
Oh, wait… here’s another! “We should be able to eat waffles in peace — but Trump and the NRA accept this kind of terrorism”.
I shouldn’t have to carry a gun to feel safe getting waffles.
I shouldn’t have to hope I’m seated near a mythological “good guy with a gun” to feel safe getting waffles.
We should be able to eat our waffles in peace. We should be able to send our kids to school without worrying that they’ll be gunned down. We should be able to go to church and not wonder whether an AR-15-toting person who fell through the mental-health-services cracks might stand up and open fire.
But we don’t feel that way. We can’t. This nation’s gun obsession has made it impossible, and those who stand in the way of any action that might limit access to guns — even to domestic abusers or the mentally ill — are insisting that their outlandish “right” to own any firearm they want supersedes our perfectly reasonable right to eat our waffles without toting a sidearm.
There’s a word for all this: terrorism. People don’t like to use that word when it comes to guns and Americans. But what are we really dealing with here if not terror? What do you call it when people are made to feel unsafe in the most public of places?
Four young people were gunned down early Sunday morning at that Waffle House near Nashville. A 29-year-old man from Morton, Ill., is the suspected shooter, and police say he used an AR-15-style assault rifle, the same type of firearm used in the Parkland school shooting (17 dead), the Texas church shooting (26 dead), the Las Vegas music festival shooting (58 dead) and the Orlando nightclub shooting (49 dead).
Government can do something about it. We’ve got these problems because NRA lobbyists fund the bad guys. The police gave an AR 15 this guy had no right to have back to HIS FATHER who just gave it back to his son.
Police said the father of suspected Waffle House shooter Travis Reinking handed his son back an AR-15 found at the scene, after it had been seized by authorities in relation to another incident.
But, yes, already there’s the usual narrative. Poor white kid deserves our help. “Waffle House shooting suspect said Taylor Swift stalked him, had history of delusions, police say”
In 2017, the year before Reinking became the subject of an intensive police manhunt after a deadly shooting at a Tennessee Waffle House, officials said he went to a local pool wearing a pink dress and swam in his underwear while coaxing life guards to fight him. Soon after, he traveled to D.C., and tried to cross a security barrier near the White House, declaring himself a “sovereign citizen” who wanted to speak with President Trump.
Police reports dating to May 2016 offer a glimpse of what officials described as Reinking’s “mental problems.”
This is just no way to run a country. No other civilized country lets military weapons out to just any one. The data shows we don’t need to live this way. If our government is the problem then we need to vote the gun fetishists out.
Today’s art are a selection of various PWAP commissioned murals in California. You may remember that the WPA was a Great Depression era economic policy to put Americans back to work. It hired all kinds of artisans as well as workers to build, decorate, and document the experience of recovery from the US’s worst recession ever. PWAP was the arm that commissioned Public Works of Art. This are 27 murals located in Coit Tower- San Francisco. The Lillie Hitchcock Coit Memorial Tower was actually part of a gift from the Coit estate that granted the city money for beautification purposes in 1931. The murals were commissioned in 1933 and executed in 1934. Many of the murals were not available for public viewing until 2014. There was a restoration project as well as an effort to allow public access.
Because all 27 Coit Tower murals were painted at the same time, in 1934, they presumably were meant to be seen as a whole. Now that all the murals have undergone the most intensive restoration in their history, an effort is being made to get people up there, but only in groups of four to eight, and only as part of a docent tour.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
How many of us are really surprised by the content of the Comey Memos? Any one? Surprised the Republicans would release detailed accounts of Trump’s most bizarre moments? Yeah. That last one is a bit confusing. So, we now have more on hookers and jailing journalists and blatant lies, and just about every other lurid example of the multiple personality disorders that comprise the raw id of the Kremlin’s potted plant in the US oval office.
Let’s just get straight to the dishonesty, obsession, and ickiness of the Madness of KKKremlin Caligula. This first read isn’t from Comey but if you want to read up on one of Trump’s lying self-promoting alter egos then read this in WAPO by Jonathan Greenburg: ‘Trump lied to me about his wealth to get onto the Forbes 400. Here are the tapes.’ Yes, here there be tapes.
In May 1984, an official from the Trump Organization called to tell me how rich Donald J. Trump was. I was reporting for the Forbes 400, the magazine’s annual ranking of America’s richest people, for the third year. In the previous edition, we’d valued Trump’s holdings at $200 million, only one-fifth of what he claimed to own in our interviews. This time, his aide urged me on the phone, I needed to understand just how loaded Trump really was.
The official was John Barron — a name we now know as an alter ego of Trump himself. When I recently rediscovered and listened, for first time since that year, to the tapes I made of this and other phone calls, I was amazed that I didn’t see through the ruse: Although Trump altered some cadences and affected a slightly stronger New York accent, it was clearly him. “Barron” told me that Trump had taken possession of the business he ran with his father, Fred. “Most of the assets have been consolidated to Mr. Trump,” he said. “You have down Fred Trump [as half owner] . . . but I think you can really use Donald Trump now.” Trump, through this sockpuppet, was telling me he owned “in excess of 90 percent” of his family’s business. With all the home runs Trump was hitting in real estate, Barron told me, he should be called a billionaire.
At the time, I suspected that some of this was untrue. I ran Trump’s assertions to the ground, and for many years I was proud of the fact that Forbes had called him on his distortions and based his net worth on what I thought was solid research.
But it took decades to unwind the elaborate farce Trump had built to project an image as one of the richest people in America. Nearly every assertion supporting that claim was untrue. Trump wasn’t just poorer than he said he was. Over time I have learned that he should not have been on the first three Forbes 400 lists at all. In our first-ever list, in 1982, we included him at $100 million, but Trump was actually worth roughly $5 million — a paltry sum by the standards of his super-monied peers — as a spate of government reports and books showed only much later.
It’s just hard to grok that level of need for recognition. But, Comey’s memos outline the same behavior about 40 years later. From CNN and Stephen Collinson: ‘Comey memos renew questions over Trump’s behavior.’
The Comey memos suggest Trump has a scattershot and self-obsessed mindset, brooding about his subordinates, leaks, his campaign and his inaugural crowd size and not appreciating or caring about protocol boundaries that separate the White House and the Justice Department.
Furthermore, the conversations with Comey soon after Trump moved into the White House paint a picture of a new President more concerned with own fortunes than the burden of his new responsibilities.
CNN obtained the documents, which offer a staggering insider account, after they were sent to Congress by the Justice Department on Thursday in response to requests from three GOP House committee chairmen on Capitol Hill.
Trump responded to the release of the memos on Twitter in an apparent attempt to direct conversation away from the embarrassing substance of the documents.
“So General Michael Flynn’s life can be totally destroyed while Shadey James Comey can Leak and Lie and make lots of money from a third rate book (that should never have been written). Is that really the way life in America is supposed to work? I don’t think so!” Trump tweeted Friday morning.
Hours earlier, he insisted the memos “show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION. Also, he leaked classified information. WOW! Will the Witch Hunt continue?”
The 15 pages of documents contain new details about a series of interactions with Trump that Comey found so unnerving that he chose to document them in writing. Those seven encounters in the weeks and months before Comey’s May 2017 firing include a Trump Tower discussion about allegations involving Trump and prostitutes in Moscow; a White House dinner at which Comey says Trump asked him for his loyalty; and a private Oval Office discussion where the ex-FBI head says the president asked him to end an investigation into Michael Flynn, the former White House national security adviser.
The documents had been eagerly anticipated since their existence was first revealed last year, especially since Comey’s interactions with Trump are a critical part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the president sought to obstruct justice. Late Thursday night, Trump tweeted that the memos “show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION.”
The memos cover the first three months of the Trump administration, a period of upheaval marked by staff turnover, a cascade of damaging headlines and revelations of an FBI investigation into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. The documents reflect Trump’s uneasiness about that investigation, though not always in ways that Comey seemed to anticipate.
In a February 2017 conversation, for instance, Trump told Comey how Putin told him, “we have some of the most beautiful hookers in the world” even as the president adamantly, and repeatedly, distanced himself from a salacious allegation concerning him and prostitutes in Moscow, according to one memo. Comey says Trump did not say when Putin had made the comment.
In another memo, Comey recounts how Trump at a private White House dinner pointed his fingers at his head and complained that Flynn, his embattled national security adviser, “has serious judgment issues.” The president blamed Flynn for failing to alert him promptly to a congratulatory call from a world leader, causing a delay for Trump in returning a message.
The foreign leader’s name is redacted in the documents, but two people familiar with the call tell the AP it was Putin. They were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Josh Marshall of TPM writes that the memos show clear indications of Trump’s lying about his trip to Moscow. He’s traced and documented the inconsistencies between words and actions.
There’s ample evidence that Trump stayed not one but two nights. In July 2017, Bloomberg News’s Vernon Silver and Evgenia Pismennaya reported out a detailed reconstruction of the trip based on FAA records, social media postings and interviews. They showed clearly that Trump flew from North Carolina to New York on the evening of November 7th (Thursday) and then proceeded on to Moscow overnight and arrived sometime early on November 8th (Friday). He overnighted in Moscow. He was in Moscow all of November 9th (Saturday), the day of the pageant, and departed for New York early November 10th. For the details of how we know these facts, see the Bloomberg article. It is forensic in its detail.
Clearly, Trump lied about not spending the night in Russia. It’s conceivable that he forgot he’d spent the night. But again, the whole idea is wildly implausible. He said he’d discussed the details of the trip with others. Surely they would have reminded him. And he stayed not one but two nights. Clearly, Trump was lying about this. He lied about it repeatedly to Comey. And Priebus’s presence during one of the encounters strongly suggests he’d told this same lie to his senior staff.
In other Trump Crazy news there’s this: ‘Trump sex scandals turn a harsh spotlight on this Beverly Hills lawyer’via the LA Times.
Most Beverly Hills lawyers are seldom accused of extortion.
For Keith M. Davidson, however, it’s not so rare: He is fighting three civil suits by television personalities alleging extortion.
Davidson is the attorney who negotiated payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal during the 2016 presidential race to keep them quiet about their alleged affairs with Donald Trump.
Both wound up firing Davidson and hiring new lawyers to get their nondisclosure deals voided.
Via the NY Times we hear about a recently filed lawsuit: ‘Democratic Party Alleges Trump-Russia Conspiracy in New Lawsuit’. Yes, it is just breaking!
The Democratic National Committee opened a new legal assault on President Trump on Friday by filing a lawsuit in federal court alleging that the organization was the victim of a conspiracy by Russian officials, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks to damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential run.
The 66-page lawsuit, filed in federal court in New York, assembles the publicly known facts of the investigation into Russia’s election meddling to accuse Mr. Trump’s associates of illegally working with Russian intelligence agents to interfere with the outcome of the election.
“The conspiracy constituted an act of previously unimaginable treachery: the campaign of the presidential nominee of a major party in league with a hostile foreign power to bolster its own chance to win the presidency,” the D.N.C. wrote in its lawsuit, which was first reported by The Washington Post.
And from that WAPO link:
The lawsuit argues that Russia is not entitled to sovereign immunity in this case because “the DNC claims arise out of Russia’s trespass on to the DNC’s private servers . . . in order to steal trade secrets and commit economic espionage.”
The lawsuit echoes a similar legal tactic that the Democratic Party used during the Watergate scandal. In 1972, the DNC filed suit against then-President Richard Nixon’s reelection committee seeking $1 million in damages for the break-in at Democratic headquarters in the Watergate building.
The suit was denounced at the time by Nixon’s attorney general, John Mitchell, who called it a case of “sheer demagoguery” by the DNC. But the civil action brought by the DNC’s then-chairman, Lawrence F. O’Brien, was ultimately successful, yielding a $750,000 settlement from the Nixon campaign that was reached on the day in 1974 that Nixon left office.
The suit filed Friday seeks millions of dollars in compensation to offset damage it claims the party suffered from the hacks. The DNC argues that the cyberattack undermined its ability to communicate with voters, collect donations and operate effectively as its employees faced personal harassment and, in some cases, death threats.
Rachel Maddow interviewed Comey last night on her show. You may watch here.
The Cook Report lists risk factors for Republicans in the upcoming elections. Toss ’em out!
Multiple indicators, including generic ballot polls , President Trump’s approval ratings and recent special election results, point to midterm danger for Republicans. But without robust race-by-race polling, it’s trickier to predict individual races six months out. Are Democrats the favorites to pick up the 23 seats they need for a majority? Yes, but it’s still not certain which races will materialize for Democrats and which won’t.
Our latest ratings point to 56 vulnerable GOP-held seats, versus six vulnerable Democratic seats. Of the 56 GOP seats at risk, 15 are open seats created by retirements. Even if Democrats were to pick up two-thirds of those seats, they would still need to hold all their own seats and defeat 13 Republican incumbents to reach the magic number of 218. Today, there are 18 GOP incumbents in our Toss Up column.
That Toss Up list is likely to grow as the cycle progresses. Out of the 65 GOP incumbents rated as less than “Solid,” 49 were first elected in 2010 or after, meaning more than three quarters have never had to face this kind of political climate before. And, Democrats have a donor enthusiasm edge: in the first quarter of 2018, at least 43 sitting Republicans were out-raised by at least one Democratic opponent.
Well, that’s it for me today.
What’s on your reading and blogging list?
I’m still in shock after yesterday. Was there another blockbuster story breaking every couple of hours or am I imagining it? The chaos just keeps increasing. How much worse can it get? I’m guessing a lot worse.
I’m not even going to try to recap all of the sordid messes that Trump’s past and present behavior created yesterday. Suffice it to say that Friday, April 13, 2018 consisted of breaking story after breaking story about Trump’s and his lawyer Michael Cohen’s corruption and criminality, ending with Trump pardoning Scooter Libby and then wagging the dog with another ineffectual strike against Syria.
Friday began with Trump raging against James Comey and his soon-to-be-release book. Politico: ‘The possibility of Trump exploding has gone up.’
President Donald Trump decided to skip an international summit to stay close to home amid a swirling debate about launching airstrikes in Syria — but instead spent Friday tweeting angrily about former senior FBI officials.
“He LIED! LIED! LIED!” Trump wrote of former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, a career official who was fired hours before his official retirement in March amid an ongoing inspector-general review.
Trump went on to attack former FBI director James Comey and the broader Russia probe Comey once oversaw: “McCabe was totally controlled by Comey – McCabe is Comey!! No collusion, all made up by this den of thieves and lowlifes!”
The presidential missives were triggered by the release of a Justice Department inspector general report to the Hill critical of McCabe’s conduct. The report seemed only to further irritate the already amped-up president, who began the day tweeting about Comey, calling the longtime civil servant “a weak and untruthful slime ball.”
So dignified. So presidential.
Yet the main preoccupation of the president and the people closest to him remained Comey. The White House offensive is only expected to intensify in the coming days as the former FBI director embarks on a series of media interviews ahead of the book’s Tuesday release.
White House officials were scouring news reports and reaching out to allies who have copies of the book, hoping to identify passages that they believe undercut Comey’s credibility or make him seem sympathetic to Democrats.
Trump’s allies are keen to avoid a repeat of the fallout from Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury,” the hard-edged insider account of life in Trump’s White House that caught many in the West Wing by surprise and dominated headlines for weeks.
But so far, the White House’s strategy, or lack thereof, is doing little to stop the barrage of news stories about the book.
There’s much more at the link.
Much of the breaking news yesterday involved Trump’s personal “fixer” Michael Cohen. It appears that Mr. Cohen is in very deep trouble. Some links in case you missed them:
Here’s the big one from McClatchy: Sources: Mueller has evidence Cohen was in Prague in 2016, confirming part of dossier.
The Justice Department special counsel has evidence that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and confidant, Michael Cohen, secretly made a late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
Confirmation of the trip would lend credence to a retired British spy’s report that Cohen strategized there with a powerful Kremlin figure about Russian meddling in the U.S. election.
It would also be one of the most significant developments thus far in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of whether the Trump campaign and the Kremlin worked together to help Trump win the White House. Undercutting Trump’s repeated pronouncements that “there is no evidence of collusion,” it also could ratchet up the stakes if the president tries, as he has intimated he might for months, to order Mueller’s firing….
It’s unclear whether Mueller’s investigators also have evidence that Cohen actually met with a prominent Russian – purportedly Konstantin Kosachev, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin — in the Czech capital. Kosachev, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of a body of the Russian legislature, the Federation Council, also has denied visiting Prague during 2016. Earlier this month, Kosachev was among 24 high-profile Russians hit with stiff U.S. sanctions in retaliation for Russia’s meddling.
But investigators have traced evidence that Cohen entered the Czech Republic through Germany, apparently during August or early September of 2016 as the ex-spy reported, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is confidential. He wouldn’t have needed a passport for such a trip, because both countries are in the so-called Schengen Area in which 26 nations operate with open borders.
Philip Bump at The Washington Post this morning: Michael Cohen’s visiting Prague would be a huge development in the Russia investigation.
A trip to Prague by Cohen was included in the dossier of reports written by former British intelligence official Christopher Steele. Those reports, paid for by an attorney working for Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, included a broad array of raw intelligence, much of which has not been corroborated and much of which would probably defy easy corroboration, focusing on internal political discussions in the Kremlin.
Cohen’s visiting Prague, though, is concrete. Over the course of three of the dossier’s 17 reports, the claim is outlined — but we hasten to note that these allegations have not been confirmed by The Washington Post.
It suggests that Cohen took over management of the relationship with Russia after campaign chairman Paul Manafort was fired from the campaign in August (because of questions about his relationship with a political party in Ukraine). Cohen is said to have met secretly with people in Prague — possibly at the Russian Center for Science and Culture — in the last week of August or the first of September. He allegedly met with representatives of the Russian government, possibly including officials of the Presidential Administration Legal Department; Oleg Solodukhin (who works with the Russian Center for Science and Culture); or Konstantin Kosachev, head of the foreign relations committee in the upper house of parliament. A planned meeting in Moscow, the dossier alleges, was considered too risky, given that a topic of conversation was how to divert attention from Manafort’s links to Russia and a trip to Moscow by Carter Page in July. Another topic of conversation, according to the dossier: allegedly paying off “Romanian hackers” who had been targeting the Clinton campaign.
There is a lot there — but it hinged on Cohen’s having traveled to Prague. If he was not in Prague, none of this happened. If he visited Prague? Well, then we go a level deeper.
There’s your collusion, Trump. Read the rest at the WaPo.
Right before Trump announced strikes in Syria by the U.S., France, and Great Britain, he pardoned Scooter Libby, the only Bush official convicted in the outing of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame. It’s pretty obvious that Trump did this to send a message to Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, and the rest of his gang that he could pardon them too. But there are problems with that.
Here’s the best article I’ve read on the pardon by Marcy Wheeler at The New York Times: Trump Pardoned Libby to Protect Himself From Mueller.
…we never learned the real story about whether Vice President Dick Cheney had ordered Mr. Libby, his chief of staff, to leak the identity of Valerie Plame to the press in retaliation for a Times Op-Ed by her husband, Joseph Wilson, calling out the president’s lies. We never learned whether Mr. Cheney gave those orders with the approval of the president or on his own. That’s because President George W. Bush added to the obstruction by commuting Mr. Libby’s sentence, ensuring that nothing would happen to the firewall that protected his own White House. Mr. Libby wouldn’t go to prison, but neither would he lose his Fifth Amendment privilege, which could make it easy to compel further testimony about his bosses.
On Friday another president with a special counsel investigation raging around him pardoned Mr. Libby. “I don’t know Mr. Libby,” President Trump said in the pardon announcement. “But for years I have heard that he has been treated unfairly. Hopefully, this full pardon will help rectify a very sad portion of his life.”
Mr. Trump’s action does nothing to change the past.
But it might change the lives or convictions of people whom President Trump does know: his own personal firewall. By pardoning Mr. Libby, Mr. Trump sends a message to Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen and any of his other close aides who are facing or may face potential prosecution pursuant to the investigation by Robert Mueller, the special counsel.
But Trump may have waited too long to pardon his thugs.
The thing is, Mr. Trump is unlikely to be able to use his pardon power to get out of his legal jam. That’s because several of his potential firewalls — Mr. Manafort, Mr. Cohen and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner — could be charged at the state level for the financial crimes they’re suspected of. A federal pardon would simply move their prosecution beyond Mr. Trump’s control.
And there are many more people who can incriminate the president, whereas in the investigation into Ms. Plame’s exposure, Mr. Libby was one of the only people who could say whether the president had authorized the leak of a C.I.A. officer’s identity. Already, three key witnesses have agreed to cooperate with Mr. Mueller against the president, so it’s probably too late to start silencing witnesses.
Finally, neither Mr. Trump nor his thoroughly outmatched legal team knows the full exposure he or potential witnesses face. Given the involvement of Russians trying to undermine the United States, the evidence Mr. Mueller may already have collected could well be even uglier than deliberately burning a C.I.A. spy for political gain.
That makes it a lot harder to pull off what George Bush did — protect his firewall.
After yesterday, it’s looking much more likely that Trump will not be able to use pardons to weasel out of the mess he’s in.
Some stories on the Syria situation:
So . . . what stories are you following today?
Another day, another embarrassing Trump cover-up. It turns out Trump’s buddies at The National Enquirer paid off a former doorman who claimed Trump had fathered a child with one of his employees in the late ’90s. The Enquirer then refused to publish the story.
Eight months before the company that owns the National Enquirer paid $150,000 to a former Playboy Playmate who claimed she’d had an affair with Donald Trump, the tabloid’s parent made a $30,000 payment to a less famous individual: a former doorman at one of the real estate mogul’s New York City buildings.
As it did with the ex-Playmate, the Enquirer signed the ex-doorman to a contract that effectively prevented him from going public with a juicy tale that might hurt Trump’s campaign for president….
The story of the ex-doorman, Dino Sajudin, hasn’t been told until now.
The Associated Press confirmed the details of the Enquirer’s payment through a review of a confidential contract and interviews with dozens of current and former employees of the Enquirer and its parent company, American Media Inc. Sajudin got $30,000 in exchange for signing over the rights, “in perpetuity,” to a rumor he’d heard about Trump’s sex life — that the president had fathered a child with an employee at Trump World Tower, a skyscraper he owns near the United Nations. The contract subjected Sajudin to a $1 million penalty if he disclosed either the rumor or the terms of the deal to anyone.
Cohen, the longtime Trump attorney, acknowledged to the AP that he had discussed Sajudin’s story with the magazine when the tabloid was working on it. He said he was acting as a Trump spokesman when he did so and denied knowing anything beforehand about the Enquirer payment to the ex-doorman.
The parallel between the ex-Playmate’s and the ex-doorman’s dealings with the Enquirer raises new questions about the roles that the Enquirer and Cohen may have played in protecting Trump’s image during a hard-fought presidential election. Prosecutors are probing whether Cohen broke banking or campaign laws in connection with AMI’s payment to McDougal and a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels that Cohen said he paid out of his own pocket.
At The New Yorker, Ronan Farrow offers many more details. The most troubling aspect of the story is that Trump’s loyal fixer Michael Cohen was involved in the Enquirer’s negotiations. Two legal opinions from the Farrow story:
Richard L. Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine, said of the payment to Sajudin, “As with the payment to Stormy Daniels and the McDougal matter, there’s certainly enough smoke here to merit further investigation. However, there are questions of both fact and law that would be relevant before concluding that there’s a likely campaign-finance violation.” One question would be whether the intent was to help the campaign. The timing, months after Trump announced his Presidential candidacy, could be “good circumstantial evidence” of that. Hasen added that the cases involving A.M.I. raised difficult legal questions, because media companies have various exemptions from campaign-finance law. However, he said, “If a corporation that has a press function is being used for non-press purposes to help a candidate win an election, then the press exemption would not apply to that activity.”
Stephen Braga, a white-collar-criminal-defense professor at the University of Virginia’s law school, told me that the payment had potential ramifications for ongoing criminal probes of Trump, particularly given the claims of Cohen’s involvement. “Now with this third event it looks more and more like there’s a pattern developing. That may be one of the things that the F.B.I. was trying to find evidence of with the search warrant,” he said. “The pattern seems to be ‘We use third-party intermediaries to pay off individuals with adverse information that may harm the President.’ That is just a shade away from what the special counsel will be looking for in terms of intent on the obstruction-of-justice investigation.”
The New York Times has a long article on investigators’ interest in Trump’s relationship with The National Enquirer.
President Trump has long had ties to the nation’s major media players. But his connections with the country’s largest tabloid publisher, American Media Inc., run deeper than most.
A former top executive of Mr. Trump’s casino business sits on A.M.I.’s four-member board of directors, and an adviser joined the media company after the election. The company’s chairman, David J. Pecker, is a close friend of the president’s.
And in the Trump era, A.M.I.’s flagship tabloid, The National Enquirer, has taken a decidedly political turn, regularly devoting covers to the president’s triumphs and travails with articles headlined “Trump’s Plan For World Peace!” and “Proof! FBI Plot to Impeach Trump!”
Since the early stages of his campaign in 2015, Mr. Trump, his lawyer Michael D. Cohen and Mr. Pecker have strategized about protecting him and lashing out at his political enemies.
Now the tabloid company has been drawn into a sweeping federal investigation of Mr. Cohen’s activities, including efforts to head off potentially damaging stories about Mr. Trump during his run for the White House. In one instance, The Enquirer bought but did not publish a story about an alleged extramarital relationship years earlier with the presidential candidate, an unusual decision for a scandal sheet.
The federal inquiry could pose serious legal implications for the president and his campaign committee. It also presents thorny questions about A.M.I.’s First Amendment protections, and whether its record in supporting Mr. Trump somehow opens the door to scrutiny usually reserved for political organizations.
Read the rest at the NYT.
Mike Pompeo is undergoing grilling before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee over his nomination for Secretary of State. I tried watching some of it, but I found Pompeo’s manner of speaking so annoying that I couldn’t take much of it. The man also has a permanent smirk on his face. He’s refusing to answer questions about anything to do with Trump and Russia; and when I was watching, he generally refused to answer direct questions from Democrats. A few stories on his testimony so far:
The Sacramento Bee: The Latest: Pompeo wouldn’t resign if Trump fired Mueller.
Paul Ryan announced yesterday that he plans to remain as Speaker of the House until the end of his term, but apparently Trump and his supporters want Ryan out very soon.
What we’re hearing: One source close to leadership told us: “Scuttlebutt is that Paul will have to step down from speakership soon. Members won’t follow a lame duck, he’ll have no leverage to cut deals, and the last thing they need in this environment is 6 months of palace intrigue and everyone stabbing everyone else in the back.”
There’s more at the link. A couple more stories to check out at The Daily Beast:
James Comey’s book comes out next Tuesday, and a few tidbits are beginning to leak out. Comey compared Trump to a mob boss in an interview with George Stephanopoulos that will be broadcast on Sunday. Today, The Daily Beast reveals that Comey claims John Kelly Called Trump ‘Dishonorable’ For Firing Me.
Within minutes of his firing in May, former FBI director James Comey received a call from John Kelly, then the head of the Department of Homeland Security and now the White House chief of staff.
According to Comey’s account, which is set to appear in his highly-anticipated forthcoming memoir, Kelly was “emotional” over the manner in which Comey was let go. The then-FBI Director had reportedly been in California at the time, speaking to FBI agents in Los Angeles, and only found out that he was out of a job when he saw the news break on TV.
Kelly, Comey recalls, said he was “sick” about the situation and “intended to quit” in protest. Kelly “said he didn’t want to work for dishonorable people,” referring specifically to President Donald Trump, who appeared to be upset at the FBI’s persistent investigation into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russian officials.
According to sources, Comey writes in his book that he encouraged Kelly to remain in his post, saying “this president,” more than his predecessors, needed people of principle and integrity around him.
If Trump hears about that story, maybe he’ll dump Kelly today. We’re also waiting for news on what Trump plans to do in Syria and whether he’ll fire someone–or maybe everyone–in the Department of Justice.
You probably heard about the WaPo story last night about how Steve Bannon plans to “cripple” Mueller and his investigation. The plan is pretty ridiculous, but Trump is probably stupid enough to buy into it.
The first step, these people say, would be for Trump to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who oversees the work of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and in recent days signed off on a search warrant of Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen.
Bannon is also recommending the White House cease its cooperation with Mueller, reversing the policy of Trump’s legal team to provide information to the special counsel’s team and to allow staff members to sit for interviews.
And he is telling associates inside and outside the administration that the president should create a new legal battleground to protect himself from the investigation by asserting executive privilege — and arguing that Mueller’s interviews with White House officials over the past year should now be null and void.
This morning CNN published an account of how Republicans plan to smear Comey to offset his book tour: Exclusive: Inside the GOP plan to discredit Comey.
The battle plan against Comey, obtained by CNN, calls for branding the nation’s former top law enforcement official as “Lyin’ Comey” through a website, digital advertising and talking points to be sent to Republicans across the country before his memoir is released next week. The White House signed off on the plan, which is being overseen by the Republican National Committee.
“Comey is a liar and a leaker and his misconduct led both Republicans and Democrats to call for his firing,” Republican chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement to CNN. “If Comey wants the spotlight back on him, we’ll make sure the American people understand why he has no one but himself to blame for his complete lack of credibility.”
While it’s an open question how successful Republicans will be in making their case against Comey, given that Trump unceremoniously dismissed him last May 9, there is no doubt that many Democrats remain furious at how the former FBI director treated Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Republicans hope to remind Democrats why they disliked Comey by assailing his credibility, shining a new light on his conduct and pointing out his contradictions — or the three Cs.
An old quotation from Clinton is prominently displayed on the “Lyin’Comey” website, with Trump’s former Democratic rival saying that Comey “badly overstepped his bounds.”
I’m dithering about whether or not to read the Comey book. I guess I’ll wait and see how interesting it sounds after some reviews and interviews. Rachel Maddow said she is going to have him on her show Tuesday night; that should be interesting.
So . . . what stories are you following today?
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
I seem hard wired to avoid the caves and to wander the plains and mountains. For this, I believe I have my mother to thank. I imagine lurking some where in my family are Irish ‘traveller’ genes but who knows. I do not understand people who find one location and surround themselves with sameness. The lily white Midwestern suburbans filled with snotty WASPS were a prison to me. My mother’s insistence we travel frequently was the only thing that saved me. It showed me there was more to people and life than a backyard prison.
Later, as a young mother, I unfortunately discovered way too late–because of promises of other things–that I basically married a potted plant who wanted nothing more than to drag to and from work day in and day out. The sofa was the center of life. I got some pleasure in taking my summers off and taking baby Doctor Daughter on the road. That worked until my parents moved back to the prison and I was surrounded by boring sameness day in and day out. It felt like being entombed in a cavern surrounded by slugs, potted plants, and narrowness in a world ruled without color or the discovery of abstract art and erotica. This came home as an astounding lesson with my inoperable cancer diagnosis at 34 and a six month old baby. I was not going to let my children suffer the same fate. They needed more back yard to play about and I would give them that for as long as I could live.
The word that best describes the circumstances of my youth is people attached to “homophilly”. It literally means the “love of the same.” It is the tendency of people with similar characteristics to congregate. That pretty much describes the WASP enclave that ensconced me. Same boring stuff day in and day out. My mother drove us to Pow Wows. She stuck us in station wagons and campers to search the far corners of the American West. We eventually landed in Europe. These were all places where I would dream I would have the courage to run away into so I would never EVER have to go back. My cousin who moved to NYC to do Broadway was my siren. She led me to believe that one day I would escape. History taught the progress of human kind was to leave caves and tribes to build cities. American History taught the American spirit is to get out there to discover and explore and build something new. None of this included the iconography of firmly planted sofas.
But, firmly planted sofas in limited areas show us that our tribal roots are still lurking. These lead to dark times, genocides, war, and oppression. I was looking at the various news items I’ve collected for today trying to find some theme. You’re probably wondering at this point too. I think therefore, I babble. Unfortunately, it all seems to be an expression of our primal fear of other and the desire of so many to huddle into a tribe based on iron age mythologies, the social constructs of race, sexuality and gender roles, and the dark side of homophilly. If we only love the same, do we also have to adapt the hate of the different?
I have two items of interest on the construct of separating humanity by race. First, is this new classification system for Black people living in the USA. How do you elect to be “just black”? From NPR: “2020 Census Will Ask Black People About Their Exact Origins”. Why is this necessary? Furthermore, a lot of us either came or were drug over way back and don’t know, a lot of us are a blend of all kinds of things, and why should the government be focused on which part of what continent spawned our ancestors?
For the 2020 census, the U.S. Census Bureau is changing how it will ask black people to designate their race. Under the check box for “Black or African American,” the bureau is adding a new space on the census questionnaire for participants to write in their non-Hispanic origins, according to a recent memo from the head of the 2020 census. “African American,” “Jamaican” and “Nigerian” are listed as examples of origins on a questionnaire the bureau is testing for 2020.
The change means many black people in the U.S. may have to take a closer look at their family trees to answer what can be a thorny question: Where are you really from? While many black immigrants can cite ties to a specific country, that question is difficult, if not impossible, for many U.S.-born African-Americans to answer.
The bureau has not responded to NPR’s questions about why it is making this change to both the “Black” category and the “White” category,” which will also include a new write-in area for origins.
But researchers at the bureau have said they have been trying to respond to requests for “more detailed, disaggregated data for our diverse American experiences as German, Mexican, Korean, Jamaican, and myriad other identities.” (The bureau was considering an overhaul to all racial categories that would have added check boxes for the largest ethnic groups and a write-in area for smaller groups. But it would require the Trump administration’s approval of an Obama-era proposal to change the federal standards on race and ethnicity data, which census experts say the White House’s Office of Management and Budget is not likely to move forward.)
My WASPY family has our family tree detailed out to when the first of whatever line came from where ever but only because my mother got obsessed with researching it decades ago as a hobby. And, this details one important distinction. Every one of my ancestors arrived here of their own volition. None of them were kidnapped and enslaved. None of them were here already where they were frequently murdered and driven from their lands. How does this information do anything positive?
Sebastian Junger wrote a book called “Tribe” that was published in 2016. He argued that on some level having wars and enemies is something humans enjoy because it gives us a sense of belonging. I can’t imagine needing that enough to be violent and oppressive to others. But, I see it in Trump’s White Nationalist cult and realize it has a draw.
During John Ford’s celebrated western film The Searchers, John Wayne’s character spends years hunting for his niece Debbie, kidnapped as a child by Comanche Indians.
When he finally finds her, she initially wants to stay with her Comanche husband rather than return home.
Although shocking in the film, it’s historically accurate. White people captured by American Indians (author Sebastian Junger’s preferred name for Native Americans) commonly chose to stay with their captors – and the book cites a case of a captive woman who hid from her would-be rescuers.
Even more astonishingly, from the earliest days of Europeans in America, settlers of both sexes ran away to join Indian tribes. This wasn’t just a few people, it was hundreds and hundreds. The practice was so rife that in the early 1600s settler leaders made it an offence with harsh punishments, but over the following centuries people still ran off in huge numbers.
And it hardly ever happened the other way. Indians didn’t want to join white society.
The attraction, argues Junger, was the sense of community, the importance of the tribe, evident in other primates and in primitive human societies. The superficial attractions of American Indian life were obvious: sexual mores were more relaxed, clothing was more comfortable, religion less harsh.
But mostly it was the structure of Indian society that appealed. It was less hierarchical, essentially classless and egalitarian. As the people were nomadic, personal property hardly mattered, since it was limited to what you or your horses could carry.
What changed this natural way of living for humans was first agriculture, then industry. Accumulation of personal property led to people doing what they thought best for themselves, rather than for the common good. But, suggests Junger, we’re not happy like this. We’re wired to the lifestyle of the tribe.
So tribal connectedness really doesn’t need the social construct of race, and yet it frequently and murderously oppressively does. From CBS: “Why 60 Minutes aired photos of lynchings in report by Oprah. The reason behind the broadcast’s decision to show graphic photographs of lynchings in this week’s report by contributor Oprah Winfrey”.
Oprah Winfrey gets an early look at the memorial, which will open to the public on April 26. The memorial contains 805 steel markers, one for each county where lynchings occurred for more than 70 years following the Civil War. The markers are suspended in air to evoke the horror of being hanged.
To tell that story on 60 Minutes, Winfrey and a team of producers felt it was important to show historical photos of lynchings, images that are likely to disturb many viewers. In an interview with 60 Minutes Overtime, Denise Schrier Cetta, the producer of the story, and Jeff Fager, the executive producer of the broadcast, explain their decision to air such upsetting photographs.
“I don’t think the story exists without those photos,” Fager says. News executives have a tendency to self-censor too much, he says, out of concern that viewers will be turned off. For him, the decision to show the photos was about reporting important facts about a little-known but important chapter of history.
“That’s reality; that’s what happened,” he tells 60 Minutes Overtime’s Ann Silvio in the video above. “Our story is about a part of history, really almost 80 years of American history, that isn’t in the history books. We don’t see these pictures. We don’t talk about it.”
One photograph that surprises Fager the most is an image of a crowd that showed up in Waco, Texas to watch the lynching of a man named Jesse Washington. The hanging tree stands in the center of the photograph, Washington’s tortured body lies beneath it, and hundreds of well-dressed white people look on.
“I really thought most lynchings were in the cover of night and Klan outfits, and not that it was a part of life to that degree—that the town would turn out to watch it happen in broad daylight,” says Fager, who feels that many viewers will learn a lot from the story.
The Guardian previews a book written on the idea of how tribe of masculine warps young boys. The author of The Shepard’s Hut is an Australian Surfer. “About the boys: Tim Winton on how toxic masculinity is shackling men to misogyny. In an excerpt from a speech about his new book The Shepherd’s Hut, the author says it is men who need to step up and liberate boys from the race, the game, the fight.”
There are a lot more girls in the water these days, and hallellujah for that; I can’t tell you how heartening this is. But I want to focus on the boys for a moment. For what a mystery a boy is. Even to a grown man. Perhaps especially to a grown man. And how easy it is to forget what beautiful creatures they are. There’s so much about them and in them that’s lovely. Graceful. Dreamy. Vulnerable. Qualities we either don’t notice, or simply blind ourselves to. You see, there’s great native tenderness in children. In boys, as much as in girls. But so often I see boys having the tenderness shamed out of them.
Boys and young men are so routinely expected to betray their better natures, to smother their consciences, to renounce the best of themselves and submit to something low and mean. As if there’s only one way of being a bloke, one valid interpretation of the part, the role, if you like. There’s a constant pressure to enlist, to pull on the uniform of misogyny and join the Shithead Army that enforces and polices sexism. And it grieves me to say it’s not just men pressing those kids into service.
These boys in the surf. The things they say to me! The stuff I hear them saying to their mates! Some of it makes you want to hug them. Some of it makes you want to cry. Some of it makes you ashamed to be a male. Especially the stuff they feel entitled or obliged to say about girls and women.
What I’ve come to notice is that all these kids are rehearsing and projecting. Trying it on. Rehearsing their masculinity. Projecting their experimental versions of it. And wordlessly looking for cues the whole time. Not just from each other, but from older people around them, especially the men. Which can be heartbreaking to witness, to tell you the truth. Because the feedback they get is so damn unhelpful. If it’s well-meant it’s often feeble and half-hearted. Because good men don’t always stick their necks out and make an effort.
So what really got me thinking about all of this and finding thread was this late news and the news of IDF snipers targeting children (male) and journalists in an attack on Gaza during protests near the wall. This is from The BBC about some of the oldest tribes defined by religion still left: “Syria conflict: Israel blamed for attack on airfield”. People of the Jewish faith have been targets of tribal hostilities for so many thousands of years it’s hard to believe. And yet, they are still capable of these things. At first, we thought the US was attacking Syria based on the chemical attacks. Instead, it was a rogue(?) Israel.
Monday’s attack hit the Tiyas airbase, known as T4, near the city of Homs. Observers say 14 people were killed.
Israel, which has previously hit Syrian targets, has not commented. Syria initially blamed the US for the strike.
The incident comes amid international alarm over an alleged chemical attack on a Syrian rebel-held town. The US and France had threatened to respond.
Reportedly, there were Russians and Iranians there. From The Israeli Times a few months back: IDF accuses Iran of setting up air base outside Syrian city of Palmyra.
The Israeli military on Saturday accused Iran of controlling an airbase outside the Syrian city of Palmyra, from which the army said the Iranian drone that was shot down over northern Israel earlier in the day was launched.
“Iran and the [Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ special unit] Quds Force for some time have been operating the T-4 Air Base in Syria next to Palmyra, with support from the Syrian military and with permission from the Syrian regime,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement on Saturday night.
So, it likely was an attack based on a response to that. It’s just hard to know these days.
This comes on the back of two items posted to Facebook feeds from two separate Jewish Friends. It’s quite odd, but within in my WASPY cocoon it was quite acceptable for me to have many Jewish friends as long as I didn’t try to have a Jewish boyfriends. My mother actually got a call from an angry grandmother matriarch telling her that I needed to leave them to Jewish girls once in high school. In my neck of WASPishness dating Catholics was much more suspect. Especially, if they came from Eastern European or Southern European roots. I wasn’t even allowed to pierce my ears because I’d look like some immigrant baby. See, the rules of tribalism can be very fickle as well as stupid.
Yaser Murtaja had often filmed from the sky, but he never lived to fulfill his dream of flying on an airplane through the clouds.
The young journalist shot drone images and video for Ain Media, a small Gaza-based news agency he started five years ago. Just two weeks ago, he posted an aerial photo of Gaza City’s port on Facebook. “I wish that the day would come to take this shot when I’m in the air and not on the ground,” he wrote. “My name is Yaser Murtaja. I’m 30 years old. I live in Gaza City. I’ve never traveled!”
It was one of his last posts.
Murtaja, who was married and had a 2-year-old son, died Saturday after being shot the day before while covering protests at the edge of the Gaza Strip.
His work had appeared on networks such as Al Jazeera, and in 2016 he worked as a cameraman for Ai Weiwei’s documentary, “Human Flow,” which covered the global refugee crisis, including Palestinians in Gaza. The Chinese visual artist posted photos of Murtaja on his Instagram account on Saturday.
As violence continues to rage along the Israel-Gaza border, an Israeli reporter shared a photo that could only be described as inhumane.
“Best show in town. Residents of Nahal Oz in the stands,” read the caption for the image that showed a group of young Israeli spectators sitting on an observation tower near the Israel-Gaza border line, watching and waving as unarmed Palestinians got brutally murdered and wounded at the hands of Israeli troops.
The images were later shared by Reuters as well.
From Haaretz: “The Cold Calculation Behind the Israeli Army’s Sniper Fire on the Gaza Border. The politicians instructed the military to prevent a breach of the fence, but it’s doubtful that they held detailed discussions about the means to achieve this.”
Testimonies of correspondents on the Israeli side about the rate of firing and Palestinian reports of 800 people wounded attest to quite permissive orders given to the snipers. Even when the area is divided into sectors, commanded by senior officers, an area commander has no close control over the sharpshooters’ every shot. This situation leaves a lot to the discretion of relatively young soldiers, even though they were reinforced by more veteran police and Border Police snipers. The number of casualties was in accordance with these circumstances.
The number of fatalities yet again underscores Israel’s long-standing failure – commented on by the State Comptroller in 2003 and 2017 – to develop nonlethal measures which would be effective in dispersing demonstrations and marches from a relatively large distance.
There seems to be a huge human cost to feeling that sense of belonging you get from a Tribe. And don’t even get my started about the many other gangs and such I’ve written about in the past.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
I’ve been trying to find out where Trump is this weekend. I haven’t heard anything about him going to Florida, and I’m afraid that may mean there will be more chaos in the White House over the weekend. Will Scott Pruitt lose his job? Or will Trump really try to use him to replace Jeff Sessions? Is Trump really preparing to talk to Robert Mueller, as CNN reports?
President Donald Trump has begun the initial steps of preparing for a possible interview with the special counsel, a White House official and a person familiar with the situation said Friday, a sign the President’s legal team is intensifying its deliberations over whether to allow him to come under Robert Mueller’s questioning.
One source familiar with the proceedings stressed the preparation efforts is “in its infancy.”
The preparations have been short and informal and included going over potential topics with the President that Mueller would likely raise in an interview, the people said.
The President has not formally agreed to sit for an interview with Mueller.
But word of early preparations is the clearest sign yet that Trump and his team remain open to an interview with Mueller, despite concerns from some people close to the President that such an interview could expose him to possible charges of perjury.
According to Tina Nguyen at Vanity Fair, Trump is now targeting one of his last “adult” advisers: Running Out of Punching Bags, Trump Turns on Mattis.
Until recently, Donald Trump’s campaign to purge naysayers had spared the Pentagon. In the absence of more proximate targets, however, it appears the president has turned his attention to foreign policy, jeopardizing his relationship with perhaps his only remaining sane adviser. Indeed, in the past week, Trump has made James Mattis’s job nearly impossible by declaring that he would send the military to guard the border with Mexico (the White House later clarified that he meant the National Guard), and insisting that the U.S. pull out of Syria (something Mattis promised last year would not happen), leading to a spectacular showdown on Tuesday, when the conflict between Trump and his generals reportedly boiled over during a meeting of top aides in the Situation Room.
According to the Associated Press, Mattis argued “that an immediate withdrawal” from Syria “could be catastrophic and was logistically impossible to pull off in any responsible way,” and offered a one-year timeline as an alternative—to which Trump responded that five or six months ought to do the trick, and “indicated that he did not want to hear in October that the military had been unable to fully defeat the Islamic State and had to remain in Syria for longer.” A person familiar with the meeting told CNN that attendees left Tuesday’s meeting “beside themselves,” arguing that Trump’s lack of desire to put together any sort of recovery plan for Syria—restoring basic needs such as water, power, and roads—would most certainly tip the country back into ISIS’s hands. “It is a huge gamble that ISIS is not going to come back and that we are going to rely on others to stabilize Syria,” an official said.
The same official noted the hypocrisy in Trump’s choice: “The president blasted Obama for a timeline in Iraq, but that is in essence what we have been given.”
It wasn’t the result top national security aides wanted. Trump’s desire for a rapid withdrawal faced unanimous opposition from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Pentagon, the State Department and the intelligence community, all of which argued that keeping the 2,000 U.S. soldiers currently in Syria is key to ensuring the Islamic State does not reconstitute itself.
But as they huddled in the Situation Room, the president was vocal and vehement in insisting that the withdrawal be completed quickly if not immediately, according to five administration officials briefed on Tuesday’s White House meeting of Trump and his top aides. The officials weren’t authorized to discuss internal deliberations and requested anonymity.
If those aides failed in obtaining their desired outcome, it may have been because a strategy that’s worked in the past — giving Trump an offer he can’t refuse — appears to have backfired.
Rather than offer Trump a menu of pullout plans, with varying timelines and options for withdrawing step-by-step, the team sought to frame it as a binary choice: Stay in Syria to ensure the Islamic State can’t regroup, or pull out completely. Documents presented to the president included several pages of possibilities for staying in, but only a brief description of an option for full withdrawal that emphasized significant risks and downsides, including the likelihood that Iran and Russia would take advantage of a U.S. vacuum.
Ultimately, Trump chose that option anyway.
Will Mattis resign if Trump insists on pulling the U.s. military out of Syria? Or will Trump fire him? John Bolton is expected to begin his job as National Security Adviser on Monday. Will he agree with Trump’s newly formed foreign policy?
Chief of Staff John Kelly has also lost influence on the newly “emboldened” Trump according to CBS News: Trump freezes out chief of staff John Kelly, says he’s “tired of being told ‘no.'”
When President Donald Trump made a congratulatory, White House chief of staff John Kelly wasn’t on the line. When Mr. Trump to be his next national security adviser, Kelly wasn’t in the room.
And when Mr. Trump spent a Mar-a-Lago weekend stewing over immigration and trade, Kelly wasn’t in sight.
Kelly, once empowered to bring order to a turbulent West Wing, has receded from view, his clout diminished, his word less trusted by staff and his guidance less tolerated by an increasingly go-it-alone president.
The stock market isn’t happy with Trump’s push for a trade war. Yahoo News (AP): Stock Market Plummets After Trump Explores $100 Billion in New Chinese Tariffs.
Another increase in trade tensions has stocks falling sharply Friday as the U.S. considers an even larger set of tariffs on imports from China and the two countries exchange pointed statements. Technology companies and banks are taking some of the worst losses.
Stocks have changed direction again and again this week as investors tried to get a sense of whether a trade dispute between the two nations will escalate, an outcome that could have major consequences for the global economy. The market didn’t get any help from a March jobs report that was weaker than expected.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell dropped 581 points, or 2.4 percent, to 23,916 as of 2:15 p.m. Eastern time. Earlier it fell as much as 620 points.
The S&P 500, which many index funds track, lost 53 points, or 2 percent, to 2,608. The Nasdaq composite slid 135 points, or 1.9 percent, to 6,940. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks dipped 29 points, or 1.9 percent, to 1,513.
The Dow average, which contains numerous multinational companies including industrial powerhouses Boeing and Caterpillar, has swung dramatically this week, with about 1,300 points separating its highest and lowest marks. It fell as much as 758 points Monday, then recovered all of those losses, and late Thursday it was up as much as 519 points for the week. It’s down 0.7 percent for the week.
Donald Trump has decided to gamble his presidency on the idea that he can threaten big tariffs on China and force the world’s second-largest economy to back down.
If he fails — and the odds are that he will — the fallout from a tariff battle with China could derail an otherwise strong U.S. economy, threaten Republican majorities in the midterm elections and turn the second half of Trump’s first term into a dismal slog to avoid impeachment votes.
So far, the exact scenario that free traders inside the White House and on Capitol Hill feared is playing out. China scoffed at Trump’s initial $50 billion in threatened tariffs and announced their own, aimed directly at Trump’s red-state base with levies on agricultural and manufactured products.
Although Trump has repeatedly bragged about stock market gains since he has been “president,” Bloomberg reports that Trump is now in 8th place in rankings of presidential success with the markets:
The Republican president’s renewed ramblings on trade dominated U.S. equity markets this week, with a tweet-induced swoon on Friday leaving the S&P 500 Index 1.4 percent lower than where it started on Monday. The gauge swung wildly, notching four moves of at least 1 percent in the five days, and the Cboe Volatility Index spiked above 20, nearly double its level for the past year.
All of which has dented Trump’s reputation as the stock market president.
Dow Jones Industrial Average return, if you invested in that basket of stocks, for a president’s first 444 days (ranked since 1900,) per Bloomberg:
FDR : 70.4%
Teddy Roosevelt: 37.4%
Bill Clinton: 32.2%
George H.W. Bush: 21.4%
BTW, according to Think Progress, Trump doesn’t want his trade war to interfere with his daughter’s self-dealing: Ivanka Trump’s clothing company will be spared from tariffs, thanks to her dad.
U.S. officials say they used an algorithm to determine which goods to exclude from new tariffs. According to the Washington Post, the list was drafted to achieve “the lowest consumer impact,” ensuring goods like clothing and toys were excluded so as not to raise the cost on domestic consumer goods.
Exempting clothing from the tariffs provides a big break to American clothing companies that hold trademarks in China. One of those clothing companies belongs to the First Daughter of the United States, Ivanka Trump.
A recent report by the Huffington Post found that the president’s daughter and closest adviser rakes in a total of $1.5 million a year from the Trump Organization while still working at the White House.
Her dual role as adviser to the president and private business executive has continuously raised ethical red flags. No one can be entirely sure that public policy by this administration isn’t being driven by business motives, or whether countries may pursue business deals with the Trump family as a means to curry political favor with the administration.
Once again, I’ve barely touched on all the important news that has broken over the past couple of days. I’ve reached the point of having to shut down for part of every day, because I’m so overwhelmed. Of course I’m not alone it that. In this vein Brian Klaas asks at The Washington Post: Can democracy survive information overload?
Last month, President Trump floated the idea of executing drug dealers; got sued by a porn star and a Playboy model; repeatedly attacked the FBI, his own attorney general and the Justice Department; instigated a trade war that punished long-standing U.S. allies; explicitly praised authoritarian consolidations of power in China and Egypt; “joked” about becoming “president for life”; congratulated Vladimir Putin on winning a sham election and reportedly invited him to the White House right after Russia’s government allegedly attempted to murder a former spy on the soil of the United States’ closest ally.
He also bullied a journalist for his physical appearance; boasted about making up statistics in meetings with Canada’s government; live-tweeted his favorite TV show; fired his secretary of state on Twitter; lost his Veterans Affairs secretary, national security adviser, chief economic adviser, communications director and a personal aide whose reported gambling habit was deemed a security risk; hired a new national security adviser who has repeatedly called to bomb North Korea and Iran; lashed out at the special counsel, who is investigating the president for potential crimes; and threatened to beat up the former vice president of the United States until he cried.
That’s just a small selection of news from March 2018: one crazy month of one crazy presidency.
This inescapable, overwhelming and disorienting flurry of activity, which has become the new normal since Trump’s inauguration, begs two simple but profound questions: Can democracy survive information overload? And can it survive a president who knows how to use the resulting chaos to dodge democratic accountability?
Authoritarian rulers have long understood that controlling and manipulating information are crucial to subverting democracy and getting away with breaking the rules. That’s why dictatorial governments such as China and Russia not only work overtime to control media and censor inconvenient facts but also use troll armies to spew out 24/7 torrents of disinformation. Despite Trump’s obvious envy of such methods, he’s stuck with American democracy, so he has innovated out of necessity. He can’t shut down the press or censor Democrats, but he can blind the American electorate with a steady smokescreen of bewildering stories pouring out of the White House.
From Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama, any one of those stories above would have captivated national attention for weeks, or more likely, months. But with Trump, even the most scandalous topic soon disappears into a never-ending flow of revelations. By the time the morning news shows end, it’s on to the next spectacle of dysfunction. We’re living in a chronic state of whiplash.
As usual, there’s way too much news out there this morning. In Trump world, there’s never an opportunity to catch your breath and focus on one important thing. I can’t cover everything, so here are some random stories that caught my interest.
Cecile Richards has a new book out–Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead: My Life Story–and she included some creepy revelations about Jared and Ivanka Kushner. People Magazine: Planned Parenthood CEO Says Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump Offered ‘Bribe’ to Stop Abortions.
In a riveting passage from Cecile Richards’ new memoir, the Planned Parenthood chief says Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were, during Donald Trump’s 2016 transition as president-elect, so eager to be recognized as shrewd political dealmakers that the soon-to-be first daughter and her husband made an offer that felt like a “bribe”: an increase in federal funding for Planned Parenthood in exchange for its agreement to stop providing abortions.
Richards says she “reached out” to Ivanka at the suggestion of a friend, in hopes of finding an ally in the Trump White House. Ivanka insisted on bringing Jared, so Richards asked her husband Kirk Adams to come with her.
According to a statement from Planned Parenthood given to Time.com, the purpose of the meeting “was to make sure that Ivanka Trump fully understood the important role Planned Parenthood plays in providing health care to millions of people and why it would be a disastrous idea to block people from accessing care at Planned Parenthood.”
After Richards explained this, she writes that Kushner told her Planned Parenthood “had made a big mistake by becoming ‘political.’ ”
“The main issue, he explained, was abortion,” Richards writes. “If Planned Parenthood wanted to keep our federal funding, we would have to stop providing abortions. He described his ideal outcome: a national headline reading ‘Planned Parenthood Discontinues Abortion Services.’”
According to Make Trouble, Kushner said that if Richards agreed to the plan then funding could increase, but he urged them to “move fast.”
“If it wasn’t crystal clear before, it was now. Jared and Ivanka were there for one reason: to deliver a political win,” she writes. “In their eyes, if they could stop Planned Parenthood from providing abortions, it would confirm their reputation as savvy dealmakers. It was surreal, essentially being asked to barter away women’s rights for more money. It takes a lot to get Kirk mad, but it looked like his head was about to explode.”
Richards explained that there was “no way” Kushner’s proposal would work and that they’d continue to fight for funding.
“‘Our mission is to care for women who need us, and that means caring for all of their reproductive needs — including safe and legal abortion,’” she recalls saying.
Can you imagine the nerve? In Trump world, everything is about money. These people can’t even begin to conceive of the notion that there are people with personal values that are non-negotiable.
There’s another new book about Trump world–this time by Trump booster Ronald Kessler. Still, a few embarrassing tidbits are coming out in advice of its release date.
According to journalist Ronald Kessler in his new book, The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game, when Kushner addressed reporters during a live television appearance, President Trump told the aides watching with him, “Look at Jared, he looks like a little boy, like a child.”
Kessler also claims that Trump once told Kushner and his daughter, Ivanka, that “they never should have left New York,” and he “made it clear to them that he would not mind if they gave up their White House roles.” [….]
Trump calling Jared “a child” seems rather unfair. Not only has president given his son-in-law a set of absurdly stratospheric, decidedly adult responsibilities, Kushner clearly looks more like a haunted doll than a little boy.
Kessler writes that Kellyanne Conway is the “number one leaker” in the White House except for Trump himself, who leaks as as an “anonymous source” to specific reporters in hopes of positive coverage. According to Kessler, Melania Trump is an important adviser to her husband, and she once “walked out on” Trump in 1998 when she found out he was cheating on her. Now you don’t have to read the book, which reported is filled with Trump boosterism.
Luke Harding, who wrote the terrific book Collusion, has a new piece on Paul Manafort’s machinations at The Guardian: Former Trump aide approved ‘black ops’ to help Ukraine president.
Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort authorised a secret media operation on behalf of Ukraine’s former president, featuring “black ops”, “placed” articles in the Wall Street Journal and US websites, and anonymous briefings against Hillary Clinton.
The project was designed to boost the reputation of Ukraine’s then leader, Viktor Yanukovych. It was part of a multimillion-dollar lobbying effort carried out by Manafort on behalf of Yanukovych’s embattled government, emails and documents reveal.
• Proposing to rewrite Wikipedia entries to smear a key opponent of the then Ukrainian president.
• Setting up a fake “thinktank” in Vienna to disseminate viewpoints supporting Yanukovych.
• A social media blitz “aimed at targeted audiences in Europe and the US”.
• Briefing journalists from the rightwing website Breitbart to attack Clinton, when she was US secretary of state.
Manafort’s Ukraine strategy anticipates later efforts by the Kremlin and its troll factory to use Twitter and Facebook to discredit Clinton and to help Trump win the 2016 US election. The material seen by the Guardian dates from 2011 to 2013.
Read the rest at The Guardian.
Another interesting long read from The Guardian by Donna Ladd: Dangerous, growing, yet unnoticed: the rise of America’s white gangs. It’s a portrait of one man–Benny Ivy–who as a kid joined “one of the oldest and largest white gangs in the US, the Simon City Royals.”
The Royals’ roots date to Chicago’s North Side in 1952, when two violent white “greaser” gangs – the Ashland Royals and Simon City – guarded Simon Park turf as Puerto Ricans moved in.
Early greasers were immigrants, often Italian, maligned by wealthier whites for greasing machines in blue-collar jobs. In 1968, the greasers united as the Simon City Royals, often rumbling with the nearby Latin Kings as well as the white supremacist Gaylords. (Their rhetoric is familiar: a Gaylords nostalgia websitecalled Latino gangs “storage bins for illegal immigrants”.)
The Royals were one of the biggest and most violent street gangs in Chicago by the 1970s, when they joined the Folk Nation alliance with the Black Gangster Disciples, began admitting Hispanics and, later, women and black members.
But by the 1980s, the gang had weakened after its leadership got locked up or killed.
Strength shifted to prisons, and the brand spread to midwestern and southern states like Mississippi, where the Royals are now one of the largest and most violent gangs in the state.
Surveys of young Americans have shown that 40% identifying as gang members are white, but police tend to undercount them at 10% to 14% and overcount black and Hispanic members, says Babe Howell, a criminal law professor at City University of New York who focuses on crime and race.
“Police see groups of young white people as individuals, each responsible for his or her own conduct, and hold young people of color in street gangs criminally liable for the conduct of their peers,” she says.
Much more at the link.
Trump is insisting on sending National Guard troops to the southern border because he heard about a so-called “caravan” of migrants marching across Mexico. We now have a “president” who uses to executive ordered to deal with fake crises. Trump probably doesn’t know that U.S. troops can’t take any actions against people to enforce domestic laws because of the Posse Commitatus Act. So he’s sending the troops down there anyway instead of just letting them train to do their real jobs. So what about this “caravan?”
The New York Times: ‘You Hate America!’: How the ‘Caravan’ Story Exploded on the Right.
It was the kind of story destined to take a dark turn through the conservative news media and grab President Trump’s attention: A vast horde of migrants was making its way through Mexico toward the United States, and no one was stopping them.
“Mysterious group deploys ‘caravan’ of illegal aliens headed for U.S. border,” warned Frontpage Mag, a site run by David Horowitz, a conservative commentator.
The Gateway Pundit, a website that was most recently in the news for spreading conspiracies about the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., suggested the real reason the migrants were trying to enter the United States was to collect social welfare benefits.
And as the president often does when immigration is at issue, he saw a reason for Americans to be afraid. “Getting more dangerous. ‘Caravans’ coming,” a Twitter post from Mr. Trump read.
The story of “the caravan” followed an arc similar to many events — whether real, embellished or entirely imagined — involving refugees and migrants that have roused intense suspicion and outrage on the right. The coverage tends to play on the fears that hiding among mass groups of immigrants are many criminals, vectors of disease and agents of terror. And often the president, who announced his candidacy by blaming Mexico for sending rapists and drug dealers into the United States, acts as an accelerant to the hysteria.
That’s the fake story, now for the real story.
The New York Times: Inside an Immigrant Caravan: Women and Children, Fleeing Violence.
MATÍAS ROMERO, Mexico — With a sarcastic half-smile, Nikolle Contreras, 27, surveyed her fellow members of the Central American caravan, which President Trump has called dangerous and has used as a justification to send troops to the border.
More than 1,000 people, mostly women and children, waited patiently on Wednesday in the shade of trees and makeshift shelters in a rundown sports complex in this Mexican town, about 600 miles south of the border. They were tired, having slept and eaten poorly for more than a week. All were facing an uncertain future.
The migrants, most of them Hondurans, left the southern Mexican border city of Tapachula on March 25 and for days traveled north en masse — by foot, hitchhiking and on the tops of trains — as they fled violence and poverty in their homelands and sought a better life elsewhere.
This sort of collective migration has become something of an annual event around Easter week, and a way for advocates to draw more attention to the plight of migrants.
But this particular caravan caught the attention of Mr. Trump, apparently after he heard about it on Fox News. In a Twitter tirade that began Sunday, he conjured up hordes of dangerous migrants surging toward the border. He demanded that Mexican officials halt the group, suggesting that otherwise he would make them pay dearly in trade negotiations or aid cuts.
Mr. Trump even boasted that his threat had forced Mexico’s government to halt and disperse the caravan participants. But there was no evidence of that on Wednesday.
Read the rest at the NYT.
What stories are you following today?