Lazy Saturday Reads: A Friday the Thirteenth to Remember

Good Afternoon!!

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:

CNN: DOJ: Michael Cohen ‘under criminal investigation.’

WaPo: Criminal investigation into Trump lawyer’s business dealings began months ago.

NYT: Trump Sees Inquiry Into Cohen as Greater ThreWat Than Mueller.

HuffPost: FBI Seized Recordings Between Michael Cohen And Stormy Daniels’ Former Lawyer: Report.

NYMag: Report: Feds Seized Recordings From Michael Cohen.

NBC News: Trump lawyer Michael Cohen negotiated settlement between top GOP fundraiser, former Playmate.

CNN: Exclusive: FBI raid sought information on taxi owners linked to Trump’s lawyer.

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….

Cohen has vehemently denied for months that he ever has been in Prague or colluded with Russia during the campaign. Neither he nor his lawyer responded to requests for comment for this story.

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:

NYT: U.S., Britain and France Strike Syria Over Suspected Chemical Weapons Attack.

The Wrap: Rachel Maddow Raises ‘Wag the Dog’ Possibility as Trump Orders Syria Strikes.

NYT: President Trump Talked Tough. But His Strike on Syria Was Restrained.

The Hill: Trump supporters slam decision to launch strikes against Syria.

Reuters: Pro-Assad official says targeted bases were evacuated on Russian warning.

WaPo: Damascus defiant as U.S. strikes prove more limited than feared.

So . . . what stories are you following today?

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Live Blog: Bombs Away … De Hair Furor on Syria at 9 pm EST

 

Will striking the Syrian Regime be legitimate?

But calling Trump’s potential strike against Syria a legitimate humanitarian intervention is absurd. The most comprehensive effort to define that notion came from the Canadian government, which in 2001—in response to pleas from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan—empaneled a commission on the concept known as the “Responsibility to Protect.” That commissionoutlined several criteria that any humanitarian war must meet. No past U.S. intervention has met them fully. A new Syria strike, however, wouldn’t even come close.

One criterion was what the commission called “reasonable prospects.” A military intervention, it argued, must stand “a reasonable chance of success in halting or averting the suffering which has justified the intervention.” When Trump struck Syria for the first time last year, it may have been “reasonable” to hope an American strike would prevent Assad from using chemical weapons again. But it is utterly unreasonable today. That’s because, in the year since Trump’s strike, Assad has used chemical weapons again and again. He didn’t just apparently use them last weekend. According to armscontrol.org, he also allegedly used them on March 11, on March 7 and at least five times in January and February.

Shouldn’t Congress approve?  Ryan says no!!!

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Thursday that President Trump has broad authority to attack Syria, precluding the need for Congress to act beforehand.
“The existing AUMF gives him the authority he needs to do what he may or may not do,” Ryan said during a press briefing in the Capitol.

 

We’re striking with the UK and France. The force is on the war.

 

 

Stay tuned!

 

 


Tuesday Reads: Another Day of Information Overload

Good Morning!!

I’m illustrating this post with some relaxing photos that you can focus on when it all gets to be too much. Personally, I have a pounding headache after surveying the news this morning, and I need something to help me relax.

Information overload has become the new normal. But can it get even worse? Honestly, I believe it will. Yesterday was a shocking day, but today could easily bring more shocks.

Yesterday the FBI executed no-knock raids on the office, home, and hotel room of Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen; and Trump threw a public tantrum about it.

The Washington Post: Trump attorney Cohen is being investigated for possible bank fraud, campaign finance violations.

Michael Cohen, the longtime attorney of President Trump, is under federal investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations, according to three people with knowledge of the case.

FBI agents on Monday raided Cohen’s Manhattan office, home and hotel room as part of the investigation, seizing records about Cohen’s clients and personal finances. Among the records taken were those related to a 2016 payment Cohen made to adult-film star Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had a sexual encounter with Trump, according to a fourth person familiar with the investigation.

Investigators took Cohen’s computer, phone and personal financial records, including tax returns, as part of the search of his office at Rockefeller Center, that person said.

In a dramatic and broad seizure, federal prosecutors collected communications between Cohen and his clients — including those between the lawyer and Trump, according to both people.

Some background on Cohen from Trump biographer Michael Kranish at The Washington Post: Trump lawyer Michael Cohen: The loyal ‘fixer’ now under federal scrutiny.

After setting up a committee in 2011 designed to boost the possibility of a Trump presidential bid, he described his role as “fixer” in this way: “It means that if somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn’t like, I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump’s benefit. If you do something wrong, I’m going to come at you, grab you by the neck and I’m not going to let you go until I’m finished.”

Loyalty, he has said, spurred him to regularly threaten lawsuits against those he perceived as threats to Trump. Loyalty, he said, prompted him to use a home equity line of credit to finance a payment of $130,000 to adult-film star Stormy Daniels for her silence.

He even compared himself on Twitter to Ray Donovan, the fictional television character who goes to whatever lengths necessary to fix problems for the moguls he serves.

Basically, Cohen is a mafia-type lawyer with one big client, Donald Trump.

Axios describes the Trump tantrum over yesterdays FBI raids: Inside the West Wing with Trump enraged.

What we’re hearing: One of the sources said: “Mueller’s investigation has been drip, drip. This was a giant leap forward … a personal hit. … They were moving in inches. Today, they moved a mile.”

  • Until now, when storms hit, Trump could turn to Hope Hicks to explain things to him, suggest wording, simmer him down. With her departure from the White House, we saw the president working out his fury in real time.
  • The source continued: “This is the first crisis post-Hope Hicks. … This was different: I’ve never seen him like this before. … This is the president you’re going to see more of from here on out: unvarnished, untethered.”
  • Another source close to Trump said: “He takes the Russia stuff as a political hit job. This was a personal affront. This was the red line” of intrusion into personal financial matters.

The president — arms crossed defiantly — held a stunning on-camera venting session during an appearance with his senior military leadership where a potential strike on Syria took second billing to Michael Cohen (“With all of that being said, we are here to discuss Syria tonight”).

Some reactions to the Cohen raids and the possible repercussions for Trump:

Adam Serwer at The Atlantic: Michael Cohen Has a Big Problem.

Harry Litman at The New York Times: Trump’s One-Night Stand Turns Into a Legal Nightmare.

Rick Wilson at The Daily Beast: FBI Raid on Michael Cohen Is the Most Dangerous Day of Donald Trump’s Life.

Yesterday was also the first day on the job for Trump’s new National Security Adviser John Bolton, who arrived in the midst of a crisis over a gas attack in Syria. This morning, Bolton fired Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert. Business Insider reports:

President Donald Trump’s homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, has been fired from his White House position, Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs reported on Tuesday.

“The president is grateful for Tom’s commitment to the safety and security of our great country,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement confirming Bossert’s departure. “President Trump thanks him for his patriotic service and wishes him well.”

This comes the day after Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, took over as the president’s third national security adviser. Jacobs reported that Bolton asked for Bossert’s resignation, which was reportedly unexpected.

A former deputy homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush, Bossert has been a stalwart defender of the president’s since he joined the administration during the presidential transition, serving as a trusted adviser on terrorism, cybersecurity issues, and natural disasters.

The Cohen raids, obliterated other stories that would have been stunning if they involved a normal president.

AP: Trump’s company asked Panama president to help in hotel spat.

PANAMA CITY (AP) — U.S. President Donald Trump’s company appealed directly to Panama’s president to intervene in its fight over control of a luxury hotel, even invoking a treaty between the two countries, in what ethics experts say was a blatant mingling of Trump’s business and government interests.

That appeal in a letter last month from lawyers for the Trump Organization to Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela was apparently unsuccessful — an emergency arbitrator made days later declined to reinstate the Trump management team to the waterfront hotel in Panama City. But it provides hard proof of exactly the kind of conflict experts feared when Trump refused to divest from a sprawling empire that includes hotels, golf courses, licensing deals and other interests in more than 20 countries….

In the March 22 letter to Varela, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, lawyers for the Trump Organization “URGENTLY” request the Panamanian leader’s influence to help reverse the company’s acrimonious eviction as managers of the 70-story luxury high-rise once known as the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower.

While never mentioning Trump or his role as president, the letter says lawyers representing the Trump Organization were aware of “the separation of powers” in Panama but essentially asks the country’s president to intervene in the judicial process anyway. It goes on to say that the eviction violates an investment treaty signed by the two countries and suggests that the Panamanian government, not the hotel’s new management team, could be blamed for any wrongdoing.

So basically, the Trump Organization threatened that the U.S. government could retaliate against a foreign government over the president’s business interests!

The New York Times: Mueller Investigating Ukrainian’s $150,000 Payment for a Trump Appearance.

The special counsel is investigating a payment made to President Trump’s foundation by a Ukrainian steel magnate for a talk during the campaign, according to three people briefed on the matter, as part of a broader examination of streams of foreign money to Mr. Trump and his associates in the years leading up to the election.

Investigators subpoenaed the Trump Organization this year for an array of records about business with foreign nationals. In response, the company handed over documents about a $150,000 donation that the Ukrainian billionaire, Victor Pinchuk, made in September 2015 to the Donald J. Trump Foundation in exchange for a 20-minute appearanceby Mr. Trump that month through a video link to a conference in Kiev.

Michael D. Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer whose office and hotel room were raided on Monday in an apparently unrelated case, solicited the donation. The contribution from Mr. Pinchuk, who has sought closer ties for Ukraine to the West, was the largest the foundation received in 2015 from anyone besides Mr. Trump himself.

The subpoena is among signs in recent months that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is interested in interactions that Mr. Trump or his associates had with countries beyond Russia, though it is not clear what other payments he is scrutinizing.

Mr. Mueller also ordered the Trump Organization to turn over documents, emails and other communications about several Russians, including some whose names have not been publicly tied to Mr. Trump, according to the three people, who would not be named discussing the ongoing investigation. The identities of the Russians were unclear.

The payment from Mr. Pinchuk “is curious because it comes during a campaign and is from a foreigner and looks like an effort to buy influence,” said Marcus S. Owens, a former head of the Internal Revenue Service division that oversees tax-exempt organizations. He called the donation “an unusual amount of money for such a short speech.”

Betsy Woodruff reported at The Daily Beast on more legal trouble for Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort: A Second Paul Manafort Associate Has Turned on Him.

According to court documents, one of Manafort’s former employees led an FBI agent to a storage locker filled with paperwork on Manafort’s businesses and finances. The person’s name is redacted from the filings. But he’s now at the center of a fight over evidence that could play a significant role in the government’s case against Manafort….

This makes the second Manafort associate known to have aided the government in the sprawling investigation into foreign influence in U.S. politics. Rick Gates, Manafort’s long-time right hand, began cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office in February.

Manafort’s attorneys revealed the information about the second former employee in an April 6, 2018, court filing. In the filing, Manafort’s attorneys asked the federal judge overseeing the prosecution to block documents found in a storage unit in Alexandria, Virginia, from being used as evidence against him. They argue the employee did not have the authority to let the FBI agent look into the storage unit, and that, therefore, the FBI violated Manafort’s Fourth Amendment rights.

Read the details at the link.

More news on the Russia investigation broke this morning at CNN: Roger Stone said in July 2016 Russians were ‘most likely’ behind WikiLeaks emails and doing it to help Trump.

Longtime Trump associate Roger Stone said several times in July 2016 that Russia was most likely the source for hacked emails released during the Democratic National Convention and that it was not far-fetched to say the purpose was to help Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, according to a CNN KFile review of Stone’s interviews and appearances.

The comments, made by Stone from late July through August 1, 2016, show Stone stated at the time that Russia was the source of the emails — a sharp contrast to his more recent posture that Russia was not the source for hacked documents released by WikiLeaks throughout the campaign.By August 4, 2016, the same day Stone claimed in an email to have dined with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange the night prior, Stone abruptly changed his tune. In a conference call along with an interview with radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, Stone said that Russia had nothing to do with the hacked emails and they were the sole work of hacker Guccifer 2.0….

The 2016 comments raise more questions and add to an already murky picture about what Stone knew about WikiLeaks and why he subsequently — and seemingly suddenly — began to rule out the Russians as the source of the emails.

“The reason that the Russians are probably leaking this information is because they don’t want a nuclear war either. (Hillary Clinton) is bent on a war that benefits her donors and the multinational corporations and the defense contractors,” Stone told Jones on a July 27, 2016, edition of Jones’ program.
Several days later, on July 31, 2016, Stone said again the Russians were the most likely source for the material.

“The fact that the Russians will — or whoever — are going to continue to drop bombs on the American people in the form of their own documents. Alex, these are like the Watergate tapes. The Clintons have cut their own throat because they assume that no one would ever see all of their secret illegal maneuverings,” Stone told Jones. “This is why they used the unsecured server to hide the very things that I suspect someone — most likely the Russians — is going to drop on the American people like truthbombs throughout this election. She can raise a billion dollars and it may not matter. Trump may beat her like a drum as he pounces on and helps further public knowledge of every one of the bombshells that is coming.”

Read more 2016 direct quotes from Stone at the link.

I’ll have a few more links in the comment thread below. What stories are you following today? And when it comes to storage units, you can rely on and get help from boat storage units redmond wa, they have best service and brandnew storage facility. Go check it now.


Sunday Reads: The end of the world? It’s no nightmare.

Les amoureux du Quai du Louvre, Paris, 1955, photo by Frank Horvat

Les amoureux du Quai du Louvre, Paris, 1955, photo by Frank Horvat

 

Today’s images come from the blog, We Had Faces Then. This is a fantastic photo blog, where the tagline proclaims:

A gay man of a certain age and a certain sensibility searching for meaning in the flickering images of classic Hollywood.

I have decided to feature photos of Merle Oberon, I hope you enjoy them.

 

Paul Lukas and Merle Oberon in Berlin Express  (Jacques Tourneur, 1948)

 

 

So, late last night…I am saving images for this morning’s post, and the two above are the last things I see before I go to sleep. I don’t know if that had something to do with influencing my dreams? It could also be the fact that we have a disaster leading the country, and no one serving as National Security Adviser…technically…the Bolton Beast starts his reign on Monday.

 

Many of you might have already seen that clip on Friday’s Maddow, if you haven’t take a look.

But, my dream from last night was this…

The end of the world, I am sitting with my family in Florida, my aunt Celeste and the rest of the circus. We are all drinking and laughing outside while we await the apocalyptic explosion that is to commence shortly, when… “Mother Earth collides with Mars.”

The joke being, “HaHa…Wait, there was no collusion!”

“Hey, the end of the world is not brought on by tRump?”

Yeah, our last words to each other were not I love you, but we were astounded by the reason the Earth was being annihilated…and that tRump was not the actual direct cause of the destruction of the planet.

Now that is some fucked up dream. Is it because in the back of my mind…Mueller is taking so damn long…the earth would be colliding with some other celestial body before tRump gets charged or impeached?

tRump has been on the Twit box a lot this morning and last night. I was only going to share today’s tweets but might as well give you a few from last night, so you can have a perspective on the links throughout the rest of the thread.

 

I want to throw up every time I see or hear any direct communications or commands from this asshole.

Here are a few responses to the Hair Loser’s tweets. (Dak, I love that nickname.)

I wonder how long before Hair Loser walks back the Syria tweet?

 

 

Onward, with a few other responses to the fire at tRump Tower from last night:

Then there was this tweet:

Not sure on the veracity of that statement…Just putting that out there.

*Edited to add this link:

Trump Tower fire is second 2018 blaze in sprinkler-free residential tower – CBS News

The fire on the 50th floor New York City’s Trump Tower that left 67-year-old Todd Brassner dead and six firefighters injured was the second fire in the building in 2018. President Trump’s centerpiece Manhattan skyscraper opened in 1984, but does not have sprinklers on its residential floors, a measure required in new buildings since 1999. President Trump, then a private citizen and property developer, lobbied to try and prevent the mandate at the time.

New York City in 1999 became last big city in the nation to require sprinklers, according to the New York Daily News. Under the 1999 legislation, buildings constructed before then were only required to have sprinklers if they underwent gut renovations.

According to The New York Times, Mr. Trump was one of the developers in the late 1990s who lobbied against sprinklers in buildings. He then recanted once the legislation passed with grandfathering provisions that meant existing buildings did not need to install them, saying that he understood they made residents “feel safer.” FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said on Saturday that there is extra fire protection at Trump Tower when Mr. Trump is there.

Then-New York city mayor and now staunch Trump ally Rudy Giuliani signed the bill requiring sprinklers into force on March 24, 1999, having opposed it when it was first proposed in 1997. The legislation was spurred on by a major fire in a so-called “fireproof” apartment block with no sprinklers on New York’s Upper West Side the previous December, and another in a Brooklyn housing project the same month in which hallway sprinklers failed. Survivors wanted all buildings to have sprinklers, but the legislation that was passed was not retroactive, much to the delight of existing property owners who cited cost as a major reason not to be compelled to retrofit their buildings. At the time the legislation was being discussed, Mr. Trump had just started construction on a 72-story tower near the United Nations, and he subsequently said he would install sprinklers there at a cost of $3 million.

Saturday’s fire is the second fire in Mr. Trump’s Fifth Avenue building this year: Two civilians suffered minor injuries and a firefighter was hurt by debris in a fire on Jan. 8 on the top of the building. That blaze was sparked by an electrical issue, Mr. Trump’s son, Eric, said at the time. Eric Trump said the fire had been in a cooling tower.

Well, there is that.

 

In other news this weekend:

 

 

And hey, let’s not forget this little nugget:

That is huge…and I don’t think enough people are talking about it.

Meanwhile, in Gaza:

 

 

 

Here, add Tony Robbins to the list of assholes. (Granted, I personally had him on the list to start with, but this truly confirms my suspicions.)

Robbins actually pushes back on this woman, forcing her to step backwards. It is a physical intimidation…and it is disgusting.

 

So much of this post is disturbing, as the reality of our world today. This last tweet can put everything into focus. This was a mock headline that The Boston Globe published in April 2016:

Boston Globe Trump front page: The GOP must stop Trump – The Boston Globe

PDF: A front page in Trump’s America

Donald J. Trump’s vision for the future of our nation is as deeply disturbing as it is profoundly un-American.

It is easy to find historical antecedents. The rise of demagogic strongmen is an all too common phenomenon on our small planet. And what marks each of those dark episodes is a failure to fathom where a leader’s vision leads, to carry rhetoric to its logical conclusion. The satirical front page of this section attempts to do just that, to envision what America looks like with Trump in the White House.

I’d say they were spot on…

This is an open thread. Have at it.

 


Lazy Saturday Reads

Woman Reading by a Window Gari Melchers – circa 1905

Good Afternoon!!

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?

Exclusive: Trump begins informal prep for potential Mueller interview.

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.

Drinking Coffee And Reading In The Garden Painting by Edward Killingworth Johnson

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.”

From the AP article:

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.

Adolfe Monet reading in the garden, by Claude Monet

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 phone call to Russian leader Vladimir Putin, White House chief of staff John Kelly wasn’t on the line. When Mr. Trump tapped John Bolton 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.

Oscar Bluhm In the Pergola, 1892

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.

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.

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.

CNBC: Trump’s tariff gamble with China could be catastrophic for the economy, the GOP — and his own presidency.

Reading in the garden, 1915 – Nikolay Bogdanov-Belsky

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.

The numbers from Axios:

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%
Reagan: 41.4%
Teddy Roosevelt: 37.4%
Obama: 32.5%
Bill Clinton: 32.2%
George H.W. Bush: 21.4%
Trump: 20.7%

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.

Reading Man in Park — August Macke 1915

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 riskhired 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.

Woman Reading in a Garden by Harold Harvey

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.


Lazy Saturday Reads

Booklover, by Josephine Margaret Muntz Adams

Good Morning!!

Trump is enjoying another long weekend of golf in Florida, so presumably he won’t blow up the world between now and Monday. However, he did leave behind a couple of stunning announcements: one is just ludicrous and the other could be disastrous.

Vice News on the ludicrous one: Trump announces Sexual Assault Awareness Month with heartfelt, typo-ridden memo.

President Donald Trump, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by 19 women and who was once caught on tape bragging about grabbing women “by the pussy,” announced Friday that April would be “National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.”

In a typo-riddled White House statement, Trump pledged to raise awareness of sexual assault and to hold offenders accountable, since “these heinous crimes are committed indiscriminately.”

“We must not be afraid to talk about sexual assualt [sic] and sexual assult [sic] prevention with our loved ones, in our communities, and with those who have experienced these tragedies,” he said. “We must encourage victims to report sexual assault and law enforcement to hold offenders accountable, and we must support victims and survivors unremmittingly [sic]. Through a concerted effort to better educate ourselves, empower victims, and punish criminals, our Nation will move closer to ending the grief, fear, and suffering caused by sexual assult [sic].”

Trump also announced that the White House will create the Sexual Assault Victim Intervention Services Technical Assistance Center, which will help local organizations understand how to best support survivors of sexual assault.

Who knows what prompted that announcement. I doubt if Trump even knew about it.

The more serious announcement was Trump’s remark in a “speech” in Ohio that “We’ll be coming out of Syria like very soon. Let the other people take care of it now.” CNN reported:

Girl Reading, by Vera Alabaster

President Donald Trump said Thursday that the US would “be coming out of Syria like very soon,” just hours after the Pentagon highlighted the need for US troops to remain in the country for the immediate future.

“We’re knocking the hell out of ISIS. We’ll be coming out of Syria like very soon. Let the other people take care of it now,” Trump told supporters at an Ohio event on infrastructure.

“We are going to have 100% of the caliphate, as they call it, sometimes referred to as land … But we are going to be coming out of there real soon. We are going to get back to our country, where we belong, where we want to be,” Trump added.

One US defense official directly familiar with the ISIS campaign said it is unclear what the President meant by the comments. The military’s current assessment is that now is not the time to consider withdrawal, citing numerous challenges in Syria.

By the way, this came in a “speech” that was supposedly about infrastructure. More from CNN:
Who stands to gain if Trump pulls the US out of Syria?

The President’s apparent desire to exit Syria as soon as possible is likely to raise concerns among US backed groups in the region, particularly the SDF, and could embolden the forces of the Syrian regime, Iran and Turkey, all of which have mostly resisted attacking US allies in Syria due to concerns about US retaliation….

If the US were to withdraw, the de facto spheres of influence that have spared eastern Syria the same kind of fighting and bloodshed that the civil war has brought to the west would likely collapse, inviting a major escalation in the conflict.
That chaos could be exploited by ISIS which has already benefited from Turkey’s actions in northern Syria.

Earlier this month, the US warned that ISIS has begun reconstituting in some areas of Syria because a Turkish military offensive against a northern city has pulled the US’ Kurdish allies away from the fight against the terrorist group.

“We are very concerned about the effect fighting there has had on our defeat ISIS efforts and would like to see an end to the hostilities before ISIS has the opportunity to regroup in eastern Syria,” said Pentagon spokesman US Army Col. Rob Manning, discussing the Turkish offensive against Afrin.

Portrait of Lucie Reading, by Jacques-Emile Blanche

The State Department went a step farther, saying that ISIS has already begun to rebuild in places.

“The fighting in western Syria over the last two months, including in Afrin, has distracted from the defeat ISIS campaign and provided opportunity for ISIS to begin reconstituting in some areas,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said last week.

I guess Jim Mattis will be busy trying to explain all this to the moronic dunderhead when he returns from his golfing trip. I wonder what the new National Security Adviser John Bolton will think about it?

Obviously racism is alive and and thriving in Trump’s Amerika. Black men are regularly shot and killed by police officers, and this White House thinks that’s just a “local matter.” The Root: Police Shooting and Killing Black Men? It’s Not the White House’s Problem, Sarah Huckabee Sanders Says .

On March 18, two police officers in Sacramento, Calif., shot and killed 22-year-old Stephon Clark in the backyard of his grandparents’ home. It is not the first extrajudicial execution of a black man by police, and if there is no change soon, it likely won’t be the last. The nation is watching the aftermath of this shooting play out, and understandably, many of us have questions for both local and national government leaders as to what—if anything—will be done to prevent something like this from happening again.

On Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, aka Suckabee, was asked if the White House had any response to the public outcry for justice in the shootings of black men and women at the hands of police. Sanders said, “This is something that is a local matter, and that’s something that we feel should be left up to the local authorities at this point in time,” adding that the president is in full support of law enforcement officers.

I’m sure Attorney General Jeff Sessions agrees.

More on the Stephon Clark murder at the LA Times: Hundreds protest Stephon Clark killing as autopsy raises new questions.

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Sacramento late Friday and early Saturday morning as new details emerged about the police killing of an unarmed African American man earlier this month….

The Pink Dress, by Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta, (1841-1920) The pink dress

It was the latest of numerous demonstrations in support of Stephon Clark, an African American man killed by police who, according to an independent forensic pathologist’s report Friday, was shot six times in the back.

Dr. Bennet Omalu conducted an autopsy days after Clark was killed by police. He told reporters that his examination showed that Clark was hit by eight bullets, and all but one entered while his back was turned toward the two officers.

One bullet entered Clark’s left thigh from the front and was probably fired while he was on the ground and had already been shot multiple times, Omalu said.

The independent autopsy finding raises new questions about Clark’s shooting, which is now the subject of investigations by both local and state officials. The county coroner’s official autopsy results are not expected to be completed for several weeks.

Clark, 22, was fatally shot in his grandmother’s backyard on March 18 by Sacramento police, who were looking for a vandal in the neighborhood. More than 20 shots were fired. Clark was found with a cellphone. No weapon was recovered.

But these police officers will likely get away with this murder by claiming they were “in fear of their lives” from a guy with a cellphone in his grandparents’ back yard. We know this because white cops get away with murdering black people on a regular basis. Look at the case of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA.

The Washington Post: Baton Rouge police release video showing fatal shooting of Alton Sterling, plan to fire one officer.

Police in Baton Rouge announced Friday night that they will fire Officer Blane Salamoni for violating department policies during the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling in July 2016.

A Reclining woman reading, by Albert Ritzberger

The announcement came three days after state prosecutors announced that Salamoni and Officer Howie Lake would not face criminal charges in the shooting, which came at a time of intense national scrutiny of police use of force and prompted massive local protests. Lake, the department announced Friday, will be suspended for three days.

Police Chief Murphy Paul said in a news conference Friday that Salamoni had violated the department’s “training and organizational” standards….

As it announced Salamoni’s firing, the department also released new, graphic videos of the confrontation that led to Sterling’s death, captured by the body camera Salamoni was wearing.

While the department had initially reported that the officer’s camera had fallen off and had not captured relevant video, one of the video clips released Friday shows Salamoni arriving on the scene and immediately shouting profanities at Sterling and threatening to shoot him in the head.

“What I did, sir?” Sterling responds at one point.

“Don’t move or I’ll shoot your f—ing ass, b—h!” Salamoni replies. “Put your f—ing hands on the car or I’m going to shoot your f—ing head!”

Sterling replies “All right” and tells officers that they are hurting his arm. The officers proceed to shock Sterling with a stun gun and tackle him before ultimately shooting him.

Sterling had a gun in his pocket and did have a criminal history, but Louisiana has an open carry law and the gun was legal. It’s difficult to see how Sterling could have gotten the gun out of his pocket while he was pinned down by two cops.

And then there’s the black woman in Texas who is being sent to prison for voting. The Washington Post: Texas woman sentenced to 5 years in prison for voting while on probation.

Jeune femme lisant, by Jean-Charles Tardieu (1865-1930)

If she had known it was illegal, Crystal Mason said she would have never cast a vote in the 2016 presidential election.

The 43-year-old former tax preparer hadn’t even planned on voting until her mother encouraged her to do it. She had only recently been released from federal prison for a 2012 tax fraud conviction, in which she pleaded guilty to inflating returns for her clients, her attorney, J. Warren St. John, told The Washington Post.

She was still on community supervision at the time of the election — but no one, including her probation officer, St. John said, ever told her that being a felon on supervision meant she couldn’t vote under Texas law.

Now, she’s going back to prison for casting a ballot illegally — for five years.

Mason was indicted on a charge of illegal voting in Tarrant County, Tex., last year and found guilty by State District Judge Ruben Gonzalez on Thursday, despite her protestations that she simply was not aware that she was barred from casting a ballot and never would have done it had she known.

Unbelievable.

So . . . what else is happening? What stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads: Trump Being Trump Is Going To Kill Us All

Good Morning!!

I’ve been feeling almost catatonic with shock for the past few days, ever since Trump appointed John Bolton as National Security Adviser. And that was on top of his nomination of Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State.

It just feels as if we’re inching closer and closer to a real world-wide disaster. With those two in charge, it seems likely Trump will pull us out of the Iran agreement and maybe even get us into wars in Iran and North Korea. The joke’s over, folks. This is getting way too real.

The photos of baby elephants in this post are an attempt to keep me from going completely around the bend.

At The Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky writes: Trump Does Trump, and Things Get Worse. Tomasky notes that Trump appears to have concluded that he doesn’t need advisers who tell him he can’t do what he wants to do. He’s decided to run the country the way he the business that he repeatedly drove into bankruptcy.

The hiring of John Bolton highlights Donald Trump’s instability, his total lack of any coherent worldview, and most of all—and most dangerously of all—his need to feel that no limits are being imposed on him. Here’s what I mean. When talking foreign policy, sometimes Trump sounds like Bolton, with all that overheated rhetoric he’s thrown at Kim Jong Un. But at other times, he’s an isolationist. At still other times, like when he’s agreeing to meet with Kim with no preconditions, he’s a Neville Chamberlain in the making. (By the way, is Lloyd’s of London taking odds yet on whether that summit will actually happen?)

So if he wasn’t happy with H.R. McMaster and wanted new blood, he could have gone in any number of ways. That he chose the guy who will reinforce his worst instincts tells us, I think, that what he values most (aside from unquestioning loyalty) is someone who won’t hem him in; in other words, Trump may decide to launch a first strike against North Korea, or he may not. But if he does, by God, he doesn’t want some globalist ninny telling him not to. So the principle at work here is not hawkishness per se. It’s having someone who won’t tell him no.

Tomasky discusses Trump’s ludicrous handling of economic issues, and his total lack of knowledge and understanding of how legislation is crafted. Now Trump is facing the Stormy Daniels problem, and it may get him into real trouble:

The Stormy Daniels story was kind of non-newsy on certain levels. That Trump slept with a porn star and behaved crudely toward her is about the least shocking thing in the world. But the threats made against her are the real story here. That’s going to be the new iteration of this story, and depending on how it plays out it stands the chance of reminding the country of something that many have forgotten, or never knew: The president of the United States has mob ties.

Here’s David Cay Johnston cataloguing a few of them, like how Trump went out of his way to use Mafia-controlled companies to pour the concrete for Trump Tower. The great Wayne Barrett was the master chronicler of all this, going back to the 1990s. All you need to know for now is that back in the day, the government of Australia denied him a permit to open a casino in Sydney because the government deemed him to be too mobbed up. Trump will say of this failure that he lost interest in Australia, but Australia also lost interest in him.

How can anyone who is paying attention not be frightened to have this idiot running our government?

At Vox, Zach Beauchamp writes about one serious problem with Trump’s two recent appointments: How John Bolton and Mike Pompeo mainstreamed Islamophobia.

John Bolton, President Trump’s pick for his next national security adviser, and Mike Pompeo, Trump’s pick to be the next secretary of state, are well-known hawks. Less well known are their deep and extensive ties to an organized group of anti-Muslim writers and activists.

The members of the so-called “counter-jihad” movement aren’t exactly household names. But its leading lights — people like Reagan Defense Department official Frank Gaffney, activist Brigitte Gabriel, and blogger Pamela Geller — are surprisingly well-financed and influential. Their major arguments include the idea that Islam is an intrinsically violent religion and that most mainstream American Muslim organizations are involved in a secret plot to replace American law with Islamic law. One “study” published by Gaffney’s organization, the Center for Security Policy, argued that 80 percent of mosques in America “are incubators of, at best, subversion and, at worst, violence and should be treated accordingly.”

Neither Bolton nor Pompeo has endorsed views this radical, though both have come relatively close. In February 2015, Pompeo appeared on Gaffney’s radio show and warned darkly of an Islamic conspiracy against America.

“There are organizations and networks here in the United States tied to radical Islam in deep and fundamental ways,” Pompeo said in a February 2015 interview on Gaffney’s radio program. “They’re not just in places like Libya and Syria and Iraq, but in places like Coldwater, Kansas, and small towns all throughout America.”

Bolton, for his part, has defended the Islamophobic attacks against Huma Abedin, a Muslim American who spent years as a top aide to Hillary Clinton. Some Republican members of Congress accused Abedin being a secret Islamist operative (which, it goes without saying, is wholly unfounded) in 2012; that July, Bolton went on Gaffney’s show and said there was nothing wrong with that line of attack. “What is wrong with raising the question?” Bolton asked.

Read all the scary details at Vox.

The Economist on Pompeo’s religious views:

Even among broadly conservative watchers of American foreign policy, there is worry that Mr Pompeo’s apparent sectarian sentiment might be a problem. In the words of Robert D. Kaplan, a veteran global-affairs writer, Mr Pompeo “emblemises an increasingly theological bent in American politics, and in particular in a strand of American conservatism.” This contrasted with earlier eras when “American leaders were often churchgoers but their governing spirit was refreshingly secular.”

As is noted by Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow of the Brookings Institution think-tank, Mr Pompeo comes across as an educated person whose negative ideas about Islam are more thought-through, and hence perhaps more worrisome, than the “visceral, almost incoherent” suspicion of that faith which Mr Trump exuded as a candidate. “It is not a good thing when the public face of American diplomacy holds views which demean an entire religion,” says Mr Hamid.

Several things have earned Mr Pompeo the reputation of being a kind of latter-day Crusader. One is a video clip in which he argues vigorously that at least some individuals are motivated by their Muslim beliefs, and by things they read in the Koran, to commit terrible violence. Watched closely, the video does not show him to believe that all Muslims think that way. What is more striking is the remedy of Christian solidarity he proposes: Islam-inspired terrorists “will continue to press against us until we make sure…we know that Jesus Christ is the only solution for our world.”

There is also concern about Mr Pompeo’s reaction to the bomb attack on the Boston marathon in 2013. As a Congressman, he said Muslim leaders who failed to condemn the outrage, and to call it incompatible with Muhammad’s teaching, were “potentially complicit”. Arsalan Iftikhar, a writer and lawyer who helps run an anti-Islamophobia programme at Georgetown University, was one of many Muslim-Americans who found those comments insulting to leaders of Islam in America, who used all their authority to excoriate the bombing.

Read the rest at link.

Could Trump’s behavior with women finally be causing serious problems for the GOP? The New York Times: After Stormy Daniels, Republicans Face a Referendum on Trump’s Conduct.

When Representative Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania announced on Sunday that he would join more than 40 other congressional Republicans not seeking re-election in November, he left no doubt about the reason: President Trump’s conduct made it impossible to talk about anything else.

Were he running, Mr. Costello said in an interview, he would be inundated with questions about Stephanie Clifford, the pornographic film actress known as Stormy Daniels, who has said she had an affair with Mr. Trump and was threatened to stay silent about it.

“If I had a town hall this week, it would be question after question,” Mr. Costello said. “‘Do you believe him or do you believe her? Why don’t you believe her?’”

While Republicans have been bracing for months for a punishing election in November, they are increasingly alarmed that their losses may be even worse than feared because the midterm campaign appears destined to turn more on the behavior of the man in the White House than any other in decades.

As much as gun control, immigration, the sweeping tax overhaul and other issues are mobilizing voters on the left and the right, the seamy sex allegations and Mr. Trump’s erratic style could end up alienating crucial blocs of suburban voters and politically moderate women who might be drawn to some Republican policies but find the president’s purported sex antics to be reprehensible.

Some funny quotes from the article:

“Trump is way more than the proverbial elephant in the room — he’s the elephant in the room with political bad breath, B.O. and a foul mouth,” said Ace Smith, a veteran Democratic consultant, who argued that the last time a president’s conduct loomed so large in congressional midterms was in the post-Watergate election of 1974….

“I don’t see headlines with: ‘Porn star sues Nancy Pelosi,’” said Representative Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana Democrat, when asked about his party’s polarizing House leader.

Trump’s new “trust his gut” approach has talking about bringing back fired staffer Rob Porter. I’ll bet that would be a big hit with women voters. Wonkette reacts: Sad And Lonely Trump Misses His Old Wife-Beaty Friend Rob 😦

A few days/years back, the White House unceremoniously fired a guy whose main fault seems to be that he loves Donald Trump for some reason. His name was Johnny Feelgood, Johnny Right On, Johnny Miss You, Johnny Light On, Johnny Makes Me Feel Strangely Good About Myself, AKA Johnny McEntee. He was Donald Trump’s body man, and he is very pretty, and UH OH seems to have gotten himself into some fraudy financial trouble of some sort, for which he is being investigated by the Secret Service.

We only bring up Johnny McEntee to point out that that he would be a completely reasonable person for Donald Trump to be pining for, wandering the halls of the West Wing with a Big Mac stuffed down the front of his pants and a lost look in his eyes. Instead, Donald Trump is reportedly broken-hearted and lost without Rob Porter, the guy who got fired from the White House because he couldn’t stop beating his wives all the time, which meant he couldn’t get a permanent security clearance. Yeah, THAT guy.

Maggie Haberman reports, because of course it is Maggie Haberman:

President Trump has stayed in touch with Rob Porter, the former White House staff secretary who stepped down after allegations that he had abused his two former wives came to light, according to three people familiar with the conversations, and has told some advisers he hopes Mr. Porter returns to work in the West Wing.

Oh for Christ’s sake. Without a security clearance? Because remember how Rob Porter can’t get a security clearance because he’s a rage douche who couldn’t stop beating his wives all the time?

Haberman reports that Trump ‘n’ Rob are always on the phone talking about clothes and boys and tariffs because, big sadface, Trump has fired everybody else, or else they have quit. Hope-y Hicks is gone, McMaster has cleared out his office to make room for John Bolton’s mustache grooming table, and of course Johnny Feelgood is off being hot in greener pastures, and though many of the people who have left the White House were fired in petulant fits of rage by the historically stupid man known as President Poop Waffle, that doesn’t mean the president doesn’t hate to see them go. This is because the president of the United States is a pathetic and lonely person who doesn’t have real friends.

Now look, don’t assume Trump is going to let his head get ahead of his heart and sneak Rob into the White House or anything:

The president has told the advisers he has talked with that he knows he probably cannot bring Mr. Porter back.

Because of the whole wife-beater thing. 😦

This is our reality now. This moron is the “president.” What stories are you following?